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Battle Report Of Gettysburg Campaign • By Robert E. Lee [1863]

 

Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia January 20, 1864 General:

I forward today my report of the late campaign of this army in Maryland & Pennsylvania, together with those of the corps and other commanders so far as they have been received. General Longstreet's list of casualties and the reports of his subordinate officers shall be sent as soon as they can be obtained from him. I also forward the report of the Medical Director, and some other documents mentioned in the accompanying schedule. With reference to the former I would remark that it is necessarily imperfect for reasons stated in my report. The actual casualties & the number of missing can only be learned from the reports of the commanding officers, and it should be borne in mind that they usually embrace all the slightly wounded, even such as remain on duty, under the impression commonly entertained that the loss sustained is a measure of the service performed and the danger incurred. I also enclose a map of the routes of the army, and one of the lines at Hagerstown & Williamsport. That of the battlefield of Gettysburg shall be forwarded as soon as completed.

Very respectfully, your obt servt

R.E.LEE GenI

I have the honor to submit a detailed report of the operations of this army from the time it left the vicimty of Fredericksburg early in June to its occupation of the line of the Rapidan in August. Upon the retreat of the Federal Army commanded by Major General Hooker from Chancellorsvillc, it reoccupied the ground north of the Rappahannock opposite Fredericksburg, where it could not be attacked except at a disadvantage. It was determined to draw it from this position, and if practicable to transfer the scene of hostilities beyond the Potomac. The execution of this purpose also embraced the expulsion of the force under General Milroy which had infested the lower Shenandoah Valley during the preceding winter & spring. If unahle to attain the valuable results which might be expected to follow a decided advantage gained over the enemy in Maryland or Pennsylvania, it was hoped that we should at least so far disturb the plan for the summer campaign as to prevent its execution during the season of active operations. The commands of Longstreet and Ewell were put in motion and encamped around Culpeper Court House on the 7th June. As soon as their march was discovered by the enemy, he threw a force across the Rappahannock about two miles below Fredericksburg, apparently for the purpose of observation. Hill's corps was left to watch these troops, with instructions to follow the movements of the army as soon as they should retire.

The cavalry under General Stuart, which had been concentrated near Culpeper Court House, was attacked on the 9th June by a large force of Federal cavalry supported by infantry, which crossed the Rappahannock at Beverly's and Kelly's Fords. After a severe engagement, which continued from early in the morning until late in the afternoon, the enemy was compelled to recross the river with heavy loss, leaving about five hundred prisoners, three pieces of artillery and several colors In our hands. General Imboden and General Jenkins had been ordered to cooperate in the projected expedition into the Valley, General Imboden by moving toward Romney with his command, to prevent the troops guarding the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from reinforcing those at Winchester, while General Jenkins advanced directly towards the latter place with his cavalry brigade, supported by a battalion of infantry & a battery of the Maryland Line. General Ewell left Culpeper Court House on the 10th June. He crossed the branches of the Shenandoah near Front Royal, and reached Cedarville on the 7th, where he was joined by General Jenkins. Detaching General Rodes with his division and the greater part of Jenkins' brigade to dislodge a force of the enemy stationed at Berryville, General Ewell with the rest of his command moved upon Winchester, Johnson's division advancing by the Front Royal road, Early's by the Valley turnpike, which it entered at Newtown, where it was joined by the Maryland troops.

BATTLE OF WINCHESTER The enemy was driven in on both roads, and our troops halted in line of battle near the town on the evening of the i3th. The same day the force which had occupied Berryville retreated to Winchester on the approach of General Rodes. The following morning General Ewell ordered General Early to carry an entrenched position northwest of Win- chester, near the Pughtown road, which the latter officer upon examining the ground discovered would command the principal fortifications. To cover the movement of General Early, General Johnson took position between the road to Miliwood and that to Berryville, and advanced his skirmishers towards the town. General Early, leaving a portion of his command to engage the enemy's attention, with the remainder gained a favorable position without being perceived, and about 5 p.m. twenty pieces of artillery under Lieut Col Hilary P. Jones opened suddenly upon the entrenchments. The enemy's guns were soon silenced. Hays' brigade then advanced to the assault & carried the works by storm, capturing six rifled pieces, two of which were turned upon and dispersed a column which was forming to retake the position. The enemy immediately abandoned the works on the left of those taken by Hays, and retired into his main fortifications which General Early prepared to assail in the morning. The loss of the advanced works however rendered the others untenable, and the enemy retreated in the night, abandoning his sick and wounded, together with his artillery, wagons, and stores. Anticipating such a movement as soon as he heard of Early's success, General Ewell directed General Johnson to occupy with part of his command a point on the Martinsburg road about two and a half miles from Winchester, where he could either intercept the enemy's retreat, or aid in an attack should further resistance be offered in the morning.

General Johnson marched with Nicholls' and part of Steuart's brigades, accompanied by Lieut Col Andrews with a detachment of his artillery, the Stonewall Brigade being ordered to follow. Finding the road to the place indicated by General Ewell difficult of passage in the darkness, General Johnson pursued that leading by Jordan's Springs to Stephenson's Depot, where he took a favorable position on the Martinsburg road, about five miles from Winchester. Just as his line was formed, the retreating column consisting of the main body of General Milroy's army arrived and immediately attacked him. The enemy though in superior force, consisting of both infantry and cavalry, was gallantly repulsed, and finding all efforts to cut his way unavailing, he sent strong flanking parties simultaneously to the right and left, still keeping up a heavy fire in front. The party on the right was driven back and pursued by the Stonewall Brigade, which opportunely arrived. That on the left was broken and dispersed by the 2d and ioth Louisiana Regiments aided by the artillery, and in a short time nearly the whole infantry force, amounung to more than twenty three hundred men with eleven stand of colors, surrendered, the cavalry alone escaping. General Milroy with a small party of fugitives fled to Harper's Ferry. The number of prisoners taken in this action exceeded the force engagcd undcr General Johnson, who speaks in terms of well deserved praise of the conduct of the officers and men of his command. In the meantime General Rodes marched from Berryville to Martinsburg, reaching the latter place in the afternoon of the 14th.

The enemy made a show of resistance but soon gave way, the cavalry and artillery retreating towards Williamsport, the infantry towards Shepherdstown, under cover of night. The route taken by the latter was not known until it was too late to follow but the former were pursued so rapidly, Jenkins' troops leading, that they were forced to abandon five of their six pieces of artillery. About two hundred prisoners were taken, but the enemy destroyed nost of his stores. These operations resulted in the expulsion of the enemy from the Valley, the capture of four thousand prisoners, with a corresponding number of small arms, twentyeight pieces of superior artillery, including those taken by General Rodes and General Hays, about three hundred wagons and as many horses, together with a considerable quantity of ordnance, commissary, and quartermaster's stores. Our entire loss was 47 killed, 219 wounded, and three missing.

MARCH INTO PENNSYLVANIA On the night of Ewell's appearance at Winchester, the enemy in front of A. P. Hill at Fredericksburg recrossed the Rappahannock, and the whole army of General Hooker withdrew from the north side of the river. In order to mislead him as to our intentions, and at the same time protect Hill's corps in its march up the Rappahannock, Longstreet left Culpeper Court House on the l5th, and advancing along the eastern side of the Blue Ridge, occupied Ashby's and Snicker's Gaps. He had been joined, while at Culpeper, by General Pickett, with three brigades of his division. General Stuart with three brigades of cavalry moved on Longstreet's right, and took position in front of the gaps. Hampton's and Jones' brigades remained along the Rappahannock and Hazel Rivers in front of Culpeper Court House with instructions to follow the main body as soon as Hill's corps had passed that point. On the 17th Fitz Lee's brigade under Colonel Munford, which was on the road to Snicker's Gap, was attacked near Aldie by the Federal cavalry. The attack was repulsed with loss, and the brigade held its ground until ordered to fall back, its right being threatened by another body coming from Hopewell towards Middleburg. The latter force was driven from Middleburg and pursued towards Hopewell by Robertson's brigade, which arrived about dark. Its retreat was intercepted by W. H. F. Lee's brigade under Colonel Chambliss, Jr., and the greater part of a regiment captured. During the three succeeding days there was much skirmishing, General Stuart taking a position west of Middleburg where he awaited the rest of his command. General Jones arrived on the j9th, and General Hampton in the afternoon of the following day, having repulsed on his march a cavalry force sent to reconnoiter in the direction of Warrenton. On the 21st the enemy attacked with infantry and cavalry, and obliged GenI Stuart, after a brave resistance, to fall back to the gaps of the mountains. The enemy retired the next day, having advanced only a short distance beyond Upperville. In these engagements the cavalry sustained a loss of five hundred and ten killed, wounded, and missing. Among them were several valuable officers whose names are mentioned in GenI Stuart's report. One piece of artillery was disabled and left on the field.

The enemy's loss was heavy. About four hundred prisoners were taken and several stand of colors. The Federal Army was apparently guarding the approaches to Washington, and manifested no disposition to resume the offensive. In the meantime the progress of Ewell, who was already in Maryland, with Jenkins' cavalry advanced into Pennsylvania as far as Chambersburg, rendered it necessary that the rest of the army should be within supporting distance, and Hill having reached the Valley, Longstreet was withdrawn to the west side of the Shenandoah, and the two corps encamped near Berryville. General Stuart was directed to hold the mountain passes with part of his command as long as the enemy remained south of the Potonac, and with the remainder to cross into Maryland and place himself on the right of General Ewell. Upon the suggestion of the former officer that he could damage the enemy and delay his passage of the river by getting in his rear, he was authorized to do so, and it was left to his discretion whether to enter Maryland cast or west of the Blue Ridge, but he was instructed to lose no time in placing his command on the right of our column as soon as he should perceive the enemy moving northward. On the 22d General Ewell marched into Pennsylvania with Rodes' and Johnson's divisions preceded by Jenkins' cavalry, taking the road from Hagerstown through Chambersburg to Carlisle, where he arrived on the 27th. Early's division, which had occupied Boonsboro, moved by a parallel road to Greenwood, and in pursuance of instructions previously The advance of the enemy to the latter place was unknown, and the weather being inclement, the march was conducted with a view to the comfort of the troops.

Heth's division reached Cashtown on the 29th, and the following morning Pettigrew's brigade, sent by GenI Heth to procure supplies at Gettysburg, found it occupied by the enemy. Being ignorant of the extent of his force General Pettigrew was unwilling to hazard an attack with his single brigade and returned to Cashtown. General Hill arrived with Pender's division in the evening, and the following morning, July lSt, advanced with these two divisions, accompanied by Pegram's and McIntosh's battalions of artillery, to ascertain the strength of the enemy, whose force was supposed to consist chiefly of cavalry. The leading division under General Heth found the enemy's vedettes about three miles west of Gettysburg, and continued to advance until within a mile of the town, when two brigades were sent forward to reconnoiter. They drove in the advance of the enemy very gallantly, but subsequently encountered largely superior numbers, and were compelled to retire with loss, Brigadier General Archer, commanding one of the brigades, being taken prisoner. General Heth then prepared for action, and as soon as Pender arrived to support him, was ordered by General Hill to advance. The artillery was placed in position and thc cngagement opened with vigor. General Heth pressed the enemy steadily back, breaking his first and second lines, and attacking his third with great resolution. About 2 _ p.m. the advance of Ewell's corps, consisting of Rodes' division, with Carter's battalion of artillery, arrived by the Middletown road, and forming on Heth's left, nearly at right angles with his line, became warmly engaged with fresh numbers of the enemy. Heth's troops having suffered heavily in their protracted contest with a superior force were relieved by Pender's and Early coming up by the Heidlersburg road soon afterward took position on the left of Rodes, when a general advance was made. The enemy gave way on all sides and was driven through Gettysburg with great loss. Major General Reynolds, who was in command, was killed. More than five thousand prisoners, exclusive of a large number of wounded, threc pieces of artillery, and several colors were captured.

Among the prisoners were two brigadier generals, one of whom was wounded. Our own loss was heavy, including a number of officers, among whom were Major General Heth, slightly, and Brigadier General Scales, of Pender's division, severely, wounded. The enemy retired to a range of hills south of Gettysburg, where he displayed a strong force of infantry and artillery. It was ascertained from the prisoners that we had been engaged with two corps of the army formerly commanded by General Hooker, and that the remainder of that army under General Meade was approaching Gettysburg. Without information as to its proximity, the strong position which the enemy had assumed could not be attacked without danger of exposing the four divisions present, already weakened and exhausted by a long and bloody struggle, to overwhelming numbers of fresh troops. General Ewell was therefore instructed to carry the hill occupied by the enemy if he found it practicable, but to avoid a general engagement until the arrival of the other divisions of the army which were ordered to hasten forward. He decided to await Johnson's division, which had marched from Carlisle by the road west of the mountains to guard the trains of his corps, and consequently did not reach Gettysburg until a late hour. In the meantime the enemy occupied the point which General Ewell designed to seize, but in what force could not be ascertained owing to the darkness. An intercepted dispatch showed that another corps had halted that afternoon four miles from Gettysburg. Under these circumstances it was decided not to attack until the arrival of Longstreet, two of whose divisions, those ofHood and McLaws encamped about four miles in the rear during the night. Anderson's division of Hill's corps came up after the engagement. It had not been intended to deliver a general battle so far from our base unless attacked, but coming unexpectedly upon the whole Federal Army, to withdraw through the mountains with our extensive trains would have been difficult and dangerous. At the same time we were unable to await an attack, as the country was unfavorable for collecting sup plies in the presence of the enemy who could restrain our foraging parties by holding the mountain passes with local and other troops.

A battle had therefore become in a measure unavoidable, and the success already gained gave hope of a favorable issue. The enemy occupied a strong position, with his right upon two commanding elevations adjacent to each other, one southeast and the other known as Cemetery Hill immediately south of the town, which lay at its base. His line extended thence upon the high ground along the Emmitsburg road, with a steep ridge in rear, which was also occupied. This ridge was difficult of ascent, particularly the two hills above mentioned as forming its northern extremity, and a third at the other end on which the enemy's left rested. Numerous stone and rail fences along the slope served to afford protection to his troops and impede our advance. In his front the ground was undulating and generally open for about three quarters of a mile. General Ewell's corps constituted our left, Johnson's division being opposite the height adjoining Cemetery Hill, Early's in the center, in front of the north face of the latter, and Rodes upon his right. Hill's corps faced the west side of Cemetery Hill, and extended nearly parallel to the Emmitsburg road, making an angle with Ewell's. Pender's division formed his left, Anderson's his right, Heth's, under Brigadier General Petrigrew, being in reserve. His artillery under Colonel Walker, was posted in eligible position along his line. It was determined to make the principal attack upon the enemy's left and endeavor to gain a position from which it was thought that our artillery could be brought to bear with effect. Longstreet was directed to place the divisions of MeLaws and Hood on the right of Hill, partially enveloping the enemy's left, which he was to drive in. General Hill was ordered to threaten the enemy's center, to prevent reinforcements being drawn to either wing, and cooperate with his right division in Longstrcet's attack. General Ewell was instructed to make a simultaneous demonstration upon the enemy's right, to be converted into a real attack should opportunity offer About four p.m.

Longstreet's batteries opened, and soon afterwards Hood's division on the extreme right moved to the attack. McLaws followed somewhat later, four of Anderson's brigades, those of Wilcox, Perry, Wright, and Posey supporting him on the left in the order named. The enemy was soon driven from his position on the Emmitsburg road to the cover of a ravine and a line of stone fences at the foot of the ridge in his rear. He was dislodged from these after a severe struggle, and retired up the ridge, leaving a number of his batteries in our possession. Wilcox's and Wright's brigades advanced with great gallantry, breaking successive lines of the enemy's infantry, and compelling him to abandon much of his artillery. Wilcox reached the foot and Wright gained the crest of the ridge itself, driving the enemy down the opposite side. But haing become separated from McLaws and gone beyond the other two bn.gadcs of the division they were attacked in front and on both flanks and compelled to retire, being unable to bring off any of the captured artillery. McLaws' left also fell back, and it being now nearly dark General Longstreet determined to await the arrival of General Pickett. He disposed his command to hold the ground gained on the right, withdrawing his left to the first position from which the enemy had been driven. Four pieces of artillery, several hundred prisoners, and two regimental flags were taken. As soon as the engagement began on our right, General Johnson opened with his artillery, and about two hours later advanced up the hill next to Cemetery Hill with three brigades, the fourth being detained by a demonstration on his left. Soon afterwards General Early attacked Cemetery Hill with two brigades, supported by a third, the fourth having been previously detached.

The enemy had greatly increased the strength of the positions assailed by Johnson and Early by earthworks. The troops of the former moved steadily up the steep and rugged ascent under a heavy fire, driving the enemy into his entrenchments, part of which was carried by Steuart's brigade, and a number of prisoners taken. The contest was continued to a late hur, but without further advantage. On Cemetery Hill the attack by Early's leading brigades, those of Hays and\ Hoke, under Colonel Avery, was made with vigor. Two lines of the enemy's infantry were dislodged from the cover of some stone and board fences on the side of the ascent and driven back into the works on the crest into which our troops forced their way and seized several pieces of artillery. A heavy force advanced against their right which was without support and they were compelled to retire, bringing with them about a hundred prisoners and four stand of colors. General Ewell had directed General Rodes to attack in concert with Early, covering his right, and had requested Brigadier General [James H.] Lane, then commanding Pender's division, to cooperate on the right of Rodes. When the time to attack arrived, General Rodes, not having his troops in position, was unprepared to cooperate with General Early, and before he could get in readiness the latter had been obliged to retire for want of the expected support on his right. General Lane was prepared to give the assistance required of him, and so informed General Rodes, but the latter deemed it useless to advance after the failure of Early's attack. In this engagement our loss in men and officers was large.

Major Generals Hood and Pender, Brigadier Generals Jones,Semmes, George T. Anderson, and [William] Barksdale, and Colonel Avery commanding Hoke's brigade, were wounded, the last two mortally. Generals Pender and Senmes died after their removal to Virginia. The result of this day's operations induced the belief that with proper concert of action, and with the increased support that the positions gained on the right would enable the artillery to render the assaulting columns, we should ultimately succeed, and it was accordingly determined to continue the attack. 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 directed to assail the enemy's right at the same time. The latter, during the night, reinforced General Johnson with two brigades from Rodes' and one from Earlv's division. General Longstreet's dispositions were not completed as early as was expected, but before notice could be sent to General Ewell, General Johnson had already become engaged, and it was too late to recall him. The enemy attempted to recover the works taken the preceding evening but was repulsed, and General Johnson attacked in turn. After a gallant and prolonged struggle, in which the enemy was forced to abandon part of his entrenchments, General Johnson found himself unable to carry the strongly fortified crest of the hill. The projected attack on the enemy's left not having been made he was enabled to hold his right with a force largely superior to that of General Johnson, and finally to threaten his flank and rear, rendering it necessary for him to retire to his original position about one p.m.