Soon after the 1st of June the Confederate forces crossed
the Rapidan, and advanced again in the direction of Maryland. About the middle
of the month we forded the Potomac, which was so swollen by recent rain that
the men were forced to uplift their cartridge boxes, in order to keep dry their
ammunition. Nevertheless, they marched in regular order to the northern bank of
that beautiful stream, and, as they moved through the deep water the
inspiriting strains of "Dixie,' burst forth from bands of music. Never before,
nor since, have I witnessed such intense enthusiasm as that which prevailed
throughout the entire Confederate Army.
Shortly afterwards we crossed into Pennsylvania, amid
extravagant cheers which re-echoed all along the line. Our forces marched
undisturbed, and were massed in the vicinity of Chambersburg, where
intelligence was received of General Meade's assignment to the command of the
My headquarters were again in close proximity to those of
General Lee, and, after a few days devoted to rest and quiet, I, as usual, rode
to pay him my respects. I found him in the same buoyant spirits which pervaded
his magnificent army. After the ordinary salutation, he exclaimed, " Ah !
General, the enemy is a long time finding us; if he does not succeed soon, we
must go in search of him." I assured him I was never so well prepared or more
A few days thereafter, we were ordered to Gettysburg, and to
march with all possible speed.
The following letter, which I addressed General Longstreet
in 1875, gives, up to the hour I was wounded and borne from the field, an
account of the part taken by my command in the great battle which ensued:
" NEW ORLEANS, LA., June 28th, 1875.
" GENERAL JAMES LONGSTREET:General, I have not
responded earlier to your letter of April 5th, by reason of pressure of
business, which rendered it difficult for me to give due attention to the
subject in regard to which you have desired information.
" You are correct in your assumption that I failed to make a
report of the operations of my division around Suffolk, Va., and of its action
in the battle of Gettysburg, in consequence of a wound which I received in this
engagement. In justice to the brave troops under my command at this period, I
should here mention another cause for this apparent neglect of duty on my part.
Before I had recovered from the severe wound received at Gettysburg, your corps
(excepting Pickett's Division) was ordered to join General Bragg, in the West,
for battle against Rosecranz; my old troopswith whom I had served so
longwere thus to be sent forth to another Armyquasi, I may say,
among strangersto take part in a great struggle; and upon an appeal from
a number of the brigade and regimental officers of my division, I consented to
accompany them, although I had but the use of one arm. This movement to the
West soon resulted in the battle of Chickamauga, where I was again so seriously
wounded as to cause the loss of a limb. These severe wounds in close
succession, in addition to the all-absorbing duties and anxieties attending the
last year of the war, prevented me from submitting subsequently a report, as
likewise one after the battle of Chickamauga, in which engagementwhilst
you led the left wingI had the honor of commanding your corps together
with three divisions of the Army of Tennessee, respectively under A. P.
Stewart, Bushrod Johnson and Hindman. Thus, the gallantry of these troops, as
well as the admirable conduct of my division at Gettysburg, I have left
" With this apology for seeming neglect, I will proceed to
give a brief sketch, from memory, of the events forming the subject of your
"My recollection of the circumstances connected with the
attempt whilst we were lying in front of Suffolk, to reach General Lee in time
to participate in the battle of Chancellorsville, is very clear. The order
directing your corps to move to the support of General Lee, was received about
the time Hooker crossed the Rappahannock. Unfortunately we had been compelled
by scarcity of forage to send off our wagons into North Carolina to gather a
supply from that State. A short delay necessarily ensued, as couriers had to be
dispatched for requisite transportation before the troops could move. Every
effort, however, was made to get to Lee at the earliest moment. If my memory
betrays me not, you repaired in advance of your corps to Petersburg or
Richmond, having issued orders for us to march with all possible speed to Lee,
on the Rappahannock. I was most anxious to get to the support of my old chief,
and made strenuous efforts to do so; but, whilst on a forced march to
accomplish this object, I received intelligence of our victory at
Chancellorsville, and of Jackson's mortal wound. We, nevertheless, continued
our march, and eventually went into bivouac upon the Rapidan, near
" After the battle of Chancellorsville, preparations were
made for an offensive campaign.
" Accordingly, my troops moved out of camp, crossed the
Rapidan about the 5th June, 1863, and joined in the general move in the
direction of the Potomac. We crossed the river about the middle of the same
month, and marched into Pennsylvania. Hill's and Ewell's Corps were in advance,
and were reported to be in the vicinity of Carlisle. Whilst lying in camp, not
far distant from Chambersburg, information was received that Ewell and Hill
were about to come in contact with the enemy near Gettysburg. My troops,
together with McLaws's Division, were put in motion upon the most direct road
to that point, which, after a hard march, we reached before or at sunrise on
the 2d of July. So imperative had been the orders to hasten forward with all
possible speed, that on the march my troops were allowed to halt and rest only
about two hours, during the night from the 1st to the 2d of July.
" I arrived with my staff in front of the heights of
Gettysburg shortly after daybreak, as I have already stated, on the morning of
the 2d of July. My division soon commenced filing into an open field near me,
where the troops were allowed to stack arms and rest until further orders. A
short distance in advance of this point, and during the early part of that same
morning, we were both engaged in company with Generals Lee and A. P. Hill, in
observing the position of the Federals. General Leewith coat buttoned to
the throat, satire-belt buckled round the waist, and field glasses pending at
his sidewalked up and down in the shade of the large trees near us,
halting now and then to observe the enemy. He seemed full of hope, yet, at
times, buried in deep thought. Colonel Freemantle, of England, was ensconced in
the forks of a tree not far off, with glass in constant use, examining the
lofty position of the Federal Army.
" General Lee was, seemingly, anxious you should attack that
morning. He remarked to me, ' The enemy is here, and if we do not whip him, he
will whip us.' You thought it better to await the arrival of Pickett's
Divisionat that time still in the rearin order to make the attack;
and you said to me, subsequently, whilst we were seated together near the trunk
of a tree: 'The General is a little nervous this morning; he wishes me to
attack; I do not wish to do so without Pickett. I never like to go into battle
with one boot off.'
" Thus passed the forenoon of that eventful day, when in the
afternoonabout 3 o'clockit was decided to no longer await Pickett's
Division, but to proceed to our extreme right and attack up the Emmetsburg
road. McLaws moved off, and I followed with my division. In a short time I was
ordered to quicken the march of my troops, and to pass to the front of McLaws.
"This movement was accomplished by throwing out an advanced
force to tear down fences and clear the way. The instructions I received were
to place my division across the Emmetsburg road, form line of battle, and
attack. Before reaching this road, however, I had sent forward some of my
picked Texas scouts to ascertain the position of the enemy's extreme left
flank. They soon reported to me that it rested upon Round Top Mountain; that
the country was open, and that I could march through an open woodland pasture
around Round Top, and assault the enemy in flank and rear; that their wagon
trains were packed in rear of their line, and were badly exposed to our attack
in that direction. As soon as I arrived upon the Emmetsburg road, I placed one
or two batteries in position and opened fire. A reply from the enemy's guns
soon developed his lines. His left rested on or near Round Top, with line
bending back and again forward, forming, as it were, a concave line, as
approached by the Emmetsburg road. A considerable body of troops was posted in
front of their main line, between the Emmetsburg road and Round Top Mountain.
This force was in line of battle upon an eminence near a peach orchard.
" I found that in making the attack according to orders,
viz.: up the Emmetsburg road, I should have first to encounter and drive off
this advanced line of battle; secondly, at the base and along the slope of the
mountain, to confront immense boulders of stone, so massed together as to form
narrow openings, which would break our ranks and cause the men to scatter
whilst climbing up the rocky precipice. I found, moreover, that my division
would be exposed to a heavy fire from the main line of the enemy in position on
the crest of the high range, of which Round Top was the extreme left, and, by
reason of the concavity of the enemy's main line, that we would be subject to a
destructive fire in flank and rear, as well as in front; and deemed it almost
an impossibility to clamber along the boulders up this steep and rugged
mountain, and, under this number of cross fires, put the enemy to flight. I
knew that if the feat was accomplished, it must be at a most fearful sacrifice
of as brave and gallant soldiers as ever engaged in battle.
" The reconnoissance of my Texas scouts and the development
of the Federal lines were effected in a very short space of time; in truth,
shorter than I have taken to recall and jot down these facts, although the
scenes and events of that day are as clear to my mind as if the great battle
had been fought yesterday. I was in possession of these important facts so
shortly after reaching the Emmetsburg road, that I considered it my duty to
report to you, at once, my opinion that it was unwise to attack up the
Emmetsburg road, as ordered, and to urge that you allow me to turn Round Top,
and attack the enemy in flank and rear. Accordingly, I despatched a staff
officer, bearing to you my request to be allowed to make the proposed movement
on account of the above stated reasons. Your reply was quickly received,
'General Lee's orders are to attack up the Emmetsburg road.' I sent another
officer to say that I feared nothing could be accomplished by such an attack,
and renewed my request to turn Round Top. Again your answer was, 'General Lee's
orders are to attack up the Emmetsburg road.' During this interim I had
continued the use of the batteries upon the enemy, and had become more and more
convinced that the Federal line extended to Round Top, and that I could not
reasonably hope to accomplish much by the attack as ordered. In fact, it seemed
to me the enemy occupied a position by nature so strong I may say
impregnablethat, independently of their flank fire, they could easily
repel our attack by merely throwing and rolling stones down the mountain side,
as we approached.
" A third time I despatched one of my staff to explain fully
in regard to the situation, and suggest that you had better come and look for
yourself. I selected, in this instance, my adjutant-general, Colonel Harry
Sellers, whom you know to be not only an officer of great courage, but also, of
marked ability. Colonel Sellers returned with the same message, 'General Lee's
orders are to attack up the Emmetsburg road.' Almost simultaneously, Colonel
Fairfax, of your staff, rode up and repeated the above orders.
"After this urgent protest against entering the battle at
Gettysburg, according to instructionswhich protest is the first and only
one I ever made during my entire military careerI ordered my line to
advance and make the assault.
" As my troops were moving forward, you rode up in person; a
brief conversation passed between us, during which I again expressed the fears
above mentioned, and regret at not being allowed to attack in flank around
Round Top. You answered to this effect, 'We must obey the orders of General
Lee.' I then rode forward with my line under a heavy fire. In about twenty
minutes, after reaching the peach orchard, I was severely wounded in the arm,
and borne from the field.
" With this wound terminated my participation in this great
battle. As I was borne off on a litter to the rear, I could but experience deep
distress of mind and heart at the thought of the inevitable fate of my brave
fellow-soldiers, who formed one of the grandest divisions of that worldrenowned
army; and I shall ever believe that had I been permitted to turn Round Top
Mountain, we would not only have gained that position, but have been able
finally to rout the enemy.
" I am, respectfully, yours, " J. B. HOOD."
Notwithstanding the seemingly impregnable character of the
enemy's position upon Round Top Mountain, Benning's brigade, in concert with
the First Texas Regiment, succeeded in gaining temporary possession of the
Federal line; they captured three guns, and sent them to the rear;.
Unfortunately, the other commands, whose advance up a steep ascent, was impeded
by immense boulders and sharp ledges of rock, were unable to keep pace up the
mountain side in their front, and render the necessary support. Never did a
grander, more heroic division enter into battle; nor did ever troops fight more
desperately to overcome the insurmountable difficulties against which they had
to contend, as Law, Benning, Anderson and Robertson nobly led their brave men
to this unsuccessful assault. General Law, after I was wounded, assumed command
of the division, and proved himself, by his courage and ability, fully equal to
the responsibilities of the position.
The losses were very heavy, as shown by the reports, and
have often caused me the more bitterly to regret that I was not permitted to
turn Round Top Mountain.
The following officers of my staff, most of whom served with
me throughout the war, rendered gallant and efficient service, not only in this
great battle, but upon many fields where we were thrown together in the heat of
action: Colonel W. H. Sellers, Assistant Adjutant General; Colonel E. H.
Cunningham, Inspector General; Major B. H. Blanton, Captain John Smith, Captain
James Hamilton, Lieutenant E. B. Wade, Aides-de-Camp; Major N. B. George,
Quarter Master; Major Jonas, Commissary; and Captain D. L. Sublett, Ordnance
Officer, faultlessly discharged their duties in their respective departments.
Dr. John T. Darby, Chief Surgeon, distinguished himself by his untiring energy
in caring for the wounded; the eminent talent which he displayed in his
province, during our struggle, has since deservedly won for him a high position
in the medical world.
My official reports bear testimony to the valuable services
of other gentlemen temporarily attached to my headquarters. In truth, I can say
with pride that no General was ever more ably supported by staff officers than
myself, during the war.