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Chapter 16: Gettysburg: the first day

  • High tide.
  • -- opportunity open. -- suggestion made. -- invasion. -- special feature. -- feature impossible. -- reorganization. -- armament. -- Lee moves. -- Brandy Station. -- Ewell in Valley. -- captured property. -- Hooker moves. -- Lincoln suggests. -- Lee in Valley. -- Stuart proposes raid. -- conditional consent. -- Stuart's raid. -- Carlisle. -- results of raid. -- across the Potomac. -- Hooker relieved. -- Chambersburg. -- return of scout. -- orders. -- chance encounter. -- Hill to Gettysburg. -- Meade's movement. -- Reynolds to Gettysburg. -- battle Opens. -- Archer captured. -- Rodes Arrives. -- Early Arrives. -- Lee orders pursuit. -- Ewell stops pursuit. -- Lee Confers. -- the enemy's line. -- best Point of attack. -- Longstreet's arrival. -- Federal arrivals.

A pause of four weeks after the battle of Chancellorsville to prepare for an aggressive counter-stroke, was, perhaps, the period of highest tide in Confederate hopes among all the vicissitudes of the war. The campaign which ensued, culminating at Gettysburg, is generally accepted as the turning-point of Confederate fortunes. I think it may be held that each summer campaign in Va. marked a Confederate crisis. That is to say, that defeat in any one of them would have been followed by the collapse of its government, within less than another 12 months, while a victory would assure it only of that much of life. More than that was impossible as long as the war spirit ruled the North, and this was certainly the case in 1863.

A year later, however, there did come a period of very great Federal discouragement, due to a succession of severe losses. At the same time, there occurred a crisis in the military situation, which threatened an ignominious termination to Grant's campaign, the greatest campaign of the war. This was saved by a brilliant piece of Federal strategy, which is to be told of in due course. In it will be found the real crisis — the story of the passing of the last hope of Confederate success. It was not [364] lost upon any field of battle, either of offence or of defence. It was a victory of strategy and not one of arms.

It was now for Lee to take the offensive — a role appealing strongly to his disposition. The defensive was to invite the enemy to accumulate his resources to the point at which their very weight would crush us. But, for a brief period, we enjoyed a choice of the field of action. It was a fatal mistake that in this choice we failed to utilize the single advantage in the game of war, which the Confederacy enjoyed.

We occupied the ‘Interior Lines,’ and could reinforce from one flank to the other, across our country, more quickly than the enemy could discover and follow our movements by roundabout routes. Only by such transfers of her armies could the South ever hope to face her adversaries with superior, or even with equal, numbers— by demanding double duty of her regiments, fighting battles with them alternately in the east and in the west. In Lee we had a leader of phenomenal ability, could this policy have been once adopted under his direction. Here in May, 1863, was presented a rare opportunity to inaugurate what might be called an ‘Army on Wheels’ within the Confederate lines, as distinguished from an Army of Invasion beyond them. The situation was this. Grant was investing Vicksburg with 60,000 men, and we were threatened with the loss of the Mississippi River, and of 30,000 men at Vicksburg under Pemberton. At Jackson, Miss., Johnston, with scarcely 24,000 men, was looking on and begging vainly for reenforcements.

At Murfreesboro, Tenn., Bragg, with about 45,000 Confederates, confronted Rosecrans with about 84,000. Neither felt strong enough for the aggressive, and the whole spring and summer passed idly. At Knoxville were about 5000 Confederates under Buckner, and there were also scattered brigades in southwest Va. and eastern N. C., from which reinforcements might be drawn. In this state of affairs, Longstreet, with Hood's and Pickett's divisions, arrived in Petersburg, under orders to rejoin Lee at Fredericksburg. Hooker had just been driven across the Rappahannock, and his army was soon to lose largely from the expiration of terms of service of many regiments.

Nothing aggressive was probable from him for many weeks. [365] Longstreet's veteran divisions, about 13,000 strong, could have been placed on the cars at Petersburg and hurried out to Bragg, via Lynchburg and Knoxville. Johnston's 25,000 from Jackson, and Buckner's 5000 from Knoxville, could have met them. With these accessions, and with Lee in command, Rosecrans might have been defeated, and an advance made into Ky., threatening Louisville and Cincinnati. If anything could have caused Grant's recall from Vicksburg, it would have been this. Surely the chances of success were greater, and of disaster less, than those involved in our crossing the bridgeless Potomac, into the heart of the enemy's country, where ammunition and supplies must come by wagons from Staunton, nearly 200 miles, over roads exposed to raids of the enemy from either the east or the west. In this position, a drawn battle, or even a victory, would still leave us compelled soon to find our way back across the Potomac.

Longstreet1 tells of his having suggested to Secretary Seddon such a campaign against Rosecrans, and he also suggested it to Lee on his arrival at Fredericksburg. Mr. Seddon thought Grant could not be drawn from Vicksburg even by a Confederate advance upon the Ohio River. To this Longstreet answered that Grant was a soldier and must obey orders if popular alarm forced the government to recall him. At that time Davis was sanguine of foreign intervention, and the Emperor Napoleon was permitting a French firm to build some formidable ironclads for the Confederate navy. These might have accomplished some results, had not the issue of the Gettysburg campaign induced the Emperor to withdraw his consent to their delivery.

Lee recognized the strong features of the proposed strategy, and took a day or two to consider it. But he finally decided upon an invasion of Pa. He was averse to leaving Va. himself, and also to any division of his army. Both he and Jackson, ever since the failure of the Md. campaign, had longed to try it once more, and Jackson had had prepared during the winter and spring the remarkable map, already mentioned (p. 322), covering the whole scene of the coming campaign. In the discussion with Longstreet, it was assumed that the strategy of the [366] campaign should be such as would force the enemy to attack our army in position. Jackson had once said, and it was ever afterward an article of our steadfast faith and confidence, ‘We sometimes fail to drive the enemy from position, but they always fail to drive us.’

Lee fully appreciated the over-anxiety of the enemy for the safety of Washington, and proposed, for this occasion, a special feature, which he hoped would play upon and exaggerate these fears. Two of Pickett's five brigades had been temporarily left,— Jenkins's at Petersburg, and Corse's at Hanover Junction. Lee proposed that when his column of invasion crossed the Potomac, these two brigades, reenforced by whatever could be drawn from lower Virginia and the Carolinas, should form a column commanded by Beauregard, who should come from Charleston for the purpose. This column, with some parade of its intention, should advance from Culpeper and threaten Washington. Hooker's army would have been drawn by Lee north of the Potomac. The prestige of Beauregard's name would doubtless exaggerate the numbers in his command, and Lee hoped that the sudden danger might lead the enemy to call troops from the West, particularly if his army could win a battle north of the Potomac. The weak feature was that Lee did not have under his own control the troops which he desired to move. Davis had, indeed, proposed to him to control all troops on the Atlantic slope; but Lee insisted even on being relieved of the department south of the James, under D. H. Hill. He did not take the War Dept. into his confidence at first, hoping to accomplish his purpose by gradual suggestion and request. The process was too slow, and the result was unfortunate. Only on June 23 from Berryville, Va., did he fully explain to the President his wishes. On the 25th, from Williamsport, he followed the matter up with two letters, urging ‘the organization of an army, even in effigy, under Beauregard, at Culpeper C. H.’ Meanwhile, some demonstrations by the enemy from the York River had excited apprehensions at Richmond, and neither Corse's or Jenkins's brigades were sent forward, as had been planned.

A reply was despatched on June 29, saying,— [367]

‘This is the first intimation the President has had that such a plan was ever in contemplation, and, taking all things into consideration, he cannot see how it can by any possibility be carried into effect.’

Explaining the difficulty of protecting the railroads near Richmond, the letter even suggested that Lee spare some of his own force to better protect his own communications. This caution was not excessive. The messenger carrying this letter to Lee was captured on July 2, by a raid upon our rear, and, its importance being recognized, it was hurried to Meade and delivered to him on the field of Gettysburg at 4.10 A. M. on July 4. At that hour there was some uncertainty in the Union councils as to their best policy. The facts given in the captured letter of the difficulties of the Confederates, and the impossibility of Lee's receiving any reinforcements, doubtless increased Meade's confidence in all his later movements. The letter was considered of such importance that the officer who brought it, Capt. Ulric Dahlgren, was complimented and promoted.

In May our army was reorganized into three corps, each comprising three divisions of infantry, generally of four brigades each, and five battalions of artillery, averaging 16 guns each. Ewell succeeded Jackson in command of the 2d corps, and A. P. Hill took command of the new 3d corps. He had been an excellent division commander, and done conspicuous fighting and marching in the previous campaigns.2 It has already been said that Stuart would have made a more active and efficient corps commander than Ewell. [368] Reorganized, the army stood as follows: —

1ST corps. Longstreet

McLaws7,311 Kershaw, Barksdale, Semmes, Wofford
Pickett5,200 Garnett, Kemper, Armistead
Hood7,720 Law, Robertson, Anderson, G. T. Benning
Arty. Battns.1,000 Cabell, Dearing, Henry, Walton, Alexander2184
Totals21,231 11 Brigades, 5 Battns. Arty.2184

2D corps. Ewell

Early6,943 Hays, Smith, Hoke, Gordon
Johnson5,564 Stuart, Walker, Nichols, Jones
Rodes8,454 Daniel, Doles, Iverson, Ramseur, O'Neal
Arty. Battns.1,000 Jones, Latimer, Carter, Brown, Nelson2184
Totals21,961 13 Brigades, 5 Battns. Arty.2184

3D corps. A. P. Hill

Anderson7,440Wilcox, Wright, Mahone, Perry, Posey
Heth7,500Pettigrew, Brockenbrough, Archer, Davis
Pender6,800Perrin, Lane, Thomas, Scales
Arty. Battns.1,000Lane, Garnett, Poague, McIntosh, Pegram2080
Totals22,740 13 Brigades, 5 Battns. Arty.2080
65,932 3 Corps, 9 Divisions, 37 Brigades, 15 Battns. Arty.62248
Stuart Cavalry10,292 Hampton, Robertson, Jones, F. Lee, Jenkins, W. H. F. Lee Imboden 1 Battn. Arty.624
Totals10,292 1 Division, 7 Brigades624
Aggregate76,22413 Corps, 10 Divisions, 44 Brigades, L6 Battns. Arty.68272


The figures given are the returns of the ‘Officers and men present for duty’ on May 31. No later return was made before the battle.

Similarly, for the Federal army, the table below gives the ‘Officers and men present for duty’ on June 30, the last return before the battle. To arrive at the forces actually engaged, deductions must be made from these figures in both armies for sick, guards, and details. This deduction Livermore averages at seven per cent for Infantry and Artillery and 15 per cent for Cavalry.

Army of the Potomac. Present for duty, June 30, 1863

1st CorpsWadsworth Meredith, Cutler
ReynoldsRobinsonPaul, Baxter
10,355RowleyBiddle, Stone, Stannard523
2d CorpsCaldwellCross, Kelley, Zook, Brook
HancockGibbonHarrow, Webb, Hall
13,056HaysCarroll, Smyth, Willard524
3d CorpsBirneyGraham, Ward, De Trobriand
12,630HumphreysCarr, Brewster, Burling530
5th CorpsBarnesTilton, Sweitzer, Vincent
SykesAyresDay, Burbank, Weed
12,211CrawfordMcCandless, Fisher526
6th CorpsWrightTorbert, Bartlett, Russell
SedgwickHoweGrant, Neill
15,710NewtonShaler, Eustis, Wheaton848
11th CorpsBarlowVon Gilsa, Ames
HowardSteinwehrCoster, Smith
10,576SchurzSchimmelpfennig, Krzyzanowski526
12th CorpsWilliamsMcDougall, Lockwood, Ruger
Slocum 8,597GearyCandy, Cobham, Greene420
2,568TylerArtillery Reserve21110


2,580Engineers, Provost Guard's Escorts
100,2837 Corps, 19 Divisions, 51 Brigades, Infantry and Artillery58312
Cavalry Corps Pleasonton 14,973Buford Gregg, D. KilpatrickGamble, Devin, Merritt McIntosh, Huey, Gregg, J. Farnsworth, Custer950
115,2568 Corps, 22 Divisions, 59 Brigades67362

The Confederate infantry by this time were about nine-tenths armed with the rifled musket, muzzle loading, mostly of calibre .58, but some of calibre .54. Their artillery was now, also, all organized into battalions, usually of four-gun batteries each. Each corps had five of these battalions. One of these served with each of the three divisions, and the remaining two constituted a corps reserve, under command of the senior artillery officer, who began to be called, and to act, as chief of artillery of the corps.

The general artillery reserve, which had been commanded by Pendleton, was broken up, on the organization of the 3d corps, and it was never reestablished. Pendleton, however, was retained as chief of artillery. It is worthy of note that this artillery organization of a few batteries with each division, and a reserve with each corps, but with no general reserve for the army, was the first of the kind ever adopted by any foreign army, and that it was subsequently copied by Prussia and Austria after 1866, and by France after 1870, and later by England. But, although our reserve under Pendleton had never found the opportunity to render much service, its being discontinued was due to our poverty of guns, not to dissatisfaction with the system. And the fine service at Gettysburg by the Federal reserve of 110 guns, under Hunt, would seem to demonstrate the advantage of such an organization in every large army.

On Wednesday, June 3, Lee began the delicate operation of [371] manoeuvring Hooker out of his position behind the Rappahannock by a movement of the 1st and 2d corps toward Culpeper. Hood and McLaws marched on the 3d, Rodes on the 4th, and Early and Johnson on the 5th. Longstreet's reserve — the Washington Artillery with eight guns, and my own with 26— marched on the 3d. On the 5th, the enemy, having discovered that something was on foot, crossed a small force over the Rappahannock, at the old position near the mouth of Deep Run. On this, Lee ordered Ewell's corps to halt and await developments. But on the 6th he became satisfied that nothing serious was intended, and Ewell was ordered to proceed. In the afternoon, Lee himself left Fredericksburg for Culpeper. Hill's corps now stood alone in front of Hooker's entire army.

Meanwhile, Hooker had sent Buford's and Gregg's divisions of cavalry, supported by Russell's and Ames's brigades of infantry, to attack Stuart's camps near the Rappahannock. A severe cavalry battle resulted on the 9th, near Brandy Station. The enemy's attack was a surprise, and the isolated Confederate brigades, first encountered, were so roughly handled that help was called for from the infantry and artillery. My own battalion and an infantry force were sent to the field, but reached it too late. The enemy, having obtained the information which was the object of his expedition, withdrew across the Rappahannock under cover of his infantry brigades, with loss of three guns and 907 men. Stuart's loss was 485.

On June 10, Ewell's corps left Culpeper for the Valley. Rodes moved to Berryville, while Early and Johnson advanced upon Winchester, and, on the 13th and 14th, drove Milroy's forces into the city. Preparations were made to storm the fortified line at dawn on the 15th, an enterprise which might easily have been disastrous, had they been well defended. But Milroy saw his communications threatened, and did not wait for the attack. About dawn, his retreating forces were struck in the flank near Stephenson's depot by Steuart's and the Stonewall brigade, and were routed with the loss of about 2400 men and 23 guns. Rodes's division, going by Berryville, had driven the enemy from that point on the 13th, and on the 14th had captured Martinsburg late in the afternoon, taking five guns and many stores. Most [372] of the enemy escaped under cover of darkness, though the pursuit was pushed until late at night. On the 15th, starting at 10 A. M., Rodes reached Williamsport at dark and at once crossed three brigades and three batteries over the Potomac. The marches made by Ewell's whole corps in this swoop upon Milroy, and the fruits of victory secured, compare well with the work of the same corps under Jackson 13 months before. Early and Johnson, advancing upon Winchester, made 70 miles in three days. Rodes speaks of his march to Williamsport as—

‘the most trying march we had yet had; most trying because of the intense heat, the character of the road (stony and dusty) and the increased number of barefooted men in the command.’

He goes on to say:—

‘It was not until this day that the troops began to exhibit unmistakable signs of exhaustion, and that stragglers could be found in the line of march, and even then none but absolutely worn-out men fell out of the line. The whole march from Culpeper to Williamsport, which was an extremely rapid one, was executed in a manner highly creditable to the officers and men of the division. A halt at Williamsport was absolutely necessary from the condition of the feet of the unshod men. Very many of these gallant fellows were still marching in ranks with feet bruised, bleeding, and swollen.’

Of the fruits gathered by the victory, Lee reports,—

‘More than 4000 prisoners, about 30 pieces of artillery, 250 wagons, 400 horses, 20 ambulances, and a lot of ammunition, etc.’

Besides these captures of military material, large quantities of cattle, provisions, and supplies of all kinds useful to the army were now to be collected in the fertile farming country, into which the army had penetrated.

Stringent orders were issued, forbidding the taking of private property except by duly authorized officers, giving formal receipts in all cases, that the owners might have no difficulty in establishing claims and receiving payment at fair prices.

On June 13, as Ewell's corps approached Winchester, Longstreet being at Culpeper, and Hill still opposite Fredericksburg, Hooker put his army in motion from Falmouth for Manassas. Before Lee began his movement, Hooker had anticipated it, and [373] had proposed in that event to cross the Rappahannock and interpose between Lee's flanks. It was, doubtless, his proper move, and would have forced Lee to recall Longstreet and Ewell and have broken up his campaign. But it had been decided, soon after the battle of Chancellorsville, in a council between Mr. Lincoln, Halleck, and Stanton, that Hooker should never again be intrusted with the conduct of a battle. He could not be at once removed on account of the support of politicians who desired to have Secretary Chase succeed Mr. Lincoln as President. This party, with the active aid of Chase, had placed Hooker in his position by turning the scale in his favor, when the choice was between Hooker and Meade, as successor to Burnside. They still supported Hooker strongly, and a dead-lock was only averted by Chase's friends consenting to a change of the commander in case Hooker should voluntarily resign.

The secret of Chase's interest lay in the fact that Hooker had pledged himself not to become a candidate for the Presidency, should he win a great victory.

Meanwhile, as he was not to be allowed to fight, both Halleck and Lincoln refused his sensible proposition to cross the Rappahannock, and Lincoln wrote him the oft-quoted advice,—

‘not to be entangled on the river, like an ox jumped half over a fence, and liable to be torn by dogs, front and rear, without a fair chance to gore one way or kick another.’

Now that Lee's army was stretched out over a line more than 100 miles long, even Lincoln saw that a wonderful opportunity was flaunted in the face of the Federals. He now wrote to Hooker in quite a different spirit:—

‘If the head of Lee's army is at Martinsburg, and the tail of it on the Plank road between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, the animal must be very slim somewhere. Could you not break him?’

Hooker would have only been too glad to try, but Stanton and Halleck were on guard over him, and practically the Army of the Potomac was bound hand and foot, and Lee was free to work his own will, unmolested, until Hooker should be forced to tender his resignation.

Hooker's movement toward Manassas was at once followed by [374] Hill's marching for Culpeper on the 14th, and, on the 15th, Longstreet marched from Culpeper to take position east of the Blue Ridge, while Hill passed in his rear and crossed the mountains to Winchester via Front Royal. When Hill was safely in the Valley, Longstreet also entered through Ashby's and Snicker's gaps, and about the 20th the two corps were united.

The cavalry had acted as a screen in front of Longstreet during this advance, and, in this duty, had severe encounters with the enemy at Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville, losing in them over 500 in killed, wounded, and missing.

About June 22, as Hill and Longstreet drew near the Potomac, ready to cross, Stuart made to Lee a very unwise proposition, which Lee more unwisely entertained. It was destined to have an unfortunate influence on the campaign. Stuart thus refers to the matter in his official report:—

I submitted to the commanding general the plan of leaving a brigade or so in my present front, passing through Hopewell or some other gap in the Bull Run Mountains, attain the enemy's rear, passing between his main body and Washington, and cross into Md., joining our army north of the Potomac.

‘The commanding general wrote authorizing this move, if I thought it practicable, and also what instructions should be given the two brigades left in front of the enemy. He also notified me that one column would move via Gettysburg, and the other via Carlisle, toward the Susquehanna, and directed me, after crossing, to proceed with all despatch to join the right (Early) of the army in Pa.

In view of the issues at stake, and of the fact that already he had been deprived of two promised brigades (Corse's and Jenkins's), it was unwise even to contemplate sending three brigades of cavalry upon such distant service. When one compares the small beneficial results of raids, even when successful, with tile risks here involved, it is hard to understand how Lee could have given his consent.

Hooker's Chancellorsville campaign had been lost by the absence of his cavalry, and Lee's Gettysburg campaign was similarly compromised. Lee, however, acquiesced, only attaching the condition that Longstreet could spare the cavalry from his front, and approved the adventure. Longstreet, thus [375] suddenly called on to decide the question, seems not to have appreciated its importance, for he decided it on the imaginary ground that ‘the passage of the Potomac by our rear would, in a measure, disclose our plans.’

Accordingly, about midnight of June 24, Stuart, with Hampton's, W. H. F. Lee's, and Fitz-Lee's brigades, six guns, and some ambulances, marched from Salem, for the Potomac River. Making a circuit by Brentsville, Wolf Run shoals, Fairfax C. H., and Dranesville, he crossed the Potomac at Rowser's Ford at midnight of the 27th, about 80 miles by the route travelled. The ford was barely passable. The water came on the saddles of the horses and entirely submerged the artillery carriages. These were emptied and the ammunition carried across by hand. Here the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was cut. Next morning at Rockville, a train of wagons eight miles long was captured, and 400 prisoners were taken and paroled. In saving a large number of wagons, instead of burning them, and in delaying 12 hours to parole his prisoners, instead of bringing along the officers and letting the men go, Stuart committed fatal blunders. The Federal authorities refused to recognize the paroles (though they were given at the earnest solicitation of the captured officers), and all the paroled were at once returned to duty. The delay caused to subsequent marches by the long wagon-train, and the embarrassment of protecting it, was responsible for the loss of time which made, on the whole, a sad failure of the expedition. On the 29th, the Baltimore and Ohio R. R. was crossed and torn up at Hood's Mills. At Westminster about 5 P. M., a squadron of Federal cavalry was routed, and the head of the column bivouacked that night midway between Westminster and Littletown. Had it here followed the direct road, via Littletown to Gettysburg, only about 16 miles away, it could have occupied Gettysburg before 11 A. M. on the 30th, where it would have found itself in good position in front of Lee's army, then concentrating at Cashtown. It might, however, have had a severe fight with Buford's two brigades of cavalry, which arrived in the afternoon, just in time to anticipate Pettigrew's brigade of Heth's division, which had been directed to visit Gettysburg in quest of shoes. [376]

This incident will be referred to again. It is mentioned here only to show how near Stuart's expedition came to a happy issue on June 30. Had it done so, Lee's army would have occupied some strong position between Cashtown and Gettysburg, and the onus of attack would have been upon the Federals, as had been the plan of the campaign.

But his orders led Stuart toward the Susquehanna, so he proceeded north to Hanover, which was reached at 10 A. M. on the 30th. Here he had a sharp skirmish with Kilpatrick's cavalry. Hampered by his 125 captured wagons, he turned squarely to the right, and, making a detour by Jefferson, he reached Dover on the morning of July 1, crossing during the night the road on which Early's division had marched on the 30th from York to Heidlersburg. Here he learned that Early had gone toward Shippensburg. Stuart was practically lost, and had to guess in which direction he should go to find Lee's army. Lee was now beginning the battle of Gettysburg, 25 miles off to the southwest. Stuart's report says:—

‘After as little rest as was compatible with the exhausted condition of the command, I pushed on for Carlisle [25 miles to the northwest], where I hoped to find a portion of our army.’

He arrived before Carlisle in the afternoon. His rations were now entirely exhausted. He desired to levy a contribution, but learned that a considerable force of militia was ambushed in the town, ‘with a view to entrap him on his entrance.’ He invested the town, threw in some shells, and burned the United States Cavalry barracks. ‘The whereabouts of our army,’ he says, ‘was still a mystery, but during the night I received a despatch from Lee that the army was at Gettysburg [about 30 miles south] and had been engaged this day.’ The investment was abandoned, and the column headed for Gettysburg, where it arrived that afternoon ‘just in time to thwart a movement of the enemy's cavalry upon our rear.’. . .

The expedition had occupied eight days, and had traversed in that time about 250 miles. Meanwhile, Lee had been exceedingly impatient. When Stuart, at last, reported in person, late in the afternoon of the 2d, although Lee said only, ‘Well, General, [377] you are here at last,’ his manner implied rebuke, and it was so understood by Stuart.

He, however, is scarcely to be blamed for suggesting the raid. Had he wasted no time paroling prisoners and saving wagons, his raid might have been successful, as raids go, for his whole casualties were but 89 killed, wounded, and missing. But the venture was a strategic mistake, for it resulted in the battle's being one of chance collision, with the Confederates taking the offensive, whereas the plan of the campaign had been to fight a defensive battle.

Hill crossed the Potomac at Shepherdstown on June 23, and Longstreet began crossing at Williamsport on the 24th. Hooker was not far behind, for he crossed at Edward's Ferry on the 25th and 26th, and moved to the vicinity of Frederick. Here he threatened Lee's rear through the South Mountain passes, if he moved north, and, at the same time, covered Washington. Hooker had, meanwhile, been placed in command of the troops at Washington (some 26,000 men), and at Harper's Ferry, where there were about 11,000. It was a wise order, but under the policy of not allowing Hooker to fight, it was but a sham, as he soon discovered. He attempted to draw 15,000 men from the Washington lines, as his whole army was now in front of the city, but Halleck refused to allow it. He then proposed to throw a strong force across the mountains upon Lee's rear, and, for this purpose, he ordered the 11,000 under French at Harper's Ferry to unite with the 12th corps, which was to lead the movement. Again Halleck interposed. He refused the troops on the absurd ground that ‘Maryland Heights have always been regarded as an important point to be held by us, and much labor and expense has been incurred in fortifying them.’

Hooker appealed in vain to Stanton and Lincoln, pointing out the folly of holding so large a force idle. Then Hooker realized that he had lost the support of the government, and tendered his resignation June 27. It was just what Stanton and Halleck had been seeking, and was no sooner received than accepted, and prompt measures adopted to relieve him, lest the armies should come into collision with Hooker still in command.

Meade succeeded Hooker. He was an excellent fighter, but [378] too lacking in audacity for a good commanding general. He was also of cross and quarrelsome disposition, and unpopular with his leading officers.

Duplicate orders, relieving Hooker and installing Meade, were sent that afternoon by Hardie, Stanton's chief of staff. He delivered the order to Meade about midnight, while Hooker was still in ignorance how his proffered resignation was being received. Meade protested, and begged to be excused in favor of Reynolds, who was the favorite of the army. But he was compelled to accompany Hardie on a ride to Hooker's quarters, some miles away, to deliver the order superseding him. Hooker had hoped for a different outcome. He acquiesced gracefully, but the scene was a painful one.

Meanwhile, Lee, with Longstreet and Hill, had reached Chambersburg and bivouacked in its neighborhood from June 27 to the 29th. The Federal army had now been across the Potomac for three days, but Lee was not yet informed, and he now became anxious to hear from his cavalry. An additional large brigade coming from W. Va., under Imboden, should have joined him here, but it had not yet arrived. It had been delayed in its approach by destroying the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal about Hancock. A very essential part, also, of Stuart's proposed programme had not been carried out.

This was that two of his five brigades should cross into Md. with Lee and continue on his right flank, to screen it and observe the enemy. Longstreet had specially directed Stuart to let Hampton's brigade be one of these, with Hampton in command of both. This was not convenient, and Stuart had left Robertson's and Jones's brigades, with Robertson in command. Also, he had failed to make Robertson understand what was expected of him. The result was that Robertson and his two brigades remained in Va. until brought over by Lee's order on July 2.3

To gain information, Stuart had designed to have two efficient scouts operating within the enemy's line, but accident had [379] prevented in both cases. Mosby, one of them, had failed to reach Stuart, at his crossing of the Potomac, owing to an enforced change of Stuart's line of march. Stringfellow, the other, had been captured. Lee, therefore, on June 28, still believed that Hooker's army had not yet crossed the Potomac, and, to hurry Hooker up, he issued orders for an advance, the next day, of all his forces upon Harrisburg.

But there was still one scout, Harrison, within the Federal lines. Longstreet had despatched him from Culpeper, three weeks before, to go into Washington and remain until he had important information to communicate.

With good judgment and good fortune he appeared about midnight on the 28th, with the news that Hooker had crossed the Potomac, and had been superseded by Meade. He was also able to give the approximate locations of five of Meade's seven corps, three being near Frederick and two near the base of South Mountain.

This news caused an immediate change in Lee's plans. He was specially anxious to hold Meade east of the Blue Ridge, and not have him come into the Valley behind us—the movement which Hooker had brought on his own resignation by seeking to make. To forestall this, Lee's plan had long been formed to concentrate his own army somewhere between Cashtown and Gettysburg, in a strong position where it would threaten at once Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. The enemy, he hoped, would then be forced to attack him. His report states that, —

‘the march toward Gettysburg was conducted more slowly than it would have been had the movements of the Federal army been known.’

Accordingly, on the 29th, orders were sent, countermanding those of the day before and directing movements which would concentrate the three corps at Cashtown, eight miles west of Gettysburg. There was no urgency about the orders, which indicates that Lee had not yet selected any particular site for his coming battle. Meade, however, very soon after taking command on the 28th, had selected a position, Parr's Ridge, behind Pipe Creek, on the divide between the waters of the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay. Here he, too, hoped to fight on the [380] defensive. It would have been safe play, but not so brilliant as what Hooker had proposed, or as what Lee himself had used with Pope in Aug., 1862.

On June 29, Hill moved Heth's division from Fayetteville to Cashtown, about 10 miles. Heth heard that shoes could be purchased in Gettysburg, and, with Hill's permission, authorized Pettigrew's brigade to go there next day and get them. On the 30th, Pender's division followed Heth's from Fayetteville to Cashtown, and was followed by Longstreet with Hood and McLaws from Chambersburg as far as Greenwood, about 11 miles. Here they bivouacked about 2 P. M. Lee accompanied this march, and also bivouacked at Greenwood. Pickett's division was left at Chambersburg to guard the rear until Imboden's cavalry should arrive, and Law's brigade was detached from Hood's division and sent to New Guilford C. H., a few miles south of Fayetteville, until Robertson's cavalry should relieve it. On the 30th, Ewell's corps, having received the orders from Lee, also marched toward Cashtown, the place of rendezvous.

Meanwhile, Pettigrew, on approaching Gettysburg, found Buford's cavalry just occupying it, upon which he withdrew about five miles and bivouacked.

Previously, everything had moved favorably for the Confederates' strategy. Now, Stuart was still unheard from, Robertson and Imboden were still behind, and four brigades of infantry were detained waiting for them. Lee knew approximately the enemy's position, however, and his own three corps were converging by easy marches upon Cashtown, near which village he proposed to select his ground and await an attack.

Meade's army was equally near Pipe Creek, where he hoped to be able to play the same game. But a chance collision suddenly precipitated a battle, unforeseen and undesired by either party.

Hill's report describes how it began: —

‘On arriving at Cashtown, Heth, who had sent forward Pettigrew's brigade to Gettysburg, reported that Pettigrew had encountered the enemy at Gettysburg (principally cavalry), but in what force he could not determine. A courier was then despatched with this information for the general commanding, and with orders to start Anderson early. Also to Ewell informing him, and that I intended to advance the next morning, and discover what was in my front.’


Thus Hill's movement to Gettysburg was made of his own motion, and with knowledge that he would find the enemy's cavalry in possession. Ewell was informed of it. Lee's orders were to avoid bringing on an action.

Like Stuart's raid, Hill's venture is another illustration of an important event allowed to happen without supervision. Lee's first intimation of danger of collision was his hearing Hill's guns at Gettysburg. He was much disturbed by it, not wishing to fight without the presence of his cavalry to gather fruit in case of victory.

On July 1, of his nine divisions, Pickett's was in bivouac at Chambersburg. The other eight, except Law's brigade, were all in motion toward Gettysburg, Ewell having at an early hour ordered Rodes and Early to diverge to that point from the roads they were pursuing, toward Cashtown. Unfortunately, six of the divisions, and the trains and the reserve artillery of all three corps, were concentrated upon the turnpike from Fayetteville to Gettysburg. Anderson's division, followed by the 3d corps trains, had started soon after daylight from Fayetteville. Here they had halted, but Lee, passing, had ordered them on to Gettysburg, following Heth and Pender, who had marched from Cashtown at 5 A. M., and become engaged at Gettysburg about 10.

Soon after Anderson had passed Greenwood, Hood and McLaws were starting to follow, when they encountered Johnson's division of the 2d corps cutting in from the left, with the trains and reserve artillery of that corps. Lee, who was riding with Longstreet at the head of his infantry, directed that he should halt until these had all passed. This column occupied about 14 miles of road, and it delayed Longstreet's infantry until 4 P. M. In the morning, Longstreet's orders had been only to go as far as Cashtown, but later orders were sent for all troops to come to Gettysburg.

It was now the fourth day since Meade had relieved Hooker. Harper's Ferry had been evacuated. Of its 11,000 troops, 7000 under French were brought to Frederick, and 4000 escorted to Washington the artillery and stores of the post.

Meade knew that Ewell's corps was between York and Carlisle, and, on the 29th, put his whole army in motion in that [382] direction, encamping that night on a line extending from Emmitsburg to Westminster. On the 30th, his advanced corps moved forward within a few miles of Gettysburg on his left, to Littletown in the centre, and toward Manchester on his right.

He now found that Lee was withdrawing and concentrating near Cashtown. He wrongly ascribed this to his own advance from Frederick, and published orders on the 30th, saying: —

‘The General believes he has relieved Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and now desires to look to his own army, and assume position for offensive or defensive, as occasion requires, or rest to the troops. It is not his desire to wear the troops out by excessive fatigue and marches, and thus unfit them for the work they will be called upon to perform.’

In fact, Lee did not know that Meade had moved at all, and his own movement eastward was really inspired by apprehension for his own communications, aroused by Hooker's action before he had been superseded.

Although Meade had selected his proposed line of battle behind Pipe Creek, and now announced his intention to rest his troops, he still, on the 1st, ordered a further advance of each of his seven corps, as follows: The 5th corps was ordered to Hanover; the 6th corps to Manchester; the 12th corps to Two Taverns; the 3d corps to Emmitsburg, and the 1st and 11th corps to Gettysburg.

These advances were not intended to bring on a battle, but to cover the position selected, allowing space in front to delay the enemy's approach and give time for preparation. The instructions to Reynolds, who was in command on the left, were not to bring on a general engagement.

But, though both Meade and Lee had cautioned their lieutenants to this effect, it was precipitated by Hill's initiative and Reynolds's willing concurrence. In the first collision of the day, Reynolds's leading division, by good handling, got decidedly the best of the affair, giving the Federals quite a taste of victory. Lee had been very uneasy as the roar of the distant battle increased, but when, later, the arrival of Ewell had turned the scale, and he, reaching the field, saw the Federals routed and prisoners taken by the thousand, it became simply impossible for him to hold [383] back his hand. And not only impossible, but then unwise, for a great opportunity was undoubtedly before him. He ordered it seized ‘if possible,’ and for the rest of the afternoon rested in the belief that efforts were being made, being misled by Ewell's not informing him that the pursuit had been abandoned before his orders to push it were given.

The course of the battle had been as follows: About 10 A. M., the advance of Heth's division became engaged with Buford's cavalry, between one and two miles in front of Gettysburg. Buford, with his horse artillery, sought to detain the enemy until Reynolds's corps (seven brigades), which he knew was approaching, could come to his assistance. By 11 o'clock, however, he was forced to withdraw to the left, where he took position, and during the rest of the day protected the left flank of the Federals. As Buford withdrew, Wadsworth's two brigades became engaged with Davis and Archer.

Davis, on the left, overlapped Cutler on the Federal right and, of course, soon drove back his right wing along with Hall's battery, all of which were withdrawn without severe loss. But, on the Confederate right, Archer's brigade was overlapped by Meredith's, which struck it on the flank and captured Archer and several hundred prisoners. This blow to Archer relieved Cutler's brigade, which, changing front to its left, was able to cut off and capture two regiments of Davis's brigade which had advanced in pursuit of Cutler's right, and taken position in the cut of an unfinished railroad north of the Chambersburg Pike.

Almost at the moment of his victory, however, Reynolds was killed. He was an excellent soldier and was well known to have been the choice of the army to replace Hooker.

Meanwhile, Cutler was now reenforced by Rowley's division of the same corps, which extended its line farther to the right. Robinson's division also approached and was held in reserve near by. Later, as the engagement grew more severe, it was also put into the battle.

Meanwhile, Hill had formed Pender's division in line of battle in rear of Heth, but it was held in reserve for some time, as Heth about noon received a reinforcement by the arrival of Rodes's division, on his left flank, coining in from Middletown. [384] About the same time, also, the head of the 11th corps, under Howard, arrived at Gettysburg, and Howard succeeded Reynolds in command of the field. He halted Steinwehr's division, two brigades, on Cemetery Hill, as a reserve, and advanced Schurz and Barlow to the front. With these he formed line to cover the approaches from the north as far east as Rock Creek. This disposition was bad. The force was small for so long a line, and its right flank was in the air near the Heidlersburg road, by which Early was now drawing near.

For a while, however, the Federal forces were superior in numbers at the actual points of contact, where only Rodes's and Heth's divisions were yet engaged. And, whether from discipline or from the inspiration of home, the fighting done by the Federal brigades was of the best type. At this period some Confederate brigades were seriously crippled. Heth's division, which had already suffered severely in Archer's and Davis's brigades, now lost heavily in Pettigrew's by a musketry combat at very close quarters. It won the affair, but the brigade was scarcely a half brigade for the rest of the battle.

Iverson's brigade was exposed to a severe flank fire and lost three regiments. In his report, Iverson says: —

‘When I saw a white handkerchief raised, and my line of battle still lying down in position, I characterized the surrender as disgraceful. But when I found afterward that 500 of my men were left lying dead and wounded on a line as straight as a dress parade, I exonerated the survivors and claim for the brigade that they nobly fought and died without a man running to the rear.’

It is needless to detail the fighting when Early's division advanced upon the right of the 11th corps; and when Pender reinforced Heth against the 1st corps. The enemy was forced back, and an advance of the Confederate line swept forward into the city. About 5000 prisoners were captured, and fugitives could be seen in disorganized masses passing over the hills in the rear.

It was now about three o'clock.4 [385]

Sunset was about 7.30, twilight was long, and the moon was full. There was daylight enough, and force enough at hand, to follow the pursuit and at least to carry Cemetery Hill, from which one of the two reserve brigades, Coster's, had been withdrawn.

Soon after two o'clock, Lee had arrived on Seminary Ridge, and seen the defeat of the enemy and their retreat over Cemetery Hill. His first impulse was to have the pursuit pushed and he sent his Adjt.-Col. W. H. Taylor, to instruct Ewell accordingly. Unfortunately, he took no steps to see that the order was obeyed.

Taylor gives the following account:—

Gen. Lee witnessed the flight of the Federals through Gettysburg and up the hills beyond. He then directed me to go to Gen. Ewell, and to say to him that from the position which he occupied, he could see the enemy retreating over those hills without organization and in great confusion, that it was only necessary to press “those people” in order to secure possession of the heights, and that, if possible, he wished him to do this.

‘In obedience to these instructions I proceeded immediately to Gen. Ewell, and delivered the order of Gen. Lee, and after receiving from him some message for the commanding general in regard to the prisoners captured, returned to the latter and reported that his order had been delivered. Gen. Ewell did not express any objection or indicate the existence of any impediment to the execution of the orders conveyed to him, but left the impression upon my mind that they would be executed. . . .’5

After reading this circumstantial statement, it is hard to understand Ewell's conduct. Not only did he fail to renew the pursuit which he had previously stopped, but, by apparent [386] acquiescence and sending messages about prisoners captured, he seems to have intentionally misled Lee into the belief that his orders were being obeyed, while the rare opportunity slipped rapidly away. There could not be a more striking illustration, either of the danger of giving any important orders in any conditional form, or of failing to follow up all such orders with some supervision. When the firing gradually died out instead of being renewed, Lee took no action.

Meanwhile, Johnson's division, closely followed by Anderson's, had reached the field, and was ordered by Ewell to pass the town and occupy Culp's Hill, a half-mile to the east. Ewell's report says:—

‘Before Johnson could get up, the enemy was reported moving to outflank our extreme left, and I could see what seemed to be his skirmishers in that direction.’

The skirmishers turned out to be our own men. Before this was discovered, it was sunset, and the hill about that time was occupied by Wadsworth's Federal division. Ewell, however, was not informed of this, and was again about to despatch Johnson on his errand when orders arrived from Lee to draw his corps to the right. He rode to see Lee and persuaded him to let the expedition be made. It was a most unfortunate decision, as will presently appear, for it fatally extended Lee's left flank. About midnight, Johnson's division was moved around the base of Culp's Hill and a reconnoitring party ascended, but found the enemy in possession. No one ordered the division to be carried back to the right, where it could have been of much service in subsequent operations, and where Lee had intended it to be. It was far too weak to attack the strong position of the enemy on Culp's Hill, and its communication with the rest of the army was long, roundabout, and exposed to the enemy's view. But the division was allowed to remain until the end of the battle, and, as long as it remained absent, the task before the remainder of the army was beyond its strength.

During the afternoon, Longstreet had joined Lee on Seminary Ridge overlooking the town, and had noted the position being taken by the enemy. He had said to Lee: ‘We could not call [387] the enemy to a position better suited to our plans. We have only to file around his left and secure good ground between him and his capital.’

To his surprise, Lee had answered, ‘If he is there to-morrow, I shall attack him.’

Longstreet replied, ‘If he is there to-morrow, it will be because he wants you to attack him.’

Later in the afternoon Lee rode forward to arrange a renewal of the attack upon Cemetery Hill from the town at daylight next morning. He held a long conference with Ewell, Early, and Rodes, who urged, instead, that Longstreet should attack the enemy's left flank. No one of those present had more than a very vague idea of the character and features of the enemy's line, and it is therefore not surprising that this advice, though very plausible in view of the success of former flank movements, was here the worst possible.

The enemy's line, though taken hurriedly upon the natural ridges overlooking the open country, which nearly surrounded it, was unique both in character and strength. In plan it nearly resembled a fish-hook, with its convexity toward us, forcing upon our line a similar shape with the concavity toward them. Their lines were the interior and shorter, being scarcely three miles in length, giving ability to reenforce at any point by short cuts across the interior area. Our exterior lines were about five miles in length, and to move from point to point required long, roundabout marches, often exposed to the enemy's view. Their force would allow 25,000 infantry and 100 guns for each mile of line. Ours would allow but 13,000 infantry and 50 guns per mile. Their flanks were at once unassailable and unturnable. Their left, which was the top of the fish-hook shank, rested on Big and Little Round Top mountains; and their right, which was the ‘point’ of the ‘fish-hook,’ was on Culp's Hill over Rock Creek. Both flanks presented precipitous and rocky fronts, screened from artillery fire by forest growth, and the convexity of the line was such that the two flanks approached and each was able to reinforce the other. The shank of the fish-hook ran north, nearly straight, for about two miles from Little Round Top to Cemetery Hill, where the bend began. The bend was [388] not uniform and regular, but presented a sharp salient at the north, and on the east a deep reentrant around which the line swept to reach Culp's Hill, and pass around it nearly in an S.

This salient upon Cemetery Hill offered the only hopeful point of attack upon the enemy's entire line, as will more fully appear in the accounts of the different efforts made at various places during the battle. It would be too much to say that an attack here on the morning of July 2 would have succeeded. But it is not at all too much to say that no other attack was possible at that time which would have had near as good chance of success, yet it was deliberately discarded, and Lee's conference closed with the understanding among all those present that Longstreet should attack in the morning upon the enemy's left. It was this which gave rise to the mistaken charges made after Lee's death that Longstreet had disobeyed orders in not attacking early on the 2d.

No orders whatever were given Longstreet that night. Before sunset, he had ridden back from his interview with Lee to meet his troops, who, about 4 P. M., marched from near Greenwood with orders to come to Gettysburg, 17 miles. About midnight they bivouacked four miles from the field. Marching again at dawn on the 2d, they arrived near the field between 6 and 8 A. M. His reserve artillery (the Washington artillery and Alexander's battalion), which was ordered to follow the infantry from Greenwood at midnight, was much detained upon the road by passing trains, and did not reach the field until 9 A. M.

Law's brigade of Hood's division, recalled from New Guilford C. H., did not rejoin its division until noon on the 2d, having marched at 3 A. M., and covered by that time about 20 miles. Pickett's division was also upon the road, having marched from Chambersburg at 2 A. M. It made 22 miles and encamped within three miles of Gettysburg at 4 P. M., reporting its presence to Lee.

The most important occurrence of the evening had been Meade's wise decision to abandon his plan of offering battle behind Pipe Creek, and to concentrate upon the position at Gettysburg, which Hancock had recommended. He was most anxious to fight upon the defensive, and he knew that Lee, having a taste of victory, was not one to recoil from further offensive [389] efforts. So, although reports during the afternoon had been discouraging, the march of all the corps had been hastened to find the defensive battle-field; and their arrivals upon it had been about as follows: —

Geary's division of the 12th corps had arrived about 6 P. M. and was placed on the left of the Federal line by Hancock. Williams's division of the same corps bivouacked near Rock Creek Bridge that night.

The advance of the 3d corps came upon the field about sunset. During the night, or early in the morning, the entire corps arrived.

The 2d corps, having come from Taneytown, also reached the field soon after nightfall, and was all at hand in the morning.

The 5th corps, marching from Hanover at 7 P. M., arrived on the field, 14 miles, at 8 A. M. on the 2d.

The 6th corps, from the Union right at Manchester, arrived about 2 P. M., after a march of about 32 miles in 17 hours.

At 8 A. M. of the 2d, therefore, practically the whole of both armies was upon the field except Pickett's division and Law's brigade of the Confederates, and the 6th corps of the Federals.

1 Manassas to Appomattox, p. 327.

2 D. H. Hill also had strong claims for promotion. He had done as much hard fighting as any other general, and had also displayed great ability in holding his men to their work by supervision and example. But at this time he was not with the army, and was in command of the important department south of the James. He was a North Carolinian, and was very acceptable to the State authorities, who objected if too many North Carolinians were taken to Va., leaving N. C. exposed to Federal raids. There was an earnestness about D. H. Hill's fighting which was like Jackson's at its best. Had opportunity come to him, he must have won greater fame. His individuality may be briefly illustrated by an official indorsement placed upon the application of a soldier to be transferred from the infantry to the band.

‘Respectfully forwarded, disapproved. Shooters are more needed than tooters.’

3 This failure to carry out Lee's orders indicates a staff insufficient to keep him in touch with what was taking place. A notable feature of the coming battle will be found in the number of important events which seemed to happen without any control for the Commander-in-Chief.

4 The time and the condition of affairs are given in Hancock's report, as follows: ‘At 3 P. M. I arrived at Gettysburg and assumed the command. At this time the 1st and the 11th corps were retiring through the town, closely pursued by the enemy. The cavalry of Buford was occupying a firm position on the plain to the left of Gettysburg, covering the rear of the retreating corps. The 3d corps had not yet arrived from Emmitsburg. Orders were at once given to establish a line of battle on Cemetery Hill with skirmishers occupying that part of the town immediately in our front. The position just on the southern edge, overlooking the town and commanding the Emmitsburg and Taneytown roads and the Baltimore Turnpike, was already partially occupied on my arrival by direction of Gen. Howard. Some difficulty was experienced in forming the troops of the 11th corps, but by vigorous efforts a sufficiently formidable line was established to deter the enemy from any serious assault on the position.’

It will presently appear that the enemy was not deterred by the Federal line, but was halted by Ewell without orders, and was deliberately kept halted even after orders to attack ‘if possible’ had arrived, and remained halted all the rest of the afternoon.

5 Four years with Lee, p. 95.

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