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First Day Struggle at Willoughby Run

Gettysburg, 1st Day: Reynolds Arrives

Fighting continues as Reynolds’ First Corps reinforces Buford’s cavalry.

“The Devil’s To Pay” – First Day Struggle at Willoughby Run

Early in the morning on July 1st Confederate General Henry Heth moved toward Gettysburg from Cashtown on the Chambersburg Pike in search of supplies. Heth’s entire division was mustered for the march when one of his brigade’s had returned and reported a sizeable force of Union cavalry near Gettysburg.  After exchanging a few shots with a Union cavalry picket post near Marsh Creek, Heath believed he may be facing some local militia and a small Union force as he approached Herrs Ridge, Willoughby Run, McPherson’s Ridge and Seminary Ridge. This belief was short-lived. Heath discovered the Rebels were facing General Buford’s dismounted cavalry who had been sent forward to McPherson’s Ridge and to Willoughby Run in order to stall the Confederate advance. Colonel William Gamble’s brigade of Buford’s division, supported by Lt. John H. Calef’s U.S. Battery with their breech loading carbines, did a fine job of delaying the Confederate approach. The Rebels were stalled – but only for a short period. The intense fighting of the First Day was just beginning.

Two brigades, commanded by General Archer & Davis, pressed slowly ahead crossing Willoughby Run. On Seminary Ridge from the cupola of Schmucker Hall, General Buford was watching his men being pushed back from Willoughby Run when General John Reynolds, riding ahead of his First Corps coming up in support, asked Buford to hold out until his troops arrived. “The devil’s to pay”, exclaimed Buford. Then he simply replied, “I reckon I can.” At the end of the first day’s battle, locations west of Gettysburg such as Herrs Ridge, McPherson’s Woods, Willoughby Run, The Railroad Cut, Iverson’s Pits, Oak Hill, Schmucker Hall and Seminary Ridge would be etched into American history. The Union forces were eventually driven back through the town, but the First Day delaying action that held the line gave Union reinforcements enough time to arrive and secure the strategic advantage on Cemetery Ridge. Later First Day actions on the eastern and northern ground of the First Day will be continued at 6 p.m. during the engagement Crossroads of Destiny. Experience this exhilarating ‘The Devil’s To Pay’ action as the battle begins at 11 a.m. on Thursday, July 4, at the 150th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment.

Editors Note: Schmucker Hall on the Lutheran Seminary campus is the most important and historic privately owned building in Gettysburg. In conjunction with the 150th Gettysburg Anniversary Commemoration Schmucker Hall is undergoing a complete restoration and will be formally dedicated and re-opened on July 1st as the Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum. The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee is proud to include the Schmucker Hall restoration project as one of five local event beneficiaries for this year’s 150th Gettysburg Anniversary National Civil War Battle Reenactment.

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