A Review of the First Two Days' Operations at Gettysburg and a Reply to
General Longstreet by General Fitz. Lee.
[Even if his gallant services and military reputation did not entitle him to speak, we are sure that
our readers will be glad to have the following paper from one so closely allied to our great
The "great battle of Gettysburg" has always occupied a prominent position in the mind of the Confederate soldier. This surpassing interest is due from the fact that there prevails, throughout the South, a wide-spread impression that had the plans of the Southern chieftain been fully endorsed, entered into, and carried out by his corps commanders, the historic "rebel yell" of triumph would have rebounded along Cemetery Ridge upon that celebrated 2d July, 1863, and re-echoing from the heights of Round Top, might have been heard and heeded around the walls of Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. There is a ghastliness about that picture of the struggle at Gettysburg, that the blood of the heroes who perished there serves but to increase; and over that splendid scene of human courage and human sacrifice, there arises like, the ghost of Banquo at Macbeth's banquet, a dreadful apparition, which says that the battle was lost to the Southern troops because "some one blundered." Military critics, foreign and native, have differed as to the individual responsibility of what was practically a Confederate defeat. The much-abused cavalry is lifted into great prominence and is constrained to feel complimented by the statement of many of these critics that the failure to crash the Federal army in Pennsylvania in 1863 can be expressed "in five words" (General Heth, in a late paper to the Philadelphia Times), viz: "the absence of our cavalry;" but such language implies an accusation against General J. E. B. Stuart, its commander, who has been charged with a neglect of duty in not reporting the passage of the Potomac by Hooker's army (afterwards Meade's), and with disobedience of orders, which resulted in placing the Federal army between his command and the force of General Lee, thereby putting out the eyes of his own "giant." There are those who bring our troubles to the door and cast them at the feet of General Ewell, the gallant commander of the Second corps, who is charged with not obeying his chief's orders, by following up his success and occupying Cemetery Heights upon the afternoon of July 1st.
Others confidently agree with Colonel Taylor, General Lee's adjutant-general, that "General Longstreet was fairly chargeable with tardiness" on the 2nd July, in not making his attack earlier; and again it is stated, that his charging column upon the 3rd, which moved so magnificently to assault the positions of the Federals, was not composed of all the troops General Lee designed should be placed in it.
And last, but by no means least, the Confederate Commander-in-Chief himself is now for the first time charged with everything relating to the disaster of Gettysburg, and the whole accountability for the results of the battle are pointedly placed upon his shoulders by one of his subordinates, in a paper prepared for the Philadelphia Times. To whom, therefore, it may be asked, can the loss of the battle of Gettysburg be properly attributed--to Stuart, or Ewell, or Longstreet, or to General Lee? Very many of us who are deeply interested in the subject may honorably differ as to that, but upon the splendid courage displayed by the rank and file of the Confederate army upon those three first days in July, 1863, wherever tested, the world unites in perfect harmony.
We were indeed "within a stone's throw of peace" at Gettysburg--and although in numbers as 62,000*(*Walter Taylor.-The Federal force is overestimated. Their total of all arms was about 90,000. General Humphreys puts, in a letter to me, the Federal infantry at 70,000, inclusive of 5,000 officers.) is to 105,000, before any portion of either army had become engaged--yet the advantages were so manifestly on General Lee's side in consequence of the more rapid concentration of his troops upon a common point, that the heart of every Southern soldier beat with the lofty confidence of certain victory.
Any new light, therefore, thrown upon the matter in discussion, should be well-sifted before permitting it to shine for the benefit of the future historian, less it dazzle by false rays the sympathetic minds of generations yet to come.
The Philadelphia Times of November 3rd, 1877, in commenting upon some additional points
furnished that paper by General Longstreet as an addenda to his article published in the same
"The letter from General Longstreet which accompanies these enclosures, dwells particularly
upon a point which he wishes to have his readers understand. It is that while General Lee on the
battle-field assumed all the responsibility for the result, he afterwards published a report that
differs from the report be made at the time while under that generous spirit. General Longstreet
and other officers made their official reports upon the battle shortly after its occurrence, and while
they were impressed with General Lee's noble assumption of all the blame, but General Lee
having since written a detailed and somewhat critical account of the battle, Longstreet feels
himself justified in discussing the battle upon its merits."
Whilst claiming the same privilege as a Confederate soldier, I, yet, would not have exercised it, being only a cavalryman, who added to his "jiggling spur" not even a "bright sabretache," but only a poor record, were it not my good fortune to have known long and intimately the Commander-in-Chief, and to have conversed with him frequently during and since the war, upon the operations of the Army of Northern Virginia.
First then, let us examine the charge that the battle of Gettysburg was lost by the "absence of our cavalry." The cavalry of General Lee's army in the Gettysburg campaign consisted of the brigades of Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee, W. H. F. Lee's (under Chambliss), Beverly Robertson, Wm. E. Jones, Imboden, and Jenkins, with a battalion under Colonel White. The first three named accompanied Stuart on his circuit around the Federal army, reaching Gettysburg on the 2nd of July--Jones and Robertson were left to hold the gaps of the Blue Ridge, and did not get to the vicinity of Gettysburg until after the battles; so that of all the force I enumerate, Jenkins' brigade and White's battalion alone crossed the Potomac with the army. (Imboden's command was detached along the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, and was not in the fight at Gettysburg). Stuart after fighting at Brandy Station, on the 9th of June, a large body of Federal cavalry supported by infantry, and forcing them to recross the Rappahannock river with a loss (to them) of "four hundred prisoners, three pieces of artillery, and several colors," (General Lee's report), marched into Loudoun county upon the right flank of the army, and was engaged in a series of conflicts, terminating with Pleasanton's cavalry corps and Barnes' division of infantry, upon the 21st June, which caused him to retire to the vicinity of Ashby's Gap in the Blue Ridge, our infantry being upon the western side of the mountains.
Leaving the brigade before mentioned to hold the position, Stuart then, in the exercise of a discretion given him by General Lee and so stated in his report, determined to pass to the rear of the Federal army and cross the Potomac at Seneca Falls, a point between that army and their capital. Thus, it will be seen, including the brigade and battalion of cavalry which composed the vanguard of the army, that over one-half of the cavalry was left in position to be used by General Lee.
Hooker, in his dispatch to his President, June 21st, (Report on the Conduct of the War, volume 1,
page 279,) referring to Stuart's command, says: "This cavalry force has hitherto prevented me
from obtaining satisfactory information as to the whereabouts of the enemy; they had masked all
their movements." General Hooker had reference to the five brigades holding the country
between his army and the marching column of General Lee--Jenkins being in front of the
advanced corps (Ewell's) with Colonel White's battalion, in addition to his own command. The
cavalry corps, by the return of May 31st, 1863, numbered 9,536. According to a letter from
Major McClellan, Stuart's A. A. G., this force was divided about as follows: Hampton, 1,200;
Fitz. Lee, 2,000; W. H. F. Lee, 1,800; Jones, 3,.500; Robertson, 1,000. It is proper to state that
the figures above refer to the enlisted men present for duty. The total effective strength (inclusive
of officers) numbered, according to Walter Taylor, at that date, 10,292. (I am satisfied, from a
conversation with General Robertson, that McClellan overestimates the number of men in Jones'
brigade, and therefore underestimates the number in some of the other brigades.) There is no
authenticated return after the above date until August. After the return above cited, the losses at
Brandy Station fight, the three days fighting in Loudoun, the encounter at Westminster, Maryland,
Hanover, Pennsylvania, and other points, occurred, together with the usual reduction of mounted
troops from long and rapid marching. It is proper to say that the return quoted did not include the
commands of Jenkins, Imboden, or White. General Stuart, in his report (August No., 1876,
Southern Historical Society Papers, p. 76,) estimated Jenkins' brigade, on leaving Virginia, at
3,800 troopers. I think this number is probably a misprint; from the best information I can get,
this brigade numbered at that time 1,600. (See Rodes' official report.) Adding this last number to
4,500, (McClellan's estimate of Robertson's and Jones' brigade,) and putting White's battalion at
200, the result is a cavalry force of 6,300 doing duty for the main army, and greater in numerical
strength than the three brigades Stuart carried with him, which at Gettysburg numbered less than
4,000. Whilst not endorsing Stuart's march as the best movement under the circumstances, I
assert that he had the Commanding-General's permission to make it; (General Lee's report,
Southern Historical Society Papers for July, 1876, page 43;) that it involved a loss of material
and men to the enemy and drew Kilpatrick's and Gregg's divisions of cavalry from their aggressive
attitude on Meade's flank and front, leaving only Buford's to watch for the advance of our troops,
and hence we find only his two brigades in the Federal front on the first of July; that it kept the
Sixth Federal corps, some 15,000 men, from reaching Gettysburg until after 3 P.M. on the 2nd of
July; that it caused General Meade to send General French to Frederick, to protect his
communications, with from 5,000 to 7,000 men, (the latter figure is Walter Taylor's estimate,
page 113, "Four Years with General Lee,") and prevented that body of troops from being made
use of in other ways--which force, Butterfield says, Hooker (before being relieved) contemplated
throwing, with Slocum's corps, in General Lee's rear; and finally, that there was inflicted a loss
upon the enemy's cavalry of confessedly near 5,000. (Stuart's report, p. 76, August No., 1876,
Southern Historical Society Papers.) The Federal army crossed the Potomac upon the 26th June.
General Lee heard it on the night of the 28th, from a scout, and not from his cavalry commander.
Stuart crossed between the Federal army and Washington on the night of the 27th, and
necessarily, from his position, could not communicate with General Lee. He sent information
about the march of Hancock towards the river, and after that was not in position to do more. The
boldness of General Lee's offensive strategy, in throwing his army upon one side of the Potomac
whilst leaving his adversary upon the other, made it particularly necessary for him to know the
movements of the Federal army. Stuart, with his experience, activity, and known ability for such
work, should have kept interposed always between the Federal army and his own, and whilst
working close on Meade's lines, have been in direct communication with his own army
commander. It is well known that General Lee loitered, after crossing the Potomac, because he
was ignorant of the movements and position of his antagonist. For the same reason he groped in
the dark at Gettysburg. From the 25th of June to July 2d, General Lee deplored Stuart's absence,
and almost hourly wished for him, and yet it was by his permission his daring chief of cavalry was
away. General Stuart cannot, therefore, be charged with the responsibility of the failure at
Gettysburg. Did such failure arise from Ewell and Hill not pushing their success on the 1st of
July? I have always been one of those who regarded it a great misfortune that these two corps
commandeers did not continue to force the fighting upon that day. Each had two divisions of
their corps engaged, thus leaving one division to each corps, viz., Johnson of Ewell's, and
Anderson of Hill's, at their service for further work--something over 10,000 men. The four
divisions engaged upon the Confederate side in the battle amounted to about 22,000. The loss
after the repulse of the enemy, in Early's division, amounted to 586, (Early's review of Gettysburg,
December number of Southern Historical Society Papers, 1877, page 257,) leaving him still about
4,500 fighting men. Heth says, (see his paper in Philadelphia Times, September 22d, 1877,) he
went into that fight with 7,000 muskets, and lost 2,700 men killed and wounded. He was still left
with 4,300. Estimating those four divisions, at the close of the action, at an average of 4,500 men
apiece, we had 18,000 men; add the 10,000 of the two divisions not engaged, and there will be
found 28,000 men ready to move on, flushed with victory and confident of success. General
Early, in a letter to me, places the effective force in Ewell's and Hill's corps, on the morning of the
2nd, at 26,000 men. Upon the Federal side there had been engaged the First and Eleventh corps,
(save one brigade, Smith's of Steinwehr's division, left on Cemetery Hill as a reserve,) and
Buford's two brigades of cavalry. As bearing directly upon this portion of the subject, I give a
letter from Major General Hancock, and also one from Colonel Bachelder. (The latter remained
on the field of Gettysburg for eighty-four days after the battle, making sketches and collecting
data, and has since visited the field with over 1,000 commissioned officers who were engaged,
forty-seven of them being Generals Commanding. General Hancock writes of him to General
Humphrey's: "Mr. Bachelder's long study of the field has given him a fund of accurate information
in great detail, which I believe is not possessed by any one else.")
Letter from General Winfield Hancock.
New York, January 17th, 1878.
My Dear General:
I am in receipt of yours of the 14th inst., and in reply have to say, that in my opinion, if the
Confederates had continued the pursuit of General Howard on the afternoon of the 1st July at
Gettysburg, they would have driven him over and beyond Cemetery Hill. After I had arrived upon
the field, assumed the command, and made my dispositions for defending that point (say 4 P. M.),
I do not think the Confederate force then present could have carried it. I felt certain at least of my
ability to hold it until night, and sent word to that effect back to General Meade, who was then at
Taneytown. Please notice the following extract from my testimony before the committee on the
"Conduct of the War" on that point--Vol. 1, page 405, March 22nd, 1864:
"When I arrived and took the command, I extended the lines. I sent General Wadsworth to the right to take possession of Culp's Hill with his division. I directed General Geary, whose division belonged to the Twelfth corps, (its commander, General Slocum, not then having arrived,) to take possession of the high ground towards Round Top.
"I made such disposition as 1 thought wise and proper. The enemy evidently believing that we were reinforced, or that our whole army was there, discontinued their (?) great efforts, and the battle for that day was virtually over. There was firing of artillery and skirmishing all along the front, but that was the end of that day's battle. By verbal instructions, and in the order which I had received from General Meade, I was directed to report, after having arrived on the ground, whether it would be necessary or wise to continue to fight the battle at Gettysburg, or whether it was possible for the fight to be had on the ground Gen. Meade had selected. About 4 o'clock P.M. I sent word by Maj. Mitchell, aide-de-camp, to General Meade, that I would hold the ground until dark, meaning to allow him time to decide, the matter for himself.
"As soon as I had gotten matters arranged to my satisfaction, and saw that the troops were being
formed again, and I felt secure, I wrote a note to General Meade, and informed him of my views
of the ground at Gettysburg. I told him that the only disadvantage which I thought it had was that
it could be readily turned by way of Emmettsburg, and that the roads were clear for any
movement he might make. I had ordered all the trains back, as I came up, to clear the roads."
When I arrived upon the field, about 3 P. M., or between that and 3:30, 1 found the fighting about over--the rear of our troops were hurrying through the town pursued by the Confederates. There had been an attempt to reform some of the Eleventh corps as they passed over Cemetery Hill, but it had not been very successful. I presume there may have been 1,000 to 1,200 at most, organized troops of that corps, in position on the hill. Buford's cavalry, in a solid formation, was showing a firm front in the plain just below (in line of battalions in mass, it is my recollection) Cemetery Hill, to the left of the Taneytown road.
I at once sent Wadsworth's division of the First corps, and a battery of artillery, to take post on Culp's Hill, on our right. The remainder of the First corps I placed on the right and left of the Taneytown road, connecting with the left of the Eleventh corps. These were the troops already on the battle-field when I had arrived and had made my dispositions.
About the time the above-described dispositions were made, Williams' division of the Twelfth army corps came upon the field and took position to the right and rear of Wadsworth's division of the First corps, and, subsequently, Geary's division of the Twelfth corps arriving, I caused it to move to our left and occupy the higher ground towards Round Top, to prevent any local turning of my left, (feeling safe as to the front).
You will perceive that up to the time I transferred the command of our forces on the field to my senior, Major-General Slocum, who arrived there between 6 and 7 o'clock P.M., these two divisions of his corps (Williams' and Geary's) were all the fresh troops that had actually marched on the battle-field.
Please see, on this point, the following extract from my official report of that battle:
* * * * * * * * * * *
"At this time the First and Eleventh corps were retiring through the town closely pursued by the enemy. The cavalry of General Buford was occupying a firm position on the plain to the left of Gettysburg, covering the rear of the retreating corps. The Third corp; had not yet arrived from Emmettsburg.
"Orders were at once given to establish a line of battle on Cemetery Hill, with skirmishers occupying that part of the town immediately in our front. The position, just on the southern edge of Gettysburg, overlooking the town and commanding the Emmettsburg and Taneytown roads, and the Baltimore turnpike, was already partially occupied, on my arrival, by direction of Major-General Howard.
"Some difficulty was experienced in forming the troops of the Eleventh corps, but by vigorous efforts a sufficiently formidable line was established to deter the enemy from any serious assault on the position. They pushed forward a line of battle for a short distance east of the Baltimore turnpike, but it was easily checked by the fire of our artillery.
"In forming the line I received material assistance from Major-General Howard, Brigadier-General Warren, Brigadier-General Buford, and officers of General Howard's command.
"As soon as the line of battle mentioned above was shown by the enemy, Wadsworth's division, First corps, and a battery, (thought to be the Fifth Maine,) were placed on the eminence just across the turnpike, and commanding completely this approach. This important position was hold by the division during the remainder of the operations near Gettysburg.
"The rest of the First corps, under Major-General Doubleday, was on the right and left of the Taneytown road, and connected with the left of the Eleventh corps, which occupied that part of Cemetery Hill immediately to the right and left of the Baltimore turnpike.
"A division of the Twelfth corps, under Brigadier-General Williams, arrived as these arrangements were being completed, and was established, by order of Major-General Slocum, some distance to the right and rear of Wadsworth's division.
"Brigadier-General Geary's division of the Twelfth corps arriving on the ground subsequently and not being able to communicate with Major-General Slocum, I ordered the division to the high ground to the right of and near Round Top mountain, commanding the Gettysburg and Emmettsburg road, as well as the Gettysburg and Taneytown road to our rear."
* * * * * * * * * *
The Third corps, however, was in close proximity, coming up on the Emmettsburg road, and a portion of it arrived upon the field before night. The Second corps did not reach the field that evening, only because I halted it about three miles in rear of Gettysburg, where an important road came in from the direction of Emmettsburg, to prevent any turning of the left of our army, in case General Lee should make any movement of that nature on the evening of the 1st, or early on the morning of the 2d. I consider that, had a prolonged struggle taken place that evening (after the dispositions which I have already described as having been made by me), portions at least, of both the Second and Third corps, might have been brought forward in time to have taken part in it. For a sudden assault or a brief contest, they would not, however, have been available before dark. In reference to the numbers of the First corps, after it had fallen back from in front of the town, and reformed on Cemetery Hill, I have seen a statement in Bates' "Battle of Gettysburg" page 82, fixing them at 2,450 men; but as to the correctness of this estimate, I cannot speak with any certainty.
As to the Eleventh corps, I have already stated that I did not think there were more than 1,000 to 1,200 organized men of that corps in position on Cemetery Hill at the time I arrived there, and these were a portion of Steinwehr's division, which, with the artillery of the corps, was left there by Howard when be marched up in the morning.
In reference to the numbers of the Second, Third, and Twelfth corps, our returns of June 30th
give their strength, "present for duty," as follows:
Second corps,- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12,088 men.
Third corps,--- - - - - - - - - - -- - - -11,799 men.
Twelfth corps,- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -8,056 men.
The Fifth corps came up during the night of the 1st, and morning of 2nd, from Hanover--see following extract from testimony of General S. W. Crawford, who commanded a division in that corps, on that point:
* * * * * * * * * *
"I was in the rear division of the corps (Fifth), and on the evening of the 1st July I marched through Hanover and along the road through McSherrytown, marching until between two and three o'clock in the morning, and bivouacked at a town called Brushtown; and before dawn on Thursday, the 2nd of July, a staff-officer of General Sykes, then commanding the corps, rode to my headquarters and directed me to march my men, without giving them any coffee, at once to the field. I placed the column in motion and arrived before noon in the rear of the other divisions of the corps."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The Sixth corps was at Manchester on the evening of the 1st, and marched all of that night and until two o'clock P. M. on the 2nd, before it reached the field.
It has been stated "that Steinwehr's division of Howard's corps, on the first day, threw up lunettes around each gun, on Cemetery Hill--solid works of such height and thickness as to defy the most powerful bolts which the enemy could throw against them--with smooth and perfectly level platforms on which the guns could be worked."
This is a great error; there were no works of the kind above described on that field when I arrived there, and all that I saw in the way of "works" were some holes (not deep) dug to sink the wheels and trains of the pieces.
I am, very truly yours,
To General Fitzhugh Lee, Richmond, Va.
Letter from John B. Bachelder, Esq.
You ask, "How many troops would have opposed Hill and Ewell had the attack been continued on the first day?" For reasons already explained, I am not prepared to give, historically, the exact numbers, but I will say that there was but one brigade that had not been engaged: Smith's, of Steinwehr's division, which, with one battery remained in reserve on Cemetery Hill; Costar's brigade, of the same division, was sent out to cover the retreat of the Eleventh corps, but war met soon after it emerged from the town by Hoke's and the left of Hays' brigades and repulsed.
There is no question but what a combined attack on Cemetery Hill, made within an hour, would have been successful. At the end of an hour the troops had been rallied, occupied strong positions, were covered by stone walls, and under the command and magnetic influence of General Hancock--who in the meantime had reached the field--would, in my opinion, have held the position against any attack from the troops then up.
But at 6 o'clock everything was changed; both armies were reinforced at that hour, and had the battle been renewed after that it would have been by fresh troops on either side, with all the chances of a new battle. At 6 o'clock, Johnson's division entered the town; and Anderson's division might have reached there at the same time if it had been ordered to do so. The head of the Twelfth corps also reached the battle-field at 6 P. M., but not being required at Cemetery Hill, Geary's division was moved to the left to occupy the high land near Round Top, and Williams' division was turned to its right as it moved up the Baltimore pike, crossed Wolf Hill, with orders to seize the high land on the Confederate left, where Johnson's division subsequently spent the night.
If, therefore, Hill and Ewell had renewed the attack at 6 P. M., with their full commands, the two divisions of the Twelfth corps would have been in position to meet it. This, as before remarked, would have been a new phase of the battle, fought by fresh troops, and therefore subject to all the uncertainties of battle; but with strong probabilities in favor of Confederate success. The First corps had been engaged in a long and severe contest, in which it was everywhere beaten and had suffered heavily. The Eleventh corps had also suffered as much, and portions of it were badly demoralized. On the contrary, the Confederate forces world have continued the engagement with the prestige of victory. Several brigades had been badly cut up, but others had fired scarcely a shot, and the presence of General Lee, who had now arrived, would have given a new impulse to the battle. It is probable strong efforts would have been made to hold the position until the troops of the Third and Second corps could be brought up. Although General Sickles reached the field at an earlier hour, only two brigades of his command arrived that night--these reaching the field at sunset. Two brigades were left at Emmettsburg to hold the pass towards Fairfield, and General Humphreys, with two brigades of his division, reached the field at 1 o'clock the next morning. The Second corps was ordered to move up to Gettysburg, but General Hancock met it on the road on his return to Taneytown, where he went to report to General Meade, and not considering its presence necessary, ordered it to go into bivouac. In case of an engagement, however, these troops could hardly have reached the field before nightfall.
By this brief explanation you will see that the best chance for a successful attack was within the first hour, and unquestionably the great mistake of the battle was the failure to follow the Union forces through the town, and attack them before they could reform on Cemetery Hill. Lane's and Thomas' brigades, of Pender's division, and Smith's, of Early's division, were at hand for such a purpose, and had fired scarcely a shot. Dole's, Hoke's, and Hays, brigades were in good fighting condition, and several others would have done good service. The artillery was up, and in an admirable position to have covered an assault, which could have been pushed, under cover of the houses, to within a few rods of the Union position.
I have a nominal list of casualties in the First and Eleventh corps, but not at my command at present. If you desire anything additional I shall be pleased to furnish it, if at my disposal.
I am sir, yours with respect,
Jno. B. Bachelder.
These letters unquestionably show that had we known it at the time, the position on the heights fought for on the 2nd could have been gained on the afternoon of the 1st by continuing without delay the pursuit of the Federals. It will be observed that they also affirm that the success of an attack made by us after an hour's delay would have been involved in doubt. General Hancock says that an attempt had been made "to reform some of the Eleventh corps as they passed over Cemetery Hill, but it had not been successful; and that when he arrived there, about 3 P. M., there were only some 1,000 or 1,200 troops on the bill, with Buford's cavalry in front; and that up to 6 P. M. the troops that had been collected from the First and Eleventh corps had only been reinforced by Williams' and Geary's divisions of the Twelfth corps, under Slocum-- numbering together by return of June 30th, 8,056.
The number collected in the First corps amounted to 2,450--(Bates, page 82, and also Doubleday's, its commander's, testimony). Of the Eleventh, (see Hancock,) 1,200. Estimating Buford's cavalry at about 2,500, we would have a Federal force, up to 6 P. M., of 14,206,* (*This includes all troops except those afterwards collected in Eleventh corps in addition to the 1,200 mentioned by General Hancock.) opposed to our 26,000. Birney's division of the Third corps (Sickles) were the next troops to arrive; they came up about sunset, less one brigade left at Emmettsburg, and numbered, at that hour, 4,500.
Humphrey's division of that corps did not reach the field until towards midnight-- (General Humphreys, in a letter to me). It will be noticed, however, that General Hancock says that portions of the Second and Third corps, had our assault been sudden or the contest brief, would not have been available until dark. If these figures are correct, I am authorized in reaffirming that "a little more marching, perhaps a little more fighting," would have gained for us the possession of the heights on the evening of the 1st of July.
On the other hand, General Early, in a masterly review of those operations in the December number Southern Historical Society Papers, 1877, gives some strong reasons, which at the time prevented a further advance, made more convincing by the fact of its being well known that he desired to move on after the retreating Federals. I can well imagine that, with the existing doubt as to what portion of the Federal army was then within supporting distance of the First and Eleventh corps, the arrival at a most inopportune moment of what proved to be a false report, that the enemy were advancing on the York road, which would have brought them in the rear of the Confederate troops; the time consumed in investigating the report; the apparent strength of the enemy's position; would all combine to make a subordinate commander hesitate to take the responsibility of beginning another battle; more especially as his chief was close at hand. I know, too, bow easy it is, in the light of subsequent events, to criticism an officer's action. "Young man, why did you not tell me that before the battle"? General Lee is reported to have said to an officer who was commenting upon some of the movements at Gettysburg, "even as stupid a man as I am can see it all now," illustrates the point.
Being at the commencement of the war Ewell's chief-of-staff, knowing his soldierly qualities, and loving his memory, God forbid that I should utter one word to detract from the splendid record he has left behind him. His corps being more advanced than Hill's after the action was over, and be being the senior officer present, has caused his conduct on the first, in not pursuing the enemy, to be criticized; of course, after the arrival of his chief, all responsibility was taken from Ewell in not ordering the troops forward--it was assumed by and is to be placed upon General Lee.
While the capture of Cemetery Hill on the 1st would have probably thrown Meade back on the already selected line of Pipe Clay creek, in gaining it we would have shattered the Twelfth corps--possibly portions of two others--and the Federal army offering battle with three or more of its corps beaten, would have been a less formidable antagonist than we found it on the 2d, from Culp's Hill to Round Top. The Confederates, too, would have suffered an additional loss; but the victor, in most instances, loses less in proportion to the vanquished, except in an attack on fortified places. General Hancock, the opposing commander, does not enumerate this as one of those.
To the operations of the 2d of July I now direct attention, not with the view of going over the whole ground, because it has been fully covered by official reports of the higher officers operating there and by recent papers, some of them bearing exhaustively upon the subject, but for the purpose of examining some of the statements contained in General Longstreet's article, written for and published by the Philadelphia Times in its issue of November the 3d, 1877. It is charged by persons, particularly from the North, that Longstreet's political apostacy, since the war, has made his comrades forget his services during that period. Upon that point, whilst I believe, as General Lee once said to me in Lexington, (referring to a letter he had received from General Longstreet, asking an endorsation of his political views,,) that "General Longstreet has made a great mistake," I concede the conscientious adoption of such opinions by General Longstreet. The fact that he differs widely, and has not acted politically with the great majority of his old comrades since the war, has nothing to do with his undoubted ability as a soldier during the contest. I saw him for the first time on the 18th of July, 1861, at Blackburn's Ford, on the Bull Run, and was impressed with his insensibility to danger. I recollect well my thinking, there is a man that cannot be stampeded. For the last time I saw him the night before the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, and there was still the bull-dog tenacity, the old genuine sang froidabout him which made all feel he could be depended upon to hold fast to his, position as long as there was ground to stand upon. These solid characteristics were always displayed by him during the four years of war, and gained for him the soubriquet of "General Lee's old war-horse." But when General Longstreet writes for the public prints a paper which has generally been construed as an attack upon the reputation of General Lee, it will be criticized by a great many; by me, because 1 find it difficult to reconcile many of his statements with facts in my possession. While there are ver few who will deny that General Longstreet was a hard fighter when once engaged, I have never found any one who claimed that be was a brilliant strategist; indeed, upon the only occasions when he exercised an independent command, Suffolk and Knoxville, the results in the public mind were not satisfactory. It is, therefore, with some surprise we learn from his paper that when in Richmond, en route from Suffolk to join General Lee at Fredericksburg, he paused to tell Mr. Seddon (then Secretary of War), how to relieve Pemberton at Vicksburg. Our astonishment is increased when we read further, that before entering upon the campaign of 1863, he exacted a promise from General Lee that the "campaign should be one of offensive strategy, but defensive tactics, and upon this understanding my (his) assent was given," and that therefore General Lee "gave the order of march." Our wonder culminates when finally we are told that he had a plan to fight the battle different from General Lee's, and that General Lee had since said it would have been successful if adopted.
The invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania was undoubtedly undertaken with a view of manoeuvering the Federal army, then in front of Fredericksburg, to a safer distance from the Confederate capital; to relieve Virginia of the presence of both armies; to subsist our troops upon new ground, that the old might recuperate, and with the idea a decisive battle fought elsewhere might be more productive of substantial results. These premises admitted, not only is gross injustice done to the memory of General Lee, in believing be crossed the Potomac bound fast by a promise to a subordinate to make the movement "strategically offensive, tactically defensive," as charged by General Longstreet, but such reported promise contains a positive reflection upon General Lee's military sagacity. As well might the Czar of Russia, acting as commander-in-chief of his army, have so committed himself to the Grand Duke Nicholas, or under like circumstances, the Sublime Porte have tied himself up to Osman Pasha, the hero of Plevna. The truth is, General Lee and his army were full of fight, their "objective point" was the Federal army of the Potomac, and "those people" the Confederate chief had resolved to strike whenever and wherever the best opportunity occurred, "strategically offensive and tactically defensive," to the contrary notwithstanding. An army of invasion is naturally an offensive one in strategy and tactics, and history rarely points to an instance where it has been concentrated on a given point to patiently await an attack. The distance from its base making supplies a difficult matter to procure, in itself regulates the whole question.
An army so situated must move or fight. The absurdity of Longstreet's statement is shown in admitting the presumption, General Lee knew all this; nor can we reconcile with the facts of the case General Longstreet's expression, wherein he says that his paper in the Times is called out by the fact that he has "been so repeatedly and rancorously assailed by those whose intimacy with the Commanding-General, in that battle, gives an importance to their assaults."
His communications just after the war to Mr. Swinton, the historian, were in substance the same attack upon General Lee which he has repeated in this paper. It was, therefore, in him, and came out before any of the utterances now complained of were made. The official reports of Generals Ewell, Early, and Pendleton, written soon after the battle, clearly stated it was well understood and expected that General Longstreet would make the main attack early in the morning of the 2nd of July.
If these reports furnished the "sly under-current of misrepresentation" of his course, why did he not ask his chief to correct their statements, and set him right upon the record? His revelations, if accepted now, would greatly injure the military reputations of Generals Lee, Ewell, and Hill. Alas! not one of whom live, for history's sake, to defend their stainless fame.
I propose to show, first, it was General Lee's intention to attack at sunrise or as soon as possible thereafter; second, the probable result of such an attack promptly made at an early hour, and, third, to examine the statement that General Longstreet had a plan to fight the battle different from General Lee's, which plan General Lee has since said would have been successful if adopted.
On the night of July 1st two corps of General Lee's army lay in close proximity to the enemy, ready, willing, and expecting to fight as early as possible on the next morning; and two divisions, McLaws and Hood's, of the three in the remaining corps the same night bivouaced some four miles in rear.
The natural inference to be deduced from their positions would be that the Federal troops hastening up would concentrate and fortify in front of the two corps already in position, while the force in rear would be used to attack at the most vulnerable and available point. That such was General Lee's intention I think can be as clearly established as that General Longstreet did not, upon the 2nd of July, 1863, use due diligence in carrying out the wishes of his chief.
General Early, a division-commander in Ewell's corps, in a recent paper on Gettysburg, gives a detailed narrative of a conference which General Lee held on the evening of the 1st with Ewell, Rodes, and himself, in which General Lee seemed very anxious for an attack to be made as early as possible next morning, and after being persuaded that it would not be best to make the main attack in Ewell's front said, "Well, if I attack from my right, Longstreet will have to make the attack--Longstreet is a very good fighter when he gets in position and gets everything ready, but be is so slow." General Early further states that General Lee left the conference with the distinct understanding that he would order Longstreet up to make the attack early the next morning.
General W. N. Pendleton, General Lee's chief-of-artillery, testifies that General Lee told him on the night of the 1st, when he reported to him the result of a reconnaissance on the right flank, that he "had ordered General Longstreet to attack on that flank at sunrise next morning."
The official reports of Generals Ewell, Early, and Pendleton, all confirm this testimony. General A.P. Hill, in his official report of the battle of Gettysburg, says, speaking of the operations of the morning of the 2nd, "General Longstreet was to attack the left flank of the enemy and sweep down his line, and I was directed to co-operate with him." General Long, one of the witnesses introduced by General Longstreet, who was at that time General Lee's military secretary, says, (in the portion of his letter which General Longstreet found it convenient to leave out, but which Gen. Early was fortunately able to supply,) "that it was General Lee's intention to attack the enemy on the 2nd of July as early as practicable, and it is my opinion that be issued orders to that effect." In letters published in the Southern Historical Society Papers for August and September, 1877, General Long gives various details which demonstrate that General Lee expected Longstreet to attack early in the morning of the 2nd; that, at 10 o'clock, "General Lee's impatience became so urgent that he proceeded in person to hasten the movements of Longstreet; that he was met by the welcome tidings that Longstreet's troops were in motion; and that, after further annoying delays, at 1 o'clock P. M. General Lee's impatience again urged him to go in quest of Longstreet." Col. Walter H. Taylor, of General Lee's staff, whose letter General Longstreet gives to show that he did not hear the order for an early attack, says, in his article published in the Southern Historical Society Papers for September, 1877, "it is generally conceded that General Longstreet on this occasion was fairly chargeable with tardiness;" that he had been urged the day before by General Lee "to hasten his march;" and, that, on the morning of the 2nd, "General Lee was chafed by the non-appearance of the troops, until be finally became restless and rode back to meet General Longstreet and urge him forward."
General Lindsay Walker, chief-of-artillery of Hill's corps, in a letter to me, says:
Letter from General R. Lindsay Walker.
Richmond, Va., January 17th, 1878.
General Fitz. Lee:
My Dear Sir: I cheerfully comply with a request to give you the following brief statement:
I was, at Gettysburg, as I continued to be to the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, chief of artillery of the Third corps, (Lieutenant-General A. P. Hill, commanding,) and it was, therefore, necessary for me to know on the evening of the 1st of July what dispositions of my artillery to make for the next day. I have a strong impression that I heard General Lee say that evening that he wished the battle opened at the earliest possible moment the next morning by a simultaneous attack on both flanks, and that this conversation took place with Generals Lee, Longstreet, Hill, and perhaps Ewell.
But I am positive that in receiving my instructions from General Hill, on the night of the 1st of July, he told me that the orders were for the attack on the heights to be made at daybreak the next morning on both flanks--that the Third corps was to co-operate as circumstances might determine--and that the artillery should be held in readiness to support either flank, or to advance in front as should be decided.
We were ready at daybreak the next morning, and waited impatiently for the signal. Between 9 and 10 o'clock, I was lying under the shade of a tree near Colonel W. F. Poague, who commanded that day the reserve artillery of my corps, when General Lee rode up to him and, mistaking him for one of General Longstreet's officers, administered to him a sharp rebuke for being there instead of hurrying into position on the right. Colonel Poague explained that he was in Hill's, not Longstreet's command, and General Lee at once apologized and eagerly asked, "Do you know where General Longstreet is?" Colonel Poague referred him to me, and I immediately came forward from my position (where I had heard distinctly the conversation), and offered to ride with General Lee to where I thought he could find General Longstreet. As we rode together General Lee manifested more impatience than I ever saw him show upon any other occasion; seemed very much disappointed and worried that the attack had not opened earlier, and very anxious for Longstreet to attack at the very earliest possible moment. He even, for a little while, placed himself at the head of one of the brigades to hurry the column forward.
I was fully satisfied then, as I am now, that General Lee had decided to attack early on the morning of the 2d; that he was bitterly disappointed at the protracted delay, and that this delay enabled General Meade to concentrate his forces and to occupy key positions, which we could have seized in the morning, and thus lost us a great victory.
I have the honor to be sir,
Very respectfully, your obd't serv't,
R. L. Walker.
At daylight on the morning of the 2d General Longstreet was at General Lee's headquarters renewing his protest against Making an attack, but General Lee "seemed resolved to attack," so says General Longstreet. As General Lee afterwards became so worried at the non-appearance of General Longstreet's troops, is it not a fair presumption that General Longstreet had already received his instructions? General Hood, writing to Longstreet, says, "General Lee was seemingly anxious you should attack that morning, and you said to me, the General is a little nervous this morning; he wishes me to attack; I do not wish to do so without Pickett."
In General Longstreet's official report we find that "Laws' brigade was ordered forward to its division during the day and joined about noon on the 2d. Previous to his joining [the italics are mine] I received instructions from the Commanding-General to move with the portion of my command that was up, to gain the Emmettsburg road on the enemy's left," * * * and that "fearing that my force was too weak to venture to make an attack, I DELAYED until General Laws' brigade joined its division." And yet in face of this, his official report, he charges the responsibility of the delay of his attack to General Lee in his recent paper to the Times, by writing that after receiving from General Lee the order to attack at 11 o'clock, he waited for Laws' brigade to come up, and that "General Lee assented." The two statements, it will be readily perceived, are at variance.
General Hood says be arrived, with his staff, in front of, the heights of Gettysburg shortly after daybreak on the morning of the 2d, and that his troops soon filed into an open field near by. Colonel Walton, chief of artillery, Longstreet corps, states that his reserve artillery arrived on the field about the same hour and reported themselves ready to go into battle. The Commanding-General was impatient--why the delay then until 4 P. M. in what General Lee intended to be his main attack?
General Longstreet, in his narrative, contends that the delay of several hours in the march of his column to the right was General Lee's fault, since the column was moved under the special directions of Colonel Johnston, an engineer officer of the Commanding-General, and having for the time the authority of General Lee himself, which he, Longstreet, could not set aside. Although he finally "became very impatient at this delay and determined to take the responsibility of hurrying the troops forward," which he did by what he seems to regard an ingenious flanking of General Lee's orders, viz., marching Hood, who was in McLaws' rear and not governed by General Lee's dilatory orders, "by the most direct route" to the position assigned him. If the military principle here established by General Longstreet is correct, why would not it have been that much better to have simply left a platoon at the head of his command to go through the form of following General Lee's engineer, and hasten on with the remainder of his command?
But in his official report (which be should have consulted) Longstreet says: "Engineers sent out by the Commanding-General and myself guided us by a road which would have completely disclosed the move--some delay ensued in seeking a more convenient route" (italics mine). It contains no hint that he lost "several hours by the blundering" of General Lee's engineer, Colonel S. P. Johnston, the gallant engineer officer mentioned by General Longstreet, tells me that he read the paper in the Times "with some surprise, particularly that portion where reference is made to the part I took in the operations of the 2d July," and says that he "had no idea that I (he) had the confidence of the great Lee to such an extent that he would entrust me with the conduct of an army corps moving within two miles of the enemy's line, while the lieutenant-general was riding at the rear of the column." Colonel Johnston, and I state it on his authority, was ordered by General Lee to make a reconnaissance on the enemy's left early on the morning of the 2d. On that errand he left army headquarters about 4 A. M. Upon returning be was required to sketch upon a map General Lee was holding the route he had taken, and was soon ordered to ride with General Longstreet." NO OTHER ORDERS HE RECEIVED. In obedience to such instructions he joined the head of Longstreet's corps about 9 A. M., and it was then about three miles from Round Top, by the route selected for its march. "After no little delay [I quote Colonel Johnston's words] the column got in motion and marched under cover of the ridge and woods until the head of the column got to about one and a half miles of the position finally taken by General Hood's division. Here the road turned to the right and led over a high hill to where it intersected a road leading back in the direction of the Round Top. When we reached the bend of the road, I called General Longstreet's attention to the hill over which he would have to pass, in full view of the enemy, and also to a route across the field, shorter than the road and completely hidden from the enemy's observation. General Longstreet preferred the road, and followed it until the head of his column reached the top of the hill. He then halted McLaws and ordered Hood forward. At the time our movement was discovered we were not more than a mile and a half from the position finally reached by Hood. Had General McLaws pushed on by the route across the field he would have been in position in less than an hour; yet General Longstreet says 'several hours' were lost by his taking the wrong road. The delay of 'several hours' cannot be attributed to General Longstreet's taking the wrong road (whether he or I is to blame for that), but in the delay in starting, the slowness of the march, the time unnecessarily lost by halting McLaws, and the time lost in getting into action after the line was formed. The fact that General Lee ordered me to make the reconnaissance and return as soon as possible, led me to believe, if he intended to attack at all, such attack was to be made at an early hour."
Colonel Johnston did not even know where General Longstreet was going. He supposed he had been ordered to ride with him simply to give him the benefit of his reconnaissance. He must be surprised then, as he states, to find himself considered by Gen. Longstreet in charge of McLaws' division, First corps, Army Northern Virginia. I dwell on this point because it is a most important one. Gettysburg was lost by just this delay of "several hours."
Facts, however, do not warrant us in believing that General Longstreet was always so particular in following officers sent by General Lee to guide his column, because many of us recall that in the opening of the spring campaign of 1864, General Lee sent an engineer officer to General Longstreet, then encamped near Gordonsville, to guide him to the point he wanted him in the wilderness, but this officer was pushed aside by General Longstreet's saying he, knew the route and had no use for his services. As a consequence, he lost his way and reached the wilderness twenty-four hours behind time, just as A. P. Hill was about to sustain a terrible disaster which Longstreet gallantly averted. This incident comes direct from General Lee himself, who cited it as an instance of Longstreet's habitual slowness.
From known facts then, it seems clearly established that to General Longstreet and not to General Lee, as the former claims, must be attributed the delay in the attack of the 2nd.
Let us now enquire what would have been the probable results of an earlier attack. From very accurate data in my possession I am enabled to give the following as the position of the Federal forces on the 2nd of July:
I begin on their right: At 6 A. M. Culp's Hill was only occupied by Wadsworth's division, First corps, and Stevens' Fifth Maine battery, Wadsworth's command being much shattered by the fight of the 1st. On our extreme left opposed to Wadsworth, were three brigades of Johnson's division, Ewell's corps. One of his brigades, Walker's, was in position faced to the left to guard the flank of our army. In front of Walker lay William's division of the Twelfth corps, and two regiments of Lockwood's independent brigade, and the Fifth corps, except Crawford's division, which arrived on the field about twelve o'clock. (Crawford's testimony before Committee on Conduct of the War).
The Eleventh corps occupied Cemetery Hill with the artillery attached to the First and Eleventh corps, except Stevens' battery, before mentioned. Doubleday's division of the First corps was massed in rear of Cemetery Hill, while Robertson's division of the same corps extended to the left along Cemetery Ridge, embracing that portion of it assaulted by Longstreet on the 3rd.
From the left of Robertson the line was occupied for about three quarters of a mile beyond which point two brigades of Humphreys' division of the Third corps were massed, and on their left two brigades of Birney's division of same corps, and constituting all of that corps then up--Birney and Humphreys having each left a brigade at Emmettsburg. General Humphreys, in a private letter to me, says "Birney reached Gettysburg about sunset the first day, leaving one brigade at Emmettsburg--with Birney there were probably 4,500, and at Emmettsburg 1,500. My division (Second division Third corps) reached the ground towards midnight of July 1st, leaving one brigade at Emmettsburg--with me there were about 4,000, and at Emmettsburg about 1,200.
"The return of the Third corps for the 30th of June, 1863, gives officers and enlisted men, infantry, present for duty 11,942; but there were less than 11,000 present at the battle. My impression is that the corps did not exceed 10,000 present on the ground."
These four brigades of the Third corps lay a little west of the crest of the ridge. The crest proper was held by Geary's division of the Twelfth corps from the night before, but about this time they began to move over to Culp's Hill, where they formed on a prolongation of Wadsworth's line, already mentioned. In front of the Third corps was Buford's two brigades of cavalry; and these troops at the time mentioned, 6 A. M., except some batteries of artillery, constituted all the troops then up. Mark the point--the Second corps, Hancock's, 12,088, by the return of June 30th, was in bivouac three miles in rear on the night of the 1st, (nearly as far from the Federal as Longstreet was from the Confederate lines). It broke camp at an early hour, and a little after 6 A. M. had reached that portion of the Taneytown road, running along the slope of Little Round Top. Between the hours of 6 and 9 A. M. some important changes were made. Let us commence on the Federal right again. Williams had assumed command of the Twelfth corps, and Ruger had taken his division, and with Lockwood's regiments, had moved over to Culp's Hill and formed on a prolongation of Geary's line. Notice how Meade was increasing the forces opposed to our left--the Fifth corps numbering, on the 10th of June, 1.863, 10,136 for duty, to which was added a portion of the Pennsylvania reserves, some 4,000 or 5,000, (Butterfield, then chief of Meade's staff, testimony before Committee on Conduct of the War, page 428,) moved across Rock Creek, was massed and held in reserve, where it lay until called upon to support Sickles in the afternoon, when its place was taken by the Sixth corps, which arrived at 3 P. M., having marched 32 miles since 9 P. M. on the first--(Meade's testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, page 438). This was the largest of the seven corps Meade had at Gettysburg, and on the 10th of June, 1863, numbered, for duty, 15,408. (Butterfield, page 428). It will be perceived that when two-thirds of Longstreet's corps went into camp four miles in rear of the field of Gettysburg, on the evening of the first of July, Sedgwick, with over 15,000 men, was 32 miles away. Upon his arrival, about the hour above named, he was ordered to relieve the Fifth corps. The latter corps was then ordered to move to the rear of Round Top; it reached there and was massed half a mile in rear between 4 and 6 p. M. Caldwell's division of the Second corps occupied Round Top just before the Fifth corps got up. (Meade.) Wadsworth's division and the Eleventh corps continued to occupy its first position until the close of the battle. Doubleday remained in the position before named until night, but Robertson's division was relieved by the Second corps, which had arrived at 7 A. M., and gone into position on Cemetery Ridge. The two remaining brigades of the Third corps left at Emmettsburg got up about 9 A. M., relieving Buford's cavalry, which was ordered back to Westminster to protect the depot of supplies. About the same time General Tyler came up with eight batteries of artillery. At half-past 10 A. M. Major McGilverey reached the field with the artillery reserve and ammunition train. At this hour the Federal army was all up, except one regiment of Lockwood's brigade, Sixth corps, whose movements have been previously given. At about 11 A. M. General Sickles ordered a reconnaissance, and at 12, advanced his command and occupied the intermediate ridge, extending his line to the foot of Round Top. Round Top was occupied as a signal station; the Fifth, it will be recollected, was, after 4 P. M., massed in its rear.
I ask a careful perusal of the positions, strength, and time of arrival upon the battle-field of the Federal troops on the 2d of July as here given. I think it will show that an attack at daybreak or sunrise, or at an hour preceding 9 A. M., nay, even 12 M., would have combined many elements of success. General Lee knew it, and to use Longstreet's own words, "was impressed with the idea that by attacking the Federals he could whip them in detail" (italics mine). General Lee, it seems, as was habitual with him, had a correct idea of the situation. His army, except a portion of the cavalry and one division of infantry, was practically concentrated on the night of July 1st, and could have attacked, if necessary, at daylight on the 2d. General Meade arrived, in person, at 1 A. M. on the 2d, and was engaged in getting his army up until after 2 P. M. on that day. He commanded at Gettysburg seven corps of infantry, viz., First, Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth, Eleventh, and Twelfth, and three divisions of cavalry, viz., Buford's, Kilpatrick's, and Gregg's--the two last reaching the field after Buford left. The First corps went into battle on the 2d with 2,450 men (Bates' History of Gettysburg, page 52, and Doubleday's testimony--who commanded it after Reynolds' death-page 309, Committee on the Conduct of the War); the Second corps being put at 12,088 (return of June 30th); the Third, including the two brigades not then up, 10,000 (General Humphrey's letter to me); the Fifth at 10,136; the Eleventh at 3,200 (this corps numbered 10,177 on the 10th of June. General Hancock said he could not find but 1,200 organized on the afternoon of the 1st of July, after their little difficulty with Ewell and Hill. Wadsworth's division, of that corps, went into the fight on the 1st with 4,000 men, and on the morning of 2d but 1,600 answered to their names--Wadsworth's testimony, page 413). The Twelfth corps, by the return of the 30th of June, numbered 8,056. These six corps numbered, then, on the 2d of July, before the Sixth corps reached the field, 45,930. The cavalry and 4,000 Pennsylvania reserves are not included in this statement of the Federal force. Ewell and Hill's corps numbered together about 28,000 men on the morning of the 2d, and Longstreet says he had, without Pickett, some 13,000 men, making our strength (leaving out the cavalry, too,) 41,000. General Lee could have had his 41,000 men in hand at daybreak, whereas General Meade could not count upon all of his 45,930 until after 12 M., Crawford's division, Fifth crops, not getting up, until then. General Longstreet, by an early attack, would have undoubtedly seized Round Top, for even as late as the attack was made, General Warren, Meade's chief of artillery (Warren's testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, page 377), says he went by General Meade's directions to Round Top, and from that point "I could see the enemy's line of battle. I sent word to General Meade that be would at once have to occupy that place very strongly. He sent as quickly as possible a division of General Sykes' corps, (Fifth,) but before they arrived the enemy's line of battle, I should think a mile and a half long, began to advance and the battle became very heavy at once. The troops under General Sykes arrived barely in time to save Round Top, and they had a very desperate fight to hold it." An attack at that point even before 12 o'clock would have been successful, because Sykes was then in reserve behind Meade's right and could not have gotten up. And Meade testifies (page 332) that Sykes, by hurrying up his column, fortunately was enabled to drive the enemy back and secure a foothold upon that important position, viz., Round Top, "the key-point of my whole position," General Meade says. And again, that "if they had succeeded in occupying that, it would have prevented me from holding any of the ground I subsequently held until the last." Behold the sagacity of General Lee! He wanted to attack early so as to "whip the Federals in detail,' and selected the very point admitted by his able opponent to be his "key-point.' It seems he would have gained the position if be could have imparted more velocity to the commander on his right. General Lee's plan seems, in a military sense, almost faultless. An English writer has said of General Lee, that with a character as near perfect as has been hitherto vouchsafed to mortals, there was yet in it, for a military man, a slight imperfection, viz., "a disposition too epicene." To the tender and loving heart of the woman he united the strong courage and will of the man, but a reluctance to oppose the wishes or desires of others, or to order them to do things disagreeable to them which they would not fully consent to or enter into. Perhaps herein lies the secret of his troubles on the 2d of July. He was fully alive, on his part, to the necessity of an early attack, and he saw with an unerring eye the "key-point," but in view of the unwillingness of the commander of the troops he had determined to begin the battle with, and who was at his headquarters at daylight arguing against, instead of making the attack, he may not have put his orders in that positive shape from which there could be no evasion, no appeal. General Hood, in a letter to me, says "I did not hear General Lee give the direct order to Longstreet to attack on the morning of the second day, nor have I ever believed that he gave a positive and direct order to do so, but merely as he (General Lee) often did, suggested the attack." If Hood is correct, the suggestion had the strength of an order in General Lee's own mind at least, because upon no other theory can we explain his personal actions and impatience on that morning or his own words to others. The attempt of General Longstreet to hold General Lee to the full responsibility of the failure at Gettysburg, because, in a spirit of magnanimity which has excited the highest admiration both in this country and in Europe, he said on the field of Gettysburg, "It is all my fault," as he had said in like spirit to Stonewall Jackson at Chancellorsville, "The victory is yours, not mine," will excite only surprise and not carry conviction to the minds of the old soldiers of General Lee, who knew the General's habit of self-depreciation. The effort must therefore fail in its purpose.
Now let us scrutinize the statement of General Longstreet that he had a plan to fight the battle of Gettysburg, which was submitted to General Lee and refused by him at the time, but which he afterwards regretted not having adopted, as it would have been successful. General Dick Taylor, in recent paper, says: "That any subject involving the possession or exercise of intellect should be clear to Longstreet and concealed from Lee, is a startling proposition to those possessing knowledge of the two men."
Readers of the history of the four years of "War between the States" will doubtless agree with General Taylor. General Lee's plan of battle at Gettysburg, in the light of subsequent facts, could not have been more admirably arranged if he had have possessed, in lieu of his own grand genius, the McCormick telescope, and the centre and both flanks of the Federal army had been within its focus. Why should he then have regretted that he had not adopted the plan of another? About one month after the battle of Gettysburg, General Lee wrote a letter to the President of the Confederacy, in which, after undervaluing his own ability, be says, "Everything, therefore, points to the advantages to be derived from a new commander, and I the more anxiously urge the matter upon your Excellency, from my belief that a younger and abler man than myself can readily be obtained. I know that be will have as gallant and brave an army as ever existed to second his efforts, and it would be the happiest day of my life to see at its head a worthy leader--one who could accomplish more than I could perform, and all that I have wished. I hope your Excellency will attribute my request to the true reason, the desire to serve my country." To this the Honorable Jefferson Davis, in the course of his reply, responds, "But suppose, my dear friend, that I were to admit, with all their implications, the points which you present, where am I to find that new commander who is to possess the greater ability which you believe to be required? I do not doubt the readiness with which you would give way to one who could accomplish all that you have wished; and you will do me the justice to believe that if Providence should kindly offer such a person, I would not hesitate to avail myself of his services. To ask me to substitute you by some one, in my judgment, more fit to command or who would possess more of the confidence of the army or of the reflecting men of the country, is to demand an impossibility."
I give extracts from these two letters because, some two years ago, General Lee's whole letter to Mr. Davis was reproduced in some of the public prints. It was followed by General Longstreet's letter to his uncle, (again republished in his paper to the Times,) and which first gave to the world the information that another plan to fight this great battle had been considered by the Commander of the Confederate army. This news was in turn succeeded by an extract from a letter from General Lee to General Longstreet, wherein he says, "Had I taken your advice at Gettysburg, instead of pursuing the course I did, how different all might have been." Following this came an extract from a letter of Captain Gorie to General Longstreet. The captain had been sent as a bearer of dispatches from General Longstreet, then in East Tennessee, to General Lee at Orange Courthouse. In this extract Captain Gorie tells us that, "upon my arrival there General Lee asked me in his tent, where he was alone, with two or three Northern papers on his table: He remarked that he had just been reading the Northern official reports of the battle of Gettysburg, and that he had become satisfied that, if he had permitted you to carry out your plans on the 3rd day, instead of making the attack on Cemetery Hill, we would have been successful."
These little extracts which General Longstreet uses again in his narrative, seem to appear as a desirable connection and to ring out a public notice, that the younger and abler man referred to by General Lee was the commander of his First army corps, and as there are witnesses still living to testify that General Longstreet once said in the house of the late John Alexander, at Campbell Courthouse, just after the surrender at Appomattox, that in case of another war he would never fight under General Lee again, it is fair to presume that he, too, was conscious of his own superiority, if all this be true.
Very many of us were not able to reconcile these reported utterances of General Lee with facts within our own knowledge; and General Longstreet was asked more than once to publish the whole letter that he claimed to have received from General Lee, that we might see the connection before and after the short sentence he permitted only to be known. His reply to this was concluded in hasty language foreign to the enquiry, and he failed to produce anything more. In the narrative in the Times, once again appears the same sentence, "only that and nothing more." It is possible that after General Lee's plans had been frustrated and his opportunity lost, he would naturally regret that he had not taken the advice of one who urged him not to attack.
In the Rev. J. Wm. Jones' "Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Lee," page 156, we find that General Lee, in speaking (to Professor White, of Washington and Lee University,) of the irreparable loss the South had sustained in the death of Jackson, said with emphasis: "If I had had Stonewall Jackson at Gettysburg, we should have won a great victory." How, by General Lee's or General Longstreet's plan? Tell me, you who knew Jackson best, if be had been in command of troops, say four miles; in rear of the battle-field on the night of the 1st of July, 1863, and General Lee had SUGGESTED to him to attack from his right on the morning of the 2d, what hour would he have attacked Meade's "key-point" on Round Top? Would the hour have approached nearer to 4 A. M. or 4 P. M.? For General Lee has said, "I had such implicit confidence in Jackson's skill and energy that I never troubled myself to give him detailed instructions--the most general instructions were all that he needed." But as bearing upon this point stronger, if possible, than Lee's wish for Jackson at Gettysburg, is the following language in a letter to me from a gentleman extensively known and universally noted for the purity of his life and the conscientiousness of his character, and who now worthily fills the responsible position of Governor of his State. This letter was written some two years ago in response to a note of mine sending him the published controversy between General Longstreet and Early in reference to the operations at Gettysburg. The high character of the writer gives to his statements great weight, but the letter being a private one, would have been kept from the public had not General Longstreet paraded what he terms "the weak points of the campaign of Gettysburg," in attempting to show the "eight" mistakes committed by General Lee.
The name of the author is not now given, because I do not wish to draw him into the discussion,
but it is at the disposal of any, one who questions the facts. His letter bears date April 15th, 1876:
"Major-General Fitzhugh Lee:
"My Dear Sir: I am in receipt to-day of your letter of the 14th inst., with its interesting inclosures
in reference to the battle of Gettysburg. I have not had leisure to follow closely the controversy
to which the article refers, but I remember perfectly my conversation with General Lee on this
subject. He said plainly to me 'that the battle would have been gained if General Longstreet had
obeyed the orders given him and had made the attack early instead of late.' He said further,
'General Longstreet, when once in a fight, was a most brilliant soldier; but he was the hardest man
to move I had in my army.'" * * * * * *
Does this testimony prove that General Lee regretted that he had not adopted another's plan to fight the battle of Gettysburg, or is it not cumulative to all the other well-known facts? Gen. Pleasanton, Meade's cavalry commander, writes a paper for the Philadelphia Times, January 19th, 1878, in which he tells us what he said to Meade after our repulse on the 3rd, and this is it: "I rode up to him, and after congratulating him on the splendid conduct of his army I said, "General, I will give you half an hour to show yourself a great general. Order the army to advance while I take the cavalry; get in Lee's rear and we will finish the campaign in a week." A Sandwich Islander, knowing nothing about the war except what he might read in these papers of Generals Longstreet and Pleasanton, but of a humane and benevolent disposition, would inwardly rejoice that they did not command their respective armies lest the historic feat of the "Kilkenny Cats" should have been eclipsed by not even leaving to the public their two tales.
In conclusion, let our fancy picture the grim veterans of the Army of Northern Virginia paraded in their camp-grounds in that month of August, 1863, to bear the announcement that Mr. Davis had accepted the resignation of their chief, would there not have resounded from front to rear, from flank to flank, "Le Roi est mort" ? but when the "younger and abler man," whoever he might be, assumed command, the mummies of the Pyramids or the skeleton bones beneath the ruins of Pompeii could not be more silent than the refusal of these heroes to sing to Lee's successor, "Vive Le Roi."
Aye, as certain as that the day will roll around, when "the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed,"
so sure would the Angel of Peace have donned her white and shining robes in that hour that
General Lee bid farewell to the Army of Northern Virginia and mounted "Traveller" to ride away
from his people. The termination of the war would indeed have simplified the duties of "the
younger and abler man!"
(Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 5, pages 162-194)