Saturday, June 29, 2013

Countdown to Gettysburg: June 29th 1863 -- Lee and Meade Advance Towards Gettysburg

  On June 29th both Lee and Meade gave orders for their armies to advance towards Gettysburg, a town where ten major roads converged like the wheels of a wagon in every direction. The 2,400 people of Gettysburg had no idea that two armies totaling over 150,000 men were converging for battle at their doorstep. 

Major General George Gordon Meade
  As Meade took command on June 28, intelligence on Lee’s army became clearer. Spies in Hagerstown, Maryland, estimated the enemy’s strength at 80,000 men and 275 cannons. Meade knew Lee had sent Ewell’s corps north to York and Carlisle while Longstreet’s and Hill’s troops remained in the vicinity of Chambersburg. Orders were given to keep the Federal army marching northwest from Frederick to Taneytown, where Meade set up his headquarters. To screen the advance of the army, Brigadier General John Buford was ordered to take two brigades of cavalry into Gettysburg and defend the town if attacked. 

General Robert Edward Lee
  Lee began moving his army east toward Gettysburg on Monday the 29th, with Hill’s Third Corps camping in Cashtown for the night. Longstreet’s First Corps would follow on the 30th as far as Greenwoood, and Ewell’s Second Corps would march south from Carlisle. Major General Henry Heth, commanding the lead division of Hill’s corps, ordered a brigade to Gettysburg on the 30th to find supplies, especially shoes, for his ill-equipped soldiers. 

Major General Henry Heth
  Thus, by Tuesday, June 30, the Union and Confederate armies were on a collision course toward Gettysburg. Meade had only been in command of his army for two days; his troops were stretched out along the roads from Frederick— hot and exhausted from hard marching. He was about to face the legendary Robert E. Lee in what could be the decisive battle of the war. Yet Meade did have one precious advantage over Lee—he knew where his enemy was, while Lee, without cavalry, was advancing blindly. 

Gettysburg resident Daniel Skelly age 18 in 1863
  Daniel Skelly recalled the growing tension among the people of Gettysburg: “The 28th and 29th were exciting days in Gettysburg for we knew the Confederate army, or a part of it at least, was within a few miles of our town and at night we could see from the house-tops the campfires in the mountains eight miles west of us. We expected it to march into our town at any moment and we had no information as to the whereabouts of the Army of the Potomac.”

(to be continued...)

Read more about the Daniel Skelly and the Gettysburg campaign my new book for teens just published by Sky Pony Press, Gettysburg: The True Account of Two Young Heroes in the Greatest Battle of the Civil War, available at Amazon and

Follow me on Facebook!

Follow me on Twitter!

No comments:

Post a Comment