Midpoint of the War: May to July 1863

Gettysburg: The First Day

Who was now the federal commander on the field?

By 6 P.M., when Lee rode over to confer with Ewell, federal command had fallen to Major-General Winfield Scott Hancock (1824–1886). The thirty-nine-year-old West Point gradate was one of the most solid and underrated officers in the Union Army: he was also named for War of 1812 hero Winfield Scott. Hancock made the final arrangements before the sun went down on July 1, 1863, and he was satisfied that—all things considered—the Union had done quite well that day. The Confederates might have inflicted more casualties—actually it was almost a draw—and grabbed some territory, but the Union men were in by far the better position, topographically speaking.

Hancock remained in charge until General George Meade arrived late that night. Much like Robert E. Lee, George Meade had no choice: he had been pulled into a fight he had not chosen. The more he spoke with his aides and subordinates, however, the more Meade was persuaded that Gettysburg was as good a place to fight as the Union was likely to find.


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