Battle of Gettysburg

Confederate Council
©Jones Brothers Publishing Co.
1863 Jul 2 06:00

Confederate Council

Gettysburg Battlefield: Lee’s

Lee wanted to seize the high ground south of Gettysburg, primarily Cemetery Hill, which dominated the town, the Union supply lines, and the road to Washington, D.C., and he believed an attack up the Emmitsburg Road would be the best approach. He desired an early-morning assault by Longstreet's Corps, reinforced by Ewell, who would move his Corps from its current location north of town to join Longstreet. Ewell protested this arrangement, claiming his men would be demoralized if forced to move from the ground they had captured.[61] And Longstreet protested that his division commanded by John Bell Hood had not arrived completely (and that Pickett's division had not arrived at all).[62] Lee compromised with his subordinates. Ewell would remain in place and conduct a demonstration (a minor diversionary attack) against Culp's Hill, pinning down the right flank of the Union defenders so that they could not reinforce their left, where Longstreet would launch the primary attack as soon as he was ready. Ewell's demonstration would be turned into a full-scale assault if the opportunity presented itself.[63]

Lee ordered Longstreet to launch a surprise attack with two divisions straddling, and guiding on, the Emmitsburg Road.[64] Hood's division would move up the eastern side of the road, Lafayette McLaws's the western side, each perpendicular to it. The objective was to strike the Union Army in an oblique attack, rolling up their left flank, collapsing the line of Union corps onto each other, and seizing Cemetery Hill.[65] The Third Corps division of Richard H. Anderson would join the attack against the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge at the appropriate time. This plan was based on faulty intelligence because of the absence of J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry, leaving Lee with an incomplete understanding of the position of his enemy. He believed that the left flank of the Union army was adjacent to the Emmitsburg Road hanging "in the air" (unsupported by any natural barrier), and an early morning scouting expedition seemed to confirm that.[66] In reality, by dawn of July 2 the Union line stretched the length of Cemetery Ridge and anchored at the foot of the imposing Little Round Top. Lee's plan was doomed from its conception, as Meade's line occupied only a small portion of the Emmitsburg Road near the town itself. Any force attacking up the road would find two entire Union corps and their guns posted on the ridge to their immediate right flank. By midday, however, Union general Sickles would change all that.[67]

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