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28e. Meade’s Anguish

Back at his Taneytown HQ, GEN George Meade was becoming more enraged by the minute. After the news of Reynolds’ death, he had stopped receiving dispatches. He had no idea what was going on with LTG Hancock. Meade had sent him on to Gettysburg to assume command of the battlefield and assess the over situation as to what Meade should do next. Should the Army of the Potomac proceed north or assemble at Pipe Creek? What could Hancock be doing? Why were there no dispatch riders? Was the battle won or lost? Being in the dark was worse than losing. After the second rider he sent to query Hancock failed to produce results, he dispatched a company of cavalry to scout up the Taneytown Road. About 6PM, half of them returned. They had little useful information except that as they rode north of a tall rocky hill (Big Round Top), they came under heavy fire from a rocky ridge to their left (Little Round Top). It was all they could do but to withdraw having lost one-third of their strength in the initial ambush volley. Obviously, the Rebels now held the high ground south of the city. What had become of Hancock and the two Union Corps, they could not report.

Rather than risk more losses in approaching an unknown force, Meade sent word to his four remaining corps to consolidate at their assigned positions at Pipe’s Creek. First, he needed to get his army together, then he could try to contact Hancock. Perhaps he was just too busy to send word of his actions. The only first-hand report he got that day was from BG Buford who had precipitated this fiasco. Buford confirmed Reynolds’ death but had little useful information on the fate of 1st or 11th Corps.

It would take until mid-day on 2 July for all four remaining Union Corps to make their way back to the Pipe Creek Line. Meade shifted his HQ south from Taneytown to prepare to assemble them into a blocking position astride the two main roads from Gettysburg. There he would await word from Hancock and whatever GEN Lee had in store for him.

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