Longstreet At Gettysburg, The Third Day
From his book
"From Manassas to Appotamox"
Chapter XXVIII The Stroke of Arms that shook the Continent--Longstreet opposed the Attack as planned and made--The Confederate Column of Assault--It was weak in Numbers but strong in Spirit--Tremendous Artillery Combat begins the Day's Fighting--Charge of Generals Pickett, Trimble, and Pettigrew--Armistead falls by the Side of the Federal Guns--The Federal Cavalry Charge of General Farnsworth--The Commander falls with Five Mortal Wounds-Could the Assaulting Column have been safely augmented from Longstreet's Right ?--Testimony as to that Point--Where rested the Responsibility for Disaster ?--Criticism of the Battle as a whole--Cemetery Hill stronger than Marye's Hill at Fredericksburg--Controverted Points-Casualties of the Three Days' Fight--Organization of the Forces engaged.
GENERAL LEE has reported of arrangements for the day,--
"The general plan was unchanged. Longstreet, reinforced by Pickett's three brigades, which arrived near the battle-field during the afternoon of the 2d, was ordered to attack the next morning, and General Ewell was ordered to attack the enemy's right at the same time. The latter during the night reinforced General Johnson with two brigades from Rodes's and one from Early's division."
This is disingenuous. He did not give or send me orders for the morning of the third day, nor did he reinforce me by Pickett's brigades for morning attack. As his head-quarters were about four miles from the command, i did not ride over, but sent, to report the work of the second day. In the absence of orders, I had scouting parties out during the night in search of a way by which we might strike the enemy's left, and push it down towards his centre. I found a way that gave some promise of results, and was about to move the command, when he rode over after sunrise and gave his orders. His plan was to assault the enemy's left centre by a column to be composed of McLaws's and Hood's divisions reinforced by Pickett's brigades. I thought that it would not do; that the point had been fully tested the day before, by more men, when all were fresh; that the enemy was there looking for us, as we heard him during the night putting up his defences; that the divisions of McLaws and Hood were holding a mile along the right of my line against twenty thousand men, who would follow their withdrawal, strike the flank of the assaulting column, crush it, and get on our rear towards the Potomac River; that thirty thousand men was the minimum of force necessary for the work; that even such force would need close co-operation on other parts of the line; that the column as he proposed to organize it would have only about thirteen thousand men (the divisions having lost a third of their numbers the day before); that the column would have to march a mile under concentrating battery fire, and a thousand yards under long-range musketry; that the conditions were different from those in the days of Napoleon, when field batteries had a range of six hundred yards and musketry about sixty yards.
He said the distance was not more than fourteen hundred yards. General Meade's estimate was a mile or a mile and a half (Captain Long, the guide of the field of Gettysburg in 1888, stated that it was a trifle over a mile). He then concluded that the divisions of McLaws and Hood could remain on the defensive line; that he would reinforce by divisions of the Third Corps and Pickett's brigades, and stated the point to which the march should be directed. I asked the strength of the column. He stated fifteen thousand. Opinion was then expressed that the fifteen thousand men who could make successful assault over that field had never been arrayed for battle; but he was impatient of listening, and tired of talking, and nothing was left but to proceed. General Alexander was ordered to arrange the batteries of the front of the First and Third Corps, those of the Second were supposed to be in position; Colonel Walton was ordered to see that the batteries of the First were supplied with ammunition, and to prepare to give the signal-guns for the opening combat. The infantry of the Third Corps to be assigned were Heth's and Pettigrew's divisions and Wilcox's brigade.
At the time of the conversation and arrangement of the assault by the Confederate right, artillery fire was heard on our extreme left. It seems that General Lee had sent orders to General Ewell to renew his battle in the morning, which was intended, and directed, as a co-operation of the attack he intended to order on his right, but General Ruger, anticipating, opened his batteries against Ewell at daylight. The Union divisions--Ruger's and Gary's--were on broken lines, open towards the trenches held by the Confederates, so that assault by our line would expose the force to fire from the enemy's other line. Ruger had occupied the trenches left vacant on his right, and Gary reached to his left under Greene, who held his line against the attack of the day before. It seems that the Confederates failed to bring artillery up to their trenches, and must make their fight with infantry, while on the Union side there were some fifteen or twenty guns playing, and many more at hand if needed.
As the Union batteries opened, Johnson advanced and assaulted the enemy's works on his right towards the centre and the adjacent front of the new line, and held to that attack with resolution, putting in fresh troops to help it from time to time. Ruger put two regiments forward to feel the way towards Johnson's left. They got into hot engagement and were repulsed; Johnson tried to follow, but was in turn forced back. He renewed his main attack again, but unsuccessfully, and finally drew back to the trenches. Ruger threw a regiment forward from his left which gained the stone wall; his division was then advanced, and it recovered the entire line of trenches.
While this contention was in progress the troops ordered for the column of assault were marching and finding positions under the crest of the ridge, where they could be covered during the artillery combat. Alexander put a battery of nine guns under the ridge and out of the enemy's fire to be used with the assaulting column.
General Lee said that the attack of his right was not made as early as expected,--which he should not have said. He knew that I did not believe that success was possible; that care and time should be taken to give the troops the benefit of positions and the grounds; and he should have put an officer in charge who had more confidence in his plan. Two-thirds of the troops were of other commands, and there was no reason for putting the assaulting forces under my charge. He had confidence in General Early, who advised in favor of that end of the line for battle. Knowing my want of confidence, he should have given the benefit of his presence and his assistance in getting the troops up, posting them, and arranging the batteries; but he gave no orders or suggestions after his early designation of the point for which the column should march. Fitzhugh Lee claims evidence that General Lee did not even appear on that part of the field while the troops were being assigned to position.
As the commands reported, Pickett was assigned on the right, Kemper's and Garnett's brigades to be supported by Armistead's; Wilcox's brigade of the Third Corps in echelon and guarding Pickett's right; Pettigrew's division on Pickett's left, supported by the brigades of Scales and Lane, under command of General Trimble. The brigades of Pettigrew's division were Archer's, Pettigrew's, Brockenbrough's, and Davis's. (General Archer having been taken prisoner on the 1st, his brigade was under command of Colonel Fry; General Scales being wounded on the same day, his brigade was commanded by Colonel Lowrance.) The ridge upon which the commands were formed was not parallel to that upon which the enemy stood, but bending west towards our left, while the enemy's line bore northwest towards his right, so that the left of the assaulting column formed some little distance farther from the enemy's line than the right. To put the troops under the best cover during the artillery combat they were thus posted for the march, but directed to spread their steps as soon as the march opened the field, and to gain places of correct alignment.
Meanwhile, the enemy's artillery on his extreme right was in practice more or less active, but its meaning was not known or reported, and the sharp-shooters of the command on the right had a lively fusillade about eleven o'clock, in which some of the artillery took part. The order was that the right was to make the signal of battle. General Lee reported that his left attacked before due notice to wait for the opening could be given, which was a mistake, inasmuch as the attack on his left was begun by the Federals, which called his left to their work. General Meade was not apprehensive of that part of the field, and only used the two divisions of the Twelfth Corps, Shaler's brigade of the Sixth, and six regiments of the First and Eleventh Corps in recovering the trenches of his right, holding the other six corps for the battle of his centre and left. He knew by the Confederate troops on his right just where the strong battle was to be.
The director of artillery was asked to select a position on his line from which he could note the effect of his practice, and to advise General Pickett when the enemy's fire was so disturbed .as to call for the assault. General Pickett's was the division of direction, and he was ordered to have a staff-officer or courier with the artillery director to bear notice of the moment to advance.
The little affair between the skirmish lines quieted in a short time, and also the noise on our extreme left. The quiet filing of one or two of our batteries into position emphasized the profound silence that prevailed during our wait for final orders. Strong battle was in the air, and the veterans of both sides swelled their breasts to gather nerve and strength to meet it. Division commanders were asked to go to the crest of the ridge and take a careful view of the field, and to have their officers there to tell their men of it, and to prepare them for the sight that was to burst upon them as they mounted the crest.
Just then a squadron of Union cavalry rode through detachments of infantry posted at intervals in rear of my right division. It was called a charge, but was probably a reconnoissance.
Colonel Black had reported with a hundred of the First South Carolina Cavalry, not all mounted, and a battery of horse artillery, and was put across the Emmitsburg road, supported by infantry, in front of Merritt's brigade of cavalry.
When satisfied that the work of preparation was all that it could be with the means at hand, I wrote Colonel Walton, of the Washington Artillery,--
"HEADQUARTERS, July 3, 1863.
"COLONEL,--Let the batteries open. Order great care and precision in firing. When the batteries at the Peach Orchard cannot be used against the point we intend to attack, let them open on the enemy's on the rocky hill.
"Lieutenant- General, Commanding.'
At the same time a note to Alexander directed that Pickett should not be called until the artillery practice indicated fair opportunity. Then I rode to a woodland hard by, to lie down and study for some new thought that might aid the assaulting column. In a few minutes report came from Alexander that he would only be able to judge of the effect of his fire by the return of that of the enemy, as his infantry was not exposed to view, and the smoke of the batteries would soon cover the field. He asked, if there was an alternative, that it be carefully considered before the batteries opened, as there was not enough artillery ammunition for this and another trial if this should not prove favorable.
He was informed that there was no alternative; that I could find no way out of it; that General Lee had considered and would listen to nothing else; that orders had gone for the guns to give signal for the batteries; that he should call the troops at the first opportunity or lull in the enemy's fire.
The signal-guns broke the silence, the blaze of the second gun mingling in the smoke of the first, and salvoes rolled to the left and repeated themselves, the enemy's fine metal spreading its fire to the converging lines, ploughing the trembling ground, plunging through the line of batteries, and clouding the heavy air. The two or three hundred guns seemed proud of their undivided honors and organ-. ized confusion. The Confederates had the benefit of converging fire into the enemy's massed position, but the superior metal of the enemy neutralized the advantage of position. The brave and steady work progressed.
Before this the Confederates of the left were driven from their captured trenches, and hope of their effective co-operation with the battle of the right was lost, but no notice of it was sent to the right of the battle. They made some further demonstrations, but they were of little effect. Merritt's brigade of cavalry was in rear of my right, threatening on the Emmitsburg road. Farnsworth's brigade took position between Merritt's and close on my right rear. Infantry regiments and batteries were broken off from my front line and posted to guard on that flank and rear.
Not informed of the failure of the Confederates on the left and the loss of their vantage-ground, we looked with confidence for them to follow the orders of battle.
General Pickett rode to confer with Alexander, then to the ground upon which I was resting, where he was soon handed a slip of paper. After reading it he handed it to me. It read:
"If you are coming at all, come at once, or I cannot give you proper support, but the enemy's fire has not slackened at all. At least eighteen guns are still firing from the cemetery itself.
" ALEXANDER. "
Pickett said, "General, shall I advance?"
The effort to speak the order failed, and I could only indicate it by an affirmative bow. He accepted the duty with seeming confidence of success, leaped on his horse, and rode gayly to his command. I mounted and spurred for Alexander's post. He reported that the batteries he had reserved for the charge with the infantry had been spirited away by General Lee's chief of artillery; that the ammunition of the batteries of position was so reduced that he could not use them in proper support of the infantry. He was ordered to stop the march at once and fill up his ammunition-chests. But, alas ! there was no more ammunition to be had.
The order was imperative. The Confederate commander had fixed his heart upon the work. Just then a number of the enemy's batteries hitched up and hauled off, which gave a glimpse of unexpected hope. Encouraging messages were sent for the columns to hurry on,--and they were then on elastic springing step. The officers saluted as they passed, their stern smiles expressing confidence. General Pickett, a graceful horseman, sat lightly in the saddle, his brown locks flowing quite over his shoulders. Pettigrew's division spread their steps and quickly rectified the alignment, and the grand march moved bravely on. As soon as the leading columns opened the way, the supports sprang to their alignments. General Trimble mounted, adjusting his seat and reins with an air and grace as if setting out on a pleasant afternoon ride. When aligned to their places solid march was made down the slope and past our batteries of position.
Confederate batteries put their fire over the heads of the men as they moved down the slope, and continued to draw the fire of the enemy until the smoke lifted and drifted to the rear, when every gun was turned upon the infantry columns. The batteries that had been drawn off were replaced by others that were fresh. Soldiers and officers began to fall, some to rise no more, others to find their way to the hospital tents. Single files were cut here and there, then the gaps increased, and an occasional shot tore wider openings, but, closing the gaps as quickly as made, the march moved on. The divisions of McLaws and Hood were ordered to move to closer lines for the enemy on their front, to spring to the charge as soon as the breach at the centre could be made. The enemy's right overreached my left and gave serious trouble. Brockenbrough's brigade went down and Davis's in impetuous charge. The general order required further assistance from the Third Corps if needed, but no support appeared. General Lee and the corps commander were there, but failed to order help.
Colonel Latrobe was sent to General Trimble to have his men fill the line of the broken brigades, and bravely they repaired the damage. The enemy moved out against the supporting brigade in Pickett's rear. Colonel Sorrel was sent to have that move guarded, and Pickett was drawn back to that contention. McLaws was ordered to press his left forward, but the direct fire of infantry and cross-fire of artillery was telling fearfully on the front. Colonel Fremantle ran up to offer congratulations on the apparent success, but the big gaps in the ranks grew until the lines were reduced to half their length. I called his attention to the broken, struggling ranks. Trimble mended the battle of the left in handsome style, but on the right the massing of the enemy grew stronger and stronger. Brigadier Garnett was killed, Kemper and Trimble were desperately wounded; Generals Hancock and Gibbon were wounded. General Lane succeeded Trimble, and with Pettigrew held the battle of the left in steady ranks.
Pickett's lines being nearer, the impact was heaviest upon them. Most of the field officers were killed or wounded. Colonel Whittle, of Armistead's brigade, who had been shot through the right leg at Williamsburg and lost his left arm at Malvern Hill, was shot through the right arm, then brought down by a shot through his left leg.
General Armistead, of the second line, spread his steps to supply the places of fallen comrades. His colors cut down, with a volley against the bristling line of bayonets, he put his cap on his sword to guide the storm. The enemy's massing, enveloping numbers held the struggle until the noble Armistead fell beside the wheels of the enemy's battery. Pettigrew was wounded, but held his command.
General Pickett, finding the battle broken, while the enemy was still reinforcing, called the troops off. There was no indication of panic. The broken files marched back in steady step. The effort was nobly made, and failed from blows that could not be fended. Some of the files were cut off from retreat by fire that swept the field in their rear. Officers of my staff, sent forward with orders, came back with their saddles and bridles in their arms. Latrobe's horse was twice shot.
Looking confidently for advance of the enemy through our open field, I rode to the line of batteries, resolved to hold it until the last gun was lost. As I rode, the shells screaming over my head and ploughing the ground under my horse, an involuntary appeal went up that one of them might take me from scenes of such awful responsibility; but the storm to be met left no time to think of one's self. The battery officers were prepared to meet the crisis,-no move had been made for leaving the field. My old acquaintance of Sharpsburg experience, Captain Miller, was walking up and down behind his guns, smoking his pipe, directing his fire over the heads of our men as fast as they were inside of the danger-line; the other officers equally firm and ready to defend to the last. A body of skirmishers put out from the enemy's lines and advanced some distance, but the batteries opened severe fire and drove it back. Our men passed the batteries in quiet walk, and would rally, I knew, when they reached the ridge from which they started.
General Lee was soon with us, and with staff-officers and others assisted in encouraging the men and getting them together.
As the attack failed, General Kilpatrick put his cavalry brigade under General Farnsworth on the charge through the infantry detachment in rear of my right division. The regiments of G. T. Anderson's brigade had been posted at points in rear as guards against cavalry, and the First Texas, Fourth and Fifteenth Alabama, and Bach-man's and Reilly's batteries were looking for that adventure. Farnsworth had a rough ride over rocks and stone fences, but bore on in spite of all, cutting and slashing when he could get at the skirmishers or detachments. He made a gallant ride along the rear of our right, but was obliged to come under the infantry and artillery fire at several points. He fell, pierced, it is said, by five mortal wounds. Calls for him to surrender were made, but the cavalry were not riding for that. The command lost heavily, but claimed captives equal to their loss.
Kilpatrick's mistake was in not putting Farnsworth in on Merritt's left, where he would have had an open ride, and made more trouble than was ever made by a cavalry brigade. Had the ride been followed by prompt advance of the enemy's infantry in line beyond our right and pushed with vigor, they could have reached our line of retreat. General Meade ordered his left, but delay in getting the orders and preparing to get through the rough grounds consumed time, and the move was abandoned. The Fifth and Sixth Corps were in convenient position, and would have had good ground for marching after getting out of the rocky fastnesses of Round Top.
As we had no cavalry on our right, the Union cavalry was held on their right to observe the Confederates under Stuart, except Kilpatrick's division (and Custer's brigade of that division was retained on their right). A little while after the repulse of our infantry column, Stuart's cavalry advanced and was met by Gregg's, and made one of the severest and most stubborn fights of cavalry on record. General Wade Hampton was severely wounded. The Union forces held the field.
When affairs had quieted a little, and apprehension of immediate counter-attack had passed, orders were sent the divisions of McLaws and Hood to draw back and occupy the lines from which they had advanced to engage the battle of the second. Orders sent Benning's brigade by the division staff were not understood, and Benning, under the impression that he was to relieve part of McLaws's division, which he thought was to be sent on other. service, ordered the Fifteenth Georgia Regiment to occupy that position. When he received the second order he sent for his detached regiment. Meanwhile, the enemy was feeling the way to his front, and before Colonel DuBose received his second order, the enemy was on his front and had passed his right and left flanks. The moment he received the final order, Colonel DuBose made a running fight and escaped with something more than half his men.
In regard to this, as to other battles in which the First Corps was concerned, the knights of peaceful later days have been busy in search of points on which to lay charges or make innuendoes of want of conduct of that corps. General Early has been a picturesque figure in the combination, ready to champion any reports that could throw a shadow over its record, but the charge most pleasing to him was that of treason on the part of its commander. The subject was lasting, piquant, and so consoling that one is almost inclined to envy the comfort it gave him in his latter days.
Colonel Taylor and members of the staff claim that General Lee ordered that the divisions of McLaws and Hood should be a part of the assaulting column. Of this General Lee says,--
"General Longstreet was delayed by a force occupying the high, rocky hill on the enemy's extreme left, from which his troops could be attacked from reverse as they advanced. His operations had been embarrassed the day previously from the same cause, and he now deemed it necessary to defend his flank and rear with the divisions of Hood and McLaws. He was therefore reinforced by Heth's division and two brigades of Pender's, to the command of which Major-General Trimble was assigned. General Hill was directed to hold his line with the rest of the command, to afford General Longstreet further assistance if required, and to avail himself of any success that might be gained."
Colonel Taylor says,--
"As our extreme right was comparatively safe, being well posted, and not at all threatened, one of the divisions of Hood and McLaws, and a greater part of the other, could be moved out of the lines and be made to take part in the attack."
On this point I offer the evidence of General Warren before the Committee of Investigation:
"General Meade had so arranged his troops on our left during the third day that nearly one-half of our army was in reserve in that position. It was a good, sheltered position, and a convenient one from which to reinforce other points of the line, and when the repulse of the enemy took place on that day, General Meade intended to move forward all the forces he could get in hand and assault the enemy in line. He ordered the advance of the Fifth Corps, but it was carried so slowly that it did not amount to much, if anything."
General Hancock's evidence on that point is:
"General Meade told me before the fight that if the enemy attacked me, he intended to put the Fifth and Sixth Corps on the enemy' s flank."
From which it is evident that the withdrawal of the divisions of my right, to be put in the column of assault, would have been followed by those corps swinging around and enveloping the assaulting columns and gaining Lee's line of retreat.
Colonel Venable thinks it a mistake to have put Heth's division in the assaulting column. He says,--
"They were terribly mistaken about Heth's division in this planning. It had not recuperated, having suffered more than was reported on the first day."
But to accept for the moment Colonel Taylor's premises, the two divisions referred to would have swelled the columns of assault to twenty-three thousand men. We were alone in the battle as on the day before. The enemy had seventy-five thousand men on strong ground, with well-constructed defences. The Confederates would have had to march a mile through the blaze of direct and cross fire and break up an army of seventy-five thousand well-seasoned troops, well defended by field-works !
A rough sketch of the positions of the forces about my right and rear will help to show if it "was comparatively safe, and not at all threatened."
General Gibbon's testimony in regard to the assaulting columns of the 3d:
"I was wounded about the time I suppose the enemy's second line got into our batteries,--probably a little before that. As described to me afterwards, the result, I think, will carry out my idea in regard to it, because the enemy broke through, forced back my weakest brigade under General Webb, got into our batteries, and the men were so close that the officers on each side were using their pistols on each other, and the men frequently clubbed their muskets, and the clothes of men on both sides were burned by the powder of exploding cartridges. An officer of my staff, Lieutenant Haskell, had been sent by me, just previously to the attack, to General Meade with a message that the enemy were coming. He got back on the top of the hill hunting for me, and was there when this brigade was forced back, and, without waiting orders from me, he rode off to the left and ordered all the troops of the division there to the right. As they came up helter-skelter, everybody for himself, with their officers among them, they commenced firing upon these rebels as they were coming into our lines."
Had the column been augmented by the divisions of my right, it is probable that its brave men would have penetrated far enough to reach Johnson's Island as prisoners; hardly possible that it could have returned to General Lee by any other route.
When engaged collecting the broken files after the repulse, General Lee said to an officer who was assisting, "It is all my fault."
A letter from Colonel W. M. Owen assures me that General Lee repeated this remark at a roadside fire of the Washington Artillery on the 5th of July. A letter from General Lee during the winter of 1863-64 repeated it in substance.
And here is what Colonel T. J. Goree, of Texas, has to say upon the subject:
"I was present, however, just after Pickett's repulse, when General Lee so magnanimously took all the blame of the disaster upon himself. Another important circumstance, which I distinctly remember, was in the winter of 1863--64, when you sent me from East Tennessee to Orange Court-House with some despatches to General Lee. Upon my arrival there, General Lee asked me into his tent, where he was alone, with two or three Northern papers on the table. He remarked that he had just been reading the Northern reports of the battle of Gettysburg; that he had become satisfied from reading those reports that if he had permitted you to carry out your plan, instead of making the attack on Cemetery Hill, he would have been successful."
Further testimony to this effect comes from another source:
"In East Tennessee, during the winter of 1863-64, you called me into your quarters, and asked me to read a letter just received from General Lee in which he used the following words: 'Oh, general, had I but followed your advice, instead of pursuing the course that I did, how different all would have been !' You wished me to bear this language in mind as your correspondence might be lost.
" ERASMUS TAYLOR.
" ORANGE COUNTY, VA."
A contributor to Blackwood's Magazine reported,--
"But Lee's inaction after Fredericksburg was, as we have called it, an unhappy or negative blunder. Undoubtedly the greatest positive blunder of which he was ever guilty was the unnecessary onslaught which he gratuitously made against the strong position into which, by accident, General Meade fell back at Gettysburg. We have good reason for saying that during the five years of calm reflection which General Lee passed at Lexington, after the conclusion of the American war, his maladroit manipulation of the Confederate army during the Gettysburg campaign was to him a matter of ceaseless self. reproach.
"' If,' said he, on many occasions, ' I had taken General Longstreet's advice on the eve of the second day of the battle of Gettysburg, and filed off the left corps of my army behind the right corps, in the direction of Washington and Baltimore, along the Emmitsburg road, the Confederates would to-day be a free people.' "
It should be stated that kindest relations were maintained between General Lee and myself until interrupted by politics in 1867.
It is difficult to reconcile these facts with the reports put out after his death by members of his family and of his staff, and post-bellum champions, that indicate his later efforts to find points by which to so work up public opinion as to shift the disaster to my shoulders.
Some of the statements of the members of the staff have been referred to. General Fitzhugh Lee claims evidence that General Lee said that he would have gained the battle if he had had General Jackson with him. But he had Jackson in the Sharpsburg campaign, which was more blundering than that of Gettysburg. In another account Fitzhugh Lee wrote of General Lee,--
"He told the father of the writer, his brother, that he was controlled too far by the great confidence he felt in the fighting qualities of his people, and by assurances of most of his higher officers."
No assurances were made from officers of the First Corps, but rather objections. The only assurances that have come to light, to be identified, are those of General Early, who advised the battle, but from the other end of the line from his command, which should have given warning that it did not come from the heart of a true soldier.
And this is the epitome of the Confederate battle. The army when it set out on the campaign was all that could be desired, (except that the arms were not all of the most approved pattern), but it was despoiled of two of its finest brigades, Jenkins's and Corse's of Pickett's division, and was fought out by detail. The greatest number engaged at any one time was on the first day, when twenty-six thousand engaged twenty thousand of the First and part of the Eleventh Corps. On the afternoon of the second day about seventeen thousand were engaged on the right, and at night about seven thousand on the left; then later at night about three thousand near the centre. On the third day about twelve thousand were engaged at daylight and until near noon, and in the afternoon fifteen thousand,--all of the work of the second and third days against an army of seventy thousand and more of veteran troops in strong position defended by field-works.
General Lee was on the field from about three o'clock of the afternoon of the first day. Every order given the troops of the First Corps on that field up to its march on the forenoon of the 2d was issued in his presence. If the movements were not satisfactory in time and speed of moving, it was his power, duty, and privilege to apply the remedy, but it was not a part of a commander's duty or privilege to witness things that did not suit him, fail to apply the remedy, and go off and grumble with his staff-officers about it. In their efforts to show culpable delay in the movements of the First Corps on the 2d, some of the Virginia writers endeavor to show that General Lee did not even give me a guide to lead the way to the field from which his battle was to be opened. He certainly failed to go and look at it, and assist in selecting the ground and preparing for action.
Fitzhugh Lee says of the second day, "Longstreet was attacking the Marye's Hill of the position." * At Fredericksburg, General Burnside attacked at Marye's Hill in six or more successive assaults with some twenty or thirty thousand against three brigades under McLaws and Ransom and the artillery; he had about four hundred yards to march from his covered ways about Fredericksburg to Marye's Hill. When his last attack was repulsed in the evening, he arranged and gave his orders for the attack to be renewed in the morning, giving notice that he would lead it with the Ninth Corps, but upon reports of his officers abandoned it. General Lee's assaulting columns of fifteen or twenty thousand had a march of a mile to attack double their numbers, better defended than were the three brigades of Confederates at Marye's Hill that drove back Burnside. The enemy on Cemetery Hill was in stronger position than the Confederates at Marye's Hill.
Fitzhugh Lee writes in the volume already quoted,--
"Over the splendid scene of human courage and human sacrifice at Gettysburg there arises in the South an apparition, like Banquo's ghost at Macbeth's banquet, which says the battle was lost to the Confederates because some one blundered."
Call them Banquo, but their name is Legion. Weird spirits keep midnight watch about the great boulders, while unknown comrades stalk in ghostly ranks through the black fastnesses of Devil's Den, wailing the lament, "Some one blundered at Gettysburg! Woe is me, whose duty was to die !"
"General Lee," by Fitzhugh Lee. Marye's Hill was the stronghold at Fredericksburg.
Fitzhugh Lee makes his plans, orders, and movements to suit his purpose, and claims that they would have given Gettysburg to the Confederates, but he is not likely to convince any one outside of his coterie that over the heights of' Gettysburg was to be found honor for the South.
General Meade said that the suggestion to work towards his line of communication was sound "military sense." That utterance has been approved by subsequent fair judgment, and it is that potent fact that draws the spiteful fire of latter-day knights.
Forty thousand men, unsupported as we were, could not have carried the position at Gettysburg. The enemy was there. Officers and men knew their advantage, and were resolved to stay until the hills came down over them. It is simply out of the question for a lesser force to march over broad, open fields and carry a fortified front occupied by a greater force of seasoned troops.
Referring to the proposed move around the Union left to cut the line of communication, a parallel in the Franco-German war is appropriate. When the manoeuvres of the campaign had pushed Marshal MacMahon's army back to the road between Paris and Metz, the latter fortified and occupied by the army under Marshal Bazaine, MacMahon hesitated between Paris and Metz, and was manoeuvred out of position to a point north of the line. Von Moltke seized the opportunity and took position on the line, which gave him shorter routes east and west. So that MacMahon, to reach either point, must pass the German forces under Von Moltke. He made a brave effort to reach Metz, and Von Moltke, to maintain his advantage, was called to skilful manoeuvre and several gallant affairs, but succeeded in holding his advantage that must call MacMahon to general engagement or surrender. Out-generalled, and with a demoralized army, he thought the latter his proper alternative.
The relative conditions of the armies were similar. The Union army, beaten at Fredericksburg and Chancellors-ville, and drawn from its aggressive campaign to defensive work in Pennsylvania, had met disaster in its battle of the 1st. If it had been outgeneralled, and dislodged of position without further attack, it would have been in poor condition to come in aggressive battle against its adversary in well-chosen defensive grounds.
Again, in our own war, when the Union army carried the Confederate works west of Petersburg on the 2d of April, 1865, General Meade got his army together and was about to march east to finish his work by the capture of Petersburg: General Grant objected,--that the Confederates would retreat during the night; at Petersburg he would be behind them; in his then position he would be alongside of them, and have an even start, with better prospect to strike across their march and force them to general battle or surrender; and he ordered arrangements for the march west at daylight.
Even Napoleon Bonaparte, the first in the science and greatest in the execution of the art of war, finally lost grasp of his grandest thought:
"In war men are nothing; a man is everything."
The Confederate chief at Gettysburg looked something like Napoleon at Waterloo.
Fitzhugh Lee quotes evidence of Governor Carroll, of Maryland, that General Lee said, "Longstreet is the hardest man to move in my army."
It does not look like generalship to lose a battle and a cause and then lay the responsibility upon others. He held command and was supported by his government. If his army did not suit him, his word could have changed it in a minute. If he failed to apply the remedy, it was his fault. Some claim that his only fault as a general was his tender, generous heart. But a heart in the right place looks more to the cause intrusted to its care than for hidden ways by which to shift its responsibility to the shoulders of those whose lives hang upon his word.
When he set out on his first campaign (Chickahominy) with the army, the key of the campaign was intrusted to General Jackson, who named the hour for the opening and failed to meet his own appointment. At the time he appointed, A. P. Hill's, D. H. Hill's, and Longstreet's commands were in position waiting. About eight hours after his time he was up, but deliberately marched past the engagement and went into camp, a mile or more behind the hot battle. He remained in his camp next morning, and permitted the enemy, dislodged of his position of the day before, to march by him to a strong position at Gaines's Mill. When his column reached that position, his leading division (D. H. Hill's) engaged the enemy's right without orders. He called the division off and put his command in position to intercept the enemy's retreat towards the Pamunkey, from which he was afterwards called to his part in the general engagement. The next day he had the cavalry and part of his infantry in search of the enemy's next move. At my head-quarters were two clever young engineers who were sent to find what the enemy was about. They were the first to report the enemy's retreat towards James River. Orders were given for Jackson to follow on the direct line of retreat, also Magruder and Huger. My command was ordered around through the outskirts of Richmond by the Darby-town road to interpose between McClellan's army and the James River, about twenty miles; the other troops marching by routes of about nine miles. We were in position on the evening of the 29th of June, and stood in front of the enemy all of the 30th, fighting a severe battle in the afternoon. Magruder and Huger got up after night, and Jackson on the morning of the 1st. After the battle of the 1st, Jackson, Magruder, and Huger were ordered in direct pursuit along the route of retreat, my command by the longer route of Nance's Store. Jackson's column and mine met on the evening of the 3d near Westover, the enemy's new position.
At the Second Manassas my command relieved the pressure against Jackson. He called on me for relief by a route that would have taken an hour or an hour and a half. A way was found by which he was relieved in about thirty minutes. When relieved, he left the battle on my hands. I was at Sharpsburg all day; Jackson only about two and a half hours. At Fredericksburg, anticipating the move against him, half of my command was ordered to swing off from my right and join in his battle.
But General Lee's assertion seems to refer to the operations at Gettysburg, after Jackson had found his Happy Home. Let us see how far this assertion is supported by events. General Lee reported,--
"The advance of the enemy to the latter place (Gettysburg) was unknown, and, the weather being inclement, the march was conducted with a view to the comfort of the troops."
When, on the forenoon of the 2d, he decided upon his plan, the Second Corps was deployed in the immediate front of the enemy's line on our left, except two brigades sent off by General Early. One division of the Third was close on the right of the Second, all within thirty minutes' march of the enemy's lines. Two divisions of the Third Corps and two of the First were on Seminary Ridge. When the order was announced the divisions on Seminary Ridge had to find their positions and deploy to the right. By the route ordered for the march it was five or six miles to the point at which the battle was to be opened. The troops of the Third had a shorter route. The march of the First was made in time for prompt deployment on the right of the Third.
We were left to our own resources in finding ground upon which to organize for battle. The enemy had changed position somewhat after the march was ordered, but as we were not informed of his position before the march, we could not know of the change. The Confederate commander did not care to ride near us, to give information of a change, to assist in preparing for attack, nor to inquire if new and better combinations might be made.
Four brigades of the right of the Third Corps were assigned as part of my command. The engagement was to be general. My artillery combat was opened at three P.M., followed in half an hour by the infantry, and I made progressive battle until sundown. A division of the Second Corps attacked on our left at nightfall, and later two brigades. Other parts of the Second and Third Corps did not move to the battle.
On the 3d I was ordered to organize the column of assault, the other corps to co-operate and assist the battle. There was an affair on the Confederate left before the assaulting columns were organized, brought on by attack of the enemy. The assaulting force marched at one P.M. Its work has been described, but it is important to note that neither of the other corps took part in the battle while the Southern chief stood in view of the attack and near the rear of those corps. So it looks as if the commander of the First Corps was easier to move than any one in his army, rather than harder, and his chief left him to fight the battles alone.
After the retreat, and when resting on the south banks of the Rapidan, reading of the progress of the march of General Rosecrans's army towards Georgia, it seemed sinful to lie there idle while our comrades in the West <long_409>were so in need of assistance, and I wrote the Secretary of War suggesting that a detachment should be sent West from the idle army. General Lee objected, but the suggestion was ordered to be executed. In this instance the subordinate was easier to move than his chief, though the interests of the cause depended largely on the movement of the latter.
The forces engaged at Gettysburg were:
CONFEDERATE.--According to the latest official accounts, the Army of Northern Virginia, on the 31st of May, numbered 74,468. The detachments that joined numbered 6400, making 80,868. Deducting the detachments left in Virginia,--Jenkins's brigade, Pickett's division, 2300; Corse's brigade, Pickett's division, 1700; detachments from Second Corps and of cavalry, 1300, in all 5300,--leaves the actual aggregate 75,568.
UNION.--According to the reports of the 30th of June, and making allowance for detachments that joined in the interim in time to take part in the battle, the grand aggregate was 100,000 officers and men.
The Confederates lost many men after the battle, and before they recrossed the Potomac, from the toils of the march and the continuous and severe harassment of the enemy's cavalry, which followed closely and in great force. The casualties were:
Confederate First Corps 7,539 Second Corps 5,937 Third Corps 6,735 Cavalry 1,426 Aggregate 21,637
Union First Corps 6,059 Second Corps 4,369 Third Corps 4,211 Fifth Corps 2,187 Sixth Corps 242 Eleventh Corps 3,801 Twelfth Corps 1,082 Cavalry 1,094 Staff 4 Aggregate 23,049
RETURN TO LONGSTREET AT GETTYSBURG PAGE