MANUEVERING FOR POSITION
The Battle of Gettysburg: Day 1
Heth believed the Union forces were at a breaking point and sent two brigades under Davis and Archer toward McPherson’s Ridge. Doubleday counter attacked with the Iron Brigade and drove the Archer’s forces back. A private named Patrick Maloney captured General Archer as the Confederate forces were retreating. General Doubleday exclaimed “Archer! I’m glad to see you!” General Archer replied “Well, I’m not glad to see you by a damn sight.” Davis’s forces charged at Cutler’s brigade and swept into a valley and a deep trench thinking it would lead to the Union rear. The trench was an unfinished railroad cut and the Confederates were caught in a trap. About 250 Confederates surrendered.
Meanwhile, back at Taneytown, Meade had no idea a battle was taking place. Often, observers close to the battle could not hear the fighting, while others farther away could hear it clearly. These were called “acoustic shadows.” Meade only found out when a newspaper reporter asked to use an army telegraph to send his story of the battle. Meade was shocked to hear that his friend Reynolds had died and one fourth of his army was fighting. At noon, Meade ordered Hancock to turn over command of his Second Corps to Gibbon and Hancock rode to Gettysburg, studying maps of the terrain along the way.
Around noon, General Howard arrived at Gettysburg with his Eleventh Corps. Outranking General Doubleday, Howard took command of the Union forces. Howard placed his German Eleventh Corps north of Gettysburg.
At 1:30, Confederate Major General Rodes arrived with his division. He placed his artillery on Oak Hill, and sent Iverson’s brigade against Union troops hiding behind a stone wall. After taking in 500 casualties, 3 of Iverson’s 4 regiments surrendered. The Union captured 1000 prisoners and three colors. Demoralized, Iverson turned over command of what was left of his brigade to his adjutant. With his reserve divisions, Rodes dislodged the Union troops from the stone wall.
At the same time, Ewell’s Confederate Second Army Corps attacked the Eleventh Corps from the north. At 2 P.M., General Lee arrived on the field and ordered Heth and Pender to attack the Union left defended by the Iron Brigade. Heth was knocked unconscious by a shell fragment. After fighting since early morning, the 1,800 men Iron Brigade suffered 1,200 casualties and fell back.
Confederate reinforcements continued arriving, and around 4 P.M., the outgunned Union Eleventh Corps and the First Corps abandoned their positions. The Union forces retreated through Gettysburg and south out to Cemetery Hill. The hill was named after a cemetery atop of its plateau. A sign on the cemetery gate read: “All persons found using firearms in these grounds will be prosecuted with the utmost rigor of the law.” General Hancock arrived and found “Wreck, disaster, disorder, almost the panic that precedes disorganization, defeat and retreat everywhere.” The higher ranking Howard didn’t want to give up command to Hancock. Rather than further demoralizing the army by fighting, Hancock pretended to recognize Howard as the commander. Hancock sent the remaining Iron Brigade to defend Culp’s Hill, and the Union forces began erecting fortifications.
At 4:30, General Lee ordered Ewell “to carry the hill occupied by the enemy, if he found it practicable.” By 5:30, the Union position was secure. At 7 P.M., Lee went out to find Ewell and an explanation of why he didn’t attack yet. Ewell told him that the Union positions were too strong. Lee was disappointed that Ewell had missed the opportunity to destroy the Union line. He ordered Ewell to attack Culp’s Hill the next day to prove his claims. Later that night, Ewell claimed he could take Culp’s Hill. Lee decided to attack at dawn, Culp’s Hill with Ewell’s corps, and Cemetery Ridge with Longstreet’s corps.
On the Union side, Slocum arrived at 7 P.M. with the Twelfth Corps. Hancock turned over command to Slocum and rode back to Taneytown to resumed command of his own corps. Meade sent orders out to Sykes and Sedgwick to convene at Gettysburg. On the first day of battle, the successful Confederate attacks were due to a more concentrated army, allowing the Confederates to fight in superior numbers. During the night, General Longstreet arrived with his two divisions, which brought the Confederate force at Gettysburg up to 50,000 men. At the same time Union reinforcements from three corps continued to arrive and brought the Union army up to 60,000 men.
At midnight, General Meade arrived on the battlefield and inspected the Union lines.