previous next

Chapter25: invasion of Pennsylvania.

The absorbing study now was the projected campaign into Maryland and Pennsylvania,--the invasion of the enemy's country. The plan of defensive tactics gave some hope of success, and, in fact, I assured General Lee that the First Corps would receive and defend the battle if he would guard its flanks, leaving his other corps to gather the fruits of success. The First Corps was as solid as a rock — a great rock. It was not to be broken of good position by direct assault, and was steady enough to work and wait for its chosen battle.

The Valley of the Shenandoah gave us firm, broad roads for the march north, curtained by the solid range of the Blue Ridge and South Mountains. There were some Federal troops occupying points in the Valley of Virginia, but not more than enough to give healthful employment to our leading columns as they advanced. The army as reorganized in three corps had three divisions of each corps, with four brigades to the division, except R. H. Anderson's, Pickett's, and Rodes's, each of which had five. J. E. B. Stuart's cavalry consisted of the brigades [335] of Wade Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee, W. H. F. Lee, Beverly Robertson, and W. E. Jones. The cavalry of Jenkins and Imboden, operating in the Valley and West Virginia near our route, was to move, the former with Ewell, the latter on his left. Six batteries of horse artillery under Major R. F. Beckham were of Stuart's command, and to each army corps were attached five battalions of artillery of four guns to a battery, and four batteries to a battalion, making of the whole artillery organization, including batteries of reserve and the thirty guns of horse artillery, two hundred and eighty-seven guns. In the three army corps there were thirty-nine brigades, proper, of infantry.

In the Army of the Potomac were fifty-one brigades of infantry, eight brigades of cavalry, and three hundred and seventy guns of artillery. The artillery appointments were so superior that our officers sometimes felt humiliated when posted to unequal combat with their better metal and munitions. In small-arms also the Union troops had the most improved styles.

Notwithstanding, we were prepared to march forward and cheerfully accept the gage, hoping to overbalance these advantages through the morale afforded by brave hearts and the strategic skill to throw the onus of battle upon the enemy.

The plan of campaign as projected was by the march of the Second Corps through the Valley of the Shenandoah to drive off or capture the Federal forces stationed along the Valley, and continue the march to Pennsylvania until further orders, meanwhile collecting supplies for the advance and for those who were to follow, Jenkins's brigade of cavalry working with the advance, and Imboden's on its left; the First Corps and main force of cavalry to march near the east base of the Blue Ridge, threatening towards the rear line of the Army of the Potomac, and occupy the Blue Ridge, while the trains and [336] other troops passed behind the mountains to follow the advance march. Stuart's cavalry brigades were to observe between the First Corps and the Union army. When the Third Corps had passed behind the First, the latter and the cavalry were to withdraw and follow the general march. Stuart, whose movements were to correspond to those of the First Corps, was to follow its withdrawal and cross the Potomac on our right flank at Shepherdstown. The brigades of Generals M. Jenkins and M. D. Corse of Pickett's division, left in Virginia near Petersburg and Hanover Junction, were to follow and join their division, as will soon appear.

General Beauregard was to be called from his post, in the South, with such brigades as could be pulled away temporarily from their Southern service, and thrown forward, with the two brigades of Pickett's division (Jenkins's and Corse's) and such others as could be got together, along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad in threatening attitude towards Washington City, and he was to suddenly forward Pickett's brigades through the Valley to the division, and at his pleasure march on, or back towards Richmond.

As the season of fevers along the coast of the Carolinas was approaching, General Lee thought that active operations in the far South, especially along the seaboard, would be suspended, that his move northward might draw most of them towards him, and possibly troops operating in the Southwest, the latter being really a prominent part of the object of his northern march. He thought that Beauregard's appearance in Northern Virginia would increase the known anxiety of the Washington authorities and cause them to draw troops from the South, when in the progress of events other similar movements might follow on both sides until important results could be developed north of the Potomac.

His early experience with the Richmond authorities [337] taught him to deal cautiously with them in disclosing his views, and to leave for them the privilege and credit of approving, step by step, his apparently hesitant policy, so that his plans were disclosed little at a time; and, finding them slow in approving them, still slower in advancing the brigades of Pickett's division, and utterly oblivious of the effect of a grand swing north on our interior lines, he did not mention the part left open for Beauregard until he had their approval of the march of the part of his command as he held it in hand. The part assigned for Beauregard became the subject for correspondence between the authorities and the officers who knew nothing of the general ideas and plans. The latter failed to see any benefit to accrue by taking troops from their commands, and naturally offered objections to their going. The authorities, not comprehending the vast strength to be gathered by utilizing our interior lines, failed to bring about their execution, and the great possibility was not fully tested.

In pursuance of the plan for the northern campaign our march was taken up on Wednesday, the 3d of June, McLaws's division of the First Corps marching on that date from Fredericksburg, and Hood's from near Orange Court-House on the 4th; Rodes's division of the Second Corps followed, and on the 5th Johnson's and Early's of the Second. Pickett of the First, with three of his brigades, followed the course of Hood's division. All were to assemble at Culpeper Court-House, near our cavalry Headquarters. The Third Corps, General A. P. Hill, was left in observation of the enemy at Fredericksburg.

When General Hooker discovered the thinning of our camps in rear of Fredericksburg, he put a bridge across the Rappahannock at Deep Run, crossed a considerable force of artillery and infantry, and constructed a line of rifle-pits along the river bank. At the report of these movements, General Lee thought to delay the movements [338] of the Second Corps, though he hurried those of the First to draw off the Federals from action against Hill, but holding the Second ready to go back to him should there be need. Hill made a similar demonstration against Hooker, threatening on the river below, though not so far as to cross it, which caused the Federals to draw their troops from the south side. The Second Corps was then hurried on to Culpeper Court-House.

The First and Second Corps waited at the court-house to know if indications about Fredericksburg were such as to warrant the onward march. General Hooker, not convinced that General Lee had left him, ordered his cavalry under General Pleasonton, supported by two brigades of infantry, to cross the Rappahannock in search of Stuart's cavalry, and to secure information of the Confederate plans. Pleasonton's force, including infantry, was eleven thousand. He divided his command, sending one half by Beverley's, the other by Kelly's Ford, to march on converging roads to Brandy Station, near Fleetwood, the latter point the Headquarters of our cavalry chief, five miles west of Rappahannock Bridge.

Happily for the Confederates, the cavalry brigades had been drawn together on the 8th for review by General Lee, and rested that night not remote from cavalry headquarters. On the 9th, Pleasonton's columns made an unlooked — for advance and engaged the Confederates, before notice could be sent to the columns at their camps. The march resulted in a very severe and strongly disputed cavalry fight, ending in heavy losses on both sides. General Stuart called for infantry supports before the close of the conflict, but succeeded in recovering his position before the infantry reached him,--not, however, until some important despatches were taken by the enemy, which gave the information they were seeking. Stuart reported 485 officers and men lost; Pleasonton, 907, and three pieces of artillery. On the 10th, Ewell took up his [339] march for the Valley by Chester Gap. Now, General Milroy had a division of nine thousand Federals at Winchester, and sought to hold it contrary to his orders to retire to the command at Harper's Ferry. He had a brigade on outpost at Berryville under McReynolds. General Kelly had ten thousand men at Harper's Ferry, with a strong detachment of infantry and a battery at Martinsburg, under Colonel B. F. Smith.

Upon entering the Valley, General Ewell detached Rodes's division and Jenkins's cavalry to cut off and capture the force at Berryville, but McReynolds withdrew in time to join the forces at Winchester. This Confederate column then marched for Martinsburg, and got possession there on the 14th, the garrison marching out and joining the troops on Maryland Heights. The artillery trying to escape north towards Williamsport was followed so closely that they lost some three or four guns. With his divisions under Johnson and Early, General Ewell marched to Winchester and attacked and carried the outworks of Milroy's fortified position, when the latter, after calling a council, decided to retreat, leaving his artillery and wagon-trains. Ewell had anticipated this, and sent a part of Johnson's division, one brigade, to intercept him on the Martinsburg road. The commands met about daylight, and there ensued a severe engagement, successful to the Federals till reinforcements came to the Confederates, when Milroy's command was broken up, part of his troops escaping to Harper's Ferry and part getting over the Potomac at Hancock. The Federals at Harper's Ferry abandoned their position in Virginia, seeking shelter on the heights on the Maryland side.

On his march through the Valley, General Ewell took 4000 prisoners and small-arms, 25 cannon, 11 standards, 250 wagons, 400 horses, and large quantities of subsistence and quartermaster's stores, with a loss of 269 of all arms. He crossed the Potomac on the 15th, occupying Hagerstown [340] and Sharpsburg, on the Maryland side, and sent the cavalry brigade, under Jenkins, north towards Chambersburg.

By the plan of march from the Valley of Virginia the leading corps (Second) was to divide and cross the Potomac River at Williamsport and Shepherdstown, the column through Williamsport to march through Hagerstown and Chambersburg towards Harrisburg, collecting produce and supplies for the army, Imboden's cavalry on its left flank. The eastern column was to march through Sharpsburg, Emmitsburg, and Gettysburg towards the bridge over the Susquehanna River at Wrightsville, Jenkins's cavalry brigade working with the two columns. The Third Corps, passing behind the Blue Ridge, was to cross at Shepherdstown and follow the march of the eastern column. The First Corps was to draw back from the Blue Ridge and cross the Potomac at Williamsport, to be followed by the cavalry, which was to cross at Shepherdstown and ride severely towards Baltimore, to force the enemy to eastern concentration.

The object of the march of the eastern columns, besides opening a wide field for foraging, was to draw the enemy from the route of travel of the supply trains, and to press him off east to give opportunity for the western columns to file in between him and Washington.

The reconnoissance and cavalry fight made against Stuart at Fleetwood gave General Hooker conclusive evidence of the march of the Army of Northern Virginia, and he drew off from Stafford Heights on the 13th, and marched towards the Orange and Alexandria Railroad and the Potomac River. The First Corps was ordered north along the east base of the Blue Ridge to guard our line of march and cover, in a measure, the Confederate plans, Stuart's cavalry to ride between the First Corps and the Union army. On the 19th the divisions of the First Corps were posted along the Blue Ridge from [341] Ashby's Gap on the right to Snicker's Gap on the left, McLaws at the former, Hood at the latter, Pickett's three brigades between the others. Under the impression that the cavalry was to operate with the First Corps, in the general plan, the commander was ordered to follow its withdrawal west of the Blue Ridge and cross the Potomac on its right at Shepherdstown, and make his ride towards Baltimore. He claimed that General Lee had given him authority to cross east of the Blue Ridge.

After the First Corps was in position on the Blue Ridge, and while the Third was passing our rear down the Valley, it seems that General Lee so far modified the plan of march north as to authorize his cavalry chief to cross the Potomac with part of his command east of the Blue Ridge, and to change the march of the Third Corps by Hagerstown and Chambersburg. The point at which the cavalry force should cross the river was not determined between the Confederate commander and his chief of cavalry, there being doubt whether the crossing could better be made at Point of Rocks, between the Union army and the Blue Ridge, or between that army and Washington City. That question was left open, and I was ordered to choose between the two points named at the moment that my command took up its line of march.

The First Corps was withdrawn from the Blue Ridge on the 20th, forded the Shenandoah, and camped on its left bank. On the 21st, Pleasonton came, in full force, supported by infantry, against Stuart's cavalry brigades. The severe part of the fight came from Upperville, and succeeded in driving Stuart back into Ashby's Gap. Part of McLaws's division was sent back in time to support Stuart, and in the morning McLaws ordered Wofford's brigade down upon the plain, but Pleasonton had withdrawn. The infantry was recalled after an exchange of a few shots at great range.

Connected with the cavalry raid and orders authorizing [342] it are matters of more than usual interest. On the 22d the Confederate commander sent unsealed instructions to his cavalry chief, through Headquarters of the First Corps, to be forwarded, provided the cavalry could be spared from my front and could make the ride without disclosing our plans, expressing his preference for the ride through Hopewell Gap east of the Union army. As previously stated, I was to decide at the last moment between the two points that had been named. As my front was changed to the rear for the march north, the cavalry could be of no service there. The extent of authority with me, therefore, was to decide whether the crossing should be made at the Point of Rocks or around through Hopewell Gap east of the Union army. The crossing at Point of Rocks was not only hazardous, but more likely to indicate our plans than any move that could be made, leaving the ride through Hopewell Gap the only route for the raiding party. In my note to General Stuart enclosing General Lee's instructions was this item:

P. S.-- think your passage of the Potomac by our rear at the present moment will, in a measure, disclose our plans. You had better not leave us, therefore, unless you can take the route in rear of the enemy.

This has been put in italics and published as evidence that the raid was made by my orders, as well as by General Lee's. In the postscript three points are indicated: First, the move along my rear to the crossing at Point of Rocks.

Second, my preferred march on my flank to the Shepherdstown crossing.

Third, the route indicated by General Lee.

All of which General Stuart understood as well as I did. Especially did he know that my orders were that he should ride on the right of my column, as originally designed, to [343] the Shepherdstown crossing. In the body of my note were orders that he should report to me of affairs along the cavalry line before leaving; that he should assign General Hampton to command of the cavalry to be left with us, with orders to report at my Headquarters. These orders, emanating properly from the commander of the rear column of the army, should not have been questioned, but they were treated with contumely. He assigned General Robertson to command the cavalry that was left on the mountain, without orders to report at my headquarters; and though left there to guard passes of the Blue Ridge, he rode on a raid, so that when the cavalry was most needed it was far away from the army. The raid and the absence of the cavalry at the critical moment were severely criticised through the army and the country. If General Stuart could have claimed authority of my orders for his action, he could not have failed to do so in his official account. He offered no such excuse, but claimed to act under the orders of his chief, and reported that General Lee gave consent to his application for leave to make the march. So our plans, adopted after deep study, were suddenly given over to gratify the youthful cavalryman's wish for a nomadic ride.

About this time we entertained a distinguished visitor. An officer of the British service, Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur J. L. Fremantle, of the Coldstream Guards, brought letters from the Secretary of War to General Lee and myself. He was seeking opportunity to observe the campaign as a non-combatant; he travelled with us, divided his time between general Headquarters and Headquarters of the First Corps, cheerfully adapted his tastes to the rough ways of Confederate soldiers, and proved to be an interesting companion. To avoid the blockade he came to the Confederacy through Mexico. He gave a graphic account of his experience in Texas and [344] travel after crossing the Rio Grande to the interior in a two-horse hack. The drivers of his conveyance were Mr. Sargeant and Judge Hyde, two characters whom I had met years before while in army service on the Texas frontier. They called their team Grant and Sherman, and enjoyed their glorious rides down the smooth slopes of the prairie roads, as they rattled their heels upon the box of the hack and plied their team, Grant and Sherman, with whips and oaths. But the great novelty to him was the position of the judge. In England there are few judges comparatively, and those of high estate. To find an American judge playing assistant to a hack-driver was refreshing, and Colonel Fremantle thoroughly enjoyed it. I now have the pleasure to salute our genial war-time visitor as governor at Malta and Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, K. C.M., G. C.B., and to offer congratulations to Her Most Noble Majesty upon her worthy subject.

On the 23d of June the divisions of the Third Corps passed on towards the Potomac, followed by those of the First, the former crossing at Shepherdstown, the latter at Williamsport. The corps came together at Hagerstown, in Maryland, continued their march till the 27th, and rested two days at Chambersburg, in Pennsylvania. The cavalry under General Imboden, ordered on General Ewell's left, was due as far north as McConnellsburg, but had halted at Hancock.

On the 28th, General Lee issued orders for the march upon Harrisburg. General Ewell had marched his main column through Chambersburg to Carlisle. His column, intending to move east of the mountains through Emmitsburg and Gettysburg, had marched parallel to the main column as far as Greenwood, when orders were renewed for it to march east through Gettysburg. General Early, commanding, ordered Gordon's brigade and a detachment of cavalry through Gettysburg; but his other troops [345] marched north through Mummasburg. The failure of the Imboden cavalry on his left caused General Ewell to send General George H. Steuart through McConnellsburg as guard of that flank. Steuart's command rejoined him at Carlisle. As General Ewell marched he sent us three thousand head of beef cattle and information of five thousand barrels of flour. He halted at Carlisle on the 27th. The municipal authorities of Gettysburg and York surrendered to General Gordon, who took some prisoners of the State militia, and marched to the bridge over the Susquehanna at Wrightsville, where he had other prisoners, but the bridge was burned before him. His brigade returned to the vicinity of York, where the division had marched and bivouacked on the night of the 28th.

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.
Gettysburg (Pennsylvania, United States) (6)
Georgetown (West Virginia, United States) (6)
Williamsport (Maryland, United States) (5)
Chambersburg, Pa. (Pennsylvania, United States) (5)
Winchester, Va. (Virginia, United States) (4)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (4)
Harper's Ferry (West Virginia, United States) (4)
Hagerstown (Maryland, United States) (4)
Fredericksburg, Va. (Virginia, United States) (4)
Martinsburg (West Virginia, United States) (3)
Harrisburg, Pa. (Pennsylvania, United States) (3)
York, Pa. (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
Wrightsville (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
Washington (United States) (2)
Sharpsburg (Maryland, United States) (2)
McConnellsburg (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
Hancock, Md. (Maryland, United States) (2)
Fleetwood (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
Emmitsburg (Maryland, United States) (2)
Carlisle, Pa. (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
Brandy Station (Virginia, United States) (2)
Berryville (Virginia, United States) (2)
Baltimore, Md. (Maryland, United States) (2)
West Virginia (West Virginia, United States) (1)
Wade Hampton (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Virginia (Virginia, United States) (1)
Upperville (Virginia, United States) (1)
Texas (Texas, United States) (1)
Swan Point (Maryland, United States) (1)
Susquehanna River (Maryland, United States) (1)
Stafford Court House (Virginia, United States) (1)
South Mountains (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Orange Court House (Virginia, United States) (1)
Mummasburg (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Mexico (Mexico, Mexico) (1)
Maryland Heights (Maryland, United States) (1)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (1)
Kelly's Ford (Virginia, United States) (1)
Hanover Court House (Virginia, United States) (1)
England (United Kingdom) (1)
Deep Run (Virginia, United States) (1)
Chester Gap (Virginia, United States) (1)
Beverley (United Kingdom) (1)
Alexandria (Virginia, United States) (1)
Africa (Pennsylvania, 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.
June 23rd (1)
June 3rd (1)
28th (1)
27th (1)
22nd (1)
21st (1)
20th (1)
19th (1)
15th (1)
14th (1)
13th (1)
10th (1)
9th (1)
4th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: