Issac R. Trimble

Issac R. Trimble

THE BATTLE AND CAMPAIGN OF GETTYSBURG. From the original MS. Furnished by Major Graham Daves, of North Carolina. By Major-General Isaac R. Trimble, C. S. A. Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 26, pages 116-128.


>From the Bachelder Papers, Vol 2 p. 921:

Letter from Maj. Gen Issac R. Trimble to J. B. Bachelder dated Feb. 8th, 1883:

J. B. Bachelder
Dear Sir:
I enclose you a brief account of what I saw and what I did at Gettysburg -the 1st and 3rd day.

On reporting to General Hill for orders the 3d day, I read General Lee's order of Battle, and give it to you almost word for word -this- "General Longstreet will make a vigorous attack on our right, Genl. Ewell will make a demonstration on our left; to be converted into a vigorous attack if circumstances justify it. general Hill will hold the center at all hazards."

R. E. Lee

If you have not obtained this order, it may be of value.

I.R. Trimble

(footnote 153: Original letter in file ends here. Balance of this report is from typed transcript attached to Trimble's letter. Writer not identified and original version not in the file) The following is extracted from the narrative on p930ff:)

As nothing in Gen'l Ewell's department indicated a design to advance against the enemy, Gen'l Trimble remembering Gen'l Lee's impressive words a few days before to "crush the advance of the enemy and attack him vigorously in detail", or words t to that effect, he approached Gen'l Ewell and said, "General don't you intend t to pursue our sweep and push the enemy vigorously?" His reply as "No, I have orders form Gen' Lee not to bring on a general engagement." to which Gen'l Trimble rejoined, "But Gen'l that order cannot have reference to the present situation, for we have had a general engagement and gained a great victory, and by all military rules we ought to follow up our success, and we are losing golden moments," to which appeal there was no reply. Gen'l Ewell turned and walked slowly about, his whole manner indicating [ir]resolution and that kind of impatience which springs from mutual indecision, or a feeling that three was a momentous crisis, and he did not see clearly what course t to take. His manner separated him from his staff and the approach of others.

NOTE: (Gen' Lee had issued orders to Gen'l Ewell about June 26th when directed him to march into Penn. "not to bring on a general engagement with the Federal army, with his corps.")

Deeply regretting the indecision of Gen'l Ewell, Gen'l Trimble left him, and rode around the outskirts of the city on the northern and north eastern side to learn the topography of the security. ..... Returning in half an hour he spoke t Gen'l Ewell and said, "Gen'l if you have decided not to advance against the enemy and we are only to hold our ground, I want to advise that you send a brigade with artillery to take possession of that hill (Culp's Hill). It commands Gettysburg and Cemetery Hill." "How do you know that?" said he. "I have been round there," was the reply, "and you know I am not often mistaken in judging of topography, and if we don't hold that hill, the enemy will certainly occupy it, as it is the key to the whole position about here and I beg you to send a force at once to secure it. "When I need advice from a junior officer, I generally ask it, " was Gen'l Ewell's ungracious reply. when Gen'l Trimble terminated the interview by saying, "Gen'l Ewell I am sorry you don't appreciate my suggestions, you will regret it as long as you live."

(Footnote 166: The following is from the original letter.) [as continued on page 932]

Gettysburg When the contest was ended, the first day, about 3:30; I and others urged Gen. Ewell to pursue our success and attack the enemy. This he did not do, on the plea that his troops were not in a condition to do so. Now Rhodes' division, which was the only one that began the fight on our left, had not been seriously injured and was in the finest spirits at the end of the fight. Early's div. came into action late in the contest on our extreme left, and was hardly injured at all; Johnson's division was but a few miles off, and came up about sundown.

Then, on the maxim of war, that "a routed enemy should be pursued, it seemed plain, that Ewell should have pressed forward, informing Gen. Lee and Gen Hill that he intended to pursue the enemy, and send express to Johnson to hasten forward, and follow him.

Whether successful or not; that, was the game play and Ewell ought to have taken the responsibility.

Finding he did not intend to do so, I strongly advised the occupation of Culps Hill at once. This was about half past 3 o'clock, not later than 4 o'clock I am sure. I said to him "that is the key of the position on Cemetery Hill." He answered, "How do you know," I said "I have been round, to north of the town and can see plainly that it commands Cemetery hill - and ought to be occupied by us, or the enemy as soon as possible" - General Ewell did not take any steps to occupy the hill, at once, and on after reflection decided not to attempt it. I think from reports of Federal Officers, Culp Hill was not occupied by any force of Meade's until about 5 to 5:30 P.M.