Benson John Lossing.

Harper's encyclopdia of United States history from 458 A.D. to 1905 (Volume 3) online

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for supplies. It had, however, the salu
tary effect of alarming the country; and
vigorous preparations were made not only
by the general government, but here in
Pennsylvania and in the sister States, to
repel the inroad. After two days passed
at Chambersburg, Jenkins, anxious for
his communications with Ewell, fell back
with his plunder to Hagerstown. Here
he remained for several days, and then,
having swept the recesses of the Cumber
land Valley, came down upon the eastern
flank of the South Mountain, and pushed
his marauding parties as far as Waynes-
boro. On the 22d the remainder of Ewell s
corps crossed the river and moved up the
valley. They were followed on the 24th
by Longstreet and Hill, who crossed at
Williamsport and Sheppardstown and,
pushing up the valley, encamped at
Chambersburg on the 27th. In this way
the whole rebel army, estimated at 90,-
000 infantry, upward of 10,000 cavalry,
and 4,000 or 5,000 artillery, making a
total of 105,000 of all arms, was concen
trated in Pennsylvania.

Up to this time no report of Hooker s
movements had been received by General
Lee, who, having been deprived of his
cavalry, had no means of obtaining in
formation. Rightly judging, however,
that no time would be lost by the Union
army in the pursuit, in order to detain
it on the eastern side of the mountains in
Maryland and Pennsylvania, and thus
preserving his communications by the way
of Williamsport, he had, before his own
arrival at Chambersburg, directed Ewell
to send detachments from his corps to
Carlisle and York. The latter detach
ment, under Early, passed through this
place on June 26. You need not, fellow-



citizens of Gettysburg, that I should re- of so large a force on the eve of a gen-
call to you those moments of alarm and eral battle the various corps necessarily
distress, precursors as they were of the moving on lines somewhat divergent, and
more trying scenes which were so soon to all in ignorance of the enemy s intended
follow. point of concentration and that not an

As soon as General Hooker perceived hour s hesitation should ensue in the ad-

that the advance of the Confederates into vance of any portion of the entire army,
the Cumberland Valley was not a mere Having assumed the chief command on

feint to draw him away from Washing- the 28th, General Meade directed his left

ton, he moved rapidly in pursuit. At- wing, under Reynolds, upon Emmetts-

tempts, as we have seen, were made to burg, and his right upon New Windsor,

harass and retard his passage across the leaving General French, with 11,000 men,

Potomac. These attempts were not only to protect the Baltimore and Ohio Rail

altogether unsuccessful, but were so un- road, and convoy the public property

skilfully made as to place the entire from Harper s Ferry to Washington.

Federal army between the cavalry of Buford s cavalry was then at this place,

Stuart and the army of Lee. While the and Kilpatrick s at Hanover, where he

latter was massed in the Cumberland encountered and defeated the rear of

Valley, Stuart was east of the mountains, Stuart s cavalry, who was roving the

with Hooker s army between, and Gregg s country in search of the main army of

cavalry in close pursuit. Stuart was, Lee. On the rebel side, Hill had reached

accordingly, compelled to force a march Fayetteville, on the Cashtown road, on

northward, which was destitute of stra- the 28th, and was followed on the same

tegical character, and which deprived his road by Longstreet, on the 29th. The

chief of all means of obtaining intelli- eastern side of the mountain, as seen

gence. from Gettysburg, was lighted up at night

Not a moment had been lost by General by the camp-fires of the enemy s advance,

Hooker in the pursuit of Lee. The day and the country swamped with his forag-

after the rebel army entered Maryland, inp parties. It was now too evident to

the L nion army crossed the Potomac, at be questioned that the thunder-cloud, so

Edward s Ferry, and by the 28th of June long gathering in blackness, would soon

lay between Harper s Ferry and Fred- burst on some part of the devoted vicinity

crick. The force of the enemy on that day of Gettysburg.

June 30 was a dav of important

vas partly at Chambersburg, and partly
moving on tlio Cashtown road in the di-

30 was a day
preparations. At half-past eleven o clock

rection of Gettysburg, while the detach- m the morning General Buford passed
ments from K well s corps, of which men- through Gettysburg upon a reconnois-
tion has been made, had reached the sance in force, with his cavalry, upon
Susquehanna. opposite Harrisburg and the Chambersburg road. The information
Columbia. That a great battle must obtained by him was immediately corn-
soon be fought no one could doubt ; but municated to General Reynolds, who was.
in the apparent, and perhaps real, absence in consequence, directed to occupy Gettys

cf plan on the part of Lee, it was im
possible to foretell the precise scene of
the encounter. Wherever fought, conse- mettsburg to within 6 or 7 miles of this

burg. That gallant officer accordingly,
with the 1st Corps, marched from Em-

quences the most momentous hung upon
the result.

In this critical and anxious state of

place, and encamped on the right bank
of Marsh s Creek. Our right wing,
meantime, was moved to Manchester. On
affairs. General Hooker was relieved, and the same day the corps of Hill and Long-
General Meade was summoned to the street were pushed still farther forward
chief command of the army. It appears on the Chambersburg road, and distributed
to my unmilitary judgment to reflect the in the vicinity of Marsh s Creek, while a
highest credit upon him, upon his prede- reconnoissance was made by the Confeder-
cessor, and upon the corps commanders of ate General Petigru up to a very short
the Army of the Potomac, that a change distance from this place. Thus at night-
could take place in the chief command fall on June 30 the greater part of the



rebel force was concentrated in the im- The command of the 1st Corps devolved
mediate vicinity of two corps of the on General Doubleday, and that of the
Union army, the former refreshed by two field on General Howard, who arrived at
days passed in comparative repose and 11.30 with Schurz s and Barlow s divisions
deliberate preparations for the encounter, of the llth Corps, the latter of whom
the latter separated by a march of one or received a severe wound. Thus strength-
two days from their supporting corps, and ened, the advantage of the battle was for
doubtful at what precise point they were some time on our side. The attacks of
to expect an attack. the rebels were vigorously repulsed by

And now the momentous day, a day to Wadsworth s division of the 1st Corps,
be forever remembered in the annals of and a large number of prisoners, includ-
the country, arrived. Early in the morn- ing General Archer, were captured. At
ing of July 1 the conflict began. I need length, however, the continued reinforce-
not say that it would be impossible for raent of the Confederates from the main
me to comprise, within the limits of the body in the neighborhood, and by the di-
hour, such a narrative as would do any- visions of Rhodes and Early, coming down
thing like full justice to the all-important by separate lines from Heidlersberg and
events of these three great days, or to the taking post on our extreme right, turned
merit of the brave officers and men of the fortunes on the day. Our army, after
every rank, of every arm of the service, contesting the ground for five hours, was
and of every loyal State, who bore their obliged to yield to the enemy, whose force
part in the tremendous struggle alike outnumbered them two to one; and tow-
those who nobly sacrificed their lives for ards the close of the afternoon General
their country, and those who survive, Howard deemed it prudent to withdraw
many of them scarred with honorable the two corps to the heights where we are
wounds, the objects of our admiration and now assembled. The greater part of the
gratitude. The astonishingly minute, ac- 1st Corps passed through the outskirts
curate, and graphic accounts contained in of the town, and reached the hill without
the journals of the day, prepared from serious loss or molestation. The llth
personal observation by reporters who Corps and portions of the 1st, not being
witnessed the scenes and often shared the aware that the enemy had already en-
perils which they describe, and the highly tered the town from the north, attempted
valuable " notes " of Professor Jacobs, of to force their way through Washington
the university in this place, to which I and Baltimore streets, which, in the crowd
am greatly indebted, will abundantly and confusion of the scene, they did, with
supply the deficiency of my necessarily a heavy loss in prisoners,
too condensed statement. General Howard was not unprepared

General Reynolds, on arriving at Get- for this turn in the fortunes of the day.
tysburg in the morning of the 1st, found He had in the course of the morning
Buford with his cavalry warmly engaged caused Cemetery Hill to be occupied by
with the enemy, whom he held most gal- General Steinwehr with the 2d Division
hmtly in check. Hastening himself to the of the llth Corps. About the time
front, General Reynolds directed his men of the withdrawal of our troops to the
to be moved over the fields from the Em- hill General Hancock arrived, having been
mettsburg road, in front of McMillan s sent by General Meade, on hearing of the
and Dr. Schumucker s under cover of the death of Reynolds, to assume the corn-
Seminary Ridge. Without a moment s mand of the field until he himself could
hesitation, he attacked the enemy, at the reach the front. Tn conjunction with
same time sending orders to the llth General Howard, General Hancock im-
Corps (General Howard s) to advance as mediately proceeded to post troops and
promptly as possible. General Reynolds to repel an attack on our right flank,
immediately found himself engaged with This attack was feebly made and prompt-
a force which greatly outnumbered his ly repulsed. At nightfall our troops on
own, and had scarcely made his dispo- the hill, who had so gallantly sustained
sitions for the action when he fell, mor- themselves during the toil and peril of the
tally wounded; at the head of his advance, day, were cheered by the arrival of Gen-



eral Sloeum with the 12th Corps and of
General Sickles with a part of the 3d.

Such was the fortune of the first day,
commencing with decided success to our
arms, followed by a check, but ending in
the occupation of this all-important po
sition. To you, fellow-citizens of Gettys
burg, I need not attempt to portray the
anxieties of the ensuing night. Witness
ing as you have done with sorrow the
withdrawal of our army through your
streets, with a considerable loss of prison
ers mourning as you did over the brave
men who had fallen, shocked with the
widespread desolation around you, of
which the wanton burning of the Harman
House had given the signal ignorant of
the near approach of General Meade, you
passed the weary hours of the night in
painful expectation.

Long before the dawn of July 2
the new commander-in-chief had reached
the ever - memorable field of service and
glory. Having received intelligence of
the events in progress, and informed by
the reports of Generals Hancock and
Howard of the favorable character of the
position, he determined to give battle to
the enemy at this point. He accordingly
directed the remaining corps of the army
to concentrate at Gettysburg with all pos
sible expedition, and breaking up his head
quarters at Taneytown at 10 P.M., he ar
rived at the front at one o clock in the
morning of July 2. Few were the mo
ments given to sleep during the rapid
watches of that brief midsummer s night,
by officers or men, though half of our
troops were exhausted by the conflict of
the day, and the residue wearied by the
forced marches which had brought them
to the rescue. The full moon, veiled by
thin clouds, shone down that night on a
strangely unwonted scene. The silence
of the graveyard was broken by the heavy
tramp of armed men, by the rheigh of the
war-horse, the harsh rattle of the wheels
of artillery hurrying to their stations,
and all the indescribable tumult of prep
aration. The various corps of the army,
as they arrived, were moved to their posi
tions, on the spot where we are as
sembled and the ridges that extend south
east and southwest; batteries were
planted and breastworks thrown up. The
2d and 5th Corps, with the rest of the

3d, had reached the ground by 7 A.M. ;
but it was not till two o clock in the
afternoon that Sedgwick arrived with the
Oth Corps. He had marched 34 miles since
nine o clock of the evening before. It was
only on his arrival that the Union army
approached an equality of numbers with
that of the rebels, who were posted
upon the opposite and parallel ridge, dis
tant from a mile to a mile and a half,
overlapping our position on either wing,
and probably exceeding by 10,000 the
army of General Meade.

And here I cannot but remark on the
Providential inaction of the rebel army.
Had the contest been renewed by it
at daylight on July 2, with the 1st and
llth Corps exhausted by the battle and
the retreat, the 3d and 12th weary from
their forced inarch, and the 2d, 5th, and
Cth not yet arrived, nothing but a miracle
could have saved the army from a great
disaster. Instead of this, the day dawned,
the sun rose, the cool hours of the morn
ing passed, the forenoon and a consider
able part of the afternoon wore away,
without the slightest aggressive movement
on the part of the enemy. Thus time was
given for half of our forces to arrive and
take their place in the lines, while the
rest of the army enjoyed a much-needed
half-day s repose.

At length, between three and four o clock
in the afternoon, the work of death began.
A signal-gun from the hostile batteries
was followed by a tremendous cannonade
along the rebel lines, and this by a heavy
advance of infantry, brigade after brigade,
commencing on the enemy s right against
the left of our army, and so onward to the
left centre. A forward movement of Gen
eral Sickles, to gain a- commanding posi
tion from which to repel the rebel at
tack, drew upon him a destructive fire
from the enemy s batteries, and a furious
assault from Longstreet s and Hill s ad
vancing troops. After a brave resistance
on the part of his corps, he was forced
back, himself falling severely wounded.
This was the critical moment of the sec
ond day, but the 5th and a part of the
Gth Corps, with portions of the 1st and
2d, were promptly brought to the support
of the 3d. The struggle was fierce and
murderous, but by sunset our success was
decisive, and the enemy was driven back



in confusion. The most important ser-
vice was rendered towards the close of the
day, in the memorable advance between
Round Top and Little Round Top, by Gen-
cral Crawford s division of the 5th Corps,
consisting of two brigades of the Pennsyl-
vania Reserves, of which one company
was from this town and neighborhood,
The rebel force was driven back with
great loss in killed and prisoners. At
eight o clock in the evening a desperate at-
tempt was made by the enemy to storm
the position of the llth Corps on Cemetery
Hill; but here, too, after a terrible con-
flict, he was repulsed with immense loss,
Ewell, on our extreme right, which had
been weakened by the withdrawal of the
troops sent over to support our left, had
succeeded in gaining a foothold within a
portion of our lines, near Spangler s
Spring. This was the only advantage ob-
tained by the rebels to compensate them
for the disasters of the day, and of this,
as we shall see, they were soon deprived.

Such was the result of the second
act of this eventful drama a day hard
fought, and at one moment anxious, but,
with the exception of the slight reverse
just named, crowned with dearly earned
but uniform success to our arms, auspi-
cious of a glorious termination of the final
struggle. On these good omens the night

In the course of the night General Geary
returned to his position on the right, from
which he had hastened the day before to
strengthen the 3d Corps. He immediately
engaged the enemy, and, after a sharp and
decisive action, drove them out of our
lines, recovering the ground which had
been lost on the preceding day. A spirited
contest was kept up all the morning ori
this part of the line; but General Geary,
reinforced by Wheaton s brigade of tho
Oth Corps, maintained his position, and in-
flicted very severe losses on the rebels.

Such was the cheering commencement
of the third day s work, and with it ended
all serious attempts of the enemy on our
right. As on the preceding day, his efforts
were now mainly directed against our
left centre and left wing. From e^ven
till half - past one o clock all was still, a
solemn pause of preparation, as if both
armies were nerving themselves for the
supreme effort. At length the awful

silence, more terrible than the wildest
tumult of battle, was broken by the roar
of 250 pieces of artillery from the op-
posite ridges, joining in a cannonade of
unsurpassed violence the rebel batter-
ies along two - thirds of their line pour-
ing their fire upon Cemetery Hill and
the centre and left wing of our army.
Having attempted in this way for two
hours, but without success, to shake the
steadiness of our lines, the enemy rallied
his forces for a last grand assault. Their
attack was principally directed against
the position of our 2d Corps. Successive
lines of rebel infantry moved forward
with equal spirit and steadiness from
their cover on the wooded crest of
Seminary Ridge, crossing the intervening
plain, and, supported right and left by
their choicest brigades, charged furiously
up to our batteries. Our own brave troops
of the 2d Corps, supported by Doubleday s
division and Stannard s brigade of the
1st, received the shock with firmness; the
ground on both sides was long and fiercely
contested, and was covered with the killed
and the wounded; the tide of battle flowed
and ebbed across the plain, till, after " a
determined and gallant struggle," as it
is pronounced by General Lee, the rebel
advance, consisting of two - thirds of
Hill s corps and the whole of Long-
street s, including Pickett s division, the
elite of his corps, which had not yet been
under fire, and was now depended upon
to decide the fortune of this last eventful
day, was driven back with prodigious
slaughter, discomfited and broken. While
these events were in progress at our left
centre, the enemy was driven, with con-
siderable loss of prisoners, from the strong
position on our extreme left, from which
he was annoying our forces on Little
Round Top. In the terrific assault on our
centre Generals Hancock and Gibbon were
wounded. In the rebel army, Generals
Armistead, Kemper, Petigru, and Trimble
were wounded, the first named mortally.
the latter also made prisoner; General
Garnett was killed, and 3,500 officers and
men made prisoners.

These were the expiring agonies of the
three days conflict, and with them th
battle ceased. It was fought by the Union
army with courage and skill, from the
first cavalry skirmish on Wednesday morn-


ing to the fearful rout of the enemy on Owing to the circumstance just named,
Friday afternoon, by every arm and every the intentions of the enemy were not ap-
rank of the service, by officers and men, parent on the 4th. The moment his re-
by cavalry, artillery, and infantry. The treat was discovered, the following morn-
superiority of numbers was with the ing, he was pursued by our cavalry on
enemy, who were led by the ablest com- the Cashtown road and through the
manders in their service; and if the Union Emmettsburg and Monterey passes, and by
force had the advantage of a strong posi- Sedgwick s corps on the Fairfield road;
tion, the Confederates had the advantages his rear-guard was briskly attacked at
of choosing the time and place, the prestige Fairfield ; a great number of wagons and
of former victories over the Army of the ambulances were captured in the passes
Potomac, and of the success of the first of the mountains; the country swarmed
day. Victory does not always fall to the with his stragglers, and his wounded were
lot of those who deserve it, but that so de- literally emptied from the vehicles con-
cisive a triumph, under circumstances like taining them into the farm-houses on the
these, was gained by our troops I would road. General Lee, in his report, makes
ascribe, under Providence, to that spirit of repeated mention of the Union prisoners
exalted patriotism that animated them and whom he conveyed into Virginia, some-
a consciousness that they were fighting in what overstating their number. He
a righteous cause. states also that " such of his wounded as
All hope of defeating our army, and were in a condition to be removed " were
securing what General Lee calls " the forwarded to Williamsport. He does not
valuable results " of such an achieve- mention that the number of his wounded
ment having vanished, he thought only of which were not removed, and left to the
rescuing from destruction the remains of Christian care of the victors, was 7,540, not
his shattered forces. In killed, wounded, one of whom failed of any attention which
and missing he had, as far as can be it was possible under the circumstances
ascertained, suffered a loss of about of the case to afford them; not one of
37,000 men rather more than one-third whom, certainly, has been put upon Libby
of the army with which he is supposed to prison fare, lingering death by starva-
have marched into Pennsylvania. Per- tion. Heaven forbid, however, that we
ceiving that his only safety was in rapid should claim any merit for the exercise of
retreat, he commenced withdrawing his common humanity!

troops at daybreak on the 4th, throwing Under the protection of the mountain
up field-works in front of our left, which, ridge, whose narrow passes are easily
assuming the appearance of a new posi- held, even by a retreating army, General
tion, were intended probably to protect Ice reached Williamsport in safety, and
the rear of his army in their retreat, took up a strong position opposite to that
That day sad celebration of the 4th of place. General Meade necessarily pur-
July for the army of Americans was sued with the main army, by a flank
passed by him in hurrying off his trains, movement, through Middletown, Turner s
By nightfall the main army was in full Pass having been secured by General
retreat on the Cashtown and Fairfield French. Passing through the South
roads, and it moved with such precipita- Mountain, the Union army came up with
tion that, short as the nights were, by day- that of the rebels on the 12th, and found
light the following morning, notwithstand- it securely posted on the heights of
ing the heavy rain, the rear-guard had left Marsh Run. The position was recon-
its position. The struggle of the last two noitred, and preparation made for an
days resembled in many respects the bat- attack on the 13th. The depth of the
tie of Waterloo ; and if, on the evening of river, swollen by the recent rains, au-
the third day, General Meade, like the thorized the expectation that the enemy
Duke of Wellington, had had the assist- would be brought to a general engagement
ance of a powerful auxiliary army to the following day. An advance was ac-
take up the pursuit, the rout of the rebels cordingly made by General Meade on the"
would have been as complete as that of morning of the 14th; but it was soon
Napoleon. found that the rebels had escaped in the



night with such haste that EwelPs nature of the case admits, at 23,000.
corps forded the river where the water General Meade also captured three can-
was breast high. The cavalry, which had non and forty-one standards, and 24,978
rendered the most important services small-arms were collected on the battle-
during the three days, and in harassing field.

the enemy s retreat, was now sent in pur- I must leave to others, who can do it
suit, and captured two guns and a large from personal observation, to describe the
number of prisoners. In an action which mournful spectacle presented by these hill-
took place at Falling River, General Peti- sides and plains at the close of the terri-

Online LibraryBenson John LossingHarper's encyclopdia of United States history from 458 A.D. to 1905 (Volume 3) → online text (page 44 of 76)