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Longstreet at Gettysburg
After the Civil War was over and the soldiers of both sides began to get on with their lives and the history of the war was beginning to be written, there began a great deal of finger pointing as to whose fault certain actions and their outcomes were. Since General James Longstreet, CSA, had changed his politics and embraced the Republican Party, it was only natural that he would take a lot of criticism from his fellow Confederates. In an attempt to at tell his side of the story, Longstreet wrote his book “From Manassas to Appomattox: Memoirs of the Civil War in America”. The following are three chapters from this book.
Source of the following were taken from: “From Manassas to Appomattox” by James Longstreet
|The First Day
Chapter XXVI–Gettysburg–First Day
|Information of Federal Force and Positions brought by the Scout Har-rison–General Lee declines to credit it-General Longstreet suggests a Change of Direction in Conformance with the Revelation–General Meade had succeeded Hooker in Command Five Days before Battle–Positions on the Eve of the First Day–Confederate Cavalry “not in sight”–” The Eyes of the Army” sadly needed–A Description of the Fatuous Battle-field–Generals Ewell and A. P. Hill engage the Fed-erals-Death of General John F. Reynolds–The Fight on Seminary Ridge-General Hancock in Federal Command on the Field–Con-cerning the Absent Cavalry and Information given by the Scout–Conditions at the Close of the First Day’s Fight.|
The eve of the great battle was crowded with events. Movements for the concentration of the two vast armies went on in mighty force, but with a silence in strong contrast to the swift-coming commotion of their shock in conflict. It was the pent quiet of the gathering storm whose bursting was to shake the continent and suddenly command the startled attention of the world.
After due preparation for our march of the 29th, all hands turned in early for a good night’s rest. My mind had hardly turned away from the cares and labors of the day, when I was aroused by some one beating on the pole of my tent. It proved to be Assistant Inspector-General Fairfax. A young man had been arrested by our outlying pickets under suspicious circumstances. He was looking for General Longstreet’s head-quarters, but his comfortable apparel and well-to-do, though travel-stained, appearance caused doubt in the minds of the guards of his being a genuine Confederate who could be trusted about head-quarters. So he was sent up under a file of men to be identified. He proved to be Harrison, the valued scout. He had walked through the lines of the Union army during the night of the 27th and the 28th, secured a mount at dark of the latter day to get in as soon as possible, and brought information of the location of two corps of Federals at night of the 27th, and approximate positions of others. General Hooker had crossed the Potomac on the 25th and 26th of June. On the 27th he had posted two army corps at Frederick, and the scout reported another near them, and two others near South Mountain, as he escaped their lines a little after dark of the 28th. He was sent under care of Colonel Fairfax to make report of his information at general head-quarters. General Lee declined, however, to see him, though he asked Colonel Fairfax as to the information that he brought, and, on hearing it, expressed want of faith in reports of scouts, in which Fairfax generally agreed, but suggested that in this case the information was so near General Longstreet’s ideas of the probable movements of the enemy that he gave credit to it. I also sent up a note suggesting a change of direction of the head of our column east. This I thought to be the first and necessary step towards bringing the two armies to such concentration east as would enable us to find a way to draw the enemy into battle, in keeping with the general plan of campaign, and at the same time draw him off from the travel of our trains.
There were seven corps of the Army of the Potomac afield. We were informed on the 28th of the approximate positions of five of them,–three near Frederick and two near the base of South Mountain. The others, of which we had no definite information, we now know were the Sixth (Sedgwick’s), south of Frederick and east of the Monocacy, and the Twelfth, towards Harper’s Ferry.
On the 26th, General Hooker thought to use the Twelfth Corps and the garrison of Harper’s Ferry to strike the line of our communication, but General Halleck forbade the use of the troops of that post, when General Hooker asked to be relieved of the responsibility of command, and was succeeded by General Meade on the night of the 27th.
If General Hooker had been granted the authority for which he applied, he would have struck our trains, exposed from Chambersburg to the Potomac without a cavalryman to ride and report the trouble. General Stuart was riding around Hooker’s army, General Robertson was in Virginia, General Imboden at Hancock, and Jenkins’s cavalry was at our front with General Ewell.
By the report of the scout we found that the march of Ewell’s east wing had failed of execution and of the effect designed, and that heavy columns of the enemy were hovering along the east base of the mountain. To remove this pressure towards our rear, General Lee concluded to make a more serious demonstration and force the enemy to look eastward. With this view he changed direction of the proposed march north, by counter-orders on the night of the 28th, calling concentration east of the mountains at Cash-town, and his troops began their march under the last orders on the 29th.
It seems that General Hill misconstrued the orders of the day, or was confused by the change of orders, and was under the impression that he was to march by York and cross the Susquehanna towards Philadelphia or Harrisburg. He ordered his leading division under Heth to Cashtown, however, and followed with Pender’s division on the 30th, leaving orders for the division of R. H. Anderson to follow on the 1st. The purpose of General Lee’s march east was only preliminary,–a concentration about Cashtown.
General Ewell was ready to march for Harrisburg on the 29th, when orders reached him of the intended concentration at Cashtown. He was at Carlisle with Rodes’s and E. Johnson’s divisions and the reserve artillery; his other division under Early was at York. On the 30th, Rodes was at Heidlersburg, Early near by, and Johnson, with the reserve artillery, near Green Village.
Pettigrew’s brigade of Heth’s division, advancing towards Gettysburg on the 30th, encountered Buford’s cavalry and returned to Cashtown.
On the 29th, General Meade wired General Halleck,–
“If Lee is moving for Baltimore, I expect to get between his main army and that place. If he is crossing the Susquehanna, I shall rely upon General Couch, with his force, holding him, until I can fall upon his rear and give him battle, which I shall endeavor to do …. My endeavor will be, in my movements, to hold my force well together, with the hope of falling upon some portion of Lee’s army in detail”
As the change of orders made Gettysburg prominent as the point of impact, the positions of the commands relative thereto and their distances therefrom are items of importance in considering the culmination of events.
POSITIONS OF ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, NIGHT OF JUNE 30.
General Lee’s headquarters, Greenwood.
First Corps, Chambersburg, twenty-four miles to Gettysburg; part at Greenwood, sixteen miles.
Second Corps and Jenkins’s cavalry, Heidlersburg, ten miles; part near Green Village, twenty-three miles (Johnson’s division and trains).
Third Corps, near Greenwood, sixteen miles, and Cashtown, eight miles.
Stuart’s cavalry, circling between York and Carlisle, out of sight.
Robertson’s cavalry, in Virginia, beyond reach.
Imboden’s cavalry, at Hancock, out of sight.
The Confederates not intending to precipitate battle.
POSITIONS OF ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.
General Meade’s head-quarters, Taneytown, fourteen miles.
General Hunt, artillery reserve, Taneytown.
First Corps, Marsh Run, six miles.
Second Corps, Uniontown, twenty-two miles.
Third Corps, Bridgeport, twelve miles.
Fifth Corps, Union Mills, fifteen miles.
Sixth Corps, Manchester, twenty-two miles.
Eleventh Corps, Emmitsburg, twelve miles.
Twelfth Corps, Littletown, nine miles.
Kilpatrick’s cavalry, Hanover, thirteen miles.
Gregg’s cavalry, Manchester, twenty-two miles.
Buford’s cavalry, Gettysburg.
It should be borne in mind that the field of contention was south and east of Gettysburg, so that the Union troops were from two to four miles nearer their formation for battle than were the Confederates, who had to march from two to four miles beyond the town.
Referring to the map, it may be seen that the Confederate corps had two routes by which to march for concentration,–viz., from Heidlersburg to Cashtown, part of the Second Corps; on the road from Chambersburg, the First, Third, and part of the Second Corps (with all of the trains of the latter), with but a single track, the Cham-bersburg-Gettysburg turnpike. Some of their distances were greater than any of the columns of the enemy, while the Army of the Potomac had almost as many routes of march as commands, and was marching from day to day anticipating a general engagement, which they were especially cautioned on the 30th was imminent.
General Hill decided to go beyond Cashtown on the 1st to ascertain as to the enemy reported at Gettysburg. He gave notice of his intentions to General Ewell, and sent back to the commanding general to have Anderson’s division sent forward. He was at Cashtown with Heth’s and Pender’s divisions and their batteries; his reserve artillery with Anderson’s division at Fayetteville.
The armies on the night of June 30 stood thus:
The Confederate: First Corps, two divisions at Greenwood (except one brigade detached under orders from head-quarters at New Guilford); Pickett’s three brigades at Chambersburg, left under orders from head-quarters to guard trains; the Second Corps, two divisions near Heid-lersburg, one near and north of Chambersburg; the Third Corps at Cashtown and Fayetteville; cavalry not in sight or hearing, except Jenkins’s brigade and a small detachment.
The Union army: the First Corps on Marsh Run, the Second at Uniontown, the Third at Bridgeport, the Fifth at Union Mills, the Sixth at Manchester, the Eleventh at Emmitsburg, the Twelfth at Littlestown, Fitzpatrick’s cavalry at Hanover, Buford’s at Gettysburg (except one brigade, detached, guarding his trains). General Meade’s head-quarters and reserve artillery were at Taneytown. His army, including cavalry, in hand.
General Lee’s orders called his troops on converging lines towards Cashtown, but he found that part of his infantry must be left at Chambersburg to await the Imboden cavalry, not up, and one of Hood’s brigades must be detached on his right at New Guilford to guard on that side in place of Robertson’s cavalry (in Virginia). So that as he advanced towards his adversary, the eyes and ears of his army were turned afar off, looking towards the homes of non-combatants. It is bootless to this writing to restate whence came this mishap. There is no doubt it greatly disturbed General Lee’s mind, and he would have called a halt under ordinary circumstances, but his orders did not contemplate immediate movements beyond Cash-town. In that he felt safe, depending upon his cavalry coming up in time to meet him there.
He was in his usual cheerful spirits on the morning of the 1st, and called me to ride with him. My column was not well stretched on the road before it encountered the division of E. Johnson (Second Corps) cutting in on our front, with all of Ewell’s reserve and supply trains. He ordered the First Corps halted, and directed that Johnson’s division and train should pass on to its corps, the First to wait. During the wait I dismounted to give Hero a little respite. (The Irish groom had christened my favorite horse “Haro.”)
After a little time General Lee proposed that we should ride on, and soon we heard reports of cannon. The fire seemed to be beyond Cashtown, and as it increased he left me and rode faster for the front.
The brigades of Gamble and Devin of Buford’s cavalry were the force that met Pettigrew’s brigade on the afternoon of the 30th, when the latter retired to the post of the divisions at Cashtown.
From Gettysburg roads diverge to the passes of the mountains, the borders of the Potomac and Susquehanna, and the cities of Baltimore and Washington; so that it was something of a strategic point. From the west side two broad roads run, one northwest to Chambersburg via Cashtown, the other southwest through Fairfield to Hagerstown. They cross an elevated ridge, a mile out north, and south of the Lutheran Seminary, known to the Confederates as Seminary Ridge, covered by open forests. At the northward, about two miles from the town, the ridge divides, a lesser ridge putting out west, and presently taking a parallel course with the greater. This was known as McPherson’s Ridge, and was about five hundred yards from the first, where the road crosses it. Nearly parallel with the Chambersburg pike and about two hundred yards distant was the cut of an unfinished railroad. Willoughby’s Run flows south in a course nearly parallel to and west of the ridge, and is bordered by timbered lands. North of Gettysburg the grounds are open and in fair fields. Directly south of it a bold ridge rises with rough and steep slopes. The prominent point of the south ridge is Cemetery Hill, and east of this is Culp’s Hill, from which the ridge turns sharply south half a mile, and drops off into low grounds. It was well wooded and its eastern ascent steep. East of it and flowing south is Rock Creek. From Cemetery Hill the ground is elevated, the ridge sloping south to the cropping out of Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, and the bolder Round Top, the latter about three miles south of the town. Cemetery Hill is nearly parallel to Seminary Ridge, and is more elevated.
At five o’clock on the morning of July 1, General A. P. Hill marched towards Gettysburg with the divisions of Heth and Pender, and the battalions of artillery under Pegram and Mcintosh, Heth’s division and Pegram’s artillery in advance. R.H. Anderson’s division, with the reserve artillery left at Fayetteville, was ordered to march and halt at Cashtown. About ten o’clock Heth encountered Buford’s cavalry. Archer’s brigade, leading, engaged, and Davis’s brigade came up on his left with part of Pegram’s artillery. The cavalry was forced back till it passed Willoughby’s Run.
On the 30th of June, General John F. Reynolds had been directed to resume command of the right wing of the Union army,–First, Third, and Eleventh Corps. He was advised that day of the threatening movements of the Confederates on the Cashtown and Mummasburg roads. At the same time the indications from General Meade’s head-quarters pointed to Pipe Creek as the probable line in case of battle. Reynolds, however, prepared to support Buford’s line of cavalry, and marched at eight o’clock on the 1st of July with Wadsworth’s division and Hall’s battery, leaving the other divisions of Doubleday and Robinson with the artillery to follow under General Doubleday, who became commander of the corps upon the assignment of Reynolds to command of the wing.
As Reynolds approached Gettysburg, in hearing of the cavalry fight, he turned the head of his column to the left and marched through the fields towards the engagement. As the cavalry skirmish line retired and passed Willoughby’s Run, he approached with his reinforcements, Brigadier-General Cutter in advance, and was put in on the north of the Cashtown road, followed by Hall’s battery. Brigadier-General Meredith following, his brigade was put into line on the left. As fast as the troops got into line they became severely engaged. Doubleday, in advance of the divisions under him, put Meredith’s brigade in formidable position on a strip of woodland on the left.
As the Confederate left advanced through the railroad cut they came upon Hall’s battery, and were about to get it, when it was saved by speedy withdrawal, which caused the Union right to retire, while Archer’s brigade of the Confederate right, in pushing to the front, came in open space before Meredith’s brigade, which in turn made a gallant advance, drove Archer back, followed across the run, and captured General Archer and one thousand of his men. The other two brigades of Pender’s division, Petti-grew’s and Brockenbrough’s, were put in on the right of Archer’s men. During the severe engagement on his right the advance of the Confederate infantry got in so close along the railroad cut that General Reynolds, in efforts to extricate his right, was shot, when the right, still under severe pressure, was forced to retire towards Seminary Ridge. Hall’s battery, severely crippled, succeeded in getting away as the right retired.
Doubleday’s other divisions came up about the moment General Reynolds was killed. The Second (Robinson’s) and Third (Rowley’s) Divisions deployed on the right and left. Cooper’s battery of four three-inch guns followed the left division. At the same time Hill reinforced by his division under Pender, Thomas’s brigade on his left, Lane, Scales, and Perrin to the right. These restored the Confederate right, overlapping the Federal left; at the same time Thomas’s brigade made successful battle on the left, pushing off Wadsworth’s right and Hall’s battery, when the two brigades of the Second Division (Robinson’s) were sent to their support, but were, in turn, forced back towards Seminary Ridge. The Confederate sharp-shooters cut down the horses of one of Hall’s guns and forced him to drop it. Hill advanced Pegram’s and McIntosh’s artillery to Mc-Pherson’s Ridge, forcing the entire Union line back to Seminary Ridge. Genera! Doubleday, anticipating such contingency, had ordered trenches made about Seminary Ridge, and sent his three other batteries under Colonel Wainwright to that point. He formed his line along the ridge and occupied the trenches by part of his infantry. At this period Ewell’s divisions under Rodes approached against Doubleday’s right.
General Howard, upon his first approach to the battle, marched the Eleventh Corps to Cemetery Hill, and there posted it until called upon by General Doubleday for assistance. To meet the call he ordered his divisions under Generals Barlow and Schurz to Doubleday’s right, to occupy a prominent point at the north end of Seminary Ridge, reserving his division under Steinwehr and part of his artillery on Cemetery Hill.
As the divisions of the Eleventh Corps approached the Confederate left, Rodes’s division of Ewell’s corps advanced. The Federals then stood across the Cashtown road, their left in advance of the Seminary, their right thrown or standing more to the rear. Rodes was in season to sweep the field of approach to the high point intended to be occupied by the divisions sent by Howard, and came in good position to enfilade Robinson’s division of the First Corps. As Rodes approached he was threatened by Buford’s cavalry, but, finding cover under woodland, he made advance by three brigades in line till he came to the point of view which gave him command of that end of the field in elevated position, and in plunging fire down Robinson’s line and in advance of the divisions sent by General Howard to occupy that point. While posting his infantry, Rodes ordered Carter’s battery of artillery into action against Robinson’s lines stretched out and engaged against Hill’s corps. At that moment the divisions of the Eleventh Corps were not in full front of Rodes, so that his fire upon Robinson’s line was something of a surprise, as well as most discomfiting. The divisions and artillery of the Eleventh came to the front, however, almost simultaneously with Robinson’s necessitated change of right front rearward towards Rodes.
These changes and dispositions gave Hill opportunity to press on by his front, when Doubleday was obliged to call for help, and Schurz called for support on his right. Coster’s brigade was sent from Steinwehr’s reserve, and Buford’s cavalry was ordered to brace as far as practicable the centre of the First Corps, and another battery was sent to Schurz’s division. At 2.45 another call for help by the First Corps was received, and General Schurz was asked to answer it if he could by a regiment or more. Calls were sent to hurry Slocum’s (Twelfth) corps, some miles away, but then Ewell was swinging his division under Early into line nearer to Gettysburg, Gordon’s brigade and Jones’s battery coming in in good time to make strong Rodes’s left, and Hill’s corps had overlapped the left of the First Corps, so that General Howard found himself forced to command a steady, orderly retreat to Cemetery Hill.
The Confederates pushed rapidly on, particularly the fresher troops of Ewell, cleared the field, and followed on through the streets of Gettysburg at four o’clock. The retreat began and continued in good order till they passed Gettysburg, when the ranks became so scattered that the final march was little better than “Sauve qui peut.”
As the troops retreated through Gettysburg, General Hancock rode upon the field, and under special assignment assumed command at three o’clock. As the retreating troops arrived, Wadsworth’s division on the right, the Eleventh Corps across the Baltimore pike, the balance of the First under Doubleday on the left of the Eleventh, General Howard and others assisted in forming the new line.
The total effectives of the First and Eleventh Corps, according to the consolidated moving report of June 30, was 19,982. From the latest returns of General Lee’s army, an average estimate of his four divisions gave his total as 25,252. Part of the reserve division of the Eleventh Corps was not engaged, but Buford had two brigades of cavalry, and so the foregoing may be a fair estimate of the forces engaged, less the reserve on Cemetery Hill.
At Cashtown, General Lee found that General Hill had halted his division under R. H. Anderson and his reserve artillery. He had General Anderson called, who subsequently wrote me of the interview as follows:
“About twelve o’clock I received a message notifying me that General Lee desired to see me. I found General Lee intently listening to the fire of the guns, and very much disturbed and depressed. At length he said, more to himself than to me, ‘ I cannot think what has become of Stuart. I ought to have heard from him long before now. He may have met with disaster, but I hope not. In the absence of reports from him, I am in ignorance as to what we have in front of us here. It may be the whole Federal army, or it may be only a detachment. If it is the whole Federal force, we must fight a battle here. If we do not gain a victory, those defiles and gorges which we passed this morning will shelter us from disaster.'”
He ordered Anderson forward, and rode on to Seminary Ridge in time to view the closing operations of the engagement. The Union troops were in disorder, climbing Cemetery Heights, the Confederates following through the streets of Gettysburg. Two other divisions of Confederates were up soon after, E. Johnson’s of the Second and R. H. Anderson’s of the Third Corps.
After a long wait I left orders for the troops to follow the trains of the Second Corps, and rode to find General Lee. His head-quarters were on Seminary Ridge at the crossing of the Cashtown road. Anderson’s division was then filed off along the ridge, resting. Johnson’s had marched to report to the corps commander. Dismounting and passing the usual salutation, I drew my glasses and made a studied view of the position upon which the enemy was rallying his forces, and of the lay of the land surrounding. General Lee was engaged at the moment. He had announced beforehand that he would not make aggressive battle in the enemy’s country. After the survey and in consideration of his plans,–noting movements of detachments of the enemy on the Emmitsburg road, the relative positions for manoeuvre, the lofty perch of the enemy, the rocky slopes from it, all marking the position clearly defensive,–I said, “We could not call the enemy to position better suited to our plans. All that we have to do is to file around his left and secure good ground between him and his capital.” This, when said, was thought to be the opinion of my commander as much as my own. I was not a little surprised, therefore, at his impatience, as, striking the air with his closed hand, he said, “If he is there to-morrow I will attack him.”
In his official account, General Lee reported,–
“It had not been intended to deliver a general battle so far from our base unless attacked. But coming unexpectedly upon the whole Federal army, to withdraw through the mountains with our extensive trains would have been difficult and dangerous.”
When he rode away from me in the forenoon he made no mention of his absent cavalry, nor did he indicate that it was not within call. So I was at a loss to understand his nervous condition, and supported the suggestion so far as to say, “If he is there to-morrow it will be because he wants you to attack,” and queried, “If that height has become the objective, why not take it at once ? We have forty thousand men, less the casualties of the day; he cannot have more than twenty thousand.” Then it was that I heard of the wanderings of the cavalry and the cause of his uneven temper. So vexed was he at the halt of the Imboden cavalry at Hancock, in the opening of the campaign, that he was losing sight of Pickett’s brigades as a known quantity for battle. His manner suggested to me that a little reflection would be better than further discussion, and right soon he suggested to the commander of the Second Corps to take Cemetery Hill if he thought it practicable, but the subordinate did not care to take upon himself a fight that his chief would not venture to order.(*)
The following circular orders were sent the commanders of columns of the First Corps:
“HEAD-QUARTERS FIRST ARMY CORPS,
“NEAR GETTYSBURG, July 1, 5.30 P.M.
” COLONEL WALTON,
” Chief of Artillery.”
” COLONEL,–The commanding general desires you to come on to-night as fast as you can without distressing your men and animals. Hill and Ewell have sharply engaged the enemy, and you will be needed for to-morrow’s battle. Let us know where you will stop to-night.
“G. M. SORREL,
A. A. General.
(*) From General Lee’s official report:”… It was ascertained from the prisoners that we had been engaged with two corps of the army formerly commanded by General Hooker, and that the remainder of that army, under General Meade, was approaching Gettysburg. Without information as to its proximity, the strong position which the enemy had assumed could not be attacked without danger of exposing the four divisions present, already weakened and exhausted by a long and bloody struggle, to overwhelming numbers of fresh troops. General Ewell was, therefore, instructed to carry the hill occupied by the enemy, if he found it practicable, but to avoid a general engagement until the arrival of the other divisions of the army, which were ordered to hasten forward. He decided to await Johnson’s division, which had marched from Carlisle by the road west of the mountains to guard the trains of his corps, and consequently did not reach Gettysburg until a late hour …. ”
At 12.15 of the afternoon of the 1st, General Halleck sent a cipher despatch to General Meade approving his tactics, but asking, as to his strategy, “Are you not too far east, and may not Lee attempt to turn your left and cut you off from Frederick ?”
In this connection may be noted the plan that General Meade had mapped in his own mind and given to some of his generals for battle to be formed behind Pipe Creek, a position that would have met the views of General Halleck, as well as his own, covering Washington and Baltimore under close lines that could not be turned. At Gettysburg the Confederates had comparatively an open field.
Reports coming in to head-quarters about six o’clock that the enemy was in some force off our right towards Fairfield, General Lee ordered General Anderson to put one of his brigades out on the right as picket-guard. Wilcox’s brigade and Ross’s battery were marched and posted near Black Horse Tavern.
Nothing coming from the centre troops about Cemetery Hill, General Lee ordered the Second Corps, after night, from his left to his right, for work in that direction, but General Ewell rode over and reported that another point–Culp’s Hill–had been found on his left, which had commanding elevation over Cemetery Hill, from which the troops on the latter could be dislodged, by artillery, and was under the impression that his troops were in possession there. That was accredited as reported and approved, and the corps commander returned, and ordered the hill occupied if it had not been done. But the officer in charge had waited for specific orders, and when they were received he had made another reconnoissance. It was then twelve o’clock. By the reconnoissance it was found that the enemy was there, and it was thought that this should be reported, and further orders waited.
General Ewell’s troops and trains passed the junction of the roads at four o’clock. The train was fourteen miles long. It was followed by the troops of the First Corps that had been waiting all day. After night the Washington Artillery and McLaws’s division camped at Marsh Run, four miles from Gettysburg. Here is Hood’s account of his march:
“While lying in camp near Chambersburg information was received that Hill and Ewell were about to come into contact with the enemy near Gettysburg. My troops, together with McLaws’s division, were at once put in motion upon the most direct road to that point, which we reached after a hard march at or before sunrise on July 2. So imperative had been our orders to hasten forward with all possible speed that on the march my troops were allowed to halt and rest only about two hours during the night from the 1st to the 2d of July.”
When I left General Lee, about seven o’clock in the evening, he had formed no plans beyond that of seizing Culp’s Hill as his point from which to engage, nor given any orders for the next day, though his desperate mood was painfully evident, and gave rise to serious apprehensions. He had heard nothing of the movements of the enemy since his crossing the Potomac, except the report of the scout. His own force on the field was the Second Corps, Rodes’s, Early’s, and E. Johnson’s divisions from right to left through the streets of Gettysburg around towards Culp’s Hill; on Rodes’s right, Pender’s division of the Third; on Seminary Ridge, R. II. Anderson’s division of the Third (except Wilcox’s brigade at Black Horse Tavern); behind Seminary Ridge, Heth’s division of the Third; on the march between Cashtown and Greenwood, the First Corps.
|Chapter XXVII–Gettysburg–Second Day|
|The Confederate Commander reviews the Field and decides on Plan of Battle–Positions on the Morning of July 2–Night March of the Federal Sixth Corps–It was excelled by Law’s Brigade of Confederates–The Battle was opened after Mid-day–General Hood appeals for Permission to turn the Federal Left-Failure to make the Flanking Movement by the Confederate Right was a Serious Mistake–Hood, in his usual Gallant Style, led his Troops forward among the Rocks–Desperate Charges against an Earnest Adversary–Hood wounded–General Law succeeds him in command of the Division–” Little Round Top” an Important Point–” The Citadel of the Field”–It was a Fight of Seventeen Thousand Confederates against twice their Number–Quiet along the Lines of other Confederate Commands–” A Man on the Left who didn’t care to make the Battle win”–Evidence against the Alleged Order for “Battle at Sunrise”–The “Order” to Ewell was Discretionary–Lee had lost his Balance.|
The stars were shining brightly on the morning of the 2d when I reported at General Lee’s head-quarters and asked for orders. After a time Generals McLaws and Hood, with their staffs, rode up, and at sunrise their commands filed off the road to the right and rested. The Washington Artillery was with them, and about nine o’clock, after an all-night march, Alexander’s batteries were up as far as Willoughby’s Run, where he parked and fed, and rode to head-quarters to report.
As indicated by these movements, General Lee was not ready with his plans. He had not heard from his cavalry, nor of the movements of the enemy further than the information from a despatch captured during the night, that the Fifth Corps was in camp about five miles from Gettysburg, and the Twelfth Corps was reported near Culp’s Hill. As soon as it was light enough to see, however, the enemy was found in position on his formidable heights awaiting us.
The result of efforts during the night and early morning to secure Culp’s Hill had not been reported, and General Lee sent Colonel Venable of his staff to confer with the commander of the Second Corps as to opportunity to make the battle by his left. He was still in doubt whether it would be better to move to his ‘far-off right. About nine o’clock he rode to his left to be assured of the position there, and of the general temper of affairs in that quarter. After viewing the field, he held conference with the corps and division commanders. They preferred to accept his judgment and orders, except General Early, who claimed to have learned of the topographical features of the country during his march towards York, and recommended the right of the line as the point at which strong battle should be made. About ten o’clock General Lee returned to his head-quarters, but his engineer who had been sent to reconnoitre on his right had not come back. To be at hand for orders, I remained with the troops at his head-quarters. The infantry had arms stacked; the artillery was at rest.
The enemy occupied the commanding heights of the city cemetery, from which point, in irregular grade, the ridge slopes southward two miles and a half to a bold outcropping height of three hundred feet called Little Round Top, and farther south half a mile ends in the greater elevation called Round Top. The former is covered from base to top by formidable boulders. From the cemetery to Little Round Top was the long main front of General Meade’s position. At the cemetery his line turned to the northeast and east and southeast in an elliptical curve, with his right on Culp’s Hill.
At an early hour of the 2d the Union army was posted: the Twelfth Corps at Culp’s Hill, extending its left to Wadsworth’s division of the First; on Wadsworth’s left the Eleventh Corps; on the left of the Eleventh the other troops of the First; on their left the Second, and left of that to Little Round Top the Third Corps; the Fifth Corps stood in reserve across the bend from the right of the Twelfth to the left of the Second Corps. Thus there was formed a field of tremendous power upon a convex curve, which gave the benefit of rapid concentration at any point or points. The natural defences had been improved during the night and early morning. The Sixth Corps was marching from Manchester, twenty-two miles from Gettysburg. Its first order, received near Manchester before night of the 1st, was to march for Taneytown, but after passing the Baltimore pike the orders were changed, directing a prompt march to Gettysburg. The march has been variously estimated from thirty to thirty-five miles, but the distance from Manchester via Taney-town to Gettysburg is only twenty-nine miles, and as the ground for which the corps marched was three miles east of Gettysburg, the march would have been only twenty-six miles via Taneytown; as the corps marched back and took the Baltimore pike, some distance must have been saved. It was on the field at three o’clock of the afternoon,–the Union cavalry under General Pleasonton in reach.
The Confederate left was covering the north and east curve of the enemy’s line, Johnson’s division near Culp’s Hill, Early’s and Rodes’s extending the line to the right through Gettysburg; Pender’s division on the right of Rodes’s; the other divisions of the Third Corps resting on Seminary Ridge, with McLaws’s division and Hood’s three brigades near general head-quarters; Pickett’s brigades and Law’s of Hood’s division at Chambersburg and New Guilford, twenty-two and twenty-four miles away. Law had received orders to join his division, and was on the march. The cavalry was not yet heard from. The line so extended and twisted about the rough ground that concentration at any point was not possible.
It was some little time after General Lee’s return from his ride to the left before he received the reports of the reconnoissance ordered from his centre to his right. His mind, previously settled to the purpose to fight where the enemy stood, now accepted the explicit plan of making the opening on his right, and to have the engagement general. He ordered the commander of the Third Corps to extend the centre by Anderson’s division, McLaws’s and Hood’s divisions to extend the deployment to his right. Heth’s division of the Third was drawn nearer the front, and notice of his plans was sent the commander of the Second Corps.
At the intimation that the battle would be opened on the right by part of the First Corps, Colonel Alexander was asked to act as director of artillery, and sent to view the field in time to assign the batteries as they were up. It was eleven o’clock when General Lee’s order was issued, but he had ordered Law’s brigade to its division, and a wait of thirty minutes was necessary for it to get up. Law had received his orders at three in the morning, and had marched twenty-three miles. The battle-ground was still five miles off by the route of march, but Law completed his march of twenty-eight miles in eleven hours,-the best marching done in either army to reach the field of Gettysburg.
The battle was to be opened on the right by two divisions of the First Corps, supported on their left by four of the brigades of Anderson’s division; the opening to be promptly followed on Lee’s left by the Second Corps, and continued to real attack if the opportunity occurred; the Third (centre) Corps to move to severe threatening and take advantage of opportunity to attack; the movements of the Second and Third Corps to be prompt, and in close, severe co-operation, so as to prevent concentration against the battle of the right. The little cavalry that was with the army was kept on the extreme left. Not so much as one trooper was sent us.
General Lee ordered his reconnoitring officer to lead the troops of the First Corps and conduct them by a route concealed from view of the enemy. As I was relieved for the time from the march, I rode near the middle of the line. General Lee rode with me a mile or more. General Anderson marched by a route nearer the enemy’s line, and was discovered by General Sickles, who commanded the Third Corps, the left of the Union line. A little uncomfortable at his retired position, and seeing that the battle was forming against him, General Sickles thought to put the Third Maine Regiment and the Berdan Sharpshooters on outpost in a bold woodland cover, to develop somewhat of the approaching battle, and presently threw his corps forward as far as the Peach Orchard, half a mile forward of the position assigned to it in the general line. The Tenth Alabama Regiment was sent against the outpost guard, and, reinforced by the Eleventh Regiment, drove it back, and Anderson’s division found its place in proper line.
General Birney’s account of the affair at the outpost puts it at twelve o’clock, and the signal accounts, the only papers dated on the field, reported,–
“The enemy’s skirmishers advancing from the west one mile from here–11.45.”
“The rebels are in force; our skirmishers give way–12.55.”
There is no room for doubt of the accuracy of these reports, which go to show that it was one o’clock in the afternoon when the Third Corps, upon which the First Corps was to form, was in position.
Under the conduct of the reconnoitring officer, our march seemed slow,–there were some halts and countermarches. To save time, I ordered the rear division to double on the front, and we were near the affair of Anderson’s regiments with the outpost guard of Sickles. Anderson’s division deployed,–Wilcox’s, Perry’s, Wright’s, Posey’s, and Mahone’s brigades from right to left.
General Hood was ordered to send his select scouts in advance, to go through the woodlands and act as vedettes, in the absence of cavalry, and give information of the enemy, if there. The double line marched up the slope and deployed,–McLaws on the right of Anderson, Hood’s division on his right, McLaws near the crest of the plateau in front of the Peach Orchard, Hood spreading and enveloping Sickles’s left. The former was readily adjusted to ground from which to advance or defend. Hood’s front was very rugged, with no field for artillery, and very rough for advance of infantry. As soon as he passed the Emmitsburg road, he sent to report of the great advantage of moving on by his right around to the enemy’s rear. His scouting parties had reported that there was nothing between them and the enemy’s trains. He was told that the move to the right had been proposed the day before and rejected; that General Lee’s orders were to guide my left by the Emmitsburg road.
In our immediate front were the divisions of the Third Corps under Generals Humphreys and Birney, from right to left, with orders for supports of the flanks by divisions of the Second and Fifth Corps. The ground on the left of Birney’s division was so broken and obstructed by boulders that his left was dropped off to the rear, forming a broken line. In rear of the enemy, and between his lines and Little Round Top, was a very rough elevation of’ eighty feet formed by upheavals that left open passage deep down Devil’s Den. Smith’s battery was on Birney’s left, Winslow’s between the right and next brigade. Other batteries in position were Clark’s, Ames’s, Randolph’s, Seeley’s, and Turnbull’s.
As McLaws’s division came up on line, Barksdale’s brigade was in front of a battery about six hundred yards off. He appealed for permission to charge and capture it, but was told to wait. On his right was Kershaw’s brigade, the brigades of Semmes and Wofford on the second line. Hood’s division was in two lines,–Law’s and Robertson’s brigades in front, G. T. Anderson’s and Ben-ning’s in the second line. The batteries were with the divisions,–four to the division. One of G. T. Anderson’s regiments was put on picket down the Emmitsburg road.
General Hood appealed again and again for the move to the right, but, to give more confidence to his attack, he was reminded that the move to the right had been carefully considered by our chief and rejected in favor of his present orders.
The opportunity for our right was in the air. General Halleck saw it from Washington. General Meade saw and was apprehensive of it. Even General Pendleton refers to it in favorable mention in his official report. Failing to adopt it, General Lee should have gone with us to his right. He had seen and carefully examined the left of his line, and only gave us a guide to show the way to the right, leaving the battle to be adjusted to formidable and difficult grounds without his assistance. If he had been with us, General Hood’s messengers could have been referred to general head-quarters, but to delay and send messengers five miles in favor of a move that he had rejected would have been contumacious. The opportunity was with the Confederates from the assembling on Cemetery Hill. It was inviting of their preconceived plans. It was the object of and excuse for the invasion as a substitute for more direct efforts for the relief of Vicksburg. Confederate writers and talkers claim that General Meade could have escaped without making aggressive battle, but that is equivalent to confession of the inertia that failed to grasp the opportunity.
Beaten in the battle of the 1st, dislodged of position, and outgeneralled, the Union army would have felt the want of spirit and confidence important to aggressive battle; but the call was in the hands of the Confederates, and these circumstances would have made their work more facile, while the Union commander would have felt the call to save his capital most imperative. Even as events passed it was thought helpful to the Union side to give out the report that General McClellan was at hand and would command the army.
Four of the brigades of Anderson’s division were ordered to advance in echelon in support of my left.
At three o’clock the artillery was ordered to open practice. General Meade was then with General Sickles discussing the feasibility of withdrawing his corps to the position to which it was originally assigned, but the opening admonished him that it was too late. He had just sent a cipher telegram to inform General Halleck, commander-in-chief, that in the event of his having no opportunity to attack, and should he find the Confederates moving to interpose between him and Washington, he would fall back on his supplies at Westminster.(*) But my right division was then nearer to Westminster, and our scouting parties of infantry were within rifle range of the road leading to that point and to Washington. So it would have been convenient, after holding our threatening attitude till night, to march across his line at dark, in time to draw other troops to close connection before the next morning.
Prompt to the order the combat opened, followed by artillery of the other corps, and our artillerists measured up to the better metal of the enemy by vigilant work. Hood’s lines were not yet ready. After a little practice by the artillery, he was properly adjusted and ordered to bear down upon the enemy’s left, but he was not prompt, and the order was repeated before he would strike down. (+)
In his usual gallant style he led his troops through the rocky fastnesses against the strong lines of his earnest adversary, and encountered battle that called for all of his power and skill. The enemy was tenacious of his strong ground; his skilfully-handled batteries swept through the passes between the rocks; the more deadly fire of infantry concentrated as our men bore upon the angle of the enemy’s line and stemmed the fiercest onset, until it became necessary to shorten their work by a desperate charge. This pressing struggle and the cross-fire of our batteries broke in the salient angle, but the thickening fire, as the angle was pressed back, hurt Hood’s left and held him in steady fight. His right brigade was drawn towards Round Top by the heavy fire pouring from that quarter, Benning’s brigade was pressed to the thickening line at the angle, and G. T. Anderson’s was put in support of the battle growing against Hood’s right.
I rode to McLaws, found him ready for his opportunity, and Barksdale chafing in his wait for the order to seize the battery in his front. Kershaw’s brigade of his right first advanced and struck near the angle of the enemy’s line where his forces were gathering strength. After additional caution to hold his ranks closed, McLaws ordered Barksdale in. With glorious bearing he sprang to his work, overriding obstacles and dangers. Without a pause to deliver a shot, he had the battery. Kershaw, joined by Semmes’s brigade, responded, and Hood’s men, feeling the impulsion of relief, resumed their bold fight, and presently the enemy’s line was broken through its length. But his well-seasoned troops knew how to utilize the advantage of their grounds and put back their dreadful fires from rocks, depressions, and stone fences, as they went for shelter about Little Round Top.
That point had not been occupied by the enemy, nor marked as an important feature of the field. The broken ranks sought shelter under its rocks and defiles as birds fly to cover. General Hood fell seriously hurt, and General Law succeeded to command of the division, but the well-seasoned troops were not in need of a close guiding hand. The battle was on, and they knew how to press its hottest contention.
General Warren, chief engineer of the Federal army, was sent at the critical moment to Little Round Top, and found that it was the citadel of the field. He called for troops to occupy it. The Fifth Corps (Sykes’s) was hurried to him, and General Hancock sent him Caldwell’s division of the Second Corps. At the Brick House, away from his right, General Sickles had a detachment that had been reinforced by General Hancock. This fire drew Anderson’s brigade of direction (Wilcox) a little off from support of Barksdale’s left. General Humphreys, seeing the opportunity, rallied such of his troops as he could, and, reinforced by Hays’s division (Willard’s brigade) of Hancock’s corps, came against Barksdale’s flank, but the latter moved bravely on, the guiding spirit of the battle. Wright’s Georgia and Perry’s Florida brigades were drawn in behind Wilcox and thrown against Humphreys, pushing him off and breaking him up.
The fighting had by this time become tremendous, and brave men and officers were stricken by hundreds. Posey and Wilcox dislodged the forces about the Brick House.
General Sickles was desperately wounded!
General Willard was dead!
General Semmes, of McLaws’s division, was mortally wounded !
Our left relieved, the brigades of Anderson’s division moved on with Barksdale’s, passed the swale, and moved up the slope. Caldwell’s division, and presently those of Ayres and Barnes of the Fifth Corps, met and held our strongest battle. While thus engaged, General Sykes succeeded in putting Vincent’s and Weed’s brigades and Hazlett’s battery on the summit of Little Round Top, but presently we overreached Caldwell’s division, broke it off, and pushed it from the field. Of his brigade commanders, Zook was killed, and Brooke and Cross were wounded, the latter mortally. General Hancock reported sixty per cent. of his men lost. On our side, Barksdale was down dying, and G. T. Anderson wounded.
We had carried Devil’s Den, were at the Round Tops and the Wheat-Field, but Ayres’s division of regulars and Barnes’s division were holding us in equal battle. The struggle throughout the field seemed at its tension. The brigades of R. H. Anderson’s division could hold off other troops of Hancock’s, but were not strong enough to step to the enemy’s lines. When Caldwell’s division was pushed away, Ayres’s flank and the gorge at Little Round Top were only covered by a sharp line of picket men behind the boulders. If we could drive in the sharp-shooters and strike Ayres’s flank to advantage, we could dislodge his and Barnes’s divisions, occupy the gorge behind Sykes’s brigades on Round Top, force them to retreat, and lift our desperate fighters to the summit. I had one brigade–Wofford’s–that had not been engaged in the hottest battle. To urge the troops to their reserve power in the precious moments, I rode with Wofford. The rugged field, the rough plunge of artillery fire, and the piercing musket-shots delayed somewhat the march, but Alexander dashed up with his batteries and gave new spirit to the worn infantry ranks. By a fortunate strike upon Ayres’s flank we broke his line and pushed him and Barnes so closely that they were obliged to use most strenuous efforts to get away without losing in prisoners as well as their killed and wounded. We gained the Wheat-Field, and were so close upon the gorge that our artillery could no longer venture their fire into it. We were on Little Round Top grappling for the crowning point. The brigade commanders there, Vincent and Weed, were killed, also the battery commander, Hazlett, and others, but their troops were holding to their work as firmly as the mighty boulders that helped them. General Meade thought that the Confederate army was working on my part of the field. He led some regiments of the Twelfth Corps and posted them against us, called a division of Newton’s corps (First) from beyond Hancock’s, and sent Crawford’s division, the last of the Fifth Corps, splitting through the gorge, forming solid lines, in places behind stone fences, and making steady battle, as veterans fresh in action know so well how to make. While Meade’s lines were growing my men were dropping; we had no others to call to their aid, and the weight against us was too heavy to carry. The extreme left of our lines was only about a mile from us across the enemy’s concentric position, which brought us within hearing of that battle, if engaged, and near enough to feel its swell, but nothing was heard or felt but the clear ring of the enemy’s fresh metal as he came against us. No other part of our army had engaged! My seventeen thousand against the Army of the Potomac! The sun was down, and with it went down the severe battle. I ordered recall of the troops to the line of Plum Run and Devil’s Den, leaving picket lines near the foot of the Round Tops. My loss was about six thousand, Meade’s between twelve and fourteen thousand; but his loss in general and field officers was frightful. When General Humphreys, who succeeded to Barksdale’s brigade, was called back to the new line, he thought there was some mistake in the orders, and only withdrew as far as a captured battery, and when the order was repeated, retired under protest.
General Stuart came down from Carlisle with his column of cavalry late in the afternoon of the 2d. As he approached he met a cavalry force of the enemy moving towards the Confederate left rear, and was successful in arresting it. He was posted with Jenkins’s three thousand cavalry on the Confederate left.
Notwithstanding the supreme order of the day for general battle, and the reinforcement of the cavalry on our left, the Second and Third Corps remained idle during all of the severe battle of the Confederate right, except the artillery, and the part of that on the extreme left was only in practice long enough to feel the superior metal of the enemy, when it retired, leaving a battery of four guns in position. General Early failed to even form his division in battle order, leaving a brigade in position remote from the line, and sending, later, another to be near Stuart’s cavalry. The latter returned, however, before night.
At eight o’clock in the evening the division on our extreme left, E. Johnson’s, advanced. The brigades were J. M. Jones’s, Nicholls’s, Steuart’s, and Walker’s. Walker’s was detached, as they moved, to look for a detachment of the enemy reported threatening the far away left. When the three brigades. crossed Rock Creek it was night. The enemy’s line to be assaulted was occupied by Greene’s brigade of the Twelfth Corps. It was reinforced by three regiments of Wadsworth’s division and three from the Eleventh Corps. After brave attack and defence, part of the line was carried, when the fight, after a severe fusillade between the infantry lines, quieted, and Walker’s brigade returned to the division. Part of the enemy’s trenches, east of the point attacked (across a swale), vacated when the corps moved over to the left, General Johnson failed to occupy.
Before this, General Rodes discovered that the enemy, in front of his division, was drawing off his artillery and infantry to my battle of the right, and suggested to General Early that the moment had come for the divisions to attack, and drew his forces from entanglements about the streets to be ready. After E. Johnson’s fight on our extreme left, General Early ordered two brigades under General Harry T. Hays to attack. Hays had with his Louisiana brigade Hoke’s North Carolina brigade under Colonel Avery. He made as gallant a fight as was ever made. Mounting to the top of the hill, he captured a battery, and pushed on in brave order, taking some prisoners and colors, until he discovered that his two brigades were advancing in a night affair against a grand army, when he found that he was fortunate in having · night to cover his weakness, and withdrew. The gallant Colonel Avery, mortally wounded and dying, wrote on a slip of paper, “Tell father that I died with my face to the enemy.” When Rodes was prepared, Hays had retired, and the former did not see that it was part of the order for general engagement to put his division in night attack that could not be supported.
Thus the general engagement of the day was dwarfed into the battle of the right at three o’clock, that on the left at eight by a single division, and that nearer the centre at nine o’clock by two brigades.
There was a man on the left of the line who did not care to make the battle win. He knew where it was, had viewed it from its earliest formation, had orders for his part in it, but so withheld part of his command from it as to make co-operative concert of action impracticable. He had a pruriency for the honors of the field of Mars, was eloquent, before the fires of the bivouac and his chief, of the glory of war’s gory shield; but when its envied laurels were dipping to the grasp, when the heavy field called for bloody work, he found the placid horizon, far and away beyond the cavalry, more lovely and inviting. He wanted command of the Second Corps, and, succeeding to it, held the honored position until General Lee found, at last, that he must dismiss him from field service.
General Lee ordered Johnson’s division of his left, occupying part of the enemy’s trenches about Culp’s Hill, to be reinforced during the night of the 2d by two brigades of Rodes’s division and one of Early’s division. Why the other brigades of those divisions were not sent does not appear, but it does appear that there was a place for them on Johnson’s left, in the trenches that were vacated by the Federal Twelfth Corps when called over to reinforce the battle of Meade’s left. Culp’s Hill bore the same relations to the enemy’s right as Little Round Top did to his left. General Fitzhugh Lee quotes evidence from General Meade that had Culp’s Hill been occupied, in force, by Confederates, it would have compelled the withdrawal of the Federal troops.(*)
General Meade, after the battle of his left, ordered the divisions of his Twelfth Corps back to their trenches, to recover the parts occupied by the Confederate left. It was night when the First Division approached. General Ruger, commanding, thought to feel his way through the dark by a line of skirmishers. He found the east end of his trenches, across the swale, unoccupied, and took possession. Pressing his adventure, he found the main line of his works occupied by the Confederates in force, and disposed his command to wait for daylight. The Second Division came during the night, when General Williams, commanding the corps, posted it on the left of the First, and the division commanders ordered batteries in proper positions.
During the night, General Meade held a council, which decided to fight it out. So it began to look as if the vicissitudes of the day had so worked as to call General Meade from defensive to aggressive battle for Culp’s Hill. But the Confederates failed to see the opportunity and force the issue as it was presented.
In General Meade’s evidence before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, he puts his losses of the first and second days at twenty thousand, and assigns two-thirds of these to the battle of the 2d. As the fighting against the three brigades of our left after night, and two brigades, later in the night, from our centre, could not have been very severe, I claim that his loss in the battle of his left was from twelve to fourteen thousand.
As events of the battle of the 2d passed, it seems fair to claim that with Pickett’s brigades present at the moment of Wofford’s advance for the gorge at Little Round Top, we could have had it before Crawford was there.
Under ordinary circumstances this account of the second day, made from the records, would be complete and conclusive; but the battle of Gettysburg, which may be called the epitome of the war, has been the subject of many contentions of words. Knights of the quill have consumed many of their peaceful hours in publishing, through books, periodicals, and newspapers, their plans for the battle, endeavoring to forestall the records and to find a scapegoat, and their representations may be given, though they do not deserve it, a word of reply.
General W. N. Pendleton led off when making a lecturing tour through the South for a memorial church for General Lee. He claims that he made a reconnoissance on the afternoon of the 1st of July, and that upon his reporting it, General Lee ordered General Longstreet to attack at sunrise the next day. He did not venture to charge that the Second and Third Corps, that were on the field and had had a good night’s rest, were part of the command ordered for the early battle, for the commanders, both Virginians, and not under the political ban, could have brought confusing evidence against him; nor did he intend to put General Lee in the anomalous position, inferentially, of ordering part of the First Corps–that should march through the night and all night–to make the battle alone. The point of battle was east of the Emmitsburg road; to find it, it was necessary to cross that road, but General Sickles was moving part of his corps over the road during that afternoon, and rested there the latter part of the day and during the night. So, to make the reconnoissance, General Pendleton passed the Union troops in Confederate uniform–he was military in his dress–and found the point of battle. Giving him credit, for the moment, for this delicate work and the mythical order, let us find the end to which it would lead.
The only troops that could come under the order were McLaws’s division, part of Hood’s, and the artillery,–about ten thousand men. These, after a hurried all-night’s march, reached General Lee’s head-quarters about sunrise of the 2d, and by continued forced march could have reached the point of battle, about five miles away, by seven o’clock, where they would have encountered a division of the Third Corps (Birney’s); presently the Second and Fifth Corps under Hancock and Sykes; then the First, Eleventh, and Twelfth under Newton, Howard, and Slocum; then the balance of the Third coming in on our rear along the Emmitsburg road,–making sixty thousand men and more. There was reason to be proud of the prowess of the troops of the First Corps, but to credit a part of it with success under the circumstances was not reasonable.
That the Confederate Second Corps did not have orders for the alleged sunrise battle is evidenced by the report of its commander, who, accounting for his work about Culp’s Hill during the night of the 1st and morning of the 2d, reported of the morning, “It was now daylight, and too late,” meaning that it was too late for him to attack and carry that hill, as General Lee had authorized and expected him to do during the night before. If he had been ordered to take part in the sunrise battle, he would have been in the nick of time. That the Third Corps was not to be in it is evidenced by the position of the greater part of it on Seminary Ridge until near noon of the 2d. So General Lee must have ordered a position carried, at sunrise, by ten thousand men, after it had gathered strength all night,–a position that he would not assault on the afternoon of the 1st with forty thousand men, lest they should encounter “overwhelming numbers.”
As the other corps, after receiving their orders for the afternoon battle of the 2d, failed to engage until after nightfall, it is not probable that they would have found the sunrise battle without orders.
General Pendleton’s official report is in conflict with his memorial lecture. In the former he makes no reference to the sunrise-battle order, but mentions a route by which the left of the enemy could be turned.
Letters from the active members of General Lee’s staff and from his military secretary, General A. L. Long, show that the sunrise battle was not ordered, and a letter from Colonel Fairfax shows that the claim that it was so ordered. was set up after General Lee’s death. (+)
(+) Following are the essential portions of the letters referred to, affording unquestionable and overwhelming testimony against the claim that General Longstreet was ordered to give battle “at sunrise”:
“NORFOLK, VA., April 28, 1875.
“DEAR GENERAL,–… I can only say that I never before heard of the ‘ sunrise attack’ you were to have made, as charged by General Pendleton. If such an order was given you I never knew of it, or it has strangely escaped my memory. I think it more than probable that if General Lee had had your troops available the evening previous to the day of which you speak, he would have ordered an early attack, but this does not touch the point at issue. I regard it as a great mistake on the part of those who, perhaps because of political differences, now undertake to criticise and attack your war record. Such conduct is most ungenerous, and I am sure meets the disapprobation of all good Confederates with whom I have had the pleasure of associating in the daily walks of life.
“Yours, very respectfully,
“W. H. TAYLOR.”
” UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, May 11, 1875. ”
GENERAL JAMES LONGSTREET:
“DEAR GENERAL,–. . . I did not know of any order for an attack on the enemy at sunrise on the 2d, nor can I believe any such order was issued by General Lee. About sunrise on the 2d of July I was sent by General Lee to General Ewell to ask him what he thought of the advantages of an attack on the enemy from his position. (Colonel Marshall had been sent with a similar order on the night of the lst.) General Ewell made me ride with him from point to point of his lines, so as to see with him the exact position of things. Before he got through the examination of the enemy’s position, General Lee came himself to General Ewell’s lines. In sending the message to General Ewell, General Lee was explicit in saying that the question was whether he should move all the troops around on the right and attack on that side. I do not think that the errand on which I was sent by the commanding general is consistent with the idea of an attack at sunrise by any portion of the army.
“Yours, very truly,
” CHARLES S. VENABLE.”
” BALTIMORE, MD., May 7, 1875.
” DEAR GENERAL,–. . . I have no personal recollection of the order to which you refer. It certainly was not conveyed by me, nor is there anything in General Lee’s official report to show the attack on the 2d was expected by him to begin earlier, except that he notices that there was not proper concert of action on that day ….
” CHARLES MARSHALL.”
” BIG ISLAND, BEDFORD, VA., May 31, 1875.
” DEAR GENERAL,–. . . I do not recollect of hearing of an order to attack at sunrise, or at any other designated hour, pending the operations at Gettysburg during the first three days of July, 1863 ….
” A. L. LONG.”
” FREESTONE P. O., PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, VA.,
“November 12, 1877.
“MY DEAR GENERAL LONGSTREET,–. . . The winter after the death of General Lee I was in Lexington, visiting my sons at the V. M. I. General Pendleton called to see me at the hotel. General Custis Lee was in my room when he came in. After General Lee left, General Pendleton asked me if General Longstreet was not ordered to attack on the 2d of July at Gettysburg at six o’clock in the morning, and did not attack until four o’clock in the evening. I told him it was not possible. When he left me I was under the impression I had convinced him of his mistaken idea. I told General Pendleton that you and General Lee were together the greater part of the day up to about three o’clock or later; that you separated at the mouth of a lane not long thereafter. You said to me, ‘ Those troops will be in position by the time you get there; tell General Hood to attack.’ When I gave the order to General Hood he was standing within a step or two of his line of battle. I asked him to please delay his attack until I could communicate to General Longstreet that he can turn the enemy,–pointing to a gorge in the mountain, where we would be sheltered from his view and attack by his cavalry. General Hood slapped me on the knee and said, ‘I agree with you,–bring General Longstreet to see for himself.’ When I reported to you, your answer was, ‘ It is General Lee’s order; the time is up,-attack at once.’ I lost no time in repeating the same to General Hood, and remained with him to see the attack, which was made instantly. We had a beautiful view of the enemy’s left from Hood’s position, which was close up to him. He gave way quickly. General Hood charged, and I spurred to report to you; found you with hat in hand cheering on General McLaws’s division ….
“Truly your friend,
” JOHN W. FAIRFAX.”
In a published account, General Long mentions my suggestion on the afternoon of the 1st for the turning march around the enemy’s left, which he says, after consideration, was rejected.
Colonel Taylor claims that the attack by the Confederate right should have been sooner, and should have met the enemy back on his first or original line, and before Little Round Top was occupied. But Little Round Top was not occupied in force until after my battle opened, and General Sickles’s advance to his forward lines was made in consequence of the Confederate threatening, and would have been sooner or later according as that threatening was made. He calls the message of General Lee to General Ewell on the afternoon of the 1st an order. General Lee says,–
“The strong position which the enemy had assumed could not be attacked without danger of exposing the four divisions present, exhausted by a long and bloody struggle, to overwhelming numbers of fresh troops. General Ewell was thereupon instructed to carry the hill occupied by the enemy if he found it practicable.”
It is the custom of military service to accept instructions of a commander as orders, but when they are coupled with conditions that transfer the responsibility of battle and defeat to the subordinate, they are not orders, and General Ewell was justifiable in not making attack that his commander would not order, and the censure of his failure is unjust and very ungenerous.
The Virginia writers have been so eager in their search for a flaw in the conduct of the battle of the First Corps that they overlook the only point into which they could have thrust their pens.
At the opening of the fight, General Meade was with General Sickles discussing the feasibility of moving the Third Corps back to the line originally assigned for it, but the discussion was cut short by the opening of the Confederate battle. If that opening had been delayed thirty or forty minutes the corps would have been drawn back to the general line, and my first deployment would have enveloped Little Round Top and carried it before it could have been strongly manned, and General Meade would have drawn off to his line selected behind Pipe Creek. The point should have been that the battle was opened too soon.
Another point from which they seek comfort is that Sedgwick’s corps (Sixth) was not up until a late hour of the 2d, and would not have been on the field for an earlier battle. But Sedgwick was not engaged in the late battle, and could have been back at Manchester, so far as the afternoon battle was concerned. And they harp a little on the delay of thirty minutes for Law’s brigade to join its division. But General Lee called for the two divisions, and had called for Law’s brigade to join his division. It was therefore his order for the division that delayed the march. To have gone without it would have justified censure. As we were not strong enough for the work with that brigade, it is not probable that we could have accomplished more without it.
Colonel Taylor says that General Lee urged that the march of my troops should be hastened, and was chafed at their non-appearance. Not one word did he utter to me of their march until he gave his orders at eleven o’clock for the move to his right. Orders for the troops to hasten their march of the 1st were sent without even a suggestion from him, but upon his announcement that he intended to fight the next day, if the enemy was there.(*)
(*) Upon the various matters of this momentous day, which have been subject of controversy, the following testimony from J. S. D. Cullen is interesting and important:
“RICHMOND, VA., May 18, 1875.
” GENERAL JAMES LONGSTREET:
” DEAR GENERAL,–. . . It was an astounding announcement to the survivors of the First Army Corps that the disaster and failure at Gettysburg was alone and solely due to its commander, and that had he obeyed the orders of the commander-in-chief Meade’s army would have been beaten before its entire force had assembled, and its final discomfiture thereby made certain. It is a little strange that these charges were not made while General Lee was alive to substantiate or disprove them, and that seven years or more were permitted to pass by in silence regarding them. You are fortunate in being able to call upon the adjutant-general and the two confidential officers of General Lee’s staff for their testimony in the case, and I do not think that you will have any reason to fear their evidence. They knew every order that was issued for that battle, when and where attacks were to be made, who were slow in attacking, and who did not make attacks that were expected to be made. I hope, for the sake of history and for your brave military record, that a quietus will at once be put on this subject. I distinctly remember the appearance in our head-quarters camp of the scout who brought from Frederick the first account that General Lee had of the definite whereabouts of the enemy; of the excitement at General Lee’s head-quarters among couriers, quartermasters, commissaries, etc., all betokening some early movement of the commands dependent upon the news brought by the scout. That afternoon General Lee was walking with some of us in the road in front of his head-quar-ters, and said, ‘ To-morrow, gentlemen, we will not move to Harrisburg as we expected, but will go over to Gettysburg and see what General Meade is after.’ Orders had then been issued to the corps to move at sunrise on the morning of the next day, and promptly at that time the corps was put on the road. The troops moved slowly a short distance when they were stopped by Ewell’s wagon-trains and Johnson’s division turning into the road in front of them, making their way from some point north to Cashtown or Gettysburg. How many hours we were detained I am unable to say, but it must have been many, for I remember eating a lunch or dinner before moving again. Being anxious to see you, I rode rapidly by the troops (who, as soon as they could get into the road, pushed hurriedly by us also), and overtook you about dark at the hill this side of Gettysburg, about half a mile from the town. You had been at the front with General Lee, and were returning to your camp, a mile or two back. I spoke very exultingly of the victory we were thought to have obtained that day, but was surprised to find that you did not take the same cheerful view of it that I did, and presently you remarked that it would have been better had we not fought than to have left undone what we did. You said that the enemy were left occupying a position that it would take the whole army to drive them from and then at a great sacrifice. We soon reached the camp, three miles, perhaps, from Gettysburg, and found the column near by. Orders were issued to be ready to march at ‘daybreak,’ or some earlier hour, next morning. About three o’clock in the morning, while the stars were shining, you left your head-quarters and rode to General Lee’s, where I found you sitting with him after sunrise looking at the enemy on Cemetery Hill”
“I am yours, very truly,
“J. S. D. CULLEN.”
That he was excited and off his balance was evident on the afternoon of the 1st, and he labored under that oppression until enough blood was shed to appease him.
|The Third Day
|The Stroke of Arms that shook the Continent–Longstreet opposed the Attack as planned and made–The Confederate Column of Assault–It was weak in Numbers but strong in Spirit–Tremendous Artillery Combat begins the Day’s Fighting–Charge of Generals Pickett, Trimble, and Pettigrew–Armistead falls by the Side of the Federal Guns–The Federal Cavalry Charge of General Farnsworth–The Commander falls with Five Mortal Wounds-Could the Assaulting Column have been safely augmented from Longstreet’s Right ?–Testimony as to that Point–Where rested the Responsibility for Disaster ?–Criticism of the Battle as a whole–Cemetery Hill stronger than Marye’s Hill at Fredericksburg–Controverted Points-Casualties of the Three Days’ Fight–Organization of the Forces engaged.|
GENERAL LEE has reported of arrangements for the day,–
“The general plan was unchanged. Longstreet, reinforced by Pickett’s three brigades, which arrived near the battle-field during the afternoon of the 2d, was ordered to attack the next morning, and General Ewell was ordered to attack the enemy’s right at the same time. The latter during the night reinforced General Johnson with two brigades from Rodes’s and one from Early’s division.”
This is disingenuous. He did not give or send me orders for the morning of the third day, nor did he reinforce me by Pickett’s brigades for morning attack. As his head-quarters were about four miles from the command, i did not ride over, but sent, to report the work of the second day. In the absence of orders, I had scouting parties out during the night in search of a way by which we might strike the enemy’s left, and push it down towards his centre. I found a way that gave some promise of results, and was about to move the command, when he rode over after sunrise and gave his orders. His plan was to assault the enemy’s left centre by a column to be composed of McLaws’s and Hood’s divisions reinforced by Pickett’s brigades. I thought that it would not do; that the point had been fully tested the day before, by more men, when all were fresh; that the enemy was there looking for us, as we heard him during the night putting up his defences; that the divisions of McLaws and Hood were holding a mile along the right of my line against twenty thousand men, who would follow their withdrawal, strike the flank of the assaulting column, crush it, and get on our rear towards the Potomac River; that thirty thousand men was the minimum of force necessary for the work; that even such force would need close co-operation on other parts of the line; that the column as he proposed to organize it would have only about thirteen thousand men (the divisions having lost a third of their numbers the day before); that the column would have to march a mile under concentrating battery fire, and a thousand yards under long-range musketry; that the conditions were different from those in the days of Napoleon, when field batteries had a range of six hundred yards and musketry about sixty yards.
He said the distance was not more than fourteen hundred yards. General Meade’s estimate was a mile or a mile and a half (Captain Long, the guide of the field of Gettysburg in 1888, stated that it was a trifle over a mile). He then concluded that the divisions of McLaws and Hood could remain on the defensive line; that he would reinforce by divisions of the Third Corps and Pickett’s brigades, and stated the point to which the march should be directed. I asked the strength of the column. He stated fifteen thousand. Opinion was then expressed that the fifteen thousand men who could make successful assault over that field had never been arrayed for battle; but he was impatient of listening, and tired of talking, and nothing was left but to proceed. General Alexander was ordered to arrange the batteries of the front of the First and Third Corps, those of the Second were supposed to be in position; Colonel Walton was ordered to see that the batteries of the First were supplied with ammunition, and to prepare to give the signal-guns for the opening combat. The infantry of the Third Corps to be assigned were Heth’s and Pettigrew’s divisions and Wilcox’s brigade.
At the time of the conversation and arrangement of the assault by the Confederate right, artillery fire was heard on our extreme left. It seems that General Lee had sent orders to General Ewell to renew his battle in the morning, which was intended, and directed, as a co-operation of the attack he intended to order on his right, but General Ruger, anticipating, opened his batteries against Ewell at daylight. The Union divisions–Ruger’s and Gary’s–were on broken lines, open towards the trenches held by the Confederates, so that assault by our line would expose the force to fire from the enemy’s other line. Ruger had occupied the trenches left vacant on his right, and Gary reached to his left under Greene, who held his line against the attack of the day before. It seems that the Confederates failed to bring artillery up to their trenches, and must make their fight with infantry, while on the Union side there were some fifteen or twenty guns playing, and many more at hand if needed.
As the Union batteries opened, Johnson advanced and assaulted the enemy’s works on his right towards the centre and the adjacent front of the new line, and held to that attack with resolution, putting in fresh troops to help it from time to time. Ruger put two regiments forward to feel the way towards Johnson’s left. They got into hot engagement and were repulsed; Johnson tried to follow, but was in turn forced back. He renewed his main attack again, but unsuccessfully, and finally drew back to the trenches. Ruger threw a regiment forward from his left which gained the stone wall; his division was then advanced, and it recovered the entire line of trenches.
While this contention was in progress the troops ordered for the column of assault were marching and finding positions under the crest of the ridge, where they could be covered during the artillery combat. Alexander put a battery of nine guns under the ridge and out of the enemy’s fire to be used with the assaulting column.
General Lee said that the attack of his right was not made as early as expected,–which he should not have said. He knew that I did not believe that success was possible; that care and time should be taken to give the troops the benefit of positions and the grounds; and he should have put an officer in charge who had more confidence in his plan. Two-thirds of the troops were of other commands, and there was no reason for putting the assaulting forces under my charge. He had confidence in General Early, who advised in favor of that end of the line for battle. Knowing my want of confidence, he should have given the benefit of his presence and his assistance in getting the troops up, posting them, and arranging the batteries; but he gave no orders or suggestions after his early designation of the point for which the column should march. Fitzhugh Lee claims evidence that General Lee did not even appear on that part of the field while the troops were being assigned to position.
As the commands reported, Pickett was assigned on the right, Kemper’s and Garnett’s brigades to be supported by Armistead’s; Wilcox’s brigade of the Third Corps in echelon and guarding Pickett’s right; Pettigrew’s division on Pickett’s left, supported by the brigades of Scales and Lane, under command of General Trimble. The brigades of Pettigrew’s division were Archer’s, Pettigrew’s, Brockenbrough’s, and Davis’s. (General Archer having been taken prisoner on the 1st, his brigade was under command of Colonel Fry; General Scales being wounded on the same day, his brigade was commanded by Colonel Lowrance.) The ridge upon which the commands were formed was not parallel to that upon which the enemy stood, but bending west towards our left, while the enemy’s line bore northwest towards his right, so that the left of the assaulting column formed some little distance farther from the enemy’s line than the right. To put the troops under the best cover during the artillery combat they were thus posted for the march, but directed to spread their steps as soon as the march opened the field, and to gain places of correct alignment.
Meanwhile, the enemy’s artillery on his extreme right was in practice more or less active, but its meaning was not known or reported, and the sharp-shooters of the command on the right had a lively fusillade about eleven o’clock, in which some of the artillery took part. The order was that the right was to make the signal of battle. General Lee reported that his left attacked before due notice to wait for the opening could be given, which was a mistake, inasmuch as the attack on his left was begun by the Federals, which called his left to their work. General Meade was not apprehensive of that part of the field, and only used the two divisions of the Twelfth Corps, Shaler’s brigade of the Sixth, and six regiments of the First and Eleventh Corps in recovering the trenches of his right, holding the other six corps for the battle of his centre and left. He knew by the Confederate troops on his right just where the strong battle was to be.
The director of artillery was asked to select a position on his line from which he could note the effect of his practice, and to advise General Pickett when the enemy’s fire was so disturbed .as to call for the assault. General Pickett’s was the division of direction, and he was ordered to have a staff-officer or courier with the artillery director to bear notice of the moment to advance.
The little affair between the skirmish lines quieted in a short time, and also the noise on our extreme left. The quiet filing of one or two of our batteries into position emphasized the profound silence that prevailed during our wait for final orders. Strong battle was in the air, and the veterans of both sides swelled their breasts to gather nerve and strength to meet it. Division commanders were asked to go to the crest of the ridge and take a careful view of the field, and to have their officers there to tell their men of it, and to prepare them for the sight that was to burst upon them as they mounted the crest.
Just then a squadron of Union cavalry rode through detachments of infantry posted at intervals in rear of my right division. It was called a charge, but was probably a reconnoissance.
Colonel Black had reported with a hundred of the First South Carolina Cavalry, not all mounted, and a battery of horse artillery, and was put across the Emmitsburg road, supported by infantry, in front of Merritt’s brigade of cavalry.
When satisfied that the work of preparation was all that it could be with the means at hand, I wrote Colonel Walton, of the Washington Artillery,–
“HEADQUARTERS, July 3, 1863.
“COLONEL,–Let the batteries open. Order great care and precision in firing. When the batteries at the Peach Orchard cannot be used against the point we intend to attack, let them open on the enemy’s on the rocky hill.
“Lieutenant- General, Commanding.’
At the same time a note to Alexander directed that Pickett should not be called until the artillery practice indicated fair opportunity. Then I rode to a woodland hard by, to lie down and study for some new thought that might aid the assaulting column. In a few minutes report came from Alexander that he would only be able to judge of the effect of his fire by the return of that of the enemy, as his infantry was not exposed to view, and the smoke of the batteries would soon cover the field. He asked, if there was an alternative, that it be carefully considered before the batteries opened, as there was not enough artillery ammunition for this and another trial if this should not prove favorable.
He was informed that there was no alternative; that I could find no way out of it; that General Lee had considered and would listen to nothing else; that orders had gone for the guns to give signal for the batteries; that he should call the troops at the first opportunity or lull in the enemy’s fire.
The signal-guns broke the silence, the blaze of the second gun mingling in the smoke of the first, and salvoes rolled to the left and repeated themselves, the enemy’s fine metal spreading its fire to the converging lines, ploughing the trembling ground, plunging through the line of batteries, and clouding the heavy air. The two or three hundred guns seemed proud of their undivided honors and organ-. ized confusion. The Confederates had the benefit of converging fire into the enemy’s massed position, but the superior metal of the enemy neutralized the advantage of position. The brave and steady work progressed.
Before this the Confederates of the left were driven from their captured trenches, and hope of their effective co-operation with the battle of the right was lost, but no notice of it was sent to the right of the battle. They made some further demonstrations, but they were of little effect. Merritt’s brigade of cavalry was in rear of my right, threatening on the Emmitsburg road. Farnsworth’s brigade took position between Merritt’s and close on my right rear. Infantry regiments and batteries were broken off from my front line and posted to guard on that flank and rear.
Not informed of the failure of the Confederates on the left and the loss of their vantage-ground, we looked with confidence for them to follow the orders of battle.
General Pickett rode to confer with Alexander, then to the ground upon which I was resting, where he was soon handed a slip of paper. After reading it he handed it to me. It read:
“If you are coming at all, come at once, or I cannot give you proper support, but the enemy’s fire has not slackened at all. At least eighteen guns are still firing from the cemetery itself.
” ALEXANDER. ”
Pickett said, “General, shall I advance?”
The effort to speak the order failed, and I could only indicate it by an affirmative bow. He accepted the duty with seeming confidence of success, leaped on his horse, and rode gayly to his command. I mounted and spurred for Alexander’s post. He reported that the batteries he had reserved for the charge with the infantry had been spirited away by General Lee’s chief of artillery; that the ammunition of the batteries of position was so reduced that he could not use them in proper support of the infantry. He was ordered to stop the march at once and fill up his ammunition-chests. But, alas ! there was no more ammunition to be had.
The order was imperative. The Confederate commander had fixed his heart upon the work. Just then a number of the enemy’s batteries hitched up and hauled off, which gave a glimpse of unexpected hope. Encouraging messages were sent for the columns to hurry on,–and they were then on elastic springing step. The officers saluted as they passed, their stern smiles expressing confidence. General Pickett, a graceful horseman, sat lightly in the saddle, his brown locks flowing quite over his shoulders. Pettigrew’s division spread their steps and quickly rectified the alignment, and the grand march moved bravely on. As soon as the leading columns opened the way, the supports sprang to their alignments. General Trimble mounted, adjusting his seat and reins with an air and grace as if setting out on a pleasant afternoon ride. When aligned to their places solid march was made down the slope and past our batteries of position.
Confederate batteries put their fire over the heads of the men as they moved down the slope, and continued to draw the fire of the enemy until the smoke lifted and drifted to the rear, when every gun was turned upon the infantry columns. The batteries that had been drawn off were replaced by others that were fresh. Soldiers and officers began to fall, some to rise no more, others to find their way to the hospital tents. Single files were cut here and there, then the gaps increased, and an occasional shot tore wider openings, but, closing the gaps as quickly as made, the march moved on. The divisions of McLaws and Hood were ordered to move to closer lines for the enemy on their front, to spring to the charge as soon as the breach at the centre could be made. The enemy’s right overreached my left and gave serious trouble. Brockenbrough’s brigade went down and Davis’s in impetuous charge. The general order required further assistance from the Third Corps if needed, but no support appeared. General Lee and the corps commander were there, but failed to order help.
Colonel Latrobe was sent to General Trimble to have his men fill the line of the broken brigades, and bravely they repaired the damage. The enemy moved out against the supporting brigade in Pickett’s rear. Colonel Sorrel was sent to have that move guarded, and Pickett was drawn back to that contention. McLaws was ordered to press his left forward, but the direct fire of infantry and cross-fire of artillery was telling fearfully on the front. Colonel Fremantle ran up to offer congratulations on the apparent success, but the big gaps in the ranks grew until the lines were reduced to half their length. I called his attention to the broken, struggling ranks. Trimble mended the battle of the left in handsome style, but on the right the massing of the enemy grew stronger and stronger. Brigadier Garnett was killed, Kemper and Trimble were desperately wounded; Generals Hancock and Gibbon were wounded. General Lane succeeded Trimble, and with Pettigrew held the battle of the left in steady ranks.
Pickett’s lines being nearer, the impact was heaviest upon them. Most of the field officers were killed or wounded. Colonel Whittle, of Armistead’s brigade, who had been shot through the right leg at Williamsburg and lost his left arm at Malvern Hill, was shot through the right arm, then brought down by a shot through his left leg.
General Armistead, of the second line, spread his steps to supply the places of fallen comrades. His colors cut down, with a volley against the bristling line of bayonets, he put his cap on his sword to guide the storm. The enemy’s massing, enveloping numbers held the struggle until the noble Armistead fell beside the wheels of the enemy’s battery. Pettigrew was wounded, but held his command.
General Pickett, finding the battle broken, while the enemy was still reinforcing, called the troops off. There was no indication of panic. The broken files marched back in steady step. The effort was nobly made, and failed from blows that could not be fended. Some of the files were cut off from retreat by fire that swept the field in their rear. Officers of my staff, sent forward with orders, came back with their saddles and bridles in their arms. Latrobe’s horse was twice shot.
Looking confidently for advance of the enemy through our open field, I rode to the line of batteries, resolved to hold it until the last gun was lost. As I rode, the shells screaming over my head and ploughing the ground under my horse, an involuntary appeal went up that one of them might take me from scenes of such awful responsibility; but the storm to be met left no time to think of one’s self. The battery officers were prepared to meet the crisis,-no move had been made for leaving the field. My old acquaintance of Sharpsburg experience, Captain Miller, was walking up and down behind his guns, smoking his pipe, directing his fire over the heads of our men as fast as they were inside of the danger-line; the other officers equally firm and ready to defend to the last. A body of skirmishers put out from the enemy’s lines and advanced some distance, but the batteries opened severe fire and drove it back. Our men passed the batteries in quiet walk, and would rally, I knew, when they reached the ridge from which they started.
General Lee was soon with us, and with staff-officers and others assisted in encouraging the men and getting them together.
As the attack failed, General Kilpatrick put his cavalry brigade under General Farnsworth on the charge through the infantry detachment in rear of my right division. The regiments of G. T. Anderson’s brigade had been posted at points in rear as guards against cavalry, and the First Texas, Fourth and Fifteenth Alabama, and Bach-man’s and Reilly’s batteries were looking for that adventure. Farnsworth had a rough ride over rocks and stone fences, but bore on in spite of all, cutting and slashing when he could get at the skirmishers or detachments. He made a gallant ride along the rear of our right, but was obliged to come under the infantry and artillery fire at several points. He fell, pierced, it is said, by five mortal wounds. Calls for him to surrender were made, but the cavalry were not riding for that. The command lost heavily, but claimed captives equal to their loss.
Kilpatrick’s mistake was in not putting Farnsworth in on Merritt’s left, where he would have had an open ride, and made more trouble than was ever made by a cavalry brigade. Had the ride been followed by prompt advance of the enemy’s infantry in line beyond our right and pushed with vigor, they could have reached our line of retreat. General Meade ordered his left, but delay in getting the orders and preparing to get through the rough grounds consumed time, and the move was abandoned. The Fifth and Sixth Corps were in convenient position, and would have had good ground for marching after getting out of the rocky fastnesses of Round Top.
As we had no cavalry on our right, the Union cavalry was held on their right to observe the Confederates under Stuart, except Kilpatrick’s division (and Custer’s brigade of that division was retained on their right). A little while after the repulse of our infantry column, Stuart’s cavalry advanced and was met by Gregg’s, and made one of the severest and most stubborn fights of cavalry on record. General Wade Hampton was severely wounded. The Union forces held the field.
When affairs had quieted a little, and apprehension of immediate counter-attack had passed, orders were sent the divisions of McLaws and Hood to draw back and occupy the lines from which they had advanced to engage the battle of the second. Orders sent Benning’s brigade by the division staff were not understood, and Benning, under the impression that he was to relieve part of McLaws’s division, which he thought was to be sent on other. service, ordered the Fifteenth Georgia Regiment to occupy that position. When he received the second order he sent for his detached regiment. Meanwhile, the enemy was feeling the way to his front, and before Colonel DuBose received his second order, the enemy was on his front and had passed his right and left flanks. The moment he received the final order, Colonel DuBose made a running fight and escaped with something more than half his men.
In regard to this, as to other battles in which the First Corps was concerned, the knights of peaceful later days have been busy in search of points on which to lay charges or make innuendoes of want of conduct of that corps. General Early has been a picturesque figure in the combination, ready to champion any reports that could throw a shadow over its record, but the charge most pleasing to him was that of treason on the part of its commander. The subject was lasting, piquant, and so consoling that one is almost inclined to envy the comfort it gave him in his latter days.
Colonel Taylor and members of the staff claim that General Lee ordered that the divisions of McLaws and Hood should be a part of the assaulting column. Of this General Lee says,–
“General Longstreet was delayed by a force occupying the high, rocky hill on the enemy’s extreme left, from which his troops could be attacked from reverse as they advanced. His operations had been embarrassed the day previously from the same cause, and he now deemed it necessary to defend his flank and rear with the divisions of Hood and McLaws. He was therefore reinforced by Heth’s division and two brigades of Pender’s, to the command of which Major-General Trimble was assigned. General Hill was directed to hold his line with the rest of the command, to afford General Longstreet further assistance if required, and to avail himself of any success that might be gained.”
Colonel Taylor says,–
“As our extreme right was comparatively safe, being well posted, and not at all threatened, one of the divisions of Hood and McLaws, and a greater part of the other, could be moved out of the lines and be made to take part in the attack.”
On this point I offer the evidence of General Warren before the Committee of Investigation:
“General Meade had so arranged his troops on our left during the third day that nearly one-half of our army was in reserve in that position. It was a good, sheltered position, and a convenient one from which to reinforce other points of the line, and when the repulse of the enemy took place on that day, General Meade intended to move forward all the forces he could get in hand and assault the enemy in line. He ordered the advance of the Fifth Corps, but it was carried so slowly that it did not amount to much, if anything.”
General Hancock’s evidence on that point is:
“General Meade told me before the fight that if the enemy attacked me, he intended to put the Fifth and Sixth Corps on the enemy’ s flank.”
From which it is evident that the withdrawal of the divisions of my right, to be put in the column of assault, would have been followed by those corps swinging around and enveloping the assaulting columns and gaining Lee’s line of retreat.
Colonel Venable thinks it a mistake to have put Heth’s division in the assaulting column. He says,–
“They were terribly mistaken about Heth’s division in this planning. It had not recuperated, having suffered more than was reported on the first day.”
But to accept for the moment Colonel Taylor’s premises, the two divisions referred to would have swelled the columns of assault to twenty-three thousand men. We were alone in the battle as on the day before. The enemy had seventy-five thousand men on strong ground, with well-constructed defences. The Confederates would have had to march a mile through the blaze of direct and cross fire and break up an army of seventy-five thousand well-seasoned troops, well defended by field-works !
A rough sketch of the positions of the forces about my right and rear will help to show if it “was comparatively safe, and not at all threatened.”
General Gibbon’s testimony in regard to the assaulting columns of the 3d:
“I was wounded about the time I suppose the enemy’s second line got into our batteries,–probably a little before that. As described to me afterwards, the result, I think, will carry out my idea in regard to it, because the enemy broke through, forced back my weakest brigade under General Webb, got into our batteries, and the men were so close that the officers on each side were using their pistols on each other, and the men frequently clubbed their muskets, and the clothes of men on both sides were burned by the powder of exploding cartridges. An officer of my staff, Lieutenant Haskell, had been sent by me, just previously to the attack, to General Meade with a message that the enemy were coming. He got back on the top of the hill hunting for me, and was there when this brigade was forced back, and, without waiting orders from me, he rode off to the left and ordered all the troops of the division there to the right. As they came up helter-skelter, everybody for himself, with their officers among them, they commenced firing upon these rebels as they were coming into our lines.”
Had the column been augmented by the divisions of my right, it is probable that its brave men would have penetrated far enough to reach Johnson’s Island as prisoners; hardly possible that it could have returned to General Lee by any other route.
When engaged collecting the broken files after the repulse, General Lee said to an officer who was assisting, “It is all my fault.”
A letter from Colonel W. M. Owen assures me that General Lee repeated this remark at a roadside fire of the Washington Artillery on the 5th of July. A letter from General Lee during the winter of 1863-64 repeated it in substance.
And here is what Colonel T. J. Goree, of Texas, has to say upon the subject:
“I was present, however, just after Pickett’s repulse, when General Lee so magnanimously took all the blame of the disaster upon himself. Another important circumstance, which I distinctly remember, was in the winter of 1863–64, when you sent me from East Tennessee to Orange Court-House with some despatches to General Lee. Upon my arrival there, General Lee asked me into his tent, where he was alone, with two or three Northern papers on the table. He remarked that he had just been reading the Northern reports of the battle of Gettysburg; that he had become satisfied from reading those reports that if he had permitted you to carry out your plan, instead of making the attack on Cemetery Hill, he would have been successful.”
Further testimony to this effect comes from another source:
“In East Tennessee, during the winter of 1863-64, you called me into your quarters, and asked me to read a letter just received from General Lee in which he used the following words: ‘Oh, general, had I but followed your advice, instead of pursuing the course that I did, how different all would have been !’ You wished me to bear this language in mind as your correspondence might be lost.
” ERASMUS TAYLOR.
” ORANGE COUNTY, VA.”
A contributor to Blackwood’s Magazine reported,–
“But Lee’s inaction after Fredericksburg was, as we have called it, an unhappy or negative blunder. Undoubtedly the greatest positive blunder of which he was ever guilty was the unnecessary onslaught which he gratuitously made against the strong position into which, by accident, General Meade fell back at Gettysburg. We have good reason for saying that during the five years of calm reflection which General Lee passed at Lexington, after the conclusion of the American war, his maladroit manipulation of the Confederate army during the Gettysburg campaign was to him a matter of ceaseless self. reproach.
“‘ If,’ said he, on many occasions, ‘ I had taken General Longstreet’s advice on the eve of the second day of the battle of Gettysburg, and filed off the left corps of my army behind the right corps, in the direction of Washington and Baltimore, along the Emmitsburg road, the Confederates would to-day be a free people.’ ”
It should be stated that kindest relations were maintained between General Lee and myself until interrupted by politics in 1867.
It is difficult to reconcile these facts with the reports put out after his death by members of his family and of his staff, and post-bellum champions, that indicate his later efforts to find points by which to so work up public opinion as to shift the disaster to my shoulders.
Some of the statements of the members of the staff have been referred to. General Fitzhugh Lee claims evidence that General Lee said that he would have gained the battle if he had had General Jackson with him. But he had Jackson in the Sharpsburg campaign, which was more blundering than that of Gettysburg. In another account Fitzhugh Lee wrote of General Lee,–
“He told the father of the writer, his brother, that he was controlled too far by the great confidence he felt in the fighting qualities of his people, and by assurances of most of his higher officers.”
No assurances were made from officers of the First Corps, but rather objections. The only assurances that have come to light, to be identified, are those of General Early, who advised the battle, but from the other end of the line from his command, which should have given warning that it did not come from the heart of a true soldier.
And this is the epitome of the Confederate battle. The army when it set out on the campaign was all that could be desired, (except that the arms were not all of the most approved pattern), but it was despoiled of two of its finest brigades, Jenkins’s and Corse’s of Pickett’s division, and was fought out by detail. The greatest number engaged at any one time was on the first day, when twenty-six thousand engaged twenty thousand of the First and part of the Eleventh Corps. On the afternoon of the second day about seventeen thousand were engaged on the right, and at night about seven thousand on the left; then later at night about three thousand near the centre. On the third day about twelve thousand were engaged at daylight and until near noon, and in the afternoon fifteen thousand,–all of the work of the second and third days against an army of seventy thousand and more of veteran troops in strong position defended by field-works.
General Lee was on the field from about three o’clock of the afternoon of the first day. Every order given the troops of the First Corps on that field up to its march on the forenoon of the 2d was issued in his presence. If the movements were not satisfactory in time and speed of moving, it was his power, duty, and privilege to apply the remedy, but it was not a part of a commander’s duty or privilege to witness things that did not suit him, fail to apply the remedy, and go off and grumble with his staff-officers about it. In their efforts to show culpable delay in the movements of the First Corps on the 2d, some of the Virginia writers endeavor to show that General Lee did not even give me a guide to lead the way to the field from which his battle was to be opened. He certainly failed to go and look at it, and assist in selecting the ground and preparing for action.
Fitzhugh Lee says of the second day, “Longstreet was attacking the Marye’s Hill of the position.” * At Fredericksburg, General Burnside attacked at Marye’s Hill in six or more successive assaults with some twenty or thirty thousand against three brigades under McLaws and Ransom and the artillery; he had about four hundred yards to march from his covered ways about Fredericksburg to Marye’s Hill. When his last attack was repulsed in the evening, he arranged and gave his orders for the attack to be renewed in the morning, giving notice that he would lead it with the Ninth Corps, but upon reports of his officers abandoned it. General Lee’s assaulting columns of fifteen or twenty thousand had a march of a mile to attack double their numbers, better defended than were the three brigades of Confederates at Marye’s Hill that drove back Burnside. The enemy on Cemetery Hill was in stronger position than the Confederates at Marye’s Hill.
Fitzhugh Lee writes in the volume already quoted,–
“Over the splendid scene of human courage and human sacrifice at Gettysburg there arises in the South an apparition, like Banquo’s ghost at Macbeth’s banquet, which says the battle was lost to the Confederates because some one blundered.”
Call them Banquo, but their name is Legion. Weird spirits keep midnight watch about the great boulders, while unknown comrades stalk in ghostly ranks through the black fastnesses of Devil’s Den, wailing the lament, “Some one blundered at Gettysburg! Woe is me, whose duty was to die !”
“General Lee,” by Fitzhugh Lee. Marye’s Hill was the stronghold at Fredericksburg.
Fitzhugh Lee makes his plans, orders, and movements to suit his purpose, and claims that they would have given Gettysburg to the Confederates, but he is not likely to convince any one outside of his coterie that over the heights of’ Gettysburg was to be found honor for the South.
General Meade said that the suggestion to work towards his line of communication was sound “military sense.” That utterance has been approved by subsequent fair judgment, and it is that potent fact that draws the spiteful fire of latter-day knights.
Forty thousand men, unsupported as we were, could not have carried the position at Gettysburg. The enemy was there. Officers and men knew their advantage, and were resolved to stay until the hills came down over them. It is simply out of the question for a lesser force to march over broad, open fields and carry a fortified front occupied by a greater force of seasoned troops.
Referring to the proposed move around the Union left to cut the line of communication, a parallel in the Franco-German war is appropriate. When the manoeuvres of the campaign had pushed Marshal MacMahon’s army back to the road between Paris and Metz, the latter fortified and occupied by the army under Marshal Bazaine, MacMahon hesitated between Paris and Metz, and was manoeuvred out of position to a point north of the line. Von Moltke seized the opportunity and took position on the line, which gave him shorter routes east and west. So that MacMahon, to reach either point, must pass the German forces under Von Moltke. He made a brave effort to reach Metz, and Von Moltke, to maintain his advantage, was called to skilful manoeuvre and several gallant affairs, but succeeded in holding his advantage that must call MacMahon to general engagement or surrender. Out-generalled, and with a demoralized army, he thought the latter his proper alternative.
The relative conditions of the armies were similar. The Union army, beaten at Fredericksburg and Chancellors-ville, and drawn from its aggressive campaign to defensive work in Pennsylvania, had met disaster in its battle of the 1st. If it had been outgeneralled, and dislodged of position without further attack, it would have been in poor condition to come in aggressive battle against its adversary in well-chosen defensive grounds.
Again, in our own war, when the Union army carried the Confederate works west of Petersburg on the 2d of April, 1865, General Meade got his army together and was about to march east to finish his work by the capture of Petersburg: General Grant objected,–that the Confederates would retreat during the night; at Petersburg he would be behind them; in his then position he would be alongside of them, and have an even start, with better prospect to strike across their march and force them to general battle or surrender; and he ordered arrangements for the march west at daylight.
Even Napoleon Bonaparte, the first in the science and greatest in the execution of the art of war, finally lost grasp of his grandest thought:
“In war men are nothing; a man is everything.”
The Confederate chief at Gettysburg looked something like Napoleon at Waterloo.
Fitzhugh Lee quotes evidence of Governor Carroll, of Maryland, that General Lee said, “Longstreet is the hardest man to move in my army.”
It does not look like generalship to lose a battle and a cause and then lay the responsibility upon others. He held command and was supported by his government. If his army did not suit him, his word could have changed it in a minute. If he failed to apply the remedy, it was his fault. Some claim that his only fault as a general was his tender, generous heart. But a heart in the right place looks more to the cause intrusted to its care than for hidden ways by which to shift its responsibility to the shoulders of those whose lives hang upon his word.
When he set out on his first campaign (Chickahominy) with the army, the key of the campaign was intrusted to General Jackson, who named the hour for the opening and failed to meet his own appointment. At the time he appointed, A. P. Hill’s, D. H. Hill’s, and Longstreet’s commands were in position waiting. About eight hours after his time he was up, but deliberately marched past the engagement and went into camp, a mile or more behind the hot battle. He remained in his camp next morning, and permitted the enemy, dislodged of his position of the day before, to march by him to a strong position at Gaines’s Mill. When his column reached that position, his leading division (D. H. Hill’s) engaged the enemy’s right without orders. He called the division off and put his command in position to intercept the enemy’s retreat towards the Pamunkey, from which he was afterwards called to his part in the general engagement. The next day he had the cavalry and part of his infantry in search of the enemy’s next move. At my head-quarters were two clever young engineers who were sent to find what the enemy was about. They were the first to report the enemy’s retreat towards James River. Orders were given for Jackson to follow on the direct line of retreat, also Magruder and Huger. My command was ordered around through the outskirts of Richmond by the Darby-town road to interpose between McClellan’s army and the James River, about twenty miles; the other troops marching by routes of about nine miles. We were in position on the evening of the 29th of June, and stood in front of the enemy all of the 30th, fighting a severe battle in the afternoon. Magruder and Huger got up after night, and Jackson on the morning of the 1st. After the battle of the 1st, Jackson, Magruder, and Huger were ordered in direct pursuit along the route of retreat, my command by the longer route of Nance’s Store. Jackson’s column and mine met on the evening of the 3d near Westover, the enemy’s new position.
At the Second Manassas my command relieved the pressure against Jackson. He called on me for relief by a route that would have taken an hour or an hour and a half. A way was found by which he was relieved in about thirty minutes. When relieved, he left the battle on my hands. I was at Sharpsburg all day; Jackson only about two and a half hours. At Fredericksburg, anticipating the move against him, half of my command was ordered to swing off from my right and join in his battle.
But General Lee’s assertion seems to refer to the operations at Gettysburg, after Jackson had found his Happy Home. Let us see how far this assertion is supported by events. General Lee reported,–
“The advance of the enemy to the latter place (Gettysburg) was unknown, and, the weather being inclement, the march was conducted with a view to the comfort of the troops.”
When, on the forenoon of the 2d, he decided upon his plan, the Second Corps was deployed in the immediate front of the enemy’s line on our left, except two brigades sent off by General Early. One division of the Third was close on the right of the Second, all within thirty minutes’ march of the enemy’s lines. Two divisions of the Third Corps and two of the First were on Seminary Ridge. When the order was announced the divisions on Seminary Ridge had to find their positions and deploy to the right. By the route ordered for the march it was five or six miles to the point at which the battle was to be opened. The troops of the Third had a shorter route. The march of the First was made in time for prompt deployment on the right of the Third.
We were left to our own resources in finding ground upon which to organize for battle. The enemy had changed position somewhat after the march was ordered, but as we were not informed of his position before the march, we could not know of the change. The Confederate commander did not care to ride near us, to give information of a change, to assist in preparing for attack, nor to inquire if new and better combinations might be made.
Four brigades of the right of the Third Corps were assigned as part of my command. The engagement was to be general. My artillery combat was opened at three P.M., followed in half an hour by the infantry, and I made progressive battle until sundown. A division of the Second Corps attacked on our left at nightfall, and later two brigades. Other parts of the Second and Third Corps did not move to the battle.
On the 3d I was ordered to organize the column of assault, the other corps to co-operate and assist the battle. There was an affair on the Confederate left before the assaulting columns were organized, brought on by attack of the enemy. The assaulting force marched at one P.M. Its work has been described, but it is important to note that neither of the other corps took part in the battle while the Southern chief stood in view of the attack and near the rear of those corps. So it looks as if the commander of the First Corps was easier to move than any one in his army, rather than harder, and his chief left him to fight the battles alone.
After the retreat, and when resting on the south banks of the Rapidan, reading of the progress of the march of General Rosecrans’s army towards Georgia, it seemed sinful to lie there idle while our comrades in the West <long_409>were so in need of assistance, and I wrote the Secretary of War suggesting that a detachment should be sent West from the idle army. General Lee objected, but the suggestion was ordered to be executed. In this instance the subordinate was easier to move than his chief, though the interests of the cause depended largely on the movement of the latter.
The forces engaged at Gettysburg were:
CONFEDERATE.–According to the latest official accounts, the Army of Northern Virginia, on the 31st of May, numbered 74,468. The detachments that joined numbered 6400, making 80,868. Deducting the detachments left in Virginia,–Jenkins’s brigade, Pickett’s division, 2300; Corse’s brigade, Pickett’s division, 1700; detachments from Second Corps and of cavalry, 1300, in all 5300,–leaves the actual aggregate 75,568.
UNION.–According to the reports of the 30th of June, and making allowance for detachments that joined in the interim in time to take part in the battle, the grand aggregate was 100,000 officers and men.
The Confederates lost many men after the battle, and before they recrossed the Potomac, from the toils of the march and the continuous and severe harassment of the enemy’s cavalry, which followed closely and in great force. The casualties were: