Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 23.djvu/261
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KARNKST IN MIS CONVICTION.
This is General Heth's version f the concentration. In short, that ( IK ral I.rc uas compelled by his fight to send forward first one division, then another, until, finally, the entire army was brought to tin vicinity <>l < u-ttysburg by nightfall of the ist. General Heth is \ rrv < arm >t in his conviction that his chance effort to capture some shoes for his troops resulted in bringing on the greatest collision of the civil war. Other ex-Confederates, of equally high rank and in- telligence, implicitly accept this version. That so trivial an affair, involving so unimportant a segment of the invading force, should result in such a tremendous, far-reaching catastrophe must naturally have strong fascination for a sentimental people, and by process of evolution the Heth episode has fastened upon the popular fancy as the accidental cause of the Confederate concentration at Gettysburg.
Understand me; there is no doubt whatever about the details of General Heth's story; so far as events go, he tells the literal truth. He is only mistaken in his conclusions. We know that Pettigrew did go down after the shoes, and returned empty-handed; we know that Heth advanced the next morning with his whole divi- sion for the same purpose, and, as he supposed, with no other object than the pursuit of that purpose; and we know that Heth precipita- ted the battle. But he and all others are egregiously mistaken in supposing that this simple shoe-raid caused the whole Confederate army to converge on ( Gettysburg.
A man of General Lee's consummate knowledge of the science of war was not one to march and countermarch in the presence of an enemy's army without aim or object other than the support of mere outpost affairs. It is not only proper, but highly important, that this peculiar fiction should be corrected, lest it crystallize into so-called history. It is clearly demonstrable that the concentration of General Lee's army on the ist of July, 1863, was no more the result of chance or accident than the original invasion.
DISTRIBUTION OF TROOPS.
In the first place, the distribution of the various divisions of the Confederate army previous to the battle is totally inconsistent with this theory of accident in the concentration at Gettysburg. On the 28th of June General Early 's Division of Swell's Corps was in the vicinity of York, some thirty miles east of Gettysburg; the divisions