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Longstreet: From Manassas to Appomattox
Chapter 27c - Gettysburg - Second Day.
The Confederate Commander reviews the Field and decides on Plan of Battle—Positions on the Morning of July 2—Night March of the Federal Sixth Corps—It was excelled by Law's Brigade of Confederates — The Battle was opened after Mid-day—General Hood appeals for Permission to turn the Federal Left—Failure to make the Flanking Movement by the Confederate Right was a Serious Mistake—Hood, in his usual Gallant Style, led his Troops forward among the Rocks—Desperate Charges against all Earnest Adversary—Hood wounded— General Law succeeds him in command of the Division—" Little Round Top" an Important Point—"The Citadel of the Field"—It was a Fight of Seventeen Thousand Confederates against twice their Number—Quiet along the Lines of other Confederate Commands—" A Man on the Left who didn't care to make the Battle will"—Evidence against the Alleged Order for " Battle at Sunrise"—The " Order" to Ewell was Discretionary—Lee had lost his Balance.


That the Confederate Second Corps did not have orders for the alleged sunrise battle is evidenced by the report of its commander, who, accounting for his work about Culp's Hill during the night of the 1st and morning of the 2d, reported of the morning, " It was now daylight, and too late," meaning that it was too late for him to attack and carry that hill, as General Lee had authorized and expected him to do during the night before. If he had been ordered to take part in the sunrise battle, he would have been in the nick of time. That the Third Corps was not to be in it is evidenced by the position of the greater part of it on Seminary Ridge until near noon of the 2d. So General Lee must have ordered a position carried, at sunrise, by ten thousand men, after it had gathered strength all night,—a position that he would not assault on the afternoon of the 1st with forty thousand men, lest they should encounter " overwhelming numbers."

As the other corps, after receiving their orders for the general battle of the 2d, failed to engage until after nightfall, it is not probable that they would have found the sunrise battle without orders.

General Pendleton's official report is in conflict with his memorial lecture. In the former he makes no reference to the sunrise-battle order, but mentions the route by which the left of the enemy could be turned.

Letters from the active members of General Lee's staff and from his military secretary, General A. L. Long, show that the sunrise battle was not ordered, and a letter from Colonel Fairfax shows that the claim that it was so ordered was set up after General Lee's death.[ ¹ ]

In a published account, General Long mentions my suggestion on the afternoon of the 1st for the turning march around the enemy's left, which he says, "after consideration, was rejected."

Colonel Taylor claims that the attack by the Confederate right should have been sooner, and should have met the enemy back on his first or original line, and before Little Round Top was occupied. But Little Round Top was not occupied in force until after my battle opened, and General Sickles's advance to his forward lines was made in consequence of the Confederate threatening, and would have been sooner or later according as that threatening was made. He calls the message of General Lee to General Ewell on the afternoon of the 1st an order. General Lee says,—

" The strong position which the enemy had assumed could not be attacked without danger of exposing the four divisions present' exhausted by a long and bloody struggle, to overwhelming numbers of fresh troops. General Ewell was thereupon instructed to carry the hill occupied by the enemy if he found it practicable."

It is the custom of military service to accept instructions of a commander as orders, but when they are coupled with conditions that transfer the responsibility of battle and defeat to the subordinate, they are not orders, and General Ewell was justifiable in not making attack that his commander would not order, and the censure of his failure is unjust and very ungenerous.

The Virginia writers have been so eager in their search for a flaw in the conduct of the battle of the First Corps that they overlook the only point into which they could have thrust their pens.

At the opening of the fight, General Meade was with General Sickles discussing the feasibility of moving the Third Corps back to the line originally assigned for it, but the discussion was cut short by the opening of the Confederate battle. If that opening had been delayed thirty or forty minutes the corps would have been drawn back to the general line, and my first deployment would have enveloped Little Round Top and carried it before it could have been strongly manned, and General Meade would have drawn off to his line selected behind Pipe Creek. The point should have been that the battle was opened too soon.

Another point from which they seek comfort is that Sedgwick's corps (Sixth) was not up until a late hour of the 2d, and would not have been on the field for an earlier battle. But Sedgwick was not engaged in the late battle, and could have been back at Manchester, so far as the afternoon battle was concerned. And they harp a little on the delay of thirty minutes for Law's brigade to join its division. But General Lee called for the two divisions, and had called for Law's brigade to join his division. It was therefore his order for the division that delayed the march. To have gone without it would have justified censure. As we were not strong enough for the work with that brigade, it is not probable that we could have accomplished more without it.

Colonel Taylor says that General Lee urged that the march of my troops should be hastened, and was chafed at their non-appearance. Not one word did he utter to me of their march until he gave his orders at eleven o'clock for the move to his right. Orders for the troops to hasten their march of the 1st were sent without even a suggestion from him, but upon his announcement that he intended to fight the next day, if the enemy was there.[ ² ] That he was excited and off his balance was evident on the afternoon of the 1st, and he labored under that oppression until enough blood was shed to appease him.

¹ Following are the essential portions of the letters referred to affording unquestionable and overwhelming testimony against the claim that General Longstreet was ordered to give battle " at sunrise" :

" Norfolk, VA., April 28, 1875.
" DEAR GENERAL,—. . . I can only say that I never before heard of the ' sunrise attack' you were to have made, as charged by General Pendleton. If such an order was given you I never knew of it, or it has strangely escaped my memory. I think it more than probable that if General Lee had had your troops available the evening previous to the day of which you speak, he would have ordered an early attack, but this does not touch the point at issue. I regard it as a great mistake on the part of those who, perhaps because of political differences, now undertake to criticise and attack your war record. Such conduct is most ungenerous, and I am sure meets the disapprobation of all good Confederates with whom I have had the pleasure of associating in the daily walks of life.
" Yours, very respectfully,
" W. H. TAYLOR."

" DEAR GENERAL,— . . . I did not know of any order for an attack on the enemy at sunrise on the 2d, nor can I believe any such order was issued by General Lee. About sunrise on the 2d of July I was sent by General Lee to General Ewell to ask him what he thought of the advantages of an attack on the enemy from his position. (Colonel Marshall had been sent with a similar order on the night of the 1st.) General Ewell made me ride with him from point to point of his lines, so as to see with him the exact position of things. Before he got through the examination of the enemy's position, General Lee came himself to General Ewell's lines. In sending the message to General Ewell, General Lee was explicit in saying that the question was whether he should move all the troops around on the right and attack on that side. I do not think that the errand on which I was sent by the commanding general is consistent with the idea of an attack at sunrise by any portion of the army.
" Yours, very truly,

" BALTIMORE, MD., May 7, 1875.
" DEAR GENERAL,—. . . I have no personal recollection of the order to which you refer. It certainly was not conveyed by me, nor is there anything in General Lee's official report to show the attack on the 2d was expected by him to begin earlier, except that he notices that there was not proper concert of action on that day....
" Respectfully,

" Big Island, Bedford, VA., May 31, 1875.
" DEAR GENERAL,— . . . I do not recollect of hearing of an order to attack at sunrise, or at any other designated hour, pending the operations at Gettysburg during the first three days of July, 1863....
" Yours truly,
" A. L. LONG."

" November 12, 1877.
" MY DEAR GENERAL LONGSTREET,— . . . The winter after the death of General Lee I was in Lexington, visiting my sons at the V. M. I. General Pendleton called to see me at the hotel. General Custis Lee was in my room when he came in. After General Lee left, General Pendleton asked me if General Longstreet was not ordered to attack on the 2d of July at Gettysburg at six o'clock in the morning, and did not attack until four o'clock in the evening. I told him it was not possible. When he left me I was under the impression I had convinced him of his mistaken idea. I told General Pendleton that you and General Lee were together the greater part of the day up to about three o'clock or later; that you separated at the mouth of a lane not long thereafter. You said to me, ' Those troops will be in position by the time you get there; tell General Hood to attack.' When I gave the order to General Hood he was standing within a step or two of his line of battle. I asked him to please delay his attack until I could communicate to General Longstreet that he can turn the enemy,—pointing to a gorge in the mountain, where we would be sheltered from his view and attack by his cavalry. General Hood slapped me on the knee and said, 'I agree with you,—bring General Longstreet to see for himself.' When I reported to you, your answer was, 'It is General Lee's order; the time is up,— attack at once.' I lost no time in repeating the same to General Hood, and remained with him to see the attack, which was made instantly. We had a beautiful view of the enemy's left from Hood's position, which was close up to him. He gave way quickly. General Hood charged, and I spurred to report to you; found you with hat in hand cheering on General McLaws's division....
" Truly your friend,


² Upon the various matters of this momentous day, which have been subject of controversy, the following testimony from J. S. D. Cullen is interesting and important:
" RICHMOND, VA., May 18, 1875.
" DEAR GENERAL,—. . . It was an astounding announcement to the survivors of the First Army Corps that the disaster and failure at Gettysburg was alone and solely due to its commander, and that had he obeyed the orders of the commander-in-chief Meade's army would have been beaten before its entire force had assembled, and its final discomfiture thereby made certain. It is a little strange that these charges were not made while General Lee was alive to substantiate or disprove them, and that seven years or more were permitted to pass by in silence regarding them. You are fortunate in being able to call upon the adjutant-general and the two confidential officers of General Lee's staff for their testimony in the case, and I do not think that you will have any reason to fear their evidence. They knew every order that was issued for that battle, when and where attacks were to be made, who were slow in attacking, and who did not make attacks that were expected to be made. I hope, for the sake of history and for your brave military record, that a quietus will at once be put on this subject. I distinctly remember the appearance in our head-quarters camp of the scout who brought from Frederick the first account that General Lee had of the definite whereabouts of the enemy; of the excitement at General Lee's head-quarters among couriers, quartermasters, commissaries, etc., all betokening some early movement of the commands dependent upon the news brought by the scout. That afternoon General Lee was walking with some of us in the road in front of his head-quarters, and said, ' To-morrow, gentlemen, we will not move to Harrisburg as we expected, but will go over to Gettysburg and see what General Meade is after.' Orders had then been issued to the corps to move at sunrise on the morning of the next day, and promptly at that time the corps was put on the road. The troops moved slowly a short distance when they were stopped by Ewell's wagon-trains and Johnson's division turning into the road in front of them, making their way from some point north to Cashtown or Gettysburg. How many hours we were detained I am unable to say, but it must have been many, for I remember eating a lunch or dinner before moving again. Being anxious to see you, I rode rapidly by the troops (who, as soon as they could get into the road, pushed hurriedly by us also), and overtook you about dark at the hill this side of Gettysburg, about half a mile from the town. You had been at the front with General Lee, and were returning to your camp, a mile or two back. I spoke very exultingly of the victory we were thought to have obtained that day, but was surprised to find that you did not take the same cheerful view of it that I did, and presently you remarked that it would have been better had we not fought than to have left undone what we did. You said that the enemy were left occupying a position that it would take the whole army to drive them from and then at a great sacrifice. We soon reached the camp, three miles, perhaps, from Gettysburg, and found the column near by. Orders were issued to be ready to march at 'daybreak,' or some earlier hour, next morning. About three o'clock in the morning, while the stars were shining, you left your head-quarters and rode to General Lee's, where I found you sitting with him after sunrise looking at the enemy on Cemetery Hill. . . "
" I am yours, very truly,
" J. S. D. CULLEN."


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