2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
The Battle of Gettysburg - Wednesday, July 1, 1863
The Battle's First Shot

Battle of Gettysburg First Shot Marker
On September 13, 1863, Confederate General Henry Heth finished his official report for his division's actions during the Battle of Gettysburg. He began by stating, "On the morning of June 30, I ordered Brigadier-General Pettigrew to take his brigade to Gettysburg, search the town for army supplies (shoes especially), and return the same day. On reaching the suburbs of Gettysburg, General Pettigrew found a large force of cavalry near the town, supported by an infantry force. Under these circumstances, he did not deem it advisable to enter the town, and returned, as directed, to Cashtown. The result of General Pettigrew's observations was reported to Lieutenant-General Hill, who reached Cash-town on the evening of the 30th. On July 1, my division, accompanied by Pegram's battalion of artillery, was ordered to move at 5 a.m. in the direction of Gettysburg. On nearing Gettysburg, it was evident that the enemy was in the vicinity of the town in some force." [5]

8th Illinois Cavalry at GettysburgNearby, Union Lieutenant Marcellus Jones kept a close eye on General Heth's men who perhaps thought they might encounter some Pennsylvania militia or detached cavalry, hardly a threat to General Robert E. Lee's veteran troops. Waiting outside of town, Lieutenant Jones' men of the 8th Illinois Cavalry's Company E watched warily as the mass of Southerners advanced in their direction. As they approached, Lieutenant Jones borrowed a carbine from Sergeant Levi S. Shafer and took aim at the closing men clad in butternut and gray. Still just crossing Marsh Creek about 1/2 mile to the west, the single shot presumably found no mark. Although likely preceded by some earlier skirmishing north of town, Lieutenant Jones could claim at least the first shot of the battle at massed troops. In 1886, he would return to these fields to erect the small marker (above) to forever commemorating the event. This single, bloodless shot raised the curtain on the devastating Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the bloodiest war in United States history. Estimates vary but Lieutenant Jones' wayward shot would usher in a collision producing about 10,000 deaths, 30,000 wounded, and 10,000 missing or captured over then next 3 days.