General Longstreet's Second Paper on Gettysburg.
We again depart from our general rule against copying articles which are published in other
periodicals, in order that we may give General Longstreet the fullest opportunity of putting on
record his views concerning Gettysburg. We published for the first time his official report; we
have published a number of the reports of gallant officers belonging to his corps; and we. have
published letters from his division commander, General Hood, and his artillery commanders,
General E. P. Alexander ind Colonel J. B. Walton, besides his own narrative in the Philadelphia
Times. We now copy from the Times his second paper:
I am induced to prepare an article on the campaign of Gettysburg, supplementary to the one that appeared in the columns of your paper some weeks ago, that I may correct some slight errors of print or transcription that occurred in that paper; that I may make some additional statements, forbidden in my first paper by reason of its length; that I may correct an apparent injustice to a very worthy officer; and, last and least, to make some allusion to the ill-natured and splenetic attacks provoked by that paper from certain wordy soldiers. I prepared my first paper with genuine reluctance. It was brought into existence by the request of the editor of the Timesand the petition of the Comte de Paris, in which he publicly announced his inability to settle definitely certain points of that campaign, and urged the surviving Confederate officers to give the theory and the detail of the invasion from their point of view. It was justified, in my own mind, by the reflection that I was, perhaps, the only person living who could explain the motif of that campaign and the true reasons of its failure. It was made necessary by the fact that our amateur historians, through misapprehension or malice, had nearly all gone wrong, and utterly misconstrued the plan and purpose of that invasion, misused and misstated its facts, and dislocated its responsibilities. The Comte de Paris and the general historian, had they relied upon these statements, instead of finding the true solution of this, the great problem of the war, would have had it involved in more profound obscurity.
In my first article I declared that the invasion of Pennsylvania was a movement that General Lee and his council agreed should be defensive in tactics, while, of course, it was offensive in strategy; that the campaign was conducted on this plan until we had left Chambersburg, when, owing to the absence of our cavalry, and our consequent ignorance of the enemy's whereabouts, we collided with them unexpectedly, and that General Lee had lost the matchless equipoise that usually characterized him, and through excitement and the doubt that enveloped the enemy's movements, changed the whole plan of the campaign, and delivered a battle under ominous circumstances. I declared that the battle of the 2d was not lost through the tardiness of the First corps, but through the failure of the troops ordered to co-operate to do so; that there was no order ever issued for a sunrise attack; that no such order could have been issued, and that the First corps could not possibly have attacked at that time; that when it did attack its movement was weakened by the derangement of the directing brigade of support under General Wilcox, and was rendered hopeless by the failure of Ewell's corps to cooperate, its line of battle having been broken through the advice of General Early, and that in this attack Hood's and McLaws' divisions did the best fighting ever done on any field, and encountered and drove back virtually the whole of the Army of the Potomac. I held that the mistakes of the Gettysburg campaign were:
First, the change of the original plan of the campaign, which was to so manoeuvre as to force the Federals to attack us; second, that if the plan was to have been changed at all it should have been done at Brandy Station, near Culpeper Courthouse, when we could have caught Hooker in detail and probably have crushed his army; third, that Stuart should never have been permitted to leave the main route of march, and thus send our army into the enemy's country without cavalry for reconnaissance or foraging purposes; fourth, that the crushing defeat inflicted on the advance of the Federal army in the casual encounter of the 1st at Willoughby's Run, should have been pushed to extremities, that occasion furnishing one of the few opportunities ever furnished for "pursuit pell-mell"; fifth, the army should have been carried around to Meade's right and rear on the night of the 1st, and placed between him and his capital, and thus forced him to attack us, as he certainly intended doing; sixth, when I attacked the enemy's left, on the 2d, Ewell should have moved at once against his right and Hill should have threatened his centre, and thus prevented a concentration of the whole Federal army at the point I was assaulting; seventh, on the morning of the 3d we should still have moved to the right, and manoeuvred the Federals into attacking us; eighth, the assault by Pickett, on the 3d, should never have been made, as it could not have succeeded by any possible prodigy of courage or tactics, being absolutely a hopeless assault.
These points I supported with the most particular proof. Not a single one of them has been controverted. The truth of a single fact, or the correctness of a single opinion laid down in that article, has not been disproved. Very few of them have been questioned--none of them overthrown. I have been subjected to a loud and incoherent assault, led by certain gentlemen whose steady purpose of misrepresenting my record has become notorious, and seconded by a few others who follow through ignorance or innocence. Without proceeding directly against the essential parts of my narrative, they raise a clamor of objection and denial. One of the chief elements of this tom-tom warfare is found in the fact that, owing to wounds received in the honorable service of my country, which have virtually paralyzed my right arm and made it impossible for me to write, save under pain and constraint, I have been compelled in the preparation of my articles to accept the service of a professional writer, generously tendered me by the editor of the Times. Upon such trifling casuals as this do my enemies purpose to build their histories and amend mine. The attempt is at once pitiful and disgraceful.
The first point that demands attention is the number of forces on each side engaged in the Gettysburg campaign. In my first article I claimed that we had 52,000 infantry and the Federals 95,000 men; stating, further, that those were the highest figures of our forces and the lowest of theirs. General R. R. Dawes, in commenting on this estimate, disagrees with it quite widely. The main point that he makes is to quote from Swinton's "Army of the Potomac" the following paragraph (page 310): "The number of infantry present for duty in Lee's army on the 31st of May, 1863, was precisely 68,352. I learn from General Longstreet that when the three corps were concentrated at Chambersburg, the morning report showed 67,000 bayonets, or above 70,000 of all arms." This statement is certainly explicit, but there are discrepancies on the face of it that should have warned a cautious and capable writer not to accept it: First, any one at all familiar with the history of the campaign, or even the leading points of it, must have known that the three corps of the army were never "concentrated at Chambersburg" at all; second, it is well known that any organization upon 67,000 bayonets would have involved an infantry force alone of "over 70,000," and thus have left no margin in the estimate that Mr. Swinton ascribes to me for the other arms of the service.
If General Dawes had followed Swinton's narrative closely he must have discovered that (page 365) he says: "General Lee's aggregate force present for duty on the 31st of May, 1863, was 68,352." These are the precise figures that he gives on page 31 as the aggregate of the infantry alone. Mt information upon this subject was taken from General Lee's own lips. He estimated his force to be, including the detachments that would join him on the march, a trifle over 70,000. On the 30th of June, or the 1st of July, he estimated his infantry at 52,000 bayonets. If Mr. Swinton received any information from me upon the subject he received this, for it was all that I had. Since I have read the report of the Adjutant-General of the Army of Northern Virginia, lately published, I am inclined to believe that General Lee included in his estimate two brigades of Pickett's division (Jenkins' and Corse's) which were left in Virginia, or some other detachments made during the march. If this surmise is correct, it would make the total figures considerably less than I gave them. I am certain the real strength of his army cannot go above the number given in my first article. As to the strength of General Meade's army, I take his own statement for that. In his evidence taken before the Committee on the Conduct of the War (page 837 of their report) he says: "My strength was a little under 100,000--probably 95,000 men." I used in my narrative the lowest figures that he gave. In printing the article it is made to appear that Meade had 95,000 infantry. It should have been 95,000 men. This much as to the comparative strength of the two armies. It is the truth, and will stand as history that Meade's army was nearly double that of Lee.
In my first article I claimed that my troops fought an extraordinary battle on the 2d. I asserted
that my 13,000 men virtually charged against the whole Federal army, encountered nearly 65,000
of the enemy, and broke line after line of fresh troops, until at length, after three hours of the best
fighting ever done, they found themselves in a single line of battle charging 50,000 Federals
entrenched, massed on Cemetery Ridge. Then, when one-third of their number lay in their bloody
track, dead or wounded, and they were exposed in front and flank to an overwhelming fire, and
their supporting brigades had gone astray, and there was no sign of positive or strategic
co-operation from their comrades, I ordered them to withdraw to the peach orchard that they had
wrested from the Third corps early in the engagement. This claim has been severely criticized. It
can be established by the testimony of every honest and well-informed man who was in that battle.
But I relied for my proof upon the official report of General Meade himself. He made this report,
it will be remembered, thinking that the whole or greater part of Lee's army had charged his
position in the afternoon of the 2d. He says:
"The Third corps received the shock most heroically. Troops from the Second were sent by
Major-General Hancock to cover the right flank of the Third corps, and soon after the assault
commenced. * * * The Fifth corps most fortunately arrived and took position on the left of the
Third, Major-General Sykes commanding, immediately sending a force to occupy Round Top
Ridge, where a most furious contest was maintained, the enemy making desperate but
unsuccessful attempts to secure it. Notwithstanding the stubborn resistance of the Third corps,
under Major-General Birney (Major-General Sickles having been wounded early in the action),
superiority of number of corps of the enemy enabling him to outflank its advanced position,
General Birney was compelled to fall back and reform behind the line originally desired to be held.
In the meantime, perceiving the great exertions of the enemy the Sixth corps ( Major-General
Sedgwick) and part of the First corps, to which I had assigned Major-General Newton,
particularly Lockwood's Maryland brigade, together with detachments from the Second corps,
were brought up at different periods, and succeeded, together with the gallant resistance of the
Fifth corps, in checking and finally repulsing the assault of the enemy. * * * During the heavy
assault upon our extreme left, portions of the Twelfth corps were sent as reinforcements."
To make this specific and positive proof still more conclusive, I may add the testimony of General Meade, given before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, in which he says (speaking of this battle of the 2d): "My extreme right flank was then held by a single brigade of the Twelfth corps, commanded by General Green." Then the troops opposing my 18,000 men (two divisions of my corps) were as follows: Third corps, 11,898; Fifth corps, 10,136; Sixth corps, 15,408; Pennsylvania reserves, 4,500; Lockwood's Maryland brigade, 2,500; total, 44,442. The above figures are taken from the Congressional Report, page 428. To these figures must be added the detachments from the other corps enumerated by General Meade. As he is not minute in his statements, I have no accurate data by which I can tell precisely what these "detachments" were. As General Meade states, however, that he left but a single brigade to guard his extreme right, and as he had no use for troops elsewhere, it is reasonable to suppose that the other corps may have sent as many as 20,000 men, other than those enumerated above. Indeed, this estimate is quite low in all probability; because General Meade believed, and his counselors all believed, as is shown by their concurrent testimony, that the assault made by my handful of heroes was really the onset of the whole of Lee's army. It is fair to presume then, that, under this belief, he massed everything that he could get his bands on in front of the direct attack. He says as much as this when he says he left "only a single brigade" on his right. My former estimate, therefore, "that my 18,000 men met 65,000 men during the three hours, fighting that afternoon," will not be abandoned until the report of General Meade and the figures of the Congressional Report shall have been overthrown ; conceding, of course, to the technical demand of historical statement that the "detachments" of other corps sent forward may not have been exactly 20,000 men.
It has never been claimed that we met this immense force of 65,000 men at one time; nor has it been claimed that each and every one of them burnt powder in our faces. But they were drawn off from other parts of the field to meet us, and were hurried to our front and massed there, meaning to do all the mischief they could. If some of them did not shoot us, or stick us with their bayonets, it was simply because they could not shoot through the solid blocks of their own troops or reach us with their bayonets over the heads of their comrades. But they were in position and eager for battle--ready to rush down upon us the moment the line next in front of them was broken. The morale of their presence in reinforcing the position and threatening our flanks as we pressed on, was about as effective as their actual bloody work could have been. As to the accounts of the Cincinnati Gazette and the New York World, they were not given as documents of historical record, but simply as confirmatory of General Meade's statements, which are, of course, historical. It was not too much to assume that the representatives of these papers would know what Federal corps were actively engaged in the battle of the 2d. They both confirmed the account given by General Meade in the belief that the whole of the Confederate army was engaged in the assault, and in the statement that very nearly the whole of the Federal army was engaged in repelling it. After a review, therefore, of the whole situation, and a careful reading of everything that has been published since the appearance of my first article, I am confirmed in the opinion then expressed that my troops did, on that afternoon, "the best three hours' fighting ever done by any troops on any field."
In my general narrative I did not give a detailed criticism or account of the tactical movements of the 2d for two reasons: First, my newspaper friends admonished me that my article had grown quite long, and that it was already clear enough to satisfy the most skeptical mind; second, I thought that my allusions to time, cause, and effect, would arrest the attention of those who had misconceived and therefore misrepresented them, and that they would hasten to make proper explanation and corrections. I find their minds, however, so filled with prejudice and preconceived opinions, that it seems imperative I should explain the relations of our tactical moves on the 2d, and force a confession from even their reluctant mouths. Having demonstrated beyond cavil in my first article that General Lee never ordered a sunrise attack, that he never expected one, and that it was physically impossible to have made one, I shall now show that even if one had been made it could not have bettered the result that was achieved by the afternoon attack. It will be proved that the battle made by my men could not have been so improved, in plan or execution, as to have won the day. The only amendment that would have ensued, or even promised victory, was for Ewell to have marched in upon the enemy's right when it was guarded by a single brigade, run over their works, and fall upon their rear while I engaged them in front, and while Hill lay in a threatening position in their centre. Had this co-operative movement been made, the battle would, in all probability, have been ours. As it was, no disposition of the men under my charge, no change in the time or method or spirit of the assault, could have changed the result for the better.
Let us briefly review the situation on the morning of the 2d. During the night of the 1st General Sickles rested with the Third corps upon the ground lying between General Hancock's left and Round Top, General Geary's division of the Twelfth corps occupying part of the same line. General Meade had given General Sickles orders to occupy Round Top if it were practicable; and in reply to his question as to what sort of position it was, General Sickles had answered, "There is no position there." At the first signs of activity in our ranks on the 2d General Sickles became apprehensive that we were about to attack him, and so reported to General Meade. As our move progressed his apprehensions were confirmed, and being uneasy at the position in which his troops had been left, and certain that he was about to receive battle, he determined to seize the vantage ground in front of the peach orchard. Without awaiting for orders, he pushed forward and took the position desired. Meanwhile the reports made to General Meade drew his attention to our part of the field, and finally he rode out just in time to see the battle open. It will be seen, therefore, that General Sickles' move, and all the movements of the Federal left, were simply sequents of mine. They would have followed my movements inevitably, no matter when they had been made. Had the attack been made earlier or later, we should have seen the Federals move just as they did, and with the same results--except that if I had attacked earlier I should have had Geary's division of the Twelfth corps in my immediate front in addition to the Third corps. This would certainly have been the effect of "a sunrise attack."
Colonel Taylor, in referring to the hour of my battle on the 2d, says: "Round Top, the key of their
position, which was not occupied in the morning, was now held in force." The answer to this
statement, direct and authoritative, is at hand. General Meade says, in Congressional Report,
page 332: "Immediately upon the opening of the batteries (which began the battle), I sent several
staff officers to hurry up the column under General Sykes, of the Fifth corps, then on its way, and
which I expected would have reached there at that time. The column advanced rapidly, reached
the ground in a short time, and General Sykes was fortunately enabled by throwing a strong force
upon Round Top mountain, where a most desperate and bloody struggle ensued, to drive the
enemy from it and secure our foothold upon that most important position." Even the muses were
invoked to speed this helter-skelter march toward the knob of ground now suddenly grown into
"On to the Round Top!" hailed Sykes to his men;
"On to the Round Top!" echoed the glen.
"On to the Round Top!"
In my former narrative I showed that General Meade did not appreciate the importance of this position until the battle had finally opened. He had ordered Sickles to occupy it "if practicable"; but it was not occupied in force when my battle opened, and was made strong as the fight progressed, as much by the fragments of the enemy's broken lines that took shelter behind its boulders as by any definite plan to seize it. It is needless to say that the same thing would have happened had the battle taken place either earlier or later. The force stationed there when the battle opened had been there all day, and was wholly inadequate to hold it; hence General Meade's anxiety to hurry up additional troops after the battle had opened, and his congratulation that Sykes, by throwing forward "a strong force," was enabled to drive us from it and secure it to the Federals. But why go further with these details? It is impossible that any sane man should believe that two of my divisions, attacking at any hour or in any manner, could have succeeded in dislodging the Army of the Potomac. We had wrestled with it in too many struggles, army against army, to prefer, in sincerity, any such claim. From daylight until dark not a single Confederate soldier, outside of my two divisions and the three supporting brigades, was advanced to battle, or made to even threaten battle. The work was left entirely with my men. General Ewell dates his co-operative move at dusk. General Meade says it was at 8 o'clock. In any event, it was after my battle had closed, and too late to do any good. Hence there seems to be no place for honesty in the speculation that my command could have won the field by different battle. It is equally out of sense to say that if my attack had been made "at sunrise," Ewell would have given me the co-operation that he failed to give in the afternoon when the attack really did come off. His orders, given in the morning after it was decided that I should lead the attack, were to remain in line of battle, ready to co-operate with my attack when ever it should be made. If he was not ready in the afternoon, it is folly to say that he would have been ready at sunrise.
My opinion of the cause of the failure of the battle of the 2d, as given at the time, is very succinctly stated by Colonel Fremantle, on page 138 of his "Three Months in the South." He says, quoting me: "He said the mistake they made was in not concentrating the army more and making the attack on the 2d with 30,000 men instead of 15,000."*(*It seems from recent publications that my column of attack on the 2d was only about 12,000. It was given me as 15,000 men at the time.) I doubt now if 30,000 men could have made a successful attack, if Colonel Taylor is correct in his idea as to the manner in which General Lee would have fought them. He says that General Lee ordered that the column should go to the attack with its right flank exposed to the enveloping forces on the Federal left. Under this disposition I do not think 30,000 men could have successfully made the attack. The battle should not have been made under the circumstances. We should have drawn everything up on the night of the 1st and made a quick move by our right flank on the morning of the 2d so as to seize the Emmettsburg road. Had we done this we should either have been attacked--the very thing we had been hoping and mourning for--or we should have dislodged Meade from his position without striking a blow. If we had been attacked we should have certainly repulsed it. Had Meade deserted his position without, striking a blow in its defense, the moral effect in our favor would have been tremendous. To show that one of these results would certainly have followed, I quote a dispatch sent in cipher from General Meade to General Halleck, just before my battle on the 2d. The dispatch reads: "If not attacked, and I can get any positive information of the enemy which will justify me in doing so, I will attack. If I find it hazardous to do so and am satisfied that the enemy is endeavoring to move to my rear and interpose between me and Washington, I shall fall back on my supplies at Westminster." If, however, no decisive result had followed immediately upon the flank movement that should have been made on the night of the 1st or the morning of the 2d, the thirteen days that elapsed between our first rencontre and our recrossing of the Potomac would have surely given time and opportunity for different work and greater results than were had at Gettysburg.
It is conceded by almost, if not quite, all authority on the subject that Pickett's charge on the 3d was almost hopeless. We had tested the enemy's position thoroughly on the day before, and with a much larger force than was given to Pickett. We had every reason to believe that the position was much stronger on the 3d than it was on the 2d. The troops that had fought with me the day before were in no condition to support Pickett, and beside they were confronted by a force that required their utmost attention. The men of Generals Pickett, Pettigrew, and Trimble, however, received and executed their orders with cool and desperate courage. When the utmost measure of sacrifice demanded by honor was full they fell back, and the contest was ended. The charge was disastrous, and had the Federal army been thrown right upon the heels of Pickett's retreating column, the results might have been much more serious. General Wilcox, the volunteer witness on Gettysburg, attempts to controvert my criticism on his wild leadership during the battle of the 2d. I charged that, as commander of the directing brigade of support to my left, he went astray early in the fight, lost my flank, and of course threw the brigades that were looking to him for direction out of line. In reply, he refers me to certain maps published by the War Department for the correct position of his brigade on the 2d. I much prefer the evidence that I used in my first article, and think it will be generally accepted as much better authority than the maps. I quoted from General Lee's report as follows: "But having become separated from McLaws, Wilcox's and Wright's brigades advanced with great gallantry, breaking successive lines, etc. * * * But having become separated from McLaws,"etc., " were compelled to retire." This is certainly sufficient authority; but I quote further. General Anderson, General Wilcox's division commander, says: "A strong fire was poured upon our right flank, which had become detached from McLaws' left." This testimony is corroborated by General McLaws, the division commander on his right, and by General Humphries, the brigade commander on his right. It is a plain case. General Wilcox was given the directing brigade and ordered to cover McLaws' left flank. He failed to do this. There is no doubt that he and his troops fought gallantly, as did those of Wright's and Perry's brigades. Their courage was splendid; but, misguided by the brigade of direction, under General Wilcox, their work was not as effective as it should have been.
In this connection it may be noted that the Federal line in front of these troops was not broken so much by direct assault as by crushing in the lines on their left. General Humphreys was forced to change front partially two or three times to meet threatened flank movements against him, and he was in that way drawn off from immediate connection with his right. The skillful handling of these troops, commanded by General A. A. Humphreys, was noted at the time, and has been particularly noted since by General Humphries, of Mississippi. At this late day the official relations of General Lee and myself are brought into question. He is credited with having used uncomely remarks concerning me, in the presence of a number of subordinate officers, just on the eve of battle. It is hardly possible that any one acquainted with General Lee's exalted character will accept such statements as true. It is hardly possible that any general could have been so indiscreet as to have used such expressions under such circumstances. There certainly never was in the relations between General Lee and myself anything to admit the possibility of his having used the expression attributed. Our relations were affectionate, intimate, and tender during the whole war. That his confidence in me was never shaken there is the most abundant proof; but I cannot be tempted, even by direct misrepresentations, into a discussion of this subject. I will advert to one point that will go to show the relations that existed between us. It is an incident of the second battle of Manassas.
When the head of my column reached that field it was about 12 o'clock on the 29th. As we approached the field we heard sounds of a heavy battle, which proved to be General Jackson very severely engaged with the enemy. As my column deployed on the field, the enemy at once withdrew, in good order, however, and took up a strong position a little in the rear or where the heaviest fighting had been going on. During the lull that succeeded, General Lee rode up to where I was and told me that he had determined to attack the position taken by the enemy and indicated his purpose to have me open the fight. My men were then arranged for battle, but I asked General Lee to withhold the order for attack until I had made a careful reconnaissance and determined exactly how the troops had best be handled. He consented, of course, to this, and I went forward to make the reconnaissance. After a careful examination of the ground I rode back to General Lee, and reported that the position was very strong and the prospects hardly such as to warrant the heavy sacrifice of life that a serious attack would involve. General Lee was not satisfied, however, but seemed disposed to insist upon an attack. He began to suggest moves by which an advantageous assault might be made. Before the question was at all decided a dispatch was received from General Stuart, giving us notice that a very strong column was moving up against my right. General Lee ordered me at once to reinforce that part of my line and be ready to repel the I attack. I ordered the reinforcing column to the march and rode out rapidly in advance, that I might see precisely what was needed. The threatening column proved to be General Fitz John Porter's command. After seeing it, I reported back to General Lee that it was too light a column in my opinion to mean a real attack. This presumption was correct, and the advance soon halted and then withdrew.
General Lee then recalled the question of an immediate attack upon the main position of the Federals. I was thoroughly convinced that the position was too strong to be taken without very severe loss, and I suggested to General Lee that the attack be postponed, and that we make a forced reconnaissance just at nightfall, and that we could then prepare to attack at daylight, if it seemed advisable after thorough investigation to make the attack at all. He consented very readily to this, and I left him to prepare for the forced reconnaissance. The reconnaissance was successfully made at nightfall. During the night several of my brigadiers came in and they all agreed in reporting the position very strong. At about midnight Generals Hood and Evans, and possibly one or two others, came to my headquarters and made similar reports, expressing apprehensions as to the result of the attack. Everything developed by this closer reconnaissance went to confirm the impression made upon me by my reconnaissance during the day. I therefore determined not to make the attack, and ordered my troops back to the original line of battle.
The next day the Federals advanced against General Jackson in very heavy force. They soon made the battle so severe for him that he was obliged to call for reinforcements. At about 3 P M., while the battle was raging fiercely, I was riding to my front when I received a note from Generals Hood and Evans, asking me to ride to a part of the field where they were standing. I changed my course and hurried to the point indicated. I found them standing upon a high piece of ground, from which they had full view of the battle being made against Jackson. We could see the solid masses of the Federals forming for a charge against Jackson's weakening lines. They were gathered in immense force, and it seemed impossible that Jackson's thin lines could withstand the onset. The Federals moved forward steadily, surging on in solid blocks, headed directly for Jackson's lines. Just then a courier arrived in great haste with orders from General Lee for me to hurry to the assistance of Jackson. It was in the very crisis of the battle. I had very serious doubts about being able to reach General Jackson in time to be of any service to him. I had no doubt, however, that I could impede or paralyze the immense mass of men that was pressing steadily to his overthrow. We were standing on the flank of the advancing columns. They swept on at right angles to our line of vision. They were within easy artillery range, and I felt certain that a heavy enfilading fire poured unexpectedly into their charging columns would disconcert and check it. Instead of moving to reinforce Jackson, therefore, I sent dispatches for batteries to hurry to where I was. In an exceedingly short time Captain Wiley's six-gun batteries came dashing up at full gallop, the horses covered with foam, and the men urging them forward. They were wheeled into position and directed against the moving flank of the enemy. The range was fair, and as the six guns flashed the heavy shot went ploughing through the solid flank of the Federals, doing terrible damage.
The result was anticipated. The line faltered for an instant, started again, hesitated, reformed and
pressed forward, and then as a rear broadside was poured into them, broke ranks and retired,
slowly, sullenly and doggedly. General Jackson did not pursue, and the Federals halted after
moving back a short distance, and arranged to reform their ranks and renew the charge. As soon
as they started, however, they were obliged to face against General Jackson. This exposed them,
of course, to our enfilading fire. We now had several batteries in position, and as soon as the lines
had taken shape and started on their second assault we poured a perfect hail of balls into their
flanks and scattered them again. Although discomfited they were not broken, but retired with
their slow, angry, sullen step. When they had gone beyond the fair range of our batteries they
halted and tried to form again for the third assault. I now determined to end the matter, feeling
that I had an easy victory in my grasp. I therefore ordered every battery to be in readiness, and
drew my men up for a charge, designing to throw them into the broken ranks of the enemy as
soon as my artillery had dispersed them. The Federals moved forward once more. When they
were fairly in range every gun was opened upon them, and before they had recovered from the
stunning effect, I sprung every man that I had to the charge, and swept down upon them like an
avalanche. The effect was simply magical. The enemy broke all to pieces. I pushed my men
forward in a pell-mell pursuit, hoping to reach the main Federal lines at the same time with their
retreating forces. We succeeded in this and drove the enemy back, pursuing them until fully 10
o'clock at night. In the meanwhile I received a note from General Lee. He had heard my guns,
and at once supposed I had thought it best to relieve Jackson in a different manner from that
indicated by his orders. He therefore wrote that if I had "found anything better than reinforcing
Jackson, to pursue it." I mention this incident simply to show the official relations that existed
between General Lee and myself. As to our personal relations I present two letters throwing light
upon that subject. One is from Colonel W. H. Taylor, assistant adjutant general, and the other is
from General Lee himself:
"Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia, April 26, 1864.
"My Dear General:
"I have received your note of yesterday, and have consulted the General about reviewing your command. He directs me to say that he has written to the President to know if he can visit and review the army this week, and until his reply is received the General cannot say when he can visit you. He is anxious to see you, and it will give him much pleasure to meet you and your corps once more. He hopes soon to be able to do this, and I will give you due notice when he can come. I really am beside myself, General, with joy of having you back. It is like the reunion of a family.
"Truly and respectfully yours
"W. H. Taylor, A. A. G.
"To General Longstreet"
"Lexington, Va., March 9, 1866.
"My Dear General:
"Your son Garland handed me, a few days since, your letter of the 15th of January, with the copies of your reports of operations in East Tennessee, the Wilderness, etc., and of some of my official letters to you. I hope you will be able to send me a report of your operations around Suffolk and Richmond previous to the evacuation of that city, and of any of my general orders which you may be able to collect. Can you not occupy your leisure time in preparing memoirs of the war? Every officer whose position and character would give weight to his statements ought to do so. It is the only in which we can hope that fragments of truth will reach posterity. Mrs. Longstreet will act as your amanuensis. I am very sorry that your arm improves so slowly. I trust that it will eventually be restored to you. You must present my kindest regards to Mrs. Longstreet. I hope your home in New Orleans will be happy, and that your life, which is dear to me, will be long and prosperous.
"Most truly yours,
"R. E. Lee."
There is one point to which I call especial attention. The friends of Colonel J. B. Walton, Chief of Artillery of the First corps, think that in my first an inferential injustice was done to that gentleman. Colonel Walton was an officer of great worth, and at all times had the confidence of his commanding officers; and it is with pleasure that I correct what certainly was an unintentional derogation of his quality. It is true that in part of my first narrative there were sentences subject to the erroneous impression that Colonel Walton was not in full command of the artillery of the First corps at the battle of Gettysburg. My orders, however, as well as my instructions, quoted in another part of the narrative, were addressed to Colonel J. B. Walton as Chief of Artillery, and show conclusively that he was in command on that day. Colonel Alexander figured more prominently in the correspondence that passed between myself and the artillery simply because I had consulted personally with Colonel Alexander on these points before the battle opened, and because he was most directly interested in the handling of the artillery massed at the peach orchard, and under cover of which Pickett was to make his charge. Colonel Walton was a brave and capable officer, and I regret that my narrative was so construed as to reflect upon his fair and spotless record.
There were two or three trifling inaccuracies in my first account of this battle which need correction: The scout, upon whose information the head of our column was turned to the right, reported at Chambersburg on the night of the 28th of June. It is printed the 29th. Several orders that I issued on the 1st of July, and so dated, appear under the date of the 18th. The real strength of Pickett's division was 4,500 bayonets. It was printed at 5,500. In the paragraph where I stated that General Meade anticipated my attack of the 3d, and told General Hancock that he intended to throw the Fifth and Sixth corps against its flanks when it was made, it is printed that he gave this information in the "evening," when, of course, it should have been "morning." With these trifling exceptions, the article, as printed, was correct.
I have now done for the present, with the campaign of Gettysburg. What I have written about it has been compelled from me by a desire on the one hand to have future historians properly informed upon the most important movement of the war, and a necessity on the other hand of correcting important misstatements made ignorantly or maliciously concerning it. I have written nothing that was not supported by abundant proof, advanced no opinions not clearly justified by the facts. As disastrous as the results of that battle were, and as innocent as I was of bringing them upon my people, I accepted my share of the disaster without a murmur, and cheerfully bore the responsibility of it as long as there was a possibility of injuring the cause we were engaged in by a discussion of the points involved. I should probably have never written a line concerning the battle had it not been for the attempt of the wordy soldiers to specifically fix upon me the whole burden of that battle--their rashness carrying them so far as to lead them to put false orders in the mouth of our great captain, and charge me with having broken them. To disprove these untrue assertions, and to give the world the truth concerning the battle, then became what I considered an imperative duty. I repeat that I regret most deeply that this discussion was not opened before the death of General Lee. If the charges so vehemently urged against me after his death had been preferred, or even suggested, in his lifetime, I do not believe they would have needed any reply from me. General Lee would have answered them himself, and have set history right. But, even as the matter is, I do not fear the verdict of history on Gettysburg. Time sets all things right. Error lives but a day--truth is eternal.
There is an incidental matter to which I shall refer in this connection. It is in regard to a statement
made by Mr. Swinton. In his "Ultimo Suspiro" he gives the history of a meeting which he says
took place on the 7th of April, 1865, between General Lee and his leading officers. He says that
this meeting was a private council, and that the officers united in advising General Lee to
surrender on that day--two days before the surrender took place at Appomattox. In describing
that meeting he does me the grave injustice of putting my name among the officers who gave
General Lee this advice. The truth of the matter is, I never attended any such meeting. I had no
time to have done so. I was kept incessantly busy in the field during the days preceding the
surrender at Appomattox. All night long of the 1st we marched with Field's division from
Richmond to Petersburg, reaching that point at early dawn on the 2d. I at once went to General
Lee's headquarters. I found him in bed in his tent. While I was sitting upon the side of his couch,
discussing my line of march and receiving my orders for the future--this involving a march on the
Five Forks--a courier came in and announced that our line was being broken in front of the house
in which General Lee had slept. I hurried to the front, and as fast as my troops came up they were
thrown into action to check the advance of the Federals until night had come to cover our
withdrawal. We fought all day, and at night again took up our march, and from that time forward
until the surrender we marched and fought and hungered, staggering through cold and rain and
mud to Appomattox--contesting every foot of the way, beset by overwhelming odds on all sides.
It was one constant fight for days and days, the nights even giving us no rest. When at length the
order came to surrender, on the 9th, I ordered my men to stack their arms, and surrendered four
thousand bayonets of Field's division--the only troops that General Lee had left me. I also turned
over to General Grant 1,300 prisoners taken by the cavalry and by my troops while on the retreat.
As to the conference of officers on the 7th I never attended, and of course did not join in the
advice it gave to General Lee. Mr. Swinton has been clearly misinformed upon this point.
(Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 5, pages 257-270)