From the New York Times, July 6, 1863:
Who can write the history of a battle whose eyes are immovably fastened upon a central figure of transcendingly absorbing interest — the dead body of an oldest born, crushed by a shell in a position where a battery should never have been sent, and abandoned to death in a building where surgeons dared not to stay? . . .
The Battle of Gettysburg! I am told that it commenced, on the 1st of July, a mile north of the town, between two weak brigades of infantry and some doomed artillery and the whole force of the rebel army. Among other costs of this error was the death of Reynolds. Its value was priceless, however, though priceless was the young and the old blood with which it was bought. The error put us on the defensive, and gave us the choice of position. From the moment that our artillery and infantry rolled back through the main street of Gettysburg and rolled out of the town to the circle of eminences south of it, we were not to attack but be attacked. The risks, the difficulties and the disadvantages of the coming battle were the enemy’s. Ours were the heights for artillery; ours the short, inside lines for maneuvering and reinforcing; ours the cover of stone walls, fences and the crests of hills. The ground upon which we were drive to accept battle was wonderfully favorable to us.
Lee’s plan of battle was simple. He massed his troops upon the east side of this position and thundered on it obstinately to break it. The shelling of our batteries from the nearest overlooking hill, and the unflinching courage and complete discipline of the army of the Potomac repelled the attack. It was renewed at the point of the shoe – renewed desperately at the southwest heel – renewed on the western side with an effort consecrated to success of Ewell’s earnest oaths, and on which the fate of the invasion of Pennsylvania was fully put at stake. Only a perfect infantry and an artillery educated in the midst of charges of hostile brigades could possibly have sustained this assault. Hancock’s corps did sustain it, and has covered itself with immortal honors by its constancy and courage. The total wreck of Cushire’s battery – the list of its killed and wounded – the losses of officers, men and horses Cowen sustained – and the marvelous outspread upon the board of death of dead soldiers and dead animals – of deal soldiers in blue, and dead soldiers in gray – more marvelous to me than anything I have ever seen in war – are a ghastly and shocking testimony to the terrible fight of the Second corps that none will gainsay. That corps will ever have the distinction of breaking the pride of the rebel invasion. . . .
My pen is heavy. Oh, you dead, who at Gettysburg have baptized with your blood the second birth of Freedom in America, how you are to be envied! I rise from a grave whose wet clay I have passionately kissed, and I look up and see Christ spanning this battlefield with his feet and reaching fraternally and lovingly up to heaven. His right hand opens the gates of Paradise — with his left he beckons to these mutilated, bloody, swollen forms to ascend.
– Samuel Wilkeson