"Where was General Stuart?," were the words that continually troubled the mind of General Robert E. Lee. The Army of Northern Virginia, Lee's army, was deep into enemy territory. The plan had been to strike into Pennsylvania, attack Harrisburg and then Philadelphia. Lee's cavalry chief J.E.B. Stuart's mission was to keep a heavy cavalry screen between the enemy, and inform Lee of enemy positions and strength. After Lee's army had crossed the Potomac, six days had passed with no messenger from Stuart. Lee hadn't even known that the Federal Army had crossed the Potomac river in pursuit until informed by one of General Longstreet's scouts. This startling news caused Lee to change plans and consolidate his army to meet the oncoming threat. Ewell's Corps was redirected towards Cashtown or Gettysburg, with the rest of the army to follow.
When Lee arrived within sight of Gettysburg at 2 o'clock on July 1st, he could see the smoke rising where elements of General Heth's division had been engaged with enemy troops. Artillery from both sides were blazing away. Still uncertain as to enemy strength, General Lee was hesitant about launching a full engagement as Longstreet's Corps had not yet arrived. However, as more brigades arrived on the battlefield at precisely the right place and right moment, it became clear an aggressive attack at that time would be advantageous. Lee ordered his brigades on the field forward. The Federals were routed, pushed back toward the ridges south and east, abandoning the small town of Gettysburg. The day had ended successfully, with nearly 5,000 Federal prisoners and as many dead or wounded on the battlefield. The Federals however still held the high ground. Lee sent his adjutant Lt. Colonel Walter H. Taylor with a message to General Ewell to "push those people" and get possession of the high ground if practicable. Soon after the message was sent General Longstreet arrived. The two generals then made a careful survey of the front with field glasses. Still uncertain of the strength of the opposing troops, Lee wondered whether he was facing a heavy force containing the main body of the enemy or merely a detached unit sent to guard the crossroads of Gettysburg. He needed these facts in order to prepare for the next day's battle.
There was a full moon rising as General Lee and Longstreet arrived at his headquarters, a small stone house on the Chambersburg Pike belonging to Mary Thompson. The moon was described as giving off a "weird light to the field", while soldiers slept. Surprisingly at this time a pair of exhausted cavalry scouts from General Stuart arrived. "Where was General Stuart?", Lee demanded. The scouts brought news of a cavalry's skirmish near Hanover the day before. With little sympathy for the saddle worn scouts, Lee ordered the troopers at once to get fresh horses and ride back the 30 miles north with orders for the cavalry to rejoin the army as fast as possible. The cavalry scouts wouldn't be the only ones traveling all that night, the whole Army of the Potomac, 80,000 men strong were on their way as well.
150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg Series
This is the first in a series of three prints commemorating the Battle of Gettysburg.
Each print commemorates each of the three days of battle.