Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 02/July/General Lee's Final Report of the Pennsylvania Campaign and Battle of Gettysburg
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General Lee's Final Report of the Pennsylvania Campaign and Battle of Gettysburg
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|Southern Historical Society Papers, July 1876|
General Lee's Final and Full Report of the Pennsylvania Campaign and Battle of Gettysburg.
General Lee's report was originally printed in the Historical Magazine of New York, for February, 1869, and was reprinted by General Early in the Southern Magazine for August, 1862, with the following explanatory letter:
Editor of the Southern Magazine:
Sir—In the Historical Magazine for February, 1869, published by Mr. Henry B. Dawson, at Morrisania, New York, there is a copy of General Lee's report of the Pennsylvania campaign mid the battle of Gettysburg. This report was furnished to the Historical Magazine by Mr. William Swinton, who says that it chanced to be on the person of one of General Lee's staff-officers at the time of the destruction of his headquarters papers on the retreat from Petersburg; but he declines to state how he came in possession of it. In a conversation with General Lee, in April, 1869, I was informed by him that he had received a copy of the report as published, and he said that the report was substantially correct, though he was at a loss as to how Mr. Swinton got possession of it. He stated that the report as prepared for the Adjutant-General at Richmond was with his other papers in the headquarters wagons on the retreat, and that when he found the wagons cut off and about to fall into the hands of the enemy's cavalry, he sent a courier to destroy all the papers; and he thought it possible that this paper may have escaped destruction and been picked up by some straggler or other person. After General Lee's death I received a copy of the number of the Historical Magazine containing the report from Mr. Dawson, and when in Baltimore in April, 1871, I showed it to Colonel Charles Marshall, who then informed me that when the report was written it was copied under his superintendence, and that the copy only was returned to General Lee, he (Colonel Marshall) retaining the rough draft, in which a number of corrections had been made. He also said that this rough draft as corrected happened to be with some of his own papers which he had with him on the retreat and at the time of the surrender, and thus escaped destruction; and that he loaned it to Mr. Swinton shortly after the close of the war, who, he supposed, copied it while in his possession, and was thus enabled to furnish the copy to the Historical Magazine.
There can then be no question about the substantial authenticity of the report; and as it is a document of great historical value, I request that it be published in your valuable journal, in order that it may be more accessible to the officers and soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia and the Southern people, very few of whom have had an opportunity of seeing it, as the Historical Magazine, though a very valuable and impartial publication, has scarcely any circulation in the South.
There is an error in the report as published in locating the entrenched position which my command assaulted and carried at the time of the capture of Winchester, on the Newtown road. It should be on the Pughtown road, which is on the northwest of Winchester, while the Newtown road (the Valley pike) is on the south of the town. This mistake was probably made in copying or printing the report, and I have made the correction to conform to the facts of the case by merely substituting Pughtown for Newtown. With this correction, the general accuracy of the report as now given will be recognized by all who participated in the memorable campaign into Pennsylvania, and it is eminently worthy of preservation as containing General Lee's own account of a campaign which has been much criticised by persons not well acquainted with the facts. If there are any variations between the published report and the original now in the hands of Colonel Marshall, he can make the proper corrections.
Very respectfully your obedient servant,
J. A. Early.
June 29th, 1872.
We received a few days ago a very valuable confirmation of the substantial accuracy of this document, in the shape of a MS. copy of General Lee's report, found among the papers of Mr. Michael Kelly, who was a confidential clerk to General S. Cooper.
Mr. Kelly died about two years ago, and the lady who sends us the MS. (Mrs. Henry Pye, of Richmond,) says of him: "He was a young man of high character, unblemished reputation, and one in whom was placed the most implicit confidence."
As this report is of very great value and importance, and is not accessible to many who desire to see it, we will print it in full from our MS. copy, which was doubtless either the original copy sent from General Lee's headquarters, or a correct copy of that made in the office of General Cooper and preserved by Mr. Kelly.
It will be seen by comparison with the printed copy, which we have carefully made, that the MS. corrects several verbal errors in the printed copy (notably the one to which General Early calls attention, the printing of Newton instead of Pughtown and supplies several paragraphs which the printed copy omits. These omissions refer to the conduct of our officers and men, and to our captures at Gettysburg.
With this explanation we give the report entire as follows:
Headquarters Army Northern Virginia,
General S. Cooper, A. &. I. General C. S. A., Richmond, Va.:
General—I have the honor to submit a detailed report of the operations of this army from the time it left the vicinity 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 Chancellorsville, 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 and spring. If unable 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 his 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 Courthouse on the 7th of 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 Courthouse, 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 towards 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 and a battery of the Maryland Line.
General Ewell left Culpeper Courthouse on the 10th June. He crossed the branches of the Shenandoah near Front Royal, and reached Cedarville on the 12th, 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 13th. 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 Winchester, 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 Millwood 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 Lieutenant-Colonel H. P. Jones, opened suddenly upon the entrenchments. The enemy's guns were soon silenced. Hays' brigade then advanced to the assault and 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 Stuart's brigades, accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel 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 Second and Tenth Louisiana regiments, aided by the artillery, and in a short time nearly the whole infantry force, amounting to more than twenty-three hundred men, with eleven stands 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 engaged under General Johnson, who speaks in terms of well deserved praise of the conduct of the officers and men under 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 most 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, twenty-eight 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 .
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 Courthouse on the 15th, 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 and Jones' brigades remained along the Rappahannock and Hazle rivers, in front of Culpeper Courthouse, 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, 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 19th, and General Hampton in the afternoon of the following day, having repulsed on his march a cavalry force sent to reconnoitre in the direction of Warrenton. On the 21st, the enemy attacked with infantry and cavalry, and obliged General 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 General 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 stands 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 Potomac, 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 east 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 towards York. On the 24th, Longstreet and Hill were put in motion to follow Ewell, and on the 27th, encamped near Chambersburg.moved by a parallel road to Greenwood, and in pursuance of instructions previously given to General Ewell, marched
General Imboden, under the orders before referred to, had been operating on Ewell's left, while the latter was advancing into Maryland. He drove off the troops guarding the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and destroyed all the important bridges on that route from Martinsburg to Cumberland, besides inflicting serious damage upon the Chesapeake and Ohio canal. He was at Hancock when Longstreet and Hill reached Chambersburg, and was directed to proceed to the latter place by way of McConnellsburg, collecting supplies for the army on his route.
The cavalry force at this time with the army, consisting of Jenkins' brigade and White's battalion, was not greater than was required to accompany the advance of General Ewell and General Early, with whom it performed valuable service, as appears from their reports. It was expected that as soon as the Federal army should cross the Potomac, General Stuart would give notice of its movements, and nothing having been heard from him since our entrance into Maryland, it was inferred that the enemy had not yet left Virginia. Orders were therefore issued to move upon Harrisburg. The expedition of General Early to York was designed in part to prepare for this undertaking, by breaking the railroad between Baltimore and Harrisburg, and seizing the bridge over the Susquehannah at Wrightsville. General Early succeeded in the first object, destroying a number of bridges above and below York, but on the approach of the troops sent by him to Wrightsville, a body of Militia stationed at that place, fled across the river, and burned the bridge in their retreat. General Early then marched to rejoin his corps. The advance against Harrisburg was arrested by intelligence received from a scout on the night of the 28th, to the effect that the army of General Hooker had crossed the Potomac and was approaching the South Mountains. In the absence of the cavalry it was impossible to ascertain his intentions, but to deter him from advancing further west, and intercepting our communications with Virginia, it was determined to concentrate the army east of the mountains.
battle of gettysburg.
Hill's corps was accordingly ordered to move towards Cashtown on the 29th and Longstreet to follow the next day, leaving Pickett's division at Chambersburg to guard the rear until relieved by Imboden.
General Ewell was recalled from Carlisle and directed to join the army at Cashtown or Gettysburg, as circumstances might require. 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 General 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 1st, advanced with these two divisions, accompanied by Pegram's and MacIntosh'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 videttes about three miles west of Gettysburg, and continued to advance until within a mile of the town, when two brigades were sent forward to reconnoitre. 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 the engagement opened with vigor. General Heth pressed the enemy steadily back, breaking his first and second lines, and attacking his third with great resolution. About 2½ 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 afterwards took position on the left of Rodes, when a general advance was made.
The enemy gave way on all sides, and were 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, three pieces of artillery, and several colors, were captured. Among the prisoners were two Brigadier-Generals, one of whom was badly 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 prisoners that we had been engaged with two corps of the army formerly commanded by General Hooker, and that the remainder of the 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 of Hood 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 wait an attack, as the country was unfavorable for collecting supplies in the presence of the enemy, who could restrain our foraging parties by holding the mountain passes with local and other troops. A battle therefore had 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 Emmettsburg 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 centre, 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 Emmettsburg road, making an angle with Ewell's. Pender's division formed his left, Anderson's his right, Heth's, under Brigadier-General Pettigrew, 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 McLaws 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 centre to prevent reinforcements being drawn to either wing, and co-operate with his right division in Longstreet'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 Emmettsburg 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, having become separated from McLaws, and gone beyond the other two brigades 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 assaulted 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 were carried by Stewart's brigade and a number of prisoners taken. The contest was continued to a late hour, 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 one hundred prisoners and four stands of colors. General Ewell had directed General Rodes to attack in concert with Early, covering his right, and had requested Brigadier-General Lane, then commanding Pender's division, to co-operate on the right of Rodes. When the time of 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 from want of 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. Maj.-Generals Hood and Pender, Brigadier-Generals Jones, Semmes, G. T. Anderson and Barksdale, and Colonel Avery, commanding Hoke's brigade, were wounded—the last two mortally. Generals Pender and Semmes 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 Early'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.
General Longstreet was delayed by a force occupying the high, rocky hills on the enemy's extreme left, from which his troops could be attacked in reverse as they advanced. His operations had been embarrassed the day previous by the same cause, and he now deemed it necessary to defend his flank and rear with the divisions of Hood and McLaws. He was, therefore, reinforced by Heth's division and two brigades of Pender's, to the command of which Major-General Trimble was assigned. General Hill was directed to hold his line with the rest of his command, afford General Longstreet further assistance if requested, and avail himself of any success that might be gained.
A careful examination was made of the ground secured by Longstreet, and his batteries placed in positions which it was believed would enable them to silence those of the enemy.
Hill's artillery, and part of Ewell's, was ordered to open simultaneously, and the assaulting column to advance under cover of the combined fire of the three. The batteries were directed to be pushed forward as the infantry progressed, protect their flanks, and support their attacks closely.
About 1 P. M. at a given signal, a heavy cannonade was opened and continued for about two hours with marked effect upon the enemy. His batteries replied vigorously at first, but towards the close their fire slackened perceptibly, and General Longstreet ordered forward the column of attack, consisting of Pickett's and Heth's divisions, in two lines, Pickett on the right. Wilcox's brigade marched in rear of Pickett's right to guard that flank, and Heth's was supported by Lane's and Scale's brigades under General Trimble.
The troops moved steadily on under a heavy fire of musketry and artillery, the main attack being directed against the enemy's left-centre. His batteries reopened as soon as they appeared. Our own having nearly exhausted their ammunition in the protracted cannonade that preceded the advance of the infantry, were unable to reply, or render the necessary support to the attacking party. Owing to this fact, which was unknown to me when the assault took place, the enemy was enabled to throw a strong force of infantry against our left, already wavering under a concentrated fire of artillery from the ridge in front, and from Cemetery Hill on the left. It finally gave way, and the right, after penetrating the enemy's lines, entering his advance works, and capturing some of his artillery, was attacked simultaneously in front and on both flanks and driven back with heavy loss. The troops were rallied and reformed, but the enemy did not pursue.
A large number of brave officers and men fell or were captured on this occasion. Of Pickett's three brigade commanders, Generals Armistead and Garnett were killed, and General Kemper dangerously wounded. Major General Trimble, and Brigadier General Pettigrew were also wounded, the former severely.
The movements of the army preceding the battle of Gettysburg had been much embarrassed by the absence of the cavalry. As soon as it was known that the enemy had crossed into Maryland, orders were sent to the brigades of Robertson and Jones, which had been left to guard the passes of the Blue Ridge, to rejoin the army without delay, and it was expected that General Stuart with the remainder of his command would soon arrive. In the exercise of the discretion given him when Longstreet and Hill marched into Maryland, General Stuart determined to pass around the rear of the Federal army with three brigades, and cross the Potomac between it and Washington, believing that he would be able by that route to place himself on our right flank in time to keep us properly advised of the enemy's movements.
He marched from Salem on the night of the 24th June, intending to pass west of Centreville, but found the enemy's forces so distributed as to render that route impracticable. Adhering to his original plan, he was forced to make a wide detour through Buckland and Brentsville, and crossed the Occoquon at Wolf Run Shoals on the morning of the 27th. Continuing his march through Fairfax Courthouse and Dranesville, he arrived at the Potomac, below the mouth of Seneca creek in the evening. He found the river much swollen by the recent rains, but after great exertion, gained the Maryland shore before midnight with his whole command. He now ascertained that the Federal army, which he had discovered to be drawing towards the Potomac, had crossed the day before, and was moving towards Fredericktown, thus interposing itself between him and our forces.
He accordingly marched northward, through Rockville and, to Hanover, Pennsylvania, where he arrived on the 30th, but the enemy advanced with equal rapidity on his left, and continued to obstruct communication with our main body.
Supposing from such information as he could obtain that part of the army was at Carlisle, he left Hanover that night, and proceeded thither by way of Dover. He reached Carlisle on the 1st July, when he received orders to proceed to Gettysburg. He arrived in the afternoon of the following day and took position on General Ewell's left. His leading brigade under General Hampton encountered and repulsed a body of the enemy's cavalry at Hunterstown endeavoring to reach our rear.
General Stuart had several skirmishes during his march, and at Hanover quite a severe engagement took place with a strong force of cavalry, which was finally compelled to withdraw from the town.
The prisoners taken by the cavalry and paroled at various places amounted to about eight hundred, and at Rockville a large train of wagons coming from Washington was intercepted and captured. Many of them were destroyed, but one hundred and twenty-five, with all the animals of the train, were secured.
The ranks of the cavalry were much reduced by its long and arduous march, repeated conflicts and insufficient supplies of food and forage, but the day after its arrival at Gettysburg it engaged the enemy's cavalry with unabated spirit, and effectually protected our left. In this action Brigadier-General Hampton was seriously wounded while acting with his accustomed gallantry.
Robertson's and Jones' brigades arrived on the 3d July, and were stationed upon our right flank. The severe loss sustained by the army, and the reduction of its ammunition, rendered another attempt to dislodge the enemy inadvisable, and it was therefore determined to withdraw.
The trains, with such of the wounded as could bear removal, were ordered to Williamsport on the 4th July, part moving through Cashtown and Greencastle, escorted by General Imboden, and the remainder by the Fairfield road. The army retained its position until dark, when it was put in motion for the Potomac by the last named route. A heavy rain continued throughout the night, and so much impeded its progress that Ewell's corps, which brought up the rear, did not leave Gettysburg until late in the forenoon of the following day. The enemy offered no serious interruption, and after an arduous march we arrived at Hagerstown in the afternoon of the 6th and morning of the 7th July.
The great length of our trains made it difficult to guard them effectually in passing through the mountains, and a number of wagons and ambulances were captured. They succeeded in reaching Williamsport on the 6th, but were unable to cross the Potomac on account of the high stage of water. Here they were attacked by a strong force of cavalry and artillery, which was gallantly repulsed by General Imboden, whose command had been strengthened by several batteries and by two regiments of infantry which had been detached at Winchester to guard prisoners, and were returning to the army. While the enemy was being held in check, General Stuart arrived with the cavalry, which had performed valuable service in guarding the flanks of the army during the retrograde movement, and after a short engagement drove him from the field.
The rains that had prevailed almost without intermission since our entrance into Maryland, and greatly interfered with our movements, had made the Potomac unfordable, and the pontoon bridge left at Falling Waters had been partially destroyed by the enemy. The wounded and prisoners were sent over the river as rapidly as possible in a few ferry boats, while the trains awaited the subsiding of the waters and the construction of a new pontoon bridge.
On the 8th July the enemy's cavalry advanced towards Hagerstown, but was repulsed by General Stuart, and pursued as far as Boonsboro'. With this exception, nothing but occasional skirmishing occurred until the 12th, when the main body of the enemy arrived. The army then took a position previously selected, covering the Potomac from Williamsport to Falling Waters, where it remained for two days with the enemy immediately in front, manifesting no disposition to attack, but throwing up entrenchments along his whole line.
By the 13th the river at Williamsport, though still deep, was fordable, and a good bridge was completed at Falling Waters, new boats having been constructed, and some of the old recovered. As further delay would enable the enemy to obtain reinforcements, and as it was found difficult to procure a sufficient supply of flour for the troops, the working of the mills being interrupted by high water, it was determined to await an attack no longer. Orders were accordingly given to cross the Potomac that night—Ewell's corps by the ford at Williamsport, and those of Longstreet and Hill on the bridge. The cavalry was directed to relieve the infantry skirmishers and bring up the rear.
The movement was much retarded by a severe rain storm, and the darkness of the night. Ewell's corps, having the advantage of a turnpike road, marched with less difficulty, and crossed the river by 8 o'clock the following morning.
The condition of the road to the bridge, and the time consumed in the passage of the artillery, ammunition wagons and ambulances, which could not ford the river, so much delayed the progress of Longstreet and Hill, that it was daylight before their troops began to cross. Heth's division was halted about a mile and a half from the bridge to protect the passage of the column. No interruption was offered by the enemy until about 11 A. M. when his cavalry supported by artillery appeared in front of General Heth. A small number in advance of the main body was mistaken for our own cavalry retiring, no notice having been given of the withdrawal of the latter, and was suffered to approach our lines. They were immediately destroyed or captured with the exception of two or three, but Brigadier General Pettigrew, an Officer of great merit and promise, was mortally wounded in the encounter. He survived his removal to Virginia only a few days. The bridge being clear, General Heth began to withdraw. The enemy advanced, but his efforts to break our lines were repulsed, and the passage of the river was completed by one P. M. Owing to the extent of General Heth's line, some of his men most remote from the bridge were cut off before they could reach it, but the greater part of those taken by the enemy during the movement, supposed to amount in all to about five hundred, consisted of men from various commands, who lingered behind overcome by previous labors and hardships, and the fatigues of a most trying night march. There was no loss of material except a few broken wagons, and two pieces of artillery which the horses were unable to draw through the deep mud. Other horses were sent back for them, but the rear of the column had passed before their arrival.
The army proceeded to the vicinity of Bunker Hill and Darksville, when it halted to afford the troops repose.
The enemy made no effort to follow, except with his cavalry, which crossed the Potomac at Harper's Ferry, and advanced towards Martinsburg on the 16th July. They were attacked by General Fitz. Lee with his own and Chambliss' brigades, and driven back with loss.
When the army returned to Virginia, it was intended to move into Loudoun, but the Shenandoah was found to be impassable. While waiting for it to subside, the enemy crossed the Potomac east of the Blue Ridge, and seized the passes we designed to use. As he continued to advance along the eastern slope, apparently with the purpose of cutting us off from the railroad to Richmond, General Longstreet was ordered on the 19th July, to proceed to Culpeper Courthouse by the way of Front Royal. He succeeded in passing part of his command over the Shenandoah in time to prevent the occupation of Manassas and Chester Gaps by the enemy, whose cavalry bad already made its appearance. As soon as a pontoon bridge could be laid down, the rest of his corps crossed the river, and marched through Chester Gap to Culpeper Courthouse, where it arrived on the 24th. He was followed by General A. P. Hill without serious opposition.
General Ewell having been detained in the Valley by an effort to capture a force of the enemy guarding the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad west of Martinsburg, Wright's brigade was left to hold Manassas Gap until his arrival. He reached Front Royal on the 23d with Johnson's and Rodes' divisions, Early's being near Winchester, and found General Wright skirmishing with the enemy's infantry, which had already appeared in Manassas Gap. General Ewell supported Wright with Rodes' division, and some artillery, and the enemy was held in check.
Finding that the Federal force greatly exceeded his own, General Ewell marched through Thornton's Gap and ordered Early to move up the Valley by Strasburg and New Market. He encamped near Madison Courthouse on the 29th July.
The enemy massed his army in the vicinity of Warrenton, and in the night of the 31st July his cavalry, with a large supporting force of infantry, crossed the Rappahannock at Rappahannock Station andFord. The next day they advanced towards Brandy Station, their progress being gallantly resisted by General Stuart, with Hampton's brigade, commanded by Colonel Baker, who fell back gradually to our lines about two miles south of Brandy. Our infantry skirmishers advanced and drove the enemy beyond Brandy Station.
It was now determined to place the army in a position to enable it more readily to oppose the enemy should he attempt to move southward, that near Culpeper Courthouse being one that he could easily avoid. Longstreet and Hill were put in motion on the 3d August, leaving the cavalry at Culpeper. Ewell had been previously ordered from Madison, and by the 4th the army occupied the line of the Rapidan.
The highest praise is due to both officers and men for their conduct during the campaign.
The privations and hardships of the march and camp were cheerfully encountered and borne with fortitude unsurpassed by our ancestors in their struggle for independence, while their courage in battle entitles them to rank with the soldiers of any army and of any time. Their forbearance and discipline, under strong provocation to retaliate for the cruelty of the enemy to our own citizens, is not their least claim to the respect and admiration of their countrymen and of the world.
I forward returns of our loss in killed, wounded and missing. Many of the latter were killed or wounded in the several assaults at Gettysburg and necessarily left in the hands of the enemy.
I cannot speak of these brave men as their merits and exploits deserve. Some of them are appropriately mentioned in the accompanying reports, and the memory of all will be gratefully and affectionately cherished by the people in whose defence they fell.
The loss of Major-General Pender is severely felt by the army and the country. He served with this army from the beginning of the war and took a distinguished part in all its engagements. Wounded on several occasions, he never left his command in action until he received the injury that resulted in his death. His promise and usefulness as an officer were onlyby the purity and excellence of his private life.
Brigadier-Generals Armistead, Barksdale, Garnett and Semmes died as they had lived, discharging the highest duty of patriots with devotion that never faltered and courage that shrank from no danger.
I earnestly commend to the attention of the Government those gallant officers and men whose conduct merited the special commendation of their superiors, but whose names I am unable to mention in this report.
The officers of the general staff of the army were unremittingly engaged in the duties of their respective departments. Much depended on their management and exertion. The labors of the Quartermaster, Commissary and Medical Departments were more than usually severe. The Inspectors-General were also laboriously occupied in their attention to the troops, both on the march and in camp, and the officers of engineers showed skill and judgment in expediting the passage of rivers and streams, the swollen condition of which, by almost continuous rains, called for extraordinary exertion. The Chief of Ordnance and his assistants are entitled to praise for the care and watchfulness given to the ordnance trains and ammunition of the army, which in a long march and in many conflicts were always at hand and accessible to the troops. My thanks are due to my personal staff for the constant aid afforded me at all times on the march and in the field, and their willing discharge of every duty.
There were captured at Gettysburg nearly seven thousand prisoners, of whom about fifteen hundred were paroled, and the remainder brought to Virginia. Seven pieces of artillery were also secured.
I forward herewith the reports of the corps, division and other commanders, mentioned in the accompanying schedule, together with maps of the scene of operations, and one showing the routes pursued by the army. Respectfully submitted,
R. E. Lee, General.
- (Wikisource editor comment) alternate spelling of vedettes = mounted sentries or pickets