[We know that some of our readers have grown weary of the Gettysburg
discussion, but on the other hand we have assurances from every quarter that the papers on this great battle have been of deep interest and invaluable
as “material for the future historian.”
The following paper, by the commander of a division in Longstreet
's corps, was read some months ago before the Georgia Historical Society
, and should have been promptly admitted into our series had it been sent to us originally.
We print it just as we have received it, albeit the distinguished soldier who wrote it might probably have modified certain portions of it had he had opportunity of reading our series before preparing it.]
After the battle of Chancellorsville
, General Hooker
's army returned to its position on the Washington
side of the Rappahannock
, and that of General Lee
reoccupied its old grounds opposite Hooker
, on the Richmond
side, in and around Fredericksburg
As it was evident that the Federal
army could not be attacked as it stood, except under great disadvantages, it was determined to turn its flank and to transfer the war into the enemy's country.
Accordingly, on the 3d of June, 1863, my division moved from its camps in and around Fredericksburg
, and took position at Culpeper Courthouse.
's division followed mine and then came Ewell
's corps — Hill
's corps being left to watch the movements of Hooker
's army, with orders to follow our movements so soon as Hooker
could be manoeuvred out of his position.
Shortly after our arrival at Culpeper
's cavalry made such a sudden and unexpected irruption across the Rappahannock
, that, though driven back with loss, they captured General Stuart
's headquarters with all his orders and correspondence, and forced General Lee
to display his infantry or partially to do so. From both these sources General Hooker
was satisfied that General Lee
was on the move, and it was a reasonable presumption that he was trying to turn his flanks, in order to try the issue of battle on the same grounds, and under the same circumstances, that he had defeated General Pope
's army at the second Manassas
Accordingly, General Hooker
concentrated his army so as to cover Washington
, and be prepared to give front to General Lee
, let him come from what direction he might.
's army was at this time very much scattered, his advance being over one hundred miles or more from Hill
still at Fredericksburg
But General Hooker
, who must have been aware of this, did not attempt to take advantage of the situation.
withdrew from Hill
's front at Fredericksburg
that officer moved with his corps, following the rear of General Lee
's army, and, passing Longstreet
, advanced into Maryland
; while Longstreet
, marching more leisurely, moved to the east of the mountains, so as to still further confirm the notion that it was General Lee
's intention to attack on Virginia
Reaching Ashby's Gap, Longstreet
's corps turned west, and crossing the Shenandoah
pushed on after Ewell
, who was then in Pennsylvania
I recollect the evening.
We had waded the Shenandoah
and had just gone into camp on the other side, when a courier or staff officer dashed into my camp with orders for my division to recross the river and hurry back into Ashby's Gap, as the enemy's cavalry, supported by infantry, had driven Stuart
's cavalry into the gap and it was apprehended their advance would seize the gap. The fording was deep, up to the arm pits of the shorter men, but the command went forward with great alacrity, and meeting great numbers of the cavalry coming to the rear and crossing the river on their horses, while the infantry were getting wet to take their places.
The greeting the cavalry received was anything but complimentary.
The night on the mountain was very uncomfortable, being cold and wet. But the next morning one of my brigades crossed over to the eastern side of the mountain as far as a small village some miles from the gap, where an advance of the enemy, both cavalry and infantry, had encamped.
As our men appeared the enemy disappeared, and the brigade rejoined the division.
The cavalry again advanced, and the division, recrossing the Shenandoah
, continued its march and waded the Potomac
, on the Maryland
The wading across the Potomac
was very deep and the men were very wet, and, as there was a quantity of whiskey in the city, a gill apiece was given to each man that wanted it, and in justice to my division I will assert that I never heard of any one refusing it. The consequence was that the men were all in good humor, and as my division halted a considerable time, the men roamed over the village.
While sitting on my horse near a large brick building called the Washington Bank
(I think that was the name) Captain G. B. Lamar
, my aid-de-camp, rode up and informed me that the United States
flag was being waved from the upper story of the bank building, and as there were a good many men of Hood
's and my division
in town who were under the influence of liquor, he was apprehensive that some insult might be offered to the family within the the house unless the flag was withdrawn before I left.
I therefore directed him to knock at the front door and tell some responsible person within of the circumstance and give them my request that the flag be withdrawn, at least until the command had passed on. Captain Lamar
did as directed, and afterwards told me that the lady of the house had answered his knock, and on being told his reason for coming, turned very pale, and, clasping her hands, assured him that the flag was being displayed by some young persons without her knowledge.
told her that there was no harm done, but to prevent any being done, he requested that the flag be taken in, and it was done at once.
This reminds me of an incident that happened while on the march through Frederick City on our previous campaign of invasion.
General Howell Cobb
's brigade, a very large and fine one indeed, was marching with a band of music playing through the streets — the General
at the head of his column — when two ladies appeared on a balcony waving two small flags.
The General, a gallant gentleman as he was, with the ladies as in war, pulled off his hat and bowed to them with great courtesy, his men cheering in unison; but presently the cheering was succeeded by a burst of laughter from the rear, and as the General
turned to find out the cause, the men shouted, “Why, General, those are Federal flags!”
The General, not at all disconcerted, replied at once: “Never mind, boys, that is not the first time I have pulled off my hat to that flag!”
and the men cheered more than before, and the column went on in the best of humor.
I mention this to show with what little unworthy and ungenerous feeling our men went into the invasion, and scorned to give offense or insult where it could not be resented.
But to resume the march.
My division finally went through Chambersburg
and into camp about a mile beyond.
The country was thickly settled and finely cultivated, with some excellent gardens.
I recollect one near my headquarters which abounded with vegetables, and the sight was so tantalizing that finally a party of my command came and asked if I would not negotiate for some of them.
Accordingly, I paid a formal visit to the lady of the mansion, where the garden was, and telling her the purpose of my visit asked if she would sell some or all her vegetables-informing her, however, that we had but Confederate money wherewith to pay, but if she preferred it I would give her a certificate of what was
She replied that from what she had heard of the way the Federal
troops treated our people she thought we had a right to take without asking.
I told her that, without discussing that question, it was sufficient to say that General Lee
had forbidden us to plunder.
She then said that she gave her permission for us to take anything we wanted, and at my request she went herself and gave her vegetables away.
I had her name in a little memorandum book, where I jotted down daily occurrences, but it has passed away from my memory.
While in camp I heard that General Ewell
was in Carlisle
, and had gone, or portions of his command had, towards Harrisburg
, and had marched where he pleased without opposition.
On the 30th June my command was put in march towards Gettysburg
, and camped, I think, at or near Greencastle
, receiving orders to march the next day.
We had heard the day before or heard it here that Ewell
's corps had been ordered to return to the main command, because General Lee
had been informed that the Federal
army had crossed the Potomac
, and was marching northward.
And before moving, on the first, I received orders to follow in rear of Johnson
's division of Ewell
's corps, which had been detached from the corps to conduct Ewell
's trains west of the mountains, while the rest of the corps came by the shortest route to General Lee
Accordingly I had my division ranged alongside of the road to Gettysburg
by eight o'clock on the 1st of July, in the order of march, and had not been long in place before Johnson
's division appeared.
After it had passed I went to Major Fairfax
, of General Longstreet
's staff, and asked if I should follow the troops or wait until Ewell
's train had passed.
rode to General Longstreet
to find out, and shortly returned with directions to wait until the train had passed.
As the train appeared to be a very long one I had its rate of travel timed as it passed over a known distance, and computed its length to be over fourteen miles.
At any rate it was not until after four o'clock that it had passed, and I then took up the line of march to the front.
About five o'clock, as we rose the hills between our camp of the morning and Gettysburg
, we heard distinctly the sound of cannon, and a cheer went from the column, while the men quickened their pace to the music of the guns.
The march was continued, and about ten P. M. I met General Longstreet
in the road, and he informed me there had been an engagement; General Heth
was wounded; the enemy
driven back with a loss of 5,000 prisoners. He then directed me to go into camp at the water course, then some miles distant, which I reached a little after twelve at night, and camped or rather rested.
Some time after my arrival I received orders from General Longstreet
to continue the march at four A. M., but the order was afterwards countermanded, with directions not to leave until sunrise.
The march was continued at a very early hour, and my command reached the hill overlooking Gettysburg
early in the morning.
Just after I arrived General Lee
sent for me — as the head of my column was halted within a hundred yards of where he was — and I went at once and reported.
was sitting on a fallen tree with a map beside him. After the usual salutation, General Lee
remarked: “General, I wish you to place your division across this road,” pointing on the map to about the place I afterwards went to, and directing my attention to about the place across the country from where we were, the position being a commanding one; “and I wish you to get there if possible without being seen by the enemy.”
The place he pointed out was about the one I afterwards went to, and the line he marked out on the map for me to occupy was one perpendicular to the Emmettsburg road.
He finally remarked: “Can you get there?”
or “can you do it?”
I replied that I knew of nothing to prevent me, but would take a party of skirmishers and go in advance and reconnoitre.
“He said Major Johnston
, of my staff, has been ordered to reconnoitre the ground, and I expect he is about ready.”
I then remarked, “I will go with him.”
Just then General Longstreet
, who, when I came up, was walking back and.forth some little distance from General Lee
, and hearing my proposition or request to reconnoitre, spoke quickly and said: “No, sir, I do not wish you to leave your division,” and then, pointing to the map, said: “I wish your division placed so,” running his finger in a direction perpendicular to that pointed out by General Lee
. General Lee
replied: “No, General, I wish it placed just perpendicular to that,” or “just the opposite.”
I then reiterated my request to go with Major Johnston
, but General Longstreet
again forbade it. General Lee
said nothing more, and I left them, and, joining my command, put it under cover under a line of woods a short distance off. General Longstreet
appeared as if he was irritated and annoyed, but the cause I did not ask. When I rejoined my command I sent my engineer officer, Lieutenant Montcure
, to go and join Major Johnston
, and gave him instructions what to observe particularly, as he was an officer in whom I had
confidence, but was ordered back.
I then reconnoitred myself for my own information, and was soon convinced that by crossing the ridge where I then was, my command could reach the point indicated by General Lee
, in a half hour, without being seen.
I then went back to the head of my column and sat on my horse and saw in the distance the enemy coming, hour after hour, on to the battle ground.
At length — my recollection is that it was about 1 P. M.--Major Johnston
, of General Lee
's staff, came to me and said he was ordered to conduct me on the march.
My command was at once put in motion--Major Johnston
and myself riding some distance ahead Suddenly, as we rose a hill on the road we were taking, the Round Top
was plainly visible, with the flags of the signal men in rapid motion.
I sent back and halted my division and rode with Major Johnston
rapidly around the neighborhood to see if there was any road by which we could go into position without being seen.
Not finding any I joined my command and met General Longstreet
there, who asked, “What is the matter?”
I replied, “Ride with me and I will show you that we can't go on this route, according to instructions, without being seen by the enemy.”
We rode to the top of the hill and he at once said, “Why this won't do. Is there no way to avoid it?”
I then told him of my reconnoissance in the morning, and he said: “How can we get there?”
I said: “Only by going back — by countermarching.”
He said: “Then all right,” and the movement commenced.
But as General Hood
, in his eagerness for the fray (and he bears the character of always being so), had pressed on his division behind mine so that it lapped considerably, creating confusion in the countermarch, General Longstreet
rode to me and said: “General, there is so much confusion, owing to Hood
's division being mixed up with yours, suppose you let him countermarch first and lead in the attack.”
I replied: “General, as I started in the lead, let me continue so;” and he replied, “Then go on,” and rode off.
After very considerable difficulty, owing to the rough character of the country in places and the fences and ditches we had to cross, the countermarch was effected, and my troops were moving easily forward along a road with fences on the side not giving room enough for a company front, making it necessary to break files to the rear, when General Longstreet
rode up to me, and said: “How are you going in?”
and I replied, “That will be determined when I can see what is in my front.”
He said: “There is nothing in your
front; you will be entirely on the flank of the enemy.”
I replied, “Then I will continue my march in columns of companies, and after arriving on the flank as far as is necessary will face to the left and march on the enemy.”
He replied, “That suits me,” and rode away.
My head of column soon reached the edge of the woods, and the enemy at once opened on it with numerous artillery, and one rapid glance showed them to be in force much greater than I had, and extending considerably beyond my right.
My command, therefore, instead of marching on as directed, by head of column, deployed at once.
, a very cool, judicious and gallant gentleman, immediately turned the head of his column and marched by flank to right, and put his men under cover of a stone wall.
, the fiery, impetuous Mississippian, following, came into line on the left of Kershaw
, his men sheltered by trees and part of a stone wall and under a gentle declivity.
Besides the artillery firing, the enemy were advancing a strong line of skirmishers and threatening an advance in line.
I hurried back to quicken the march of those in rear, and sent orders for my artillery to move to my right and open fire, so as to draw the fire of the opposite artillery from my infantry.
I will here state that I had in my division about six thousand, aggregate — which, I think, is over the mark.
Well, six thousand men standing in line would occupy over a mile, and in marching in the manner and over the roads we came they would extend a mile and a half.
So you will perceive that to form line of battle by directing troops across the country broken by fences and ditches requires considerable time, and it was difficult, from the same causes, to get the artillery in position.
While this was going on I rode forward, and getting off my horse, went to some trees in advance and took a good look at the situation, and the view presented astonished me, as the enemy was massed in my front, and extended to my right and left as far as I could see.
The firing on my command showed to Hood
in my rear that the enemy was in force in my front and right, and the head of his column was turned by General Longstreet
's order to go on my right, and as his troops appeared, the enemy opened on them, developing a long line to his right even, and way up to the top of Round Top
. Thus was presented a state of affairs which was certainly not contemplated when the original plan or order of battle was given, and certainly was not known to General Longstreet
a half hour previous.
As I have already stated, General Longstreet
had informed me just previous to my arriving in view of the enemy's position, that I would arrive entirely on their flank, and he wished me to march into my position in column of companies, and when well on the enemy's flank to face or form line to the left and march down upon them.
in his report says, his brigade being at the head of my column, that General Longstreet
came to him while marching, and told him that his (General Longstreet
's) desire was, that he (Kershaw
) should attack the enemy at the peach orchard, turn his flank and extend along the cross road with his left resting towards the Emmettsburg road.
You can see by the accompanying map what a very different state of affairs existed from what General Longstreet
must have thought really did, as it would simply have been absurd for General Kershaw
to have attempted to do as he was required or desired.
writes that his orders were to place his division across the Emmettsburg road, form line and attack; but that from a rapid reconnoissance he saw that if he made the attack according to orders he should first be compelled to attack and drive off the advanced line of battle, to pass over a very broken, rocky character of country, which would scatter his men very much, and that his division would be exposed to a heavy fire from the main line of the enemy, posted on the crest of the high range of which Round Top
was the extreme left, and that he would be subjected to a destructive fire in flank and rear as well as in front.
As bad as he represents the difficulties to be overcome, if he attempted to carry out his orders, I would have been in a worse position if I had attempted to carry out mine, as the main body of the enemy was directly in my front, and the enemy's numerous batteries were posted in front of me in the peach orchard and to its rear.
says he reported that it was unwise to attack up the Emmettsburg road as ordered, and urged that he be. allowed to turn Round Top
and attack the enemy in flank and rear, but that General Longstreet
returned answer: “General Lee
's orders are to attack up the Emmettsburg road.”
That he went again, and reported that nothing was to be gained by such an attack, and the answer was: “General Lee
's orders are to attack up the Emmettsburg road.”
That during these intervals of time he had continued to use the batteries against the enemy, and it seemed to his more extended reconnoissance that the position occupied by the enemy was naturally
so strong, so nearly impregnable, that, independently of their flank fire, they could repel his attack by throwing stones down the mountain; and that a third time he dispatched a staff officer to explain more fully in regard to the situation, and to suggest that he (General Longstreet
) come in person and see for himself, and that his Adjutant-General
, whom he sent the last time, returned with the same message: “General Lee
's orders are to attack up the Emmettsburg road;” and almost simultaneously Colonel Fairfax
, of Longstreet
's staff, rode up and repeated the order.
While this was going on an order came from General Longstreet
, borne by Major Latrobe
, such is my recollection, asking why did I not charge, “as there was no one in my front but a regiment of infantry and a battery of artillery.”
I told the officer that I would charge so soon as my division was formed for it; that the enemy was in great force in my immediate front, with numerous artillery, and extended far to the right.
In a very short time after this the order was repeated, and I informed the officer again that the enemy was so strong in my front that it required careful preparation for the assault, or it necessarily would be a failure; that the opposite artillery was numerous, and it was necessary to break its force by the fire of our artillery; that as soon as it opened, and my men were all up, I would move forward, but requested that he come to the front and see for himself.
Not long after the order came peremptorily for me to charge, the officer representing that General Lee
was with General Longstreet
, and joined in the order, and I got on my horse and sent word that in five minutes I would be under way. But while collecting my staff to send the orders for a simultaneous move of the whole line, a courier dashed up with orders for me to wait until Hood
got into position.
I suppose by this time Hood
's protests against attempting to charge up the Emmettsburg road had been received, and hence the delay.
I sent to communicate with Hood
at once in order to follow his movement.
then came up in person and I met him. His first words were, “Why is not a battery placed here?”
pointing to the place where the road by which we marched reached the edge of the open space in front.
I replied, “General, if a battery is placed there it will draw the enemy's artillery right among my lines formed for the charge and will of itself be in the way of my charge, and tend to demoralize my men.”
His reply was only a peremptory order for a battery, and it was sent forward, placed in that position, and its fire at once drew the enemy's
fire of artillery upon it, cutting the limbs of the trees in abundance, which fell around my men, and the bursting shells and shot wounded or killed a number whilst in line formed for the advance, producing a natural feeling of uneasiness among them.
I got on my horse and rode among them directing them to lie down, so as to escape as much as possible from the shot and shell which were being rained around us from a very short range.
All this happened within fifteen or twenty minutes. Under cover of their fire the enemy were making strong demonstrations of an advance, and General Barksdale
two or three times came to me and said, “General, let me go; General, let me charge!”
But, as I was waiting General Longstreet
's will, I told General Barksdale
to wait and let the enemy come half way and then we would meet on more equal terms.
had been in the meanwhile moving towards the enemy's left, but he never did go far enough to envelop the left, not even partially.
It was said at the time, on the field, that he would have done so, but his guides and scouts, who had been around to the enemy's left in the morning, had gotten confused on their return with the division and missed carrying the head of column far enough to the right, and it became heavily engaged before Hood
intended it, and being pressed on his left sent to me for assistance, and the charge of my division was ordered.
, with his South Carolina brigade, leading, followed by Semmes
with his Georgia
brigade; then Barksdale
, and Wofford
The two last had been mixed up with the batteries which had been placed among their lines, and were temporarily delayed in extricating themselves therefrom.
So much was it the case with one of Wofford
's regiments that it did not get out to join the brigade until it had gone about one hundred yards. Coming on at a double quick the whole line as it advanced became heavily engaged, Kershaw
acting together on the right.
These brigades gave mutual assistance, contending against odds which would have enveloped them, but Wofford
's brilliant advance struck the attacking force in their flank and the enemy gave way, pursued by the whole line.
, who, as I have said, had been exceedingly impatient for the order to advance, and whose enthusiasm was shared by his command, was standing ready to give the word, not far from me, and so soon as it was signified to me, I sent my aid-de-camp, Captain G. B. Lamar, Jr.
, to carry the order to General Barksdale
the result I express in Captain Lamar
's words: “I had witnessed many charges marked in every way by unflinching gallantry — in some I had had the honor of participating when in the line with the First Georgia regulars--but I never saw anything to equal the dash and heroism of the Mississippians.
You remember how anxious General Barksdale
was to attack the enemy, and his eagerness was participated in by all his officers and men, and when I carried him the order to advance his face was radiant with joy. He was in front of his brigade, hat off, and his long white hair reminded me of the ‘white plume of Navarre.’
I saw him as far as the eye could follow, still ahead of his men, leading them on. The result you know.
You remember the picket fence in front of his brigade?
I was anxious to see how they would get over it and around it. When they reached it, the fence disappeared as if by magic, and the slaughter of the ‘red breeched zouaves’ on the other side was terrible!”
My whole line, or nearly all, reached the stone wall at the foot of the Little Round Top
, and established itself temporarily there.
A portion of Wofford
's brigade occupied a position really in rear of the enemy's line on the left.
So much so that General Bryan
, then colonel of the Sixteenth Georgia, states that he would not allow his men to take possession of a battery from which the men had been driven, which was immediately in front of his regiment and distant about one hundred yards, for fear they would be captured.
But the whole line was so advanced and being without support on their flank, it was ordered to retire by General Longstreet
, and I formed a new line, running from the peach orchard diagonally towards Round Top
, from which it was concealed by the mass of woods in our front, which was held as far as half way across the wheat field by my skirmishers.
At the commencement of the charge, General Longstreet
went forward some distance with Wofford
's brigade, urging them on by voice and his personal example to the most earnest efforts.
The troops needed no outside impulse, but his conduct was gallant and inspiring.
I have no doubt but that when General Longstreet
became suddenly aware of the true status of affairs, that instead of the head of his column debouching from the woods on the flank of the enemy (recollect the head of the column was conducted by General Lee
's staff officer), they were suddenly confronted with superior forces, in position and ready for the fight; and besides extending far away to his right, he was very much disconcerted and
annoyed, principally because it was evident at a glance that the plan of battle, so far as his forces were concerned, could not be carried out. For instead of attacking or moving with his forces down the Emmettsburg road, his lines perpendicular to it, leaving the enemy to either retire or change their front to meet his attack or to be attacked in turn in their flank by others of our troops joining in as we advanced (Hood
and myself), the whole of our attack was against the front of the enemy, in position, prepared to receive us. The question then arises, was it General Longstreet
's duty, or would he have been justified, when he became aware that General Lee
's order could not be obeyed, that the reconnoissance on which they were based had been faulty, and that he had therefore given those orders under mistaken or false information, to have halted his command, and going back to General Lee
, inform him of the true status of the enemy, and that his order of attack should be changed, as it was not the best under the circumstances?
's two divisions were not strong enough to cover the front of attack, much less envelop the flank, and he should have been reinforced before making the assault he did.
You will find, as I proceed, that General Longstreet
had been ordered to partially envelop the enemy's left and drive it in with his command.
But the officer who had made the reconnoissance, and was appointed to lead his troops by the necessary route, to carry out the order, carried Longstreet
's leading division not on the flank, but in the immediate presence of a superior force, and so close that he could not withdraw in order to march farther to the left without serious complications.
It is true he could have waited, but he was, as I understoood it, urged to the assault.
's division had been with mine following it, I believe that Round Top
could have been captured from my side, and we could have established ourselves there.
But if Longstreet
was waiting for Pickett
, he was not allowed to wait long enough, because General Lee
did not think the enemy's left was occupied so strongly as it was, even at that late hour, and was not made aware of the great natural strength of the enemy's position.
If General Longstreet
had taken the responsibility to report that the positions in his front were naturally so strong and were so strongly occupied that his force could not accomplish the important results that were expected, and insisted on a delay until his whole force was concentrated and a more thorough examination made, I do not think the battle would have been fought at all, but that General Lee
would have manoeuvred to force an attack upon himself.
Nor have I a doubt but that if the corps had moved boldly in position by eight or nine o'clock in the morning, as it could have done beyond question, that Round Top
could have been occupied without any very considerable difficulty; provided
, those positions were not occupied in force by the enemy until after twelve o'clock, as is now
But as the information up to three o'clock or three and a half was so faulty as to create the impression in both General Longstreet
's and General Lee
's minds that the left was not then occupied in any force, I am very much inclined to the belief that it is not known whether those positions were held in force at ten o'clock in the morning of the second or were not occupied until much later in the day, and that the arguments concerning the delay in attacking of Longstreet
's corps, so far as the enemy's non-occupation of Round Top
and vicinity is concerned, is based in a great measure on information received from publications since the war.
When I had the brief interview with General Lee
before mentioned, he did not appear to be particularly anxious that Longstreet
should occupy the left.
He certainly was in no hurry for it, for both Hood
's and my division were put under cover, and remained resting within a half a mile of where I left him, and he went off, if he did, with a full knowledge that they were not in motion.
My information at the time was that he was not decided positively as to the main point of attack, but was waiting for information.
Of course I do not know what his real intentions were, as I cannot boast of his having taken me into his confidence; but I believe he gave his orders for the movement of Longstreet
's assault based on information obtained very early in the morning.
I do not take it upon myself to say that General Longstreet
is to be blamed for not disobeying his orders to attack when he became aware that, contrary to expectations, the enemy was in great force in his immediate front.
For, as I understood Major Latrobe
, General Lee
was with him when the enemy had opened on my division, thus disclosing their immediate presence, and but a short while after Hood
's reports must have been received; and if, under those circumstances, Longstreet
had not engaged, there were some, I am grieved to say, in the army who would have ascribed his conduct to the worst of motives, or who might have done so — and his orders were positive — and the greater the danger there is in obeying an order, the more imperative is it upon an officer's honor to do his
best to carry it out. I therefore only assert my belief that if the attack had been delayed much better results would have followed.
, in his report, says: “Longstreet
was directed to place the divisions of Hood
on the right of Hill
, partially enveloping the enemy's left, which he was to drive in.”
was directed to threaten the enemy's centre, to prevent reinforcements being drawn to either wing and to co-operate with his right division in Longstreet
was directed to make a simultaneous demonstration upon the enemy's right, to be converted into a real attack should opportunity offer.
reports: “General Longstreet
was to attack the left flank of the enemy and sweep down his line
, and I was directed to co-operate with him with such of my brigades from the right as could join in with his troops in the attack.”
He further gives it as his understanding of Longstreet
's position by saying: “The corps of General Longstreet
was on my right and in a line, being nearly at right angles to mine.”
I have no doubt he reports Longstreet
's position not from what he saw, but from what he knew were the orders of General Lee
, that Longstreet
should occupy, for my line was but an extension of his on the right, and even Hood
, away to my right, never got positions at right angles.
He may have tried to get that way, but did not succeed.
further says: “Soon after McLaws
moved forward, General Anderson
moved forward the brigades of Wilcox
And that would have been all right if Longstreet
had enveloped the enemy's left, and “driving it in,” had “swept down his line,” but he did not. So the echelon attack was a mistake.
I have shown, I believe, that Longstreet
never did obtain a position, when the enemy's left was partially enveloped, and never did “drive it in,” nor was he able to “sweep down his line,” and finally, in making the attempt he did, he was so hard pressed that my division, instead of joining Hood
, as he swept down the enemy's line, was ordered in making a direct attack on the enemy's front, and both Hood
and myself had as much as we could attend to to prevent our flanks being turned.
I have stated that General Lee
must have given his orders for the attack based upon false information, or perhaps it would be better to say wrong information.
I am unable to find out who ever did reconnoitre the left, excepting that Major Johnston
was ordered to so. This I know, for General Lee
himself told me.
But when Major Johnston
, who was conducting my division, came suddenly in view of Round Top
, with the enemy's signal flags waving thereon, he appeared equally astonished as I was; and, therefore, if General Lee
was relying on his report, he was misinformed as to the true condition of affairs.
I had been forbiden to reconnoitre; so had my engineer officer.
had not done it, and General Lee
had not; and therefore it must have been that Major Johnston
had gone there early in the morning, and not seeing any one had so reported, and if after that time a different state of affairs was known by anybody to exist, it had not been reported to either General Lee
or General Longstreet
; at least it appears so. All this resulted from defective and deficient organization of our staff corps; not from anybody's fault, but from the force of circumstances.
We read since the war that there was an abundance of reconnoitering on our left, but very little, if any, on our right.
The night of the 2d was spent in reorganization and attending the wounded, as I had one Brigadier-General
) killed, one (General Semmes
) mortally wounded, and many colonels and officers of less rank killed and wounded.
The Chief Surgeon
reported that I had lost in killed, wounded and missing twenty-three hundred and forty.
One company, numbering thirty-seven, had, by the bursting of a shell in its front as it went into the charge, lost thirty men--six killed, leaving but seven unhurt.
I will read here a short extract from General Longstreet
's account of the charge of the divisions of Hood
and myself, as he was in position to see general results untrammelled by attention to details:
Before pursuing this narrative further, I shall say a word or two concerning this assault.
I am satisfied that my force, numbering hardly thirteen thousand men, encountered during that three and a half hours of bloody work, not less than sixty-five thousand of the Federals, and yet their charge was not checked nor their line broken until we ordered them to withdraw.
Mr. Whitelaw Reid, writing a most excellent account of this charge to the Cincinnati Gazette, says: “It was believed from the terrific attack that the whole Rebel army, Ewell's corps included, was massed on our centre and left, and so a single brigade was left to hold the rifle pits on the right and the rest hurried across the little neck of land to strengthen our weakening lines.”
He describes, too, the haste with which corps after corps was hurried forward to the left to check the advance of my two-thirds of one corps.
General Meade himself testifies (see his official report) that the Third, the Second, the Fifth, the Sixth and the Eleventh corps, all of the Twelfth except one brigade, and part of the First corps, engaged my handful of heroes during that glorious but disastrous afternoon.
I found that night that 4,529 of my men, more than one-third their total number, had been left on the field.
History records no parallel to the fight made by these two divisions on the 2d of July at Gettysburg.
In the early morning of the 3d my new line was carefully revised.
' brigades towards the Round Top
, and the others extending diagonally towards the peach orchard — all concealed by the woods from the batteries on the hills.
My skirmish line was to the front, commanding half way across the wheat field, which is shown on the map.
We lay undisturbed by the enemy.
The exertion and excitement of the previous day had been tremendous, and excepting burying parties, those engaged in attending to the wounded and collecting and stacking arms, my division was resting.
What the next move was to be was unknown to me. My troops were in close proximity to the enemy, and my front was covered with woods.
If the enemy had determined to commence the offensive, my command would become engaged at very short notice, and I therefore stayed with it.
I was not notified that it was in contemplation even to make any further attack by either Hood
's or my division, nor was I informed that it was the intention to assault the enemy's centre with Pickett
's division, with the assistance of troops from other corps.
I was not told to be ready to assist, should the assault be successful, nor instructed what to do should the assault fail and the enemy advance.
I contented myself with reconnoitering my ground and vicinity in all the directions necessary for movement in any emergency, and took my position among my troops.
I became early aware that the artillery was concentrating along my rear, on the crest occupied by my line before I advanced, and that not only the corps artillery but the guns from Hill
's corps and others were preparing for a grand opening.
And when the numerous guns opened, shaking the very earth between the opposing armies, the shot and shell from the batteries on our right poured over my command: those of the enemy crossing ours, going in opposite directions, but all bent on the same mission of destruction.
Not a shot, as I can remember, fell among my men. We were
resting entirely undisturbed, excepting now and then a bomb shot would come from Round Top
, fired at some of us moving about, and got in view of the batteries, in mere wantoness, as the chance of hitting was very small, and they did not care to waste a shell on one, two or three.
The enemy appeared to be waiting the assault to follow the storm of shot and shell.
Of course there was not a soldier in either army of any experience who did not know that an assault was to be made somewhere, and the shells, as they bursted over the enemy's lines, gave of themselves a pretty sure indication to them that it was on their centre that the shock was to be given.
Not only was that a sign, but undoubtedly they could see our preparations from every prominent signal station from Round Top
on their left to the Cemetery
on their right, and disposed their forces, stationed their reserves, and made all other needful preparations to meet the shock, and to meet it at the exact portion of their lines it was made.
The forces of the enemy were on a crest overlooking our position, the hill, known as Cemetery Hill
, declining to their rear, so that they could move their troops without being seen by us, whilst our movements were plainly visible for fully a mile distant on an average along our entire front; and down the main roads for a mile further all between the armies was swept by artillery.
I sat on my horse watching the shells passing over me, now bursting over artilllery, now over the enemy's lines and then suddenly against Round Top
, until it became monotonous, as the results could but be conjectured.
But finally, during a temporary lull in the artillery fire, my attention was attracted by seeing a number of my command, among them General Wofford
on horseback, looking intently down our lines towards Gettysburg
, and I rode in that direction and saw the advancing Confederates moving to the charge on the enemy's centre.
The sight was magnificent, it was grand, as it stirred all the highest and deepest emotions of our nature, of admiration for the splendid bearing and courage of our Southern men, mingled with a heartfelt prayer for the most fortunate results; but of reasonable hope of real success, based on what one could see, there was none.
I had had some such feelings aroused many years before, during the siege of Vera Cruz
, when looking at a number of strong ships, well manned and equipped, having on board our sick, our ammunition and supplies and our soldiers' wives, being driven by the irresistible force of a norther against a sandy shore.
Their destruction as ships was. a foregone conclusion, and the only thing we who saw them coming
could do, in our blind bewilderment, was to “pray that God would have mercy on the crew.”
The irresistible force which operated here was the military honor to obey his orders, which actuated the leader of the charge, that noble, chivalrous, fearless, high-toned gentleman and old army officer, General George E. Pickett
, and the pride and courage of the Army of Northern Virginia, which made them eager to try to do whatever General Lee
It was a charge upon the enemy's centre, made by Pickett
's division and Heth
's, advancing in two lines; Pickett
on the right, Wilcox
's brigade marching in rear of Pickett
's to guard that flank, and Heth
's division was supported by Lane
's and Scales
' brigades under General Trimble
I was far in advance of the main Confederate line, and could see along both the advancing Confederates and those of the enemy lying couchant to resist their charge.
Our troops moved steadily under a heavy fire, the main attack being against the left centre of the enemy.
The enemy's artillery, which had slackened just previous to the charge, now reopened with renewed energy, whilst our batteries slackened theirs because of decreased ammuniton, which enabled the enemy to move their infantry from other portions of the field, reinforcing their front and moving to attack the flanks of the assailing force.
But in spite of all this, the first line of the enemy was reached by our men and taken possession of, a large number leaping over and dashing at the second line, a great number sheltering themselves behind the stone walls or fortifications of the first line.
But all this was but momentary, for the enemy, rushing their reinforcements, overpowered our men; the most advanced, or most of them, threw down their arms and surrendered, as also did many behind the first line captured.
The rest fled in confusion, and what is known as Pickett
's charge was over, with no results but the exemplification of the spirit and daring of our people.
The enemy did not pursue, but rested content with the success so miraculously given to them.
I looked around on my command, very few of whom were aware of the tremendous sacrifice that had been consummated.
They were all in place, and needed but to be called to be ready, and seeing no necessity for arousing them I said not a word, but let them rest on.
, in his report, says, in reference to this charge of Pickett
The general plan was unchanged (that is, the plan of the 2d). Longstreet, reinforced by Pickett's three brigades, which arrived near the battlefield during the afternoon of the 2d, was ordered to
attack the next morning, and General Ewell was directed to assail the enemy's right at the same time.
I never heard that such was even contemplated.
Again, he continues: “General Longstreet
's dispositions were not completed as early as was expected, but before notice could be sent to General Ewell
, General Johnson
had already become engaged, and it was too late to recall him;” and then goes on to relate the causes of his failure, one of them being because the projected attack on the enemy's left had not been made, thus enabling him to occupy his right with a largely superior force; and again, he says (I quote exactly): “General Longstreet
was delayed by a force occupying the high rocky hills on the enemy's extreme left, from which his troops could be attacked in reverse as they advanced; his operations had been embarrassed the day previous by the same cause, and he now deemed it necessary to defend his flank and rear with the divisions of Hood
He was therefore reinforced by Heth
's division and two brigades of Pender
's, to the command of which Major-General Trimble
If General Longstreet
did not attack early on the 3d, as General Lee
says he was ordered to do, his reasons for not doing so appear to have been perfectly satisfactory to General Lee
; and as the same causes were in existence when Pickett
's charge was made, it is not to be disputed that General Lee
could not have expected Longstreet
's two right divisions to take part in that charge.
In his account of what is known as Pickett
's charge, General Lee
says — and as General Lee
's report was published before his death, and was uncontradicted, or was not disputed, I take it for granted that what he there says, in regard to his own orders and his own intentions, etc., cannot now be questioned:
The troops moved steadily on under a heavy fire of musketry and artillery against the enemy's left centre, whose batteries reopened as soon as they appeared.
Our own having nearly exhausted their ammunition in the protracted cannonade that preceded the advance of the infantry, were unable to reply or render the necessary support to the attacking party.
Owing to this fact, which was unknown to me when the assault took place, the enemy was enabled to throw a strong force of infantry against our left, already wavering from the concentrated fire of artillery from the ridge in front, and from Cemetery Hill on the left.
It was about this stage in the charge that I saw the advance.
It is intimated here by General Lee
that if he had known that our artillery ammunition was so exhausted as to be unable to reply at the critical moment, that the charge would not have been made.
Who did know it?
Whose duty was it to know it, and whose duty was it to report the fact to General Lee
And why was it not done?
, if he had known it, would never, under the circumstances, have demurred to the charge.
He would have died first.
does not say anything about General Longstreet
not advancing his two divisions.
If you will observe this map, which is a copy of the one carefully prepared by the Federals
since the war, showing the positions of the Federal
troops, you will observe that the largest mass of Federal troops seem to have been on that day — the 3d of July--posted between my left and Pickett
's right, and at the place or near it where Longstreet
's two corps--Hood
's and mine — would have had to have attacked, if it had been intended they should, in order to have.
been of service in aiding Pickett
All along from Main Round Top on to Little Round Top
and to its foot and extending to their right, the enemy's lines had been fortified during the previous night and strengthened with additional troops, rendering the few places which were assailable with some chances of success on the 2d entirely unassailable with any prospect of accomplishment on the 3d.
So it would have been of no use to Pickett
and myself to have made a direct assault on our direct front.
But we would have had to have attacked about where you see that mass of troops is lying, or was, and in attempting it we would have exposed our flanks and rear to artillery and infantry fire, besides the resistance of the tremendous force which would meet us in front.
The right of Pickett
and my left were by no means in close proximity.
There was a gap of a half mile between — it looked so to me — and I therefore do not believe that we could have effected anything, and if we had been repulsed as Pickett
was, which would not have been at all improbable under the circumstances as above stated, and the enemy had then advanced their whole line, the consequences might have been more serious than they proved to be. I therefore do not think that it was ever expected by General Lee
's and my division should take part in the charge unless we had been moved round and enveloped the enemy's left; and yet without more help than we had — more co-operation — it is difficult to conceive how Pickett
could have been expected to be successful against the whole Federal army.
Those writers who have attempted to lay the blame upon Longstreet
's corps for the non-success of the battle, either on the 2d or 3d, I believe are entirely ignorant of the difficulties which his troops had to encounter.
This can be ascribed but to the want of proper reconnoissance having been made before the general plan of attack had been determined on; and it was assumed then, from hasty reports, made probably by persons not skilled in such matters, that there was not much to be overcome, and this erroneous opinion was never corrected.
The enemy's forces occupied a line along the crest of Cemetery Hill
, including Round Top
and Little Round Top
, which, from Crup's Hill on their extreme right to Round Top
, was about three miles long.
The Confederates partially enveloped Crup's Hill and extended in a continued line around to extreme left, and about a mile distant from the enemy's line.
The enemy are said to have had one hundred thousand men. Let us assume, for the comparison, that they were all infantry in both armies.
Now, three miles is 5,280 * 3=115,840 feet. A man in dose ranks is allowed two feet of space; he takes more in the fight.
Thus in a space of three miles a double rank containing 15,840 would form one line of battle without intervals.
Thus the enemy could have formed over six lines of battle, one behind the other, concentric.
This hill or ridge on which they were posted was, as I have before stated, higher than the one we had been on, and descended from the crest to their rear, as it did towards us. They were thus enabled to move their troops from one point to another without being seen by us. The Confederates, so I read, had 60,00 men, and occupied, I believe, a curve five miles long; five miles is 5,280 * 5=26,400 feet, or 26,400 men it would take to occupy our line shoulder to shoulder; two lines would take 52,800 men, or not quite two lines and a third; or the enemy could have put three lines of battle in position and then have had 52,480 men in reserve, or a force in reserve nearly equal to Lee
The enemy were compact and protected, and had free intercourse between their forces and signal stations everywhere, in every commanding position.
They could see all over our positions and commanded all the approaches with a powerful artillery, and yet our army attacked them in detached masses at different points, widely separated, and not acting in conjunction.
Why it was so, or whose fault it was, I do not pretend to assert; but that it was so, no one will deny.
As a further illustration of this, I will, with your permission,
read a short account of an assault made by A. R. Wright
's brigade of Georgians, Hill
's corps, Anderson
No one can believe that General Lee
contemplated any such disjointed action, but must be convinced that he had given orders for such co-operation as would in all probability have produced better results, or having left it to the judgment of his lieutenants whether to attack or not, they misunderstood their orders or did not exercise that independent judgment in carrying them out which was expected of them.
But to continue.
As I have stated previously, the enemy did not pursue Pickett
If they had, I would have at once called to arms and prepared to act as the emergency called for — either attack the advance against Pickett
, or, if the whole line of the enemy advanced, would have retired to my position of the 2d, before the charge, and defended that line.
The enemy did not pursue, because perhaps of the presence in their front of the tremendous artillery fire that would have been concentrated on their advance, and more probably because of the presence on their immediate flank of Longstreet
's two divisions.
But a short while after Pickett
's charge was over and while my men were at rest, as I have described, a staff officer of General Law, in command of Hood
's division (General Hood
having been wounded), came to me from General Law, asking that I send one of my brigades to take the place of one of his in line that had been detached to act against cavalry.
I directed him to tell General Law that as Pickett
had been utterly routed, he must close on the centre and cover his vacant space as he best could, as I could not spare a brigade.
Just after the officer had gone, Colonel Sorrel
, General Longstreet
, rode up, and I proceeded to inform him of General Law's request and my instructions to him. He said: “Never mind that now, General; General Longstreet
directs that you retire to your position of yesterday.
Retire at once, and I will carry the order to General Law to retire Hood
I commenced to discuss the necessity of the order, as the advanced position I held was important, and had been won after a deadly struggle; that the order was given no doubt because of Pickett
's repulse, but as there was no pursuit there was no necessity of it. Before concluding, Colonel Sorrel
, interrupting, said:
“General, there is no discretion allowed, the order is for you to retire at once.”
I rode rapidly around, and directing some brigades to retire by head of regiments up ravines and others in line; and as they came from under the woods which concealed them from Round Top
, the batteries up there opened on them, but by quickening the pace the aim was so disturbed that no damage was done.
I halted the brigades as they came into position, and in a short while my line was re-established in the position of the day before.
As we came in the enemy advanced clouds of skirmishers coming — I suppose their lines of battle behind — I strengthened my skirmishers and drove or kept them back of the peach orchard, so that I could rest undisturbed on my new line, and then went to my new position, and was sitting on my horse watching the enemy, when Major Johnston
, of General Lee
's staff, the same who had conducted my column the day before, rode up and remarked: “General, you have your division under very fine control!”
I asked him what he meant.
“Why,” he said, “your orders are obeyed so promptly.”
“What is there strange about that?”
“Have you not been repulsed and are retreating?”
“No, sir,” I replied.
“I have not been engaged to-day.
I am buttaking up this position by order of General Longstreet
He apologized, saying that he thought I had been engaged and had been forced to retire, etc. Not long after this Colonel Sorrel
came to me and asked if I could retake the position I had just abandoned.
I demurred most decidedly to the suggestion under the circumstances, and asked why he made the inquiry.
“Because,” he said, “General Longstreet
had forgotten that he had ordered it, and now disapproved the withdrawal.”
“But, Colonel Sorrel
,” I said, “recollect that you gave me the order.”
“Yes, sir,” he said, “and General Longstreet
gave it to me.”
I was informed afterwards by General Benning
, of Hood
's division, that he never had been informed of my withdrawal, neither had General DuBose
, and their commands had, in consequence, to run for it to get away, by reason of the sudden advance of the enemy on their flanks after I withdrew.
They were under the orders of General Law.
's repulse ended the battle of Gettysburg
, the order for the withdrawal of Longstreet
's advance was eminently proper, as otherwise it would have been left in a very precarious position, and it showed military foresight in Colonel Sorrell
, even if he had used his own judgment in giving the order.
My recollection is that this retreat was made about 2 o'clock P. M.
The enemy made no attempt to advance against my part of the line after it had been re-established, and the two armies remained quiet during the remainder of the day — that is, on the right and as far as I could see to my left.
, who succeeded to the command of Semmes
' brigade, has informed me that on the 3d of July himself and General Benning
got an order to join in an assault on Round Top
, but that both refused to obey.
I knew nothing of the order, nor can I conceive who gave it.
My division was withdrawn from the battle-ground with the rest of the army, and retired via Monterey
and Falling Waters
across the Potomac
, without any hindrance from the enemy
It may be remarked, in conclusion, that no one as yet has seemed disposed to give blame to General Lee
--I mean no one who was under his command — but no matter what order he gave, or what resulted from it, if even disaster followed, it has been the disposition to believe that the cause was not in the order but in the execution of it by subordinates.
This resulted in a great measure from that nobility of soul which caused General Lee
to be willing to take the blame on himself and not to try and throw it on others.
He was one of those chosen few in the world, so richly endowed with that Divine quality which made men follow him, attach themselves to him, and do his bidding without question; that he never had to contend against the machinations of the ambitious, the envious or the mischievous.
No matter whether in victory or defeat he had no defection from him, and to the last his commands were obeyed without a murmur.
This great respect and confidence which all had in him prevented or disarmed even a desire to criticise his orders.
And no matter how we may at this day discuss the causes of our failure at Gettysburg
, it remains the general opinion that if General Lee
's orders had been obeyed all would have been well, and that they were not, resulted from causes beyond his control.
And it is due to General Lee
to believe that in those instances where his orders seem now to have been defective, he would, if living, be able to supply such information concerning them as. would make them plain.
In this connection I think the following extract from a report made by Colonel Allan
, of General Ewell
's staff, evidently an unprejudiced and capable gentleman, is worthy of serious consideration.
It comes from one who represents that great and gallant soldier who succeeded the immortal Stonewall
, and whose corps was on the left of our army.
The Confederate line was a long one, and the perfect co-operation in the attack needed, to prevent General Meade, whose line was a short one, from using the same troops at more than one point, was difficult of attainment.
Two of the corps commanders, Hill and Ewell, were new in their places.
Longstreet's attack on the Federal left on the 2d was delayed beyond the expected time, and was not promptly seconded by Hill and Ewell when made.
Ewell's divisions were not made to act in concert — Johnson, Early, Rodes acting in succession.
General Lee always expressed the strongest conviction that had the Confederate corps attacked General Meade simultaneously on either the 2d or 3d, he would have succeeded in overthrowing the Federal army; that he had used every effort to insure concert of action, but had failed.
He said that he had consulted Ewell, and told him if he could not carry his part of the line, he would move his corps to the right of Longstreet, and threaten the Federal communications with Baltimore; but upon the statements of General Ewell and Johnson that the positions in their front could be carried, he did not change his plan.
He urged concert of action on the 3d, but Johnson's division fought and suffered in the morning alone, and Pickett's attack in the afternoon was unsupported.
There was nothing foolish in Pickett's attack had it been executed as designed.
Pickett carried the works before him; had Pettigrew and Wilcox moved with him, and Hill and Ewell vigorously seconded this onset, General Lee never doubted that the Federal army would have been ruined.
But although that battle was against us, and although the war was against us, and we lost all save our honor, we have been taught a lesson which I hope we will profit by. We are taught that the pluck of the South
, when well directed, though with very few resources to back it, has wrestled with great chances of success against the most powerful combinations in war that perhaps was ever made against any people; and now that the war is over, let us again concentrate those inborn energies, that pluck, to the accomplishment of success in all the arts of peace that go to make a people prosperous and happy, and the habits of endurance which our heavy adversity has taught us will be but stepping stones to our success over all rivals.