In The Killer Angels, why will the battle be fought at Gettysburg?
Following the Army of Northern Virginia's decisive victory at Chancellorsville in May 1863, General Robert E. Lee decided the time was right for a second invasion of the North. Marching into Pennsylvania, Lee's original objective was to reach the capital of Harrisburg or possibly Philadelphia; he then hoped to turn south and invade Washington, D.C. from the north. Although Lee's army was at the apex of its fighting strength, the untimely death of the irreplaceable "Stonewall" Jackson forced Lee to reorganize his army, adding both Gen. A.P. Hill and Gen. Dick Ewell as new (and inexperienced) corps commanders. Many of Lee's men were without shoes, so Gen. Henry Heth (according to his memoirs), one of Hill's division commanders, sent a brigade into Gettysburg to ransack several shoe factories believed to be located there. While there, Heth's men noticed several brigades of Union cavalry, under Gen. John Buford, occupying several ridges outside the town. Although Lee had ordered that no major action take place without his instructions, Heth's men advanced upon Buford's men, thinking them only a small force. The engagement became heated, however, and Lee eventually decided to concentrate his entire army at Gettysburg. Unfortunately for Lee, his cavalry leader, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, "the eyes of the army," was absent on a raid, and the commanding general was unaware that the Union Army of the Potomac was also advancing upon Gettysburg.