General C. M. Wilcox on the Battle of Gettysburg.
[We publish the following without note or comment of our own, except to say that inasmuch as we have published both of General Longstreet's papers, there seems justice in General Wilcox's claim of the privilege of a reply.]
In the early part of November last, General, Longstreet gave, through the columns of the Weekly Times, his version of the battle of Gettysburg, and in the latter part of the month I replied briefly, through the same medium, to so much of it as reflected upon myself and command. I did not care to go into the details of that battle with General Longstreet, feeling confident from its general tone and character that others would, and that points would be embraced in the discussion about which I had no personal knowledge. I, therefore, did little more than correct his misstatements as to my brigade in the battle that took place late in the afternoon of the 2d of July.
A recent number of the Weekly Times has an article supplementary to his first, in which the same charges are reiterated as to myself that were in his first, notwithstanding my explanation and positive denial of their truth, I have no desire for further controversy with General Longstreet. My opinions about the battle of Gettysburg were formed long since, and have not been changed or even modified by any supposed new light shed upon it by recent publications. They were made up from a careful reading of the reports of Generals Lee, Longstreet, A. P. Hill and R. H. Anderson, and my own personal observation and experience during two days of the conflict. I regret that I have again to refer to General Longstreet's misstatements, but trust before I have done to make it so clear that all will see and admit the injustice as well as the incorrectness of them. I say all: this should be qualified,--all except General Longstreet. "Going astray at the opening of the fight, either through ignorance of orders, or a misapprehension or in violation of them," is what General Longstreet alleges in his first paper*(*Weekly Times, November 7, 1877.) and repeats in his second;*(* Weekly Times, February 23, 1878.) and also that my "brigade was, the directing brigade for the echelon movement that he says was to protect McLaws' left flank." In reply,* (* Weekly Times, November 24, 1877).I stated that the orders given me during the day were to advance when the troops on my right moved forward; and I may add now that these orders were repeated three times during the day. Nothing was ever said or ordered of an echelonmovement of which my brigade was to be the directing brigade, or that I was to guard McLaws' flank. No brigade commander of Anderson's division, so far as I know, ever heard of the orders claimed by General Longstreet to have been given; certainly I never did until I read his article in the Times. Had there been such an order as the echelon movement, it would have been impossible of execution, as the lines of battle held by Anderson's and McLaws' divisions were nearly, if not quite at right angles to each other, and my brigade was on the right of the former. General Longstreet may not be skilled in tactics, but he must know this movement by echelon, that he has twice repeated, was not practicable. In addition to the orders that were three times repeated during the day from division headquarters, General Lee in person directed me what to do, and said nothing about McLaws' flank, or mine being the directing brigade of an echelonmovement. That no such orders were given may be plainly inferred from the reports of both my division and corps commanders; and it is further asserted these same reports, together with that of General Lee, will show that Longstreet did not make the attack on the 2d July as he was directed.
In detailing the operations of my brigade in the battle of the 2d, it was stated that when the
brigade on my right (Barksdale's) advanced, mine moved off rapidly by the left flank seven or
eight hundred yards, for the reason that it was the best, as it was the only move under the
circumstances that could be made, and in this march crossed two fences, one of stone; then
charged by the right flank, rose up the slope of the ridge on which lay the Emmettsburg road; was
exposed to a terrible artillery fire from the left; crossed two fences before reaching the road, and
then engaged the enemy at short range as they lay along that road. As they gave way, my men
and Barksdale's impinged, and mine were made to incline slightly to the left. For the information
of General Longstreet, and such other persons as may be disposed to believe an assertion of his,
repeated a second time, as to the part taken in the battle of the 2d July by my brigade, Perry's and
Wright's of Anderson's division, I will here insert what General A. A. Humphreys, Chief Engineer,
United States army, says on the subject. Knowing that I had been confronted by the command of
General Humphreys in the afternoon of the 2d, when I read what General Longstreet had written
about myself personally and the brigades of Perry and Wright, I addressed him a note, requesting
information on certain points connected with our collision. His reply was received too late to
enable me to use the information he gave in my reply to General Longstreet. A few extracts will
now be made from his letter. It was as follows:
Washington, November 30,1877.
Dear Sir-- * ** It was a little after 6 o'clock when I was attacked. * * * I am positive the attack on my right, front and right was nearly simultaneous with that on my left--perhaps, owing to swinging back my left, preceding it a little. [He mentions, moreover, that the troops, counting from left to right, engaged in whole or in part with him that day were] Barksdale's brigade of McLaws' division, Longstreet's corps; your (Wilcox's) brigade, Perry's brigade, Wright's brigade, in part or in whole of Anderson's division, Hill's corps. The fighting ceased about sunset
or a little after sunset.
Respectfully and truly,
A. A. Humphreys.
General C. M. Wilcox.
I did not, therefore, "go astray," nor did I cause Perry and Wright to wander off, as twice charged in the most direct and positive manner by General Longstreet. Anderson's three brigades, with no orders to cover McLaws' flank, did protect it, and struck the enemy simultaneously with Barksdale's, or, for the reason assigned, their attack preceded that of Barksdale. It will be seen that in my reply to General Longstreet, written before the letter of General Humphreys was received by me, I gave the time at which the battle began, and the hour when it terminated,--the same as General Humphreys represents it; and as it commenced about 6 o'clock and terminated "about sunset or a little after sunset," it was not a three hours' fight, as General Longstreet would have it believed,--at least not for Barksdale's and Wofford's brigades, or in truth for any part of McLaws' division.
As to the second charge, that of uncovering McLaws' flank, I denied it positively, and stated, on
the contrary, that my own right was uncovered when my brigade was ordered to retire. There
was no more obligation on my part, from orders given, to guard McLaws' flank, than for him to
guide mine--the protection given was such as mutual safety and the desire to defeat the enemy
would prompt. The following letter from the colonels of my two right regiments will explain
what and whose flank was first uncovered. They are at present representatives in Congress from
the State of Alabama, and the letter is published by their permission:
Washington, D. C., February 28,1878.
General--We, the undersigned colonels and commanding each a regiment in your brigade at the battle of Gettysburg, have read your reply to General Longstreet, published in the Weekly Times of November 24th, 1877, and know it to be correct in giving the manner and time of the advance, striking the enemy and following him down the descent beyond the Emmettsburg road, in the battle fought late in the afternoon of July 2d, 1863. We further concur with you in stating that our right flank was uncovered at the time the brigade was withdrawn.
W. H. Forney,
General C. M. Wilcox.
Colonel Forney, subsequently a Brigadier-General, commanded the Tenth Alabama regiment, was wounded near the extreme point reached by the brigade and left on the field. Colonel Herbert, a Lieutenant-Colonel at the time, commanded the Eighth Alabama regiment.
In his supplementary*(*Weekly Times, February 23, 1878.) article General Longstreet uses the following language: "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 the commander of the directing brigade of support of 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 correct position of his brigade on the 2d. I much prefer the evidence I used in my first article, and I think it will be generally accepted as much better authority than the maps."
It will be seen that I am distinguished by General Longstreet as the "volunteer witness on Gettysburg," when every one knows, himself included, that what I wrote on the battle of Gettysburg, and which appeared in the September number of the Southern Historical Society Papers, was in reply to a letter from the Secretary of that Society, and that his letter, requested myself and other ex-Confederates to give our views on certain points connected with the battle, was addressed to us at the suggestion of the Comte de Paris. General Longstreet, though well aware of this fact, has twice repeated the declaration that I am a volunteer witness in all concerning the battle from Gettysburg.
With reference to the maps of the battle field, in my reply*(*Weekly Times, November 24, 1877.) to his first article it was stated: "General Longstreet refers several times to the map of the battle field. If he will examine the one published by authority of the War Department in 1876, he will see where my brigade was and its line of march; and if he will take the trouble to measure distances, he will learn that no brigade of his advanced further." In his article to which I replied in part, he referred several times to the maps of the battle field. They were good enough authority for him, but he could not accept them in my behalf, but preferred other authority--official reports,--to which I, too, will refer. In his own case he refers to "any of the maps of the battle field," whilst I referred to the one prepared with great care by the War Department, which, as every one who was present and took part in the battle of Gettysburg will admit, is remarkable for its accuracy. Probably no similar map was ever prepared with more care. The survey of the field was made under the direction of the Engineer Department of the United States army, and by officers of that corps. It was begun in 1868 and issued in 1876. The positions of the troops during each of the three days' collision were ascertained by Colonel John B. Bachelder, who has devoted years to it; has walked many times over every part of the field; saw in many instances the dead of the two armies while lying as they fell; talked with the wounded on the field and in hospitals; examined the head marks of the graves; has since examined many reports in manuscript, as well as those that have been published, both Federal and Confederate. It would be difficult for General Longstreet, from his own personal knowledge of the field of battle, to detect in the map a single error, though, of course, it may not be wholly free from them.
Now, as to the official reports to which General Longstreet refers, and on which he relies to prove that I failed to do what he erroneously says I was ordered to do. General Anderson, he says, states in his report that "a strong fire was pouring upon our right flank, which had become detached from our left." This does not show that my brigade uncovered McLaws' left any more than it does that he uncovered my right. I have stated that my right was uncovered when I recalled my brigade, and this has been confirmed by others who were present at the time. Then follows an extract which, according to General Longstreet, is 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 of the enemy's infantry, and compelling him to abandon much of his artillery. Wilcox reached the foot and Wright gained the crest of the ridge itself, driving the enemy down the opposite side, but having become separated from McLaws, and gone beyond the other two brigades of the division, they were attacked in front and on both flanks, and compelled to retire, being unable to bring off any of the captured artillery. McLaws' left also fell back." * * *
General Longstreet does not claim that General Lee wrote from personal knowledge; he knows that he did not so write. But he and myself, and in fact every officer of the Army of Northern Virginia who served under him, know that his official reports are marvelously accurate. I do not of my own knowledge know of any inaccuracies in any one of them except that of Gettysburg, and that they are in unimportant details. In that report he refers to four of Anderson's brigades--Posey's being one--advancing and taking part in the battle late in the afternoon of July 2d. There were but three of those brigades that were engaged, and Posey's was not one of them. General Lee refers to Wilcox's and Wright's brigades and does not mention Perry's, which was to the right of Wright's and on the left and a little in rear of mine when we advanced. If General Lee meant that Wright and Wilcox and the left of McLaws fell back in the order mentioned, he is incorrect. I did not see Wright's brigade during the battle. The Florida brigade was on my left, and that I did see. My brigade did not fall back in the sense of General Lee's report--was not compelled to retire, being attacked on both flanks and in front. When I sent for reinforcements in order to continue the advance, though it was then nearly dark, and they were not sent me, I recalled the brigade, not seeing any Confederate troops on its right. There were four guns in its front and I believe but little infantry.
The map of the second day's battle represents Wilcox's, Perry's and Wright's brigades all in line at the extreme point of the advance reached, and Barksdale's on the right of Wilcox's, with four regiments, and one of his regiments separated by a considerable distance to the right. Then there is a much wider interval between this detached regiment and the left of Wofford's brigade, the nearest Confederate troops to the right of it.
I will now make reference to official reports, and it will, I think, be made clear that General Longstreet did not attack as he was ordered, to say nothing of his long delay, which has not as yet been satisfactorily explained. In General Lee's report of this (second) day's battle, we find "General Longstreet was ordered to place the two divisions of McLaws and Hood on the right of Hill, partially enveloping the enemy's left, which he was to drive in" (the italics are mine). "General Hill was ordered to threaten the enemy's centre, to prevent reinforcements being drawn to either wing and co-operating with his right division in Longstreet's attack." Lieutenant-General A. P. Hill says in his report: "General Longstreet was to attack the extreme left of the enemy and sweep down his line, and I was to co-operate with him with such of my brigades from the right as could join in with his troops in the attack." Major General R. H. Anderson, my division commander, states it in these words: "Shortly after my line had been formed, I received notice that General Longstreet would occupy the ground on the right, and that his line would be in direction nearly at right angles with mine--that he would assault the extreme left of the enemy and drive him towards Gettysburg. I was at the same time ordered to put the troops of my division into action by brigade so soon as those of Longstreet's corps had progressed so far in their assault as to connect with my right flank." It is seen that these three reports entirely concur--the extreme left of the enemy was to be attacked. General Lee ordered that it be enveloped partially and be "driven in." Hill says the extreme left was to be assailed and we were to sweep down his line, in other words drive it in; and Anderson says extreme left to be attacked and driven towards Gettysburg, which, would be sweeping down it, or driving it in.
Now, these reports leave no doubt as to what were General Lee's orders to General Longstreet. The latter says: "McLaws' division got into position opposite the enemy's left about 4 P. M. Hood's division was moved further to our right and got into position partially enveloping the enemy's left." An examination of the map will show that McLaws was not opposite the enemy's left, but that he was opposite the right of Sickles' corps, the extreme right of which rested on the Emmettsburg road, and that Hood was opposite the left of this corps, which was the left of Meade's line and rested near the base of Little Round Top; but Hood did not partially envelop it. As Longstreet's line advanced it of course met the enemy face to face--his left brigade striking the left of Humphreys' division, the right of Sickles' corps. Had he obeyed orders and struck the extreme left and driven it in or up the road towards Gettysburg, Anderson's right brigades would have joined in the fight as ordered and as was contemplated, instead of moving off by the left flank at a rapid pace seven or eight hundred yards and then two or three hundred by the right flank. General Longstreet, attacking as he did, had two flanks to be looked after; but had he attacked as ordered, it would have been only his right flank that would have been exposed, and he would have had no occasion to try to make me the scapegoat to cover his own delinquencies.
I have stated that General Hood did not partially envelop the enemy's left; had this been done, it would have probably been driven in as had been ordered by General Lee. I will explain this before I have finished. I have answered General Longstreet as to what he has twice charged me, and will now, as briefly as possible, refer to other portions of his two articles.
If General Longstreet is to be credited, it was with sincere regrets and great reluctance he gave publicity to his views and opinions of the battle of Gettysburg, and he could not have been induced to write at all but for the fact of his having been "so repeatedly and rancorously assailed by others," and so greatly wronged; and besides, "there was a sly under-current of misrepresentation of my course." It was this sly under-current of misrepresentation and repeated and rancorous assaults that forced him against his will to appear in public defense of himself. There is at least a trace of suspicion of disingenuousness in this statement of General Longstreet, for he has given evidence that within less than a month after the battle, and on the tenth day after the Confederate forces had recrossed the Potomac into Virginia, and before he had been "repeatedly and rancorously assailed," that he was not averse, in a semi-confidential way--and with request that it should go no further than to a few intimate friends and relatives--to letting it be known that he did not approve of the battle, but preferred another plan and manner of fighting, that would have lead to the capture of Washington, &c., &c. "At least, so far as is given to man the ability to judge, such would have been the result," if his idea had been adopted; and within a year after the termination of the war, we find that he communicated his views very fully to a historian*(*Swinton) while engaged in writing a history of the Army of the Potomac. He not only freely gave his opinions about the battle to this historian, but he let it be known that he opposed it, as well as the invasion of Pennsylvania, except under certain conditions, and was quite free in his criticisms of General Lee. It is difficult to see why he should plead reluctance at this late date when he was so prompt, and in advance of all others by several years, in making public his opposition to this battle. His revelations to the historian were no doubt made from a consciousness on his part that when all the facts should be known, he would be held to a very great extent responsible for the failure, and desired to forestall or warp public opinion in his favor.
We learn from Mr. Swinton's history of the Army of the Potomac that General Longstreet opposed the invasion of the North, and from his recent contributions to the Weekly Times that he urged an active and aggressive campaign in the Southwest, in Tennessee and Kentucky. On his return from the Suffolk expedition he called on the Secretary of War, in Richmond, and found him engaged in devising a scheme for the relief of Vicksburg, around which General Grant was beginning to concentrate his forces. He dissented from the Secretary and urged the adoption of his own plan of operations. Mr. Seddon yielded only so far as to admit that his idea was good, but adhered to his own plan. On rejoining General Lee he unfolded to him his theory of the campaign for the ensuing season of active operations. He pointed out clearly its practicability, and the many advantages it would give the Confederacy. The logic and persuasive powers of General Longstreet prevailed so far as to force General Lee to admit that the idea was new, and that he was greatly impressed with it. These two interviews, as related by General Longstreet, are very interesting, mainly from the naive manner in which they are described. But General Lee, like the Secretary, declined to adopt his plan for the approaching campaign. It is not, however, to be thought for a moment that the former rejected it for the reason assigned by General Longstreet, to wit: mainly because it would involve making detachments from his own command. One of the most striking features in General Lee's character was his entire self-abnegation, and as General Longstreet professed for him such respect, admiration and affection, his friends must regret that he has, perhaps thoughtlessly, imputed to him such an unworthy motive, indicative of selfish egotism, as to decline to detach from his command, when thereby such brilliant results would be attained.
General Longstreet proposed to give a detailed account of the Gettysburg campaign from its inception to its "disastrous ending." Any one at all familiar with these three days' conflicts, must know that he greatly exaggerates when he characterizes the results as disastrous. The collision of July 1st all admit was a decided success for the Confederates. It is claimed by them as a brilliant victory. The Federals were driven back a mile or two, through Gettysburg and on to the hills beyond, with a loss of over five thousand prisoners and leaving the field thickly strewn with their dead and wounded. They also claim, and with good reason, that the close of the second day's engagement left them in possession of most of the ground over which they fought. An inspection of the maps of the battle fields of the 2d and 3d will show heavy masses of Federal infantry between the Emmettsburg road and the foot of the ridge ending in Round Top on the Federal left on the 2d, and but few are seen there on the map of the 3d. The third day's fight was a decided victory for the Federal arms. The Confederate assaulting column, composed of three brigades of Pickett's division, Heth's division of four brigades and two brigades of Pender's division--nine brigades in all--was thoroughly repulsed and with unusually heavy loss. Less than one-third of the Confederate infantry was engaged in that assault. The Confederates lay closely confronting their enemy all of the 4th, and had they been attacked, General Longstreet himself will hardly admit that they would have been driven from their position.
The commander of the Army of the Potomac did not regard the battle as disastrous to the Confederates. If he had, he surely would not have permitted his enemy to retire, reach the Potomac and recross it into Virginia, without being seriously molested.
The effects of the battle of Gettysburg on the Federal army were that General Lee's army was allowed to remain quietly on the Rapidan and send off large detachments to reinforce General Bragg in Georgia; and when General Lee crossed the Rapidan in October and moved against General Meade, the latter retired rapidly, halting only after crossing Bull run. And again, when General Meade crossed the Rapidan below the Confederate right, in the latter part of November, General Lee moved promptly to meet and confront him in the shortest possible time, had a slight encounter when the two armies came within reach of each other near dark. The following morning General Lee retired his forces a little more than a mile. Meade soon followed, and remained for a week threatening an attack, but did not venture to make it, and then retired into winter quarters in Culpeper, where he remained until the following May. These details have been entered into in order that the exaggerations of General Longstreet and others as to the disastrous nature of the battle of Gettysburg to the Confederates, may be made apparent.
Now, in regard to the plan of campaign agreed upon after General Lee had patiently listened to Longstreet's theory of operations, embracing Tennessee and Kentucky, but did not adopt, though admitting, according to General Longstreet, that his idea was new and that be thought much of it. Of this plan of campaign, and the discussions that preceded its adoption, if there were any, we know absolutely nothing, except what General Longstreet, fourteen years subsequently, has revealed. General Lee and two of the three corps and four of the nine division commanders who went with him to Gettysburg, have passed away, and we have nothing, so far as I am aware of, to oppose what General Longstreet declares to a have been the plan agreed on, save General Lee's well-known combativeness and great and acknowledged ability as a military commander, and these alike forbid us to believe that there was any such understanding. General Longstreet represents the plan adopted to have been what he styles offensive in strategy and defensive in tactics. We are to believe from his representations that these conditions were exacted of General Lee before he would yield his assent to the movement. Those are the words, I believe, used by him, and in order to induce General Lee to accept this offensive-in-strategy and defensive-in-tactics campaign, he recalled to him Napoleon's advice to Marmont, when putting him in command of an invading army: "Select your ground and make your enemy attack you." Very good advice to be given to an officer capable of comprehending it in the sense given; but time and circumstances in each case must decide the character of the battle, whether it shall be offensive or defensive. It is the prerogative of the commander to decide bow he will give battle, and his decision is often a good test of his military talents and capacity.
General Longstreet would have us believe from his conduct towards General Lee at Gettysburg that their understanding was in the nature of an contract, and General Lee having, in his opinion, disregarded it, he (Longstreet) was thereby absolved from all obligation to obey his orders. Napoleon's advice to Marmont was good or not, and to be followed or not, at the discretion of Marmont himself; and if he had failed to fight an offensive battle when a favorable opportunity offered, and plead as excuse that he had been advised by the Emperor to act on the defensive, the plea would hardly have availed to keep him in command or shield him, perhaps, from more severe punishment.
When the Army of Northern Virginia marched towards the Potomac, Longstreet moved on the east of the Blue Ridge and held the passes, while Ewell passed through the Valley and cleared it of the Federals,--this was his first service as corps commander and was well executed. He then crossed the Potomac, was soon followed by A. P. Hill, and Longstreet brought up the rear. Ewell lead the advance into Pennsylvania--Longstreet followed in rear. The latter had passed through Chambersburg with two of his divisions, and these, together with A. P. Hill's corps, lay along the Chambersburg and Gettysburg road, around the village of Fayetteville. Ewell had marched towards Carlisle and Harrisburg.
General Lee had halted both Hill and Longstreet for the purpose, in part, of getting information as to the position and movements of the enemy, of which he was at the time ignorant. He could not with prudence advance further without that full knowledge of the true condition of affairs so essential in all active offensive operations, and in which delay should be avoided as far as possible. He was therefore seriously embarrassed. It was expected, so General Lee states in his report, that so soon as the Federal army should cross the Potomac, General Stuart would give notice of its movements, and, as nothing had been heard from him since the entrance of the army into Maryland, it was believed the enemy had not yet left Virginia. He therefore gave orders to move upon Harrisburg; but in the night of the 28th June, a scout, who had been sent out by General Longstreet before crossing the Potomac, returned about 10 P. M., and reported the enemy had crossed the Potomac, and was moving westward. This information was all important, and though not so full as could be desired, nevertheless justified General Lee in modifying the movements contemplated, and, instead of marching upon Harrisburg as ordered, he threw A. P. Hill forward with two of his divisions towards Gettysburg, and determined to concentrate his forces east of the mountains. It is important to note the fact that the scout who brought the information of such vital importance, which, as soon as received by General Lee, caused him to change his orders and set his whole army in motion at once, reached General Longstreet at 10 P.M., and yet he was not sent to General Lee until the following morning, as General Longstreet himself informs us. In all occupations engaged in by man, time is an important element, and in none has it a higher value than in active military campaigns; and yet we see that this important information as to the enemy's movements was withheld from General Lee by the General next in rank to him at least five, or six hours.
Heth's division of Hill's corps moved from the vicinity of Fayetteville across the mountains to Cashtown, eight miles from Gettysburg, followed by Pender's division of the same corps. The next day--July 1st--Anderson's division, the third and remaining division of Hill's corps, McLaws' and Hood's divisions of Longstreet's followed--there being several hours' interval between the marching of the latter and Anderson. Rodes' and Early's divisions of Ewell's corps marched, the first from Heidlesburg, the latter from Berlin three miles east, on the morning of the 1st July for Cashtown; but Hill, having reported to Ewell that the enemy were at Gettysburg, changed their direction for that place. The engagement was brought on by Heth's and Pender's divisions moving towards Gettysburg in the morning of the 1st July. This advance brought on the collision of the first day, which had not been anticipated, because the proximity of the enemy was not known.
The battle had been joined some time when Rodes came upon the field at 2:30, and at once attacked the enemy, and was soon reinforced by Early. The Union forces were driven back with serious loss, as has been stated. Anderson's division of Hill's corps came upon the field after the fighting had ceased. One brigade of it (Wilcox's) and a battery were placed on picket one and a quarter miles south of the Chambersburg road, near a mill on Marsh creek. Johnson's division of Ewell's corps reached the field a little before dark; Hood and Kershaw's divisions of Longstreet's corps during the night, and bivouacked east of Marsh creek. None of these four divisions had been engaged. All of General Lee's infantry was now up and in hand, except Pickett's division of three brigades. Of the eight divisions present, four had been fiercely engaged during the day.
General Longstreet has been charged with not attacking early the next morning as ordered. Some say he was ordered to attack at sunrise, but this he denies, and adduces, in support of his denial, several letters from staff officers of General Lee, in which they concur in the statement that they knew nothing of orders to him to attack at that hour. General Longstreet is of the opinion that these letters disprove the charge that he was ordered to renew the battle at sunrise; but whilst he is mistaken in this, they nevertheless produce the impression that there were no such orders. General Longstreet having disposed of, as he supposes, the alleged charge of not attacking at sunrise on the morning of the 2d, goes farther, and says that when he left General Lee on the night of the 1st, he did so without any orders at all, and that it was 11 o'clock in the morning of the 2d when he was ordered to move around and attack the extreme left of the enemy.
There was at the time a general impression that General Longstreet's attack was made too late, and had it been made earlier it would have been followed by a decided victory, and there would have been no third day's battle. And there was also a suspicion or feeling that he had been ordered to make his attack earlier than he did. Early in the morning was the time generally supposed his attack would be made. The impression that orders were given during the night for an early attack on the enemy's left is strengthened by the statements of officers who are entitled to credit. Colonel Taylor, the Adjutant-General with General Lee, says: "His (General Lee's) mind was evidently occupied with the idea of renewing the assault upon the enemy's right with the dawn of day on the 2d. * * * * He determined to make the main attack well on the enemy's left, indulging the hope that Longstreet's corps would be up in time to begin the movement at an early hour on the 2d."*(*Longstreet was within three miles of Gettysburg by 12 P.M.) General A. L. Long, Chief of Artillery, says: "The order was that General Longstreet, on the right, should begin the attack as early as possible on the 2d, and Ewell and Hill to afford him vigorous co-operation."
General Kershaw, commanding a brigade in McLaws' division of Longstreet's corps, after describing the march of the division on July 1st, says, "We marched to a point on the Gettysburg road, some two miles from that place, going into camp at 12 P. M. The command was ordered to move at 4 A. M. on the morning of the 2d, but did not leave camp until about sunup."
General Early, in his official report made soon after the battle, having given an account of the operations on the 1st July, says: "Having been informed that the greater portion of the rest of our army would move up during the night, and that the enemy's position would be attacked on the right and left flank very early next morning, I gave orders," &c. * * * And again, after General Lee had learned the full advantages gained the first day, he determined to press it so soon as the remainder of his army arrived. And "in a conference with General Ewell, General Rodes and myself, when he reached us after the enemy had been routed, he expressed his determination to assault the enemy's position at daylight the next morning, and wished to know if he could make the attack from our flank, the left, at the designated time." After a discussion, and the difficulties of the ground on the left had been explained, and for other reasons, "he then determined to make the attack from our right and left us for the purpose of ordering up Longstreet's corps in time to begin the attack at dawn the next morning." Now let us see what General Longstreet says: "At 5 o'clock P. M. (on the 1st) I overtook General Lee, and he said, to my surprise, he thought of attacking the enemy upon the heights the next day." And again, "when I left General Lee on the night of the 1st, I believed he had made up his mind to attack." The conference between Generals Lee, Ewell, Early and Rodes was no doubt subsequent to that with Longstreet, and the former broke up, according to General Early, with the understanding that General Lee would order up Longstreet so as to attack the enemy's left at dawn the next day, and was not the order to which General Kershaw refers communicated from the corps through division headquarters after it had been sent from General Lee.
The reports of other commanders of brigades of McLaws' and Hood's divisions, when published, may throw light upon this interesting point. These various extracts indicate clearly that it was the purpose of General Lee to renew the attack early the next morning, and while none assert positively that orders were given, yet many, especially those familiar with his character, believe that they were. By midnight of the 1st General Lee had all of his infantry present save Pickett's three brigades. Of the eight divisions present, one-half had not been engaged. His infantry that could be used in the second day's fight was double that which had fought with such brilliant results on the 1st. To have renewed the battle at the earliest possible hour the next day was what as a military man he should have done. It was in the natural order of things, and the earlier the better. Our troops were in good spirits, and the reverse of this was probably the case in the Union camp. Without personal knowledge in the matter, I am constrained to believe that as it was General Lee's purpose to renew the battle early the next morning, he did issue orders to that effect.
We learn through General Longstreet that when he overtook General Lee at 5 o'clock on the 1st, he informed him it was his purpose to attack the enemy upon the heights the next day, and that although not aware, so far as we are advised, of the full measure of success we had already gained, suggested that this course was at variance with the plan of campaign agreed upon. He might have added that the battle already fought and won was also a violation of it, according to his understanding. In fact, under no circumstances, according to General Longstreet, should General Lee have attacked. General Longstreet went to General Lee's headquarters at daylight on the 2d, and renewed his objections to attacking, but without success. General Lee, however, owing, as has been suggested to the unwillingness of Longstreet to attack, directed a reconnaissance to be made in Ewell's front, with the view of renewing the assault in that direction, but the report being unfavorable, it was determined to make the attack, on the right and with Longstreet.
It was fully 11 o'clock, as General Longstreet states, when he was ordered to move to the right and attack the extreme left of the enemy. The order was for him to "move with so much of his command as was up;" but he, of his own volition, delayed the movement until one brigade-- Law's--that had been on picket, should rejoin. In his official report he says: "As soon after Law's arrival as we could make our preparations, the movement began." As he had already delayed to move when ordered, it would seem that he should have been ready to march instantly on the arrival of Law. It is clear that, as he was opposed to attacking, his heart was not in it, and did not yield that cheerful and prompt obedience to his chief that he should. "McLaws' division got into position opposite the enemy's left about 4 P. M." This division was not opposite the left of the enemy, as has been stated, but was in woods that had been already occupied by the Confederates since between 8 and 9 A. M., and opposite the right of Sickles' corps. If we follow Longstreet's corps in its march to get into position as directed, we will see most unusual and extraordinary delay. Colonel Alexander, who commanded two battalions of artillery, informs us that he was ordered between 8 and 9 A. M.*(*September, 1877, number of Southern Historical Papers.) to reconnoitre the ground and co-operate with the infantry attack to be made on the enemy's left flank. He got his order from General Longstreet, whilst he and General Lee were together on a hill in rear of our lines. General Longstreet, as has been stated, received this order, according to his first article in the Times, at 11 A.M. Colonel Alexander, after examining the country, conducted his own and then went about hunting up other battalions of artillery attached to the infantry, and while thus engaged came upon the head of an infantry column, which he took to be Hood's division, halted in the road in sight of Round Top, and had sent back to Longstreet for orders. "For some reason they would not turn back and follow the tracks of my guns, and I remember a long and tedious waiting; and at length there came an order to turn back and take a road around by 'Black Horse Tavern.' I have never forgotten that name. My general recollection is that nearly three hours were lost in that delay and countermarch, and that it was about 4 P. M. when Hood became engaged heavily on our extreme right."
General Longstreet says "he was in rear when the column halted; became impatient at the delay, rode forward and learned that the troops were waiting for the engineer officer to find some route over which to lead them so as not to be seen." He saw Round Top, and then knew that further effort at concealment would be a waste of time. "He became very impatient at this delay, and determined to take upon himself the responsibility of responsibility of hurrying, the troops forward." This responsibility for prompt movement was all the time on him. "I did not order General McLaws forward, because, as the head of the column, he had direct orders from General Lee to follow the conduct of Colonel Johnson. Therefore, I sent orders to Hood, who was in the rear and not encumbered by these instructions, to push his division forward by the most direct route, and take position on my right." Why did he wait so long before taking this "responsibility" as he terms it? Had he been at the head of his column he would have seen the folly of further efforts at concealment hours before. "He (Hood) did so, and thus broke up the delay. The troops were rapidly thrown into position and preparations made for the attack." General Longstreet seeks to throw the responsibility of this delay in getting his troops into position on General Lee, because he had ordered McLaws' division to follow Colonel Johnson; in other words, that General Lee had taken command of one of his divisions through a staff officer: and yet, if he really believed this, he violated instructions by ordering Hood forward, as McLaws was to lead off. This Lieutenant-General, and second in rank to General Lee, makes a wretched display of a want of cheerful, prompt and intelligent co-operation with his chief at a time when he most needed and had a right to expect every officer and soldier in his army to aid him, and, most of all, he who was next to him in rank.
After General Longstreet had broken the delay in his march to get into position on the enemy's left, and had ordered forward Hood's division, let us note what suggestions were made to him by this officer and how they were received. General Hood had sent forward a number of his best scouts and ascertained that Round Top could be turned, the enemy attacked in rear and flank, and sent this information to General Longstreet, requesting permission to act upon it. He (Longstreet) did not gallop to the front to see Hood, make inquiries and satisfy himself of the practicability of carrying out his suggestion, but returned a peremptory answer--"General Lee's orders are to attack up the Emmettsburg road." General Hood sent a second request to let him turn Round Top, and again he answered--"General Lee orders us to attack up the Emmettsburg road." A third time did General Hood repeat the request, but only to elicit the same reply, and the last response was soon followed by one of Longstreet's staff, who repeated the same order. General Lee says in his report, as we have seen, that General Longstreet was ordered to attack the enemy's extreme left, partially enveloping it and drive it in. Had Hood been permitted to carry out his plan, it would not have been in violation of the spirit or even the letter of General Lee's orders.
These messages and replies between Longstreet and Hood are important, as evincing how little interest the former manifested in the impending battle, regarded as so important and fraught with such consequences. General Hood, on receiving Longstreet's final orders, advanced his line and the battle began. There had been some artillery firing in the mean time. As the troops were advancing, General Hood says that Longstreet joined him, and he (Hood) expressed his regrets that he had not been permitted to "attack in flank around Round Top," and that Longstreet replied, "we must obey the orders of General Lee." And yet, after these repeated replies to Hood that General Lee's orders must be obeyed, they were disregarded. Hood's advance was in two lines--Law's brigade on the right, followed by Benning's--the Texas brigade on the left, followed by Anderson's. Hood's attack began about 4 P.M. McLaws' division advanced on the left of Hood, and with a interval of time intervening--at least this was so with the left brigades of the division. The order of McLaws' advance was Kershaw's brigade, followed by Semmes' on the right, Barksdale's, followed by Wofford's on the left. It is proper to refer to the fact that up to the time of the advance of Hood, neither Round Top nor Little Round Top were occupied by the enemy, nor had the ridge running from the latter towards the Cemetery been held during the forenoon. All this time the Federals were in rear of it. It was not until 4 P. M. that the right of Sickles moved forward and halted, extending along and in rear of the Emmettsburg road.
Early in the morning the two Round Tops could have been occupied by the Confederates without opposition. Neither was occupied by the enemy until the fight had been going on some time. That they were occupied after the fight begun at 4 P. M., is proven by General Warren, General Meade's Chief Engineer, who says, in a letter dated July 13, 1872, and addressed to an officer* (*See Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, December 3, 1877.) of the One-hundred-and-fortieth, New York regiment of volunteers: "Just before the action began in earnest on July the 2d, I was with General Meade, near General Sickles, whose troops seemed very badly disposed on that part of the field. At my suggestion, General Meade sent me to the left to examine the condition of affairs, and I continued on until I reached Little Round Top. There were no troops on it, and it was used as a signal station. I saw that this was the key of the whole position, and that our troops in the woods in front of it could not see the ground in front of them, so that the enemy would come upon them before they were aware of it. The long line of woods on the west side of the Emmettsburg road (which road was along a ridge) furnished an excellent place for the enemy to form out of sight. I requested the captain of a rifle battery just in front of Little Round Top to fire a shot into these woods. He did so, and as the shot went whistling through the air, the sound of it reached the enemy's troops and caused every one to look in the direction of it. This motion revealed to me the glittering of gun-barrels and bayonets of the enemy's line of battle, already formed and far outflanking the position of any of our troops, so that the line of his advance from his right to Little Round Top was unopposed. I have been particular in telling this, as the discovery was intensely thrilling to my feelings and almost appalling."
This line of glittering gun-barrels and bayonets that so thrilled General Warren was General Longstreet's right and, as General Warren says, far out outflanked any of the Union troops. Why, then, was not their left "partially enveloped and driven in," as directed by General Lee? General Longstreet says he got into position partially enveloping the enemy's left. He was mistaken. He outflanked it, but failed to envelop it as ordered; and instead of striking the extreme left and driving it in, he displayed his corps in front of the enemy's left wing and fought it face to face. His troops fought well, of course, as courage was a quality common to the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia. Had Hood been permitted to turn Round Top he would have captured the enemy's principal*(*see Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, December 3, 1877.) ammunition train, parked half a mile in rear, and the probabilities are that his losses would have been comparatively small, and the battle would have been fought in accordance with the orders given to General Longstreet.
In the fight that ensued, General Longstreet was vastly outnumbered, and yet he made his way over all obstacles of ground and superiority of numbers, and pushed back the heavy masses that confronted him. But how different would have been the result if the attack had been made in the early morning as expected, or, even late as it was, had it been made as ordered.
There is much exaggeration and high coloring in his description of the engagement during the afternoon of the 2d. This comes from the fact of its having been written by a sprightly young newspaper man, Henry W. Grady.
General Longstreet says: "I found that night that 4,529 of my men--more than one-third of their total number--had been left on the field." This was far short of the real loss, for we all know that many wounded in battle walk or crawl or are carried off. But these 4,529, General Longstreet says, "he found that night were left on the field." It is, perhaps, the only instance on record in which the exact number of a corps left on the field after a battle remarkable for the stubbornness with which it was contested, and which closed near dark, was so soon ascertained.
We will now examine the operations of the third day, and quote freely from General Longstreet himself. It will be seen that he was also at fault in the third day's collision.
"The plan of assault," says General Longstreet, was as follows: "Our artillery was to be massed in a piece of woods from which Pickett was to charge, and it was to pour a continuous fire upon the Cemetery. Under cover of this fire and supported by it, Pickett was to charge." Pickett's three brigades were in line in an open field nearly parallel with and two hundred yards, perhaps a little less, from the Emmettsburg road. The house and yard and a small orchard of Mr. H. Spangler was close in rear and near the centre of the line of these brigades. I am positive on this point, because my brigade was placed out in this field between daylight and sunup in support of artillery then being placed in position under the direction of Colonel Alexander. It was this officer who brought me the order to move forward from the ravine in rear, where the brigade had bivouacked during the night. About 10 A. M., Pickett's three brigades--Armistead's, Garnett's and Kemper's--arrived and formed in line, the centre brigade, Garnett's, being directly in rear of mine, and probably twenty yards from it. Armistead was on his left, Kemper on his right. Pickett's division did not charge from any piece of woods in which artillery was massed. The artillery seen by me was in the open field near the road, and the maps show that most of it was so placed. That General Longstreet should have so erred in his statement as to the artillery and Pickett's division being in woods when the charge was made, is a little strange when we read the following: "After our troops were all arranged for assault [I quote from General Longstreet,] General Lee rode with me twice over the lines to see that everything was arranged according to his wishes. He was told that we had been more particular in giving orders than ever before; that the commanders had been sent for and the point of attack carefully designated, and that the commanders had been directed to communicate to their subordinates, and through them to every soldier in the command, the work that was before them, so that they should nerve themselves for the attack and fully understand it. After leaving me, he again rode over the field once, if not twice, so that there was really no room for misconstruction or misunderstanding of his orders." It is very distasteful to me to enter into details and make a statement that conflicts in every particular with that made by General Longstreet. I was on the ground before sunup and present when Pickett's division, conducted by a staff officer, reached the field. The brigade commanders were all personally known to me. Two of them--Generals Garnett and Armistead--had served with me in the army previous to the war. We had been friends for years. General Kemper I had known two years. We four brigade commanders were together nearly all the time before the artillery fire opened in the yard near Spangler's house. When the artillery fire which preceded the assault began, we separated--and after it had continued fifteen or twenty minutes--to protect our horses, myself, staff and couriers leading them, retired down into the ravine a short distance in rear. General Armistead withdrew his brigade and sheltered it a little further in rear. The other brigades remained, and during this very heavy fire Kemper, lost over two hundred of his men; Garnett and myself much less, mine being the least. When the artillery firing ceased--it lasted on out part of the line fifty minutes--I returned to the brigade, and Armistead's brigade resumed its place in line on the left of Garnett.
If Generals Lee and Longstreet rode twice along the line together, and the former once, if not twice, after leaving Longstreet, it was whilst I was in rear, as explained, and is it to be presumed that they would have selected that time, about thirty minutes; or if they did, that they could have made the rounds twice together, and General Lee once or twice alone? The truth is, there was no officer present with these four brigades up to the time that I retired under the heavy artillery fire, as explained, higher in rank than brigadier-general, nor was there one of higher rank after the firing ceased before the advance. Had there been--certainly if it had been either General Lee or Longstreet, he would have been seen, as the field was open, and we brigade commanders being together, he would no doubt have halted near us or sent for some one of the four. Had General Lee passed along the lines whilst the enemy's batteries were playing upon us so furiously, he would have found fault with the officer who posted those brigades in such an exposed position, when they could have been protected by withdrawing them to the ravine, a few yards in rear.
The artillery fire having ceased, and Armistead's brigade resumed its position, the order to advance was soon given through staff officers. The advance began by Pickett's three brigades making a wheel to the left of about 45 degrees, perhaps a little more, and then advanced*(*The map of the battle field shows that if they continued to advance direct to the front after the wheel to the left, their right flank must have been exposed to the enemy, and such it is believed was the case.) direct to the front. In this wheel to the left, one brigade was thrown to the rear. The centre brigade, Garnett's, stepped over my men, who lay flat on the ground for that purpose, as the move began. The enemy's artillery reopened fire on the advancing line before it had gone one hundred yards. Pickett's division had gone three or four hundred yards, when three staff officers came in quick succession to order me to advance in rear of and beyond Pickett's right. Three officers were sent to insure the orders reaching me, the artillery fire being so very heavy it was thought best to send three, one at a time--so one of General Pickett's staff officers informed me some years after the war; and further, the orders for me to advance came from General Longstreet.* (*General Pickett informed me in the summer of 1873 that the order for me to advance was given by General Longstreet.) Neither my division nor corps commanders knew of the order.
General Longstreet was again slow, did not make the attack as soon as was expected, and he opposed it violently--he felt it would result in a useless effusion of blood, he informs us. So deeply was he impressed with the useless sacrifice that he believed was about to be offered, that when the time came, not in his opinion, but in that of Colonel Alexander, for Pickett to advance, and he was asked by him if he should attack, that he bowed his assent, not daring to speak, less his voice should betray his want of confidence. But with this conviction of useless sacrifice of his men, he ordered my brigade, about a thousand or eleven hundred men, to advance. Such a reinforcement to Pickett could have availed nothing, could only be sacrificed; and yet it was by his order that it advanced, and it is now sought to make it appear that it formed a part of the attacking column, as had been previously ordered. General Longstreet gives a highly colored and graphic description of Pickett's charge, closing as follows: "When the smoke cleared away, Pickett's division was gone. Nearly two-thirds of his men lay dead on the field, and the survivors were sullenly retreating down the hill. Mortal man could not have stood that fire. In half an hour the contested field was cleared, and the battle of Gettysburg was over." There are two interesting points in this quotation--first, that nearly two thirds of Pickett's men were killed on the field, and, second, the fraction of little more than a third retreated sullenly down the hill. It was generally believed that this fraction--each man for himself--went as fast as his legs could carry him, and that they did not stand upon the order of their going.
General Longstreet made the attack on the third day with only three brigades of his corps, when it should have been made by his entire corps, and this to have been supported by Hill's corps. This is what General Lee's Adjutant-General tells us, but this General Longstreet denies. The attack was really made with three of Longstreet's brigades and six of Hill's, who was ordered to reinforce. I never believed the attack made by Longstreet on the 3d was strong enough in numbers. I did not know that he had failed to attack as ordered. The statement of Colonel Taylor is borne out and sustained by Lieutenant-General A. P. Hill, as will appear from the following extract from his official report of the operations of his corps for that day: "I was directed to hold my line with Anderson's division and the half of Pender's, now commanded by General Lane, and to order Heth's division, commanded by General Pettigrew, and Lane's and Scales' brigades of Pender's division, to report to Lieutenant-General Longstreet as a support to his corps in the assault on the enemy's line." Colonel C. S. Venable, of General Lee's staff, settles beyond question the fact that Hood and McLaws were to have supported Pickett. He says: "As they were ordered to do by General Lee, for I heard him give the orders when arranging the fight; and called his attention to it long afterward, when there was discussion about it. He said, 'I know it! I know it!'"
Well may Colonel Taylor exclaim: "Was it designed to throw these few brigades, originally at most but two divisions, upon the fortified stronghold of the enemy, while full half a mile away seven-ninths of the army, in breathless suspense, in ardent admiration and fearful anxiety, watched, but moved not? I maintain that such was not the design of the Commanding-General." That it was never the purpose of General Lee to launch such a feeble column of attack, unsupported, against the centre of the enemy's position, no officer of the army present whose opinion is entitled to respect can believe.
What has been written in reply to General Longstreet's two articles on the battle of Gettysburg has, for the want of time, been hastily prepared, and reached a length that was not anticipated. Many inaccuracies have been pointed out; only two more will now be cited, for which there seems to be no excuse, nor are they important, save only as illustrating the carelessness with which General Longstreet has written. In his first article he says: "I cannot see, as has been claimed, why the absence of General Lee's cavalry should have justified his attack of the enemy." No one ever heard it claimed that General Lee because his cavalry was absentattacked the enemy at Gettysburg. And in his supplementary article: "All night long of the 1st (April) 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 and 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 lines were being broken in front of the house*(* General Longstreet makes General Lee sleep both in a tent and house.) in which General Lee slept. I hurried to the front, and as fast as my troops arrived they were thrown into action to check the advance of the Federals until night had come to cover our retreat."
General Grant had withdrawn the bulk of his forces from the north side of the James on the 27th March, and not until six days after did General Longstreet become aware of it and make his night march to reach Petersburg, and arrived, as he states, at "early dawn." It was near 7 A.M. on the 2d that Colonel Venable, Aide-Camp to General Lee, came to me on the Boydton plank-road a mile in advance of the Petersburg line of defenses, and informed me that General Lee wished the enemy to be checked and delayed as long as possible, for Longstreet's troops had not yet arrived to fill the gap between the right of our lines and the Appomattox. Colonel Venable brought with him General Harris' brigade of Mahone's division. The enemy were delayed an hour or more, and when the troops were finally withdrawn to the Petersburg line of defenses, General Longstreet's troops began to arrive, and Field's division, or the most of it, came up and was placed in the interval between the right of our lines and the Appomattox. There could have been no occasion for Generals Lee and Longstreet discussing any move involving Five Forks, as the battle at that place had been fought the day before and ending in a disastrous defeat to the Confederates.
In conclusion, I may state that in my opinion the battle of Gettysburg would have been won by the Confederates but for the absence of the cavalry and the obstinate and apparently predetermined inertia of General Longstreet. That the absence of the cavalry was seriously felt and greatly embarrassed General Lee, we learn from his own official report, in which he refers to it several times and says: "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 Ewell--upon the suggestion of the former officer that he could damage the enemy and delay his passage of the river by getting on 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 the column, as soon as he should perceive the enemy moving northward." And again: "It was expected that as soon as the Federal army should cross the Potomac, General Stuart would give notice of its movements, and nothing having been heard from him since our entrance into Maryland it was inferred that the enemy had not yet left Virginia. Orders were therefore issued to move upon Harrisburg." And the following: "The movements of the army preceding the battle of Gettysburg had been much embarrassed by the absence of the cavalry." To appreciate fully the trouble resulting from the absence of the cavalry, or, in other words, the want of accurate information as to the position of the different corps of the Union forces, it should be borne in mind that while A. P. Hill with two divisions of his corps bivouacked at Cashtown the night of the 30th, eight miles west of Gettysburg, with the enemy's cavalry pickets between that place and his camp, two corps of Meade's army, the First and Eleventh, rested at Emmettsburg, ten miles southeast of Gettysburg, and a division of infantry lay at Fairfield, twelve miles southwest of Gettysburg.
At 5 A. M. July 1st, Hill moved forward towards Gettysburg, eight miles distant, and at 8 A. M., three hours later, the First and Eleventh corps, two miles further off, moved towards the same place--these two hostile forces ignorant of the designs and proximity of each other. Had the cavalry been with the army, Hill would have known the condition of affairs in his front, and pushed the Federal cavalry back and passed through Gettysburg before these two corps had left camp. As Hill advanced he met, within a mile or two of the town, the Federal infantry, and a bloody battle was fought. Two of Ewell's divisions came upon the field, and one, to be followed soon by the other, joined in the fight at 2:30 P. M, thus showing that General Lee had his army well in hand. The enemy were routed, with heavy losses, and driven back through the town of Gettysburg.
It is almost certain that had this collision taken place with a full knowledge of the enemy's position the night before, the victory would have been more complete, and it is probable there would not have been a second collision, at least not at Gettysburg. It was the want of information due to the absence of the cavalry that brought about the second day's battle at Gettysburg. I believed at the time, and that belief has been strengthened by subsequent information gained, that our failure to end the contest on the second day was owing to the late hour at which Longstreet attacked and his not making the attack as directed, of which latter fact I was not aware at the time. The attack on the third was not made with concert, nor did Longstreet make it with the force that he was ordered to use, nor was he ready as early as had been expected.
General Longstreet refers more than once to "the affectionate, intimate, tender and confidential relations existing between himself and General Lee during the whole war." If this be true, a great change had been brought about within a few days after Appomattox, for in the presence of a number of Confederate officers he spoke so unkindly, disrespectfully and disparagingly of General Lee, that several of them refused to speak to him; among the number was a Major-General and a graduate of the Military Academy.
He asserts that "that matchless equipoise that usually characterized General Lee, had forsaken him through undue excitement," &c., &c., &c.; that he was under a subdued excitement, which occasionally took possession of him when the 'hunt was up," and 'he had a taste of victory." General Longstreet was not the first to express this opinion, using the same words. Other officers who saw quite as much of General Lee on the occasion in question, and who knew him equally well, know that he was never quicker in his perception or clearer in his judgment, as indicated by his orders, and never had he previously nor did he subsequently confront the enemy with his own army in a better condition, or with the chances of victory more in his favor, and if there was any unusual perturbation it was perceptible only to Longstreet,.and he has misinterpreted the cause.
General Longstreet says when General Lee uttered the words "it is all my fault," he gave "utterance to a deep felt truth, rather than a mere sentiment." This may be true, but many will believe it not, in the sense understood by Longstreet. The officer to whom General Lee, while on the field of battle between the two armies after the repulse of the 3d, said, "never mind, General, never mind, it is all my fault, and you young men must help me out the best you can," understood it as his wish and purpose only to lessen the chagrin and disappointment resulting from failure, and as an assurance that he had not lost confidence in the officers and soldiers of his army.
General Longstreet's two contributions to the Weekly Times have been shown to abound in
misstatements, gross exaggerations and to savor somewhat of self-laudation; his exposition of the
battle of Gettysburg is not such as a professional soldier of his long service and high rank should
have given to the public, to say nothing of the manner of its preparation.
C. M. Wilcox.
(Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 6, pages 97-124)