Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 33.djvu/150

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

146 Southern Historical Society Papers.

great mistake of the battle was the failure to follow the Union forces through the town, and attack them before they could reform on Cem- etery hill. It was no fault of Early and Rodes and their divisions, that the Cemetery hill was not taken. Instead of sending Gordon's brigade away, Smith's brigade could have been ordered from the flank; and Ewell without waiting for the support desired upon his right from A. P. Hill, could have easily taken the hill and held it that night. It would have saved the day, and thrown the inevita- ble battle back on another line, probably Pipe Clay Creek, with a field more hopeful for General Lee.

As the sun went down, Edward Johnson arrived on the north- west of the field. General Lee came over and conferred with Gen- erals Ewell, Early and Rodes, outside of the town, on the Carlisle road. All had abandoned attack for that evening. Federal troops had arrived with Hancock in command, and Slocum was placed in line across Gulp's hill and the Cemetery hill. General Lee spoke of an advance by General Ewell by daylight next morning. Early and Rodes again suggested advance from the ground to their right, the more gradual slope affording opportunity for success against the Cemetery hill. General Lee asked as to the possible movement of the corps to his right, that the line might not be so long. But Ewell thought he could take Gulp's hill on his left, and threaten the enemy's right. "Well," said General Lee, "if I attack from my right, Longstreet will have to make the attack." Then with bowed head he added, "Longstreet is a very good fighter when he gets in position, but he is so slow" It was concluded that the advance should be made from the right. General Lee rode away and joined General Longstreet near the Seminary, and Longstreet urged that he should move to his right and place his force between Meade and Washington. The interview ended with a distinct statement made by General Lee in the hearing of his staff, that he expected General Longstreet to attack from the right ' 'as early as practicable. ' '

Whatever was to be the result, the battle was now joined. There was no retreat without an engagement. Instead of the defensive, as he had planned, General Lee was compelled to take the offensive, and himself endeavor to force the enemy away. It was not by the choice of Lee nor by the foresight of Meade that the Federal army found itself placed on lines of magnificent defence. Just east of the little town, across a narrow valley, there lay on the ground a great "fish-hook," as Swinton 'first and aptly called it, a fish-hook