Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/117

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107
General C. M. Wilcox on the Battle of Gettysburg.

General Longstreet himself will hardly admit that they would have been driven from their position.

The commander of the Army of the Potomac did not regard the battle as disastrous to the Confederates. If he had, he surely would not have permitted his enemy to retire, reach the Potomac and recross it into Virginia, without being seriously molested.

The effects of the battle of Gettysburg on the Federal army were that General Lee's army was allowed to remain quietly on the Rapidan and send off large detachments to reinforce General Bragg in Georgia; and when General Lee crossed the Rapidan in October and moved against General Meade, the latter retired rapidly, halting only after crossing Bull run. And again, when General Meade crossed the Rapidan below the Confederate right, in the latter part of November, General Lee moved promptly to meet and confront him in the shortest possible time, had a slight encounter when the two armies came within reach of each other near dark. The following morning General Lee retired his forces a little more than a mile. Meade soon followed, and remained for a week threatening an attack, but did not venture to make it, and then retired into winter quarters in Culpeper, where he remained until the following May. These details have been entered into in order that the exaggerations of General Longstreet and others as to the disastrous nature of the battle of Gettysburg to the Confederates, may be made apparent.

Now, in regard to the plan of campaign agreed upon after General Lee had patiently listened to Longstreet's theory of operations, embracing Tennessee and Kentucky, but did not adopt, though admitting, according to General Longstreet, that his idea was new and that he thought much of it. Of this plan of campaign and the discussions that preceded its adoption, if there were any, we know absolutely nothing, except what General Longstreet, fourteen years subsequently, has revealed. General Lee and two of the three corps and four of the nine division commanders who went with him to Gettysburg, have passed away, and we have nothing, so far as I am aware of, to oppose what General Longstreet declares to have been the plan agreed on, save General Lee's well-known combattiveness and great and acknowledged ability as a military commander, and these alike forbid us to believe that there was any such understanding. General Longstreet represents the plan adopted to have been what he styles offensive in strategy and defensive in tactics. We are to believe from his representations that