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Chapter 38: Gettysburg.

In the month of May, 1863, General R. E. Lee's army rested near Fredericksburg, while the Federal army under General Hooker occupied their old camps across the Rappahannock. Early in the month of June, finding that the Federal commander was not disposed again to cross swords with him, for the purpose of drawing him away from Virginia, so that her people might raise and gather their crops, Lee began a movement that culminated in the battle of Gettysburg.

Ewell's corps was sent on in advance, and at Winchester routed and put to flight the enemy under General Milroy, capturing 4,000 prisoners and their small-arms, 2S pieces of artillery, 300 wagons and their horses, and large amounts of ordnance, commissary, and quartermaster stores; then crossing the Potomac, he passed through Maryland and into Pennsylvania.1 [385]

General A. P. Hill with his three divisions followed in his rear.

General Longstreet covered these movements with his corps, then passing into the valley, he too crossed the Potomac.

To General Stuart was left the task of [386] watching with his cavalry the movements of the enemy.

The Federal Commander had meanwhile disposed his force so as to cover Washington, and learning the movements of General Lee, he too crossed the Potomac.

On June 27th, General Lee was at Chambersburg, while Hill, Longstreet, and Ewell were within supporting distance.

Stuart with the cavalry was absent, and the lack of it prevented Lee from being apprised of the near approach of the enemy. It was an army without “eyes and ears.”

Moving forward from Chambersburg, General Lee reached Cashtown on July ist, where A. P. Hill was concentrating.

Here the Federal cavalry was first encountered, and as Hill's troops moved forward, they were met also by Reynolds's First Corps of the Federal infantry.

Stuart was still absent, but Lee, feeling in the dark, had encountered the Federal army.

Ewell's corps was called in, and a severe engagement ensued, which lasted until nightfall, when the Federals retreated through the town of Gettysburg, leaving in the hands of the Confederates over five thousand prisoners.

The Federal General Reynolds was killed.

During the night, the Federals concentrated [387] and fortified a ridge of high ground from Cemetery Hill running back of the town on the right, to Round Top on the left. Here they confronted Lee on July 2d. At four o'clock on July 2d, Longstreet's corps, except Pickett, who had not yet arrived, assailed the extreme left of the Federal line. Longstreet gained ground up to the Emmettsburg road, and captured artillery and colors. General Hood was wounded, and Generals Barksdale and Semmes were killed.

Ewell's divisions (at 8 P. M.) charged up the Cemetery Hill, over the crest and the stone walls, and met the enemy in a hand to hand contest; the crest gained, they held it until compelled to retire by the advance of the enemy in overwhelming force.

On July 3d, General Lee, encouraged by the successes of the two preceding days, determined to endeavor to break through the enemy's centre, and for that purpose, Pickett's division, just arrived, and numbering 4,760 officers and men, with Heth's division on its left, and Wilcox's brigade on its right, and with Lane's and Scales's brigades under General Trimble, as supports, were aligned for the attack.

At 1.30 P. M., at a signal of two guns fired in quick succession, from a position on the Confederate right, on the Emmettsburg road, [388] 137 guns opened fire on the Federal lines, who replied with 80. Colonel Miller Owen, an eye-witness, gives a spirited description of the charge.

For nearly two hours the dreadful din continued, until the fire of the Federal batteries greatly decreased or was silenced; then the Confederate divisions, numbering less than 13,000 men, rose up and dressed their ranks for the great charge on Cemetery Hill.

It was a desperate undertaking, and the men realized it, and were heard bidding each other good-by from rank to rank.

General Pickett galloped over to General Longstreet. and said, “General, shall I advance?” Receiving no reply, he saluted and said, “I am going to lead my division forward, sir,” and galloped off to put it in motion.

Soon afterward the gray line emerged from the trees skirting the Emmettsburg road, Garnett's brigade on the left, Kemper's on the right, and Armistead's in the rear of the centre. Garnett had been unwell for several days, and in spite of the excessive heat of the weather, was buttoned up in a heavy blue overcoat.

Pickett's men went forward with great steadiness, closing up their ranks as fast as breaches were made by the Federal artillery, [389] which had again opened fire. The division of Heth, now commanded by Pettigrew, and numbering about 4,300 men, and the supporting brigades of North Carolinians of Lane and Scales under General Trimble, moved forward on his left flank, and Wilcox's Alabama brigade upon his right. Some of the artillery moved forward also, and fired over the heads of the advancing troops.

The charge was watched with anxious interest by those of the Confederates not participating.

Now Garnett, Kemper, and Armistead are close up to the stone wall, from behind which the enemy are lying and firing; they are over it, and fighting hand to hand over eleven captured cannon; the hillside is blue with the smoke of cannon and musketry, and all seems going well.

Pettigrew has moved steadily forward on Pickett's left, Archer's Alabama and Tennessee brigade commanded by Colonel B. D. Fry on the right, Pettigrew's own North Carolina brigade, commanded by Colonel J. K. Marshal on the right centre, General J. Davis's Mississippi brigade on the left centre, and Brockenbrough's Virginia brigade on the left.

These troops received the enemy's fire until they reached a post and rail fence beyond [390] the Emmettsburg road. There they were opened upon by a galling fire of cannister and shrapnel; still the line remained steady and the advance continued.

More fences were encountered, and the alignment was disturbed; still on they charged, keeping in line with Pickett.

When within range of the enemy's line, a heavy fire of musketry was delivered into their ranks, yet there was no check.

Archer's brigade reached the enemy first in close contest, and the whole division gallantly dashed up to the stone wall behind which the enemy was strongly posted.2

Subject to a galling fire which reduced their ranks, and finding further gallant effort hopeless, the division fell back in some confusion.

The brigades of Lane and Scales still tenaciously hold the enemy's line that they have crossed, and the close combat continues in the little clump of trees on the ridge. Wilcox with his brigade charged on Pickett's right flank up to the Federal line, but being overwhelmed by numbers, withdrew.

And now the Federals massed upon [391] Pickett's and Trimble's front, and upon their flanks; Garnett and Armistead were both killed, and Kemper badly wounded. The men were falling fast, or yielding themselves to the overwhelming foe, the charge had failed, and the brave survivors of this grand assault recrossed the blood-stained field, and reformed their depleted ranks in the wood of Seminary Hill, from which they had lately advanced so gallantly to the charge.

There they found General Lee, riding calmly up and down the lines, with only words of encouragement upon his lips. “ Never mind,” he said, as he urged them to form, “we'll talk of this afterward; now, we want all good men to rally.” “All will be well.”

Mr. Davis thus writes of Gettysburg in his “Rise and fall:”

“The battle of Gettysburg has been the subject of an unusual amount of discussion, and the enemy has made it a matter of extraordinary exultation. As an affair of arms it was marked by mighty feats of valor, to which both combatants may point with military pride. It was a graceful thing in President Lincoln if, as reported, when he was shown the steeps which the Northern men persistently held, he answered: ‘ I am proud to be the countryman of the men who assailed those heights.’ ”


Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, Chambersburg, Pa., June 27, 1863.

General orders, no. 73.

The Commanding General has observed with marked satisfaction the conduct of the troops on the march, and confidently anticipates results commensurate with the high spirit they have manifested.

No troops could have displayed, or better performed, the arduous march of the past ten days.

Their conduct in other respects has, with few exceptions, been in keeping with their character as soldiers.

There have, however, been instances of forgetfulness on the part of some that they have in keeping the yet unsullied reputation of this army, and that the duties exacted of us by civilization and Christianity are not less obligatory in the country of the enemy than in our own.

The Commanding General considers that no greater disgrace could befall the army, and through it our whole people, than the perpetration of the barbarous outrages upon the innocent and defenceless, and the wanton destruction of private property, that have marked the course of the enemy in our own country. Such proceedings not only disgrace the perpetrators and all connected with them, but are subversive of the discipline and efficiency of the army, and destructive to the ends of our present movement.

It must be remembered that we make war only upon armed men, and that we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered without lowering ourselves in the eyes of all those whose abhorrence has been excited by the atrocities of our enemy, and offending against Him to whom vengeance belongeth, without whose favor and support our efforts must all prove in vain.

The Commanding General therefore earnestly exhorts the troops to abstain with most scrupulous care from unnecessary or wanton injury to private property; and he enjoins upon all officers to arrest and bring to summary punishment all who shall in any way offend against the orders on this subject.

R. E. Lee, General.

2 The fact that the right of Pettigrew's division touched Pickett's left, is fixed in Lieutenant Finlay's (Fifty-sixth Virginia Infantry) mind, by having shaken hands with one of Pettigrew's captains, who exclaimed enthusiastically, “We will stand together at this wall.” --John B. Batcheldor.

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