Battle of Gettysburg Day 1: Robert E. Lee's "temporary victory"

Key locations:

Cemetery Hill, Cashtown Pike, Herr Ridge, McPherson Ridge, Seminary Ridge

Key figures:

Robert E. Lee, George Meade, John Reynolds, Oliver Otis Howard

Memorable line:

"Forward men! For God's sake, forward!" - Union Major General John Reynolds before being killed on July 1, 1863 at Gettysburg

Key moments:

On July 1, 1863, Gen. Robert E. Lee's Confederate forces approached Gettysburg from the north and west in a bid to crush the Army of the Potomac as Union troops scrambled north. But Lee's forces were surprised to find units of the Union army already positioned in the town. Notably, the Army of the Potomac had seized the key southern point of Cemetery Hill.

According to Allen Guelzo, author of "Gettysburg: The Last Invasion," the battle's location was in large part influenced by Union Major General John Reynolds, a Pennsylvanian who on his own initiative rushed forces into Gettysburg just ahead of Lee. Union infantry divisions commanded by Reynolds were able to throw a protective cordon around the city. But Reynolds was killed within the first few hours of battle on July 1, and his outnumbered troops cracked under the pressure of Confederate assaults.

Lee had captured the town but Major General Oliver Otis Howard rallied the Union soldiers and clung to Cemetery Hill. That night, the overall commander of the Union army, George Gordon Made, arrived with reinforcements and began laying out defensive positions around Cemetery Hill.

"Lee and his army of northern Virginia had won a temporary victory but not enough to make it a complete triumph," Guelzo said. "They would have to try again on July 2."

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for