An Aide-De-Camp of Lee
THE GETTYSBURG CAMPAIGN
(b) THE INVASION OF PENNSYLVANIA
GENERAL LEE began his advance by moving the commands of Longstreet and Ewell to Culpeper Court House, where both were assembled by June 7th . The corps of A. P. Hill was left at Fredericksburg in observation of the enemy, who threw quite a large force across the Rappahannock, but made no attempt to attack.1
On June 10th General Lee started a manœuvre which was in a measure independent of the general purposes of his campaign. He sent Ewell into the Valley to Winchester, where he was ordered to attack the enemy and pursue him to the Potomac, believing that this movement would cause General Hooker to withdraw from Fredericksburg. In the meantime he remained with General Longstreet's corps at Culpeper Court House, where he was near enough to support Hill in case Ewell's action failed to cause the withdrawal of the troops on his front.
As soon as Ewell's appearance in the Valley began to be felt, the enemy in Hill's front did recross the Rappahannock, and indications that General Hooker would leave his former position were reported. So on June 15th General Lee advanced with Longstreet's corps from Culpeper Court House towards the Potomac River, ordering Hill to follow him as soon as the enemy should disappear from his front altogether.
Hill's march was up the south side of the Rappahannock, and there was danger that the Federal army might intercept him. To prevent this General Lee moved Longstreet's corps northwards along the east side of the Blue Ridge as if he would cross the Potomac east of the mountains, and between them and Washington, intending by this movement to cause General Hooker to throw his army between him and the lower fords of the Potomac, thus leaving Hill to continue his march to the Rappahannock unmolested.
The result was as General Lee intended, and, as soon as he heard that Hill was well on his way to cross the Shenandoah at Front Royal, he moved Longstreet through Ashby's Gap to the west side of the Blue Ridge into the Valley, but to make sure that General Hooker would be drawn well away from the Rappahannock he directed Ewell, who had driven the Federal troops from Winchester on the 15th, to cross the Potomac on June 17th and advance into Pennsylvania, being satisfied that this would assure a counter movement on the part of the enemy, and not only save Hill from molestation, but at the same time remove all apprehension of General Hooker's availing himself of the opportunities afforded by the withdrawal of our whole army from between him and Richmond.
It will thus be seen that the first movement of Ewell into Pennsylvania was merely for the purpose of compelling the recall of Hooker from the Rappahannock and enabling the parts of General Lee's army to reunite without hindrance. Ewell's movement therefore was a good one, and if the sole object of General Lee had been to withdraw the Confederate army safely from Fredericksburg and concentrate it on the northern frontier of Virginia, thereby causing in the meantime the abandonment of any plan the enemy might have formed while his army lay opposite to Fredericksburg, the plan was effectual.
THE INVASION OF PENNSYLVANIA
EARLY POSITIONS IN THE GETTYSBURG CAMPAIGN
Let us now look at the details of the subsequent movements. The events above referred to resulted in transferring the army of General Hooker from the vicinity of Fredericksburg to the Potomac River near Leesburg. The Federal army was then between that of General Lee and Washington, but was still in Virginia.
General Hill had entered the Valley on June 19th, and as soon as his approach was known Longstreet crossed the Shenandoah and also entered the Valley thus reuniting the two corps. General Lee then resolved to cross the Potomac, with the object of compelling General Hooker to do the same so as to cover Washington, and it is at this point that circumstances occurred that gave character eventually to the whole movement and brought about its actual result.
General Lee left Paris in Fauquier County in the afternoon of June 21st and proceeded to a place a short distance beyond Milwood in Clark County, where we encamped that night. There was a very severe storm, I remember, and our tents were pitched in a stubble field near a large white house, which General Lee said was built by British prisoners of war sent from Winchester by General Morgan during the Revolutionary War. I forget the name of the owners.
The next morning we proceeded to Berryville and encamped about noon in a field about a mile beyond that place on the road to Charlestown. The infantry had left Ashby's Gap and crossed the Shenandoah at Berry's and Snicker's Ferries on the 21st, but a part of them was ordered back on a report that Stuart, who had remained between Paris and Middleburg, was being pressed by the enemy's infantry.
General Lee designed to wait near Berryville until A. P. Hill should come up. Hill had left Fredericksburg when the enemy in his front moved off, and had marched through Culpeper Court House, by way of Gaines' Woods and Chester Gap to Front Royal.
While we were in camp near Berryville on the 22nd General Lee directed me to write a letter to General Stuart, and as this letter is of great importance I will state the particulars. It was soon after we went into camp on the 22nd, when we had heard that Hill was crossing at Front Royal, and his advance was expected to reach Berryville the same day, which actually occurred. General Lee had therefore determined to move on the 23rd and cross the Potomac at Shepherdstown and Williamsport, so as to be within supporting distance of Ewell who was directed to move into Pennsylvania.
At General Lee's request, I wrote the following letter to General Ewell, who had arrived at Shepherdstown:—
June 22nd., 1863
Lieut. General R. S. Ewell
Your letter of 6 P.M. yesterday has been received. If you are ready to move you can do so. I think your best course will be towards the Susquehanna, taking the routes by Emmittsburg, Chambersburg, and McConnellsburg. Your trains had better be as far as possible kept on the centre route. You must get command of your cavalry2 and use it in gathering supplies, obtaining information and protecting your flank. If necessary send a staff officer to remain with General Jenkins; it will depend upon the quantity of supplies obtained in that country whether the rest of the army can follow; there may be enough for your command, but none for the others. Every exertion should therefore be made to locate and secure them. Beef we can drive with us, but bread we cannot carry and must secure it in the country. I send the copies of a general order on this subject, which I think is based on rectitude and sound policy, and the spirit of which I want to see enforced in your command.3 I am much gratified with the success that has attended your movements, and feel assured that if they are conducted with the same energy and circumspection it will continue. Your progress and direction will of course depend upon the development of circumstances. If Harrisburg comes within your means, capture it. General A. P. Hill arrived yesterday in the vicinity of Berryville. I shall move him on to-day if possible. Saturday Longstreet withdrew from the Blue Ridge; yesterday the enemy pressed our cavalry with infantry on the Upperville Road, so that McLaws had to be sent back to hold Ashby's Gap. I have not yet heard from there this morning. General Stuart could not ascertain whether it was intended as a real advance towards the Valley or to ascertain our position. I am with great respect, Your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE, General
RICHARD S. EWELL
After this letter was sent off General Lee explained to me that he had had a conversation with General Stuart when he left him near Paris, and that his own view was to leave some cavalry in Snicker's and Ashby's Gaps to watch the army of General Hooker, and to take the main body of the cavalry with General Stuart to accompany the army into Pennsylvania. It is much to be regretted that this course was not pursued. General Lee added that Stuart suggested that he could move down with his cavalry near Hooker, and annoy him if he attempted to cross the river, and when he found that he was crossing he could rejoin the army in good time.
General Lee said that General Longstreet thought well of the suggestion and had assented, but he added that he had told General Stuart that, as soon as he found that General Hooker was crossing the Potomac, he must immediately cross himself and take his place on our right flank as we moved north. General Lee then told me that he was anxious that there should be no misunderstanding on General Stuart's part, and that there should be no delay in his joining us as soon as General Hooker had crossed. He said that in reflecting on the subject, while it had occurred to him that it might be possible for General Stuart, when the time came for him to cross the river, to cross east of the Blue Ridge and above General Hooker, thus avoiding the delay of returning through Snicker's or Ashby's Gap and crossing above Harpers Ferry, yet he added that circumstances might prevent Stuart from crossing east of the Blue Ridge. He said that he desired to impress upon General Stuart the importance of his rejoining the army with the least possible delay as soon as General Hooker had crossed, and he then directed me to write to General Stuart expressing these views.
I wrote a letter to General Stuart to the effect following, and showed it to General Lee before dispatching:—
HEADQUARTERS, 22nd June, 1863
Major General J. E. B. Stuart, Commanding Cavalry
I have just received your note of 7:45 this morning to General Longstreet. I judge the efforts of the enemy yesterday were to arrest our progress and ascertain our whereabouts. Perhaps he is satisfied. Do you know where he 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 and keep him informed of the enemy's movements, and collect all the supplies you can for the use of the army. One column of General Ewells army will probably move towards the Susquehanna by the Emmittsburg route, another by Chambersburg. Accounts from him last night state that there was no enemy west of Fredericktown. A cavalry force (about one hundred strong) guarded the Monocacy Bridge, which was barricaded. You will of course take charge of Jenkins's brigade and give him necessary instructions. All supplies taken in Maryland must be by authorized staff officers for their respective departments, by no one else. They will be paid for or receipts will be sent to the owners. I will send you a general order on this subject, which I wish you to see is strictly complied with. I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant
R. E. LEE, General
Later on the same day, General Lee wrote the following letter to General Ewell to inform him of the instructions which had been sent to Stuart.
HEADQUARTERS, June 22nd, 1863, 3:30 P.M.
I have just received your letter of this morning from opposite Shepherdstown; mine of to-day authorizing you to move towards Susquehanna has reached you ere this. After dispatching my letter, learning that the enemy had not renewed his attempt of yesterday to break through the Blue Ridge, I directed R. H. I. Anderson's division to commence its march towards Shepherdstown; it will reach there to-morrow. I also directed General Stuart, should the enemy so far have retired from his front as to permit of the departure of a portion of the cavalry, to march with three brigades across the Potomac and place himself on your right and in communication with you, keep you advised of the movements of the enemy and assist in collecting supplies for the army. I have not heard from him since; I also directed Imboden if the opportunity occurred to cross the Potomac and perform the same offices on your left. I am Yours most respectfully,
R. E. LEE, General
General Lee's letter to General Stuart of the 22nd, giving him specific directions as to his movements, was sent by General Lee through General Longstreet, who was with his troops on the east side of the Blue Ridge,4 and under whose immediate command General Stuart was.
I have not a copy of the letter from General Lee to General Longstreet enclosing the letter to General Stuart, but I have a copy of General Longstreet's letter to General Lee. It is as follows:—
HEADQUARTERS, June 22, 1863, 7:30 P.M.
General R. E. Lee, Commanding etc.
GENERAL: Yours of 4 o'clock this afternoon was received. I have forwarded your letter to General Stuart, with the suggestion that he was to pass to the enemy's rear, if he thinks he may get through. We have seen nothing of the enemy to-day. Most respectfully
Lieutenant General Commanding
General Lee's letter to General Stuart, which I have quoted, and which General Stuart received through General Longstreet, contained an order to the former, in case he found that the enemy was moving northward and that he could protect his rear with two brigades of his force, to move the other three into Maryland and take position on General Ewell's right, place himself in communication with him, guard his flank, and keep him informed of the enemy's movements. This order was sent through General Longstreet, that he might decide whether cavalry could be spared to execute the order, and also that he might direct how the cavalry should best move to carry it out, in view of the state of things existing when the order was delivered to General Stuart.
General Lee's letter, however, shows that when it was written he expected that General Stuart would pass, with all his cavalry except two brigades, to the west of the Blue Ridge, and cross the Potomac on that side of the mountains, leaving two brigades in the gaps to guard his rear as long as the enemy threatened to attempt to penetrate through the gaps into the Valley.
The letter which General Lee sent to General Ewell informing that officer of the order to be given to Stuart, if General Longstreet decided that Stuart could be spared, makes it very clear that General Lee assumed that Stuart would cross into Maryland and put himself on Ewell's right.
General Longstreet's reply to General Lee, acknowledging the receipt of the letter to General Stuart, states that he had forwarded that letter with the suggestion that Stuart should pass to the enemy's rear “if he thinks he can get through.”
His letter to General Stuart was as follows:—
MILLWOOD, June 22, 1863, 7 P.M.
Major General J. E. B. Stuart, Commanding Cavalry
General Lee has enclosed to me this letter to you, to be forwarded to you, provided you can be spared from my front, and provided I think you can move across the Potomac without disclosing our plans. He speaks of your leaving via Hopewell Gap,5 and passing by the rear of the enemy. If you can get through by that route, I think you will be less likely to indicate what our plans are than if you should cross by passing to our rear. I forward the letter of instruction with these suggestions. Please advise me of the conditions of affairs before you leave, and order General Hampton, whom I suppose you will leave here in command, to report to me at Millwood either by letter or in person, as may be most agreeable to him. Most respectfully
N.B. I think your passage of the Potomac by our rear at the present moment will, in a measure, disclose our plans. You had better therefore not leave us unless you can take the proposed route in rear of the enemy.
This letter of General Longstreet's appears to have been entirely controlled by the idea that General Stuart was to cross the Potomac in such a way as would best conceal the movements of the Confederate army, but it does not notice the positive instruction contained in General Lee's letter to General Stuart, that should the latter cross the Potomac he was to place himself as speedily as possible, after the enemy began to move northwards, upon General Ewell's right.
General Longstreet's suggestion that he should proceed by way of the enemy's rear to reach the Potomac and cross into Maryland contemplated the possibility of the entire detachment of the cavalry from the rest of the army. To obey the order, Stuart had to pass through the Bull Run mountains across the enemy's line of march from the Rappahannock to the Potomac river, if the way was open. That line of march was east of the Bull Run mountains. The cavalry under Stuart was on the east side of the Blue Ridge, and the enemy was already known to be assembling on the Potomac in Loudoun, so that Stuart's march as proposed by General Longstreet would take the cavalry east of the Bull Run mountains and bring it to the Potomac river, below where the enemy's army was concentrated. This might readily prove to be inconsistent with the chief aim of the movement ordered by General Lee, which was that General Stuart should place himself on the right of General Ewell after crossing the river, for there was evident danger that if General Stuart acted under the order of General Longstreet and the enemy should cross the Potomac before General Stuart, the latter would be separated from General Ewell, who was moving west of the Blue Ridge.
After this letter of the 22nd was sent General Lee directed me to repeat it. I remember saying to the General that it could hardly be necessary to repeat the order, as General Stuart had had the matter fully explained to himself verbally and my letter had been very full and explicit. I had retained a copy of my letter in General Lee's confidential letter book. General Lee said that he felt anxious about the matter and desired to guard against the possibility of error, and desired me to repeat it, which I did, and dispatched the second letter, which ran:—
June 23, 1863, 5 P.M.
Major General J. E. B. Stuart, Commanding Cavalry
Your notes of 9 and 10:30 A.M. today have just been received. As regards the purchase of tobacco for your men, supposing that Confederate money will not be taken, I am willing for commissaries or quarter masters to purchase this tobacco, and let the men get it from them, but I can have nothing seized by the men. If General Hooker's army remains inactive you can leave two brigades to watch him, and withdraw the three others, but should he not appear to be moving northward I think you had better withdraw this side of the mountains to-morrow night, cross at Shepherdstown next day, and move over to Fredericktown. You will, however, be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing them all the damage you can, and cross the river east of the mountains.6 In either case, after crossing the river you must move on and feel the right of Ewell's troops collecting information, provisions, etc. Give instructions to the commander of the brigades left behind to watch the flank and rear of the army, and, in the event of the enemy leaving their front, to retire from the mountains west of the Shenandoah, leaving sufficient pickets to guard the passes, and to bring in everything clean along the valley, closing upon the rear of the army. As regards the movements of the two brigades of the enemy moving towards Warrenton, the commander of the brigades to be left in the mountains must do what he can to counteract them, but I think the sooner you cross into Maryland after to-morrow the better. The movements of Ewell's corps are, as stated in my former letter. Hill's First Division will reach the Potomac to-day and Longstreet will follow to-morrow. Be watchful and circumspect in your movements. I am very respectfully and truly yours,
R. E. LEE, General
This letter was written and received before General Stuart started on his march “around the rear of the enemy,” and was General Lee's last direction to him before the army left Virginia. It covers the case of the Federal commander remaining inactive, and also that of his not moving northward.7 In the former event Stuart was to leave two brigades to watch him and with the other three to withdraw, and in the latter event Stuart's whole command was to be withdrawn “this side of the mountains to-morrow” across the Potomac at Shepherdstown and move toward Fredericktown the next day.
The order leaves Stuart to decide whether he can move around the Federal Army in either eventuality, without hindrance, doing it all the damage he can, and cross east of the mountains. In either case, after crossing the river, Stuart is directed to move on and feel the right of Ewell's troops, collecting information, etc.
Whether Stuart should cross the Potomac at Shepherdstown, or in the exercise of the discretion given him, pass round the rear of the enemy and cross the Potomac east of the mountains, he was ordered unconditionally “after crossing the river” to move on and “feel the right of Ewell's troops.” This explicit order precluded any movement by Stuart that would prevent him from “feeling the right of Ewell's troops” after crossing the Potomac. So that under these restrictions he was practically instructed not to cross the Potomac east of the Federal Army, and thus interpose that army between himself and the right of General Ewell. There were places where the Potomac could be crossed between the enemy's army, at or near Edward's Ferry, and the Blue Ridge, and General Stuart had discretion to use the fords east of the Blue Ridge, but he had no discretion to use any ford that would place the enemy's army between him and the troops of General Ewell.
The report of General Stuart of his operations in this campaign states that he had submitted to General Lee a plan of leaving a brigade or two, to use his own language, “in my present front and passing through Hopewell or some other gap in Bull Run Mountains, attain the enemy's rear, pass between his main body and Washington, and cross into Maryland, joining our army north of the Potomac.
“The commanding general wrote me, authorizing this move, if I deemed it practicable, and also what instructions should be given the officer in command of the two brigades left in front of the army. He also notified me that one column would move via Gettysburg, the other by Carlisle towards the Susquehanna, and directed me, after crossing, to proceed with all dispatch to join the right (Early)8 in Pennsylvania.”
There is no such letter as is mentioned by General Stuart contained in the book in which are found copies of all the other letters of General Lee to him, which letters I have cited, and it is inconsistent with those letters. General Stuart's report evidently refers to the letter of General Lee of June 23rd. That letter contains the instructions to be given to “the officer in command of the two brigades to be left in front of the enemy”; it also contains the information as to Ewell's movements referred to in the report. General Stuart constructed that letter to mean what he, in his report, states. That construction, however, is not justified by the letter itself.
General Stuart's report proceeds as follows:—
“Accordingly three days' rations were prepared, and on the night of the 24th the following brigades, Hampton's, Fitz Lee's, and W. H. F. Lee's, rendezvoused secretly near Salem Depot. We had no waggons or vehicles, except six pieces of artillery, caissons and ambulances. Robertson's and Jones's brigades under the command of the former were left in observation of the enemy on the usual front, with full instructions as to following up the enemy, in case of withdrawal, and rejoining our main army. Brigadier-General Fitz Lee's brigade had to march from north of Snicker's Gap to the place of rendezvous. At one o'clock at night the brigades, with noiseless march, moved out. This precaution was necessary on account of the enemy's having possession of the Bull Run mountains, which in the day time commanded a view of every movement of consequence in that location. Hancock's corps occupied Thoroughfare Gap. Moving to the right we passed through Glasscock's Gap without serious difficulty, and marched for Haymarket. I had previously sent Major Mosby, with some picked
men, through to gain the vicinity of Dranesville, and bring intelligence to me near Gum Spring to-day.”
Haymarket is in Prince William County east of the Bull Run mountains, and that was the first point to which General Stuart directed his march, using Glasscock's Gap in the mountains, Glasscock's Gap being further to the south than Thoroughfare Gap.
“As we neared Haymarket [continued General Stuart's report], we found Hancock's Corps was en route for Gum Springs through Haymarket, his infantry well distributed through his trains.
“As Hancock had the right of way on my road, I sent Fitz Lee's brigades to Gainesville to reconnoitre, and devoted the remainder of the day to grazing our horses, the only forage procurable in the country. The best of information represented the enemy still at Centreville, Union Mills and Wolf Run Shoals. I sent a dispatch to General Lee concerning General Hancock's movements, and moved back to Buckland to deceive the enemy. It rained heavily that night. To carry out my original design of passing west of Centreville would have involved so much detention on account of the presence of the enemy that I determined to cross Bull Run further down and pass through Fairfax for the Potomac the next day. The sequel shows this to have been the only practicable course.
“We marched through Brentsville to the vicinity of Wolf Run Shoals, and had to halt again to graze our horses, which hard marching without grain was fast breaking down. We met the enemy to-day, the 26th. On the following morning, 27th, having ascertained that on the night previous the enemy had disappeared entirely from Wolf Run Shoals, a strongly fortified position on the Occoquan, I marched to that point, and thence directly for Fairfax Station, sending General Fitz Lee to the right to cross by Burke Station and effect a junction at Fairfax Court House, or further on according to circumstances.
“Reaching Fairfax Court House a communication was received from General Fitz Lee from Annandale. At these two points there were evidences of very recent occupation, but the evidence was conclusive that the enemy had left this point entirely, the mobilized army having the day previous moved over towards Leesburg, while the locals had retired to the fortifications near Washington. I had not yet heard from Major Mosby, but the indications favoured my successful passage in the rear of the enemy's army. After a halt of a few hours to rest and refresh the command, which regaled itself on stores left by the enemy in the place, march was resumed at Dranesville late in the afternoon. The campfires of Sedgwick's sixth corps just west of the town were still burning, it having left that morning. General Hampton's brigade was still in advance, and was ordered to move directly for Rowser's Ford on the Potomac, Chambliss's brigade being held at Dranesville until Brigadier General Fitz Lee could close up.
“As General Hampton approached the river he fortunately met a citizen who had just crossed the river, who informed us that there were no pickets on the other side of the river, and that the river, though fordable, was two feet higher than usual. Hampton's brigade crossed early in the night, but reported to me that it would be utterly impossible to cross the artillery at that ford. In this the residents were also very positive that vehicles could not cross. A ford lower down was examined, and found quite as impracticable, from quicksands, rocks and rugged banks. I, however, determined not to give it up without a trial, and before twelve o'clock that night, in spite of the difficulties, to all appearances insuperable, indomitable energy and resolute determination triumphed. Every piece was brought safely over, and the entire command bivouacked on Maryland soil.”
I shall not quote further from General Stuart's report. That portion which I have cited shows that he crossed the Potomac east of the army of General Hooker, so as to render it extremely difficult if not impossible, for him to comply with the repeated injunctions he had received from General Lee to place himself on Ewell's right as soon as he entered Maryland.
I must here break my story to refer to what took place long afterwards.
During the winter of 1863–4 while we lay on the Rapidan I was engaged in preparing the report on the Gettysburg campaign. I had received all the reports of the infantry and artillery commanders, and I was only waiting for General Stuart's, to complete General Lee's official report. Some delay took place, and General Stuart was applied to more than once. He said he was busy preparing it, and promised me several times to send it in. General Lee was urging me to prepare his report before active operations should be resumed, and I think that when I told him the cause of the delay, he either wrote or spoke to General Stuart on the subject himself. I know that I was unable to complete and forward General Lee's report until some time in January or February, 1864.9 At last General Stuart brought his report and asked me to read it carefully, and to tell him what I thought of his conduct.
In speaking of his having crossed the Potomac east of General Hooker on June 27th, instead of between Hooker and Harper's Ferry, General Stuart stated that he had at one time contemplated a dash on Washington, but did not undertake it because his orders were to join the infantry as soon as possible. He further stated that his orders had been to place his command on the right of our line of ranks, but argued that had he done so, he would have attracted the enemy's cavalry, which was more numerous than his, to that quarter. He said they could have broken through the mountains at some pass, as he was not strong enough to hold all, and thus endangered our trains which were moving north on the west side of the Catoctin. General Stuart asked me if I did not consider his excuse for not putting himself on our right satisfactory, alleging that his movement had drawn the enemy's cavalry away from the Catoctin to watch him, and thus secured our trains.
I told him that I thought it would have been far better for him to have obeyed his orders; that General Lee had not ordered him to protect our trains, but had disposed his infantry so as to do that, most of the trains having crossed at Williamsport, while Hill's corps or most of it crossed at Shepherdstown, and moved through Sharpsburg, to Hagerstown, thus keeping between the trains and the enemy, while the trains were so distributed that infantry support was near all parts of the line.
I called his attention to the fact that the great object of having his cavalry on our right was to keep us informed of the enemy's movements. I pointed out the disastrous consequence of our being without cavalry to get information for us, and the fact that, owing to our not hearing from him, General Lee had been led to believe that General Hooker had not crossed the Potomac for several days after that event had occurred. I told him how General Lee, being confident that he would give him immediate information of Hooker's crossing, had assumed from not receiving the information that Hooker had not crossed and acted on that belief.
Stuart said that when he crossed at Rowser's Ferry, and found that Hooker had crossed the day before above him, he had sent a dispatch to General Lee back by way of Ashby's Gap. We never got that dispatch, and, as I showed him, if we had, still we had no cavalry to get information for us.
General Stuart admitted that he had made the movement at his own discretion, and that he had General Lee's letter written by me. He said that he was confident that he could get around Hooker and join us in Pennsylvania before the two armies could meet.
I mention these facts to show that General Stuart felt it necessary to defend his course, which he would not have done had he been justified by his orders.
I must now return to the movements of the main body of the army. On June 22nd Ewell had marched into Pennsylvania, with Rodes' and Johnson's divisions, preceded by Jenkins' cavalry, taking the road from Hagerstown through Chambersburg to Carlisle, where he arrived on the 27th. Early's division moved by a parallel road to Greenwood, and, in pursuance of instructions previously given to General Ewell, marched towards York. On the 24th Longstreet and Hill were put into motion to follow Ewell, and on the 27th encamped near Chambersburg. General Imboden's command, which had been directed to cross the Potomac and take position on General Ewell's left, as he moved northward, reached Hancock, while Longstreet and Hill were at Chambersburg, and was directed to proceed to the latter place.
General Lee had most implicit confidence in the vigilance and enterprise of General Stuart, He had not heard from him since the army left Virginia, and was confident from that fact, in view of the positive orders that Stuart had received, that General Hooker's army had not yet crossed the Potomac. He remained at Chambersburg from the 27th to the 29th and repeatedly observed while there that the enemy's army must still be in Virginia, as he had heard nothing from Stuart.
Assuming that such was the fact and that the movements of the Confederate Army into Pennsylvania had, contrary to his confident expectation, failed to withdraw that of General Hooker from Virginia, General Lee began to become uneasy as to the purpose of the Federal commander, and to fear that he contemplated a strong movement against Richmond. He remarked that such a proceeding on the part of the enemy would compel the immediate return of his own army to Virginia, if it could indeed reach Richmond in time to defend the city. I heard General Lee express this apprehension more than once while we lay at Chambersburg, and the apprehension was due entirely to his hearing nothing from General Stuart.
In these circumstances he determined to take such action as would compel the enemy to leave Virginia, and deter him from any attempt upon Richmond. General Longstreet's corps was at Chambersburg with the commanding general. General A. P. Hill's corps was about four miles east of Chambersburg on the road to Gettysburg. General Ewell was then at Carlisle. On the night of the 28th June I was directed by General Lee to order General Ewell to move directly upon Harrisburg, and to inform him that General Longstreet would move next morning, the 29th, to his support.
General A. P. Hill was directed to move eastward to the Susquehanna, and cross the river below Harrisburg, seize the railroad between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, it being supposed that all reinforcements that might be coming from the north would be diverted to the defence of that city and that there would be such alarm created by these movements that the Federal Government would be obliged to withdraw its army from Virginia and abandon any plan that it might have for an attack on Richmond.
I sent the orders about 10 o'clock at night to General Ewell and General Hill, and had just returned to my tent, when I was sent for by the commanding general. I found him sitting in his tent with a man in citizen's dress, whom I did not know to be a soldier, but who, General Lee informed me, was a scout of General Longstreet's, who had just been brought to him.10
He told me that this scout had left the neighbourhood of Frederickstown that morning, and had brought information that the Federal army had crossed the Potomac,11 and that its advance had reached Frederickstown, and was moving thence westward towards the mountains. The scout informed General Lee that General Meade was then in command of the army, and gave him the first information that he had received since he left Virginia of the movements of the enemy. He inferred from the fact that the enemy had turned westward from Frederickstown that his purpose was to enter the Cumberland Valley south of our army, and obstruct our communications through Hagerstown with Virginia. General Lee said that, while he did not consider that he had complete communication with Virginia, he had all the communication that he needed, as long as the enemy had no considerable force in the Cumberland Valley. His principal need for communication with Virginia was to procure ammunition, and he thought that he could always do that with an escort, if the valley were free from a Federal force, but should the enemy have a considerable force in the valley this would be impossible. He considered it of great importance that the enemy's army should be kept east of the mountains, and consequently he determined to move his own army to the east side of the Blue Ridge so as to threaten Washington and Baltimore, and detain the Federal force on that side of the mountains to protect those cities. He directed me to countermand the orders to General Ewell and General Hill, and to order the latter to move eastward on the road through Cashtown or Gettysburg as circumstances might direct. He ordered General Longstreet to prepare to move the next morning, following Hill.
The army moved very slowly and there would have been no difficulty whatever in having the whole of it at Gettysburg by the morning of July 1st had we been aware of the movements of the enemy on the other side of the mountains.
Thus the movement towards Gettysburg was the result of the want of information which the cavalry alone could obtain for us, and General Lee was compelled to march through the mountains from Chambersburg eastward without the slightest knowledge of the enemy's movements, except that brought by the scout. While making this march the only information he possessed led him to believe that the army of the enemy was moving westward from Frederick to throw itself upon his line of communication with Virginia, and the object of the movement was simply to arrest the execution of this supposed plan of the enemy, and keep his army on the east side of the Blue Ridge.
It would have been entirely within the power of General Lee to have met the army of the enemy while it was moving on the road between Frederick and Gettysburg, or to have remained west of the mountains. It had not been his intention to deliver battle north of the Potomac if it could be avoided, except upon his own terms, and yet, by reason of the absence of the cavalry, his own army marching slowly from Chambersburg eastward and southward from Carlisle came unexpectedly upon the Federal advance on July 1st, a considerable part of the Confederate army not having then reached the field of battle.
It has been my object to correct the impression that has prevailed that the movement of the cavalry was made by General Lee's orders, and that at a critical moment of the campaign he crossed the Potomac river and moved into Pennsylvania, sending the entire cavalry force of his army upon a useless raid. That this is not true I think the evidence I have produced abundantly establishes. The suggestion of General Longstreet in communicating the order of General Lee to General Stuart of June 22nd, that the latter should pass by the enemy's rear, need not have led to the results which I have described.
General Longstreet's suggestion was qualified, as was General Lee's letter to General Stuart of June 22nd, by saying that the latter should go by the enemy's rear, “if he thinks he can get through.” The first movement of General Stuart after leaving Salem depot early in the morning of the 25th brought him in conflict with General Hancock's corps, near Haymarket, and finding that he could not pass round the rear of the enemy,12 the discretion so given him by General Longstreet was at an end, and there was yet time for General Stuart to retrace his steps and obey the order he had received from General Lee in the letter of June 23rd, to cross the Potomac west of the Blue Ridge and move on until he felt the right of Ewell's column. But, instead of pursuing this course, General Stuart, as I have already pointed out, moved to Buckland, east of Bull Run mountains, and proceeded from that place to Brentsville, down to Wolf Run Shoals, and thence across the country by way of Fairfax Station to the Potomac river.
This latter movement was not sanctioned either by the suggestion of General Longstreet or by the positive orders of General Lee, and from the tenour of General Stuart's report it would seem that he entirely mistook the part that he was expected to take in the movement of the army. He placed himself east of the Federal Army, with that army between himself and the Confederate force. He left General Lee without any information as to the movements of the enemy from the time he crossed the Potomac river until July 2nd. By his silence, as I have described, he caused General Lee to move his army to Gettysburg, not with the expectation or purpose of meeting the enemy, but simply to prevent a movement which he supposed the enemy was making to obstruct his line of communication with Virginia, and caused him to fight the battle of Gettysburg without having his whole force present except on the third day, when it was equally possible, had General Lee been informed of what the enemy was doing, for him to have fought that battle with his entire force while the enemy's forces were still approaching Gettysburg, or to have remained west of the mountains and have met the Federal army on some other field.
The result of General Stuart's action was that two armies invaded Pennsylvania in 1863, instead of one. One of those armies had little cavalry, the other had nothing but cavalry. One was commanded by General Lee, the other by General Stuart.13