Robert E. Lee and the Southern Confederacy
By Henry Alexander White



GENERAL LEE was eager to follow up the victory of Chancellorsville by an aggressive movement against the Federal army. The lack of subsistence had restrained him, early in the spring, from driving Milroy out of the valley. Lee declared, on April 16, that such a movement would recall Hooker north of the Potomac, and that “greater relief would in this way be afforded to the armies in middle Tennessee and on the Carolina coast than by any other method.” He urged Davis to recruit the strength of the army by bringing northward the troops stationed in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. “I know there will be difficulties raised to their withdrawal,” wrote Lee, “but it will be better to order General Beauregard in with all the forces which can be spared, and to put him in command here, than to keep them there inactive and this army inefficient from paucity of numbers.”

When Longstreet returned from the regions beyond the James River, Lee divided his army into three corps under Longstreet, Ewell, and A. P. Hill. Of Ewell and Hill he expressed the following opinion: “The former is an honest, brave soldier, who has always done his duty well. The latter, I think upon the whole, is the best soldier of his grade with me.” Lee had used these identical words just after the battle of Sharpsburg to set forth his opinion of Hill. This estimate of A. P. Hill must be placed in the balance against Longstreet’s charge that Lee showed partiality in behalf of Hill as a Virginian, by not assigning to the Third Corps either D. H. Hill the Carolinian, or McLaws the Georgian.

The last days of May found Lee still “endeavouring to get this army in a condition to move—to anticipate an expected blow from the enemy.” He was not in favour of sending Pickett’s division to assist Pemberton on the Mississippi, and expressed the hope that J. E. Johnston would at once assail Grant. To the cry of alarm raised about the safety of Wilmington he paid little heed, and continued to advocate the ordering of all Confederate soldiers into the two arenas of Virginia and Mississippi, leaving the Atlantic coast to be defended by local troops. He urged aggression, lest the weight of Hooker’s numbers should finally force the Confederate army back to the trenches in front of Richmond. Since the battle of Fredericksburg, Lee had not abated his urgency in asking for an army of sufficient strength to destroy the Army of the Potomac. He recognisedthe latter as his true objective. The Confederate administration, however, seemed never to recognise the wisdom of concentration in order to strike a decisive blow. Lee’s government left him vastly outnumbered on every battle-field; he always gave the enemy a staggering blow and sent him bleeding from the field, but the latter soon presented himself with undiminished numbers. In June, 1863, as in December, 1862, and in May, 1863, Lee was moving forward to deliver battle with an army that was matchless in everything except in numbers. Thirty thousand additional soldiers at any of the above dates would have enabled him to destroy or capture the Army of the Potomac.

Lee’s plan of campaign was laid before A. L. Long in the camp near Fredericksburg. When Long entered Lee’s tent, he found that the latter “had a map spread on the table before him.” Lee “traced on the map the proposed route of the army and its destination in Pennsylvania.” “In his quietly effective manner,” Lee outlined his plan to manœuvre Hooker out of his position on the Rappahannock, and bring him to battle at Chambersburg, York, or Gettysburg. Lee’s design was to transfer hostilities to Northern soil and there subsist his army, cause the evacuation of Washington by a victory in Pennsylvania, and at the same time force the recall of Federal troops from the siege of Vicksburg. Hampton, Robertson, and Jones increased the number of Stuart’s horsemen a little beyond six thousand. The artillery organised in battalions under General W. N. Pendleton made a park of more than two hundred guns. With a total force of about sixty thousand enthusiastic veterans Lee made ready to move northward. On May 31, he wrote this: “I pray that our merciful Father in Heaven may protect and direct us. In that case I fear no odds and no numbers.”

On June 2, Lee sent this parting message to Davis: “If I am able to move, I propose to do so cautiously, watching the result, and not to get beyond recall until I find it safe.” On June 3, he began to push Longstreet toward Culpeper; Ewell followed, and A. P. Hill was left in front of Fredericksburg to restrain Hooker from advancing against Richmond. June 8 witnessed the concentration of the two advanced Confederate corps and Stuart’s cavalry near Culpeper. Of the cavalry review held the same day, Lee wrote thus to his wife:

It was a splendid sight. The men and horses looked well. They had recuperated since last fall. Stuart was in all his glory. Your sons and nephews are well and flourishing. The country here looks very green and pretty, notwithstanding the ravages of war. What a beautiful world God in His loving kindness to His creatures has given us! What a shame that men endowed with reason and knowledge of right should mar His gifts!

The Federal cavalry crossed the Rappahannock to engage in battle with Stuart near Brandy Station, on the ninth of June. Confederate infantry assisted to drive the enemy across the river, leaving large spoil in Stuart’s possession. As Lee rode upon the field he met his second son, Brigadier-General W. H. F. Lee, borne wounded from the battle, “more concerned,” as the father wrote, “about his brave men and officers who had fallen in the battle than himself.”

At this juncture a growing party in the North was making itself heard in denunciation of the Federal President’s arbitrary assumptions of power. This party’s suggestions of peace were treated with scorn by some of the Southern newspapers. Lee rebuked the latter as acting unwisely and blindly:

We should not, therefore, conceal from ourselves that our resources in men are constantly diminishing, and the disproportion in this respect between us and our enemies, if they continue united in their efforts to subjugate us, is steadily augmenting. . . . Under these circumstances, we should neglect no honourable means of dividing and weakening our enemies, that they may feel some of the difficulties experienced by ourselves. It seems to me that the most effectual mode of accomplishing this object now within our reach, is to give all the encouragement we can, consistently with truth, to the rising peace party of the North.

But these reflections were interrupted by reports of the incursions of Federal cavalry, and Lee’s wrath was roused to say:

I grieve over the desolation of the country and the distress to innocent women and children, occasioned by spiteful excursions of the enemy, unworthy of a civilised nation.

He called upon the citizens at home to organise themselves for defence “against outrages of our barbarous enemy.” On June 10, Lee despatched Ewell from Culpeper toward the valley to capture Milroy. The cavalry of Jenkins at the same time moved down upon Winchester, and Imboden was ordered to lead his horsemen as far as Romney. Three days passed, and Ewell stood before the defences of Winchester, with his advance holding Martinsburg; Jenkins was pressing northward to Williamsport, and Imboden held control of the Baltimore and Ohio railway. On this thirteenth day of June, Longstreet was encamped at Culpeper, and A. P. Hill still remained before Fredericksburg. Hooker had folded his tents and was marching toward Washington. At the same time Lee was calling upon the Confederate authorities for a larger force of cavalry.

June 15 saw Ewell scattering Milroy’s ten thousand from Winchester, driving the Federal garrison from Harper’s Ferry, and asking his soldiers to unite with him “in returning thanks to our Heavenly Father for the signal success” evidenced by the capture of four thousand prisoners and twenty-nine guns. The evening of this eventful day marked the advance of Jenkins toward Chambersburg, and the passage of Ewell’s vanguard across the Potomac. Longstreet was moving out of Culpeper to seize the passes of the Blue Ridge, while Hill, who had watched the muskets of Hooker’s rearguard disappear behind the Stafford Hills, was now drawing nigh unto Culpeper.

The Army of Northern Virginia was pressing steadily northward. Lee’s plan now was to advance Ewell into Pennsylvania to seek supplies. If Ewell should meet with success, Lee intended to march his entire army into the Cumberland valley. June 17 saw the Confederates outstretched from Culpeper to Chambersburg. The latter place was held by Jenkins’s horsemen; one of Ewell’s divisions was encamped near Hagerstown, another occupied Sharpsburg, and the third was approaching the Potomac. Longstreet was guarding the passes of the Blue Ridge, and Hill remained at Culpeper. Stuart kept watch at the gaps of the Bull Run Mountains to repress the curiosity of Hooker, whose camp-fires were ablaze from Manassas to Leesburg. During five successive days Stuart was engaged with Hooker’s cavalry in the game of advance and retreat, until at length he stood at bay in the Ashby Gap of the Blue Ridge. While Stuart thus veiled the Confederate manœuvres, Longstreet stood on the Ridge’s summit, and A. P. Hill passed behind hisline through Chester Gap into the valley. The next movement in the game is thus described by Lee:

As these demonstrations did not have the effect of causing the Federal army to leave Virginia, and as it did not seem disposed to advance upon the position held by Longstreet, the latter was withdrawn to the west side of the Shenandoah.

On June 18, Lee drew nigh unto Millwood, and gave orders to throw his entire army across the Potomac, since Stuart’s reports indicated the advance of Hooker’s main body northward from Manassas. Hill set forth through Shepherdstown in search of Ewell; Longstreet began to follow Hill, while Stuart, assisted by the division of McLaws, remained to defend the passes of the Blue Ridge. Lee directed Imboden to enter Pennsylvania, suggested to Sam Jones to advance into Western Virginia, and called for some of the brigades left at Richmond. The men of all arms under Lee’s immediate command were in number about sixty thousand. As the heads of columns pressed toward northern territory, Lee issued an order that began with the injunction, “No private property shall be injured or destroyed.”

Lee now took final measures to guard his right flank and rear; his left was made safe by Jones and Imboden. The morning of June 22 found this message on the way to Stuart:

Do you know where he [Hooker] is and what he is doing? I fear he will steal a march on us and get across the Potomac before we are aware. If you find that he is moving northward, and that two brigades can guard the Blue Ridge and take care of your rear, you can move with the other three into Maryland and take position on General Ewell’s right, place yourself in communication with him, guard his flank, keep him informed of the enemy’s movements and collect all the supplies you can for the use of the army.

On the same day, Lee’s commands to Ewell were these: “Toward the Susquehanna. . . . If Harrisburg comes within your means, capture it.”

June 23 was a day of momentous events. Ewell was sweeping up the Cumberland valley toward Carlisle. Lee was preparing to lead the First and Third corps northward across the Potomac. To Stuart he made the suggestion that two brigades of cavalry should keep watch upon Hooker while the other three should cross the Potomac. Shepherdstown and some point east of the Ridge were suggested as alternative places for this passage. Stuart must select one ford or the other, just as Hooker’s own movements should permit, but Lee laid this injunction upon Stuart: “In either case, after crossing the river, you must move on and feel the right of Ewell’s troops.” H. B. McClellan tells us of Lee’s later message, received during the night of June 23, giving Stuart discretion to pass around Hooker’s rear and to cross the Potomac to the eastward of Hooker’s army, at the same time placing Stuart under bond to bring his cavalry “as speedily as possible” into touch with Ewell’s advance (under Early) at York, Pennsylvania. The same day, Lee urged President Davis to withdraw the troops from the Southern Atlantic coast and to concentrate them at Culpeper Court-House under Beauregard as a menace to Washington. Lee asserted that this movement “would not only effect a diversion most favourable for this army, but would, I think, relieve us of any apprehension of an attack upon Richmond during our absence.”

Robert E. Lee and the Southern Confederacy By Henry Alexander White CHAPTER XII.


The Federal government called for one hundred thousand troops to defend Pennsylvania against Lee’s advance; they also concentrated a force in Maryland, and Hooker moved to the northern bank of the Potomac. Consternation reigned in the North, and Mr. Lincoln, at Washington, as he himself said, was making this prayer: “Oh Lord, this is your fight; but we your humble followers and supporters here can’t stand another Fredericksburg or Chancellorsville.” From Williamsport, June 25, Lee sent this message:

It is plain that if all the Federal army is concentrated upon this, it will result in our accomplishing nothing and being compelled to return to Virginia. If the plan . . . of organising an army, even in effigy, under General Beauregard at Culpeper Court-House, can be carried into effect, much relief will be afforded. . . . I have not sufficient troops to maintain my communications, and therefore, have to abandon them. I think I can throw General Hooker’s army across the Potomac and draw [Federal] troops from the South, embarrassing their plan of campaign in a measure, if I can do nothing more and have to return.

So urgent was Lee concerning the advance of another Confederate force upon Washington from the direction of Culpeper, that he pressed the matter at great length upon the attention of President Davis in a second letter this same day.

June 27 found Longstreet and Hill in Chambersburg, Ewell in Carlisle, and Early approaching York. Hooker had commenced the passage of the Potomac the very day (June 25) on which Lee turned his back upon that river. Two days later, Lee in Chambersburg was unaware of Hooker’s advance, for Stuart was just then (June 27) crossing the Potomac at Seneca, near Washington. On the 28th, four Federal corps were in bivouac at Frederick and three near Middletown, Maryland. Hooker’s demand that the ten thousand men at Harper’s Ferry should take the field under his orders brought to a climax the Federal administration’s lack of confidence in their commander. He was relieved from duty, and General George G. Meade was promoted to the command of the Army of the Potomac.

Lee at Chambersburg issued an address to his troops (June 27) commending their spirit and fortitude, and forbidding injury to private property. He reminded them that “civilisation and Christianity” forbade retaliation againt their foes:

It must be remembered that we make war only upon armed men, and that we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered, without lowering ourselves in the eyes of all whose abhorrence has been excited by the atrocities of our enemies, and offending against Him to whom vengeance belongeth, without whose favour and support our efforts must all prove in vain.

On the night of June 28, the scout Harrison brought to Lee at Chambersburg the first intelligence that Hooker had crossed the Potomac and was approaching the South Mountain. Lee feared that the Federal army would cross the mountain and secure his line of communication with Virginia. He therefore sent couriers to recall Ewell’s divisions from the Susquehanna and ordered the entire army to concentrate east of the mountains at Cashtown. The morning of June 29 witnessed the advance toward Cashtown of Heth’s division from Hill’s corps. Longstreet remained near Chambersburg. Near the close of the day Ewell at Carlisle received Lee’s order just as he was moving forward to attack Harrisburg. The 29th also marked Meade’s advance northward from Frederick in search of Lee. At sunset, two Federal corps were near Emmittsburg, one was at Taneytown, and four at varying distances behind Pipe Creek. Buford’s cavalty patrolled the Federal front at Fairfield. The heads of the hostile columns were not far removed from each other, yet each leader was ignorant of his foe’s proximity.

The morning of June 29 was utilised by Stuart in the work of tearing up the railway between Meade and Washington. Westminster was his place of bivouac. From this point he set forth northward at the dawning of the 30th, still retarding his own progress by driving a captured train of two hundred mule teams. As he fought his way into Hanover through the squadrons of Kilpatrick, Stuart was not aware of the opening scenes of the great drama little more than a dozen miles to the westward from his line of march. That last day of June saw Pettigrew’s brigade of Heth’s division marching over the eight-mile course from Cashtown to Gettysburg in search of shoes to cover their naked feet. In the town they found Buford’s cavalry. The heads of the converging columns had collided; the news was flashed to both armies, but as yet the significance of the meeting was unknown to both Lee and Meade. Pettigrew returned in haste to Cashtown, Lee’s appointed rendezvous. The night of June 30 saw the camp-fires of the larger part of Hill’s corps kindled on the eastern slopes of South Mountain. Longstreet was still west of the Mountain at Greenwood, with Pickett guarding the trains at Chambersburg. Of Ewell’s corps, Johnson’s division was near Longstreet; the divisions of Rodes and Early were near Heidlersburg on the return march from the Susquehanna to Cashtown. As Stuart moved all night with weary pace from Hanover toward York, he passed within seven miles of Early’s bivouac. The fatal waggon train had delayed his march. Stuart afterwards asserted that Early failed to follow Lee’s order to warn the approaching cavalry of the return march southward. The horsemen moved on to York and thence to Carlisle, while Lee in the distance on the eve of battle was anxiously awaiting their aid. Perhaps Stuart’s presence on the Federal right flank, on June 30, caused Meade to disperse his seven corps from Westminster to a point north of Emmittsburg, a dispersion that proved advantageous to Lee on the following day. But it is more probable that a speedier march of the cavalry would have permitted Lee to capture Harrisburg and then to offer defensive battle at the eastern base of the South Mountain, either at Cashtown or at some point farther northward.

Lee spent June 30 in Longstreet’s camp at Greenwood. July I found him riding with the latter through the mountain-pass eastward. The Confederate forces were pressing toward Cashtown. At 5 A.M., however, Hill had sent the divisions of Heth and Pender from Cashtown toward Gettysburg, “to discover what was in my [Hill’s] front.” Hill supposed that naught but Federal cavalry was in the town. His advance precipitated a battle with two of Meade’s corps d’armée whom Buford had summoned to his aid. The movement was contrary to the spirit of Lee’s orders. He intended to fight a defensive battle at Cashtown. Hill’s advance compelled Lee to deliver offensive battle at Gettysburg.

At sunrise, Heth’s scouts confronted Buford’s pickets at Willoughby Run, west of Gettysburg on the Chambersburg road. The Run flows along the western edge of a broad swell of ground called McPherson’s Ridge. Heth’s men forced Buford backward from the stream and from 8 until 10 o’clock the roar of fierce battle resounded northward over the level plains calling Ewell to the field, and westward across the ridges to bring Lee down the mountain-slope in great haste to Cashtown. Meade, far away to the eastward, caught the sound of the guns and quickened the pace of his legions. Lee found R. H. Anderson holding his division at Cashtown awaiting orders from Hill. Anderson reports Lee as listening there intently to the guns and then saying:

I cannot think what has become of Stuart: I ought to have heard from him long before now. He may have met with disaster, but I hope not. In the absence of reports from him, I am in ignorance as to what we have in front of us here. It may be the whole Federal army or it may be only a detachment. If it is the whole Federal force we must fight a battle here; if we do not gain a victory those defiles and gorges through which we were passing this morning will shelter us from disaster.

Lee seemed much disturbed by the sounds of increasing battle, for his order had already been imposed upon both Hill and Ewell that they should not bring on a general engagement before the concentration of the Army of Northern Virginia. Contrary to Lee’s plan, Hill was delivering heavy battle against the advanced corps of the Army of the Potomac, eight miles farther from the mountains than the field selected by Lee himself at Cashtown.

While Lee waited thus in anxiety at Cashtown, at 10 o’clock, Reynolds was deploying the Federal First Corps along the slight elevation half a mile west of Gettysburg known as Seminary Ridge. As Reynolds looked down the gradual slope five hundred yards to the westward, he saw Heth and Buford in deadly battle upon the parallel elevation, McPherson’s Ridge. Reynolds advanced a division to Buford’s support; he forced Archer’s brigade over Willoughby Run and captured Archer, but Reynolds himself was slain. Pender gave ready aid to Heth, and the two divisions held the First Corps at bay. Noonday saw the Eleventh Corps approach and now Howard ruled the Federal field. Howard arrayed two divisions of the Eleventh on Seminary Ridge to hold his right flank; the other division he held in reserve on Cemetery Hill south of Gettysburg. At this juncture Ewell’s storm of war burst upon Howard from the direction of Heidlersburg. In line of battle across Seminary Ridge, at 2.30 P.M., Rodes came sweeping southward from Oak Hill against Howard’s right flank. Through the open country east of Rock Creek, at 3.30 P.M., Early advanced like a thunderbolt against the right and rear of Howard’s line. At 4 P.M., Ewell’s divisions began to drive the Eleventh Corps southward through the streets; at the same hour Hill advanced his entire line against the front and flanks of the First Corps and broke it into fragments. The hour of half-past four witnessed the flight of Howard’s shattered brigades through Gettysburg with Ewell pressing them in close pursuit. The Federal fugitives found refuge with the division and the batteries left in reserve on Cemetery Hill.

Among Hill’s yelling veterans on the Ridge near the Seminary, Lee stood watching the retreat of the disorganised Federal soldiers. More than five thousand Federal prisoners remained in Lee’s hands, and the field of Howard’s defeat was covered with multitudes of Federal dead and wounded. Four Confederate divisions had wrought out this victory over five Federal divisions; the latter had held their ground tenaciously and the Confederate brigades had met severe losses. Lee’s veterans were jubilant and eager to continue the pursuit. Ewell led the advance, and while Lee continued his observation the bayonets of Hays’s brigade began to gleam along the eastern boundary of Gettysburg near the foot of the Cemetery Hill.

Not many Federal soldiers were visible to the Confederate commander, for only about six thousand armed men out of more than twenty thousand engaged had escaped to the refuge of the stone walls and boulders on Cemetery Hill. Lee at once sent Taylor with the order to Ewell: “Press those people and secure the hill, if possible.” At this moment Early was arraying two brigades in the field east of the town and sending a request to Hill to order forward a division from Seminary Ridge to assist in assailing the Cemetery. But “Extra-Billy” Smith, one of Early’s brigadiers, sent him a sensational report that a Federal force was approaching the Confederate left from the direction of York. Gordon was countermarched to the left rear to meet the imaginary foe. Early and Rodes urged upon Ewell the necessity of immediate assault. But Ewell looked toward the rock-covered hill and the blazing guns and declared the Cemetery unassailable in front with the brigades at hand. Gordon had not yet returned from the vain march to the left. Ewell determined to await Johnson’s division, and to send the latter to scale the wooded hill east of Gettysburg known as Gulp’s Hill; from that position he expected to fall upon the Federal right flank. At the same time Ewell sent J. P. Smith to Lee near the Seminary, to ask support for the proposed attack of Early and Rodes against the Federal force in the Cemetery. The time was about 5 P.M. Lee and Longstreet were scanning the Cemetery with field-glasses. When Ewell’s request came. Hill was loath to send forward the two divisions recently engaged; Anderson was behind Johnson and had not yet reached the field, and Longstreet’s men were held far in the rear by Ewell’s waggon train. Lee urged Longstreet to hasten McLaws and Hood to the front and sent this reply to his lieutenant in Gettysburg: “Tell General Ewell that I will support him by an advance on his right as soon as I can. I wish him to use whatever opportunity he has to advance and to hold the ground in his front.”

The first reinforcement upon the field was Johnson’s division, but the sun had disappeared when his column halted near the college building. At that hour Lee was in conference with Ewell, Early, and Rodes near the Carlisle road north of Gettysburg. The plan of immediate attack had then been abandoned by all these officers. They could look southward in the twilight and see the two Round Tops looming up above the hill’s crest. Reconnaissance had discovered the arrival of fresh Federal troops, for Hancock now was in command and Slocum’s eight thousand six hundred men were in line, partly on Gulp’s Hill and partly on Cemetery Hill. It was now Lee’s purpose, says Early, “to attack the enemy as early as possible next day—at daylight, if practicable.” To the three officers jointly Lee presented the question: “Can’t you, with your corps, attack on this flank at daylight to-morrow?” The officers pointed to the rugged hill in their front and the Federal brigades on the hill-tops; they mentioned the gradual ascent to the Cemetery from the direction of the Seminary Ridge as affording favourable approach against the enemy’s left flank. Lee’s next interrogation was this: “Perbaps I had better draw you around towards my right, as the line will be very long and thin if you remain here, and the enemy may come down and break through it?” But the leaders of the Confederate Second Corps declared their ability not only to hold the ground already won, but Ewell asserted his ability to capture Culp’s Hill at once and threaten the Federal right. Thereupon Lee said: “Well, if I attack from my right, Longstreet will have to make the attack.” Then for a moment he paused, says Early, his head bowed in deep thought; he looked up and added, “Longstreet is a very good fighter when he gets in position and gets everything ready, but he is so slow.” The decision reached in the conference was that the main assault should be delivered from the Confederate right at daylight the following morning, “or as soon thereafter as practicable,” and that Ewell should stand ready to attack from the Confederate left. Lee returned to the Seminary to find Longstreet and Hill. Longstreet urged Lee to move to the Confederate right and place his army between Meade and Washington, and thus force Meade to make assault. This suggestion was only an extension of Lee’s proposal to move Ewell around to the Emmittsburg road. Ewell’s assurance that he could occupy Gulp’s Hill induced Lee to plan a double assault against the flanks of the force in the Cemetery before the arrival of Meade’s rearguard and thus defeat the Army of the Potomac in detail. In the presence of his staff Lee said to Longstreet and Hill, “Gentlemen, we will attack the enemy in the morning as early as practicable.” He directed Longstreet to lead forward McLaws and Hood to deliver the chief attack from the Confederate right. Hill was to demonstrate against the Federal centre, and a message was sent to Ewell to caution him against assailing Gulp’s Hill until he should hear Longstreet’s guns.

Longstreet’s two divisions moved from Fayetteville on the morning of July 1. Pickett’s division remained on guard at Chambersburg and Law’s brigade of Hood’s division held New Guilford. The advance of Longstreet was retarded until the afternoon by Ewell’s waggon train, but midnight saw his central camp-fires ablaze near Willoughby Run. The bivouac of his leading brigade under Kershaw was only two miles from Gettysburg. During the night Longstreet’s order went to McLaws bidding him advance at 4 a.m. July 2; but this order was afterwards countermanded, and McLaws was directed to march “early in the morning.” At the early dawn of July 2, Longstreet’s orders started Law and Pickett across the South Mountain toward the battle-field. Lee’s report thus describes the general situation at this juncture:

It had not been intended to deliver a general battle so far from our base unless attacked, but coming unexpectedly upon the whole Federal army, to withdraw through the mountains with our extensive trains would have been difficult and dangerous. At the same time we were unable to await an attack, as the country was unfavourable for collecting supplies in the presence of the enemy, who could restrain our foraging parties by holding the mountain-passes with local and other troops. A battle had, therefore, become in a measure unavoidable, and the success already gained gave hope of a favourable issue.

The hour of sunrise on July 2 saw Meade’s divisions widely scattered. Less than ten thousand men of the First and Eleventh Corps held the Cemetery. To their right and to their left were Slocum’s eight thousand six hundred in line of battle. Four thousand under Birney and four thousand under Humphreys, both of the Third Corps, were near at hand. Lee’s proposed assault against both Federal flanks would have found less than twenty-seven thousand men ready to receive him at any hour before seven o’clock. At that hour the Federal Second Corps reached the field with two divisions of the Fifth. Eight o’clock saw the arrival of another brigade of the Fifth; the hour of nine marked the coming of two brigades of the Third, and the Federal artillery reserve was on Cemetery Ridge at half-past ten. At noon came another division of the Fifth. Along the thirty-four-mile route from Manchester, and yet far from the field, Sedgwick was pressing the fifteen thousand of the Federal Sixth Corps. The hour of sunrise, therefore, furnished an admirable opportunity for Lee to strike the Federal army before it was concentrated, and unto this task the Confederate commander was urging forward his lieutenants.

Robert E. Lee and the Southern Confederacy By Henry Alexander White CHAPTER XII.


Lee had breakfast and was in the saddle before the coming of the dawn. At four o’clock he was despatching an officer to reconnoitre across the Emmittsburg road toward Round Top. He scanned Meade’s line in the early light, as the latter stood on Gulp’s Hill and in the Cemetery. Lee looked eagerly for the coming of Anderson’s division of Hill’s corps, and for Longstreet’s two divisions, that he might send them against Meade’s left. But it was seven o’clock when Anderson began to move; eight o’clock brought the rattle of musketry from the woods south of the Seminary, where Anderson’s advance under Wilcox was driving the Federal skirmishers. Nine o’clock had struck when Hill’s line was arrayed along the Seminary Ridge, with his right near the Emmittsburg road.

If Hill was slow, Longstreet’s men were still more tardy in reaching the field. They had not received orders to hasten their steps. It was after sunrise when his divisions began the march from Willoughby Run. Ewell’s trains caused some delay. Eight o’clock was about the hour that saw the first of Longstreet’s brigades under Kershaw of McLaws’s division arrive at Seminary Ridge where Lee was waiting. McLaws saw Lee seated on the trunk of a fallen tree with a map before him; he saw Longstreet “walking up and down a little way off, apparently in an impatient humour.”

Hood’s division was behind that of McLaws, but Hood himself had sought Lee’s point of observation shortly after daybreak. Hood bears this witness: “General Lee, with coat buttoned to the throat, sabre-belt around his waist, and field-glass pending at his side, walked up and down in the shade of large trees near us, halting now and then to observe the enemy. He seemed full of hope, yet at times buried in deep thought.“ Lee was anxious for Longstreet to attack, but at seven o’clock, with the sun already two and a half hours above the horizon, Longstreet’s corps had not reached the field. Lee’s words to Hood were these: “The enemy is here and if we do not whip him, he will whip us.” Longstreet had been with Lee since daybreak, urging a movement around Meade’s left. Lee rejected this plan and then Longstreet asked him to await the arrival of Pickett’s division; with persistence he suggested this policy, but Lee was determined to begin the battle with the two divisions of McLaws and Hood as soon as they should arrive. As they continued to await the arrival of these troops, Longstreet sat apart with Hood, and Lee kept up his anxious watch upon the enemy. Then Longstreet said to Hood: “The General is a little nervous this morning; he wishes me to attack; I do not wish to do so without Pickett. I never like to go into battle with one boot off.”

When McLaws drew nigh at eight o’clock he found Longstreet in the impatient humour and Lee bending over the map.* Kershaw’s brigade led the column and Hood’s men brought up the rear. Longstreet’s men had consumed more than three hours of sunlight in making a journey of from two to four miles. Kershaw’s head of column was turned southward along Seminary Ridge behind Hill’s corps and halted opposite the Black Horse Tavern; this building stood where the Hagerstown road passes over Marsh Creek. The hour was about nine; Hill was just getting into position west of the Emmittsburg road. The most favourable moment for attack had passed, but even yet there was time to crush Meade’s left wing.

[Note] * Hood writes that he rode forward with his staff to Lee’s position “shortly after daybreak, July 2.” He says further: “My division soon commenced filing into an open field near me.” The more definite statements of McLaws and Kershaw settle the hour of the arrival of Longstreet’s troops as eight o’clock. With this agrees also Longstreet’s letter to W. H. Taylor (1875).

Lee was ready to aim straight at his mark. The officer sent to reconnoitre had reached the slope of Round Top without finding any Federal force in that vicinity. He reported Meade’s troops as arrayed within and near the Cemetery. Seated on the tree, Lee pointed to the map and said, “General McLaws, I wish you to place your command across this road,” pointing to a position on the map near the Peach Orchard, perpendicular to the Emmittsburg turnpike. Lee said, further, “I wish you to get there, if possible, without being seen by the enemy.” Longstreet thrust himself between Lee and McLaws and ordered the latter to arrange his division in a line parallel to the turnpike. But Lee’s decision was prompt and positive: “No, General, I want his division perpendicular to the Emmittsburg road.” Lee’s orders were positive and explicit—that Longstreet should partially envelope the Federal left on the Emmittsburg road and drive it in. This movement he expected Longstreet to make immediately. Shortly after nine o’clock, Lee informed Hill and Anderson that Longstreet would occupy the territory south of Hill; that Longstreet’s “line would be in a direction nearly at right angles” with the line of Hill’s corps, and that Longstreet “would assault the extreme left of the enemy and drive him towards Gettysburg.” At the same time Hill was ordered to move into battle in conjunction with Longstreet’s left. McLaws affirms that Longstreet seemed “irritated and annoyed” when Lee turned away and left him under orders to lead his corps into immediate battle along the Emmittsburg road.* After giving orders to Longstreet and Hill, Lee rode into Gettysburg to examine Ewell’s position. At sunrise he had despatched Venable to learn Ewell’s opinion about bringing the entire Confederate army around to the right to make the attack from the westward against the Cemetery. When Lee came in person he found Ewell still confident of sending Johnson without difficulty to the summit of Gulp’s Hill, while Early, since two o’clock in the morning, had his men arrayed in line at the foot of the slope ready to scale Cemetery Hill from the direction of Gettysburg.**

[Note] * McLaws glanced across the terrain of forest and field and mentally decided that he could lead his troops unobserved from the Seminary Ridge to the enemy’s position on the turnpike within half an hour. But Longstreet, latpr, directed him to follow a more circuitous route. The responsibility for choosing this winding course is laid by Longstreet upon Lee’s engineer officer who made the early morning journey to Round Top.

[Note] ** Lee saw the danger involved in the extension of his left wing. Ewell’s left brigades were beyond Rock Creek, under orders to wade the stream and move a little south of westward against the steep rock-covered fortress of Gulp’s Hill. It seems to have been Ewell’s persistent confidence in his ability to capture the stronghold that led Lee to give up his original view which favoured the transfer of Ewell’s corps to the Seminary Ridge and the Emmittsburg road.

At Ewell’s headquarters, Lee anxiously awaited the sound of Longstreet’s guns. He then made a close personal examination of the Federal position near the Cemetery, and watched the approach of Federal reinforcements. He saw the necessity of immediate attack. He manifested impatience at Longstreet’s delay. He rode back to seek the cause of the silence that reigned at noonday along the Seminary Ridge, saying, “What can detain Longstreet? He ought to be in position now.” That cause is thus recorded in Longstreet’s report:

I received instructions from the Commanding-General to move,
with the portion of my command that was up, around to gain the
Emmittsburg road. . . . Fearing that my force was too weak to
venture to make an attack, I delayed until General Law’s brigade
joined its division [Hood’s].

At noonday Law’s men arrived after a march of twenty-four miles since the dawn. At one o’clock Longstreet set his column in motion. Three golden hours and more had been given to inactivity during Lee’s absence with Ewell, through the stark obstinacy of Longstreet. Two more hours were consumed in bringing the corps to the field of action; two countermarches were made, one a long circuit as far as Black Horse Tavern, in the effort to find a route concealed from the signal station on Round Top. At four in the afternoon, the slow march brought the corps into line of battle in front of Little Round Top.

Early on July 2, Meade commanded Butterfield to prepare a detailed order for the retreat of the Federal army. He called a council of his corps-commanders to consider this order, but Longstreet’s guns at 4 P.M. broke up the conference and called the Federal officers to the defence of their left. Just before this, Sickles had pushed his corps as far as the Emmittsburg road without informing Meade, and occupied the salient angle formed by that road and the ridge extending from the Peach Orchard to Little Round Top. McLaws faced the Peach Orchard, and Hood was drawn out to the right across the turnpike. Hood was expected to sweep down the Federal line parallel to the turnpike and roll it toward Gettysburg.

General Meade’s position at 4 P.M. was as follows: The right wing under Slocum, consisting of the Twelfth Corps and the fragments of the First and Eleventh, was bent around like a fishhook from the Cemetery to Gulp’s Hill. Hancock, with the Second Corps, occupied the central position along Cemetery Ridge, thus forming the shank of the fishhook. The Third Corps on Hancock’s left, was holding the Peach Orchard on the Emmittsburg turnpike.* The Fifth Corps was resting along Rock Creek on the Baltimore road. Longstreet’s force of less than thirteen thousand now confronted the twelve thousand under Sickles. The latter were arrayed behind stone walls and partly in the forest and among heavy boulders, and their position bristled with artillery.

[Note] * Meade would have withdrawn the Third from this advanced position, but Longstreet’s assault prevented him.

E. M. Law was in command of Hood’s right brigade opposite Round Top. Law sent couriers to the crest of this high peak and they found the entire Federal left flank unprotected. Law and Hood sent to Longstreet formal protest against advancing up the turnpike, and urged the occupation of Round Top by extending Hood’s division toward the Confederate right. Three times was this protest made to Longstreet. The latter returned each time the peremptory answer, “General Lee’s orders are to attack up the Emmittsburg road.”†

[Note] † Law expresses the opinion, in the Century Magazine, that this protest did not reach General Lee, and adds the view that the battle of Gettysburg was lost to the Confederates by this failure to capture Round Top from the south, and thence extending the Confederate line toward the Federal rear on the Baltimore road. Law seems to forget, however, that Lee’s line was already a half-circle, and that the suggested movement would have required the immediate withdrawal of Ewell toward the Confederate right. Otherwise it would have been an attempt to surround Meade’s army with little more than half his numbers.

It was after the hour of four when Hood advanced across the valley toward the Round Tops under the fire from the Federal guns. Among the boulders of Devil’s Den he found the left wing of Sickles’s line of battle. Law took the place of the wounded Hood and pressed the grey-jackets steadily forward against the blazing fortress. The Federal brigades were broken and driven back by sheer courage and tenacity, and three cannon were seized. The Alabamians under Oates passed completely over the northern slope of Round Top and then advanced directly toward Little Round Top. Law’s centre made a dash to gain this keypoint of the entire field. But Warren led a battery and a brigade from the Fifth Corps to the mountain-top just as Law’s shouting riflemen were climbing the slope, and the entire Confederate division was forced back to the boulders of Devil’s Den.

Meanwhile the veterans of McLaws were fairly aflame with enthusiasm. Alexander’s guns were taming the fire of the Federal artillery in the Peach Orchard angle. Kershaw’s Carolinians and Barksdale’s Mississippians formed the front line. Barksdale stood before his eager brigade sword in hand and with uncovered head and pleaded with McLaws: “General, let me go; General, let me charge.” Amid the roar of Law’s battle Barksdale, Wofford, and Kershaw crashed against the angle at the Orchard with wild cheers. Backward over stone fences they literally drove the shattered brigades of Sickles. Longstreet’s men fought like demons. Alexander’s six batteries advanced in the charge with the infantry. Nothing seemed able to withstand their terrific onslaught. The gallant Barksdale fell but his heroic men pressed forward. Barnes from the Fifth Corps, Caldwell from the Second, and Ayres from the Fifth successively led three Federal divisions, thirteen thousand men, to give aid to Sickles. They were all forced back with the loss of half their numbers in the face of Longstreet’s gallant charge. About six o’clock Hill’s right brigades pressed up to the Emmittsburg road and sent the right wing of Sickles’s corps in retreat toward Cemetery Ridge. The hour of 7 P.M. witnessed the complete defeat of Meade’s left wing. Longstreet’s victorious divisions were rushing forward to deliver battle at the base of the Round Tops. Wilcox, Perry, and Wright, of Hill’s corps, were advancing against Meade’s centre on Cemetery Ridge. Hill failed to send supporting brigades. Wilcox advanced to the base of Cemetery Ridge and captured eight guns, but there he paused. Wright’s Georgians marched steadily up the long slope, leaped the stone fences and took possession of the crest of the Ridge, a short distance south of the Cemetery. Wright laid his hand on twenty Federal cannon. Meade’s line was cut in twain. But Wright was alone. Perry had not kept pace with him; Posey remained behind the turnpike. Hill’s other divisions stood motionless one mile away. Longstreet’s gallant attack had practically won the field if Hill had pushed forward his brigades to hold it. Meade was hastening troops from Culp’s Hill and the Cemetery toward his imperilled left and centre. Sedgwick’s Sixth Corps was arriving upon the field. More than half of the Army of the Potomac was massed along the Cemetery Ridge behind a multitude of guns. Wright was surrounded and driven back, and the tide of Federal defeat was checked at the summit of the Ridge. Hundreds of Confederate heroes, however, lay disabled upon that field of carnage.

The crisis of battle came just before sunset, when Lee’s right wing was making Meade’s entire position to tremble. The hour for action had long before come to Ewell and to Hill. Ewell was tardy. Johnson’s batteries were shattered by the Federal guns. When his division advanced to assault Gulp’s Hill, Longstreet’s battle was almost concluded.

Although Meade had withdrawn an entire division from Gulp’s Hill to withstand Wright’s assault, yet the darkness prevented Johnson from attaining complete success. With great gallantry his men marched up the side of the fortress and fought their way into the first line of Federal intrenchments. The night restrained them from a further advance. To the sound of Johnson’s muskets, at sunset. Early led his two brigades against Gemetery Hill. Over stone walls, up the steep face of the slope, rushed the gallant men of North Garolina and Louisiana. They tarried not under the withering fire from musket and cannon until they overran the Eleventh Gorps and established themselves in the Federal works on the summit. Rodes, on Early’s right, was slow in getting into position, and did not advance at all to the aid of Early. The inactivity of Rodes kept Hill’s left wing stationary. Hancock sent reinforcements to the Gemetery and the Federal troops in front of Rodes and Hill turned upon Early’s right flank, and the gallant hero was forced to withdraw.

As night fell upon the field of blood, Lee was still sanguine of success. His losses in men were heavy but he knew that Meade’s loss was yet heavier. The Confederate soldiers were eager for the continuance of the battle. Southern valour never shone more resplendently than on that field of July 2. In most cases Lee’s brigades visited slaughter and defeat upon superior numbers posted behind walls of stone. At the close of the day Law held Devil’s Den and the bases of the Round Tops. Johnson held the crest of Gulp’s Hill, almost in reach of the Baltimore road. Wright and Early had broken through the Federal line in two places and failed to hold Cemetery Ridge itself only from lack of support. Stuart had reached the field and Lee’s artillery was all ready for service.

Consternation reigned in Meade’s camp. He called his twelve principal officers about him to discuss the advisability of retreating.* Meade himself was in favour of retreating, according to the statement of Slocum, though other Federal officers deny the truth of this opinion. Three of his corps were completely shattered. Twenty thousand men were missing from the Federal divisions that had marched to Gettysburg. F. A. Walker says, “It was indeed a gloomy hour.” Only Meade’s Sixth and Twelfth corps remained unshaken by the storm of war. He still had in readiness the order of retreat prepared by Butterfield. After long and anxious conference it was decided to remain one day and await Lee’s assault. During the night the scout Dahlgren brought to Meade two captured despatches, the replies of Cooper and President Davis to Lee’s request for an army under Beauregard to menace Washington. They spoke of the Federal force threatening Richmond, and the impossibility of gathering a Confederate army at Culpeper. These despatches relieved Meade’s apprehensions about Washington and gave him nerve to hold his ground and abide the result of Lee’s onslaught.**

[Note] * Meade’s questions brought out theseopinions: “Slocum, stay and fight it out. Newton thinks it a badposition. Hancock puzzled about practicability of retiring. . . . Howard favour of not retiring. Birney don’t know. Third Corps used up and not in good condition to fight. Sedgwick doubtful whether we ought to attack.”

[Note] ** William L. Royall, Esq., of Richmond, Virginia, has secured letters and papers from the family of Dahlgren, showing that, in the opinion of Lincoln, Stanton, and other officials, the captured despatches served to change Meade’s plan, as he was upon the point of withdrawing his army to Pipe Creek during the night of July 2.

In his official report, Lee thus describes the plan which he adopted at the close of July 2:

The result of this day’s operations 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. The general plan was unchanged. Longstreet, reinforced by Pickett’s three brigades, which arrived near the battle-field during the afternoon of the 2d, was ordered to attack the next morning, and General Ewell was directed to assail the enemy’s right at the same time. The latter, during the night, reinforced General Johnson with two brigades from Rodes’s and one from Early’s division.

Lee’s purpose, therefore, was to renew the attack against both flanks of the Federal army. Longstreet instructed Law to be ready to assail the enemy in front of DeviFs Den. But the morning of July 3 revealed the Federal Fifth Corps, supported by the Sixth Corps, in complete possession of both Round Tops, with their riflemen behind strong works and supported by heavy artillery. Moreover, Kilpatrick’s cavalry was threatening Longstreet’s right flank. When Lee stood before Round Top, on the morning of July 3, and saw the strength of Meade’s left, he immediately changed his general plan. Ewell’s battle on Culp’s Hill was every moment roaring out a call for aid. Lee, therefore, ordered Longstreet to organise a column of attack against the Federal centre on Cemetery Ridge and, after that, in conjunction with Ewell, to assail from opposite directions the curved position held by the Federal right wing. Hood and McLaws were to keep the Federal left wing engaged and to make an advance when the opportunity came.* The two lines of the column of attack against Hancock’s position were composed of Pickett’s division of Longstreet’s corps on the right, and Pettigrew’s (Heth’s) division of Hill’s corps. Wilcox’s brigade and Perry’s brigade of Anderson’s division were ordered to guard Pickett’s right flank, while Trimble was to lead the brigades of Lane and Scales to the support of Pettigrew. “General Hill was directed,” says Lee, “to hold his line with the rest of his command, afford General Longstreet further assistance, if required, and avail himself of any success that might be gained.” Ewell’s battle was still raging on Gulp’s Hill when Lee gave the order to attack. He was confident that this column could break through Meade’s line at the point where Wright’s brigade had cut it in twain on the previous evening, and then assist Ewell in crushing the Federal right wing. Lee pointed out to Longstreet as the objective point of attack, the famous “clump of trees” near the middle part of Hancock’s line, occupied by the Federal Second Gorps and two divisions of the First Gorps. As Lee stood upon the field won the previous day, and looked eastward from the Emmittsburg road toward Gemetery Ridge, the country seemed almost level. With the exception of the stone walls behind which his men protected themselves, Hancock’s position, in itself, was not of great strength. Lee proposed to protect the flanks of his attacking column by advancing his cannon. First, however, he gave orders to neutralise the power of the Federal guns in his front by the concentrated fire of his own artillery.

[Note] * Some of Lee’s stafif-officers state that Longstreet was ordered to support Pickett with the divisions of McLaws and Hood. It was impossible, however, to withdraw these divisions in order to move them against Meade’s centre. Lee evidently expected them to attack Meade’s left wing as soon as Pickett should seize the Federal centre.

Robert E. Lee and the Southern Confederacy By Henry Alexander White CHAPTER XII.


At 10 A.M. E. P. Alexander had in readiness for action along the Emmittsburg road a battery of seventy-five guns. To his left, on Seminary Ridge, R. L. Walker’s park of sixty-three cannon was prepared for battle. It was expected that their fire would silence the Federal batteries, and then was Longstreet’s column to “advance under cover of the combined fire” of the Gonfederate guns. Lee says: “The batteries were directed to be pushed forward as the infantry progressed, protect their flanks, and support their attacks closely.” He wished to repeat the artillery tactics that had brought success on the first day’s battle against Hooker at Chancellorsville. At nine o’clock Pickett and Pettigrew were in line on the Ridge. Longstreet was not in favour of making the assault; and three hours passed away in unnecessary delay before the battle was opened. These three hours brought to a close Ewell’s desperate fight on the slope of Gulp’s’ Hill. With his repulse Lee’s chances for success against Meade’s centre and right were less favourable. At twelve o’clock the nine brigades intended for the assault were moved forward to the edge of the woods; in their front, skirting the open fields were the Confederate guns. Longstreet states that he was so opposed to the movement that he asked Alexander to order Pickett into the charge when the favourable moment should arrive. At one o’clock the artillery duel began; Lee’s guns drew upon them the fire of eighty Federal cannon. The crash and the roar of that fearful cannonade from more than two hundred guns was of surpassing grandeur. The two ridges, fourteen hundred yards apart, were like blazing volcanoes. Their crests were wreathed in flame and smoke. Upon the intervening fields there settled down a dense, dark battle-cloud. The heavens seemed full of screaming, bursting shells. Both sides suffered. The Confederate aim was accurate and swept the Cemetery Ridge; no infantry dared move along that elevation, and the Federal line of battle lay crouching behind the stone fence near the summit. Francis A. Walker states that

the whole space behind Cemetery Ridge was in a moment rendered uninhabitable. General headquarters were broken up; the supply and reserve ammunition trains were driven out; motley hordes of camp followers poured down the Baltimore pike, or spread over the fields to the rear. Upon every side caissons exploded; horses were struck down by hundreds; the air was filled with flying missiles; shells tore up the ground and then bounded for another and perhaps more deadly flight, or burst above the crouching troops and sent their ragged fragments down in deadly showers. Never had a storm so dreadful burst upon mortal men.

After thirty minutes the Federal fire began to slacken and the eighteen guns in the Cemetery limbered up and withdrew.* Alexander wrote to Pickett, “If you are coming at all you must come at once.” Pickett sought Longstreet and said, “General, shall I advance?” but Longstreet was silent. Pickett saluted and cried out, “Sir, I shall lead my division forward,” and ordered his men into the charge. Pickett’s three brigades of Virginians and Heth’s four brigades of North Carolinians, Tennesseans, Alabamians, Mississippians, and Virginians under Pettigrew moved out of the woods and advanced slowly toward the Emmittsburg road. The two lines of glittering bayonets were in strong contrast with the dull grey garments of the ragged heroes. Behind Pettigrew’s right flank marched Trimble with two brigades of North Carolinians. Wilcox was expected to strengthen Pickett’s right flank with his brigade of Alabamians. Twelve thousand riflemen were now moving across the open plain, fourteen hundred yards in width. After passing the Confederate batteries, Pickett’s division changed direction to the left, and pressed toward the salient in Hancock’s line. At first, a deep silence reigned upon the entire field. Half the distance was completed before the fire became serious from the Federal guns in the Cemetery and on the Round Tops. The Confederates gallantly advanced over the post-and-rail fences at the Emmittsburgroad, to meet the canister and musketry fire directly in their front.

[Note] * This was due in part to the accuracy of the Confederate fire, and in part to Meade’s order to husband the ammunition for the anticipated charge.

At this crisis in the battle, the artillery failed to play the part which General Lee expected. The Federal guns reopened their fire, but the Confederate batteries had nearly exhausted their ammunition in the hour’s cannonade and “were unable to reply,” says Lee, “or render the necessary support to the attacking party. Owing to this fact, which was unknown to me when the assault took place, the enemy was enabled to throw a strong force of infantry against our left, already wavering under a concentrated fire of artillery.”

Lee expected his guns to move forward as a part of the attacking column. Alexander held nine howitzers in reserve, intending to “take them ahead of Pickett up nearly to musket range” but they were removed without his sanction and he failed to find them. When Pickett advanced, Alexander selected the gfuns that still possessed ammunition, about fifteen in number, and moved them forward behind Pickett’s division. But the failure to keep the chests filled from the reserve train left the Confederate guns practically silent at the moment when Pickett and Pettigrew stood face to face with Hancock at the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge.

The Federal guns in the Cemetery began to wear away the left end of Pettigrew’s line, and Trimble advanced to mingle his two brigades with Pettigrew’s right. Pickett’s right was thrown in toward the centre of the column by the flank attack of Stannard’s Vermont brigade. The Round Top guns enfiladed his line. But the casualties were not yet very great. When the column was within one hundred yards of the wall, the Federal line began to flee to the rear. The Confederate muskets flamed forth in a fierce volley, and with a far-resounding yell the left of Pickett’s division and the right of Pettigrew and Trimble rushed upon the stone wall, and took possession. Prisoners were captured, and the Federal guns on the crest were silenced. Pettigrew’s left pressed up against the Federal works, and Kemper on Pickett’s right fought hand to hand with Stannard. Carnage and death reigned upon both flanks. Nearly every Federal and Confederate officer above the grade of captain lay bleeding among the hundreds of fallen soldiers.

Armistead’s brigade, forming Pickett’s second line, rushed up to the stone wall, almost at the same moment with the front line. For several minutes there were no enemies immediately before them. Norman J. Hall, commanding a Federal brigade, thus makes report:

A portion of the line of General Webb on my right had given way, and many men were making to the rear as fast as possible. . . . I was forced to order my own brigade back from the line and move it by the flank under a heavy fire. The enemy was rapidly gaining a foothold; organisation was mostly lost; in the confusion, commands were useless, while a disposition on the part of the men to fall back a pace or two each time to load gave the line a retiring direction.

A long space in Meade’s centre acknowledged the supremacy of the Stars and Bars. The presence of Confederate artillery would undoubtedly have held the captured works.

A fresh line of Federal troops advanced to the crest and opened fire, but the Confederates drove them back with repeated volleys. Then Armistead placed his hat on the point of his sword and sprang over the stone wall with the cry, “Boys, we must use the cold steel; who will follow me?” The Virginians followed the grim hero as he rushed beyond the stone wall to the crest of the Ridge to seize the Federal guns. There Armistead fell, and his men retired to the wall to await reinforcements. Comparative quiet again prevailed. Lieutenant G. W. Finley had time to cast a careful look backward over the field of Pickett’s advance and was “surprised to see comparatively so few men lying dead or wounded on the field.” A voice from the ranks, without authority, ordered a retreat, and many turned to flee. Fearful slaughter was visited upon them as they sought to escape. The Federal tropps from the flanks then swarmed around the men at the wall and led away four thousand prisoners.

A full half-hour after the advance of the main column, Longstreet sent Wilcox forward to support Pickett’s right. Perry lent aid to Wilcox. They met the fragments of Pickett’s right regiments returning from the assault, and Wilcox himself was driven back with loss. Anderson’s division of Hill’s corps stood ready to advance on Pettigrew’s left, but Longstreet kept him out of the battle. McLaws stood at Wilcox’s right hand, but received no order to deliver battle. An earlier advance of Wilcox and Perry on Pickett’s right and of Anderson’s remaining brigades on Pettigrew’s left, even without the artillery, would most probably have given a great victory to Lee.

Lee sat upon his horse near E. P. Alexander’s guns to watch the return of his brave column. His bearing was calm and self-possessed. Alexander makes the remark that Lee

had the instincts of a soldier within him as strongly as any man. . . . No soldier could have looked on at Pickett’s charge and not burned to be in it. To have a personal part in a close and desperate fight at that moment would, I believe, have been at heart a great pleasure to General Lee, and possibly he was looking for one.

Colonel Fremantle of the English army, an eye-witness, thus describes the Confederate leader:

General Lee was perfectly sublime. He was engaged in rallying and encouraging the broken troops and was riding about, a little in front of the wood, quite alone—the whole of his staff being engaged in a similar manner farther to the rear. His face, which is always placid and cheerful, did not show signs of the slightest disappointment, care or annoyance, and he was addressing to every soldier he met a few words of encouragement; such as: “All this will come right in the end; we’ll talk it over afterward; but in the meantime all good men must rally.” . . . He spoke to all the wounded men that passed him, and the slightly wounded he exhorted to bind up their hurts and “take a musket” in this emergency. Very few failed to answer his appeal, and I saw badly wounded men take off their hats and cheer him.

General Wilcox now came up to him and in very depressed tones of annoyance and vexation, explained the state of his brigade. But General Lee immediately shook hands with him and said, in a cheerful mannner: “Never mind, General; all this has been my fault. It is I that have lost this fight, and you must help me out of it the best way you can.” In this manner did General Lee, wholly ignoring self and position, encourage and reanimate his somewhat disspirited troops, and magnanimously take upon his own shoulders the whole weight of the repulse. It was impossible to look at him, or to listen to him, without feeling the strongest admiration.

During the battle of the afternoon, Farnsworth led a cavalry charge against the Confederate right and rear, only to reap disaster. On the Confederate left, Stuart arrayed his horsemen and attempted to get possession of the Baltimore turnpike in the Federal rear. Gregg’s cavalry confronted him. A series of charges and counter-charges took place in which Hampton was wounded. Stuart fought a gallant battle, but Gregg maintained his position.

Lee stood with guns in position on Seminary Ridge ready to receive Meade’s assault. But the Federal army was not in condition to deliver offensive battle. Only through the most desperate fighting had it been able to maintain itself behind strong works. The loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners on both sides was terrific. The armies had torn each other almost to fragments and neither was capable of making another assault. Over twenty-three thousand names were erased from the list of ninety-five thousand who followed Meade into the battle. Lee’s loss was a little over twenty thousand out of a total of about fifty-eight thousand men engaged in the fight, including the cavalry. This estimate included a number of stragglers who afterwards returned to the Confederate ranks. Among the brave dead were Armistead, Gamett, Pender, Barksdale, and Semmes. Kemper, Pettigrew, Hood, Trimble, Heth, Scales, G. T. Anderson, Jenkins, and Hampton were seriously wounded, and Archer was left a prisoner. Concerning the result of the conflict, Lee says: “The severe loss sustained by the army, and the reduction of its ammunition, rendered another attempt to dislodge the enemy inadvisable, and it was, therefore, determined to withdraw.”

On July 4, Lee stood the entire day in defiant attitude, awaiting Meade’s advance. The latter was wise enough to know that disaster would follow an assault. Lee started all his impedimenta toward the Potomac, and during the night of the 4th withdrew his entire army in good order via Fairfield. Ewell’s corps, as Lee’s rearguard, did not leave Gettysburg until the forenoon of July 5. He thus compelled Meade to follow him by circuitous routes through the passes to the southward. The morale of the Confederate army was unimpaired. The men were ready for battle at any hour. They ascribed their repulse on the third day solely to the advantageous position of the Federal army. Upon the field of Gettysburg their honour had remained untarnished. In nearly every part pf the struggle they had contended against superior numbers. Even in Pennsylvania, as upon all other fields, the Army of Northern Virginia, man for man, greatly out-fought the Army of the Potomac.

July 6 found Lee’s army at Hagerstown; his trains stood at Williamsport, checked in their progress by the swollen Potomac. The Confederates established themselves behind intrenchments covering the ford at Williamsport and the bridge at Falling Waters. Stuart was indefatigable in guarding both flanks. With great caution, Meade marched through Frederick and Middletown. The battle of Gettysburg had left him about forty-seven thousand effective men out of his original ninety-five thousand. The authorities at Washingfton grew bolder with the lapse of time and urged Meade to destroy Lee’s army at once. French brought forward eleven thousand Federal veterans, while Couch and Smith led to Meade’s aid a swarm of militia. July 11 saw Meade carefully bridging the Antietam, and the 12th brought him within view of Lee’s position hear the Potomac. There he speedily placed fortifications in front of the Federal army. Meade called a council of war, but his subordinates were almost unanimous against the policy of attacking Lee’s thin line. They knew well enough the unconquerable spirit of the Confederates, who were eagerly awaiting an opportunity to defend their position. Lee himself said of his soldiers at this juncture, “Our noble men are cheerful and confident.” He wrote to President Davis again urging the assembling of an army from the Southern coast, and its advance under Beauregard to “make a demonstration upon Washington.”

I hope your Excellency will understand, [he continued,] that I am not in the least discouraged, or that my faith in the protection of an all-merciful Providence, or in the fortitude of this army, is at all shaken. But, though conscious that the enemy has been much shattered in the recent battle, I am aware that he can be easily reinforced, while no addition can be made to our numbers.

On July 11, while Meade drew nigh, Lee issued the following address to his soldiers:

After long and trying marches, endured with the fortitude that has ever characterised the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia, you have penetrated the country of our enemies, and recalled to the defence of their own soil those who were engaged in the invasion of ours. You have fought a fierce and sanguinary battle, which, if not attended with the success that has hitherto crowned your eflforts, was marked by the same heroic spirit that has commanded the respect of your enemies, the gratitude of your country, and the admiration of mankind.

Once more you are called upon to meet the army from which you have won on so many fields a name that will never die. . . . Let every soldier remember that on his courage and fidelity depends all that makes life worth having—the freedom of his country, the honour of his people, and the security of his home. . . .

On July 13, the river-flood was within its banks again and during the night Ewell’s corps waded the Potomac at Williamsport. Longstreet and Hill began to cross the pontoon bridge at Falling Waters. Stuart defended the rear with such success that Meade did not discover theConfederate movement until it was practically completed. The Federal cavalry pressed forward against Hill’s rear only to feel the strength of Heth’s division; the brave Pettigrew was slain in this rearguard skirmish. Noonday saw the three Confederate corps on the Virginia side of the river, and Meade was left astonished at the consummate skill shown in the method of Lee’s withdrawal. The spirit of aggressiveness had been hammered out of the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, and Meade was henceforth held carefully between Lee and the city of Washington.

From the lower valley, on July 15, Lee wrote as follows:

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 centring his forces in our front [at Williamsport], 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. . . . 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 can sustain us. God bless you all.

Meade followed McClellan’s plan of the previous autumn, and crossed the Potomac into the regions east of the Blue Ridge. The Federal Third Corps looked cautiously through the passes of the Ridge as Lee moved up the valley, to throw his army across Meade’s path at Culpeper on July 24. Operations upon a wider field now claimed the attention of both armies. Meade sent troops to assist in beleaguering Charleston and also to suppress the riots in New York due to the enforced enlistment of Federal recruits. Lee was called upon to face the results of the fall of Vicksburg and the depletion in strength of the Confederate armies.

Perhaps the most serious obstacle to the ultimate success of the Southern Confederacy was the Federal control of ocean and rivers. Water routes of communication enabled the North to attack salient points on the Atlantic coast. The Confederacy was cut in twain by the fall of Vicksburg and the consequent loss of the Mississippi River. The stronghold of the Confederates was now limited to the southern Appalachian Mountains and their slopes. The Southern people were isolated from the rest of the world by a ring of fire. Rosecrans was advancing into Tennessee, and Charleston was fiercely assailed. Wilmington remained as the only port of entry for the blockade-runners from foreign ports. Men, horses, cloth, and provisions were becoming every day more scarce. The railroads were out of order, and every State was besieging President Davis with demands for the defence of its borders. Under the stress of complaints from the public press. General Lee, on August 8, wrote, in part, as follows to President Davis:

. . . Everything points to the advantages to bederived 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.

To this letter, Davis replied, in part, in these words:

. . . I am truly sorry to know that you still feel the effects of the illness you suffered last spring, and can readily understand the embarrassments you experience in using the eyes of others, having been so much accustomed to make your own reconnaissances. . . . But suppose, my dear friend, that I were to admit, with all their implications, the points which you present, where am I to find that new commander who is to possess the greater ability which you believe to be required. . . . To ask me to substitute you by 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.

Lee’s appeals for men were heard and his roll of August 10 numbered fifty-eight thousand six hundred “present for duty.” Early in September, Longstreet led away two divisions to assist Bragg in holding Tennessee against Rosecrans, and Pickett’s division was moved to Petersburg. This left Lee in command of about forty-six thousand men. Upon his departure Longstreet wrote this to Lee: “Our affections for you are stronger, if it is possible for them to be stronger, than our admiration for you.”

Meade advanced in force to Culpeper, and Lee stood on the defensive behind the Rapidan. Lee sought to quiet jealousies among his own soldiers from different States, called for more troops, and then, on September 25, wrote as follows to Longstreet concerning the battle of Chickamauga:

My whole heart and soul have been with you and your brave corps in your late battle. It was natural to hear of Longstreet and [D. H.] Hill charging side by side, and pleasing to find the armies of the east and west vying with each other in valour and devotion to their country. . . . Finish the work before you, my dear General, and return to me. I want you badly, and you cannot get back too soon.

On October 9, Lee advanced his army across the Rapidan to seek battle with Meade. By concealed and circuitous routes, he passed around Meade’s right flank and threatened his rear via Madison Court-House. Meade had marched all the way from Gettysburg to find a battle with Lee, but during the night of October 10, he moved backward rapidly until the Rappahannock rolled between the two armies.

Lee then crossed the river at the Warrenton Springs and again moved around Meade’s right flank to Warrenton. A halt was made to apportion food to the troops. The delay gave Meade the opportunity to hasten eastward along the railroad and thus to reach Bristoe Station before Lee could cut off his retreat. Hill led Lee’s advance-guard. As Hill drew nigh to Bristoe Station, the Fifth Federal Corps was just crossing Broad Run in front of the Confederates. Without a reconnaisance. Hill pushed parts of two divisions over the Run to attack the rear of the Fifth. Suddenly the fire of Warren’s (Second) corps was poured into Hill’s flank from behind the railroad embankment. Nearly fourteen hundred Confederates were disabled or captured. The tardiness of both Hill and Ewell had permitted the escape of Meade, but the greater tardiness of Ewell allowed Warren thus to assail Hill’s flank. Lee listened to the latter’s words of excuse for the mortifying disaster, and then with grave sadness replied, “Well, well, General, bury these poor men and let us say no more about it.” Even yet, however, Meade’s situation “was singularly precarious,” says one of his own officers, for his waggon trains were massed in the fields away from the roads. At length the Federal army was on the northern side of Bull Run and fortified itself at Centreville. Lee then decided to withdraw, and assigned the following reasons:

Nothing prevented my continuing in his front but the destitute condition of the men, thousands of whom are barefooted, a greater number partially shod, and nearly all without overcoats, blankets or warm clothing. I think the sublimest sight of the war was the cheerfulness and alacrity exhibited by this army in the pursuit of the enemy under all the trials and privations to which it was exposed.

While the Confederates were returning toward the Rapidan, Stuart gave Meade’s cavalry a staggering blow as they advanced in pursuit. The horsemen wrought heroic deeds during the entire campaign, both in the pursuit and in the withdrawal. Lee moved the main body of his troops across the Rappahannock and left two of Early’s brigades on the northern bank in the redoubts near the site of the former railroad bridge. A sudden onset of the advanced Federal brigades in the late evening of November 7, secured possession of the redoubts before aid could be sent to Early’s troops. Sixteen hundred prisoners, eight colours, and several guns became Federal spoil. Just before this disaster Lee wrote as follows to his wife:

I moved yesterday into a nice pine thicket, and Perry is to-day engaged in constructing a chimney in front of my tent which will make it warm and comfortable. I have no idea when Fitzhugh [General W. H. F. Lee] will be exchanged. The Federal authorities still resist all exchanges, because they thiftk it is to our interest to make them. Any desire expressed on our part for the exchange of any individual magnifies the difficulty, as they at once think some great benefit is to result to us from it. His detention is very grievous to me, and, besides, I want his services. I am glad you have some socks for the army. Send them to me. They will come safely. Tell the girls to send all they can. I wish they could make some shoes, too. We have thousands of barefooted men. There is no news. General Meade, I believe, is repairing the railroad, and I presume will come on again. If I could only get some shoes and clothes for the men I would save him the trouble.

After Lee returned to the southern bank of the Rapidan, Meade essayed a movement of the Napoleonic sort. At the dawn of November 26 he ordered the Fifth and First Corps to cross the Rapidan at Culpeper Mine ford; the Second Corps was expected to cross at the Germanna ford, while the Third and Sixth were to seek passage higher up the stream. This host in five bands was expected to seize the Orange turnpike and the plank road, which run parallel to the Rapidan, and to follow these highways up-stream against Lee’s right flank. The Rapidan banks were difficult; other causes assisted in delaying Meade an entire day. The Third Corps moved too far to the right on the 27th, and ran against Edward Johnson’s division of Ewell’s corps. Stuart’s vigilance had brought Lee the news, and the swift marching of Hill united his corps with Ewell in the intrenchnients hastily constructed by the troops on the western border of Mine Run. This forest stream seeks the Rapidan in a northward course and formed the right flank of Lee’s position. On its rugged banks Lee arrayed his eager veterans.

The gallant Johnson held the Federal Third Corps engaged, and thus the rest of the Federal army was delayed. When Meade advanced on the morning of the 28th to run riot in Lee’s camp, he was confronted in the Wilderness with one hundred and fifty guns behind heavy works. Meade paused to devise further strategic movements. Warren led the Federal Second Corps and a part of the Sixth to turn Lee’s right flank. Sedgwick found what seemed to be a vulnerable point in the defences of Lee’s left wing. Warren’s force was increased to twenty-six thousand, and Meade gave his two lieutenants the order to crush the Confederate flanks. The signal guns sounded early on the morning of November 30. Sedgwick on the Federal right was ready to move. Warren on the left was ready but unwilling to assault. During the night Lee’s heroes had thrown up heavy breastworks and adorned them with cannon for the defence of their right flank. Naught but wounds and death did the Federal officers anticipate in advancing against the grim Confederate heroes. With chagrin, Meade withdrew his troops to the fields of Culpeper. Though greatly outnumbering them, he dared not attack the defiant Confederate veterans of Gettysburg.

Ten days before this movement, on November 19, President Lincoln delivered his celebrated speech upon the Gettysburg battle-ground. He said, in part:

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endured.

The address was a masterpiece of rhetorical beauty and also of the art of shifting great issues. The words italicised were shrewdly interpolated as expressing a proposition synonymous with the testing of the experiment of nearly a century. That experiment had culminated in the attempt of the Federal administration to invade and subdue by force of arms some of the States “conceived in liberty.” Mr. Lincoln’s dialectical skill imposed upon his audience the belief that they were struggling for the perpetuity of any government by the people. He thus added fresh impetus to the waning energies of those who had accepted his legal fiction of 1861 that the Federal administration was striving to “save the Union.” The Confederate soldiers were striving for the principles involved in the italicised words of the address. The Southern heroes who died upon the field of Gettysburg, and those who lived to drive back the Army of the Potomac from Mine Run were dedicated to the maintenance of the principles set forth in Lee’s address to his army at Hagerstown on July 11,—“all that makes life worth having—the freedom of his country, the honour of his people, and the security of his home.”


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