Midpoint of the War: May to July 1863

Gettysburg: The First Day

How many Confederates were in the neighborhood?

By noon, there were almost forty thousand Confederates within two miles of Gettysburg—all on the north, northeast, and northwest sides—and their numbers looked nothing short of overwhelming. At that moment, there were perhaps 25,000 Northern soldiers in and around the town, and it looked as if they would soon be pulverized. What this early calculation does not take into account was that the Union had more men, about thirty-five percent more, within a range of thirty miles, and that distance was shrinking all the time. Though the Confederates did not fully realize it, they had a very narrow “window” of time in which to take the town and surrounding location.

Lee and his staff arrived from the northwest at about 1 P.M. Snapping that he was not ready for a major battle on this day, Lee took ten minutes to examine the situation, using his field glasses. What he saw both appalled him and tantalized him with its possibilities.


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