It is sufficient answer to this statement of the Federal
historian to quote the language of General Lee
's official report (Southern Historical Society Papers
for July, 1876, page 42): “The troops of the former (Johnson
) moved steadily up the steep and rugged ascent under a heavy fire, driving the enemy into his entrenchments, part of which were carried by Steuart
's brigade, and a number of prisoner's taken.”
The position thus so hardly1
won and at so dear a cost was one of great importance.
It was within a few hundred yards of the Baltimore turnpike
, which I think it commanded.
Its capture was a breach in the enemy's lines through which troops might have been poured and the strong positions of Cemetery Hill
says: “The ground was rough, and the woods so thick that their generals did not realize till morning what they had gained.”
says: “This might have proved disastrous to us had it not occurred at so late an hour.”
declares it was “a position which, if held by him, would enable him to take Meade's entire line in reverse
It is only in keeping with the haphazard character of the whole battle that the capture of a point of such strategic importance should not have been taken advantage of by the Confederates
It remains, however, no less a proud memory for the officers and men of the Third brigade, that their prowess gained for the Confederate
general a position where “Meade
's entire line might have been taken in reverse.”
But if the Confederates
did not realize what they had gained, the Federals
were fully aware what they had lost.
Accordingly, they spent the night massing troops and artillery for an effort to regain their works.
“During the night,” says Swinton
(page 356), “a powerful artillery was accumulated against the point entered by the enemy.”
Through the long hours of the night we heard the rumbling of their guns, and thought they were evacuating the hill.
The first streak of daylight revealed our mistake.
It was scarcely dawn (the writer of this had just lain down to sleep after a night in the saddle) when their artillery opened upon us, at a range of about 500 yards, a terrific and galling fire, to which we had no