Shades of Blue and Gray: An Introductory Military History of the Civil War

By Herman Hattaway | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
The Gettysburg Campaign

A period of preparation in the middle of May 1863 marked the beginning of the Gettysburg campaign. Owing to a singular claim made by Confederate Postmaster General John H. Reagan in his 1905 memoirs, many students have been drawn to conclude falsely that strategically the Confederate high command conceived the campaign as being a distracting counteroffensive, alleviating their dismal situation in the West. Even before the Chancellorsville campaign, Lee had contemplated a thrust into Pennsylvania and in February 1863 had directed the engineer officer Jedediah Hotchkiss to prepare a map of the Shenandoah valley extended to Harrisburg and even to Philadelphia.

Now, having scored two major victories within the past five months, morale and optimism were high, and Lee felt ready. Lee’s real motives for the Gettysburg campaign were these: he wanted to stymie any Federal plan for a summer campaign in Virginia; he hoped to crush the Federal troops then occupying the lower (northern) end of the Shenandoah valley; much as had been the case in September 1862, he wanted to give the people of Virginia a respite from the nearness of war and a chance to produce a good crop; above all he wanted to spend the summer maneuvering and absorbing supplies in south-central Pennsylvania; for, last, he also much hoped to increase the level of Northern war wearmess.


Lee’s Initial Movements and Hooker’s Response

The end of May 1863 saw the two armies gazing at each other across the Rappahannock River. Always wary about the numerous fords, the two forces kept particularly close watch on them. Lee’s army, reinforced to a strength of about seventy-five thousand, detached its first elements on June 3,1863. Hooker countered by shifting troops toward the upper fords; but he ignored reports

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