The Life and Campaigns of General Lee, by Edward Lee Childe, Chapter 12

The Life and Campaigns of General Lee, by Edward Lee Childe


THE defeat of General Hooker at Chancellorsville marks one of the decisive moments of the Civil War. For the first time it appeared to be perhaps possible that the Washington Government would come to the conclusion to recognise the independence of the South. Although hitherto the Federal authorities had regarded as utterly inadmissible the creation of a distinct Confederation in the South, the two defeats which the Northern troops had just experienced on the Rappahannock, had given rise to many serious doubts with many Unionists of the possibility of repressing the Confederates by force. Besides, the proclamations in which President Lincoln declared the slaves in the South free, and in reality put the United States in a state of siege, exasperated the democratic party, who complained bitterly that all constitutional liberties were disappearing.

Hence came a violent reaction in opinion: from all sides protestations arrived against a continuation of the war. Many journals in New York and elsewhere declared themselves against the politics of the Government. A convention of the friends of peace met at Philadelphia to deliberate on the measures to be employed in the realization of their wishes. Judge Curtis, of Boston, formerly one of the associate-judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, vehemently inveighed against the violation, by the President, of the Federal pact. “I do not see,” wrote he, “that it depends upon the executive decree whether a servile war shall be invoked, to help 20,000,000 of the white race to assert the rightful authority of the constitution and laws of their country over those who refuse to obey them. But I do see that this proclamation (emancipating the Southern slaves) asserts the power of the executive to make such a decree! I do not perceive how it is that my neighbours and myself, residing remote from armies and their operations, and where all the laws of the land may be enforced by constitutional means, should be subjected to the possibility of arrest, and imprisonment, and trial before a military commission, and punishment at its discretion, for offences unknown to the law,—a possibility to be converted into a fact at the mere will of the President, or of some subordinate officer, clothed by him with this power. But I do perceive that this executive power is asserted. . . . It must be obvious to the meanest capacity that, if the President of the United States ahs an implied constitutional right, as commander-in-chief of the army and navy, in time of war, to disregard any one positive prohibition of the constitution, or to exercise any one power not delegated to the United States by the constitution, because, in his judgment, he may thereby best subdue the enemy, he has the same right, for the same reason, to disregard each and every provision of the constitution, and to exercise all power needful in his opinion to enable him best to subdue the enemy. . . . The time has certainly come when the people of the United States must understand, and must apply those great rules of civil liberty, which have been arrived at by the self-devoted efforts of thought and action of their ancestors during 700 years of struggle against arbitrary power.”

Such were the echoes which Lee’s cannon at Chancellorsville awakened. All in the North, and their number was great, whom hitherto the military necessities of the situation had drawn into accepting the continuation of the war, or whom the very extent of the usurpations of the executive power had intimidated, rose and declared themselves partisans of an understanding with the South on the basis of a separation.

A thrill of relief and joy overran the whole country at the prospect of a speedy peace. This was the moment chosen by Mr. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederate States, to submit to the Government of Richmond a proposition tending to open up negotiations with the North. He offered his own services as negotiator. He particularly desired to be able to arrive at Washington before any fresh military operations, by reawakening the warlike spirit, had added to the already great difficulties of his task. Mr. Stephens’s letter was dated the 12th of June. Mr. Davis, consequently, called him to Richmond by a telegram, but he did not arrive till the 22nd of June. Lee’s troops were then entering Maryland, and the time was gone.

The plan of a new invasion of Maryland by a Confederate army owed its birth to several causes. The two great victories of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville had filled the South with joy and confidence. Hence it was demanded on all sides that Lee should take the offensive against an enemy apparently incapable of resisting the Confederates. The army, whose ranks were renewed by the return of many men on furlough or invalided, by the re-entry of many conscripts, and the recall of Longstreet’s two corps, shared the universal enthusiasm. Public opinion thus exercised a strong impression on the Government and on General Lee, and influenced them to take the offensive, which, according to all appearance, would in a brief space bring about an illustrious victory and glorious peace.

This mode of looking at things squared sufficiently with Lee’s inward thought, who regarded it as very important to keep the enemy as far as possible from the interior of the country, and to shift the theatre of war to the frontier on Federa soil. In this way the South would be as little as possible exposed to the ravages of the enemy, and Richmond, the capital, would remain sheltered from all danger. This last consideration was one of much importance, as the future proved. As long as the Federals could be kept at some distance north of the Rappahannock, Richmond and its network of railways, which connected it with all the South, were in safety, and the Confederate Government, quiet in its capital, continued to affirm itself as an independent power in the eyes of the world. But if the enemy succeeded in approaching the capital, and menacing its lines of communication, the Government could no longer remain there in safety. This was one of the motives which continually influenced Lee to manœuvre in such a way as to keep the enemy off Virginian soil. The question of provisions also intervened. At all times they had specially failed the Confederates; it was, therefore, essential to be master of the greatest possible extent of country to draw provisions from. Besides, the Confederate commissariat was always at its last shifts. It is even said that when, in May or June, Lee sent a requisition to Richmond for victuals, the commissary-general would have written on the margin: “If General Lee wants rations, let him go and get them in Pennsylvania.”

Such were the chief reasons which persuaded the Richmond Cabinet to take the offensive, after the battle of Chancellorsville.

There was likewise another. If victory had hither crowned the efforts of the Northern Virginian army, it was not the same as to the other Southern armies in the West and South-West of the Confederate States.

General Bragg’s army in Tennessee had experienced nothing but reverses. General Pemberton had permitted himself to be shut up in Vicksburg on the Mississippi, and beyond that river the Confederates were losing ground rapidly. For a moment there was an idea of detaching a division from Lee’s army (which would then of necessity have remained on the defensive), and sending it to raise the siege of Vicksburg. But this would have been to enfeeble the most exposed part of the frontier, and sacrifice Virginia to save Vicksburg. Lee himself counselled against this plan, adding, however, that if the measure appeared absolutely necessary, he would send off Pickett’s division immediately. It was, therefore, given up, and instead of it, a new invasion of the North was contemplated.

The tone of Lee’s army was excellent. His veterans were ready to undertake anything. On the other hand, the commissariat had much ado to feed the army, and naturally enough the idea presented itself of going into Pennsylvania, and living at the expense of the enemy. As to the Federals, the departure of soldiers enrolled who had finished their service, and desertions, becoming more and more frequent, enfeebled Hooker’s army. Generally in the North the discouragement following the reverses in Virginia went on increasing. All these considerations encouraged the South to seize the favourable opportunity for resuming the offensive by striking a great blow in Pennsylvania, and by making a diversion for the armies of the West, to obtain for the South that advantage which it was beginning to lose.

This invasion of the North by Lee has been severely criticised. What, however, does he himself say in his report?—”The enemy’s positions at Fredericksburg being too formidable for him to be dislodged by force, it was necessary to bring about the desired result by other means. It was likewise urgent to rid the Shenandoah Valley of the Federal troops, who had occupied the lower part of it during the winter and spring, and, if occasion offered, to transport the theatre of war to the north of the Potomac. On the other hand, it was probable that the movements of the enemy,—movements which would be the inevitable consequences of our operations, would offer us an opportunity to smite General Hooker’s army unawares, and, in any case, this army would be compelled to evacuate Virginia, and, indeed, to summon to its aid all such detachments as were operating in other parts of the country. So that it was permitted us to hope that the Federal plan for their summer campaign would be frustrated, and the fine weather would have, in good part, gone, before they were able to design another. Besides, if we were to gain some—even trifling—successes, the result could not be otherwise than favourable to us.”

Hooker, indeed, occupied at Fredericksburg a position carefully fortified. He was but a short distance from the Potomac, and this magnificent river, whose entire course was in his hands, brought him unlimited provisions, ammunition, and reinforcements. The Confederate commander had the choice between two plans only. To remain where he was, and wait for his foe to take the offensive when it seemed good to him, was simply to permit Hooker to repair his losses, and turn the Confederate position with altogether superior forces, obliging Lee either to retire, or give battle in the plain to an army much more numerous than his own. This would bring about the successive abandonment of all the Confederate strongholds and magazines. The other plan, on the contrary, offered all possible advantages. By marching to the North, Lee forced the Federals to quit their Fredericksburg positions, and give battle, or retire on Washington. If they resigned themselves to the latter course, by hastening a little his march towards the North, Lee constrained Hooker to manœuvre in such a manner as to cover Baltimore and Philadelphia.

It was thus very natural to suppose that more than once these complicated operations would offer to the Confederate commander an opportunity of inflicting harm on his adversary without necessarily engaging in a pitched battle. For some time, at least, Virginia would not be crowded with hostile armies; its population would have a breathing space, after having been so long overwhelmed by a foreign occupation. Provisions would flow in in abundance, instead of he meagre rations which had been served out to the soldiers for months: the Federal project of marching on Richmond must necessarily be abandoned, and lee would have the choice of delivering battle where and when he pleased.

The great general who had so admirably conducted military operations in Virginia did not hesitate. He, however, had no illusions on the possibility of maintaining himself permanently, with an army of 60,000 men, in the midst of provinces filled with hostile and energetic populations, having around him armies of the enemy twice as numerous as his own, and nearly 200 miles from his base of operations. But he promised himself to profit by all the advantages which chance, or the folly of his adversaries, might offer him; though, as to conquering Pennsylvania, or long maintaining himself there, he knew too well the enormous inequality between the forces of the two belligerents to be lulled into so false a hope. Nobody more than he had it at heart to spare the lives of his men, and economise his resources. It was only by force of skill and strategy that he could hope to struggle with his foe. If he marched to the North, it was in order there to play for the great stake at issue on the best conditions. Had the battle of Gettysburg never taken place, or had Lee on that day remained master of the Federal position, he would still have been obliged, in case negotiations for peace were not commenced, or in case the time favourable for military operations were passing away, to retire to a point more within reach of his convoys of provisions and ammunition.

Thus fall of their own weight all the plans which lend a colour to the arguments of those writers on Lee, who have not sufficiently studied the relative situation of the two combatants at this period of the war. Thus are reduced to nothing those hopes which these critics suppose Lee to have harboured of dictating peace on Northern soil. His views were not so ambitious.

The only composition which Lee published on the Gettysburg campaign, the official report already quoted, establishes the fact that he wished to attract Hooker to the north of the Potomac; to rid the Valley of the Shenandoah of the enemy’s presence, in order to draw from this fertile region the victuals of which he had so much need; to force the Federals to recall to the aid of their principal army the troops which were devastating the coasts of the Confederacy; and, at a favourable moment, by attacking and beating Hooker, work a reaction in the opinion of the North in favour of a termination of the war. It is hardly doubtful that a decisive defeat of the Federals at this moment would have brought about a peace. A third disaster for its armies would have shaken the resolution of the Federal Government. If Lee’s cannon had thundered at the gates of Washington or Philadelphia, the peace party in the North would have felt sufficiently strong to intervene in an efficacious manner, and it would have been impossible for the strife to continue.

We ought to add that, in his report, Lee said, “It had not been intended to fight a general battle at such a distance from our base, unless attacked by the enemy.” He, therefore, wished to compel General Hooker to attack him on a ground of his own choosing, and at the moment when he judged most opportune.

The foregoing observations will give a clear idea of Lee’s projects and intentions in his last offensive campaign. We shall continue our narrative, and relate the movements which preceded and let to the battle of Gettysburg.

The resolution to take the offensive once arrived at, the Confederate Government lost not a moment in preparing for its execution. Longstreet’s corps had rejoined Lee shortly after Chancellorsville. Jackson’s death having rendered it necessary to replace him in the command of the 2nd corps, General Ewell was promoted to it, with the approbation of all. A third corps was organised and placed under the orders of General A. P. Hill, who, as well as Ewell, was nominated lieutenant-general. The law of enlistment, rigorously applied, brought many conscripts to the Confederate ranks. The soldiers, better armed and better equipped than they had ever been, were submitted to a rigid discipline; they were practised daily in the management of arms; numerous reviews and inspections were not long in producing excellent results. The artillery in particular was the object of special care. About the end of May, the army counted 70,000 men, of whom 10,000 were in the cavalry! Longstreet’s corps comprised the three divisions of MacLaws, Hood, and Pickett; Ewell’s corps, the divisions of Early, Rodes, and Johnson; and Hill’s corps, the divisions of Anderson, Fender, and Heth.

The North was not ignorant of any of the preparations which the South was making to invade its soil. Northern journals could not exhaust the subject in accounts and details transmitted by Unionists from border-counties.

On the 3rd of June, just a month after the battle of Chancellorsville, Longstreet’s corps, which had been in cantonments at Fredericksburg and on the Rapidan, marched to Culpepper Court House, and was followed, on the 4th and 5th, by Ewell’s corps. A. P. Hill remained at Fredericksburg to deceive Hooker, by making him believe that all the Confederate army was still occupying its old positions.

The Federal general still (according to a despatch of the 13th of May to President Lincoln) commanded 80,000 men. This refers only to his infantry. It was the only and last occasion during the whole war on which the South could put on foot an army anyway approaching that of the North.

Hooker, persuaded that something was hatching in the enemy’s camp, and fearing to be mystified, like Pope, in the year preceding, sent Sedgwick’s corps across the Rappahannock, on the 6th, at Deep Run, to get information about the strength and arrangements of the Confederates.

General Hill placed his troops so as to receive Sedgwick’s attack, should one happen, and sent word to his general-in-chief. But, as it was evident from Sedgwick’s movements that he only intended to reconnoitre in force, Lee allowed Longstreet and Ewell to pursue their march, and, on the 8th, both these corps were concentrated at Culpepper Court House, where Stuart awaited them with the cavalry.

Hooker, nowise enlightened by Sedgwick’s reconnoitring, learning that Stuart was at Culpepper Court House, sent two divisions of Federal cavalry under General Pleasanton, supported by two brigades of infantry, to dislodge him. The Federals attempted the passage of the Rappahannock at two crossings, Kelly’s Ford and Beverley’s Ford. Received promptly at Beverley’s Ford by General Jones, supported by the cavalry under W. H. F. Lee, while Stuart himself and Robertson defended the other crossing, Pleasanton’s troops, towards evening, were obliged to re-ford the river, leaving 400 prisoners in the hands of their foes. Their losses in killed and wounded amounted to several hundred men. The Confederates acknowledged a loss of 500 men, and among them General W. H. F. Lee, seriously wounded.

This affair, in which 20,000 cavalry had taken part, revealed to Hooker the presence of hostile forces more numerous than he had thought at Culpepper. Fearing for his communications with Washington, he marched back his third corps to the upper Rappahannock, and redoubled his vigilance to guard the line of that river.

Having thus succeeded in hunting out his adversary, Lee hastened his advance march. General Imboden, who commanded on the Maryland frontier, received orders to make a demonstration on Romney, and destroy the Baltimore and Ohio railway, in order to turn attention from Ewell’s movements, and hinder the Federal troops, who were watching the safety of this railway, from going to the aid of the town of Winchester, in the Valley of Virginia.

On the 10th of June, Ewell left Culpepper Court House, marched rapidly by Little Washington, entered into the Valley, and passed the Shenandoah at Front Royal. He was preceded by General Jenkins’s cavalry, who, by intercepting all the roads which led towards Winchester, hindered the news of Ewell’s approach from coming to the knowledge of the threatened town. General Milroy occupied Winchester with 6000 Federal troops. He had made himself detested, and had pushed his inhumanity so far, that the Confederate Government had put him beyond the pale of the law. Thus the inhabitants of this part of Virginia were filled with joy at the approach of the Southerners.

Ewell lost not a moment. Detaching Rodes’s division towards Berrysville, with orders to get possession of Martinsburg, and cut off the Federal retreat in the lower part of the Valley, he marched in person with his two other divisions on Winchester. Arrived before this town on the 13th, he employed the rest of the day in fixing his batteries, and next morning commenced the bombardment. In the evening an assault was made. Although the town was surrounded by formidable redoubts, the Southerners speedily became masters of it. The greater part of the garrison were made prisoners. Milroy escaped, and reached Harper’s Ferry. On the 13th, General Rodes took possession of Berrysville, where he made 700 prisoners; on the 14th, he occupied Martinsburg, and took 200 Federals, some cannon, and a considerable quantity of provisions and ammunition.

Ewell, thanks to the rapidity of his movements, had effectually surprised the enemy; in three days he had marched 70 miles, taken three towns, made 4000 prisoners, without counting 29 pieces of artillery, 270 waggons, and abundance of provisions and ammunition. His soldiers were full of enthusiasm, and said aloud that Jackson had found a worthy successor. Halting scarcely long enough to rest his men, Ewell quitted Winchester, and, marching on the Potomac, seized the fords of this river, and the entire Valley thus was restored into the power of the South.

Hooker learned Ewell’s march by telegraph, and understood he had been played with by his skilful adversary. The first effect of this news was, that the whole Federal army fell back on Centreville. General A. P. Hill, whom Sedgwick’s retreat set at liberty, then received orders to cross into the Shenandoah Valley.

The Federal general-in-chief, always persuaded that Lee intended to cut off his communications with the capital, was so posted as to cover Washington. Lee, having with him only Longstreet’s corps and Stuart’s cavalry, watched the Federal retreat, in hopes that an opportunity would be given to him of an unexpected attack. But Hooker remained constantly and strictly on the defensive.

In order to attract the Federal army further from its base, and mask Hill’s march, who was going from Fredericksburg into the Valley, Longstreet, leaving Culpepper Court House on the 15th of June, went along the side of the Blue Ridge, and occupied Ashby’s Gap and Snicker’s Gap. This movement having, indeed, attracted Hooker far from Washington, and towards the mountains, A. P. Hill passed the Blue Ridge, entered the Valley, and took position at Winchester.

By these admirably combined strategic movements, General Lee had, in less than a fortnight, compelled the Federal army to fall back from the Rappahannock on the upper Potomac, and had accomplished the placing of his three corps in strong positions, mutually supporting each other, securing leisure for them to enter the enemy’s country at their will, without forthwith risking an opportunity to Hooker to embarrass them on their march.

At first sight one might tax Lee with excessive rashness for extending his lines so far that his extreme left, under Ewell, in view of Winchester, was 98 miles from his extreme right, under Hill, opposite Fredericksburg, Longstreet being half way between them at Culpepper; besides, a river, the Rapidan, flowed between Hill and Longstreet, and the Blue Ridge chain separated the latter from Ewell. Hooker’s army, at least equal in number to that of Lee, was concentrated on the southern bank of the Rappahannock, and the opportunity appeared tempting for the Federal general to strike a blow, and profit by the dispersion of his adversaries.

As to that, the idea had occurred, both to General Hooker and President Lincoln, to attack the Confederate army while it was effecting this dangerous change of front. But they did not at the moment understand each other, nor the object of an attack. Hooker, foreseeing his adversary’s movement, wished to execute a counter evolution, and by this threat arrest Lee’s march. This Lincoln, refused. “In case you find Lee coming to the north of the Rappahannock,” President Lincoln wrote to General Hooker, “I would by no means cross to the south of it. I would not take any risk of being entangled upon the river, like an ox jumped half over a fence, and liable to be tom by dogs, front and rear, without a fair chance to gore one way or kick the other.”

When the news reached Washington that the heads of Lee’s columns were emerging on the upper Potomac, while the rear guard was still to the south of the Rappahannock, the president wrote to General Hooker in his figurative style: “If the head of Lee’s army is at Martinsburg, and the tail of it on the plank road between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, the animal must be very slim somewhere,—could you not break him?”

It has been suggested that Lee’s temerity came from the contempt which he had for his foe, whom he knew to be incapable of energetically assuming the offensive. This is, perhaps, a somewhat exaggerated view. Assuredly without a certain amount of boldness a general is but half a soldier: a certain proportion is necessary for success in war. But did Lee truly expose himself to serious disaster, if we suppose his adversary to have been the man to profit by the occasion given him? Perhaps he would have been obliged to renounce his campaign of invasion if Hill at Fredericksburg, or Longstreet at Culpepper, had been attacked, for in this case Ewell’s corps of necessity must have fallen back. But a defeat of the united corps of Hill and Longstreet, sufficiently within reach to help each other, was not a success on which Hooker had a right to count. These two corps numbered 50,000 men, two-thirds of the Confederate army; Hooker had but 80,000. It was not, therefore, likely that 80,000 Federals would be able to beat the Confederates, when, at Chancellorsville, a much less number of Confederates had routed 120,000 Federals.

No doubt such was Lee’s opinion; he reckoned that Longstreet and Hill, united if necessary, could repulse any attack whatever, while Ewell might continue to penetrate into the enemy’s country. We do not deny that the whole strategic movement was a hardy one, but it does not follow that Lee conceived it out of contempt for his adversary.

To return to our subject. In order to penetrate the mystery which veiled the Confederate plans, Hooker sent his cavalry against Stuart, whose horse, ranged before Blue Ridge, effectually masked Longstreet’s position. After several reconnoitrings, Hooker, better informed, marched his 12th corps to Leesburg, supported by the 5th at Aldie, and the 2nd at Thoroughfare Gap.

Meanwhile Ewell had already entered Pennsylvania, and Lee was obliged to support him. Consequently, on June 24th, Longstreet and Hill crossed the Potomac, the first at Williamsport, the second at Shepherdstown, and directed their course towards Hagerstown. Stuart had to remain in Virginia to watch the mountain passes, observe the enemy, and worry him as much as possible, when, in his turn, he would go to the other side of the Potomac. As soon as the Federal army had re-entered Maryland, he was to cross the river to the east or west of the Blue Ridge, and cover Lee’s right wing, taking care to post up his chief in the movements of the enemy. The Confederate commander-in-chief had good reason to regret the absence of his cavalry during his forward march and the strategic operations following it. Had he had it at his disposal, the result of the Pennsylvania campaign would probably have been different.

General Imboden, according to orders, had destroyed the Baltimore and Ohio railway at several important points, and, on June 17th, took possession of the little town of Cumberland, in Maryland. Already, on the 14th, General Jenkins’s cavalry brigade had pushed on to Chambersburg, in Pennsylvania, and after having made an abundant requisition there, returned to Virginia with a great number of horses, herds of cattle, and a large quantity of victuals. This audacious dash, and the presence of Lee’s army on the upper Potomac, threw the North into a state of consternation. A lively agitation spread through all the country to the City of New York; but except that some militia hastily assembled at Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, no serious effort was made to dispute the territory.

It was in the midst of this feverish agitation that Ewell crossed the Potomac on the 22nd of June, entered Pennsylvania on the 23rd, and the same day became master of Chambersburg. Lee had given very strict orders that the estates of individuals should be respected; the Confederate soldiers were to pay for whatever they took. If the inhabitants objected to Confederate paper, they were to be offered a receipt for everything furnished by them. On the 27th, all the Confederate army was reunited at Chambersburg.

In an order of the day of the same date (June 27th), Lee, after having testified his satisfaction at the good behaviour of his soldiers, added that there were nevertheless some exceptions, recalled to them on this subject that the reputation of the whole army was at stake, and that, as citizens of a civilised and Christian nation, they were bound to observe certain laws, as well in a hostile country as in their fatherland. “The commanding general,” said he, “considers that no greater disgrace could befall the army, and through it our whole people, than the perpetration of the barbarous outrages upon the innocent and defenceless, and the wanton destruction of private property, that have marked the course of the enemy in our own country. Such proceedings not only disgrace the perpetrators and all connected with them, but are subversive of the discipline and efficiency of the army, and destructive of the ends of our present movements. It must be remembered that we make war only upon armed men, and that we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered without lowering ourselves in the eyes of all whose abhorrence has been excited by the atrocities of our enemy, and offending against Him to whom vengeance belongeth, without whose favour and support our efforts must all prove in vain.”

The army showed itself worthy of the noble appeal addressed to it by the commander. The conduct of the Confederate army in Pennsylvania offers a striking and beautiful contrast to that of any Federal army in the South.

In order to maintain his communications with the Valley of Virginia by Hagerstown and Williamsport, Lee sent Early’s division to the east of South Mountain; his intention was, by disquieting the enemy on that aide, to draw him further from the Potomac. Early pushed on, therefore, to York, which he occupied, while the rest of Ewell’s corps reached Carlisle.

As soon as he was sure that lee had entered on Federal soil, Hooker also crossed the Potomac, at Edwards’s Ferry, on the 25th of June. He took up a position at Frederick, whence he could cross South Mountain, and cut off Lee’s communications, or bear to the north towards the Susquehannah, if the Confederate general marched towards Harrisburg. Hooker’s opinion was in favour of the first plan, and he wished to plant himself on Lee’s line of retreat. For this purpose he advanced his left wing to Middleton, and detached the 12th corps, under General Slocum, to Harper’s Ferry. This corps was to join the garrison there, and threaten Lee’s flank by a movement on Chambersburg. General Hallock, Generalissimo of the United States armies, was opposed to Harper’s Ferry being abandoned. Owing to this difference, Hooker sent in his resignation. On June 28th, General Meade was nominated in his place.

Many authors in the North seem to think that if Hooker’s plan had been followed it would have had a powerful influence on the issue of the campaign. But note the facts which constitute an answer. That same day, on the 25th, the two corps of Longstreet and Hill were between Hagerstown and Chambersburg, and if Hooker’s demonstration towards Hagerstown had happened, he would have found there two-thirds of the Confederate army.

Since the crossing of the Potomac, Lee had had no news about the Federal army, and for want of cavalry he knew nothing of its movements. He was even ignorant that Hooker had crossed the river and was so near him, for Stuart, who had received orders in this case to rejoin him, gave no sign of life. The few cavalry regiments which remained with the bulk of the army formed, under Jenkins, Ewell’s advanced guard towards Harrisburg. The others, under Imboden, scoured the country to the west of the Confederate line of march as scouts.

Stuart had pushed his reconnoitring expeditions to Fairfax Court House, and finding the enemy had crossed the river, he himself also crossed it lower down, at Seneca Falls, on the 29th. Passing by Westminster, he arrived at Carlisle, after having made the circuit of the Federal army, only to learn there the concentration of Ewell’s troops at Gettysburg.

The northern direction taken by the Federals was the cause why Stuart could be of no use to his chief; he did not rejoin him till the very day of the battle of Gettysburg, having constantly had Meade’s army between him and the Confederates.

This was the only time Stuart was in fault, but his absence led to fatal results. Lee found it impossible to hide his movements, according to his custom, behind a cloud of flying squadrons, and to penetrate the designs of his adversary, thanks to the ubiquity and audacity of his cavalry.

Supposing, then, that Hooker had not yet passed into Maryland, Lee was preparing to march on Harrisburg, when his scouts, on the night of June 29th, brought him the news that the Federal army was on this side the Potomac, and that its advanced-guard threatened to cut off the Confederates from their base of operations. Lee was obliged immediately to change his arrangements. A glance at the map sufficiently indicates the urgency of this course. Without a moment’s loss the Southern army was concentrated at the east of the mountains, so as at the same time to menace the Federal flank and Baltimore, should the enemy march to the west of these same mountains. On the 29th, Hill and Longstreet were to advance from Chambersburg to Gettysburg, whilst Ewell was recalled from Carlisle and directed to the same village. The Confederate columns advanced but slowly, owing to the uncertainty which hovered over the Federal movements. Lee could not, because of Stuart’s absence, be sure the enemy was so near him. Had Stuart remained with the bulk of the army, the Southern chief would have known of the Federal march, and hastened to occupy Gettysburg before Meade could outstrip him. However this may be, the latter marched northwards to cover Baltimore, and hinder Lee from crossing the Susquehannah.

Meanwhile the Federal general intercepted a despatch from President Davis to Lee. The latter had suggested that Beauregard could make a demonstration in the direction of Culpepper, thus threatening Washington, and so singularly embarrass the movements of the Northern army. Davis answered that he had not enough troops to execute this plan. The seizure of this despatch, furnishing Meade with a proof that he had nothing to fear for Washington, permitted him to act more vigorously. Strange fatality! a second time the Confederate cause lost so much through an intercepted despatch!

The Northern army, on the authority of its commander, consisted of from 95,000 to 100,000 men, and it had 300 guns. Lee, after deducting detachments left to protect his communications, had only 60,000 men.

Learning, on the 29th, that Lee was east of South Mountain, Meade sent his right wing to Manchester, on a plateau which separates the basin of the Monocacy from that of the Chesapeake, his head quarters being at Taneytown, his centre at Two Taverns and Hanover, and his left at Emmetsburg. The same day the Federal cavalry, under General Buford, acting as scouts, occupied Gettysburg. Two Confederate divisions, under Hill, bivouacked, on the night of the 30th of June, six or seven miles from Gettysburg, on the road from Baltimore to Chambersburg, and Ewell passed the night at Heildersburg, on the road from Carlisle, eight or nine miles from Gettysburg. By hastening somewhat, the Southern army would have been able to seize the heights of Gettysburg, and events would have taken another turn. Had the Confederate cavalry been there to enlighten Lee’s march, and indicate the vicinity of the enemy, Hill or Ewell could have easily been at Gettysburg twenty-four hours sooner, to occupy those fatal heights, before which their most valiant efforts were used in vain two days later.

Thus each of the two armies, without suspecting that its adversary was marching to the same place, bore down on Gettysburg: Lee to occupy it as a strategic point of the highest importance, which covered his line of retreat; and Meade to maintain himself there with his left, till he should be able to dispose the remainder of his army on Pipe Creek, where he was preparing to receive Lee’s blow. A great battle was about to take place, in spite of the two men who had to play the principal characters in it. Lee had no intention to risk the hazard of a pitched battle. Far from his base, having less soldiers and cannon than his adversary, knowing that in case of misfortune it would be impossible for him to fill up the gaps, it was his aim only to occupy temporarily the Federal territory, in order to economize the resources of exhausted Virginia, and, by the activity of his strategy, to keep on the alert the various Unionist corps, whether by compelling them to cover their principal towns, or by taking unawares their isolated detachments, or, finally, by surprising the badly guarded points of their long line of defence. He was ignorant that the enemy was so near him. According to the last news the Federals were at Frederick, intending to march on Hagerstown. It was to arrest this movement that he was concentrating his army at Gettysburg. His orders had been so admirably obeyed that Ewell, coming from Carlisle on the north, Early from York on the east, and Hill from Chambersburg on the west, all reached Gettysburg at intervals on the same day, July 1st.

Meade, abandoning the project of his predecessor of marching by Boonsboro’ Pass on the western slope of the mountains, on the contrary, was pushing his columns to the north, in order to keep Lee from the Susquehannah, and with the intention of fighting, should the Confederate general offer battle. An order of the day which he published on July 1st, at Taneytown, before he knew that his advanced-guard was already seriously engaged at Gettysburg, is a proof of this.

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