After a long night of discussing alternatives, Lee decided on one of the simplest strategies of movement. It would only take a slight re-alignment of his army before their movement south.
Beginning on 4 July (after a full day’s rest), Ewell’s Corps would take the lead and proceed due south to Emmittsburg. If Meade had forward-deployed any units, they would be at Emmittsburg. Longstreet would take two of his divisions south via Fairfield to Emmittsburg. Pickett’s Division would be detached and move to the Baltimore Pike where it would join with Stuart’s Cavalry to form a fourth pseudo-corps. The route down the pike was the longest way to Westminster since it went east before shifting southwest at Littlestown. But the cavalry could cover that ground faster than marching infantry. Pickett would serve as his reserve. Lastly, since they would have the shortest planned march, Hill’s Corps would proceed to Taneytown with two divisions. Heth’s battered division would take control of the wounded and POWs. They would follow Longstreet and slip through the mountain pass west of Emmittsburg en route back to Virginia.
The Battle at Pipe Creek would ensue on the Fourth of July 1863! Or would it?
Lincoln was so shaken by the telegrams that he was receiving from Meade that he gathered his war council and boarded a train to Westminster. He needed to meet face to face with Meade and get his assessment of the situation and hear his plan. Meade’s short stint as Commander of the Army of the Potomac hung in the balance. Could the war proceed when he had lost three full Corps and so many senior officers?