“General, there is no discretion allowed, the order is for you to retire at once.”
I rode rapidly around, and directing some brigades to retire by head of regiments up ravines and others in line; and as they came from under the woods which concealed them from Round Top
, the batteries up there opened on them, but by quickening the pace the aim was so disturbed that no damage was done.
I halted the brigades as they came into position, and in a short while my line was re-established in the position of the day before.
As we came in the enemy advanced clouds of skirmishers coming — I suppose their lines of battle behind — I strengthened my skirmishers and drove or kept them back of the peach orchard, so that I could rest undisturbed on my new line, and then went to my new position, and was sitting on my horse watching the enemy, when Major Johnston
, of General Lee
's staff, the same who had conducted my column the day before, rode up and remarked: “General, you have your division under very fine control!”
I asked him what he meant.
“Why,” he said, “your orders are obeyed so promptly.”
“What is there strange about that?”
“Have you not been repulsed and are retreating?”
“No, sir,” I replied.
“I have not been engaged to-day.
I am buttaking up this position by order of General Longstreet
He apologized, saying that he thought I had been engaged and had been forced to retire, etc. Not long after this Colonel Sorrel
came to me and asked if I could retake the position I had just abandoned.
I demurred most decidedly to the suggestion under the circumstances, and asked why he made the inquiry.
“Because,” he said, “General Longstreet
had forgotten that he had ordered it, and now disapproved the withdrawal.”
“But, Colonel Sorrel
,” I said, “recollect that you gave me the order.”
“Yes, sir,” he said, “and General Longstreet
gave it to me.”
I was informed afterwards by General Benning
, of Hood
's division, that he never had been informed of my withdrawal, neither had General DuBose
, and their commands had, in consequence, to run for it to get away, by reason of the sudden advance of the enemy on their flanks after I withdrew.
They were under the orders of General Law.
's repulse ended the battle of Gettysburg
, the order for the withdrawal of Longstreet
's advance was eminently proper, as otherwise it would have been left in a very precarious position, and it showed military foresight in Colonel Sorrell
, even if he had used his own judgment in giving the order.
My recollection is that this retreat was made about 2 o'clock P. M.