[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home

[image ALT: link to previous section]
previous
Chapter
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
R. E. Lee: A Biography

by Douglas Southall Freeman

published by Charles Scribner's Sons,
New York and London, 1934

The text, and illustrations except as noted, are in the public domain.


[image ALT: link to next section]
next
Chapter

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Vol. III
p68
Chapter VI

The Spirit That Inhibits Victory

Over the hills from Cashtown, along a road he had never travelled before, Lee galloped toward Gettysburg like a blinded giant. He did not know where the Federals were, or how numerous they might be. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ewell — and doubtless Hill also — he had cautioned not to bring on a general engagement with a strong adversary until the rest of the infantry came up,1 but with no cavalry to inform him, he could not tell what calamity he might invite by advancing at all, or what opportunity he might lose by advancing cautiously. Never had he been so dangerously in the dark.

Louder and nearer was the sound of the artillery. Soon, to his regret and surprise,2 infantry volleys in a spiteful staccato added their treble to the bass of the guns. Smoke was now visible on the horizon, swept by the breeze into a long cloud. At 2 o'clock, when he still was about three miles from Gettysburg, he came into the open country and found Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pender's division deployed.3 In the distance, action was visible. He turned into a grassy field on the left of the road and found a position that commanded a good view. A cultivated ridge, long and wide and broken only by a few rail fences and patches of woodland, led down to Willoughby Run. Beyond that little stream the ground rose to another ridge on which stood conspicuously a Lutheran seminary with a cupola. Over this ridge to the east at an elevation of about fifty feet below that of the ground on which Lee stood, was Gettysburg. South and southeast of the town, dimly discernible, were dangerous-looking hills and ridges.

Lee's eyes could not have lingered long on their vague outlines, because his glasses must have fixed themselves quickly on the p69 smoke that was rising on either side of the Chambersburg road where it crossed Willoughby Run. Evidently there had been an attack and a repulse. The artillery was blazing away, and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Heth's division was apparently forming on a front about a mile in length. Two of Heth's brigades were in bad order. Beyond them, across the run, where the smoke from the Union batteries was swelling, must be the Federal infantry — and how strong? That was the question Lee's anxious mind instantly fashioned: Was it a heavy force or merely a detached unit, sent to guard the Gettysburg crossroads? The guns did not seem very numerous, but the infantry fire came from a front at least as long as Heth's. That was ominous.

Soon Lee's presence on the field became known, and officers began to bring him news. Heth had sent forward two of his brigades, Archer's and Davis's, during the morning. They had pushed forward vigorously and had driven the enemy back. Later the Federals had attacked them in heavy force and, about an hour before Lee arrived, had compelled them to retire. Part of Archer's brigade had been cut off, and Archer himself had been captured.4 Heth was now resting his men in line of battle preparatory to attacking again with his entire division, and Hill had directed Pender to support him.5

Finding their opponents out of range, the Federal infantry had halted and had ceased firing. The artillery exchange was slowing down. As Lee rode closer to the lines he was still so uncertain of the strength of the opposing troops and so anxious not to bring on a general engagement until his whole army was concentrated, that had there not been a sudden stir north of Gettysburg about 3 o'clock he would probably have forbidden an advance. The enemy began to move out troops in that direction; the right of the Federal line that faced Hill was drawn in; firing commenced briskly. Soon from the woods above Gettysburg a long gray line of battle emerged. It was Rodes's division of Ewell's corps, marching under orders to join Lee at Gettysburg. Having heard the sound of Hill's engagement, Rodes had taken advantage of the cover on the ridge and was coming up almost on the right flank of the forces that had been engaged with Hill. It could not have p70 happened more advantageously if this chance engagement had been a planned battle!

The Federals rallied quickly to this new threat. As they deployed to meet Rodes's attack, he had to change direction somewhat to the right. In doing this his left brigade, Doles's, shifted to confront a column that had started northward from the town as if to turn Rodes's left. Doles thus became detached from the rest of the command. O'Neal's brigade on his right thereupon lost direction and was scattered. The attack against the flank of the troops facing Hill had, therefore, to be delivered by two brigades, Daniel's and Iverson's, with Ramseur's in reserve.6 The details of all this could not be seen, of course, from Lee's position, but it was soon apparent that Rodes was having hard fighting, in the face of stubborn resistance, and was not advancing rapidly.

General Heth rode up to Lee. "Rodes," said he, "is heavily engaged; had I not better attack?"

"No," said Lee, reasoning that little was to be gained and much was to be risked by committing himself to the offensive with only part of his forces. "No, I am not prepared to bring on a general engagement today — Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Longstreet is not up."7

But the very gods of war seemed to wear gray that hot afternoon. Rodes had not been long in action when smoke began to rise still farther to the eastward and guns from that quarter added their roar. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Early's division of Ewell's corps had arrived on Rodes's left and was driving the Federals who had been threatening Doles'sº flank. At precisely the right place, and at exactly the right moment, a third blow was being delivered. Everything was working perfectly. The hard-beset Federals formed a right angle now, their left running from south to north, and their right from west to east. Opposite their left was Heth, with two of his four brigades unscathed and with Pender's fresh division in reserve. At the angle in the line Rodes was hammering hard. On the Federal right, Early's veterans were thundering. With Pender it would be easy to outflank the Federal left, and with Early to turn their right.

As quickly as the situation changed with the arrival of Early, p71 Lee's decision was reversed. So fair an opportunity was not to be lost. The orders flashed quickly — let Heth go forward; bring up Pender at once. It was a miniature Second Manassas! Before night Confederate independence might be closer to reality.

The men in the ranks were as willing as their commander. With a rebel yell that echoed weirdly over the Pennsylvania hills, Heth's brigades swept eastward. Shifting their advance somewhat toward the right, Pender's troops moved across the ridge, joined with Heth, and charged irresistibly over Willoughby Run. Rodes pressed on; Early swept everything before him. In forty-five minutes the battle was over. The Federals were routed and had been hurled back toward the ridges south and east of Gettysburg. The town was in Early's hands. Nearly 5000 bewildered prisoners were being herded on the field. Almost as many dead and wounded lay on the ground. A doubtful morning had ended in a smashing victory. The campaign of invasion could not have had a more auspicious opening.8

Riding hurriedly forward across Willoughby Run and up the next ridge, Lee halted near the point where the Chambersburg turnpike comes down from the ridge.9 Here he had a closer view of the ground to which it was to be assumed the enemy would retreat. Half a mile away, at his feet, lay the town of Gettysburg. South of it was a high cleared hill that seemed to dominate a series of ridges that spread from it to the east and to the south. Toward this hill, in confused and demoralized masses, the defeated Federals were retreating. On the hill were blue infantry reserves and artillery. Some of Hill's guns were at once ordered up by Lee to open on these troops.10 If more than this could be done — if the ground could be seized at once and the Federals driven from it — the Confederates would control the whole position. Could this be accomplished without bringing on the general p72 engagement that Lee was anxious to avoid until the entire army was up? Hill, who was unhappily sick, reported that the Federals had fought with unusual tenacity11 and that his own men were exhausted and disorganized.12 Prisoners had been taken from two Federal corps — the I and the XI — and they stated that the whole Union army was moving on Gettysburg.13

Ewell, then, must undertake the advance. As Lee did not know the condition of Ewell's men or the strength of the hill from the northern approach, he did what he always did with his corps commanders in like circumstances: he issued discretionary orders. Sending Ewell an account of what he saw, he told him it was only necessary to "push those people" to get possession of the hill, and he suggested that Ewell do so, if practicable, without committing the whole army to battle.14

Soon after this message was sent by Major Walter H. Taylor, General Longstreet rode up. General Lee pointed out to him the enemy's position, and while he was engaged with other military duties, Longstreet made a careful survey of the front with his field-glasses. The two were, at the time, on a long hill, Seminary Ridge, that fell away to the east and then rose again to the road that led from Gettysburg to Emmitsburg. East of this road was rolling land parallel to Seminary Ridge and about three miles in length. At its southern end was an eminence of some 600 feet known as Round Top. Northeast of this, at a little distance, was a second hill, slightly lower, styled Little Round Top. At the northern end of the ridge was a high cleared position, on part of which was the burial ground of the town, which gave its name to the hill and to the ridge — an ominous name, fated soon to be all too apt, Cemetery Hill, Cemetery Ridge. From where Lee and Longstreet stood, they could see that the high ground continued eastward and southeastward from Cemetery Hill, reaching another height called Culp's Hill. The whole of the opposite ridge was, therefore, a fishhook with the shank running from south to north and with the point to the southeast. Round Top was at the end of the shank of the hook, the loop, so to speak, where the line might be joined. Cemetery Ridge was the shank, Cemetery p73 Hill the beginning of the bend, and Culp's Hill the point. Gettysburg was directly north of the bend. It was a most formidable position, distant an average of about 1400 yards from Seminary Ridge, which, in turn, afforded excellent ground for a defensive battle.


[image ALT: zzz]
Terrain of the battle of Gettysburg.º

Longstreet studied the terrain closely by side of the chief with whom there had not been a ripple of disagreement since p74 they had entered Pennsylvania;15 but when Longstreet put down his glasses and turned to Lee, it was to assert his innate self-confidence and his faith in the plan he had formulated, ere he left Virginia, for offensive strategy and defensive tactics. Without waiting, apparently, for Lee to ask his opinion, he declared the field ideal for the course on which he had set his heart. "All we have to do," he later quoted himself as saying in substance, "is to throw our army around by their left, and we shall interpose between the Federal army and Washington. We can get a strong position and wait, and if they fail to attack us we shall have everything in condition to move back tomorrow night in the direction of Washington, selecting beforehand a good position into which we can put our troops to receive battle next day. Finding our object is Washington or that army, the Federals will be sure to attack us. When they attack, we shall beat them, as we proposed to do before we left Fredericksburg, and the probabilities are that the fruits of our success will be great."16

This was rather remarkable language for a subordinate to address to the commanding general, ten minutes after his arrival on the field of battle, and when he had not been advised of the strength of the enemy. It was, moreover, a proposal that involved great risks. Meade presumably was moving from the direction of Washington, but how close he was and how fully concentrated, Lee did not know and could not ascertain in the absence of his cavalry. The Southern army had been compelled to advance cautiously to Gettysburg, and had been more than fortunate in finding and in driving the enemy there. To have led the army blindly around the Federal left "would have been wildly rash."17 The surest hope of victory, the best defensive, was to attack the two corps immediately in front, as soon as a sufficient force for p75 the purpose could be brought up. To delay and to manoeuvre was to gamble with ruin.

Lee therefore answered Longstreet at once: "If the enemy is there, we must attack him."18

Longstreet retorted sharply: "If he is there, it will be because he is anxious that we should attack him — a good reason, in my judgment, for not doing so." And he proceeded to argue his point.19

Lee said little more but displayed not the slightest intention of changing his plan of attacking the enemy at the earliest possible moment, before the whole of the Army of the Potomac could be brought up.20

At some stage of the discussion Colonel A. L. Long returned from a reconnaissance Lee had ordered him to make in front of Cemetery Hill. Long reported that the position seemed to be occupied in considerable force, with some troops behind a stone fence near the crest, and with others on the reverse slope. An attack, he said, would be hazardous and doubtful of success.21 About the same time, Lieutenant James Power Smith arrived with a message from Ewell. He probably had passed Taylor as the latter was hurrying to the commander of the Second Corps with Lee's orders to take Cemetery Ridge if practicable. Ewell, said Smith, desired him to inform the commander that General Rodes and General Early believed they could take Cemetery Hill if they were supported on the right, and that "it would be well if Lee occupied at once the higher ground in front of our right, which seemed to command the Cemetery Hill."

"I suppose," Lee answered, "this is the higher ground to which these gentlemen refer," and, pointing to the front, he handed Smith his field-glasses. "You will find that some of those people are there now."22

p76 After Smith had looked, Lee went on. "Our people are not yet up, and I have no troops with which to occupy this higher ground."

Then he turned to Longstreet with a question that officer had not previously given him opportunity of asking: Where on the road were the troops of the First Corps? But Longstreet was angry because his counsel had been rejected, and he was not disposed to be communicative. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McLaws's division, he said, was about six miles away, but beyond that he was indefinite and non-committal.

Lee urged him to bring his corps up as rapidly as possible, and turning to Smith gave him this message to Ewell: Smith was to tell Ewell that Lee did not then have troops to support him on the right, but that Lee wished Ewell to take Cemetery Hill if it was possible. He added that he would ride over to see Ewell very shortly.23

Longstreet did not like this either. Although the troops about whose position he was so vague were those on whom Lee would naturally rely for an assault on the western flank of Cemetery Hill, Longstreet argued — then or before this time — that if Lee intended to attack, he should do so immediately.24

Lee explained again his reasons for not making the attack at once and expressed regret that the non-arrival of Imboden at Chambersburg had forced him to leave Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pickett's division there. A general assault must wait until the arrival of at least McLaws's and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hood's divisions of the First Corps.

Longstreet had no more to say, thinking that Lee might later change his mind and make no attack,25 and presently "Old Pete" rode off. It was now about 5:30 P.M. Firing had ceased along the whole front. Major Taylor had returned and had reported the delivery of Lee's message to Ewell,26 but there was no sign of any p77 effort on the part of Ewell to storm Cemetery Hill. To ascertain precisely the state of affairs on the front of the Second Corps, Lee rode over to Gettysburg and soon found Ewell and Rodes together. In the arbor back of a little house north of the town on the Carlisle road, he sat down with them to hear their reports.27

Their statements showed all too plainly that the new organization of the Second Corps was operating very clumsily. Two of Rodes's brigade commanders had failed badly in the attack that Lee had witnessed. Colonel Edward O'Neal of Alabama had stayed with his rear regiment while the other three had been almost useless in the fight. General Iverson had been misled by a foolish report that one of his regiments had raised the white flag and had gone over to the enemy.28 Rodes had lost nearly 2500 men and found himself, at the end of the action, on ground from which he did not believe he could advance directly on Cemetery Hill.29 Early had a better position, but after his first successful onslaught, his progress had been held up by panicky reports from an inexperienced brigadier that troops were advancing on the York road against his left flank.30 Worse still, Ewell had been irresolute. He had been thrown off his balance, early in the day, by the receipt of discretionary instructions to march either on Gettysburg or on Cashtown, as circumstances might dictate. Accustomed to explicit orders, he had complained then of what he termed the ambiguity of Lee's directions and had for a time been undecided what to do.31 After he had reached Gettysburg he had remained passive in the streets awaiting orders. So contrary was such a halt to the traditions of the fast-moving Second Corps that one of the staff officers of the dead "Stonewall" had said sorrowfully to his mates, "Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jackson is not here!"32

Early had already established by his positive manner a singular domination over the mind of Ewell and he had promptly urged that Hays's brigade, which had an excellent position, should be allowed to advance at once and take Cemetery Hill, but Ewell had hesitated.33 The fiery Trimble, who had joined Ewell and p78 was acting as a volunteer aide, had at length lost all patience and had pleaded, "Give me a division and I will engage to take that hill." When Ewell had declined, Trimble had said, "Give me a brigade and I will do it!" Still Ewell had refused. "Give me a good regiment," Trimble had cried, "and I will engage to take that hill." After Ewell had again withheld consent, Trimble is alleged to have thrown down his sword and to have left Ewell, swearing he would not serve under such an officer.34 Ewell had explained to Early that he wished to wait until the arrival of Johnson's division, before he attacked, but by his delay he had lost an opportunity of seizing easily the position on Cemetery Hill that was the key to victory.35

All this had been before 4 P.M. A little later, when Johnson had arrived half a mile north of Gettysburg, in rear of Rodes's division, Ewell had inquired of Early where he thought Johnson should be placed. Early had advised that Johnson seize Culp's Hill at once, but Ewell had continued irresolute and had insisted on making a reconnaissance.36 False reports had continued to come in from straggling cavalrymen of enemy movements in rear of his left flank; Ewell had "seemed at a loss as to what opinion to form."37

These provoking details, of course, were not related to Lee when he went into conference with Ewell and Rodes, but it was manifest that Ewell had abandoned all intention of attacking that evening. Equally must it have been plain to Lee, despite his lack of close acquaintance with the man, that Ewell's new responsibilities had sapped his powers of decision.

Soon Early arrived, by Ewell's order, and the conversation turned to the operations of the next day.

p79 "Can't you, with your corps, attack on this flank tomorrow?" Lee asked.

Ewell said nothing; Early took the floor. Anxious as he had been during the afternoon to engage the enemy, he argued now that the approaches were very difficult. The Federals, he said, would certainly concentrate in front of Ewell during the night, inasmuch as the divisions of the Second Corps were the only troops in close proximity to them. An attack, he contended, would be most costly and of doubtful issue. The ground was more favorable to an attack south of Gettysburg, Early maintained, and if an offensive there resulted in the capture of the Round Tops, which he pointed out through the gathering dusk, the Confederates would dominate the entire field.

Ewell and Rodes acquiesced in this view. After some discussion, Lee inquired: "Then perhaps I had better draw you around towards our right, as the line will be very long and thin if you remain here, and the enemy may come down and break through?"

Again it was Early who answered, not Ewell, and it was pride, not tactics, that shaped his reply. He felt that his men had won a victory and that they would consider their success empty if they were ordered to give up the ground they had gained. Besides, he could not move his seriously wounded. Lee need not fear, he asserted, that the enemy would break through. The Second Corps could hold its own against any troops that might be sent down from the hills to attack it. Early did not think then or thereafter that his answer carried with it any implication of unwillingness to have Ewell's men do their part in the battle; but if the old commander of those troops, sleeping in his newly made grave at Lexington, had heard Early, he would have risen wrathfully in the cerements of death at the suggestion that the Second Corps could remain inactive when victory lay just over the crest of Cemetery Hill.

Lee must have been disappointed at Early's answer and must have been puzzled to note a moment later that Ewell, though he had been schooled under Jackson and had fought in the Valley, contented himself with merely agreeing that Early was right. Lee pondered their proposal, his head bent low. An attack p80 on the right . . . Hill's corps badly battered. . . . "Well," he said at length, more to himself than to them, "if I attack from my right, Longstreet will have to make the attack." Then he raised his head: "Longstreet is a very good fighter when he gets in position and gets everything ready, but he is so slow."38 Lee had expressed the same opinion of Longstreet to Custis39 and he voiced it privately after the war,40 but he probably would not have made such a statement in the presence of other officers if he had not been thrown off his guard by the perplexities that developed when first Longstreet and then the commanders of the Second Corps balked at an offensive, the chosen and tested tactical method of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Early went on to explain that if an attack were made on the right, the Second Corps would follow up the success and destroy the enemy's right. Lee was not wholly convinced that the chiefs of the corps were correct in their stand, but, tentatively, he accepted their view and left them, ere long, with the understanding that the attack was to be made on the right as early as practicable the next morning, and that the left wing was to press the enemy and pursue any advantage that might be gained.41

After Lee returned to Seminary Ridge and received the reports of reconnaissance made during the late afternoon, he became dissatisfied with the decision he had reached in council with Ewell and sought an opportunity of reviewing his whole problem. Anderson's division was now up, and Hill's corps was complete. So was Ewell's. Longstreet should be able to have McLaws's division on the ground by daylight, along with all Hood's, except Law's brigade, which would arrive from New Guilford during the forenoon. The time of the arrival of Pickett's division would depend on when Imboden reached Chambersburg. So much for the infantry. As for the cavalry, Jenkins's brigade was close at hand, and word had been received — at last! — from Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Stuart. He was at Carlisle, whither messengers had been sent to hurry his p81 march.42 He would not, however, be available until late on the 2d. Lee, therefore, would have about 50,000 infantry and some 2000 of Jenkins's cavalry available early on the morning of July 2. All the reinforcements he could hope to receive thereafter, if he delayed the battle, would be Stuart's weary horse and about 7000 infantry. If, then, he was to take the offensive, his first judgment expressed to Longstreet when they met on Seminary Ridge was confirmed — he must strike as soon as possible, and before the whole of the Federal army arrived on his front.43

But was it wise to attack at all? What alternatives were there? He could take Longstreet's advice and move around to the right, interposing his army between Meade and the approaches to Washington. Secondly, he could await attack where he was. Thirdly, he could retreat by the route on which he had advanced.

As he had come through the passes west of Gettysburg, it will be remembered that Lee had admired their strength and had told Anderson that he could withdraw, if necessary, and defend the gorges. But now that he had nearly the whole of his army east of the mountains he realized that any attempt to evacuate his troops and his wagon train, in the face of a foe who had not been crippled by his blows, would be difficult and dangerous.44

He could not afford to await attack, living off the country, because the enemy could easily seize the gaps in the mountains and confine his foraging parties to a very narrow area.45

The only alternative to a direct attack before the enemy was fully concentrated was, therefore, to move to the right, turn the p82 flank of Meade and get between him and Washington. But if this were undertaken at once it would have to be done in the absence of the greater part of the cavalry. It would entail a wide flanking march against an enemy of whose position he was still uncertain and could only learn through Jenkins's inexperienced troopers. Such a march, moreover, would necessitate a continuous concentration, with no chance of foraging for the army. If Lee considered such a move a second time, after having dismissed it in his conversation with Longstreet, he definitely abandoned it later in the day as impracticable, and in this decision he has since been sustained by nearly all military critics. Marshal MacMahonº attempted somewhat the same movement seven years later, without his cavalry — and came to Sedan.46

Strategically, then, Lee saw no alternative to attacking the enemy before Meade concentrated, much as he disliked to force a general engagement so early in the campaign and at such a distance from Virginia.47

Tactically, what was the best plan? Manifestly, Ewell was not disposed to undertake an assault on Cemetery Hill from the north. If Ewell, Early, and Rodes were agreed that it could not be done, then manifestly it would not be done. But an attack on the right, opposite Cemetery Ridge, to be followed up on the left, as tentatively agreed upon in conference with Ewell — was this the wisest course? Late reconnaissance reports did not discourage an attack on the right;48 but would Ewell be able to co-operate effectively? Or would the Second Corps simply be left idle while the rest of the army fought? Lee's doubts increased on reflection. It seemed better to shorten the line, to concentrate heavily on the right and to throw the three corps p83 against that position, rather than to operate on a long exterior line.

Having reached this conclusion, Lee sent a message to Ewell, telling him that the ground looked favorable on the right and that, if he could do nothing where he was, he should move during the night and reinforce that flank.49 In answer to this message, Ewell rode over late in the evening. He explained that two of his lieutenants had reconnoitred Culp's Hill at the point of the fish-hook and had found it unoccupied by the enemy. If allowed to stay where he was, Ewell believed that Johnson could capture that eminence, which overlooked Cemetery Hill.

This at once changed the outlook. For, obviously, if Ewell could take Culp's Hill and thereby keep the Federals from using Cemetery Hill for an enfilading fire on the troops that were to attack Cemetery Ridge, the Second Corps could be profitably employed where it was. Lee therefore cancelled the orders for Ewell to move to the right and directed him to take Culp's Hill as soon as practicable.50

Longstreet was with Lee during the evening51 while this change in plan was being matured. Lee gave him no positive order to attack at any particular point the next morning, yet Longstreet must have known that Lee wished the First Corps brought up as rapidly as possible. He must have understood, also, that Lee intended to attack as soon as it arrived, in the hope of driving the Federals from their position before the whole of the Army of the Potomac was concentrated in his front. In dealing with Longstreet — as with Jackson until his death — it was not Lee's custom to give explicit orders on the field of battle:52 he had been p84 content to outline his plan and to express his wishes in the belief that his corps commanders would arrange the details more accurately than he would be able to do. He simply followed his established practice when he refrained on the night of July 1 from giving Longstreet direct orders to have his men at the front by a given hour. It never occurred to him that Longstreet would make his commander's usual deference an excuse for delaying a movement he disapproved.53

The plan was discussed at Lee's headquarters, and seemed to be fully understood. As Longstreet had to bring up his troops and deliver the major blow, whereas Ewell's men were already at hand for their lesser part in the enterprise, Lee decided to time Ewell's movements by Longstreet's. Toward midnight, a courier went off with orders to Ewell not to attack until he heard Longstreet's guns open.54 "Gentlemen," said Lee to some of his weary officers, by way of final announcement, "we will attack the enemy as early in the morning as practicable."55

Then, under a pale moon that gave a weird light to the field,56 Lee retired to a small house east of Seminary Ridge, and just north of the Chambersburg pike, for a few hours' rest. In the nearby orchard his staff made their bivouac.57 On the ridges about headquarters and in the fields outside the anxious town, most of the Confederate soldiers were already asleep. To the westward, Hood and McLaws had halted their weary columns. From the south, Federal corps were marching fast over shadowed roads. Groaning wagon trains were bringing up shell and food for the Army of the Potomac. But the issue did not depend solely on valor, strategy, tactics, logistics, and the weight of numbers. Half-determined p85 already, by Ewell's irresolution, the battle was being decided at that very hour in the mind of Longstreet, who at his camp, a few miles away, was eating his heart away in sullen resentment that Lee had rejected his long-cherished plan of a strategic offensive and a tactical defensive.


The Author's Notes:

1 O. R., 27, part 2, p444.

[decorative delimiter]

2 43 S. H. S. P., 56.

[decorative delimiter]

3 O. R., 27, part 2, p656.

[decorative delimiter]

4 O. R., 27, part 2, pp607, 638.

[decorative delimiter]

5 O. R., 27, part 2, p638.

[decorative delimiter]

6 O. R., 27, part 2, pp553‑54.

[decorative delimiter]

7 Heth in 4 S. H. S. P., 158.

[decorative delimiter]

8 O. R., 27, part 2, pp316, 606, 637‑38. Perhaps the clearest general narrative of the day's fighting is that of Cecil Battine: The Crisis of the Confederacy (cited hereafter as Battine), 186 ff.

[decorative delimiter]

9 Marshall, 227‑28. A favorite myth is that Lee climbed the next day to the cupola of the seminary, though it was being used for the wounded, and there, under the protection of the hospital-flag, directed the battle. Colonel Taylor, who knew Lee's every movement on the field, denied this as a wholly false charge (Taylor MSS.). There is not the slightest evidence that Lee was ever in the seminary. The story doubtless originated in the fact that he went on the 2d to the cupola of the almshouse on the other side of the town.

[decorative delimiter]

10 Taylor's General Lee, 190; J. J. Garnett in Brock, 268‑69.

[decorative delimiter]

11 Fremantle, 254.

[decorative delimiter]

12 O. R., 27, part 2, p607.

[decorative delimiter]

13 O. R., 27, part 2, pp317‑18.

[decorative delimiter]

14 O. R., 27, part 2, p318; Taylor's General Lee, 190.

[decorative delimiter]

15 Cf. Fremantle, 249: "It is impossible to please Longstreet more than by praising Lee" — June 30.

[decorative delimiter]

16B. and L., 339. Besides this version, written about 1884, Longstreet inspired or dictated an earlier account, probably in 1876, published in Annals of the War, 421, and wrote a third, circa 1894, in his From Manassas to Appomattox, 358 ff. It is impossible to reconcile the three. They form a progression in General Longstreet's defense, which developed into an attack on Lee's management of the campaign. For manifest reasons the earlier versions, of course, are followed in this narrative, though a few verifiable incidents that do not appear in his previous articles are cited from Longstreet's final apologia.

[decorative delimiter]

17 Maurice, 208. See also note 46, p82, infra.

[decorative delimiter]

18 Annals of the War, 421. Here is a very striking example of the manner in which General Longstreet changed his story as he grew older. The language here quoted is from his initial account. In 3 B. and L., 339 he has Lee say: "No, the enemy is there, and I am going to attack him there." In From Manassas to Appomattox, 358, he wrote: "I was not a little surprised, therefore, at his impatience, as, striking the air with his closed hand, he said: "If he is there tomorrow I will attack him.' "

[decorative delimiter]

19 Annals of the War, 421.

[decorative delimiter]

20 Annals of the War, 421.

[decorative delimiter]

21 Long in 4 S. H. S. P., 66.

[decorative delimiter]

22 33 S. H. S. P., 145; 43 ibid., 57. Ewell evidently referred to East Cemetery Hill; the "higher ground" was Cemetery Hill proper.

[decorative delimiter]

23 33 S. H. S. P., 145; 43 S. H. S. P., 57. There are slight differences in the order of Lee's remarks in these two accounts by Smith, but the variations are not material.

[decorative delimiter]

24 This part of the interview is not narrated in either of Longstreet's earlier accounts, but it is of record that he complained later in the evening to Doctor J. S. D. Cullen that "it would have been better had we not fought at all than to have left undone what we did." (See Cullen's letter in Annals of the War, 439). In his third version (op. cit., 359), Longstreet stated that he objected to deferring the attack. The sequence of the various parts of this conversation between Lee and Longstreet is in some doubt. Longstreet affirmed that he made his protest before the message was sent to Ewell and he may be correct in this, but it could hardly have been long before Smith left.

[decorative delimiter]

25 Longstreet, 359.

[decorative delimiter]

26 Taylor's General Lee, 190.

[decorative delimiter]

27S. H. S. P., pp257, 271; 3 C. M. H., 403.

[decorative delimiter]

28 O. R., 27, part 2, pp444‑45, 553‑55.

[decorative delimiter]

29 O. R., 27, part 2, p555.

[decorative delimiter]

30 O. R., 27, part 2, p469; 4 S. H. S. P., 255‑56.

[decorative delimiter]

31 26 S. H. S. P., 122.

[decorative delimiter]

32 33 S. H. S. P., 144.

[decorative delimiter]

33S. H. S. P., 254. For Hays's statement that he believed the hill could have been taken, see Annals of the War, 436.

[decorative delimiter]

34 R. H. McKim, in 40 S. H. S. P., 273. General Trimble, 26 S. H. S. P., 123, did not mention this exchange, though he stated that Ewell "moved about uneasily, a good deal excited. . . . He . . . was far from composure."

[decorative delimiter]

35S. H. S. P., 257. For the statement of Generals Hunt and Hancock that the hill could readily have been taken prior to the arrival of Hancock at 4 P.M., see 3 B. and L., 284; 5 S. H. S. P., 168. Colonel Bachelder (ibid., 172 ff.), expressed the opinion that the position was not secure against attack until 6 P.M.

[decorative delimiter]

36S. H. S. P., 255‑56, 257. Johnson had marched twenty-five miles that day (O. R., 27, part 2, p503).

[decorative delimiter]

37 Early in 4 S. H. S. P., 256. It should be added that while Early recorded these evidences of Ewell's indecision, he seems not to have been aware of their relation to the failure of Lee's campaign, and, in the article here quoted, he argued lengthily that the inaction of the Second Corps, after the first success, was not responsible for the loss of the battle.

[decorative delimiter]

38 Early in 4 S. H. S. P., 274. Early was challenged for attributing this language to Lee, but in 5 S. H. S. P., 274, he insisted that he had used Lee's words.

[decorative delimiter]

39 Personal statement of W. Gordon McCabe.

[decorative delimiter]

40S. H. S. P., 193.

[decorative delimiter]

41 For other accounts of the conference, see Long, 292‑93; Walter H. Taylor in 4 S. H. S. P., 83 and in Four Years, 96‑97. See also Early 271, and Early in Jones, 31 ff., and in O. R., 27, part 2, pp469‑70.

[decorative delimiter]

42 O. R., 27, part 2, pp308, 697; 37 S. H. S. P., 96.

[decorative delimiter]

43 The strength of Lee at Gettysburg has been a subject of much discussion. The Count of Paris computed that Lee fought with 62,000 to 63,000, against 80,000 or 82,000 (6 S. H. S. P., 12). Early (ibid., 13 ff.) maintained that the battle-strength of the Army of Northern Virginia was 59,500, and that after the arrival of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Lockwood's and Stannard's brigades on the morning of July 2, Meade had 82,208. Taylor (5 S. H. S. P., 246) gave Lee 67,000 at the climax of the battle and insisted that Meade had 105,000. Colonel William Allan estimated Lee's strength at 60,000 (see 4 S. H. S. P., 41). Battine (op. cit., 281) put the Confederate infantry at 57,000 and the Federal at 67,000. Alexander (op. cit., 368‑70) took the Confederate figures for May 31, 76,224 and accepted Livermore's deduction of 7 per cent for the infantry and artillery and of 15 per cent for the cavalry. This would give Lee 61,417 infantry, less the casualties of July 1, and 8751 cavalry, a total force of 70,168. On the same basis, the strength of the Federals, excluding casualties of July 1, would be 105,900. Putting the Confederate losses on July 1 at 5000, and allowing 7000 for theº Pickett's division and Law's brigade, Lee would have had 49,000 infantry and artillery on the morning of July 2, according to Alexander's computation. The writer's estimate is about 1000 higher.

[decorative delimiter]

44 O. R., 27, part 2, p318.

[decorative delimiter]

45 O. R., 27, part 2, p318.

[decorative delimiter]

46 G. F. R. Henderson: The Science of War, 290. For detailed explanations of the impracticability of the move, as proposed by Longstreet, see Early in 4 S. H. S. P., 60, and 5 ibid., 285; William Allan in 3 B. and L., 355; Maurice, 206‑7; 2 Davis, 447; Hunt in 3 B. and L., 293; Long in 4 S. H. S. P., 123. Meade in 3 B. and L., 413, was the only critic who agreed with Longstreet. He said that Longstreet's proposal was "sound military sense" and the step he feared Lee would take, but added that he prepared for it by putting the Army of the Potomac in condition to move from the heights if Lee tried to interpose between him and Washington. It should be noted that Colonel McIntosh in 37 S. H. S. P., 140, affirmed that Lee's retreat after Gettysburg showed that Lee was wrong in saying he could not withdraw through the mountains. McIntosh, however, overlooked the difference between pursuit by an enemy badly crippled after three days' fighting and pursuit by a fresh army, damaged only by the action of July 1.

[decorative delimiter]

47 O. R., 27, part 2, p318.

[decorative delimiter]

48 O. R., 27, part 2, p446.

[decorative delimiter]

49 O. R., 27, part 2, p446. Marshall, op. cit., 232, said that after his interview with Ewell, Early, and Rodes, Lee contemplated a movement around the left flank of the enemy, but evidently he confused the orders to Ewell, which plainly anticipated an attack by the Confederate right, with Longstreet's proposal for a turning-movement.

[decorative delimiter]

50 O. R., 27, part 2, p446; Longstreet, 360. There is some doubt whether Johnson was actually preparing to take Culp's Hill when Ewell received orders from Lee to move to the right, but the weight of the evidence is strongly that Johnson's movement came later. Ewell's report, loc. cit., certainly indicated that no order cancelling any such operation, on the basis of Lee's instruction, had been sent Johnson. For the details, see Taylor's Four Years, 96; Alexander, 386, and Early in 4 S. H. S. P., 261‑63.

[decorative delimiter]

51 He stated, Annals of the War, 422, that he "left General Lee quite late on the night of the 1st."

[decorative delimiter]

52 Cf. Longstreet in Annals of the War, 422: "General Lee never, in his life, gave me orders to open an attack at a specific hour. He was perfectly satisfied that, when I had my troops in position, and was ordered to attack, no time was ever lost."

[decorative delimiter]

53 This is one of the most controverted points in the Confederate dispute over the causes of Lee's failure at Gettysburg. The charge that Lee ordered Longstreet to attack at sunrise, and that Longstreet disobeyed positive orders in failing to do so, rests on the testimony of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.W. N. Pendleton. He stated in a lecture long after the war that Lee told him on the night of July 1 that he had given Longstreet orders to this effect (Pendleton, 286). Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.President Davis accepted Pendleton's statement (2 Davis, 441). There is no doubt that General Pendleton so understood General Lee, but there is no supporting evidence that Lee directly gave the order to Longstreet. Longstreet's denial appears in Annals of the War, 422, 437. Taylor in his Four Years, 100‑101, and in Annals of the War, 311, sustained Longstreet's claim. So did Venable in 4 S. H. S. P., 289. Long also had no knowledge of positive orders, but was satisfied Lee intended to attack early (4 S. H. S. P., 288). For the general argument that Lee purposed to take the offensive as soon as practicable on July 2, see Early in 4 S. H. S. P., 269, 387‑88; 5 ibid., 279‑80.

[decorative delimiter]

54 O. R., 27, part 2, p446.

[decorative delimiter]

55 Long, 277. Cf. Long in 4 S. H. S. P., 67, 288.

[decorative delimiter]

56 White in Richmond Howitzers, 202.

[decorative delimiter]

57 Marshall, 233; Long, 277.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 24 Apr 13