Early in the morning on Wednesday, July 1st, the Confederates marching towards town drove in the Union
cavalry pickets. Union Brigadier General Buford had positioned his men along Herr Ridge to allow for the room to
facilitate his planned, tactical, fighting withdrawal. Knowing the advancing Confederates seriously outnumbered his men,
Buford strove to keep the Southerners from taking the high ground south of town as he waited for the arrival of the Northern
infantry he knew to be close by.
Soon, from this same Herr Ridge, the men of CSA Major General Henry Heth's Division would launch their first attack on the
Northern lines. The men in gray would slowly push their blue-clad counterparts back towards McPherson Ridge before Union
Major General Reynolds arrived on the field. Before days end, Buford's cavalrymen would suffer 127 casualties holding back
their gray clad foes.
Lieutenant Colonel S. G. Shepard of the Seventh Tennessee Infantry briefly described their advance towards
the thin Cavalry line. "We left our camp near Cashtown, Pa., early on the morning of July 1, and marched
down the turnpike road leading to Gettysburg. We had advanced about 3 miles when we came upon the enemy's pickets,
who gradually fell back before us for about 3 miles, which brought us in sight of the enemy, upon a slight
eminence in our front and to the right of the road. General Archer halted for a short time while a section of a battery
opened fire upon them. He then deployed the brigade in line, and advanced directly upon the enemy through an open field."
contending Southerner's division's commander, Major General Henry Heth would also describe the advance in his report, adding one
interesting and likely dubious claim. "On reaching the summit of the second ridge of hills west of Gettysburg,
it became evident that there were infantry, cavalry, and artillery in and around the town. A few shots from Pegram's battalion
(Marye's battery) scattered the cavalry vedettes. One of the first shells fired by Pegram mortally wounded Major-General
Reynolds, then in command of the force at Gettysburg."
As General Buford would later note, "By daylight on July 1, I had gained positive information of the enemy's position
and movements, and my arrangements were made for entertaining him until General Reynolds could reach the scene. On July 1,
between 8 and 9 a.m., reports came in from the First Brigade (Colonel Gamble's) that the enemy was coming down from toward
Cashtown in force. Colonel Gamble made an admirable line of battle, and moved off proudly to meet him. The two lines soon
became hotly engaged, we having the advantage of position, he of numbers. The First Brigade held its own for more than two
hours, and had to be literally dragged back a few hundred yards to a position more secure and better sheltered. Tidball's
battery, commanded by Lieutenant Calef, Second U.S. Artillery, fought on this occasion as is seldom witnessed. At one time
the enemy had a concentric fire upon this battery from twelve guns, all at short range. Calef held his own gloriously, worked
his guns deliberately with great judgment and skill, and with wonderful effect upon the enemy. The First Brigade maintained
this unequal contest until the leading division of General Reynolds' corps came up to its assistance, and then most reluctantly
did it give up the front. A portion of the Third Indiana found horse-holders, borrowed muskets, and fought with the Wisconsin
regiment that came to relieve them.
Click on the thumbnail image to the
right to see a full
panoramic view of Herr Ridge as seen from Buford Avenue, north of the Chambersburg Pike between the Railroad Cut and Oak Hill.