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Day 1: July 1, 1863 - Overview
Day 1: July 1, 1863 - Overview
Around 8 AM, units of CSA Major General Heth approached Gettysburg along Chambersburg Pike. Expecting Union minimal resistance, Heth sent Davis and Archer along the pike. But, almost immediately, Heth's Brigades ran up against Buford's cavalry. After heavy fighting, Buford was forced to retreat, but only after being relieved by Meredith and Cutler's Brigades. Archer and Davis, unprepared for the fresh Union infantry reinforcements, attacked and incurred heavy casualties. Both Confederate Brigades were forced to retreat back to Herr Ridge and reform. By 11 AM, the fighting ceased as both sides waited for approaching reinforcements.

Doubleday placed Rowley's Division (who had arrived at 11:30) to reinforce Meredith's Brigade on McPherson Ridge. Doubleday also placed Col. Chapman Biddle on Meredith's left and Col. Roy Stone to Meredith's right. The XI Corps, under command of Major General Oliver Howard arrived and headed north through the town, intent on occupying Oak Ridge (especially Oak Hill which was the highest point on the ridge). To secure the ridge, Howard sent Maj. Gen. Carl Schurz's Division followed by Brig. Gen. Francis Barlow's Division in support. Observing the strategic value of the peaks to the south of the town, Howard ordered Brig. Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr and 2 Batteries of artillery to remain on Cemetery Hill and hold it at all costs.

Brig. Gen. Robert Rodes ' Division approached southward along Oak Ridge and reached Oak Hill before
Schurz. Rodes immediately placed 16 guns of LtC Thomas Carter's Battalion on the hill and began bombarding Baxter's Brigade which had been placed just south of Mummasburg Road. Schurz, unable to occupy the hill, deployed west-to-east facing north with Barlow forming to his right. The Union hardly assumed their position when Rodes commenced the attack. Ewell sent Rodes' ill-prepared Division hastily attacked, but BG Alfred Iverson's and Col Edward O'Neal's Brigade ran into considerable opposition from Robinson's division. Ewell then sent BG Junius Daniels' Brigade to support Iverson and BG Stephen Ramseur to support O'Neal. BG George Doles' Brigade was sent to help attack Schurz's smaller division which had positioned itself across the open field. As Doles approached Schurz, Barlow formed and prepared to attack Doles' left flank. Just then, Early's Division arrived from the northeast along Harrisburg Road and threatened the Union XI Corps' entire right flank. Early joined the attack and assaulted Barlow's Division with Gordon, Hays, and Avery's Brigades.

General Lee arrived to the battle in time to see Ewell's assault. He immediately gave A.P. Hill permission to join the attack. BG James Johnston Pettigrew 's Brigade (a particular large Brigade) attacked
Meredith's Brigade who had positioned along McPherson Ridge. Meredith's Brigade became flanked on its left by Pettigrew's larger Brigade and eventually was forced to retreat - forming several defensive lines until it could reform in front of the Seminary. Biddle's Brigade defended an exposed section of McPherson Ridge and was attacked by Archer and also unable to hold its position. Stone's 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 retreat from the ridge to the Seminary. Just as Heth's Division ran out of effectiveness, Pender's fresh troops resumed the attack against the rallying remains of I Corps at the Seminary.

Howard had hoped reinforcements from the XII Corps would arrive, but realized they would not reinforce the position in time. Thus, he ordered the I Corps and XI Corps to fall back through the town and reform on 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.

MG Winfield
Hancock arrived at Cemetery Hill and assumed overall command just as Howard and Doubleday were reforming their units. Cemetery Hill soon became an impressive defensive position with nearly 9,000 men and about 40 guns. Lee studied the situation and left the decision of attack to Ewell. Ewell, who had taken heavy casualties and could count on little help from A.P. Hill's battered units, decided it better not to attack the hill. The first day's battle was over.

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Copyright p;2007 Brian Williams.

Last Modified: 02/10/2007.
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