The army correspondent of the Savannah Republican
, "R W. A," furnishes that paper with a resume of the Pennsylvania
campaign, which is the fight frank, dispassionate history we have yet seen, and contains many facts not before published.
It is written two weeks after the conclusion of the fights, and the writer had ample time in which to examine the facts he states.
No one with that part of the army left near Chambersburg
suspected, on the morning of the 1st inst., that the great battle would begin on that day. I was sitting on the wet ground, with my back against a tree, writing to you and your readers, when General Lee
and his escort passed by in the direction of Cashtown
He seemed to snuff the battle in the breeze, and for the first time it occurred to me that the enemy was approaching our lines.
In a few minutes Anderson
's division, of Hill
's corps, marched down the same road, followed an hour or two later by Johnson
's division, of Ewell
's corps, which had retraced its steps from Shippensburg
In the course of the morning orders came for Longstreet
's corps, except Pickett
's division, left behind at Chambersburg
, to follow on in the same direction, as soon as General Ewell
's train, sent back from Carline
, should pass — This was an immense train, as long almost as the tail of a comet, and far more ominous of evil.
It occupied four hours in passing, and moved so slowly through the Cashtown Gen
. (in the South Mountain
) that Longstreet
's corps was delayed until near midnight appoint four miles distant from the battle ground Pender
's and Heth
's divisions alone were in position to engage the enemy's column on the morning of the 1st.
Early's and Rodes
's divisions of Ewell
's corps arrived on the ground late in the afternoon, having marched down the Susquehanna
, and thence to Gettysburg
These two last divisions joined the former, and together they drove the enemy back, inflicting heavy loss; but Anderson
's and Johnson
's divisions, though near enough, were not put into the fight that evening.
The enemy had, according to the statements of prisoners, three army corps present on the 1st, and that night and early next morning the remainder of Meade
's forces were brought up and put in a very strong position.
We did not press the enemy after nightfall.
The following deductions flow from the foregoing facts: Had Gen. Lee
concentrated his forces twenty four hours sooner he might have dispersed, captured, or destroyed the three Federal corps engaged on the first day, and have fallen upon the remaining forces then coming up and not yet in position, and driven them pell-mell back upon Baltimore
Or, if Anderson
's and Johnson
's divisions had been put in immediately upon their arrival, and our advantage pressed with vigor that night, the enemy might have been driven beyond the formidable position he finally occupied, and from which we subsequently found it impossible to dislodge him.--The same result would probably have followed if Ewell
's train had have turned out on the side of the road, and Longstreet
's corps allowed to move rapidly to the front, or if the attack had been renewed early on the morning of the 2d, instead of at a quarter to four in the afternoon.
It is understood that the reduction of Harrisburg
constituted no part of General Lee
's programme, since he could not afford to fritter away his strength and time upon the militia so long as an unbeaten army remained in the field.
Having disposed of the army, he could then march wherever and whenever it suited him. The question then recurs, whether the distribution of his troops at different and distant points was not unfortunate, in this that it required more time to concentrate them when the time of battle had arrived.
It was a singular dispersion of his forces, after much hard fighting and marching, that prevented him from beating McClellan
His object then was the capture of the garrison at Harper's Ferry
, in which he was successful.
In the present instance it was his desire, doubtless, to place his army at convenient points for procuring subsistence, secure his flanks against attack by cutting such railway lines as might be used against him, and to draw the enemy as far into the interior of the country as possible.
But let us proceed.
Were we compelled to accept battle at the time and place we did?
We were not. Having the start of the enemy from Fredericksburg
, and the whole country before us, we might have chosen our own ground and time for making and receiving the attack.
We might have occupied the pass at Cashtown
, or remained on the north side of the South Mountain
, or fallen down to Boonsboro' Gap-Having no base to protect, and no line of communication keep open, but relying upon the districts we occupied for the means of subsistence, we were free to go where we pleased and to fight when we pleased.
But the battle was joined at the time and place selected by the Federal
commander.--The place, strong by nature, was rendered still more formidable by a number of stone fences which crossed the field, by the open ground we had to move over to reach it and by field works thrown up by the enemy during the night.
The attack was renewed by ourselves on the evening of the 21, without proper re, and not simultaneously along the whole line, but irregularly and spasmodically, first by one corps or division, and then by another, reminding one of a team of ill matched horses, which, refusing to pull together, are unable to move the load which a simultaneous and common effort might certainly accomplish.
The troops never fought better or inflicted greater loss upon the enemy; and strong as the position of the latter was, they surely would have carried it, though at a heavy loss, if the attack had been differently planned.
As it was they pushed the enemy back, ran over numberless batteries which they were unable to bring off, captured many flags, and killed and wounded more men than in any previous battle.
Indeed, the more successful our assaults were up to a certain point, the greater was our loss; for the further an attacking column drove the enemy, not being supported by a combined attack, the more fearfully were its flanks raked by the oblique and enfilading free of the batteries which were not assaulted.
The enemy's left, which rested upon a mountain, McLaws
, of Longstreet
's corps, were ordered to turn, and many believe, if other parts of the line had been assaulted at the same time, that Meade
, strong as his position was, would have been beaten.
No effort was made to turn his right wing, which rested upon open and less difficult ground.
On the 3d, Pickett
's division of Longstreet
's corps, (which had come up the evening before,) supported by a portion of Hill
's corps, was ordered to assault Cemetery Hill
, near the centre, believed to be the key to the position of the enemy.
The was executed in gallant style, and some of the batteries on the hill were carried; but his success was temporary, though purchased at a fearful cost.
The want of proper support, the movement of the enemy upon his exposed and bleeding flanks, and the terrible cross and obliques fires concentrated upon him from batteries not otherwise occupied, made it necessary for him to retrace his steps across the open ground over which he had advanced, his ranks torn and bleeding, and still suffering from the iron hail of shell, grape, canister, and shrapnel, that swept over the field.
, had performed similar feats the day before, followed by similar results.
The repeated assaults made by Confederates, therefore, though made with the greatest valor, and successful up to a certain point, failed to dislodge the enemy from his strong position.
It is but simple justice to add that in no single instance that now occurs to me did our troops retire except under orders; nor did the enemy ever make the least attempt at pursuit.
They advanced and withdrew-alike under orders, and that, too, in face of a fire far more furious than that which greeted the advancing columns of the French
In no sense of the word were they beaten.
All that can be justly claimed by the enemy is that he maintained his ground against our assaults, though at a fearful cost of life and limb.
This much, with the advantages he possessed in numbers and position, he ought to have done.
If our position at Fredericksburg
was such as to make Gen. Lee
's army equal to a force of 300,000 men, as Gen. Longstreet
is reported to have said it was, then Gen. Meade
, who already had a superior force at Gettysburg
, possessed an advantage in position which was quite as preponderating.
There was this difference, however, in the two positions: At Gettysburg
had to charge over a much wider field than the Federate did at Fredericksburg
, whilst the line of bills at the latter place trended off to the right, and did not present a Consalve force as at the former.
Why, then, you are ready to inquire, did Gen. Lee
fight at all at Gettysburg
, when it was in his power to accept or offer battle at a different time and place.
He acted, probably, under the impression that his troops were able to carry any position however formidable.
It such was the case, he committed an error, such however, as the ablest commanders will some times fall into.
No General can be always successful.
The Confederate troops can do what any other troops in any period of the world's history have done; but there are some things which even they cannot accomplish.
It may be, too, that the Supreme Ruler
has chosen this means to teach us the iniquity of all invasions, and to impress upon our minds the justice and wisdom of defending our cause upon our own blood baptised soil.
Indeed, there are some things connected with the late battle which would seem to justify the belief that this punishment was inflicted by a Divine Head and for some wise purpose.
It is but just to add that Gen. Lee
does not pretend to lay the responsibility upon his troops or officers, but takes it upon his own broad shoulders.
In this, as in all other things, he is frank, and just and magnanimous.
Let us not be guilty of the folly, then, of withdrawing any part of our confidence from him, but let us rather imitate the Hebrew patriots and hold up his hands that he may prevail in the fight.
On Saturday, the 4th of July, nothing was done beyond a little skirmishing by either side.
The enemy did not even fire a salute in honor of the day. Both armies withdrew about the same time--Gen. Lee
in the direction of Hagerstown
, and Gen. Meade
in the direction of Washington
All of our wounded who could be removed were sent back through the passes at Cashtown
and Monterey Springs on Saturday, and that night and next morning the army followed, taking the road that crosses the South Mountain
at Monterey Springs, and reaching Hagerstown
Monday evening, the 6th.
There is no doubt that the enemy commenced to retire quite as soon as we did. He had suffered such incalculable loss, and was so fearful lost Gen. Lee
would eventually turn his left wing, or get around him and pass rapidly down towards Frederick
, that he found it necessary to retreat, independently of a similar movement on our part.
Indeed, if Gen. Lee
had simply remained on the ground a few hours longer, what now can be regarded only as a drawn battle, in which both parties suffered terribly, and especially the enemy, would be considered a crushing victory.
Why, then, did Gen Lee
First, because he did not know the enemy would retreat; secondly, because he had been checkmated, and failed by the stubborn resistance of his antagonist, and had suffered heavily; and, lastly, because he did not have ammunition enough left to fight a half of a day longer, and could not get it without taking it from his adversary or reopening his communications with Winchester
These reasons for his withdrawal.
I did not feel at liberty to mention in my letters from the battle-field.
It was impossible to take with us ammunition for the entire campaign, and a sufficient force to keep open our communications could not be spared from an army already inferior in numbers to that of the enemy.
Our only resource, therefore, was to take it from the enemy, and failing to do this, no alternative was left us but to retire towards our base of supplies.
It was found impossible, also, to subsist the army long at a time in any one place, the inhabitants having driven off as many of their beef cattle and horses as they could, taken one or more wheels from their wagons, and removed their stocks of shoes, hats, and medicines far into the interior.