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Chapter 12: Gettysburg.

The fifth commander of the Army of the Potomac was Major-General George Gordon Meade, then in command of the Fifth Corps. This officer was born in Cadiz, Spain, in December, 1815, and was consequently forty-six years old. He graduated at West Point in 1835, and was assigned to the artillery arm of the service. A year afterward he resigned from the army, but after six years was reappointed second lieutenant of the Topographical Engineers, and was in Mexico on General Patterson's staff. Meade's father served as a private soldier in the Pennsylvania troops to suppress the “Whisky Insurrection” in western Pennsylvania, and therefore was under General Lee's father, who commanded the forces raised for that purpose. He was afterward a merchant, a shipowner, and a navy agent in Cadiz, but shortly after his son's birth returned to the United States.

In justice to this officer, it may be said that he protested against being placed in command of an army that had been looking toward Reynolds as Hooker's successor, but, loyal to authority, he assumed the command in obedience to orders. His position was environed with difficulties, for he was ignorant of Hooker's plans. Awakened from sleep by General Hardee, the War Department messenger, he had not much time to get any knowledge of them from Hooker, while a battle in the next few days could not be avoided. He determined to continue the move northward through Maryland into Pennsylvania, and force Lee to give battle before he could cross the Susquehanna. [270]

After two days march, he received information that Lee was concentrating and coming toward him, and he at once began to prepare the line of Pipe Creek to await his approach and fight a defensive battle. On the night of June 30th his headquarters and reserve artillery were at Taneytown; the First Corps, at Marsh Creek, six miles from Longstreet and Hill at Cashtown; the Eleventh Corps, at Emmittsburg; Third, at Bridgeport; Twelfth, at Littletown; Second, at Uniontown; Fifth, at Union Mill; Sixth, at Winchester, Md., with Gregg's cavalry, that being his extreme right. Kilpatrick's cavalry division was at Hanover, Pa., while Buford's cavalry guarded his left.

Lee was rapidly concentrating. Longstreet and Hill were then near Cashtown, Hill's advance (Heth's division) being seven miles from Gettysburg, and Ewell at Heidelburg, nine miles away. Had Lee known of the defensive position at Gettysburg, he could have easily massed his whole army on July 1st there; but he was in no hurry to precipitate a battle, and would have preferred to fight at some point not so far from his base.

On the 30th Pettigrew, commanding a brigade of Heth's division, Hill's corps, was directed to march to Gettysburg to get shoes for the barefooted men of the division, but returned the same evening without them and reported that Gettysburg was occupied by the Federal cavalry, and that drums were heard beating on the other side of the town. So Heth told Hill if he had no objection, he would take his whole division there the next day, July 1st, and “get the shoes,” to which Hill replied, “None in the world.”

Buford, with his cavalry division, reached Gettysburg on the day Pettigrew made his visit, and threw out his pickets toward Cashtown and Hunterstown. In an order of march for July 1st, Meade, not knowing Lee was so near, directed the First and Eleventh Corps, under that excellent officer Reynolds, to Gettysburg; Third, to Emmittsburg; Second, Taneytown; Fifth, Hanover; Twelfth to Two Taverns; while the Sixth was to remain at Manchester, thirty-four miles from Gettysburg, and await orders.

Heth, after his coveted shoes, reached McPherson's [271] Heights, one mile west of Gettysburg, at 9 A. M. on July 1st, deployed two brigades on either side of the road, and advanced on the town. Promptly the few sputtering shots which first announced the skirmish line's opening told him that Buford's dismounted cavalry were blocking the way; and the great struggle which was to determine, like Waterloo, the fate of a continent, and whether there should be one or two republics on this continent, had commenced. Precipitance was neither desired by Meade nor Lee, but “shoes” took command that day, and opened a contest which drew in its bloody embrace one hundred and seventy thousand men. For Reynolds, hearing Buford's guns, hastened to him with the First Corps, Wadsworth's division leading. Hill, who had followed Heth with Pender's division, sent it rapidly to his support, while the Eleventh Corps hastened to the First Corps's assistance. Ewell, with his leading division (Rodes's), at 2.30 P. M. came to Heth's and Pender's support, while Early's division, at about 3.30 P. M., moved in such a way as to attack the Federal flank, and at 4 P. M. the Federal force was in full retreat through the town of Gettysburg, toward the heights to the south of it, where a brigade of Howard's had been posted as a reserve and rallying point in case of disaster when his corps marched to the battlefield. A well-contested combat had occured between two infantry corps, a cavalry division, and the artillery on one side, and four divisions of infantry, with the artillery, on the other.

Fifty thousand men fought (after all were up), about equally divided in numbers between the contestants.1 For six hours the battle raged.

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