Lee orders Ewell to Gettysburg

Lee orders Ewell to Gettysburg

Coddington [p.189] [Johnson’s Division]:

“…During the night Lee had further thoughts about the movements of Ewell’s Corps, and about 7:30 AM on June 29 he sent off a second dispatch.  He had decided that instead of having the Second Corps concentrate at Chambersburg with the others, he would keep it east of South Mountain and effect a reunion of its divisions at Heidlersburg ten miles north of Gettysburg on the Harrisburg pike.  According to the new orders, once Ewell reached Heidlersburg he would have the choice of moving directly toward Gettysburg or turning off to Cashtown.

“…by the time Ewell got the second message late in the afternoon he had already started General Edward Johnson’s Division, together with the Second Corps wagon train and two battalions of its Artillery Reserve, on the valley road toward Chambersburg.  They left Carlisle at 1:00 PM and spent the night outside of Shippensburg.  On the 30th Johnson led his infantry and the artillery to Green Village, where he turned off to camp at Scotland about five miles from Fayetteville, while the wagons lumbered on to Chambersburg.  He still could not avoid using the main road to Cashtown and running into part of Longstreet’s corps near Greenwood.  Johnson’s 14 mile wagon train apparently caught up with him and added to the confusion of too much traffic on a single road.  The tangle delayed the march of most of Longstreet’s corps, as well as Johnson’s division, to the annoyance of both generals, each of whom accused the other of holding him up.  The truth was that Longstreet halted his leading division, McLaws’, until Johnson’s division and Ewell wagon train could move ahead over the mountain.”

Coddington [p. 190] [Rodes and Early’s Divisions]:

“Although Lee’s second message to Ewell arrived too late to change Johnson’s route, in came in time to divert Rodes to Heidlersburg.  He started out on the morning of the 30th and had a “very fatiguing march through rain and mud,” twenty two miles by way of Petersburg [York Springs].  Meanwhile Early, who was still in York with his division of the Second Corps, received word of the change of plans late on June 29.  Captain Elliott Johnston of Ewell’s Staff brought him what was obviously a copy of Lee’s first note and verbal instructions to rejoin the rest of the corps on the “western side of the South Mountain,” instead of near Carlisle as had been previously instructed to do.  The next morning Early started his command on the Weigelstown and East Berlin Road leading to Heidlersburg.  He expected to go to Arendtsville and thence either to Shippensburg or to Greenwood ‘as circumstances might require.’  On the march he received another dispatch from Ewell and as directed, encamped his men three miles east of Heidlersburg on the road to East Berlin.  Then he himself rode to Heidlersburg to confer with Ewell, who had accompanied Rodes’s division down from Carlisle.  It was there that Early learned of Lee’s second message to Ewell ordering his division to a rendezvous with Rodes at Heidlersburg.

“This message had an important result which Lee perhaps anticipated but did not mention.  With the Second Corps, or a major portion of it, at Heidlersburg the Confederates would be able to approach Gettysburg from two directions should an engagement occur in that area…

“Ewell’s response to Lee’s directives was prompt and efficient.  In one day he brought together two of his divisions, which were miles apart, without a hitch…

“While at Heidlersburg on June 30 Ewell heard from A.P. Hill that the Third Corps was at Cashtown, and he decided to move toward it.  The next morning, not aware of any emergency, he got both divisions off to a reasonably early start, on two different routes so as to avoid overcrowding the roads.  Rodes went almost directly west by way of Middletown [Biglerville], and Early, since he was three miles east of Heidlersburg, was ordered to go south to Hunterstown on a road parallel to the Harrisburg Pike and then turn west toward Mummasburg and Cashtown.  By going to Hunterstown, which was a little more than half the distance from Heidlersburg to Gettysburg, Early could come within four miles of Gettysburg before turning west for Cashtown.  Should ‘circumstances dictate’ he could proceed to Gettysburg without a hitch.  Ewell had cleverly chosen roads which would enable his divisions to go either to Cashtown or Gettysburg in the quickest possible time…Before Ewell, who had accompanied Rodes, reached Middletown, a courier brought him a note from Hill, saying that the Third Corps was advancing on Gettysburg.  Thereupon Ewell changed the direction of Rodes’s marching columns without causing them to miss a step and sent Early word to continue on his present course.  At a crucial moment in the campaign Ewell could not have had his two divisions in a better position to cause the Yankee forces mortification and pain.”

[Gottfried, p. 549] [Johnson’s Division]:

“…Pressing on in the heat, the men could hear the sounds of battle just prior to reaching Cashtown.  The march was a difficult one because of the slow pace and frequent halts caused by the wagon train in front of them.  The division reached the battlefield about 7:30 PM, after a long twenty-five mile march.  Filing into the field on the left of Chambersburg Pike, they skirted the town to the north and eventually stopped at the railroad depot.  All around them during this march were the grisly results of the army’s first day’s fight with the 1st Corps and, farther on, the fight with the 11th Corps.  After resting in Gettysburg for at least an hour, the division continued to march along the railroad, finally stopping northeast of town, where the men rested for the night.  Unbeknownst to most of them, a drama was being played out.  Ewell ordered the division to secure Culp’s Hill that night, but not liking the foreboding look of the steep hill, Johnson first sent scouts up to determine if it was occupied by Federal Soldiers.  Only one Federal regiment was nearby, the 7th Indiana [Cutler’s Brigade, Wadsworth’s Division, 1st Corps], and, as fate would have it, the two forces made contact.  As a result, Johnson decided to wait until morning to take the hill.  By that time the hill was fully occupied, and Johnson was ordered to wait.”

Coddington, Edwin B., The Gettysburg Campaign, A Study in Command, Touchstone Press, New York, 1997.  ISBN 0-684-84569-5

Gottfried, Bradley M., The Brigades of Gettysburg, Da Capo Press, Cambridge, 2002, ISBN 0-306-81175-8

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