previous next

‘ [104] and the prevention of the invasion of Pennsylvania beyond the Susquehanna, and it was no longer his intention to assume the offensive, unless the enemy's movements or position, made such an operation certain of success, and further, that should the enemy attack, it was his intention, after holding them in check a sufficient time, to withdraw the army from its present position, and form line of battle along the direction of Pipe Creek. That for this purpose General Reynolds, in command of the left, would withdraw the forces at present at Gettysburg. The time for falling back, it was added, would be developed by circumstances.’

It is apparent from these orders, that General Meade did not design to bring on a battle at Gettysburg, and that he attached no strategic importance to the place. He was evidently in no hurry to seize it, for like every one else, he was in ignorance of its strength as a defensive position. The letter from General Meade to Reynolds, advising him to withdraw, never reached the latter. It required several hours for a courier from headquarters at Taneytown to reach Reynolds, and he moved from Emmittsburg early on the morning of the 1st, to accompany Wadsworth's division on the way to Gettysburg. So late as 12:30 of the 1st of July, and after the battle was begun, the contemplated withdrawal was still in the mind of General Meade, as will be seen by a letter, written at that time by Butterfield, chief of staff to Hancock, directing that ‘in view of the advance of Generals A. P. Hill and Ewell, on Gettysburg, and the possible failure of General Reynolds to receive the order to withdraw his command by the route through Taneytown, thus leaving the centre of our position open, that you proceed with your troops on the direct road to Gettysburg from Taneytown. When you find that General Reynolds is covering that road instead of withdrawing by Emmittsburg (which it is feared he may do), you will withdraw to Frizzelburg, as directed in circular of directions for the positions issued this morning.’

So far then as General Meade was concerned, the battle of Gettysburg was a pure accident.

Let us see how it was on the other side. In his official report of July 31st, already referred to, General Lee states ‘that ’

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Taneytown (Maryland, United States) (3)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Reynolds (5)
Meade (4)
Wadsworth (1)
Fitz Lee (1)
A. P. Hill (1)
Hancock (1)
Ewell (1)
Butterfield (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
July 31st (1)
July 1st (1)
1st (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: