On Monday, June 29, 1863, in less than twenty-four hours after being informed of his new command, Union General George Meade had the Army of the Potomac moving rapidly through Maryland in pursuit of Lee’s Confederate invaders.
Meade, a West Point graduate and career officer who had fought against the Seminoles in the 1830s and served in the Mexican War, had distinguished himself in George McClellan’s 1862 Peninsular Campaign against Richmond and at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. He was not shy in taking command and acting decisively.
On Saturday, June 27, 1863 after days of disappointment over Joseph Hooker’s inability to respond to Lee’s invasion of the North President Abraham Lincoln removed Hooker and named General George Meade as the new commander of the Union Army of the Potomac.
On Thursday, June 25, 1863, Robert E. Lee sent General Jeb Stuart to reconnoiter with his Confederate cavalry, passing between the Federal army and Washington, D.C. Such a raid would, of course, panic the North.
Thus began an operation which deprived Lee of his cavalry for much of the Gettysburg campaign. Lee, a masterful tactician who knew by heart every topographical feature of his beloved Virginia, knew little about Northern geography, and Confederate maps proved to be inaccurate.
On Wednesday, June 24, 1863 Union General Joseph Hooker wrote the War Department in Washington, D.C. that he would send a corps or two across the Potomac River, making Washington more secure and positioning himself on Robert E. Lee’s probable line of retreat once Lee decided to return to Virginia.
Who or what would force Lee to retreat seems not to have entered Hooker’s mind, as the general requested orders from the War Department while acknowledging, except for his relation to his own army, “I don’t know whether I am standing on my head or feet.”
The Union Army of the Cumberland, commanded by General William Rosecrans, advanced from Murfreesboro, Tennessee in a series of strategic maneuvers against Confederate forces at Tullahoma, commanded by General Braxton Bragg.
For weeks the War Department, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and President Lincoln had urged Rosecrans to take to the field. Lincoln had written Rosecrans, pleading “I would not push you to any rashness, but I am very anxious that you do your utmost…. to keep Bragg from getting lost to help Johnston against Grant."
On Saturday, June 20, 1863 by virtue of a presidential proclamation West Virginia officially joined the Union as the thirty-fifth state, and at Wheeling, Arthur Boreman was inaugurated as West Virginia's first state governor.
By mid-June 1863 the Union siege of Vicksburg worsened. A Confederate major noted, “One day is like another in a besieged city—all you can hear is the rattle of the Enemy’s guns, with the sharp crack of the rifles of their sharp-shooters going from early dawn to dark and then at night the roaring of the terrible mortars is kept up sometimes all this time.”
On Friday, June 19, 1863 in the eastern theatre of war General Richard Ewell’s Confederates moved north of the Potomac River. With Southern troops on Northern soil, many Northerners panicked as major urban areas such as Baltimore continued to construct defensive breastworks.
On Thursday, June 18, 1863 at Vicksburg Ulysses Grant removed General John McClernand from command of the Union’s Thirteenth Army Corps. At Champion’s Hill in late May 1863, McClernand had not followed Grant’s orders to attack with his entire corps.
On Monday, June 15, 1863 after decisively routing Union forces at Winchester and Stephenson’s Depot approximately four miles north of Winchester, Confederate troops began crossing the Potomac River near Williamsport.
Federal losses were high with 95 killed, 348 wounded, and approximately 4,000 reported captured or missing. The victorious Confederates in these battles seized 23 artillery pieces, 300 loaded wagons, over 300 horses, and large quantities of commissary and quartermaster’s stores.