previous next

Lee's right wing at Gettysburg.

by James Longstreet, Lieutenant-General, C. S. A.
Cettysburg lies partly between Seminary Ridge on the west and Cemetery Ridge on the south-east, a distance of about fourteen hundred yards dividing the crests of the two ridges. As General Lee rode to the summit of Seminary Ridge and looked down upon the town he saw the Federals in full retreat and concentrating on the rock-ribbed hill that served as a burying-ground for the city. He sent orders to Ewell to follow up the success if he found it practicable and to occupy the hill on which the enemy was concentrating. As the order was not positive, but left discretion with General Ewell, the latter thought it better to give his troops a little rest and wait for more definite instructions. I was following Hill's Corps as fast as possible, and as soon as I got possession of the road went rapidly forward to join General Lee. I found him on the summit of Seminary Ridge watching the enemy concentrate on the opposite hill. He pointed out their position to me. I took my glasses and made as careful a survey as I could from that point. After five or ten minutes I turned to General Lee and said:

“ If we could have chosen a point to meet our plans of operation, I do not think we could have found a better one than that upon which they are now concentrating. All we have to do is to throw our army around by their left, and we shall interpose between the Federal army and Washington. We can get a strong position and wait, and if they fail to attack us we shall have everything in condition to move back to-morrow night in the direction of Washington, selecting beforehand a good position into which we can place our troops to receive battle next day. Finding our object is Washington or that army, the Federals will be sure to attack us. When they attack, we shall beat them, as we proposed to do before we left Fredericksburg, and the probabilities are that the fruits of our success will be great.”

“No,” said General Lee; “the enemy is there, and I am going to attack him there.”

I suggested that such a move as I proposed would give us control of the roads leading to Washington and Baltimore, and remindeda General Lee of [340] our original plans. If we had fallen behind Meade and had insisted on staying between him and Washington, he would have been compelled to attack and would have been badly beaten. General Lee answered, “No; they are there in position, and I am going to whip them or they are going to whip me.” I saw he was in no frame of mind to listen to further argument at that time, so I did not push the matter, but determined to renew the subject the next morning. It was then about 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

On the morning of the 2d I joined General Lee and again proposed the move to Meade's left and rear. He was still unwilling to consider the proposition, but soon left me and rode off to see General Ewell and to examine the ground on our left with a view

Lutheran Church on Chambersburg street, Gettysburg, used as a hospital. From a photograph.

to making the attack at that point. After making the examination and talking to General Ewell, he determined to make the attack by the right, and, returning to where I was, announced his intention of so doing. His engineer officers had been along the line far enough to find a road by which the troops could move and be concealed from the Federal signal stations.

About 11 o'clock on the morning of the 2d he ordered the march, and put it under the conduct of his engineer officers, so as to be assured that the troops would move by the best route and encounter the least delay in reaching the position designated by him for the attack on the Federal left, at the same time concealing the movements then under orders from view of the Federals.

McLaws's division was in advance, with Hood following. After marching some distance there was a delay in front, and I rode forward to ascertain the cause, when it was reported to me that part of the road just in advance of us was in plain view of the Federal signal station on Round Top. To avoid that point the direction of the troops was changed. Again I found there was some delay, and ordering Hood's division, then in the rear, to move on and double with the division in front, so as to save as much time as possible, I went forward again to see the cause of the delay. It seemed there was doubt again about the men being concealed, when I stated that I could see the signal station, and there was no reason why they could not see us. It seemed to me useless, therefore to delay the troops any longer with the idea of concealing the movement, and the two divisions advanced. As the line was deployed I rode along from left to right, examining the Federal position and putting my troops in the best position we could find. General Lee at the [341] same time gave orders for the attack to be made by my right — following up the direction of the Emmitsburg road toward the Cemetery Ridge, holding Hood's left as well as could be toward the Emmitsburg road, McLaws to follow the movements of Hood, attacking at the Peach Orchard the Federal Third Corps, with a part of R. H. Anderson's division following the movements of McLaws to guard his left flank. As soon as the troops were in position, and we could find the points against which we should march and give the guiding points, the advance was ordered — at half-past 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The attack was made in splendid style by both divisions, and the Federal line was broken by the first impact. They retired, many of them, in the direction of Round Top behind bowlders and fences, which gave them shelter, and where they received reenforcements.

Brigadier-General Paul Semmes, C. S. A., mortally wounded, July 2. from a photograph.

This was an unequal battle. General Lee's orders had been that when my advance was made, the Second Corps (Ewell), on his left, should move and make a simultaneous attack; that the Third Corps (Hill) should watch closely and engage so as to prevent heavy massing in front of me. Ewell made no move at all until about 8 o'clock at night, after the heat of the battle was over, his line having been broken by a call for one of his brigades to go else-where. Hill made no move whatever, save of the brigades of his right division that were covering our left.

When the battle of the 2d was over, General Lee pronounced it a success, as we were in possession of ground from which we had driven the Federals and had taken several field-pieces. The conflict had been fierce and bloody, and my troops had driven back heavy columns and had encountered a force three or four times their number,1 but we had accomplished

Brigadier-General William Barksdale, C. S. A., wounded July 2, died July 3. from a photograph.

little toward victorious results. Our success of the first day had led us into [342] battle on the 2d, and the battle on the 2d was to lead us into the terrible and hopeless slaughter on the 3d.

On the night of the 2d I sent to our extreme right to make a little reconnoissance in that direction, thinking General Lee might yet conclude to move around the Federal left. The morning of the 3d broke clear and indicated a day on which operations would not be interrupted by the elements. The Confederate forces still occupied Seminary Ridge, while the Federals occupied the range stretching from Round Top to Cemetery Hill and around Culp's Hill. The position of the Federals was quite strong, and the battle of the 2d had concentrated them so that I considered an attack from the front more hazardous than the battle on the 2d had been. The Federals were concentrated, while our troops were stretched out in a long, broken--

Dead in the “wheat-field” gathered for burial. From photographs.

and thus a weak — line. However, General Lee hoped to break through the Federal line and drive them off. I was disappointed when he came to me on the morning of the 3d and directed that I should renew the attack against Cemetery Hill, probably the strongest point of the Federal line. For that purpose he had already ordered up Pickett's division, which had been left at Chambersburg to guard our supply trains. In the meantime the Federals had placed batteries on Round Top, in position to make a raking fire against troops attacking the Federal front. Meade knew that if the battle was renewed it would be virtually over the same ground as my battle of the 2d. I stated to General Lee that I had been examining the ground over to the right, and was much inclined to think the best thing was to move to the Federal left.

“ No,” he said; “I am going to take them where they are on Cemetery Hill. I want you to take Pickett's division and make the attack. I will reenforce [343] you by two divisions [Heth's under Pettigrew and Pender's under Trimble] of the Third Corps.”

“ That will give me fifteen thousand men,” I replied. “I have been a soldier, I may say, from the ranks up to the position I now hold. I have been in pretty much all kinds of skirmishes, from those of two or three soldiers up to those of an army corps, and I think I can safely say there never was a body of fifteen thousand men who could make that attack successfully.”

The general seemed a little impatient at my remarks, so I said nothing more. As he showed no indication of changing his plan, I went to work at once to arrange my troops for the attack. Pickett was put in position and received directions for the line of his advance as indicated by General Lee. The divisions of the Third Corps were arranged along his left with orders to take up the line of march, as Pickett passed before them, in short echelon. We were to open with our batteries, and Pickett was to move out as soon as we silenced the Federal batteries. The artillery combat was to begin with the rapid discharge of two field-pieces as our signal. As soon as the orders were communicated along the line, I sent Colonel E. P. Alexander (who was commanding a battalion of artillery and who had been an engineer officer) to select carefully a point from which he could observe the effect of our batteries. When he could discover the enemy's batteries silenced or crippled, he should give notice to General Pickett, who was ordered, upon receipt of that notice, to move forward to the attack. When I took Pickett to the crest of Seminary Ridge and explained where his troops should be sheltered, and pointed out the direction General Lee wished him to take and the point of the Federal line where the assault was to be made, he seemed to appreciate the severity of the contest upon which he was about to enter, but was quite hopeful of success. Upon receipt of notice, he was to march over the crest of the hill down the gentle slope and up the rise opposite the Federal stronghold. The distance was about fourteen hundred yards, and for most of the way the Federal batteries would have a raking fire from Round Top, while the sharp-shooters, artillery, and infantry would subject the assaulting column to a terrible and destructive fire. With my knowledge of the situation, I could see the desperate and hopeless nature of the charge and the cruel slaughter it would cause. My heart was heavy whe n I left Pickett. I rode once or twice along the ground between Pickett and the Federals, examining the positions and studying the matter over in all its phases so far as we could anticipate.

About 1 o'clock everything was in readiness. The signal guns broke the prevailing stillness, and immediately 150 Confederate cannon burst into a deafening roar, which was answered by a thunder almost as great from the Federal side. The great artillery combat proceeded. The destruction was, of course, not great; but the thunder on Seminary Ridge, and the echo from the Federal side, showed that both commanders were ready. The armies seemed like mighty wild beasts growling at each other and preparing for a death struggle. For an hour or two the fire was continued, and met such steady response on the part of the Federals, that it seemed less effective than [344]

Map 18. positions July 3d, 3:15 to 5:30 P. M.

we had anticipated. I sent word to Alexander that unless he could do something more, I wouldnot feel warranted in ordering the troops forward. After a little, some of the Federal batteries ceased firing, possibly to save ammunition, and Alexander thought the most suitable time for the advance had come. He sent word to Pickett, and Pickett rode to my headquarters. As he came up he asked if the time for his advance had come. I was convinced [345] that he would be leading his troops to needless slaughter, and did not speak. He repeated the question, and without opening my lips I bowed in answer. In a determined voice Pickett said: “Sir, I shall lead my division forward.” He then remounted his horse and rode back to his command. I mounted my horse and rode to a point where I could observe the troops as they marched forward. Colonel Alexander had set aside a battery of seven guns to advance with Pickett, but General Pendleton, from whom they were borrowed, recalled them just before the charge was ordered. Colonel Alexander told me of the seven guns which had been removed, and that his ammunition was so low he could not properly support the charge. I ordered him to stop Pickett until the ammunition could be replenished, and he answered, “There is no ammunition with which to replenish.” In the hurry he got together such guns as he could to move with Pickett.

It has been said that I should have exercised discretion and should not have sent Pickett on his charge. It has been urged that I had exercised discretion on previous occasions. It is true that at times when I saw a certainty of success in another direction, I did not follow the orders of my general, but that was when he

Major-General William D. Pender, wounded July 2, died July 18. from a photograph.

was not near and could not see the situation as it existed. When your chief is away, you have a right to exercise discretion; but if he sees everything that you see, you have no right to disregard his positive and repeated orders. I never exercised discretion after discussing with General Lee the points of his orders, and when, after discussion, he had ordered the execution of his policy. I had offered my objections to Pickett's battle and had: been over-ruled, and I was in the immediate presence of the commanding general when the order was given for Pickett to advance. [See p. 355.]

That day at Gettysburg was one of the saddest of my life. I foresaw what my men would meet and would gladly have given up my position rather than share in the responsibilities of that day. It was thus I felt when Pickett at the head of 4900 brave men marched over the crest of Seminary Ridge and began his descent of the slope. As he passed me he rode gracefully, with his jaunty cap raked well over on his right ear and his long auburn locks, nicely dressed, hanging almost to his shoulders. He seemed rather a holiday soldier than a general at the head of a column which was about to make one of the grandest, most desperate assaults recorded in the annals of wars. Armistead and Garnett, two of his brigadiers, were veterans of nearly a quarter of a century's service. Their minds seemed absorbed in the men behind, and in the bloody work before them. Kemper, the other brigadier, was younger but had experienced many severe battles. He was leading my old brigade that I had drilled on Manassas plains before the first battle on that noted field. The troops advanced in well-closed ranks and with elastic step, their faces lighted [346]

Profile of Cemetery Ridge as seen from Pickett's position before the charge.

with hope. Before them lay the ground over which they were to pass to the point of attack. Intervening were several fences, a field of corn, a little swale running through it and then a rise from that point to the Federal stronghold. As soon as Pickett passed the crest of the hill, the Federals had a clear view and opened their batteries, and as he descended the eastern slope of the ridge his troops received a fearful fire from the batteries in front and from Round Top. The troops marched steadily, taking the fire with great coolness. As soon as they passed my batteries I ordered my artillery to turn their fire against the batteries on our right then raking my lines. They did so, but did not force the Federals to change the direction of their fire and relieve our infantry. As the troops were about to cross the swale I noticed a considerable force of Federal infantry moving down as though to flank the left of our line. I sent an officer to caution the division commanders to guard against that move, at the same time sending another staff-officer with similar orders so as to feel assured the order would be delivered. Both officers came back bringing their saddles, their horses having been shot under them. After crossing the swale, the troops kept the same steady step, but met a dreadful fire at the hands of the Federal sharp-shooters; and as soon as the field was open the Federal infantry poured down a terrific fire which was kept up during the entire assault. The slaughter was terrible, the enfilade fire of the batteries on Round Top being very destructive. At times one shell would knock down five or six men. I dismounted to relieve my horse and was sitting on a rail fence watching very closely the movements of the troops. Colonel Freemantle, who had taken a position behind the Third Corps where he would be out of reach of fire and at the same time have a clear view of the field, became so interested that he left his position and came with speed to join me. Just as he came up behind me, Pickett had reached a point near the Federal lines. A pause was made to close ranks and mass for the final plunge. The troops on Pickett's left, although advancing, were evidently a little shaky. Colonel Freemantle, only observing the troops of Pickett's command, said to me, “General, I would not have missed this for anything in the world.” He believed it to be a complete success. I was watching the troops supporting Pickett and saw plainly they could not hold together ten minutes longer. I called his attention to the wavering condition of the two divisions of the Third Corps, and said they [347] would not hold, that Pickett would strike and be crushed and the attack would be a failure. As Pickett's division concentrated in making the final assault, Kemper fell severely wounded. As the division threw itself against the Federal line Garnett fell and expired. The Confederate flag was planted in the Federal line, and immediately Armistead fell mortally wounded at the feet of the Federal soldiers. The wavering divisions then seemed appalled, broke their ranks, and retired. Immediately the Federals swarmed around Pickett, attacking on all sides, enveloped and broke up his command, having killed and wounded more than two thousand men in about thirty minutes. They then drove the fragments back upon our lines. As they came back I fully expected to see Meade ride to the front and lead

Brigadier-General Lewis A. Armistead, C. S. A., killed July 3. from a photograph.

his forces to a tremendous counter-charge. Sending my staff-officers to assist in collecting the fragments of my command, I rode to my line of batteries, knowing they were all I had in front of the impending attack, resolved to drive it back or sacrifice my last gun and man. The Federals were advancing a line of skirmishers which I thought was the advance of their charge. As soon as the line of skirmishers came within reach of our guns, the batteries opened again and their fire seemed to check at once the threatened advance. After keeping it up a few minutes the line of skirmishers disappeared, and my mind was relieved of the apprehension that Meade was going to follow us.

General Lee came up as our troops were falling back and encouraged them as well as he could; begged them to re-form their ranks and reorganize their forces, and assisted the staff-officers in bringing them all together again. It was then he used the expression that has been mentioned so often:

It was all my fault; get together, and let us do the best we can toward saving that which is left us.

As our troops were driven back from the general assault an attack was made on my extreme right by several squadrons of cavalry, which succeeded in breaking through our line of pickets. They were met by a counter-move of the 9th Georgia and the well-directed fire of Captain Bachman's battery and driven back, the 11th and 59th Georgia joining in the counter-move. [348]

The charge of Pickett, Pettigrew, and Trimble. From a War-time sketch from the Union position.


Finding that Meade was not going to follow us, I prepared to withdraw my line to a better defensive position. The batteries were withdrawn well over Seminary Ridge, and orders were sent to the right for McLaws's and Hood's divisions to be withdrawn to corresponding positions. The armies remained in position, the Confederates on Seminary Ridge extending around Gettysburg, the left also drawn back, the Federals on Cemetery Ridge, until the night of the 4th, when we took up the march in retreat for Virginia.

That night, while we were standing round a little fire by the roadside, General Lee said again the defeat was all his fault. He said to me at another time, “You ought not to have made that last attack.” I replied, “I had my orders, and they were of such a nature there was no escape from them.” During that winter, while I was in east Tennessee, in a letter I received from him he said, “If I only had taken your counsel even on the 3d, and had moved around the Federal left, how different all might have been.”

The only thing Pickett said of his charge was that he was distressed at the loss of his command. He thought he should have had two of his brigades that had been left in Virginia; with them he felt that he would have broken the line.

While I was trying to persuade General Lee to turn the Federal left on the 1st of July, Halleck telegraphed Meade as follows:

Washington, D. C., July 1st, 1863.
The movements of the enemy yesterday indicate his intention to either turn your left, or to cover himself by the South Mountain and occupy Cumberland Valley. Do not let him draw you too far to the east.

Again on the same day:

. . . Your tactical arrangements for battle seem good, so far as I can judge from my knowledge of the character of the country; but in a strategic view, are you not too far east, and may not Lee attempt to turn your left and cut you off from Frederick? Please give your full attention to this suggestion . . .

The next day, just thirty minutes before my assault, General Meade telegraphed General Halleck at 3 P. M.:

. . . If I find it hazardous to do so [meaning to attack], or am satisfied that the enemy is endeavoring to move to my rear and interpose between me and Washington, I shall fall back to my supplies at Westminster. . . .

From this we know that the ground of the Gettysburg cemetery could have been occupied without the loss of a man, yet even at this late day, some of the Virginians, not satisfied with the sacrifice already made, wish that I, who would and could have saved every man lost at Gettysburg, should now be shot to death.

If we had made the move around the Federal left, and taken a strong position, we should have dislodged Meade without a single blow; but even if we had been successful at Gettysburg, and had driven the Federals out of their stronghold, we should have won a fruitless victory, and returned to Virginia conquered victors. The ground they occupied would have been worth no more to us than the ground we were on. What we needed was a battle that [350] would give us decided fruits, not ground that was of no value. I do not think there was any necessity for giving battle at Gettysburg. All of our cavalry was absent, and while that has been urged by some as a reason why the battle should have been made at once, to my mind it was one of the strongest reasons for delaying the battle until everything was well in hand. The cause of the battle was simply General Lee's determination to fight it out from the position in which he was at that time. He did not feel that he was beaten on the second day, but that he was the victor, and still hoped he would be able to dislodge Meade; but he made a mistake in sending such a small number of men to attack a formidable force in a position of great natural strength, reenforced by such temporary shelter as could be collected and placed in position to cover the troops. Lee's hope in entering the campaign was that he would be in time to make a successful battle north of the Potomac, with such advantages as to draw off the army at Vicksburg as well as the Federal troops at other points.

I do not think the general effect of the battle was demoralizing, but by a singular coincidence our army at Vicksburg surrendered to Grant on the 4th, while the armies of

Major-General George E. Pickett, C. S. A. From a photograph.

Lee and Meade were lying in front of each other, each waiting a movement on the part of the other, neither victor, neither vanquished. This surrender, taken in connection with the Gettysburg defeat, was, of course, very discouraging to our superior officers, though I do not know that it was felt as keenly by the rank and file. For myself, I felt that our last hope was gone, and that it was now only a question of time with us. When, however, I found that Rosecrans was moving down toward Georgia against General Bragg, I thought it possible we might recover some of our lost prospects by concentrating against Rosecrans, destroying his army, and advancing through Kentucky.

General Lee evidently felt severely mortified and hurt at the failure, so much so that at times he was inclined to listen to some of those who claimed to be his friends, and to accept their proposition to find a scapegoat. He resisted them, however, and seemed determined to leave the responsibility on his own hands. [351]

For several reasons I will take occasion here to answer some serious charges that have been made against me by men who claim to have been the friends of General Lee.

Mr. Jefferson Davis, in his “Rise and fall of the Confederate Government” (p. 441, Vol. II.), quotes from a memorial address the old story of the Rev. W. N. Pendleton:

The ground south-west of the town was carefully examined by me after the engagement on July 1st. Being found much less difficult than the steep ascent fronting the troops already up, its practicable character was reported to our commanding general. He informed me that he had ordered Longstreet to attack on that front at sunrise the next morning. And he added to myself, “I want you to be out long before sunrise, so as to reexamine and save time.”

He also desired me to communicate with General Longstreet as well as with himself. The reconnoissance was accordingly made as soon as it was light enough on the 2d, and made through a long distance — in fact, very close to what there was of the enemy's line. No insuperable difficulty appearing, and the marching up — far off, the enemy's reenforcing columns being seen, the extreme desirableness of immediate attack there was at once reported to the commanding general; and, according to his wish, message was also sent to the intrepid but deliberate corps commander, whose sunrise attack there had been ordered. There was, however, unaccountable delay. My own messages went repeatedly to General Lee, and his I know was urgently pressed on General Longstreet until, as I afterward learned from officers who saw General Lee--as I could not at the time — he manifested extreme displeasure with the tardy corps commander. That hard-fighting soldier, to whom it had been committed there to attack early in the day, did not in person reach the commanding general and with him ride to a position whence to view the ground and see the enemy's arriving masses, until 12 o'clock, and his column was not up and ready for the assault until 4 P. M. All this, as it occurred under my personal observation, it is nothing short of imperative duty that I should thus fairly state.

Mr. Davis indorses the statement thus:

For the reasons set forth by General Pendleton, whose statement in regard to a fact coming under his personal observation none who knew him will question, preparations for a general engagement were unfortunately delayed until the afternoon instead of being made at sunrise; then troops had been concentrated, and Round Top, the commanding position unoccupied in the morning, had received the force which inflicted such disaster on our assaulting columns. The question as to the responsibility for this delay has been so fully discussed in the Southern Historical Society papers as to relieve me from the necessity of entering into it.

As General Pendleton's lecture was the capital upon which it was proposed to draw funds for a memorial church, it was natural, perhaps, that Mr. Davis should, as a sentient, claim the statements made as beyond question. Most Virginia writers on this subject have taken up and followed the false scent announced by General Pendleton. Outside that State, I believe Mr. Davis and General Wilcox are the only persons who do not spurn it as false. Facts connected with this battle have been so distorted and misrepresented that a volume of distinct maps must be written in order to make a demonstration, to the letter, of all its features.

General C. M. Wilcox, in an article in the number of the “Southern Historical Society papers” for September, 1877, refers to the order for early attack, viz.:

It has been asserted that General Longstreet was ordered to attack at daylight or early the next morning. Of this I have no knowledge personally, but am inclined to believe that he was so ordered.


But from the official accounts of Generals Pendleton and Wilcox2 we see that the right of General Lee's army was not deployed as far as the Fairfield road on the 1st of July, that General Pendleton did not pass beyond this road, and only noted the location of the ridge on the right from his position on the Fairfield road especially as likely to be important “toward a flank movement.” With this idea in his mind he leaves us to infer that he left our right and moved over to our left to supervise the posting of artillery battalions just then coming up. Soon after General Pendleton passed from about the Fairfield road to ourleft, the division of General R. H. Anderson,--of the Third Corps,--led by the brigade of General C. M. Wilcox, filed off to the right from the Chambersburg road, marched in an oblique direction toward the Fairfield road, where it was halted for the night, lying in bivouac till the next day, the brigade of Wilcox being on picket or guard service during the night about a mile farther to the right. In the absence of other evidence, one might be at a loss to know which of these accounts was intended in a Pickwickian sense, but the account of General R. H. Anderson, who was guileless and truthful, supports the official reports. General A. A. Humphreys (of the other side), late chief of the United States Corps of Engineers, a man whose entire life and service were devoted to official accuracy, gives similar evidence in his official report.3

All the subordinate reports on the Confederate side confirm the account by General Anderson, while the reports of subordinate officers on the Federal side conform to that of General Humphreys. It is conclusive therefore that the Confederates occupied no ground east of the Fairfield road till R. H. Anderson's division advanced on the morning of the 2d at 10 to find its position on the right of Hill's corps, after a clever fight between the 3d Maine and 1st U. S. Sharp-shooters against the 10th and 11th Alabama regiments.

When it is remembered that my command was at the close of the first day's fight fifteen to twenty miles west of the field, that its attack as ordered was to be made along the east side of the Emmitsburg road, that no part of General Lee's army touched that road till 9 A. M. of the 2d, that up to that hour it was in possession of the Federals, and that their troops had been marching in by that road from early on the 1st till 8 A. M. on the 2d, it will be seen that General Pendleton's reconnoissance on the 1st was made, if made at all, by his passing through the Federal lines on the afternoon of the 1st and again on the morning of the 2d.

General Wilcox confesses want of personal information of the order for daylight or early attack, but expresses his confidence that the order was given. That is, he, occupying our extreme right on the 1st, on picket at a point considerably west of the Emmitsburg road, believes that General Lee ordered troops some fifteen or twenty miles off, and yet on the march, to pass his picket guard in the night to the point of attack, east of the Emmitsburg road, through the Federal lines, in order to make a daylight attack east of the road. While I am prepared to admit that General Lee ordered, at times, [353] desperate battles, I cannot admit that he, blindfold, ever led or ordered his next in rank, also blindfold, into night marches through the enemy's lines to gain position and make a battle at daylight next morning.

In articles formerly published on this charge of General Pendleton, masses of evidence were adduced showing that my column when ordered to the right, east of the Emmitsburg road, was conducted by General Lee's engineer officer; that when halted under the conduct of that officer I doubled the rear division on the leading one so as to save time; that my arrangements were promptly made, and that my attack was made many hours before any of our other troops were ready to obey their orders to cooperate. As I was the only one prepared for battle, I contended against the Federal army throughout the contest with two divisions and some misguided brigades sent to cover my left.

Colonel Taylor, of General Lee's staff, takes exception to the delay in the attack of Pickett on the last day under the impression that, had I attacked earlier and before Edward Johnson was driven from the Federal right, the latter might have held his ground longer and to some advantage to the Confederates. He seems to lose sight of the fact that General Lee, not I, was commanding our left under Johnson, and that he alone could order concert of action. On the 2d, notwithstanding his orders to move in concert with my attack at 4 P. M., Johnson did not go in till 8 at night, long after my battle was ended. Colonel Taylor thinks the forlorn-hope should have gone in sooner. The universal opinion now is that it should not have gone in at all; and, as already stated, that was the opinion General Lee expressed soon after the battle.

Some of our North Carolina troops seem to consider the less conspicuous part given them a reflection upon them as soldiers of true mettle and dash. This sensitiveness is not well founded. Every officer of experience knows that the best of veteran soldiers, with bloody noses from a fresh battle, are never equal to those going in fresh in their first stroke of the battle. Had Pickett's men gone through the same experience as the other troops on the 1st, they could not have felt the same zest for fighting that they did coming up fresh and feeling disparaged that the army had won new laurels in their absence. There is no doubt that the North Carolinians did as well as any soldiers could have done under the circumstances. I can truthfully attest that the old North State furnished as fine and gallant troops as any that fought in the Confederate ranks — and that is saying as much as can be said for soldiers. They certainly made sufficient sacrifice, and that was all we had left to do on that day.

During the Franco-Prussian war I kept a map of the field of operations with colored pegs, that were moved from day to day to indicate the movements of the two armies. Bazaine had been driven to shelter at Metz, McMahon had been driven back to the route leading from Paris to Metz and seemed in doubt whether he would go to Paris or to Bazaine's relief. He suffered himself to be forced north of the route between these points. On the morning that the wires brought us that information, two or three of the French Creoles of New Orleans visited my office to ask my views of the [354] movements then proceeding. I replied, “McMahon's army will be prisoners of war in ten days.” They were very indignant and stated that I was a Republican and in sympathy with the Prussians. My reply was that I had only given them my solution of a military problem. The Prussians were on the shorter route to Paris or to Metz, so that if McMahon should attempt to move in either direction the Prussians, availing themselves of the shorter lines, would interpose and force McMahon to attack; but as he had already been so beaten and demoralized, that he could not be expected to make a successful attack and would therefore be obliged to surrender. If he had gone direct to Paris before giving up his shorter route, it is possible that he could have organized a succoring army for the relief of Metz.

Had we interposed between Meade and Washington our army in almost as successful prestige as was that of the Prussians, Meade would have been obliged to attack us wherever we might be pleased to have him. He would have been badly beaten like the French, and the result would have been similar. I do not mean to say that two governments would have been permanently established; for I thought before the war, and during its continuance, that the people would eventually get together again in stronger bonds of friendship than those of their first love.

1 General Meade's report shows that all of the Third and parts of the Second, Fifth, Sixth, and Twelfth corps were engaged in the second day's fight.--editors.

2Official Records,” Vol. XXVII., Part II., pp. 346, 616.

3Official Records,” Vol. XXVII., Part I., p. 529.

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 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.
2nd (5)
July 3rd (4)
July 2nd (3)
July 1st (3)
4th (2)
3rd (2)
1st (2)
September, 1877 AD (1)
July 1st, 1863 AD (1)
July 18th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: