Letter from General Winfield Hancock.
New York, January 17th, 1878.My dear General: I am in receipt of yours of the 14th inst., and in reply have to say, that in my opinion, if the Confederates had continued the pursuit of General Howard on the afternoon of the 1st July at Gettysburg, they would have driven him over and beyond Cemetery till. After I had arrived upon, the field, assumed the command, and made my dispositions for defending that point (say 4 P. M.), I do not think the Confederate force then present could have carried it. I felt certain at least of my ability to hold it until night, and sent word to that effect back to General Meade, who was then at Taneytown. Please notice the following extract from my testimony before the committee on the “Conduct of the war” on that point-Vol. 1, page. 405, March 22nd, 1864:
When I arrived and took the command, I extended the lines. I sent General Wadsworth to the right to take possession of Culp's Hill with his division. I directed General Geary, whose division belonged to the Twelfth corps, (its commander, General Slocum, not then having arrived,) to take possession of the high ground towards Round Top. I made such disposition as I thought wise and proper. The enemy evidently believing that we were reinforced, or that our whole army was there, discontinued their (?) great efforts, and the battle for that day was virtually over. There was firing of artillery and skirmishing all along the front, but that was the end of that day's battle. By verbal instructions, and in the order which I had received from General Meade, I was directed to report, after having arrived on the ground, whether it would be necessary or wise to continue to fight, the battle at Gettysburg, or whether it was possible for the fight to be blad on the ground Gen. Meade had selected. About 4 o'clock P. M. I sent word by Maj. Mitchell, aide-de-camp, to General Meade, that I would hold the ground until dark, meaning to allow him time to decide the matter for himself. As soon as I had gotten matters arranged to my satisfaction, and saw that the troops were being formed again, and I felt secure, I wrote a note to General Meade, and informed him of my views of the ground at Gettysburg. I told him that the only disadvantage which [ thought it had was that it could be readily turned