Supplement to General Early's Review.-Reply to General Longstreet.
[We had intended to have published in this No. of our Papers General Longstreet's letter to the
Philadelphia Times. For while we are, of course, under no obligation to copy what is published
elsewhere, we are desirous of getting at the whole truth, and wish to give every side a fair
hearing. But the great length of General Longstreet's article compels us to postpone it for another
issue. Meantime, General Longstreet's paper has been widely circulated, and it is due to fairness
and a proper desire to aid the search for truth that we should give, as we do without note or
comment of our own, the following rejoinder of General Early.]
After the foregoing review was in the hands of the printer, an article entitled "The campaign of Gettysburg," purporting to be by General James Longstreet, appeared in the Philadelphia Weekly Times of November the 3rd, which requires some notice at my hands. That article is not from General Longstreet's own pen, as is very apparent to those who are familiar with his style of writing, and of the fact I have the assurance from a quarter that leaves no doubt on the subject. The data and material for the article, however, were furnished by him and put in form by another. He is therefore responsible for its statements and utterances. The excuse for the appearance of the article is stated as follows:
After giving a letter, written on the 24th of July, 1863, to his uncle, he says:
",I sincerely regret that I cannot still rest upon that letter. But I have been so repeatedly and so
rancorously assailed by those whose intimacy with the Commanding-General in that battle gives
an apparent importance to their assaults, that I feel impelled by a sense of duty to give to the
public a full and comprehensive narration of the campaign from its beginning to its end; especially
when I reflect that the publication of the truth cannot now, as it might have done then, injure the
cause for which we fought the battle."
The temper towards General Lee in which the article was written, or rather procured to be written, is shown by the following extract from an editorial notice of some additions to the article received after it was in print, contained in the same number of the Times:
The editor says:
"The letter from General Longstreet which accompanies these enclosures dwells particularly upon
a point which he wishes to have his readers understand, as the justification of his present
narrative. It is that while General Lee on the battlefield assumed all the responsibility for the
result, he afterwards published a report that differs from the report he 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--and the account from which General Longstreet's critics get all their points
against him--Longstreet feels himself justified in discussing the battle upon its merits. It is in
recognition of his soldiery modesty that the substance of his letter is given here; the article is its
own sufficient justification."
This is a direct imputation upon the motives that governed Gen. Lee in writing his detailed report, if it does not impeach his veracity, and place him among General Longstreet's assailants.
General Longstreet ranks me among the assailants whose attacks call for this vindication of
himself and criticism of General Lee, and in that connection he says:
"It was asserted by General Pendleton, with whom the carefulness of statement or deliberateness
of judgment has never been a characteristic, but who has been distinguished by the unreliability of
his memory, that General Lee ordered me to attack the enemy at sunrise on the 2nd. General J.
A. Early has, in positive terms, endorsed this charge, which I now proceed to disprove."
General Longstreet is exceedingly careless in his statements, as 1 have had occasion before to demonstrate, and, while to some it may be a matter of surprise when I assert that there is no foundation whatever for the statement that I endorsed either General Pendleton's or anybody else's assertion that the order was given by General Lee to General Longstreet to attack at sunrise on the morning of the 2d of July at Gettysburg, those familiar with the controversy that arose out of a bitter assault by General Longstreet on myself will not be at all astonished. In my official report, dated in the month of August, 1863, after giving an account of the operations of the 1st of July, I say: "Having been informed that the greater portion of the rest of our army would move up during the night, and that the enemy's position would be attacked on the right and left flanks very early next morning, I gave orders to General Hays to move his brigade, under cover of the night, from the town into the field on the left of it, where it would not be exposed to the enemy's fire, and would be in position to advance on Cemetery Hill when a favorable opportunity should occur. This movement was made, and Hays formed his brigade on the right of Avery, and just behind the extension of the low ridge on which a portion of the town is located. The attack did not begin in the morning of next day, as was expected, and in the course of the morning I rode with Gen. Ewell to examine and select a position for artillery."
Here is a statement of a fact while its recollection was fresh in my memory, and it cannot surely be said that it was made for the purpose of attacking General Longstreet's war record "because of political differences," or from any other motive.
On the 19th of January, 1872, the anniversary of General Lee's birth, I delivered an address at
Washington and Lee University, by invitation of the faculty, and in that address, after speaking of
the fight on the 1st at Gettysburg, I said:
"General Lee had ordered the concentration of his army at Cashtown, and the battle on this day,
brought on by the advance of the enemy's cavalry, was unexpected to him. When he ascertained
the advantage that had been gained, he determined to press it as soon as the remainder of his army
arrived. In a conference with General Ewell, General Rodes and myself, when he did reach us,
after the enemy had been routed, he expressed his determination to assault the enemy's position at
daylight on the next morning, and wished to know whether we could make the attack from our
flank--the left--at the designated time. We informed him of the fact that the ground immediately
in our front, leading to the enemy's position, furnished much greater obstacles to a successful
assault than existed at any other point, and we concurred in suggesting to him that, as our corps
(Ewell's) constituted the only troops then immediately confronting the enemy, he would
manifestly concentrate and fortify against us during the night, as proved to be the case, according
to subsequent information. He then determined to make the attack from our right on the enemy's
left, and left us for the purpose of ordering up Longstreet's corps in time to begin the attack at
dawn next morning. That corps was not in readiness to make the attack until 4 o'clock in the
afternoon of the next day. By that time Meade's whole army had arrived on the field and taken its
position. Had the attack been made at daylight, as contemplated, it must have resulted in a
brilliant victory, as all of Meade's army had not then arrived, and a very small portion of it was in
position. A considerable portion of his army did not get up until after sunrise, one corps not
arriving until 2 o'clock in the afternoon; and a prompt advance to the attack must have resulted in
his defeat in detail. The position which Longstreet attacked at four was not occupied by the
enemy until late in the afternoon, and Round Top Hill, which commanded the enemy's position,
could have been taken in the morning without a struggle. The attack was made by two divisions,
and though the usual gallantry was displayed by the troops engaged in it, no material advantage
This constituted my sole criticism on Longstreet's operations on the 2nd day. In speaking of the
assault on the 3rd day, I said:
"On the next day, when the assault was made by Pickett's division in such gallant style, there was
again a miscarriage in not properly supporting it according to the plan and orders of the
Commanding-General. You must recollect that a Commanding-General cannot do the actual
marching and fighting of his army. These must, necessarily, be entrusted to his subordinates, and
any hesitation, delay, or miscarriage in the execution of his orders, may defeat the best-devised
schemes. Contending against such odds as we did, it was necessary, always, that there should be
the utmost dispatch, energy, and undoubting confidence in carrying out the plans of the
Commanding-General. A subordinate who undertakes to doubt the wisdom of his superior's
plans, and enters upon their execution with reluctance and distrust, will not be likely to ensure
success. It was General Jackson's unhesitating confidence and faith in the chances of success that
caused it so often to perch on his banners, and made him such an invaluable executor of General
Lee's plans. If Mr. Swinton has told the truth, in repeating in his book what is alleged to have
been said to him by General Longstreet, there was at least one of General Lee's corps
commanders at Gettysburg who did not enter upon the execution of his plans with that confidence
and faith necessary to success, and hence, perhaps, it was not achieved."
The foregoing constituted all the criticisms I had made on Gen. Longstreet's operations at
Gettysburg, or on any other theatre during the war, previous to the controversy before alluded to.
The views in regard to the delay in the attack on the 2nd had been repeated more succinctly in
notes to my own report, which was published in the September and October numbers of the
Southern Magazine for the year 1872. No where do I assert that General Lee had ordered
General Longstreet to make the attack at sunrise, or at any other specific time. I merely state that
he had announced to Generals Ewell, Rodes, and myself his purpose to attack at dawn on the
morning of the 2nd, and that he had left us for the purpose of ordering up Longstreet's troops to
begin the attack at that time. I do not know what were the specific orders given to Longstreet,
and in that respect I am as good a witness for him as either of those he has produced, who simply
do not know what were the orders given, nor when they were given. These orders were
manifestly given in person, and no living man can say precisely what they were, except General
Longstreet, if he indeed recollects them.
I was prompted to make the remarks I did make in my address at the Washington and Lee University from the fact that I had read Mr. Swinton's "Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac,"
and discovered that his criticisms on General Lee's conduct of the battle of Gettysburg, which are amplified in those now made in General Longstreet's name with a great similarity of expression
in several respects, was based on information given by the latter to Mr. Swinton after the war. I here give some extracts from Swinton's book:
On page 340 he says:
"Indeed, in entering on the campaign, General Lee expressly promised his corps commanders that
he would not assume a tactical offensive, but force his antagonist to attack him. Having,
however, gotten a taste of blood in the considerable success of the first day, the Confederate
commander seems to have lost that equipoise in which his faculties commonly moved, and he
determined to give battle."
There is a foot note to this statement as follows:
"This and subsequent revelations of the purposes and sentiments of Lee I derive from General
Longstreet, who, in a full and free conversation with the writer after the close of the war, threw
much light on the motives and conduct of Lee during this campaign."
On pages 340-1, he says:
"Longstreet, holding the right of the Confederate line, had one flank securely posted on the
Emmettsburg road, so that he was really between the Army of the Potomac and Washington, and
by marching towards Frederick could undoubtedly have manoeuvered Meade out of the
Gettysburg position. This operation Gen. Longstreet, who foreboded the worst from an attack
on the army in position, and was anxious to hold General Lee to his promise, begged in vain to be
allowed to execute."
To this there is a foot note as follows:
"The officer named is my authority for this statement."
On page 358 there is this foot note:
"The absence of Pickett's division on the day before made General Longstreet very loth to make
the attack; but Lee, thinking the Union force was not all up, would not wait. Longstreet urged in
reply that this advantage (or supposed advantage, for the Union force was all up) was
countervailed by the fact that he was not all up either, but the Confederate commander was not
minded to delay. My authority is again General Longstreet."
These uncontradicted statements by Swinton, the genuineness of which is now verified by similar statements under General Longstreet's direct authority, not only justified me in the remarks I made, but imperatively demanded a defense of General Lee against the severe criticisms based on them, in the address delivered on the occasion referred to, which necessarily involved a review of his military career. When General Longstreet had thus thrown down the gauntlet, he had no right to complain that a friend of General Lee took it up.
After he had begun to muddy the stream at as early a period as twenty days after the battle of Gettysburg, by his letter to his uncle, and when he resumed the work then begun immediately after the war by his communications to Mr. Swinton, his complaint now of being "rancorously assailed by those whose intimacy with the Commanding-General in that battle gives an apparent importance to their assaults," brings to mind very forcibly the fable of the wolf and the lamb.
In February, 1876, he made a bitter assault on myself, among others, in a long article published in a New Orleans paper, the gravimen of his complaint against me being the remarks about Gettysburg contained in my address which I have given.
I replied to him, and I think I demonstrated beyond all question that he was responsible for the loss of the battle of Gettysburg.
I did not in either of my articles in reply to him assert that an order was given him to attack at sunrise on the 2nd. As before stated, I do not know what orders were given him, nor when they were given. I only know the declared purpose of General Lee, and I cannot believe that he did not take every stop necessary to carry that purpose into effect, as every consideration required the attack on the morning of the 2nd to be made at the very earliest hour practicable.
The testimony General Longstreet has adduced is very far from establishing the fact that General Lee did not direct the attack to be made by him at a much earlier hour than that at which it was made.
Before referring to that testimony, I desire to say that the statement contained in the article in the Times, that the information of the crossing of the Potomac by the Federal army was received from a scout on the night of the 29th of June is erroneous. Gen. Longstreet's own report, as well as General Lee's detailed one, show that the information was received on the night of the 28th. If it had not been received until the night of the 29th, it would have been impossible for the order to return to reach me at York by the way of Carlisle in time for me to begin my march back early ,enough on the 30th to reach Gettysburg in time for the fight on the 1st of July. The fact was that I received the order on the morning of the 29th at York, with the information that the enemy had crossed the Potomac and was moving north.
The statements of Colonel Taylor and Marshall, and of Gen. Long, as given by General
Longstreet, that they knew nothing of an order to attack at "sunrise," amount to nothing. They
had no personal knowledge of the orders that were given, or of the time when they were given.
That is all their testimony amounts to. But General Longstreet omits a very important and
significant part of General Long's letter. That letter, a copy of which I have, goes on to say,
immediately after the part given by General Longstreet:
"As my memory now serves me, it was General Lee's intention to attack the enemy on the second
of July as early as practicable; and it is my impression that he issued orders to that effect. I
inferred that such was the case from the instructions that Gen. Lee gave me on the evening of the
first and very early on the morning of the second of July."
See also General Long's letter to me in the August number of the Southern Historical Society Papers.
The letter of Colonel Venable is as follows:
University of Virginia, May 11, 1875.
General James Longstreet:
Dear Sir: Your letter of the 25th ultimo, with regard to Gen. Lee's battle order on the 1st and 2nd of July at Gettysburg, was duly received. I did not know of any order for an attack on the enemy at sunrise on the 2nd, nor can I believe any such order was issued by General Lee. About sunrise on the 2nd of July I was sent by General Lee to General Ewell to ask him what he thought of the advantages of an attack on the enemy from his position. (Colonel Marshall had been sent with a similar order on the night of the 1st.) General Ewell made me ride with him from point to point of his lines, so as to see with him the exact position of things. Before he got through the examination of the enemy's position General Lee came himself to General Ewell's lines. In sending the message to General Ewell, General Lee was explicit in saying that the question was whether he should move all the troops around on the right and attack on that side. I do not think that the errand on which I was sent by the Commanding-General is consistent with the idea of an attack at sunrise by any portion of the army.
Yours, very truly,
Chas. S. Venable.
Can Colonel Venable or any one else believe that General Lee had formed no definite opinion as to how he should attack the enemy until after his return at 9 A. M. on the 2nd from Ewell's line? That, in fact, he did not make up his mind how to begin to begin the attack until 11 A.M., when General Longstreet says the peremptory order was given to him? If that was the case, then he exhibited a remarkable degree of indecision and vacillation, and the responsibility for the procrastination and delay that occurred must rest on him, and on him alone.
That Colonel Venable is sincere in his opinions I do not doubt, but I think his reasoning is illogical and his deductions erroneous.
That General Lee made up his mind promptly to attack the enemy in his position on the Gettysburg Heights, there can be no doubt.
General Longstreet says:
"When I overtook General Lee at 5 o'clock that afternoon, he said, to my surprise, that he thought
of attacking General Meade upon the heights the next day. I suggested that this course seemed to
be at variance with the plan of the campaign that had been agreed upon before leaving
Fredericksburg. He said: "If the enemy is there to-morrow we must attack him."
He then goes on to give a long list of the reasons he urged against the attack, and says of General
"He, however, did not seem to abandon the idea of attack on the next day. He seemed under a
subdued excitement which occasionally took possession of him when "the hunt was up," and
threatened his superb equipoise. The sharp battle fought by Hill and Ewell on that day had given
him a taste of victory."
Is this Swinton, or Longstreet, or the writer for the Times?
It is very clear to my mind that when General Lee found Longstreet so averse to an attack, he rode over to see Ewell, and then ensued that conference of which I have given an account. I can now fully understand the import of his expressions in regard to Longstreet, and his anxiety for the attack to be made by Ewell's corps.
When he rode back from that conference he found Longstreet, for the latter says: "I left General Lee quite late on the night of the first." And he further says: " When I left General Lee on the night of the first, I believe that he had made up his I mind to attack, but was confident that he had not yet determined as to when the attack should be made."
Now, General Lee had announced to Ewell, Rodes, and myself his purpose to attack at daylight or as soon thereafter as practicable, and asked whether we could not attack with our corps at that time. No man know better than he the value of time, and the supreme necessity of attacking before Meade's whole army was up, and is it credible that in talking to Longstreet about the attack he did not once intimate that he desired to attack as early as practicable on the morning of the 2nd, before Meade's army should all be up? Swinton says: "The absence of Pickett's division on the day before made General Longstreet very loth to make the attack; but Lee thinking the Union force was not all up, would not wait." This information he says he got from Longstreet. Is it not very certain, then, that General Lee was determined to make the attack before Meade's army was all up, and discussed with Longstreet the necessity of making the attack before Meade had time to concentrate? Longstreet's continued reluctance to make the attack, manifested no doubt on General Lee's return from Ewell's line, must have caused the sending of Colonel Marshall to Ewell on the night of the first, after the conferences have spoken of.
"On the morning of the 2nd I went to General Lee's headquarters at daylight and renewed my
views against making an. attack. He seemed resolved, however, and we discussed the results."
General Lee had been firmly resolved for near twelve hours to attack the enemy, and to attack
him before, all of his troops had been concentrated, and is it to be credited for a moment that he
had not then made up his mind when he should attack, nor where, nor how? Is it not palpable
that, finding Longstreet so persistently averse to the attack, and so loth to take the steps necessary
to begin it, he again sent Col. Venable to Ewell to see whether, after viewing the position by
daylight, he could not make the attack from his flank. Let us see what General Hood says in his
letter to Longstreet. He says:
" I arrived with my staff in front of the heights of Gettysburg shortly after daybreak, as I have already stated, on the morning of the 2d of July. My division soon commenced filing into an open field near me, where the troops were allowed to stack arms and rest until further orders. A short distance in advance of this point, and during the early part of that same morning, we were both engaged, in company with Generals Lee and A. P. Hill, in observing the position of the Federals. General Lee--with coat buttoned to the throat, sabre-hilt buckled around the waist, and field-glasses pending at his side--walked up and down in the shade of large trees near us, halting now and then to observe the enemy. He seemed full of hope, yet at times buried in deep thought.
"Colonel Fremantle, of England, was ensconced in the forks of a tree not far off, with glass in constant use, examining the lofty position of the Federal army.
"General Lee was seemingly anxious that you should attack that morning. He remarked to me: 'The enemy is here, and if we don't whip him he will whip us.' You thought it best to await the arrival of Pickett's division---at that time still in the rear--in order to make the attack; and you said to me subsequently, whilst we were seated together near the trunk of a tree: 'The General, is a little nervous this morning; he wishes me to attack; I do not wish to do so without Pickett. I never like to go into battle with one boot off.'
"Thus passed the forenoon of that eventful day when in the afternoon, about 3 o'clock, it was
decided to no longer await Pickett's division, but to proceed to our extreme right and attack up
the Emmettsburg road."
Can there longer be any question that General Lee wanted Longstreet to begin the attack very early in the morning--as, early as possible, and that the latter threw every obstacle in the way? Doubtless, after sending Colonel Venable to Ewell, General Lee's impatience at Longstreet's opposition to the attack and the delay in the movement of his troops caused him to ride over to Ewell's line to see for himself if it was not practicable to make the attack from that flank. Upon being satisfied that it could not be made to advantage there he rode back and gave the peremptory order--which, Longstreet says, was given at 11 A.M., though he did not begin the attack until about 4 P.M. If, as Colonel Venable supposes, General Lee had been undecided or vacillating as to how, when, and by whom the attack should be made, from 5 P. M. the day before until 11 A. M. of the 2d, when Longstreet acknowledges the receipt of the order, then Longstreet's opinion that "there is no doubt that General Lee during the crisis of that campaign lost the matchless equipoise that usually characterized him, and that whatever mistakes were made were not so much matters of deliberate judgment as the impulses of a great mind disturbed by unparalleled conditions" --that is, in plain English, that General Lee had lost his senses--has some foundation to rest on.
All who know General Lee's mode of giving directions to his subordinated, can well understand
how he indicated his purposes and wishes, without resorting to a technical order, and doubtless he
indicated to General Longstreet in that way his desire for him to make the attack, and make it at
the earliest practicable moment, and did not resort to the peremptory order until the time
indicated by General Longstreet. To rely on that is standing upon a mere technicality. But when
the order was given at 11 A.M., as acknowledged, why was it that it required until 4 P.M. to
begin? The pretense that he made the attack with great promptness, because he attacked before
any one else on that day, is simply ridiculous. Every one else was waiting for him to begin, as the
orders required them to do. General Ewell, in his report, in speaking of a contemplated movement
by Johnson on our extreme left, says:
"Day was now breaking, and it was too late for any change of plans. Meantime orders had come
from the General Commanding for me to delay my attack until I heard General Longstreet's guns
open on the right."
He is here speaking of the morning of the 2d ; and would Col. Venable have us believe that General Lee had not then made up his mind that Longstreet should open the attack, or communicated his intention to the latter?
There is one thing very certain and that is that either General Lee or General Longstreet was responsible for the remarkable delay that took place in making the attack. I choose to believe that it was not General Lee, for if any one knew the value of promptness and celerity in military movements he did. It is equally certain that the delay which occurred in making the attack lost us the victory.
It was very natural that Longstreet's corps should be selected to assume the initiative on the 2nd day at Gettysburg. Neither of his divisions had been at the recent battles at Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg, except McLaws', and that division, with the exception of Barksdale's brigade, had not been as heavily engaged there as the other troops. Ewell's corps had captured Winchester and cleared the valley on its advance into Pennsylvania, and two of its divisions, as well as two of Hill's, had been heavily engaged on the first.
Can it be that General Longstreet apprehended that if the advantage gained on the first day was promptly and vigorously prosecuted the chief glory of the battle would devolve on the two corps which had first encountered the enemy and brought him to bay, and hence desired to change the theatre of the battle that was inevitable?
A careful study of the testimony of Meade and his officers, contained in the 1st volume, 2nd series, of the Congressional Report on the Conduct of the War, will satisfy any one that the bulk of the Federal army that was up was massed on the right, confronting Ewell's corps, all the forenoon of the 2nd, and that the Round Tops, the key to the position on the enemy's left were unoccupied until Longstreet's movement began at 4 P. M. The distance which Longstreet's corps had to march from its camp of the night, of the 30th, to reach the town of Gettysburg itself, could not have exceeded 15 miles, and it had the whole day of the 1st to make it, though it was somewhat delayed by Johnson's division of Ewell's corps, which got the road first, by moving more promptly it is presumed. The Fifth corps of Meade's army was 23 miles from Gettysburg at the close of the fight on the first day, and the Sixth corps was 36 miles away, yet the former reached the field on the morning of the 2nd, and the latter at 2 P. M.
To show that a great opportunity to inflict a crushing defeat on Meade's army was lost by the
failure to make the attack in the morning, I here reproduce what I said on that point in the
discussion with General Longstreet which has been mentioned, as follows:
"That General Lee was correct in selecting the enemy's left for his attack, there can be no question, for that was the weakest and most assailable part of the enemy's line. That the possession of Round Top by us would have rendered the position at Gettysburg untenable by the enemy, is proved by the testimony of Meade himself, contained in the same volume of Reports on the Conduct of the War from which I have already quoted, and to which I will refer hereafter by page alone, to prevent unnecessary repetition. On page 332, in describing the attack on Sickles, Meade says: 'At the same time that they threw immense masses on Sickles' corps, a heavy column was thrown upon the Round Top Mountain, which was the key-point of my whole position. If they had succeeded in occupying that, it would have prevented me from holding any of the ground which I subsequently held to the last.' That Sickles did not occupy the position assaulted by General Longstreet until late in the afternoon, is proved by the testimony of Hancock and others. On page 406, Hancock says: 'Every thing remained quiet, except artillery firing and engagements with pickets on our front, until about four o'clock that afternoon, when General Sickles moved out to the front.' After stating that he had made a reconnaissance to ascertain whether an attack could be made on our left, Warren on page 377, says: 'Soon afterwards I rode out with General Meade to examine the left of our line, where Gen. Sickles was. His troops could hardly be said to be in position.' On pace 332, Meade says he arrived on the ground where Sickles was, ' a few minutes before 4 o'clock in the afternoon.' That Round Top was unoccupied until after Longstreet's attack began, is proved by the testimony of Warren, who says, on page 377: "I then went, by General Meade's direction, to what is called Bald Top, and from that point I could see the enemy's lines of battle. I sent word to General Meade that we would at once have to occupy that place very strongly. He sent as quickly as possible, a division of General Sykes' corps; 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 Hill, and they had a very desperate fight to hold it.' During all the forenoon the bulk of Meade's troops which had arrived were massed on the right (enemy's), as Meade contemplated an attack from that flank--Hancock's corps connected with Howard's, and Sickles was on the left of Hancock, but he did not go into position until the afternoon. On page 405, Hancock says: 'I was placed on the line connecting Cemetery Hill with Little Round Top Mountain, my line, however, not extending to Round Top, probably only about half way. General Sickles was directed to connect with my left and the Round Top Mountain, thus forming a continuous line from Cemetery Hill (which was held by Gen. Howard) to Round Top Mountain.'
"These arrangements were not made until the morning was considerably advanced.
"On page 331, Meade after stating his purpose to make an attack from his right says:
" Major-General Slocum, however, reported that the character of the ground in front was unfavorable to making an attack; and the Sixth corps having so long a distance to march, and leaving at nine o'clock at night, did not reach the scene until about two o'clock in the afternoon. Under these circumstances I abandoned my intention to make an attack from my right, and as soon as the Sixth corps arrived, I directed the Fifth corps, then in reserve on the right, to move over and be in reserve on the left.'
"It was a division of the Fifth corps (General Sykes') that rescued the Round Top from the grasp of our assaulting column. Does not this show how weak the left was in the morning, and how easy it would have then been for our troops on the right to have gotten possession of the key to the position? That General Lee's plans were thwarted by the delay on the right, can any man doubt? On the occasion of the dedication of the Cemetery for the Federal soldiers killed at Gettysburg, Edward Everett, in the presence of President Lincoln, some of his cabinet, many members of Congress and officers of the army, and an immense concourse of citizens, delivered an address, in which he thus graphically describes the effect of the delay that took place:
"'And here I cannot but remark on the Providential inaction of the rebel army. Had the conflict been renewed by it at daylight on the 2nd of July, with the First and Eleventh corps exhausted by battle, the Third and Twelfth weary from their forced march, and the Second, Fifth, and Sixth not yet arrived, nothing but a miracle could have saved the army from a great disaster. Instead of this the day dawned, the sun rose, the cool hours of the morning passed, and a considerable part of the afternoon wore away without the slightest aggressive movement on the part of the enemy. Thus time was given for half of our forces to arrive and take their places in the lines, while the rest of the army enjoyed a much needed half-day's repose.'
"It is to be presumed that before preparing an address that was to assume a historical character,
Mr. Everett had obtained accurate knowledge of all that transpired within the Federal lines from
the most authentic sources, and doubtless he presents a true picture of the actual condition of
If General Lee was responsible for the delay the effects of which were so graphically described by Mr. Everett, if, in fact, his mind was undecided and vacillating as to when, where, and how he should begin, then his conduct on that occasion was at war with his whole character and history. Who can believe it? I repeat here a remark I have made on another occasion when vindicating General Lee against a charge of want of decision and boldness in action: "There is another reason, which to me is a most potent one; and that is, because I know that the boldest man in his strategic movements and his tactics on the field of battle, in all the Army of Northern Virginia, Stonewall Jackson not excepted, was General Robert E. Lee." I cannot believe, therefore, that he omitted to do anything necessary to carry out his avowed purpose of attacking the enemy at a very early hour on the morning of the 2nd, which every consideration so imperatively demanded, except to supersede General Longstreet with another commander of the First corps; and then the question arises: Where could one of sufficient rank have been found?
General Longstreet, or his annalist, has copied from the "Military Annals of Louisiana," A book I never heard of before, an absurd story about General Hays' having sent for me at the close of the fight on the 1st and urged an immediate advance on the heights, in which it is said that, though I agreed with Hays, I refused to allow him to seize those heights, because orders had been received from General Lee through Ewell to advance no further than Gettysburg, if we succeeded in capturing that place. As I have shown in my "Review," I received no orders whatever on that day from either General Ewell or General Lee until after the whole fighting was over, except the simple order on the march to move towards Gettysburg, the previous orders being to concentrate at Cashtown. General Longstreet says, in this connection: "General Hays told me ten years after the battle that he 'could have seized the heights without the loss of ten men.'" How mistaken General Hays was in making such a remark will abundantly appear from the facts I have already given in my "Review," and the statement of Bates in regard to the precautions taken by Steinwehr, whose division, of 4,000 men, occupied the heights immediately confronting Hays, whose brigade was considerably less than 1,400 strong at the close of the fight.
General Longstreet further says, after giving his evidence to prove that no order was given for an
attack at sunrise:
"Having thus disproved the assertions of Messrs. Pendleton and Early in regard to this rumored
order for a sunrise attack, it appears that they are worthy of no further recognition; but it is
difficult to pass beyond without noting the manner in which, by their ignorance, they marred the
plans of their chief on the field of battle."
After referring to the removal of some seven pieces of artillery from one part of the field to another, as the manner in which General Pendleton, by his "ignorance," "marred the plans" of General Lee, General Longstreet is made to say: 'General Early broke up General Lee's line of battle on the 2d of July, by detaching part of his division on some uncalled-for service, in violation, of General Lee's orders, and thus prevented the co-operative attack of Ewell ordered by General Lee."
This statement must have been compiled by Gen. Longstreet's annalist from the copy of his assault on me which was furnished, for General Longstreet himself would hardly have reiterated it after I had so effectually exploded it in our controversy. My official report, as well as the very full statement contained in my "Review," show that two of my brigades were placed, on the afternoon of the 1st, before General Lee came to our part of the line, on the York road, to guard against a flank movement apprehended in that direction. They never were in the line on the 2nd, at all, but Gordon's brigade was sent for on the 2nd, Stuart's cavalry having arrived, and got back just as Hays' and Hoke's brigades were moving to the assault of Cemetery Hill. The repetition of this statement is simply ridiculous, and shows how hard General Longstreet and his apologists are pressed. General Longstreet has not disproved the assertion made by General Pendleton that an order was given for the attack at sunrise. That assertion made by General Pendleton, and not by myself, was contained in an address delivered by him one year after mine had been delivered. General Longstreet has merely shown that four of General Lee's staff officers knew of no such order, but neither did they know what order was given, nor when any order was given for the attack. He omits to give a very significant part of General Long's letter, which tends to show that some order must have been given for an attack early on the morning of the 2nd. The question, therefore, rests on an issue of veracity between General Longstreet and General Pendleton. The latter was General Lee's chief of artillery, who had very important duties to perform in regard to posting the artillery for the impending battle, and it was very natural that General Lee should communicate to him the time when the battle was to open, and what orders had been given in regard thereto. It was not necessary to communicate the same facts to the staff-officers, whose statements are given. General Pendleton professes to have obtained the information as to the order from General Lee himself, and I am disposed to side with him on the question of veracity, just as I am disposed to side with Colonel Taylor on the direct issue of veracity raised by General Longstreet with him in regard to the order for the use of Hood's and McLaws' divisions in the attack made on the 3d.
General Lee's statement of his orders in regard to this latter attack would imply that the orders originally given in regard to it were to make it with Longstreet's whole corps, and is therefore corroborative of Colonel Taylor's statement.
It is to be observed here that General Longstreet has heretofore denied the authenticity of General
Lee's detailed report, first published in the Historical Magazine, New York, then in the Southern
Magazine, Baltimore, and lastly among the Southern Historical Society Papers from another
copy, which confirms the genuineness of the first. The article now given under the sanction of his
name quotes partly from the preliminary report given in the Appendix to Bates' History of the
Battle of Gettysburg and partly from the detailed report; but it appears that he thinks the latter
was written in a different spirit from that in which the preliminary report was written, and being a
"somewhat critical account of that battle," from it his "critics got all their points against him." In
speaking of "Ewell's inaction," he says:
"Having failed to move at 4 o'clock, while the enemy was in his front, it was still more surprising
that he did not advance at 5 o'clock with vigor and promptness, when the trenches in front of him
were vacated, or rather held by one single brigade, as General Meade's testimony before the
Committee on the Conduct of the War states."
By this statement General Longstreet or his vicarious chronicler has endeavored to show that while the fighting was progressing on the enemy's left, our right, Ewell's corps, was confronted by only one brigade. This attempt to pervert Meade's testimony shows how little credit any of the statements or arguments contained in the article are entitled to.
Here is what Meade says in his testimony, page 333:
"During these operations upon the left flank, a division and two brigades of the Twelfth corps,
which held the right flank, were ordered over for the purpose reinforcing the left. Only one
brigade, however, arrived in time to take any part in the action, the enemy having been repulsed
before the rest of the force came up. The absence of this large proportion of the Twelfth corps
caused my extreme right flank to be held by one single brigade of the Twelfth corps, commanded
by General Greene. The enemy perceiving this, made a vigorous attack upon General Greene, but
were held at bay by him for some time, until he was reinforced by portions of the first and
Eleventh corps, which were adjacent to him, when he succeeded in repulsing them."
In his official report, Bates' Battle of Gettysburg, page 240, Meade says:
"An assault was, however, made about eight P. M. on the Eleventh corps, from the left of the
town, which was repelled by the assistance of troops from the Second and First corps. During the
heavy assault upon our extreme left, portions of the Twelfth corps were sent as reinforcements.
During their absence the line on the extreme right was held by a very much reduced force. This
was taken advantage of by the enemy, who, during the absence of Gracy's division of the Twelfth
corps, advanced and occupied part of the line."*(*It will be seen by this statement of General
Meade's, the witness adduced by General Longstreet to show that all the troops from Ewell's front
except one brigade had been allowed, by "Ewell's inaction," to be thrown against him, that only
one brigade from that point arrived in time to take part in the action on the enemy's left, Meade
adding: "The enemy having been repulsed before the rest of the force came up.")
It was then on the extreme right from which troops were taken, so as to leave only one brigade there. This was at Culp's Hill and on the right of it (the enemy's), where the sides of the hill were wooded and exceedingly rugged. This part of the line confronted Johnson's division, while Cemetery Hill itself was held by the First and Eleventh corps, which Butterfield shows in his testimony numbered more than 10,000 men on the 4th of July, after all the fighting on the 2nd and 3rd. In addition, the Second corps, Hancock's, was on the left of the Eleventh corps, connecting with it. That corps had three divisions, only one of which was sent to the enemy's left daring Longstreet's attack. The attack mentioned by Meade as having been made on the Eleventh corps, when troops from the Second and First corps came to its assistance, was the attack made by my two brigades described in my "Review."
That attack began sooner than Meade states. It began about sunset (see Bates), and my brigades were compelled to retire probably about or a little after 8 P. M. It will be seen that there is a very gross perversion, in the article of Meade's testimony. Instead of there being only one brigade to hold the trenches in front of Ewell, there was a force fully equal to the entire strength of Ewell's corps at that time, with two divisions of Hancock's corps in easy supporting distance. This attempt of General Longstreet or his apologist to misrepresent the facts for the purpose of casting censure on General Ewell, is wholly unjustified by any criticisms of the latter on him, and demonstrates how utterly unreliable the whole article is for historical purposes.*
(*The following is another instance of a perversion of the testimony by General Longstreet or his compiler. In referring to Colonel Taylor's account of the delay in the attack from our right on the 2d, the article proceeds:
"He (Colonel Taylor( says: 'General Longstreet's dispositions were not completed as early as was expected; [it appears that he was delayed by apprehensions that his troops would be taken in reverse as they advanced]. General Ewell, who had orders to co-operate with General Longstreet, and who was, of course, not aware of any impediment to the main attack, having reinforced General Johnson during the night of the 2d, ordered him forward early the next morning. In obedience to these instructions, General Johnson became hotly engaged before General Ewell could be informed of the halt that had been called on our right.'
"Let us look at the facts of this. Instead of 'making this attack at daylight,' General Ewell says:
'Just before the time fixed for General Johnson's advance the enemy attacked him to regain the
works captured by Stuart the evening before.'"
This is all that is given of Ewell's statement, and then follows an extract from Meade's testimony.
The part of Colonel Taylor's statement, put in brackets above, was omitted in the article. Here is
Ewell's whole statement as contained in his report:
"I was ordered to renew my attack at daylight Friday morning, and as Johnson's position was the only one affording hopes of doing this to advantage, he was reinforced by Smith's brigade of Early's division, and Daniel's and Rodes' (old) brigades of Rodes' division.
"Half an hour after Johnson attacked (on Friday morning), and when too late to recall him, I received notice that General Longstreet would not attack until 10 o'clock; but, as it turned out, his attack was delayed till after 2 o'clock. Just before the time fixed for Johnson's advance the enemy attacked him to regain the captured by Stuart the evening before. They were repulsed with very heavy loss, and he attacked in turn, pushing the enemy almost to the top of the mountain, when the precipitous nature of the hill and an abattis of logs and stones, with a very heavy work on the crest of the hill, stopped his further advance. In Johnson's attack the enemy abandoned a portion of their works in disorder, and as they ran across an open space to another work, were exposed to the fire of Daniel's brigade at sixty or seventy yards. Our men were at this time under no fire of consequence, their aim was accurate, and General Daniel thinks that he killed there, in half an hour, more than in all the rest of the fighting.
"Repeated reports from the cavalry on our left that the enemy was moving heavy columns of
infantry to turn General Johnson's left, at last caused him, about 1 P.M., to evacuate the works
already gained. These reports reached me, also, and I sent Captain Brown, of my staff with a
party of cavalry to the left, to investigate them, who found them to be without foundation; and
General Johnson finally took up a position about three hundred yards in rear of the works he had
abandoned, which he held under a sharp fire of artillery and exposed to the enemy's sharpshooters
Meade's testimony is not at all inconsistent with this statement of facts; but by wresting our short
statement of Ewell's from the context and adding Meade's, the false impression is sought to be
made that Johnson did not attack at all. General Longstreet complains of "Ewell's inaction" on
the 2d. What must be thought of his inaction from daylight to 2 P.M. on the 3d?)
The statement by General Alexander, who was only a colonel of artillery at Gettysburg, that the responsibility of ordering Pickett when to begin the charge on the third day was devolved on him, with permission even to abstain from giving the order or "advise," as it is called, while General Longstreet, himself shrank from the responsibility properly attached to him, has excited profound astonishment. That statement is now confirmed by Gen. Longstreet's own version of the matter, and it becomes abundantly apparent that the orders and plans of General Lee did not receive from him that hearty support which was absolutely necessary to success.
I desire to say in conclusion, that I do not wish to be understood as in any manner reflecting upon the conduct of that superb body of men who constituted the First corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. Their part on this occasion, so far as devolved on them, was performed in a manner becoming soldiers battling for the righteous cause in which they were enlisted.
I must add that I have never at any time entertained the feeling that would exalt the soldiers from one state at the expense of those from another. It was my fortune to command at some time or other during the war soldiers from every Confederate state, including Kentucky and Missouri, except the state of Texas, and I also commanded the Maryland troops. I could cite instances in which the troops who fought under me from each of those states, respectively, performed the most brilliant and daring feats. As the soldiers from North Carolina, especially, have taken exception to the remarks and statements of others, I will take occasion to say, that every infantry organization from that state belonging to the Army of Northern Virginia, prior to my departure from it on my Valley campaign, had at some time been under my command, and there was but a very brief interval when 1 did not have North Carolina soldiers under me. I can say in all sincerity, that there were no better troops rom any state in all that grand army than
the North Carolina soldiers, and of all that bright galaxy of heroes who yielded their lives for their country's cause while serving with that army, the names of Anderson, Branch, Pender, Daniel, Ramseur, and Gordon of the cavalry, will stand among the foremost.
There was enough glory won by the Army of Northern Virginia for each state to have its full share and be content with it, and there is no occasion to wrangle over the distribution of the
J. A. Early.
(Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol.4, pages 282-302)