Gettysburg Live 150 – 12:30pm – J.E.B. Stuart Finally Arrives

His long misadventure finally at a close, J.E.B. Stuart arrived at General Lee’s headquarters outside Gettysburg 150 years ago right now.

Though there had been cavalry with Lee during the entire campaign, Stuart took the best of the Confederate cavalrymen with him, leaving the Army of Northern Virginia in a precarious position. He would be chastised by Lee in private, but neither man left a record of the details of the conversation, so we don’t know how stern the talking-to was.

It must not have been too bad, because Stuart maintained his command, though he and his men would be of little use for the rest of the battle.

Gettysburg Live 150 – 12:00pm – Longstreet Starts His Move

While Lt. General James Longstreet lost the argument that morning about whether to attempt an attack on the Union left, he at least insisted that the attack wait until all of the men of McLaws’ and Hood’s divisions arrived. The stragglers at the end of the column were the men of Brig. General Evander Law’s Alabama brigade.

150 years ago right now, Law’s men came off the road and were ready for combat. Now, Longstreet could finally start his march to the south, and get his Corps in position for the attack that General Lee wanted.

And the longer Longstreet waits, the more Union troops are coming off the road and strengthening their line.

This thing would be easier said than done.

Gettysburg Live 150 – 11:30pm – Berdan’s Reconnaissance

Maj. General Dan Sickles had been confused and upset all morning. He had been ordered to hold a position with his III Corps along Cemetery Ridge, on the left flank of the Union army.

The problem was that this wasn’t especially good ground. There was a patch of woods directly in front of him that made detecting an approaching enemy difficult, and made deploying artillery nearly impossible. Beyond the woods, there was a stretch of higher ground where a Peach Orchard was located. Sickles feared that he could be easily dominated if enemy troops took position there.

He desperately wanted to move. He had begged all morning for someone from headquarters to come take a look at this area with him. General Meade was too busy. General Warren couldn’t be sparred. Finally, General Hunt – the Chief of Artillery – went to inspect the left flank.

Hunt agreed with Sickles that the Peach Orchard would make for a good artillery platform (at least better than the position the III Corps currently held). Hunt was careful to point out that he wasn’t authorized to order such a move, though – Sickles would still need to talk to General Meade. If Hunt were going to make the move, he’d want to be sure that the woods over on Seminary Ridge were clear first.

Sickles thought that was a good idea, and 150 years ago right now he sent a party of sharpshooters led by Col. Hiram Berdan into those woods to check things out. It didn’t take long for them to run into (and exchange a few shots with) troops from Brig. General Cadmus Wilcox’s brigade, who were at that point the right flank of the Confederate army.

When word of this encounter got back to Sickles, he knew that he had no choice but to move his men forward to meet the threat.

Gettysburg Live 150 – 5:00am – Lee Surveys the Field

Standing on Seminary Ridge 150 years ago right now, Lee devises his plan for the day’s fighting.

Lt. General Longstreet’s Corps hasn’t gotten into the battle yet. It’s just coming off the road. Two of his divisions will participate today. The third, under Maj. General George Pickett, is too far away to be of use.

Lee want’s Longstreet’s men to attack the Union left. This area was scouted by some of Lee’s aides overnight and found to be vulnerable. This attack was to be  coordinated with Lt. General Ewell, who will attack the Union right at the same time – to prevent the Yankees from shifting their troops to meet Longstreet’s threat.

With his most trusted subordinate leading the attack, Lee is confident of success. Longstreet isn’t so sure, and spends the morning arguing for a move around the Union left, placing the Confederate army on ground that they chose in between the Army of the Potomac and Washington, DC. In that scenario, the Federals would be forced to attack the Confederates, and would be at a disadvantage.

Lee would hear nothing of it. They had beaten the enemy yesterday, and they would do it again today. Today, it would be Lee’s way.

Gettysburg Live 150 – 6:00pm – J.E.B. Stuart at Carlisle

While the main battle has raging all day, Confederate cavalry commander, J.E.B. Stuart kept finding ways to distract himself from the task at hand, namely, finding the rest of the Confederate army.

When he reached the outskirts of York, he found out that, while Lt. General Ewell’s men had been there, they weren’t any longer. They had been ordered to the west, to join up with the rest of the army. Stuart got back on the road to look for them.

Just about now, 150 years ago, the Confederate cavalry arrived at Carlisle expecting to find Ewell’s Corps, but once again, Stuart just missed them. Instead, he found Union militia troops under the command of Brig. General William “Baldy” Smith. Unlike some of the other militia commanders, Smith was determined to defend the town.

Stuart sent a messenger into town demanding surrender. Smith refused. After an hour or so of back-and-forth, Stuart had had enough. He brought up his artillery and shelled Carlisle, causing few injuries and starting several fires in the process.

Gettysburg Live 150 – 5:00pm – “If Practicable”

The Confederates had pushed the Union army out of their defensive position. The Yankees were seemingly fleeing in confusion and panic. The Confederates had seized the initiative. General Lee wanted to exploit that advantage as much as possible.

150 years ago right about now, General Lee sent one of his aides to find General Ewell and ask him to take possession of the high ground on the south end of town – Cemetery and Culp’s Hills. The problem is the way Lee went about asking for this.

Ewell wasn’t used to Lee’s command style. He had been under “Stonewall” Jackson’s command and “Stonewall” kept his subordinates on a tight leash. They got direct, plain, un-ambiguous orders. Lee was more nuanced.

The order Ewell received was to take the heights “if practicable”. Since his men had just marched all the way from Carlisle, fought their way through the XI Corps, and chased the stragglers through town, Ewell decided they had enough. It was also getting late in the day, and he didn’t want to make an attack over un-scouted ground.

In short, rather than pressing forward like Jackson would have done, Ewell came up with a slew of reasons why the attempt wasn’t “practicable”. Lee would have to learn to adjust his style from now on.

Gettysburg Live 150 – 4:35pm – Coster Buys Time

As the XI Corps fled in panic through the town of Gettysburg toward the fall-back position on Cemetery Hill, General Howard sent forward one of his reserve brigades to try and hold off the Confederate troops on their heels. The brigade of Col. Charles Coster was chosen for this task.

150 years ago right now, Coster’s small brigade went into position on the north end of town. They were outnumbered at least 2-to-1 as the Confederate brigades of Brig. General Harry Hays and Col. Isaac Avery closed in.

They put up a stiff fight for less than 15 minutes before they too, were forced to withdraw. Half of the brigade became casualties, many of them captured by the Confederates.


The Humiston Children.
The Humiston Children.

One of the casualties was Sgt. Amos Humiston of the 154th New York Infantry who became something of a national celebrity after a photo of his now-fatherless children was found on his then-unidentified body. The photo was reprinted in papers all across the country in what turned out to be a successful effort to identify him. It was one of the touching, human stories of the war.

Gettysburg Live 150 – 4:30pm – General Hancock Arrives

Union troops are fleeing through the streets of Gettysburg from Seminary Ridge, and the fields north of town. They have been outnumbered and utterly routed. It is this chaotic scene that Maj. General Winfield Scott Hancock rides into right about now, 150 years ago.

Hancock had been sent by General Meade to figure out what was going on, and to take over command of the field if necessary. As I mentioned the other day, Meade’s initial thought was to try and lure the Confederates into a fight along the Pipe Creek Line, and he wanted to stay behind to coordinate that effort should it come to pass. Hancock had seen the ground at Pipe Creek, and was an extremely able commander, so Meade trusted him to go to Gettysburg and examine that ground and make the choice about where the army should fight. It was a tremendous responsibility. Of course we know now that Hancock liked what he saw, and he sent word back to Meade that the rest of the army should move to Gettysburg.

The bigger problem in this instance was General Howard in his role as the overall commander on the field at Gettysburg. While both he and Hancock were Major Generals, Howard had held the rank for a longer period of time, so he was Hancock’s superior – he wasn’t supposed to be taking orders from Hancock. This caused a little bit of a struggle between the two initially, but somehow they were able to work it out. Both men contributed to rallying the troops and creating defensive positions on Cemetery and Culp’s Hills.

It turned out that they were able to take their time with this work because – surprisingly – no further Confederate attacks came that night.