Battle of Gettysburg
Council of War
Meade and his generals in the council of war. ©Don Stivers
1863 Jul 2 22:30

Council of War

Leister Farm, Meade's Headquar

The battlefield fell silent around 10:30 p.m., except for the cries of the wounded and dying. Meade made his decision late that night in a council of war that included his senior staff officers and corps commanders. The assembled officers agreed that, despite the beating the army took, it was advisable for the army to remain in its present position and to await attack by the enemy, although there was some disagreement about how long to wait if Lee chose not to attack. There is some evidence that Meade had already decided this issue and was using the meeting not as a formal council of war, but as a way to achieve consensus among officers he had commanded for less than a week. As the meeting broke up, Meade took aside Brig. Gen. John Gibbon, in command of the II Corps, and predicted, "If Lee attacks tomorrow, it will be in your front. ... he has made attacks on both our flanks and failed and if he concludes to try it again, it will be on our centre."[100]

There was considerably less confidence in Confederate headquarters that night. The army had suffered a significant defeat by not dislodging their enemy. A staff officer remarked that Lee was "not in good humor over the miscarriage of his plans and his orders."

Years later, Longstreet would write that his troops on the second day had done the "best three hours' fighting done by any troops on any battle-field."[101] That night he continued to advocate for a strategic movement around the Union left flank, but Lee would hear none of it.

On the night of July 2, all of the remaining elements of both armies had arrived: Stuart's cavalry and Pickett's division for the Confederates and John Sedgwick's Union VI Corps. The stage was set for the bloody climax of the three-day battle.