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Early, flanked on his right, where Rodes should have
protected him, was forced to retire. Night fell and ended
the bloody conflict on the field of battle, but with Lee
still sanguine of success, although he had lost heavily ;
for he knew that Meade had lost more in proportion.
Lee's army was in fine spirits, satisfied that the combats
of the day had resulted in their favor, and that a com-
plete victory would have been won had Lee been able to
secure a simultaneous attack by his right, his center and
his left. Law held the Devil's Den, at the bases of the
Round Tops; Johnson held the crest of Gulp's hill,
nearly around to the flank of the Federal right and the
Baltimore road. Wright, in the center, and Early on
the left, had broken through the Federal lines, and would
doubtless have held the Cemetery ridge had they been
adequately supported. Stuart had now arrived on the
field, and was ready to still further threaten the Federal
left and rear and the road leading toward Baltimore.
Lee's artillery, a body, in its personnel, leading and equip-
ment, of unsurpassed excellence, was in a good posi-
tion and ready for duty.

Meade, disheartened by the results of the day's con-
tests and alarmed for the safety of his army, was ready
to retreat. Calling his twelve chief subordinates in coun-
cil, they discussed the situation. Three of his corps had
been badly shattered; 20,000 of his veterans were miss-
ing ; but two of his army corps remained intact. Han-
cock's chief of staff records, "It was indeed a gloomy
hour." The councilors were greatly divided in their
opinions, and the only conclusion reached, after a long
conference, was to remain another day and await Lee's
assault. During the night Dahlgren, a Federal scout,


who had waylaid, in the Cumberland valley, a courier
from Davis to Lee and captured his dispatches, reached
Meade's headquarters. These dispatches showed that,
through fear of a threatened Federal attack on Rich-
mond, it would be impossible to comply with Lee's
urgent request for concentrating a force in Culpeper,
under Beauregard, and threatening Washington. This
information relieved Meade's apprehensions about the
safety of the capital which he had been charged to guard,
and nerved him to hold on at Gettysburg for another day.
The weight of testimony, especially that of President
Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton, shows that but
for this timely arrival Meade would have fallen back that
night to the line of Pipe creek, and there halted in
defensive position, covering the approaches to Balti-
more and Washington.

Lee determined to renew the attack on the 3d of July,
as he had first planned it. Longstreet, now reinforced
by Pickett's division, which had arrived from the Cum-
berland valley during the afternoon of the 2d, was to
again attack the Federal left, advancing from the position
he had gained at the Devil's Den; while Ewell was at
the same time to assail the Federal right, after reinforc-
ing Johnson with two brigades from Rodes and one from
Early. Hill was again to advance from the center.
When the morning of the 3d came, it was found that the
Federal Fifth corps, supported by the Sixth, had during
the night taken possession of the Round Tops, with both
infantry and artillery strongly intrenched in that nat-
urally strong position which dominated Lee's right and
protected Meade's left. This wise action of the Federal
commander forced Lee to change his plan. Ewell's artil-
lery was already opening the way for his assault, and
delay was dangerous. Lee promptly ordered Longstreet
to organize a column of attack against Meade's center
on Cemetery ridge, and breaking that to join Ewell by
taking the Federal right in reverse. Hood and McLaws
were to engage the Federal left, and if opportunity
offered, to attack it. The two columns of attack by
Longstreet were made up of Pickett's division on the
right, and Pettigrew's (Heth's) division of Hill's corps on
the left. Wilcox and Perry, of Anderson's division,
were to guard Pickett's right, while Trimble, with the
brigades of Lane and Scales, was to guard Pettigrew's


left. The rest of Hill's command was held in reserve,
to be used as occasion might require. Ewell was already
in hot and close contention on Gulp's hill, when Lee
gave the order to advance, confident that his column of
attack could break through Meade's line where Wright
had broken through it the day before, and then aid Ewell
in crushing the Federal right. In person he pointed out to
Longstreet a clump of trees, near the middle of Han-
cock's line, as marking the point to be attacked. From
his position that part of the Federal line did not seem to
be a strong one, except for the stone fences that bor-
dered the roads and separated the fields, and thus gave
protection to Hancock's men.

Lee prepared for the assault by opening on the Federal
lines with masses of artillery. At lo a. m. Alexander
was in position with seventy-five guns, on the swell west
of the Emmitsburg road ; and R. Lindsey Walker with
his sixty-three, from the Seminary ridge farther to the
northward. It was expected that their heavy concen-
trated fire would silence the batteries on Cemetery ridge
and open a safer way for Longstreet's assault, which
these same batteries were to follow up, keeping pace
with the infantry, protecting their flanks, and joining in
the final onslaught, as they had at Chancellorsville.

By 9 o'clock, Pickett and Pettigrew were in line, on
Seminary ridge, and Ewell had made his desperate
attack on Gulp's hill, from which he was driven back with
great loss, and left in no condition to resume the offensive
and again make a simultaneous attack with Longstreet.
At 12 o'clock the assaulting columns were advanced to
the edge of the woods, in rear of the Confederate guns,
ready to move forward at the word of command, which
Longstreet states that he requested Colonel Alexander
to give at his discretion. The artillery did not open
until I o'clock, when it drew upon it the fire of seventy
Federal cannon, and a mighty conflict, between great
guns, raged across the 1,400 yards of interval between
the opposing ridges. The long bolts from the Whit-
worth guns of the Confederates, on Seminary ridge,
cut wide gaps in the Federal lines on Cemetery ridge;
and the well-aimed shells from the same quarter
wrought havoc as they fell within the enemy's lines, but
these quickly closed up, in obedience to orders. Flame
and smoke ' rose from the long lines of the opposing


ridges ; the thunder of the cannon was deafening to the
ears of all within miles of the conflict, and soon a dense
volume of smoke settled down between the opposing
armies, concealing each from the other. Gen. Francis
A. Walker, Hancock's chief of stafE, describes the effect
of the Confederate artillery in these words :

The whole space behind Cemetery ridge was in a moment ren-
dered uninhabitable. General headquarters were broken up; the
supply and reserve ammunition trains were driven out; motley
hordes of camp followers poured down the Baltimore pike or spread
over the fields to the rear. Upon every side caissons exploded ;
horses were struck down by the hundreds ; the air was filled with
flying missiles; shells tore up the ground and then bounded for
another and perhaps more deadty flight, or burst above the crouch-
ing troops and sent their ragged fragments down in deadly showers.
Never had a storm so dreadful burst upon mortal man.

After enduring for a half hour the withering fire of
the Confederate batteries, Meade retired eighteen of his
guns from the Cemetery, when Alexander sent a note
to Pickett, saying, "If you are coming at all, you must
come at once." Seeking his corps commander, Pickett
said, "General, shall I advance?" Longstreet made no
reply. Pickett saluted, and in firm voice said, "Sir, I
shall lead my division forward;" and he promptly
ordered the charge of his own three brigades of Virgini-
ans and Heth's four of North Carolinians, Tennesseeans,
Mississippians and Alabamians, under Pettigrew. These
columns moved slowly from the woods that had con-
cealed them, toward the Emmitsburg road. Trimble,
with two brigades of North Carolinians, marched in the
rear of Pettigrew's right. Wilcox had been ordered to
guard Pickett's right with his Alabama brigade. Now
12,000 veteran infantrymen were marching, with steady
step, across the 1,400 yards of open country between the
contending armies. Once clear of the Confederate bat-
teries, Pickett diverged his division to the left and moved
toward the salient in Hancock's line. For a time the
two opposing armies were silent spectators of this sub-
limely heroic advance, and not until half the ground to
be gone over had been covered, did the batteries from
Cemetery ridge and Round Top open on the Confederate
assault, which then changed its steady pace, first to a
double-quick, then to a rushing charge, closing up its
ranks as they were broken by shot or shell, crossing the
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and unflinchingly facing the musketry and the canister
of Meade's guns.

To General Lee's amazement, his batteries did not sup-
port this movement by engaging those of Meade. He did
not know that the hour of furious and rapid cannonade that
preceded the charge, had nearly exhausted his artillery am-
munition, and his on-rushing columns were now meeting
the fire of both infantry and artillery without the support
even of the guns that were to have gone forward in the
attacking column. Alexander had ordered nine howitzers
to move with Pickett to the very front of the battle, but
these had disappeared without his orders. Securing fif-
teen guns that still had ammunition, Alexander moved
these up behind Pickett's division.

Firing diagonally upon his left, the Federal guns,
from the Cemetery, wrought sad havoc in Pettigrew's
line, and Trimble's men, with quickening pace, were
soon mingled with those of Pettigrew's right, which a
Vermont brigade, by bold attack, forced toward his left.
The guns from Round Top secured an enfilade on the
Confederate columns, but these pressed forward to within
loo yards of the wall held by the Federals, when they
began filing to the rear. With rapid fire and wild yell,
Pettigrew's right, Pickett's left and Trimble mingling in
a charge, rushed upon and took possession of the stone
wall held by the enemy, capturing prisoners and silencing
batteries. Pouring in, from right and left, the Federals
then engaged in a hand-to-hand fight with the heroic
Confederates who had so courageously broken their cen-
ter, and a fearful contest and carnage ensued, where the
men of equal valor strove for the mastery. Nearly
every field officer present, on either side, fell among the
dead and wounded men of their commands.

Pickett's second line, Armistead's Virginia brigade,
rushed to the stone wall almost as soon as the line that
preceded it, and for some minutes his men were masters
of the deserted front. The commander of a Federal bri-
gade, who had been forced back under a heavy fire, says
of this supreme moment, "The enemy was rapidly gain-
ing a foothold; organization was mostly lost; in the con-
fusion commands were useless, while a disposition on the
part of the men to fall back a pace or two at a time to
load gave the line a retiring direction. ' '

For the time the grand assault was successful, and

Ta 27


Meade's center was completely broken, and if Lee's artil-
lery had been at hand, as ordered, Pickett would doubt-
less have held the captured works and forced the Feder-
als from Cemetery ridge. A fresh line of Federal infan-
try soon advanced along the crest and fired, but the
Confederates drove these back. Then Armistead, with
his hat on the point of his uplifted saber as a guide,
leaped over the stone wall, shouting, "Boys, we must
use the cold steel. Who will follow?" Every man
obeyed the call, and the charge reached to the crest of
the ridge, to seize the Federal guns ; but there the leader
fell, and his men retired behind the stone wall, anx-
iously awaiting reinforcements. Lieutenant Finley (now,
1898, Rev. George W. Finley, D. D.), looking back over
the track of Pickett's bold advance, was surprised to see
it marked by so few dead or wounded men. At this crit-
ical juncture an unknown voice, from the ranks, called
out, "Retreat! " and many turned to flee; most of them
to fall under the Federal fire that followed after them.
The reassured Federals swarmed in from every side and
captured the 4,000 Confederates that, unsupported, were
still holding the stone fences.

Pickett's columns had been moving, for at least a half
hour, before Longstreet ordered Wilcox, supported by
Perry, to move forward to the support of Pickett's right.
These were only in time to meet the retreating fragments
of Pickett's right and the fierce Federal fire that fol-
lowed them. Anderson's division, of Hill's corps, stood
ready to advance on Pettigrew's left, thus extending
Pickett's line in that direction; McLaws was also ready
to move on Wilcox's right, but Longstreet gave no orders.
Had these steady veterans become the right and the left
arms of Pickett's famous charge, Lee would, in all human
probability, have not only held what Pickett won, but
would have routed Meade's right and left from his widely
broken center.

Lee, with the calmness of a trained soldier, sat hia
horse, on Seminary ridge, amid Alexander's batteries,
and watched the charge and repulse of his heroic veter-
ans. Colonel Fremantle, of the British army, writing
from the standpoint of an eye-witness, says: "General
Lee was perfectly sublime. He was engaged in rall3dng
and encouraging the broken troops and was riding about
a little in front of the wood, quite alone, ... his face^


which is always placid and cheerful, did not show any
signs of the slightest disappointment, care, or annoyance,
and he was addressing to every soldier he met a few
words of encouragement; such as, 'AH this will come
right in the end ; we will talk it over afterward ; but in
the meantime all good men must rally. ' . . . He spoke
to all the men that passed him, and the slightly wounded
he exhorted to bind up their hurts and take a musket in
this emergency. Very few failed to answer his appeal,
and I saw badly wounded men take off their hats and
cheer him. ' ' To General Wilcox, who, in tones of sad-
ness, mingled with vexation, told him of the condition of
his brigade, Fremantle says, "Lee replied: 'Never mind,
General ; all this has been my fault. It is I that have
lost this fight, and you must help me out of it the best
way you can.' " These things moved this onlooking
English colonel to conclude : "It was impossible to look
at him or to listen to him without feeling the strongest
admiration. ' '

A Federal cavalry charge on the Confederate right,
during the afternoon, was repulsed with loss to the at-
tacking troopers. On the left, Stuart repeatedly charged
Gregg's cavalry, in attempts to gain the Baltimore turn-
pike, but without success.

With his repulsed troops rallied along the lines from
which they had advanced to the fierce battle, and with
his artillery replenished with ammunition, Lee awaited,
on Seminary ridge, a counterstroke from Meade ; but the
Federal commander was in no condition for such an
effort, and was more than satisfied that he had been able
to hold his strong lines against Lee's furious assaults.
The slaughter in both armies had been great, and each
was satisfied to face the other in silent defiance and await
developments. Of Meade's 95,000 in the field of action,
23,000 had fallen; of Lee's 58,000, including his cavalry
that had participated in the fight, over 20,000 lay dead
or wounded, or were missing. Some of the latter were
stragglers who afterward returned. Among the dead
leaders of the Confederates were Generals Armistead,
Gamett, Pender, Barksdale and Semmes; Archer was
left a prisoner, and Kemper, Pettigrew, Hood, Trimble,
Heth, Scales, G. T. Anderson, Jenkins and Hampton
were severely wounded.

In his official report, Lee writes of this day: "The


severe loss sustained by the army, and the reduction of
its ammunition, rendered another attempt to dislodge
the enemy unadvisable, and it was therefore determined
to withdraw. " But he was in no haste to do this in such
a way as to suffer damage to his command or to his trains.
He spent the whole of July 4th awaiting Meade's pleasure
for an attack, which the latter, in the wisdom he had
learned during three days of contention, did not make.
After caring for his wounded and burying all his dead
within reach, Lee started his trains for the Potomac, by
the great highway leading southwest from Gettysburg,
through Fairfield, across the South mountain by Mon-
terey Springs, and through Hagerstown to Williamsport.
These he followed with his army during the night of the
4th, leaving Ewell, as a rear guard, in front of Gettys-
burg until the forenoon of the sth; and by thus holding
on he forced Meade to follow in pursuit by circuitous
routes to passes of the Blue ridge (South mountain), far-
ther to the southwest. The disciplined courage of Lee's
army was unbroken, and his veterans were as ready as
ever to accept any offered battle. They knew, as well
as did their leaders, why failures had come at Gettys-
burg. The Federals had all possible tactic advantages.
They had strength of position, superiority of numbers,
and abundant supplies of ammunition. The Confeder-
ates mourned the losses they had sustained, but were
cheered with the reflection that they retired from the
famous battlefield of Gettysburg with their previous hon-
ors well sustained.

As usual, after great battles during the Confederate
war, heavy rains followed that of Gettysburg, swelling
all the tributaries of the Potomac, making that stream
impassable at the Williamsport ford, and endangering
Lee's pontoon bridge at Falling Waters. Imboden, with-
drawing from the Cumberland valley, covered with in-
trenchments Lee's trains concentrated at Williamsport,
manned his works with several batteries of artillery, and
stood ready to repulse any cavalry attacks that might be
made upon him.

As he fell back, Lee sent forward his engineers to select
a new line of battle covering the approaches to Williams-
port and Falling Waters. An admirable position was
found near Hagerstown, which met with General Lee's
approbation, when he arrived on the 6th and rode over


it. He at once ordered his army into this chosen position,
and his men began to throw up rude intrenchments and
look with grim satisfaction at the topographic diificul-
ties in the way, should Meade venture offensive battle.
The Federal cavalry made some attacks on Lee's trains
as they were passing through the eastern defiles of the
South mountain, but these were quickly repulsed by the
train guards, and Stuart held the large body of Federal
cavalry in check by his tireless covering of the rear and
flanks of Lee's retiring movement.

Meade, with 47,000 effectives, about the half of his
original army, gave Lee a wide berth and cautiously
marched due south to Frederick and Middletown, thus
placing himself on the National road between Lee and
Washington and Baltimore. To his army 11,000 veter-
ans were added, also large numbers of militia that had
responded to Lincoln's call when Lee invaded Pennsylva-
nia. Yielding to urgent orders, from Washington, that
he should at once destroy Lee's army, which was vainly
supposed to be shattered and in full retreat, Meade took
the highway that McClellan had taken the previous
September, crossed the South mountain at Boonsboro,
on the nth of July, and after having carefully bridged
the Antietam, appeared, on the 12th, in front of Lee's
now well protected defensive position, and took up a line
which he at once proceeded to fortify. This done, he
called a council of war and found that his subordinates
were unwilling to attack Lee's lines, well knowing that
such an attempt could result only in defeat and disaster.

On the appearance of Meade's advance, on the nth,
Lee issued a stirring address to his soldiers, in which,
among other things, he said :

After long and trying inarches, endured with the fortitude that
has ever characterized the soldiers of the army of Northern Virginia,
you have penetrated the coantry of our enemies, and recalled to the
defense of their own soil those who were engaged in the invasion of
ours. You have fought a fierce and sang^uinary battle, which, if not
attended with the success that has hitherto crowned your efforts, was
marked by the same heroic spirit that has commanded the respect
of your enemies, the gratitude of your country and the admiration
of mankind. Once more you are called upon to meet the army
from which you have won on so many fields a name that will never
die. . . . Let every soldier remember that on his courage and fidel-
ity depends all that makes life worth having — the freedom of his
country, the honor of his people, and the security of his home.

By the 13th the Potomac had fallen to within its banks.


and during that night the Second corps forded it at Wil-
liam^ort, while the First and Third began crossing the
pontoon at Falling Waters, a few miles lower down the
river. Stuart so engaged the attention of Meade that
the latter was not aware of Lee's crossing until it was
well-nigh done. The Federal cavalry pressed against
Hill's rear guard, composed of Heth's division, but to be
repulsed with loss. The most serious damage to the Con-
federates was the death of the heroic Pettigrew in the
rear-guard skirmish. By noonday of the 14th the three
army corps were again in Virginia, and the Federal army
was left in amazement at the skill with which Lee had
withdrawn from their front and crossed a great river,
practically without loss. It was evident that there was
no fight left in the Federal army, and Meade was quite
content to remain north of the Potomac and carefully
watch between Lee and Washington.

Before recrossing the Potomac, and while awaiting an
attack from Meade, Lee wrote again, urging President
Davis to gather an army, under Beauregard, and threaten
Washington, as he had persistently asked should be done
before and during his invasion of Pennsylvania. He
asserted that he was not discouraged, had not lost
faith in Providence or in his army, the fortitude of which
had not been shaken , and that the Federal army, though
it had been much shattered, could easily be reinforced,
while he could expect no addition to his numbers ; hence
the necessity for an immediate demonstration toward



DREADING to follow Lee and unable to resist im-
portunate orders from Washington for an advance,
Meade, after Lee returned to Virginia, recrossed
the South mountain and then followed McClel-
lan's route of the previous autumn, across the Potomac
into Piedmont Virginia, guarding the passes of the Blue
ridge, as he advanced, against attacks from Lee in the
Valley. Lee, on the alert, anticipated this movement,
and, on the 24th of July, placed his army across Meade's
thin line of advance, in front of Culpeper Court House.
The necessities at other points put a stop to military oper-
ations for a time in Virginia. Portions of Meade's army
were called to New York city, to suppress riots and
enforce the drafts to recruit the Federal armies. Lee
was embarrassed by the calls for soldiers for other fields,
after the fall of Vicksburg, which not only cut the

Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 41 of 153)