Report of General Robert E. Lee, C. S. Army,
commanding Army of Northern Virginia.
JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
July 31, 1863.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond, Va.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following outline of the recent operations of this army, for the information of the Department:
The position occupied by the enemy opposite Fredericksburg -being one in which he could not be attacked to advantage, it was determined to draw him from it. The execution of this purpose embraced the relief of the Shenandoah Valley from the troops that had occupied the lower part of it during the winter and spring, and, if practicable, the transfer of the scene of hostilities north of the Potomac. It was thought that the corresponding movements on the part of the enemy to which those contemplated by us would probably give rise, might offer a fair opportunity to strike a blow at the army then commanded by General Hooker, and that in any even-t that army would be compelled to leave Virginia, and, possibly, to draw to its support troops designed to operate against other parts of the country. In this way it was supposed that the enemy's plan of campaign for the summer would be broken up, and part of the season of active operations be consumed in the formation of new combinations, and the preparations that they would require. In addition to these advantages, it was hoped that other valuable results might be attained by military success. Actuated by these and other important considerations that may hereafter be presented, the movement began on June 3. McLaws' division, of Longstreet's corps, left Fredericksburg for Culpeper Court-House, and Hood's division, which was encamped on the Rapidan, marched to the same place. They were followed on the 4th and 5th by Ewell's corps, leaving that of A. P. Hill to occupy our lines at Fredericksburg.
The march of these troops having been discovered by the enemy on the afternoon of the 5th, on the following day he crossed a force amounting to about one army corps to the south side of the Rappahannock, on a pontoon bridge laid down near the mouth of Deep Run. General Hill disposed his command to resist their advance, but as they seemed intended for the purpose of observation rather than attack, the movements in progress were not arrested.
The forces of Longstreet and Ewell reached Culpeper Court-House by the 8th, at which point the cavalry, under General Stuart, was also concentrated.
On the 9th, a large force of Federal cavalry, strongly supported by infantry, crossed the Rappahannock at Beverly and Kelly's Fords, and attacked General Stuart. A severe engagement ensued, continuing from early in the morning until late in the afternoon, when the enemy was forced to recross the river with heavy loss, leaving 400 prisoners, 3 pieces of artillery, and several colors in our hands.
General Jenkins, with his cavalry brigade, had been ordered to advance to Winchester, to co-operate with the infantry in the proposed expedition into the lower Valley, and at the same time General Imboden was directed with his command to make a demonstration in the direction of Romney, in order to cover the movement against Winchester, and prevent the enemy at that place from being re-enforced by the troops on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Both of these officers were in position when General Ewell left Culpeper Court-House on the 10th. Crossing the Shenandoah near Front Royal, he detached Rodes' division to- Berryville, with instructions, after dislodging the force stationed there, to cut off the communication between Winchester and the Potomac. With the divisions of Early and [Edward] Johnson, General Ewell advanced directly upon Winchester, driving the enemy into his works around the town on the 13th. On the same day the troops at Berryville fell back before General Rodes, retreating to Winchester.
On the 14th, General Early stormed the works at the latter place, and the whole army of General Milroy was captured or dispersed. Most of those who attempted to escape were intercepted and made prisoners by General Johnson. Their leader fled to Harper's Ferry with a small party of fugitives.
General Rodes marched from Berryville to Martinsburg, entering the latter place on the 14th, where he took 700 prisoners, 5 pieces of artillery, and a considerable quantity of stores. These operations cleared the Valley of the enemy, those at Harper's Ferry withdrawing to Maryland Heights. More than 4,000 prisoners, 29 pieces of artillery, 270 wagons and ambulances, with 400 horses, were captured, besides a large amount of military stores. Our loss was small.
On the night that Ewell appeared at Winchester, the Federal troops in front of A. P. Hill at Fredericksburg recrossed the Rappahannock, and the next day disappeared behind the hills of Stafford. The whole army of General Hooker withdrew from the line of the Rappahannock, pursuing the roads near the Potomac, and no favorable opportunity was offered for attack. It seemed to be the purpose of General Hooker to take a position which would enable him to cover the approaches to Washington City. With a view to draw him farther from his base, and at the same time to cover the march of A. P. Hill, who, in accordance with instructions, left Fredericksburg for the Valley as soon as the enemy withdrew from his front, Longstreet moved from Culpeper Court-House on the 15th, and, advancing along the east side of the Blue Ridge, occupied Ashby's and Snicker's Gaps. His force had been augmented, while at Culpeper, by General Pickett, with three brigades of his division. The cavalry under General Stuart was thrown out in front of Longstreet, to watch the enemy, now reported to be moving into Loudoun.
On the 17th, his cavalry encountered two brigades of ours under General Stuart, near Aldie, and was driven back with loss. The next day the engagement was renewed, the Federal cavalry being strongly supported by infantry, and General Stuart was, in turn, compelled to retire. The enemy advanced as far as Upperville, and then fell back. In these engagements, General Stuart took about 400 prisoners and a considerable number of horses and arms.
In the meantime, a part of General Ewell's corps had entered Maryland, and the rest was about to follow. Genera] Jenkins, with his cavalry, who accompanied General Ewell, penetrated Pennsylvania as far as Chambersburg. As these demonstrations did not have the effect of causing the Federal Army to leave Virginia, and as it did not seem disposed to advance upon the position held by Longstreet, the latter was withdrawn to the west side of the Shenandoah, General Hill having already reached the Valley. General Stuart was left to guard the passes of the mountains and observe the movements of the enemy, whom he was instructed to harass and impede as much as possible, should he attempt to cross the Potomac. In that event, General Stuart was directed to move into Mary]and, crossing the Potomac east or west of the Blue Ridge, as, in his judgment, should be best, and take position on the right of our column as it advanced.
By the 24th, the progress of Ewell rendered it necessary that the rest of the army should be within supporting distance, and Longstreet and Hill marched to the Potomac. The former crossed at Williamsport and the latter at Shepherdstown. The columns reunited at Hagerstown, and advanced thence into Pennsylvania, en- camping near Chambersburg on the 27th.
No report had been received that the Federal Army had crossed the Potomac, and the absence of the cavalry rendered it impossible to obtain accurate information. In order, however, to retain it on the east side of the mountains, after it should enter Maryland, and thus leave open our communication with the Potomac through Hagerstown and Williamsport, General Ewell had been instructed to send a division eastward from Chambersburg to cross the South Mountain. Early's division was detached for this purpose, and proceeded as far east as York, while the remainder of the corps proceeded to Carlisle.
General Imboden, in pursuance of the instructions previously referred to, had been actively engaged on the left of General Ewell during the progress of the latter into Maryland. He had driven off the forces guarding the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, destroying all the important bridges on that route from Cumberland to Martinsburg, and seriously damaged the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. He subsequently took position at Hancock, and, after the arrival of Longstreet and Hill at Chambersburg, was directed to march by way of McConnellsburg to that place.
Preparations were now made to advance upon Harrisburg; but, on the night of the 28th, information was received from a scout that the Federal Army, having crossed the Potomac, was advancing northward, and that the head of the column had reached the South Mountain. As our communications with the Potomac were thus menaced, it was resolved to prevent his farther progress in that direction by concentrating our army on the east side of the mountains. Accordingly, Longstreet and Hill were directed to proceed from Chambersburg to Gettysburg, to which point General Ewell was also instructed to march from Carlisle.
General Stuart continued to follow the movements of the Federal Army south of the Potomac, after our own had entered Maryland, and, in his efforts to impede its progress, advanced as far eastward as Fairfax Court-House. Finding himself unable to delay the enemy materially, he crossed the river at Seneca, and marched through Westminster to Carlisle, where he arrived after General Ewell had left for Gettysburg. By the route he pursued, the Federal Army was interposed between his command and our main body, preventing any communication with him until his arrival at Carlisle. The march toward Gettysburg was conducted more slowly than it would have been had the movements of the Federal Army been known.
The leading division of Hill met the enemy in advance of Gettysburg on the morning of July 1. Driving back these troops to within a short distance of the town, he there encountered a larger force, with which two of his divisions became engaged. Ewell, coming up with two of his divisions by the Heidlersburg road, joined in the engagement. The enemy was driven through Gettysburg with heavy loss, including about 5,000 prisoners and several pieces of artillery. He retired to a high range of hills south and east of the town. The attack was not pressed that afternoon, the enemy's force being unknown, and it being considered advisable to await the arrival of the rest of our troops. Orders were sent back to hasten their march, and, in the meantime, every effort was made to ascertain the numbers and position of the enemy, and find the most favorable point of attack. It had not been intended to fight a general battle at such a distance from our base, unless attacked by the enemy, but, finding ourselves unexpectedly confronted by the Federal Army, it became a matter of difficulty to withdraw through the mountains with our large trains. At the same time, the country was unfavorable for collecting supplies while in the presence of the enemy's main body, as he was enabled to restrain our foraging parties by occupying the passes of the mountains with regular and local troops. A battle thus became, in a measure, unavoidable. Encouraged by the successful issue of the engagement of the first day, and in view of the valuable results that would ensue from the defeat of the army of General Meade, it was thought advisable to renew the attack. The remainder of Ewell's and Hill's corps having arrived, and two divisions of Longstreet's, our preparations were made accordingly. During the afternoon, intelligence was received of the arrival of General Stuart at Carlisle, and he was ordered to march to Gettysburg and take position on our left. A full account of these engagements cannot be given until the reports of the several commanding officers shall have been received, and I shall only offer a general description.
The preparations for attack were not completed until the afternoon of the 2d. The enemy held a high and commanding ridge, along which he had massed a large amount of artillery. General Ewell occupied the left of our line, General Hill the center, and General Longstreet the right. In front of General Longstreet the enemy held a position from which, if he could be driven, it was thought our artillery could be used to advantage in assailing the more elevated ground beyond, and thus enable us to reach the crest of the ridge. That officer was directed to endeavor to carry this position. while General Ewell attacked directly the high ground on the enemy's right, which had already been partially fortified. General Hill was instructed to threaten the center of the Federal line, in order to prevent re-enforcements being sent to either wing, and to avail himself of any opportunity that might present itself to attack. After a severe struggle, Longstreet succeeded in getting possession of and holding the desired ground. Ewell also carried some of the strong positions which he assailed, and the result was such as to lead to the belief that he would ultimately be able to dislodge the enemy. The battle ceased at dark.
These partial successes determined me to continue the assault next day. Pickett, with three of his brigades, joined Longstreet the following morning, and our batteries were moved forward to the positions gained by him the day before. The general plan of attack was unchanged, excepting that one division and two brigades of Hill's corps were ordered to support Longstreet.
The enemy, in the meantime, had strengthened his lines with earthworks. The morning was occupied in necessary preparations, and the battle recommenced in the afternoon of the 3d, and raged with great violence until sunset. Our troops succeeded in entering the advanced works of the enemy, and getting possession of some of his batteries, but our artillery having nearly expended its ammunition, the attacking columns became exposed to the heavy fire of the numerous batteries near the summit of the ridge, and, after a most determined and gallant struggle, were compelled to relinquish their advantage, and fall back to their original positions with severe loss.
The conduct of the troops was all that I could desire or expect, and they deserve success so far as it can be deserved by heroic valor and fortitude. More may have been required of them than they were able to perform, but my admiration of their noble qualities and confidence in their ability to cope successfully with the enemy has suffered no abatement from the issue of this protracted and sanguinary conflict.
Owing to the strength of the enemy's position, and the reduction of our ammunition, a renewal of the engagement could not be hazarded, and the difficulty of procuring supplies rendered it impossible to continue longer where we were. Such of the wounded as were in condition to be removed, and part of the arms collected on the field, were ordered to Williamsport.
The army remained at. Gettysburg during the 4th, and at night began to retire by the road to Fairfield, carrying with it about 4,000 prisoners. Nearly 2,000 had previously been paroled, but the enemy's numerous wounded that had fallen into our hands after the first and second days' engagements were left behind.
Little progress was made that night, owing to a severe storm, which greatly embarrassed our movements. The rear of the column did not leave its position near Gettysburg until after daylight on the 5th. The march was continued during that day without interruption from the enemy, excepting an unimportant demonstration upon our rear in the afternoon when near Fairfield, which was easily checked. Part of our train moved by the road through Fairfield and the rest by way of Cashtown, guarded by General Imboden. In passing through the mountains in advance of the column, the great length of the trains exposed them to attack by the enemy's cavalry, which captured a number of wagons and ambulances, but they succeeded in reaching Williamsport without serious loss.
They were attacked at that place on the 6th by the enemy's cavalry, which was gallantly repulsed by General Imboden. The attacking force was subsequently encountered and driven off by General Stuart, and pursued for several miles in the direction of Boonsborough. The army, after an arduous march, rendered more difficult by the rains, reached Hagerstown on the afternoon of July 6 and morning of the 7th.
The Potomac was found to be so much swollen by the rains that had fallen almost incessantly since our entrance into Maryland as to be unfordable. Our communications with the south side were thus interrupted, and it was difficult to procure either ammunition or subsistence, the latter difficulty being enhanced by the high waters impeding the working of the neighboring mills. The trains with the wounded and prisoners were compelled to await at Williamsport the subsiding of the river and the construction of boats, as the pontoon bridge left at Falling Waters had been partially destroyed. The enemy had not yet made his appearance, but as he was in condition to obtain large re-enforcements, and our situation, for the reasons above mentioned, was becoming daily more embarrassing, it was deemed advisable to recross the river. Part of the pontoon bridge was recovered and new boats built, so that by the 13th a good bridge was thrown over the river at Falling Waters.
The enemy in force reached our front on the 12th. A position had been previously selected to cover the Potomac from Williamsport to Falling Waters, and an attack was awaited during that and the succeeding day. This did not take place, though the two armies were in close proximity, the enemy being occupied in fortifying his own lines. Our preparations being completed, and the river, though still deep, being pronounced fordable, the army commenced to withdraw to the south side on the night of the 13th. Ewell's corps forded the river at Williamsport. Those of Longstreet and Hill crossed upon the bridge. Owing to the condition of the roads, the troops did not reach the bridge until after daylight on the 14th, and the crossing was not completed until 1 p.m., when the bridge was removed. The enemy offered no serious interruption, and the movement was attended with no loss of materiel excepting a few disabled wagons and two pieces of artillery, which the horses were unable to move through the deep mud. Before fresh horses could be sent back for them, the rear of the column had passed. During the slow and tedious march to the bridge, in the midst of a violent storm of rain, some of the men lay down by the way to rest. Officers sent back for them failed to find many in the obscurity of the night., and these, with some stragglers, fell into the hands of the enemy.
Brigadier-General Pettigrew was mortally wounded in an attack made by a small body of cavalry, which was unfortunately mistaken for our own, and permitted to enter our lines. He was brought to Bunker Hill, where he expired a few days afterward. He was a brave and accomplished officer and gentleman, and his loss will be deeply felt by the country and the army.
The following day the army marched to Bunker Hill, in the vicinity of which it encamped for several days. The day after its arrival, a large force of the enemy's cavalry, which had crossed the Potomac at Harper's Ferry, advanced toward Martinsburg. It was attacked by General Fitz. Lee, near Kearneysville, and defeated with heavy loss, leaving its dead and many of its wounded on the field.
Owing to the swollen condition of the Shenandoah, the plan of operations which had been contemplated when we recrossed the Potomac could not be put into execution, and before the waters had subsided, the movements of the enemy induced me to cross the Blue Ridge and take position south of the Rappahannock, which was accordingly done.
As soon as the reports of the commanding officers shall be received, a more detailed account of these operations will be given, and occasion will then be taken to speak more particularly of the conspicuous gallantry and good conduct of both officers and men.
It is not yet in my power to give a correct statement of our casualties, which were severe, including many brave men, and an unusual proportion of distinguished and valuable officers. Among them I regret to mention the following general officers: Major-Generals Hood, Pender, and Trimble severely, and Major-General Heth slightly wounded.
General Pender has since died. This lamented officer had borne a distinguished part in every engagement of this army, and was wounded on several occasions while leading his command with conspicuous gallantry and ability. The confidence and admiration inspired by his courage and capacity as an officer were only equaled by the esteem and respect entertained by all with whom he was associated for the noble qualities of his modest and unassuming character.
Brigadier-Generals Barksdale and [R. B.] Garnett were killed, and Brigadier-General Semmes mortally wounded, while leading their troops with the courage that always distinguished them. These brave officers and patriotic gentlemen fell in the faithful discharge of duty, leaving the army to mourn their loss and emulate their noble examples. Brigadier-Generals Kemper, Armistead, Scales, G. T. Anderson, Hampton, J. M. Jones, and Jenkins were also wounded. Brigadier-General Archer was taken prisoner.
General Pettigrew, though wounded at Gettysburg, continued in command until he was mortally wounded, near Falling Waters.
The loss of the enemy is unknown, but from observation on the field, and his subsequent movements, it is supposed that he suffered severely.
R. E. LEE,
Source: "Official Records of the War of the Rebellion"
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