Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 04.djvu/157

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149
Causes of Lee's Defeat at Gettysburg.

break our ranks and cause the men to scatter whilst climbing up the rocky precipice. I found, moreover, that my division would be exposed to a heavy fire from the main line of the enemy, in position on the crest of the high range, of which Round Top was the extreme left, and, by reason of the concavity of the enemy's main line, that we would be subject to a destructive fire in flank and rear, as well as in front; and deemed it almost an impossibility to clamber along the boulders up this steep and rugged mountain, and, under this number of cross-fires, put the enemy to flight. I knew that if the feat was accomplished it must be at a most fearful sacrifice of as brave and gallant soldiers as ever engaged in battle.

The reconnoissance by my Texas scouts and the development of the Federal lines were effected in a very short space of time; in truth, shorter than I have taken to recall and jot down these facts, although the scenes and events of that day are as clear to my mind as if the great battle had been fought yesterday. I was in possession of these important facts so shortly after reaching the Emmettsburg road, that I considered it my duty to report to you at once my opinion, that it was unwise to attack up the Emmettsburg road, as ordered, and to urge that you allow me to turn Round Top and attack the enemy in flank and rear. Accordingly, I dispatched a staff officer bearing to you my request to be allowed to make the proposed movement on account of the above-stated reasons. Your reply was quickly received: "Gen'l Lee's orders are to attack up the Emmettsburg road." I sent another officer to say that I feared nothing could be accomplished by such an attack, and renewed my request to turn Round Top. Again your answer was: "Gen'l Lee's orders are to attack up the Emmettsburg road." During this interim I had continued the use of the batteries upon the enemy, and had become more and more convinced that the Federal line extended to Round Top, and that I could not reasonably hope to accomplish much by the attack as ordered. In fact it seemed to me the enemy occupied a position by nature so strong—I may say impregnable—that, independent of their flank-fire, they could easily repel our attack by merely throwing and rolling stones down the mountain side as we approached.

A third time I dispatched one of my staff to explain fully in regard to the situation, and to suggest that you had better come