Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/42

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

feasibility of an attempt to take possession of the heights at the close of the first day's fight. He admits that "of course, after the arrival of his chief, all responsibility was taken from Ewell in not ordering the troops forward—it was assumed by and is to be placed on General Lee." That is what I have always thought, and the statement of Colonel Taylor that "General Lee witnessed the flight of the Federals through Gettysburg and up the hills beyond;" of General Heth, that he applied for and obtained permission from General Lee to attack while Rodes was engaged; and of General Pendleton, that General Lee arrived on the field about two P.M. and gave instructions for posting some artillery so as to enfilade the enemy's line before it began to fall back, settles the question of his presence beyond all dispute. Ewell is therefore relieved from the responsibility for not ordering a general advance, and it rests on General Lee, according to General Fitz. Lee's own admission. General Lee's fame can stand the ordeal of all the criticisms of all those who were not present, and can therefore form no just estimate of the obstacles to an advance on our part that presented themselves on the occasion. The order to Ewell contemplated the use of only his own troops then at hand, to carry the hill, if he found it practicable without bringing on a general engagement. He was on the low ground at the foot of the hill, and could neither see the enemy nor form any estimate of his strength, while General Lee had a much better view from Seminary ridge, and he ordered none of Hill's troops to advance. Ewell could not do so when the Commanding-General was present. If he had gone forward with his less than 8,000 men that were available before the arrival of Johnson, he could not "have shattered the Twelfth corps—possibly portions of two others;" and as our position was perfectly in view from Cemetery hill, and all our movements could be seen, when we commenced ascending that hill, Buford with his 2,500 cavalry might have swept around the town on our right, released the several thousand prisoners we had taken, and destroyed our trains, as there would have been nothing in our rear to oppose him.

When Johnson arrived, which was after six P.M., the opportunity for taking the heights without a desperate and uncertain struggle had passed, as General Hancock's statement makes very apparent.

Those who are still disposed to carp at the operations of the first day, can turn their batteries on General Lee, if they think proper; but it is very easy to imagine what would be his reply if he were alive.

J. A. Early.