Marker Text: The Battle of Gettysburg began here the morning of July 1, 1863, when Union cavalry scouts under Gen. Buford met Gen. Hill's army advancing from the west. Arrival of Gen. Ewell's army that afternoon drove Union troops to south of the town.
Location: On U.S. Route 30 at the western approach to Gettysburg. Erected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1947.
View of the marker looking west toward Cashtown. Confederate troops appeared along this road. Click any photo to enlarge.
As you approach Gettysburg from the west. On U.S. Route 30 from Chambersburg and Cashtown you enter Gettysburg on northwest side of town, you come to the statue of Brig. Gen. John Buford where the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg began. Today, the field where the Battle of Gettysburg was fought is covered by hundreds of markers, monuments, and memorials to the men from both sides that fought here between July 1-3, 1863.
Statue of Buford located across road from the marker, looking west on U.S. Route 30.
Like, this state historical marker, it is only one of a few state historical markers located in and near the battlefield telling the visitor of the events related to the battle. I have photographed many Battle of Gettysburg monuments, but someone could spend several weeks photographing all the monuments and several years writing a blog telling the stories of this battle alone.
On June 30, 1863, Union Cavalry under the command of Brigadier General John Buford entered Gettysburg, PA. Buford realized that the high ground south of the town would be key in any battle fought in the area. He recognized that any combat involving his cavalry division would be a delaying action at best. Buford ordered his men to dismount and posted his troopers on the low ridges north and northwest of this location with the goal of buying time for the army to come up and occupy the heights.
Statue of Buford with monument and statue of General Reynolds on the right in the background. Much of the military action the first day occurred in the area behind these monuments in the photo.
On the morning of July 1, Buford's men were attacked by A.P. Hill's Confederate forces moving from Cashtown into Gettysburg looking for supplies, many stories relate that they were looking for a supply of shoes which they heard were in Gettysburg. Buford alerted General Reynolds and asked him to bring up infantry support. Moving towards Gettysburg with I and XI Corps, Reynolds informed Union General Meade that he would defend “inch by inch, and if driven into the town I will barricade the streets and hold him back as long as possible.” Though Buford's men were outnumbered they fought a two and half hour holding action which allowed for Major General John Reynolds' I Corps to arrive on the field. As General Reynolds' infantry took over the fight, Buford's men covered their flanks.
The plaque on the Buford statue indicating this is location for the start of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Hill's Confederate troops successfully drove back Union forces in concert with Lieutenant General Richard Ewell's corps, Hill's men took heavy losses. Though Hill only succeeded in forcing the Union troops back to a more defensible position on Cemetery Ridge, which is what Buford had felt would be the result of the day's battle.
Arriving on the battlefield, Reynolds met with Buford and advanced his lead brigade to relieve the hard-pressed cavalry. As Reynold's directed his infantry into the fighting near Herbst Woods, Reynolds was shot in the neck or head. Falling from his horse, he was killed instantly. With Reynolds' death, command of I Corps passed to Major General Abner Doubleday.
Statue of General John Reynolds, located across the road from the marker.
Though overwhelmed later in the day, I and XI Corps succeeded in buying time for General Meade the commander of the Army of the Potomac to arrive with the bulk of the army. As the fighting raged, Reynolds' body was taken from the field, first to Taneytown, MD and then back to Lancaster where he was buried on July 4. A blow to the Army of the Potomac, Reynolds' death cost Meade one of the army's best commanders.
On July 2, Buford's division patrolled the southern part of the battlefield before being withdrawn by Pleasanton. Buford's keen eye for terrain and tactical awareness on July 1 secured for the Union the position from which they would win the Battle of Gettysburg and turn the tide of the war. In the days following the Union victory, Buford's men pursued General Robert E. Lee's army south as it withdrew to Virginia.
The movie, “Gettysburg” highlighted the military actions of Buford and his men and Reynolds as a major segment of the battle in the movie.