The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest battles in American history and the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War. As the Potomac Army and the Army of Northern Virginia converged on Gettysburg, nobody could have known the blood shed that would follow. Day 1 of the Battle of Gettysburg began a battle that would turn the tide of the war.
The battle began by mistake. Neither side was looking for a fight, but they both just happened to run into each other. On June 30, a Union Brigade under General John Buford occupied the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Union General was not expecting any kind of action, but on July 1, a Confederate Division under the Control of General Harry Heth came to occupy the town not knowing that a Union Brigade of Calvary had already occupied the town. Oddly enough, this is how the Battle of Gettysburg would begin.
Day 1 of The Battle of Gettysburg began on July 1, 1863 around 8:00 a.m. with both Buford’s and Heth’s men skirmishing out side of town on a ridge known as McPherson’s Ridge. Finally, the Confederate Brigades moved in force on the ridge not fully expecting much resistance. The Union Calvary was able to hold the line for quite some time, while waiting for reinforcements. It is estimated that they held for over an hour at least until reinforcements arrived. Within a few hours the Union forces occupying McPherson Ridge were out numbered and about ready to be flanked by Confederate forces.
Around 2:30 P.M. Confederate forces were able to drive Union troops from McPherson ridge. Once the Union lines broke, the chase was on. Confederate troops chased Federal forces all the way through the town of Gettysburg, but had to stop the chase due to fatigue and high casualties. Union troops regrouped and formed a new defensive line on Cemetery Hill, which was just south of Gettysburg.
As the Confederate troops rested in Gettysburg, Confederate Generals James Longstreet and General Robert E. Lee disagreed about how the battle should be handled. Longstreet believed they should press on. He knew the next day would bring more Union forces eager to fight. Lee believed the men were tired and another attack would literally break his army. Ultimately Lee won out and the fighting ceased for the day.
Around 11:30 P.M. General Meade arrived to take control of the situation for the Union Army. His first duty was to strengthen the defensive positions around Cemetery Hill. His second duty was to figure out how bad the situation was. The day was over, but the battle was just beginning. While Union forces had take a beating throughout the day, they had also dealt some damage to Confederate forces as well. Neither said wanted to fight on this day, but fate had brought them together.