Day 1: July 1, 1863 - The Battle Begins
first Confederate troops to enter the vicinity of Gettysburg were BG James Archer's
and BG Joseph Davis' (the nephew of Confederate President
Jefferson Davis) Brigades of MG Heth's Division (General A.P.
Hill's Corps). At approximately 8 AM, Heth reached
the crest of Herr Ridge and surveyed the approach to Gettysburg. Observing
minimal resistance, Heth ordered his two Brigades (Archer
and Davis) to march southeast along Chambersburg Pike and
occupy Gettysburg. Heth decided to deploy Archer to the south
and Davis to the north of the pike.
But, unknown to Heth (pronounced "Heeth"), Union BG John
cavalry held the town with two Brigades. In fact,
Brigades were deployed just east of Willoughby Run, northwest of town and
supported by Lt. John Calef's
horse artillery). The battle began when
dismounted skirmishers (who were armed with Sharps'
breech-loading carbines) were attacked by Archer's
Infantry Brigade. They managed to hold off the Confederate advance for
over an hour, but eventually,
gradually forced to retreat.
At the same time of Buford's
retreat, BG Meredith's
Brigade (known as the "Iron Brigade") and BG
Brigade arrived to relieve
cavalry Brigades and occupy McPherson Ridge. General
Commander of I Corps), the senior officer on the field, saw the initial
Confederate troops and sent word to the other nearest Corps (XI Corps and III
Corps), to move towards Gettysburg at once.
While personally positioning
was shot and killed (see
photo to the left).
This left Doubleday
(who had arrived just moments previously), as the senior officer on the field.
Archer's Brigade now continued on the attack down Herr Ridge,
Willoughby Run, and up McPherson's Ridge. But, not knowing that
Meredith's Brigade had now taken up the position
had vacated, the Brigade (Archer) marched straight into the
fresh infantry Brigade. Meredith's
Brigade surprised Archer and forced his Brigade to retreat
back across Willoughby Run, but not before the capture of Archer
and much of his Brigade. Despite Meredith's
Brigade (which was in the process of positioning along Chambersburg Pike and
the railroad cut) was attacked hard by Davis' Brigade and soon
found itself outflanked. Wadsworth
(the Division commander) seeing that he was being outflanked on the right,
three Regiments north of the Pike to retreat and reform along Seminary Ridge.
Unfortunately, the runner tasked with this message was killed and was not able
to deliver the order. Instead, Cutler's
Regiments along the railroad sustained heavy casualties and were only then
forced to retreat. Davis' Brigade, seeing
Cutler's collapsed right flank, broke ranks in
pursuit, but quickly lost its fighting integrity. At this time, the
6th Wisconsin Regiment (held up to this point in reserve and later
supported by the 84th and
95th NY), was sent by Doubleday
against Davis' pursuing Brigade. Davis'
Brigade, disorganized and out of ranks, was forced to seek the protection of
the unfinished railroad cut. Despite occupying the ideal defensive position, Davis' Brigade was charged
by the Wisconsin 6th Regiment
and the two New York regiments. Despite heavy casualties,
Wisconsin 6th surrounded more than half of Davis'
Brigade and took them prisoner. The remainder of Davis'
Brigade now retreated to Herr Ridge where the remnants of Archer's
Brigade had retreated earlier.
The retreating Confederates were forced to reevaluate their approach to
Gettysburg. 11 AM approached, but Heth was still determined to
occupy Gettysburg, especially after receiving word that Pender's
Division was moving to support the approaches from the northwest.
Day 1: July 1, 1863 - Rodes Arrives
failed attack, Rodes' division approached Gettysburg from the
northeast along Harrisburg Road. Early's division shortly
followed behind Rodes. Upon nearing Gettysburg, Rodes
headed southwest towards Oak Ridge where he observed
brigade preparing for an attack from Heth. Approaching
unhindered, Rodes placed 16 guns of LtC Thomas
artillery battalion upon Oak Hill and commenced to shell
brigade to position north against Rodes' approaching division.
XI Corps had begun to arrive from the south and started deploying to the east.
Rodes, sensing his advantage evaporate, decided to immediately
attack. Unfortunately, the attack was poorly coordinated and ran into problems.
Iverson's and O'Neal's brigades were ordered to
advance along Oak Ridge and attack
newly acquired position. Instead, Iverson delayed the attack
so that the artillery atop Oak Hill could inflict more damage upon
left O'Neal in front alone and approaching
was positioned behind a stone wall along Mummasburg Road.
short work of O'Neal and inflicted over 40% casualties (both
O'Neal and Iverson themselves amazingly did not
accompany their brigades). Iverson now followed along the
western slope of Oak Ridge (on what would've been to O'Neal's
right). Now that O'Neal had retreated, Iverson's left
flank was completely exposed. With O'Neal out of the way,
was able to shift its complete attention to Iverson. Iverson's
brigade marched blindly into
awaiting brigade with devastating results. An amazing 70% of the brigade were
either captured or became casualties. These two Rodes'
brigades had effectively been destroyed.
Rodes then ordered Daniel and Ramseur
into the battle. Daniel
planned to march southward along the western slope of the ridge, out of range
brigades and swing around to attack
left flank. But, as it approached Chambersburg Pike, it encountered
brigade which had been positioned along the railroad cut. Despite heavy
casualties on both sides,
to hold the cut. Ramseur on the other hand, marched along Iverson's
previous route following Oak Ridge. By this time,
position at Mummasburg Road with
brigade. This time, Ramseur attacked
until they ran low on ammunition and slowly forced to retreat with heavy
The remaining stretched in anticipation of Early's soon
arrival. Sensing a good vantage point, part of Doles
' brigade attempted to occupy a small knoll to the west of Harrisburg Road.
also eyed this knoll and sent
Van Gilsa forward
to extend the Union right flank. In order to compensate for
advance position, Schurz
forward to align with Van
had barely positioned their divisions when Early's division
approached from the northeast along Harrisburg Road. BG Gordon's
brigade led the attack and charged
Van Gilsa while BG
Hays and Col Avery attacked
forward position was exposed and could not be held (in fact, his men began
running as soon as Gordon attacked). Doles,
seizing on the opportunity, attacked
Schurz and soon both Union divisions were sent
retreating towards town.
Day 1: July 1, 1863 - AP Hill at McPherson's Ridge
about 2:30 PM, General Lee arrived from the northwest in time
to see Ewell's assault. He immediately gave A.P. Hill
permission to join the attack. A.P. Hill sent BG James
Johnston Pettigrew's brigade (over 2,550 men) to attack
brigade who had positioned along McPherson Ridge. Because of its size, Pettigrew's
brigade was able to flank
Meredith on the
left and despite heavy casualties on both sides, forced
retreat towards the Seminary.
brigade defended an exposed section of McPherson Ridge and was attacked by Archer
and also unable to hold its position.
position was particularly vulnerable because it was formed to face northwest
against Heth's division and northeast along Chambersburg Pike
to face Rodes' approaching division. It too found itself in an
untenable position; attacked from two directions, and also retreated
toward the Seminary. Heth's division took a heavy beating as
it attacked the Union units on McPherson Ridge, but it managed to force a Union
retreat from the ridge to the Seminary.
Iron Brigade suffered an enormous 1,153 casualties (out of 1,829 men) while
Heth lost about 1,500 of his 7,000-man division.
Just as Heth's division ran out of
's fresh troops resumed the attack against the rallying remnants of
I Corps at
the Seminary. The Union barely had time to begin construction of breastworks at
the Seminary when Pender's Division attacked up Seminary
Ridge. Lt. James Stewart's
artillery battery had been placed on the ridge and managed to hold off the
Confederate assault for several minutes. But, the Union found itself
overwhelmed by the sheer number of Pender's men and once again
was in full retreat. I
Corps now lost
cohesion and was sent retreating towards Gettysburg and Cemetery Ridge.
was also retreating through town from the north towards Cemetery Hill. The
retreat was carried out in somewhat confusion and several units were slowed
because of congestion in the town or were captured when their retreat was
cut-off. Despite the near rout situation, the Confederates had taken heavy
casualties and lacked the strength to pursue vigorously.
had left Adolph von
division on Cemetery Hill with orders to hold the position at all costs.
had spent several hours erecting breastworks and created a formidable defensive
position. At about 4:30 PM, MG Winfield
at Cemetery Hill and assumed overall command (under orders of
was senior to Hancock)
just as Howard
were trying to rally their units.
he had an excellent defensive position, but he also knew his forces would be
stretched thin to cover the needed area. MG Daniel E.
III Corps and MG Henry W.
Corps were arriving from the south, but
not know when. Hancock
ordered part of remaining
I Corps to
occupy Culp's Hill. Doubleday
protested, but then sent the remnants of
Iron Brigade to secure the hill.
Surveying from Seminary Ridge, Lee requested A.P. Hill
to continue the assault. But, Hill's Corps had been heavily
battered and was nearly out of ammunition. Lee immediately
sent word to Ewell to "secure possession of the heights...if
practicable". Also, at this time, LG James Longstreet arrived
and conferred with Lee. Longstreet wished to
take a more defensive posture and place the army between the Union army and
Washington. His rationale was to force the Union army into attacking a strong
Confederate position. Lee, on the other hand, believed that he
must confront the Union army and bring the fight to the Federals.
Ewell had always served under General Stonewall Jackson
(who died at Chancellorsville) and this was the first time directly under Lee.
Ewell, who had taken heavy casualties and could not count on A.P.
Hill's support, hesitated. He was further confused by Lee's
"if practicable" order. After waiting over an hour for the attack to begin,
Lee personally rode towards Ewell's headquarters
to find out why there was a delay. By the time Lee arrived at
's headquarters, Slocum
Corps were deploying along Cemetery Ridge and the opportunity for attack had
all but disappeared.
Day 1: July 1, 1863 - Union Reinforcements Arrive
headquarters throughout the first day's battle was nine miles to the south of
Gettysburg at Taneytown, Maryland. While there, he had received word from
that Gettysburg would be the location to make a stand against the ANV.
arrived shortly after the fighting ended, in addition to the two corps (I
that were already on the field.
III Corps shortly
followed later that evening, while
II Corps was
closeby. The larger VI
Corps was over
30 miles away and would not arrived until later next afternoon. General
arrived at Cemetery Hill at about 23:30 on July 1 and began positioning his
corps into defensive positions.
Meanwhile, Johnson's division (of Ewell's
Corps) arrived from the northeast and Longstreet Corps joined
from the northwest. Longstreet's Corps consisted of the
divisions of Hood and McLaws. Anderson's
Division (the remaining division of A.P. Hill) also arrived on
the field from the northwest.
The terrain surrounding Gettysburg consisted mostly of ridges and hills to the
south of the town. The most prominent features were Cemetery Hill (which
received its name from Evergreen Cemetery on Baltimore Pike) which rises about
80 feet above the town and Culp's Hill to the east which stands about 100 feet
higher. Cemetery Hill was relatively clear, while Culp's Hill was significantly
covered with woods and large boulders. Cemetery Ridge stretched some two miles
to the south and ended at Little Round Top and Big Round Top. At some places
near the center, Cemetery Ridge barely rose above ground level.
Copyright © 2007 Brian Williams.
Last Modified: 02/10/2007.