Daytime, Gettysburg. General John Buford, commander of the Union cavalry, enters Gettysburg with his two brigades: 2,500 men, all mounted on horses. Buford is scouting the land ahead of the Union army. He spots a brigade of Confederate infantry in the town, and he is surprised to see them apparently without cavalry. He decides to remain in Gettysburg and sends a message back to the infantry commander, General John Reynolds, telling him that he has occupied Gettysburg and expects an even larger Confederate force to arrive the next morning.
Buford surveys the area around the town and notices its “high ground.” Buford rides through the middle of the town with his men. The townspeople are relieved to see Union troops.
Buford decides to occupy the hills with his men. They dismount and get ready to fight on foot. He hopes to prevent the Confederates from taking the high ground the next day until Reynolds arrives with his troops.
Nighttime, Confederate camp west of Gettysburg. The Confederate officers try to teach Lieutenant Arthur Fremantle, a British military observer, how to play poker. Longstreet muses on the upcoming battle. One of his aides, Sorrel, informs Longstreet that a soldier spotted Union cavalry in Gettysburg. The reporting officer’s commander, General Hill, thinks he must have seen a state militia, but Longstreet is not sure.
Longstreet continues to brood, chatting briefly with Fremantle. General George Pickett, a good soldier and a perfumed dandy, arrives, much to everyone’s pleasure. Other officers under Pickett’s command also arrive: Lew “Lo” Armistead, Jim Kemper, and Dick Garnett.
Pickett’s division has not had much action. Now, the division has been placed at the rear of the army. Pickett approaches Longstreet and asks that his division be moved up, but Longstreet refuses, adding that if the army has to turn and run, Pickett’s division will then be leading the fight to escape. Pickett leaves and Longstreet then talks to Armistead. Armistead’s old friend, General Winfield Hancock, is in the Union army, and Longstreet speculates that he may soon meet his friend—in battle. Longstreet tells Armistead that he would prefer to use defensive warfare tactics, such as trenches. Armistead replies that his ideas are sound, but that the Confederate army is not the army to try them out on. Besides, Armistead says, General Lee would never agree to defensive warfare, because he thinks it is somewhat dishonorable.