In Words and Music by Jeff Stike
June 8th, 1863, General Lee arrived at Brandy
Station to meet with his Chief of Cavalry J.E.B Stuart.
Today Stuart would put his fine force on display. As 3
bands played, Stuart’s troopers paraded and charged
their horses past General Lee causing an enormous dust
cloud. The cloud could be seen for miles, giving away
General Lee’s position. That evening Stuart’s
men had no idea that 11,000 Union soldier’s were
moving quietly on the opposite side of the river. At dawn
they would attack, beginning the largest cavalry battle
to ever take place on American soil, crippling Stuart’s
Cavalry for almost a week. On June 10th, Lee headed north
into Pennsylvania, without his Cavalry. Stuart’s
troopers would not catch back up in time to be of help
to General Lee at Gettysburg.
Sunday, June 28, 6000 Confederate soldiers march
through York, Pa. Twelve miles to the East, General Gordon
will Bombard Wrightsville in an attempt to capture and
control the Wrightsville Bridge. If successful, elements
of the Confederate Army would have nothing between them
and the State Capitol. After an hour and a half battle,
Union General Frick gave the order to destroy the bridge.
The heroic stand and burning of the Wrightsville Bridge
effectively ended Robert E. Lees plan to capture Harrisburg.
Hold This Ground
July 1st, General Buford’s dismounted cavalry
meet’s Heth’s Confederate Division on the
Chambersburg Pike near Herr’s Ridge. Buford’s
badly outnumbered men hold long enough for reinforcement’s
to arrive. Commanding Union General Reynolds would be
killed just as the battle was starting. The morning stand-off
is broken at 3pm when Confederate troops pour in from
Carlisle and York. Totally out-flanked, the Union Army
retreats back to Cemetery Hill, where they regroup and
July 2nd: Lee had not planned on fighting at
Gettysburg, but without Stuart and his cavalry, Lee was
blind in enemy territory and decided to stand and fight.
Gen. Longstreet would plead with Lee not to fight here
or attack the ‘high ground’ of Cemetery Hill.
Strong, Lucky or Dead
July 2nd: It was after 4 pm when Longstreet finally attacked.
By that time, Union General Sickle’s had disobeyed
orders and moved his men into the areas between the Peach
Orchard and the Devil’s Den, directly in the path
of Longstreet’s attack. Some of the most savage
hand to hand fighting of the war would happen this day
on this line.
The Round Tops
July 2nd: The Confederate Army began to swarm
up the slopes of Little Round Top. Their attempt to capture
the ‘high-ground’ and flank the Union army
was stopped by the heroic charges of the 140th New York
and Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine.
Musket Balls & Blade’s
July 3rd: Lee’s new plan was to cut the
Union line in half. At 1pm Lee would unleash 150 cannons
in an attempt to clear the guns off Cemetery Ridge. For
2 hours cannoneers dueled until neither side could see
anything for the smoke. About 3 o’clock, 15,000
Confederates would begin the 1 mile march toward the Union
line on Cemetery Ridge.
As the Confederates crossed the field, shells
began bursting in the midst of them, taking down whole
rows of men. Still the confederates pushed forward across
the field, still out of range they couldn’t fire
back. There was little more they could do but pray.