Gettysburg at 150: The Show’s Over, The Ghosts Remain – Paul Greenberg – Page full

I might not agree with all the facts Mr. Greenberg included in his article, but I like his approach to the epic event that the Battle of Gettysburg represents.

Gettysburg at 150: The Show’s Over, The Ghosts Remain – Paul Greenberg – Page full.

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July 1 Gettysburg Campaign: “None in the world”

Franklin Horner begins his day at 5:00 a.m. They marched nearly the whole day putting in fifteen miles and crossing the Maryland-Pennsylvania line into York County. Somewhere he hears they are within five or six miles of the rebels and they expect to get into a fight tomorrow. He records that he hears some firing in their front, that the wagons are all being sent to the rear and a night march is expected.

Thomas Ware begins his march at 4:00 p.m., and marches through the night. They stop and rest somewhere east of Fayetteville and west of Cashtown on the Chambersburg Pike.

The firing Horner hears is coming from the fields to the west and north of Gettysburg, PA, a town of about 2,400 souls at the intersection of several roads.

The night before, on June 30, General John Buford’s Union cavalry trotted through the town from the south and spread out to the west. As was standard practice for the cavalry, they sent out videttes—single horsemen ahead of groups of horsemen—to locate any enemy that might be near. No doubt they saw or heard Confederates to the west. Confederate general Johnston Pettigrew reported back to his corps commander at Cashtown that night that on his scout toward Gettysburg he had run into Federal cavalry and had heard drums behind them, indicating there might be infantry backing them up. General Lee had let it be known that he did not want to bring on a general engagement since his army was not concentrated yet, so Pettigrew backed off.

Pettigrew’s report to corps commander A. P. Hill took place at the Cashtown Inn and was overheard by one of Hill’s division commanders, General Henry Heth. Hill didn’t believe that there could be infantry in Gettysburg; his reports all said that the Army of the Potomac was still in Maryland. Pettigrew listened while Hill threw away fresh intelligence about the enemy for stale. Heth asked if Hill had any objections if he went into Gettysburg the next morning and procured supplies—especially shoes—for his command. “None in the world,” Hill said. Those four words would bring on what some historians think was the watershed battle of the American Civil War.

The morning of July 1, Heth’s men drew fire from Buford’s videttes, but pressed on until they struck the main cavalry line. They were held up by Buford’s men, who had sent couriers back through the town of Gettysburg to inform the nearest infantry that the fight was on. They found the Union Army First Corps, under the command of Major General John F. Reynolds (whose home was Lancaster, PA) on the road the Confederates would march to Philadelphia, if they were successful in driving back his troops. With a will only a man fighting to defend his own home and family could summon, Reynolds rode ahead of his troops, through the Seminary to the ridges and swales to the west. He had turned in his saddle to watch his troops march toward him when a minie ball struck him high in the back of the neck. He had been on the battlefield just a few minutes.

The fighting would rage with Confederates assaulting the Union lines along McPherson’s Ridge from the west. As more Union troops came through the town, they attempted to gain the high ground to the north on Oak Hill. Just as they approached the hill, Confederates arriving from the north as part of the rebel army’s concentration planted themselves on it. The Union troops “refused” their line, or bent it back, to receive any attack.

As in any battle there were moments of serious hard fighting as well as lulls. As more Union troops arrived on the field they took up position north of the town, straddling the approach routes there, and holding off Confederate assaults as best they could from behind the only protection they could find—some post and rail fences. The Federal line formed a rough, sideways “L” blocking Confederates first coming from the west in the morning, then from the north in the afternoon. Fighting continued through the afternoon until Confederate forces finally arrived from the east and attacked the Union flank on Barlow’s knoll. It crumpled and the entire Federal line imploded, moving rapidly through the town.

It seemed a complete Confederate victory on the first day. Lee, who had not wanted to bring on a general engagement, observed the rout as he arrived on the battlefield from Cashtown and must have been pleased at what he saw. Was it this vision that changed his strategy from avoiding an engagement to, “The enemy is there, and I am going to strike him”?

And while the Federals where whipped on the first day, they fell back to the high ground south of the town and began to form, as the rest of the army came up from the south, one of the strongest positions they could have found; One that most military men credit with the eventual Union victory.

Yet, for all the momentous, history-changing events that are occurring just a few miles from them and toward which they are inexorably being drawn, neither Franklin Horner nor Thomas Ware mentions the name Gettysburg.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

June 27 Gettysburg Campaign: Sightseeing in Enemy Territory

Franklin Horner began his march at 6:00 a.m. They crossed the Potomac into Maryland at Edwards Ferry and camped at the mouth of the Monocacy River. They halt at 4:00 p.m. with plenty of daylight left after putting in 15 miles this Saturday.

Thomas Ware and the boys get a little break and don’t leave their camps until 8:00 a.m., marching in the rear of the column. He writes about stopping for 2 hours while the Quartermasters (to collect supplies and pay for them), Sergeants, who are armed, and pioneers (engineers) go forward, probably to clear the way of any possible ambushes by guerilla forces or militia, now that they are officially in enemy territory.

They reach Greencastle, PA, and Ware notices how “mad & sullen” the townspeople look as they pass. He writes that the town is larger than Washington, GA, the largest settlement near the Ware homestead. The stores are all closed and the hotels are crowded with young men. Again he notices “some nice looking girls dressed very fine as evry [sic] thing is cheap.” Some of the girls wore Federal flags in their bonnets. The Confederates burn the railroad depot on the north side of town and destroy some track.

After leaving town they marched through fields of wheat and corn. In spite of General Lee’s orders, the men begin to loot bee hives and poultry yards. Officially the army gathered up all the horses and beef cattle.

Another 12 miles brought them to Chambersburg, PA, and Ware likens its size to Atlanta in his home state. He notices again all the young men not in the military, and, “I saw more girls than I have seen at any one time before, some very good looking ones.” The town had been placed under martial law with guards posted at every corner, so they couldn’t pilfer a chicken or pig for their dinner. After marching 17 miles this day they encamp around three miles from Chambersburg.

This day sees Franklin Horner and his comrades cross the Potomac River about fifty-five miles south of where Thomas Ware crossed it yesterday. While Edwards Ferry can be found today, it no longer has an active ferry boat. Ruins from the landing and support buildings could still be see when I researched the site in the early 1990s.

I arranged the book so that the reader could follow in the footsteps of the two soldiers along modern highways. Ware and Horner are marching through some towns that are accessible to a visitor to Gettysburg. Chambersburg is only 30 miles from Gettysburg; Greencastle just a little farther. Edwards Ferry and Leesburg are a little over an hour’s drive. If you are one of the many visitors to Gettysburg, you may want to visit these places, using 35 Day to Gettysburg as a guide.

Reading his entire diary, I was amused at how many times Ware mentions the pretty girls on the march. One gets the impression, by the amount of detail Ware puts into his diary, savoring the local names of the places he passes through and the roads he marches, that he considers this to be the great adventure of his life. Being a young, single man on this great adventure, the maidens of this strange land he comes into as an invader attract his attention.

Apparently, the raiding of beehives and stealing of chickens was widespread enough to be brought to the attention of the commanding general. On June 27, Lee issues General Orders No. 73 from his headquarters in Chambersburg, PA. He sounds like a father gently scolding a spirited child he needs to punish but not break, pleased with the conduct of his troops so far, but realizing that, “There have, however, been instances of forgetfulness on the part of some…”

One thing I forgot to mention earlier. Thomas Ware has a special companion marching along with him in the 15th Georgia. In December 1862, his younger brother Robert transferred from Company B, 6th Alabama Infantry, presumably to be with his older brother and the other Georgians in the regiment. So for six or seven months now, Thomas has had the comfort and support of kin during his ordeals.

It was not unusual, especially in the south, for brothers and cousins to fight in the same unit. Many companies in the Civil War were recruited parochially. Young relatives and friends often enlisted en masse. In an appendix to the book, I list the numerous families who sent two or more sons to serve in company G, 15th Georgia Infantry. The attrition to the families is appalling.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

June 25 Gettysburg Campaign: The Great Confederate Raid of 1863

This Thursday Franklin Horner finally gets his marching orders. He comments that he thinks they are headed to join the Army of the Potomac, the Union’s largest army in the field, to counter Lee’s invasion.

Thomas Ware writes that it is a cloudy day, “a splendid day to march,” and once again records the details of his march route over 21 miles to near Martinsburg.

Horner’s intuition is correct: they are marching to join the army whose job it is to counter Lee’s invasion of the north. Where they will finally meet up is a mystery. Though he marches less than two miles, the tension is broken and they are part of the active campaign.

Ware puts in a long and tiring day. The part of the country they are passing through used to be Virginia, but as of June 20, by presidential proclamation, it became the new state of West Virginia. Apparently, it was acceptable for a section of the state to “secede” from the secession.

Part of Ware’s route takes him near the Old Valley Turnpike (now route 11) a major thoroughfare for both armies marching up and down the Valley. (By the way, going “up” the Shenandoah Valley means traveling south and upward in altitude; going “down” the Valley means heading north.) Ware’s infantry comrades do not get the luxury of marching on the smooth Valley Turnpike—that’s for the wheeled artillery and supply wagons. We temporarily lose his line of march, but the Atlas to the Official Records shows a road that roughly parallels the Turnpike that perhaps was used by the infantry. He mentions that some of the work that day involved tearing up railroad tracks and burning a Baltimore & Ohio depot in Martinsburg. Heavy work after a hard day’s march. They will tear up more tracks in the near future.

One of the things I noticed while researching my book Saber and Scapegoat: Jeb Stuart and the Gettysburg Controversy was how often Lee mentioned gathering supplies to send back to the Shenandoah Valley in his official correspondence to his officers on the invasion. In one piece he actually says that the campaign depends upon the successful gathering of supplies to end up in Virginia. This led me to theorize that the 1863 summer campaign could be considered a gigantic raid into the north to procure goods for the Confederacy. Add to that his well-known order not to bring on a general engagement, it seems that if Lee could have successfully gotten out of Pennsylvania and back into the Valley without a fight, he would have.  General A. P. Hill’s decision at Cashtown, PA, on the night of June 30 to allow General Henry Heth to march his men into Gettysburg the next morning, and Heth’s decision to respond to being fired upon by the Union cavalry stationed there looms large. More on that later.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote

June 24 Gettysburg Campaign: Washington vs Lee

Franklin Horner reports that the clothing he packed up is being sent away to Washington by the quartermaster, another sign that his unit is about to begin some serious marching.

Thomas Ware, after resting yesterday, begins his day at 2:00 a.m. Their march starts at Millwood, and with typical detail, Ware names almost every road on their route. After six miles they arrive outside of Berryville and rest in the rear of breastworks thrown up by Union soldiers. He is fortunate to have breakfast provided by a private citizen. Twice during this entry he mentions the large number of girls that come out to the road to watch them pass, some waving handkerchiefs, making Ware and his comrades no doubt feel like heroes. They end up marching 18 miles this day, passing through a part of the country they crossed on their first invasion of the north, which ended at the Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg as it was known in the southern ranks.) Ware’s day ends about 11:00 p.m.

The details of his march route are so precise, it is almost as if Thomas Ware writes in his diary at every halt in the march. He noted the destruction left by the Union army after it camped near Berryville. He may have remembered the devastation wrought by the Union army on Fredericksburg, VA, as well, after the town was shelled then occupied and looted. He and the rest of his comrades may have felt some helpless anger, especially in light of Lee’s General Orders number 72 prohibiting them from inflicting the same devastation on the enemy’s civilians.

And so it would go during the war. The south would become the part of the country that was invaded. Many in the south thought it should be a purely defensive war and, in fact, were angered when Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis decided to invade the north twice. But the difficulties with waging a defensive war would soon make themselves apparent upon the civilian population, which would have to supply their own and an invading army, however reluctantly.

I still wonder, after studying it for so many years, why Lee didn’t embrace the strategy of his hero (and kinsman by marriage) George Washington during the Revolutionary War. He certainly had to be familiar with it. The goals, to me, had been similar: The Confederacy wanted to merely separate from the rest of the country, like the colonies did from England. Washington used a strategy of attrition—keep the British fighting and losing men for years until the British population and politicians got tired of it. It resulted in a longer war, but with the desired goal of independence achieved.

Eventually, with both armies fighting and subsisting on the south’s resources, the term “scorched earth” may have been coined during this war instead of a later one. The south, after eight or more years, may have won, but at what cost?

One thing I am glad of: That Lee did not, per the suggestion of some of his officers at Appomattox, disband the Army of Northern Virginia to fight a guerilla-style war. We might still be fighting 150 years later and travel across the border from Maryland to Virginia would be at your own peril. I think Lee foresaw the tragedy that would unfold should that course have been taken.

Mark Nesbitt Ghosts of Gettysburg Quote