On July 1st, Heth took his Division back to Gettysburg and thinking the cavalry he kept seeing were ill-trained local militia and thought to quickly push them aside. But they were Buford’s Federal Cavalry, armed with the new repeaters that could shoot seven rounds before reloading. They had dismounted and took positions behind stone walls as the Confederates came at them.
The First Corp commanded by General John Reynolds, arguably the best general in the Union army was the closest to Gettysburg and was coming at all speed. Leading the Corp was the 76th New York Infantry.
While placing the troops on the line, General Reynolds is struck in the head by a sniper bullet and is killed instantly.
Recruited from Cortland and Cherry Valley and other small towns from Ostego County, New York, the 76th New York Volunteers became a part of the First Division of the First Corp of the Army of the Potomac a few months before the Battle of Gettysburg. Before going into battle the 76th had to first fight with its commander. Their first Colonel was discharged for medical reasons putting the second in command at the reins. He became so tyrannical, even shooting one of his officers, that the other officers began to carry side arms in camp to protect themselves from him!
Finally, after petitioning the higher ups in the Army, they succeeded in ridding themselves of the poor leader and installed the captain of the skirmishers fresh back from healing of an earlier wound. Major Andrew Grover was a minister from back home and was highly esteemed by the soldiers.
The 76th came on the line allowing the beleaguered cavalry to pull back for a rest. Almost immediately the Federal infantry outnumbered. They line was flanked on both sides.
Fighting valiantly against overwhelming odds, the 76th was forced to retreat form the field after thirty minutes of hard fighting the regiment took 50% casualties including their beloved commander, Major Grover.
On the Confederate side, General Pettigrew’s Brigade was finally formed for battle with three other regiments. One of the regiments was the 26th North Carolina Infantry.
After filling the ranks with recent recruiting the 26th North Carolina Infantry over eight hundred strong, led by the “Boy Colonel” of the Confederacy, charged across Willoughby Run slamming into the fierce Iron Brigade. They lost eight flag bearers and their beloved commander, twenty-one year old Colonel Burgwyn. After the first day they had lost half the boys in their ranks.
Despite heavy casualties and the collapsing of the right wing of the army, the Union soldiers were able to rally on the high ground that Buford had protected. The soldiers in blue formed up on Cemetery Ridge and then looped around on Culp’s and Power Hill facing into Gettysburg, the line forming a giant fishhook.
The Confederates, flush with the day’s victory formed on Seminary Ridge about a mile from the other ridge and in to Gettysburg facing the two hills.