Heth intended to cover his error.
Colonel John S. Mosby
gives his version of New chapter in Lee
The Times-Dispatch of February 20, at the request of Colonel T. M. R. Talcott
publishes a letter written by General Heth
over thirty years ago in reference to the manner in which he brought on the battle of Gettysburg
without order from General Lee
's letter was published in the Southern Historical Society Papers; but they did not publish my reply.
This is the way that history is manufactured in Richmond
I refer in my book, ‘Stuart
's Cavalry in the Gettysburg Campaign
,’ to Heth
's letter and quote it on pages 150-151-152-154.
gives an entirely different account in this letter of the way the battle was precipitated against orders by A. P. Hill
and himself from both his own and Hill
's official reports to General Lee
The latter says they went on July 1st after shoes: both reports say they went to make a reconnaissance and do not say they went after shoes; nor do they pretend they went under orders.
's motive in writing his letter was to create a diversion from himself and to put historians on a false scent.
What Records show.
He says that the letter was written to give information to the Count
He succeeded in fooling the Count
According to Heth
's letter only his division went after shoes.
The Records show that A. P. Hill
's and Heth
's divisions and two battalions of artillery to make what he calls in his report to cover his blunder, a reconnaissance; but which it is clear he intended as nothing but a foray.
In my book (page 152) I say,
Now Heth's story is contradicted by A. P. Hill, the commander of the
corps, whose report says that he put Pender's division in to support Heth's that was in distress, and that about 2:30 in the afternoon, Ewell with Early and Rodes' divisions came in and formed a right angle to his line and the field was won.
Just as true an account of the battle as Heth's letter can be found in the Pickwick Papers.
Rodes' report shows that Heth's story is a fable.
The truth is that when Heth, early in the morning went into action, General Lee was ten miles away west of the mountain, Heth tries to make it appear that Lee was on the field.
Other reports on the movement.
's report says they heard the firing when they were on the western slope of the mountain and that General Lee
did not understand it. When Rodes
arived on the field Heth
's division was in fragments.
says he “stumbled” into the fight; he ought to have said he blundered into it. He says that had the cavalry been in position, General Lee
would have known of Reynold
's approach to Gettysburg
and would have occupied the place and made it impregnable.
But the absence of cavalry was no reason for Heth
's going there on a raid; it might have been a good reason for his staying in camp.
This statement assumes that Gettysburg
's objective point; it was not. Lee
was as willing for Meade
to be at Gettysburg
as anywhere else; he had no idea of going there himself before he heard the firing.
He went to the rescue of A. P. Hill
had known for a week that Meade
was moving North from Frederick
and that he must be in the vicinity of Gettysburg
As a cavalry division was already there, he knew without being told that Meade
's army must be near.
He selected and held Cashtown Pass as his point of concentration because nature made it impregnable.
He would have a mountain-wall to cover his flank and the rich Cumberland Valley
If he had ordered the army to Gettysburg
he would have been with the leading division and would have occupied the place several days before, instead of halting Hill
's corps at Cashtown
There was more reason for censuring Lee
for being absent from the field than Stuart
It is impossible to believe that General Lee
ever professed the ignorance of the movements of Stuart
, Long, and his staff-officers have attributed to him. If he had done so, it would have been affectation.
He knew that his and Longstreet
's orders would carry Stuart
for a while into a state of eclipse; around the enemy, out of sight, and out of communication with him.
delivered the judgment in his letter that “the failure to crush the Federal
army in Pennsylvania
can be expressed in five words—the absence of cavalry; ” I would rather say it was due to the “presence of Heth
The much-mooted letter-book.
In another letter in the Philadelphia Times
of December 27, 1877, Heth
professes to have read in General Lee
's letter-book his instructions to Stuart
to keep in close contact and communication with Longstreet
Now the contents of the letter-book have since been published and I have read the original copies.
's account of what he read in the book is pure fiction.
Instead of ordering Stuart
to keep on Longstreet
's flank, he ordered him to leave Longstreet
, cross the Potomac
, and join Ewell
on the Susquehanna
—a hundred miles away.
It was all the same to Lee
at what ford Stuart
crossed the Potomac
's letter was written to give information to the Count
It is the origin of his criticism of Stuart
in his History of the War
‘As for cavalry there were as many with Ewell
as there were with Reynolds
that day. Buford
fought his two brigades dismounted in the morning when Heth
attacked him. There were no cavalry charges on either side.
If there had existed any necessity to make a reconnaissance Lee
's headquarters were near and so were Ewell
The order should have come from the commander-in-chief
never informed him of the exploit they meditated.
He would never have sanctioned it.’
says that if our cavalry had been there there would have been no battle at Gettysburg
He does not say how cavalry could have kept him and Hill
away; he unconsciously pays a
high tribute to the commander of the cavalry and criticizes General Lee
was away by Lee
If anybody was to blame for the absence of the cavalry it was General Lee
Stuart could have done no more.
All that Stuart
could have done if he had been there would have been to tell Hill
that if they went to Gettysburg
they would be sure to precipitate a battle before the army was concentrated and where Lee
did not intend to fight one.
A body of cavalry could have done no more.
were not blind — they knew the enemy held Gettysburg
; so they did not need cavalry to tell them.
They evidently expected to bag a few thousand Yankees, return to Cashtown
, and present them to General Lee
But to use a common expression ‘they bit off more than they could chaw.’
They left Cashtown
at 5 in the morning in as gay spirits as John Gilpin
's when he started off to Edmonton
to have a wedding feast.
It was after all not much of a feast.