Gettysburg Day 2: General Lee’s Plan
Location: Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania
Dates: July 2, 1863
Generals: Union General: Major General George G. Meade | Confederate General: General Robert E. Lee
Little Round Top
Battle of the Wheatfield
Battle of the Peach Orchard
Battle of Cemetery Hill
Outcome: Union Victory
Casualties: Union: 8,750 | Confederate: 6,500
Battle Of Gettysburg, Day 2
On the second day of the Battle Of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863, General Robert E. Lee devised a plan for his Confederates to attack both flanks of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. The result would be three hours of carnage that won nothing of tactical significance for his Army of Northern Virginia. Confederate killed, wounded and missing during the fighting on July 2 total some 6,500. The Union total was approximately 8,750—an unusual case of the defender suffering more casualties than the attacker. The battles fought that day are some of the most famous in military history.
Robert E. Lee’s Plan for July 2, 1863
Lee’s First Corps, under Lieutenant General James Longstreet, would attack the northern (left) end of the Federal line obliquely, in echelon from south to north, with three of his four divisions. The fourth, under Major General George Pickett, was still en route and unavailable. One division from the corps would capture two hills (Round Top and Little Round Top, the latter also known locally as Sugarloaf) just beyond the end of Cemetery Ridge. Sweeping over the hills, they would hit the Federal flank and drive northward astride Cemetery Ridge.
The next two divisions, each in its turn, would then join the attack by moving obliquely at a northeast angle across the Emmitsburg Road. The three divisions would push the Federal Army of the Potomac back against the south slope of Cemetery Hill and Culp Hill. Meanwhile, the corps of Lieutenant General Richard "Dick" Ewell would be assailing those hills from the north. Ewell was to begin his demonstration against Cemetery and Culp hills when he heard the sound of guns at the beginning of Longstreet’s assault and keep pressure on the Union right.
Lee had reason to believe this flank-attack plan would succeed. He received an intelligence report that said the Round Tops and the southern end of Cemetery Ridge were unoccupied by Union troops—which was true when they were scouted. Confederate flank attacks had routed numerically superior Union armies at First Bull Run, Second Bull Run, and Chancellorsville, and Lee’s attacks on the flank of an army moving up the James River peninsula in 1862 started the Seven Days Battle that drove a Union army back from the gates of Richmond.
This time, the results would be different. By sunset, names of otherwise insignificant spots would be writ large in blood, immortalizing Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, the Wheatfield, and the Peach Orchard.
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