Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 02/August/General J. E. B. Stuart's Report of Operations after Gettysburg
SOUTHERN HISTORICAL SOCIETY PAPERS.
General J. E. B. Stuart's Report of Operations After Gettysburg.
We are indebted to Mrs. Stuart for the following rough draft of the report of General Stuart of his operations subsequently to the battle of Gettysburg, and his resume of that important campaign.
The MS. is written in pencil, in General Stuart's own handwriting, and was evidently the first rough draft, corrected carefully. So far as we know this report has never been published, and ours is the only copy in existence. We give it in full as follows:
During the night of the 3d the Commanding General withdrew the main body to the ridges west of Gettysburg, and sent word to me to that effect, but his message missed me. I repaired to his headquarters during the latter part of the night, and received instructions as to the new line, and sent in compliance therewith a brigade (Fitz. Lee's) to Cash Town to protect our trains congregated there. My cavalry and artillery were somewhat jeopardized before I got back to my command, by the enemy having occupied our late ground before my command could be informed of the change. None, however, were either lost or captured.
During the 4th, which was quite rainy, written instructions were received from the Commanding General as to the order of march back to the Potomac, to be undertaken at nightfall. In this order, one brigade of cavalry was ordered to move, as heretofore stated, by way of Cash Town, guarding that flank and bringing up the rear on the road via Greenwood to Williamsport, which was the route designated for the main portion of the wagon trains and ambulances, under the special charge of Brigadier-General Imboden, who had a mixed command of artillery, infantry and cavalry.
Previous to these instructions, I had, at the instance of the Commanding General, instructed Brigadier-General Robertson, whose two brigades (his own and Jones') were now on the right near Fairfield, Pennsylvania, that it was essentially necessary for him to hold the Jack Mountain passes. These included two prominent roads, the one north and the other south of Jack Mountain, which is a sort of peak in the Blue Ridge chain.
In the order of march (and the third (Ewell's) brought up the rear. The cavalry was disposed of as follows: two brigades on the Cash Town road, under General Fitz. Lee, and the remainder (Jenkins' and Chambliss' brigades) under my immediate command, was directed to proceed by way of Emmetsburg, Maryland, so as to guard the other flank. I dispatched Captain Blackford, corps engineer, to General Robertson, to inform him of my movement, and direct his co-operation, as Emmetsburg was in his immediate front, and was probably occupied by the enemy's cavalry. It was dark before I had passed the extreme right of our line, and, having to pass through very dense woods, taking by-roads, it soon became so dark that it was impossible to proceed. We were in danger of losing the command as well as the road. It was raining also. We halted for several hours, when, having secured a good guide, and it becoming more light, the march was resumed, and just at dawn we entered Emmetsburg. We there learned that a large body of the enemy's cavalry (the citizens said 15,000, which I knew, of course, was exaggerated) had passed that point the afternoon previous, going towards Monterey, one of the passes designated in my instructions to General Robertson. I halted for a short time to procure some rations, and, examining my map, I saw that this force could either attempt to force one of those gaps, or, foiled in that (as I supposed they would be), it would either turn to the right and bear off towards Fairfield, where it would meet with like repulse from Hill's or Longstreet's corps, or, turning to the left before reaching Monterey, would strike across by Œiler's Gap towards Hagerstown, and thus seriously threaten that portion of our trains, which, under Imboden, would be passing down the Greencastle pike the next day, and interpose itself between the main body and its baggage. I did not consider that this force could seriously annoy any other portion of our command, under the order of march prescribed, particularly as it was believed those gaps would be held by General Robertson till he could be reinforced by the main body. I therefore determined to adhere to my instructions, and proceed by way of Cavetown, by which I might intercept the enemy, should he pass through Œiler's Gap.) one corps (Hill's) preceded everything through the mountain. The baggage and prisoners of war, escorted by another corps (Longstreet's), occupied the centre,
In and around Emmetsburg we captured sixty or seventy prisoners of war, and some valuable hospital stores en route from Frederick to the army.
The march was resumed on the road to Frederick, till we reached a small village called Cooperstown, where our route turned short to the right. Here I halted the column to feed, as the horses were much fatigued and famished. The column, after an hour's halt, continued through Harbaugh valley, by Zion Church, to pass the Catoctin mountains. The road separates before debouching from the mountain, one fork leading to the left by Smithtown, and the other to the right, bearing more towards Leitersburg. I divided my command, in order to make the passage more certain, Colonel Ferguson, commanding Jenkins' brigade, taking the left route, and Chambliss' brigade, which I accompanied, the other. Before reaching the west entrance to this pass, I found it held by the enemy, and had to dismount a large portion of the command and fight from crag to crag of the mountains to dislodge the enemy, already posted. Our passage was finally forced, and as my column emerged from the mountain it received the fire of the enemy's battery posted to the left on the road to Boonsboro'. I ascertained, too, about this time, by the firing, that the party on the other route had met with resistance, and sent at once to apprise Colonel Ferguson of our passage, and directed him, if not already through, to withdraw and come by the same route I had followed. Our artillery was soon in position, and a few fires drove the enemy from his position.
I was told by a citizen that the party I had just attacked were the cavalry of Kilpatrick, who had claimed to have captured several thousand prisoners and 400 or 500 wagons from our forces near Monterey, but I was further informed that not more than 40 wagons accompanied them, and other facts I heard led me to believe the success was far overrated. About this time Captain Emack, of the Maryland cavalry, with his arm in a sling, came to us and reported that he had been in the fight of the night before, and partially confirmed the statement of the citizen, and informed me to my surprise that a large portion of Ewell's corps trains had preceded the army through the mountains. It was nearly night. I felt it of the first importance to open communication with the main army, particularly as I was led to believe that a portion of this force might still be hovering on its flanks. I sent a trusty and intelligent soldier, Private Robert W. Goode, First Virginia cavalry, to reach the Commanding General by a route across the country and relate to him what I knew as well as what he might discover en route, and moved towards Leitersburg as soon as Colonel Ferguson came up, who, although his advance had forced the passage of the gap, upon the receipt of my dispatch turned back and came by the same route I had taken, thus making an unnecessary circuit of several miles, and not reaching me till after dark. Having heard from the Commanding General, about day-light next morning (July 6) at Leitersburg, and being satisfied that all of Kilpatrick's force had gone towards Boonsboro', I immediately, notwithstanding the march of a greater part of both the preceding nights, set out towards Boonsboro'. Jones' brigade had now arrived by the route from Fairfield. Soon after Brigadier-General Jones, whose capture had been reported by Captain Emack, came from the direction of Williamsport, whither he had gone with the portion of the train which escaped. The enemy's movements had separated him from his command, and he had made very narrow escapes. He informed me of Imboden's arrival at Williamsport.
Having reached Cavetown, I directed General Jones to proceed on the Boonsborough road a few miles, and thence proceed to Funkstown, which point I desired him to hold, covering the eastern front of Hagerstown. Chambliss' brigade proceeded direct from Leitersburg to Hagerstown, and Robertson's took the same route, both together being a very small command. Diverging from Jones' line of march, at Cavetown, I proceeded with Jenkins' brigade by way of Chewsville towards Hagerstown. Upon arriving at the former place, it was ascertained that the enemy was nearing Hagerstown with a large force of cavalry from the direction of Boonsboro', and Colonel Chambliss needing reinforcements, Jenkins' brigade was pushed forward, and arriving before Hagerstown found the enemy in possession, and made an attack in flank by this road, Jones coming up further to the left and opening with a few shots of artillery. A small body of infantry under Brigadier-General Iverson also held the north edge of the town, aided by the cavalry of Robertson and Chambliss. Our operations were here much embarrassed by our great difficulty in preventing this latter force from mistaking us for the enemy—several shots striking very near our column. I felt sure that the enemy's designs were directed against Williamsport, where I was informed by General Jones our wagons were congregated in a narrow space at the foot of the hill near the river, which was too much swollen to admit their passage to the south bank. I therefore urged on all sides the most vigorous attack to save our trains at Williamsport. Our force was very perceptibly much smaller than the enemy's, but by a bold front and determined attack, with a reliance on that Help which has never foiled me, I hoped to raise the of Williamsport, if, as I believed, that was the real object of the enemy's design. Hagerstown is six miles from Williamsport, the country between being almost entirely cleared, but intersected by innumerable fences and ditches. The two places are connected by a lane and perfectly straight Macadamized road. The enemy's dismounted skirmishers fought from street to street, and some time elapsed before the town was entirely clear, the enemy taking the road first toward Sharpsburg, but afterwards turned to the Williamsport road. Just as the town was cleared, I heard the sound of artillery at Williamsport. The cavalry, except the two brigades with General Fitz. Lee, were now pretty well concentrated at Hagerstown, and one column under Colonel Chambliss was pushed directly after the enemy towards Williamsport, while Robertson's two regiments and Jenkins' brigade kept to the left of the road, moving in a parallel direction to Chambliss. A portion of the Stuart Horse Artillery also accompanied the movement. The first charge was gallantly executed by the leading brigade (Chambliss'), now numbering only a few hundred men, the Ninth and Thirteenth Virginia Cavalry participating with marked gallantry. The column on the flank was now hurried up to attack the enemy in flank, but the obstacles, such as post and rail fences, delayed its progress so long that the enemy had time to rally along a crest of rocks and fence, from which he opened with artillery, raking the road. Jenkins' brigade were ordered to dismount and deploy over the difficult ground. This was done with marked effect and boldness. Lieutenant-Colonel Witcher, as usual, distinguishing himself by his courage and conduct. The enemy, thus dislodged, was closely pressed by the mounted cavalry, but made one effort at a counter charge, which was gallantly met and repulsed by Colonel James B. Gordon, commanding a fragment of the Fifth North Carolina Cavalry, that officer exhibiting under my eye individual prowess deserving special commendation. The repulse was soon after converted into a rout by Colonel Lomax's regiment (Eleventh Virginia Cavalry, Jones' brigade), which now took the road, and, under the gallant leadership of its colonel, with drawn sabres charged down the turn-pike under a fearful fire of artillery. Lieutenant-Colonel Funsten behaved with conspicuous gallantry in this charge, and Captain Winthrop, a volunteer of Lieutenant-General Longstreet's, also bore himself most gallantly.
The enemy was now very near Williamsport, and this determined and vigorous attack in rear soon compelled him to raise the siege of that place, and leave in hasty discomfiture by the Downsville road. His withdrawal was favored by night, which set in just as we reached the ridge overlooking Williamsport. An importantto this attack was rendered by Brigadier-General Fitz. Lee, who reached the vicinity of Williamsport by the Greencastle road very opportunely, and participated in the attack with his accustomed spirit.
Great credit is due the command for the fearless and determined manner in which they rushed upon the enemy and compelled him to lose his hold upon the main portion of the transportation of the army. Without this attack, it is certain that our trains would have fallen into the hands of the enemy; for, while some resistance was made by General Imboden, still the size and nature of his command, the peculiar conformation of the ground overlooked by hills and approached by six plain roads go to show conclusively that not even a display of Spartan heroism on the part of his command could have saved those wagons from the torch of the enemy. I communicated with him after opening the road by a lieutenant whom I met but a short distance from the town. Officers present with General Imboden during the attack assure me I am right in the foregoing opinion.
I was apprised, when about midway, that Lieutenant-General Longstreet had arrived at Hagerstown.
As a part of the operations of this period, I will here report that about sixty of the wagons belonging to Lee's brigade, while in the special charge of General Imboden en route to Williamsport, near Mercersburg, were captured by the enemy. A court of inquiry has been convened to inquire into the circumstances of this capture. I therefore forbear animadversion on the subject.
My command bivouacked near Hagerstown, and I took that night position on the road leading from Hagerstown to Boonsboro'. The next day, July 7th, I proceeded to Downsville, establishing there a portion of Wofford's brigade, sent me for the purpose by Gen. Longstreet, and posted Jenkins' cavalry brigade on that portion of our front in advance of the infantry. Robertson's brigade being small, and the enemy being least threatening from that direction, was assigned to the north front of Hagerstown, connecting with General Jones on the right on the Cavetown road. The Maryland cavalry was ordered on the National road and towards Greencastle on a scout. On the 8th the cavalry was thrown forward towards Boonsboro', advancing on the different roads, in order by a bold demonstration to threaten an advance upon the enemy, and thus cover the of the main body. The move was successful, the advance under General Jones encountering the enemy on the Boonsboro' road at Beaver creek bridge, from which point to the verge of Boonsboro' an animated fight ensued, principally on foot, the ground being entirely too soft from recent rains to operate successfully with cavalry.
This contest was participated in in a very handsome manner by the other brigades (Fitz. Lee's, Hampton's, now commanded by Baker, and W. H. F. Lee's, commanded by Chambliss), and the Stuart Horse Artillery. Prisoners taken assured us that the main cavalry force of the enemy was in our front, which, notwithstanding, their known superiority in numbers and range of fire arms, was driven steadily before us—our brave men, nothing daunted or dispirited by the reverses of the army, maintaining a predominance of pluck over the enemy calculated to excite the pride and admiration of beholders. Just as we neared the village Jenkins' brigade, under Ferguson, moved up on the Williamsport road, driving the enemy on that flank in such a manner as to cause him to begin his withdrawal from the village to the mountain pass.
His batteries had been driven away from the hill by the Napoleons of McGregor's battery, which, for close fighting, evinced this day their great superiority over rifle guns of greater number. About this time I was informed that the enemy was heavily reinforced and that our ammunition, by this protracted engagement, was nearly exhausted, and despairing of getting possession of the town, which was completely commanded by artillery in the mountain gap, and believing that in compelling the enemy to act upon the defensive all day retreating before us, the desired object had been fully attained, I began to retire towards Funkstown, except Jenkins' brigade, which was ordered to its former position on the Williamsport road. The enemy observing this from his mountain perch, tried to profit by it with a vigorous movement on our heels, but was foiled. As the last regiment was crossing the bridge over Beaver creek, a squadron of the enemy, more bold than its comrades, galloped forward as if to charge. Steadily a portion of the First North Carolina cavalry awaited their arrival within striking distance, but before reaching their vicinity the enemy veered off across the fields, when a Blakely gun of Chew's battery, advantageously posted on a point, marked their movement, and although the squadron moved at a gallop, never did sportsman bring down his bird with more unerring shot than did that Blakely tell upon that squadron. In vain did it turn to the right and left. Each shot seemed drawn to the flying target with fatal accuracy, until the enemy, driven by the shots of the Blakely and followed by the shouts of derision of our cavalry, escaped at full speed far over the plain.
The command moved leisurely to the vicinity of Funkstown and bivouacked for the night.
The fight of the 8tha quietus to the enemy. On the 9th my command kept the position in front of Funkstown assigned to it the night before. The left of our main line of battle now rested just in rear of Funkstown on the Antietam, and some infantry and artillery were thrown forward as a support to the cavalry beyond. The enemy advanced on the 10th on the Boonsborough road, and our cavalry was engaged dismounted nearly all day. General Jones was farther to the left on the Cavetown road, and the infantry was placed in position, covering Funkstown, with dismounted cavalry on each flank. The enemy's advance was handsomely repulsed, in which Lieutenant-Colonel Witcher's cavalry on foot, behind a stone fence immediately on the left of the turnpike, performed a very gallant part, standing their ground with unflinching tenacity.
On the left a portion of Fitz. Lee's brigade, under Captain Woolridge, Fourth Virginia cavalry, who, handling his skirmishers with great skill and effect, compelled the enemy's infantry to seek cover in a body of woods at some distance from our lines.
In this day's operations the infantry before mentioned participated very creditably indeed in the centre, and I regret exceedingly that I have not the means of knowing the regiments and commanders, so as to mention them with that particularity to which by their gallantry they are entitled; but their conduct has no doubt been duly chronicled by their commander and laid before the Commanding General, a part of which was under his own eye.
Owing to the great ease with which the position at Funkstown could be flanked on the right, and by a secret movement at night the troops cut off, it was deemed prudent to withdraw at night to the west side of the Antietam, which was accordingly done.
July 11th was not characterized by any general engagement, except that General Fitz. Lee, now on the right towards Dunsville, was compelled to retire upon the main body, and the main body having assumed a shorter line, with its left resting on National road, just west of Hagerstown, Chambliss' brigade was sent to that flank, and General Fitz. Lee's also. The enemy made no movement on Jones' front embracing the Funkstown and Cavetown roads. On the 12th firing began early, and the enemy having advanced on several roads on Hagerstown, our cavalry forces retired without serious resistance, and massed on the left of the main body, reaching with heavy outposts the Corochocheague on the National road. The infantry having already had time to entrench themselves, it was no longer desirable to defer the enemy's attack.
The 13th was spent in reconnoitering on the left, Rodes' division occupying the extreme left of our infantry very near Hagerstown, a little north of the National road. Cavalry pickets were extended beyond the railroad leading to Chambersburg, and everything put in readiness to resist the enemy's attack.
The situation of our communication south of the Potomac, caused theGeneral to desire more cavalry on that side, and accordingly Brigadier-General Jones' brigade (one of whose regiments—Twelfth Virginia cavalry—had been left in Jefferson) was detached and sent to cover our communications with Winchester. The cavalry on the left consisted now of Fitz. Lee's, W. H. F. Lee's, Baker's and Roberts' brigades, the latter being a mere handful.
On the 13th skirmishing continued at intervals, but it appeared that the enemy, instead of attacking, was entrenching himself in our front, and the Commanding General determined to cross the Potomac. The night of the 13th was chosen for this move, and the arduous and difficult task of bringing up the rear was, as usual, assigned to the cavalry. Just before night, which was unusually rainy, the cavalry was disposed from right to left to occupy, dismounted, the trenches of the infantry at dark, Fitz. Lee's brigade holding the line of Longstreet's corps, Baker's, of Hill's corps, and the remainder of Ewell's corps.
A pontoon bridge had been constructed at Falling Waters, some miles below Williamsport, where Longstreet's and Hill's corps were to cross and Ewell's corps was to ford the river at Williamsport, in rear of which last, after daylight, the cavalry was also to cross, except that Fitz. Lee's brigade, should he find the pontoon bridge clear in time, was to cross at the bridge, and otherwise, to cross at the ford at Williamsport. The operation was successfully performed by the cavalry. General Fitz. Lee, finding the bridge would not be clear in time for his command, moved after daylight to the ford, sending two squadrons to cross in rear of the infantry at the bridge. These squadrons—mistaking Longstreet's rear for the rear of the army on that route—crossed over in rear of it. General Hill's troops being notified that these squadrons would follow in their rear, were deceived by some of the enemy's cavalry who approached very near in consequence of this belief that they were our cavalry. Although this unfortunate mistake deprived us of the lamented General Pettigrew, whom they mortally wounded, they paid the penalty of their temerity by losing most of their number in killed or wounded, if the accounts of those who witnessed it are to be credited.
The cavalry crossed at the fords without serious molestation, bringing up the rear on that route by 8 A.M. on the 14th.
To Baker's (late Hampton's) brigade was assigned the duty of protecting the Potomac from Falling Waters to Hedgesville. The other brigades were moved back towards Leetown, Robertson's being sent to the fords of the Shenandoah, where he already had a picket, which, under Captain Johnston of the North Carolina Cavalry, had handsomely repulsed the enemy in their advance on Ashby's Gap, inflicting severe loss with great disparity in numbers.
Harper's Ferry was again in possession of the enemy, and Colonel Harman, Twelfth Virginia Cavalry, had, in an engagement with the enemy, gained a decided success, but was himself captured by his horse falling.
Upon my arrival at the Bower that afternoon (15th), I learned that a large force of the enemy's cavalry was between Shepherdstown and Leetown. I determined at once to attack him, in order to defeat any designs he might have in the direction of Martinsburg. I made dispositions accordingly, concentrating cavalry in his front, and early on the 16th moved Fitz. Lee's brigade down the turnpike towards Shepherdstown, supported by Chambliss, who, though quite ill, with that commendable spirit which has always distinguished him remained at the head of his brigade. Jenkins' brigade was ordered to advance on the road from Martinsburg towards Shepherdstown, so as, by this combination, to expose one of the enemy's flanks, while Jones, now near Charleston, was notified of the attack, in order that he might co-operate. No positive orders were sent him, as his precise locality was not known. These dispositions having been arranged, I was about to attack, when I received a very urgent message from the Commanding General to repair at once to his headquarters. I therefore committed to Brigadier-General Fitz. Lee the consummation of my plans, and reported at once to the Commanding General, whom I found at Bunker Hill. Returning in the afternoon, I proceeded to the scene of conflict on the turnpike, and found that General Fitz. Lee had, with his own and Chambliss' brigade, driven the enemy steadily to within a mile of Shepherdstown, Jenkins' brigade not having yet appeared on the left. It, however, soon after arrived in Fitz. Lee's rear, and moved up to his support. The ground was not practicable for cavalry, and the main body was dismounted and advanced in line of battle. The enemy retired to a strong position behind stone fences and barricades near Colonel Boteler's residence, and it being nearly dark, obstinately maintained his ground at this last point till dark, to cover his withdrawal. Preparations were made to renew the attack vigorously next morning, but daybreak revealed that the enemy had retired towards Harper's Ferry.
The enemy's loss in killed and wounded was heavy. We had several killed and wounded, and among the latter, Colonel James H. Drake, First Virginia Cavalry, was mortally wounded, dying that night (16th), depriving his regiment of a brave and zealous leader, and his country of one of her most patriotic defenders.
The Commanding General was very desirous of my moving at once into Loudoun a large portion of my command, but the recent rains had so swollen the Shenandoah that it was impossible to ford it, and cavalry scouting parties had to swim their horses over.
In the interval of time from the 16th to the 22d of July, the enemy made a demonstration on Hedgesville, forcing back Baker's brigade. Desultory skirmishing was kept up on the front for several days with the enemy, while our infantry was engaged in tearing up the Baltimore and Ohio railroad near Martinsburg. Parts of Jones' brigade were also engaged with the enemy in spirited conflicts, not herein referred to, resulting very creditably to our arms, near Fairfield, Pennsylvania, and on the Cavetown road from Hagerstown, the Sixth and Seventh Virginia Cavalry being particularly distinguished. Accounts of these will be found in the reports of Brigadier-General Jones and Colonel Baker.
It soon became apparent that the enemy was moving upon our right flank, availing himself of the swollen condition of the Shenandoah to interpose his army, by a march along the east side of the Blue Ridge, between our present position and Richmond. Longstreet's corps having already moved to counteract this effort, enough cavalry was sent under Brigadier-General Robertson for his advance guard, through Front Royal and Chester Gap, while Baker's brigade was ordered to bring up the rear of Ewell's corps, which was in rear, and Jones' brigade was ordered to picket the lower Shenandoah as long as necessary for the safety of that flank, and then follow the movement of the army. Fitz. Lee's, W. H. F. Lee's and Jenkins' brigades, by a forced march from the vicinity of Leetown through Millwood, endeavored to reach Manassas Gap, so as to hold it on the flank of the army, but it was already in possession of the enemy, and the Shenandoah, still high, in order to be crossed without interfering with the march of the main army, had to be forded below Front Royal. The cavalry already mentioned, early on the 23d, by a by path reached Chester Gap, passing on the army's left, and with great difficulty and a forced march that night bivouacked below Games' cross-roads, holding the Rockford road and Warrenton turnpike, on which, near Amissville, the enemy had accumulated a large force of cavalry.
On the 24th, while moving forward to find the locality of the enemy, firing was heard towards Newby's cross-roads, which was afterwards ascertained to be a portion of the enemy's artillery firing on Hill's column marching on the Richmond road. Before the cavalry could reach the scene of action, the enemy had been driven off by the infantry, and on the 25th the march was continued, and the line of the Rappahannock was resumed.
In taking a retrospect of this campaign, it is necessary, in order to appreciate the value of the services of the cavalry, to correctly estimate the amount of labor to be performed, the difficulties to be encountered, and the very extended sphere of operations, mainly in the enemy's country.
In the exercise of the discretion vested in me by the Commanding General, it was deemed practicable to move entirely in the enemy's rear, intercepting his communications with his base Washington and inflicting damage upon his rear, to rejoin the army in Pennsylvania, in time to participate in its actual conflicts. The result abundantly confirms my judgement as to the practicability, as well as utility, of the move. The main army, I was advised by the Commanding General, would move in two columns for the Susquehanna—Early commanded the advance of that one of these columns to the eastward, and I was directed to communicate with him as early as practicable after crossing the Potomac, and place my command on his right flank. It was expected I would find him in York. The newspapers of the enemy, my only source of information, chronicled his arrival there and at Wrightsville, on the Susquehanna, with great particularity. I therefore moved to join him in that vicinity. The enemy's army was moving in a direction nearly parallel to me. I was apprized of its arrival at Taneytown, when I was near Hanover, Pennsylvania, but believing from the lapse of time that our army was already in York or at Harrisburg, where it could choose its battleground with the enemy, I hastened to place my command with it. It is believed that had the corps of Hill and Longstreet moved on instead of halting near Chambersburg, that York could have been the place of concentration instead of Gettysburg. This move of my command between the enemy's seat of Government and the army charged with its defence, involved serious loss to the enemy in material and men, over one thousand prisoners having been captured, and spread terror and consternation to the very gates of the Capital. The streets were barricaded for defence, as also was done in Baltimore on the day following. This move drew the enemy's overwhelming force of cavalry from its aggressive attitude towards our flank, near Williamsport and Hagerstown, to the defence of its own communications now at my mercy. The entire Sixth Army Corps in addition was also sent to intercept me at Westminster, arriving there the morning I left, which in the result prevented its participation in the first two days fight at Gettysburg.
Our trains in transit were thus not only secured, but it was done in a way that at the same time seriously injured the enemy. General Meade also detached 4,000 troops, under General French, to escort public property to Washington from Frederick, a step which certainly would have been unnecessary but for my presence in his rear, thus weakening his army to that extent. In fact, although in his own country, he had to make large detachments to protect his rear and baggage. General Meade also complains that his movements were delayed by the detention of his cavalry in his rear. He might truthfully have added by the movement in his rear of a large force of Confederate cavalry, capturing his trains and cutting all his communications with Washington. It is not to be supposed such delay in his operations could have been so effectually caused by any other disposition of the cavalry. Moreover, considering York as the point of junction, as I had every reason to believe it would be, the route I took was quite as direct and more expeditious than the alternate one proposed, and there is reason to believe that on that route my command would have been divided up in the different gaps of South Mountain, covering our flank, while the enemy by concentration upon any one could have greatly endangered our baggage and ordnance trains without exposing his own.
It was thought by many that my command could have rendered more service had it been in advance of the army the first day at Gettysburg, and the Commanding General complains of a want of cavalry on that occasion; but it must be remembered that the cavalry (Jenkins' brigade) specially selected for advance guard to the army by the Commanding General on account of its geographical location, at the time was available for this purpose, and had two batteries of horse artillery serving with it. If, therefore, the peculiar functions of cavalry with the army were not satisfactorily performed, in the absence of my command, it should rather be attributed to the fact that Jenkins' brigade was not as efficient as it ought to have been, and as its numbers (3,800) on leaving Virginia warranted us in expecting. Even at that time by its reduction incident to the campaign it numbered far more than the cavalry which successfully covered Jackson's flank movement at Chancellorsville, turned back Stoneman from the James, and drove 3,500 cavalry under Averill across the Rappahannock.
Properly handled, such a command should have done everything requisite, and left nothing to detract, by the remotest implication, from the brilliant exploits of their comrades, achieved under circumstances of great hardship and danger.
Arriving at York I found General Early had gone. * * * * * * * I still believed that most of our army was before Harrisburg, and justly regarded a march to Carlisle as the most likely to place me in communication with the main army; besides, as a place for rationing my command, now entirely out, I believed it desirable.
The cavalry suffered much in this march day and night from loss of sleep, and the horses from fatigue, and while in Fairfax, for want of forage, not even grass being attainable. In Fauquier the rough character of the roads and lack of facilities for shoeing, added to the casualties of every day's battle, and constant wear and tear of men and horse, reduced the command very much in numbers. In this way some regiments were reduced to less than 100 men; yet when my command arrived at Gettysburg, with the accessions which it received from the weak horses left to follow the army, it took its place in line of battle with a stoutness of heart and firmness of tread, impressing one with the confidence of victory which was astounding, considering the hardness of the march lately endured. With an aggregate loss of about — hundred killed, wounded and missing, we inflicted a loss on the enemy's cavalry of confessedly near 5,000.
Some of the reports of subordinate commanders are herewith forwarded; others will follow, and it is to be hoped they will do justice to that individual prowess for which Confederate soldiery is most noted, and which the limits of personal observation and the length of this report deprive me of the power of doing.
Appended will be found a statement of casualties and map; also a list of non-commissioned officers and privates whose conduct as bearers of dispatches and otherwise entitle them to favorable mention. The bravery, heroism, fortitude and devotion of my command is commended to the special attention of the Commanding General, and is worthy of the gratitude of their countrymen.
I desire to mention among the brigadier-generals one whose enlarged comprehension of the functions of cavalry, whose diligent attention to the preservation of its efficiency and intelligent appreciation, faithful performance of the duties confided to him, point to him as one of the first cavalry leaders on the continent, and richly entitle him to promotion—I allude to Brigadier-General Fitz. Lee.
I cannot here particularize the conduct of the many officers whospecial mention, of less rank than brigadier-general, without extending my remarks more than would be proper.
To my staff collectively, however, I feel at liberty to express thus officially my grateful appreciation for the zeal, fidelity and ability with which they discharged their several duties and labored to promote the success of the command.
Major Heros Von Borcke, A. A. and I. G., that gallant officer from Prussia, who so early espoused our cause, was disabled in Fauquier, so as to deprive me of his valuable services on the expedition, but it is hoped that the command will not long be deprived of his inspiring presence on the field.
Major Henry B. McClellan, my adjutant-general, was constantly at my side, and with his intelligence, ready pen and quick comprehension, greatly facilitated the discharge of my duties.
The untiring energy, force of character and devotion to duty of Major A. R. Venable, my Inspector-General, and Lieutenant Ryals, C.S.A., Provost-Marshal, deserve my special gratitude and praise. The same qualities, united to a thorough knowledge of much of the country, are ascribable to Captain B. S. White, C.S.A., who, though still suffering from a severe wound received at Fleetwood, accompanied the command, and his services proclaim him an officer of merit and distinction.
Chief Surgeon Eliason, Captain Blackford, Engineer; Captain Cooke, Ordnance Officer; Lieutenant Dabney, A.D.C., and Cadet Hulliher, C.S.A., all performed their duties with commendable zeal and credit.
Major Fitzhugh, Chief, and Captain J. N. Hanger, Assistant Quartermaster, and Major W. J. Johnson, Chief Commissary, discharged their arduous duties in their unknown ford on the Potomac, and again in bearing a dispatch to the Commanding General from Emmettsburg.highly satisfactory manner. First Lieutenant R. B. Kennon, P.A.C.S., temporarily attached on two different occasions, was entrusted with duties attended with great peril, which he performed in a highly successful and creditable manner, once in testing experimentally at night an
Grateful to the Giver of all Good for the attainment of such results with such small comparative losses, I have the honor to be
|Your obedient servant,|
J. E. B. Stuart.