Gettysburg, PA - July 1st, 1863 – 10 am.
The Battle of Gettysburg has begun. General Henry Heth’s Division, of A. P. Hill’s corps, has marched toward Gettysburg from the west on the Cashtown Road, but has been prevented from entering the town by dismounted union cavalry led by General John Buford. Buford’s men are holding the line valiantly, anxiously awaiting the arrival of Union General John Reynolds’ I corps.
Buford’s cavalry hold a line on McPherson’s Ridge, just west of Seminary Ridge. That portion of the line which extends into Herbst’s Woods (now McPherson’s Woods, shown here) is relieved by the 2nd Wisconsin of the famed Iron Brigade, who are personally led into battle by the aggressive General Reynolds himself. As they engage the Confederates of Archer’s Brigade, Reynolds, who has momentarily turned in his saddle to see if the regiments he is awaiting are coming up, takes a fatal bullet just behind his right ear. His orderly, Private Charles Veil and some members of the General’s staff carry his lifeless body from the field.
John Reynolds, a Pennsylvania native who gave distinguished service in the Mexican War as well as he War Between the States, fell in battle perhaps due to his own sense of modesty. President Lincoln had offered him command of the Army of the Potomac a few days earlier, but Reynolds demurred, stating that others, General George Meade among them, were more senior and better qualified than he. Had he accepted command, perhaps he would have survived the war.
The time of day is around 10:30 am. Visible at the center background is McPherson’s Barn and at right, in the extreme distance, the smoke of fighting at the “Bloody Railroad Cut.”