Approaches to Gettysburg

Coddington, the USGS and Bryce

The following maps are based on USGS data and Map 2 from Edwin Coddington's The Gettysburg Campaign, A Study in Command. The blue roman numerals represent the seven Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Longsteet's First Corps barely moved during the four day period of June 28 through July 1. It is shown as a single red 1. The southern II and III corps are shown in red at the division level, with a letter designating the division commanding general following the corps number. I switched from roman to Arabic numerals for southern units, as they are often very close together, and the arabic numbers allow tighter readable spacing. Stuart's cavalry is shown with a red S. Most towns are shown as dots. Gettysburg is marked with the fish hook of the July 2 and July 3 battle line. The names of the towns can be found on a similar map on the Meade's Strategy page.

On this scale of map, the hills of Gettysburg show up as one or two pixels. In drawing in the battle line, even with a fairly fine line, the tiny dots representing Cemetery Hill, Culp's Hill and Little Round Top were overwritten. The green just below the fish hook is Big Round Top. To the right of the hook of the fish hook, the yellow of Rock Creek Valley is followed by the dark green of Wolf Hill.

Meet Me in Frederick
Movements from Morning of 28th to Morning of 29th.

Mead concentrates on Frederick. The III, XII and VI Corps area already clearly heading for Pipe's Creek and/or York. Lee stands pat. Stuart is even with the AoP, also heading for York.

Decision and Indecision.
Morning June 29 to Morning June 30

Meade is in a hurry. The I and XI Corps guard the left. The other five corps head for Pipe Creek / York. Lee had sent first an order to concentrate west of South Mountain, then countermanded it with an order to concentrate near Gettysburg. Early (2E) gets both orders late, due to the delays of messages sent by horseback. He is not yet moving in earnest. Johhnson (2J) is coming west, responding to the first order. Hill (3A, 3P, 3H) is going east, but not as rapidly as the Union army, in part due to the conflicting orders. Stuart, still out of communications with Lee, drifts a little west, encouters vanguard elements of Meade's main body.

The bulk of Meade's army is going east, while the bulk of Lee's army is in the west.

All Together Now
Morning of July 30 to Morning July 1.

Lee is heading for Gettysburg, but has a traffic jam getting over South Mountain. Stuart skirmishes with Yankee Cavalry at Hanover, and misses a link up with Early by seven miles. Early hears Stuart's guns, but countinues moving west. Sickles' Union III Corps leaves the center wing, joining the I and XI Corps on the left wing. The II, V, VI and XII Corps spread to cover the Pipe's Creek region.

Lee is concentrating for battle while Meade is still spreading out to cover Washington. While the V, VI and XII corps are still heading hard to the northeast, the other four corps are making smaller adjustments. Meade is roughly where he wants to be to execute the Pipe Creek plan. Buford's cavalry is in Gettysburg, with Reynolds coming up in support. Not having copies of the Pipe Creek Circular yet, Buford and Reynolds commit to battle at Gettysburg. Meanwhile, Lee is telling everyone to avoid a general engagement, but Hill and Ewell take on Buford and Reynolds regardless. By the afternoon, the I and XI Corps will be engaged with 3P, 3H, 2E and 2R. Reynolds and Howard ask for support from the III and/or XII Corps, but neither arrive before a Union collapse.

I am not bothering with a July 1 to July 2 map. Simply imagine arrows from each unit's morning ofJuly 1 position to Gettysburg.

The July 1 morning positions shows the Union left wing (I, III and XI Corps) just south of Gettysburg. The center (II, V & XII) and right (VI) wings were forming up for a defense of the Pipe Creek / Parr's Ridge position.

The price for a lack of screening and scouting can be seen above. Lee for the most part remained in place for two days while Meade came quickly north. On July 1, the south had the numbers advantage. The I and XI corps confronted 3e, 3p, 2r and 2e. Late on July 1 3a was on the field in reserve. On July 2, the South's numbers advantage vanished as the III, XII, V and II Crops arrived. The bottleneck in the Cashtown Gap held up one division of Longstreet's I Corps until July 3rd, while the Union VI Corps was also delayed until July 3rd by it's eastward diversion.

If Meade erred or was spoofed into sending the VI Corps east, Johnson's southern II Corps division might have better traveled straight south from it's June 28 and 29 position in Carlisle. By looping west to join the I and III corps, it contributed to the Cashtown Gap bottleneck. Johnson could have been in Gettysburg on July 1, and Longstreet's third division on July 2.

If Meade is not given sufficient credit for his fast pace, perhaps Lee isn't given sufficient credit for a feint to the east. Part of the the southern maneuvering was a dispersal to gather supplies. However, this is not all that is going on. Why were the I and III corps kept concentrated, while the II Corps was spread all over south east Pennsylvania? At the Battle of Chancellorsville, the prior meeting between the two armies, Hooker had divided the Army of the Potomac. Lee was able to position is full force between two smaller Union forces, and maul each in turn. By sending Stuart and Ewell well east while hiding the I and III corps behind South Mountain, was Lee forcing Meade to split the northern army? Were the three wings of the AoP marching north Meade's plan, Lee's plan, or both? If Lee intended to defeat isolated and exhausted Union columns in detail, and Jeb Stuart was sent east to hide Lee's intentions, should we give Lee some credit for dispersing the opposition forces?

Traditional popular accounts of Gettysburg minimize the strategy involved in the preliminary maneuvering. Heth supposedly went to Gettysburg to find shoes. Stuart was on a joyride, for glory, against orders. The battle was an accident, intended by neither general. These prevalent legends do justice to neither Lee nor Meade.

Next: Intelligence