Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers Gen. Richard Ewell at Gettysburg (7/2/1863) - Mar. 21st, 2005
Posted on 03/20/2005 9:54:07 PM PST by SAMWolf
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For the second day in a row, Confederate General Richard Ewell inexplicably failed to take the offensive at Gettysburg. "The fruits of victory," Robert E. Lee lamented, had not been gathered.
The next morning the conversation at Maj. Gen. Richard Ewell's II Corps headquarters concerned Lee's expectations for the coming day. Said Lee pointedly: "We did not pursue our advantage of yesterday, and now the enemy are in good position." Given Lee's habitual gentlemanly demeanor, that amounted to a severe dressing down of Ewell, as "Old Baldy" immediately realized. Wisely, Ewell made no reply. The day before, ordered by Lee to take the Heights south of Gettysburg, specifically Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill, Ewell had flinched. With much of his corps scattered and exhausted by the hard march and even harder fighting earlier that day, the usually aggressive Ewell had taken one look at the two hilltops bristling with Union artillery and chosen not to attack.
Ewell's decision -- or indecision -- had pained Lee greatly, but to some extent it was Lee's own fault. Accustomed to the brilliant and imaginative leadership of Stonewall Jackson, dead now for two months, Lee had fallen into the bad habit of "suggesting" rather than ordering. His directions to Ewell had been typically contradictory and confusing: he was to take the heights "if practicable" but not bring on "a general engagement." Given the fact that a general engagement had already been flaring for 12 hours at Gettysburg, Ewell's puzzlement, if not necessarily his paralysis, was understandable.
Now, Lee kept his orders simple. Ewell was to keep pressuring the Federal right in order to prevent Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade from transferring troops to the left, where the primary Confederate assault of the day was planned. Again, should the opportunity present itself, Ewell was to take the heights. For his part, Ewell did not interfere with the previous dispositions of his divisional commanders. Major General Robert Rodes held the corps' extreme right, southwest of Gettysburg; Maj. Gen. Jubal Early held the center, due east of the Baltimore Pike; and Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson was posted east of town above the Hanover Road.
Fighting on Culp's Hill
Confronting Ewell were elements of three corps from the Union Army of the Potomac: Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard's XI Corps; Maj. Gen. John Newton's I Corps; and Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum's XII Corps, all occupying the high ground just south of Gettysburg, the Northernmost part of the Union line. Howard's corps, in particular, had been roughly handled by Ewell's forces the day before, but reinforcements had rushed to the scene and stabilized the line, which was now shaped like an inverted fishhook, with the hook's curve sweeping west from Culp's Hill to Cemetery Hill.
During the morning and the midafternoon of July 2, the infantrymen and cannoneers of both armies made ready for renewed war. The Federals dug trenches, built abatis and felled trees to open lines of fire. Rations were cooked, brought to the front and quickly dispersed. Water, which was scarce, was rationed and shared among friends. Cartridges were unloaded off the ammunition trains, and each soldier saw to it that his pouch was full. Muskets were cleaned, bayonets sharpened. The familiar ritual was a shield against the accursed gods of war, against death, and against the terrible wounds that had so shocked their tender sensibilities when the war first began, but that now no longer caused distress. These Yankees were veteran infantrymen; they had "seen the elephant." Now they waited.
Across the way, their enemies in butternut and gray did much the same. Their rations were not quite as good, but they had better access to water, and by now they had managed to equip themselves with the standard 1863-era musket, their home-brought smoothbores and shotguns a thing of the past. But the Rebels were expecting to make an assault, and their haversacks, many stamped with the initials U.S., were lightened of all but the essentials.
General Edward Johnson
Sometime after noon, Confederate Major Joseph W. Latimer had gotten the 16 guns of Snowden Andrew's Maryland Battalion and the Rockbridge Artillery from II Corps' artillery reserve on the heights of Benner's Hill, a small rise about 1,400 yards northeast of Cemetery Hill. The 20-year-old boy major had distinguished himself in previous battles, and clearly intended to do his duty. Further dispositions of the corps artillery were hindered by terrain and by the singular failure of II Corps' artillery command. Of the early 80 guns available to the corps, only 48 had been brought to bear on the enemy, and only 32 had been fired in anger. It was a terrible showing by the heretofore excellent artillery officers, especially in light of the fact that the Federal position south of town was a salient, and very much subject to enfilading fire from both II Corps and III Corps artillery. But this opportunity, too, had been missed by Ewell. Any attack on the heights would now be strictly an infantry affair, virtually unsupported by the long arm of the army.
During the morning hours, Ewell had ordered his divisional commanders to prepare to advance on the enemy. He sent couriers to Maj. Gen. Dorsey Pender, on his right, asking that support be provided in the event the corps went forward. Brigadier General James Lane had assumed command of the division several hours earlier when Pender went down with the severe leg wound that would eventually kill him. Lane replied to Ewell's request in the affirmative and ordered two of his brigades to the skirmish line. Ewell's attack was planned in echelon, a favorite Confederate tactic. Left to right, Johnson would go first, followed by Early, then Rodes.
Breastworks near the summit of Culp's Hill
Johnson's division lay just north of Hanover Road, east of town, about a mile from their objective, Culp's Hill. Brigadier General John M. Jones had been ordered to move his brigade in support of Latimer's artillery in the area of Benner's Hill. Colonel J.M. Williams' brigade fell in on Jones' right, while on his left Brig. Gen. George Steuart's hard-fighting infantry extended the front several hundred yards eastward. On Steuart's left, the renowned Stonewall Brigade formed but was quickly forced to change fronts, bringing its line perpendicular to the division's front in order to fend off some forceful skirmishing by belligerent Union cavalry. As a result of the Union harassment, only three of the four brigades of Johnson's division would go forward.
In the corps' center, Jubal Early had placed Colonel Isaac E. Avery's brigade on the left, while Brig. Gen. Harry Hays' brigade of tigerish Louisianans was posted on the right. Brigadier General John B. Gordon's brigade made up a reserve, and Brig. Gen. William "Extra Billy" Smith's little brigade was sent up the York Road in response to erroneous reports of Federal activity there. Again, as had happened with Johnson, only three of Early's four brigades would be available for the upcoming assault.
1st Maryland at Culp's Hill
On the right, Rodes had not gotten out of town before dusk. Nevertheless, Ewell ordered Johnson to take his command forward. Marching in two lines with battle flags unfurled in the July twilight, the three brigades stepped off briskly, taking shells from opposing Union batteries. Brigadier General James A. Walker, commanding the Stonewall Brigade, had been given discretionary orders concerning the Federals on his right, with the intention that his command would join the division as soon as practicable. The three brigades crossed the Hanover road in good order, only to be stymied at Rock Creek, where they lost much time fording the stream. By the time the Rebel brigades made the base of Culp's Hill, it was dark.
As the confederate assault began, Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum ordered Brig. Gen. Alpheus Williams, temporary commander of XII Corps, to send his former division, then holding the line along the southeastern portion of Culp's Hill, to support Maj. Gens. Daniel Sickles and Winfield Scott Hancock fighting on the left. Williams, informed Slocum that at least one division, Brig. Gen. John Geary's, should remain posted along the hill. Slocum initially agreed but later ordered Geary to follow, leaving behind only Brig. Gen. George "Pap" Greene's five upstate New York regiments. Greene's brigade would now be responsible for a battle line formerly held by a corps.
Good morning Mayor.
Thanks for the new section on the GWOT.
Great painting, thanks.
Sounds like you accomplished a lot!
They apply, Justice on the other hand isn't dished out equally, at least not in this life.
Good morning Wneighbor.
I've thinking (yes, an actual thought! It does happen on occasion) about this for a while now. I mean it has been 30 years, if you know what I mean. God bless these men and their families, but....
Thank you, my FRiend...MUD
You were gone? :-)
welcome back! Tell Schlohweiss I said hi. Hopefully we can all get together again vey soon.
Hi miss Feather
Good Afternoon, Foxhole - Here's to another great thread, and another great day.
"Where fiercest grows the battle's rage
And Southern banners spread;
Where minions crouch and vassals kneel,
There sleep Virginia's dead."
- Cornelia J. M. Jordan