THE eve of the great battle was crowded with events. Movements for the concentration of the two vast armies went on in mighty force, but with a silence in strong contrast to the swift-coming commotion of their shock in conflict. It was the pent quiet of the gathering storm whose bursting was to shake the continent and suddenly command the startled attention of the world.
After due preparation for our march of the 29th, all hands turned in early for a good night's rest. My mind had hardly turned away from the cares and labors of the day, when I was aroused by some one beating on the pole of my tent. It proved to be Assistant Inspector-General Fairfax. A young man had been arrested by our out-lying pickets under suspicious circumstances. He was looking for General Longstreet's head-quarters, but his comfortable apparel and well-to-do, though travel-stained, appearance caused doubt in the minds of the guards of his being a genuine Confederate who could be trusted about head-quarters. So he was sent up under a file of men to be identified. He proved to be Harrison, the valued scout. He had walked through the lines of the Union army during the night of the 27th and the 28th, secured a mount at dark of the latter day to get in as soon as possible, and brought information of the location of two corps of Federals at night of the 27th, and approximate positions of others. General Hooker had crossed the Potomac on the 25th and 26th of June. On the 27th he had posted two army corps at Frederick, and the scout reported another near them, and two others near South Mountain, as he escaped their lines a little after dark of the 28th. He was sent under care of Colonel Fairfax to make report of his information at general head-quarters. General Lee declined, however, to see him, though he asked Colonel Fairfax as to the information that he brought, and, on hearing it, expressed want of faith in reports of scouts, in which Fairfax generally agreed, but suggested that in this case the information was so near General Longstreet's ideas of the probable movements of the enemy that he gave credit to it. I also sent up a note suggesting a change of direction of the head of our column east. This I thought to be the first and necessary step towards brining the two armies to such concentration east as would enable us to find a way to draw the enemy into battle, in keeping with the general plan of campaign, and at the same time draw him off from the travel of our trains.
There were seven corps of the Army of the Potomac afield. We were informed on the 28th Of the approximate positions of five of them, -three near Frederick and two near the base of South Mountain. The others, of which we had no definite information, we now know were the Sixth (Sedgwick's), south of Frederick and east of the Monocacy, and the Twelfth, towards Harper's Ferry.
On the 26th, General Hooker thought to use the Twelfth Corps and the garrison of Harper's Ferry to strike the line of our communication, but General Halleck forbade the use of the troops of that post, when General Hooker asked to be relieved of the responsibility of command, and was succeeded by General Meade on the night of the 27th.
If General Hooker had been granted the authority for which he applied, he would have struck our trains, exposed from Chambersburg to the Potomac without a cavalryman to ride and report the trouble. General Stuart was riding around Hooker's army, General Robertson was in Virginia, General Imboden at Hancock, and Jenkins s cavalry was at our front with General Ewell.
By the report of the scout we found that the march of Ewell's east wing had failed of execution and of the effect designed, and that heavy columns of the enemy were hovering along the east base of the mountain. To remove this pressure towards our rear, General Lee concluded to make a more serious demonstration and force the enemy to look eastward. With this view he changed direction of the proposed march north, by counter-orders on the night of the 28th, calling concentration east of the mountains at Cashtown, and his troops began their march under the last orders on the 29th.
It seems that General Hill misconstrued the orders of the day, or was confused by the change of orders, and was under the impression that he was to march by York and cross the Susquehanna towards Philadelphia or Harrisburg. He ordered his leading division under Heth to Cashtown, however, and followed with Pender's division on the 30th, leaving orders for the division of R. H. Anderson to follow on the 1st. The purpose of General Lee's march east was only preliminary, – a concentration about Cashtown.
General Ewell was ready to march for Harrisburg on the 29th, when orders reached him of the intended concentration at Cashtown. He was at Carlisle with Rodes's and E. Johnson's divisions and the reserve artillery; his other division under Early was at York. On the 30th, Rodes was at Heidlersburg, Early near by, and Johnson, with the reserve artillery, near Green Village.
Pettigrew's brigade of Heth's division, advancing towards Gettysburg on the 30th, encountered Buford's cavalry and returned to Cashtown.
On the 29th, General Meade wired General Halleck, –
"If Lee is moving for Baltimore, I expect to get between his main army and that place. If he is crossing the Susquehanna, I shall rely upon General Couch, with his force, holding him, until I can fall upon his rear and give him battle, which I shall endeavor to do. . .. My endeavor will be, in my movements, to hold my force well together, with the hope of falling upon some portion of Lee's army in detail."
As the change of orders made Gettysburg prominent as the point of impact, the positions of the commands relative thereto and their distances therefrom are items of importance in considering the culmination of events
POSITIONS OF ARMY OF NORTHERN Virginia, Night OF JUNE 30.
General Lee's head-quarters, Greenwood.
First Corps, Chambersburg, twenty four miles to Gettysburg; part at Greenwood, sixteen miles.
Second Corps and Jenkins's cavalry, Heidlersburg, ten miles; part near Green Village, twenty-three miles (Johnson's division and trains).
Third Corps, near Greenwood, sixteen miles, and Cashtown, eight miles.
Stuart's cavalry, circling between York and Carlisle, out of sight.
Robertson's cavalry, in Virginia, beyond reach.
Imboden' s cavalry, at Hancock, out of sight.
The Confederates not intending to precipitate battle.
POSITIONS OF ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.
General Meade's head-quarters, Taneytown, fourteen miles.
General Hunt, artillery reserve, Taneytown.
First Corps, Marsh Run, six miles.
Second Corps, Uniontown, twenty- two miles.
Third Corps, Bridgeport, twelve miles.
Fifth Corps, Union Mills, fifteen miles
Sixth Corps, Manchester, twenty-two miles.
Eleventh Corps, Emmitsburg, twelve miles.
Twelfth Corps, Littletown, nine miles.
Kilpatrick's cavalry, Hanover, thirteen miles.
Gregg's cavalry, Manchester, twenty-two miles.
Buford's cavalry, Gettysburg.
It should be borne in mind that the field of contention was south and east of Gettysburg, so that the Union troops were from two to four miles nearer their formation for battle than were the Confederates, who had to march from two to four miles beyond the town.
Referring to the map, it may he seen that the Confederate corps had two routes by which to march for concentration -viz., from Heidlersburg to Cashtown, part of the Second Corps on the road from Chambersburg, the First, Third, and part of the Second Corps (with all of the trains of the latter), with but a single track, the Chambersburg-Gettysburg turnpike. Some of their distances were greater than any of the columns of the enemy, while the Army of the Potomac had almost as many routes of march as commands, and was marching from day to day anticipating a general engagement, which they were especially cautioned on the 30th was imminent.
General Hill decided to go beyond Cashtown on the 1st to ascertain as to the enemy reported at Gettysburg. He gave notice of his intentions to General Ewell, and sent back to the commanding general to have Anderson's division sent forward. He was at Cashtown with Heth's and Pender's divisions and their batteries, his reserve artillery with Anderson's division at Fayetteville.
The armies on the night of June 30 stood thus:
The Confederate: First Corps, two divisions at Greenwood (except one brigade detached under orders from head-quarters at New Guilford) ; Pickett's three brigades
at Chambersburg, left under orders from head-quarters to guard trains; the second Corps, two divisions near Heidlersburg, one near and north of Chambersburg; the Third Corps at Cashtown and Fayetteville; cavalry not in sight or hearing, except Jenkins's brigade and a small detachment.
The Union army: the First Corps on Marsh Run, the Second at Uniontown, the Third at Bridgeport, the Fifth at Union Mills, the Sixth at Manchester, the Eleventh at Emmitsburg, the Twelfth at Littletown, Fitzpatrick's cavalry at Hanover, Buford's at Gettysburg (except one brigade, detached, guarding his trains). General Meade's head-quarters and reserve artillery were at Taneytown. His army, including cavalry, in hand.
General Lee's orders called his troops on converging lines towards Cashtown, but he found that part of his infantry must be left at Chambersburg to a wait the Imboden cavalry, not up, and one of Hood's brigades must be detached on his right at New Guilford to guard on that side in place of Robertson's cavalry (in Virginia). So that as he advanced towards his adversary, the eyes and ears of his army were turned afar off, looking towards the homes of non-combatants. It is bootless to this writing to restate whence came this mishap. There is no doubt it greatly disturbed General Lee's mind, and he would have called a halt under ordinary circumstances, but his orders did not contemplate immediate movements beyond Cashtown. In that he felt safe, depending upon his cavalry coming up in time to meet him there.
He was in his usual cheerful spirits on the morning of the 1st, and called me to ride with him. My column was not well stretched on the road before it encountered the division of E. Johnson (Second Corps) cutting in on our front, with all of Ewell's reserve and supply trains. He ordered the First Corps halted, and directed that Johnson's division and train should pass on to its corps, the First to wait. During the wait I dismounted to give Hero a little respite. (The Irish groom had christened my favorite horse "Haro.")
After a little time General Lee proposed that we should ride on, and soon we heard reports of cannon. The fire seemed to be beyond Cashtown and as it increased he left me and rode faster for the front.
The brigades of Gamble and Devin of Buford's cavalry were the force that met Pettigrew's brigade on the afternoon of the 30th, when the latter retired to the post of the divisions at Cashtown.
From Gettysburg roads diverge to the passes of the mountains, the borders of the Potomac and Susquehanna, and the cities of Baltimore and Washington; so that it was something of a strategic point. From the west side two broad roads run, one northwest to Chambersburg via Cashtown, the other southwest through Fairfield to Hagerstown. They cross an elevated ridge, a mile out north, and south of the Lutheran Seminary, known to the Confederates as Seminary Ridge, covered by open forests. At the northward, about two miles from the town, the ridge divides, a lesser ridge putting out west, and presently taking a parallel course with the greater. This was known as McPherson's Ridge, and was about five hundred yards from the first, where the road crosses it. Nearly parallel with the Chambersburg pike and about two hundred yards distant was the cut of an unfinished railroad. Willoughby's Run flows south in a course nearly parallel to and west of the ridge, and is bordered by timbered lands. North of Gettysburg the grounds are open and in fair fields, Directly south of it a bold ridge rises with rough and steep slopes. The prominent point of the south ridge is Cemetery Hill, and east of this is Culp's Hill, from which the ridge turns sharply south half a mile, and drops off into low grounds. It was well wooded and its eastern ascent steep. East of it and flowing south is Rock Creek. From Cemetery Hill the ground is elevated, the ridge sloping south to the cropping out of Little Round Top, Devil's Den, and the bolder Round Top, the latter about three miles south of the town. Cemetery Hill is nearly parallel to Seminary Ridge, and is more elevated.
At five o'clock on the morning of July 1, General A. P. Hill marched towards Gettysburg with the divisions of Heth and Pender, and the battalions of artillery under Pegram and McIntosh, Heth's division and Pegram's artillery in advance. R.H. Anderson's division, with the reserve artillery left at Fayetteville, was ordered to march and halt at Cashtown. About ten o'clock Heth encountered Buford's cavalry. Archer's brigade, leading, engaged, and Davis's brigade came up on his left with part of Pegram's artillery. The cavalry was forced back till it passed Willoughby's Run.
On the 30th of June, General John F. Reynolds had been directed to resume command of the right wing of the Union army, –First, Third, and Eleventh Corps. He was advised that day of the threatening movements of the Confederates on the Cashtown and Mummasburg roads. At the same time the indications from General Meade's head-quarters pointed to Pipe Creek as the probable line in case of battle. Reynolds, however, prepared to support Buford's line of cavalry, and marched at eight o'clock on the 1st of July with Wadsworth's division and Hall's battery, leaving the other divisions of Doubleday and Robinson with the artillery to follow under General Doubleday, who became commander of the corps upon the assignment of Reynolds to command of the wing.
As Reynolds approached Gettysburg, in hearing of the cavalry fight, he turned the head of his column to the left and marched through the fields towards the engagement. As the cavalry skirmish line retired and passed Willoughby's Run, he approached with his reinforcements, Brigadier-General Cutter in advance, and was put in on the north of the Cashtown road, followed by Hall's battery. Brigadier-General Meredith following, his brigade was put into line on the left. As fast as the troops got into line they became severely engaged. Doubleday, in advance of the divisions under him, put Meredith's brigade in formidable position on a strip of woodland on the left.
As the Confederate left advanced through the railroad cut they came upon Hall's battery, and were about to get it, when it was saved by speedy withdrawal, which caused the Union right to retire, while Archer's brigade of the Confederate right, in pushing to the front, came in open space before Meredith's brigade, which in turn made a gallant advance, drove Archer back, followed across the run, and captured General Archer and one thousand of his men. The other two brigades of Pender's division, Pettigrew's and Brockenbrough's, were put in on the right of Archer's men. During the severe engagement on his right the advance of the Confederate infantry got in so close along the railroad cut that General Reynolds, in efforts to extricate his right, was shot, when the right, still under severe pressure, was forced to retire towards Seminary Ridge. Hall's battery, severely crippled, succeeded in getting away as the right retired.
Doubleday's other divisions came up about the moment General Reynolds was killed. The Second (Robinson's) and Third (Rowley's) Divisions deployed on the right and left. Cooper's battery of four three-inch guns followed the left division. At the same time Hill reinforced by his division under Pender, Thomas's brigade on his left, Lane, Scales, and Perrin to the right. These restored the Confederate right, overlapping the Federal left; at the same time Thomas's brigade made successful battle on the left, pushing off Wadsworth's right and Hall's battery, when the two brigades of the Second Division (Robinson's) were sent to their support, but were, in turn, forced back towards Seminary Ridge. The Confederate sharp-shooter cut down the horses of one of Hall's gun and forced him to drop it. Hill advanced Pegram's and Mclntosh's artillery to McPherson's Ridge, forcing the entire Union line back to
Seminary Ridge. General Doubleday, anticipating such contingency, had ordered trenches made about Seminary Ridge, and sent his three other batteries under Colonel Wainwright to that point. He formed his line along the ridge and occupied the trenches by part of his infantry. At this period Ewell's divisions under Rodes approached against Doubleday's right.
General Howard, upon his first approach to the battle, marched the Eleventh Corps to Cemetery Hill, and there posted it until called upon by General Doubleday for assistance. To meet the call he ordered his divisions under Generals Barlow and Schurz to Doubleday's right, to occupy a prominent point at the north end of Seminary Ridge, reserving his division under Steinwehr and part of his artillery on Cemetery Hill.
As the divisions of the Eleventh Corps approached the Confederate left, Rodes's division of Ewell's corps advanced. The Federals then stood across the Cashtown road, their left in advance of the Seminary, their right thrown or standing more to the rear. Rodes was in season to sweep the field of approach to the high point intended to be occupied by the divisions sent by Howard, and came in good position to enfilade Robinson's division of the First Corps. As Rodes approached he was threatened by Buford's cavalry, but, finding cover under woodland, he made advance by three brigades in line till he came to the point of view which gave him command of that end of the field in elevated position, and in plunging fire down Robinson's line and in advance of the divisions sent by General Howard to occupy that point. While posting his infantry, Rodes ordered Carter's battery of artillery into action against Robinson's lines stretched out and engaged against Hill's corps. At that moment the divisions of the Eleventh Corp. were not in full front of Rodes, so that his fire upon Robinson's line was something of a surprise, as well as most discomfiting. The divisions and artillery of the Eleventh came to the front, however, almost simultaneously with Robinson's necessitated change of right front rearward towards Rodes.
These changes and dispositions gave Hill opportunity to press on by his front, when Doubleday was obliged to call for help, and Schurz called for support on his right. Coster's brigade was sent from Steinwehr's reserve, and Buford's cavalry was ordered to brace as far as practicable the centre of the First Corps, and mother battery was sent to Schurz's division. At 2.45 another call for help by the First Corps was received, and General Schurz was asked to answer it if he could by a regiment or more. Calls were sent to hurry Slocum's (Twelfth) corps, some miles away, but then Ewell was swinging his division under Early into line nearer to Gettysburg, Gordon's brigade and Jones's battery coming in in good time to make strong Rodes's left, and Hill's corps had overlapped the left of the First Corps, so that General Howard found himself forced to command a steady, orderly retreat to Cemetery Hill.
The Confederates pushed rapidly on, particularly the fresher troops of Ewell, cleared the field, and followed on through the streets of Gettysburg at four o'clock. The retreat began and continued in good order till they passed Gettysburg, when the ranks became so scattered that the final march was little better than "sauve qui peut."
As the troops retreated through Gettysburg, General Hancock rode upon the field, and under special assignment assumed command at three o'clock. As the retreating troops arrived, Wadsworth's division on the right, the Eleventh Corps across the Baltimore pike, the balance of the First under Doubleday on the left of the Eleventh, General Howard and others assisted in forming the new line.
The total effectives of the First and Eleventh Corps, according to the consolidated moving report of June 30, was 19,982. From the latest returns of General Lee's army, an average estimate of his four divisions gave his total as 25,252. Part of the reserve division of the Eleventh Corps was not engaged, but Buford had two brigades of cavalry, and so the foregoing may be a fair estimate of the forces engaged, less the reserve on Cemetery Hill.
At Cashtown, General Lee found that General Hill had halted his division under R. H. Anderson and his reserve artillery. He had General Anderson called, who subsequently wrote me of the interview as follows:
"About twelve o'clock I received a message notifying me that General Lee desired to see me. I found General Lee intently listening to the fire of the guns, and very much disturbed and depressed. At length he said, more to himself than to me, 'I cannot think what has become of Stuart. I ought to have heard from him long before now. He may have met with disaster, but I hope not. In the absence of reports from him, I am in ignorance as to what we have in front of us here. It may be the whole Federal army, or it may be only a detachment. If it is the whole Federal force, we must fight a battle here. If we do not gain a victory, those defiles and gorges which we passed this morning will shelter us from disaster.' "
He ordered Anderson forward, and rode on to Seminary Ridge in time to view the closing operations of the engagement. The Union troops were in disorder, climbing Cemetery Heights, the Confederates following through the streets of Gettysburg. Two other divisions of Confederates were up soon after, E. Johnson's of the Second and R. H. Anderson's of the Third Corps.
After a long wait I left orders for the troops to follow the trains of the Second Corps, and rode to find General Lee. His head-quarters were on Seminary Ridge at the crossing of the Cashtown road. Anderson's division was then filed off along the ridge, resting. Johnson's had marched to report to the corps commander. Dismounting and passing the usual salutation, I drew my glasses and made a studied view of the position upon which the enemy was rallying his forces, and of the lay of the land surrounding. General Lee was engaged at the moment. He had announced beforehand that he would not make aggressive battle in the enemy's country. After the survey and in consideration of his plans, noting movements of detachments of the enemy on the Emmitsburg road, the relative positions for manoeuvre, the lofty perch of the enemy, the rocky slopes from it, all marking the position clearly defensive, –I said, "We could not call the enemy to position better suited to our plans. All that we have to do is to file around his left and secure good ground between him and his capital." This, when said, was thought to be the opinion of my commander as much as my own. I was not a little surprised, therefore, at his impatience, as, striking the air with his closed hand, he said, "If he is there to-morrow I will attack him."
In his official account, General Lee reported, –
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."
When he rode away from me in the forenoon he made no mention of his absent cavalry, nor did he indicate that it was not within call. So I was at a loss to understand his nervous condition, and supported the suggestion so far as to say, "If he is there to-morrow it will be because he wants you to attack," and queried, "If that height has become the objective, why not take it at once? We have forty thousand men, less the casualties of the day; he cannot have more than twenty thousand." Then it was that I heard of the wanderings of the cavalry and the cause of his uneven temper. So vexed was he at the halt of the Imboden cavalry at Hancock, in the opening of the campaign, that he was losing sight of Pickett's brigades as a known quantity for battle. His manner suggested to me that a little reflection would be better than further discussion, and right soon he suggested to the commander of the Second Corps to take Cemetery Hill if he thought it practicable, but the subordinate did not care to take upon himself a fight that his chief would not venture to order.
The following circular orders were sent the commanders of columns of the First Corps:
"HEAD-QUARTERS FIRST ARMY CORPS,
"NEAR GETTYSBURG, July 1, 5.30 P. M.
"COLONEL, – The commanding general desires you to come on to-night as fast as you can without distressing your men and animals. Hill and Ewell have sharply engaged the enemy, and you will be needed for to-morrow's battle. Let us know where you will stop to-night.
"G. M. SORREL, "A. A. General.
"COLONEL WALTON, "Chief of Artillery."
At 12.15 of the afternoon of the 1st, General Halleck sent a cipher despatch to General Meade approving his tactics, but asking, as to his strategy, "Are you not too far east, and may not Lee attempt to turn your left and cut you off from Frederick?"
In this connection may be noted the plan that General Meade had mapped in his own mind and given to some of his generals for battle to be formed behind Pipe Creek, a position that would have met the views of General Halleck, as well as his own, covering Washington and Baltimore under close lines that could not be turned. At Gettysburg the Confederates had comparatively an open field.
Reports coming in to head-quarters about six o'clock that the enemy was in some force off our right towards Fairfield, General Lee ordered General Anderson to put one of his brigades out on the right as picket-guard. Wilcox's brigade and Ross's battery were marched and posted near Black Horse Tavern.
Nothing coming from the centre troops about Cemetery Hill, General Lee ordered the Second Corps, after night, from his left to his right, for work in that direction, but General Ewell rode over and reported that another point– Culp's Hill– had been found on his left, which had commanding elevation over Cemetery Hill, from which the troops on the latter could be dislodged, by artillery, and was under the impression that his troops were in possession there. That was accredited as reported and approved, and the corps commander returned, and ordered the hill occupied if it had not been done. But the officer in charge had waited for specific orders, and when they were received he had made another reconnoissance. It was then twelve o'clock. By the reconnoissance it was found that the enemy was there, and it was thought that this should be reported, and further orders waited.
General Ewell's troops and trains passed the junction of the roads at four o'clock. The train was fourteen miles long. It was followed by the troops of the First Corps that had been waiting all day. After night the Washington Artillery and McLaws's division camped at Marsh Run, four miles from Gettysburg. Here is Hood's account of his march:
"While lying in camp near Chambersburg information was received that Hill and Ewell were about to come into contact with the enemy near Gettysburg. My troops, together with McLaws' s division, were at once put in motion upon the most direct road to that point, which we reached after a hard march at or before sunrise on July 2. So imperative had been our orders to hasten forward with all possible speed that on the march my troops were allowed to halt and rest only about two hours during the night from the 1st to the 2d of July."
When I left General Lee, about seven o'clock in the evening, he had formed no plans beyond that of seizing Culp's Hill as his point from which to engage, nor given any orders for the next day, though his desperate mood was painfully evident, and gave rise to serious apprehensions. He had heard nothing of the movements of the enemy since his crossing the Potomac, except the report of the scout. His own force on the field was the Second Corps, Rodes's, Early's, and E. Johnson's divisions from right to left through the streets of Gettysburg around towards Culp's Hill; on Rodes's right, Pender's division of the Third; on Seminary Ridge, R. H. Anderson's division of the Third (except Wilcox's brigade at Black Horse Tavern) ; behind Seminary Ridge, Heth's division of the Third; on the march between Cashtown and Greenwood, the First Corps.