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7/2/2013
JULY 1, 1863
CATEGORY: History

This is the fifth in my series of week-long blog posts called Countdown to Gettysburg“. They are written from the perspective of someone who lived at that time and as if the internet existed in 1863.

The introduction to the series is here.

Previous Posts:

June 27, 1863

June 28, 1863

June 29, 1863

June 30, 1863

****************************************************
(Check back often for updates)

And so, it’s begun.

Here’s a dispatch from General Buford at Gettysburg:

The enemy’s force (A.P. Hill’s) are advancing on me at this point, and driving my pickets and skirmishers very rapidly. There is also a large force at Heidlersburg that is driving my pickets at that point from that direction. General Reynolds is advancing, and is within 3 miles of this point with his leading division. I am positive that the whole of A.P. Hill’s force is advancing.

That’s uh…12,000 men people! And Johnny Buford has 2700 effectives (with every 4th man detailed to “hold horses”).

It began around 8:00 AM this morning when, as Buford reports, the rebs came “booming…skirmishers three deep” just as Major Rathbone predicted. Two brigades from Henry Heth’s division moved down the Chambersburg Pike encountering Bufords videttes and alerting the rest of his command. The rebs must have thought they were facing only local militia because they didn’t even bother to deploy into a line of battle. Meanwhile, Buford sent an urgent message to General Reynolds telling him to hurry because even though his troopers were armed with the brand new Sharps 7 shot repeaters, he couldn’t hold against those odds for long.

Thank God Johnny Reyonolds pushed his boys so hard the day before because they were bivuaced a scant three miles from Bufords position. Meantime, General Buford had devised a brilliant plan. Called “defense in depth,” in essence, he was trading space for time. As the rebs began to pile up in front of him, he slowly withdrew to prepared positions in the rear. This caused more delay as the rebs would then have to sort themselves out all over again to make ready to attack. All the while, Bufords troopers are giving the Johnny Rebs what for with their repeaters.

Finally, around 10:00 AM, John Reynolds Black Hats arrived and started to form up. I’ve made a rough map of what I think the battlefield looks like at this point:

GETTYSBURG AT 10:00 AM, JULY 1

Buford positioned his three batteries of artillery nicely. He had one battery each covering the approach down Chambersburg Pike and Mummasburg Road with one battery in reserve “firing for effect.” The effect was to tear great big holes in the reb line causing Heth to committ another brigade, and then another, until his entire division of 7,000 men were engaged.

Bully for John Buford and the Union Cavalry!

Meanwhile, I sure would have liked to have seen the look on the faces of those johnny rebs when they saw the Black Hats of the Iron Brigade marching in perfect formation headed straight for them. I bet they were wetting their britches! My source at I Corp headquarters tells me that the Black Hatters went in on the left of Gamble’s brigade pushing through a wooded area down near Willoughby Run. Perfect! They may be able to turn the flank of Heth’s division and send them running for their lives.

If we’re lucky, we’ll bag the lot of them!

I’ll be updating this post all day as reports come in.

UPDATE

Here’s the situation as of 11:30 AM.

Our boys really have a twist on the rebs. Archer’s reb brigade apparently just walked into it when, thinking that Buford’s troopers had withdrawn from McPherson’s ridge, they were surprised to find the Black Hats of General Meredith ready and loaded for action. Before the rebs knew it, our boys had pretty much surrounded Archers entire Brigade and, as I predicted earlier, we bagged about 800 prisoners including one very mad and embarassed General Archer!

Things aren’t going so well elsewhere, however.

General Cutler’s boys were deployed along a railroad cut (a long, shallow depression running southwest to northeast just below Seminary Ridge) when General Davis’ rebs came screaming down on top of them, jumping them from 3 sides. It must have got pretty bloody and I hear that most of our boys had to surrender. But just when Davis’ rebs were ready to break through to the town itself, a couple of regiments of Wisconsin badgers showed up and pushed them back. Now it was the rebs turn to be caught like a fish in a barrel in the railroad cut. That too, got pretty bloody.

So at this moment, the rebs are widening an arc from Willoughby Run around to a point just below Seminary ridge with most of A.P. Hills Corp yet to arrive on the scene. We’ve got General Howard’s Dutchmen of the XI Corp on the way. They better get here soon. We’re outnumbered as it is.

UPDATE II

John Reynolds is dead.

I don’t know what else to say. Oh, cruel blow! Our best field commander killed before the battle is 3 hours old. I hear General Doubleday took command. I hope he’s up to the task.

Rest in peace General Johnny.

More later…

UPDATE III

One word can describe the situation as it stands now.

Disaster!

After the death of General Reynolds, the battle turned decisively against us. It really was nobody’s fault. Although people will say it was those damn Dutchmen of XI Corp that broke once again like they did at Chancellorsville, the fact is the rebs apparently had a lot more men reach the field of the battle sooner than our boys got there. Like that crazy reb cavalryman in Bragg’s outfit Bedford Forrest might say, they got their “fustest with the mostest.”

It happened like this. General Howard placed his XI Corps in an arc from the railroad cut around to a little stream called Rock Creek. He was spread pretty thin but it was good ground with plenty of cover and the rebs had to attack uphill, pretty steep in some places. By the time Howard was deployed reb General Rodes Corps of 8,000 had added his weight to A.P. Hill’s 12,000 men and 20,000 rebs attacked our boys along the entire front, screaming like wild indians. It must’ve been a sight to see. Any way, we were badly outnumbered but more than holding our own. In fact, two brigades of General Baxter’s division hammered most of Rode’s boys to pieces. But then the rebs got some artillery on Oak Hill and started to pound away and Baxter had to withdraw. Meanwhile, more and more rebs were showing up to the north. Here’s a map of the battlefield from around 3:00 pm this afternoon:

GETTYSBURG AT 3:30 JULY 1

As you can see, our boys were in a real pickle. Ewell’s entire Corps was bearing down on General Howard’s boys and reb General Early was showing up on the battlefield after a forced march from York down the Heidlersburg Road damn near behind General Barlow!

So it wasn’t really the Dutchmen of XI Corps fault that they broke. The problem was, once XI Corp abandoned their positions, the entire line started to retreat. Some of the boys left the field in good order but most of them just ran. This left I Corps exposed to the entire fury of the reb advance. I don’t have any casualty figures at the moment but it looks pretty grim. I daresay the Iron Brigade is finished as a fighting force what with most of them dead or captured.

The information I have now is that General Howard has set up a defensive position on some hills south and west of town. With our boys still streaming through Gettysburg proper and totally unorganized, it remains to be seen whether or not the Army of the Potomac has ceased to be an effective fighting force. If the rebs decide to keep pushing, they may shove our boys all the way out of Pennsylvania. That would leave a wide open road to Washington.

Too, too terrible to contemplate.

I should have one more update later today. I’m almost afraid to talk to my source at the War Department telegraph office for fear that the news will be too wrenching. I will, however, keep posting.

God help us all.

UPDATE IV

Bloody, bloody, day.

How we survived it, I don’t know. I can tell you that it was no thanks to our “generalship.” I put that in quotation marks because I don’t think there’s ever been a more wretched group of incompetent officers in the history of warfare. Oh there are exceptions like General Reynolds (God Rest his soul), General Hancock and a few others. But by and large, the only reason our army still lives is because of the individual bravery of the union soldier.

My beloved Iron Brigade is a perfect example. Cut off from the rest of I Corps on the extreme left of the fight, most of our boys running for their lives, those boys in the slouched black hats stood firm! They had rebs on three sides of them but they stopped the advance of Lee’s men long enough to give ther rest of their comrades from I Corps the chance to get away and fight tomorrow.

It cost my Black Hatters dear; they lost 1100 out of 1800 engaged.

I’m getting similar figures from other commands. Some regiments in XI Corps have simply ceased to exist with 90% or more in killed, wounded, missing. It looks like we lost about 30% from both Corps but the stragglers are still coming in.

The retreat through town was a mess and with no real leadership our boys had to pretty much figure out for themselves where the army was making a stand. As I mentioned in an earlier update, General Howard had established a defensive line south of town on a low ridgeline fronting a cemetary. There are two bigger hills further east and south and a smaller hill to the north. Here are the positions at about sundown:

Gettysburg 6:00 PM July 1

Hancock has arrived thank God!. He’s brought Slocum and Sickles Corps with him. That should shore up the line until the rest of our boys get there tomorrow morning.

One mystery that I can’t fathom. Ewell had his entire Corps ready to attack the hill where the Cemetary sits and never made a move. I guarantee you if he had tried it, our boys would’ve been in big trouble. But he didn’t and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. I get a feeling that if Stonewall was still in charge of that Corps we wouldn’t have been so lucky.

Just heard from Meade. “Good ground” he says. I sure hope so. We’re going to need all the luck we can get to win after the shellacking we took today.

Also heard that they call that little hill where Howard placed the remainder of his Corps “Cemetary Ridge.” Gives me the creeps. My friend Mr. Wilkeson who’s a correspondent for the New York Times just wired me:

“There’s a sign at the entrance to the cemetary that reads ‘The Discharge of Firearms within this cemetary is prohibited. Violators are subject to a $5 fine.”

Heh.

By: Rick Moran at 5:10 am
11 Responses to “JULY 1, 1863”
  1. 1
    Radio Left Trackbacked With:
    10:15 am 

    JULY 1, 1863

    Right Wing Nut HouseThis is the fifth in my series of week-long blog posts called Countdown to Gettysburg“. They are written from the perspective of someone who lived at that time and as if the internet existed in 1863.

    The introduction to the…

  2. 2
    Ken McCracken Said:
    12:49 pm 

    Those rebs came to Gettysburg to find shoes, and they found a fight instead!

    Buford is the hero of the battle I think - he remembered too many battles like Fredericksburg where the Union got slaughtered trying to slog uphill. Time to make the rebels do that, for once.

  3. 3
    Sneakeasy's Joint Trackbacked With:
    2:28 pm 

    Sneaks Wide World of Blogging 50

    Welcome to this edition of Sneaks Wide World of Blogging. This series is dedicated to the proposition that Blogging is a prime example of the saying Variety is the Spice of Life. Let’s get to the good stuff! ;-D This

  4. 4
    Chris Said:
    9:00 pm 

    I hear that Bobby Lee is spitting mad that Ewell didn’t advance, but he has himself to blame in this case. He issued orders to his corps commanders to press the situation if they thought it advisable. Ewell is new to the job, and cautious to boot. If Lee wanted him to advance, then he should have ordered a pursuit.

    Thank God that Stuart is off running around the Army of the Potomac again, polishing his legend instead of screening and recon. Good cavalry isn’t worth a damn if it’s not around.

    Buford is the man. I just hope all this stress doesn’t take it’s toll on him down the road. I also heard that Abner Doubleday did yeoman’s work holding his flank together. I’d hope that he gets rewarded, but that’s probably too much competence to hope for from our leadership.

  5. 5
    Badge 2211 Said:
    12:07 pm 

    In the eve of July 1, one of Buford’s brigade commanders remarked that the rebs would not be coming in any considerable strength and that he would be able to hold them off without much trouble, Buford rebuffed him, “No you won’t,” he said. “They will attack you in the morning and they will come booming–skirmishers three-deep. You will have to fight like the devil until supports arrive.” That is how the rebs came, three-deep and booming. Led by Archer and his Alabamians–Archer who whipped us back at Chancellorsville.

    Buford who was watching his dismounted troopers barely hang on, from the cupola of a Lutheran seminary, knew if Federal infantry didn’t come up soon, he would have to pull out to avoid being caught in pincer attack. At about 8:30, however, as Buford started down the ladder, perhaps to give the order to retire, he heard a calm voice asking from below: “What’s the matter, John?” It was Reynolds, considered by many to be the best general in the army. Buford shook his head. “The devil’s to pay,” he said. Reynold’s asked if that meant he could not hold on till I Corps got there, Buford reckoned he could and that was all that Reynolds needed to know.

  6. 6
    Badge 2211 Said:
    12:55 pm 

    UPDATE

    Archer’s brigade pressed on in the main to overrun the dismounted troopers. But, they were thrown into disorder by a fence they had to climb before they forded a stream and could start up the slope of McPherson’s Ridge. They managed to regain order and as they started up the Ridge they suddenly ran into flame-stabbed smoke and the crash of heavy volleys. This was musketry, not sporadic Spencer carbine fire and then they saw why. Not only were these new opponents infantry, but their black hats told the startled and stalled attackers that this was our Iron Brigade. The first brigade of the first division of the first corps of the first Army of the Republic. If Thomas Jackson’s Stonewall Brigade was a fearsome sight to make our men tremble, the same or moreso could be said of our Iron Brigade, these hard-bitten Westerners with the formidable reputation for hard fighting and their fierce pride.

    Staggered by this ambush, the surviving butternuts made a dash back from the attack. This time that fence would prove to be fatal. Piling high on the fence in disorder, the Alabamians were suddenly attacked from their flank by a Michigan regiment. They were cut to ribbons and those who escaped considered themselves lucky.

    75 rebs were captured including Archer, who was roughed up by a hefty private named Patrick Maloney. Archer never got over the mauling the big Irishman gave him. Heh.

  7. 7
    Badge 2211 Said:
    1:15 pm 

    UPDATE II

    After Buford’s troopers hung on for two more full hours of fighting, they were reaching the limit of their endurance. Reynolds knew this and that if he did not hurry he would lose McPherson’s Ridge. He turned in the saddle and called back over his shoulder to the infantry trudging up behind him: “Forward, forward, men! Drive those fellows out of that! Forward! For God’s sake, forward!” Those were his last words. He suddenly toppled from his horse and lay quite still, face-down on the soil of his native Pennsylvania. No one knew what hit him–including Reynolds himself, most likely–until an aide saw the neat half-inch hole behind his right ear, where the rifle bullet had struck. When they turned him over he gasped once. then smiled, but that was all. He was dead at the age of forty-two, brought down by a reb marksman in the orchard just ahead. “His death affected us much,” a young lieutenant later wrote, “for he was one of the soldier generals of the army.”

  8. 8
    MKL Said:
    2:40 am 

    Instant information does has a hazard of not being the most accurate. Your cav information source must have mistaken the rapid fire of the various types of breechloading carbines the cav is equipped with for Spencer 7-shot repeaters. The breechloaders will still alow the cav to fire at about 2 rounds for every one the rebs get off tho…

  9. 9
    Right Wing Nut House » JULY 3, 1863 Pinged With:
    9:23 am 

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  10. 10
    0WOC57NnyF Said:
    8:24 pm 

    onqDCNfqFSj2M WdNsOuyJKMD IdQESQO2WwMa

  11. 11
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