General Lee was up before daylight on the morning of July 2nd. He had given General Longstreet orders the previous afternoon to have the First Corps in position at daybreak for an attack on Cemetery Hill, to secure the heights, and to crush the remnants of the Federal I and XI Corps that had been defeated the previous day. A little after 4:00 AM, General Lee rode over to observe the Federal position on Cemetery Hill. To his surprise, the Federals had not yet reinforced their troops during the night at this key position. With his binoculars Lee could see that nearly all the south ridge was unoccupied.
Lee then turned his binoculars in the direction where he expected to see Longstreet's Brigades forming into lines of battle. But incredibly, no one was there. It would seem the theme of the day would become, "Where was Longstreet". The Federal Army was gathering, traveling all night in haste to face Lee's Army. Precious minutes were slipping away as Lee observed brigades appearing on the heights.
Riding over to the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Lee sent his adjutants to inquire after his Corp commanders Longstreet and Ewell. Soon after Major Venable had ridden off, Longstreet arrived and informed General Lee that his columns were not far behind. However, Longstreet had ordered most of his command to start towards the battlefield after sunrise, thus delaying the First Corps arrival.
Longstreet continued his ongoing discussion and disagreement over battlefield strategy. General Lee listened respectfully, but was firm in his resolve to attack the Federals on Cemetery Hill. General A.P Hill was there wearing his "red battle shirt". Other division commanders arrived and were given orders for their brigades. Colonel Alexander came up to report that the artillery of the First Corps had arrived, and Longstreet gave him instructions to place the batteries where General Lee wished them.
The short window of General Lee's sunrise strategy to crush the Federal Army was gone. Lee's army now faced 85,000 Federal soldiers holding the high ground. General Lee, lamenting how his first plan had not been executed, kept repeating the same words to officers he would meet throughout the day, "We did not or could not pursue our advantage."
150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg Series
This is the second in a series of three prints commemorating the Battle of Gettysburg.
Each print commemorates each of the three days of battle.