The Artillery at Second Manassas
Southern Historical Society Papers
Vol. VI Richmond, Virginia, November, 1878. No. 5.
General Longstreet's Reply to General S.D. Lee.
Gainesville, Georgia, September 6th, 1878.
Southern Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia:
In your issue of last month a paper appears from the pen of General S.D. Lee, claimed to be a reply to a part of my official report of the second battle of Manassas as published in an article on the Gettysburg campaign by myself.
No part of my official report of second Manassas was published in any of my writings upon Gettysburg. In my last I gave an account of the leading features of second Manassas, as connected with my command and myself, but distinctly announced in that paper that my sole purpose was to illustrate, as well as might be, the official as well as personal relations between General R.E. Lee and myself.
General S.D. Lee seems to have started from erroneous premises, therefore, and may mislead some of your readers.
The inclosed account of the artillery combat of second Manassas from Colonel J.B. Walton, commander of the Washington artillery of New Orleans upon that field, seems to meet the only real point of issue made by General S.D. Lee. I have to ask, therefore, that you give it a place in your Papers whenever it may be convenient.
I am, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
New Orleans, 20th August, 1878.
My Dear General; -- Colonel Owen has shown me your letters of 10th and 18th of this month. I have not seen General S.D. Lee's communication to the Southern Historical Society Papers, but infer that he has made a serious mistake in claiming, if he does so, that he selected the position which his batteries (the batteries of his battalion) occupied on the 30th August, 1862, at the battle second Manassas.
From notes, memoranda, reports and other data at hand, in my possession, I propose to give you the facts as to the selection of the artillery position in that battle and how it was occupied on the 29th before Colonel Lee came upon the field, and on the 30th, the day he reached the army then and the day previous engaged with Pope. I will be brief as possible and shall endeavor to make my statement intelligible and conclusive from extracts from my memoranda and from reports.
From my written memoranda of the second Manassas:
"After the passage of Thoroughfare Gap, August 29th, General Longstreet entered the turnpike near Gainesville, moving down towards Groveton, the head of his column coming upon the field in rear of the enemy's left flank and within easy cannon shot, took position on the right of Jackson, who at the time -- 11.30 A.M. -- was heavily engaged. General Longstreet, in forming his line of battle, ordered me to place my batteries in position between his line and that of General Jackson. A commanding position, after a rapid reconnoissance, was selected, conforming to General Longstreet's orders, between his line and General Jackson. The batteries of Miller and Squires, of the Washington artillery, were first put in position, and opened at once on the enemy, distant about twelve hundred yards. The enemy's infantry appearing in force immediately in front of these batteries, I ordered forward and crowded into position with Miller and Squires additional guns of Riley's, Bachman's, Anderson's and Chapman's batteries, all of my corps (First corps, Longstreet's), nineteen guns in all-all were at once engaged. * * * * * * The engagement with the enemy's artillery continued until 3.30 o'clock P.M., when, having silenced them and broken up the advancing line of infantry, the batteries were withdrawn to repair damage and fill the chests, which were nearly empty. The operations on the left were ended for the day. The batteries bivouacked upon the field, the men and animals suffering greatly for want of water."
Extract from Colonel Stephen D. Lee's report of the battle of second Manassas:
"The battalion (S.D. Lee's battalion light artillery) received orders on the evening of the 29th, near Thoroughfare Gap, to march to the front during the night, and, after a tedious march, encamped about dawn on the morning of the 30th on the pike leading from Gainesville to Stone bridge and about two miles from Stone bridge. Soon after daylight, I found that our bivouac was on the battlefield of the previous evening and near our advanced division on picket. The enemy showing every disposition to attack us, upon consultation with Brigadier General J.B. Hood, and at his suggestion, I placed my batteries (four) on a commanding ridge immediately to his left and rear. In the general line of battle this ridge was about the centre, Jackson's corps being immediately on my left and Longstreet's on my right. It was an admirable ridge of over a quarter of a mile, generally overlooking the ground in front for some two thousand yards."
(Note. -- This "admirable ridge" was the identical position which was selected, occupied and fought upon the day before Colonel Lee reached the battle field).
General Longstreet in his report says:
"Early on the 29th the columns were united and the advance to join General Jackson was resumed. * * * * * * * Colonel Walton placed his batteries in a commanding position between my line and that of General Jackson and engaged the enemy for several hours in a severe and successful artillery duel.
"During the day (30th) Colonel S.D. Lee, with his reserve artillery placed in the position occupied the day previous by Colonel Walton, engaged the enemy in a very severe artillery combat. The result was, as on the day previous, a success."
General Robert E. Lee in his report to the Secretary of War says:
"August 29th, Colonel Walton placed a part of his artillery upon a commanding position between Generals Jackson and Longstreet, by order of the latter, and engaged the enemy vigorously for several hours.
"On the morning of the 30th the enemy again advanced * * The batteries of Colonel Stephen D. Lee took the position occupied the day before by Colonel Walton."
What is contained in the foregoing is, I suppose, sufficient to establish that the fine position selected for the artillery was selected and occupied by artillery of my artillery corps the day before Colonel Lee arrived near the scene of the battle, which he reached only on the 30th, and that he occupied the identical position the day following that upon which my batteries had engaged the enemy in a very severe artillery combat vigorously for several hours. I cannot add to this evidence of the fact that Colonel Lee did not have, and could not have had by any possibility, anything to do with the selecting or securing that splendid position for artillery combat, no matter to whom the credit may belong.
I have hastily and imperfectly written (nothing from memory) what is here for such use as you may be disposed to make of it, but, with the understanding, that I cannot for a moment suppose that Colonel Lee intended to convey the idea that he selected the position I occupied and fought upon when he, with his battalion, was still at Thoroughfare Gap.
With my apology for the unsatisfactory manner I accomplished your wishes and submitting to any correction,
I remain, very truly yours,
General James Longstreet, Gainesville, Ga.
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