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[289]

The letter of Colonel Venable is as follows:

University of Virginia, May 11, 1875.
General James Longstreet:
Dear Sir: Your letter of the 25th ultimo, with regard to Gen. Lee's battle order on th-, 1st and 2nd of July at Gettysburg, was duly received. I did not know of any order for an attack on the enemy at sunrise on the 2nd, nor can I believe any such order was issued by General Lee. About sunrise on the 2nd of July I was sent by General Lee to General Ewell to ask him what he thought of the advantages of an attack on the enemy from his position. (Colonel Marshall had been sent with a similar order on the night of the 1st.) General Ewell made me ride with him from point to point of his lines, so as to see with him the exact position of things. Before he got through the examination of the enemy's position General Lee came himself to General Ewell's lines. In sending the message to General Ewell, General Lee was explicit in saying that the question was whether he should move all the troops around on the right and attack on that side. I do not think that the errand on which I was sent by the Commanding-General is consistent with the idea of an attack at sunrise by any portion of the army.

Yours, very truly,


Can Colonel Venable or any one else believe that General Lee had formed — no definite opinion as to how he should attack the enemy until after his return at 9 A. M. on the 2nd from Ewell's line? That, in fact, he did not make up his mind how to begin to begin the attack until 11 A. M., when General Longstreet says the peremptory order was given to him? If that was the case, then he exhibited a remarkable degree of indecision and vascillation, and the responsibility for the procrastination and delay that occurred must rest on him, and on him alone.

That Colonel Venable is sincere in his opinions I do not doubt, but I think his reasoning is illogical and his deductions erroneous.

That General Lee made up his mind promptly to attack the enemy in his position on the Gettysburg Heights, there can be no doubt.

General Longstreet says:

When I overtook General Lee at 5 o'clock that afternoon, he said, to my surprise, that he thought of attacking General Meade upon the heights the next day. I suggested that this course seemed to be at variance with the plan of the campaign that had been agreed upon before leaving Fredericksburg. He said: “If the enemy is there to-morrow we must attack him.”


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