the vicinity of Hagerstown
, when he had been reinforced by 8,000 men under French
, and a considerable part of Couch
's force from Harrisonburg
, besides having at hand (at Harper's Ferry
) a portion of the troops from North Carolina
and the Peninsula
, with all the prestige of victory in his favor, though General Lee
had not been reinforced to the extent of a solitary man, unless the cavalry brigades of Robertson
, which reached the vicinity of Gettysburg
on the 3d, too late to participate in the battle, be counted as reinforcements.
These facts should satisfy General Longstreet
and his adherents that Meade
would not have been in a hurry to attack us, if we had awaited his attack on Seminary Ridge
, or had moved past his left and assumed another position; and they should equally convince those who think the taking possession of the Gettysburg heights
, on the afternoon of the 1st, would in itself have been a great advantage to us, that he would not have attacked us in that position.
His whole subsequent career proved him to be an excessively cautious commander in all aggressive movements.
The question which really presented itself to General Lee
was, whether he should attack the enemy in that position, or retreat.
Between these alternatives he had to choose, and, if he decided to attack, it was necessary to attack as promptly as possible.
Whether or not he chose wisely as between those alternatives, is the proper question for discussion.
Had General Longstreet
been content to let that question be settled before the tribunal of history, on the facts as presented in General Lee
's report and other authentic forms, I know of no one who would have been disposed to assail his war record, or submit his own operations at Gettysburg
to a crucial test.
But when his overweening vanity and egotism caused him to enter the arena, as a contestant for the highest honors of that and all other campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia, by depreciating its commander, his pretensions could not be allowed to pass unquestioned.
But for his own folly, and his exorbitant demands for historic honors, there would have been a general disposition to remember to his credit his meritorious deeds, while the mantle of charity would have been allowed to fall upon his shortcomings.
If he has now suffered in the controversy which he has provoked, he has but met the fate of all who, not content with receiving the credit justly due them, aspire to honors to which they are not entitled.
In all that I have written in this controversy, my sole purpose has been to vindicate the fame of the great commander of the Army of Northern Virginia and the truth of history.