Montgomery, Alabama. March 17th 1877.
Reverend J. William Jones, Secretary:
Dear Sir -- I have your favor of
the 27th ult., enclosing copy of letter from, giving an outline of his views of the campaign and battle of Gettysburg, and
inviting my comments thereon. I take great pleasure in giving them in the same frank spirit in which they are asked, and asking
no one to accept them to whom they do not commend themselves, and not pretending to know every thing about it.
My rank and position during that campaign was colonel of artillery, commanding a battalion of six batteries attached as reserve
to Longstreet's corps; and on the field of Gettysburg I was placed by General Longstreet in command of all of his artillery
on the field as chief of artillery for the action. As I had belonged to the United States Engineer Corps before the war, and
as General Longstreet at that time had no engineer officers on his staff, I was frequently called on, also, during the campaign,
as an engineer officer. I mention these facts only that you may form an idea of my personal opportunities of observation and
And now as to the questions of ------- in their order:
First. Was the invasion a mistake? The proof of the pudding is the eating, and that test has certainly condemned it. I must
also say frankly that my recollection is, that while the whole army went across the Potomac in the highest spirits, they were
due more to confidence in General Lee than to an entire accordance of all of the prominent officers in the wisdom of the invasion.
I remember conversations on the matter while on the march with one of the most gallant major generals of the army -- General
Hood -- in which he suggested all of the very grave considerations against it which are so forcibly put by -------. General
Longstreet has also stated to me since (although during the campaign I do not remember a word or sign from him indicating
any doubt in its success) that he urged similar considerations, very earnestly, upon General Lee, when the campaign was being
discussed, and was only persuaded out of them by the understanding that we were not to deliver an offensive battle,
but to so maneuver that Meade would be forced to attack us. Remember, in this connection, one of Stonewall Jackson's last
speeches: "Our men sometimes fail to drive the enemy out of their positions, but they always fail to drive us." Such
a confidence on General Lee's part would probably not have been misplaced, for he carried the best and largest army into Pennsylvania
that he ever had in hand. The morale and spirit of the men was simply superb, as shown by the fight they made and the orderly
and successful retreat after the battle. General Lee, in his report, has given the reasons which led him to plan the invasion.
Whether he then fully appreciated all of the objections to it which can now be pointed out I do not know, but, even if he
did, I can imagine his confidence in defeating the enemy in a decisive battle, by forcing them to attack us, as so
great, and as based on such reasonable grounds, as to fully justify the movement. For it must be remembered that there were
great objections to be found to his standing still and allowing the enemy to take the initiative.
Second question. I fully agree as to the necessity to General Lee of defeating the Federal army, and perhaps that
army would fight better on its own soil than in Virginia, and would, therefore, be easier to defeat in Virginia; but bear
in mind that the great condition to assure its defeat was to force it to attack General Lee. Moreover, he
did maneuver in Virginia inviting an attack, but in vain -- at least he gave Hooker opportunities which were not availed of,
and no disposition shown to act on them during the few days they remained open. It is also very certain that General Lee could
never have established his army in Pennsylvania with his communications open so as to get supplies, even of ammunition; but
yet I think he could easily have so manoeuvred as to force Meade to attack him. A position covering Fairfield would have given
him the Valley to support himself on, and would have been so threatening to Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Harrisburg
that public clamor would have forced Meade to try and dislodge him. We had ammunition enough for one good fight,
and in a victory would capture enough for the next. If Lee was to cross the Potomac at all, I don't think the crossing should
necessarily have been dependent on a previous victory. A subsequent one would have answered all purposes, and in all human
probabilities it was nearly as certain.
They could have been forced to attack
us, and they never had driven us from a field since the war began. Excellent positions also were to be found everywhere in
that section, which was a limestone country, well cleared and abounding in long parallel ridges like the Seminary ridge or
Cemetery ridge at Gettysburg. So much for the general plan of the campaign; and before proceeding to the next questions of
---------, relating more to the incidents of the battle itself, it is in order to inquire why the original plan was changed
and an offensive battle delivered. And, on this subject, I know little or nothing that is not contained in General Lee's report.
My general recollection is that we considered the enemy very slow in moving upon us, and took our time everywhere to give
him opportunities to attack, if he desired, and that the concentration which was ordered at Gettysburg was intended as an
offer of battle to him. In making this concentration, Hill's corps unexpectedly came in collision with Reynolds' corps, and
the thing began. Reynolds' corps was not expected there, and our information of the enemy's movements was incomplete on account
of the absence of all of the cavalry, or nearly all, with General Stuart, who, instead of being between us and the enemy,
was on a raid around him. In this way the action began, and the first day's success stimulated the second day's effort. This
effort should have been successful, and would have been, but for delays and faults of detail in its execution. These have
been the subject of much crimination and recrimination among survivors as to the greater or less responsibility for them,
but, to history, of course the general commanding is the responsible party. I will write frankly all that I know about them
personally further on. It is sufficient to say here that, as I have already implied, the battle was lost by them, and, in
fact, under the conditions existing when the actual conflict was joined, success was almost impossible.
Even after the second day's battle, in my humble judgment, it was possible to have withdrawn from the offensive and taken
the defensive, and forced Meade to assault us, and to have given him a crushing defeat. I may be mistaken, and I do not by
any means set up as a military critic in general, but, as we did offer battle on the 4th, and again for several days near
Hagerstown, on the retreat (while waiting to construct a bridge over the Potomac), and as Meade did at last feel bound to
attack us, but just a day too late to do it, I think a similar course might have been successfully pursued after the action
of the second. Whether it was discussed I do not know, but I do know that Longstreet was very averse to the assault by Pickett's
division on the third. He only expressed his opinion about it, so far as I know, after the division was launched, but the
circumstances which I will detail presently led me to infer that he had discussed the matter fully with General Lee. And now
I will give what details of the battle itself fell under my personal observation, which may assist in an understanding of
the whole matter, and I will be very careful to give nothing unqualifiedly of which I am not personally certain.
My command, with the greater portion of Longstreet's corps, was in camp at Chambersburg from Saturday, June 27th, to Tuesday,
June 30th, and on the latter date we moved in direction of Gettysburg, about 10 miles, and about 2 P.M. encamped at a small
village called Greenwood. General Lee was in camp very near us during the same afternoon. On Wednesday, July 1st, we (the
reserve artillery) remained in camp all day, and heard nothing of the battle which was begun at Gettysburg until about dark,
when orders were received to march at 2 A.M. on the 2d for Gettysburg. Pickett's division of infantry had been left behind
at Chambersburg, Hood's and McLaws' divisions had marched before us, and when we took the road at 2 A.M. (my battalion, 26
guns, and the Washington Artillery, 10 guns, I think, forming the artillery reserve) we had a clear road and bright moonlight,
and saw nothing of the infantry. About 8 or 9 A.M. we reached the vicinity of the field, and the guns were halted in a wood,
and I reported in person to Generals Lee and Longstreet, who were together on a hill in rear of our lines. I was told that
we were to attack the enemy's left flanks and was directed to take command of my own battalion -- Cabell's battalion (with
McLaws' division), 18 guns; Henry's battalion (with Hood's), 18 guns -- leaving the Washington Artillery in reserve, and to
reconnoitre the ground and cooperate with the infantry in the attack. I was especially cautioned in moving up the guns to
avoid exposing them to the view of a signal station of the enemy's on Round Top mountain. I do not remember seeing or hearing
any thing at this time of Longstreet's infantry, nor did I get the impression that General Lee thought there was any unnecessary
delay going on. I had just arrived, and knew nothing of the situation, and my instructions were to reconnoitre the flank to
be attacked, and choose my own positions and means of reaching them. This duty occupied me, according to the best of my recollection,
one or two hours, when I rode back, and in person conducted my own battalion to the schoolhouse on Willoughby run. At one
point the direct road leading to this place came in sight of the enemy's signal station, but I turned out of the road before
reaching the exposed part, and passing through some meadows a few hundred yards, regained the road without coming in sight.
I then went about hunting up the other battalions which were attached to the infantry in order to give them all their positions
for opening the attack. While thus engaged I came upon the head of an infantry column, which I think was Hood's division,
standing halted in the road where it was in sight of Round Top. They had been instructed to avoid being seen, and finding
that the road on which they had been sent came at this point in full view of the signal station, they had halted, in finding
themselves already exposed, and sent back to General Lee or Longstreet for orders. For some reason, which I cannot now recall,
they would not turn back and follow the tracks of my guns, and I remember a long and tiresome waiting; and at length there
came an order to turn back and take another road around by "Black Horse Tavern," and I have never forgotten that name since.
My general recollection is that nearly three hours were lost in that delay and countermarch, and that it was about 4 P.M.
when Hood became engaged heavily on our extreme right flank, with Henry's battalion aiding him, while, with 18 guns of my
own battalion and Cabell's 18, I attacked Hooker's corps at the Peach Orchard. McLaws' division was, during this, in the woods
in our rear, our batteries firing from the edge next the Peach Orchard -- my own probably 500 yards and Cabell's 700 yards
distant. We were so engaged probably for an hour, when McLaws charged and carried the Peach Orchard, my batteries following
him closely and going into action in and around the Orchard, and the firing was kept up thence till after dark.
-- I have just found copy of a brief dairy kept by Colonel G. Moxley Sorrel, Adjutant General of Longstreet's corps, from
which I copy the following entries, showing movements of the infantry divisions more accurately:
"June 30th. -- Moved (from Chambersburg) for Greenwood, where we camped at night, Pickett being left back at Chambersburg.
"July 1st. - -Moved out from Greenwood on the Gettysburg road, passing through Cashtown and New Salem; arrive within two miles
of Gettysburg; during the day A.P. Hill's corps is sharply engaged; also Ewell on the left. The enemy is driven steadily back,
and the lines occupied by Rodes' division. McLaws, Hood, and the artillery are now moving up and Pickett is ordered from Chambersburg.
"July 2d and 3d. -- See Battle Reports of General Longstreet.
"July 4th. --
After the disasters of yesterday the morning opens very quietly, our troops occupying their original positions. There is not
even the usual light skirmishing. Both armies appear thoroughly exhausted. Preparations are apparent for a backward movement
by the right. The wagons are sent to Cashtown. The movement begins at dark, A.P. Hill leading and our corps following him
in the order -- 1st. Reserve artillery; 2d. Pickett; 3d. McLaws; 4th. Hood. The troops move all night and the next day (5),
when they camp in the afternoon near Monterey Springs. The retirement of our forces is not molested by the enemy. They evidently
believed in building a golden bridge for a flying enemy."
Before daylight on
the morning of the 3d I received orders to post the artillery for an assault upon the enemy's position, and later I learned
that it was to be led by Pickett's division and directed on Cemetery Hill. Some of the batteries had gone back for ammunition
and forage, but they were all brought up immediately, and by daylight all then on the field were posted. Dearing's battalion
(with Pickett's division) reported sometime during the morning. The enemy fired on our movements and positions occasionally,
doing no great damage, and we scarcely returned a shot. The morning was consumed in waiting for Pickett's division, and possibly
other movements of infantry. While forming for the attack, I borrowed from General Pendleton, General Lee's chief of artillery,
seven 12-pounder howitzers, belonging to the Third corps, under Major Richardson, which I put in reserve in a selected spot,
intending them to accompany Pickett's infantry in the charge to have the advantage of fresh horses and men and full chests
of ammunition for the critical moment, in case the batteries engaged in the preliminary cannonade should be so cut up and
exhausted as to be slow in getting up. About 11 A.M. the skirmishers in A.P. Hill's front got to fighting for a barn in between
the lines, and the artillery on both sides gradually took part until the whole of Hill's artillery in position, which I think
was 63 guns, were heavily engaged with about an equal number of the enemy's guns for over a half hour, but not one of the
75 guns which I then had in line was allowed to fire a shot, as we had at best but a short supply of ammunition for the work
laid out. In this connection note that the number of rounds which is carried with each piece in its limber and caisson is,
including canister, about 130 to 150 -- about enough for one hour and a half of rapid firing. I am very sure that
our ordnance trains did not carry into Pennsylvania a reserve supply of more than 100 rounds per gun additional, and I don't
believe they had over 60 rounds to a gun. I have never seen the figures, but I was myself chief of ordnance of the army from
August, 1861, to November, 1862, and was very familiar with the extent and capacity of the ordnance trains. When nearer Richmond
we seldom had a reserve of over 50 rounds per gun, the difficulty of transportation always limiting us to the utmost economy
in its use, and in the trains devoted to its carriage. Gradually the cannonade just referred to died out as it began, and
the field became nearly silent, but writers have frequently referred to "the cannonade preceding the assault" as having begun
at 11 o'clock and lasted for some hours, being misled by this affair. About 12 M. General Longstreet told me that when Pickett
was ready, he would himself give the signal for all our guns to open (which was to be two guns from the Washington Artillery,
near the center of our line), and meanwhile he desired me to select a suitable position for observation, and to take with
me one of General Pickett's staff, and exercise my judgment in selecting the moment for Pickett's advance to begin. Complying,
I selected the advanced salient angle of the wood in which Pickett's line was now formed, just on the left flank of my line
of 75 guns. While occupying this position and in conversation with General A.R. Wright, commanding a Georgia brigade in A.P.
Hill's corps, who had come out there for an observation of the position, I received a note from General Longstreet, which
I copy from the original still in my possession, as follows:
"Hd. Qrs., July 3rd, 1863.
"If the artillery fire does not
have the effect to drive off the enemy or greatly demoralize him so as to make our efforts pretty certain, I would prefer
that you should not advise General Pickett to make the charge. I shall rely a great deal on your good judgment to determine
the matter, and shall expect you to let General Pickett know when the moment offers.
"J. Longstreet, Lieutenant General.
To Colonel E.P. Alexander, Artillery."
This note at once suggested that
there was some alternative to the attack, and placed me on the responsibility of deciding the question. I endeavored to avoid
it by giving my views in a note, of which I kept no copy, but of which I have always retained a vivid recollection, having
discussed its points with General A.R. Wright as I wrote it. It was expressed very nearly as follows:
"I will only be able to judge of the effect of our fire on the enemy by his
return fire, for his infantry is but little exposed to view and the smoke will obscure the whole field. If, as I infer from
your note, there is any alternative to this attack, it should be carefully considered before opening our fire, for it will
take all the artillery ammunition we have left to test this one thoroughly, and, if the result is unfavorable, we will have
none left for another effort. And even if this is entirely successful it can only be so at a very bloody cost.
"Very respectfully, &c.,
"E.P. Alexander, Colonel Artillery."
To this note I soon received the
following reply -- the original still in my possession.
"Hd. Qrs., July 3rd, 1863.
"The intention is to advance the
infantry if the artillery has the desired effect of driving the enemy's off, or having other effect such as to warrant us
in making the attack. When that moment arrives advise General P., and of course advance such artillery as you can use in aiding
"J. Longstreet, Lieutenant General, Commanding.
"To Colonel Alexander."
This letter again placed the responsibility
upon me, and I felt it very deeply, for the day was rapidly advancing (it was about 12 M., or a little later), and whatever
was to be done was to be done soon. Meanwhile I had been anxiously discussing the attack with General A.R. Wright, who said
that the difficulty was not do much in reaching Cemetery Hill, or taking it -- that his brigade had carried it the afternoon
before -- but that the trouble was to hold it, for the whole Federal army was massed in a sort of horseshoe shape and could
rapidly reinforce the point to any extent, while our long, enveloping line could not give prompt enough support. This somewhat
reassured me, as I had heard it said that morning that General Lee had ordered "every brigade in the army to charge Cemetery
Hill," and it was at least certain that the question of supports had had his careful attention. Before answering, however,
I rode back to converse with General Pickett, whose line was now formed or forming in the wood, and without telling him of
the question I had to decide, I found out that he was entirely sanguine of success in the charge, and was only congratulating
himself on the opportunity. I was convinced that to make any halfway effort would insure a failure of the campaign, and that
if our artillery fire was once opened, after all the time consumed in preparation for the attack, the only hope of success
was to follow it up promptly with one supreme effort, concentrating every energy we possessed into it, and my mind was fully
made up that if the artillery opened, Pickett must charge. After the second note from General Longstreet, therefore,
and the interview with Pickett, I did not feel justified in making any delay, but to acquaint General Longstreet with my determination.
I wrote him a note, which I think I quote verbatim, as follows: " General: When our artillery fire is doing its best I shall
advise General Pickett to advance." It was my intention, as he had a long distance to traverse, that he should start not later
than fifteen minutes after our fire opened. About this time, too, to be sure that Richardson with his seven 12-pounder howitzers
should be promptly on hand, I sent for him to come up through the woods and be ready to move ahead of Pickett's division in
the advance. To my great disappointment I learned just as we opened fire, and too late to replace him, that General Pendleton
had sent four of his guns, without my knowledge, to some other part of the field, and the other three had also moved off and
could not be found. Probably, however, the presence of guns in the head of this column would only have resulted in their loss,
but it would have been a brilliant opportunity for them, and I always feel like apologizing for their absence.
It was 1 P.M. by my watch when the signal guns were fired, the field at that time being entirely silent, but for light picket
firing between the lines, and as suddenly as an organ strikes up in a church, the grand roar followed from all the guns of
both armies. The enemy's fire was heavy and severe, and their accounts represent ours as having been equally so, though our
rifle guns were comparatively few and had only very defective ammunition. As an illustration, I remember that the casualties
in my own battalion (26 guns) were about 147 men and 116 horses in the two days' actions, and about 80 per cent. of the wounds
were from artillery fire. General A.S. Webb, U.S.A., who commanded a brigade on Cemetery Hill, told me, after the war, that
a Federal battery, coming into action on the Hill, lost from our artillery fire 27 out of 36 horses in about ten minutes.
Average distances I should suppose were about 1,400 yards. We had some casualties from canister. I had fully intended giving
Pickett the order to advance as soon as I saw that our guns had gotten their ranges, say, in ten or fifteen minutes, but the
enemy's fire was so severe that when that time had elapsed I could not make up my mind to order the infantry out into a fire
which I did not believe they could face, for so long a charge, in such a hot sun, tired as they already were by the march
from Chambersburg. I accordingly waited in hopes that our fire would produce some visible effect, or something turn up to
make the situation more hopeful; but fifteen minutes more passed without any change in the situation, the fire on neither
side slackening for a moment. Even then I could not bring myself to give a peremptory order to Pickett to advance, but feeling
that the critical moment would soon pass, I wrote him a note to this effect: "If you are coming at all you must come immediately
or I cannot give you proper support; but the enemy's fire has not slackened materially, and at least 18 guns are still firing
from the Cemetery itself."
This note (which, though given from memory, I can
vouch for as very nearly verbatim) I sent off at 1:30 P.M., consulting my watch. I afterwards heard what followed its receipt
from members of the staff of both Generals Pickett and Longstreet, as follows: Pickett on receiving it galloped over to General
Longstreet, who was not far off, and showed it to General L. The latter read it and made no reply. (General Longstreet himself,
speaking of it afterwards, said that he knew the charge had to be made, but could not bring himself to give the order.) General
Pickett then said: "General, shall I advance? "Longstreet turned around in his saddle and would not answer. Pickett immediately
saluted, and said, "I am going to lead my division forward, sir," and galloped off to put it in motion; on which General L.
left his staff and rode out alone to my position. Meanwhile, five minutes after I sent the above note to Pickett, the enemy's
fire suddenly slackened materially, and the batteries in the Cemetery were limbered up and were withdrawn. As the enemy had
such abundance of ammunition and so much better guns than ours that they were not compelled to reserve their artillery for
critical moments (as we almost always had to do), I knew that they must have felt the punishment a good deal, and I was a
good deal elated by the sight. But to make sure that it was a withdrawal for good, and not a mere change of position or relieving
of the batteries by fresh ones, I waited for five minutes more, closely examining the ground with a large glass. At that time
I sent my courier to Pickett with a note: "For God's sake come quick; the 18 guns are gone "; and, going to the nearest gun,
I sent a lieutenant and a sergeant, one after the other, with other messages to same effect. A few minutes after this, Pickett
still not appearing, General Longstreet rode up alone, having seen Pickett and left his staff as above. I showed him the situation,
and said I only feared I could not give Pickett the help I wanted to, my ammunition being very low, and the seven guns under
Richardson having been taken off. General Longstreet spoke up promptly: "Go and stop Pickett right where he is, and replenish
your ammunition." I answered that the ordnance wagons had been nearly emptied, replacing expenditures of the day before, and
that not over 20 rounds to the gun were left -- too little to accomplish much -- and that while this was being done the enemy
would recover from the effect of the fire we were now giving him. His reply was: "I don't want to make this charge; I don't
believe it can succeed. I would stop Pickett now, but that General Lee has ordered it and expects it," and other remarks,
showing that he would have been easily induced, even then, to order Pickett to halt. It was just at this moment that Pickett's
line appeared sweeping out of the wood, Garnett's brigade passing over us. I then left General Longstreet and rode a short
distance with General Garnett, an old friend, who had been sick, but, buttoned up in an old blue overcoat, in spite of the
heat of the day, was riding in front of his line. I then galloped along my line of guns, ordering those that had over 20 rounds
left to limber up and follow Pickett, and those that had less to maintain their fire from where they were. I had advanced
several batteries or parts of batteries in this way, when Pickett's division appeared on the slope of Cemetery Hill, and a
considerable force of the enemy were thrown out, attacking his unprotected right flank. Meanwhile, too, several batteries
which had been withdrawn were run out again and were firing on him very heavily. We opened on these troops and batteries with
the best we had in the shop, and appeared to do them considerable damage, but meanwhile Pickett's division just seemed to
melt away in the blue musketry smoke which now covered the hill. Nothing but stragglers came back. As soon as it was clear
that Pickett was "gone up," I ceased firing, saving what little ammunition was left for fear of an advance by the enemy. About
this time General Lee came up to our guns alone and remained there a half hour or more, speaking to Pickett's men as they
came straggling back, and encouraging them to form again in the first cover they could find. While he was here Colonel Fremantle,
of the Coldstream Guards, rode up, who afterwards wrote a very graphic account of the battle and of incidents occurring here,
which was published in Blackwoods Magazine. A little before this, Heth's division, under Wilcox, had been advanced
also, but I cannot recall the moment or the place where I saw them, but only the impression on my mind, as the men passed
us, that the charge must surely be some misapprehension of orders, as the circumstances at the moment made it utterly impossible
that it could accomplish anything, and I thought what a pity it was that so many of them were about being sacrificed in vain.
It was intended, I believe, that Pettigrew should support Pickett's right flank, but the distance that had to be traversed
in the charge got such an interval between the two that Pickett's force was spent and his division disintegrated before Pettigrew's
got under close fire. I have always believed that the enemy here lost the greatest opportunity they ever had of routing General
Lee's army by prompt offensive. They occupied a line shaped somewhat like a horseshoe. I suppose that the greatest diameter
of the horseshoe was not more than one mile, and the ground within was entirely sheltered from our observation and fire, with
communications by signals all over it, and they could concentrate their whole force at any point in a very short while and
without our knowledge. Our line was an enveloping semicircle, over four miles in development, and communication from flank
to flank even by courier was difficult, the country being well cleared and exposed to the enemy's view and fire, the roads
all running at right angles to our lines, and some of them at least broad turnpikes which the enemy's guns could rake for
two miles. Is it necessary now to add any statement as to the superiority of the Federal force or the exhausted and shattered
condition of the Confederates for a space of at least a mile in their very center, to show that a great opportunity was thrown
away? I think that General Lee himself was quite apprehensive that the enemy would "riposte," and that it was that apprehension
which brought him alone out to my guns where he could observe all the indications.
Note. -- In Fremantle's account he tells of General Lee's reproving
an artillery officer for spurring his horse severely when it shied at the bursting of a shell. The officer was my ordnance
officer and acting adjutant, Lieutenant F.M. Colston, now of Baltimore, and the shying was not at the bursting of a shell,
but, just at that time there was a loud cheering in the enemy's line, a little on the right, and General Lee requested Colston
to ride towards it and discover if it indicated an advance. Colston's horse cut up because it did not want to leave my horse,
the two being together a great deal on the march and in the camp. General Lee then spoke to him, as Fremantle narrates; and
the cheering turned out to be given to some general officer riding along the Federal line.
In the above narrative I have given all the light I can throw on the subjects of enquiry in the 4th and 5th questions of 's
letter, the 1st and 2d having been previously discussed. The 3d question relates to the lack of coordination between the attacks
of the 2d July; and a similar lack of coordination is equally patent in the attacks on the 3d. I attribute it partially to
the fact that our staff organizations were never sufficiently extensive and perfect to enable the Commanding General to be
practically present every where and to thoroughly handle a large force on an extended field, but principally it was due to
the exceedingly difficult shape in which our line was formed, the enemy occupying a center and we a semi circumference, with
poor and exposed communications along it. I believe it was simply impossible to have made different attacks from
the flanks and center of the line we occupied and over the different distances which would have to be traversed and which
should be so simultaneous that the squeeze would fall on the enemy at all points at the same time. And in this connection,
I think that the very position which we took and every feature of the three days' conflict shows the absurdity of a story
told by Swinton, who is generally very fair and above giving anecdotes suitable only for the marines. He says that some of
our brigades were encouraged to the charge by being told that they were to meet only Pennsylvania militia, but on getting
very near the enemy's line they "recognized the bronzed features of the veterans of the Army of the Potomac," (I quote from
memory) and were at once panic struck. Such stories are not only absurd, but, in a history, are in bad taste, having a tendency
to provoke retorts. The above has been written in piecemeal in leisure moments during the past month, and with scarcely the
opportunity to read it over, which must be my apology for its deficiencies; but as a narrative of what fell under my personal
knowledge, it may assist -------- in understanding some of the points of his inquiries, and is at your service for that or
any other purpose.
Very respectfully, yours,
Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. IV. Richmond, Virginia, September, 1877. No. 3.
Recommended Reading: Fighting for
the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander. Description: Originally published by UNC Press in 1989, Fighting for the Confederacy is one of
the richest personal accounts in all of the vast literature on the Civil War. Alexander was involved in nearly all of the
great battles of the East, from First Manassas through Appomattox,
and his duties brought him into frequent contact with most of the high command of the Army of Northern Virginia, including
Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and James Longstreet. Continued below...
No other Civil
War veteran of his stature matched Alexander's ability to discuss operations in penetrating detail—this is especially
true of his description of Gettysburg. His narrative is also remarkable for its utterly candid appraisals of leaders
on both sides.
Recommended Reading: Military Memoirs
Of A Confederate, by Edward Porter Alexander. Description: General Edward Porter Alexander was the master gunner of the Confederacy, and undeniably one of the great American
artillerists. He was involved in nearly all of the great battles of the East, from First Manassas through Appomattox;
on the second day at Gettysburg, Alexander’s battalion
executed one of the greatest artillery charges of the war; Longstreet relied upon him for reconnaissance, and Stonewall Jackson
wanted him made an infantry general.
eventually confide in this young general who many knew simply as E. Porter Alexander.
Recommended Reading: Lee's Lieutenants: A Study in Command (912 pages). Description: Hailed as one of the greatest Civil War books, this exhaustive study is an abridgement
of the original three-volume version. It is a history of the Army of Northern Virginia from the first shot fired to the
surrender at Appomattox - but what makes this book unique
is that it incorporates a series of biographies of more than 150 Confederate officers. The book discusses in depth all the
tradeoffs that were being made politically and militarily by the South. Continued below...
The book does an excellent job describing the battles, then
at a critical decision point in the battle, the book focuses on an officer - the book stops and tells the biography of that
person, and then goes back to the battle and tells what information the officer had at that point and the decision he made.
At the end of the battle, the officers decisions are critiqued based on what he "could have known and what he should have
known" given his experience, and that is compared with 20/20 hindsight. "It is an incredibly well written book!"
Recommended Reading: Staff
Officers in Gray: A Biographical Register of the Staff Officers in the Army of Northern Virginia (Hardcover: 360 pages) (The University of North Carolina
Press) (September 3, 2008). Description: This indispensable Civil War reference profiles 2,300 staff officers in Robert E. Lee's famous Army of Northern Virginia. A typical entry includes the officer's full name, the date and place of
his birth and death, details of his education and occupation, and a synopsis of his military record. Continued below...
provide a list of more than 3,000 staff officers who served in other armies of the Confederacy and complete rosters of known
staff officers of each general in the Army of Northern Virginia.
Recommended Reading: The Artillery
of Gettysburg (Hardcover). Description: The battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, the apex of the Confederacy's final major invasion of the North,
was a devastating defeat that also marked the end of the South's offensive strategy against the North. From this battle until
the end of the war, the Confederate armies largely remained defensive. The Artillery of Gettysburg is a thought-provoking
look at the role of the artillery during the July 1-3, 1863 conflict. Continued below...
During the Gettysburg campaign, artillery had already gained the respect
in both armies. Used defensively, it could break up attacking formations and change the outcomes of battle. On the offense,
it could soften up enemy positions prior to attack. And even if the results were not immediately obvious, the psychological
effects to strong artillery support could bolster the infantry and discourage the enemy. Ultimately, infantry and artillery
branches became codependent, for the artillery needed infantry support lest it be decimated by enemy infantry or captured.
The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia had modified its codependent command system in February 1863. Prior to that, batteries
were allocated to brigades, but now they were assigned to each infantry division, thus decentralizing its command structure
and making it more difficult for Gen. Robert E. Lee and his artillery chief, Brig. Gen. William Pendleton, to control their
deployment on the battlefield. The Union Army of the Potomac had superior artillery capabilities
in numerous ways. At Gettysburg, the Federal artillery had
372 cannons and the Confederates 283. To make matters worse, the Confederate artillery frequently was hindered by the quality
of the fuses, which caused the shells to explode too early, too late, or not at all. When combined with a command structure
that gave Union Brig. Gen. Henry Hunt more direct control--than his Southern counterpart had over his forces--the Federal
army enjoyed a decided advantage in the countryside around Gettysburg. Bradley
M. Gottfried provides insight into how the two armies employed their artillery, how the different kinds of weapons functioned
in battle, and the strategies for using each of them. He shows how artillery affected the “ebb and flow” of battle
for both armies and thus provides a unique way of understanding the strategies of the Federal and Union
Civil War High Commands (1040 pages) (Hardcover). Description: Based on nearly five decades
of research, this magisterial work is a biographical register and analysis of the people who most directly influenced the
course of the Civil War, its high commanders. Numbering 3,396, they include the presidents and their cabinet members, state
governors, general officers of the Union and Confederate armies (regular, provisional, volunteers,
and militia), and admirals and commodores of the two navies. Civil War High Commands will become a cornerstone
reference work on these personalities and the meaning of their commands, and on the Civil War itself. Continued below...
Errors of fact and interpretation concerning the high commanders are
legion in the Civil War literature, in reference works as well as in narrative accounts. The present work brings together
for the first time in one volume the most reliable facts available, drawn from more than 1,000 sources and including the most
recent research. The biographical entries include complete names, birthplaces, important relatives, education, vocations,
publications, military grades, wartime assignments, wounds, captures, exchanges, paroles, honors, and place of death and interment.
In addition to its main component, the biographies, the volume
also includes a number of essays, tables, and synopses designed to clarify previously obscure matters such as the definition
of grades and ranks; the difference between commissions in regular, provisional, volunteer, and militia services; the chronology
of military laws and executive decisions before, during, and after the war; and the geographical breakdown of command structures.
The book is illustrated with 84 new diagrams of all the insignias used throughout the war and with 129 portraits of the most
important high commanders. It is the most comprehensive volume to date...name any Union or Confederate general--and it can be
found in here. [T]he photos alone are worth the purchase. RATED FIVE STARS by americancivilwarhistory.org