Beyond the town of Gettysburg

Chapter 1
Chapter 1

July 1, 1863, 10:15 a.m.
East of Herr's Ridge
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The sun was now steadily rising and the damp moisture of the night finally gave way to the dry warmth of midsummer day. Brigadier General James Jay Archer from Heth's Confederate division pondered what the day ahead would bring. For the past three hours, his twelve hundred men from Tennessee and Alabama had been driving a Union cavalry brigade, part of a whole division, steadily eastward, that had blocked the road to Gettysburg, a small Pennsylvania town. The blue-clad riders had been stubborn. They had positioned themselves loosely behind big rocks, bushes and pasture fences and stoically fired their carbines. Still, Archer's men had driven them out of their positions time and again. The losses had so far been surprisingly light and the morale of the men was accordingly high. After the Confederates had taken the latest ridge, they were now faced with a small body of water that ran parallel to their battle line and had to be crossed. On the other bank, in the northeast, there was a fenced field with a white farmhouse and an annex behind it, while a little further south a small but relatively dense grove was located. Archer was about to give the order to advance again. From his location, he could already make out the characteristic cupola of the Lutheran seminar in Gettysburg and the most direct route to this landmark was through the already mentioned woods.

Suddenly a rider approached him. Archer quickly recognized him as Major Abram Sebastian Van de Graaff, commanding officer of the 5th Alabama Battalion, that formed the left flank of his line and waited for further instructions in skirmish order on the west side of the farm field.

"What brings you here, Major?“, demanded Archer as soon as the younger man had steadied his horse infront of him.

"Sir, I have important news to report, may I speak?“

"Speak frankly, Abram, you look to be agitated“

"General Archer, I believe we are no longer facing cavalry, sir. I scanned the fence line in my front with my field glasses and I am almost certain that there is infantry in my way.“

"No need to worry, as you may remember General Pettigrew informed us yesterday that militias might be in the area. And the shootout of the past few hours has certainly brought even some of these amateurs to the scene. Deliver them a sharp volley and they will be running back to their mothers before your men will have finished reloading.“

"Sir, I fear we are facing men of the Army of the Potomac. Next to a unit of bluebellys I could see a large regiment in fancy zouave uniforms. This is certainly not militia clothing. And, more importantly, their left flank connects directly with the forest in your front. While I would expect an open flank from newbie soldiers, the army men should have learned their lesson from Chancellorsville by now. The poor visibility makes me really uncomfortable. Who knows what might be located in those trees.“

There was silence around the two men as Archer arranged his thoughts. Van de Graaff was only thirty-one, but still a reliable commander who cared for his men. And he was right, when there were zouaves, that actually meant trouble. If Meade's army was already here, that would radically change the equation. Located north of Archer was the 1,700-strong brigade of Joseph Davis, the Confederate president's nephew, but the numbers of the cavalry they had engaged had been comparatively strong. The rest of Heth's division was still a few miles away, and even one or two Union brigades could do serious damage to the Confederates, who were isolated from their main force. In addition, Archer now remembered General Lee's order not to start any major engagement without having concentrated the army first. It was time to make a decision.

"You are right, Major, and I do thank you for this valuable piece of information. If there are army men confronting us, and I believe this to be the case, we are vulnerable in this depression here. You are hereby ordered to hold your ground while I retire the brigade to the ridge in our rear. General Heth must be informed about the situation before I am going to issue any further movement east. Please return to your men!“

As the major reigned in his horse and sped away, Archer barked orders to his other regimental commanders and called for couriers. As his men were orderly retracing their steps in the opposite direction, a lieutenant dashed towards the Chambersburg Pike in order to bear the news to the division commander Henry Heth while a corporal went north with the difficult task to locate the whereabouts of Brigadier General Joseph Davis.


Brig. Gen. James J. Archer, CSA​
 
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Very interesting premise, consider this watched. I don't think I've seen a Gettysburg TL that explores this idea. I look forward to future updates.

One little quibble though, see if you can fix the quotation marks, it's a tad distracting.
 
So the PoD is that Archer doesn't press his attack and get clobbered by the Iron Brigade. He will also try to warn Davis to hold back, and not get smashed up in the railroad cut.

I'm curious as what the knock-on will be. If Archer and Davis attack more deliberately, could they succeed? They won't break the Iron Brigade. If they wait for additional troops to come up, that will allow more Union troops to come up as well. However, one very likely knock-on is that John Reynolds isn't killed. That might be as helpful to the Union as the better state of Archer's and Davis's brigades to the Confederates.

If Reynolds commands the deployments, can the Union hold the ground west and north of Gettysburg?
 
Chapter 2
Chapter 2

July 1, 1863, 11:00 a.m.
Oak Ridge
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

They were gone again as if they were ghosts. Gray ghosts. Only the heaps of blue that covered the ground in front of him showed that the attack had not just been an imagination, but a brutal reality. The sun, almost at its zenith, made Brigadier General Lysander Cutler painfully feel each of his fifty-four years. His shoulders were aching. It had been a disaster, a bloody disaster. He looked around and the sad piles of men grouped around the worn and tattered flags finally brought him back to the present.

He and his men had been the first to respond to Buford's call for help, and they had bled for it. The brigade excepting the 7th Indiana, which was on duty in the rear, had moved from camp early in the morning towards Gettysburg. As they approached, Cutler was ordered by division commander Wadsworth to move obliquely to the left across the fields to Seminary Ridge west of the town, where the Confederates had already engaged Buford's cavalry. He moved forward across a railroad cut with the 76th New York, 147th New York and 56th Pennsylvania, immediately formed in line of battle and almost in the same instant found himself engaged with rebels in front and on his right flank, who were soon to be identified as belonging to Joseph Davis' brigade of Mississippians and North Carolinians. Cutler went into the fray with around one thousand men in three regiments, because the 95th New York and the 14th Brooklyn had been detached to the left to support a battery of artillery. While the 147th New York had held steady behind a wooden fence and traded fierce volleys with a regiment of Mississippians, the other two regiments were assaulted by superior numbers, outflanked on the right and driven back in confusion. Finally, the 147th New York, being now nearly surrounded, was forced back as well. Cutler had been riding constantly from one end to the line to the other and encouraged his men by recklessly exposing himself, but to no avail. When James Wadsworth finally ordered the retreat to the next ridge in order to establish a new line of defense, Cutler's brigade had already suffered more than four hundred and fifty casualties. The brigade commander had been certain that a new attack had to be launched at any moment. But suddenly, apparently without any reason, the rebels had turned. They had been about to attack Cutler's remaining two regiments south of the railroad cut when they fell back.

"Can you explain this sudden change of heart, sir?“, Cutler asked his superior, Brigadier General James Wadsworth.

"Not completely. A very unusual behavior for Bobby Lee. I have been told that a second rebel brigade had been sighted in the southwest and has never even attempted to advance.“

"Do you think Lee is up to something, sir?“

"He always is, isn't he?“, Wadsworth asked back rhetorically. "For now we have to make the best of the situation. The odds could be worse. Our lines held against them, at least sort of, and Meredith's brigade is now up. When Robinson and Doubleday arrive, we can prepare a nasty surprise for the rebels. And you, Lysander, get yourself something to drink and see to your men. I still need you today“

Cutler nodded weakly, saluted and departed.


Brig. Gen. Lysander Cutler, USA​
 
Chapter 3
Chapter 3

July 1, 1863, 11:30 a.m.
Cashtown Hotel
Cashtown, Pennsylvania

The buttermilk served in a stone jug was cool and tasty. General Robert Edward Lee almost half-emptied the vessel in one go and allowed himself a quiet, contended sigh. He had reached the place a few minutes ago with his staff, and Lieutenant General Ambrose Powell Hill had suggested a remote room in the central hotel as a meeting space. The window curtains were drawn to keep the heat out and there was only muffled noise from the street to be heard.

“So the Army of the Potomac is definitely here, General Hill?”, Lee asked his short subordinate who wore his characteristic red battleshirt.

“Yes, this fact is confirmed by now. General Heth reports he has taken prisoners from Wadsworth's division, Reynolds' corps. While Archer refrained from attacking due to the confusing terrain, Davis was a little less reluctant. According to the report, he pretty much demolished a Union brigade and took over two hundred prisoners. However, when he noticed that Archer was not advancing in agreement with him, he stopped further aggressive movements.”

“Reluctance has never been Joseph Davis' strength”, Lee smirked. “This confidence seems to go hand in hand with being related to the president. In order not do to him any injustice, however, especially his Mississippians are a rough and undisciplined bunch. All in all, we can therefore be satisfied with his performance. He was not tempted to let himself be lured into a general engagement and General Archer acted according to my orders. I would have felt very uncomfortable to slug it out with an army I do not know the dispositions of.”

“That means you still haven't heard from Stuart, sir?”

“Not a word yet. The fact that those people are now occupying the railroad junction near Gettysburg poses the question of what our next steps will be. Without our eyes and ears, an attack is completely out of the question for me. We have to concentrate our forces.”

“If i could make a suggestion, General Lee...?”

“Go ahead, General Hill.”

“If I am properly informed, General Ewell should have crossed the mountains coming from Carlisle by now. General Longstreet's corps is still on its way north in the direction of Chambersburg. This makes the region around Cashtown where we are currently located a good gathering point.”

“Elaborate further, please.”

Lieutenant General Hill walked over to a mapping table and began to explain.

“Just a little west of Cashtown is a ridge that runs from Arendtsville in the north to the Caledonia Cold Springs Hotel in the south. The heights command the Chambersburg Pike in the middle of the line. The left flank as well as the left rear is covered by Conewago Creek, which makes any attack from the north extremely difficult. There are also a number of smaller bodies of water in the south that offer protection.“

“This looks like a solid position to await the arrival of General Stuart“, Lee observed. He pondered for a few moments, then continued with determination in his voice. “General Hill, this is the place. I want you to countermarch Heth's and Pender's divisions immediately. Those divisions shall be the center of our defensive line. When Anderson comes up, he is to be held in reserve. As soon as your men arrive, they are to begin constructing field works. I am going to order General Ewell to join us via Middletown. His corps will file in to your left. When Longstreet comes up from Chambersburg, he is going to form our right flank.“

“With all due respect, sir, what are your plans for the near future?“, Hill asked excitedly.

“Until I hear from General Stuart, I do not want to commit. We are as far north as never before and the wires from Washington will heat up with orders for General Meade to do something. Here we can receive him and give him a bloody nose. And we will know how to use the resulting opportunities, as we have always done so far. In addition, we will pursue our secondary goals and stock up with as many supplies as we can find. Virginia agriculture must be relieved this summer.“


Gen. Robert E. Lee and Lieut. Gen. Ambrose P. Hill meet in Cashtown.

Cashtown.jpg

Hill's plan for a defensive position.​
 
Chapter 4 New
Chapter 4

July 1, 1863, 12:30 a.m.
Taneytown, Maryland

George Gordon Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, wiped sweat from his forehead with a tissue and faced his assembled subordinates. Without a word, he passed the letter, which he had received from a courier, on to Chief of Staff Major General Daniel Butterfield.

“Would you be so kind, Dan?“

Butterfield nervously cleared his throat and startet reading aloud: “My command has relieved Buford's cavalry division west of Gettysburg, that had been engaged with two brigades of rebel infantry. Prisoners of war confirm that we are facing part of Henry Heth's division. Gallant General Cutler successfully stopped Heth's advance even though his brigade suffered heavy losses in the process. It looks like the rebels have withdrawn westwards after their reverse. Cavalry outposts report that the enemy is heading towards Cashtown via the Chambersburg Pike. In my opinion, the local area is excellent for a deployment. The town and thus the road and rail junction are dominated by several hills. Flank protection is provided at various points. I would therefore recommend gathering the army at Gettysburg as long as we have no further information on Lee's intentions. The road network would allow us to react promptly and appropriately to any situational changes. Respectfully, John Reynolds, 1st Army Corps, Army of the Potomac.“

“Well, Gentlemen“, Meade began. “Although I haven't seen the site myself, I have no reason to distrust John Reynolds. Our soldiers defended this patch of earth and gave their blood for it. Given this, I think it would be a mistake and a hard hit against the morale of the men if we give up this place again. Does anybody have an opinion on this?“

Daniel Edgar Sickles, the political soldier, was the first to respond. “We should teach Bobby Lee a lesson. And that would prove difficult if we hid in the hinterland to wait for him. He and his army are on our own soil now and we should drive them off by all means. I am in favor of going to Gettysburg, sir!“

“But what about the Pipe Creek Line?“, conservative Oliver Otis Howard put in. “Our plan was to fight a defensive battle there to shield Washington.“

“Washington can take care of itself“, Sickles immediately chimed in. “The city is protected by the strongest fortifications in the world. If Lee were actually stupid enough to attack the capital with us intact behind him, the heavy artillery would blow him to smithereens and we were able to wipe up his remains. We must focus on the rebel army!“

“We may have our differences, but I have to at least partly agree with you, General Sickles. We cannot just let Lee go and run in Pennsylvania, although public opinion in the capital is not to be neglected totally. If no one else has anything to contribute, I suggest you all get your men moving and I hope to god that this is good ground up there.“, Meade wrapped up the conversation.


Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, USA.​
 
Interlude I New
Interlude I

In the late evening of July 1, the situation is as follows.

Ewell's corps has arrived north of Cashtown and extends the line to Conewago Creek. Robert Rodes' division (7,600 infantry) is positioned on the extreme left of Lee's line. South of Rodes is Edward 'Allegheny' Johnson (6,000 infantry). Jubal Early (5,100 infantry) is in reserve.

A.P. Hill's corps forms the center with Henry Heth (6,800 infantry) on the left and William Dorsey Pender (6,300 infantry) on the right. Richard Heron Anderson (6,500 infantry) is in reserve.

Two divisions of James Longstreet's corps have reached Cashtown as well and file in on Hill's right. Lafayette McLaws (6,800 infantry) is on the left and John Bell Hood (6,900 infantry) forms the extreme right. Protecting that flank is Albert Gallatin Jenkins' cavalry brigade (1,300 troopers).

Longstreet's third division, George Pickett's (5,200 infantry), camps in Chambersburg for the night, together with John Daniel Imboden's cavalry brigade (1,800 troopers) that protects the army's trains and supply line.

At Shippensburg, Beverly Robertson (1,000 troopers) and William Edmondson 'Grumble' Jones (1,900 troopers) shield Lee's rear from the north.

James Ewell Brown 'Jeb' Stuart tries to link up with Lee's army after his ride around Meade. However, his 4,800 troopers are still only at Dover, north-west of York.

The majority of George Gordon Meade's army has reached Gettysburg. Oliver Otis Howard's XI Corps (8,300 infantry) holds the right flank from Blocher's Knoll to Oak Ridge. John Fulton Reynolds' I Corps (11,100 infantry) stretches from Oak Ridge to the Fairfield/Hagerstown Road. Winfield Scott Hancock's II Corps (10,500 infantry) is positioned along Seminary Ridge up to the side arm of Pitzer's Run. The left flank from Pitzer's Run over the Peach Orchard and the Wheatfield to Little Round Top is held by Daniel Edgar Sickles' III Corps (10,000 infantry). Henry Warner Slocum's XII Corps (9,100 infantry) is held in reserve near Cemetary Hill. George Sykes' V Corps (10,300 infantry) is halfway up from Littlestown while John Sedgwick's VI Corps (12,500 infantry) camps way in the rear near Manchester. David McMurtrie Gregg's division (2,600 troopers) guards the Harrisburg Road, John Buford's division (3,900 troopers) is located at the Taneytown Road near the Round Tops and Judson Kilpatrick's division (3,800 troopers) waits for further orders at Power's Hill.

At Harrisburg, Darius Nash Couch gathered three brigades of New York Militia under Philip Schuyler (1,000 infantry), Joseph Farmer Knipe (2,200 infantry) and John Ewen (1,400 infantry).

William Henry French holds Harpers Ferry and Maryland Heights with around 10,000 infantry from the VIII Corps in Rutherford Birchard Hayes', Carr Baily White's, William Walton Morris Jr.'s and Washington Lafayette Elliott's brigades.

Gettysburg_Evening_July1.jpg
 
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