Gen. Richard S. Ewell of the Confederate Army was frustrated and angry on the afternoon of July 1, 1863, the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The cause of his grief was Robert E. Lee, who had just issued a confusing order that forced Ewell to reconsider whether he should carry out an important attack. What he did next may have arguably decided the battle, and certainly became one of the most controversial series of events of the entire war.
Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had unexpectedly encountered George Meade's Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg that morning, and a battle no one expected sucked in reinforcements from both sides. Ewell's corps, which consisted of two divisions under Robert Rodes and Jubal Early (a third was on its way), had rushed in from the north, smashing the Union's right flank and sending the enemy fleeing back through Gettysburg. At approximately 3:30 p.m., the Union survivors took refuge south of town on Cemetery Hill, where Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock boldly decided to make a stand. What happened next became one of the Civil War's most enduring controversies.