Lieutenant General James Longstreet
With the death of Stonewall Jackson, General James Longstreet became Robert E. Lee's closest confidant. A poor student at West Point, he found glory in the Mexican War while carrying the flag at Chapultapec. He served as paymaster at a series of outposts, and intended to enter the Confederate army in the same capacity. His experience was too valuable for this duty, however, and he was assigned a brigade at First Manassas. Promoted to the ranke of major general on October 7, 1861, and given a division, he fought in the Peninsula and the Seven Pines battles. Given one of the two newly formed wings of the army, Longstreet performed well in subsequent battles. With the army's reorganization following the battle of Chancellorsville, Longstreet retained three veteran divisions. Two of them, McLaws's and Hood's, were among the finest fighting units in the army. Not enthralled with Lee's plan to invade the North a second time, Longstreet agitated for a defensively-offensive campaign. This put him at odds with Lee and helped spell doom for the Confederates at Gettysburg.
Longtreet's Corps broke camp at Fredericksburg and marched toward Culpeper Courthouse on June 3. After spending almost two weeks around the latter town, the three divisions left for the Blue Ridge Mountain gaps on June 15. Here the corps helped General Jeb Stuart's cavalry, which was tangling with persistent Union troopers. The corps continued northward in the Shenandoah Valley on June 23, and Pickett's Division crossed the Potomac River on June 25. The two other divisions crossed into Maryland the following day. The officers found a large supply of whiskey in Williamsport, and the general officers decided to give each man a gill. According to division commander Lafayette McLaws, "I never heard of any one refusing it." The men were therefore in "good humor" despite their wet condition.
The corps entered Pennsylvania and reached Chambersburg on June 27, going into camp about a mile beyond it. Leaving Pickett's Division behind, the two other divisions continued their march toward Gettysburg on June 30. July 1 found the two divisions by the side of Chambersburg Road at 8:00 AM, while Johnson's Division (Second Corps) marched past. Knowing that the Second Corps's train was behind Johnson's Division, General McLaws asked Major John Fairfax of Longstreet's staff if he was to fall in behind Johnson's infantry or wait for the trains to pass. Longstreet's reply was the latter, which was a mistake. The slow-moving wagon train stretched about fourteen miles, and seriously delayed the arrival of the two divisions that most believed were the best in Lee's army.
Longstreet's Corps did not finally take to the road until 4:00 PM on July 1. Within an hour, the men could hear the sounds of battle up ahead. They responded with cheers and instictively increased their pace. The weary solders were finally permitted to bivouac after midnight. The final leg of the march to Gettysburg began around 3:00 AM the following day, and the column reached Seminary Ridge a few hours later.
General Longstreet was unhappy with Lee's battle plan. He believed that Lee originally contemplated a defensive campaign, where the First Corps would hold off the Army of the Potomac, while the two other corps would destroy it. Lee abandoned the concept of a defensive campaign, and Longstreet's frustrations boiled over when his commanding officer began giving direct orders to General Lafayette McLaws, one of his division commanders. After a short confrontation, Lee prevailed, but according to McLaws, Longstreet "appeared as if he was irritated and annoyed." The plan was to move into position on the Confederate right without being seen, then wheel to the left and find Meade's flank.
Although Lee wanted to continue the battle on the morning of July 2, Longstreet convinced him to wait until Law's Brigade arrived from picket duty near New Guilford. While waiting for orders to move his division to its assigned position, McLaws could see the enemy arriving, "hour after hour, on the battleground." Orders to move out finally arrived at about 1:00 PM, and McLaws's Division led the column. Marching along Herr Ridge, McLaws realized that his men could be plainly seen by Federal troops on Little Round Top as they ascended a hill near Black Horse Tavern. McLaws immediately halted the column and conferred with Longstreet, who decided to order a countermarch. McLaws returned to his command in a foul mood, "saying things I would not like to teach my grandson...to repeat," reported one of the foot soldiers. Retracing their steps, the two divisions followed Willoughby Run to their jumping off points on Seminary and Warfield Ridges. The ordeal lasted over two hours, so the units were not in position until just after 3:00 PM. Hood's Division formed on McLaws's right on the southern portion of Seminary Ridge and Warfield Ridge.
The attacks began between 4:00 and 4:30, when Law's Brigade (Hood's Division) stepped off. Hood's three other brigades attacked in succession. McLaws's Division continued the attacks on Hood's left, beginning at about 5:00 PM. Ultimately, the corps captured Devil's Den/Houck's Ridge, the Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard, and the southern end of Cemetery Ridge. However, rapidly fading light, the exhausted condition of the men, and the appearance of fresh enemy infantry ultimately spelled doom to Longstreet's attempts to crush the Federal left. The men remained in their positions that night.
Pickett's Division arrived by midafternoon of July 2. After much discussion and disagreement, Longstreet was assigned the task of crushing the Union center on July 3. In addition to Pickett's fresh division, Longstreet was given Heth's entire division (now under General James Pettigrew) and two brigades of Pender's Division (now under General Isaac Trimble). Captain James Hutter of the 11th Virginia (Kemper's Brigade) recalled that General Lee and Longstreet conversed in an apple orchard near his regiment on Seminary Ridge. The men could see that their corps commander was against the charge. Longstreet apparently told Lee that "his command would do what anybody of men on earth dared to do but no troops could dislodge the enemy from their strong position." General Pickett disagreed, as did Lee, and the South's fate was sealed.
The repulse of "Pickett's Charge" did not end the battle for Longstreet's men. Later that afternoon, a charge by units of the Federal V Corps resulted in the capture of a large chuck of the 15th Georgia (Benning's Brigade, Hood's Division). Farter to the south, General Elon Farnsworth launched an ill-fated cavalry charge against Hood's right flank that was easily beaten off.
AFter the war, a number of old soldiers and historians concluded that Longstreet's sulking caused the attacks on July 2 to be delayed and uncoordinated and, ultimately, to fail. Although Longstreet vigorously defended his actions and attacked others after the war, many modern historians continue to believe that his behaviour contributed to the Southern defeat.
Lieutenant General Richard Ewell
After Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded at Chancellorsville, the Army of Northern Virginia was subdivided into three corps. The Second Corps was given to Major General Richard Ewell, who had recently returned to the army after losing a leg at Second Manassas. A West Point graduate, Ewell had spent most of his career in the Southwest. Upon entering the Confederate service, he was given the rank of general in June. He commanded an infantry brigade at the first battle of Manassas, and was a close ally of Stonewall Jackson during the Valley campaign, where he commanded a division. After serving in the Seven Days battles, Ewell led his division to Second Manassas, where he was seriously wounded.
The campaign started well for Ewell, when he defeated General Robert Milroy's command at the second battle of Winchester on June 14-15, 1863. The corps began crossing the Potomac on the evening of June 15, and on June 21, Ewell received choice orders form Lee: enter Pennsylvania and capture Harrisburg.
While Rodes's and Johnson's Divisions marched twoard Greencastle, Pennsylvania, and then on to Carlisle, Early's Division approached Gettysburg. The three divisions scrounged the countryside for supplies along the way. Early continued on to York, which he captured on June 28. One of his brigades, under Brigadier General John Gordon, marched on Wrightsville to capture the 1.5-mile long bridge over the Susquehanna River. Early was to cross the river, capture Lancaster, and then march on Harrisburg from the rear, while the remainder of the corps approached from the opposite direction. Militia thwarted the plan when they fired the bridge before fleeing for safety. It really didn't matter, as Ewell received orders on June 29 to return to the western side of the South Mountain and rejoin Lee's army.
On the night before the battle, Ewell's three divisions were still dispersed: Rodes's was at Heidlersburg, Early's was three miles away on the road leading to Berlin, and Johnson's was between Greenville and Scotland. The next day, July 1, Rodes's Division was ordered to march toward Cashtown, Early, was to move via Hunterstown, and Johnson's was to continue to Fayetteville. Learning that A.P. Hill's Third Corps was approaching Gettysburg. Ewell turned the head of Middletown Road, and ordered Early to hurry down Heidlersburg from the north, Early's came next, from the northwest, and Johnson's arrived that eveining from the west, along Chambersburg Pike.
Two of Ewell's three divisions were engaged on July 1. Rodes's Division opened the corps' fight by attacking the Federal I Corps's right flank, and after some initial set-backs, caused the line to crumble. The same occurred to the east, where Early's Division barreled int the XI Corps in the open fields north of town, driving it back through Gettysburg to Cemetery Hill. Concernedabout the fatigueof his two divisions, and warned of fresh enemy troops arriving on his left, Ewell elected to wait until Johnson's Division arrived to storm the heights. Deciding that Culp's Hill might provide a better route to Cemetery Hill, Ewell ordered Johnson to take the hill. Assuming that Johnson was following his orders, Ewell rested. He did not know that Johnson sent a scouting party up the hill to ascertainwheter the enemy occupied it. Johnson got his answer when his scouts were fired upon in the growing darkness. He subsequently decided to rest his men and wait for first light before attacking. Unfortunately for the Confederates, few Federal troops held the hill at this time.
When Ewell learned that Johnson had not taken the hill the night before, he ordered an immediate attack. It was too late, as the XII Corps had arrived and the V Corps was close by. The attack was halted. After much reflection, Lee ordered Ewell to attack the right of the Union line with all three of his divisions on July 2 while Longstreet took on the left. Both actions were to be launched at 4:00 PM. While Ewell's artillery opened fire at the appointed time, the infantry attack was not launched until after 7:00 PM, when two brigades of Early's Division stormed Cemetery Hill and Johnson's Division attacked Culp's Hill. Both attacks met with only limited success, sustaining heavy losses in the process. Rodes's Division was also to attack Cemetery Hill, but it was late in taking position and its advance was aborted.
Johnson's Division, with assistance from some brigades from Rodes's and Early's Divisions, stormed Culp's Hill again and again, beginning at about 4:30 AM on July 3. The attacks finally ended at about 11:00 AM, when Ewell finally realized that his men could not take the heavily fortified heights. The losses were dreadful. Pulling back to Seminary Ridge, the corps spent July 4 waiting for an attack that never came. It began the long march back to Virginia during the night of July 4-5.
Lieutenant General A.P. Hill
With the death of Stonewall Jackson, Lee created three corps to replace the two-corps system he had used before. None of the three corps was affected as much as A.P. Hill's. Not only was he promoted and assigned command of the new Third Corps, two of his brigadiers, Henry Heth and Dorsey Pender, were elevated to division command. Fate would have Lee's least experienced corps lead the advance toward Gettysburg, with perhaps his least experienced division commander in the lead.
Major General Ambrose Hill was a West Point graduate who hailed from an influential Virginia family. By the outbreak of the war, Hill had already resigned his commission and became colonel of the 13th Virginia. Promoted to brigadier general in February 1862, he led his brigade into action at Williamburg a little more than two months later. Later that month, Hill was promoted again, this time to major general, and was given command of a division styled the "Light Division." Hill led it with distinction. He opened the Seven Days campaign with an unauthorized attack at Mechanicsville, and also sustained exceptionally heavy losses at Gaines's Mill and Frayser's Farm. he performed solidly at the battles of Cedar Mountain and Second Manassas. Hill literally saved Lee's army at Sharpsburg, when his division appeared on the field late in the day Lapses in judgment caused unnecessarily high casualties at Chancellorsville. Although slightly wounded with Stonewall Jackson, Hill was promoted yet again, about a year after his last one, and given the newly formed corps.
Left behind to watch Hooker's Army of the Potomac along the Rappahannock. General A.P. Hill waited until the enemy had begun its pursuit of the rest of Lee's army before moving northward with his powerful corps. General Richard Anderson's Division began its movement on June 14 and Henry Heth's Division followed the next day. Hill's last division, under Dorsey Pender, remained behind to make sure the Federal army did not turn around and drive for Richmond. Finding this not to be the case, Pender put his division on the road north as well. The march was uneventful, and the evening of June 27 found the Third Corps encamped at Fayetteville, Pennsylvania.
When Lee finally realized that the enemy had crossed the Potomac and was rapidly heading toward Pennsylvania, he gave orders to concentrate his army near Cashtown or Gettysburg. Hill received orders to this effect during the night of June 28-29. He must have been disappointed, because his former orders were to march toward York, cross the Susquehanna, and menace Harrisburg's communications with Philadelphia. He was also to cooperate with General Ewell, as needed. Hill accordingly directed Heth's Division to take the lead, followed by Pender's. Anderson's Division was ordered to break camp and follow the next morning.
After the reconnaissance by Pettigrew's Brigade (Heth's Division) on June 30 found enemy forces near Gettysburg, Hill ordered Anderson to begin his march sooner and informed Ewell of his intention "to advance the next morning and discover what was in my front." Despite Lee's orders not to engage the enemy until the entire army had assembled, Hill moved two powerful divisions along Chambersburg Pike during the early hours of July 1. Thinking he was going to encounter militia that could be swept aside, he instead was confronted by John Buford's cavalry, which held Henry Heth's Division at bay on the hills west of Gettysburg long enough for Wadsworth's Division (I Corps) to arrive. Heth's initial piecemeal attack at about 10:30 AM was defeated with heavy losses. The subsequent attacks, beginning at 3:00 PM that afternoon, proved more successful. Heth's two brigades swept three Federal brigades off McPherson Ridge, and then General Dorsey Pender's Division was brought up to finish the job. With the Federal troops now pushed off Seminary Ridge and retreating through toward the town of Gettysburg. Hill decided to halt his men, rather than pursue and destroy the enemy. He wrote in his official report that "under the impression that the enemy were entirely routed, my own two divisions exhausted by some six hours' hard fighting, prudence led me to be content with what had been gained, and not push forward troops exhausted and necessarily disordered, probably to encounter fresh troops of the enemy.
On July 2, Anderson's Division was part of the en echelon attack against the Federal left and center. Anderson performed poorly, as he did not properly coordinate his brigades' attacks against the Federal line. While some brigades met with limited success, none supported the others, and ultimately, the entire division was defeated. Just as the en echelon attack reached Pender's Division, its commander was wounded. In the absence of direct orders, General James Lane, now commanding the division, decided not to commit his troops to the fray. That night, two of Pender's brigades were moved up to support Rodes's attackon Cemetery Hill, which was never launched.
One and a half divisions from Hill's Corps were tapped to participate in the massive charge on July 3. Heth's thoroughly worn out dvison, now under James Pettigrew, formed to the left of Pickett's Division; behind it were two brigades from Pender's Division, now under Major General Isaac Trimble. Hill probably erred when he assigned command of these two brigades to Trimble just before the attack-too late for their new leader to examine their positions and make needed adjustments. Two brigades from Anderson's Division (Wilcox's and Lang's) were to attack, but they were merely to protect Pickett's right flank. Although most of Hill's units attacked valiantly, they were ultimately repulsed with heavy losses. The corps remained on Seminary Ridge during July 4, and began the retreat back to Virginia that night.
A.P. Hill's performance at Gettysburg is an enigma. Recently elevated to command a corps after the death of Stonewall Jackson, Hill performed poorly. After giving each of his division commanders general orders, he appeared to adopt a "hands off" approach, and as a result, there was poor coordination, limited success, and much higher losses that there should have been.