In June 1863, General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army of North Virginia, invaded the North through the Shenandoah after defeating Union forces at Chancellorsville. By doing so, he sought to allow war-ravaged Virginia time to recuperate, while his armies foraged in northern territory, striking towards the cities of Philadelphia and Baltimore. Early in the morning of 1 July, his advanced troops came up against mounted sentries of the Union Army’s cavalry corps. Commanded by Brigadier General Buford, the main body of the corps had occupied defensive positions on the high ground west of Gettysburg, hoping to impede the Confederate advance until the main Union army under General Meade reached the scene. Under repeated assaults, the defending Union troops retreated to Cemetery Hill, south of Gettysburg, for a last-ditch stand. Lee ordered his 2nd Corps to take the hill ‘if practicable’; their commander determined it was not.
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