The first day at Gettysburg. [from the Richmond times, April 12, 1896.]
Tribute to brave General Harry Heth who opened the great battle. A description by an eye witness. Interesting observations of Jaquelin Marshall Meredith, Chaplain of Heth's Division—His version of the ‘cause of failure.’
To the Editor of the Times :Sir,—I have read with regret the war of words in regard to ‘cause of failure’ on the part of the Confederates at the battle of Gettysburg. In the various accounts of the battle, not one has come from an eye-witness of the first day's fight, of July 1, 1863. Not one of these accounts, that I have seen, have done simple justice  to the brave and gallant division of General Harry Heth and its faithful commander, upon whom rested the responsibility of opening the battle. As chaplain of 47th Regiment of Virginia Infantry, Brockenbrough's Brigade, first A. P. Hill's Divison, Jackson's Corps, and afterwards Heth's Division, of A. P. Hill's Corps, I witnessed the events leading to, and the opening of the fight on the morning of July 1st, and the final charge of the remnant of Heth's Division, under Pettigrew, who charged, under Pickett, on the 3d of July, at Cemetery Heights. As no one else has done so, I proceed to give a circumstantial account of the 30th of June and 1st of July, to do justice to a general and division I honor and love. About 2 o'clock P. M., on June 30, 1863, Heth's Division, Hill's Corps, leading the advance of the corps, reached Cashtown and went into bivouac around that village, on the eastern slope of a ridge, the continuance of the Blue Ridge, but here much lower than in Virginia. Dr. E. B. Spence, division surgeon, came to me about 4 o'clock, and requested me to ride forward with him into Gettysburg as he wished to procure some medical supplies. I mounted my horse, and started at once with him, proceeding forward on the pike eastwards, for five miles. I saw no troops moving, but was assured by the Doctor that some of our division were ahead. We reached Gettysburg about 5 o'clock P. M., and tied our horses at the first drug-store, where we had been but a few moments, when we saw a regiment of Confederates (I have since read that it was one of Pettigrew's North Carolina regiments), coming from the eastern part of the town at the quick march. We two non-combatants at once mounted, and joining the colonel at the head of the column, moved steadily back to Cashtown. The colonel was a stranger to me, although I knew Colonel James Marshall and Colonel Burgwin, commanding two of General Pettigrew's regiments. I knew General Pettigrew well, having served under him at the battle of Seven Pines, but I did not see him that evening. The Doctor and I were told that a superior force of the enemy were moving on Gettysburg. We were not followed nor did any Federal cavalry attack, or even show itself in rear or flank during the one hour and a half, to two hours that this regiment took to proceed in orderly march back to Cashtown. So far as we could see at night-fall on the 30th of June, there was no Federal force between Gettysburg and Cashtown. Very early on the morning of July 1st, Heth's Division fell into line, and debouched into the pike, marching towards Gettysburg in the following order, viz: Archer's Brigade of Tennesseans leading; next, Colonel John W. Brockenbrough's  Brigade of Virginians; next, Davis' Mississippi Brigade: Fourth, Pettigrew's North Carolina Brigade. Archer's and Brockenbrough's Brigades each numbered 1,000 men, as many men were left on the road in the rapid march of A. P. Hill's Corps to overtake Longstreet, and pass him in Clarke county, Virginia, ours being the corps left to watch Hooker at Fredericksburg.