First day on left at Gettysburg. From Richmond, Va., Times-dispatch, February 19, 1905.General Early's Advice—An oft-repeated incident corroborated by a witness who was there.
Major James McDowell Carrington tells a thrilling story of thrilling deeds.
The article below is from the excellent pen of Major James McDowell Carrington, who in the battle of Gettysburg was captain of the Charlottesville Artillery, and is now a distinguished lawer of Washington city. The Major's statements confirm the close presence of General Early and Ewell on the field the first day at Gettysburg, and gives evidence as to one of the occasions upon which General Early advised an assault on Cemetery Hill that afternoon. Colonel Harry Gilmore, of Maryland, in his book, ‘Four Years in the Saddle,’ tells almost identically the same story as Major Carrington. John G. Williams, Esq., a respected lawyer of high standing at Orange Courthouse, writes to the same effect on this topic, and I myself, was a personal witness of the fact, which I recall as if it were yesterday, of the message sent in my presence by General Early to General A. P. Hill before he met General Ewell, telling him that in his opinion assault should not be delayed, and that if General Hill would put in his corps, he, Early, would take the responsibility of joining the assault without waiting. The witnesses on this subject are so numerous and so reliable and General Early's own repeated testimony found in his book and in his historical papers which have been published, make the fact as plain as any fact about the war that Early was close upon the field in troops and both advised and urged an immediate assault. The account given by General Gordon in his book of this day's operations is erroneous when it refers to General Early, and it contains many errors which I suppose later to show with the proofs thereof. The time at  which General Gordon speaks in his book of being commanded to halt was just at that time when Hay's and Hoke's Brigade (under Colonel Avery), and Captain Carrington's Artillery was being brought forward by Early on Gordon's left to capture Heckman's battery and to repulse the troops of General Custar, who were very troublesome at that juncture. The gallant Louisianians and North Carolinians did capture the guns and hurled back Custar's troops, but are not given even a scant reference by General Gordon in his book, although they were the adjacent troops of the division to which he belonged; nor does he give his division commanded any credit for the rapid and vigorous movement by which he accomplished this result. While Major-General Rodes, his comrade on many fields, and Brigadier-General Hayes, of Louisiana, likewise his comrade on many fields, fought gallantly and effectively on that day, the one to the right and the one to the left of him, so far as General Gordon's book is concerned, one would not know that these men ever existed. General Gordon had at that time, according to his report, which is in the war records, only about 800 men present with him on the field after his charge was over. Yet he speaks of my command ‘as if it were an army corps.’ If he alone could have captured the Federal works and driven away the Federal army from the summit of Cemetery Hill as his book intimates, he would have done with this handful of soldiers, had he not been halted, he and his brigade had better have been detailed to fight the war out by themselves for the rest of the Confederate army would have been a surplus quantity. I do not suppose that any general ever thought of assigning that job to one brigade. The truth is, no one ever had an idea that Gordon's brigade could have accomplished it, and at the time he was halted there was war-like business enough on hand immediately to his left (though probably not in his sight because of the undulating ground), that gave abundant occupation to two brigades of Early's division in their successful assault to which he makes no reference whatever. Major Carrington does not refer to the intervening facts which induced General Ewell to advance his corps on the afternoon of the first against Cemetery Hill. That fact was the message that came from our left that the enemy were there appearing,  and of this in all probability Major Carrington was not apprised at the time of the battle. Circumstances of the incident have often been related and it is needless to repeat them here. Major Carrington's article presents certain phases of the first day's fight accurately, and ably; and with a high spirit of comradeship and good grace, which are worthy of that officers's brave and honorable career.
At the time of the battle of Gettysburg, I was captain of what was known as ‘The Charlottesville Artillery.’ and commanded it in that momentous struggle. This battery was one of four which composed Jones' Battalion, the other three being Courtney Artillery, Captain W. A. Tanner; Louisiana Guard Artillery, Captain C. A. Green, and the Staunton Artillery, Captain A. W. Garber. This battalion composed the artillery of Early's Division. Permit me to say just here that I think I knew General Early as well as could be expected of a young officer of my rank. I knew of him before the war; he was quite an intimate friend of my father, General Edward C. Carrington, Sr., and was major of the First Virginia Regiment in Mexico, in which my brother, General Edward C. Carrington, Jr., commanded the first company. I always entertained great respect for General Early. Like the rest of humanity, he had some weaknesses, but he was undoubtedly a brave man and skillful soldier. Eminent as a patriot, and intensely devoted to his native State, few men had stronger convictions, and dared to maintain them with more courage. He was kind and considerate to his subordinate officers, and was always ready to defend and advise them. He had a quaint humor, and a good deal of sarcasm, but with it all he was kindhearted and magnamimous. The termination of his splendid career as a soldier on account of the odds against him and the disadvantages under which he labored in his last valley campaign, was touching and pathetic. I am disposed to do anything in my humble way to prevent any aspersion of his memory or any unjust criticism upon him. I had also great respect for General Gordon, and admiration for that distinguished officer. I believe he was the best citizen  soldier of the war. If he had been educated at West Point, great as his achievements were, there is no telling what more he might have accomplished in the military line. He was daring and absolutely fearless in battle, and a most thorough and accomplished gentleman.