An Aide-De-Camp of Lee
THE GETTYSBURG CAMPAIGN
(c) THE BATTLE1
IN accordance with the order issued by General Lee late on the night of the 28th, after he had received information of the enemy's movements from General Longstreet's scout, Heth's division of Hill's corps arrived at Cashtown on the 29th. The weather being inclement, the marches were conducted with a view to the comfort of the men and not with the object of a rapid concentration of the army. On the following morning Pettigrew's brigade was sent by General Heth to procure supplies2 at Gettysburg, there being no information of an advance of the enemy to that place. Pettigrew found that Gettysburg was occupied by Federal troops, and being ignorant of their strength and unwilling to hazard an attack with his single brigade, he returned to Cashtown.
General Hill arrived at Cashtown with Pender's division on the evening of June 3Oth, and on the following morning, July 1st, he advanced with Heth's and Pender's divisions, accompanied by Pegram's and McIntosh's battalions of artillery towards Gettysburg, in order to ascertain the strength of the enemy, whose force was supposed to consist chiefly of cavalry.3 Heth's division, which was leading, found the enemy's vedettes about three miles west of Gettysburg, and proceeded to advance until within a mile of the town. Two brigades were then sent forward to reconnoitre. They drove in the advance of the enemy very gallantly, but subsequently encountered largely superior numbers, and were compelled to retire with loss.
Positions June 30th.
General Heth then prepared for action, and as soon as Pender arrived to support him, was ordered by General Hill to advance. The artillery was placed in position, and the engagement opened with vigor. General Heth pressed the enemy steadily back, breaking his first and second line and attacking his third with great resolution.4 About 2:30 P.M. the advance of Ewell's corps, consisting of Rodes' division with Carter's battalion of artillery, arrived by Middleton Road, and forming on Heth's left nearly at right angles with his line, became warmly engaged with fresh numbers of the enemy.5
Heth's troops, having suffered severely in their protracted contest with a superior force, were relieved by Pender's, and Early, coming up by Heidlersburg Road, soon afterwards took position on the left of Rodes', when a general advance was made.
The enemy gave way on all sides and was driven through Gettysburg with great loss; Major-General Reynolds, who was in command, was killed. More than 5000 prisoners, exclusive of a large number of wounded, three pieces of artillery, and several colors were captured. Among the prisoners were two Brigadier-Generals, one of whom was badly wounded. Our own loss was heavy, including a number of officers, among whom were Major-General Heth slightly and Brigadier-General Scales of Pender's division severely wounded. The enemy retired to a range of hills south of Gettysburg,6 where he displayed a strong force of infantry and artillery.
General Lee, on hearing the noise of Hill's battle, had ridden forward, and he arrived on the Seminary Ridge, about one mile west of Gettysburg. He established his headquarters near where the Chambersburg pike crosses the ridge soon after 2 P.M., and from that position he observed the retreat of the enemy through Gettysburg before General Swell's advance. Owing to the absence of the cavalry, he was still without definite information as to the position of the enemy. It was ascertained from prisoners that we had been engaged with two corps and that the remainder of the army under General Meade was approaching Gettysburg. Until the position of the remaining corps of General Meade's army was ascertained with more certainty, General Lee decided that to make a general attack with the four divisions present would be dangerous. He therefore sent orders to General Ewell to carry the hill, to which the enemy had retired from Gettysburg, known as the Cemetery Hill, if practicable, but to avoid a general engagement until the arrival of the other divisions of the army, which were ordered to hasten forward.
General Ewell decided to await the arrival of Johnson's division, which had marched from Carlisle by the road west of the mountains, to guard the trains of his corps, and consequently did not reach Gettysburg until a late hour. In the meantime the enemy occupied the point which General Ewell designed to seize, but in what force he was could not be ascertained owing to the darkness. An intercepted dispatch showed that another Federal corps had halted that afternoon four miles from Gettysburg.
In these circumstances it was decided not to attack until the arrival of General Longstreet, two of whose divisions, those of Hood and McLaws, encamped about four miles in the rear during the night. Anderson's division of Hill's corps came up after the engagement of July 1st.
The movement of the Confederate army to Gettysburg was very deliberate. The whole of it could easily have been there by July 1st, or indeed, had the real position and movements of General Meade been known in time, General Lee if he had so desired could have been at Gettysburg on June 29th, instead of remaining at Chambersburg.
Whether, if he had had his cavalry to give information of the real movements of the enemy, he would have crossed the Blue Ridge earlier and struck the army of General Meade as it was hurrying up from the Potomac, stretched out as that army was, or whether he would have concentrated his own forces west of the mountains, and there have awaited the movements of his adversary, it is unnecessary to inquire.
It is plain, however, that with such an active and vigilant officer as Stuart, who had the largest cavalry force under his command that was ever assembled in Virginia at any time during the war, to inform him of the enemy's movements, either course would have been open to General Lee.
The result of the movement into Pennsylvania up to June 30th would have been to present a good opportunity to fight the Federal Army at a disadvantage, or to await its attack, our own army in the meantime living on the country, had General Lee possessed such information concerning the movements of the enemy as General Stuart would have been able to furnish, if the cavalry had moved upon the right of our army as it advanced from the Potomac River.
Had Stuart been where he was ordered to be, he could have informed General Lee before June 29th that the Federal army had crossed the Potomac and left Virginia, and certainly the cavalry would have been able, as it marched along our right, to ascertain that the reported movement of the enemy from Frederick westward,—which induced General Lee to place his army east of the mountains,—was incorrect. As it was, we were entirely ignorant until the afternoon of July 1st of the whereabouts of General Stuart; there was a small cavalry force with Ewell at Carlisle,7 but none at all with the main body of the army.
We knew that Stuart was not west of the mountains, and if no misfortune had befallen him we knew that he would rejoin us east of the mountains; as it was, however, we moved slowly on towards Gettysburg, believing that the enemy was yet in Maryland, to the south of us, moving from Frederick across our line of communication through Cumberland Valley, and with no other knowledge of his place and movements.
That we came unexpectedly upon the Federal Army at Gettysburg may be inferred from the fact that, although our whole army could have been there on July 1st as easily as a part of it, only two of Ewell's and two of Hill's divisions were on the field during the engagement of that day, and the chief reason for not following up our first success was the absence of Longstreet's corps and of one division of each of the other two.
Four divisions were on the ground, and five others might have been there had the necessity of their presence been suspected. Had all the army been up, there is no reason to suppose that there would have been any fighting at Gettysburg after the first day, to say nothing of the other consequences to General Meade's army that might have followed the crushing defeat or destruction of its advanced corps.
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 train would have been difficult and dangerous. At the same time we were not able 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 was therefore become in a measure unavoidable, and the success already gained gave hopes of a favourable issue.
In order to arrange for the plans of attack upon the enemy, General Lee, as soon as he saw that General Ewell's attack was not continued, rode to the Confederate left to see that General. An examination of the ground shewed the difficulty of attack in that quarter. The enemy occupied a strong position with his right upon two commanding elevations, adjacent to each other, one southeast,8 and the other, known as Cemetery Hill, immediately south of the town, which lay at its base. His line extended thence upon the high ground along the Emmittsburg road with a steep ridge in rear, which was also occupied. This ridge was difficult of ascent, particularly the two hills above mentioned as forming its northern extremity, and a third at the other end on which the enemy's left rested.
Numerous stone and rail fences along the slope served to afford protection to the enemy's troops, and impede our advance. In his front the ground was undulating, and generally open for about three-quarters of a mile. General Ewell's corps constituted our left; Johnson's division being opposite the height adjoining Cemetery Hill, Early's in the centre in front of the north face of the latter, with Rodes' division upon his right.
Hill's corps faced the west side of Cemetery Hill, and extended nearly parallel to the Emmittsburg Road, making an angle with Ewell. Pender's division formed Hill's left; Anderson's his right; Heth's division under Brigadier General Pettigrew being in reserve. Hill's artillery under Colonel R. L. Walker was posted in eligible positions along his line.
After consultations with Generals Hill and Ewell, General Lee at one time contemplated a movement round the left flank of the enemy, but he abandoned this plan in view of the facts that he was uncertain of the position of General Meade's corps, that in the absence of the cavalry such a movement could not be concealed from the enemy, and that our line of march must have necessarily been so close to the enemy's position as to have exposed us to a very dangerous attack. It was therefore determined to attack the enemy's left.
After his consultation with Generals Hill and Ewell, General Lee returned to his position on Seminary Ridge where he met General Longstreet. The latter proposed to General Lee the plan, which he had already considered and rejected, of turning the enemy's left. General Lee informed him that he had decided to attack the enemy the next day as early as practicable, and directed General Longstreet to place the divisions of McLaws and Hood on the right of Hill, partially enveloping the enemy's left, which he was to drive in. General Hill was ordered to threaten the enemy's centre to prevent reinforcements being drawn to either wing, and to co-operate with his right division in Longstreet's attack. General Ewell was instructed to make a simultaneous demonstration upon the enemy's right, to be converted into a real attack should opportunity offer.
General Lee slept that night in a small house east of the Seminary Ridge and just north of the Chambersburg pike, his staff bivouacking in an orchard near by. Early on the 2nd, General Longstreet came to see General Lee and renewed his proposal that a movement should be made to turn the enemy's left, and to this General Lee answered that he was determined to attack the enemy where he was. General Longstreet then rode off to meet his troops.
After waiting some time for the expected development of General Longstreet's attack and expressing his surprise that it had not begun, General Lee rode to the right to see General Ewell, and to ascertain whether a reconnaissance made of Cemetery Hill in daylight shewed that an attack on that position would be more promising. It was found that the enemy had strengthened his position greatly during the night, and that an attack upon the enemy's right would have little prospect of success unless it was combined with other attacks on his left and centre. General Lee thereupon returned to Seminary Ridge, and about 11 o'clock issued orders to General Longstreet to begin his attack upon the enemy's left as soon as possible.9
It was not however until 4 P.M. that Longstreet's batteries opened and soon afterwards Hood's division on his extreme right moved to the attack. McLaws followed somewhat later, four of Anderson's brigades, those of Wilcox, Perry, A. R. Wright, and Posey supporting him in the order named. The enemy was soon driven from his position on the Emmittsburg road to the cover of a ravine and of a line of stone fences at the foot of the ridge in his rear. He was dislodged from these after a severe struggle, and retired up the ridge leaving a number of his batteries in our possession.
Wilcox's and Wright's brigades advanced with great gallantry, breaking successive lines of the enemy's infantry and compelling him to abandon much of his artillery. Wilcox reached the foot and Wright gained the crest of the ridge itself, driving the enemy down the opposite side, but having become separated from McLaws and gone beyond the other two brigades of the division, they were attacked in front and on both flanks, and compelled to retire, being unable to bring off any of the captured artillery.
McLaws' left also fell back, and it being now nearly dark General Longstreet determined to await the arrival of Pickett's division. He disposed his command to hold the ground gained on the right, withdrawing his left to the first position from which the enemy had been driven. Four pieces of artillery, several hundreds of prisoners, and two regimental flags were taken.
As soon as the engagement began on our right, General Johnson opened with his artillery, and about two hours later advanced up the hill10 next to the Cemetery Hill with three brigades, the fourth being detained by a demonstration on his left. Soon afterwards General Early attacked Cemetery Hill with two brigades supported by a third, the fourth having been previously detached. The enemy had greatly increased the strength of his position assailed by Johnson and Early. The troops of the former moved steadily up the steep and rugged ascent under a heavy fire, driving the enemy into his entrenchments, part of which was carried by Stuart's brigade and a number of prisoners taken.
On Cemetery Hill the attack by Early's leading brigades, those of Hayes and Hoke, under Colonel I. E. Avery was made with vigor; two lines of the enemy's infantry were dislodged from the cover of some stone and board fences on the side of the ascent, and driven back into the woods on the crest, into which our troops forced their way and seized several pieces of artillery. A heavy force then advanced against their right, which was unsupported, and they were compelled to retire, bringing with them 100 prisoners and four stands of colors.
General Ewell had directed General Rodes to attack in concert with Early, whose right he was told to cover, and had requested Brigadier-General Lane, then commanding Pender's division, to co-operate on the right of Rodes. When the time to attack arrived, General Rodes, not having his troops in position, was unprepared to co-operate with General Early, and before he could get in readiness the latter had been obliged to retire for want of the expected support on his right. General Lane was prepared to give the assistance required of him, and so informed General Rodes but the latter deemed it useless to advance after the failure of Early's attack.
General Rodes in his report gives his reasons for this momentous and fatal want of co-operation. He says: “Orders given during the afternoon and after the engagement had opened on the right required me to co-operate with the attacking force as soon as any opportunity to do so with good effect was offered. Seeing the stir alluded to, I thought the opportunity had come and immediately sought General Early with a view of making an attack in concert with him; he agreed with me as to the propriety of attacking, and made preparations accordingly. I hastened to inform the officer commanding the troops on my right, part of Pender's division, I would attack just at dark, and proceeded to make my arrangements; but having to draw my troops out of town by the flank, change the direction of the line of battle, and then traverse a distance of 1200 or 1400 yards, while General Early had to move only half that distance without change of front, the result was that before I drove the enemy's skirmishers in, General Early had attacked and been compelled to retire.”
J. A. EARLY
If General Rodes had prepared his troops to advance on the right of General Early the latter would not have been compelled to withdraw from a successful attack, and the position on Cemetery Hill would have been held. The capture of that hill would have enabled General Early to have enfiladed the Federal troops opposed to those of General Longstreet, and the effect of such fire at that time might have changed the result of the day. At one time on July 2nd victory was within our certain reach. It was lost by delay and by the failure of co-operation on the part of the troops engaged.
The result of this day's operations induced the belief that with proper concerted action, and with the increased support that the positions gained on our right would enable the artillery to give to 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 on the afternoon of the 2nd, was ordered to attack 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' and one from Early's divisions. At an early hour on July 3rd General Lee met General Longstreet, who again proposed that a movement should be made round the enemy's left. General Lee however decided that the attack should be made as ordered. General Longstreet's dispositions were not completed as early as was expected, but before notice of this could be sent to General Ewell, General Johnson had already become engaged and it was too late to recall him. The enemy attempted to recover the works taken the previous evening, but was repulsed and General Johnson attacked in turn.
After a gallant and prolonged struggle, in which the enemy was forced to abandon part of his entrenchments, General Johnson found himself unable to carry the strongly fortified crest of the hill. The projected attack on the enemy's left by General Longstreet not having been made, he was enabled to hold his right with a force largely superior to that of General Johnson, and finally to threaten his flank and rear, rendering it necessary for him to retire to his original position about 1 P.M.
General Longstreet was delayed by a force occupying the high rocky hills11 on the enemy's left, from which his troops could be attacked in reverse as they advanced. His operations had been embarrassed a day previous and he now deemed it necessary to defend his flank and rear with the divisions of McLaws and Hood. He was therefore reinforced by Heth's division, and two brigades of Pender's to the command of which Major General Trimble was assigned. General Hill was directed to hold his line with the rest of his command, giving General Longstreet further assistance if called for, and to avail himself of any success that might be gained. A careful examination of the ground secured by Longstreet during the engagement of the 2nd was made, and his batteries placed in position, which [it] was believed would enable him to silence those of the enemy.
RELIEF MAP OF THE BATTLEFIELD OF GETTYSBURG, LOOKING SOUTH
A. P. Hill's artillery and part of Ewell's was ordered to open simultaneously, the assaulting column to advance under cover of the combined fire of the three. The batteries were directed to push forward as the infantry progressed, protect their flanks and support their attacks closely. About 1 P.M., at a given signal a heavy cannonade was opened and continued for about two hours with marked effect on the enemy.
His batteries replied vigorously at first, but towards the close their fires slackened perceptibly, and General Longstreet ordered forward the column of attack, consisting of Pickett's and Heth's divisions in two lines, Pickett on the right. Wilcox's brigade marched in rear of Pickett's right to guard that flank and Heth supported by Lane's and Scales' brigades under General Trimble.
The troops moved steadily on under a heavy fire of musketry and artillery, the main attack being directed against the enemy's left centre; his batteries reopened as soon as they appeared; our own having nearly exhausted their ammunition in the protracted cannonade that preceded the advance of the infantry were unable to reply, or render the necessary support to the attacking party.
The fact that the artillery ammunition had been so far reduced was known to General Longstreet, but was not reported to General Lee. No order issued by General Lee justified the omission of notice of this important fact by General Longstreet.
Owing to this fact, the enemy was enabled to throw a strong force of infantry against our left, already wavering under a concentrated fire of artillery from the ridge in front, and from Cemetery Hill on the left. It finally gave way, and the right after penetrating the enemy's lines, entering his advance work, and capturing some of his artillery, was attacked simultaneously in front and on both flanks, and driven back with heavy loss. The troops were rallied and reformed, but the enemy did not pursue.
A large number of brave officers and men fell or were captured on this occasion. Pickett's three brigade commanders, General Armistead, and R. B. Garnet were killed and General Kemper dangerously wounded. Major General Trimble and Brigadier General Pettigrew were also wounded, the former severely.
The movements of the army preceding the battle of Gettysburg had been greatly embarrassed by the absence of the cavalry. As soon as it was known that the enemy had crossed into Maryland orders were sent back to the brigades of B. H. Robinson and William E. Jones, which had been left to guard the passes of the Blue Ridge, to rejoin the army without delay, and it was expected that General Stuart with the remainder of his command would soon arrive. In the exercise of the discretion given him, General Stuart determined to pass round the rear of the Federal army then lying on the Potomac River. He thus disregarded repeated instructions given to him that as soon as he had ascertained that the Federal army had crossed the Potomac River and had left Virginia, one of the results that was confidently expected to take place from the movements of our army northward from the river, he should lose no time in reporting the fact and place himself on the right of our troops, giving them information of the enemy's movements and guarding their flank.
GEORGE E. PICKETT
General Stuart, marching from Salem on the night of June 24th, found the enemy's forces so distributed as to render that route impracticable; he nevertheless adhered to his original plan and was forced to make a wide detour through Buckland and Brentsville, and crossed the Occoquan at Wolf Run Shoals, on the morning of the 27th. Continuing his march through Fairfax Court House and Dranesville, he arrived at the Potomac below the mouth of Seneca Creek in the evening. He found the river much swollen by the recent rains, but after great exertions gained the Maryland shore before midnight with his whole command. General Stuart now ascertained that the Federal army, which he had discovered to be drawing towards the Potomac, had crossed the river on the 26th, and was moving towards Frederick, thus interposing itself between him and our forces.
General Stuart accordingly marched northward through Rockville and Westminster to Hanover, Pennsylvania, where he arrived on the 30th, but the enemy advancing with equal rapidity on his left continued to obstruct communication with our main body.
Supposing from such information as he could obtain that part of the army was at Carlisle, he left Hanover that night and proceeded to Carlisle by way of Dover. He reached Carlisle on July 1st, where he received orders to proceed to Gettysburg; he arrived at Gettysburg in the afternoon of the following day, and took position on General Ewell's left. His leading brigade, under General Hampton, encountered and repulsed a body of the enemy's cavalry at Hunterstown endeavouring to reach our rear.
General Stuart had several skirmishes during his march, and at Hanover quite a severe engagement took place with a strong force of cavalry which was finally compelled to withdraw from the town.
The prisoners taken by the cavalry and paroled at various places amounted to about 800, and at Rockville a large train of wagons coming from Washington was intercepted and captured. Many of them were destroyed, but 125 with all animals of the train were secured. The ranks of the cavalry were much reduced by its long and arduous march, repeated conflicts, and insufficient food and forage, but the day after its arrival at Gettysburg it engaged the enemy's cavalry with unabated spirit and effectually protected our left. In this action General Hampton was seriously wounded while acting with his accustomed gallantry. Robertson's and Jones' brigades arrived on July 3rd and were stationed upon our right flank.
The severe loss sustained by the army and the reduction of its ammunition rendered another attempt to dislodge the enemy unadvisable, and it was therefore determined to withdraw. The trains with such of the wounded as could bear removal were ordered to Williamsport on July 4th, part moving through Cashtown and Greencastle, escorted by General Imboden, and the remainder by the Fairfield road. The army retained its position until dark, when it was put in motion for the Potomac by the last named route. A heavy rain continued throughout the night and so much impeded its progress that Ewell's corps, which brought up the rear, did not leave Gettysburg until late in the forenoon of the following day.
The enemy offered no serious interruption and after an arduous march we arrived at Hagerstown, in the afternoon of the 6th and morning of July 7th. The great length of our trains made it difficult to guard them effectually in passing through the mountains and a number of wagons and ambulances were captured.
The trains succeeded in reaching Williamstown on the 6th, but were unable to cross the Potomac on account of the high state of water. Here they were attacked by a strong force of cavalry and artillery, which was gallantly repulsed by General Imboden, whose command had been strengthened by several batteries and two regiments of infantry, which had been detached at Winchester to guard prisoners and were returning to the army.
While the enemy was being held in check, General Stuart arrived with the cavalry, which had performed valuable service in guarding the flanks of the army during the retrograde movement, and after a short engagement drove the enemy from the field. The rains that had prevailed almost without intermission since our entrance into Maryland and greatly interfered with our movements had made the Potomac unfordable, and the pontoon bridge left at Falling Waters during the advance of the army had been partially destroyed by the enemy. The wounded and prisoners were sent over the river as rapidly as possible in a few ferry boats, while the trains awaited the subsidence of the water and the construction of a new pontoon bridge.
On July 8th the enemy advanced towards Hagerstown, but was repulsed by General Stuart and pursued as far as Boonesborough; with this exception nothing occurred but occasional skirmishings until July 12th when the main body of the enemy arrived. The army then took up a position previously selected covering the Potomac from Williamsport to Falling Water, where it remained for two days with the enemy immediately in front, manifesting no disposition to attack, but throwing up entrenchments all along his line.
By the 13th the river at Williamsport though still deep was fordable, and a good bridge was completed at Falling Waters; new boats having been constructed and some of the old recovered. As further delay would enable the enemy to obtain reinforcements and as it was difficult to procure a sufficient supply of flour for the troops, the working of the mills being interrupted by high water, it was determined to await an attack no longer. Orders were accordingly given to cross the Potomac that night; Ewell's corps by the ford at Williamsport, and the corps of Longstreet and Hill by the bridge. The cavalry was directed to relieve the infantry skirmishers and bring up the rear; the movement was much retarded by a severe rainstorm and the darkness of the night.
Ewell's corps having the advantage of a turnpike road marched with less difficulty, and crossed the river by 8 o'clock the following morning. The condition of the road to the pontoon bridge and the time consumed in the passage of the artillery, ammunition wagons, and ambulances, which could not ford the river, so much delayed the progress of Longstreet and Hill that it was daylight before their troops began to cross. Heth's division was halted about a mile and a half from the bridge to protect the passage of the column. No interruption was offered by the enemy until about 11 A.M. when his cavalry supported by artillery appeared in front of General Heth.
A small number in advance of the main body were mistaken by our men for our own cavalry retiring, no notice having been given of the withdrawal of the latter, and was suffered to approach our lines. The party was immediately captured or destroyed with the exception of two or three, but General Pettigrew, an officer of great merit and promise, was mortally wounded in the encounter, and survived his removal to Virginia only a few days.
The bridge being clear, General Heth began to withdraw. The enemy advanced but his efforts to break our line were repulsed and the passage of the river was completed by 1 P.M. Owing to the extent of General Heth's line some of his men most remote from the bridge were cut off before they could reach it, but the greater part of those taken by the enemy, supposed to amount in all to about 500, consisted of men from various commands who lingered behind, overcome by previous labors and hardships, and the fatigue of a most trying march.
There was no loss of material, except a few broken wagons, and two pieces of artillery which the horses were unable to draw through the deep mud. Other horses were sent back for them, but the rear of our column had passed before they arrived; the army proceeded to the vicinity of Bunker Hill and Darkesville where it halted to obtain the necessary repose.
The enemy made no effort to follow except with his cavalry, which crossed the Potomac at Harper's Ferry and advanced towards Martinsburg on July 16th; they were attacked by General Fitz Lee with his own and Chambliss' brigades, and driven back with loss. When the army returned to Virginia it was intended to move into Loudoun, but the Shenandoah was found to be impassable. While waiting for it to subside the enemy crossed the Potomac River east of the Blue Ridge and seized the passes we had designed to use. As he continued to advance along the eastern slope, apparently with the purpose of cutting us off from the railroad to Richmond, General Longstreet was ordered on July 19th to proceed to Culpeper Court House by way of Front Royal. He succeeded in passing part of his command over the Shenandoah in time to prevent the occupation of Manassas and Chester Gaps by the enemy, and marched through Chester Gap to Culpeper Court House, where he arrived on the 24th. He was followed without serious opposition by General A. P. Hill.
General Ewell having been detained in the Valley by an effort to capture a force of the enemy guarding the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad west of Martinsburg, Wright's brigade12 was left to hold Manassas Gap until his arrival. He reached Front Royal on the 23rd, with Johnson's and Rodes' divisions, Early's being near Winchester, and found General Wright skirmishing with the enemy's infantry, which had already appeared in Manassas Gap.
General Ewell supported Wright with Rodes' division and some artillery, and the enemy was held in check. Finding that the Federal force greatly exceeded his own, General Ewell marched through Slaughter's Gap and ordered Early to move up the Valley to Strasburg and New Market. He encamped near Madison Court House on July 29th. The enemy massed his army in the vicinity of Warrenton, and on the night of July 31st his cavalry with a large supporting force of infantry crossed the Rappahannock at Rappahannock Station and Kelly's Ford.
The next day they advanced towards Brandy Station, their progress being gallantly resisted by General Stuart with Hampton's brigade, commanded by Colonel L. S. Baker, who fell back gradually to our lines about two miles south of Brandy. Our infantry skirmishers advanced and drove the enemy beyond Brandy Station. It was now determined to place the army in a position to enable it more readily to oppose the enemy should he attempt to move southward, that near Culpeper Court House being one he could easily avoid. Longstreet and Hill were put in motion on August 3rd, leaving the cavalry at Culpeper. Ewell had previously been ordered from Madison, and by the 5th the army occupied the line of the Rapidan.
Among Colonel Marshall's papers is a memorandum dated April 15th, 1868, by Colonel William Allan, author of The Army of Northern Virginia in 1862, of a conversation which Allan had just held with Lee. This conversation was occasioned, Allan says, by a letter of inquiry addressed to him by W. M. Macdonald. Lee submitted his answer to Allan. Macdonald asked:
1. Why in 1862, Lee, at Frederick City, turned round to Harper's Ferry, and did not march at once on Baltimore?
2. Why Burnside was not attacked in the plain at Fredericksburg after his repulse?
3. Why Gettysburg was fought and lost?
Colonel Allan's memorandum of Lee's replies to these questions was:—
(1) “In regard to the first, General Lee said he had never invaded the North with an eye to holding permanently the hostile portions of it. He said that especially in 1862 his object was not primarily to take Baltimore, or to undertake any very decided offensive movement. It was, in the first place, to get the enemy away from the works in front of Washington, which he thought it folly to attack from the Manassas side; his next object was to subsist our own army. He could not stay where he was at Manassas from want of supplies and adequate transportation. He could not go straight forward, for he thought it injudicious to attack the fortifications. To have returned into Loudoun was to give the enemy possession of Fairfax, etc., and to invite him to flank him towards Richmond. By crossing the river and thus threatening Washington and Baltimore, he drew the enemy from their works, thus relieved Virginia from their presence, and got ample supplies from Maryland for his troops. Once there, in order to remain for any time, or to be in proper position for battle, when he chose or should be forced to deliver one, his communications had to be kept clear through the Valley, and to clear them and to capture the detached force at Harper's Ferry was the object of his movement then. He would have fought McClellan after Harper's Ferry if he had had his troops all in hand, and McClellan out where he could get at him. Sharpsburg was forced on him by McClellan finding out his plans and moving quickly in consequence.
(2) “In regard to Burnside, he stated, as he had said to me before, that it was folly to attack the enemy under the guns on the Stafford side; that the larger part of our losses at Fredericksburg resulted from pursuing the enemy too far into the plain, that he had carefully examined the whole river, and was convinced that a thing of that sort could not have been judiciously undertaken, unless he might when the enemy was retiring. This effort he would have made, but did not know of their retreat till morning. He did not expect them to retreat, and had hoped they would have tried his lines again.
(3) “As for Gettysburg—First, he did not intend to give battle in Pennsylvania if he could avoid it. The South was too weak to carry on a war of invasion, and his offensive movements against the North were never intended except as parts of a defensive system. He did not know the Federal Army was at Gettysburg, could not believe it, as Stuart had been specially ordered to cover his (Lee's) movements, and keep him informed of the enemy's position, and he (Stuart) had sent no word. He found himself engaged with the Federal Army, therefore, unexpectedly, and had to fight. This being decided on, victory would have been won if he could have gotten one decided simultaneous attack on the whole line. This he tried his uttermost to effect for three days and failed. Ewell he could not get to act with decision. Rodes, Early, Johnson, attacked, and were hurt in detail. Longstreet, Hill, etc. could not be gotten to act in concert. Thus the Federal troops were enabled to be opposed to each of our corps, or even divisions in succession. As it was, however, he inflicted more damage than he received, and broke up the Federal summer campaign. When he retired he would have crossed the Potomac at once if he could have done so. It was so swollen as to delay him, and hence his works at Hagerstown. He would not have been sorry if Meade had attacked him then, but he did not stop specially to invite it, but because the river was high. Meade's failure to attack showed how he had suffered.
“In regard to going into Pennsylvania at all: He thought it was far better than remaining at Fredericksburg. He had twice been attacked there, and had succeeded in repulsing the attacks, but he did not wish again to remain there to risk another attempt. The position was easily flanked, and the plan Grant afterwards pursued might have been tried at any time. He thought it best to improve the advantage gained by marching north, thus drawing the enemy away from the Rappahannock, exciting their fears for Washington, and by watching his opportunities baffle and break up their plans. To have lain at Fredericksburg would have allowed them time to collect force and initiate a new campaign on the old plan. In going into Pennsylvania he diverted their attention, kept them thinking of Washington instead of Richmond, and got ample supplies for his army. He did not want to fight unless he could get a good opportunity to hit them in detail. He expected, however, probably to find it necessary to give battle before his return in the fall, as it would have been difficult to retreat without. He had no idea of permanent occupation of Pennsylvania. He was troubled as it was to forage, so weak was the force he could spare for the purpose. He expected therefore to move about, manœuvre, and alarm the enemy, threaten their cities, hit any blows he might be able to deliver without risking a general battle, and then, towards fall, return and recover his base. Stuart's failure to carry out his intentions forced the battle of Gettysburg, and the imperfect, halting way in which his corps commanders, especially Ewell, fought the battle gave victory, which as he says trembled for three days in the balance, finally to the foe. He says that one day, I think the second, he consulted Ewell and told him that if he could not carry his part of the line he would move the second corps to the right of Longstreet and threaten their communications with Baltimore, but E. Johnson and Ewell said the line then held could be carried. Johnson, Rodes, and Early however attacked in succession, and were not able to hold any advantage.
“General Lee spoke feelingly of the criticism to which he had been subjected, said critics talked much of that they knew little about, said he had fought honestly and earnestly to the best of his knowledge and ability for the Cause, and had never allowed his own advantage or reputation to come into consideration. He cared nothing for these. Success was the great matter. He instanced General Joe Johnston's sensitiveness on this score, and how wrong and unwise it was.
“He referred to a reported conversation of Longstreet, in which the latter was reported to have said that General Lee was under a promise to the Lieutenant General not to fight a general battle in Pennsylvania. General Lee said he did not believe this was ever said by Longstreet. That the idea was absurd. He never made any such promise and never thought of doing any such thing.”
This memorandum is evidence that if Lee was careful to avoid in his dispatches, often to Marshall's grief, any appearance of defending his own reputation by casting blame upon subordinates, he was yet in general agreement with the criticisms and strictures which Marshall makes. It is also evidence that the prime cause of the Confederate failure in the campaign was Stuart's absence, and of their failure in the battle the lack of clear written orders, specifying how and when the attacks should be delivered.
MARYLAND AND GETTYSBURG CAMPAIGNS