Horace Greeley.

The American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 online

. (page 55 of 113)
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combined action — swept them on. Our
thin line could fight, but it had not weight
CQoogh to oppose to this momentum. It



was pudied behind the guns. Right on <
the Rebels. They were upon the guns—
were bayoneting the gn^nners — were wav-
ing their flags above our pieces.

(«But they had penetrated to the fatil
point A storm of grape and caimter tore
its way from man to man, and marked its
track with corpses straight down their line !
They had exposed themselves to the enfi-
lading fire of the guns on the western sloi»e
of Cemetery hill ; that exposure sealed their
fate.

" The line reeled back— disjointed already
— in an instant in fragments. Oar men
were just behind the guns. They leaped
forward upon the disordered mass; ^nt
there was little need for fighting now. A
reffimejQt threw down its arms, and, with
colors at its head, rushed over and surren-
dered. All along the field, smaller detach*
ments did the same. Webb's brigade
brought in 800 : taken in as little time as it
requires to write the simple sentence that
tells it Gibbon's old division took 16
stand of colors.

"Over the fields, the escaped fragments
of the charging line fell back — ^tbe battle
there was over. A single brigade, Har-
row's (of which the 7th Michigan is part),
came out with 54 less officers, 798 less men,
than it took in ! So the whole corps fonght
— so too they fought farther down the line.

" It was fruitless sacrifice. They gathered
up their broken fragments, formed tbdr
lines, and slowly marched away. It was
not a rout, it iocu a bitter, crushing defeat
For once, the Army of the Potomac bsd
won a dean, honest, acknowledged victory."

Gten. Doubleday, testifying before
the Committee on the Conduct of the
"War, says :

" About 2 p. M., a tremendous cannonade
was opened on us from at least 125 guns.
They had our exact range, and the destmo-
tion was fearful. Horses were killed fai
every direction ; I lost two horses myseH
while almost every officer lost one or more,
and quite a large number of caissons were
blown up. I knew this was the prelude U>
a grand infantry charge, as artillery is gen-
erally massed in this way, to disorganixa
the opposing command, for the infantry to
charge in the iilerval. I told my men to
shelter themselves in every way behind ih»
rocks, or little elevations of ground, while
the artillery-firing took place, and to spring
to their feet and hold their ground as soon
as the charge came.

"When the enemy finally charged, tiiey
came on in three lines, with additional Unes
called, in military language, wings: the
object of the wings beuig to prevent tbs



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887



main force from being flanked. This charge
was first directed toward mj lines; but,
seeing that the/ were qaite strong, five lines
deep, and well strengthened with rails and
atones, behind which the men laj, the ene-
my changed his mind, and conglnded to make
the attack on the division of the 2d corps,
on my right, where there were bnt two
lines. He marched by his right flank, and
then marched to his front. In doing this,
the wing apparently did not understand the
movement, but kept straight on. The con-
sequence was, that there was a wide gap
between the wing and the main charing
force, which enabled my men on the right,
the brigade of Gen. Stannard, to form im-
mediately on the flank of the charging
column, while the enemy were subjected
to an awful fire of artillery in front. It is
said some few of them laid their hands on
our guns. The prisoners state that what
ruined them was Stannard*s brigade on their
flank, as they found it impossible to contend
with it in that position ; and they drew off,
all in a hud^e, to get away from it I sent
two regiments to charge them in front at
the same time. While this was going on,
the enemy were subjected to a terrific artil-
lery-fire at short range ; and the result was
that they retreated with frightfbl loss.

^* Some five minutes after the charge was
broken up and they began to retreat, a large
number of batteries and regiments of infan-
try reported to me, as I sat on horseback,
for orders to repulse the attack. I posted
them, with the approval of the corps com-
mander, though they were a little too late to
be of essential service.

*^ I would state that the wing of the ene-
my which got astray was also met by part
of Stannard's brigade, which also formed
on its fiank, and it also retreated. Thus
the day was won, and the country
saved.^'

The battle was over; and it was
won ; but that was all. Onr guns
were nearly out of cartridges ; the
reserve azmnunition had been d^wn
upon; a single brigade, standing at
ease in the rear, composed the entire
reserve of the Army of the Potomac.
All beside had been Ulonght forward
and pnt in, on one point or another,
to brace np the front for that stem
ordeaL

There was very little fighting after
this decisive repulse, save that Gen.
Crawford, of Sykes's division, hold-



ing Bound Top on our left, at 6
p. iL advanced McCandless's brigade,
by Meade's order, driving back a
battery which confronted him with-
out support, and, pushing forward a
mile, took 260 prisoners (Georgians),
of Anderson's division, and recover-
ing a 12-pounder, three caissons,
7,000 small arms, and all our wound-
ed who had fallen in Sickles's repulse,
after they had hm 24 hours uncared
for within the enemy's lines. It was
manifest that the Bebel force had
mainly been withdrawn from this
wing to strengthen the grand assault
nearer^ the center, and, did not re-
turn; as Crawford held the ground
thus gained without obje^^on. He
could see no reason why a decided
advance on this wing of the 5th and
the still comparatively fresh 6th corps
might not then have been made with-
out meeting serious opposition.

Gen. Meade has been reproached
as timid and over-cautious; but it is
plain that his strategy, though not
daring, was able and wise. Had he
allowed his hot-heads to dash their
commands at the outset against the
Bebel batteries on Seminary ridge,
as they would gladly have done, he
would have fought a magnificent
battle and probably been magnifi-
cently beaten. Between two great
armies, equally brave, equally reso-
lute, and equal in numbers and in ef-
fectiveness of weapons, the choice of
position naturally decides the fortune
of the day. It is not with these as
with armed mobs, where the assail-
ant often triumphs by the mere
audacity of his assault — ^the assailed
concluding that those who are charg-
ing them will not fly, so they must.
•Had Lee assailed Bumside on the



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heights of Fabnonth, he would have
been beaten most disastrously. And,
though Meade's position at Gettys-
burg does not compare in strength
with Lee's on the Fredericksburg
heights, it was probably worth a
reenforcement of 10,000 men.

Nor is Meade justly blamable for
not pushing forward $A once, on the
heels of his beaten foes. Around him
lay nearly or quite one-fourth of his
army, killed or wo\mded ; he knew
that his own ammunition was run-
ning low; he did not know that
Lee's was even more completely ex-
hausted. If he had ordered a gen-
eral advance^ and been r^>elled from
S^ninary ridge by such a fire as had
met and crushed the Eebel assailants
of Cemetery hill, he would have been
reproached as rash aud fool-hardy by
many who have deemed him defi-
cient in courage or in heartiness be-
cause he did not make the Union a
Fourth-of-July present of the rem-
nant of Lee's army.

His real and grave error dated
several days back of this. He had,
on assuming command, been author-
ized to do as he judged best with
French's force on Maryland Heights,
and Couch's in central Pennsylvania.
Had he, on deciding to fight Lee so
soon as circumstances favored, or-
dered both these to join him at the
earliest moment, he would now have
been consciously master of the situa-
tion, and might have blocked Lee's
return to Virginia. But he gave no
such order to Couch ; and having, at
Butterfield's urgent suggestion, with-



drawn French's 11,000 men from
Maryland Heights, he left 7,000 of
them standing idle at Frederick, send-
ing the residue as train-guards to
Washingtofi, and actually apologized
to Halleck, on meeting him, for hav-
ing moved them at all I Had Oet-
tysburg been lost for want of these
11,000 men, his would have been a
fearful responsibility.

Couch's militia were pronounced
worthless by worthless officers, wllo
forget what "Washington, Gates, and
Jackson, severally did with militia;
but, though they had been only held
in reserve, <»* set to guarding trains,
their presence would have had a
wholesome moral effect. And now,
if they had been at hand to set on the
track of the beaten, flying Bebels,
they might have done more, and could
not have done less, than Sedgwick did
when sent on that same errand.



Meade states our losses in this se-
ries of battles around Gettysburg at
2,834 killed, 13,709 wounded, wd
6,643 missing (mainly taken prison-
ers on the 1st) : total, 23,186." He
only claims 3 guns as captured this
side of the Potomac, wiUi 41 flags
and 13,621 prisoners — many of them
wounded, of course. He adds that
24,978 small arms were collected cm
the fleld ; but part of them may have
been previously our own.

Lee gives no return of his losses;
but they were probably not materi-
ally greater nor less than ours" — onr
men fighting dH the defensive, some-
what protected by breastworks, and



" Among our killed, not 8lread7 mentioned,
were Brig.-Gens. a H. Weed, N. T., and K J.
Farnsworth, Mich. ; Ools. Vinoent and Willard
(commanding brigikles), Croaa, 6th K. H.,
O'Borke, 140th K. T., Revere, aoth Maaa^ and
Tajlor, Pa. 'Buoktaila.' Among oar wounded



were Brig.-Gen8. Gibbon, Barlow, Stannard^
Webb, and Paul.

^ P(^lard rather oandidlj says :

" On our aide, Hokett'a diTision had been 6D^
gaged in the hotteat work of the day. and the
hayoc in ita ranka was i^paUing. Ita losaei on



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having the adraulaige of poeition.
Donbtiess, our loss was mncli the
greater on the firrt day, a little more
tiian the enemy's on the second, and
far the less on the third. Proba-
bly, 18,000 killed and wonnded, with
10,000 nnwonnded prisoners, would
pretty fairly measure the C!onfederate
lessee during their Pennsylvania cam-
paign.

During the 2d and 3d, the cavalry
of either army, hovering around its
danks, ready to make a dash at the
trains or camps of its adversary if
opportunity should serve, had had
several slight collisions, but no seri-
ous contest. On the 3d, an attempt
of Hood, by a movement on the Em-,
mitsbnrg road, to turn our left —
which Gen. Meade regarded as our
weak point — ^was defeated by Merritt's
cavalry brigade, then coming up from
Emmitsburg with intent to strike the
rear and flank of the Bebel right, and
by Famsworth's brigade, which was
guarding our own flank in that quar-
ter, Gre^s division watched our
right flank, confronted by Stuart.
Ko important advantage was gained
on either side ; but a considerable in-
fantry force under Hood seems to
have been neutralized, during the
grand assault, by the sturdy efforts
of Merntt and Famsworth, which
were held to indicate that a strong



infantry force was behind them, ready
to strike hea3nly and attempt to turn
the Bebel right.

The battle being over, Pleasanton,
who was in chief command of the
cavalry, urged Meade to order a
general advance ; being satisfied by
appearances that not only was the
Rebel army demoralized and b^in^
ning to retreat, but nearly out of
ammunition. But, as it was not
certain that the enemy was going,
Meade chose to be assured on that
point, by a cavalry reconnoissance to
the Bebel rear. Pleasanton accord-
ingly dispatched some cavalry on this
errand, who rode all night ; Gregg,
who, moving by our right, had been
out 22 miles on the Chambersburg
road, returning first, at 8 A. m.," and
reporting that road strewn with
wounded and stragglers, ambulances
and caissons, showing that not only
was the enemy in full retreat, but
that he was completely demoralized.
Gr^g had easily taken quite a num-
ber of prisoners. Other commanders
of cavalry, returning later from sim-
ilar reconnoissances on other roads,
found them likewise covered, and
captured many stragglers and wagons.
Still, as Meade did not advance in
force on their direct line of retreat,"
and as the movement of the artillery
and trains of a great army requires



this day are famous, and should be oommemora-
ted in detail Ererr Brig^ier ih the division
vaa killed or wounded. Out of 24 regimental
officers, onlj two escaped unhurt The Colooels
of five Yirginia regimeiits were killed. Hie
9th Virginia went in 250 strong, and came out
with only 38 men ; white ifl^qually gallant 19th
rivaled the terrible ^ry of sKh devoted courage.* '
Among the Bebel killed were Brig.-Qens.
Barksdale, Miss., and Gaijiett, Ya. Among their
wounded, Mi^.-Qenfl. Hood, Trimble, Heth, and
Pender, the latter mortally; Brig^Gens. Petti-
grew, Kempeif Scales, G. T. Anderson, Hamp-
ton, J. IL Joeea^ Jenkins, Armistead, SDd
Semmes: the two latter ttortally.



*> Saturday, July 4.

•(Jen. i). B. Bimey, who succeeded Gen.
Sickles in the command of the 3d corps, says:

** I was ordered to send out a reconnoissance
at daylight [on the 4th] to ascertain the position
of the enemy. I did so early Sunday morning,
and reported that the enemy were in f\ill retreat
I also sent back for permissioii to open upon the
enemy with my rifled batteries as ihey were
crossing a point very near me, upon the turn-
pike going toward Hagerstown ; ^and the staff
officer brought me permission to do so. I had
co&unenced the movement to attack, when ano-
ther staff officer arrived fVom Gen. Meade with
a written order fhmi him to make no attadc;



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time, the Bebel pickets along their
front were not withdrawn till 2 a. il
of next day." Meantime, an advance
division of Conch's militia, about
6,000 strong, nnder Gen. W. ^ F.
[' Baldy^ Smith, had come up in our
rear; reporting to Gen. Meade on the
4th.

!Nezt morning, there could no
longer be even an affectation of
doubt that the enemy were in full
retreat; and Sedgwick's (6th) corps
was ordered" to follow on the track
of the fugitives. The spirit in which
this pursuit was prosecuted is thus
portrayed by Gen. A. P. Howe, com-
manding a division of that corps,
who thus narrates ** its progress and
results:

^On the 4th of July, it seemed evident
enoiigb that the enemj were retreating.
How fat thej were gone, we oonld not see
from the front We could see but a com-
paradveljr small force from the position
where I was. On Sunday, the 5th and 6th
corps moved in pursuit. As we moved, a
small rear-guard of the enemy retreated.
We followed them, with this small rear-
guard of the enemy before us, up to Fair-
field, in a gorge of the mountiuns. There
we again waited for them to go on. There
seemed to be no disposition to push this
rear-guard when we got up to Fairfield. A
lieutenant from the enemy came into our
lines and gave himself up. He was a
Northern Union man, in service in one of
the Georgia regiments ; and, without being
asked, he unhesitatingly told me, when I
met him as he was being brought in, that
he belonged to the artiSery of the rear-
guard of the enemy, and that they had but
two rounds of ammunition with the rear-
guard. But we waited there without re-
ceiving any orders to attack. It was a plac^e
where, as I informed Gen. Sedgwick, we
could easily attack the enemy with advan-
tage. But no movement was made by us
until the enemy went away. Then, one
brigade of my division, with some cavalry,
was sent to follow on after them, while the
remainder of the 6th corps moved to the



left. We moved on through Boonsboro!,
and passed up on tiie pike road leading to
Hagerstown. After passing Boonsboro\ it
became my turn to lead the 6th corps. That
day, just before we started. Gen. Sedgwick
ordered me to move on and take up the best
position I could over a littie stream on the
Frederick side of Funkstown. As I moved
on, it was su^ested to me by him to move
carefully. *Do n't come into contact with
the enemy ; we do n't want to bring on a
generid engagement' It seemed to be the
current impression that it was not desired
to brinff on a general engagement I moved
on until we came near Funkstown. Gen.
Buford was along that way with his cavalry.
I had passed over the stream referred to,
and found a strong position, which I con-
cluded to take and wait for tiie 6th corps to
come up. In the mean time, Gen. Buford,
who was in front, came back to me and
said, ' I am pretty hardly engaged here; I
have used a great deal of my ammunition ;
it is a strong place in front ; it is an excel-
lent position.' It was a little &rther out
than I was — nearer Funkstown. He said,
' I have used a great deal of my ammuni-
tion, and I ought to go to the right ; sup-
pose you move up there, or send up a brig-
ade, or even a part of one, and hold that
position.' Said i, * I will do so at once, if I
can just communicate with Gen. Sedgwick ;
I am ordered to take up a position over here
and hold it, and the intimation conveyed to
me was that they did not want to get into
a general engagement ; I will send for Gen.
S^gwick, and ask permission to hold that
position and relieve you.' I accordingly
sent a stalf officer to Gen« Sedgwick, with a
request that I might go up at once and assist
Gen. Buford ; stating that he had a strong
poution, but his ammunition was giving
out. Gen. Buford remained with me untU
I should get an answer. The answer was.
* No, we do not want to bring on a eenerai
engi^ement ' * Well,' said I, * Buford, what
can I do ?' He said, ' They expect me to go
farther to the right; my ammunition is
pretty much out. That position is a strong
one, and we ought not to let it go.' I sent
down again to Gen. Sedgwick, stating the
condition of Gen. Buford, and that he would
have to leave unless he could get some
assistance ; that his position was not far in
front, and that it seemed to me that we
should hold it, an/^I should like to send
some force up to picket it at least After a
time, I got a reply that, if Gen. Buford left,
I might occupy tiie position. Gen. Buford



which was done. My skirmishers advanced and
took possession of their hospitals, with a large
number of their wounded. I had sent sooie
twenty orderlies with a staff officer, who led the
reoonnoissance; and I reported these facts con-



stantly to Gen. Meade; but this peremptoiy
order from him not to open fire at all prevented
any pursuit of the enemy."
*» July 6. *• July 5, 11 a. ic

^ Before Committee on the Gondoot of the War.



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LEE'S EETBBAT TO THE POTOKAO.



891



was stiH with me, and I said to him, ' If jon
go away from there, I will have to hold it.'
' That 'a all riffht,' said he ; ^ I will go awaj.'
He did so, and I moved right np. It was a
pretty good position, where yon could cover
your troops. Soon after relieving Buford,
we saw some Rebel infantry advancing. I
do not know whether they brought Uiem
firom Hagerstown, or from some ol£er place.
They mtAe three dashes, not in heavy force,
imon our line to dirive us back. The troops
that happened to be there on our line were
what we considered in the Army of the
Potomac unusually good ones. They quietly
repulsed the Bebels twice; and, the third
time they came up, they sent them flying
into Funkstown.

**Tet there was no permission to move
on and follow up the enemy. We remained
there some time, until we had orders to
move on and take a position a mile or more
nearer Hagerstown. As we moved up. we
saw that the Rebels had some light field-
works— hurriedly thrown up, apparently —
to cover themselves while they rdcrossed
the river. I think we remained there three
days; and the third night, I think, after we
got up into that position, it was said tiie
Bebels rterossed the river."



The 4th and 6th were devoted by
OteiL Meade to caring for the wound-
ed and burying the dead; part of
our carabrj pursuing on the Cash-
town road, as Sedgwick did on that
by Fairfield. On the 5th, Meade
was satisfied that Lee had retreated;
but he believed that he was falling
back into the. Cumberland Yalley —
not making for the shelter of the
Potomac. He decided to move the
great body of his forces by the left
flank through Boonsboro' Pass, and
so place himself between the enemy
and his resources. But Sedgwick
soon reported ** that the main body
of the enemy was in position in and
around Fairfield Pa^ and that it
might be necessary to fight another
battle in those mountains. Here-
upon, the 6th corps and some other
troops were sent to reenforce Sedg-
wick, and the 1st and 8d, which hi^



been started by Butterfiel4> chief of
stafT, on the Boonsboro' road, were
halted ; while others, farther in ad-
vance, moved on. Soon, word cam«
from Sedgwick that it was unwise to
push the enemy farther on the route
he was following; whereupon, the
whole army was impelled down the
Middletown -road; Sedgwick being
ordered to move the most of his com-
mand from Fairfield Pass by Em-
mitsburg to join the main body.
Arrived at Middletown, the army
was halted a 4ay to rest and refit,
and then moved through South
Mountain by Boonsboro' to Hager»-
town and the Potomac ; where Lee
had of course arrived before it, taken
a strong position, and was prepared
to maintain it. Lee says, in his offi-
cial report:

'* The armj remained at Gettjshnr^ dur-
ing the 4th, and at night hegan to retire hj
the road to Fairfield, carrying with it ahont
4,000 prisoners. Nearly 3,000 had previ-
ously heen paroled ; but the enemy ^s numer-
ous wounded, that had fallen into our hands
after the first and second day's engagements,
were left behind.

'* Little progress was made that night,
owing to a severe storm, which greatly em-
barrassed our movements. The rear of the
column did not leave its position near Get-
tysburg untU after daylight on the 5th.

^* The march was continued during that
day without interruption by the enemy, ex-
cept an unimportant demonstration upon our*
rear in the afternoon, when near Fairfield,
which was easily checked. Part of our train
moved by the road through Fairfield, and^
the rest by the way of Oashtown, guarded,
by G^n. Imboden. In passing through the
mountains, in advance of the column, the-
great length of the trains exposed them tO'
attack by the enemy's cavalry, which cap-
tured a number of wagons and ambulances;-
but they succeeded in reaching Williams-
port without serious loss.

" They were attacked at that place on the.
6th by the enemy's cavalry, which was gal-
lantly repulsed by G^n. Imboden. The at-
tackinff force was subsequently encountered
and driven off by G^en. Stuart, and puraued'
for several miles in the direction of Boons-



•July 6.



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THB AKBBIOAN COlffFLIGT.



boro\ The army, after an aidnooa mardi,
rendered more difficult by the rains, reached
Hagerstown on the afternoon of the 6th and
morning of the 7th July."

He had had a manrelouB eBcai>e.
When hiB shattered colnmnB com-
menced their retreat from Getty»-
bnrg, few of his offioars can hare im-
agined that they would ever reach
Virginia with their artillery and most
of tiieir trains. There was not a
probability that they could recross
the Potomac with more than the
wreck of an army. But heavy rains
fell, as usual after great battles ; and
these are apt to impede pursuers
more than pursued, though they need
not. Then, every sort of miscalcula-
tion combined with lack of energy to
impede the progress of our army ; so
that Lee had had four days wherein
to strengthen his position at Wil-
liamaport befbre Meade was there *^
to assail him.

But neither Lee's army nor his
troubles were yet over. The heavy
rains following the battle had swelled
the Potomac to an unfordable state ;
while Gen. French, who, with 7,000
veterans, had been left idle at Fred-
erick during the great events in Penn-
sylvania, had, without orders, sent a
cavalry force to Falling Waters and
Williamsport, which captured the
weak guard left by Lee to hold his
bridge, which they forthwith de-
stroyed.' Lee's hold on the Mary-



Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 55 of 113)