Category Archives: Pennsylvania

Armies Converge in Southern Pennsylvania

June 30, 1863 – Cavalry from the Federal Army of the Potomac arrived at Gettysburg from the south, just as infantry from the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia left to the north.

Federal Maj Gen G.G. Meade and Confederate Gen R.E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The Confederate corps of Lieutenant Generals James Longstreet and A.P. Hill reached Chambersburg on the 27th. Major General Jubal Early, commanding a Confederate division in Lieutenant General Richard Ewell’s corps, was at York, poised to destroy a railroad bridge over the Susquehanna River. The other part of Ewell’s corps was at Carlisle, poised to wreck the Pennsylvania Railroad. The Confederates seized food, clothing, livestock, and anything else useful from civilians.

Ewell’s cavalry under Brigadier General Albert G. Jenkins camped within four miles of Harrisburg on the night of the 28th. This marked the farthest north that a Confederate army had ever gone (or would go) in the war. Lee issued orders for Ewell to attack Harrisburg, Longstreet to move north to support Ewell, and Hill to cross the Susquehanna and cut the railroad line linking Harrisburg to Philadelphia.

At 10 p.m., Major John W. Fairfax reported to Lee that a Richmond actor-turned-spy named Henry T. Harrison had told Longstreet that the entire Federal army was across the Potomac and moving north from Frederick, Maryland. This shocked Lee, who had expected his cavalry commander, Major General Jeb Stuart, to notify him when the Federals started moving. He had heard nothing from Stuart for four days.

Both Longstreet and Harrison later visited Lee, with Harrison telling him that the Federals had been across the Potomac for two days and were now approaching Chambersburg. Harrison also reported that Major General George G. Meade had replaced Major General Joseph Hooker as Federal commander. Longstreet vouched for Harrison’s reliability, and Lee quickly changed his plans based on the spy’s intelligence.

Lee canceled the drive on Harrisburg in favor of concentrating the army near either Cashtown or Gettysburg, eight miles east. Hill’s corps began heading to Cashtown on the 29th, with the lead division under Major General Henry Heth arriving that night. Longstreet’s corps followed the next day. Ewell’s corps was to move from Carlisle to Cashtown or Gettysburg, avoiding the busy Chambersburg road being used by Hill and Longstreet.

Ewell’s men were within striking distance of Harrisburg, and Ewell issued orders for Major General Robert Rodes’s division to capture the state capital the next day. But an hour later, Lee’s order to pull back arrived. So Ewell directed Rodes and Major General Edward “Allegheny” Johnson’s division to start moving, along with Early at York.

Speaking to his staff, Lee said, “Tomorrow, gentlemen, we will not move to Harrisburg, as we expected, but will go over to Gettysburg and see what General Meade is after.” When someone asked him to assess Meade’s abilities, Lee said, “General Meade will commit no blunder in my front, and if I make one he will make haste to take advantage of it.”

Meanwhile, the main part of the Federal Army of the Potomac began moving out of Frederick, 40 miles south of Chambersburg, on the 29th. The leading Federal elements–I, III, and XI corps–reached Emmitsburg and Taneytown by day’s end, while the corps behind them hurried to catch up. The Federals held a 20-mile line in Maryland, from Emmitsburg to Westminster. Meade wrote his wife, “I am going straight at them, and will settle this thing one way or the other.”

Brigadier General John Buford’s Federal cavalry division rode in advance of the army, screening its northward movement. Buford’s men entered Pennsylvania on the 29th and rode within 12 miles of Gettysburg. Buford told his troopers, “Within 48 hours, the concentration of both armies will take place upon some field within view, and a great battle will be fought.” That night, Buford’s pickets briefly traded shots with Heth’s.

The Confederates continued concentrating in the Gettysburg area on the 30th. Early had told Hill about a shoe factory in Gettysburg, and Hill directed Heth to lead his men into the town on July 1 and “get those shoes.” Buford arrived at Gettysburg around 11 a.m., just as Heth’s troops were leaving. The two forces skirmished until Buford’s Federals pulled back. Heth reported Buford’s presence to Hill, who did not believe the Federals were in Pennsylvania yet.

Gettysburg had 12 roads leading in and out, making this prosperous little town strategically important. Buford immediately recognized this and posted defenses north and west of town, based on intelligence that the Confederates would come from one of those directions.

Buford was certain the Confederates would attack in the morning. One of his brigade commanders, Colonel Thomas Devin, expressed confidence that he would defeat any concentration of enemy forces coming his way. Buford said, “No you won’t. They will attack you in the morning and they will come booming–skirmishers three deep. You will have to fight like the devil to hold your own until support arrives.”

Meade ordered Major General John F. Reynolds, commanding operations for I, III, and XI corps, to seize the crossroads outside Gettysburg. Reynolds’s Federals camped within five miles of the town that night. Buford sent Reynolds a message stating that the Confederates were “massed just back of Cashtown.”

Meade sent orders for Reynolds to fall back to Emmitsburg if attacked, where strong defenses could be put up along Pipe Creek. Meade planned to let Lee do the attacking and hold him off. But by the time the orders reached Reynolds, the Battle of Gettysburg had already begun.

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 397-98; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 295; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 31-33, 35, 73; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 19096; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 297; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 345; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 463-64; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 317-18; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 5878-901; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 372-73; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 246-47; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 652-53; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 307-08

The Army of the Potomac: Meade Replaces Hooker

June 27, 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln accepted Major General Joseph Hooker’s resignation, daringly replacing an army commander during an enemy invasion.

Federal Major General Joseph Hooker | Image Credit: Sonofthesouth.net

There had been bad blood between Hooker and General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck since before the war, and now the men disagreed over how to employ the Federal garrisons at Harpers Ferry and Maryland Heights against the Confederates’ northern advance. Hooker wanted to evacuate these garrisons and use the 10,000 men to pursue the Confederates. Halleck (and Lincoln) wanted the troops to stay put in the hopes that their presence might divide General Robert E. Lee’s army as it did during last year’s Maryland campaign.

After Hooker sent a message pleading his case on the 27th, he ordered Major General William French, commanding at Harpers Ferry, to evacuate. When the order reached Washington, Halleck wired French, “Pay no attention to General Hooker’s orders.” Enraged, Hooker confided in a fellow officer who asked if a battle was coming soon: “Yes, but I shall not fight the battle. Halleck’s dispatch severs my connection with the Army of the Potomac.”

Hooker telegraphed Halleck at 1 p.m.:

“My original instructions require me to cover Harper’s Ferry and Washington. I have now imposed upon me, in addition, an enemy in my front of more than my number. I beg to be understood, respectfully, but firmly, that I am unable to comply with this condition with the means at my disposal, and earnestly request that I may at once be relieved from the position I occupy.”

Hooker may not have expected his superiors to actually remove him from command during this time of crisis. Halleck replied at 8 p.m., “As you were appointed to this command by the President, I have no power to relieve you. Your dispatch has been duly referred for Executive action.” By that time, Lincoln had already decided to grant Hooker’s request.

Lincoln and the high command had always been unimpressed with Hooker due to his overconfidence. This was made even worse by his embarrassing defeat at Chancellorsville, and now his inability to stop Lee’s invasion. Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, and Halleck had agreed after Chancellorsville that while it may be politically damaging to fire Hooker, they would quickly accept his resignation if he ever offered it.

Maj Gen G.G. Meade | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

In choosing a suitable replacement for Hooker, Lincoln ignored pleas to reinstate the still-popular George B. McClellan. Instead, Lincoln chose Major General George G. Meade, commanding V Corps. Meade was a well respected professional officer who had been part of all the army’s campaigns since the first Battle of Bull Run. He was not very well known by troops outside his corps, but past defeats had taught many of the men to be indifferent toward whoever commanded them.

Two corps commanders outranked him (John F. Reynolds and John Sedgwick), but they had both rejected past offers to command the army. Stanton noted that Meade had no real enemies, “and as a Pennsylvanian, he has patriotism enough to draw out all the latent energies of his nature.” Lincoln added, “And will fight well on his own dunghill.” Changing army commanders while a major confrontation loomed was an extraordinary gamble.

Colonel James A. Hardie of the War Department was assigned to deliver the orders to Hooker and Meade. He left Washington at 7:30 p.m., a half-hour before Halleck deflected Hooker’s request to resign. He arrived at Meade’s headquarters outside Frederick at 3 a.m. and woke the commander. When Hardie said, “I’m afraid I’ve come to make trouble for you,” Meade thought he was being arrested. Hardie handed him the order instead:

“You will receive with this the order of the President placing you in command of the Army of the Potomac… Your army is free to act as you may deem proper under the circumstances as they arise… Harpers Ferry and its garrison are under your direct orders.”

Having command of Harpers Ferry was something the administration had denied Hooker. When Meade considered turning it down, Hardie said that he was ordered, not asked, to take command. Meade said, “Well, I’ve been tried and condemned without a hearing, and I suppose I shall have to go to execution.” Major General George Sykes took Meade’s place as V Corps commander.

Meade and Hardie next went to Hooker’s headquarters to inform him that he had been removed. Hooker took the news well and courteously made way for the new commander after issuing a final order praising the army. But he did not have any plans to share with Meade, leaving the new commander scrambling to figure out what his army should do to stop Lee.

The Federal army consisted of over 100,000 men spread out on both sides of the Potomac, with most men on the Maryland side around Frederick. Scouts accurately informed Meade that he faced a Confederate army of 80,000 men, spread out between Chambersburg and Carlisle in Pennsylvania. Meade quickly developed a plan of action and sent it Washington at 4:45 p.m.:

“I propose to move this army tomorrow in the direction of York. I must move toward the Susquehanna, keeping Washington and Baltimore well covered, and if the enemy is checked in his attempt to cross the Susquehanna, or if he turns toward Baltimore, give him battle.”

This plan canceled Hooker’s strategy of threatening Lee’s supply lines to the west. Meade issued orders that night to “be ready to march at daylight tomorrow.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 34-35; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 297; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 9419-29; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 446, 450-52, 454; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 317; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 372; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 652-53; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 598-99, 739

The War Leaves Virginia

June 25, 1863 – Both the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Federal Army of the Potomac were now across the Potomac River and heading north.

Gen R.E. Lee and Maj Gen J. Hooker | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

By this date, Lieutenant General A.P. Hill’s Confederate Third Corps had entered northern territory, joining the Second Corps under Lieutenant General Richard Ewell. General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate army, sat atop his horse on the Maryland bank of the Potomac and watched Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s First Corps crossing in the rain. Bands played “Dixie” as local ladies came out under umbrellas to meet Lee and welcome him to their state.

Lee wrote President Jefferson Davis proposing that while his army entered Pennsylvania, Confederates at Tullahoma and Knoxville in Tennessee move north and “accomplish something in Ohio.” Lee also repeated his suggestion to pull General P.G.T. Beauregard’s Confederates out of Charleston to reinforce his army:

“If the plan that I suggested the other day, of organizing an army, even in effigy, under General Beauregard at Culpeper Courthouse, can be carried into effect, much relief will be afforded. I have not sufficient troops to maintain my communication, and, therefore, have to abandon them. I think I can throw General (Joseph) Hooker’s army across the Potomac and draw troops from the South, embarrassing their plan of campaign in a measure, if I can do nothing more and have to return. I still hope that all things will end well for us at Vicksburg. At any rate, every effort should be made to bring about that result.”

That same day, three of Hooker’s Federal corps began crossing the Potomac east of Sharpsburg. Lee was unaware of the crossing because his cavalry commander, Major General Jeb Stuart, was not providing him with information. An independent cavalry unit led by Brigadier General John D. Imboden, assigned to guard the Confederate left, entered Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. Apparently Imboden’s men did not heed Lee’s order prohibiting attacks on civilians or their property. According to town resident Dr. Philip Schaff:

“On Thursday evening their captain, with a red and bloated face, threatened at the Mansion House to lay the town in ashes as soon as the first gun should be fired on one of his men. He had heard that there were firearms in town, and that resistance was threatened. He gave us fair warning that the least attempt to disturb them would be our ruin. We assured him that we knew nothing of such intention, that it was unjust to hold a peaceful community responsible for the unguarded remarks of a few individuals, that we were non-combatants and left the fighting to our army and the militia, which was called out, and would in due time meet them in open combat. They burned the barn of a farmer in the country who was reported to have fired a gun, and robbed his house of all valuables.”

By the 26th, most of the Federal army had crossed into Maryland. Hooker informed his superiors that he was heading to Frederick. Hooker also hoped to use the garrisons of Maryland Heights and Harpers Ferry to cut Lee’s communications, but they were outside his military department. President Abraham Lincoln did not want to give up these garrisons because he hoped they might cause Lee to divide his army as he did in last year’s Maryland campaign.

Moreover, the administration began doubting that Hooker could stop Lee. When Hooker asked General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, “Is there any reason why Maryland Heights should not be abandoned after the public stores and property are removed?”, Halleck responded, “Maryland Heights have always been regarded as an important point to be held by us, and much expense and labor incurred in fortifying them. I cannot approve their abandonment, except in case of absolute necessity.”

Lee arrived at Chambersburg that day, as one of Ewell’s divisions under Major General Jubal Early scattered Pennsylvania militia defending Gettysburg. Many of the militiamen were mere boys with no combat experience. Early told those that were taken prisoner, “You boys ought to be home with your mothers, and not out in the fields where it is dangerous and you might get hurt.” When the residents could not pay the $10,000 that Early demanded in tribute, the Confederates resumed their march to York. Early notified A.P. Hill of a shoe factory in Gettysburg that the footsore troops might use.

Governor Andrew Curtin called for 60,000 volunteers to serve in the state militia for 90 days or until the Confederates were driven out. Confederate guerrillas reentered Mercersburg, and according to Dr. Schaff:

“On Friday this guerrilla band came to town on a regular slave-hunt, which presented the worst spectacle I ever saw in this war. They proclaimed, first, that they would burn down every house which harbored a fugitive slave, and did not deliver him up within 20 minutes. And then commenced the search upon all the houses on which suspicion rested. It was a rainy afternoon. They succeeded in capturing several contrabands, among them a woman with two little children. A most pitiful sight, sufficient to settle the slavery question for every humane mind.”

Lee reiterated his orders prohibiting destructive behavior in General Order No. 73, issued on the 27th:

“The Commanding General considers that no greater disgrace could befall the army… than the performance of the barbarous outrages upon the innocent and defenseless, and the wanton destruction of private property that have marked the course of the (Federals) in our own country. Such proceedings not only disgrace the perpetrators… but are subversive of the discipline and efficiency of the army, and destructive to our present movement.”

Lee called on his men:

“… to abstain with most scrupulous care from unnecessary or wanton injury to private property. It must be remembered that we make war only upon armed men, and that we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered without lowering ourselves in the eyes of all whose abhorrence has been excited by the atrocities of our enemies, and offending against Him to whom vengeance belongeth, without whose favor and support our efforts must all prove in vain.”

This did not stop the guerrillas acting independent of the main Confederate army from returning to Mercersburg where, according to Dr. Schaff, they “drove their booty, horses, cattle, about 500 sheep, and two wagons full of store goods, with 21 negroes, through town and towards Greencastle or Hagerstown… I expect these guerrillas will not rest until they have stripped the country and taken all the contraband negroes who are still in the neighborhood, fleeing about like deer.”

Early’s division arrived at York on the 27th, where he demanded $100,000 in tribute, along with food, clothing, and shoes. City officials surrendered to Early but could only muster $28,000. One of Early’s brigade commanders, Brigadier General William “Extra Billy” Smith, addressed the residents:

“My friends, how do you like this way of coming back into the Union? I hope you like it; I have been in favor of it for a long while. We are not burning your houses or butchering your children. On the contrary, we are behaving ourselves like Christian gentlemen, which we are.”

Early received orders to wreck the railroad and bridges linking Harrisburg to Baltimore. Ewell’s other division under Major General Robert Rodes arrived at Carlisle, east of Chambersburg, and three Confederate divisions (two of Longstreet’s and one of Hill’s) were near Greencastle. Lee sent a message to Ewell expressing his desire to concentrate the army near York before driving on the state capital of Harrisburg. Lee did not know where Hooker was because Stuart had not informed him.

On the Federal side, every corps within the Army of the Potomac except VI Corps was across the Potomac by day’s end. Some Federals guarded the South Mountain passes and threatened Confederate communication lines, while others moved north to find Lee. Hooker directed his cavalry to ride ahead to Emmitsburg, Maryland, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to scout the Confederate movements.

Hooker received Halleck’s message refusing to allow Maryland Heights to be abandoned. He personally inspected the defenses at both the heights and Harpers Ferry, and responded:

“I find 10,000 men here in condition to take the field. Here they are of no earthly account. They cannot defend a ford of the river, and, as far as Harpers Ferry is concerned, there is nothing of it. All the public property could have been secured tonight, and the troops marched to where they could have been of some service. Now they are but bait for the rebels, should they return. I beg that this may be presented to the Secretary of War and His Excellency the President.”

This angry exchange would have far-reaching consequences.

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 393; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 295; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 30-35; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 19009; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 296-97; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 9419; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 442-43, 450; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 316-17; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 5830, 5842, 5854; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 371-72; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 649; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 307-08; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q263

Jeb Stuart’s Fateful Raid

June 23, 1863 – Confederate Major General Jeb Stuart planned to atone for his near-defeat at Brandy Station, but he disrupted General Robert E. Lee’s campaign in the process.

Confederate General Jeb Stuart | Image Credit: Flickr.com

As Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia moved north from the Shenandoah Valley into Maryland and Pennsylvania, Lee expected Stuart’s cavalry to screen the infantry’s right, led by Lieutenant General Richard Ewell’s Second Corps. However, Lieutenant General James Longstreet suggested to Lee that it might be better if Stuart rode around the Army of the Potomac a third time, which could divert Federal attention from the northern invasion.

Lee was informed that Federal forces had reached Edwards’s Ferry on the Potomac River. This meant that the Federal army was heading north from Fredericksburg, separating Lee’s army in the Shenandoah Valley from Stuart. Based on this, Lee issued discretionary orders to Stuart on the 23rd:

“If General (Joseph) Hooker’s army remains inactive, you can leave two brigades to watch him, and withdraw with the three others, but should he not appear to be moving northward, I think you had better withdraw this side of the mountain tomorrow night, cross at Shepherdstown the next day, and move over to Fredericktown. You will, however, be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing them all the damage you can, and cross the river east of the mountains. In either case, after crossing the river, you must move on and feel the right of Ewell’s troops, collecting information, provisions, etc. Be watchful and circumspect in all your movements.”

Stuart interpreted these vague orders as permission for him to ride around the Federal army before crossing the Potomac east of Edwards’s Ferry and rejoining Ewell’s troops as they entered Pennsylvania. In the coming days, he would take little heed of Lee’s warning to immediately rejoin the army if he encountered any hindrance or delay.

The next morning, Stuart directed two brigades under Generals William “Grumble” Jones and Beverly Robertson to guard Lee’s supply train as it passed through Ashby’s and Snickers’s gaps in the Blue Ridge. The troopers were to stay behind “as long as the enemy remains in your front.” Stuart’s three remaining brigades under Generals Wade Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee, and Rooney Lee were to assemble at Salem Depot, Virginia, and prepare to ride east, between the Federals and Washington, in a ride around Hooker’s army.

Stuart received vital intelligence from partisan leader John S. Mosby that the Federal army was spread out and therefore vulnerable to an enemy cavalry raid. However, the improved Federal cavalry did a better job of masking the Federals’ exact location. Also, Hooker had an idea that Stuart might try such a move. He knew the southern press had harshly criticized Stuart for being surprised at Brandy Station, and Major General Daniel Butterfield, Hooker’s chief of staff, predicted that the flamboyant cavalry commander might “do something to retrieve his reputation.”

Stuart and his three brigades rode out at 1 a.m. on the 25th, heading east toward the Bull Run Mountains. That night, the Confederates unexpectedly found Major General Winfield Scott Hancock’s II Corps blocking their path. Rather than return west as Lee had advised if he met with any “hindrance,” Stuart turned southeast, putting the Bull Run Mountains, the Blue Ridge, and the Federal army between his horsemen and the rest of Lee’s army.

The troopers covered 23 miles on the 26th, en route to Fairfax Court House. They clashed with Federal cavalry units there the next day, sending them fleeing and taking some prisoners before seizing a large amount of supplies. After resting a few hours, the Confederates began crossing the Potomac into Maryland that night. By this time, Stuart was several hours behind schedule and cut off from Lee’s right flank that he was supposed to protect.

Stuart’s troopers completed their Potomac crossing on the 28th and entered Rockville, Maryland. There they captured 900 mules, 400 men, and 125 wagons filled with food for man and beast. Stuart opted not to try closing the distance between his force and Ewell’s, figuring he could catch up with them later. But the captured wagons slowed the Confederate pace from 40 to 25 miles per day. Stuart’s men left Rockville and rode all night into Pennsylvania, cutting telegraph lines and wrecking railroad tracks along the way.

The Confederates destroyed tracks on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad at Hood’s Mill, Maryland, and cut more telegraph lines on the 29th. By this time, they had ranged far and wide to the right of the Federal army. Stuart moved on to Westminster around 12 p.m., where his troopers fought off a surprise Federal cavalry attack from the 1st Delaware. The Confederates then fed their horses and rested.

Stuart rode north on the 30th and arrived at Hanover, Pennsylvania, around 10 a.m. A Federal cavalry division under Brigadier General H. Judson Kilpatrick was already there, and Stuart’s troopers attacked one of Kilpatrick’s brigades led by Brigadier General Elon Farnsworth. The fierce fighting included hand-to-hand combat in the town streets. The Federals nearly captured Stuart before he raced off and jumped a 15-foot-wide gully to escape.

The Federals sustained 215 casualties (19 killed, 73 wounded, and 123 missing), while the Confederates lost 117 (nine killed, 50 wounded, and 58 missing). This engagement delayed Stuart from rejoining Lee’s army even further. Stuart tried riding west to rejoin Lee, but the growing Federal presence in Pennsylvania prevented him. He was also slowed by the long line of captured wagons and prisoners.

Stuart hoped to link with Ewell at York, but when he arrived that night, he learned that Ewell had hurriedly moved to Gettysburg. The exhausted Confederate cavalry continued on before finally stopping for the night at Dover. Meanwhile, Lee’s army was now marching blindly through enemy territory.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 25-26, 72-73; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 296-97; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 441; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 315-19; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 5806, 5818; Kallmann, John D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 727-28; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 371, 373; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 648-49; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 307-09

Confederates Invade Pennsylvania

June 20, 1863 – Federal and Confederate cavalries dueled as the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia entered Pennsylvania and panic gripped the region.

With a full-scale Confederate invasion now imminent, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin and Major General Darius N. Couch, commanding the Department of the Susquehanna, frantically called for 30-day militia volunteers. However, Curtin could not accept blacks because, under Federal law, they could only be inducted in the Federal army, not the state militia, and only for three years’ service, not 30 days.

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton initially directed Couch “to receive into service any volunteer troops that may be offered, without regard to color,” but then he realized the political trouble with recruiting blacks and told Couch that in case of “any dispute about the matter, it will be better to send no more. It is well to avoid all controversy in the present juncture, as the troops can be well used elsewhere.”

Maj Gen Alfred Pleasonton | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

In northern Virginia, Brigadier General Alfred Pleasonton’s Federal Cavalry Corps continued challenging the Confederate horsemen under Major General Jeb Stuart east of the Blue Ridge. Stuart had no infantry support, as the rest of the Confederate army had gone west into the Shenandoah Valley en route to Pennsylvania. After a day’s delay due to rain, the Federals again pressed their counterparts, driving Stuart back eight miles to Upperville. The Confederates withdrew through Ashby’s Gap in the Blue Ridge around 6 p.m.

The opposing cavalries had fought intermittently since the 16th, during which time the Federals lost 613 men while inflicting 510 casualties on the enemy. These engagements boosted Federal confidence and made Stuart seem less invincible. However, Pleasonton could not gather much intelligence based on these skirmishes, except to inform Major General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Army of the Potomac, that the Confederates were moving into the Shenandoah Valley.

As the Confederates marched through the narrow section of western Maryland, General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, issued General Order No. 72. This outlined how the army was to behave in enemy territory. The order was politically motivated, as Lee hoped to demonstrate his men’s high morality to foreign nations considering whether to recognize Confederate independence.

Gen Robert E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Lee directed that “no private property shall be injured or destroyed by any person belonging to or connected with the army, or taken, excepting by officers hereinafter designated,” namely, members of the “commissary, quartermaster’s, ordnance, and medical departments.”

Property owners deprived of their goods must “be paid the market price for the articles furnished.” If property owners refused to accept Confederate money (which was nearly worthless), they were to be given receipts noting the property taken and its current market value.

Lee then declared, “If any person shall remove or conceal property necessary for the use of the army, or attempt to do so, the officers hereinbefore mentioned will cause such property, and all other property belonging to such person that may be required by the army, to be seized…”

On the 22nd, the vanguard of Lieutenant General Richard Ewell’s Confederate Second Corps, consisting of Major General Robert Rodes’s infantry and Brigadier General Albert G. Jenkins’s cavalry, crossed the Pennsylvania border around 10 a.m. and advanced through Greencastle. Lee instructed Ewell:

“I think your best course will be toward the Susquehanna (River), taking the route by Emmitsburg, Chambersburg, and McConnellsburg… It will depend upon the quantity of supplies obtained in that country whether the rest of the army can follow. There may be enough for your command, but none for the others. If Harrisburg comes within your means, capture it.”

The “progress and directions” of Ewell’s advance were to be determined by the “development of circumstances.” Lee then sent discretionary orders to Stuart:

“I fear he (Hooker) will steal a march on us, and get across the Potomac before we are aware. If you find he is moving northward, and that two brigades can guard the Blue Ridge and take care of your rear, you can move with the other three into Maryland, and take position on General Ewell’s right.”

Lee sent an official order the next day, “which I wish you to see it strictly complied with.” The order went through Lieutenant General James Longstreet, whom Stuart was screening, and Longstreet added a suggestion that instead of joining Ewell, which could expose Lee’s entire movement, Stuart should ride around the rear of the Federal army. Lee approved, with the stipulation that once Hooker crossed the Potomac, Stuart “must immediately cross himself and take his place on our right flank.”

Late that night, Hooker received intelligence from Pleasonton that Longstreet’s corps was at Winchester, with Lieutenant General A.P. Hill’s following. The next day, Ewell’s advance into Pennsylvania continued, with Major General Jubal Early’s division approaching Chambersburg.

Early ordered the destruction of the nearby Caledonia Iron Works. The works were owned by Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, a Radical Republican leader who despised slavery and called for subjugating the Confederate states. When the foreman argued that the company only operated to provide housing and jobs for the locals, Early replied, “Yankees don’t do business that way. They carry on their operations to make money.”

As Early later stated, the Confederates burned all the buildings because the Federals “invariably burned such works in the South wherever they had penetrated.” Early also admitted that he destroyed the works because “in some speeches in Congress Mr. Stevens had exhibited a vindictive spirit toward the people in the South.”

Longstreet began crossing the Potomac on the 24th at Shepherdstown and Williamsport. The main part of Ewell’s corps was at Hagerstown, Maryland, with his lead elements at Chambersburg and poised to continue to the Susquehanna River.

Hooker still could not confirm whether Lee’s movement indicated a northern invasion. He notified General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck that he would, “with all the force I can muster, strike for his line of retreat in the direction of Richmond.” However, Hooker soon received intelligence that Confederates were in force at Shepherdstown.

He dispatched Major General Oliver O. Howard’s XI Corps to Edwards’s Ferry, marking his first major move toward the Potomac. Confused by all the conflicting reports, Hooker then asked Halleck to send him orders because “outside of the Army of the Potomac I don’t know whether I am standing on my head or feet.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 25-26, 28; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 296; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 442; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 313-15; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 5842; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 370-71; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 649; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q263

Stuart’s Second Ride Around McClellan

October 10, 1862 – Major General J.E.B. “Jeb” Stuart’s Confederate cavalry reached Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in a daring raid on Major General George B. McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac.

Confederate General Jeb Stuart | Image Credit: Flickr.com

General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, instructed Stuart to take 1,800 horsemen and ride around McClellan’s relatively stagnant army. Stuart was “to gain all information of the position, force, and probable intention of the enemy which you can,” much like Stuart’s ride around the Federals four months ago. He was to observe strict secrecy and “arrest all citizens that may give information to the enemy.”

Stuart also had orders to seize any prominent Pennsylvanians so “that they may be used as hostages, or the means of exchanges for our own citizens that have been carried off by the enemy.” Lee ordered Stuart to treat these people “with all the respect and consideration that circumstances will admit.”

Finally, Lee directed Stuart to wreck the Cumberland Valley Railroad bridge over the Conococheague River near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. This connected to the Pennsylvania Railroad and the coal fields and iron factories of Pittsburgh, thus serving as a vital artery to the Federal supply line.

Stuart assembled his troopers at Darkesville, south of Martinsburg, on the 9th. They rode toward Williamsport that afternoon and early evening, stopping to camp for the night at Hedgesville. The next morning, the Confederates crossed the Potomac at McCoy’s Ford above Martinsburg. They captured several Federal pickets, but some escaped to warn of the Confederates’ approach. When General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck learned the news, he notified McClellan that “not a man should be permitted to return to Virginia.”

The Confederates moved through Maryland’s narrow panhandle along the National road. They captured a signal station, preventing the Federals from signaling their location. As the Federals began mobilizing to find them, Stuart’s men turned north and entered Pennsylvania. The horsemen had observed strict prohibitions on looting in Maryland, a state they hoped might still join the Confederacy. Pennsylvania received no such protection. Some of the Confederates plundered farms and houses.

After a 40-mile ride, the Confederates descended on Chambersburg by nightfall. Stuart demanded the town’s surrender, but all Federal officials had already fled except for newspaper editor Alexander McClure and Judge Francis M. Kimmell. McClure surrendered to General Wade Hampton, whom Stuart appointed as the town’s “military governor.”

The Confederates bivouacked that night in the streets of Chambersburg, and Stuart reported that all civic officials had abandoned the town. McClure showed the Confederates such kind hospitality that they did not follow orders to take him hostage in exchange for captured Confederate citizens.

Stuart led his men out of Chambersburg at dawn on the 11th, worried that last night’s hard rain might have flooded the Potomac crossings. Before leaving, the troopers burned the supply depot, railroad machine shops, trains, and any military equipment they could not take. They also cut the telegraph wires and stole local horses. However, they could not burn the iron Conocoheague Bridge, and a bank employee had escaped from Chambersburg with all the money from the town’s bank vault.

The Confederates moved east, expecting McClellan to send Federals to cut off their upper Potomac escape route. They rode beyond the Blue Ridge into Cashtown, Pennsylvania, where they stopped to feed their horses and raid the Cashtown Inn. Stuart then moved south, avoiding Gettysburg and passing through Emmitsburg, Maryland, in late afternoon. The rains actually helped the Confederates because the horses created no dust clouds that could alert nearby Federals of their presence.

At Emmitsburg, Stuart prohibited any residents from leaving town, fearing that someone might run off to give the Federals his location. Most civilians expressed support for the Confederacy. As the troopers rode out of Emmitsburg, a captured Federal informed Stuart that the Federals awaited him at Frederick, 20 miles away. The troopers bypassed that town and forded the Monocacy River that night.

Federal cavalry began an effort to stop Stuart based on information that McClure provided McClellan. However, McClellan claimed he could spare just 800 horsemen to contend with the Confederates. He dispatched a few cavalry units to pursue the enemy and guard the river fords; he also directed two infantry brigades to protect the bridge spanning the Monocacy River. Another division was sent to guard Poolesville.

On the 12th, Stuart and his men passed through Hayattstown and slipped between two Federal cavalry units near Poolesville. After executing several deceptive maneuvers to throw the Federals off their track, the Confederates crossed the Potomac at White’s Ferry, which was guarded by a single Federal regiment that fell back upon seeing the large force approaching.

The Federals hurried up to the riverbank just after the Confederates crossed. According to William W. Blackford, who rode with Stuart:

“We were not half across when the bank we had left was swarming with the enemy who opened a galling fire upon us, the bullets splashing the water around us like a shower of rain. But the guns from the Virginia side immediately opened on them and mitigated their fire considerably, and we soon crossed and stood once more on Virginia soil.”

The Confederate troopers returned to their base south of Martinsburg the next day. Stuart had failed in his mission to destroy the Conococheague River bridge, but every other aspect of this operation was a resounding Confederate success.

Stuart’s cavalry circumvented McClellan’s army for the second time in four months, covering 126 miles in three days. They had caused an estimated $250,000 in property damage while seizing 1,200 horses, 30 civilian officials who could be exchanged for Confederate prisoners, and valuable intelligence on McClellan’s troop positions. Stuart lost just a few men wounded and two men missing.

The raid embarrassed and infuriated President Abraham Lincoln, especially considering it occurred just before the Federal midterm elections. Lincoln’s secretary, John Nicolay, stated the president “well-nigh lost his temper over it.” General Lee reported to Richmond on the 14th:

“The cavalry expedition to Pennsylvania has returned safe… It had crossed the Potomac at Williamsport and re-crossed at White’s Ford, making the entire circuit, cutting communications, destroying arms, and obtaining many recruits.”

The southern press celebrated Stuart’s feat as another sensational and daring ride around the mighty Federals, and even the influential New York Tribune conceded, “The cavalry raid around our entire army… is the one theme of conversation. It was audacious and brilliant.”

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References

Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 164, 166-67; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, William C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 125; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 224; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8214-25; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 749-50; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 221-22; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 277-78; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 528; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q462