Leader of the Pack, Chapter 2 — The Mind of the Commander — Gettysburg 1863

Headquarters of the Army, Washington, DC, June 27, 1863
Major General G. G. Meade,
Army of the Potomac

You will receive with this the order of the President placing you in command of the Army of the Potomac. Considering the circumstances, no one ever received a more important command; and I cannot doubt that you will fully justify the confidence which the Government has reposed in you.
You will not be hampered by any minute instructions from these headquarters. Your army is free to act as you may deem proper under the circumstances as they arise. You will, however, keep in view the important fact that the Army of the Potomac is the covering army of Washington, as well as the army of operation against the invading forces of the rebels. You will therefore manoeuvre and fight in such a manner as to cover the Capital and also Baltimore, as far as circumstances will admit. Should General Lee move upon either of these places, it is expected that you will either anticipate him or arrive with him, so as to give him battle.
All forces within the sphere of your operations will be held subject to your orders.
Harper’s Ferry and its garrison are under your direct orders.
You are authorized to remove from command and send from your army any officer or other person you may deem proper; and to appoint to command as you may deem expedient.
In fine, General, you are intrusted with all the power and authority which the President, the Secretary of War, or the General-in-Chief can confer on you, and you may rely on our full support.
You will keep me fully informed of your movements and the positions of your own troops and those of the enemy, so far as known.
I shall always be ready to advise and assist you to the utmost of my ability.
Very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
H. W. Halleck

Frederick, Md., 7 a.m., June 28, 1863
H. W. Halleck,
The order placing me in command of this army is received. As a soldier I obey it, and to the utmost of my ability will execute it. Totally unexpected as it has been, and in ignorance of the exact condition of the troops and position of the enemy, I can only now say that it appears to me I must move towards the Susqehanna, keeping Washington and Baltimore well covered, and if the enemy is checked in his attempt to cross the Susquehanna, or if he turns towards Baltimore, to give him battle. I would say that I trust that every available man that can be spared will be sent to me, as from all accounts, the enemy is in a strong force. So soon as I can post myself up I will communicate more in detail.
General G. Meade,
Major General

Headquarters Army of the Potomac, June 30, 1863.
The Commanding General has received information that the enemy are advancing, probably in strong force, on Gettysburg. It is the intention to hold this army pretty nearly in the position it now occupies, until the plans of the enemy shall have been more fully developed.
Three corps, 1st, 3d, and 11th, are under the command of Major General Reynolds, in the vicinity of Emmettsburg, the 3d Corps being ordered up to that point. The 12th Corps is at Littlestown. General Gregg’s division of cavalry is believed to be now engaged with the cavalry of the enemy, near Hanover Junction.
Corps commanders will hold their commands in readiness at a moment’s notice, and upon receiving orders, to march against the enemy. Their trains (ammunition trains excepted) must be parked in the rear of the place of concentration. Ammunition wagons and ambulances will alone be permitted to accompany the troops. The men must be provided with three-days’ rations in haversacks and with sixty rounds of ammunition in boxes and upon the person.
Corps commanders will avail themselves of all the time at their disposal to familiarize themselves with the roads communicating with the different corps.
By command Major General Meade.
S. Williams
Asst. Adjt. Gen’l

Headquarters Army of the Potomac, June 30, 1863.
The Commanding General requests that, previous to the engagement soon expected with the enemy, corps and all other commanding officers address their troops, explaining to them briefly the immense issues involved in the struggle. The enemy are on our soil; the whole country now looks anxiously to this army to deliver it from the presence of the foe. Our failure to do so will leave us no such welcome as the swelling of millions of hearts with pride and joy, as our success would give to every soldier of this army. Homes, firesides and domestic altars are involved. The army has fought well heretofore; it is believed that it will fight more desperately and bravely than ever, if it is addressed in fitting terms.
Corps and other commanders are authorized to order the instant death of any soldier who fails in his duty at this hour.
By command Major General Meade,
S. Williams
Asst. Adjt. Gen’l

July 1, 1863
Commanding Officer Sixth Corps:
I am directed by the Commanding General to state that it would appear from reports received, that the enemy is moving in heavy force on Gettysburg (Ewell from Heidlersburg, and Hill from Cashtown Pass), and it is not improbable he will reach that place before the command under Major General Reynolds (the First and Eleventh Corps), now on the way, can arrive there. Should such be the case, and General Reynolds finds himself in the presence of a superior force, he is instructed to hold the enemy in check, and fall slowly back. If he is able to do this, the line indicated in the circular of to-day will be occupied to-night. Should circumstances render it necessary for the Commanding General to fight the enemy to-day, the troops are posted as follows for the support of Reynold’s command, viz.: On his right, at “Two Tavers,” the Twelfth Corps; at Hanover, the Fifth Corps; the Second Corps is on the road between Taneytown and Gettysburg; the Third Corps is at Emmetsburg.
This information is conveyed to you, that you may have your Corps in readiness to move in such direction as may be required at a moment’s notice.
Very respectfully, etc.,
S. Williams,
Asst. Adjt. Gen’l

Verbal communications from Major General Reynolds conveyed to Major General Meade via Captain Stephen M. Weed, aide-de-camp:

“Ride at your utmost speed to General Meade. Tell him the enemy are advancing in strong force, and that I fear they will get to the heights beyond the town before I can. I will fight them inch by inch, and if driven into the town, I will barricade the streets and hold them back as long as possible. Don’t spare your horse—never mind if you kill him.”