General Lee's Headquarters at Gettysburg, Penna.
By HENRY S. MOYER,
(All Rights Reserved.)
HOUSE ALONG THE CHAMBERSBURG PIKE. NEAR GETTYSBURG. PA.
Said to have been occupied by General Lee during the Battle. July 1–3, 1863
The fact that all historians and battlefield guides who attempted to speak or write on this subject, have fallen into a common error of designating the above house as General Lee's Headquarters. So far as the writer has been able to learn, whose investigations on this subject cover a period of over thirty-five years, is that this assertion is based solely on a local tradition, and its persistent repetition of misinformed battle-field guides and historians. To the best of my knowledge and belief, the above tradition and assertion IS NOT TRUE and after years of toil and diligent search of all authentic and available sources of information on this subject I was forced to the conclusion, that the facts are against this house or any other house or houses upon this field designated as General Lee's Headquarters at Gettysburg.
Section of Col. Bachelder's Isometrical Drawing of the Battlefield of Gettysburg, showing the Apple Orchard (spoken of by Gen. Lee) in which his headquarter tents were actually located.
The most trustworthy information on this subject is, what General Lee himself said after the war in an interview with Col. John B. Bachelder, the Government Historian of the battle. These are General Lee's own words:
“My headquarters were in tents, in an apple orchard, back of the Seminary, along the Chambersburg pike[.]”
He (Gen. Lee) is corroborated by his Chief-of-Staff Col. W. H. Taylor, who in a recent letter on this subject said:
“The General (Lee) was under canvas and did not occupy the house.”
General Imboden C.S.A., in his article “The Confederate Retreat from Gettysburg,[”] in “Battles and Leaders of the Civil War,” Vol. III, page 420, Writes thus:
About 11 p.m., a horseman came to summon me to General Lee. I promptly mounted and accompanied by Lieutenant George W. McPhail, an aid on my staff, and guided by the courier who brought the message, rode about two miles towards Gettysburg to where A HALF A DOZEN TENTS were pointed out, a little way from the roadside to our left as General Lee's Heaquarters for the night. When we arrived there was not even a sentinel AT HIS TENT, and no one of his staff awake.
Page 421 Ibid. “He (Gen. Lee) invited me INTO HIS TENT, and as soon as we were seated,” etc.
Page 442 Ibid. “As I was about leaving to return to my camp, I think at 2 a.m., he (Gen. Lee) CAME OUT OF HIS TENT, to where I was about to mount, he said in an undertone: ‘I will place in your hands,’ ” etc.
Granting that the above statements of General Lee, Col. Taylor and General Imboden, are true. Upon what historical basis does the Reputed General Tree's Headquarter House at Gettysburg stand?
SECTION OF A MAP OF THE GETTYSBURG BATTLEFIELD
Founded on Col. Bachelder's Revised Isometrical Drawing and published in Samuel P. Bate's History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861–65, Vol. IV, On this map General Lee's headquarter's are correctly located in tents. (We regret that this reproduction is somewhat marred by reverse impressions caused by the folding of the original.)
General Lee is dead, so is General Imboden, but Col. Taylor, President of the Marine Bank of Norfolk. Va., is still with us and endorses the above statements as follows:
It gives me pleasure to indorse your statements as being entirely in accordance with the facts as I recall them. I am glad that you have given publicity to your views and hope the publication will serve to correct the misapprehension now existing in the public mind, occasioned by erroneous statements referred to by you. Yours truly.
WALTER H. TAYLOR.
In addition to what has been said, the following is what another officer of the Army of Northern Virginia writes whicn we are permitted to publish:
Nov, 8, 1906.
Sir Kt. Henry S. Moyer,
Allen Commandery K. T.,
Dear Sir and Brother:—
Your favor of the 4th received concerning the Headquarters of General Lee at Gettysburg. You are at perfect liberty to use my letter in refuting the long continued and repeated error of guides at Gettysburg in designating any house as Gen. Lee's headquarters.
Your favor of the 20th ult., received and answer deferred so I cculd get you exact information in reference to General Lee's Headquarters at Gettysburg.
The stone house was pointed out to me as General Lee's Headquarters. Of course, I said nothing, but I positively, knew, that General Lee never had his headquarters in that house.
It was known among all his troops that General Lee declined on all occasions invitations of his friends to occupy their houses while he was campaigning. There were only two occasions during General Lee's command of the Army of Northern Virginia in which he entered a house. One just before he succeeded General Joseph E. Johnson and took command of the Army around Richmond; but when he commenced his campaign, he left that house and REMAINED IN TENTS THE WHOLE TIME, with one other exception. While at Hamilton's Crossing, in his head-quarter tent. General Lee was taken sick and his physician and friends compelled him to go into a house in or near Fredericksburg, Va., until he was better. He did this, and soon became better, and returned to his headquarters. With these two exceptions General Lee never staid in a house during his campaigns and never had his headquarters in a house at all.
I am intimate also with Col. T. R. Talcott, who was also another member of his staff whom I interviewed the other day, to learn if he knew of the General's GOING INTO A HOUSE DURING the entire war, and he stated as I have stated above.
J. THOMPSON BROWN,
Late Capt. Commanding Parker's Battery,
Longstreets Corps, A.N.Va.
What the occupant of the Reputed Headquarter House at Gettysburg said to the writer shortly after the war.
The writer had always entertained an exalted opinion of General Lee, not only as a miltary leader, but as a man of moral worth, and it was also stated that he was a distant relative of George Washington. These assertions appealed to me strongly, and I longed for an opportunity to behold the spot in my native state, where this great American General had his headquarters. Later the opportunity presented itself and the first house visited by me was the one historians and battlefield-guides dilate upon as being General Lee's Headquarters at Gettysburg. Imagine my surprise and chagrin when the old lady assured me in most positive language:
“That she had occupied the house during the whole of the three days battle and that General Lee had never been in the house.”
This started my investigation after This started my investigation after the truth and my conclusions are given above, after the lapse of many years. It will be observed that the old lady of the reputed Headquarter House gave me the first intimation of the error of Historians and battlefield-guides, and best of all, she is corroborated by Messrs. Lee, Taylor, Imboden, Tallcott and Brown. More and better evidence on this subject could not reasonably be desired.