The Civil War, Day by Day

Distant Thunder

Distant Thunder

There he hoped to shift the burden of war from Virginia to the North, earn European recognition for the Confederacy and win the decisive battle that would end the war in Southern nationhood. The march to the North had been like a triumphant parade for Lee and his troops. Surely they would again defeat Federal forces - in what Lee hoped would be the war’s final battle.

A day earlier, Lee had learned that the Army of the Potomac had a new commander - General George Meade - and that the Federal army was moving northward toward the crossroads community of Gettysburg. “Tomorrow, gentlemen,” Lee had told his officers, “we will go over to Gettysburg and see what General Meade is after.” He did not want to do battle before his spread-out army was concentrated, however, and had cautioned his three corps commanders to avoid bringing on an engagement before his army was reunited.

Now, this Wednesday morning - the first day of July - it appeared that battle had been sparked at Gettysburg. Lee’s advance forces - Heth’s Division of General A.P. Hill’s Corps - had made contact with Federal forces east of town and fighting had erupted. Lee and his staff moved along the Chambersburg Pike into Cashtown, which lay just a few miles west of Gettysburg. The pike was clogged with troops from Brigadier General George T. Anderson’s Brigade. By the time Lee reached the inn at Cashtown, he could hear the rumble of battle coming from the direction of Gettysburg. What lay ahead was the greatest battle of the War Between the States. For the Confederates, it would begin with the jubilation of victory, but would end in devastating defeat. For the moment, however, Lee and his soldiers in gray and butternut held great expectations of another triumph - one that would end the awful agony of this war and forge into reality the dream of Southern Independence.

Down the road toward Gettysburg, the sound of battle arose like a distant thunder.

August's Archived Features:

Saturday August 1, 2020
Sunday August 2, 2020
Monday August 3, 2020
Tuesday August 4, 2020
Wednesday August 5, 2020
Thursday August 6, 2020
Friday August 7, 2020
Saturday August 8, 2020
Sunday August 9, 2020
Monday August 10, 2020
Tuesday August 11, 2020
Wednesday August 12, 2020
Thursday August 13, 2020
Friday August 14, 2020



All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.