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[350] Meade been more copious in his report, and less reserved as to his own important acts, the necessity for this communication would not have existed.


A Rejoinder.

The article of “Historicus,” on the battle of Gettysburgh, closes by saying: “Some slight errors may have crept in, but this may possibly stimulate others to come forward with a rectification.” It is hoped, therefore, that the following short “rectification” may find a place in your columns.

The first statement of “Historicus” to which I give my attention is the indirect assertion that the arrival of the Third division of the Third corps, about four o'clock in the afternoon, on the field, put an end to the conflict on the first of July, and relieved the First and Eleventh corps from imminent peril. The facts are, that there was no fighting, save light skirmishing, after three o'clock in the afternoon, and that General Sickles's command did not make its appearance till nearly six o'clock. One division of the Twelfth corps, under General Geary, which “Historicus” says was four miles in the rear of the battle-field, had already been placed by General Hancock in or near the position taken up by the Third corps on its arrival. I may remark here that “Historicus” studiously avoids mentioning General Hancock's name in his account of the operations of July first--a very strange mistake for an “eye-witness.” When General Sickles arrived at Gettysburgh, General Howard was not the commanding officer, and had not been for some time. He was first superseded by General Hancock, by virtue of the written order of General Meade, and afterward by the arrival of General Slocum, his superior in rank. The account is very much like the play of Hamlet with the part of the Prince of Denmark omitted.

The next statement which I notice is, that a conference of “leading generals” took place, when some insisted on falling back on Taneytown, etc. It would be interesting to know, who the “leading generals” referred to, were. It is said, indeed, that General Howard, who enjoys in the estimation of the public — I will not say how justly — the honors of the day, had decided to retreat from Gettyburgh. But it is certainly true, that the leading general, Major-General Hancock, entertained no such proposition, after he assumed command, and long before the arrival of General Sickles, had selected the lines of battle, on which the troops were established as they came up. The left of that line was Roundtop Hill, and its general direction was that of the ridge connecting Roundtop, Cemetery, and Culp's Hills, and was held by the Second and Third corps.

“Historicus” now endeavors to create the impression that the ridge or elevated ground connecting the left of the Second corps was far to his front.

I assert that General Sickles moved from the ridge described by “Historicus,” and precipitated the battle on most unfortunate ground. It hardly seems possible that one who has ever seen the ground can gainsay this.

When General Sickles moved forward his corps, on the afternoon of the second of July, from its appropriate place in the general line, he excited the astonishment of the thousands of lookers on. It was a magnificent sight, but excited the gravest apprehension, and the writer well recollects the remarks made at the time by some prominent officers. The right of his line was entirely disconnected from the Second corps, leaving an interval of from one half to one quarter of a mile. General Gibbon, commanding the Second corps, at this moment threw forward into this interval two regiments of infantry and a battery, which were nearly destroyed when the shock fell on Sickles's corps. A like interval was left between the right of the Fifth corps. and the left of the Third. In this position, with no connection on his right or left, General Sickles became engaged. Had the Second and Fifth corps been moved up to conform to this line, the battle would have been delivered in front of the strong features of the ground, and could hardly have helped being disastrous.

Through the intervals above described the enemy penetrated with determination, pressing on until they were checked nearly on the original line — on the one flank by the Fifth corps and on the other by the Second. In the attempt to extricate General Sickles from his unfortunate position, these two corps lost nearly three thousand men.

“Historicus” asserts that General Sickles called on the heroic troops of the Second corps for support, etc. The truth is this: One division of the Second corps, under Brigadier-General Caldwell, was sent to report to Major-General Sykes, of the Fifth corps, and was posted by one of his staff-officers. This division became heavily engaged with the force of the enemy that had turned Sickles' flank, and was overpowered. The blow then fell on General Ayres's division, of the Fifth corps, which lost over fifty per cent of its numbers, holding its position most obstinately.

General Zook, so highly complimented by “Historicus,” commanded a brigade of Caldwell's division.

When night fell, our lines were where they were first established, and where the next day's attack was received; but the gallant dead of the Third corps were so far to the front that large numbers of them remained within the enemy's lines until after Lee retreated.

I have no disposition to pursue further the examination of “Historicus's” article. I have endeavored to show that, instead of saving the army, General Sickles nearly ruined it by a sad error — an unaccountable one. He must have known that to hold the lines he assumed the grave responsibility of moving on to, necessitated an entire change of the position of the troops on his right and left, and this at the moment when the enemy had already massed his columns for the attack. Pray where would the most zealous

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