By early evening on July 1, 1863, Federal forces were driven back through Gettysburg to the heights south of the town. The main strength of both armies arrived during the night and morning of July 1-2 and formed for battle. On July 2, Gen. Robert E. Lee ordered a series of attacks against the Federals to drive them out of their strong position on Cemetery Ridge. The attacks began later that afternoon, and the fighting raged until late in the evening. The timely arrival of federal reinforcements allowed Gen. George Meade to maintain control of the high ground and turn back the Confederate attacks.
Agnes S. Barr, who lived on Baltimore Street, recalled: “The evening of July 1, we had taken supper down to the wounded at the Presbyterian Church. One of the Surgeons stepped up and asked for a cup of coffee. It was just out. Sister and I told him to go up to our home and Mother was there and she would give them coffee. When we got home we found four surgeons sitting at the supper table. Mother asked them to breakfast the next morning. After that they wanted to stay; it became headquarters for the surgeons of the Presbyterian Hospital. July 2nd was spent much as the first day baking and preparing food for the wounded. Mrs. White and Misses Paxton’s would come in with their supply. We would all go down the back alley through the yards into the church. One Confederate soldier was brought in among the first of the wounded and very much frightened, he thought he was among his enemies. The doctors asked us to pay close attention to him. The soldiers some laid down in pews. A number of the wounded was laid on those. The evening and afternoon of the second day there was hard fighting south of town. A mist and light rain in the evening. We could hear shrieks and groans of the wounded, out toward the cemetery. Heart-rending and very sad.”
Sarah M. Broadhead, living in Gettysburg, recalled on July 2: “Of course we had no rest last night. Part of the time we watched the Rebels rob the house opposite. The family had left sometime during the day, and the robbers must have gotten all they had left in the house. They went from the garret to the cellar, and loading up the plunder in a large horse wagon, drove it off.”
Albertus McCreary, whose house stood on the corner of Baltimore and High streets, remembered: “We did not dare to look out the windows on the Baltimore street side. Sharpshooters from Cemetery Hill were watching all the houses for Confederate sharpshooters and picking off everyone they saw, since from that distance, they could not distinguish citizen from soldier. Along the street from east to west was stretched a line of Confederate infantry in reserve. I remember how poorly clad they were. Most of them were ragged and dirty, and they had very little to eat. One day while I was having a talk with the soldiers, I heard cheering down the street. It seemed to be caused by the passing along High street, toward our house, of a small body of officers on horseback. As they drew near, the men along our pavement stood and cheered also. One of the men told me it was General Lee and his staff. I had a good look at him as he passed. He looked very much the soldier, sitting very erect in the saddle with his short-cropped beard and his Confederate gray. The whole staff was a fine-looking set of men – at least, they seemed so to my youthful eyes; and it is needless to say I gazed at them with keen curiosity. They rode up as far as a slight elevation in the street, stopped, took their glasses, and surveyed Cemetery Hill, where they could see the positions of their enemy. This was just before the Louisiana ‘Tigers’ made their famous charge. What a racket that did make! It was an infantry charge and the sound was as if a million boys with sticks were beating on a board fence. It was not in volleys, but continuous.”
Oliver F. Benner, whose family’s farm was east of Rock Creek, recalled: “After a while the firing ceased and three ambulances came to get the wounded at our place. They drove in around our hog-pen, and the drivers had got out when the shells began to fly again. Immediately the drivers jumped back in and went off in a great hurry. A little major came into the house and asked for some red cloth to make a hospital flag, and mother got him a piece. He tied the cloth to a stick and had a soldier climb up a ladder and nail it on the roof so our men would stop their firing in that direction.”
During the night of July 2, the citizens could only wonder with anguish what the morrow would bring.