THE FIRST DAY AT GETTYSBURG
By Henry Hunt Major General USA
The battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville raised the confidence of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to such a height as to cause its subordinate officers and soldiers to believe that, as opposed to the Army of the Potomac, they were equal to any demand that could be made upon them. their belief in the superiority of the Southerner to the Northerner as a fighter was no longer, as at the beginning of the war, a mere provincial conceit, for it was now supported by signal successes in the field. On each of these two occasions the Army of the Potomac had been recently reorganized under a new general, presumably abler than his predecessor and possessing the confidence of the War Department, and the results were crowning victories for the Confederates. Yet at Fredericksburg defeat was not owing to any lack of fighting qualities on the part of the Federal soldiers, but rather to defective leadership.
At Chancellorsville both qualities were called in question. In none of the previous battles between these armies had the disparity of numbers been so great. The federal general had taken the initiative, his plan of operations was excellent, and his troops were eager for battle. The Confederates could at first oppose but a portion of their inferior force to the attack of greatly superior numbers, and the boast of the Federal commander, that "The Army of Northern Virginia was the legitimate property of the Army of the Potomac," seemed in a fair way to be justified, when at first contact the advantages already gained were thrown away by the assumption of a timid, defensive attitude. Lee's bold offensive, which followed immediately on this exhibition of weakness, the consequent rout of a Federal army-corps, and the subsequent retreat of the whole Army, a large portion of which had not been engaged, confirmed the exultant Confederates in their conviction--which now became an article of faith--that both in combat and in generalship the superiority of the southerner was fully established. The Federal soldiers returned from Chancellorsville to their camps on the northern bank of the Rappahannock, mortified and incensed at finding themselves, through no fault of their own, in the condition of having in a offensive campaign lost the battle without fighting, exempt when the enemy forced it upon them.
Yet in this battle the northern soldier fought well. Under the circumstances no men could have withstood such a sudden attack as that made by "Stonewall" Jackson on the flank and rear of the Eleventh Corps; but as soon As Jackson encountered troops in condition for action, his pursuit checked and he was brought to a stand. The panic did not extend beyond the routed corps, nor to all of that, for its artillery and so much of its infantry as could form a proper line did their duty, and the army, far from being "demoralized" by this mishap, simply ridiculed the corps, which from its supposed want of vigilance, had allowed itself to be surprised in a position in which it could not fight. The surprise itself was not the fault of the troops, and in subsequent battles the corps redeemed its reputation. Both armies were composed in the main of Americans, and there was little more difference between their men and than might be found between those of either army at different periods, or under varying circumstances; for although high bounties had already brought into the Federal ranks an inferior element which swelled the muster-rolls and the number of stragglers, "bounty jumping" had not yet become a regular business.
The morale of the Confederate army was, however, much higher at this time than that of its adversary. It was composed of men not less patriotic, many of whom had gone into war with reluctance, but who now felt that they were defending their homes. They were by this time nearly all veterans, led by officers having the confidence of their Government, which took pains to inspire its soldiers with the same feeling. Their successes were extolled and magnified, their reverses palliated or ignored. Exaggerations as to the relative numbers of the troops had been common enough on both sides, but those indulged in at the sought had been echoed, sometimes suggested, in the North by a portion of the press and people, so that friends and enemies united in inspiring the Confederate soldier a belief in himself and a contempt for his enemy. In the army of the Potomac it was different; the proportion of veterans was much smaller; a cessation of recruiting at the very beginning of active operations, when men were easily attainable to supply losses in existing regiments, had been followed, as emergencies arose, by new levies, for short periods of service, and in new organizations of which could not readily be assimilated by older troops. Moreover their were special difficulties. The army of the Potomac was not in favor at the War Department. Rarely, if ever, had it heard a word of official commendation after a success, or of sympathy or encouragement after a defeat. From the very beginning its camps had been filled with imputations and charges against its leaders, who were accused on the streets, by the press, in Congress, and even in the War Department itself, and after victories as well as after defeats, not only of incapacity or misconduct, but sometimes of "disloyalty" to their superiors, civil and military, and even to the cause for which they fought. These accusations were followed or accompanied by frequent changes of commanders of the army, of army-corps, and even of divisions. Under such circumstances, but little confidence could be felt by the troops, either in the wisdom of a war office which seemed to change its favorites with the caprice of a croquette, or in the capacity of new generals who followed each other in such rapid succession. But it is do to that patient and sorely tried army, to say that the spirit of both officers and men was of the best, and their devotion to duty unconquerable. The army itself had originally been so admirably disciplined and tempered, that their always remained to it a firm self-reliance and a stern sense of duty and honor that was proof against its many discouragements. In battle it always aquatinted itself well and displayed the highest soldierly qualities, no matter who commanded it whence it came. Chancellorsville furnishes no exemption to this assertion, nor evidence of inferiority of the Northern to the Southern soldier, but it does furnish striking illustrations of Napoleon's well-known saying, "In war men are nothing, a man is everything."
General Lee, who felt great confidence in his own troops, and overrated the effects of successive reverses on the federal soldiers, now resolved to assume the offensive, for he knew to remain on the defensive would in the end force him back on Richmond. He determined, therefore, in case the Army of the Potomac could not be brought to action under favorable circumstances in Virginia, to transfer, if permitted, the field of operations to Northern soil, where a victory promptly followed up might give him possession of Baltimore or Washington, and perhaps lead to the recognition of the Confederacy by foreign powers. The valley of the Shenandoah offered a safe line of operations; the Federal troops occupying it were rather a bait than an obstacle, and to capture or destroy them seemed quite practical to one who controlled absolutely all Confederate troops within the sphere of his operations. The sharp lesson he had administered the previous year had not been heeded by the Federal War office; an opportunity now offered to repeat it, and he took his measures accordingly. In case his Government would not consent to a bolder offensive, he could at least clear the valley of Virginia of the enemy, --a distinct operation, yet a necessary preliminary to an invasion of the North. This work was assigned to Lieutenant-General Ewell, an able officer, in every way qualified for such an enterprise.
In anticipation of the new campaign, Lee's army was strengthened and reorganized into three army-corps of three divisions each. Each division consisted of four brigades, except Rodes's and Anderson's, which had five each, and Pickett's, which had three at Gettysburg, -- in all, thirty-seven infantry brigades. The cavalry were the select troops of the Confederacy. Officers and men had been accustomed all their lives to the use of horses and arms, "and to the very end the best blood in the land rode after Stuart, Hampton, and the Lees." They were now organized as a division, under Major-General J. E.B. Stuart, consisting of the six brigades of Hampton, Robertson, Fitzhugh Lee, Jenkins, W.E. Jones, and W. H.F. Lee, and six batteries of horse-artillery under Major R. F. Beckman. To these should be added Imboden's command, a strong brigade of over 2000 effective horsemen and a battery of horse-artillery, which had been operating in the mountain county and was now near Staunton, awaiting orders. The artillery had recently received an excellent organization under its commandant-in-chief, General Pendleton. It consisted, besides the horse-artillery, of fifteen so-called "battalions," each of four batteries, with one lieutenant-colonel and a major. To each army-corps were attached five battalions, one for each division and two as a reserve, the whole under a colonel as a chief of artillery. The total number of batteries was 69, of guns 287, of which 30 were with the Cavalry. With few exceptions the batteries were of four guns each. The army was commanded by a full general, each army-corps, except the artillery, by a lieutenant-general, each division by a major-general, each brigade, except two, by brigadier-generals. Nearly all these officers were veterans of proved ability and many had served in the Mexican war.
In the Army of the Potomac the discharge of 58 regiments had reduced its strengths since Chancellorsville by 25,000 effective, partly replaced by 5 brigades numbering less than 12,000 men. At the battle of Gettysburg the 7 army-corps consisted of 19 infantry divisions, 7 of which had 2 brigades, 11 had 3, and 1 had 4; in all 51 brigades. The army and army-corps were commanded by major-generals, the divisions by 3 major-generals and 16 brigadier-generals, the infantry brigades by 22 brigadier-generals and 29 colonels. The average strength of army-corps and divisions was about half that of the Confederates, a fact that should be kept in mind, or terms will be misleading. The cavalry had been raised under disadvantages. Men accustomed to the use of both horses and arms were comparatively few in the North and required training in everything that was necessary to make a trooper. The theater of war was not considered favorable for cavalry, and it was distributed to the various headquarters for escort duty, guards, and orderlies. It was not until 1863 that it was united under General Pleasonton in a corps consisting of three weak divisions, Buford's, D. McM. Gregg's, and Duffie's, afterward consolidated into two, Stahel's cavalry, which joined at Frederick, June 28, becoming the third division. The corps was then organized as follows: First Division, Buford: brigades, Gamble, Devin, Merritt; Second Division, Gregg: brigades, McIntosh, Huey, J. Irving Gregg; Third Division, Kilpatrick: brigades, Farnsworth, Custer. The divisions and three of the brigades were commanded by brigadier-generals, the five brigades by colonels. To the cavalry were attached Robertson's and Tinball's brigades of horse-artillery. Under excellent chiefs and the spirit created by its new organization, the Federal cavalry soon rivaled that of the Confederates.
The field-artillery was in unsatisfactory condition. The high reputation it had gained in Mexico was followed by the active and persistent hostility of the War Department, which almost immediately dismounted three-fourths of its authorized batteries. Congress in 1853 made special provision for remounting them as schools of instruction for the whole arm, a duty which the war Department on shallow pretexts evaded. Again in 1861 Congress amply provided for the proper organization and command of the artillery in the field, but as there was no chief nor special administration for the arm, and no regulations for its government, its organization, control, and direction were left to the fancies of the various army commanders. General officers were practically denied it, and in 1862 the war Department announced in orders that field-officers of artillery were an unnecessary expense and their muster into service forbidden. Promotion necessarily ceased, and such able artillerists as Hays, DeRussy, Getty, Gibbon, Griffon and Ayers could only receive promotion by transfer to the infantry of cavalry. No adequate measures were taken for the supply of recruits, and the batteries were frequently dependent on the troops to which they were attached for men enough to work their guns in battle. For battery-draft they were often glad to get the refuse horses after the ambulance and quartermasters' trains were supplied. Still, many of the batteries attained a high degree of excellence, due mainly to the self-sacrifice, courage, and intelligence of their officers and men.
On taking command of the army, General hooker had transferred the military command of the artillery to his own headquarters, to be resumed by the chief of artillery only under specific orders and for special occasions, which resulted in such mismanagement and confusion at Chancellorsville that he consented to organize the artillery into brigades. This was a decided improvement, which would have been greater if the brigade commanders had held adequate rank. As it was, there was no artillery commandant-in-chief for months before the battle of Gettysburg, and of the 14 brigades 4 were commanded by field-officers, 9 by captains, and 1 by a lieutenant, taken from their batteries for the purpose. The number of field-batteries at Gettysburg was 65, of guns, 370, of which 212 were with the infantry, 50 with the cavalry, 108 in the reserve. The disadvantages under which the artillery labored all through the war, from want of proper regulations, supervision, and command were simply disgraceful to our army administration from the close of the Mexican to that of the Civil war, and caused an unnecessary expenditure of both blood and treasure.
It will be perceived by comparison that the organization of the Army of the Potomac was at this period in every way inferior to that of its adversary. The army-corps and divisions were too numerous and too weak. They required too many commanders and staffs, and this imposed unnecessary burdens on the general-in-chief, who was often compelled to place several army-corps under the commander of one of them, thus reproducing the much abused "grand divisions" of Burnside, under every possible disadvantage. Had the number of infantry corps been reduced to four at mast, and the division to twelve, the army would have been more manageable and better commanded, and the artillery, without any loss, but rather a gain of efficiency, would have been reduced by a dozen of fifteen batteries.
Early in June Lee's army began to move, and by the 8th Longstreet's and Ewell"s corps had joined Stuart's cavalry at Culpeper. A.P. Hill's corps was left in observation at Fredericksburg; and so skillfully were the changes concealed that Hooker, believing that all the enemy's infantry were still near that town, ordered Pleasonton to beat up Stuart's camps at Culpeper, and get information as to the enemy's position and proposed movements. For these purposes he gave Pleasonton two small brigades of infantry, 3000 men under Generals Ames and Russell, which carried his total force of 10,981. They were echeloned along the railroad, which crosses the river at Rappahannock Station, and runs thence ten miles to Culpeper. About midway is Brady Station a few hundred yards north of which is Fleetwood Hill. Dividing his force equally, Pleasonton ordered Buford and Ames to cross at Beverly Ford, and Gregg, Duffie, and Russel at Kelly's Ford. All were to march to Brady Station, Duffie being thrown out to Stevensburg, seven miles east of Culpeper, to watch the Fredericksburg road. Then the whole force was to move on to Culpeper. On the 8th, General Lee, having sent Jenkin's brigade as Ewell's advance into the valley, reviewed the other 5 brigades of Stuart, 10,292 combatants, on the plains near Brady Station. After the review they were distributed in the neighborhood with a view to crossing the Rappahannock on the 9th, Stuart establishing his headquarters at Fleetwood. Accident had thus disposed his forces in the most favorable manner to meet Pleasonton's converging movements.
At daybreak Buford crossed and drove the enemy's pickets from the ford back to the main body, near St. James church. Stuart, on first report of the crossing, sent Robertson's brigade toward Kelly's to watch that ford, and Colonel M. C. Butler's 2d South Carolina to Brady Station. He himself took the command at the church, where he was attacked by Buford. At Brady Station W. H. F. Lee was wounded, and Colonel Chambliss took command of his brigade. Meantime Gregg had crossed at Kelly's Ford, and Duffie, leading, took a southerly road, by which he missed Robertson's brigade. Learning that Duffie's advance had reached Stevensburg and that Buford was heavily engaged, Gregg pushed direct for Brady Station, sending orders to Duffie to follow his movement. Stuart, notified of his approach, had sent in haste some artillery and two of Jones's regiments to Fleetwood, and Colonel Butler started at once for Stevensburg, followed soon after by Wickham's 4th Virginia. On their approach two squadrons of the 6th Ohio, in occupation of the place, fell back skirmishing. Duffie sent two regiments to their aid, and after a severe action, mainly with the 2d South Carolina, reoccupied the village. In this action Colonel butler lost a leg, and his lieutenant-colonel, Hampton, was killed.
On Gregg's arrival near Brady Station the enemy appeared to be in large force, with artillery, on and about Fleetwood Hill. He promptly ordered an attack; the hill was carried, and the two regiments sent by Stuart were driven back. Buford now attacked vigorously and gained ground steadily, for Stuart had to reinforce his troops at Fleetwood from the church. In the struggles that followed, the hill several times changed masters; but as Duffie did not make his appearance, Greg was finally overmatched and withdrew, leaving three of his guns, two of them disabled, in the enemy's hands, nearly all of their horses being killed and most of their cannoneers hors de combat. There were some demonstrations of pursuit, but the approach of Buford's reserve brigade stopped them. Duffie finally came up and Gregg reported to Pleasonton, informing him of the approach of Confederate infantry from Culpeper. Pleasonton, who had captured some important dispatches and orders, now considered his mission accomplished, and ordered a withdrawal of his whole command. This was effected leisurely and without molestation. Gregg recrossed at Rappahannock Station, Buford at Beverly Ford, and at sunset the river again flowed between opposing forces. Stuart reports his losses at 485, of whom 301 were killed or wounded. Pleasonton reports an aggregate loss(exclusive of Duffies, which would not exceed 25) of 907, of whom 421 were killed or wounded. In nearly all the previous so-called "cavalry" actions, the troops had fought as dismounted dragoons. This was in the main a true cavalry battle, and enabled the Federals to dispute the superiority hitherto claimed by, and conceded to, the Confederate cavalry. In this respect the affair was an important one. It did not however delay Lee's designs on the valley; he had already sent Imboden toward Cumberland to destroy the railroad and canal from that place to Martinsburg.
Milroy's federal division, about 9000 strong, occupied Winchester, with McRenolds's brigade in observation at Berryville. Kelley's division of about 10,000 men was at Harpers Ferry, with a detachment 1200 infantry and a battery under Colonel B. F. Smith at Martinsburg. On the night of June 11, Milroy received instructions to join kelley, but, reporting that he could hold Winchester, was authorized to remain there. Ewell, leaving Brandy Station June 10th, reached Cedarville via Chester Gap on the evening of the 12th, whence he detached Jenkins and Rodes to capture McRenolds, who, discovering there approach, withdrew to Winchester. They then pushed on to Martinsburg, and on the 14th drove out the garrison. Smith's infantry crossed the Potomac at Shepardstown, and made its way to Maryland heights; his artillery retreated by the Williamsport road, was pursued, and lost five guns.
Meanwhile Ewell, with Early's and Edward Johnson's divisions, marched direct on Winchester. Arriving in the neighborhood on the evening of the 13th, he ordered early on the 14th to leave a brigade in observation on the south of the town, move his main force under cover of the hills to the northwestern side, and seize the outworks which commanded the main fort. He also ordered Johnson to deploy his division on the east of town, so as to divert attention from Early. this was so successfully done that the latter placed, unperceived, twenty guns and an assaulting column in position, and at 6 p. m., by a sudden attack, carried the outworks, driving the garrisons into the body of the place. This capture was a complete surprise, and Milroy called a council of war, which he decided on an immediate retreat, abandoning the artillery and wagons. Ewell had anticipated this, and ordered Johnson to occupy with a brigade a position on the Martinsburg pike, north of Winchester. The retreat commenced at 2 a. m. of the 15th, and after proceeding three or four miles, the advance encountered Johnson's troops, attacked vigorously, and at first successfully, but, the enemy receiving reenforcements, a hard fight ensued in which the Federals lost heavily. The retreat was then continued; the troops separated in the darkness, one portion reaching harper's ferry, another crossing the Potomac at Hancock. On the 15th Ewell crossed the river, occupied Hagerstown and sharpsburg, and sent Jenkin's cavalry to Chambersburg to collect supplies. On the 17th the garrison of Harper's Ferry was removed to Maryland Heights, and the valley of the Shenandoah was cleared of Federal troops. In these brilliant operations general lee claims for Ewell the capture of 4000 prisoners and small-arms, 28 pieces of artillery, 11 colors, 300 loaded wagons, as many horses, and a considerable quantity of stores of all descriptions, the entire Confederate loss, killed, wounded, and missing, being 269.
These operations indicate on the part of General Lee either contempt for his opponent, or a belief that the chronic terror of The War Department for the safety of Washington could be safely relied upon to paralyze his movements, --or both. On no other reasonable hypothesis can we account for his stretching his army from Fredicksburg to Williamsport, with his enemy concentrated on one flank, and on the shortest road to Richmond.
General Hooker's instructions were to keep always in view the safety of Washington and Harper's Ferry, and this necessarily subordinated his operations to those of the enemey. On June 5th he reported that in case Lee moved via Culpeper toward the Potomac with his main body, leaving a corps at Fredericksburg, he should consider it his duty to attack the latter, and asked if that would be within the spirit of his instructions. In reply he was warned against such a course, and its dangers to Washington and Harper's Ferry were pointed out. On June 10th learning that Lee was in motion, and that there were but few troops in Richmond, he proposed an immediate march on that place, from which after capturing it, he could send the disposable part of the force to any threatened point north of the Potomac, and was informed that Lee's army, and not Richmond, was his true objective.
He had taken Richmond, Peck's large force at Suffolk and Keyes's 10,000 men in the Penninsula might have been untilized, and Hooker's whole army set free for operations against Lee.
As yet an invasion of the North had not been definitely fixed upon. On June 8th, the day before the engagement at Brandy Station, Lee, in a confidential letter to Mr. Sedon, Confederate Secreatry of War, stated that he was aware of the hazard of taking the aggressive, yet nothing was to be gained by remaining on the defensive; still, if the department thought it better to so, he would adopt that course. Mr. Seddon replied, June 10th, the date of Hooker's proposal to march on Richmond, concurring in General Lee's views. He considered action indispensable, that "all attendant risks and sacrifices must be incurred," and adds, "I have not hesitated, in cooperating with your plans, to leave this city almost defenseless." General Lee now had full liberty of action, with the assured support of his Government, -an immense advantage over an opponent who had neither.
As soon as Hooker learned from Pleasonton that a large infantry force was at Culpeper, he extended his right up the Rappahannock, and when informed of Ewell's move toward the valley, being forbidden to attack A. P. Hill at Fredericksburg or to spoil Lee's plans by marching to Richmond, he moved his army, on the night of June 13th, toward the line of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and occupied Thoroughfare Gap in advance of it. On the 15th Longstreet left Culpeper, keeping east of the Blue Ridge and so covering it gaps. Hill left Fredericksburg on the 14th, and reached Shepherdstown via Chester Gap on the 23d. Stuart's cavalry had been thrown out on Longstreet's right to occupy the passes of the Bull Run mountains and watch Hooker's army. On the 17th he encountered, near Aldie, a portion of Pleasonton's command; a fierce fight ensued, which left the Federals in possession of the field. During the four following days there was a succession of cavalry combats; those of the 19th near Middleburg, and of the 21st near Upperville, were especially well contested, and resulted in the retreat of Stuart through Ahsby's Gap. Longstreet had already withdrawn through the gaps and followed Hill to the Potomac. Imboden, his work of destruction completed, had taken post at Hancock. Longstreet and Hill crossed the Potomac on the 24th and 25th and directed their march on Chambersburg and Fayetteville, arriving on the 27th. Stuart had been directed to guard the mountain passes until the Federal army crossed the river, and, according to General Lee's report. "to lose no time in placing his command on the right of our [Confederate] column as soon as he should perceive the enemy moving northward," in order to watch and report his movements. According to Stuart's report, he was authorized to cross between the Federal army and Washington and directed after crossing to proceed with all dispatch to join Early in Pennsylavania.
General Lee so far had been completely successful; his army was exultant, and he lost no time in availing himself of his advantages. On the 21st he ordered Ewell to take possession of Harrisburg; and on the 22d Ewell's whole corps was on the march, Rodes's and Johnson's division via Chambersburg to Carlisle, which they reached on the 27th, and Early via Greenwood and Gettysburg to York, with orders from Ewell to break up the Northern Central Railroad, destroy the bridge across the Susqehanna at Wrightsville, and then rejoin the main body at Carlisle. Early entered York on the 28th, and sent Gordon's brigade, not to destroy but to secure possession of the bridge, which would enable him to operate upon Harrisburg from the rear; but a small militia force under Colonel Frick, retreating from Wrightsville across the bridge, after an unsuccessful attempt to destroy one of its spans, set fire to and entirely destroyed that fine structure, Gordon's troops giving their aid to the citizens to save the town from the flames. On the 29th Ewell received orders from General Lee to rejoin the army at Cashtown; the next evening 30th, his reserve artillery and trains, with Johnson's division as an escort, were near Chambersburg, and Ewell and Early's and Rodes's, near Heidlersburg. Thus suddenly ended Ewell's Harrisburg expedition. One object was to collect supplies, and contributions were accordingly levied. Much damage was done to roads and bridges, but the prompt advance of the Army of the Potomac made this useless to the Confederates.
Before committing his army to an invasion of the North, General Lee reccommended the proper steps to cover and support it. In a letter of June 23d, addressed to President Davis, he states that the season was so far advanced as to stop further operations on the Southern coast, and that Confederate troops in that country and elsewhere were now disposable. He proposed, therefore, that an army should as soon as possible be organized at Culpeper, as "the well-known anxiety of the Northern Government for the safety of its capital would induce it to retain a large force for its defense, and thus relieve the opposition to our advance", and suggested that General Beauregard be placed in command, "as his presence would give magnitude even to a small demonstration." On the 25th he wrote twice to Mr. Davis urging the same views. The proposition embarressed Mr. Davis, who could not see how, with the few troops under his hand, it could be carried out. In fact, although General Lee had pointed out the means, the propostion came too late, as the decisive battle took place much earlier than was expected. This correspondence, however, with that between Lee and Mr. Seddon, shows that Hooker's project to capture Richmond by a coup-de-main was feasible. It was not now a question of "swapping queens." Washington was safe, being well fortified and sufficiently garrisoned, or with available troops within reach, without drawing on Hooker; and to take Richmond and scatter the Confederate Government was the surest way to ruin Lee's army- "his true objective."
On the first appearance of danger of invasion, Pennsylvania's vigilant governor, Curtin, warned the people of the State and called out the militia. General Couch was sent to Harrisburg to organize and command them, but dibelief in the danger-due to previous false alarms-caused delays until the fugitives from Milroy's command, followed by Jenkins's cavalry, roused the country. Defensive works were then thrown up at Harisburg and elsewhere, and local forces were raised and moved toward the enemy.
Early in June Hooker represented in strong terms the necessity of having one commander for all the troops whose operations would have an influence on those of Lee's army, and in reply was informed by Halleck that any movements he might suggest for other commands than his own would be ordered if practicable. Misunderstandings and confusion naturally resulted, and authority was given Hooker from time to time to exercise control over the troops of Heintzelman, commanding the Department of Washington, and of Schenck, commanding the Middle Department, followed, June 24th, by orders specifically placing the troops in Harper's Ferry and its vicinity at his disposal.
Disregarding Ewell's movements, Hooker conformed his own to those of the enemy's main body, and crossed the Potomac at Edwards's Ferry on the 25th and 26th of June. On the 27th three army-corps under Reynolds occupied Middleton and the South Mountain passes. The twelfth Corps was near Harper's Ferry, and the three other corps at or near Frederick. Hooker now ordered the Twelfth Corps to march early on the 28th to Harper's Ferry, there to joined by its garrison from Maryland Heights, in order to cut Lee's communications with Virginia, and in conjunction with Reynolds to operate on his rear. General Halleck, however, objected to the abandonment of the Heights, notwithstanding Hooker's representations that the position was utterly useless for any purpose; whereupon Hooker abandoned his project, and finding now that he was "not allowed to manoevre his own army in the presence of the enemy," asked to be relieved from his command. He had encountered some of the difficulties which had beset a predecessor whom he had himself mercilessly criticised, and promptly succombed to them. His request was complied with, and Major-General George G. Meade was appointed his successor, this being the fifth change of commanders of the army in front of Washington in ten months. Meade was an excellant officer of long service, who had always proved equal to his position, whether as a specialist or a commander of troops. Many welcomed his advent-some regretted Hooker's departure. All thought then time for the change unfortunate, but accepted loyally, as that army ever did, the leader designated by the President, and gave Meade their hearty support. He was succeeded in the command of the Fifth Corps by Major-General George Sykes, a veteran of the Mexican was and a distinguished soldier.
When General Meade assumed command, June 28th, the best information placed Longstreet at Chambersburg, A.P. Hill between that place and Cashtown, and Ewell in occupation of Carlisle, York, and the country between them, threatening Harrisburg, Unacquainted with Hooker's plans and views, he determined at once to move on the main line from Frederick to Harrisburg, extending his wings as far as compatible with a ready concentration, in order to force Lee to battle before he could cross the Susquehanna. With this view he spent the day in ascertaining the position of his army, and brought up his cavalry, Buford to his left, Gregg to his right, and Kilpatrick to the front. Directing French to occupy Frederick with seven thousand men of the garrison of Harper's Ferry, he put his army in motion early on the 29th. Kilpatrick reached Littlestown that night; and on the morning of the 30th the rear of his division, while passing through Hanover, was attacked by a portion of Stuart's cavalry. Stuart, availing himself of the discretion allowed him, had left Robertson's and Jones's brigades to guard the passes of the Blue Ridge, and on the night of the 24th, with those of Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee, and Chambliss, had started to move round the Army of the Potomac, pass between it and Centreville into Maryland, and so rejoin Lee; but the movements of that army forced him so far east that he was compelled to ford the Potomac near Seneca [20 miles above Washington], on the night of the 27th. Next morning, learning that Hooker had already crossed the river, he marched north by Rockville, where he captured a wagon train. Paroling his prisoners and taking the train with him, he pushed on-through Westminister, where he had a sharp action with a squadron of Delaware horse- to Union Mills, and encamped there on the 29th. During the night, he learned that the Federal army was still between him and Lee on its march north, and his scouts reported its cavalry in strong force at Littlestown, barring his direct road to Gettysburg; wherefore, on the morning of the 30th he moved across country to Hanover, Chambliss in front and Hampton in rear of his long train of two hundred wagons, with Fitzhugh Lee well out on his left flank. About 10 A. M. Chambliss, reaching Hanover, found Kilpatrick passing through the town and attacked him, but was driven out before Hampton or Lee could come to his support. Stuart's men and horses were now nearly worn out; he was encumbered with a large captured train; a junction with some part of Lee's army was a necessity, and he made a night march for York, only to learn that Early had left the day before. Pushing on to Carlisle, he found that Ewell was gone, and the place occupied by a militia force under General W. E. Smith. His demand of surrender was refused; he threw a few shells into the town and burned the Government barracks. That night he learned that Lee's army was concentrating at Gettysburg, and left for that place next day. Thus ended a raid which greatly embarressed Lee, and by which the services of three cavalry brigades were, in the critical period of the campaign, exchanged for a few hundred prisoners and a wagon train.
Hearing nothing from Stuart, and therefore believing that Hooker was still south of the Potomac, Lee, on the afternoon of the 28th, ordered Longstreet and A. P. Hill to join Ewell at Harrisburg; but late that night one of Longstreet's scouts came in and reported that the Federal army had crossed the river, that Meade had relieved Hooker and was at Frederick. Lee thereupon changed the rendezvous of his army to Cashtown, which place Heth reached on the 29th. Next day Heth sent Pettigrew's brigade on to Gettysburg, nine miles, to procure a supply of shoes. Nearing this place, Pettigrew discovered the advance of a large Federal force and returned to Cashtown. Hill immediately notified Generals Lee and Ewell, informing the latter that he would advance next morning on Gettysburg. Buford, sending Merritt's brigade to Mechanicstown as guard to his trains, had early on the morning of the 29th crossed into and moved up the Cumberland valley, good roads lead to all important points between the Susquehanna and the Potomac. It is therefore an important strategic position. On the west of the town, distant nearly half a mile, there is a somewhat elevated ridge running north and south, on which stands the "Lutheran Seminary." This ridge is covered with open woods through its whole length, and is terminated nearly a mile and a half north of the seminary by a commanding knoll, bare on its southern side, called Oak Hill. From this ridge the ground slopes gradually to the west, and again rising forms another ridge about 500 yards from the first, upon which, nearly opposite the seminary, stand McPherson's farm buildings. The second ridge is wider, smoother, and lower than the first, and Oak Hill, their intersection, has a clear view of the slopes of both ridges and of the valley between them. West of McPherson's ridge Willoughby Rn flows south into Marsh Creek. South of the farm buildings and directly opposite the seminary, a wood borders the run for about 300 yards, and streches back to the summit of McPherson's ridge. From the town two roads run: one south-west to Hagerstown via Fairfield, the other north-westerly to Chambersburg via Cashtown. The seminary is midway between them, about 300 yards from each. Parallel to and 150 yards north of the Chambersburg pike, is the bed of an unfinished railroad, with deep cuttinings through the two ridges. Directly north of the town the country is comparatively flat and open: on the east of it, Rock Creek flows south. On the south, and overlooking it, is a ridge of bold, high ground, terminated on the west by Cemetary Hill and on the east by Culp's Hill, which, bending to the south, extends half a mile or more and terminates in low grounds near Spangler's Spring. Culp's Hill is steep toward the east, is well wooded, and its eastern base is washed by Rock Creek.
Impressed by the importance of the position, Buford, expecting the early return of the enemy in force, assigned to Devin's brigade the country north, and to Gamble's that west of the town; sent out scouting parties on all the roads to collect information, and reported the condition of affairs to Reynolds. His pickits extended from below the Fairfield road, along hte estern bank of Willoghby Run, to the railroad cut, then easterly some 1500 yards north of the town, to a wooded hillock near Rock Creek.
On the night of June 30th Meade's headquarters and the Artillery Reserve were at Taneytown; the First COrps at Marsh Run, the Eleventh at Emmitsburg, Third at Bridgeport, Twelfth at Littlestown, Second at Uniontown, Fifth at Union Mills, Sixth and Gregg's cavalry at Manchester, Kilpatrick's at Hanover. A glance at the map will show at what disadvantage Meade's army was now placed. Lee's whole army was nearing Gettysburg, while Meade's was scattered over a wide region to the east and south of that town.
Meade was now convinced that all designs on the Susquehanna had been abandoned; but as Lee's corps were reported as occupying the country from Chambersburg to Carlisle, he ordered, for the next day's moves, the First and Eleventh corps to Gettysburg, under Reynolds, the Third to Emmitsburg, the Second to Taneytown, the Fifth to Hanover, and the Twelfth to Two Taverns, directing Slocum to take command of the Fifth in addition to his own. The Sixth Corps was left at Manchester, thirty-four miles from Gettysburg, to await orders. But Meade, while confronting to the current of Lee's movement, was not merely drifting. The same afternoon he directed the chiefs of engineers and artillery to selct a field of battle on which his army might be concentrated, whatever Lee's lines of approach, whether by Harrisburg or Gettysburg, - indicating the general line of Pipe Creek as a suitable locality. Carefully drawn instructions were sent to the corps commanders as to the occupation of this line, should it be ordered; but it was added that developments might cause the offensive to be assumed from present positions. These orders were afterward cited as indicating General Meade's intention not to fight at Gettysburg; but events finally controoled the actions of both leaders.
At 8 A. M., July 1st, Buford's scouts reported Heth's advance on the Cashtown road, when Gamble's brigade formed on McPherson's Ridge, from the Farifield road to the railroad cut; one section of Calef's battery A, 2d United States, near the left of his line, the other two across the Chambersburg or Cashtown pike. Devin fromed his disposable squandrons from Gamble's right toward Oak Hill, from which he had afterward to transfer them to the north of the town to meet Ewell. As Heth advanced, he threw Archer's brigade to the right, Davis's to the left of the Cashtown pike, with Petigrew's and Brockenbrough's brigades in support. The Confederates advance skirmishing heavily with Buford's dismounted troopers. Calef's battery, engaging double the number of its own guns, was served with an efficiency worthy of its fromer reputation as "Duncan's battery" in the Mexican war, and so enabled the cavalry to hold their long line for two hours. When Buford's report of the enemy's advance reached Reynolds, the latter, ordering Doubleday and Howard to follow, hastened toward Gettysburg with Wadsworth's small division (two brigades, Meredith's and Cutler's) and Hall's 2d Maine battery. As he approached he heard the sound of battle, and directing the troops to cross the fields toward the firing, galloped himself to the seminary, met Buford there, and both rode to the front, where the cavalry, dismounted, were gallantly holding their ground against heavy odds. After viewing the field, he sent back to hasten up Howard, and as the enemy's main line was now advancing to the attack, directed Doubleday, who had arrived in advance of his division, to look to the Fairfield road, sent Cutler with three of his five regiments north of the railroad cut, posted the other two under Colonel Fowler, of the 14th New York, south of the pike, and replaced Calef's battery by Hall's, thus relieving the cavalry. Cutler's line was hardly formed when it was struck by Davis's Confederate brigade on its front and right flank, whereupon Wadsworth, to save it, ordered it to fall back to Seminary Ridge. This order not reaching the 147th New York, its gallant major, Harney, held that regiment to its position until, having lost half its numbers, the order to retire was repeated. Hall's battery was now imperiled, and it withdrew by sections, fighting at close canister range and suffering severly. Fowler thereupon changed his front to face Davis's brigade, which held the cut, and with Dawe's 6th Wisconsin- sent by Doubleday to aid the 147th New York- charged and drove Davis from the field. The Confederate brigade suffered severly, losing all its field-officers but two, and a large proportion of its men killed and captured, being disabled for further effective service that day. In the meantime Archer's Confederate brigade had occupied McPherson's wood, and as the regiments of Meredith's "Iron Brigade" came up, they were sent forward by Doubleday, who fully recognized the importance of the position, to dislodge Archer. At the entrance of the wood they found Reynolds in person, and, animated by his presence, rushed to the charge, struck successive heavy blows, outflanked and turned the enemy's right, captured General Archer and a large portion of his brigade, and pursued the remainder across Willoughby Run. Wadsworth's small division had thus won decided successes against superior numbers, but it was at grievous cost to the army and the country, for Reynolds, while directing the operations, was killed in the wood by a sharp-shooter. It was not, however, until by his prompitude and gallantry he had dtermined the decisive field of the war, and had opened brilliantly a battle which required three days of hard fighting to close with a victory. To him may be applied in a wider sense than in its original one, Napier's happy eulogium on Ridge: "No man died on that field with more glory than he, yet many died, and there was much glory."
After the repulse of Davis and Archer, Heth's division was formed in line mostly south of the Cashtown pike, with Pender's in second line, Pegram's and McIntosh's artillery (nine batteries) occupying all the commanding positions west of Willoughby Run. Doubleday reestablished his former lines, Meredith holding McPherson's wood. Soon after, Rowley's and Robinson's divisions (two brigades each) and the four remaining batteries of the corps arrived. Rowley's division was thrown froward. Stone's brigade to the interval between Meredith and Cutler, and Biddle's with Cooper's battery to occupy the ridge between the wood and the Fairfield road. Reynolds's battery replaced Hall's, and Calef's rejoined Gamble's cavalry, now in reserve. Robinson's division was halted near the base of Seminary Ridge. By this time, near noon, General Howard arrived, assumed command, and directed General Shurz, commanding the Eleventh Corps, to prolong Doubleday's line toward Oak Hill with Schimmelfennig's and Barlow's divisions and three batteries, and to post Steinwehr's division and two batteries on Cemetary Hill, as rallying-point. By 1 o'clock, when this corps was arriving, Buford had reported Ewell's approach by the Heidlersburg road, and Howard called on Sickles at Emittsburg and Slocum at Two Taverns for aid, to which both these officers promptly responed. It was now no longer a question of prolonging Doubleday's line, but of protecting it against Ewell whilst engaged in front with Hill. Shurz's two divisions, hardly 6000 effectives, accordingly fromed line on the open plain half a mile north of the town. They were too weak to cover the ground, and a wide interval was left between the two corps, covered only by the fire of Diger's and Wheeler's batteries (ten guns) posted behind it.
That morning, whilst on the march to Cashtown, Ewell received Hill's notice that his corps was advancing to Gettysburg, upon which he turned the heads of his own columns to that point. Reporting the change by a staff-officer to General Lee, Ewell was instructed that if the Federals were in force at Gettysburg a general battle was not to be brought on until the rest of the army was up. Approaching Gettysburg, Rodes, guided by the sounds of battle, followed the prolongation of Seminary Ridge; Iverson's, Daniel's, and Ramseur's brigades on the western, O'Neal's and Doles on the eastern slope. Ewell, recognizing the importance of Oak Hill, ordered it to be occupied by Carter's artillery battalion, which immediately opened on both the Federal corps, enfilading Doubleday's line. This caused Wadsworth again to withdraw Cutler to Seminary Ridge, and Reynold's battery was posted near McPherson's house, under partial cover. Stone therefore placed two of his three regiments on the Cashtown pike, so as to face Oak Hill. This left an interval between Stone and Cutler, through which Cooper and Reynolds could fire with effect, and gave to these lines a cross-fire on troops entering the angle between them. Robinson now sent his two brigades to strngthen Cutler's right. They took post behing the stone walls of a field, Paul's brigade facing west, Baxter's north. Rodes, regarding this advance, gave orders at 2:30 P. M. to attack. Iverson, sweeping round to his left, engaged Paul, who prolonged Cutler's line, and O'Neal attacked Baxter. The repulse of O'Neal soon enabled Baxter to turn upon Iverson. Cutler also attacked him in flank, and after losing 500 men killed and wounded, 3 of Iverson's regiments surrendered. General Robinson reports the capture of 1000 prisoners and 3 colors; General Paul was severly wounded, losing both eyes. Meanwhile Daniel's brigade advanced directly on Stone, who maintained his lines against this attack and also Brockenbrough's, of Hill's corps, but was soon severly wounded. Colonel Wister, who succeded him, met the same fate, and Colonel Dana took command of the brigade. Ramseur, who followed Daniel, by a conversation to the left, now faced Robinson and Cutler with his own brigade, the remnant of Iverson's, and one regiment of O'Neal's, his right connecting with Daniel's left, and the fighting became hot. East of the ridge, Dole's brigade had been held in observation, but about 3:30 p. m., on the advance of Early, he sent his skirmishers forward and drove those of Devin- who had gallantly held the enemy's advance in check with his dismounted troopers- from their line and its hillock on rock Creek. Barlow, considering this an eligible position for his own right, advanced his division, supported by Wileson's battery, and seized it. This made it necessary for Schurz to advance a brigade of Shimmelfennig's division to connect with Barlow, thus lengthening his already too extended line.
The arrival of Early's division had by this time brought an overwhelming force on the flank and rear of the Eleventh Corps. On the east of Rock Creek, Jones's artillery battalion, within easy range, enfiladed its whole line and took it in reserve, while the brigades, of Gordon, Hays, and Avery in line, with Smith's in reserve, advanced about 4 p. m. upon Barlow's position, Doles, of Rodes's division, connecting with Gordon. An obstinate and bloody contest ensued, in which Barlow was desperately wounded, Wilkeson killed, and the whole corps forced back to its original line, on which, with the aid of Coster's brigade and Heckman's battery, drawn from Cemetary Hill, Schurz endeavored to rally it and cover the town. The fighting here was well sustained, but the Confederate force was overpowering in numbers, and the troops retreated to Cemetary Hill, Ewell entering the town about 4:30 p. m. These retrograde movements had uncovered the flank of the First Corps and made its right untenable.
Meanwhile, that corps had been heavily engaged along its whole line; for, on the approach of Rodes, Hill attacked with both his divisions. There were thus opposed to the single disconnected Federal line south of the Cashtown pike two solid Confederate ones which outfalcked their left a quarter of a mile or more. Biddle's small command, less than a thousand men, after a severe contest, was gradually forced back. In McPherson's wood and beyond, Meredith's and Dana's brigades repeatedly repulsed their assailants, but as Biddle's retirement uncovered their left, they too fell back to successive positions from which they inflicted heavy losses, until finally all three reached the foot of Seminary Ridge, where Colonel Wainwright, commanding the corps artillery, had planted twelve guns south of the Cashtown pike, with Stewart's battery, manned in part by men of the Iron Brigade, north of it. Buford had already thrown half of Gamble's dismounted men south of the Farifield road. Heth's division had suffered so severely that Pender's had passed to its front, thus bringing fresh troops to bear on the exhausted Federal line.
It was about 4 p. m. when the whole Confederate line advanced to the final attack. On their right Gamble held Lane's brigade for some time in check, Perrin's and Scale's suffered severely, and Scale's was broken up, for Stewart, swinging half his guns, under Lieutenant Davison, upon the Cashtown pike, raked it. The whole corps being now heavily pressed and its right uncovered, Doubleday gave the order to fall back to Cemetary Hill, which was effected in comparatively good order, the rear, covered by the 7th Wisconsin, turning when necessary to check pursuit. Colonel Wainwright, mistaking the order, had clung with his artillery to Seminary Hill, until, seeing the infantry retreating to the town, he moved his batteries down the Cashtown pike until they were compelled to abandon one gun on the road, all its horses being killed. The Eleventh Corps also left a disabled gun on the field. Of the troops who passed through the town, many, pricipally men of the Eleventh Corps, got entangled in the streets, lost their way, and were captured.
On ascending Cemetary Hill, the retreating troops found Steinwehr's division in position covered by stone fences on the slopes, and occupying by their skirmishes the houses in front of their line. As they arrived they were formed, the Eleventh Corps on the right, the First Corps on the left of Steinwehr. As the batteries came up, they were well posted by Colonels Wainwright and Osborn, and soon a formidable array of artillery was ready to cover with its fire all the approaches. Buford assembled his command on the plain west of Cemetary Hill, covering the left flank and presenting a firm front to any attempt at pursuit. The First Corps found a small reenforcement awaiting it, in the 7th Indiana, part of the train escort, which brought up nearly five hundred fresh men. Wadsworth met them and led them to Culp's Hill, where under direction of Captain Pattison of that regiment, a defensive line was marked out. Their brigade (Cutler's) soon joined them; wood and stone were plentiful, and soon the right of the line was solidly established.
Nor was there wanting other assurance to the men who had fought so long that their sacrifices had not been in vain. As they reached the hill they were received by General Hancock, who arrived just as they were coming up from the town, under orders from General Meade to assume the command. His person was well known; his presence inspired confidence, and it implied also the near approach of his army-corps. He ordered Wadsworth at once to Culp's Hill to secure that important position, and aided by Howard, by Warren who had also just arrived from headquarters, and by others, a strong line, well flanked, was soon formed.
General Lee, who from Seminary Hill had witnessed the final attack, sent Colonel Long, of his staff, a competent officer of sound judgment, to examine the position, and directed Ewell to carry it if practicable, renewing, however, his previous warning to avoid bringing on a general engagement until the army was up. Both Ewell, who was making some preparations with a view to attack, and Long found the position a formidable one, strongly occupyied and not accessible to artillery fire. Ewell's men were indeed in no condition for an immediate assault. Of Rodes's eight thousand, nearly three thousand were hors de combat. Early had lost over five hundred, and had but two brigades disposable, the other two having been sent on the report of the advance of Federal troops, probably the Twelfth Corps, then near by, to watch the York road. Hill's two divisions had been very roughly handled, and had lost heavily, and he withdrew them to Seminary Hill as Ewell entered the town, leaving the latter with not more than eight thousand men to secure the town and the prisoners. Ewell's absent divis