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[374]

Owing to the strength of the enemy's position and the exhaustion of our ammunition, a renewal of the engagement could not be hazarded, and the difficulty of procuring supplies rendered it impossible to continue longer where we were. Such of the wounded as could be removed and a part of the arms collected on the field were ordered to Williamsport. The army remained at Gettysburg during the 4th, and at night began to retire by the road to Fairfield, carrying with it about four thousand prisoners. Nearly two thousand had been previously paroled; the numerous wounded that had fallen into our hands after the first and second day's engagements were left behind. Little progress was made that night, owing to a severe storm, which greatly embarrassed our movements. The rear of the column did not leave its position near Gettysburg until after daylight on the 5th. The march was continued during that day without interruption by the enemy, except an unimportant demonstration upon our rear in the afternoon, when near Fairfield, which was easily checked. The army, after a tedious march rendered more difficult by the rains, reached Hagerstown on the afternoon of the 6th and morning of the 7th of July.

The Potomac was so much swollen by the rains that had fallen almost incessantly since our army entered Maryland, as to be unfordable. A pontoon train had been sent from Richmond, but the rise in the river gave to it a width greater than was expected, so that additional boats had to be made by the army on its retreat. Our communication with the south side was thus interrupted, and it was found difficult to procure either ammunition or subsistence, the latter difficulty being enhanced by the high water impeding the working of the mills. The trains with the wounded and prisoners were compelled to wait at Williamsport for the subsiding of the river or the construction of additional pontoon boats. The enemy had not yet made his appearance, but as he was in a condition to obtain large reenforcements and our want of supplies was daily becoming more embarrassing, it was deemed advisable to recross the river. By the 13th a good bridge was thrown over at Falling Waters. On the 12th Meade's army approached. A position had been previously selected to cover the Potomac from Williamsport to Falling Waters, and an attack was awaited during that and the succeeding day. This did not take place, though the two armies were in close proximity, the enemy being occupied in fortifying his own lines.

General Meade, in his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, said that he ordered an attack on our forces on the morning of the 14th, and, if it had been made, it was his opinion that ‘it would ’

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