From Chancellorsville To Gettysburg, June And July, 1863.
What policy should be pursued by the Confederate government after two years of defensive warfare and three campaigns in which all the power of the United States had been vainly exerted to reach the Confederate capital or to break into the centers of the Confederate territory? This was the question to be considered in view of the management of the war which had been made up to that time upon the States. With the single exception of the strongly organized and definite efforts to capture Richmond, the entire scope of the conflict revealed only scattered expeditions of various sizes by land and sea, producing no decided result, yet causing a measureless amount of suffering. Over a million Federal soldiers were dispersed over the borders, around the coasts, and along the rivers of the South, but there was only one Army having one definite aim. Except the army of the Potomac, the other vast forces of the United States were operating in large and small detachments. One lone aim --to take Richmond--enchained the attention of the Administration at Washington.
Upon due reflection it was determined by General Lee on the field, and President Davis at the capital, not to attack Hooker on the heights of Fredericksburg, nor to wait on the administration at Washington to plan a new line of advance against Richmond, but to draw the Federal armies from Virginia by boldly marching the army of Northern Virginia northward. Accordingly Lee prepared his army at once for this movement. It was reorganized into three corps: Longstreet's, the First; Ewell's, the Second; A. P. Hill's, the Third; and Stuart commanding the cavalry. With this organization Lee crossed the Potomac in June, advanced into Pennsylvania, and at Gettysburg on July 1st encountered a part of the army of the Potomac under Meade, who had superseded Hooker. The first day's fighting ended in the defeat of the Federals, who were driven through the village of Gettysburg to the heights beyond. General Lee from an elevated site saw the flight of the beaten regiments over the hills, and ordered the taking of the heights if it could be done. Unfortunately, the order was not obeyed; perhaps its value was not understood. The Confederate commander designed to promptly renew the fight next morning, but the troops required for the attack were not in position until 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and the assault then made, although vigorously pressed, was not sufficiently in concert to achieve the best results.
General Meade's army had meanwhile hurried up, and stretching along the commanding "heights of Gettysburg," fortified thoroughly their almost impregnable position. On the third day Lee's entire army reached the ground, and after some further irritating delays was ready for the general movement to be made nearly according to the original plan. At length heavy artillery firing along the lines of both armies preceded the advance of the infantry. The charge was designed to be general, and by divisions in concert well supported, but the plan was not carried out. Longstreet had said, "The army of Northern Virginia is in condition to undertake anything;" but "the army" as a whole did not fight that day together. The charges were as gallant, as prolonged, and as desperate as men ever made in battle, but they were delivered in detail. At many points the heights were gained, but they could not be held. The Confederate columns heroically assailed the intrenched positions of their enemy, and here and there carried them, but being attacked on both flanks were driven back with heavy loss. The battle ended after great slaughter on both sides, and the two armies stood still before each other during the whole of the next day--the Fourth of July.
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