History records that GEN Robert E Lee returned to the battle front in the late afternoon just as the Union line was disintegrating. From his vantage point in the woods, he was able to watch the Iron Brigade disengage and march east, pursued by one of Pender’s units. It took a while for him to assemble a clear picture of the victory that had taken place in his absence. As soon as he had taken the cemetery and established a blocking force astride the Emmittsburg Road, Anderson had sent multiple riders to inform LTG A.P. Hill of his situation. Hill relayed this information to Lee as he arrived back at the front. Then dispatches from Heth and Ewell arrived, Lee was able to put together in his mind a picture of having the Union force in a box. Anderson’s report of one of Ewell’s units on his right flank, confirmed that status. The intensity of the cannon fire indicated that the fighting was not yet over. Against the advice of his staff, Lee pushed forward to the brick building at the high point of the ridge where he had observed BG Buford’s command flag that morning.
What Lee saw from the Seminary cupola that afternoon was unprecedented in his long military career. Practically at his feet was a seething mass of humanity clothed in blue. As the sun settled behind Seminary Ridge, about twenty thousand men were huddled together in the open space south of the city. No food, no water, no shelter; staring into dozens of cannon barrels pointing down from the hilltops. The only sounds of war was some sporadic gunfire from the center of the city. It seems that some diehard Union troops had gathered there and fortified the main town square. There were determined to make a stand. They were reasonably well supplied with the basics of food and water and had erected a formidable barricaded compound. Their main problem was going to be ammunition plus the fact that they had no cannons. Lee decided the leave them alone for now; they had no place to go. He’d eventually assign a brigade of MG Johnson’s Division to form an ever tightening cordon around them and press in from all sides until they finally capitulated.
Part 2 Springing the Ambush
To the south of the town, a mopping-up operation was commencing. Troops from both Pender’s and Early’s Divisions were wading in among the demoralized Union mass. Their job was to identify and move the officers and senior NCOs to the periphery. There they would offer the formal surrender of their units as well as rosters of their men. The CSA would eventually identify those they held as prisoners.
But the fighting was not quite over. As the sun was setting behind Seminary Ridge, as small group of Union horsemen came around the east side of Big Round Top. ANV scouts had reported their approach so no action was taken. The command flag identified them as LTG Slocum and his Twelfth Union Corp staff. As was the custom, they had ridden ahead of the long column of infantry. Their intent was to find LTG Hancock and determine where that Corps was to establish itself. Anderson’s men aligned along Little Round Top stayed hidden and allowed them to pass.
They moved somewhat warily up the Taneytown Road. They had expected to be riding into a battle, but they were met with an eerie silence. As they approached the Cemetery, they were met by a group of horsemen carrying a flag of truce. Slocum was at first confused by this, but then he realized that they were wearing ANV uniforms, the impossibility of the situation dawned on him. He was quickly apprised of the situation and invited to join his fellow POW officers at Hancock’s HQ. There was little he could do but comply without argument.
His infantry was less fortunate. BG Alpheus Williams’ First Division came out from the behind the shadow of Big Round Top marching up the Taneytown Road. As they reached the flatlands between Little Round Top and Culp’s they. too, were struck by the silence. They were awakened from their slumber by the sound of cannon fire. It was aimed at the road in front of them. That was the signal for all of the ANV regiments lining LRT to stand and reveal their colors. Framed by the setting sun, they were quite the impressive sight. BG Williams halted his column to assess the situation. He, too, they saw riders approaching from the north. He immediately recognized one as BG George Greene the eldest officer on the field that day.
Greene informed him of the plight of the two Union Corps and that further resistance was futile and would only lead to needless bloodshed. Williams 5000-man Division would be allowed to return towards Tanyetown; in fact. that was an order from LTG Slocum. Williams was allowed — instructed actually — to send a messenger back to BG Geary’s trailing division to tell him to return to Taneytown. He was given a dispatch from GEN Lee to convey to GEN Meade.
Part 3 End of Day
Lee spent the evening Day 1 at his HQ in the widow Thompson’s house moving his chess pieces around the map deciding how he’d make his next move. He knew that he had to move south and put pressure on the next largest city: Westminster. But how and when to do so?
He had to consolidate and align his army for the march south. He still had no reliable intelligence as to where Meade’s main force was. He now greatly out-numbered them; at least he expected so. But he needed to be careful not to blunder into another ambush. The outcome may not prove as favorable. He’d bivouac at Gettysburg for at least the next few days; resting his men and issuing supplies. He fill his lauders by striping the town of any and all militarily useful items. Everything had to be shifted into place for a movement to contact with Meade wherever he was hiding.
But would that even be necessary? He needed to give Meade and Lincoln a few days to assess their losses and determine if they would challenge him and mount a defense of Westminster.
But first he had to deal with 20,000 POWs!