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Doc. 95.-the escape of Lee's army.

L. L. Crounse's account.

Frederick, Thursday, July 16, 1862.
The campaign north of the Potomac is ended. The enemy has made an inglorious and hazardous escape across a river which we had fondly hoped was the great barrier to his retreat. The particulars of the retreat you have had in full. There remains, however, a brief history of the movements of both armies for the past ten days yet untold. The material portions of it I will give, as nearly as possible, and the public may draw its own conclusions. My role is fact, not comment.

The rebel army under General Lee, repulsed with sanguinary loss, but not. literally defeated, began its retirement from the field of Gettysburgh on Friday night, July third. His left wing, which had fiercely assailed our right on that day, and had, in addition, occupied the village of Gettysburgh, was found to be withdrawn early on Saturday morning, when our forces, under General Howard, advanced and occupied the place. His right wing and centre fell back a short distance on Saturday night, and on Sunday morning the rebel rear was found by a small reconnoissance to rest in the vicinity of Fairfield, eight miles from our front:

General Howard reconnoitred the enemy's rear in person, and came suddenly upon their skirmishers, who fired, wounding severely his valuable Aid, Captain James J. Griffiths, who, I regret to learn, died in Philadelphia on the fourteenth instant.

On Sunday morning the Sixth corps, under General Sedgwick, was ordered to make a reconnoissance in force, ascertain the position of the enemy, and, as nearly as possible, his line of retreat. At some time during the day General Sedgwick brought up with the enemy in force, [346] near Fairfield. A severe skirmish followed, but General Sedgwick refrained from bringing on a general engagement.

During Sunday, between the hours of ten o'clock A. M. and six P. M., after the details for burying the dead had been made, all the corps were ordered to move in three columns, as nearly as possible upon the heels of the enemy. Headquarters, itself, was ordered to move to Creagerstown that evening, twenty-two miles distant. This, I think, was before the result of General Sedgwick's reconnoissance had become known.

Subsequently all the orders for moving were countermanded, and the various corps halted from Sunday night until Tuesday morning. Headquarters remained at a point ten miles south-east of Gettysburgh until that time.

In the mean time our cavalry were rapidly developing the line of the enemy's retreat. Instead of moving toward Chambersburgh, which is almost south-west of Gettysburgh, Lee took a shorter line of retreat, and at once seized the two upper gaps in the South-Mountain, namely, the gap leading from Fairfield through Jack's Mountain to Waynesboro, known as Fountaindale Gap, and the gap through which passes the road from Emmnittsburgh to Waynesboro and Greencastle, known as Monterey Gap. Then by the country roads, in a south-westerly direction, toward Hagerstown.

There were then left to General Meade two routes to pursue-one to follow directly on the heels of the enemy, and fight him in these gaps, or march at once for Harmon's, Braddock's, Turner's, and Crampton's Gaps, in South-Mountain range-all below those occupied by the enemy.

The latter route was adopted, involving an average of march of from fifteen to twenty miles further than the enemy had to go, and on Tues-day morning, two days after Lee had fully abandoned his position, the army was put upon forced marches for the western slope of the South-Mountain. The general rendezvous of the corps was Middletown, in the valley, between the Catoctin and South-Mountain ranges. Four or five of the army corps entered this valley by a road six or eight miles north of Frederick, while two or three of them moved around by the angle of Frederick, and thence west into the Middle-town Valley.

The concentration of the different corps at Middletown was made substantially on Wednes-day night — some being in advance, some at, and some just in the rear of Middletown. Headquarters, which made a single leap of thirty-five miles from Gettysburgh to Frederick on Tuesday, moved to Middletown on Wednesday.

On Thursday, July ninth, the march was re-sulned, the Second and Twelfth corps passing down the Middletown Valley to Crampton's Gap, eight miles below Turner's Gap, through which the balance of the army passed. Thursday night's headquarters were moved to the Mountain House in the Gap, four miles west of Middletown.

On Friday, the army was all well over the mountain, well in hand for attack or defence more so by far than when the enemy made this attack at Gettysburgh, for the corps were then twenty miles away. Thursday night, the Sixth corps, which was in advance, had pushed out four miles beyond Boonsboro, or within three miles of Funkstown, Buford's cavalry having gallantly cleared the road after two days severe fighting with Stuart.

On Friday, the headquarters of General Meade were established near Antietam Bridge, on the Williamsport road, three miles west of Boonsboro, and seven miles south of Hagerstown, they remaining there until Tuesday night.

From Friday until Tuesday morning, our average advance against the enemy was about three miles. During this time our line was formed on the west side of the Antietam, and we approached the enemy to within a distance ranging from half a mile to a mile and a half. Here we fell to throwing up works of defence.

The lines of the two armies were from six to eight miles long, that of the enemy being the longest. Of course, thus extended, both were very weak, and the advantage rested with the party who made a vigorous and sudden attack. I believe I am correct in saying that we never fully compelled the enemy to develop his line. We knew he had one, but its exact location, character, and strength was not, as far as I am able to learn, fully ascertained. There is good evidence, however, for the belief that the chief portion of the enemy's works were thrown up between Thursday and Monday. What little information we got of their doings tended to show this. In addition, they kept up an exceedingly stubborn front, with their pickets and skirmishers, and acted in every way just as we know they always do, when they wish to conceal some inportant movement — just as we do when we desire to do the same thing.

On Sunday evening a council of the corps commanders, also attended by the Chief Engineer. the Chief of Cavalry, and the Chief of Staff, was held. The question of attacking the enemy was discussed. Of the seven infantry corps commanders, five opposed an attack and two favored it-Generals Howard and Wadsworth. In addition, General Warren, Chief Engineer, and General Pleasanton, commanding the Cavalry corps, earnestly favored a forward movement, as they had not failed to do from the first. A council was said to be necessary, because it was the only way, in view of the active nature of the campaign thus far, by which a correct idea of the efficiency of each corps could be ascertained. It is worthy of note that Generals Howard and Wadsworth, who advised an attack, were the weakest in numbers.

What General Meade's own inclination was I am not positively informed, but I think he desired to push ahead, but finally deferred to the opinion of the majority of his subordinates. A consideration which, doubtless, had some influence in delaying a movement, was the fact that reenforcements were slowly arriving, and we were [347] growing stronger. Another idea prevailed very strongly with some of the corps commanders, namely, that Lee would be compelled to attack us, because of the continued high stage of the Potomac, and that he could not, so long as it lasted, obtain any reliable means of crossing; and the belief also existed that, as a matter of pride, he would not retreat, but would arbitrate again on the bloody field of another battle. I may add here that our information concerning the condition of the river and the operations of the enemy in its vicinity was exceeding scanty, and generally considered unreliable. One or two reports of scouts, however, which were at first discredited, afterward proved to have been well founded, namely, that Lee had obtained a number of pontoons from Winchester, and that he was building flat-boats at Williamsport.

On Sunday night, July twelfth, some of the corps commanders began, on their own respon-sibility, to throw up earthworks for a line of defence. This was continued through Monday and Monday night, even up to the very moment of the departure of the enemy's rear-guard. It is due to General Warren, Chief Engineer, to say that this was entirely without his orders, and he strongly disapproved the proceeding, as well as condemned the position of much of the line.

The escape of Lee was reported at daylight on Tuesday morning, by a negro who came in from Williamsport. His statement was not credited, General Meade believing that the enemy was merely concentrating his forces at some point on his long line to resist an attack. But by nine A. M. every body was convinced. The manner and means by which he escaped you have already had in full.

Three or four facts grouped together tell the whole story. The national army took up its line on Friday and remained nearly in the same position until Tuesday; the troops were in superb spirits, and their confidence that they could whip the rebels was stronger than I have ever yet seen it, and was fully exemplified in the few sharp skirmishes that took place-all, both cavalry and infantry, resulting uniformly in our favor. The enemy had a strong line, but not one third so formidable as. ours at Gettysburgh-dangerously weak because of its length, and weaker by far on Friday, July tenth, than on Monday, July thirteenth. The enemy's means of crossing on Friday were incomplete, on Monday they were complete enough to carry him away; and yet on Monday his army was divided by the river, and in a state of trepidation for fear their hazardous movement should be discovered. We were growing stronger, by additions of troops, while we lay still, and the enemy was improving the same time in recovering from the disheartenment of his defeat, and the aggregation of supplies and ammunition from Winchester. In short, delay proved of far more advantage to the enemy than to us. Add to this the fact, of which I am personally cognizant, that the soldiers received the news of Lee's escape with feelings of bitter disappointment, and that they would rather have fought him two to one than to chase all over Virginia again after him, and the policy of “a vigorous prosecution of the war” at all times and under all circumstances is vindicated with greater emphasis than ever heretofore.

A resume of the campaign since the army left Fredericksburgh, I will give in my next.

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R. E. Lee (8)
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