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[63] General McLaws forward because, as the head of the column, he had direct orders from General Lee to follow the conduct of Colonel Johnson.

Therefore I sent orders to Hood, who was in the rear and not encumbered by these instructions, to push his division forward by the most direct route so as to take position on my right. He did so, and thus broke up the delay. The troops were rapidly thrown into position and preparations were made for the attack. It may be proper just here to consider the relative strength and position of the two armies. Our army was 52,000 infantry, Meade's was 95,000;--these are our highest figures and the enemy's lowest. We had learned on the night of the 1st, from some prisoners captured near Seminary Ridge, that the First, Eleventh, and Third corps had arrived by the Emmettsburg road and had taken position on the heights in front of us, and that reinforcements had been seen coming by the Baltimore road just after the fight of the 1st. From an intercepted dispatch we learned that another corps was in camp about four miles from the field. We had every reason, therefore, to believe that the Federals were prepared to renew the battle. Our army was stretched in an elliptical curve, reaching from the front of Round Top around Seminary Ridge, and enveloping Cemetery Heights on the left; thus covering a space of four or five miles. The enemy occupied the high ground in front of us, being massed within a curve of about two miles, nearly concentric with the curve described by our forces. His line was about 1,400 yards from ours. Any one will see that the proposition for this inferior force to assault and drive out the masses of troops upon the heights was a very problematical one. My orders from General Lee were “to envelop the enemy's left and begin the attack there, following up as near as possible the direction of the Emmetsburg road.”

My corps occupied our right, with Hood on our extreme right and McLaws next. Hill's corps was next to mine, in front of the Federal centre, and Ewell was on our extreme left. My corps, with Pickett's division absent, numbered hardly 13,000 men. I realized that the fight was to be a fearful one; but being assured that my flank would be protected by the brigades of Wilcox, Perry, Wright, Posey, and Mahone moving en echelon, and that Ewell was to co-operate by a direct attack on the enemy's right, and Hill to threaten his centre and attack if opportunity offered and thus prevent reinforcements from being launched either against myself or Ewell, it seemed that we might possibly dislodge the great army in front of us. At half-past 3 o'clock the order was given General Hood to advance upon the enemy, and, hurrying to the head of McLaw's divison, I moved with his line. Then was fairly commenced what I do not hesitate to pronounce the best three hours fighting ever done by any troops on any battle-field. Directly in front of us, occupying the peach orchard, on a piece of elevated ground that General Lee desired

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