Wash. D.C. Phila Pa
July 22d 86
My dear General
I have sent you today the Weekly Press with Biddle's article also all by McLaws written last April you may not have seen it. There may be something in it useful to you. I am glad to hear that your Gettysburg article is so near completion. Now as to Sickles orders on the 2d.
Gen'l Meade says in his testimony page 331 Vol 1-1865 "I had sent instructions in the morning to Genl Sickles directing him to form his corps in line of battle on the left of the 2d Corps, commanded by Genl Hancock, his right resting on Hancocks left & his left on Round Top, if it was practicable to occupy it."
Who carried this order or how it was gotten to Sickles I cannot say. My impression has always been, that after Genl Meade returned from his inspection of the positions, made soon after his arrival at the Cemetery, that he gave Sickles his orders verbally. I know Sickles was in the Cemetery when we arrived, from something Tremaine says in his letter to sickles, to be found in Sickles speech. I am further confirmed in this impression. Paine says (I think it would be a good thing to write to him his address is Col Wm H. Paine - office of the 10" Av. Cable R.R. - 10" Avenue & 128 St - New York) that he accompanied the Genl in this inspection of the positions & that they went to the left almost to Round Top & that on their return he made a sketch of the ground as developed by this inspection & that Genl Meade indicated on this sketch the positions the various Corps were to occupy & that a copy of this sketch was sent to each Corps Comdr early in the morning. However this may be I can state of my own knowledge the following. Between 8 & 9 a.m. as near as I am able to judge, Genl Meade came out from the little house, used as Hd.Qrs. There were very few of the staff about having been sent off in different directions, it was very quiet all along the lines, hardly any firing except an occasional skirmisher. I was standing in the yard of the house & the General called me to him. He seemed in excellent spirits & impressed me by his manner & tone of voice as if every thing was going on smoothly. Putting his hand on my shoulder in his usual kindly manner when not worried & preoccupied said "George, you just ride down to Genl Sickles, explain to him where my Hd. Qrs are & ask if his troops are in position yet & what he has to report." I rode down the Taneytown road for some little distance until I came to 3d corps hd. Qrs. It was on the right or west side of the Taneytown road in a small clump of trees. there was a solitary tent pitched & only one officer, as I could see, about. This was Capt. Randolph - Sickles Chief of Arty. I stated to Capt. Randolph the object of my errand. He told me Sickles was lying down in the tent, that he was very tired after the hard march of the day before & from being up all night, & was trying to get a little rest. Whether Randolph went into the tent to see Sickles with my message or not I cannot just say, I rather think he did. I, however, learned from Randolph that the troops were not only not in position but that there seemed to be some doubt as to where they were to go. I did not see sickles myself on this visit. It will be noted that I had no orders for Genl Sickles. Genl Meade had evidently given these or sent them before & I was merely sent to see if he was yet in position. I knew nothing then as to the position Sickles had been ordered to take. so I said to Capt. r. that I would return to Hd. Qrs & report. I rode rapidly back to Hd. Qrs. When I arrived I found several officers there with Genl Meade & they were evidently discussing some question of importance. What it was I do not know. I made my report to the General stating what I had learned from Capt. Randolph. After hearing what I had to say he said to me in his quick, sharp, decisive way when in earnest & desiring something done promptly - "Captain Meade, ride at once back to Genl Sickles & say to him that he is to go into position on the left of the 2d Corps & that his right is to rest on Genl Hancocks left & that he is to occupy the general line held by Genl Geary the night before & also say to him that it is of the utmost importance that his troops should be in position as soon as possible. I rode as fast as I could back to Sickles, when I got to where I had left him, several of his staff were there some mounting and others mounted, the tent was struck or being struck & Genl Sickles had just mounted his horse. I repeated to him Genl Meades message. Sickles replied, that his troops were then moving & would soon be in position & then added something as to Genl Gearys not having had any position. Genl Sickles & his staff then rode off to the front. Capt. Randolph came up to me & requested me to ask you to come out(?) there to examine some positions for arty. I returned at once to Genl Meade, reported that Genl Sickles said his troops were moving & that he would soon be in position. I also repeated what he had said as to Gearys not having any position. I presume I also repeated either to you or to Genl Meade (the message was to you) Capt. Randolphs request.
Between 11 & 12 ock Genl Sickles rode up to our Hd. Qr. & had some conversation with Genl Meade & accompanied him back to his Corps. (On Page 331 Vol 1 1865 Rep. Com. Cond of War, you will find Genl Meades statement of this interview as given to the Comm) In this interview Genl Meade said to Genl Sickles, his right was to be Hancocks left, his left on Round Top which Genl Meade pointed out to him.
There is further evidence which I will try & get to you in time - That Geary who had two regts on Round Top when he received the order that he was to be relieved by the 3d Corps appreciating the great importance of the position sent an officer to Sickles to explain to him the importance of his position & asking that if troops could not be sent to relieve him, that Genl Sickles send a staff officer to see the ground so as to place the troops on it when they arrived. Sickles reply was that it would be attended to in due time. No staff officer, nor any troops arriving, Geary got tired of waiting and marched off to join his Corps.
I only send this to you for(?) information until I can get the evidence to you which is in a letter from Genl Meade.
I dont know what Sickles calls "a plan of battle". I know that Genl Meade as he states to the Comm intended to fight a defensive battle if possible, which plan was nearly ruined by Sickles disobedience of orders.
In the first part of this letter I have tried to quote from memory what Genl Meade stated to the Comm on Cond of War, you can compare it & see wherein I have not given the exact words.
All accounts place Genl Meades arrival from Taneytown at the Cemetery at about 1 A.M. Paine writes me, & he is a very careful man, that we left Taneytown shortly after 10 P.M. - that in 57 minutes we were at Gibbons Hd. Qr, temporarily cmdg(?) 2d Corps, about 3 miles from Gettysburg, we remained there 15 minutes & that the Genl rode into the Cemetery before midnight, 11:30 P.M. as he puts it. I should say before midnight.
I am afraid I have written this in a rather rambling sort of way. Is there anything else I can tell you about? I see the balance of Sickles speech is out in the Wash Trib of the 22d. I have not ??????? read it.
Very Truly Yours
?????? part of Tremaines letter that makes me think ???? Meades ???? orders to Sickles were verbal, it is on Page 2 - of the Tribune July 15. "????? But I firmly believe that whatever Genl Meade may have had(?) in his mind as having ordered you to do on the night before ??? were worded(?) he certainly had not etc(?) etc(?)."
You wil understand that in repeating my messages to & interviews with Sickles I cannot be certain of the exact words used at this late date.