The Second Day (July 2, 1863)

General Meade reached the Gettysburg battlefield sometime around midnight on July 1-2. On July 2 he sent the following message to Henry Halleck:

I have concentrated my army at this place to-day. The Sixth Corps is just coming in, very much worn out, having been marching since 9 p. M. last night.

The army is fatigued. I have to-day, up to this hour, awaited the attack of the enemy, I having a strong position for defensive. I am not determined on attacking him till his position is more developed. He has been moving on both my flanks apparently, but it is difficult to tell exactly his movements. I have delayed attacking to allow the Sixth Corps and parts of other corps to reach this place and rest the men. Expecting a battle, I ordered all my trains to the rear. If not attacked, and I can get any positive information of the position of the enemy which will justify me in so doing, I shall attack. If I find it hazardous to do so, or am satisfied the enemy is endeavoring to move to my rear and interpose between me and Washington, I shall fall back to my supplies at Westminster. I will endeavor to advise you as often as possible. In the engagement yesterday the enemy concentrated more rapidly than we could, and towards evening, owing to the superiority of numbers, compelled the Eleventh and First Corps to fall back from the town to the heights this side, on which I am now posted. I feel fully the responsibility resting on me, but will endeavor to act with caution.

Meade’s letter taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), p. 72. Available via Google Books.

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A Visit to Gettysburg (June 29, 2013)

DSC_4658I went down to Gettysburg yesterday (June 29). Since I was doing a book signing at the American History Store in town, I figured I would spend the entire day. I’m glad I did. I managed to find a parking space in the lot of the old visitor center and made that my base camp. From there I set out to explore the battlefield.

First I headed down to Meade’s headquarters at the Leister House, past the huge production being set up in the field just north of the building. This will be the site of the big show tonight (June 30). I then headed up to the Meade statue and down Cemetery Ridge to the Pennsylvania Monument. From there I walked down Sedgwick Avenue to the north slope of Little Round Top, skirted the Wheatfield on Wheatfield Road, turned right on Sickles Avenue at the edge of the Peach Orchard, and then followed the Emmitsburg Road into town.

By then I was pretty tired, so I headed up to the National Cemetery and lay down against a huge yellow popular tree at the far northern end. There I could hear the production crew running through the script of the sound-and-light show. It was a pleasantly surreal experience, as I drifted in and out of sleep not too far from the spot where Lincoln made his Gettysburg Address, to hear his words coming from the stage, as though they were being blown to me on the light summer breeze.

I brought with me the new Stackpole book Gettysburg: The Story of the Battlefield with Maps and also my copy of The U.S. Army War College Guide to the Battle of Gettysburg. As I walked about I stopped periodically to dip into both these volumes and profit by their insights. And I brought along a camera. I have included a few photos here.

I was somewhat surprised by the small number of people on the battlefield. Town, however, appeared fairly crowded and by late afternoon a line of cars stretched up Taneytown Road to the cemetery entrance.

I thought it was tremendously exciting to be here on this big anniversary. Since I will be appearing on PCN live on Tuesday and will be doing a Sacred Trust talk at the visitor center on July 6, I felt like I was part of it, in my own small way.

People in period dress approach the 72nd PA monument. Just a few days ago a thunderstorm knocked the statue off its base but park personnel quickly put it back.

People in period dress approach the 72nd PA monument. Just a few days ago a thunderstorm knocked the statue off its base but park personnel quickly put it back.

Who is that? A portrait of Robert E. Lee is projected on a huge screen set up just north of Meade's headquarters.

Who is that? A portrait of Robert E. Lee is projected on a huge screen set up just north of Meade’s headquarters.

The view from the Pennsylvania State Monument, looking towards the 1st MN monument.

The view from the Pennsylvania State Monument, looking towards the 1st MN monument.

The statue of Gen. Andrew Humphreys overlooks a horseback tour group on the Emmitsburg Road. To the right is the 11th MA. The arm and sword atop it were only recently restored after being torn off by vandals in 2006.

The statue of Gen. Andrew Humphreys overlooks a horseback tour group on the Emmitsburg Road. To the right is the 11th MA. The arm and sword atop it were only recently restored after being torn off by vandals in 2006.

General Lee, is that you? Living historians are a common sight on the streets of Gettysburg. I saw several Lees but nary a Meade.

General Lee, is that you? Living historians are a common sight on the streets of Gettysburg. I saw several Lees but nary a Meade.

Visitors admire the victor of Gettysburg.

Visitors admire the victor of Gettysburg.

My table at the American History Store.

My table at the American History Store.