Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia
Near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
July 4, 1863
After the rear of the army had crossed the Potomac, the leading corps under General Ewell pushed on to Carlisle & York, passing through Chambersburg. The other two corps closed up at the latter place, and soon afterward intelligence was received that the army of Genl Hooker was advancing. Our whole force was directed to concentrate at Gettysburg, and the corps of Generals Ewell & A. P. Hill reached that place on the 1st July, the former advancing from Carlisle and the latter from Chambersburg. The two leading divisions of these corps, upon reaching the vicinity of Gettysburg, found the enemy and attacked him, driving him from the town, which was occupied by our troops. The enemy’s loss was heavy, including more than four thousand prisoners. He took up a strong position in rear of the town which he immediately began to fortify, and where his reinforcements joined him.
On the 2nd July, Longstreet’s corps with the exception of one division having arrived, we attempted to dislodge the enemy, and though we gained some ground, we were unable to get possession of his position. The next day, the third division of Genl Longstreet having come up, a more extensive attack was made. The works on the enemy’s extreme right & left were taken, but his numbers were so great and his position so commanding, that our troops were compelled to relinquish their advantage and retire.
It is believed that the enemy suffered severely in these operations, but our own loss has not been light.
Genl [William] Barksdale is killed. Genls [Richard B.] Garnett & [Lewis A.] Armistead are missing, & it is feared that the former is killed and the latter wounded and a prisoner. Generals [W. Dorsey] Pender & [Isaac R.] Trimble are wounded in the leg, Genl [John B.] Hood in the arm, and Genl [Henry] Heth slightly in the head. Genl [James L.] Kemper it is feared is mortally wounded. Our losses embrace many other valuable officers and men.
Genl Wade Hampton was severely wounded in a different action in which the cavalry was engaged yesterday.
Very respectfully, your obt servt
R. E. Lee
Source: The Wartime Papers of R. E. Lee, edited by Clifford Dowdey and Lewis Manarin, pp. 538-539.
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 July 4