[From the Richmond (Va.) Dispatch, January 26--February 2, 1896.]
EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE BATTLE OF
Address of Colonel Charles Marshall,
Before the Confederate Veteran Association of Washington, D. C.,
on its Celebration of the Birth-Day of General R. E. Lee,
The Dispatch has secured for publication the address of Colonel Charles Marshall, delivered
before the Confederate Veteran Association of Washington, D. C., on the occasion of the
Association's celebration of General Lee's birth-day. Colonel Marshall, as is well known, was a
member of General Lee's personal staff. His theme was the events that led up to the battle of
Gettysburg, and the facts he gave bear upon the responsibility for the disaster. Below is presented
the first instalment of the address, which will be concluded next Sunday. Colonel Marshall said:
In casting about for a subject on which to address you on this occasion, it seemed to me that I could select nothing more interesting than an account of the movements of General Lee's army which resulted in the battle of Gettysburg. I shall not attempt to describe the battle itself, but I think the movements and events which I shall narrate will be found to have had a controlling influence not only in bringing on the engagement, but in determining the result, so far as that result was affected by the circumstances under which the battle was fought. Although it is true that "the battle is not always to the strong," it is equally true that no force, however strong, can dispense with the precautions that will enable it to put forth its entire strength, and to avail itself of all the aid it can get from advantages of position and of the mode of attack or defense.
I propose to consider the subject in the light of the knowledge possessed by the actors in the events I shall describe, and not in the light of our present knowledge, and shall endeavor to confine myself to the contemporaneous reports and correspondence of those who took leading parts, in the latter of which especially can be found an authentic and trustworthy record of the reasons and motives that controlled their conduct, and of the knowledge of facts upon which their judgments were formed. In other words, I desire to present to you the facts, not as they actually were, but as they appeared at the time to those who were called upon to direct the affairs of which I shall speak.
All who have read what has been written by some of those who took a prominent part in the events of that time will not fail to observe how much the writers are influenced in their judgment of the conduct of others, not to say in their accounts of what they themselves did or advised, by after-acquired information of the facts. Indeed, some of these writers, especially when they are autobiographers, have developed a degree of military capacity, judgment, and skill, when writing in the light of their present knowledge of facts, which has astounded those who knew them when they were obliged to act upon information derived from the picket-line, from reconnaissances, from scouts, from citizens, from deserters, and other sources of knowledge upon which those in charge of military movements are often obliged to depend. Those who enjoy the great advantage of a full knowledge of facts in writing of what they advised or did, it will be seen, are usually very positive, and are always right; but so far as what is called the truth of history is concerned, their narratives of what they advised or planned or of what they did, it must be confessed, sometimes do violence to the actual facts.
These writers remind me of something that General Lee once said to me.
While the Confederate army lay on the Rapidan, in the winter of 1863, a report reached General Lee that a change had been made in the disposition of his troops by the enemy on the other side of the river, opposite the extreme right of our line, which, if true, required a corresponding change on our part. He sent me to General Ewell, who commanded on our right, to inform him of the report, and instruct him to make a change in the disposition of the troops to meet that reported on the part of the enemy.
It was a long ride, as General Ewell had heard the same report and had gone to our extreme right,
several miles below his headquarters. But when I found him he told me that he had already heard
the report, but had discovered that it was incorrect, and that the enemy had made no change. Of
course, I did not give him General Lee's order as to changing the location of his troops.
A LESSON IN OBEDIENCE.
I reached our camp about dark and reported what General Ewell had told me and said that I had withheld General Lee's order about changing the position of the troops. General Lee expressed his satisfaction, and told me to get ready for dinner as there were one or two foreign officers to dine with us. I sat at the lower end of a long table in the mess tent, and after dinner conversation became general, and the subject of the report I have mentioned and of my expedition to General Ewell was referred to.
General Lee, with an amused expression, suddenly called to me from his end of the table:
"Colonel Marshall, did you know General Twiggs?"
I replied that I had never met General Twiggs, but that I knew something of him from the history of the Mexican war. General Lee then said: "General Twiggs had a way of instilling instruction that was very effective, and no one ever forgot a lesson taught by him. When he went to Mexico he had a number of young officers connected with his staff who were without experience but very zealous and desirous to do their duty thoroughly. Sometimes they undertook to change General Twiggs' orders, and would fail to do what he told them to do, or would do it not as the general had ordered it to be done. If General Twiggs remarked upon such liberties being taken with his orders, these gentlemen were always ready to show that they were right and that General Twiggs' order was wrong.
"The General bore with this without complaint or rebuke for some time, but one day a young officer came to report his execution of an order General Twiggs had given him, and reported that when he reached the place where the thing ordered by General Twiggs was to be done, he had found that circumstances were so entirely different from what General Twiggs had supposed that he thought that the General would not have given the order had he known the facts, and was proceeding to satisfy General Twiggs that what the young officer had done was the best under the circumstances. But General Twiggs interrupted him by saying: 'Captain, I know you can prove that you are right, and that my order was wrong, in fact you gentlemen are always right, but for God's sake do wrong sometimes.'"
Although General Lee was satisfied with what I had done on this occasion, he wished to impress the lesson of a literal obedience to orders on my mind, and you may be sure that I never forgot it, when it was possible to refer any doubtful matter back to him for further instructions.
So I think if some of the writers of whom I am speaking would put themselves in the position in which they were when the things of which they write occurred, they would not be perhaps as infallible and as far-seeing as they now make themselves appear, but the truth of history would suffer less if they would "do wrong sometimes."
Let us then consider the history of the movements that culminated in the battle of Gettysburg, in the light of the facts as they were known and appeared to General Lee at the time, in order that we may form a judgment of his conduct which will be more just to him than if that conduct be judged as if he knew what we now know.
Of course, this involves the inquiry as to the accuracy of his knowledge, as to the means he took to inform himself, and as to the discernment he showed in arriving at the truth from a consideration of such facts as were brought to his attention. I think one of the most striking traits of General Lee's mind was his ability to form a correct judgment from all the facts and circumstances that came to his knowledge. This was strikingly illustrated in several important movements. For example, he decided the critical question as to the withdrawal of the Confederate army from Richmond after the battles around that city, in 1862, leaving the large army of General McClellan almost within cannon-shot of the city, trusting to the correctness of his interpretation of a single circumstance and of his estimate of the enterprise of his opponent.
When General McClellan was forced to abandon his fortified position on the Chickahominy and retire to Harrison's landing, on the James, his army was too strong to be left within thirteen miles (as the crow flies) from Richmond, while the army that defended the city moved northward, if there was any reason to apprehend that the Federal commander intended to renew the attempt to capture the place. Immediately after the withdrawal of General McClellan from the Chickahominy to the James, General Lee had dispatched General Jackson, with his own command and that of General Ewell, followed by that of General A. P. Hill, northward to meet the army of General Pope, then advancing along the line of the Orange and Alexandria railroad. Jackson was instructed to cross the Rapidan and attack Pope's advance.
Among other consequences of the defeat of General McClellan before Richmond, Federal troops
had been drawn to his support from various other parts of the country, and among them was a
large part of the force under General Burnside, on the North Carolina coast. These troops arrived
in Hampton Roads and lay there in transports. Upon them the attention of General Lee was
immediately concentrated. Their movements would decide his. If they sailed up the James to
reinforce McClellan, the latter, being reinforced, intended to renew the attack on Richmond, and
General Lee must remain there. If, on the other hand, Burnside sailed up the Chesapeake,
McClellan, not being reinforced, did not intend to renew his attempt, but the real attack on
Richmond must be looked for from the army of General Pope.
LEE'S ACCURATE INTERPRETATION.
Our scouts reported at last that the transports of Burnside had sailed up the Chesapeake, and that night the troops of Longstreet left Richmond and moved northward to the Rapidan, leaving General McClellan at Harrison's landing, with the confident expectation on the part of General Lee that the northward movement of his army would lead to the withdrawal of the Federal army from the James. How accurate General Lee's interpretation of Burnside's movement was we now know, and from that time until some time after the Second Battle of Manassas he practically directed the movements of the Federal army by his own. Another instance of his wonderful capacity in penetrating the intentions of the enemy occurred at Fredericksburg before the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. The enemy displayed a large force in our front on the Stafford side of the river, and at the same time another force with infantry and artillery was reported to be on the Rappahannock above Fredericksburg, in our rear. For several days it was doubtful from which quarter the attack would come, but on the afternoon of April 30th, General Lee, after a long examination of the large force displayed on the opposite hills of Stafford, suddenly closed his field glass and remarked, "The main attack will come from above." Within a few hours Jackson's corps was marching towards the illustrious field of Chancellorsville, and its great leader to his last and crowning victory.
I will now proceed to give an account of the movements which began on the 3d of June, 1863.
The Federal army was opposite Fredericksburg, where it could not be attacked, except at a disadvantage, and we are told by General Lee that the object of his movement was to draw that army from its position, and, if practicable, to transfer the scene of hostilities beyond the Potomac. He also says that "the execution of this purpose embraced the expulsion of the force under General Milroy, which had infested the lower Shenandoah Valley during the preceding winter and spring. If unable to obtain the valuable results which might be expected to follow a decided advantage gained over the enemy in Maryland or Pennsylvania, it was hoped that we should at least so far disturb his plan for the summer campaign as to prevent its execution during the season of active operations."
The commands of Longstreet and Ewell were put in motion on the 3d of June in the direction of
Culpeper Courthouse. On the 5th of June, as soon as their march was discovered by the enemy,
he threw a small force across the Rappahannock about two miles below Fredericksburg, and it
was thought prudent to halt the command of General Ewell until the object of that movement
could be ascertained, but the movement itself, as General Lee says in a letter dated June 7, 1863
"was so devoid of concealment" that he supposed that its object was to ascertain what troops
remained near Fredericksburg, and after watching the enemy during the next day, and finding that
no advance was made, and that the force displayed on the Stafford side of the river was not larger
than could be dealt with in case it should cross by the corps of A. P. Hill, General Ewell was
directed to resume his march, and he and Longstreet on the 7th encamped around Culpeper
ORDERS TO EWELL.
Knowing by past experience the sensitiveness of the Government of the United States to any demonstration in the direction of Washington by way of the Valley, he then ordered General Ewell to move from Culpeper Courthouse to Winchester, to attack the enemy in the Valley, and drive him across the Potomac. The appearance of Ewell in the Valley and his attack on the enemy at Winchester and Berryville resulted, as General Lee had expected, in the disappearance of the Federal army from the Rappahannock, opposite Fredericksburg, and A. P. Hill, in accordance with his instructions, immediately took up his march to join General Lee.
In order to cover Hill's movement, Longstreet, with his corps, was directed to advance along the east side of the Blue Ridge, threatening Washington, with a view to induce the enemy to place his army in a position to cover that city, and to divert him from A. P. Hill.
Longstreet left Culpeper Courthouse on the 15th of June, and occupied Ashby's and Snicker's Gaps, in the Blue Ridge. General Stuart, with three brigades of cavalry, moved on Longstreet's right, and took possession in front of the two gaps. The cavalry brigades of Hampton and W. E. Jones remained along the Rappahannock and Hazel rivers, in front of Culpeper Courthouse, with instructions to follow the main body of the army as soon as Hill's Corps had passed that point.
There was much skirmishing between the cavalry of the two armies during the next three days, General Stuart taking a position west of Middleburg, where he awaited the rest of his command. General Jones arrived on the 19th, and General Hampton on the afternoon of the following day.
On the 21st Stuart was attacked by infantry and cavalry, and forced to fall back to the gaps of the mountains. The enemy retired the next day, having advanced only a short distance beyond Upperville. The Federal army was apparently guarding the approaches to Washington, and manifested no disposition to assume the offensive. In the meantime the progress of Ewell, who was already in Maryland with Jenkins's Cavalry Brigade, advanced into Pennsylvania as far as Chambersburg, rendered it necessary that the rest of the army should be within supporting distance, and Hill, having arrived in the Valley, Longstreet was withdrawn to the west side of the Shenandoah, and the two corps encamped near Berryville. General Stuart was directed to hold the mountain passes with part of his command as long as the enemy remained south of the Potomac, and with the remainder to cross into Maryland and place himself on the right of General Ewell, as he moved northward.
General Stuart, having suggested that he could delay the enemy in crossing the Potomac by going in his rear, he was authorized to do so, and it was left to his discretion whether to enter Maryland east or west of the Blue Ridge, but he was instructed to lose no time in placing his command on the right of our column as soon as he perceived that the enemy was moving northward.
As the movement of the cavalry at this time has been much discussed, and perhaps had more to do
with the events that immediately followed than any other circumstance, I shall confine myself in
stating those movements to the contemporaneous orders and correspondence.
A GREAT ERROR.
That a great error was committed in the movements of General Stuart cannot be questioned. The object of the movement proposed by him in the rear of the enemy was to strike the line of the latter, who was then marching towards the Potomac from opposite Fredericksburg, his line of march being east of the Bull Run Mountains, and it will be observed that while General Stuart had the discretion to cross the Potomac river, either east or west of the Blue Ridge, his instructions to lose no time in placing his command on the right of our column as soon as he should perceive the enemy moving northward were imperative.
The Federal army was assembling in Loudoun, and for the purpose of ascertaining our movements, strong reconnaissances were made by his cavalry, sometimes supported by infantry.
After the affair at Upperville, on the 21st of June, Stuart remained on the east of the Blue Ridge, in front of Longstreet, one division of whose corps had been recalled from the west of the Shenandoah river, to aid the cavalry at the time of the attack at Middleburg.
General Longstreet remained on the east of the Blue Ridge, while the headquarters of the army
were moved to the west of the Shenandoah, near Berryville. The following letter from General
Lee to General Stuart, written on the 22d of June, will explain the condition of affairs at that time:
Headquarters, June 22d, 1863.
"Major-General J. E. B. Stuart
"General, --I have just received your note of 7:45 this morning to General Longstreet. I judge the efforts of the enemy yesterday were to arrest our progress, and ascertain our whereabouts. Perhaps he is satisfied. Do you know where he is, and what he is doing? I fear he will steal a march on us and get across the Potomac before we are aware. If you find that he is moving northward, and that two brigades can guard the Blue Ridge and take care of your rear, you can move with the other three into Maryland and take position on General Ewell's right. Place yourself in communication with him, guard his flank, keep him informed of the enemy's movements, and collect all the supplies you can for the use of the army. One column of General Ewell's army will probably move toward the Susquehanna by the Emmettsburg route, another by Chambersburg. Accounts from him last night stated that there was no enemy west of Frederick. A cavalry force (about 100) guarded the Monocacy bridge, which was barricaded. You will, of course, take charge of (A. G.) Jenkins's Brigade, and give him necessary instructions. All supplies taken in Maryland must be by authorized staff officers for their respective departments-- by no one else. They will be paid for, or receipts for same given to the owners. I will send you a general order on this subject, which I wish you to see is strictly complied with.
"I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"R.E. Lee, General."
LETTERS TO EWELL.
On the same day General Lee wrote the following letter to General Ewell, who had crossed the
Potomac at Shepardstown:
"June 22, 1863.
"Lieutenant-General R. S. Ewell:
"General,--Your letter of 6 P. M. yesterday has been received. If you are ready to move you can do so. I think your best course will be towards the Susquehanna, taking the routes by Emmettsburg, Chambersburg, and McConnellsburg. Your trains had better be, as far as possible, kept on the centre route. You must get command of your cavalry, and use it in gathering supplies, obtaining information, and protecting your flanks. If necessary, send a staff officer to remain with General Jenkins. It will depend upon the quantity of supplies obtained in that country whether the rest of the army can follow. There may be enough for your command, but none for the others. Every exertion should, therefore, be made to locate and secure them. Beef we can drive with us, but bread we cannot carry, and must secure it in the country. I send you copies of a general order on this subject, which, I think, is based on rectitude and sound policy, and the spirit of which I wish you to see enforced in your command. I am much gratified at the success that has attended your movements, and feel assured that if they are conducted with the same energy and circumspection it will continue. Your progress and direction will, of course, depend upon the development of circumstances. If Harrisburg comes within your means capture it. General A. P. Hill arrived yesterday in the vicinity of Berryville. I shall move him on to-day, if possible. Saturday Longstreet withdrew from the Blue Ridge. Yesterday the enemy pressed our cavalry with infantry and cavalry on the Upperville road, so that McLaws had to be sent back to hold Ashby's Gap. I have not yet heard from there this morning. General Stuart could not ascertain whether it was intended as a real advance towards the Valley or to ascertain our position.* * * *
"I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
"R. E. LEE, General"
Later on the same day General Lee wrote the following letter to General Ewell:
"Headquarters, June 22, 1863--3:30 P. M.
"General,--I have just received your letter of this morning from opposite Shepherdstown. Mine of to-day authorizing you to move towards the Susquehanna, has reached you ere this. After dispatching my letter, learning that the enemy had not renewed his attempt of yesterday to break through the Blue Ridge, I directed General R. H. Anderson's Division to commence its march towards Shepherdstown. It will reach there to-morrow. I also directed General Stuart, should the enemy so far have retired from his front as to permit of the departure of a portion of the cavalry, to march with three brigades across the Potomac, and place himself on your right and in communication with you, keep you advised of the movements of the enemy, and assist in collecting supplies for the army. I have not heard from him since. I also directed Imboden, if opportunity occurred, to cross the Potomac and perform the same offices on your left.* * * *
"I am, most respectfully, yours,
"R. E. Lee, General."
The letter of General Lee to General Stuart of the 22d of June, 1863, giving him specific directions as to his movements, which directions are communicated to General Ewell in General Lee's second letter to that officer of the same date, which I have quoted, was sent by, General Lee through General Longstreet, who was on the east side of the Blue Ridge, and under whose immediate command General Stuart was.
I have not a copy of the letter from General Lee to General Longstreet enclosing General Lee's
letter to General Stuart, but I have a copy of the letter from General Longstreet to General Lee
acknowledging the receipt of the letter of the latter t o General Stuart, containing the order which
I have mentioned. It is as follows:
"Headquarters, June 22, 1863--7:30 P. M.
"General R. E. Lee, Commanding, etc.:
"General,--Yours of 4 o'clock this afternoon was received. I have forwarded your letter to General Stuart, with the suggestion that he pass to the enemy's rear, if he thinks he may get through. We have nothing of the enemy to-day.
You will observe that the letter of General Lee to General Stuart, which I have quoted, and which
General Stuart received through General Longstreet, contained an order to the former, in case he
found that the enemy was moving northward, and that he could protect his rear with two brigades
of his force, to move the other three into Maryland and take position on General Ewell's right,
place himself in communication with him, guard his flank, and keep him informed of the enemy's
movements. This order was sent through General Longstreet, under whose immediate command
General Stuart then was, leaving General Longstreet to decide whether the cavalry could be
spared to execute the order, and also to direct how it should best move to carry it out in view of
the state of things existing when the order was delivered to General Stuart.
WHAT LEE EXPECTED.
The letter of General Lee to General Stuart, however, shows that when it was written General Lee expected that General Stuart would pass with all his cavalry, except two brigades, to the west of the Blue Ridge, and cross the Potomac on that side of the mountains, leaving two brigades in the gaps to guard his rear as long as the enemy threatened to attempt to penetrate through the gaps into the Valley.
The letter of General Lee to General Ewell informing that officer of the order General Lee had given to General Stuart, if General Longstreet decided that Stuart could be spared, shows very clearly that the movement that General Lee assumed would be made by General Stuart was to cross into Maryland, and put himself on the right of General Ewell.
The letter of General Longstreet to General Lee, which I have quoted, acknowledging the receipt of General Lee's letter to General Stuart, states that General Longstreet had forwarded that letter with the suggestion that the latter should pass to the enemy's rear, "if he thinks he can get through."
What General Longstreet calls a "suggestion" was, in effect, an order, as will be seen. It was as
Millwood, June 22, 1863--7 P. M.
"Major-General J. E. B. Stuart, Commanding Cavalry:
"General,--General Lee has enclosed to me this letter for you, to be forwarded to you, provided you can be spared from my front, and provided I think you can move across the Potomac without disclosing our plans. He speaks of your leaving via Hopewell Gap, and passing by the rear of the enemy. If you can get through by that route, I think you will be less likely to indicate what our plans are than if you should cross by passing to our rear. I forward the letter of instructions with these suggestions. Please advise me of the condition of affairs before you leave, and order General Hampton, whom, I suppose, you will leave here in command, to report to me at Millwood, either by letter or in person, as may be most agreeable to him.
N.B.--I think your passage of the Potomac by our rear at the present moment will, in a measure,
disclose our plans. You had better not leave us, therefore, unless you can take the proposed route
in the rear of the enemy."
In effect, General Longstreet tells General Stuart that he had better not leave the army unless he could take the proposed route in the "rear of the enemy," and his "suggestion" substantially amounted to an order to Stuart not to leave the army for the purpose of crossing into Maryland, as directed by General Lee's letter, unless he could do so by that route.
It will be seen that the order of General Longstreet to General Stuart, contained in the letter of the former, which I have just read, appears to be controlled entirely by the idea that General Stuart was to cross the Potomac in such a way as would best conceal the movements of the Confederate army, but it does not notice the positive instruction contained in General Lee's letter to General Stuart, should the latter cross the Potomac, to place himself as speedily as possible, after the enemy begun to move northward, upon General Ewell's right.
You will remember that the order of General Longstreet to General Stuart at the time he sent him
General Lee's letter was that he should proceed by way of the enemy's rear to reach the Potomac
and cross into Maryland. Now, it must be borne in mind that this suggestion contemplated the
possibility of the entire detachment of the cavalry from the rest of the army. To obey the order
Stuart had to pass through the Bull Run mountains across the enemy's line of march from
opposite Fredericksburg to the Potomac river, if the way was open. That line of march was east
of the Bull Run mountains. The cavalry under Stuart was on the east side of the Blue Ridge, and
the enemy was already known to be assembling on the Potomac, in Loudoun, so that General
Stuart's march ordered by General Longstreet would take the cavalry east of the Bull Run
mountains and bring it to the Potomac river, below where the enemy's army was being
concentrated. Of course this might readily prove to be inconsistent with the chief aim of the
movement ordered by General Lee, which was that General Stuart should place himself on the
right of General Ewell after crossing the river, and there was evident danger that if General Stuart
acted under the order of General Longstreet, and the enemy should cross the Potomac before
General Stuart, the latter would be separated from General Ewell, who was moving west of the
LEE TO STUART AGAIN.
But there is another letter from General Lee to General Stuart, dated on the 23d of June, at 5 P.
M., which is as follows:
"Headquarters Army Northern Virginia,
"June 23, 1863--5 P. M.
"Major-General J. E. B. Stuart, Commanding Cavalry:
"General,--Your notes of 9 and 10:30 A. M. to-day have just been received. As regards the purchase of tobacco for your men, supposing that Confederate money will not be taken, I am willing for your commissaries or quartermasters to purchase this tobacco and let the men get it from them, but I can have nothing seized by the men. If General Hooker's army remains inactive, you can leave two brigades to watch him, and withdraw the three others; but should he not appear to be moving northward I think you had better withdraw this side of the mountains to-morrow night, cross at Shepherdstown next day, and move over to Fredericktown. You will, however, be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing them all the damage you can, and cross the river east of the mountains. In either case, after crossing the river, you must move on and feel the right of Ewell's troops, collecting information, provisions, etc. Give instructions to the commanders of the brigades left behind to watch the flank and rear of the army, and in the event of the enemy leaving their front, retire from the mountains west of the Shenandoah, leaving sufficient pickets to guard the passes and bring in everything clean along the valley, closing up on the rear of the army. As regards the movements of the two brigades of the enemy moving towards Warrenton, the commander of the brigades to be left in the mountains must do what he can to counteract them, but I think the sooner you cross into Maryland after to-morrow the better. The movements of Ewell's Corps are as stated in my former letter. Hill's First Division will reach the Potomac to-day, and Longstreet will follow to-morrow. Be watchful and circumspect in your movements.
"I am, very respectfully and truly yours,
"R. E. Lee, General."
This letter was written and received after General Longstreet's letter to General Stuart of the 22d of June, enclosing that of General Lee, with the suggestion or order of General Longstreet as to the movement of General Stuart, of which I have spoken, and is General Lee's last direction to General Stuart before the army left Virginia. It was written and received before General Stuart started on his march "around the rear of the enemy."
It covers the case of the Federal commander remaining inactive, and also of his not moving northward. In the former event Stuart was to leave two brigades to watch him, and with the other three to withdraw, and in the latter event Stuart's whole command was to be withdrawn to-morrow night (the 24th), "this side of the mountain," cross the Potomac at Shepherdstown, and move towards Fredericktown the next day.
It also leaves Stuart to decide whether he can move around the Federal army (in either of the events mentioned) without hindrance, doing him all the damage he can, and cross east of the mountains. In either case, after crossing the river, Stuart is directed to move on and feel the right of Ewell's Corps, collecting information, etc.
You will see that whether Stuart should cross the Potomac at Shepherdstown, as General Lee directed, or in the exercise of the discretion given him to pass around the rear of the enemy and cross the Potomac east of the mountains, he was ordered, unconditionally, "after crossing the river," to move on and "feel the. right of Ewell's troops, collecting information," etc.
This explicit order precluded any movement by Stuart that would prevent him from "feeling the right of Ewell's troops," after crossing the Potomac, and it was the last order General Stuart received before leaving Virginia.
It will also be observed that General Stuart was not permitted to make this movement around the enemy's rear unless he could pass around the Federal army without hindrance, and there was the same conditions annexed to the order of General Stuart, as I have shown. In any case, General Stuart, after crossing the Potomac, was to put himself on the right flank of General Ewell, and that any movement on the part of the former which tended to prevent this was entirely inconsistent with General Lee's reiterated instructions.
So, that, under this instruction, General Stuart was practically instructed not to cross the Potomac east of the Federal army, and thus interpose that army between himself and the right of General Ewell.
There were places where the Potomac could be crossed between the enemy's army, at or near
Edward's Ferry, and the Blue Ridge, east of the latter, and General Stuart had discretion to use
the fords east of the Blue Ridge, but he had no discretion to use any ford that would place the
enemy's army between him and the troops of General Ewell.
The report of General Stuart of his operations in this campaign states that he had submitted to General Lee a plan of leaving a brigade or two, to use his own language, "in my present front, and passing through Hopewell, or some other gap in Bull Run Mountains, attain the enemy's rear, pass between his main body and Washington, and cross into Maryland, joining our army north of the Potomac.
"The commanding general wrote me, authorizing this move, if I deemed it practicable, and also what instructions should be given the officer in command of the two brigades left in front of the army. He also notified me that one column would move via Gettysburg, the other by Carlisle, towards the Susquehanna, and directed me, after crossing, to proceed with all dispatch to join the right (Early) in Pennsylvania."
There is no such letter as is mentioned by General Stuart contained in the book, in which are found copies of all the other letters of General Lee to him, which I have cited, and it is inconsistent with the other letters I have quoted on the same subject, written by General Lee to him about the same time. But the report of General Stuart evidently refers to the letter of General Lee of June 23d, which I have read. That letter contains the instructions to be given "to the officer in command of the two brigades to be left in front of the enemy," mentioned in General Stuart's report as being contained in General Lee's letter to him, which he refers to in his report. It also contains the information as to Ewell's movement referred to in the report, and there can be no doubt that General Lee's letter of June 23d, which I have read, is the letter to which General Stuart refers in his report, and that he construed that letter to mean what he there states. If General Lee wrote another letter, in which he gives the same directions as to the instructions to be given the officer in command of the two brigades left in front of the enemy, and in which he informs General Stuart of the movements of Ewell, and which was also inconsistent with his other letters to Stuart, written about the same time, it would be very strange, and the inference is irresistible that General Lee's letter of June 23d is the one to which General Stuart refers in his report, and that he construed that letter to mean what he there states.
That construction, however, is not justified by the, letter itself.
General Stuart's report then proceeds as follows: "Accordingly, three days' rations were prepared,
and on the night of the 24th the following brigades--Hampton's, Fitz Lee's, and W. H. F. Lee's,
rendezvoused secretly near Salem depot. We had no wagons or vehicles, except six pieces of
artillery, caissons, and ambulances. Robertson's and Jones's Brigades, under command of the
former, were left in observation of the enemy on the usual front, with full instructions as to
following up the enemy in case of withdrawal, and rejoining our main army. Brigadier-General
Fitz Lee's Brigade had to march from north of Snicker's Gap to the place of rendezvous. At 1
o'clock at night the brigades, with noiseless march, moved out. This precaution was necessary on
account of the enemy's having possession of the Bull Run mountains, which in the day-time
commanded a view of every movement in consequence of that location. Hancock's Corps
occupied Thoroughfare gap. Moving to the right, we passed through Glasscock's Gap without
serious difficulty, and marched for Haymarket. I had previously sent Major Mosby, with some
picked men, through to gain the vicinity of Dranesville, and bring intelligence to me, near Gum
Spring, today." (You will bear in mind that Haymarket is in Prince William county, east of the
Bull Run mountains, and that was the first point to which General Stuart directed his march, using
Glasscock's Gap in the mountains, Glasscock's Gap being further to the south than Hopewell.)
"As we neared Haymarket we found that Hancock's Corps was en route through Haymarket for
Gum Spring, his infantry well distributed through his trains. * * * * As Hancock had the right of
way on my road, I sent Fitz Lee's Brigade to Gainesville to reconnoitre, and devoted the
remainder of the day to grazing our horses, the only forage procurable in the country. The best of
our information represented the enemy still at Centreville, Union Mills, and Wolf Run Shoals. I
sent a dispatch to General Lee concerning Hancock's movement and moved back to Buckland to
deceive the enemy. It rained heavily that night. To carry out my original design of passing west
of Centreville would have involved so much detention on account of the presence of the enemy
that I determined to cross Bull Run further down and pass through Fairfax for the Potomac the
next day. The sequel shows this to have been the only practical course. We marched through
Brentsville to the vicinity of Wolf Run Shoals, and had to halt again to graze our horses, which
hard-marching, without grain, was fast breaking down. We met no enemy to-day (the 26th). On
the following morning (27th), having ascertained that on the night previous the enemy had
disappeared entirely from Wolf Run Shoals, a strongly-fortified position on the Occoquan, I
marched to that point, and thence directly to Fairfax station, sending General Fitz Lee to the right
to cross by Burke station and effect a junction at Fairfax Courthouse, or further on, according to
circumstances. * * Reaching Fairfax Courthouse, a communication was received from
Brigadier-General Fitz Lee from Avondale. At these two points there were evidences of very
recent occupation, but the evidence was conclusive that the enemy had left this point entirely, the
mobilized army having the day previous moved over towards Leesburg, while the locals had
retired to the fortifications near Washington. I had not heard yet from Major Mosby, but the
indications favored my successful passage in the rear of the enemy's army. After a halt of a few
hours to rest and refresh the command, which regaled itself on stores left by the enemy in the
place, the march was resumed at Dranesville late in the afternoon. The camp-fires at Sedgwick's
(Sixth) Corps, just west of the town, were still burning, it having left that morning. * * * General
Hampton's Brigade was still in the advance, and was ordered to move directly for Rowser's Ford
on the Potomac, Chambliss's Brigade being held at Dranesville until Brigadier-General Fitz Lee
could close up. As General Hampton approached the river, he fortunately met a citizen who had
just forded the river, who informed us that there were no pickets on the other side, and that the
river, though fordable, was two feet higher than usual. Hampton's Brigade crossed early in the
night, but reported to me that it would be utterly impossible to cross the artillery at that ford. In
this the residents were also very positive that vehicles could not cross. A ford lower down was
examined, and found quite as impracticable, from quicksand, rocks, and rugged banks. I
determined, however, not to give it up without trial, and before 12 o'clock that night, in spite of
the difficulties, to all appearances insuperable, indomitable energy and resolute determination
triumphed. Every piece was brought safely over, and the entire command bivouacked on
Maryland soil." * * * *
DIFFICULT TO OCCUPY.
I shall not quote further from the report of General Stuart what I have read already, showing that he crossed the Potomac east of the army of General Hooker, so as to render it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for him to comply with the repeated injunctions he had received from General Lee to place himself on Ewell's right as soon as he entered Maryland. The report states that General Stuart, on reaching the Maryland side, ascertained that General Hooker had already crossed the Potomac, and that on the day before (June 27th) his army was at Poolesville, moving towards Fredericktown.
General Stuart appears to have thought that his movement was intended to threaten Washington. He lost much valuable time in pursuing and capturing trains coming from that city to General Hooker's army, but as he moved northward the Federal army was also moving northward on his left, and separating him from the right of the Confederate army, where it was all important that the cavalry should be.
The report says, speaking of the capture of a large train coming from Washington: "The capture and securing of this train had for the time scattered the leading brigade. I calculated that before the next brigade could march this distance and reach the defenses of Washington it would be after dark. The troops there would have had time to march to positions to meet attack on this road. To attack at night with cavalry, particularly unless certain of surprise, would have been extremely hazardous. To wait until morning would have lost much time from my march to join General Lee, without the probability of compensating results. I therefore determined, after getting the wagons under way, to proceed directly north so as to cut the Baltimore and Ohio railroad (now becoming the enemy's main war artery) that night. I found myself now encumbered by about 400 prisoners, many of whom were officers."
He then proceeds to state how he marched northward, cutting the Baltimore and Ohio railroad at several points, and remained in possession of that road nearly all that day, the 28th. Finding that the enemy was moving north through Frederick City, and it being important for him to reach General Lee's army with as little delay as possible "to acquaint the commanding general with the nature of the enemy's movement, as well as to place with his column my cavalry force," he proceeded, following a ridge road to Westminster, which he reached at 5 P. M.
At this place he had a skirmish with a detachment of Federal cavalry, which he pursued a long distance on the Baltimore road, a pursuit that took him further away from the army of General Lee.
The line of march taken by General Stuart on the right of the enemy brought on several skirmishes, which consumed much more time, the consequences of the loss of which will be presently described.
Considerable delay was also caused in an effort to save the captured wagon train. Not being able to learn exactly where the Confederate army was, General Stuart proceeded as far north as Carlisle. It was not until the night of the 1st of July that he was informed that General Lee's army was at Gettysburg, and had been engaged that day with the enemy's advance. He reached Gettysburg on the 2d of July.
The movement of General Stuart, as will be perceived, left the army which had passed into Maryland with no cavalry, except the brigade of Jenkins's and White's battalion, which accompanied General Ewell. It could not look for supplies in a hostile country, except by the use of artillery and wagon-horses, of which, of course, but a small number could be spared for that purpose, and it was, as we shall see, entirely without knowledge of the enemy's movements.
Let us now return to the movements of the main body of the army.
On the 22d of June General Ewell marched into Pennsylvania with Rodes' and Johnson's
Divisions, preceded by Jenkins's Cavalry, taking the road from Hagerstown through
Chambersburg to Carlisle, where he arrived on the 27th. Early's Division moved by a parallel
road to Greenwood, and, in pursuance of instructions previously given to General Ewell, marched
towards York. On the 24th Longstreet and Hill were put in motion to follow Ewell, and on the
27th encamped near Chambersburg. General Imboden's command, which had been directed to
cross the Potomac and take position on General Ewell's left, as he moved northward, reached
Hancock, while Longstreet and Hill were at Chambersburg, and was directed to proceed to the
IMPLICIT CONFIDENCE IN STUART.
General Lee had the most implicit confidence in the vigilance and enterprise of General Stuart. He had not heard from him since the army left Virginia, and was confident from that fact, in view of the positive orders that Stuart had received, that General Hooker's army had not yet crossed the Potomac. He remained at Chambersburg from the 27th to the 29th, and repeatedly observed while there that the enemy's army must still be in Virginia, as he had heard nothing from Stuart.
Assuming that such was the fact, and that the movements of the Confederate army into Pennsylvania had failed to withdraw that of General Hooker from Virginia, contrary to his confident expectation, General Lee began to become uneasy as to the purpose of the Federal commander, and to fear that he contemplated a strong movement against Richmond.
He remarked that such a proceeding on the part of the enemy would compel the immediate return
of his own army to Virginia, if it could, indeed, reach Richmond in time to defend the city. The
possession of Richmond was absolutely necessary at that time to preserve communication with
the South, and its loss would have led to the evacuation of the whole of Eastern Virginia, at least
as far South as the Roanoke. I heard General Lee express this apprehension more than once while
we lay at Chambersburg, and the apprehension was due entirely to his hearing nothing from
General Stuart. Under these circumstances he determined to take such action as would compel
the enemy to leave Virginia, and deter him from any attempt upon Richmond. General
Longstreet's Corps was at Chambersburg with the commanding general. General A. P. Hill's
Corps was about four miles east of Chambersburg on the road to Gettysburg. General Ewell was
then at Carlisle. On the night of the 28th of June I was directed by General Lee to order General
Ewell to move directly upon Harrisburg, and to inform him that General Longstreet would move
the next morning (the 29th) to his support. General A. P. Hill was directed to move eastward to
the Susquehanna, and, crossing the river below Harrisburg, seize the railroad between Harrisburg
and Philadelphia, it being supposed that all reinforcements that might be coming from the North
would be diverted to the defense of that city, and that there would be such alarm created by these
movements that the Federal Government would be obliged to withdraw its army from Virginia
and abandon any plan that it might have for an attack upon Richmond.
LEE'S FIRST INFORMATION.
I sent the orders about 10 o'clock at night to General Ewell and General Hill, and had just returned to my tent, when I was sent for by the commanding general. I found him sitting in his tent with a man in citizen's dress, whom I did not know to be a soldier, but who, General Lee informed me, was a scout of General Longstreet's, who had just been brought to him.
He told me that this scout had left the neighborhood of Fredericktown that morning, and had brought information that the Federal army had crossed the Potomac, and that its advance had reached Fredericktown, and was moving thence westward towards the mountains. The scout informed General Lee that General Meade was then in command of the army, and also as to the movements of the enemy, which was the first information that General Lee had received since he left Virginia. He inferred from the fact that the advance of the enemy had turned westward from Frederick that his purpose was to enter the Cumberland Valley south of our army, and obstructour communication through Hagerstown with Virginia, General Lee said that, while he did not consider that he had complete communication with Virginia,.he had all the communication that he needed, as long as the enemy had no considerable force in the Cumberland Valley. His principal need for communicating with Virginia was to procure ammunition, and he thought that he could always do that with an escort, if the valley were free from a Federal force, but should the enemy have a considerable force in the valley this would be impossible. He considered it of great importance that the enemy's army should be kept east of the mountains, and, consequently, he determined to move his own army to the east side of the Blue Ridge, so as to threaten Washington and Baltimore, and detain the Federal forces on that side of the mountains to protect those cities. He directed me to countermand the orders to General Ewell and General Hill, and to order the latter to move eastward on the road through Cashtown and Gettysburg, and Ewell to march from Carlisle, so as to form a junction with Hill either at Cashtown or Gettysburg, as circumstances might direct. He ordered General Longstreet to prepare to move the next morning, following Hill. The army moved very slowly, and there would have been no difficulty whatever in having the whole of it at Gettysburg by the morning of the 1st of July had we been aware of the movements of the enemy on the other side of the mountains.
You will thus see that the movement to Gettysburg was the result of the want of information, which the cavalry alone could obtain for us, and that General Lee was compelled to march through the mountains from Chambersburg eastward without the slightest knowledge of the enemy's movements, except that brought by the scout. While making this march the only information he possessed led him to believe that the army of the enemy was moving westward from Frederick to throw itself upon his line of communication with Virginia, and the object of the movement, as I have stated, was simply to arrest the execution of this supposed plan of the enemy, and keep his army on the east side of the Blue Ridge.
It would have been entirely within the power of General Lee to have met the army of the enemy
while it was moving on the road between Frederick and Gettysburg, or to have remained west of
the mountains. It had not been his intention to deliver a battle north of the Potomac, if it could be
avoided, except upon his own terms, and yet, by reason of the absence of the cavalry, his own
army marching slowly eastward from Chambersburg, and southward from Carlisle, came
unexpectedly on the Federal advance on the 1st day of July, a considerable part of the
Confederate army having not yet reached the field of battle.
HOW IT WAS BROUGHT ABOUT.
I do not propose to enter into the details of the battle of Gettysburg, but only to show you how that battle was brought about, and how it was fought on the first, second, and third days with troops as they arrived, all of whom could readily have been on the ground on the first day.
It has been my object to correct the impression that has prevailed to some extent that the movement of the cavalry was made by General Lee's orders, and that at a critical moment of the campaign he crossed the Potomac river and moved into Pennsylvania, sending the entire cavalry force of his army upon a useless raid. That this is not true I think the evidence I have laid before you abundantly establishes. The suggestion of General Longstreet in communicating the order of General Lee to General Stuart that the latter should pass by the enemy's rear need not have led to the results which I have described.
You will observe that General Longstreet's suggestion to General Stuart was qualified, as was General Lee's letter to Stuart of June 23d, by saying that the latter should go by the enemy's rear, "if he thinks he may get through." The first movement of General Stuart after leaving Salem Depot early on the morning of the 25th brought him in conflict with General Hancock's Brigade, near Haymarket, and, finding that he could not pass around the rear of the enemy, the discretion so given him by General Longstreet was at an end, and there was yet time for General Stuart to retrace his steps and obey the order that he had received from General Lee in the letter of the 23d of June, to cross the Potomac west of the Blue Ridge and move on until he felt the right of Ewell's column. But, instead of pursuing this course, General Stuart, as I have already pointed out, moved to Buckland, east of Bull Run mountain, and proceeded from that place through Brentsville, down to Wolf-Run shoals, and thence across the country by way of Fairfax station to the Potomac river. This latter movement was not sanctioned either by the suggestion of General Longstreet or by the positive orders of General Lee, and from the tenor of General Stuart's report it would seem that he entirely mistook the part that he was expected to take in the movement of the army. He placed himself east of the Federal army, with that army between his command and the Confederate Force. He left General Lee without any information as to the movements of the enemy from the time he crossed the Potomac river until the 2d of July. By his silence, as I have described, he caused General Lee to move his army to Gettysburg, not with the expectation or purpose of meeting the enemy, but simply to prevent a movement which he supposed the enemy was making to obstruct his line of communication with Virginia, and caused him to fight the battle of Gettysburg without having his whole force present except on the third day, when it was equally possible, had General Lee been informed of what the enemy was doing, for him to have fought that battle with his entire force while the enemy's forces were approaching Gettysburg, or to have remained west of the mountains and have met the Federal army on some other field.
The result of General Stuart's action was that two armies invaded Pennsylvania in 1863, instead of
one. One of those armies had no cavalry, the other had nothing but cavalry. One was
commanded by General Lee, the other by General Stuart.
(Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 23, pages 205-229)