Sunday, June 30, 2013

Gettysburg: Day 1

On the First day of July, 1863, elements of Gen. Robert Edward Lee’s Confederate Army of NorthernVirginia came into contact with Kentucky born Brigadier General John Buford’s United States First Cavalry northwest of the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg. As the skirmishing began, Buford realized that he was facing a much larger force of Confederates than his own unit and sent a messenger requesting reinforcements. Aware of the importance of holding the tactically important high ground around Gettysburg, Buford set up his defensive position on the hills surrounding the town, setting the stage for perhaps “one of the most iconic battles in American military history.” That initial encounter that began the Battle of Gettysburg took place 150 years ago.

I have had a deep interest in the Battle of Gettysburg ever since I first visited the battlefield almost 50 years ago, during a break from summer ROTC camp training at Indiantown gap, Pennsylvania. Since that day when I walked about the battlefield and stood at the “High Water Mark ofthe Confederacy” looking across huge field that Confederate General Pickett’s charged, directly into the
guns of the Union army, I have had a deep curiosity in the battle.

I have read many books about the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg, specifically. Perhaps the most moving and remarkable book is Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War (Modern Library) . The title is taken from a conversation between Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, commanding the Union’s 20 Maine Regiment, and Sergeant Buster Kilrain, the primary fictional character in the book:

Chamberlain: [quoting Hamlet] “What a piece of work is man, in form and movement how express and admirable. In action how like an angel”. 
Sergeant Kilrain: Well, if he's an angel, all right then. But he damn well must be a killer angel. 

The Killer Angels was the basis for the superb 1993 film, Gettysburg, that I once watched each July until my DVDs disappeared during my move to this apartment.

The June 30th confrontation between Buford’s cavalry, reinforced by Union 1st and 11th Corps of infantry, and the Confederate corps of generals A.P. Hill and Richard Ewell ended with the Confederates pushing the Union out of the town of Gettysburg. However, the Union set up a defensive line on a fishhook-shaped range of hills and ridges south of Gettysburg—the high ground—setting the stage for the second day of battle, about which I shall comment on Tuesday, July 2nd.

You may want to explore:



  1. Thank you, Rev Saint, for the links. I am learning quite a bit about the battle from this post.

  2. Thank you, SSN. ibid. what Azsonofagun wrote.

  3. I remember the Gettysburg movie. Now I want to see it again.

  4. Thanks for enlightening me, Nick. I'm ashamed to say that I know very little about this important historical event. xsx

  5. I appreciate the effort you have put into this post on the day one of the Gettysburg battle. I look forward to your post about day two.