A Conversation with D. Scott Hartwig, Thursday, July 18, 1996.
the Chief Historian at Gettysburg National Military Park.
Welcome to the 6th session of the Civil War Forum Conference series. I
am Paul Kenworthy, Special Advisor to the Civil War Forum, and will serve
as your moderator this evening. In about 10 minutes, staff member Jon
Stephenson will ask for your questions in order. Type a ? to be put on the
Tonight's special guest is D. Scott Hartwig, Chief Historian at
Gettysburg National Military Park. We'll start off with one question from
Chief SysOp David Woodbury, then take questions from those in attendance.
In your capacity as historian at the Gettysburg battlefield, I imagine
you've had the opportunity to tramp all over that hallowed ground. Can you
think of any discoveries you've made, or revelations you've had, which
resulted from a more intimate knowledge of the topography of the
Sure, lots of them -- this would be the case with any battlefield that
you're able to spend a lot of time on. When you can walk a field from many
different angles and approaches, you learn the subtleties of the ground.
When you start to understand those, the battle begins to become
understandable, and you can fill in details that the soldiers who were
there may not have mentioned.
Last year I did a program on the attack of Laws' brigade on Little
Round Top, and the Confederates all mentioned that Union sharpshooters were
posted behind a stone wall, near the Slyder Farm, and I couldn't find the
stone wall. There wasn't one, and I looked and looked and looked, and I
kept walking down the line where the wall would have been, and there it
was. I found the remnants of it. So there was confirmation, to me, that
there had been a wall there, and that the wall had been removed after the
war -- for unknown reasons. That's just one example.
Can you tell me the roll of the 12th New Jersey Volunteers at Picketts
Charge? They were posted at the north end of the stone wall.
Well their role was very simple: they were armed with smoothbore
muskets, so they were firing buck and ball (a round ball and three
buckshot), and they loaded and fired as fast as they could. The Confederate
troops that they confronted were principally Pettigrew's Brigade, and no
Confederates got over the wall at their position...
(Eric S. Dockus):
I have a question about Heth on Gettysburg day 1: the shoe rumor has
long been an idea thrown into many books and such. . . While visiting
Gettysburg this year in May we had a Licensed Battlefield Guide, Wayne
[Wachsmuth] -- he explained to me that there was never a show factory in
Gettysburg and also that Ewell was in Gettysburg I believe it was in late
June 26th or close to that. Was this a story made up to protect Heth from
getting chewed out by Lee. It seems to me Ewell would have grabbed anything
he could while there.
The answer is yes, it's a story. There's a grain of truth in it, but
Heth took the story and twisted it to protect himself. The original story,
and if you read the Official Reports you can find it in there, is that on
June 30, Heth ordered Pettigrew's Brigade to go to Gettysburg to search the
town for supplies, and Heth writes in his report, *particularly shoes.*
Now, there's no doubt that Heth knew Early's Division had gone through
Gettysburg on the 26th, but those Pennsylvanians hid a lot of stuff, and
you might catch them -- surprise them -- and get a lot of the stuff Early
missed (they would have hid stuff from Early, and Heth knew that). Now
Pettigrew went to Gettysburg on June 30 and found Buford there, so on July
the 1st, Heth's Division and Pender's Division were sent to drive Buford
out, not to get shoes.
The shoe story was created by Henry Heth in the Southern Historical
Society Papers in the 1870s -- I think it was 1872 or 1877, I forget when
he wrote the article. . . But that's the famous article where Henry Heth
makes the statement to A. P. Hill that he wanted to go to Gettysburg on
July the 1st and get the shoes that he had heard were there. So either a)
Heth's memory was bad, or b) Heth wrote this article at a time that former
Confederates were really hunting for a scapegoat at Gettysburg, and it's
conceivable that Henry Heth was trying to make himself look innocent --
that he had not brought on the Battle of Gettysburg. This is at a time when
Longstreet is under criticism, Jeb Stuart is under criticism. . .
To conclude, the shoe story on July the 1st is a myth.
We often read here on the forum, *If only Hood had moved east before
attacking instead of following his original orders....* But in fact, didn't
he go as far east as he could without creating a dangerous gap between
himself and the rest of the army? And what would have happened to him had
he gone farther?
My first answer to that is yes. He did go as far east as he could. Had
Hood gone farther east, he risked exposing his rear to the Sixth Corps,
because remember the Confederates didn't know where everybody was. And
Lee's line was already greatly extended, and for Hood to have gone east
would have extended it farther, for one, and two, it was late in the day
and they needed to get that attack moving. They couldn't waste any more
On the 1st day, when General Reynolds was killed by a sharpshooter --
has that person been identified? And did he survive the war? And when the
Confederates were attacking Culps Hill, how close did they come to the
Federal artillery reserve?
First, on the sharpshooter: it probably was not a sharpshooter who shot
John Reynolds. Sharpshooters are people who need time to pick positions and
set up, and the morning battle with the Union infantry was completely
unexpected to the Confederates. And all of the men who have claimed to have
shot Reynolds. . . their claims are all bogus -- they weren't even on the
Reynolds was probably shot by either a stray bullet, or a skirmisher
from Archer's Brigade. There were a group of Confederates who visited the
battlefield in 1897 or 1898 with William Robbins, the battlefield
commissioner, and at that time said that the man who had shot Reynolds was
a member of Archer's Brigade . . . a skirmisher, and the story has the ring
of truth to it because that individual never sought any publicity or
notoriety for it.
Now for Culp's Hill: the Confederates were within a half mile of the
artillery reserve, but they didn't know it. An important point here is that
it was dark, it was very difficult to see, and the Union troops who were on
Culp's Hill were putting up a very fierce resistance. So the opportunity
for Confederates on Culp's Hill was more imagined than real.
A story I have heard regarding Gen. John Reynolds. . . I have heard
that when his body was sent home, his personal affects were missing his
West Point ring, much to his family's surpass, and that later that ring was
found to be in the hands of a young lady. That young lady was his fiancee
and later entered a convent in Pennsylvania. Is this fact or myth?
Yes, that's true. Her name was Kate. Reynolds refused to marry during
the war, because he felt it placed too great a hardship on his wife -- with
good reason, particularly since he was killed. His staff knew about her,
and if I remember the story correctly, the staff sent those personal
effects to her. The full story of that is in a book by John Nichols,
*Toward Gettysburg,* which is Reynolds biography. It's a very good one.
(Eric S. Dockus):
Was wondering what you think of the East Cavalry field and General
Custer on Day 3. Was he a real hero? And who would you choose as a winner
in that battle? And was General Stuart close by and in total charge, or was
it strictly Wade Hampton?
First, what I think about the East Cavalry Field: it's a beautiful
area, well preserved, and lightly visited. Custer was absolutely a true
hero out there, although David Gregg deserves the greatest credit for
supervising the Union forces -- he's the guy who controlled the Union
forces there. And Jeb Stuart did direct the battle for the Confederates, he
was in close control there. As to who the winner was -- the Union cavalry.
They achieved their objective. They stopped Stuart from gaining any
significant advantage. He did not harass Union communications, and he did
not get into the rear of the Union army, and third, he did not cause Meade
to weaken his main front at all.
(Richard P. Fredrick):
Would Sickle's move out to the Emmitsburg Road on July 2 have been a
more prudent move if properly reinforced by the 5th Corps?
The only way Sickles move to the Emmitsburg Road would have been
prudent is if the Union army commander had authorized it. Since it wasn't
authorized, Sickles guaranteed that the Union defense on the left flank was
going to be a patchwork affair, because he had too much ground and not
enough men to cover it, and his line was like an inverted *V* -- so it
could be attacked from two directions. so Union reinforcements were going
to be thrown all over the place, with no single directing person, because
you have so many different units coming in to reinforce weak points in the
line. It ultimately led to tremendous confusion.
(Michael A. Baudinet):
After John Reynold's death, the man who *invented* baseball, Major
General Abner Doubleday, after the first day's battle -- I believe due to
an inaccurate report by O. O. Howard --was removed. Can you fill me in on
the details surrounding Doubleday's stand and removal, with an evaluation
of his performance?
First thing: Doubleday didn't invent baseball. I don't know if he ever
even played it. Doubleday had his best day of the Civil War on July the
1st. He fought very effectively. However, George Gordon Meade detested him,
partly because Doubleday did not have a pleasing personality -- he was
difficult to get along with. So Meade was more than happy to get rid of
Doubleday, whom he considered a trouble-maker. And yes it is true that
Meade relieved him of command based upon a false report given by Oliver
Otis Howard. Howard reported Doubleday's command gave way, which was not
true. They had fallen back, just like the 11th Corps had, but Meade
accepted it and put John Newton in command of the 1st Corps. If Meade had
liked Doubleday, he probably would have ignored Howard's report.
In Richard Shue's *Morning at Willoughby Run,* he cites two accounts
that say that Heth was to push into Gettysburg even if he encountered some
resistance. Do you accept these accounts?
No. Heth's orders were to push cavalry out of the way. If he
encountered infantry he was to halt and report to A. P. Hill for orders.
And he disobeyed his orders, because if you read Heth's report, he mistook
dismounted Union cavalry for infantry, yet pushed ahead anyway.
At Little Round Top, much credit is given to Colonel Chamberlains
defense and later bayonet attack. But, weren't there other units on top of
the hill, and still others being sent for support? Also, on Sickles 2nd day
move forward: did this not delay the total surprise of Longstreets flanking
movement. Sacrificing land, and men for terrain, as more troops moved onto
the battlefield? I know Longstreets move was seen from the Round Tops, but
if Sickles men were on Cemetery Ridge, wasn't there a greater risk of the
Confederates flanking the Federals?
Little Round Top first: yes, there was the rest of Vincent's Brigade on
Little Round Top, and the 140th New York saved the day on the right of
Little Round Top by a charge into the Confederates -- not a bayonet charge,
but a charge...They pushed the 4th and 5th Texas back, and their commander,
Col. Patrick O'Rourke was killed. And as I'm fond of saying, dead men tell
As for Sickles movement, if Sickles had remained where Meade had
ordered him, he would have been easier to reinforce and relieve -- his
position was pretty good -- don't always buy everything Dan Sickles tells
you. And it's pure speculation, but Sickles and company might have repulsed
Longstreet or stopped him at far less cost in men -- but again, that's pure
(Jon G. Stephenson):
After the first day, Longstreet wanted to disengage, sidle around
Meade's flank and thereby force him out of that strong Cemetery Ridge
position. This seems similar to the tactic used successfully by Grant and
Sherman against Lee and Johnston in 1864? Would it have worked as well for
Lee in '63?
Yes it is [similar], but there are some important differences. Lee was
constrained in maneuver by the South Mountain range in his rear. And
between the Union position and South Mountain, it's about 12 miles. That's
not a lot of depth to move an army. And also, Longstreet's proposal was a
strategic one, in that the entire army would attempt to move around the
Union flank, and when Longstreet made that proposal, on the evening of July
the 1st, Pickett's Division and Laws' Brigade were 25 miles from the
battlefield, and Lee did not know where Stuart was. Lee absolutely would
not have attempted a flanking march of the entire army without Stuart. So I
guess to get back to Grant and Sherman, they had more maneuver room in
their respective campaigns than Lee had at Gettysburg.
(Michael A. Baudinet):
I have heard legends about Col. Alfred Iverson's North Carolina brigade
-- can you separate fact from fiction? He made a charge toward hidden
Federals, and while he slunk back away from danger, he allowed his unit to
be annihilated. I have heard folklore that this area is called Iverson's
pits, a pit of brambles that no longer exists. What day did it happen on.
What is true?
It happened on July the 1st, and Iverson was an officer who had a
pretty good war record up until Gettysburg. We don't really know what
happened to him at Gettysburg. Keep in mind, these were all just people we
are talking about, and some people break sooner than other people. What we
do know is that Iverson's attack was poorly led by Iverson, that Federal
troops were concealed behind a ridge and allowed Iverson's men to march up
within 100 yards, then they fired into their front and flank. I believe
Iverson lost 170 killed in the brigade -- he took tremendous casualties.
Most of the brigade except for one regiment were captured, and after the
fighting the Confederates buried the dead of Iverson's Brigade in a ravine
near which they'd all fallen. In the 1870s their bodies were removed to
Raleigh, North Carolina. A farmer named Forney, who owned that property,
had an orchard there a while after the war -- I don't remember exactly when
-- and his fruit workers claimed that they heard voices, shouts, cries in
the night in that area, and they refused to work in there. And that's where
the legend of Iverson pits emerged.
The First Shot Marker and Sterrett's Gap hold an inexplicable charm for
me. Do you have any favorite out-of-the-way sites on or near the field?
Hmm. Boy. Good question. . . I can't say that I've got any favorite
spot. I do like the middle of the field of Pickett's Charge. Very quite out
there. I also like the Slyder Farm, which of all the places on the
battlefield, gives me a greater feeling for the 19th Century, and
hand-in-hand with that is what we call the *Lost Avenue* -- Neill Avenue --
which really has no public access to it. You have to ask permission to walk
through private land to get to it. That's very 19th Century back there.
I have read that Gen. R. E. Lee had been suffering cardiac problems
during the Gettysburg campaign. Would this been the reason behind his
Picketts attack on the 3rd day? Or was he so desperate for a victory to
order that attack (Picketts). And did Pickett protest such an order, as did
Pickett did not protest the order. Pickett was enthusiastic about the
attack. Lee ordered the attack -- we'll never know precisely why -- but we
can form some educated guesses or assessments of why he did.
I think Lee wanted a decision at Gettysburg. He'd gone too far, he'd
fought too hard, to leave a drawn battlefield . . . which by the end of the
fighting on July the 2nd was really his best option. But that wasn't in
Lee's character. I do think that Lee believed he was winning the battle,
and it was somewhat of a reckless gamble to imagine that a big attack would
cause the Union army to fold up, when they had not done so on the first two
days of the battle. But as always, I go back to what Lee said after the war
when someone said something to the effect that they're criticizing your
decision on the third day, and Lee responded: *Any fool can see that now,
but where were they then?*
(Michael A. Baudinet):
Of all major commanders, Union or Confederate, who performed the best
I won't just pick one man. The Federal army: Buford, Reynolds, Meade,
Hancock, Warren, and Alpheus Williams. The Confederate Army: Jubal Early on
the 1st Day, and Richard Ewell on the 1st Day (minus the opportunity to
take Culp's Hill) -- he performed very ably. And the rest of the battle. .
. Confederate brigade leadership was very good, but they suffered from a
lack of clear direction from higher levels of command. Division leadership
was average, corps leadership was average to not very good -- in the case
of A. P. Hill.
After John Buford's stand on day one, were his troopers so badly
decimated that they could not have participated any more, or is there
another reason he was sent to the rear?
Buford suffered 127 casualties on July 1st, so he wasn't decimated. The
problem was, since the Battle of Brandy Station, June 9th, Buford's cavalry
had been in the saddle and fighting incessantly, and his command was
completely worn out, particularly the horses, and they needed an
opportunity to rest, and that's why he was withdrawn.
Does the Park Service have their computer on-line that displays
soldiers names and what units which they served in? At the time, did Meade
know of events at Vicksburg?
On the Civil War Soldiers System, no, we don't have that on-line yet,
although they are about to release something -- I think at the end of
Sept., but it's going to be several years before the whole system is
Meade knew that Grant had the Confederate forces surrounded at
Vicksburg, and I believe that he probably learned of the surrender on
either the 5th or 6th of July, because they did telegraph the news from
Vicksburg to Washington, and then from Washington to the nearest telegraph
station, and then by courier to Meade.
Do you think that Jackson could have made a difference in this battle
if he had lived and returned to 2nd Corps command?
Jackson made a difference in every battle he was in, except the enigma
of the Seven Days. He would have given Lee two solid corps commanders, and
Jackson was at his best when Lee demanded a maneuver from him. Longstreet
was like the anvil, and Jackson was the hammer -- he was the maneuver
element. He moved troops very well usually. So to answer your question,
there's no question Jackson would have made a difference.
Thank you everyone, and Good Evening.
I hope everyone enjoyed tonight's conference as much as I did. On
behalf of the Civil War Forum, I would like to thank Scott for being with
us tonight, and thank you all for joining us.