Captain Johnston's Reconnaissance

Early on July 2, Robert E. Lee sent out a reconnaissance force to establish the extent to which the Union line stretched southward toward Little Round Top. Captain Johnston reported no troops in an area that should have been crawling with Union troops, thus enabling us to engage in the following discussion.

Last Updated 3/22/96

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In a message dated 95-12-02 22:27:32 EST, Jim Epperson wrote:

> >Going back to the subject of Johnson's recon mission. Isn't it the case >that he got to the vicinity of LRT during a brief window of time when it >wasn't occupied at all? That is, XII Corps had a division in that area >during the night and early morning, which was replaced by III Corps when >it arrived. My understanding is that Johnson got to the LRT area after >XII Corps had left, but before III Corps took its original line. Is this >accurate, or are the gray cells starting to fade with age?

> > Jim,
given Johnson's description of the ground he covered, I think it unlikely he got to LRT at all. He seems to have missed crossing Emmittsburg Road. If he had, he should have encountered the extensive patrolling of Buford's cav, as well as two brigades of III Corps, plus the Corps trains, plus the many stragglers working their way north. All of this traffic was evidence of a major military movement, occurring exactly during the time-frame of Johnson's recon. His report claimed the road was deserted.

My own guess is that he was mistaken, and never crossed the road at all.

Dave Powell

From: (Alexander Cameron)
Subject: Johnson

Hi Dave,br I'm at a disadvantage here because I don't have access to any primary accounts by Johnson and I don't have LEE'S LIEUTENANTS. However, Coddington believed he went all the way to LRT and wrote, "...he and his party were satisfied with having found no one on Little Round Top, and they turned south and rode considerably beyond Big Round Top before returning to the Confederate lines. They were very cautious in slipping past Union pickets, and they met no enemy until the return trip, when they spied three or four Union troopers riding slowly up the Emmitsburg road toward Gettysburg. Not wishing to risk an encounter, they waited until they disappeared from view..." [p. 373] Pfanz also seems to have bought the story. Coddington is using Freeman's account as a source even though he lists Johnson's notes (which are part of the McLaws papers) as a source as well. Coddington acknowledges that the 5:30 arrival time for Johnson to get to LRT is a guess on the part of Freeman but agrees that it makes sense based on a 4:00 a.m. start time. You may well be right because it sure seems that he would have seen something but as far as being "mistaken" it's a little hard for me to believe that he thought he was on LRT if he never crossed the Emmitsburg Road. LRT is a long way from the Emmitsburg Road and you can see the hill from most places anywhere near the road. If he just lied about it, I would think that he would have been caught up in it because he had others with him. It is true that the 3rd Corps was in the area but Birney wrote that he didn't go into position until 7:00 a.m. The arrival of the first signal party is also after the time Johnson supposedly arrived on the hill. Do you know where Coddington got that part about avoiding troopers? It doesn't sound like your account. I sure wish I had access to the Johnson notes. My guess is that he went there. Ben said he was on a shoulder of LRT and I think he was using Freeman as a reference although he didn't directly say that. Perhaps he didn't go all the way to the top and get a real good look. Anyway, like you, Ben and Norm, I don't think much of his recon. BTW, what are your sources?




My opinions as to where Johnson was or was not are based on Union troop movements. As I pointed out, Emmittsburg Road was virtually a freeway at rush hour that Morning. Any force crossing the road between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. would have to contend with the 4,000 organized infantry under De Trobriand, the Corps trains of III Corps, a couple of Artillery Batteries, and the stragglers of the rest of III Corps - who, BTW were numerous, given the night march and counter-march of Humphreys' Division. On top of this, there were the periodic patrols of mounted Cav sent by Buford the length of that road to patrol for CSA movement and establish contact with De Trobriand. All of this is the backwash of a major military movement, and would have kept that road busy for hours. Missing all of this movement, on top of the coincidence of reaching LRT during the only 20 minute window when it was unoccupied by Federals, is hard to accept.

On top of that, however, is the Union II Corps. These 10,000 troops, plus their guns and trains, were encamped behind and just south of the Round Tops. They broke camp at 5:00 a.m. to march to Cemetery Hill. For the next two hours, the fields south and east of the Round Tops were filled with Federal infantry waiting their turn at the road. Yet Johnson claims he moved south of Big Round Top. The terrain here is more open than around the hills - less woods to screen out noise, etc - and yet Johnson saw none of II Corps.

I don't see how he could have missed these troops had he been where he said he was, when he was. Yet his account stresses the complete lack of contact he had with Union troops. It seems far more likely to me that he got turned around and never crossed Emmittsburg Road.

Pfanz, Coddington, et. al. all seem to have taken his report at face value. Perhaps it is true - I certainly have never discovered concrete proof to the opposite. But I know of no corroborating evidence that Johnson got where he said he did - only his own testimony - and the close study I've made of Union movement in and around the area (tracking unit movement for wargames, etc.) reveals how busy that area really was.

Dave Powell

From: "James F. Epperson"

From my perspective, Dave Powell makes good points about Johnson's recon. Good enough, in fact, that I would urge him to write it up formally and submit it someplace like Gettysburg Magazine. However, I also find it hard to accept that Johnson would be =that= wrong about where he was. Moving southward from Lee's HQ, is there another pair of hills that he could have confused with the Round Tops?

Is it possible that Dave is comparing apples and oranges with respect to time?

Is it possible that Johnson ignored moving bodies of troops and only reported on troops in place?

I'd =really= like to hear some back and forth from the more informed members of this group on this issue.

Jim Epperson

From: (Alexander Cameron)

Well I certainly don't know for sure if he was up there or not. The truth is, without reading his notes/letters/manuscript or whatever there is, I really feel like I'm fishing with no bait. I just don't have enough information. Again, I would really like to read exactly what he did say. >From the way you started your post, "given Johnson's description of the ground he covered", I thought you had access to the account. It does seem strange that he wouldn't see anything but again, according to the Coddington account (second or third hand) he was avoiding "troopers". I agree with Jim Epperson, it would make a great article and I would love to see you do it, however, step one would be to get a copy of Johnson's account. Anyway, as Jim said, you make some good points. As you always do!


From: "James F. Epperson"

It seems to me that someone needs to go to Duke (which is where I think the McLaws papers are) and take a look at the actual Johnson manuscript, transcribe and/or edit it, publish it with a commentary, etc. Any volunteers?

Jim Epperson

From: (Alexander Cameron)

The discussion about when/if Johnson climbed LRT made me remember that Little Round Top was not routinely called such by either side until after the battle. The older the reports, the more frequently you see Little Round Top used. The signal messages called it simply "Round Top Mountain" or "Mountain". Birney called it "Sugar Loaf". Chamberlain called it "Granite Spur" as well as "Little Round Top" but that was on the 6th after the battle was over. Chamberlain referred to BLT as "Sugar Loaf" or "Round Top". Rice called LRT, "Round Top Hill". Col. Welch, commander of the 16th Michigan referred to LRT simply as "a high rocky hill". On July 27, Longstreet referred to it as "a commanding hill" and Lee referred to it as "that rocky hill". Colonels Bane and Bryan of the 4th and 5th Texas referred to it simply as the "heights".

I can't find anything that referrers to it as Little Round Top during the battle. I bring this up simply to emphasize that there is room for confusion in the various accounts.



I, too, would like to hear from others, especially those that have read any version of Johnson's account. Is there one published? Conf. Veteran, Maybe?

There is some high ground further south around Marsh Creek, but that is still very close to the road. West of Marsh Creek I have no topo sources: I cannot say if there were hills that might be mistaken there.

I agree, the toughest part of all this is accepting that Johnson, a soldier with some experience in reading ground and performing recon, would be that mistaken. However, I've done terrain walks myself, even done some orienteering, and can attest that even experienced folks get mis-oriented.

As for ingoring moving bodies of men, that goes right back to being an experienced officer. Certainly he would recognize the importance of telling his commander of Military movements of significant bodies of troops.

Dave Powell

From: "James F. Epperson"

On Tue, 5 Dec 1995 wrote:

> As for ingoring moving bodies of men, that goes right back to being an > experienced officer. Certainly he would recognize the importance of telling > his commander of Military movements of significant bodies of troops.

Understood. But is the document that everyone is using as the source for his little scouting foray his report to Lee, or his recollections from after the war? I think it is the latter, and the distinction is very important. If Johnson is writing after the war, he is aware that the controversy is over "what did Lee know, and when did he know it" insofar as Federal =deployment= was concerned, especially with regard to whether or not LRT was ever vacant. In this setting, writing after the war, he may well have ignored or underplayed any moving columns of troops, even though, in 1863, he almost surely told Lee about them.

All speculation, of course.

Jim Epperson

From: (Grant Troop)

I too have wondered before if Johnston actually made it to the Round Tops during his recon, given the flaws in the intelligence he provided Lee. But, like Bill, I have generally believed Johnston's reported account of "what he believed he saw" based on support of it from Coddington and Pfanz, and despite the fact that his report to Lee was inaccurate (in hindsight , of course). After Dave Powell's posts however, I find myself questioning my position on this. Four Confederate soldiers might have made it past Buford's patrols, but it is hard to imagine them totally avoiding nor being aware of the continual movements of the II and III corps in the area, and still find their way to the RT's and back. Below I've provided a summary of key events leading up to the countermarch (all times relative):

  • (4AM) Lee and Longstreet meet at the Seminary Observation Post (SOP). Lee details Johnston and sends him on recon. Maj. Clarke accompanies him at Longstreets request. Two unidentified soldiers accompany them.

  • (7:30AM) Johnston's details returns. He delivers his report to Lee, who seems "surprised", and asks Johnston "Did you get there?" pointing to the RT's. Lee confers with Longstreet and Hill - then he examines a map of the area with Johnston.

  • (8AM) McLaws arrived at the SOP, and is given orders by both Lee and Longstreet, who disagree on deployment. He requests to go on a recon with Johnston twice, and is denied.

  • (9AM) McLaws returns to his division at Herr Ridge. He and other officers can see AOP units making their way north along the Emittsburg Road. Lee departs the SOP to see Ewell. Alexander reports to Longstreet at the SOP. Alexander begins to move his batteries to the right.

  • (11AM)Lee returns to SOP, orders Longstreet forward with McLaws and Hood.

  • (Noon-1PM) March begins, McLaws in the lead with Johnston assigned by Lee to render assistance in guiding McLaws. Reach crest of hill in sight of LRT; Longstreet orders countermarch along Willoughby Run, ignoring visible route taken by Alexander hours earlier.

So, what happened to Johnston during those 3 hours he was gone. Is it possible that Johnston got turned around, never made it LRT, but somehow thought he had? As we discussed earlier in this thread, Johnston was an engineer, as was Maj. Clarke of Longstreet's staff who accompanied him. He would have seen the RT's from the Seminary Observation post where Lee detailed him to do the recon. So too would Clarke. The RT's are probably the most identifiable landmarks in the area - and visibility was better in 1863 than now due to lower treelines. How could trained engineers miss them, and then somehow think they were on them? Looking at maps of the terrain west of the Emmittsburg Road, there is really nothing within reasonable proximity that could have been mistaken for the RT's. How far off track could they have gotten in the 3 plus hour recon. And yet how can his report be so inconsistent with Union troop movements in that area at that time.

>From this, I can see only three possible explanations that fit the available facts:

    (1) that Johnston crossed the Emmitsburg Road and made it to the RT's as reported, and was both extremely unobservant and incredibily lucky in avoiding enemy units (neither he saw them nor them he)

    (2) that Johnston and his party got confused in the network of roads, found some other "rocky hill" similar to LRT south along Seminary Ridge, and reported back, really believing that he had been to the hills Lee pointed to from the observation post. This option calls into question Johnston's skills as an engineer, so be so thouroughly duped.

    (3) that Johnston got lost, realized he'd screwed up and lied. This option requires that Maj. Clarke participated in the duplicity as Bill pointed out, which does seem less likely.

Many years after the war, in 1892, McLaws corresponded with Johnston about his role. Interestingly, Johnston refused to defend himself or his actions, stating "I do not want to be a party to controversy with any one, certainly not General Longstreet, who always treated me with so much kindness and consideration when we were thrown together...". Johnston's silence on the subject is curious to say the least, given the plethora of post-war writings by various officers, defending their actions. From his statement, I definately get the feeling that Johnston is not telling all, and furthermore, that perhaps Longstreet knew more than he told.

The Samuel R. Johnson papers are located at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, VA. The Lafayette McLaws papers can be found in the U.NC - Southern Historical Collection. I agree that it would be great to get transcripts of these, if possible, and study them more closely.

Grant Troop

From: (Alexander Cameron)

There is a full set of Confederate Veteran at SFA University and I'll check it next time I'm up there. It is an interesting discussion. As far as "Any force crossing the road between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. would have to contend with the 4,000 organized infantry under De Trobriand", I looked at De Trobriand's report and he indicated that he didn't leave Emmitsburg until daybreak and reported to Birney at 10:00. I'm not sure exactly what time daybreak was but it appears to me if Johnson was on LRT at 5:30 he would have recrossed Emmitsburg Road prior to the 3rd Brigade coming up.

I also want to look in LEE'S LIEUTENANTS. That is were Coddington got a lot of his information. As I mentioned in my post this morning, LRT and BRT were both called by the same names by many of the participants and for the most part the Confederates just referred to them as rocky hills or heights. Ben indicated that Johnson stated that he was on a shoulder of LRT. For argument's sake let's say that they did cross the Emmitsburg road. One possibility is that Johnson got up on a "shoulder" of BRT or some other piece of high ground over in that area and just was not in the position to really see that much looking in the direction where most of the Federal troops were located. There is a large shoulder or spur that runs from BRT toward Devil's Den. I do suspect that there's an awfully good chance that he never climbed to the top of LRT and stood on the signal rocks (I don't think he ever said he did but again, I don't know exactly what he did say). If he had, he surely would have seen Union troops. Anyway, we all seem to agree that Lee was not well served by the reconnaissance.

I have some 1:50,000 military topos of the Gettysburg area around here somewhere but one of the hazards of moving all over the place is that you can't find half of what you own. I'll look for them.


From: (Alexander Cameron)

For Grant:
You make some really excellent observations. I still think that he probably went over there but as I indicated in the post I just launched before I pulled yours down, he may have gotten on the wrong "rocky hill" over there or on the right one and just not all the way to the top.

For Jim:
I agree with you on the source issue. As far as the "document that everyone is using", on my part all I have is some 2nd or 3rd hand stuff from secondary sources which is not even a quote. As you said, we need to find a volunteer to go take a look at the sources.

From: lawrence (Dennis Lawrence)

Coddington says that Johnston possibly "crossed the Emmitsburg Road near the Peach Orchard and followed the ridge leading to Little Round Top. (373; cf. Johnston's notes, McClaws' papers). Where might this ridge be?

As I strain to mentally walk from any point near the Peach Orchard to LRT I come to the Valley of Death. No ridge line that I know of leads directly to LRT from the Peach Orchard area, but south of the Peach Orchard - past the Alabama memorial, there is ridge on which sits the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial. This does lead to the shoulder of BRT that Bill mentioned:

A look at the I Corps map which purports to show the original woodline of 1863 shows the woods were heavy then as they are now. Is it possible that after crossing Emmitsburg Road, Johnston and Co. followed this ridge and thought they were on LRT? Anyone who has walked, driven or ridden that road knows how disorienting it is back there. Brother Bob, Jack, and I got lost and we had a map and a compass as we tried to follow McClaw's route through the same general area. But, of course, we are geographically dyslexic to start with.

Maybe I have disremembred the topography or misinterpreted the quote, but maybe Johnston thought he was where he was not.

Anyone with a another idea where the ridge Coddington mentions would be?




Coddington may be referring to Houcks Ridge, which does lead to LRT from the area of the Peach Orchard. There were certainly no troops around Devil's Den that early on the morning of the 2d (well, 'cept for some US sharpshooters) and DD is definitely a large rocky hill. BRT and LRT are a minor side trip from the area of DD, or maybe Johnson reached DD and figured that he had 'arrived' at his destination and need go no farther. As for troops on the Emmitsburg road - Johnson may have just crossed during a lull in the traffic flow. Well, I shy away from speculation, preferring to lurk on such topics. However, since you asked a topology question I thought I might jump in for a second and then leave quietly.


Subject: Re: Johnston on BRT

Subject: Johnson's recon

What follows is my thoughts on Johnson's recon. I am going to try to retrace his recon using the following assumptions:

    1. Johnson's party moves 5000 ft every 20 minutes. This is based on using the game TSS 2nd ed. by TSR movement factor for leaders. I used a little fudge to help when I used my Bachelder(1876) map of the 2nd day battle. 5000 ft = 4in. Now on the map it says that 1 inch = 1000ft but I have a photo copy from the Lib. of Congress so may be that explains it.

    2. Movement is based on flat ground that is clear. It does not take into account for night movement, fences, and going up and down changing elevations and woods.

    3. That Johnson left Lee's HQ at 4am.

So here we go:

Johnson leaves Lee's HQ at 4am. He makes good time down the Hagerstown Rd. and is on the Willoughby Run trail between the Sam Dickon farm and the Geo. Clup farm at 4:20.

4:20 to 4:40 Johnson is moving down the Willoughby run trail. At 4:40 he is about 1000 ft NW of the Felix farm.

4:40 to 5:00 Johnson crosses the a bridge over the Willoughby Run(that I don't see on the Bachelder 1876 map) north of Pitzer's Schoolhouse and moves up the west slope of Seminary ridge to the J.Warfield farm. He is about 1200ft from the Peach orchard.

See page 106 for Pfanz take on the recon. See page 120 for rough map of the 1st part of the recon.

5:00 Here is where it gets fun. Pfanz says they hurried south along the ridge then east to RT.

Coddington says they crossed the Emmitsburg Rd near the Peach orchard and they followed the ridge leading to LRT. Coddington says they were on LRT at 5:30(pg 373).

Using our 5000ft, Johnson could be any where from as far south as the M.Bushman farm and as fareastt as the eastern point of the wheatfield where the wheatfield rd and Trostles woods come to a point by 5:20 am.

I am going to stop now because some people are going to sleep. I hope this post will make people think and come up with some ideas on how Johnson got to LRT(If he did). If anyone can come up with a better movement range let me know and I will plug it in.

Thank you,

Barry L. Summers


I like the itineraries for Johnson's movements, I thought I try one for the Federals.

  • II Corps - massed in the open ground along Taneytown Road south of BRT. Awake at first light - right around 4:00 a.m., by the way - and massed for movement by 5 a.m. Departed at 5 a.m. for Cemetery Hill, almost certainly the last troops of the Corps did not clear the area until 7 or 7:30 a.m. From LRT it is about 1/2 mile to the Taneytown Road, which the bulk of the Corps used. Visibility limited, but noise must have been significant.

  • III Corps - I forgot about these guys, but in looking up things was struck by their position. Humphreys (commander of 1 Div) mentions going into camp along the east side of Emmittsburg Road that night, more than a mile south of Gettysburg. This would put the Corps in the open fields south and east of the Codori house. They likely took up somewhat better positions after first light, given that Humphreys didn't enter camp until 1:30 a.m. July 1, but other than that this Corps did not move until early afternoon. If Johnson crossed Emmittsburg road at the Peach Orchard, he came within 1000 yards of most of this Corps, as well.

    Should he have seen this Corps? Fog was definitely present, but not pervasive. I think he should have seen at least some troops, considerably south of the Cemetery Ridge Position where Lee later envisioned the flank to be.

  • De Trobriand's force, consisting of 3-1-III and 3-2-III, plus arty and the Corps trains. Bill is right in pointing out that De Trobriand and his brigade arrived at 10:00 a.m., likely well past the window for our hero. However, the other Brigade led the column, and reported Joining Humphreys at 9:00 a.m. Still possibly too late, but wait - according to reports in the Bachelder Papers (way cool books, BTW, get them if you don't already have them) this column took two breaks. The first was at 7 a.m. to boil coffee. They were interrupted by a courier from the Corps, urging greater speed, and hurried on. The second was after that, but not specific as to time. Given rates of march, etc, I suspect the first break was well south of the RTs, and likely out of Johnson's recon zone. However, another 1/2 hour to hour's march would have put them very close to the Peach Orchard. Any further along, and they clearly would've seen the Corps and finished the march.

    Given the diversity of times (McLaws, for instance, put Johnson's return as 8:00 a.m.) it is possible that Johnson and the lead of this column passed within a few minutes of each other.

  • Buford's Cav. - This division was picketted south and west of Devils Den, along the Emmittsburg Road (more from Bachelder.) This is critical, because according to the exit path for Johnson used in both Coddington and Pfanz, the man had to pass almost over this exact spot. And 3000 men and horses take up a lot of room, encamped, he's not likely to miss these guys in some secluded glen. And their presence disrupts Lee's whole plan, Union Cav on that flank in strength would negate any chance of sneaking up on Meade's flank unobserved - the linchpin of the plan as finally concieved. Even if Johnson didn't mention them in postwar accounts, Lee's plan would not have emerged as it did, knowing of thier presence.

  • Stragglers. III Corps had considerable stragglers, especially Humphreys given his night march. De Trobriand's column swept up significant numbers along thier march, as they overtook the rest of the Corps. Again, as a trained military man, Johnson should have clearly recognized that degree of activity as evidence of a major military movement.

  • The regiments from XII Crops. Thier report states departing LRT at 5 a.m. Clearly 600 guys don't move in seconds, likely the rear of the column took 10-15 minutes to clear the hill. Johnson had to miss these guys literally by minutes. Also, mightn't he have noticed evidence of a military encampment? Certainly dozens of coffee fires would still be smoldering atop the hill. A recon is expected to bring back such info, all of which adds to the overall picture.

Coddington and Freeman both state that Johnson's patrol only saw four Federal Cavalrymen on the way back. Johnson's final report left Lee with the impression that the Federal line extended south to the Codori house, and ended there. His original battleplan was designed to hit this exposed flank. This impression was wrong in almost all particulars.

I certainly don't claim that it's impossible that Johnson made this recon, got where he said he did, and missed seeing any of these significant forces. It is possible, but when you add the number of near-misses and coincidental movements together, it borders on the incredible. I think it as least as likely that he never got to LRT.

Dave Powell

P.S. thanks for listening to this, it helps me clarify this in my mind...


It looks like Freeman's source for the Johnson material was a descendent, and Freeman's copy of this stuff is in the Library of Congress. I have a friend in DC, perhaps he can snag it for us.

Coddington worked off of Johnson material from McLaws papers at Duke and UNC. I have a friend in Durham as well, maybe I'll get lucky there. McLaws' stuff, at least is dated from 1886. I have no idea if DS Freeman's stuff is from earlier correspondance, or just copies of what McLaws recieved.

Bachelder, unfortunately, has nothing from Johnson. Alas

Dave Powell

From: Norman Levitt

The controversy over the Johnson recon is the most fascinating thing I've seen since the group began, simply because none of the standard sources seem to have considered the question at all, except to observe that Johnson might somehow not have been sufficiently observanet or alert.

Obviously, something should be published in a fairly serious journal on the whole question. Do some of our experts want to write a joint paper, pointing out the pros and cons of the various hypostheses.

My own guess is that Johnson never got near LRT for one reason or another, but did a quick scan from a distance and tried to cover his ass. Fog and darkness notwithstanding, forces of the size that were in the LRT vicinity and on the move, together with trains, guns, caissons, limbers, various animals, and civilian auxilliaries would have made enough noise to wake Johnson out of a deep sleep, had he been anywhere near the summit of LRT. But maybe someone has a theory that gets him off the hook.

In any case, lets have a look at those primary sources as soon as someone can lay hands on them.

Norm Levitt


While I confess I haven't really entertained much idea of writing up a piece for publication, this sounds like it might be worthwhile.

I don't know what happened to Johnson out there, and am not really convinced that all of this just wasn't a terrible coincidence against Lee and the ANV. A pro and con piece might be fun.

I guess it all hinges on securing the sources. Now I'll have to check for anything by Maj. Clarke, as well - it's odd that he was present but seems to have had no role in this.

Dave Powell

From: (Alexander Cameron)


I finally got a copy of LEE'S LIEUTENANTS and what's happened to me many times has happened again. Every time I think I'm on new ground I find that Coddington, Pfanz, Freeman or someone else has already plowed it twice over. That is the case with the Johnson issue. Your statement that "none of the standard sources seem to have considered the question at all" is not quite the case with Freeman, he just reached a different conclusion than Dave. In fact, I believe that just about every single point on union troop movement that Dave mentioned on his Dec 6 itinerary for Federal movement is covered in excruciating detail in Appendix II of LEE'S LIEUTENANTS, p. 757-760. Actually, it contains a bit more detail as it is 3 1/2 pages long. It covers Geary's two regiments, Birney's first two brigades, deTrobriand, Humphreys's Division, the 2nd Corps and Buford. Freeman discusses the fact that it is not known if Geary's two regiments were on one or both of the Round Tops on the night of 1-2 July (he stated that it "is of importance only for the bearing it might have on the dramatic fact that Capt. S.R. Johnston found no troops on Round Top ..."). Freeman also documents the fact that it was foggy the morning of the 2nd from the OR and wrote that Johnson stated that half way to Little Round Top he had ridden behind a Confederate Picket line and had not attempted to mount Cemetery Ridge. Freeman cross referenced his notes on the text on Johnson to the information on Federal troop positions in Appendix II.

Freeman called that fact that Johnson found no troops on Round Top "dramatic" and Pfanz called it "inexplicable". Coddington specifically addressed the issue and concluded that Johnson would not have seen Birney's troops because of the foliage.

Now it is entirely possible that all three of these fellows are/were wrong. However, I don't think it's quite accurate to say that they took the issue at "face value" [Dave] or didn't "seem to have considered the question at all" [Norm].

Not one bit of this is to take a single thing away from Dave's analysis, it is always solid. My point is that based on the same information, Freeman and Dave simply reached different conclusions. However, I do agree with you that the discussion has been fascinating! It just seems to get better and better.


From: Norman Levitt

To A Cameron (and others);

I think that Freeman, Coddington, et al did not consider quite the same question that we are considering: Whether Johnson went where he said he went, and whether there might have been some dissembling if he didn't. Freeman seems to take it on faithe that Johnson was, in fact, on LRT sometime in the early morning hours of July 2. Coddington seems more puzzzled, but doesn't seem to have explored all possibilities.

The "fog" explanation just doesn't sit right with me. There were tens of thousands of men in the general area, both N. and S. (as well as E.) of LRT. Lot's of animals as well. There had to have been considerable noise in all directions, as well as men passing along the Emmitsburg road in samall groups if not in large. It's apossible that Johnson "saw" and "heard" only what he wanted to, for some inexplicable reason. But the whole question needs a hard look that takes nothing for grantd. For one thing, we need to know more about Johnson. What, exactly, did he or others say in the most reliable sources? I still don't know. Beyond that, what was his reputation, and what were his idiosyncracies? The trouble with the older writers is that they give a man the benefit of the doubt merely for having worn an officer's uniform (especially if he was a Reb). But the world is full of screw-ups in and out of uniform.

Norm Levitt



I think you've misunderstood my question here, a little bit. Pfanz, Coddington, and Freeman all _do_ seem to take Johnson at face value, at least in assuming that they start from the premise that Johnson went everywhere he said he did. They all have various adjectives (inexplicable is perhaps the best) describing the mission, but none have examined it with the premise that perhaps Johnson didn't see anything because he was not where there was anything to see.

I certainly did not mean to imply that such noted students of the battle missed this issue - after all, this is where I first learned of it.:)

There is one point that none of them have mentioned, BTW - that of Buford's main body and campsite. I first found mention of the location of his encampment on the morning of July 2nd only in The Bachelder Papers, reprinted by Morningside. Freeman et. al. mention the picket line - and certainly Johnson would have eluded that as a matter of course - but the encampment of the whole division is something else again, and a significant factor.

Freeman's discussion, however, is really directed towards discussing the deployments of the Federal army vis a vis a larger question, one which has really since been laid to rest. If you recall, when Freeman was writing, the issue of Longstreet, the Dawn attack and the big delay was about the most significant question in ACW scholarship then, and it was with that issue in mind that Freeman examined Federal dispositions. More recent scholarship, of course, has essentially shown that the Dawn Attack myth was just that, fabricated in the post-war bile that flew so freely.

Freeman, et. al. really only dealt with these deployments in relationship to Johnson in passing. Certainly this is true for Freeman: He only contrasts Johnson's itinerary with the Federal dispositions once in Appendix II, that in context with the LRT occupation issue. You'll notice that his referenced time-frame is 9:00 a.m., well after Johnson's ride. Why? The last paragraph sums up the entire justification of that appendix - when could Longstreet have put troops into action on that spot. It is not a study of Johnson's movements, per se.

I guess why I have my doubts is not because of any one coincidence - it is the compounding of coincidences, that adds up to odds similar to winning the lotto - (I never play, BTW, must be my natural scepticism at work there too.:)) I don't think Freeman and the gang looked at things from specifically Johnson's POV. They tended to note the coincidence and it's consequences for the South, and move on.

I will say this, that there are just-possible explanations for virtually all of these non-encounters: Geary's men left LRT - and I believe they were on LRT, it held more significance, militarily, than did BRT, and occupying the latter without holding the former would have been a recruit mistake - just in time; Birney's men were screened by the trees and fog; II Corps was inaudible due to some trick in acoustics, Burling and De Trobriand were too late, etc. Only Buford's troopers are not so easily explained away, but very little attention has been directed towards the Cavalry North or South, excepting Stuart - at all.

It's not that I see their scholarship as faulty - I wish I could make those kinds of errors:) - just that I think they have not spent much time on what has always been a peripheral issue.

Military scouts are expected to notice the details, and draw accepted military conclusions from them. Johnson and his party noticed _none_ of the details. Something is fundamentally flawed here. Dave Powell

P.S. - I'm glad I found this list, this is the best discussion I've had On-line. Even if it does sometimes feel like an oral defense of a thesis!

l From: (Alexander Cameron)


On the "face value" issue, perhaps we are just approaching that term differently. I thought Freeman did a careful analysis. It is true that from that analysis, he didn't conclude that Johnson never crossed the Emmitsburg Road. As far as Pfanz, please take a look at page 487, note 11. It says, "Johnston stated specifically that he told General Lee he had gone to Little Round Top. Since his writings indicate that he became familiar with the Gettysburg terrain, there seems to be little doubt that he was really on that hill." So at least we know that Pfanz considered the issue as to whether he went up there or not. Pfanz may have not concluded that Johnson was never on the hill but there is _absolutely_ no doubt that he did consider it.

Norm, you are correct, we need to find out more about Johnson. Perhaps he did lie about it. I don't see how he could have with Clarke with him but none of the explanations make a lot of sense.


From: (Alexander Cameron)


You are exactly right. Johnson was up there between the time the 5th Ohio and the 147th Pennsylvania left and when the first signal station (Arron Jerome, Buford's Signal Officer) arrived. According to Freeman in "Lee's Lieutenants", Johnson arrived on LRT at 5:30. Feeman got his information from a manuscript by Johnson. Col. Patrick of the 5th Ohio stated that he received orders at 5:00 a.m. to rejoin Candy's Brigade and most accounts have him gone by 5:30. It would be over an hour later when Briney went into position. Birney wrote in his report that he relieved Geary at 7:00 a.m. I just finished an order of battle of LRT for Dennis and sent it to him tonight. I made an attempt to do a time-line on all the units.


From: (Benedict R Maryniak)

In "Lee's Lieuts", Douglas Southall Freeman quoted Johnston's letters saying he had mounted "a shoulder" of LRT, saw no enemy (he had seen no organized force anywhere on his trip), and then rode south of BRT to the area of Farnsworth's attack before heading back to Seminary Ridge. It happened between 4 and 7 AM but Freeman absotively says 5:30 AM. (By the way, folks, there was no standard time and not even an organized attempt to synch timepieces, so don't go too far with that balloon juice in "Time On Little Round Top" - it's a nice try at a sequence of events but not a railroad timetable.) A good piece of III Corps was north of there around the Weikert farm and Johnston had just missed the 5th OVI and 147th PA. They spent the night there. Johnston took the opportunity to BS about how he had only taken a few men with him (I think Lafayette M razzed him about taking 200) because Massa Robert had frequently told him about how he got really close to the Mexicans with tiny scouting parties.

I've always wondered at the usefulness of Johnston's report. Even if he did "stand on LRT" in the early morning of July 2, I doubt if anyone thought he could do that again as the day went on. Johnston's report implies that there would have been less Yankees on LRT early on July 2 and, son of a gun, wasn't Johnston one of those postwar Pete bashers who went on and on about "the late attack"?

From: (Alexander Cameron)


I don't know what Lee told him to do. It is a bit "convenient" to hang this all on a staff Captain. My experience is that if you want someone to specifically do something, you specifically tell him what it is you want him to do. Where was Clarke in all of this? Did Lee or Longstreet tell Johnston or Clarke to find a route that would bring two divisions from Herr Ridge to Seminary Ridge undetected? Meade had a Brig. Gen. (ex-brigade commander) for a Chief Engineer. A bit more experienced? I don't know how competent Johnston was. If you read Coddington's account, Johnston and Clarke followed Willoughby's Run, crossed at the Peach Orchard, went to LRT, then south passing BRT. They avoided a couple of troopers, re-crossed the Emmitsburg Road, and upon reaching Willoughby's Run again, galloped back through fields "in his haste to report to his general". If so, they didn't go west to Black Horse Tavern. Again, according to Coddington, Lee asked Johnston to show him the route he took and Johnston did so. Lee and Longstreet had an opportunity to know where he had gone. They were in charge I think. Longstreet had sent along his own emissary. As I have stated, I don't think Johnston knew where he was going when they were west of Willoughby's Run. Perhaps he should have. However, regardless if Johnston really was "one of the least competent officers of all time", I still believe that Longstreet has some culpability in all of this. He was the Lieutenant General with the big paycheck. :)



You're right, of course. Certainly I'm venting on Johnson too much. Clarke's at least as much a problem, in that he missed all those troops as well, and was the superior (and theoretically) more experienced officer.

In fact, it was probably impossible for Johnson and Clarke to accomplish all of these tasks that morning, and still get back to report. Here might well be where Longstreet is culpable: he had other officers, at least two hours of down-time while Lee went to visit Ewell, AND some idea that a movement to the right might be contemplated. Given that one of the hallmarks of his more successful actions was careful preparation, he could have sent other officers forward to search for a concealed route. Certainly Alexander was so occupied during that time, and productively too.

The other thing that's apparent here is the lack of Cavalry. Certainly mention has been made earlier, but this brings it into sharp focus. Contrast Jackson at Chancellorsville again. Jackson had the benifit of extensive cavalry patrolling that scouted his route and continually observed the targeted Federals for activity. When Jackson reached his intended jump-off point, CSA cavalry informed him that the Union flank was not exactly where he thought it was, and ably guided him to the correct position without excess delay. Longstreet's move simply screams for a similar screen.

I've always wondered why Grumble Jones and Bev Robertson's brigades weren't called forward to the field. These two commands were in the vicinity of Fairfield by July 2nd, just a few miles west of the ground in question here.

In any case, Johnson may have screwed up LRT, but blaming him for the entire mess is a bit much, I agree:)

Dave Powell


I contacted the Virginia Historical Society today, looking for Johnston material. They have some of his papers, and will send me a listing of the holding so I can request specific copies of the material. Hopefully I will obtain all we need thru the VHS.

Dave Powell

From: (Alexander Cameron)
Great. How about seeing if you can get them to give you permission to reproduce/post them to the web page. I have copies of Chamberlain related papers and letters which the folks in Maine put "do not reproduce" stamps all over. The Lawrence brothers are working to get some stuff archived on the web page and the Johnston papers would be great to post there.


From: "John A. Leo"(

Subject: Johnson's moonlit recon

Vic recently wrote:

O.K. Let's be realistic here. Johnson moved out at 4 am. Does anyone know haw much cloud cover there was and what was the stage of the moon. We're talking about a man who had never been at Gettysburg before, traveling over land he had never seen, at a time of day that we know is the DARKEST. The only light he could rely upon was moonlight. If the moon was not full He could have ridden THROUGH Buford's men and not known they were there. A whole Union army marched within 20 feet of Hood's army during the Franklin/Nashville Campaign AND NOBODY KNEW IT! So Stop blaming Johnson. It probably wasn't his fault. In the dark of night looking for a "hill" that he didn't know where it was or how high it was, could confuse anything for Little Round Top or "that SMALL Rocky Hill' as the Confederates called it.

According to my planetarium software, the moon was about 20 degrees above the SW horizon at about 5am on July 2, 1863 and sunrise was about 5:45am Standard Time - implying that twighlight would have begun about 5am.

John Leo

From: Steven Cassel (

Subject: Re: Fwd: Johnson & Buford

On Sat, 16 Mar 1996 wrote:

Pfanz was dumfounded that Johnston saw no Federal troops. He wondered if he went TOO far south and climbed some other hill, mistaking it for the round tops.

In the last few days, the thread about a bogus BRT/LRT elevation giving Capt. Johnson the wrong idea of his location and that of elements of the AoP is interesting. If true it would explain a lot. In the last couple of days, I looked at my copy of the Warren-Bachelder Gettysburg maps and can not find any likely elevation that could have possibly confused Capt. Johnson. The Warren-Bachelder maps go, as far south as, South Cavalry Field, without any noteable hill formation. Even with out the Warren-Bachelder maps, I could not recall ever seeing any other notable hills in the area.

So my question to the GDG is this: Is the theory of the Capt. Johnson being fooled by a bogus BRT/LRT valid, and if yes, where are these elevations located? I do not see how Capt. Johnson could have confused any elevation, on the southern part of the Gettysburg battlefield for either of the Round Tops.

Steve Cassel

From: Victor Vernon (

Subject: Re: Buford & Capt. Johnson

Steven Cassel wrote:


What you say about the lighting conditions at the time of Johnson's recon is true (bright moonlight, full moon). Under the full moon, the black mass of BRT is very easily seen for some distance. With regards to Capt. Johnson not being familiar with the area is also true. Who but local Yankee soldiers would have known anything about BRT either?

Probably None at that part of the field at that time. Most of the PA troops were either enroute (6th Corps) or on Cemetary Hill (1st Corps). There were PA troops in other corps, but PA is a big state. Would someone from the Poconos know about the round tops? I doubt it.

I do not think it unreasonable, that the Confederates had not acquired some maps of the Gettysburg area by the end of June, that would have noted the Round Tops. General Lee would not have sent Johnson to that area if, the Confederates did not already have some vague idea that the Federals were in the process of extending their line along Cemetery Ridge from Cemetery Hill.

Why would the Confederates need maps of Gettysburg in June? They had no intention of doing anything in Gettysburg than moving through. The battle was an accident. Maps of Cashtown would have made more sense. The light of campfires on the southern end of Cemetary ridge would have told Lee that someone was on that ridge. I would assume that he would surmise that someone to be tha AoP. And Johnson was sent to find out details of any deployment. I agree that some noise in camp is normal, But by early AM the fires would be out and most of Bufords men were probably asleep, considering what they did on 1 July. Could the pickets have nodded off too? What do you think? If I'm in left field move me.


From: Steven Cassel (

Subject: Re: Buford & Capt. Johnson


What you say about the lighting conditions at the time of Johnson's recon is true (bright moonlight, full moon). Under the full moon, the black mass of BRT is very easily seen for some distance.

With regards to Capt. Johnson not being familiar with the area is also true. Who but local Yankee soldiers would have known anything about BRT either? I do not think it unreasonable, that the Confederates had not acquired some maps of the Gettysburg area by the end of June, that would have noted the Round Tops. General Lee would not have sent Johnson to that area if, the Confederates did not already have some vague idea that the Federals were in the process of extending their line along Cemetery Ridge from Cemetery Hill. I did not originally raise this issue but, I think it is an interesting topic to consider. If a division of cavalry or two or more divisions of infantry are not trying to move in the stealth mode like at Springhill in the Franklin/Nashville Campaign, there will be some noise associated with a large camp area. There would be a screen of pickets/videttes that would have troubled Johnson.

Writing years later, Johnson would have been writing with certain knowledge of where the Round Tops were located. But the question remains; what possible other elevation on the southern Gettysburg battlefield could have been mistaken for the Round Tops? The Warren-Bachelder maps show nothing from the Peach Orchard to South Cavalry Field. I can not recall anything from my battlefield wanderings that would be a good prospect. But the possibility remains. So....

Steven L. Cassel

From: Victor Vernon (

Subject: Re: Buford & Capt. Johnson

Steven Cassel wrote:

In the last few days, the thread about a bogus BRT/LRT elevation giving Capt. Johnson the wrong idea of his location....

O.K. Let's be realistic here. Johnson moved out at 4 am. Does anyone know haw much cloud cover there was and what was the stage of the moon. We're talking about a man who had never been at Gettysburg before, traveling over land he had never seen, at a time of day that we know is the DARKEST. The only light he could rely upon was moonlight. If the moon was not full He could have ridden THROUGH Buford's men and not known they were there. A whole Union army marched within 20 feet of Hood's army during the Franklin/Nashville Campaign AND NOBODY KNEW IT! So Stop blaming Johnson. It probably wasn't his fault. In the dark of night looking for a "hill" that he didn't know where it was or how high it was, could confuse anything for Little Round Top or "that SMALL Rocky Hill' as the Confederates called it.


From: (Robert W Lawrence)

Subject: Stand Frim

Really from Tom Desjardin:

Regarding other hills near LRT/BRT...

There are a number of elevations that may have confused Johnson on his recon. He could have confused the "spur" or shoulder of BRT toward Devil's Den or ascended Houck's Ridge anywhere between DD and the Wheatfield. Most of this ridge was open and rocky on its western face in 1863 (near the triangular field). Your guess is as good as mine on this one.

Also, a note - when things got hot (129 degree heat index July 15) here this summer I would tell the folks at the desk that I was on my way to do my program on Medium Round Top. It was a joke at the time but there is a third hill, south of BRT at Rt. 15 that is approx. between the Round Tops in terms of elevation.

Tom Desjardin GNMP

From: (Anita Jackson-Wieck)

Subject: Johnston, Buford, et al.

The notion that Johnston - and Clarke, let's not forget Clarke - could have ridden through Buford's men and without noticing them taxes my credulity beyond its limits, as does the argument that Buford's men would all have been nodding off, pickets included. Nor do I buy the notion that Johnston would have "sandbagged" his patrol.

1) As was pointed out here last week, the Plum Run valley is small, maybe even too small to hold 3000 men - and 3000 horses, let's not forget those horses (large highly noticeable beasts, particularly to a recon patrol). While that doesn't really fly with me because the presence of Rebels in the immediate area would have prompted them to bivouac more compactly than otherwise, it does point out the extreme improbability that anyone could have passed through these massed troops and horses without noticing them.

2) Buford's pickets would be extremely unlikely to be nodding off in the immediate presence of the enemy. Personally, I would have been scared out of my mind at the prospect of a dawn attack. Eric is the boss jock here, but my impression is that Buford would probably have been up and about himself by this time.

3) Johnston alone might have "sandbagged" his patrol, but it is extremely unlikely that he and Clarke would have both done so. Further, the two officers left their party and crossed the Emmitsburg Road together. Are they supposed then to have ducked into the bushes and emerged a couple of hours later with their manufactured tale of no Yankees in sight? Surely that would have been a riskier and more dishonorable course than simply to have pushed on ahead. They still haven't seen any Yankees, why should they stop? I don't believe it for a second.

4) John Leo presented an most compelling (and heroically earned, I should add) argument here that Buford and his men were actually in the South Cavalry Field. If one accepts that, and, if Geary's men shifted over to the Union right before Johnston and Clarke came through, as Coddington suggests, then it is barely possible that the two Rebel scouts could have seen nothing. To carry this notion further, if Buford's men then leave to guard the trains before Johnston and Clarke leave LRT, then the return trip might also be uneventful. In fact, the two or three horsemen they did see might well have been Meade's couriers returning to HQ after leaving Buford.

I'm a great believer in simple explanations, perhaps because I'm simple-minded, or so I'm told.

David Wieck

From: Susan & Eric Wittenberg (

Subject: Re: Johnston, Buford, et al.

David Wieck wrote:

The notion that Johnston - and Clarke, let's not forget Clarke could have ridden through Buford's men and without noticing them taxes my credulity beyond its limits, as does the argument that Buford's men would all have been nodding off, pickets included. Nor do I buy the notion that Johnston would have "sandbagged" his patrol....


I have to agree with you. I can't possibly accept that Buford's pickets would be so diligent on one night (June 30)--if you don't believe me, read the correspondence and what not in the OR's, and asleep at the wheel the next night, even if they did have a long hard fight that day.

Also, I agree that there is simply no way that 2 full brigades of cavalry, plus Calef's battery could have fit into the Valley of Death. No way.

I agree with John Leo (by the way, John, thanks for sending me the material!), and now believe that while some of Buford's command likely was in the Valley of Death, most of them were very likely in the South Cavalry Field. And knowing as much about John Buford as I do, I also can't accept that he was not alert and not knowing what was going on, although I am certain that he would have required some good rest that night. Remember, his signal officer indicated that Buford had been extremely anxious the night before, and he had had a very long and very stressful day, so it's not unreasonable to assume that he would have required some serious rest that night. Be that as it may, I am convinced that something like a serious recon of the nature of Johnson's would have been: (A)picked up by Buford's videttes, and (B) reported to him. No mention of either appears in any of the accounts (I've got lots, now), and Buford never mentioned it.

Therefore, I have to wholeheartedly agree with you John.

Eric Wittenberg

From: "John A. Leo" (

Subject: Buford v Johnson with full moon

David Wieck recently wrote:

The notion that Johnston - and Clarke, let's not forget Clarke could have ridden through Buford's men and without noticing them taxes my credulity beyond its limits, as does the argument that Buford's men would all have been nodding off, pickets included. Nor do I buy the notion that Johnston would have "sandbagged" his patrol....

HI Dave,

I like some of your "what ifs", but my biases and suspicions lead me to believe that the situations here are just a little more complicated, and until we all get a lot more evidence, mostly unfathomable.

First, my suspicion is that Buford's men were not just along the line from Plum Run Valley to South Calvery field, I think they very heavily patroled the area north past Pitzer's woods across from the Peach Orchard to below McMillan Woods and to the west beyond the Eisenhower property. I suspect that the Hagerstown Road out as far as Herr Ridge may have been lightly patroled" with pickets extending almost to Fairfield " as Buford himself claimed.Remember, this is the man who put pickets out 4 miles along the Chambersburg Pike justthe day before to aggressively keep a close eye on Confederate activity

Hopefully, I or someone else from our group can prove or disprove my suspicions. regarding Buford's placement of his troopers. I guess we know where tolook, its just going to take a lot of effort to dig through the regimental histories and corespondences of those who were actually there.

I know that this bottles up Johnson and his recon party and I can't explain yet where he went. To make matters worse for me, since he was working directly for General Lee in a capacity that Lee earned his initial notice as an excellent and reliable officer, I suspect that Capt. Johnson had to be a man of high integrity and competance. I just don't believe that such a person would lie about his night's work to the marble man, and I don't believe that such a man would botch a mission that could seriously affect his country's war for independence.

So I'm stuck along with everyone else. We have two seemingly mutually exclusive descriptions of events before us, and we just don't yet have enough information in our possession to form an honest opinion based on facts. I honestly have no idea how all this will turn out, or even if enough evidence remains for us to dig up after all of our searching. I'm not woried that we may uncover something that Coddington or Phantz overlook, misinterpreted, or was simply wrong about. Their works are monumental and an oops here or there will have no impact on them in my opinion.

I don't know, WHAT DO YOU THINK about all this?

By the way, the moon that night was about one day past full and about 20 degreesabove the SW horizon at 5am. Sunrise was about 6am (all standard time) with twilight starting about 5:15am. Plenty of light to see and be seen. Now we need to find out about cloud cover that morning that might have blocked the moonlight. Wasn't theresomeone in town whokept weather reports. My Getttysbug magazines are unavaible to me curently, so can someone track the cloud cover question down for us all?


John Leo

From: Victor Vernon (

Subject: Re: Buford v Johnson with full moon

John A. Leo wrote:

By the way, the moon that night was about one day past full and about 20 degreesabove the SW horizon at 5am. Sunrise was about 6am (all standard time) with twilight starting about 5:15am. Plenty of light to see and be seen. Now we need to find out about cloud cover that morning that might have blocked the moonlight. Wasn't theresomeone in town whokept weather reports. My Getttysbug magazines are unavaible to me curently, so can someone track the cloud cover question down for us all?

Something just occured to me. John's mention of standard time jogged my memory. The Confederates and Federals were not on the same time. For some reason events reported by both sides were recorded as happening at different times. As I recall the Confederate clocks were 1/2 to 1 hour BEHIND the Federal clocks. So Johnson's reports of recon at 4:00 AM could mean he started his recon at 3 or 3:30. How does this affect anything?



Subject: Re: Buford & Capt. Johnson

In a message dated 96-03-19 09:14:48 EST, Deb wrote:

Hi all:

I keep wondering what kind of person Johnson was. Does anyone have any write-ups on him? The problem is this, he either was not given specific enough orders, or he got lost himself while scouting around, or he just wobbled the job. (Or all three). I'm amazed the old R.E. didn't have scouts out swarming all over the place once he decided to fight at Gettysburg. It all strikes me as a psychological problem. The ANV believed its own hype about being unbeatable, and they kept forgetting that THEY were now the invaders.

In fact, Johnson seemed to be a fairly competent sort. He rose to the rank of Col., and routinely was assigned such scouting missions. In 1862, for instance, On the 29th of June, it was he that discovered that McClellan had withdrawn from in front of Richmond while on just such a scouting mission.

After the war, Johnson declined to write a detailed account of the recon and approach march, saying he didn't want to become involved in attacking Longstreet because he had too much respect for the General.

It would be very interesting to discover if Johnson's companion on the Recon - Major Clarke of Longstreet's staff - had ever written or talked of the subject, to corroborate the Johnson account.

Dave Powell


Subject: Buford and Johnston

I need some help from Dave P. and Eric.

I am placing Johnston across from the Peach Orchard at 5am. Does this seem ok Dave.

Eric, in Edward Longacre The Cavalry at Gettysburg on page 205 he says at 5am Devin sent a skirmish forward to reconnoiter suspected enemy positions beyond the Emmitsburg road. Meeting Rebel infanty picketts, his troops and five guns of Calef's battery were drawan into a long and costly firefight against heavy odds. His footnotes are OR pt1 pp928,939,1032 Cheney 9th NY and Hall, Besley and Wood 6th NY. Are this good sources? I know the OR is.

Pfanz in Gettysburg 2nd day on page 89 to 90 Also talks about the Cav. patrols into the area Johnston went. In his notes on page 483#19 Pfanz states that the 17th was in line on the left of the PO and that the 17th exchanged shots with the enemy. It goes to say that Buford and other said that the area was heavily picketted by cav. buy Humphrey's div. apparently did not encounter any cav. picketts until it reached the Peach Orchard area.

What time did Humphreys get to the Peach Orchard? Anybody.

To me, all this action pushes Johnston crossing point to the lower branch of the Plum Run on the South side of the Roses farm using the Rose's orchard as cover once he crossed. Look at the map on pg 170 of Pfanz.

Next question, was there a farm trail that goes from the Roses farm to the Wheatfield area?

Thank you

Barry L. Summrs

From: "John A. Leo" (

Subject: Re: July 3rd, 1863

At 08:13 PM 3/19/96 -0800, Richard Rollins wrote:

I saw your posting on the GDG about the sunrise, etc. , on July 2nd. Interesting. Would you mind consulting your planetarium program and giving me the same information for July 3rd? I appreciate your help.

HI Richard,

I've repeated my imperfect planetarium readings in response to your question. The standard time results for July 2 and 3, 1863 (at Harrisburg [close enough] ) are estimated as:

Sun Moon (2nd)Moon (3rd)
4:00 AMtwilight begins18 degrees28 degrees
4:50 AMSunrise
5:00 AM3 degrees10 degrees24 degrees
6:00 AM13 degsetting 12 degrees
7:30PM Sunset - probably 15 minutes earlier because of South Mountain's height
8:15pmTwilight ends
July 2nd Moonrise was about
July 3rdMoonrise was about 9:20pm

Full moon seems to have occurred during the day of June 30, 1863.

The planetarium program I used is Skyglobe 3.5. The sunrise is estimated for the 2nd. The July third sunrise would be about 2 minutes later. The moon setting altitudes (degrees above the horizon) are all in the SW part of the sky, while the Sun rising is ESE.

If anyone needs more accurate info, we can call Jeff Chesters, Planetarium director at the Air & Space museum in DC.

John Leo

From: "John A. Leo" (

Subject: Capt Johnson: At the wrong LRT???

Looking over Trailhead Graphics, Inc. map, I noticed something suspicious.

A half mile South of BRT, the LRT - BRT physical features are repeated on a much smaller scale. On the map I mean the features from G 16-15. I don't think anyone or anything was in the open field where Wright Ave now is, unlike the real LRT where some cavalry was in the Plum Run Valley and the III Corps was just 1/4 - 1/2 mile north of LRT. If Capt. Johnson were at the wrong LRT, Dave Powell's cavalrymen of 3rd Indiana quote might also have been silenced by the trees and wooded hill itself.

I'm not claiming a perfect replication of features, just general similarities that could have confirmed what CAPT Johnson whated to believe in the first place: I'm here where I'm supposed to be, I see nothing of importance in front of me, now let's get the hell out of here, the sun's rising.

If Johnson had swung far south of South Cavalry Field (a mile maybe?), maybe he could have crossed the Emmitsburg Road and made his way north behind the patrols, pickets, and vedetts. According to my Planatarium program, Sunrise was about 5am and the almost full moon was about 22 degrees above the horizen, so there was some light to get around with dark adapted eyes.


From: Paul Esposito (

Subject: RE: Buford and Johnston


Not wanting to stir the waters too much on this topic, I thought that I would add a few things.

1) There were/are 8 farms along the Emmitsburg Road in the area from the Codori farm to the park entrance near the current picnic area on S. Condfedrate Ave. Are we (collective) sure that Johnston and Clark crossed at "the" Peach Orchard and not one of the down road farms "peach orchards"? I cannot remember whether it was Coddington or Pfanz who made the point about almost all of the farms in that area had orchards. I have not read Capt/Col Johnston narrative of his scout. But does he say "the" Peach Orchard or "a" peach orchard?

2) There are several ridges that might have been Johnston's Big Round Top. Bushman's Hill on the south end of S. Confederate Ave is one. 550' on my map. 200' smaller than BRT. The south end of Warfield ridge is another option. Another option off the beaten track but still around a farm and near a creek is by the current Eisenhower Farm. My vote is Bushman's Hill. Still does not answer the how he "evaded" the cavalry in the Valley of Death.


From: "Frederick W. Hawthorne" (

Subject: Re: Hotchkiss Map & Johnson Recon

Several postings were made over the last day or so concerning this map, prepared by J. Hotchkiss in the spring of '63. Bill Frassanito in his new book has an entire chapter on early cartography of the Gettysburg-Adams County area. Specifically he talks of the county map craze of the late 1850's. County maps contained the key road web, along with farmsteads and owners names (hence why the Hotchkiss map has this type of information.) It does not have what we would consider topographic features and thus no Round Tops. According to Bill, the earliest any attempt at placing topographical features was by E.B. Cope just after the battle using the Adams Co. map as a base. The Warren Map of 1867-68 was probably the first to obtain any topological rendering at all. Johnson, therefore, would have had to rely on what he was able to observe the evening before while still light enough to see features or whatever the pre-dawn light of July 2 would've permitted. No map would've likely been on hand to assist in his recon of topo features - certainly not any prepared months before, while the army was still in Virginia.

BTW I highly recommend Bill's book: 'Early Photography at Gettysburg' for any interested in that subject.

Fred Hawthorne

From: (Benedict R Maryniak)

Subject: Buford & Johnston

Regarding Barry's question about a road/path linking the Rose farm area with the Wheatfield, nothing appears on the Bachelder Map but CSA Genl Kershaw's "Battles & Leaders" article about his brigade at Gburg has a relevant illustration. Rendered by 9th Massachusetts Artillery member Chas W Reed (who did the drawings in "Hard Tack & Coffee"), it's a view across the Wheatfield from the east side toward the west - it clearly shows the Rose buildings in the distance via a treeless field that appears to follow Rose Run where it goes by the Loop.

Ben Maryniak says:

hello all

i've been following the discussion on capt. johnston's and maj. clarke's route during their scout of the union position about 4 am on 7/2. could it be that capt jojnston mistook the bushman peach orchard for the sherfy peach orchard and that the hill he went around was the bushman hill where the elder's battery marker is located?....johnston could have circled behind the bushman hill to the south of BRT and came up on the east side....then he could have retraced his route back to the emittsburg road south of the bushman house, where supposedly he saw 4 union horsemen riding....he might have avoided all contact with the union position if he took this route...i still can't figure out how he missed seeing all campfires of buford's, sickles's and /or geary's men

jim martin

John Kelly

On returning from a business trip to Ohio and Indiana, I stopped in Gettysburg last night. Bright and early this cold morning, I drove up and down Emmittsburg Road, looking for the possible "phantom" BRT/LRT. There was nothing even close to the profiles of the two hills, which would have been silhouetted against the eastern sky beginning at about 4:30 AM (I'm guessing) when Johnston made his recon.

Assuming, therefore, that he saw the hills(from a distance?) and he did not see the Federal soldiers all around the area, then it is logical to assume that he never got to the base of Round Top, Big or Little. He may have made a hasty recon from Seminary Ridge, and probably approaching exhaustion at this point, gave it up and went back to HQ. I mention exhaustion since it is an inescapable companion to fast movement and heavy combat, and there is a good chance that he had little or no sleep for the previous nights. He was the only engineering officer on the Lee's staff, was he not, and therefore subject to all kinds of calls on his time.

Jack Kelly

Just saw Tom Desjardin's posting on Medium Round Top. This would appear to be the only other answer if it is assumed that Johnston made it to a hill.