Historical Markers
Gettysburg Campaign [Hill's Corps] Historical Marker
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Gettysburg Campaign [Hill's Corps]

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
Old US Route 30, just west of State Route 3011

Dedication Date:
December 12, 1947

Behind the Marker

Oil on canvas of  Ambrose Powell Hill, by William Shepard, 1898.
Ambrose Powell Hill, by William Shepard, 1898.
It was late in the afternoon of June 28, 1863, that General Robert E. Lee, first learned that the Union army was moving north through Maryland. Camped at markerMessersmith's Woods outside Chambersburg, Lee knew that he had to act swiftly to concentrate his scattered divisions. The site he chose, just east of South Mountain, was the small village of Cashtown.

Lee ordered his Third Corps commander, General Ambrose Powell Hill, to move his three divisions from their camps along present-day US Route 30 east of Chambersburg across the mountains to Cashtown. James Longstreet's First Corps was then to follow.

So, on June 29, Hill began moving his troops eastward. First in line was the four-brigade division led by Major General Henry Heth, whose troops marched through the South Mountain gap and to a bivouac in the Cashtown area. Hill seems not to have been in a hurry, and General Lee allowed his corps commander to move his troops across the mountains at a leisurely pace. Thus, on Tuesday, June 30, Hill sent General William Pender's Division in Heth's footsteps. Richard H. Anderson's Division would cross the mountain on the first day of July.
Photograph of Henry Heth in uniform.
Henry Heth

Eight miles east of Cashtown was the town of Gettysburg. The county seat of Adams County, it was home to about 2,500 people. Before the union advance, Gettysburg had been of little interest to Lee. Now, however, it was of strategic military importance, for nine separate roads came together there. Gettysburg boasted two institutions-the Lutheran Theological Seminary and Pennsylvania College (today's Gettysburg College), and was also the terminus of a small railroad that connected it to Hanover and from thence to Harrisburg and Baltimore.

Once across South Mountain, General Heth learned that Gettysburg also had a cache of "army supplies" that would benefit his soldiers. (After the war, Heth would write that the most important of these supplies were shoes. How he knew they were there, however, remains a mystery. His postwar recollections may either have been faulty or designed to cover up his aggressive march to Gettysburg that brought on the ensuing battle.)

At any rate, with General Hill's approval, Heth determined to send a reconnaissance under the command of Brigadier General James J. Pettigrew to collect supplies at Gettysburg. Then thirty-five, Pettigrew had entered the University of North Carolina at age fourteen, and gone on to become a successful lawyer and author. Wounded in battle in 1862, he and his brigade of North Carolinians had only recently joined Lee's army.
Confederate Brigadier General James J. Pettigrew in uniform.
Confederate Brigadier General James J. Pettigrew.

Sometime around 6:30 a.m. on June 30th, Pettigrew left camp with three regiments from his brigade, a veteran Virginia unit, and three cannon. It had rained lightly overnight, but the road was firm and his troops made good time as they trod eastward along the Chambersburg Pike. Sometime between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m., Pettigrew's advance guard reached Seminary Ridge, just west of Gettysburg. Instead of marching straight into town, the cautious Pettigrew sent out skirmishers as he and his officers eyed the landscape ahead of them.

It was then that he spied Yankee cavalry coming up from the south toward Gettysburg. Remembering his orders not to fight if he encountered opposition, Pettigrew recalled his scouts and ordered a retreat. The Union horsemen continued into town and a few followed the retiring Rebels at a respectful distance.

Reaching his camp sometime later in the afternoon, Pettigrew reported the presence of the Union horsemen to General Heth, who simply could not believe that enemy troops had already reached Gettysburg; surely they must be militia. Some of Pettigrew's officers claimed to have heard the beating of drums beyond Gettysburg, a sound that would indicate the presence of infantry as well.

The two generals were still conversing when General Hill rode up and joined the conversation. Hill, too, could not believe the Yankees were so close. After all, he had just come from General Lee, who reported that the Union army was still in Maryland.

When one of Pettigrew's staff officers commented that the Yankee cavalry acted like well-drilled troops, not militia, Hill, apparently, was still not inclined to believe Pettigrew. And so, when Heth asked his commander if he had any objections if the entire division marched to Gettysburg on the morrow, Hill said, "None in the world." The stage was set for the fighting to begin at Gettysburg.
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