Midpoint of the War: May to July 1863

The Army of Northern Virginia Moves North

Did anyone really know that it would all unfold at Gettysburg?

No. There were members of Lee’s staff who pointed to the place on the map, saying that it was one of great value, but virtually no one predicted that the two great armies would converge on one point. The geographic convergence began at around 7 A.M. on Wednesday, the first of July, 1863.

General Henry Heth’s Confederates were on the road early, attempting to beat the heat of the noonday sun. They came to the outskirts of Gettysburg by 7 A.M. and ran straight into three thousand federal cavalrymen, led by Colonel John Buford. The first shots were exchanged shortly after the sun rose, and the Federals took cover behind a row of picket fences and low hills. Colonel Buford found the cupola of the Lutheran Theological Seminary an excellent observation point, and he noted with some satisfaction that the Confederates did not realize they were in for a real fight: the rebels were marching as if this were to be an easy skirmish, followed by an occupation of the town.


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