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A review of the First two days operations at Gettysburg and a reply to General Longstreet by General Fitz. Lee.

[Even if his gallant services and military reputation did not entitle him to speak, we are sure that our readers will be glad to have the following paper from one so closely allied to our great Commander-in-Chief.]

The “great battle of Gettysburg” has always occupied a prominent position in the mind of the Confederate soldier. This surpassing interest is due from the fact that there prevails, throughout the South, a wide-spread impression that had the plans of the Southern chieftain been fully endorsed, entered into, and carried out by his corps commanders, the historic “rebel yell” of triumph would have resounded along Cemetery Ridge upon that celebrated 2d July, 1863, and re-echoing from the heights of Round Top, might have been heard and heeded around the walls of Washingtoi, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. There is a ghastliness about that picture of the struggle at Gettysburg, that the blood of the heroes who perished there serves but to increase; and over that splendid scene of human courage and human sacrifice, there arises like the ghost of Banquo at Macbeth's banquet, a dreadful apparition, which says that the battle was lost to the Southern troops because “some one blundered.” Military critics, foreign and native, have differed as to the individual responsibility of what was practically a Confederate defeat. The much-alused cavalry is lifted into great prominence and is constrained to f3el complimented by the statement of many of these critics that the failure to crush the Federal army in Pennsylvania in 1863 can be expressed “in five words” (General iHeth, in a late paper to the Philadelphia Times), viz: “the absence of our cavalry;” but such language implies an accusation against General J. E. B. Stuart, its commander, who has been charged with a neglect of duty in rot reporting the passage of the Potomac by Hooker's army (afterwards Meade's), and with disobedience of orders, which resulted in placing the Federal al my between his command and the force of General Lee, thereby putting out the eyes of his own “giant.” There are those who bring our troubles to the door and cast them at the feet of General Ewell, the gallant commander of the Second corps, who is charged with not obeying his chief's orders, by following [163] up his success and occupying Cemetery Heights upon the afternoon of July 1st.

Others confidently agree with Colonel Taylor, General Lee's adjutant-general, that “General Longstreet was fairly chargeable with tardiness” on the 2nd July, in not making his attack earlier; and again it is stated, that his charging column upon the 3rd, which moved so magnificently to assault the positions of the Federals, was not composed of all the troops General Lee designed should be placed in it.

And last, but by no means least, the Confederate Commanderin-Chief himself is now for the first time charged with everything relating to the disaster of Gettysburg, and the whole accountability for the results of the battle are pointedly placed upon his shoulders by one of his subordinates, in a paper prepared for the Philadelphia Times. To whom, therefore, it may be asked, can the loss of the battle of Gettysburg be properly attributed — to Stuart, or Well, or Longstreet, or to General Lee? Very many of us who are deeply interested in the subject may honorably differ as to that, but upon the splendid courage displayed by the rank and file of the Confederate army upon those three first days in July, 1863, wherever tested, the world unites in perfect harmony.

We were indeed “within a stone's throw of peace” at Gettysburg-and although in numbers as 62,0001 is to 105,000, before any portion of either army had become engaged-yet the advantages were so manifestly on General Lee's side in consequence of the more rapid concentration of his troops upon a common point, that the heart of every Southern soldier beat with the lofty confidence of certain victory.

Any new light, therefore, thrown upon the matter in discussion, should be well-sifted before permitting it to shine for the benefit of the future historian, less it dazzle by false rays the sympathetic minds of generations yet to come.

The Philadelphia Times of November 3rd, 1877, in commenting upon some additional points furnished that paper by General Longstreet as an addenda to his article published in the same issue, says: [164]

The letter from General Longstreet which accompanies these enclosures, dwells particularly upon a point which he wishes to have his readers understand. It is that while General Iee on the battle-field assumed all the responsibility for the result, he afterwards published a report that differs from the report he made at the time while under that generous spirit. General Longstreet and other-officers made their official reports upon the battle shortly after its occurrence, and while the. were impressed with General Lee's noble assumption of all the blame, but General Lee having since written a detailed and somewhat critical account of the battle, Longstreet feels himself justified in discussing the battle upon its merits.

Whilst claiming the same privilege as a Confedrate soldier, I, yet, would not have exercised it, being only a cavalryman, who added to his “jingling spur” not even a “bright sabretache,” but only a poor record, were it not my good fortune to have known long and intimately the Commander-in-Chief, and to have conversed with him frequently during and since the war, upon the operations of the Army of Northern Virginia.

First then, let us examine the charge that the battle of Gettysburg was lost by the “absence of our cavalry.” The cavalry of General Lee's army in the Gettysburg campaign consisted of the brigades of Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee, W. H. F. Lee's (under Chambliss), Beverly Robertson, Wm. E. Jones, Imboden, and Jenkins, with a battalion under Colonel White. The first three named accompanied Stuart on his circuit around the Federal army, reaching Gettysburg on the 2nd of July-Jones and Robertson were left to hold the gaps of the Blue Ridge, and did not get to the vicinity of Gettysburg until after the battles; so that of all the force I enumerate, Jenkins' brigade and White's battalion alone crossed the Potomac with the army. (Imboden's command was detached along the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, and was not in the fight at Gettysburg). Stuart after fighting at Brandy Station, on the 9th of June, a large body of Federal cavalry supported by infantry, and forcing them to recross the Rappahannock river with a loss (to them) of “four hundred prisoners, three pieces of artillery, and several colors,” (General Lee's report), marched into Loudoun county upon the right flank of the army, and was engaged in a series of conflicts, terminating with Pleasonton's cavalry corps and Barnes' division of infantry, upon the 21st June, which caused him to retire to the vicinity of Ashby's Gap in the Blue Ridge, our infantry being upon the western side of the mountains. [165] 165

Leaving the brigade before mentioned to hold the position, Stuart then, in the exercise of a discretion given him by General Lee and so stated in his report, determined to pass to the rear of the Federal army and cross the Potomac at Seneca Falls, a point between that army and their capital. Thus, it will be seen, including the brigade and battalion of cavalry which composed the vanguard of the army, that over one-half of the cavalry was left in position to be used by General Lee.

Hooker, in his dispatch to his President, June 21st, (Report on the Conduct of the War, volume 1, page 279,) referring to Stuart's command, says: “This cavalry force has hitherto prevented me from obtaining satisfactory information as to the whereabouts of the enemy; they had masked all their movements.”

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