previous next

Heth's Division surprised.

The fighting next day was far to right and left, and I saw nothing of it, as the losses of our division and brigade were very heavy and I was constantly occupied with the wounded. General Heth was wounded while his division was pressing the centre of the attack. Heth's Division suffered a surprise, because we had no cavalry to meet Buford, but he redeemed this by a separate and special fight on the first ridge, and by holding the centre and hottest part of the fight on the last ridge where the whole Federal corps had picked their position to command the roads from Cashtown and Carlisle. The position was a strong one, with free sweep for their artillery. Yet, in spite of its commander being disabled, this now declimated division was chosen to be placed under General Pickett, commanded by General Pettigrew, to take part in the fatal, but glorious charge on Cemetery Heights on the 3d of July. In that last charge fell my friend, Colonel James Marshall, of Markham, Fauquier county, Va., colonel of a North Carolina regiment, and commanding Pettigrew's Brigade. This, I think, shows that the bringing on of the battle of Gettysburg by surprise was, in the providence of God, due to the want of cavalry in front of Heth's Infantry. Who could blame General Heth for driving the cavalry before him when he had been surprised into loss. From there being no pursuit of the regiment, I left Gettysburg on the eve of the 30th of June.

General Heth could not know there was a force on the Cashtown road. Besides, had he prudentially withdrawn to Cashtown after suffering loss from the cavalry surprise, what would have been General Early's position? General Early and Rodes, of Ewell's Corps, had orders to move towards Cashtown. Gettysburg lay in Early's direct road, and if Heth had fallen back on Cashtown, and Rodes [187] turned off four miles northwest on to the Cashtown road, then at 3 or 4 o'clock of July 1st Early would have found the Federal corps holding a strong position across his road with fully three times his numbers, and no help nearer than four or five miles. This would have brought on battle at a late hour in the evening when too late to defeat and drive the enemy from their position. All honor is due General Heth and his noble division for pressing the enemy and enabling Rodes and Pender and Early to secure a severely-fought battle. The cause of surprise was want of cavalry but the cause of battle was that the Federal corps commander had seized the ridge north and west of Gettysburg, which blocked the road by which the Confederate corps of Hill and Ewell were converging on Cashtown. Why need we look any further for causes. It sufficeth that the same All-wise Ruler of events that permitted Ashby and ‘StonewallJackson to be shot in front and perhaps by their own men, and afterwards permitted J. E. B. Stuart to fall after victory by the seeming accidental shot of a Federal trooper, who was fleeing from our lines; the same Ruler permitted the otherwise invincible Army of Northern Virginia and its beloved general to suffer a repulse at Gettysburg.


Jaquelin Marshall Meredith, Chaplain of 47th Virginia Infantry, Heth's Division, A. P. Hill's Corps, A. N.Va., C. S. Wide Water, Va., March 31, 1896.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Cashtown (Pennsylvania, United States) (7)
Markham (Virginia, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
March 31st, 1896 AD (1)
July 3rd (1)
July 1st (1)
June 30th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: