The time of the arrival of Longstreet's corps on Seminary Ridge on the morning of July 2, 1863, is of great importance for two reasons: First, if it had arrived early and had attacked promptly, Lee might have been able to drive the Federals from Cemetery Ridge on the morning of July 2 and might have won a victory or, at the least, might have been spared the slaughter of July 3. The question is of importance, further, because the earlier Longstreet's men arrived, the less the excuse of their commander for the long delay before he had them in position to attack. In defending himself against the charge that he was late in arriving, General Longstreet entirely overlooked the fact that he was thereby indicting himself for not attacking until about 4 P.M.
Longstreet issued his orders for the advance of his troops on the road to Gettysburg at 5:30 P.M. on the afternoon of July 1, subsequent to his conversation with General Lee.1 These orders were that his troops were to march as far as practicable toward Gettysburg that night without distressing the men and animals. Under these orders, Kershaw's brigade, which led McLaws's division, got within •two miles of the town and halted at midnight.2 The rear of the division seems to have stopped on Marsh Creek •about four miles from Gettysburg, on the Chambersburg road.3 Hood was immediately behind McLaws. Law's brigade was still at New Guildford and started at 3 A.M. for Gettysburg.4 Orders to McLaws were to move at 4 A.M. but the time was changed to sunrise.5
Longstreet gave three specific and one general statement as to the time he joined Lee on Seminary Ridge. (1) He wrote Colonel Walter H. Taylor, April 25, 1875: "My two divisions nor myself did not reach General Lee until 8 A.M. on the 2nd."6 (2) in Annals of the War, 422, he asserted: "I went to General Lee's headquarters at daylight." (3) In 3 B. and L., 340, he affirmed: "On the morning of the 2nd I joined General Lee." (4) In From Manassas to Appomattox, 362, he maintained: "The stars were shining brightly on the morning of the 2nd when I reported at General Lee's headquarters and asked for orders."
p553 Quite obviously, in the face of these contradictions, one must look to other witnesses. Hood said7 that he arrived "shortly after daybreak . . . and during the early part of the same morning, we were both engaged in company with Generals Lee and A. P. Hill in observing the position of the Federals." He mentioned, however, that General Lee "walked up and down in the shade of the large trees nearby," which would of course place this part of the interview well after sunrise. General McLaws simply stated8 that his orders were to move at sunrise and that his command reached Seminary Ridge "early in the morning." Doctor Cullen said that Longstreet left his camp at 3 A.M. and rode to General Lee's headquarters, "where I found [Longstreet] sitting with [Lee] after sunrise." Colonel Fremantle found Lee and Longstreet in conference after 5 A.M.9 Ross10 wrote that he was aroused while it was still dusk, that he ate breakfast with Longstreet, that they rode •five miles and that Lee was on Seminary Ridge when they arrived.
This is all the evidence, and it scarcely justifies any conclusion that cannot be assailed with citations no less weighty. Longstreet was certainly in error when he said he arrived while the "stars were burning brightly" and probably was no less wide of the mark in saying that he did not arrive until 8 A.M. As the sun rose at Gettysburg on July 2 at 4:32,a it probably is approximately correct to say that Longstreet joined Lee on Seminary Ridge at 5:15 or about that time.
The time of Longstreet's own arrival is less important than that of the appearance of his men. And here, again, the evidence is not conclusive. Hood's march began about 3 A.M., and as the distance his troops had to cover was an average of •five miles, the head of his column should have been at the ridge by 5:30 A.M. The whole of it could have been there by 7 or 7:30. Hood himself gave no time for its appearance, simply stating that he arrived "before or at sunrise," and that his division "soon commenced filing into an open field."11 It is apparent, however, for the report of Lieutenant Colonel W. S. Shepherd that the division was not immediately deployed but remained strung out along the road by which it had moved.12 McLaws's division did not begin to move until after sunrise13 — how long after that time it is not easy to say. Dickert noted casually14 that when Kershaw's brigade was aroused "the sun had long since shot its rays" over Gettysburg. p554 As the road was little obstructed at that time,15 the head of McLaws's column was probably on the field by 6 A.M. That command, however, does not seem to have been well closed, and the other division was probably not in position until 8 or 8:30. Hood and McLaws were trustworthy in their statements, but they rode ahead of their troops and probably confused the time of their own arrival with that of the appearance of their troops.
One of the best witnesses is Alexander. He stated16 that his artillery reached a point •one mile west of Seminary Ridge about 7 A.M., and in his official report he recorded the fact that he arrived — presumably on the ridge — at 9 A.M.17 Ordinarily, in Pennsylvania, the artillery marched between the divisions, but in this instance, as the position of the enemy was known, the artillery probably followed the rear division. When the artillery was at hand, the whole of the corps was up, except for Pickett's division and Law's brigade.18
Summarizing the whole case, then, it may be said that Longstreet probably had one division, less one brigade, in rear of Seminary Ridge by 7 or 7:30 A.M., a second division there by 8 to 8:30, and his artillery on the ridge by 9 A.M. It took him, therefore, approximately four and a half hours to bring his corps an average of •five miles, and at the end of that time he had not begun his deployment. His troops were simply crowded together, on the ridge and to the rear, without an extension opposite the left flank of the enemy.
This delay in bringing up the First Corps was fatal to the success of Lee's plan. At sunrise on the 2d the Federals had in position on the field only the I, XI, and XII Corps, and almost all these troops were defending Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill. The II Corps began to arrive at 7 A.M.,19 the III Corps came up at the same hour and started to take position on Cemetery Ridge,20 and the V Corps arrived about 8 A.M.21 Before 7 A.M., the Federals had scarcely 20,000 unwounded men on the ground, but by 9 A.M. the number had been increased to 58,000.
6 Taylor's General Lee, 198; the original is in the Taylor MSS.
7 Hood, 56‑57.
8 7 S. H. S. P., 68.
9 Fremantle, 257.
10 Ross, 49.
11 Hood, 56‑57.
14 History of Kershaw's Brigade, 233.
a Close enough for government work, as they say. According to the U. S. Naval Observatory, on July 2, 1863, the sun at Gettysburg (39N50, 77W14) rose at 0444h EST. Now Eastern Standard Time did not exist in 1863; mean local time for the town, 2°14′ (2.23°) west of the 75° central meridian, would therefore be a bit less than 15 minutes earlier: Freeman's figure should be 7:29.
All that is nautical sunrise, of course. Twilight extends that back another half hour or so.
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Robert E. Lee
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