General Lee, by Fitzhugh Lee, Chapter 12

General Lee

CHAPTER XII.
GETTYSBURG.


Sections of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland

THE fifth commander of the Army of the Potomac was Major-General George Gordon Meade, then in command of the Fifth Corps. This officer was born in Cadiz, Spain, in December, 1815, and was consequently forty-six years old. He graduated at West Point in 1835, and was assigned to the artillery arm of the service. A year afterward he resigned from the army, but after six years was reappointed second lieutenant of the Topographical Engineers, and was in Mexico on General Patterson’s staff. Meade’s father served as a private soldier in the Pennsylvania troops to suppress the “Whisky Insurrection” in western Pennsylvania, and therefore was under General Lee’s father, who commanded the forces raised for that purpose. He was afterward a merchant, a shipowner, and a navy agent in Cadiz, but shortly after his son’s birth returned to the United States.

In justice to this officer, it may be said that he protested against being placed in command of an army that had been looking toward Reynolds as Hooker’s successor, but, loyal to authority, he assumed the command in obedience to orders. His position was environed with difficulties, for he was ignorant of Hooker’s plans. Awakened from sleep by General Hardee, the War Department messenger, he had not much time to get any knowledge of them from Hooker, while a battle in the next few days could not be avoided. He determined to continue the move northward through Maryland into Pennsylvania, and force Lee to give battle before he could cross the Susquehanna.

After two days’ march, he received information that Lee was concentrating and coming toward him, and he at once began to prepare the line of Pipe Creek to await his approach and fight a defensive battle. On the night of June 30th his headquarters and reserve artillery were at Taneytown; the First Corps, at Marsh Creek, six miles from Longstreet and Hill at Cashtown; the Eleventh Corps, at Emmittsburg; Third, at Bridgeport; Twelfth, at Littletown; Second, at Uniontown; Fifth, at Union Mill; Sixth, at Winchester, Md., with Gregg’s cavalry, that being his extreme right. Kilpatrick’s cavalry division was at Hanover, Pa., while Buford’s cavalry guarded his left.

Lee was rapidly concentrating. Longstreet and Hill were then near Cashtown, Hill’s advance (Heth’s division) being seven miles from Gettysburg, and Ewell at Heidelburg, nine miles away. Had Lee known of the defensive position at Gettysburg, he could have easily massed his whole army on July 1st there; but he was in no hurry to precipitate a battle, and would have preferred to fight at some point not so far from his base.

On the 30th Pettigrew, commanding a brigade of Heth’s division, Hill’s corps, was directed to march to Gettysburg to get shoes for the barefooted men of the division, but returned the same evening without them and reported that Gettysburg was occupied by the Federal cavalry, and that drums were heard beating on the other side of the town. So Heth told Hill if he had no objection, he would take his whole division there the next day, July 1st, and “get the shoes,” to which Hill replied, “None in the world.”

Buford, with his cavalry division, reached Gettysburg on the day Pettigrew made his visit, and threw out his pickets toward Cashtown and Hunterstown. In an order of march for July 1st, Meade, not knowing Lee was so near, directed the First and Eleventh Corps, under that excellent officer Reynolds, to Gettysburg; Third, to Emmittsburg; Second, Taneytown; Fifth, Hanover; Twelfth to Two Taverns; while the Sixth was to remain at Manchester, thirty-four miles from Gettysburg, and await orders.

Heth, after his coveted shoes, reached McPherson’s Heights, one mile west of Gettysburg, at 9 A.M. on July 1st, deployed two brigades on either side of the road, and advanced on the town. Promptly the few sputtering shots which first announced the skirmish line’s opening told him that Buford’s dismounted cavalry were blocking the way; and the great struggle which was to determine, like Waterloo, the fate of a continent, and whether there should be one or two republics on this continent, had commenced. Precipitance was neither desired by Meade nor Lee, but “shoes” took command that day, and opened a contest which drew in its bloody embrace one hundred and seventy thousand men. For Reynolds, hearing Buford’s guns, hastened to him with the First Corps, Wadsworth’s division leading. Hill, who had followed Heth with Pender’s division, sent it rapidly to his support, while the Eleventh Corps hastened to the First Corps’s assistance. Ewell, with his leading division (Rodes’s), at 2.30 P.M. came to Heth’s and Pender’s support, while Early’s division, at about 3.30 P.M., moved in such a way as to attack the Federal flank, and at 4 P.M. the Federal force was in full retreat through the town of Gettysburg, toward the heights to the south of it, where a brigade of Howard’s had been posted as a reserve and rallying point in case of disaster when his corps marched to the battlefield. A well-contested combat had occured between two infantry corps, a cavalry division, and the artillery on one side, and four divisions of infantry, with the artillery, on the other.

Fifty thousand men fought (after all were up), about equally divided in numbers between the contestants.[1] For six hours the battle raged. General Lee reached McPherson Heights about 2.30 P.M., and, getting off his horse, swept with his field glasses the country in his front; he saw the Union troops retreating over the hills south of the town, and ordered Walter Taylor, of his staff, to ride to Ewell and tell him to move on and occupy them, but that he did not want to bring on a genera1 engagement until Longstreet arrived. A false report, however, caused Ewell to send out first one, then another brigade to guard his flank, and while waiting for them and his remaining division under Johnson to get up, the shades of coming night covered his proposed field of operations. Lee had made a good beginning; his troops had captured more than five thousand prisoners, including two general officers, exclusive of a large number of the wounded, and three pieces of artillery. Heth had been slightly, General Scales seriously, wounded, and General Archer captured; his enemy had been driven through Gettysburg with great loss, and General Reynolds, their commander, killed.

The death of this splendid officer was regretted by friend and foe. Able, brave, with military talents of the highest order, his place could not well be filled. His Government recognized his merit, and he was next on the list for the command of the army. Napier’s eulogy on Ridge has been happily applied to him: “No man died on that field with more glory than he, yet many died, and there was much glory!”

The Confederate success was not followed up. Lee wanted Longstreet’s troops to be present before delivering a general battle, and, perhaps, did not make his order for pursuit positive. He says Ewell was directed to pursue “if practicable.” Had Ewell decided to go forward on the 2d of July, the Southern troops would have been in line of battle on Cemetery Heights that afternoon, and Meade would have been occupied during the night in forming defensive lines on Pipe Creek, ten or twelve miles distant, or elsewhere. Heth lost on the 1st twenty-five hundred killed, wounded, and missing, which left him forty-three hundred. The losses in the other division were not so heavy. Allowing them forty-five hundred effectives at the close of the action, would give the four divisions seventeen thousand eight hundred to pursue.

A letter of Hancock’s, the officer dispatched by Meade, on hearing of Reynolds’s death, to supersede Howard, his senior in command at Gettysburg, says: “When I arrived upon the field, about 3 P.M. or between that and 3.30 P.M., I found the fighting about over; the rear of our troops were hurrying through the town, pursued by the Confederates. There had been an attempt to reform some of the Eleventh Corps as they passed over Cemetery Hill, but it had not been very successful. I presume there may have been one thousand or twelve hundred organized troops of that corps in position on the hill.” Twenty-four hundred and fifty men, the shattered remains of the First Corps, were there too, and Buford’s cavalry were drawn up upon the plain, making a total of six thousand troops, which could not have offered much resistance against the victorious seventeen thousand of Ewell and Hill, and two hours must elapse before they could receive re-enforcements, and then only at 6 P.M., of two divisions of the Twelfth Corps; but Johnson’s division of Ewell’s corps reached the town at six, and Anderson’s, of Hill’s, could have been there too if necessary, which would have maintained the original status.

At sunset two brigades of Sickles’s Third Corps arrived; Sickles in person reached the field an hour earlier. They would have been too late, and would have been recalled to Pipe Creek, with all other troops then in motion toward Gettysburg. Two brigades of Pender’s and one of Early’s division had scarcely fired a shot. Dole’s, Hoke’s, and Hays’s brigades were in good condition. “The artillery was up, and had an admirable position to cover an assault, which could have been pushed under cover of the houses to within a few rods of the Union position.” The impartial military critic will admit Confederate camp fires would have blazed at night and Confederate banners waved in the afternoon from the high places south of Gettysburg had Ewell and Hill marched again on the broken and vanquished Federal battalions.

Gettysburg is a small town near the Pennsylvania and Maryland boundary line, ten miles east of the south range of mountains—”the eastern wall of the Cumberland Valley”—and through whose passes Lee’s army debouched. The intervening section is described as full of long ridges running north and south, as the mountains do. On Lee’s route from Cashtown to Gettysburg one of these ridges is crossed at right angles one and a half mile west of Gettysburg, and a little farther on another; Willoughby Run flows between them, and here the combat of July 1st opened. Closer to the town and about half a mile west of it is the now famous Seminary Ridge, so called from a Lutheran theological seminary on it, upon which were located the battle lines of portions of two of Lee’s corps on the 2d and 3d of July.

Directly south of Gettysburg is the beginning of another series of heights, hills, and depressions which, running in a southerly direction for three miles, terminate in “a lofty, wooded, rocky peak” called Round Top. Adjoining this peak on its north side is Weed’s Hill, better known as Little Round Top—a spur to Round Top—”rough and bald.” Round Top is at the southern extremity of this ridge. A cemetery at the northern point gives to the ridge its name. Upon this ridge the Federal line of battle was formed. An undulating valley stretches up to Seminary Ridge, a mile distant, and on the elevated tableland between the two runs the Emmittsburg road.

Gettysburg lies at the base of Cemetery Hill, where the ridge bends in a curve, east, and then southeast, to an elevation called Culp’s Hill. On Culp’s Hill and around this curve, and then south to Round Top for three miles, was the Union battle line. Its shape has been not inaptly compared to a fish hook, with long side and curve. The formation was convex, allowing the Union commander to operate tactically on interior lines, so that he could rapidly re-enforce along his rear the threatened points. The ground in rear of this splendid battle line fell in gradual slope to Rock Creek, affording capital shelter for reserves and trains.

Five hundred yards west of Little Round Top, and one hundred feet lower, is Devil’s Den, “a bold, rocky height, steep on its eastern face, but prolonged as a ridge to the west.” It lies between two streams in the angle where they meet. The northern extremity is covered with huge bowlders and rocks, forming crevices and holes, the largest of which gives the name to the ridge. Gettysburg is the hub of the wheel, and the Baltimore, York, Harrisburg, Carlisle, Mummasburg, Chambersburg, Millerstown, Emmittsburg, and Taneytown roads the spokes. Lee’s troops were distributed over a larger “fishhook,” surrounding the smaller or inner one; his extreme left was in front of Meade’s refused right at Culp’s Hill. Johnson’s, Early’s, and Rodes’s divisions, in order named, were located on the curve and through the town to Seminary Ridge from left to right; then came Hill’s corps, stretching south, and later, Longstreet’s was formed on its right.

The army smallest in numbers had the longest or outside line, while the largest force occupied in its front a superb defensive position. Lee’s army was practically concentrated on the night of the 1st, except his cavalry and Pickett’s infantry division, Ewell and Hill in front of the enemy, and Longstreet in camp only four miles in the rear. Meade and his Second Corps were at Taneytown, in Maryland, when the sun went down on the 1st, thirteen miles distant; the Fifth Corps, at Union Mills, twenty-three miles distant and the Sixth Corps, sixteen thousand men, thought to be the largest and finest in the army, was at Manchester, thirty-four miles away. Both Meade and Lee would have preferred to postpone the battle a few days, but were face to face sooner than contemplated.

Meade received Hancock’s report on the evening of the 1st, and determined in consequence to fight the battle at Gettysburg, and issued orders for the movement of his troops at 7.30 P.M. that evening. In two hours he left Taneytown, and arrived on Cemetery Ridge at 1 A.M. There is testimony that he did not like his position, and his chief of staff says he was directed to prepare an order to withdraw the army from it.

The Union commander was uncertain whether he could bring his two fine corps, the Fifth and Sixth, on the field in time, and was solicitous about his depot of supplies at Westminster.

As late as 3 P.M. on the 2d, and before he was attacked, he telegraphed in cipher to Halleck that if his enemy did not attack, and he “finds it hazardous to do so, or is satisfied the enemy is endeavoring to move to my rear and interpose between me and Washington, I shall fall back to my supplies at Westminster.”

Lee, impressed with the idea of whipping his opponent in detail, on the other hand, was practically ready and eager for the contest next day, and so was his confident army. He was under no obligation, as has been affirmed, to any one to fight a defensive battle; he sought the enemy’s soil to gain a victory, whether by offensive or defensive tactics, and his objective point was the Army of the Potomac. He knew the Union army had not yet concentrated, and was anxious to attack before it could. He had already talked with Longstreet, who, following Hill’s corps, joined him, at 5 P.M., the afternoon of July 1st, on Seminary Ridge, where both made a careful survey with glasses of the hostile heights opposite, and, it is presumed, attempted to impress him with the importance of an early attack next day, and later that night saw him again. On the same evening he rode into the town of Gettysburg, and met, in an arbor attached to a small house on the Carlisle road north of the town, Ewell, Early, and Rodes.

The Confederate commander was anxious at first that Ewell and Hill should commence the battle, and seemed apprehensive that Longstreet might not get into position as soon as the conditions demanded, but finally yielded to the opinion expressed, that Longstreet should commence the battle by a forward movement on Hill’s right, seize the commanding positions on the enemy’s left, and envelop and enfilade the flank of the troops in front of the other two corps. Lee left the conference, Early states, with the “distinct understanding that Longstreet would be ordered to make the attack early next morning.” General W. N. Pendleton, his chief of artillery and his honored and trusted friend, has put on record that General Lee told him that night, after he [Pendleton] returned from a reconnoissance on the right flank, that he “had ordered General Longstreet to attack on the flank at sunrise next morning.”

Hill, in his official report, says, “General Longstreet was to attack the flank of the enemy and sweep down his line.” And General Long, of Lee’s staff, writes, in his opinion orders were issued for the movement to begin on the enemy’s left as early as practicable.

Lee’s plan of battle was simple. His purpose was to turn the enemy’s left flank with his First Corps, and after the work began there, to demonstrate against his lines with the other two in order to prevent the threatened flank from being re-enforced, these demonstrations to be converted into a real attack as the flanking wave of battle rolled over the troops in their front.

Lee did not like Ewell’s bent line—his left was too far around the curve of the fishhook—and decided to draw him more to his right. But that fine old soldier had seen that Culp’s Hill was the key to the Federal right, and was told that it was unoccupied at dark, by two staff officers who said they were on its top at that time. At his request he was allowed to remain to secure the hill at daybreak. Hancock, however, reports that he ordered Wadsworth’s division with a battery of artillery to take post there in the afternoon. The Federal right was very strong. The woods on Culp’s Hill enabled its dePenders, with a multitude of axes and spades, to convert it promptly into a fort.

When Lee went to sleep that night he was convinced that his dispositions for battle next day were understood by the corps commanders, for he had imparted them to each one in person. On the morning of July 2d Lee was up before light, breakfasted, and was “ready for the fray,” but his chariot of war had hardly started before he found his corps team were not pulling together; the wheel horse selected to start it was balky and stubborn, and, after stretching his traces, did not draw his share of the load with rapidity enough to be effective.

We hear from General Longstreet that on the evening of the 1st he was trying to induce Lee not to attack, but manœuvre, and on the 2d he “went to General Lee’s headquarters at daylight and renewed my views against making an attack; he seemed resolved, however, and we discussed results.”

In consequence of the reluctance of the officer next in command to fire the opening gun, Lee was induced to send Colonel Venable, of his staff, to Ewell at sunrise to see whether, after viewing the position in his front by daylight, he could not attack from his flank, but the work of thousands of men during the night made the hills too strong to assault; indeed, Meade was then massing there to attack Ewell. Later, Lee rode there himself, not wishing to drive his right corps commander into battle when he did not want to go, but saw nothing could be done, so at eleven o’clock gave a positive order to Longstreet to move to his right and attack.

It was clearly the duty of Longstreet to carry out his commander’s views and not lapse into refractoriness. Lee might possibly have moved toward Frederick on the 2d, and thus forced Meade to fall back to Westminster, but he could not hope to reach Baltimore or Washington, or a point between these cities before Meade. From Westminster cars could have conveyed the Union troops more rapidly than his could have marched, and if Meade had followed him toward Washington he would have been caught between the powerful works then defended by thirty or forty thousand troops and General Meade’s army, while the change of base would have greatly endangered his lines of communication.

The closer the two armies approached Westminster the larger the numbers of the Unionists would grow. Lee could not move around now and manœuvre, or scatter his legions to gather supplies as he had done, because his opponent was uncomfortably near. He could not march en masse, with a host subsisting by pillage, and to concentrate was to starve. There was no alternative—he must fight.

He was obliged to adopt the tactics of William the Conqueror when he invaded England, who, similarly situated, assumed the offensive and defeated Harold at Hastings. Napoleon waited at Waterloo for the ground to dry and lost hours, during which he might have defeated Wellington before the arrival of re-enforcements. Why should Lee lose the advantages of his more rapid concentration? His “superb equipoise” was not threatened by “subdued excitement.” His unerring sagacity told him he would catch General Meade partially in position, but he was disturbed because one of his principal officers had not the faith and confidence necessary to win success.

Longstreet’s troops not long after daybreak stacked arms near the battlefield. Hood reports he was in front of the heights of Gettysburg shortly after daybreak. General Lee was there walking up and down under the large trees near him, and seemed full of hope, but at times buried in deep thought. He seemed anxious that Longstreet should attack, says Hood. “The enemy is here,” Lee said, “and if we don’t whip him he will whip us.” Hood states that Longstreet afterward said, seating himself near the trunk of a tree by his side: “The general is a little nervous this morning. He wishes me to attack. I do not want to do so without Pickett. I never like to go into battle with one boot off.”

McLaws says that his orders were to leave his camp at 4 A.M., but were afterward changed to sunrise; that he reached Gettysburg at a very early hour, and halted the head of his column within a hundred yards of where General Lee was sitting on a fallen tree with a map beside him; that he went to Lee, who pointed out to him on the map the road to his right as the one he wanted him to place his division across, and that he wished him to get there, if possible, without being seen by the enemy; that the line pointed out was perpendicular to the Emmittsburg road, about the position he afterward occupied, and that “Longstreet was then walking back and forth some little distance from General Lee, but came up and, pointing to the map, showed him how he wanted his division located, to which General Lee replied: ‘No, general, I wish it placed just the opposite’,” and “that Longstreet appeared as if he were irritated and annoyed, but the cause I did not ask.”

McLaws, while waiting, reconnoitered in his front, and was soon convinced that by crossing the ridge where he was then his “command could reach the point indicated by General Lee in half an hour without being seen.” McLaws then went back to the head of his column and sat on his horse, he says, and “saw in the distance the enemy coming, hour after hour, on to the battle ground.” Wilcox’s brigade of Anderson’s division, Hill’s corps, which had been left on picket on Marsh Creek, east of which stream Longstreet’s corps bivouacked the night of the 1st, left its post after sunrise, passed through Hood’s and McLaws’s divisions, whose arms were stacked, and went into line of battle on Anderson’s right at 9 A.M. Wilcox’s right rested in a piece of woods, and seven hours afterward, at 4 P.M., McLaws formed in these same woods.

Longstreet admits that he was ordered at eleven to move to the right to attack with the portion of the command then up, but delayed, on his own responsibility, to await General Laws’s brigade, which had been detached on picket. His disobedience of orders in failing to march at once with his command then present, many believe, lost to Lee the battle of Gettysburg. With a corps commander who knew the value of time, obeyed orders with promptness and without argument, Lee’s movement on Meade’s left could have commenced at seven or eight o’clock A.M., with all the chances for success, and there would probably have been no combat on the 3d. The Third Federal Corps was not all up at the hour the attack should have been made, or a division of the Fifth, or the reserve artillery, or the Sixth Corps.

When McLaws and Hood advanced, eight or nine hours afterward, the conditions had changed; Meade, having relinquished his design to attack from his right, had been steadily strengthening his left, and his whole army was concentrated on a splendid defensive line, for Lee had waited, as if he did not purpose to take advantage of his being first prepared to fight. The fine Federal position would have been useless to Meade had Longstreet attacked only a few hours earlier, as he might have done, for in that case he would have secured Round Top, six hundred and sixty-four feet high, and one hundred and sixteen feet higher than Little Round Top, one thousand yards north of it, and crowned it with artillery. “Little Round Top would have been untenable, and Little Round Top was the key point of my whole position,” said Meade; “and if they” (his opponents) “had succeeded in occupying that, it would have prevented me from holding any of the ground I subsequently held to the last.”

Lee to the strong courage of the man united the loving heart of the woman. His “nature was too epicene,” said an English critic, “to be purely a military man.” He had a reluctance to oppose the wishes of others, or to order them to do anything that would be disagreeable and to which they would not consent. “Had I Stonewall Jackson at Gettysburg, I would have won a great victory,” he said to Professor White, of the Washington and Lee University, after the war, because he knew it would have been sufficient for Jackson to have known his general views without transmitting positive orders, and that Stonewall, quick and impatient, would have been driving in the enemy’s flank ere the rays of the morning sun lifted the mists from the Round Tops. If Lee had issued by his chief of staff his battle order for the 2d in writing, as is customary, Longstreet would have carried it out probably in good faith, and not have wasted most valuable time in attempting to convince his commander it was faulty.

The attack on the right, commencing five or six hours after the positive order had been given, even then had some elements of success. Sickles, with the Third Corps, had become dissatisfied with his location, and had moved out about twelve o’clock nearly a mile in his front and taken a new alignment, which became a salient to the main line. Lee was deceived by it, and gave general orders to “attack up the Emmittsburg road, partially enveloping the enemy’s left,” which Longstreet “was to drive in.” There was much behind Sickles, and Longstreet was attacking the Marye Hill of the position only. “Sickles’s right was three fourths of a mile in front of Hancock’s left,” says Meade, “and his left one quarter of a mile in front of the base of the Little Round Top, leaving that key point unoccupied,” which should have been seized by Longstreet before Meade did so with the Fifth Corps.

Sickles’s right rested on the Emmittsburg road, and then his line was refused in the direction of the Round Top, making an angle at that point, his corps, facing westerly and southerly. Lee wanted to get possession of this point to assail and carry the more elevated ground beyond, but the Fifth Corps had then been placed on the ground referred to, and the Sixth Corps, under sturdy old Sedgwick, had arrived, having marched thirty-four miles since 9 P.M. the previous night, and was in position before the two divisions of Lee’s First Corps, which were in bivouac only Tour miles in rear of the field. The tired troops of the Sixth Corps were massed on the Taneytown road, in the rear of Little Round Top. When that gallant officer, Hood, was informed by his Texas scouts, that instead of attacking Sickles’s left he could turn Round Top, he sent three officers, at different intervals of time, to Longstreet, asking to do it, but in every case was answered, “General Lee’s orders are to attack up the Emmittsburg road.” As he was going into battle Longstreet rode up, and Hood again asked permission to make the move, but was told, “We must obey General Lee’s orders.” A strange acknowledgment from one who a few hours before had disregarded them.

In twenty minutes Hood was borne from the field badly wounded. The immense bowlders of stone so massed as to form narrow openings offered great obstruction to the advance of Hood’s right, and he was exposed to a heavy fire from the crest of the high range adjoining Little Round Top. Had Lee known the situation Hood would have been thrown more to his right. He would not have succeeded in getting around the Union left rear, for the Sixth Corps would have blocked his way, but he would have secured and held Round Top, and in all probability Little Round Top too, for a plunging fire from big Round Top would have cleared its crest and sides of Federal troops.

The Fifteenth Alabama, under the brave Colonel Oates, was on the extreme right of Hood’s line, and advanced up the southern slope of the Round Top in the face of an incessant fire from behind rocks and crags that covered the mountain side “thicker than gravestones in a city cemetery.” Oates pushed forward until he reached the top of Round Top; the Forty-seventh, Alabama, on his left, also reached the top, where both regiments rested a short time, and were then ordered forward, and went down the north side of the mountain. Oates saw at a glance the great value of the position, but was obliged to obey orders and move on.

With the whole division there, some higher officer with authority to act would have quickly placed artillery on its summit, and the next day from that point Lee would have been master of the situation.

The Alabamians, after reaching the level ground, came upon a second line behind excellent fortifications of irregular rocks, from which was poured a murderous fire into their very faces. After a prolonged and most courageous contest, these brave men were forced back and retreated to the top of the mountain, losing out of six hundred and forty-two men and forty-two officers in the Fifteenth Alabama, three hundred and forty-three men and nineteen officers, killed and wounded. When nearly dark they fell back to the point from which they advanced. This is ample proof that big Round Top was not occupied by Northern troops at dark on the evening of the 2d. Buford’s cavalry from that flank had been sent away early in the day to guard supplies at Westminster. 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 had blundered.”

Longstreet’s two divisions made a superb record, if late when they began to fight. The attack on Sickles’s corps was bravely made and bravely resisted; Sickles’s left was turned, and had it not been that Warren sent a brigade of the Fifth Corps and battery on Little Round Top, that most important point might have been seized, and, if held, decided the battle. For its possession there was furious fighting. Sickles first, and then Warren, Meade’s chief engineer, called Meade’s attention to Little Round Top, and Sykes’s column, then in motion, was hurried forward to save it. Sykes, Meade reports, was fortunately able “to throw a strong force on Little Round Top, where a most desperate and bloody struggle ensued to drive the enemy from it and secure our foothold upon that important position.” Longstreet did not engage Sickles alone, for the Fifth Corps, part of the Second, two regiments of the Twelfth, and a brigade of the First Corps re-enforced him, while he received assistance from Anderson’s division of Hill’s corps, which went into action with the left of McLaws’s division. Lee intended Ewell to make a diversion in his front when he heard the guns of Longstreet, to be converted into a genuine attack if opportunity offered; but Ewell’s infantry were under fire as soon as the bugles blew the advance, so a demonstration could only be made by artillery, which was done.

If an early attack on the Union right had been successful, and Ewell, in consequence, had discovered confusion in his front, or that his enemy had weakened his line in his front, then his orders required him to attack because the “opportunity offered”; but Longstreet had not enveloped the enemy’s left, and the Federal main line behind Sickles’s outlying corps was intact. After the partial success there, Lee directed Ewell to assault with his whole corps. Johnson on the slopes of Culp’s Hill to start first, then Early up Cemetery Hill, and Rodes to advance on Early’s right.

Johnson had in front a rugged and rocky mountain difficult of ascent—”natural fortification, rendered more formidable by deep intrenchments and thick abatis.” His left brigade carried a line of breastworks of the Twelfth Corps, which (with the exception of Greene’s brigade) had gone to support Sickles against Longstreet’s attack, and captured prisoners and colors. The firing continued until late at night.

Early had only two of his brigades in the attack, and they made a brilliant charge. His Louisianians and North Carolinians continued to ascend the hill in the face of a blaze of fire, reached and entered the Union works, and while fighting for the battery were attacked by Carroll’s brigade and three regiments of fresh troops, and forced to retire, but not in disorder. Had Rodes, as expected, been on his right, with Hill’s troops co-operating, permanent possession of the line might have resulted, for Hancock would have been kept busy in his own front, and could not have sent troops to help Howard to hold Culp’s Hill.

Rodes reports: “He had commenced to make the necessary preparations, but he had to draw his troops out of town by the flank, change the direction of the line of battle, and traverse a distance of twelve or fourteen hundred yards, while Early had to move only half that distance, without change of front, and before he drove in the enemy’s skirmishers General Early had been compelled to withdraw.” Gregg, with a division of Federal cavalry and horse artillery, was in position east of Slocum, and with dismounted cavalry and artillery made Johnson detach Walker’s brigade to meet him.

When night stopped Johnson he was but a short distance from Meade’s headquarters and the Union reserve artillery. A strong night attack then in conjunction with Stuart, who had at last reached the battlefield, would have secured the Baltimore pike in Meade’s rear, and perhaps been productive of great results, all of which is easy to see now, but was difficult to know then.

The sentinel stars set their watch over a ghastly field of dead, dying, and wounded soldiers, lying in blue and gray heaps everywhere. Both contestants sought rest, but battlefields are not pleasant couches when dyed in the blood of numerous brave men, who, sleeping their last sleep, lie cold and quiet, while the piteous moans of the wounded pierce the ear and reach the heart. The armies rested without pleasant anticipations of the morrow, knowing well that at the roll call next evening many would not respond. The pickets alone were on duty, the surgeons alone at work.

When Lee summed up his day’s work he found on his right that he had gained possession of Devil’s Den and its woods, the ridge on the Emmittsburg road with its fine positions for artillery, and made lodgments on the bases of the Round Tops. On his left he had occupied a portion of the Federal works, which gave him an outlet on the Baltimore pike, and was partially successful against the Federal center by penetrating it with Anderson’s division of Hill’s corps, though ultimately expelled. His cavalry was all up except Jones’s and Robertson’s brigades; and J. E. B. Stuart was again in the saddle near him. The result of the day’s operations, Lee reported, “induced the belief that with proper concert of action, and with the increased support that the positions gained on the right would enable the artillery to render the assaulting columns, we should ultimately succeed, and it was accordingly determined to continue the attack.”

His opponent was doubtful what he should do next day; his efforts to prevent an entrance into his lines had been, on the whole, successful, but there had been moments when an unwelcome intrusion seemed inevitable. So he called another council of war at night, having called one before the fighting began. In a little front room not twelve feet square in the Liester House his commanders assembled. “Should the army attack or wait the attack of the enemy?” was the written question they were required to answer; and they voted—as they should have done, being in superior position, with interior lines—to wait, as Lee had done at Fredericksburg, for another attack, and found him more accommodating than Burnside.

General Lee had a difficult task: the lines of his enemy had grown stronger during the night; Slocum, Howard, Newton (in Reynolds’s place), Hancock, Sickles, Sykes, and Sedgwick’s troops were all before him, and on his right and left flank was a division of cavalry under Gregg and Kilpatrick respectively. The Union flanks, five miles apart on Culp’s Hill and the Round Tops, were almost impregnable and difficult to turn. Lee’s strategy at Chancellorsville was bold, but his determination to assault the left center of the Union army with his right corps and its supports was consummate daring. “Longstreet, re-enforced by Pickett’s three brigades, which arrived near the battlefield during the afternoon of the 2d, was ordered to attack next morning,” said Lee, “and General Ewell was directed to assail the enemy’s right at the same time.” During the night General Johnson was re-enforced by two brigades from Rodes and one from Early.

“General Longstreet’s dispositions were not completed as early as was expected,” continues Lee, and before he could notify Ewell the enemy attacked Johnson, was repulsed, and Johnson, thinking the fighting was going on elsewhere, attacked in his turn and forced the Union troops to abandon part of their intrenchments, but “after a gallant and prolonged struggle” was not able to carry the strongly fortified crest of the hill. “The projected attack on the enemy’s left not having been made,” Lee states, “he was enabled to hold his right with a force largely superior to that of General Johnson, and finally to threaten his flank and rear, rendering it necessary for him to retire to his original position about 1 P.M.” The delay to attack on the right was but a repetition of the preceding day’s tactics. It was impossible to move from different flanks a slow officer and 3 prompt one “at the same time.” Longstreet was delayed, General Lee’s report tells us, by a force occupying the high rocky hills[2] on the enemy’s extreme left from which his troops could be attacked in reverse as they advanced, and he deemed it necessary to defend his flank and rear with the divisions of Hood and McLaws. “He was therefore re-enforced by Heth’s division and two brigades of Pender’s (Hill’s corps), to the command of which Major-General Trimble was assigned, and General Hill was ordered to afford General Longstreet further assistance if requested, and avail himself of any success that might be gained.”

Meade had sent Kilpatrick’s division of cavalry—two brigades—under Merritt and Farnsworth, to his left; they arrived there about 12 M., and may have looked, mounted and dismounted, formidable on Longstreet’s flank, but were not. Nothing could be gained by charging Longstreet’s infantry in the position they held, and later the same day, when it was attempted, the cavalry were easily driven off and held at bay by two or three regiments of Law’s brigade on the extreme right. Cavalry charges against infantry can not be made as formerly, because the improved range and rapidity of fire of cannon and small arms mow them down before they get to close quarters.

The Federal cavalry rendered the greatest assistance, however, to Meade, and his thanks are due to them for keeping out of the fight the fine infantry divisions of Hood and McLaws. The assaulting column was at last formed: Pickett’s division of three brigades, five thousand men, was formed in two lines, Kemper on the right, Garnett on his left, and Armistead in the rear. Hill’s troops—six small brigades—having passed through the fiery furnace of two days’ battles, did not number seven thousand men; they were sent to support Longstreet’s corps, but, curiously, were placed in an attacking column that had no support.

Four brigades—Pettigrew’s, Davis’s (a brother of the Southern President), Brockenbrough’s, and Archer’s (of Heth’s division, under that fine officer Pettigrew, Heth having been wounded the day before)—were placed on Pickett’s left, and two, Lane’s and Scales’s, about twenty-five hundred men of Pender’s division, under Trimble, in a second line, while Wilcox’s was to march on the extreme right to protect their flank. Thirteen thousand five hundred, or at most fourteen thousand troops, had been massed to attack an army, but with no more hope of success than had the Spartans at Thermopylæ, the English cavalry at Balaklava, or the “Old Guard” of the French at Waterloo.

Pickett’s division formed at 10.30 A.M. in line nearly parallel and in rear of the rise upon which runs the Emmittsburg road, but rather diagonally to the Union position at the contemplated point of attack. Kemper’s right was one thousand eight hundred and sixty yards distant from it, while Pettigrew prolonged the line somewhat en echelon. Pickett’s first formation was in one line, Armistead, Garnett, and Kemper from left to right. Garnett’s troops were twenty yards only in rear of Wilcox’s brigade of Anderson’s division, which had been sent out to the front between daylight and sunrise to protect guns then being put in position by Colonel E. P. Alexander, of the artillery. Wilcox states that the four brigade commanders were together nearly all the time before the artillery opened “in the yard near the Spangler House,” and that there was no officer present in that open field at any time higher in rank than a brigade general, which differs with an account by the right corps commander, who has said that Lee rode with him “twice over the line to see that everything was arranged according to his wishes, and that there was no room for a misconstruction of his orders.” Lee’s object was to cut the Federal army at its left center as Marlborough split that of Vendôme in the same month one hundred and fifty-five years before, thinking perhaps its right wing could be destroyed first, or driven so far out of the way that he could turn in whole or part against the left wing before it could disentangle itself from the rocks and woods of the Round Tops.

It is fortunate three of General Lee’s trusted staff officers—Taylor, Venable, and Long—have recorded that the plan of assault involved an attack by Longstreet’s whole corps, supported by one half of Hill’s, or all of it if he called for it, or upon the bright shield of the Southern chieftain there might have been a lasting blot. Taylor, the adjutant general of the army, says it was originally intended to make the attack with Hood and McLaws, re-enforced by Pickett, and it was only because of the apprehensions of General Longstreet that his corps was not strong enough that General Hill was called on to support him; and Hill, in an official report, states that his troops were sent to Longstreet “as a support to his corps.” Lee “rode along a portion of the line held by A. P. Hill’s corps, and finally took a position about the Confederate center on an elevated point, from which he could survey the field and watch the result of the movement.” Long says the order for the assault by the whole corps was given verbally by General Lee in his presence and that of Major Venable and other officers of the army.[3] Venaable states that he heard the orders given to support Pickett’s attack by McLaws and Hood, and that when he called General Lee’s attention to it afterward he said: “I know it, I know it.”

A consummate master of war such as Lee was would not drive en masse a column of fourteen thousand men across an open terrene thirteen or fourteen hundred yards, nearly every foot of it under a concentrated and converging fire of artillery, to attack an army, on fortified heights, of one hundred thousand, less its two days’ losses, and give his entering wedge no support! Why, if every man in that assault had been bullet proof, and if the whole of those fourteen thousand splendid troops had arrived unharmed on Cemetery Ridge, what could have been accomplished? Not being able to kill them, there would have been time for the Federals to have seized, tied, and taken them off in wagons, before their supports could have reached them. Amid the fire and smoke of this false move these troops did not know “some one had blundered,” but had a right to feel that the movement had been well considered, and ordered because it had elements of success. But there was no chance to write victory upon their fluttering flags. The pages of history which record the magnificent exhibition of human courage drip with the useless sacrifice of blood.

At 1 P.M. on July 3, 1863, two signal guns were fired by the Washington Artillery, and instantly the brazen throats of nearly one hundred and fifty cannon barked defiance at the grim, blue battle line in the distance. Two hours before, Colonel E. P. Alexander, of Longstreet’s artillery, reported he was ready to open fire. Seventy-five guns were in position from the peach orchard on the right to the woods on the left, where the Third Corps rested, and near by, the other corps had as many more, under R. L. Walker. Salvos by battery were practiced, to secure greater deliberation and power. The Union batteries, under the alert and able chief of artillery, Hunt, were ready to return the greeting with seventy-seven guns [Meade had two hundred and twelve guns with his seven infantry corps, fifty with the cavalry, and one hundred and eight in reserve—three hundred and seventy in all], which were placed on the Second Corps line within the space of a mile. It was a grand spectacle, never before witnessed on this continent. Hunt reported he could see —from Cemetery Hill the Southern guns stretched, apparently in one unbroken mass, from opposite the town to the peach orchard, the ridges of which were planted thick with cannon. It was a cannonade to crush our batteries and shake our infantry previous to an assault.— Most of the projectiles, he states, passed overhead and swept the ground in his rear. The Union batteries along the Second Corps front suffered heavily, however; wounded soldiers, dead and dying horses, and exploded caissons were on every side. Meade’s headquarters, a little to the rear, had been plowed up by the swift-flying missiles, and had been abandoned, forcing Meade to go over to Powers Hill and seek shelter at Slocum’s headquarters. The horses of many of his staff were killed. This sublime exhibition, with its great roar, throwing out huge black smoke clouds, was protracted for nearly two hours.

For waste of ammunition on both sides without compensating results it stands unequaled, and towers in unrivaled superiority above all similar displays. One hundred and fifty Southern guns raining metallic tons on the Northern infantry for two hours ought to have made a desert of their lines wide and broad enough to admit an army, but three days’ work on a strong, natural, and defensive ridge had placed the infantry under cover, and resting securely, they were not “shaken,” as those who participated in the charging column can testify. Hunt, with a soldier’s instinct, knew so much noise meant a fight with other arms. Anticipating Meade’s orders, he gave instructions to cease firing, to let his guns cool, ran up fresh batteries, replenished his limber chests and caissons, and “cleared decks” for the real work to follow. Amid the clamor produced by fiery flashes from nearly three hundred guns, the gray heroes selected to destroy an army lay close under the cover of a friendly ridge.

Longstreet was disappointed when he received the order to make this attack, and wanted to move to the Federal left, but Lee knew his relations with Meade had been too intimate during the last two days and the relative hosts too close for such tactical folly. His right corps chief says he took Pickett, who was to command the charge, to the crest of Seminary Ridge, pointed out the direction to be taken and the point to be assaulted, that he “could see the desperate and hopeless nature of the charge and the cruel slaughter it would cause,” and that his “heart was heavy” when he left Pickett; that his objections to Pickett’s battle had been overruled, and that the day was one of the saddest of his life, for he foresaw what his men would meet, and would gladly have given up his position rather than share in the responsibilities of that day. Lee, au contraire, was impatiently waiting to see Longstreet’s corps and one half of Hill’s, or, if necessary, all of it, break, with the force of the tempest which strands navies, through the hostile lines, if the testimony of his staff officers is worthy of credence.

The details of the attack were properly left to the officer who was to make it. Lee did not care whether Hood and McLaws attacked, re-enforced by Pickett and Hill’s troops, as at first intended, or whether Pickett led and the remainder followed; but he wanted the muskets numerous enough to plant the victory upon his standards. To fight to a finish a protracted struggle was a bold conception; to give in audacious form a coup de grace to his enemy was the acme of daring. But Lee, calm, quiet, conservative, and self-controlled, was fearless when occasion demanded, as a study of his campaigns will demonstrate.

Colonel E. P. Alexander, the commander of a battalion of artillery of a division of the First Corps, but whose functions had been enlarged that day, a well-equipped, intelligent, and active officer, was directed by Longstreet to station himself at a point where he could observe the effect of the great cannonade; and when he discovered the Federal batteries crippled or silenced to send word to Pickett, who, upon receipt of such notice, was to move forward. At twelve o’clock Alexander, with a courier of Pickett’s, stood on a favorable spot on the left side of his guns, and was loaded, like them, with a terrible responsibility. In a short time a note from Longstreet told him if the artillery fire did not drive off the enemy or greatly demoralize them, he would “prefer he should not advise Pickett to make the charge,” that he relied a great deal on his good judgment to determine the matter, and expected him to let Pickett know when the moment arrived. That the responsibility and fate of a great battle should be passed over to a lieutenant colonel of artillery, however meritorious he might be, is, and always will be, a subject of grave comment.

Alexander replied that he could only judge of the effect of the enemy’s fire by the return fire, that his infantry was but little exposed to view, and that if there was any alteration to this attack it should be carefully considered before opening fire, for it would take all the artillery ammunition left to test this one, and leave none for another effort. To this Longstreet responded in another note that “the intention is to advance the infantry if the artillery has the desired effect of driving the enemy off, or the effect is such as to warrant us in making the attack; when the moment arrives, advise General Pickett, and of course advance such artillery as you can use in aiding the attack.”

With Alexander at the time was General Wright, of Georgia, commanding a brigade in Anderson’s division of Hill’s corps, who practically told him to “brace up,” that “it is not so hard to go there as it looks. I was nearly there with my brigade yesterday. The trouble is to stay. The whole Yankee army is there in a bunch.” He was further stiffened by hearing “a camp rumor that General Lee had said he was going to send every man he had upon that hill.” Afterward it occurred to him that he would ride over and see Pickett and feel his pulse, as it were, and how he felt about the charge. He ascertained that Pickett “seemed very sanguine, and thought himself in luck to have the chance.”

By this time Alexander had risen to the height of the great occasion, and felt that he could not let the attack suffer through indecision on his part. “General,” he then wrote to Longstreet, “when our artillery fire is at its best I shall order Pickett to charge.” It was a fearful order for a subaltern to give, but what could he do? Pendleton, the chief of artillery of the army, offered him nine howitzers from Hill’s corps, and Alexander put them in a safe place, to wait until he sent for them, intending to take these guns in advance of Pickett’s infantry, nearly to musket range; but they could not be found when he wanted them.

General Pendleton had sent for a part of them, thinking Alexander would not need them; and those remaining had moved to another place, and his courier did not find them. At first Alexander thought he would turn the infantry loose in twenty minutes after the firing began; but when he looked at the enemy’s batteries and knew his infantry was protected from the artillery by stone walls and swells of ground, “it seemed madness to launch men into that fire with three quarters of a mile to go at midday under a July sun,” and he “could not bring himself to give the word.” Then he wrote Pickett, who was in view and in rear of his observation point: “If you are coming at all you must come at once, or I can not give you proper support; but the enemy’s fire has not slackened.”

Two minutes afterward the Federal fire ceased, and some of his guns limbered up and vacated their positions. Then he wrote to Pickett, “For God’s sake, come quick.” Pickett had taken his first note to Longstreet and asked him if the time for his advance had come, and Longstreet bowed his assent; he could not speak, because he says he was convinced that Pickett was going to lead his troops to useless slaughter. Longstreet then rode to Alexander’s position, and, upon being told the artillery ammunition might not hold out, directed Alexander to stop Pickett and replenish i t; but was told there “was very little to replenish with,” and that the enemy would recover from the effect of the fire if there was further delay, and just then, says he, Pickett swept out and showed the full length of the gray ranks and shining bayonets—as grand a sight as ever man looked on—and that on the left Pettigrew stretched farther than he could see. General Garnett, just out of the sick ambulance and buttoned up in an old blue overcoat, riding at the head of his brigade, passed just then, and saluted Longstreet. Alexander had served with him on the Plains before the war, and they “wished each other luck and a good-by”̬a last farewell for Garnett. Alexander followed Pickett with eighteen of his guns which had most ammunition, whose fire was very effective against Stanard’s Vermont troops. The small thunderbolt had been discharged, and the red-crested wave of assault rolled forward, destined to break into fragments on the murderous rocks athwart its path.

At the word of command, in compact form, with flying banners and brave hearts, the Southern column sprang to the attack. It was a magnificent and thrilling spectacle. “It is well war is so terrible,” said Lee at Fredericksburg; “we should grow too fond of it.” No such inspiring sight was ever witnessed in this country. Two long lines of angry men, who for two days had been trying to destroy each other, lay within cannon range. Their mutual roar of defiance had ceased when suddenly there swept into the intermediate space nine small brigades of infantry, whose “tattered uniforms and bright muskets,” as the smoke of the battle lifted, were plainly in view of both.

The divisions of Hood and McLaws, one half of Hill’s, and the whole of Ewell’s stood like the fixed stars in the heavens as their comrades marched into the “jaws of death.” Over the ridge, then a slight wheel to the left, and down the slope with confident step they advanced. The Codori farm building had been passed, and the guides instructed to take a directing point for the Union left center held by the Second Corps, exposing by the move their right flank to an enfilade fire from the batteries near and on little Round Top.

In an instant the masses in their front were preparing for the shock of battle. “Here they come! Here they come! Here comes the infantry!” was heard on every side. At an average of eleven hundred yards the Union batteries began to open, and solid shot first tore through their ranks, but with no more effect than firing a pistol at the rock of Gibraltar. The skirmish lines, composed of the Sixteenth Vermont and One Hundred and Sixty-sixth Pennsylvania, and parts of Hall’s brigade, were next encountered and brushed from their front, as the hurricane sweeps the breast of the mountain.

Screaming shells broke in front, rear, on both sides, and among them; but the devoted band, with their objective point steadily in view, kept step to their music. The space between them and the Federal lines grew rapidly less, and soon they were in the “mouth of hell” within range of the well-protected infantry, and then there came a storm of bullets on every side, before which men dropped in their ranks as ripe fruit from a shaken tree. Still they closed the gaps and pressed forward, though canister was now raining on flanks and front with a terrible destructive fire. Brave men along the Union line could scarcely refrain from cheering at the perfect order and splendid courage exhibited by the Southern soldiers as they staggered on amid death and destruction, like a great pugilist, whose fast-failing strength denotes the loss of the contest, but resolves to stand in front of his antagonist to the last. What was left of the right of the assaulting troops struck the portion of the Federal lines held by Webb’s brigade, Second Corps, and from the stone wall drove two Pennsylvania regiments, capturing the three guns in charge of Lieutenant A. H. Cushing and mortally wounding this brave young officer, who had been fighting for an hour and a half after being wounded in both thighs by the cannonade.

The Confederate advance had been thrust into the Federal works, and from the top of the stone wall their battle flags were victoriously flying; the wedge had entered, but the power to drive it through was nearly a mile distant and motionless. What could this handful of heroes accomplish? A second line and a second stone wall was in front of them, while from every side hostile regiments rushed to overwhelm them. Their three brigade commanders had fallen as the brave fall, every field officer, except one, killed or wounded, while their route was red with the blood of their dead and dying. Kemper had been shot down, Garnett killed within twenty-five yards of the stone wall, while Armistead and Lieutenant-Colonel Martin, of the Fifty-third Virginia, fell thirty-three yards beyond Webb’s line, moving on with a few courageous followers to attack the second line, which had been hurriedly formed. Brave old Armistead’s behavior deserves more than a passing word. When the troops halted at the captured line, seeing still another force in his front, he drew his sword for the first time and placed his hat on its point, so that his men could see it through the dense smoke of the unequal combat, and sprang over the wall, crying: “Boys, we must use the cold steel. Who will follow me?” It is said that when the head of what had been so grand an attack got within a few yards of the second defensive line it consisted of Armistead, his lieutenant, Colonel Martin, and five men; with the destruction of the head the body perished, and one half of those who crossed the road and followed Armistead were killed. To the left of Pickett the four brigades under Pettigrew and the two under Trimble charged. Archer’s brigade, under Colonel B. D. Fry, of the Thirteenth Alabama, was on the right and was the directing brigade of the whole force. They made their assault in front of Hays’s and Gibbon’s division, Second Corps, in the vicinity of Ziegler’s Grove. “Stormed at with shot and shell,” this column moved steadily on, closing up the gaps made and preserving the alignment.


THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG, PA., JULY 1, 2, AND 3, 1863.

“They moved up splendidly,” wrote a Northern officer, “deploying as they crossed the long sloping interval. The front of the column was nearly up the slope and within a few yards of the Second Corps’s front and its batteries, when suddenly a terrific fire from every available gun on Cemetery Ridge burst upon them. Their graceful lines underwent an instantaneous transformation in a dense cloud of smoke and dust; arms, heads, blankets, guns, and knapsacks were tossed in the air, and the moan from the battlefield was heard amid the storm of battle.” Sheets of missiles flew through what seemed a moving mass of smoke, human valor was powerless, and the death-dealing guns were everywhere throwing blazing projectiles in their very faces. No troops could advance and live. The fiery onslaught was repulsed as Pickett’s division had been, and then the survivors of both came back to their former positions, but not one half of the fourteen thousand. The famous charge was over.

Pickett’s column had gone to the front four hundred yards, when Wilcox, whose brigade had not formed part of the attacking column, was ordered by Longstreet to advance in rear of Pickett’s right. His twelve hundred Alabamans moved promptly, but were soon subjected to a concentrated fire from the artillery of the Federals; the distance between his left and the smoke-enveloped force which had preceded them increased; his own flank was threatened; he could not see, he reports, what had become of Pickett, so halted and returned, losing two hundred and four killed, wounded, and missing of his five regiments.

Lee was bitterly disappointed at the day’s results. He had confidently expected to hurl at least one half of his army on his enemy, cut him in two, and then with a portion of it wheel to the left, annihilate Meade’s right, and before troops of his left could recover and unite with the remainder of the army he proposed to give support to that portion of the attacking column holding them at bay. He was playing for big stakes and a decisive victory, which would bring in its train peace to his people and success to his cause. Reasoning, doubtless, that the tendency of separated wings of an army is to seek a reunion in the rear, he had thrown J. E. B. Stuart, with four brigades of cavalry and three batteries of horse artillery, around the Union right rear, so as to be in position to reach his opponent’s lines of communication when driven from Cemetery Heights. Between Stuart and the Baltimore pike, two and a half miles off, directly in the rear of General Meade’s center were three brigades of Union cavalry, some five or six thousand troops, with horse batteries, under General Gregg, both commands being between the York and Hanover roads.

Stuart had hardly reached the point where he proposed to rest and await developments before he saw, advancing to his front, a heavy line of dismounted sharpshooters, and a cavalry combat followed, creditable to the courage and skill of the contestants. Charges and countercharges were made on both sides, and in the resulting mêlée there was hand-to-hand fighting, during which the brave and distinguished General Wade Hampton was seriously wounded twice. Both sides claim a victory, but neither were driven beyond the positions originally occupied, to which they mutually retired from a midway charging ground—Stuart to watch his opportunity if Pickett was successful, as first contemplated; Gregg to watch Stuart. One of Stuart’s brigades, under Jenkins, had only ten rounds of ammunition, and was therefore ineffective. The great battle of Gettysburg should be an object lesson to students of military science—first, as illustrating the difficulty of carrying strong positions behind which sheltered troops shoot with the latest improved guns; second, the great advantage of celerity of execution after carefully considered plans have matured—a qualification so conspicuous in the careers of Napoleon and Stonewall Jackson.

“This has been a sad day to us,” said Lee, “but we can not always expect to win victories.” It was a sad day for the South, for at that time it was “within a stone’s throw of peace.” Fate was against Lee; the high-water mark of Southern independence had been reached, and from that hour it began to ebb from the mountains of Pennsylvania until lost in the hills of Appomattox. “It is all my fault,” Lee exclaimed, and proceeded in person to rally and reform his shattered troops. “There was much less noise, fuss, or confusion of orders than at any ordinary field day; the men were brought up in detachments, quietly and coolly,” said an English colonel who rode by his side.

With that wonderful magnanimity which Lee so fully possessed he took all the responsibility on his own broad shoulders, and some of it must be put there. First, the discretion allowed, which separated him from his cavalry; second, the omission of positive orders to Ewell to advance on the evening of the 1st,[4] and the failure to replace an officer who opposed his plans with one who would have entered into them heartily, and readily cooperated with him to “whip the enemy in detail.”

In justice to Stuart, it may be said that he did not foresee that a marching, intervening, hostile army would keep him away from Lee so long, or that he would be required before he could get to the Susquehanna, and it is fair to Ewell to recall his instructions about not bringing on a general battle, the absence of a division of his corps, and the false alarm of an advance on his left, after the battle of the 1st was over; but it will be difficult to comprehend how two thirds of his right corps, which lay four miles behind a battlefield the night before, did not get into action until 4 P.M. on the succeeding day, in spite of the “subdued excitement,” the earnest aggressiveness, and the reported utterances of the commanding general; and hard to palliate the conduct of a corps commander, who acknowledged the reception of a direct order at 11 A.M. to attack with his troops then up, and did not get into action for five hours thereafter, because he took the responsibility of waiting for one of his brigades to arrive—a delay which allowed the remaining Union troops to reach the battlefield before he did.

The delay in getting two or three miles to the right, after the early hour Longstreet’s command got near Lee’s headquarters, can not be wholly laid at the door of his guide—Lee’s engineer officer, Colonel S. P. Johnston. That officer states he called attention to the fact that the road they were following would pass over a hill in view of the Federal line, and pointed out a shorter route across a field screened from observation; but the corps commander preferred the road, and followed it to the top of the hill, then halted, and changed the position of his divisions in column. At that time the distance to the place Hood occupied was only a mile and a half, and could have been reached, Johnston says, in less than an hour. And, finally, if the positive assertions of Lee’s staff officers can be believed—and they must be, from their well-known high characters—he disobeyed orders when he attacked with one third and not with his whole corps. Lee knew all the facts, for, in addition to what was said to Ewell, Early, and Pendleton, he told Governor Carroll, of Maryland, “that the battle would have been gained if General Longstreet had obeyed the order given him and attacked early instead of late; that Longstreet was a brilliant soldier when once engaged, but the hardest man to move in my army.”

At 1 A.M. on the 4th General Imboden was sent for by Lee to get orders about the movements of the trains and ambulances which his command was to escort to the Potomac, and says that Lee, after expressing his admiration for the splendid behavior of the troops in “the grand charge,” added, “and if they had been supported as they were to have been, but, for some reason not yet fully explained to me, were not, we would have held the position and the day would have been ours.” Military critics are not able to understand why the official head of the officer did not “drop in the basket.” They do not know Lee or his great heart, or that self-denying for himself, self-suffering for others, which made him live in a tent for fear of incommoding the occupants of houses, eat the most frugal food, or sit in the most uncomfortable chair, lest some other person might desire it.

He could not harden himself to hew to the strict military line in whatever directions the chips might fall, but tried to believe that the reasons given for noncompliance with implied or direct instructions might possibly have some force, that the delays on the 2d could not be foreseen, and that the right flank of the assaulting column on the 3d might have suffered if not protected by two fine divisions of infantry. Captain Mangold, a German officer, Instructor of Artillery and Engineer in the Royal Academy, Berlin, and a distinguished and active military student, says the defect in General Lee’s military character was a too kindly consideration for incompetent officers, resulting from an excess of good-nature.

The intelligent and impartial critic must admit the offensive dispositions of Lee skillful; the Union left on the 2d to a late hour was most vulnerable, and upon it the attack was designed; while the assault on the 3d, if not surrounded with as many chances of success as on the former day, was made at a point where, if successful, he would have secured the great roads to Baltimore and Washington. It was not unlike Napoleon’s tactics at Waterloo; the artillery fire was opened there on the allied right, and Reille directed to carry Hougoumont, but the real plan of the great soldier was to break through Wellington’s left center, which he ordered to be assaulted with D’Erlon’s whole corps supported by Loban’s, to drive back the allies on their own right, and secure the great road to Brussels before the helmets of the Prussian squadrons could be seen on the heights of St. Lambert. Lee, too, was infused with the confidence of the fighting power of an army “trembling with eagerness to rush upon the enemy,” though occupying very strong positions and with a numerical superiority of at least thirty thousand.

The numbers on each side in this great contest have been variously given. Colonel Walter Taylor, Lee’s adjutant general, among whose duties was the consolidation of the corps returns into the army returns, and who, after the war, examined the Federal archives with much care, puts Meade’s army at one hundred and five thousand and Lee’s at sixty-two thousand, and in his Four Years with General Lee gives his reasons. The difference in these numbers is forty-three thousand, so the statement that the Army of the Potomac had thirty thousand more than the Army of Northern Virginia at the battle of Gettysburg, seems conservative. Meade did not use them all. His largest corps—the Sixth, some sixteen thousand men—was in reserve and remained intact, only losing two hundred and forty-two in killed, wounded, and missing. Lee had no reserve.

The loss in each army was about the same, Meade’s killed being 3,072; wounded, 14,477; missing, 5,434. Lee’s report claims nearly 7,000 prisoners, which makes a total of 23,003. In Lee’s, killed, 2,592; wounded, 12,709; missing, 5,150; total, 20,451. It will thus be seen that not only is the aggregate loss nearly equal, but that the killed, wounded, and missing respectively does not vary much. Lee’s loss was the greatest on the two last days of the combat, Meade’s the first day. In the great struggle thirty thousand men were killed and wounded in both armies. The killed, wounded, and missing of the French at Waterloo have been reported at twenty-five thousand, the Anglo-Belgians at fifteen thousand, Napoleon having seventy-two thousand men, and Wellington sixty-eight thousand, a total of one hundred and forty thousand, while the total of the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia was about one hundred and sixty thousand.

Both armies mourned the death of brave men and competent officers. In the Army of the Potomac four general officers were killed—Reynolds, Vincent, Weed, and Zook—and thirteen wounded, viz., Hancock, Sickles, Gibbon, Warren, Butterfield, Barlow, Doubleday, Paul, Brook, Barnes, Webb, Stanard, and Graham. In the Army of Northern Virginia five general officers were killed—Pender, Garnett, Armistead, Barksdale, and Semmes—and nine wounded, viz., Hood, Hampton, Heth, J. M. Jones, G. T. Anderson, Kemper, Scales, and Jenkins.

Meade showed no disposition to assume the offensive after Pickett’s repulse. Like Lee at Fredericksburg, he did not want to lose the advantages of position, and was not certain the battle was over. The relative numbers in each army were still about the same, for their losses did not vary much, and the greater part of Lee’s army was ready to receive him; he might have been repulsed in turn, producing perhaps other combinations and other results. Lee’s ammunition was short, it is true—a fact which was unknown to him when the assault was made, but there was sufficient to still make “many tongues of flame.” The natal day of American liberty broke upon both armies occupying nearly the same position, except that Lee had drawn in his left and retired it to a new line out of the town covering his lines of communication, and at the same time strengthened his right by defensive works at right angles to his main line to guard against any flank attack there.

The Southern leader knew on the night of the 3d that he could no longer resume the offensive, and there was nothing to be done except to withdraw from Meade’s front. While not declining but rather inviting an attack on the 4th, he had started his long trains, his prisoners, and such of his wounded as could bear transportation, back to the Potomac at Williamsport under a cavalry escort, and was busy in burying his dead and gathering up the badly wounded for treatment. At dark, in the midst of a heavy rain storm, the army was put in motion by the Fairfield road which crossed the South Mountain range seven miles south of Cashtown, being the direct road to Williamsport; but the rain and mud so impeded progress that the rear corps—Ewell’s—did not leave Gettysburg until late in the forenoon of the 5th. With the exception of the loss of some wagons and ambulances by cavalry attacks, there was no interruption to the retrograde movement.

Lee reached Hagerstown, Md., on the 6th, the same day his trains arrived at Williamsport, a few miles distant. On account of the swollen condition of the Potomac from recent rains, and the destruction of the pontoon bridge at Falling Waters, a short distance below, by a roving detachment sent by French at Harper’s Ferry, Lee could not cross his impedimenta or his army over the river, but sent the wounded and prisoners over in boats. Calm and quiet as usual, he had a line of defense skillfully traced to cover the river from Williamsport to Falling Waters, and confidently awaited the subsidence of the angry flood and the approach of his opponent. His cavalry had guarded his flanks in the retreat and had saved his trains at Williamsport from an attack of the Union cavalry before his army reached there, and had a creditable affair at Hagerstown.

Six days after his arrival, Meade, marching from Gettysburg by a different route from that pursued by Lee, began to deploy his legions in his front. Lee’s position was not altogether agreeable, a rapid, rolling, impassable river sweeping by his rear and a powerful army going into line of battle in his front. Meade was very deliberate and circumspect at Gettysburg, for he did not forget the bullet holes through his hat when he attacked on his left at Fredericksburg, or the knowledge gained of the unfavorable conditions always surrounding an attacking force. He was still waiting further demonstrations from Lee, and when night appeared without a movement he called a council of his corps commanders, and in writing asked: First, “Shall the army remain here?” Second, “If we remain here shall we assume the offensive?” And then wanted to know if they deemed it expedient to move toward Williamsport through Emmittsburg, or if his enemy was retreating, should he pursue on the direct line of his retreat. The majority of the responses to his first question were in favor of remaining at Gettysburg, but all voted against assuming the offensive, for councils of war rarely, if ever, decide to fight. Pleasonton, his cavalry commander, was very clamorous the day before, for he says he rode up to Meade after the repulse of Pickett and said: “General, I will give you an hour and a half to show yourself a great general; order the army to advance while I take the cavalry, get in Lee’s rear, and we will finish the campaign in a week.”

While this advice, if followed, might have been of great benefit to Lee, its most remarkable feature was its presumption. Thirty-six hours after Lee abandoned the field of Gettysburg, Meade, recalling Sedgwick, who had gone toward Fairfield, marched from Gettysburg south to Frederick, Md., thence slowly around by Middletown and the old Sharpsburg battlefield to Lee’s position. While he was moving around the horseshoe, General Lee, with a good start, had gone across from heel to heel, and, had it not been for high water, would have been in Virginia before the last of the Army of the Potomac left the battlefield of Gettysburg.

Meade telegraphed Halleck on the 6th that if he could get the Army of the Potomac in hand he would attack Lee if he had not crossed the river, but hoped if misfortune overtook him that a sufficient number of his force would reach Washington and, with what was already there, make it secure. Halleck, from his office in Washington, urged him to “Push forward and fight Lee before he can cross the Potomac.” And Mr. Lincoln was cramming him with the comforting information that Vicksburg, on the Mississippi, had surrendered to Grant on July 4th, and that if “Lee’s army could be destroyed, the rebellion would be over.”

While waiting at Williamsport General Lee received the news of the capture (by raiding Federal cavalry) of his son, General W. H. F. Lee, who was wounded at Brandy Station on June 10th, and had been taken to Hickory Hill, the residence of the Wickhams, near Hanover Court House. He wrote Mrs. Lee: “I have heard with great grief that Fitzhugh has been captured by the enemy. Had not expected that he would have been taken from his bed and carried off; but we must bear this additional affliction with fortitude and resignation, and not repine at the will of God. It will eventuate in some good that we know not of now. We must all bear our labors and hardships manfully. Our noble men are cheerful and confident. I constantly remember you in my thoughts and prayers.”

On July 12th, in camp near Hagerstown, Lee heard his son had been carried to Fort Monroe, and wrote: “The consequences of war are horrid enough at best surrounded by all the amelioration of civilization and Christianity. I am very sorry for the injuries done the family at Hickory Hill, and particularly that our dear old Uncle Williams in his eightieth year should be subjected to such treatment. But we can not help it and must endure it. You will, however, learn before this reaches you that our success at Gettysburg was not so great as reported. In fact, that we failed to drive the enemy from his position, and that our army withdrew to the Potomac. Had the river not unexpectedly risen all would have been well with us; but God in his all-wise providence willed otherwise, and our communications have been interrupted and almost cut off. The waters have subsided to about four feet, and if they continue, by to-morrow I hope our communications will be open. I trust that a merciful God, our only hope and refuge, will not desert us in this hour of need, and will deliver us by his almighty hand, that the whole world may recognize his power, and all hearts be lifted up in adoration and praise of his unbounded loving-kindness. We must, however, submit to his almighty will whatever that may be. May God guide and protect us all is my constant prayer.”

The Federal commander could not decide to attack Lee, though he had been heavily re-enforced, and called another council of war on the 13th. All his corps commanders opposed attacking except two. Later that day Halleck telegraphed him to “call no council of war. It is proverbial that councils of war never fight. Don’t let the enemy escape.” The Washington assaults had been so continuous that the Union commander, in spite of the council’s decision, advanced his army on the 14th with a view of attacking, if justified by a closer examination; but on the night of the 13th the Army of Northern Virginia recrossed the river at Williamsport, and on the pontoon bridge at Falling Water, which had been repaired. “The escape of Lee’s army without another battle has created great dissatisfaction in the mind of the President,” said Halleck, “and it will require an energetic pursuit on your part to remove the impression that it has not been sufficiently active heretofore.” To a high-minded, meritorious, conscientious officer like Meade this censure was irritating. His request to be immediately relieved was declined on the ground that the dispatch was intended as a “stimulus.”

The river was still deep though fordable. Ewell crossed by 8 A.M. on the 14th, but the passage of Longstreet and Hill was not completed until 1 P.M. Had Meade made a vigorous attack in the forenoon he might have defeated and captured the portion of Lee’s army which had not yet crossed. About 11 A.M. his cavalry, supported by artillery, appeared in front of Heth’s division, which, acting as rear guard, was first encountered, and Brigadier-General Pettigrew, “an officer of great promise and merit,” was killed. As soon as the bridge was clear Hill began to cross. The advance of the Federals cut off some of Hill’s troops, who fell into their hands, as well as men from various commands, who, Lee reported, “lingered behind overcome by previous labors and hardships and the fatigues of a most trying night march, supposed to amount in all to about five hundred men, together with a few broken-down wagons and two pieces of artillery which the horses were not able to draw through the mud.”

The Union commander made no effort to follow the Army of Northern Virginia across the river, except with Gregg’s cavalry, which was attacked by two of Stuart’s brigades and driven back with loss. Lee proceeded to Bunker Hill and its vicinity, intending to cross the Shenandoah and move into Loudoun County, Va.; but that river was past fording, and when it subsided, Meade, who had crossed the Potomac east of the Blue Ridge, seized the passes Lee designed to use and moved along the eastern slope of the mountains, as if to cut off Lee’s communications with his capital. To prevent this, Lee crossed Chester Gap and went into Culpeper, his advance reaching Culpeper Court House July 24th. Afterward, with a view of placing his force in a position to move readily to oppose the enemy, should he proceed south, and to better protect Richmond, he made the Rapidan his defensive line. While at Bunker Hill he wrote Mrs. Lee on July 15th: “The army has returned to Virginia. Its return is rather sooner than I had originally contemplated, but, having accomplished much of what I proposed on leaving the Rappahannock—namely, relieving the Valley of the presence of the enemy, and drawing his army north of the Potomac—I determined to recross the latter river. The enemy, after centering his forces in our front, began to fortify himself in his position and bring up his troops, militia, etc., and those around Washington and Alexandria. This gave him enormous odds. It also circumscribed our limits for procuring subsistence for men and animals, which, with the uncertain state of the river, rendered it hazardous for us to continue on the north side. It has been raining a great deal since we first crossed the Potomac, making the roads horrid and embarrassing our operations. The night we recrossed it rained terribly; yet we got all over safe, save such vehicles as broke down on the road from the mud, rocks, etc. We are all well. I hope we will yet be able to damage our adversaries when they meet us, and that all will go right with us. That it should be so we must implore the forgiveness of God for our sins and the continuance of his blessings. There is nothing but his almighty power that can sustain us. God bless you all.”

And from Camp Culpeper, July 26, 1863: “After crossing the Potomac, finding that the Shenandoah was six feet above fording stage, and having waited a week for it to fall so that I might cross into Loudoun, fearing that the enemy might take advantage of our position and move upon Richmond, I determined to ascend the Valley and cross into Culpeper. Two corps are here with me. The third passed Thornton’s Gap, and, I hope, will be in striking distance to-morrow. The army has labored hard, endured much, and behaved nobly. It has accomplished all that could be reasonably expected. It ought not to have been expected to perform impossibilities, or to have fulfilled the anticipations of the thoughtless and unreasonable.” Meade crossed the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry and Berlin on pontoon bridges, moved through Loudoun and Fauquier, forcing Lee to conform to his movements, so that when he eventually took up the line of the Rappahannock, Lee occupied a parallel line on the Rapidan. From his tent in Culpeper he wrote Mrs. Lee on august ad: “I have heard of some doctor having reached Richmond who had seen our son at Fort Monroe. He said that his wound was improving, and that he himself was well and walking about on crutches. The exchange of prisoners that had been going on has for some cause been suspended, owing to some crotchet or other, but I hope will soon be resumed, and that we shall have him back soon. The armies are in such close proximity that frequent collisions are common along the outposts. Yesterday the enemy laid down two or three pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock and crossed his cavalry and a large force of his infantry. It looked at first as if it were the advance of his army, and, as I had not intended to deliver battle, I directed our cavalry to retire slowly before them and to check their too rapid pursuit. Finding later in the day that their army was not following, I ordered out the infantry and drove them back to the river. I suppose they intended to push on toward Richmond by this or some other route. I trust, however, they will never reach there.”

The Army of the Potomac seeming reluctant to advance, General Lee, having made his campaign, did not then propose to do so. In the rest following, his thoughts turned to the operations at Gettysburg, and the difficulties and dangers of the campaign. He grew sensitive under press criticisms, it being charged that nothing had been accomplished, and began to depreciate himself and rate too low his high military abilities. He had voluntarily assumed the faults of his subordinates. “The twin disasters of Gettysburg and Vicksburg,” with a surrender of thirty thousand men at Vicksburg, were dispiriting, and the thought that he was held in some degree responsible for one of them seized him.

Gradually the conclusion was reached that perhaps he was occupying a position which might be filled by one who could render greater service with the means at command. On August 8th, from his camp in Orange, General Lee wrote the Southern President “that the general remedy for the want of success in a military commander is his removal,” and that his reflections had prompted him “to propose to your Excellency the propriety of selecting another commander for this army”; that he did not know how far the expressions of discontent in the public journals extended in the army; his brother officers had been too kind to report it, and so far the troops too generous to exhibit it. He begged Mr. Davis to take measures to supply his place, because he could not accomplish what he himself desired; how, then, could he fulfill the expectations of others? He confessed his sight was not good, and that he was so dull that in making use of the eyes of others he was frequently misled.

“Everything, therefore,” he wrote, “points to the advantages to be derived from a new commander, and I the more anxiously urge the matter upon your Excellency from my belief that a younger and abler man than myself can readily be obtained. I know that he will have as gallant and brave an army as ever existed to second his efforts, and it would be the happiest day of my life to see at its head a worthy leader—one that would accomplish more than I can perform and all that I have wished. I hope your Excellency will attribute my request to the true reason—the desire to serve my country and to do all in my power to insure the success of her righteous cause.

“I have no complaints to make of any one but myself. I have received nothing but kindness from those above me, and the most considerate attention from my comrades and companions in arms. To your Excellency I am specially indebted for uniform kindness and consideration. You have done everything in your power to aid me in the work committed to my charge without omitting anything to promote the general welfare. I pray that your efforts may at length be crowned with success, and that you may long live to enjoy the thanks of a grateful people.”

The reply of Mr. Davis is refined in sentiment and tender in phrase: “I admit the propriety of your conclusions that an officer who loses the confidence of his troops should have his position changed, whatever may be his ability; but when I read the sentence I was not at all prepared for the application you were about to make. Expressions of discontent in the public journals furnish but little evidence of the sentiment of the army. I wish it were otherwise, even though all the abuse of myself should be accepted as the results of honest observation. Were you capable of stooping to it, you could easily surround yourself with those who would fill the press with your laudations, and seek to exalt you for what you had not done, rather than detract from the achievements which will make you and your army the subject of history and the object of the world’s admiration for generations to come. But suppose, my dear friend, that I were to admit, with all their implications, the points which you present, where am I to find the new commander who is to possess the greater ability which you believe to be required? I do not doubt the readiness with which you would give way to one who could accomplish all that you have wished, and you will do me the justice to believe that if Providence should kindly offer such a person for our use I would not hesitate to avail myself of his services.

“My sight is not sufficiently penetrating to discover such hidden merit, if it exists, and I have but used to you the language of sober earnestness when I have impressed upon you the propriety of avoiding all unnecessary exposure to danger, because I felt our country could not bear to lose you. To ask me to substitute you for some one, in my judgment, more fit to command, or who would possess more of the confidence of the army or of the reflecting men of the country, is to demand an impossibility. It only remains for me to hope that you will take all possible care of yourself, that your health and strength will be entirely restored, and that the Lord will preserve you for the important duties devolved upon you in the struggle of our suffering country for the independence which we have engaged in war to maintain.”

The commanding generals of both armies, upright in character and scrupulous in the performance of their respective duties, were naturally sensitive to criticism, and the curious spectacle was presented that, after a gigantic and fierce contest against each other, both should ask to be relieved from their commands. Fancy the grim veterans of the Army of Northern Virginia paraded in their camp grounds in that month of August, 1863, to hear the announcement that Mr. Davis had accepted General Lee’s resignation. There would have resounded from flank to flank “Le roi est mort!” but when the “younger and abler man” assumed command, the mummies of the Nile, or the bones beneath the ruins of Pompeii, could not be more silent than the refusal of these heroes to shout to Robert E. Lee’s successor, “Vive le roi!”

The Angel of Peace would have appeared in the hour General Lee bid farewell to the Army of Northern Virginia and mounted Traveler to ride away, for the rapid termination of the war would have simplified the duties of “the younger and abler man.” Traveler, the most distinguished of the general’s war horses, was born near the Blue Sulphur Springs, in West Virginia, and was purchased by General Lee from Major Thomas L. Broun, who bought him from Captain James W. Johnston, the son of the gentleman who reared him. General Lee saw him first in West Virginia and afterward in South Carolina, and was greatly pleased with his appearance. As soon as Major Broun ascertained that fact the horse was offered the general as a gift, but he declined, and Major Broun then sold him. He was four years old in the spring of 1861, and therefore only eight when the war closed. He was “greatly admired for his rapid, springy walk, high spirit, bold carriage, and muscular strength.” When a colt he took the first premium at the Greenbrier Fair, under the name of Jeff Davis.[5] The general changed his name to Traveler. He often rode him in Lexington after the war, and at his funeral Traveler followed the hearse. He was appraised by a board in August, 1864, at $4,600 in Confederate currency.

Though Lee was ready to cover his face with his mantle and die like the Athenian, it would have broken his heart to have separated himself from troops who, with empty haversacks, shoeless feet, tattered uniforms, but full cartridge boxes and bright bayonets, had with such undaunted courage nobly supported him at all times. And where would the Southern President have found an officer who was superior in vigorous strategy, fertility of resource, power of self-command, influence over others, patient endurance, or one more composed in victory or dignified in defeat?

An English officer described him in the Pennsylvania campaign as having courtly manners and being full of dignity; that he had none of the small vices—such as smoking, drinking, chewing—and his bitterest enemy never accused him of any of the greater ones; that Lee was the handsomest man of his age that he ever saw—”broad shoulders, well made, well set up, a thorough soldier in appearance.” He generally wore a long gray jacket with three stars on the collar, blue pants tucked into his Wellington boots, and a high felt hat. He never carried arms,[6] was always neat in dress and person, and on the most arduous marches looked smart and clean, and, “what is very pleasing to an Englishman, he rides a handsome horse, which is extremely well groomed.” The removal from the command of the Union army of such an excellent officer as Meade would have been an act of kindness to the Confederates, the appreciation of which would have been increased if Halleck had been appointed his successor.

The season of repose which now followed was much enjoyed by both sides. Lee was employed in looking after the welfare of his troops, for their rations and clothing were both getting scarce. He took great interest in the religious progress of his soldiers, and did everything in his power to promote sacred exercises in his camps. The relative location of the hostile forces made partial reduction of their numbers comparatively safe. If the Army of the Potomac did not want a battle, it could fall back on the defenses of Washington. If the Army of Northern Virginia declined the encounter, it could withdraw to the Richmond line.

At this period it was determined to re-enforce General Bragg in the West with two divisions of Longstreet’s corps, to enable him to defeat the Federal General Rosecrans, which he did at Chickamauga, while the third division”Pickett’s”should be detached for duty south of the James River.

Meade then crossed over the Rappahannock and occupied Culpeper and the country between the two rivers, so as to be closer to Lee should he decide to resume offensive operations, but his plans were set aside by troops being detached from him also. The Eleventh and Twelfth Corps under Hooker were sent West, and a considerable number to South Carolina and New York—to this latter place to prevent riots resulting from an enforcement of the recruiting draft. Meade and Lee for some weeks, with reduced forces, simply observed each other. From his camp near Orange Court House, August 23, 1863, General Lee wrote Mrs. Lee that he hears his son is “doing well, is walking about, and has everything he wants except his liberty. You may see that a distinguished arrival at Washington is chronicled in the papers of that city—Miss Catherine Burke. She is reported to have given interesting accounts of the Lee family. (This was one of the colored servants from Arlington.) My camp is near Mr. Erasmus Taylor’s house, who has been very kind in contributing to our comfort. His wife sends us every day buttermilk, loaf bread, ice, and such vegetables as she has. I can not get her to desist, though I have made two special visits to that effect. All the brides have come on a visit to the army—Mrs. Ewell, Mrs. Walker, Mrs. Heth, etc. General Meade’s army is north of the Rappahannock, along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. He is very quiet.” And again, September 4, 1863: “You see I am still here. When I last wrote, the indications were that the enemy would move against us any day; but this past week he has been very quiet, and seems at present to continue so. I was out looking at him yesterday from Clark’s mountain. He has spread himself over a large surface, and looks immense, but I hope will not prove as formidable as he looks. He has, I believe, been sending off some of his troops to re-enforce Rosecrans, and has been getting up others; among them several negro regiments are reported. I can discover no diminution.” And on September 18, 1863, from the same camp he tells her: “The enemy state that they have heard of a great reduction in our forces here, and are now going to drive us back to Richmond. I trust they will not succeed. But our hope and refuge is in our merciful Father in heaven.”

[Notes]

[1] Federals—First Corps, 10,089; Eleventh, 9,893; Buford’s cavalry, 3,000. Total, 22,982. Confederates—Two thirds of Ewell’s corps, two thirds of Hill’s—four divisions—26,000.

[2] There were none except on the Federal main line.

[3] Memoirs of Robert E. Lee, by Long, p. 294.

[4] General Meade told General Ewell, after the war, had he occupied Culp’s Hill at 4 P.M., July 1t, it would have produced the withdrawal of the Federal troops by the Baltimore pike, Taneytown, and Emmittsburg roads. See letter to Colonel G. G. Benedict, Burlington, Vt., March 16, 1876.

[5] General Grant also had a horse called Jeff Davis.

[6] He always carried a pistol in the holster on the left of his saddle, because more convenient to reach when dismounted, and ammunition in the right holster. This pistol always hung over his bedpost in Lexington after the war and was discharged after his death—not a barrel missing fire.

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