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On the morning of June 30, 1863 in a grove known as “Messersmith’s Woods” near the eastern edge of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, which of the four previous days had been the headquarters of The Army of Northern Virginia, a decision was announced that would change America’s destiny. General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia had assembled members of his staff along with General James Longstreet, Commander of the First Corps to announce a change of plans.
General Lee’s overall original plan of invasion into Pennsylvania was to have his troops converge on the capitol at Harrisburg. One major part of the plan was for General Jeb Stuart to keep him informed of the movement of the Federal Army. He had not received a message from General Stuart since leaving Virginia on June 25. On the night of June 29, a scout named Harrison, arrived with information on the location of the Federal Army.
General Lee’s Army was in good spirits, not overfatigued, and could be concentrated on any one point within twenty-four hours. He expected the Federals to follow him out of Virginia by making a hard fast march into Pennsylvania and to interpose their forces somewhere between him and Baltimore and Philadelphia. With no news from General Stewart and before the arrival of the scout, with his troops fresh, he confidently commented “ we shall probably meet the Federal Army and fight a great battle, and if God gives us the victory, the war will be over and we shall achieve the recognition of our independence.
Finally after being informed by the scout of the movement of the Federal Army now commanded by General George Gordon Mead, General Lee made his decision as to the best location to intercept and do battle with them. He informed those gathered that morning in the grove “Gentlemen, we will not move to Harrisburg, as we expected, but will go over to Gettysburg and see what General Mead is after.