The morning of July 1, a division of Confederate infantry marched toward the crossroads town of Gettysburg, PA, from the west on a toll road called the Chambersburg Pike. A smaller division of Union cavalry that had been in Gettysburg since the day before were ready for them. They blocked the pike, trying to delay the Confederates’ advance and prevent them from attaining the high ground east and south of the town . . . high ground suited for a defensive battle, high ground that loomed over many of the roads leading south toward the nation’s capital.
Attempting to buy time for Union infantry forces to arrive, the Union cavalry fought hard to delay the Confederates’ advance. Around mid-morning, though, it became clear they could not hold much longer. In the nick of time, elements of the Union Army’s First Corps arrived under the command of Pennsylvanian John Reynolds and went straight into action. Within minutes, Reynolds – ultimately, the highest ranking officer killed in the battle – was shot and killed as he led troops into battle. The Union troops held the Confederates at bay – for a time.
But Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had more men closer to Gettysburg than the Union Army of the Potomac at that point–and Union forces were forced to retreat back through the town to take positions on Cemetery and Culp’s hills.
To learn more about the arrival of the 143rd PA Infantry and the combat on Day 1, see these VIDEOS taken at Gettysburg.
Click HERE to read an account of the 143rd PA in action by the late Tony Kelly, DeLacy’s great-great grandson and a licensed battlefield guide at Gettysburg.