Latest News By Telegraph: The Impending Battle of Gettysburg

By the mid-nineteenth century, newspapers were beginning to regularly use information passed through the telegraph for news stories. It was not unusual for some breaking stories to contain misinformation, but that must have been a minor inconvenience compared to the benefit of receiving news within 24 to 48 hours of its occurence.

News by telegraph took on new importance during the Civil War as families on the home front tried to keep up with battles and track their loved ones troop movements. Locally, the Daily Democrat and News printed a section, Latest News By Telegraph, every day. It was filled with the war news received overnight.

In honor of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – 3, 1863) we are copying the Latest News By Telegraph published on July 1, 1863.

Since June 27th the telegraph had carried reports of rebel troops moving around Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and retreating. Union troops were on the move as well. They would collide at Gettysburg, PA.

The information below is reprinted from the original newspaper:

The Herald has the following:
Columbia via Lancaster, June 30
               By rebel information we learn that the enemy is falling back along the entire line. The city of York was evacuated last night or early this morning. Gen Early is reported to have carried off a vast amount of money and stores.
                Deserters from the rebel army say the rebels are concentrating for a great battle with Meade, but this is not believed by those in official stations.
                It is reported that there is a large rebel force opposite McCall’s Ferry. Deserters from York say they heard this spoken of by some of Early’s officers. This is the movement against Philadelphia.
                It is believed that Meade has retaken Hanover Junction.
                All along the line of the Susquehanna above and below here, pickets are stationed in sufficient force to prevent a crossing.
                It is hoped Longstreet’s pontoon train accompanies his troops to McCall’s Ferry.


[Special to the Times]
Headquarters Army Potomac,
June 30 – 8 P.M.
                 I am just in from the front. The rebel force which made the raid on the Baltimore & Ohio R.R. consisted of Stuart’s whole force. Monday night they arrived at Westminster, threw out strong pickets and shot two citizens trying to escape.
                Early in the morning Gen. Griggs attacked Stuart and drove him from Westminster to Hanover, Pa.
                During this A.M. Gens. Fitz Patrick and Castor drove Stuart from Hanover, after a splendid fight, and are still pursuing him, his force going towards Gettysburg and part towards York.
                During the day Gen. Buford drove a rebel regiment of infantry out of Gettysburg, who retired in a northeasterly direction.
                It is reported that the rebels borned Cashtown, Pa., yesterday.
                The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was repaired last night. The bridge on Piney Run has been restored and the train which left this morning for Frederick and Harper’s Ferry has gone through without interruption.
                The telegraph was repaired in half an hour after rebels disappeared, and in a few hours the bridge track was laid and the rails replaced.
                The rebel cavalry which yesterday attacked a company of the 1st Delaware at Westminster and drove them towards this city, was doubtless the advance guard of Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry leading the way across the country through Baltmore county, to enable them to join the main rebel army in the vicinity of York and Gettysburg.
                The signal pickets put 20 miles out announced a movement in the neighborhood of Westminster of a large cavalry force undoubtedly Fitzhugh Lee’s, which crossed the Potomac on Sunday.
                It is hoped they were intercepted by Pleasonton’s cavalry, who were sent in pursuit.
Harrisburg, June 30
                 A citizen of Carlisle, who left there at 11 o’clock today, arrived here this P.M., states that infantry, 40,000 strong, with 40 pieces of artillery, left this morning for Gettysburg. On his way he met nothing but Cavalry pickets.
                During the stay of the rebels they occupied barracks and grounds and most of the prominent buildings which were vacant. The citizens were compelled to furnish rations so far as their means would admit.
                During yesterday the rebel officers appeared uneasy for fear their trains would be destroyed, which were in the rear.
                One hundred prisoners arrived at Carlisle which the rebels captured at Gettysburg, and were robbed of their boots and shoes and all other valuables, after which they were left to go home barefooted as best they could.
                The rebel officers stated that they did not design to burn the barracks, as they intended to return, but at 3 P.M. a loud explosion occurred in that direction, and it is believed that they were blown up.
                Private property was generally respected, but shoe and drug stores were cleared out. Some paid for the goods in green backs and a few in gold and silver.
                It is believed that the main body of the rebel army is in the neighborhood of Shippensburg. They all stated that their destination was Harrisburg, but thought it probable that they might be compelled to fight the Army of the Potomac before accomplishing their object.
                The danger to Pennsylvania and the North is still imminent, everything depending upon an encounter between Lee and Meade. If our army should be defeated we have no hope except in large armies to be raised in the North. No efforts should be spared to hurry forward large military organizations everywhere.
Lancaster, Pa, June 30
[Special to Tribune]
               The rebels have fallen back ten miles from Harrisburg.
               Gen Couch and staff crossed the Susquehanna and occupied the south bank of the river. Meade occupies Hanover and York to-night, cutting the rebel lines in two.
               The rebels are rapidly concentrating in the interior.
               Pleasonton makes great havoc in the rear of the enemy’s trains.
               A great battle is thought to be imminent. The rebels must fight on Meade’s ground or disastrously retreat.


We now know, the great battle was no longer imminent, but raging on the hot summer fields at Gettysburg.

Nearly 94,000 Union troops and 72,000 Confederate troops met during those three days. The Union losses totalled 3,155 killed, 14,531 wounded, and 5,369 captured/missing. Confederate losses were 4,708 killed, 12,693 wounded, and 5,830 captured/missing.

(posted by Amy D.)

For more Gettysburg telegraph reports, please click here.

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