War, however, has a way of throwing surprises at even the best of plans and the Gettysburg story is no exception, and when newly selected Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac George Gordon Meade took charge, the usual conservative approach to battle was thrown to the wind. Meade was no General George McClellan who had been sacked by President Lincoln and on his first full day in command he ordered his ninety-four thousand man Army to march north after Lee. When Lee learned, late on June 29th, of this action, he told his generals to marshal their forces near the town of Cashville, northwest of Gettysburg. At the time they were spread out between Chambersburg and Harrisburg, foraging and seeking provisions for their troops who were hungry and much in need of boots. He figured it would take the Union Army two days to cover the distance separating them, for he had been accustomed to a more conservative approach by his opponents in waging war. The fact that a commander like George McClelland, a very methodical practitioner of war, was now replaced by George Meade, a man who wanted to get the job done quickly, was already changing that capacity.
On the morning of July 1st, Brigadier General Pettigrew took his brigade of troops into Gettysburg and found a few Union troops on horseback in the town. He was directed not to make contact with the enemy by Lee, but after discussing the matter with his immediate senior, Major General Henry Heth, it was decided to pursue them, for they were thought to be a small contingent of Pennsylvania militiamen. What they didn't know was they were part of General Buford's two cavalry brigades and both sides immediately called for additional infantry troops. The fighting was bloody, particularly so for the Confederates although the Union would lose one of it's best infantry leaders, Major General John Reynolds. The fighting stopped around noon, but just over two hours later it was rejoined when the Confederate second Corps and the Union eleventh Corps, both rushed forward due to the circumstances, came head to head just north of Gettysburg. The Union was pushed back, but was able to hold on to the high ground at Cemetery Ridge and the battle that Lee didn't want yet was now underway with full fury. It was quiet that night, but all knew that this wouldn't be over until someone was victorious and someone was vanquished. That would only come after two more bloody days.
War plans always have to be changed, because war has an ebb and flow just like a football game. Sometimes it's because orders aren't followed, perhaps it's due to weather, or even just fate. But the side that has either the best and most equipment and manpower or a much more earnest reason to fight to the finish is often aided by those unknown events which always come in the chaos of warfare. In the case of Gettysburg, a little know town in hilly south central Pennsylvania would soon be a household name for the history books due to the fateful actions of that day.