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Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania.

by James Longstreet, Lieutenant-General, C. S. A.
One night in the spring of 1863 I was sitting in my tent opposite Suffolk, Virginia, when there came in a slender, wiry fellow about five feet eight, with hazel eyes, dark hair and complexion, and brown beard. He wore a citizen's suit of dark material, and except for his stooping shoulders was well formed and evidently a man of great activity. He handed me a note from Mr. Seddon, Secretary of War. That was my first meeting with the famous scout, Harrison, who in his unpretending citizen's dress passed unmolested from right to left through the Federal army, visited Washington City, ate and drank with the Federal officers, and joined me at Chambersburg with information more accurate than a force of cavalry could have secured.

While my command was at Suffolk, engaged in collecting supplies from the eastern coasts of Virginia and North Carolina, General Burnside was relieved and General Hooker put in command of the Federal Army of the Potomac. General Lee was not expecting Hooker to move so early, and gave me no warning until the Federals moved out to turn his left by Chancellorsville. He then sent urgent demand for me, but it so happened that all my trains were down on the eastern coasts, and I could not move my troops with-out leaving the trains to the enemy. I made haste to get them back as quickly as possible, and the moment we got them within our lines I pulled up from around Suffolk, and, recrossing the Blackwater, started back on my march to join General Lee at Fredericksburg. Before we got to Richmond, however, we received dispatches announcing the Confederate success. But with these tidings of victory came the sad intelligence that General Stonewall Jackson was seriously wounded, a piece of news that cast a deep gloom over the army.

On the 9th of May I joined General Lee at his headquarters at Fredericksburg. At our first meeting we had very little conversation; General Lee merely stated that he had had a severe battle, and the army had been very much broken up. He regarded the wound accidently inflicted on Jackson as [245] a terrible calamity. Although we felt the immediate loss of Jackson's services, it was supposed he would rally and get well. He lingered for several days, one day reported better and the next worse, until at last he was taken from us to the shades of Paradise. The shock was a very severe one to men and officers, but the full extent of our loss was not felt until the remains of the beloved general had been sent home. The dark clouds of the future then began to lower above the Confederates.

General Lee at that time was confronted by two problems: one, the finding a successor for Jackson, another, the future movements of the Army of Northern Virginia. After considering the matter fully he decided to reorganize his army, making three corps instead of two. I was in command of the First Corps, and he seemed anxious to have a second and third corps under the command of Virginians. To do so was to overlook the claims of other generals who had been active and very efficient in the service. He selected General Ewell to command the Second, and General A. P. Hill for the Third Corps. General Ewell was entitled to command by reason of his rank, services, and ability. Next in rank was a North Carolinian, General D. H. Hill, and next a Georgian, General Lafayette McLaws, against whom was the objection that they were not Virginians.1

In reorganizing his army, General Lee impaired to some extent the morale of his troops, but the First Corps, dismembered as it was, still considered itself, with fair opportunities, invincible, and was ready for any move warranted by good judgment.

While General Lee was reorganizing his army he was also arranging the new campaign. Grant had laid siege to Vicksburg, and Johnston was concentrating at Jackson to drive him away. Rosecrans was in Tennessee and Bragg was in front of him. The force Johnston was concentrating at Jackson gave us no hope that he would have sufficient strength to make any impression upon Grant, and even if he could, Grant was in position to reenforce rapidly and could supply his army with greater facility. Vicksburg was doomed unless we could offer relief by strategic move. I proposed to send a force through east Tennessee to join Bragg and also to have Johnston sent to join him, thus concentrating a large force to move against Rosecrans, crush out his [246]

Map of the Gettysburg campaign.

army, and march against Cincinnati. That, I thought, was the only way we had to relieve vicksburg. General Lee admitted the force of my proposition, but finally stated that he preferred to organize a campaign into Maryland and Pennsylvania, hoping thereby to draw the Federal troops from the southern points they occupied. After discussing the matter with him for several days, I found his mind made up not to allow any of his troops to go west. I then accepted his proposition to make a campaign into Pennsyl-vania, provided it should be offensive in strategy but defensive in tactics, forcing the Federal army to give us battle when we were in strong position and ready to receive them. One mistake of the Confederacy was in pitting force against force. The only hope we had was to outgeneral the Federals. We [247]

Relief map of the Gettysburg campaign. From a photograph of the original cast made by A. E. Lehman for the Cumberland Valley railroad Company.

were all hopeful and the army was in good condition, but the war had advanced far enough for us to see that a mere victory without decided fruits was a luxury we could not afford. Our numbers were less than the Federal forces, and our resources were limited while theirs were not. The time had come when it was imperative that the skill of generals and the strategy and tactics of war should take the place of muscle against muscle. Our purpose should have been to impair the morale of the Federal army and shake Northern confidence in the Federal leaders. We talked on that line from day to day, and General Lee, accepting it as a good military view, adopted it as the key-note of the campaign. I suggested that we should have all the details and purposes so well arranged and so impressed upon our minds that when the critical moment should come, we could refer to our calmer moments and know we were carrying out our original plans. I stated to General Lee that if he would allow me to handle my corps so as to receive the attack of the Federal army, I would beat it off without calling on him for help except to guard my right and left, and called his attention to the battle of Fredericksburg as an instance of defensive warfare, where we had thrown not more than five thousand troops into the fight and had beaten off two-thirds of the Federal army with great loss to them and slight loss to my own troops. I also called his attention to Napoleon's instructions to Marmont at the head of an invading army.

A few days before we were ready to move General Lee sent for General Ewell to receive his orders. I was present at the time and remarked that if we were ever going to make an offensive battle it should be done south of the [248]

From a photograph taken after the War. General Robert E. Lee.


Potomac — adding that we might have an opportunity to cross the Rappa-hannock near Culpeper Court House and make a battle there. I made this suggestion in order to bring about a discussion which I thought would give Ewell a better idea of the plan of operations. My remark had the desired effect and we talked over the possibilities of a battle south of the Potomac. The enemy would be on our right flank while we were moving north. Ewell's corps was to move in advance to Culpeper Court House, mine to follow, and the cavalry was to move along on our right flank to the east of us. Thus, by threatening his rear we could draw Hooker from his position on Stafford Heights opposite Fredericksburg. Our movements at the beginning of the campaign were necessarily slow in order that we might be sure of having the proper effect on Hooker.

Ewell was started off to the valley of Virginia to cross the mountains and move in the direction of Winchester, which was occupied by considerable forces under Milroy. I was moving at the same time east of the Blue Ridge with Stuart's cavalry on my right so as to occupy the gaps from Ashby on to Harper's Ferry. Ewell, moving on through the valley, captured troops and supplies at Winchester, and passed through Martinsburg and Williamsport into Maryland. As I moved along the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge we heard from day to day of the movements of Hooker's army, and that he had finally abandoned his position on Stafford Heights, and was moving up the Potomac in the direction of Washington. Upon receipt of that information, A. P. Hill was ordered to draw off from Fredericksburg and follow the movements of General Ewell, but to cross the Potomac at Shepherdstown. When Hill with his troops and well-supplied trains had passed my rear, I was ordered to withdraw from the Blue Ridge, pass over to the west of the Shenandoah and follow the movements of the other troops, only to cross the Potomac at Williamsport. I ordered General Stuart, whom I considered under my command, to occupy the gaps with a part of his cavalry and to follow with his main force on my right, to cross the Potomac at Shepherdstown, and move on my right flank. Upon giving him this order, he informed me that he had authority from General Lee to occupy the gaps with a part of his cavalry, and to follow the Federal army with the remainder. At the same time he expressed his purpose of crossing the river east of the Blue Ridge and trying to make way around the right of the Federal army; so I moved my troops independent of the cavalry, and, following my orders, crossed at Williamsport, came up with A. P. Hill in Maryland, and moved on thence to Chambersburg.

before we left Fredericksburg for the campaign into Maryland and Pennsylvania, I called up my scout, Harrison, and, giving him all the gold he thought he would need, told him to go to Washington City and remain there until he was in possession of information which he knew would be of value to us, and directed that he should then make his way back to me and report. As he was leaving, he asked where he would find me. That was information I did not care to impart to a man who was going directly to the Federal capital. I answered that my command was large enough to be found without [250]

Confederates at a Ford.

difficulty. We had reached Chambersburg on the 27th of June and were remaining there to give the troops rest, when my scout straggled into the lines on the night of June 28th. He told me he had been to Washington and had spent his gold freely, drinking in the saloons and getting upon confidential terms with army officers. In that way he had formed a pretty good idea of the general movements of the Federal army and the preparation to give us battle. The moment he heard Hooker had started across the Potomac he set out to find me. He fell in with the Federal army before reaching Frederick — his plan being to walk at night and stop during the day in the neighborhood of the troops. He said there were three corps near Frederick when he passed there, one to the right and one to the left, but he did not succeed in getting the position of the other. This information proved more accurate than we could have expected if we had been relying upon our cavalry. I sent the scout to report to General Lee, who was near, and suggested in my note that it might be well for us to begin to look to the east of the Blue Ridge. Meade was then in command of the Federal army, Hooker having been relieved.

The two armies were then near each other, the Confederates being north and west of Gettysburg, and the Federals south and south-east of that memorable field. On the 30th of June we turned our faces toward our enemy and marched upon Gettysburg. The Third Corps, under Hill, moved out first [251] and my command followed. We then found ourselves in a very unusual condition: we were almost in the immediate presence of the enemy with our cavalry gone. Stuart was undertaking another wild ride around the Federal army. We knew nothing of Meade's movements further then the report my scout had made. We did not know, except by surmise, when or where to expect to find Meade, nor whether he was lying in wait or advancing. The Confederates moved down the Gettysburg road on June 30th, encountered the Federals on July 1st, and a severe engagement followed. The Federals were driven entirely from the field and forced back through the streets of Gettysburg to Cemetery Hill, which had been previously selected as a Federal rallying-point and was occupied by a reserve force of the Eleventh Corps.

1 General D. H. Hill was the superior of General A. P. Hill in rank, skill, judgment, and distin-guished services. He had served with the army in Virginia, on the Peninsula in the battles of Williamsburg, Seven Pines, and the Seven Days battles around Richmond. In the Maryland campaign he made the battle of South Mountain alone from morning till late in the afternoon, with five thousand against a large part of McClellan's army. [See foot-note, Vol. II., p. 578.] He also bore the brunt of the battle of Sharpsburg. He came, however, not from Virginia but from North Carolina, and had just been detailed for service in that State.

Next in rank after General D. H. Hill was General Lafayette McLaws, who had served with us continuously from the Peninsular campaign. His attack on Maryland Heights in the campaign of 1862 was the crowning point in the capture of Harper's Ferry with its garrison and supplies. With Maryland Heights in our hands Harper's Ferry was untenable. Without Maryland Heights in our possession Jackson's forces on the south side of the Potomac could not have taken the post. At Fredericksburg McLaws held the ground at Marye's Hill with 5000 men (his own and Ransom's division) against 40,000, and put more than double his defending forces hors de combat, thus making, for his numbers, the best battle of the war. General McLaws was not in vigorous health, however, and was left to command his division in the campaign. He called on General Lee to know why his claims had been overlooked, but I do not know that Lee gave him satisfactory reasons.--J. L.

See Colonel William Allan's comments, to follow.--editors.

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