Information of Federal Force and Positions
brought by the Scout HarrissonGeneral Lee declines to credit
itGeneral Longstreet suggests a Change of Direction in Conformance with
the RevelationGeneral Meade had succeeded Hooker in Command Five Days
before Battle Positions on the Eve of the First DayConfederate
Cavalry " not ill sight"" The Eyes of the Army" sadly neededA
Description of the Famous BattlefieldGenerals Ewell and A. P. Hill engage
the FederalsDeath of General John F. ReynoldsThe Fight on Seminary
RidgeGeneral Hancock in Federal Command on the FieldConcerning the
Absent Cavalry and Information given by the Scout Conditions at the Close
of the First Day's Fight.
THE eve of the great battle was crowded with events.
Movements for the concentration of the two vast armies went on in mighty force,
but with a silence in strong contrast to the swift-coming commotion of their
shock in conflict. It was the pent quiet of the gathering storm whose bursting
was to shake the continent and suddenly command the startled attention of the
After due preparation for our march of the 29th, all hands
turned in early for a good night's rest. My mind had hardly turned away from
the cares and labors of the day, when I was aroused by some one beating on the
pole of my tent. It proved to be Assistant Inspector-General Fairfax. A young
man had been arrested by our outlying pickets under suspicious circumstances.
He was looking for General Longstreet's head-quarters, but his comfortable
apparel and well-to-do, though travel-stained, appearance caused doubt in the
minds of the guards of his being a genuine Confederate who could be trusted
about head-quarters. So he was sent up under a file of men to be identified. He
proved to be Harrison, the valued scout. He had walked through the lines of the
Union army during the night of the 27th and the 28th, secured a mount at dark
of the latter day to get in as soon as possible, and brought information of the
location of two corps of Federals at night of the 27th, and approximate
positions of others. General Hooker had crossed the Potomac on the 25th and
26th of June. On the 27th he had posted two army corps at Frederick, and the
scout reported another near them, and two others near South Mountain, as he
escaped their lines a little after dark of the 28th. He was sent under care of
Colonel Fairfax to make report of his information at general head-quarters.
General Lee declined, however, to see him, though he asked Colonel Fairfax as
to the information that he brought, and, on hearing it, expressed want of faith
in reports of scouts, in which Fairfax generally agreed, but suggested that in
this case the information was so near General Longstreet's ideas of the
probable movements of the enemy that he gave credit to it. I also sent up a
note suggesting a change of direction of the head of our column east. This I
thought to be the first and necessary step towards bringing the two armies to
such concentration east as would enable us to find a way to draw the enemy into
battle, in keeping with the general plan of campaign, and at the same time draw
him off from the travel of our trains.
There were seven corps of the Army of the Potomac afield. We
were informed on the 28th of the approximate positions of five of
them,three near Frederick and two near the base of South Mountain. The
others, of which we had no definite information, we now know were the Sixth
(Sedgwick's), south of Frederick and east of the Monocacy, and the Twelfth,
towards Harper's Ferry. On the 26th, General Hooker thought to use the Twelfth
Corps and the garrison of Harper's Ferry to strike the line of our
communication, but General Halleck forbade the use of the troops of that post,
when General Hooker asked to be relieved of the responsibility of command, and
was succeeded by General Meade on the night of the 27th.
If General Hooker had been granted the authority for which
he applied, he would have struck our trains, exposed from Chambersburg to the
Potomac without a cavalryman to ride and report the trouble. General Stuart was
riding around Hooker's army, General Robertson was in Virginia, General Imboden
at Hancock, and Jenkins's cavalry was at our front with General Ewell.
By the report of the scout we found that the march of
Ewell's east wing had failed of execution and of the effect designed, and that
heavy columns of the enemy were hovering along the east base of the mountain.
To remove this pressure towards our rear, General Lee concluded to make a more
serious demonstration and force the enemy to look eastward. With this view he
changed direction of the proposed march north, by counter-orders on the night
of the 28th, calling concentration east of the mountains at Cashtown, and his
troops began their march under the last orders on the 29th.
It seems that General Hill misconstrued the orders of the
day, or was confused by the change of orders, and was under the impression that
he was to march by York and cross the Susquehanna towards Philadelphia or
Harrisburg. He ordered his leading division under Heth to Cashtown, however,
and followed with Pender's division on the 30th, leaving orders for the
division of R. H. Anderson to follow on the 1st. The purpose of General Lee's
march east was only preliminary,a concentration about Cashtown.
General Ewell was ready to march for Harrisburg on the 29th,
when orders reached him of the intended concentration at Cashtown. He was at
Carlisle with Rodes's and E. Johnson's divisions and the reserve artillery; his
other division under Early was at York. On the 30th, Rodes was at Heidlersburg,
Early near by, and Johnson, with the reserve artillery, near Green Village.
Pettigrew's brigade of Heth's division, advancing towards
Gettysburg on the 30th, encountered Buford's cavalry and returned to Cashtown.
On the 29th, General Meade wired General Halleck,
" If Lee is moving for Baltimore, I expect to get between
his main army and that place. If he is crossing the Susquehanna, I shall rely
upon General Couch, with his force, holding him, until I can fall upon his rear
and give him battle, which I shall endeavor to do.... My endeavor will be, in
my movements, to hold my force well together, with the hope of falling upon
some portion of Lee's army in detail.
As the change of orders made Gettysburg prominent as the
point of impact, the positions of the commands relative thereto and their
distances therefrom are items of importance in considering the culmination of
POSITIONS OF ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, NIGHT
OF JUNE 30.
General Lee's head-quarters, Greenwood, sixteen miles.
First Corps, Chambersburg, twenty-four miles to
Gettysburg; part at Greenwood, sixteen miles.
Second Corps and Jenkins's cavalry, Heidlersburg, ten
miles; part near Green Village, twenty-three miles (Johnson's division and
Third Corps, near Greenwood, sixteen miles, and
Cashtown, eight miles.
Stuart's cavalry, circling between York and Carlisle,
out of sight.
Robertson's cavalry, in Virginia, beyond reach.
Imboden's cavalry, at Hancock, out of sight.
The Confederates not intending to precipitate battle.
POSITIONS OF ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.
General Meade's head-quarters, Taneytown, fourteen
General Hunt, artillery reserve, Taneytown.
First Corps, Marsh Bun, six miles.
Second Corps, Uniontown, twenty-two miles.
Third Corps, Bridgeport, twelve miles.
Fifth Corps, Union Mills, fifteen miles.
Sixth Corps, Manchester, twenty-two miles.
Eleventh Corps, Emmitsburg, twelve miles.
Twelfth Corps, Littletown, nine miles.
Kilpatrick's cavalry, Hanover, thirteen
Gregg's cavalry, Manchester, twenty-two
Buford's cavalry, Gettysburg.
It should be borne in mind that the field of contention was
south and east of Gettysburg, so that the Union troops were from two to four
miles nearer their field of battle than were the Confederates, who had to march
from two to four miles beyond the town.
Referring to the map, it may be seen that the Confederate
corps had two routes by which to march for concentration,viz., from
Heidlersburg to Cashtown, part of the Second Corps; on the road from
Chambersburg, the First, Third, and part of the Second Corps (with all of the
trains of the latter), with but a single track, the Chambersburg-Gettysburg
turnpike. Some of their distances were greater than any of the columns of the
enemy, while the Army of the Potomac had almost as many routes of march as
commands, and was marching from day to day anticipating a general engagement,
which they were especially cautioned on the 30th was imminent.
General Hill decided to go beyond Cashtown on the 1st to
ascertain as to the enemy reported at Gettysburg. He gave notice of his
intentions to General Ewell, and sent back to the commanding general to have
Anderson's division sent forward. He was at Cashtown with Heth's and Pender's
divisions and their batteries; his reserve artillery with Anderson's division
The armies on the night of June 30 stood thus:
The Confederate: First Corps, two divisions at Greenwood
(except one brigade detached under orders from head-quarters at New Guilford);
Pickett's three brigades at Chambersburg, left under orders from head-quarters
to guard trains; the Second Corps, two divisions near Heidlersburg, one near
and north of Chambersburg; the Third Corps at Cashtown and Fayetteville;
cavalry not in sight or hearing, except Jenkins's brigade and a small
The Union army: the First Corps on Marsh Run, the Second at
Uniontown, the Third at Bridgeport, the Fifth at Union Mills, the Sixth at
Manchester, the Eleventh at Emmitsburg, the Twelfth at Littlestown,
Fitzpatrick's cavalry at Hanover, Buford's at Gettysburg (except one brigade,
detached, guarding his trains). General Meade's head-quarters and reserve
artillery were at Taneytown. His army, including cavalry, in hand.
General Lee's orders called his troops on converging lines
towards Cashtown, but he found that part of his infantry must be left at
Chambersburg to await the Imboden cavalry, not up, and one of Hood's brigades
must be detached on his right at New Guilford to guard on that side in place of
Robertson's cavalry (in Virginia). So that as he advanced towards his
adversary, the eyes and ears of his army were turned afar off, looking towards
the homes of non-combatants. It is bootless to this writing to restate whence
came this mishap. There is no doubt it greatly disturbed General Lee's mind,
and he would have called a halt under ordinary circumstances, but his orders
did not contemplate immediate movements beyond Cashtown. In that he felt safe,
depending upon his cavalry coming up in time to meet him there.
He was in his usual cheerful spirits on the morning of the
1st, and called me to ride with him. My column was not well stretched on the
road before it encountered the division of E. Johnson (Second Corps) cutting in
on our front, with all of Ewell's reserve and supply trains. He ordered the
First Corps halted, and directed that Johnson's division and train should pass
on to its corps, the First to wait. During the wait I dismounted to give Hero a
little respite. (The Irish groom had christened my favorite horse " Haro.")
After a little time General Lee proposed that we should ride
on, and soon we heard reports of cannon. The fire seemed to be beyond Cashtown,
and as it increased he left me and rode faster for the front.
The brigades of Gamble and Devin of Buford's cavalry were
the force that met Pettigrew's brigade on the afternoon of the 30th, when the
latter retired to the post of the divisions at Cashtown.
From Gettysburg roads diverge to the passes of the
mountains, the borders of the Potomac and Susquehanna, and the cities of
Baltimore and Washington; so that it was something of a strategic point. From
the west -side two broad roads run, one northwest to Chambersburg via Cashtown,
the other southwest through Fairfield to Hagerstown. They cross an elevated
ridge, a mile out north, and south of the Lutheran Seminary, known to the
Confederates as Seminary Ridge, covered by open forests. At the northward,
about two miles from the town, the ridge divides, a lesser ridge putting out
west, and presently taking a parallel course with the greater. This was known
as McPherson's Ridge, and was about five hundred yards from the first, where
the road crosses it. Nearly parallel with the Chambersburg pike and about two
hundred yards distant was the cut of an unfinished railroad. Willoughby's Run
flows south in a course nearly parallel to and west of the ridge, and is
bordered by timbered lands. North of Gettysburg the grounds are open and in
fair fields. Directly south of it a bold ridge rises with rough and steep
slopes. The prominent point of the south ridge is Cemetery Hill, and east of
this is Culp's Hill, from which the ridge turns sharply south half a mile, and
drops off into low grounds. It was well wooded and its eastern ascent steep.
East of it and flowing south is Rock Creek. From Cemetery Hill the ground is
elevated, the ridge sloping south to the cropping out of Little Round Top,
Devil's Den, and the bolder Round Top, the latter about three miles south of
the town. Cemetery Ridge is nearly parallel to Seminary Ridge, and is more
At five o'clock on the morning of July 1, General A. P. Hill
marched towards Gettysburg with the divisions of Heth and Pender, and the
battalions of artillery under Pegram and McIntosh, Heth's division and Pegram's
artillery in advance. R. H. Anderson's division, with the reserve artillery
left at Fayetteville, was ordered to march and halt at Cashtown. About ten
o'clock Heth encountered Buford's cavalry. Archer's brigade, leading, engaged,
and Davis's brigade came up on his left with part of Pegram's artillery. The
cavalry was forced back till it passed Willoughby's Run.