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Blind Man's Bluff:  The Reconnaissance And Counter-Reconnaissance 
Efforts In The Gettysburg Campaign 0f 1986
CSC 1992
SUBJECT AREA History                      
AUTHOR:  Major J. A. Roberts, United States Marine Corps
THESIS:  Although often viewed as a peripheral aspect of the
Gettysburg Campaign,  the  successes  and failures of  the
tactical reconnaissance effort by both armies was the single
most important aspect shaping events in this operation.
BACKGROUND:  A tremendous amount of material analyzing the
Gettysburg Campaign has been produced in the past 129 years.
Historians have scrutinized commanders decisions, exploring
an inexhaustible number of what-ifs.  We all too often read
of how things may have been different if this had occurred or
if General X had done this vice that.  Conjecture of this
sort is not only irrelevant, but degrades a good analysis of
the subject.
With over 100 years of hindsight at our disposal we
often fail  to look at past events from the participants
perspective.  We need to look at past commanders decisions
objectively, based on what he knew, not what we know now.
When looking from this perspective one cannot help but see
the  pivotal  role  tactical  reconnaissance  played  in  the
Gettysburg Campaign.   The successes and failures of the
opposing armies are directly linked to the abilities of
their  tactical  reconnaissance  units  to accomplish  their
missions.   The  fortunes of both armies ebbed and flowed
with their  ability or  inability to gain an edge  in  the
reconnaissance battle.
THESIS:  Although often viewed as a peripheral aspect of the
Gettysburg Campaign,  the  successes  and  failures  of  the
tactical reconnaissance effort by both armies was the single
most important aspect shaping events in this operation.
I.      Reconnaissance Focus, North and South
	A.      History of Reconnaissance Efforts
	B.      Commanders and Command Relationships
	C.      Tactical Organizations
II.     Phase I - 1 to 15 June
	A.      Lee's Plan and Intent
	B.      Battle of Brandy Station
	C.      Hooker's lntelligence Picture
III.    Phase II - 16 to 24 June
	A.      Lee's Plan Matures
	B.      Stuart's Reconnaissance Emphasis
	C.      Cavalry Battles in Loudoun Valley
	D.      Hooker's Intelligence Picture
IV.     Phase III - 25 June to 2 July
	A.      Stuart's Mission
	B.      Stuart Circles the Union Army
	C.      Lee's Intelligence Picture
	D.      Buford's Success
	E.      Meade's Intelligence Picture
	F.      Lee Gives Battle
      On more than one occasion I have heard individuals
express  the  idea  that  "intelligence  drives  operations".
This  is  somewhat  of  an  oversimplification  of  a  very
important  concept.    What  we  should  understand  is  that
intelligence,  or  the  lack of  it,  drives operational  and
tactical decisions.  Military commanders must make difficult
decisions with whatever  information is available to them.
The quality of  battlefield  intelligence  a commander  has
available  to him has often  been  the  difference  between
victory and defeat.
      The  battlefield  intelligence  assets that  are most
responsive to the tactical  commander are his own organic
reconnaissance units.   The utilization of these assets in
the  reconnaissance  and  counter-reconnaissance  efforts  is
still  of vital  importance  today.   The basic concept  of
providing the commander with information with which to make
decisions,  while  at  the  same  time  denying  the  enemy
commander  that  same  information,  is  as  old  as warfare
      History is replete with examples of the  tremendous
advantages gained and lost by commanders due to success or
failure  in  the  reconnaissance  and  counter-reconnaissance
battles.   Unfortunately  this aspect of warfare  is often
overshadowed by the more spectacular events of large scale
battle.   The Gettysburg Campaign of 1863 is an excellant
example of this type of oversite.
      Gettysburg is probably the most analyzed battle  in
American  history.    The  tremendous  impact  of  the
reconnaissance effort has been largely overshadowed by the
great  clash  between  the  armies  during  July  1-3,  1863.
Although  often  viewed  as  a  peripheral  aspect  of  the
Gettysburg Campaign,  the  successes  and  failures  of  the
tactical reconnaissance effort by both armies was the single
most important aspect shaping events in this operation.  The
information gained by or denied  to the opposing commanders
drove all major tactical and operational decisions.  It was
no coincidence that the winner of the reconnaissance battle
was the victor in the campaign as well as the battle itself.
    Robert E. Lee assumed command of The Army of Northern
Virginia in June of 1862.  Between that time and the opening
of  the  Gettysburg  Campaign  Lee  conducted  five  major
operational  campaigns;  The  Seven  Days,  Second Manassas,
Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville.   Of these
five operations only the Antietam Campaign was unsuccessful.
    When looking at Lee's operations prior to the Gettysburg
Campaign one can see at least one recurring theme in his
string  of  amazing  victories.    Lee's  cavalry  arm  under
General J.E.B. Stuart   was able to dominate the tactical
reconnaissance effort on every battlefield.   Stuart was a
master at gathering battlefield intelligence while at the
same time denying information to the enemy.  Stuart's value
to the army was best expressed by Lee himself.   When he
learned of Stuart's death in 1864, he exclaimed, "He never
brought me a piece of false information!"(4:432)
    The 1862 invasion of Maryland, or Antietam Campaign, was
Lee's only unsuccessful operation prior to Gettysburg.   It
is also an accepted fact that the events in this campaign
turned against Lee when his opposing commander, George B.
McClellan, was handed a lost copy of Lee's plan for the
seizure of Harpers Ferry.  Prior to this incredible stroke
of bad luck Lee's cavalry forces had kept him apprised of
the movements of  the Union army while keeping McClellan
completely in the dark as to the where-abouts and movements
of  Confederate  forces.    By  finding  Lee's  lost  order
McClellan was able to see through a dense fog of war created
by  a  very  successful  Confederate  counter-reconnaissance
effort.   McClellan was now able to control  the tempo of
operations and eventually force Lee back into Virginia.
     The root causes of this string of Confederate successes
and Union failures in reconnaissance operations leading up
to the Gettysburg Campaign can be traced to both leadership
and tactical organization.  Prior to the spring of 1863 the
Confederates enjoyed great advantages in both areas.   The
previous disparities between Union and Confederate cavalry
forces need  to be  fully  understood  in  order  to  better
appreciate  the  changes  that arose  during  the  Gettysburg
     In the spring of 1863 Lee's cavalry commander, J.E.B.
Stuart, was widely recognized as a premier leader of mounted
troops.   In Stuart, Lee possessed a subordinate leader who
was not only an outstanding combat officer but also a man
who  fully  understood  the  vital  role  he  played  as  the
conductor  of  the  army's  tactical  reconnaissance  effort.
Stuart's  philosophy  in  regard  to  this mission  is  best
illustrated  in  a  letter  he  wrote  to  General  John  R.
Chambliss, a subordinate brigade commander.  Stuart wrote,
"Bear in mind that your telegrams may make the whole army
strike tents, and night or day, rain or shine, take up the
line  of  march.    Endeavor  therefore  to  secure  accurate
information.   Above   all ,  Vigilance!  Vigilance!
Vigilance!" (4:432)
      The Army of Northern Virginia also benefited from a
centralized organization of cavalry assets.  Throughout the
war  the  various  cavalry  brigades  attached  to  the  army
operated  under  the  exclusive  control  of  Stuart.  This
centralized control gave Confederate reconnaissance forces a
focus of effort and singleness of purpose completely lacking
in their counterparts in The Army Of The Potomac.
    Prior to the Gettysburg Campaign the cavalry forces of
the Army Of The Potomac had suffered an unbroken string of
battlefield  failures  in  dealing  with  their  Confederate
counterparts.     Even  though  possessing  advantages  in
manpower,  equipment,  and horses,  Union  cavalry had been
repeatedly bested by southern  horsemen.   Twice  in  1862
Stuart conducted raids in which he completely circled the
Union army.   These highly publicized raids as well as the
Confederate's absolute dominance of all phases of tactical
reconnaissance had given the Union cavalry forces the stigma
of being a second-rate organization.
    A realistic look at the Union cavalry forces prior to
Gettysburg clearly shows that they were completely lacking
in the areas that made their Confederate counterparts so
effective.  There was no Union equivalent of Stuart.  The
Army Of The Potomac had no one individual responsible for
overseeing the army's tactical reconnaissance   As a result
there was no emphasis to centralize cavalry operations.  The
Union  cavalry  forces  also  suffered  from  a  constant
restructuring of their tactical organization.
    Union cavalry organization lacked the focus enjoyed by
Confederate forces.  At various times between 1861 and 1863
Union cavalry units were routinely subdivided among  the
major  infantry commands.   Cavalry divisions and brigades
were usually parceled out  to the  various army corps or
wings.  Instead of functioning as the eyes and ears of the
army in a centralized effort, Union cavalry commanders often
found  their  units  assigned  to  guard  supply  trains,
headquarters, and lines of communication.
	These  flaws  in  organization  and  leadership  would
continue to hamstring Union reconnaissance efforts until the
spring of  1863.   Prior  to the Chancellorsville Campaign
General  Joseph  Hooker would reorganize  the Army Of The
Potomac and create a separate cavalry corps.  For the first
time,  over  10,000  mounted  troops  under  General  George
Stoneman  would go into battle in a concerted effort.
     Although the formation of a separate cavalry corps was
certainly a great leap forward, Northern forces still lacked
a dynamic forceful man to lead it.  George Stoneman would
would be replaced prior to the Gettysburg Campaign by Alfred
Pleasington.  Pleasington's major qualification for command
was that he was senior to John Buford, soon to be a hero at
Gettysburg, by 11 days.(2:44)   It would not be until  the
arrival of Phillip Sheridan in 1864 that The Army Of The
Potomac could boast of a cavalry commander anywhere near the
stature of J.E.B. Stuart.
     Much has also been written in history about the great
advantage enjoyed by southern cavalry due to a tradition of
horsemanship  that was prevalent  in  the south and almost
completely  lacking  in  the  north.    Although  this  gave
southern cavalry some advantages in skill  in the  initial
stages of the war, this advantage had largely disappeared by
      By the opening of the Gettysburg Campaign the Union
cavalry  arm  consisted  of  hardened  units  led  by  able
commanders such  as  John  Buford,  Wesley Merritt,  Judson
Kilpatrick, and George Custer.  This was a viable fighting
force that was only wanting for the proper organization and
aggressive  top  level  leadership  that would allow  it  to
compete  head  to  head  on  the  battlefield with  Stuart's
vaunted confederates.
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    As Lee developed his plan to invade Pennsylvania in the
spring of 1863 he chose the 10th of June as the start date
for his movement north.   Lee planned to use the Shenandoah
Valley and its northern extension, the Cumberland Valley, as
an avenue of approach to the Susquehanna River in southern
     The movement north would be led by Richard Ewell's II
Corps.  Ewell's mission was to clear the Shenandoah of Union
troops and secure crossing sites along the Potomac River
near Shepardstown Virginia and Williamsport Maryland.  James
Longstreet's  I  Corps  and  A.P.  Hill's  III  Corps  would
initially fix The Army Of The Potomac in place along the
Rappahannock River, and eventually follow the same route as
the II Corps.
     A great deal of risk was inherent in Lee's plan.  If the
initial  movements of his corps  into the Shenandoah were
detected, Lee's overextended army would be vulnerable  to
attack from the Northern forces massed near Stafford.  The
responsibility for keeping the Union commander in the dark
as to the Confederate movements would fall to Stuart and his
horsemen.   The key to this plan's success was for Lee's
forces to get beyond the Potomac before Hooker and his army
could react to stop them.
     As Lee was preparing his forces for the move north, his
counterpart, Joe Hooker was becoming suspicious.  A series
of  messages  between  Hooker's  headquarters  and  various
infantry corps and cavalry commanders between 1 and 4 June,
clearly reveal  his  anxiety concerning  confederate  troop
movements along the Rappahannock.(5:196-199)
	At  this  time Hooker  informed Lincoln  that he was
convinced  of  Lee's  intent  to  attempt  an  invasion  of
Maryland.   Hooker's assessment was that Lee would keep his
forces  east  of  the  Blue  Ridge  and move  on  Frederick,
Maryland via Leesburg, Virginia, just as Lee had done  in
1862.(2:52)  Hooker's inability to confirm or disprove this
potential  enemy course of action would heavily  influence
events early in the campaign.
      Hooker's suspicions were heightened when he received
word  of  a  large  concentration  of  Confederate  cavalry
northeast of Culpepper.  On 7 June, Hooker ordered Pleasonton
to conduct a reconnaissance in force toward Culpepper with
7,000 cavalry and 3,000  infantry.   The purpose of  this
mission was to ascertain Confederate intentions.
      Early on the morning of 9 June, Pleasonton's force
crossed the Rappahannock and initiated the largest cavalry
battle ever fought in North America.  The battle of Brandy
Station  was  not  only  the  opening  engagement  of  the
Gettysburg  Campaign,  but  also  the  opening  blow  of  a
prolonged counter-reconnaissance battle.
      In the final analysis Pleasonton's reconnaissance  in
force could only  be viewed as a failure.   Pleasonton's
message to Hooker at the end of the day says it all , "The
enemy is in strong cavalry force here.  We have had a severe
fight."(5:200) Hooker had already known there was a large
cavalry  force  in  the  area.    That  was  the  reason  for
Pleasonton's mission in the first place.  Union forces had
been unable  to penetrate Stuart's forces.   As a result
Pleasonton never discovered the  two corps of Confederate
infantry massed in the Culpepper area poised to strike out
on an invasion of the north.
     The one positive result of the Brandy Station fight for
the Union forces was the  tone  that was established for
future operations.   Union horsemen for the first time had
aggressively sought battle with Stuart's troopers, initially
suprised them, and then matched them blow for blow.  One of
Stuart's staff officers, Major H. McClellan wrote, "Brandy
Station made the Federal cavalry."(1:22) McClellan's words
would ring very true in  light of subsequent events in this
      Lee was undaunted by the aggressive Union action at
Brandy Station and would not let  it upset his timetable.
The next day, 10 June, Ewell's II Corps started its march to
the Shenandoah Valley.   This movement would initiate the
first critical  phase of the reconnaissance battle  in the
Gettysburg Campaign.
     During the movement of the II Corps into the Shenandoah
Valley,  Lee's  army  would  be  spread  from  Winchester  to
Fredericksburg.    If  Hooker  were  able  to  discover  this
movement his army was well positioned to strike the exposed
and strungout Confederate forces.   It was paramount that
Stuart keep Union eyes north of the Rappahannock.
     From the 10th to the 15th of June, Stuart threw out a
strong line of outposts stretching from Culpepper  to the
Blue Ridge.   His aggressive  actions kept  his opponents
guessing as  to  the  Confederate's  intentions.    Stuart's
success in this regard is vividly  illustrated  in an exchange
of messages between General Butterfield (Union Army Chief of
Staff)  and   Pleasonton.  On  11  June,  General  Butterfield
suggested to Pleasonton  that Stuart might be planning a
raid.  (5:203)    On 13  June,  Pleasonton  reported  that
Confederate   troops  had  been  reported  moving  through
Sperryville, possibly toward the Blue Ridge. (5:204)  In a
reply  to  this message  Butterfield  conjectured  that  the
Confederates might be attempting to move up the Bull  Run
Mountains and come  back  through Thoroughfare  Gap  toward
Manassas. (5.204)
      The reality of  the situation on  the 13th was that
Ewell's entire corps was approaching the town of Winchester
in the Shenandoah Valley.   The Confederates were 60 miles
north of where Pleasonton reported them, and moving in the
opposite direction conjectured by Butterfield.  Once again
Stuart had  so stifled Union  reconnaissance  efforts  that
while Lee maneuvered freely, The Army Of The Potomac was
immobilized while  its commander groped for information on
the enemy.
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     Lack of information and uncertainty seemed to dominate
Hooker's headquarters.  A fog of war was blanketing Hooker's
outlook.   Hooker  even  admitted  in  a  letter  to  General
Hallack  (General  in  Chief  of  the  army),  "I  don't  know
whether I am standing on my head or my feet."(1:34)
     The information void engulfing Hooker and his army is
well  illustrated in a message  sent to Butterfield on  14
July, by General W.S. Hancock, commander of the II Corps.
In this message Hancock reports A.P. Hill at Fredericksburg
with 20,000 to 30,000 men,  while Ewell and Longstreet were
near Culpepper with 70,000 men.(5:206)  Not only was this a
25% overestimate of Confederate strength, but at the time
Hancock was writing this estimate,  Ewell's II  Corps was
destroying Milroy's force at Winchester and pursuing the
fugitives to the Potomac River.
      After the battle of Winchester Lee could only assume
that the Union army was fully aware of his movement of a
sizable force into the Shenandoah Valley.  On 15 June, Lee
set Longstreet  and Hill  in motion  along the same  route
previously taken by Ewell.
     As a result of the army's movement Stuart now shifted
his reconnaissance activity to a more aggressive posture.
On the 16th, he moved his main force of cavalry into the
Aldie area in order to block attempts by Union cavalry to
enter the Shenandoah Valley.   On the same day Major J.S.
Mosbey returned from a scouting raid with a courier from
Hooker's headquarters.  Messages in the courier's possession
showed that Pleasonton would make an all out attempt  to
enter the Shenandoah  Valley,  by  way  of  Aldie  and
Middleburg.(5:688)  Not only was Hooker in the dark as to
Confederate intentions, but Stuart was reading his mail at
the same time.
      Between  the  17th  and 21st  of  June,  Stuart's and
Pleasonton's forces engaged in a series of intense cavalry
actions.  Although Stuart was able to prevent Union forces
from entering the Shenandoah Valley,  it was no easy task.
The Confederate horsemen were pushed back to the gaps of the
Blue Ridge before Pleasonton's troopers were stopped and
withdrew to the east.  The situation had become so critical
that Longstreet diverted infantry into the mountain passes
in case Stuart failed to hold.  Stuart had again triumphed.
But each time he engaged the Union cavalry he was finding it
increasingly more difficult to best them.
     Ewell had crossed the Potomac into Maryland on the 16th,
and by 22 June, his lead elements were  in Chambersburg,
Pennsylvania.    Even  with  the  Confederates  operating  in
northern  territory  Hooker  was  receiving  contradictory
information.    From  the  time  Ewell  crossed  the  Potomac
various local Union commanders in Maryland and Pennsylvania
were reporting sightings and movements of large bodies of
Confederate  troops.    In  contrast  to  this  on  21  June,
PIeasonton  sent  a  message  to  Hooker  stating  that
Longstreet's forces were in the Shenandoah Valley, and that
"A.P. Hill  is not north of the Rappahannock."(5:244)   In
actuality Hill's Corps was passing in rear of longstreet's
Corps and moving into Maryland.
      When one examines the intermittent and contradictory
information Hooker was receiving on Lee's movements it is
easy to see why the Union commander was so slow to initiate
a pursuit.  Between 10 and 21 June, Hooker had slowly spread
his army between the Rappahannock and the town of Leesburg
near the Potomac.   Hooker's inability to determine Lee's
course of action caused him to play it safe while waiting
for a clearer picture of the situation to develop.  In the
face of conflicting information as to what the Confederate
army was doing, Hooker covered the southern approaches to
Washington and waited.  While Hooker sat and waited for more
information, Lee continued to push north leaving the Union
army far behind.
      Just  as Lee's plan seemed to be developing almost
flawlessly,  the  Confederate  counter-reconnaissance  effort
was  about  to  take  a  dramatic  turn  against  him.    The
reconnaissance battle during the period of 25 June,  to 1
July,  would be  characterized by  a complete  reversal  of
fortune between north and south.  The effect this would have
on  the  opposing  commanders decisions would  dramatically
reshape the campaign.
    One of the most controversial decisions of the campaign
occurred during an exchange of orders,  ideas, and messages
between Lee, Longstreet, and Stuart on 22 and 23 June.  On
22 June Lee sent orders to Stuart outlining the cavalryman's
future  missions.    In  this  message  Lee  expressed  the
following concern about the enemy, "I fear he will steal a
march  on  us  and get  across  the  Potomac  before we  are
aware." (5:913) These orders directed Stuart to post forces
to guard the passes in the Blue Ridge while he and the rest
of  his  force  followed  the  army  into Maryland  via  the
Shenandoah and Cumberland Valleys.   Lee further directed
Stuart to place his force on Ewell's right flank in order to
"keep him informed of enemy movements."(5:913)
    Stuart addressed a proposal to Lee that he be allowed to
cross into Maryland east of the mountains in the enemy rear
in order  to harrass and delay The Army Of The Potomac.
Longstreet concurred with Stuart's Idea.   In a message to
Lee dated 22 June, Longstreet expressed the opinion that
Stuart's movement across the Potomac east of the mountains
was less likely to disclose the movements of the army than
would a crossing  west of the mountains. (5:915)
     On 23 June, Lee reissued orders to Stuart leaving him
the option of deciding where to conduct a crossing of the
Potomac.   Lee advised Stuart to base his decision on the
activity of the Union army.   He cautioned Stuart that any
attempt  to pass  the  rear  of  the  enemy  army should  be
accomplished "without hinderance" (5:923) and "the sooner you
cross into Maryland, after  tommorrow,  the better."(5:923)
Lee was willing to leave the decision of where to cross the
river to Stuart as long as it could be done without delay.
The overriding  imperative  in Lee's order was that Stuart
cross the Potomac quickly and continue to guard the right
flank of the army.
      After assigning two brigades to guard the mountain
passes and Lee's  lines of communication, Stuart organized
his remaining three brigades for a ride through the Union
army.  On the morning of 25 June, Stuart's forces started on
their ill-fated march.  After crossing east of the Bull Run
Mountains his force collided with columns of the Union II
Corps.   Stuart had expected to easily pass between widely
seperated Union forces, but now found his route blocked by
masses of Union infantry moving north.
    Stuart was now faced with a crucial decision.  He could
attempt  to press on,  or  he could withdraw west  of  the
mountains and move into Maryland as originally proposed by
Lee.  Stuart chose the first option and started to detour
south and east of the eremy army.
     Hard riding and fighting since the 15th of June, had
taken a toll  on the condition of Stuart's horses.   This
coupled with the lack of grass in Northern Viginia forced
the Confederates to slow their rate  of march and spend
valuable time grazing their horses.  Stuart would not cross
the Potomac until 28 June.
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On 29 June, Stuart's troops captured an enemy supply
train of 125 wagons near Rockville Maryland.   Rather than
destroy the wagons, Stuart chose to take this prize of war
with him.  This would further slow the pace of his advance.
    Stuart seems to have ignored all of Lee's imperatives.
He  had  not  been  able  to  execute  his movement  without
hinderance.   It had taken Stuart four days to cross the
Potomac, even though Lee had wanted him across as soon as
possible after the 23rd.  Once over the river Stuart was not
on the right flank of the army where Lee wanted him.  The
Army Of The Potomac was squarely between Stuart and the
Confederate army whose flank Stuart was to protect.  Stuart
would not rejoin Lee until the evening of 2 July.   During
the eight days it would take Stuart to ride around the Union
army he would be completely out of touch with Lee.   These
would prove  to be some of  the most crital  days of  the
     On the 25th of June, Lee began to suffer through the
same type of information void that had previously plagued
Hooker.  By the evening of 25 June Lee had not heard from
Stuart  for  nearly  four  days  and  was  ignorant  of  the
movements and position of the Union army.   That night a
scout named Harrison, who had been sent behind Union lines
by Longstreet at the opening of the campaign, returned to
the army.  Harrison reported the promotion of General Meade
to command of The Army Of The Potomac, which was moving
north into Maryland.(4:49) Lee's fear that the enemy would
steal a march on him had apparently come true.
      The information Lee had on the enemy was sketchy at
best.  Unlike Hooker Lee was not one to vacillate.  If the
Union army was closing in, Lee would concentrate his forces
for battle.  On the 29th, Lee issued orders for his corps
commanders  to concentrate  east  of  the mountains  in  the
vicinity of Cashtown and Gettysburg.  Ewell would move down
from the north while Hill and Longstreet crossed over the
mountains from Chambersburg.
     On the evening of 30 June, General Heth of Hill's Corps
requested permission to move his division into Gettysburg
the next morning to search for shoes for his troops.  Hill
expressed no objection to the move.  Hill  told Heth, "The
only force at Gettysburg is cavalry, probably a detachment
for observation.   I am just from General Lee and and the
information he has from his scouts corroborates that I have
received from mine  -  that  is,  the  enemy  are  still  at
Middleburg, and have not yet struck their tents."(4:78)
     The Confederate assessment of the situation on 30 July
clearly demonstrates how sorely the reconnaissance efforts
of Stuart were missed.  The cavalry force  in Gettysburg,
alluded to by Hill, was a full division under General John
Buford.  Also the lead elements of The Army Of The Potomac
were not over 20 miles away in Middleburg, but just under
eight  miles  south  near  Emmitsburg,  Maryland.   The
Confederate army was about  to stumble  into the greatest
battle of the war.
     As Stuart was preparing to move off on his ride around
the Union army, Hooker's intelligence picture was finally
beginning to clarify.  On the 24th of June, a message was
received from citizens of Greencastle, Maryland giving a
very accurate account of the movement of Ewell's Corps into
Pennsylvania.(5:249)  This report identified all of Ewell's
divisions with accurate estimate of troop and artillery
strength.   Hooker was now getting information from loyal
citizenry that his cavalry had been unable to produce.
     Hooker started his army in pursuit on the 25th, the same
day Stuart was attempting to pass around The Army of The
Potomac.   By 27 June, the Union army would be across the
potomac  and moving  toward  Pennsylvania.  This movement
placed the Union army squarely between Lee and Stuart.  This
would also be Hooker's last day in command.   Meade would
replace Hooker on the 28th.
     At this time Pleasonton would make one of the crucial
decisions of the campaign.  He placed two cavalry divisions
in the rear of the army to shadow Stuart and prevent him
from interfering with the movements of the army.  His third
division was sent in the opposite direction to scout for the
lead elements of the army moving into Pennsylvania.   This
division under General Buford would perform one of the most
critical reconnaissance missions of the campaign.
     As Buford's cavalry division preceded The Army Of The
Potomac  into  Pennsylvania,  a rare  opportunity  presented
itself.  Stuart was still absent on his extended ride around
the Union army.  As a result Buford's troopers found an open
area of  operations with  no viable  Confederate  force  to
oppose their reconnaissance efforts.   Buford's units were
able to roam far and wide scouting out the location of the
Confederate army.  Union reconnaissance units were able to
penetrate into the Cumberland Valley and for the first time
gather timely and accurate intelligence on the movements of
Lee's forces.
      Buford's units were  so effective  that  a detailed
intelligence picture was quickly put together for General
Meade.   On 30 June, Buford was able to send a message to
Meade  in which he accurately laid out  the  locations and
directions  of  movement  of   eight   of  Lee's  nine
divisions.(5:422)  The only major unit Buford had not found
was Johnson's Division of Ewell's Corps.  While Lee's troops
were moving east without a clear idea of just how close the
Union army was,  Meade had been presented an almost crystal
clear picture of Confederate dispositions.
     As Heth moved his division toward Gettysburg on 1 July,
he encountered enemy cavalry about five miles east of town.
At  ten  a.m. Heth's troops collided with the Union I Corps on
McPheson's ridge a little over a mile east of town.   The
Union army had been found much further north than anticipated.
     When Lee had ordered his commanders to concentrate near
Gettysburg he cautioned his generals not to get involved in
any large battle  until  the remainder  of  the army could
arrive.(4:81)  As the Confederate and Union forces poured in
from opposite directions the battle took on a life of its
own.  Lee would have two full divisions and part of a
third engaged before gaining control of the battle.  By mid-
afternoon  Lee found himself employing four divisions in a
battle he had not anticipated, and at a time and place he
had not wanted.
     Lee's forces were able to gain a victory over the Union
I and XI Corps which retreated to a chain of hills just
south of town.   With this victory Lee was faced with his
most critical decision thus far in the campaign.   By that
evening Lee  had  two  thirds  of  his army at  Gettysburg.
Longstreet's Corps would not  arrive  in  total  until  the
afternoon of  July 2.    Lee had also finally heard from
Stuart, but he would also not reach Gettysburg until  the
next evening.   Lee had to decide whether to continue the
battle or attempt to maneuver.
    General Longstreet proposed that the army maneuver south
around the Union left flank and interject itself between the
enemy army and Washington.(3:74)  This proposal was fraught
with risk.  The absence of cavalry again plagued Lee.   He
had no knowledge of where the Union army was or how fast
they were concentrating.  Lee felt that without cavalry to
screen the army's movement and reconnoiter the routes of
march he would be moving blindly around  the Union  left,
which "would have been wildly rash".(3:74)   Lee decided his
best move was  to finish off  the two  corps to his front
without delay.  The battle of Gettysburg  would now run its
	In  order  to fully  understand  the  impact  of  the
reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance efforts  in  the
Gettysburg campaign one  should break  it down  into three
phases.  The first phase running from 1 to 15 June, would
encompass Lee's preparation for invasion and the movement of
one corps into the Shenandoah Valley.   The second phase
covered the period of 16 to 24 June when the bulk of Lee's
army moved north.  The third phase was 25 June to 2 July,
covering the period of Stuart's eight day abscence from Lee.
     The first phase of the reconnaissance effort was the
most dangerous for Lee, and conversely, Hooker's best chance
to spoil Lee's plans.  The critical event in this period was
Lee's ability to move his  II  Corps  into the  Shenandoah
Valley undetected.   Even though Hooker was suspicious of
Lee's activity, he was only able to conjecture as to what
Lee  intended.   Hooker's major attempt to penetrate Lee's
screening  forces  was  turned  back  by  Stuart  at  Brandy
Station.  While Lee's forces were strung out and separated
Stuart was able to keep Union eyes out and  insured the
success of the operation.
     The second phase of the reconnaissance battle occurred
between 16 to 24 June.  During this period Stuart was able
to stop  the  aggressive efforts of  the Union cavalry  to
penetrate  his  forces.   This  nine  day  stretch  was
characterized by the hardest  fought cavalry battles ever
seen in the Virginia Theater.  Stuart was able to keep Union
forces at arms length from the main army and denied Hooker
the information on Lee's movements that Hooker desperately
needed.   Conversely, while Lee was maneuvering his army
north he was well aware of Union activity.  Hooker's army,
on the other hand, sat south of the Potomac, paralyzed by
the commander's indecision.
      In the third phase of the reconnaissance battle the
tactical   intelligence  pictures  of   the  opposing  army
commanders would be dramatically reversed.   This reversal
would come about more through Confederate error than Union
effort.   Stuart's insistance on crossing the Potomac by way
of the enemy rear resulted in an eight day absence when his
talents were most needed by Lee.  This left the field wide
open for Buford's cavalrymen to gather information on the
Confederate army.
      In  the  first  stages of  the  campaign Lee was  the
recipient of timely and accurate reports on the enemy which
allowed him to  maneuver confidently into Maryland.  Hooker
on  the  other  hand  sat  in  the  throes  of  indicision,
immobilized by a  lack of  information.   As the  campaign
reached a decisive phase the roles were reversed.  Lee was
now groping in the dark, concentrating his army in reaction
to sketchy information.  This is best  illustrated  in remarks
he made  to General  Anderson when  hearing the sounds of
battle as he approached Gettysburg.  Lee stated:
      I cannot think what has become of Stuart.  I
      ought to have heard from him long before now.
      In the absence of reports from him , I Am in ig-
      norance as to what we have in front of us.  It
      may be the whole Federal army, it may be only
      a detachment. If it is the whole Federal force
      we must fight a battle here.(3:67)
As mentioned earlier, on the evening of 1 July, Lee would
have to make one of the most critical decisions of the war
without any accurate intelligence on the enemy army.  At the
same time Meade had an extremely accurate picture of  the
enemy force he was about to engage.
	When one looks at  tactical  reconnaissance  in  the
Gettysburg Campaign it  is easy to see the vital  importance
of this aspect of warfare.  The successes and failures of
both  armies were  tied  to  their  ability  to control  the
reconnaissance battle    Even so brilliant a soldier as Lee
was mortal  when  lacking the  intelligence needed to make
     There is a commonly accepted myth that Gettysburg was a
battlefield where two armies collided by chance, a place
where neither commander wished to fight.  The evidence shows
this to be half true.  The Confederate army stumbled into an
unanticipated  battle.  Lee's  lack  of  current  tactical
intelligence forced him to accept a major battle at a time
and place not of his choosing   Meade on the other hand went
to Gettysburg seeking battle.  The Union army fought at
Gettysburg because their commander chose to do so.   Meade
was able  to make  that decision because at  the  time his
forces were  in control  of the reconnaissance battle, and
that would make all the difference.
1.      Clark, Champ etal., Gettysburg, The Confederate High
Tide.  Alexandria Va.:  Time Life Books, 1985.
2.      Coddington, Edwin.  The Gettysburg Campaign.  New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1984.
3.      Freeman, Douglas.  Lee's Lieutenants, Volume III.  New
York:  Charles Scribner's Sons, 1944.
4.      Freeman, Douglas, R. E. Lee, Volume III. New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1935
5.      U.S. War Department, The Official Records of the War
of the Rebellion, Volume XXVII part 2.  Washington D.C.:  1880.

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