The Confederate Commander reviews the Field
and decides on Plan of BattlePositions on the Morning of July
2Night March of the Federal Sixth CorpsIt was excelled by Law's
Brigade of Confederates The Battle was opened after Mid-dayGeneral
Hood appeals for Permission to turn the Federal LeftFailure to make the
Flanking Movement by the Confederate Right was a Serious MistakeHood, in
his usual Gallant Style, led his Troops forward among the RocksDesperate
Charges against all Earnest AdversaryHood 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 NumberQuiet 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 DiscretionaryLee had lost his
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
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
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."
" UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, May 11, 1875.
" GENERAL JAMES LONGSTREET:
" 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,
" CHARLES S. VENABLE."
" 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....
" CHARLES MARSHALL."
" 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."
" FREESTONE P. O., PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY,
" 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
" Truly your friend,
" JOHN W. FAIRFAX.,'
RETURN TO STORY
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.
" GENERAL JAMES LONGSTREET:
" 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."
RETURN TO STORY