[From the Richmond (Va.) Times, Feb'y 2, 1896.]
LONGSTREET AND STUART.
Highly Interesting Review by Colonel John S. Mosby.
CAUSE OF THE LOSS OF GETTYSBURG.
Many of Longstreet's Statements in His Book Combated by Colonel
Mosby--The Want of Cavalry Had Nothing to Do
with the Result of the Battle.
General Longstreet, having acted a great part as a soldier, now appears as the historian of the
war. His book will soon be buried in the dust of oblivion, but, fortunately for him, his fame does
not rest upon what he has written, but what he has done. No doubt he has had to endure much,
as he says, for the sake of his opinions, as every man must who goes in advance of his age, and he
has had strong provocation to speak with bitterness of some of his contemporaries, if he spoke of
them at all. But his better angel would have told him that much that he has written about his
brothers-in-arms would injure his own reputation more than theirs, and that if he had suffered
injustice in defending the right, he had the consolation of knowing that
"Only those are crowned and sainted,
Who with grief have been acquainted."
He will not be able to persuade anyone but himself that he was ever the rival of General Lee and
Stonewall Jackson, or that Jackson's fame is factitious and due to his being a Virginian. It is not
because he was a Virginian that his monument stands on the bank of the "father of waters," and
that a great people beyond the sea gave his statue, in bronze, to the State that will cherish his
fame as a possession forever.
I only propose, however, to review that portion of his book that relates to the management of the cavalry in the Gettysburg campaign. He says that on June 19th, "under the impression that the cavalry was to operate with the first corps (Longstreet's) in the general plan, the commander (Stuart) was ordered to follow its withdrawal west of the Blue Ridge and cross the Potomac on its right at Shepherdstown and make his ride towards Baltimore. He claimed that General Lee had given him authority to cross east of the Blue Ridge. The point at which the cavalry force should cross the river was not determined between the Confederate commander and his chief of cavalry, there being doubt whether the crossing could be made at Point of Rocks between the Union army and Blue Ridge, or between that army and Washington city. That question was left open, and I was ordered to choose between the points named at the moment that my command took up its line of march. So our plans, adopted after deep study, were suddenly given over to gratify the youthful cavalryman's wish for a romantic ride." General Longstreet does not pretend to have any written record or evidence to, support his assertion; on the contrary, the record shows that at that time no such plan could have been entertained, or even discussed.
He writes history on the a priori principle of the ancient philosophers, who never went outside of
their own consciousness to enquire about facts. It is an exercise of imagination, not of memory; if
he runs up against a fact then, like a battery or a line of battle that got in his way--so much the
worse for the fact. Not that I would insinuate that he has consciously been guilty of invention;
but seeing, as he supposes, in the light of events, that certain things ought to have been done, he
persuades himself that they were done. At the above date (June 19th) General Lee had not
determined on sending any of his army north of the Potomac, except Ewell's Corps that was in the
advance. Only Rodes' and Johnson's Divisions, with Jenkins' Cavalry, had then crossed the river.
A. P. Hill's Corps, that had been left at Fredericksburg, had not then reached the Shenandoah
Valley. General Lee, with Longstreet's Corps, was about Berryville; Stuart, with the cavalry, was
east of the Blue Ridge, guarding the approaches to the gaps; Longstreet on the west, was
supporting him. Longstreet was facing east; Hooker in his front, was, of course, facing west.
GENERAL LEE'S PLANS.
Now, on June 19th, the day that Longstreet says that all their plans of invasion were matured, and Stuart was ordered to follow his corps and cross the Potomac at Shepherdstown, General Lee wrote to Ewell, who, with two of his divisions, was about Hagerstown, Md., Early not having then crossed the river. General Lee says: "I very much regret that you have not the benefit of your whole corps, for with that north of the Potomac you would accomplish as much unmolested as the whole army could perform with General Hooker in its front. * * * If your advance causes Hooker to cross the Potomac, or separate his army in any way, Longstreet can follow you." So on June 19th it was uncertain whether Longstreet would cross the river or not. On the 22d Hill arrived near Charlestown. Ewell was then ordered to enter Pennsylvania with his whole corps; Jenkins' Cavalry was with him. That day (22d) in a letter to Ewell, General Lee says: "If you are ready to move you can do so. I think your best course will be toward the Susquehanna, taking the routes by Emmettsburg, Chambersburg, and McConnellsburg. It will depend upon the quantity of supplies obtained in that country whether the rest of the army can follow. If Harrisburg comes within your means, capture it." So on the morning of June 22d it had not been settled that Longstreet and Hill should follow Ewell.
Later in the day (3:30 P. M.) he again writes Ewell: "I also directed General Stuart, should the
enemy have so far 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, &c. I also directed Imboden, if opportunity offered, to cross the
Potomac, and perform the same offices on your left." Ewell marched with two divisions down
the Cumberland Valley to Chambersburg: thence to Carlisle, where he halted. Early was detached
and sent east through the Cashtown pass in the South mountain, to York.
WHAT THE LETTERS SHOW.
These letters of General Lee's show that Stuart could not have been ordered to march on
Longstreet's flank, because (1) Ewell was then in Pennsylvania and Longstreet in Virginia, and (2)
Longstreet and Hill had received no orders to march. The next day General Lee wrote to Mr.
Davis: "Reports of movements of the enemy cast of the Blue Ridge cause me to believe that he is
preparing to cross the Potomac. A pontoon bridge is said to be laid at Harper's Ferry; his army
corps, that he has advanced to Leesburg and the foot of the mountains, appear to be withdrawing.
Their attempt to penetrate the mountains has been successfully repelled by General Stuart with the
cavalry. General Ewell's corps is in motion toward the Susquehanna. General A.P. Hill is moving
toward the Potomac; his leading division will reach Shepherdstown to-day. I have withdrawn
Longstreet west of the Shenandoah, and if nothing prevents he will follow to-morrow." General
Lee was then satisfied of Hooker's purpose to cross the Potomac. During the time that Stuart
was defending the gaps on account of the presence of Longstreet's corps, Stuart was, to some
extent, brought under his authority; for convenience, and to preserve concert of action, all of his
correspondence with General Lee passed through Longstreet. In this way Lee and Longstreet
were both kept informed of the movements of the enemy. On the day that Ewell left Hagerstown
(22d), General Lee sent unsealed through Longstreet the following letter of instructions:
"Headquarters, June 22, 1863.
"Major-General J. E. B. Stuart,
Commanding Cavalry, &c.:
"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. 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 the other three into Maryland, and take position on Ewell's right, place yourself in
communication with him, guard his flank, and 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 towards the Susquehanna by the Emmettsburg route, another by Chambersburg."
Stuart is here given discretion as to the route he should go; but the orders to leave Longstreet and
go to Ewell are peremptory. Stuart's headquarters were then at Rector's Cross Roads, about
twelve miles east of the Ridge. These letters demonstrate how erroneous are the statements of
Generals Longstreet and Heth, and of Long, in the romance he published and called the Memoirs
of General Lee, that Stuart was ordered to march on the flank of the column with which General
Lee was present. He couldn't be on Ewell's flank on the Susquehanna and Longstreet's flank on
the Potomac at the same time. Neither would Longstreet have ordered Stuart to remain with him,
knowing that General Lee had ordered him to Ewell. All of Stuart's critics have ignored the fact
that General Lee ordered Stuart to leave him and go to Ewell. General Longstreet wrote as
follows to General Lee :
"June 22, 1863--7:30 P. M.
"General R. E. Lee, Commanding, &c.:
"General,--Yours of 4 o'clock this afternoon is received. I have forwarded your letter to General Stuart, with the suggestion that he pass by the enemy's rear if he thinks he may get through. We have nothing of the enemy to-day.
LONGSTREET TO STUART.
In the correspondence during this period between Lee, Longstreet, and Stuart this is the first
intimation about taking the route in the rear of the enemy, and it seems that General Longstreet
suggested it. This is his letter to Stuart:
"Millwood, June 22, 1863-7 P. M.
"Major-General. J. E. B. Stuart, Commanding Cavalry.-
"General,--General Lee has inclosed to me this letter for you, to be forwarded to you, provided you can be spared from my front, and provided I think that 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 that 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 the most agreeable to him.
N.B. I think that your passage of the Potomac by our rear (Shepherdstown), 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 rear of the enemy."
In his book General Longstreet says: "The extent of authority with me, therefore, was to decide
whether the crossing should be made at the Point of Rocks, or around Hopewell Gap, east of the
Union Army." The Point of Rocks is nowhere mentioned in the correspondence, and General
Longstreet's own letter is proof that it was not considered as a place for Stuart's crossing. He
tells Stuart that it is better to go by the rear of the enemy than by "our rear." Now at that time
Longstreet and Hill were in the valley fronting east; the Point of Rocks is twelve miles east of the
Blue Ridge; their rear way, then, of course, toward the west. In crossing at Point of Rocks Stuart
would not have been in rear of either army, but in front of both. If, on the contrary, Stuart had
come over the Blue Ridge and crossed the Potomac at Shepherdstown, he would have passed in
our rear. General Longstreet says: "In the postscript three points are indicated: First, the move
along my rear to the crossing at Point of Rocks." As Longstreet was west of the Blue Ridge
facing east, and Stuart was east of the Ridge, it is hard to see how he would pass Longstreet's rear
in moving to the Point of Rocks. The Point of Rocks is not mentioned in the letter. "Second, my
preferred march on my flank to the Shepherdstown crossing." There is no such preference shown
in the letter; just the reverse, as Longstreet urges Stuart not to cross in "our rear," which would
have been at Shepherdstown. "Third, the route indicated by General Lee." But in his letter of the
22d, to Stuart, General Lee indicated no route--he merely ordered Stuart (if General Longstreet
could spare him from his front) to join Ewell. Of course he couldn't join Ewell--stay with
Longstreet, as they were seventy-five miles apart, and the distance widening. He further
says:"Especially did he (Stuart) know that my orders were that he should ride on the right of my
column, as originally designed, to the Shepherdstown crossing." Stuart didn't know anything of
the kind--neither did General Longstreet. The record is against him. The very letter that
Longstreet forwarded to Stuart from General Lee told him to leave Longstreet and go to Ewell.
LEE'S FINAL INSTRUCTION.
But General Lee's final instructions to Stuart, dated June 23d, 5 P. M., shows what choice of
routes was given to Stuart. General Lee says: "If General Hooker's army remains inactive, you
can leave two brigades to watch him. and withdraw with the three others; but should he not
appear to be moving northward, I think you had better withdraw this side of the mountain
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," &C. * * * * The movements of Ewell's Corps are as stated in my former letter. Hill's
first division will reach the Potomac to-day (23d), and Longstreet will follow to-morrow." This
letter proves that the choice of routes lay between Shepherdstown, and west of the Blue Ridge, or
crossing the river in rear of the enemy to the east. It also shows that Stuart was not to march on
the flank of the column with General Lee even if he crossed at Shepherdstown, but to move on
through Boonsboro Gap, and put himself on Ewell's right. Stuart took the shortest and most
direct route to join Early's Division that was then marching east toward York. General
Longstreet gives himself away when he says: "The first corps was to draw back from the Blue
Ridge, and cross the Potomac at Williamsport, to be followed by the cavalry, which was to cross
at Shepherdstown, and ride severely towards Baltimore, to force the enemy to eastern
concentration." Now Stuart did ride "severely toward Baltimore," and near to the gates of the
city. But if he had gone the other way, and crossed at Shepherdstown, and then ridden through
Boonsboro Gap to Baltimore, he would have been as far from Longstreet's flank as he was by the
route he took in rear of Hooker. He did not, as he says, order Stuart to put Hampton in
command of the two brigades that were left behind, for he had no such authority; neither is it true
that Robertson was assigned to this command "without orders to report," at his headquarters.
Stuart's instructions to Robertson, which, through abundant caution, he repeated to Jones, and all
the correspondence to which I have referred, has been published. It may be that he hasn't read it.
If he has not, then he ought to stop writing, and go to reading history. The instructions to
Robertson says: * * * * "you will instruct General Jones, from time to time, as the movements
progress or events may require, and report anything of importance to Lieutenant-General
Longstreet, with whose position you will communicate by relays through Charlestown. I send
instructions for General Jones, which please read." Jones was one of the best outpost officers in
the army. Stuart's main reliance was on him. His brigade was at that time much nearer the
Potomac than Robertson's. Jones in accordance with Stuart's order places the Twelfth Virginia
Cavalry at Charlestown. Longstreet was responsible for the use made of these two brigades, as
they were under his orders. It would have been much easier to send a courier back for them from
Hagerstown, if the cavalry was needed, than from Chambersburg. He knew that Hooker's army
had crossed the river, and was holding the South Mountain passes when he was at Hagerstown.
So his spy only told General Lee what he already knew. It could not have been a surprise to hear
at Chambersburg that the Northern army was moving north. There was nothing else for it to do.
If when General Lee was at Hagerstown he had supposed that Hooker was still south of the
Potomac he would not have moved north, but due east, toward Baltimore and Washington.
There is not the slightest evidence to show that in this campaign any injury resulted to the army
from want of cavalry. Our communications were never interrupted. General Longstreet speaks
of Stuart's movement toward Ewell's right flank as a raid. As I have shown, it was nothing of the
kind, but a part of a combined movement of the whole army. The criticisms of Stuart are all
predicated on the idea that Gettysburg was General Lee's objective point; and as Stuart was
absent from the first day's battle he must, therefore, have been in default. But General Lee was
not present in the battle; he arrived just at the close. On this assumption a plausible theory was
invented that the battle was precipitated for want of cavalry. In Belford's Magazine (October and
November, 1891), in an article on Gettysburg, based on a study of the records, I demonstrated the
error; and showed that General Lee never intended to go to Gettysburg, but that Cashtown was
his expected point of concentration. General Heth, General Longstreet, Long and others, had
represented Gettysburg to be the strategic point on which General Lee was manoeuvreing. They
forgot that we had held and then abandoned it. Of course, when the base was knocked from
under it, the theory fell.
WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE.
General Longstreet now says that Cashtown was the place where General Lee ordered the
concentration. He did not say so in the Century. He fails to show the genesis of the battle, and
who was responsible for the defeat of General Lee's plans. I will first say that in my opinion
General Longstreet was not. Hill, with Heth's and Pender's Divisions, was at Cashtown on the
evening of July 30th. General Lee, with Longstreet, was still some distance west of the mountain.
Every division of his army--infantry, cavalry, and artillery--was on the march, and converging on
Cashtown on the morning of July 1st. They could all have reached there by night, or in
supporting distance. On the evening before (30th), Hill and Heth heard that a body of the enemy
had just occupied Gettysburg. Early on the morning of July 1st, Hill, with Heth's and Pender's
Divisions, started down without orders to attack them. Before reaching Gettysburg they met
Buford's Cavalry on the pike. Buford held them in check until Reynolds, who had camped some
six miles off with two corps, hearing the firing, came to his support. Heth first put two brigades
into the fight that were soon knocked to pieces; Archer and most of his brigade were captured.
Heth says: "Archer and Davis were now directed to. advance, the object being to feel the enemy
and to determine in what force the enemy were--whether or not he was massing his forces on
Gettysburg. Heavy columns of the enemy were soon encountered. General Davis was unable to
hold the position he had gained. The enemy concentrated on his front and flanks in overwhelming
force. The 'enemy had now been felt, and found to be in heavy force.'" Hill states substantially
the same thing. He put in Heth's other two brigades, and then Pender's Division. He would have
been badly beaten, but Ewell, on the march to Cashtown, received a note from Hill, and hearing
the firing, came to his rescue. Hill and Heth called the fight, which lasted from about 8 o'clock
A.M. to 4 P.M., and in which over 20,000 men were engaged on a side, and five or six thousand
killed and wounded on each side, a reconnaissance. If this was a reconnaissance, then what is a
battle? General Lee had not ordered any reconnaissance, and there was no necessity for it. was
west of the mountain when he heard the firing, and did not understand its significance.
IT WAS A RAID.
The object of a reconnaissance is to get information, not to fight. Only sufficient force is applied to compel an enemy to develop his strength and display his position. The attacking force then. retires. After two of Heth's Brigades had been shattered and heavy columns of the enemy deployed in his front, he knew the enemy was in force, and ought to have retired, and gone back to Cashtown. The trouble was, Hill had found out too much. It is plain that this expedition was not a reconnaissance, but a raid. A high military authority says: "When once the object of a reconnaissance has been gained, a retreat must be sounded even in the middle of a combat." General Lee was in a state of duress when he arrived on the field at the close of the fight. He was compelled to order up the remainder of the army and deliver battle on ground he had not chosen, or fall back to Cashtown, leaving his dead and wounded on the field, and giving the enemy the prestige of victory. It is clear that the want of cavalry had nothing to do either with precipitating the battle or losing it. Stuart was absent on the day it began for the same reason that General Lee was.
This has been written more in sorrow than in anger. It is no pleasure to me to expose the mistakes of others; my motive is to defend the dead, and that arm of the service to which I belonged. It is a sacred duty I owe to the memory of a friend,
"To whom the shadows of far years extend."
Jno. S. Mosby.
San Francisco, Cal., January 23, 1896.
(Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 23, pages 238-247)