The sun has risen on a warm July morning, burning away the cool mist from the well groomed farm fields. Across those fields and south from town lies the Union army, massed on the opposing ridge. Visibly broken and disordered the day before, they certainly had not retreated to a less strategic position. Anchored on Cemetary Ridge, the blue line is interspersed with bronze and iron artillery. But near the distant hills to the south is the flank of their line seemingly open and vulnerable.
From their vantage point in the observatory of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gen. R.E. Lee, and Com. James Longstreet discuss the coming battle. Lee has witnessed the union retreat on July 1, dismayed that the far ridge could not have been taken while the exhausted and bloodied Union survivors were disorganized. The opportunity faded with the sunset and new strategy is required. The plan is simple, strike the Union lines simultaneously on both ends and roll up the "U" shaped formation in to a knot. General Longstreet's Corps will strike from the south and sweep everything away from the front in front of those distant hills, which the locals refer to as 'round tops,' and Ewell's Corps will strike from the east. The attack will begin that morning, as soon as possible, before the Union line becomes any stronger.
Longstreet ponders his command decision. The position appears very strong, and almost unpenetrable. It will take time to get his stroops into position, and he must attack with only two thirds of his corps, not enough to perform the job that the commanding general is asking. It might take even longer to be sure about the ground over which he must advance. There is too much open field, and only poor artillery positions. There seems to be no advantage for the attacking troops on this ground, especially with the growing strength on the opposite ridge. They should move further around the enemy flank getting between the Union army and Washington D.C. There are too many uncertainties for his liking. Gettysburg is no place to fight a battle. Longstreet asks Lee for permission to move further south, around the forbidding ridge to the east. Lee replies' "No General. The enemy is there and I am going to attack him there."
As the officers talk, skirmishing begins in the open fields. The beauty of the summer's day is lost to the business of war.
Alan Fearnley's "The Vantage Point" depicts the calm of a Pennsylvania landscape about to be shattered by the reality of Civil War. Generals Lee and Longstreet meet on the morning of July 2nd at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, located just west of Gettysburg. The seat of Adams county appears just before them and includes such local landmarks as the local courthouse located on the town square. In the distance are Culp's Hill, Cemetery hill and the Round Tops.