STUART’S RAID-THE ENEMY IN FRONT OF HARRISBURG-MEADE’S PLANS.
At dawn of day on the 29th, Stuart’s
command, after riding all night, reached the Baltimore
and Ohio Railroad and commenced disabling it, so far
as the limited time at their disposal would allow,
by burning a bridge at Sykesville and tearing up a
portion of the track at Hood’s Mill. They
remained at the latter place during the day to rest,
but started again in the afternoon, and reached Westminster
about 5 P.M. At this place they were gallantly
attacked by the 1st Delaware Cavalry, which Stuart
says was driven off after hard fighting and pursued
some distance toward Baltimore, adding very much to
the panic there. At night the head of his column
halted at Union Mills, half way between Westminster
and Littlestown. It may as well be stated here
that Stuart found himself greatly embarrassed by attempting
to hold on to the long train he had captured at Rockville.
It lengthened out his column to such an extent that
it became difficult to defend all parts of the line
without scattering and weakening his command.
As Kilpatrick’s division was waiting to intercept
him at Littlestown, this consideration became a matter
of considerable importance. Gregg’s division
also moved in the morning to head him off at Westminster,
but owing to the roads being very much blocked up by
our infantry and trains marching in that direction,
Gregg did not succeed in reaching his destination
until some hours after Stuart had passed.
At night two brigades of Buford’s
division of cavalry covered the left flank of the
Union army near Fairfield, with one brigade at Mechanicstown.
The First and Eleventh Corps were at Emmetsburg,
the Third and Twelfth at Middleburg, the Fifth Corps
at Taneytown, the Second Corps at Uniontown, and the
Sixth Corps at New Windsor.
The advance of the rebel cavalry under
Jenkins were now within sight of Harrisburg, and skirmishing
only four miles from the town. Jenkins’
object was to make a thorough reconnoissance in order
to ascertain the best positions to be taken for an
attack. There was a perfect exodus from the
city. All business was suspended, too, in Philadelphia,
and the authorities there busied themselves in hastening
the work on the fortifications in the suburbs of the
city. They were active enough now, and large
numbers were enrolled. Pleasonton, who was under
general orders to guard the flank nearest the enemy,
directed Buford on the 29th to occupy Gettysburg the
next day, and hold it until the Army of the Potomac
came to his relief. He realized the importance
of the position to the future success of our arms.
Hill’s corps was at Fayetteville
on the 29th, but one division, that of Heth, was thrown
forward on that day to Cashtown, within eight miles
of Gettysburg. The object of the movement was
to join Ewell at York, and co-operate with him in
the destruction of the railroads on the other side
of the Susquehanna, etc. This plan, as
I have already stated, was suddenly changed on the
evening of the 28th, when Lee found his communications
endangered, and now all the advanced troops under
his command turned back to concentrate at Gettysburg.
Longstreet left Chambersburg and marched to Fayetteville,
leaving Pickett’s division behind to guard the
trains. Early received the order to return in
the afternoon of the 28th, recalled Gordon’s
brigade from Wrightsville, and made preparations to
start the next morning. Rodes’ and Johnson’s
divisions left Carlisle and marched on Gettysburg;
the former by the direct route, and the latter by
way of Greenwood, to convoy the trains full of stolen
A number of partisan skirmishes took
place during the day, which were creditable to our
troops, particularly that at McConnellsburg, to the
west of Chambersburg.
The raid against Richmond ended by
the return of Colonel Spear’s regiment to the
White House. Hooker had urged that General Dix
assume command of all his available troops, march against
Richmond, and plant himself firmly on Lee’s
line of communication, but his recommendations were
slighted by Halleck. There was much disappointment
in the North at this failure to make a serious attack
on the rebel capital, for it was generally believed
that it might have been captured by a coup de main.
On the 30th General Meade advanced
his army still nearer the Susquehanna. At evening
his extreme left, the First Corps, was at Marsh Creek,
on the Emmetsburg road, while the extreme right, the
Sixth Corps, was away off at Manchester. The
intermediate corps were posted, the Eleventh at Emmetsburg;
the Second at Uniontown; the Third at Taneytown; the
Fifth at Union Mills, and the Twelfth at Frizzelburg.
General French moved from Harper’s Ferry with
the bulk of the garrison and occupied Frederick.
The First Corps was ordered to Gettysburg, but General
Reynolds halted it at Marsh Creek, as the enemy were
reported to be coming from the direction of Fairfield.
Meade now resolved to take up a defensive
position on Pipe Creek. He threw out his forces
as before in a fan shape, but any corps encountering
the enemy was expected to fight in retreat until it
reached the new line, where all the corps were to assemble.
This line as laid out was a long one, extending from
Manchester to Middleburg, a distance of about twenty-five
miles. Falling back to fight again, is hardly
to be commended, as it chills the ardor of the men;
nor is it certain that Lee would have attacked the
intrenchments at Pipe Creek. If he found them
formidable he might have preferred to fight on the
defensive with two corps, while the Third Corps took
Harrisburg, and broke up the railroad lines to the
west, or marched directly against Philadelphia; or,
as Pipe Creek did not interfere with his communications
in any way he might have chosen to let it severely
alone, and have kept on depredating in Pennsylvania,
after capturing Harrisburg. This would have forced
Meade sooner or later to attack him.
On the night of the 30th Ewell’s
corps had reached Heidlersburg, nine miles from Gettysburg,
with the exception of Johnson’s division, which
was at Greenwood. Rodes’ division had marched
direct from Carlisle by way of Petersburg. Longstreet
with two divisions was at Fayetteville; the other
division, that of Pickett, was left at Chambersburg
to guard the trains. Hill’s corps had reached
Cashtown and Mummasburg, except Anderson’s division,
which was still back at the mountain pass on the Chambersburg
Stuart, ascertaining that Early was
no longer at York, and not knowing that the army was
concentrating on Gettysburg, turned toward Carlisle.
He had bivouacked half way between Westminster and
Littlestown, but having ascertained that Kilpatrick
was waiting for him at the latter place, attempted
to avoid the encounter by going through cross roads
to Hanover. He found Farnsworth’s brigade
of cavalry there, however, and charged their rear,
driving them back and capturing some prisoners and
ambulances. The 5th New York made a counter-charge
under Major Hammond and drove him out again.
He claims to have taken the town by the aid of Hampton’s
brigade, which arrived in time to reinforce him.
Custer’s brigade then came up from Abbotstown.
The battle lasted until night, when Stuart gave up
the contest and retreated, leaving Kilpatrick in possession.
Part of his cavalry also attacked
the 5th and 6th Michigan regiments at Littlestown,
but were repulsed. He then, having no time to
spare, kept on his way toward York to find the army
he had lost. He passed within seven miles of
Ewell’s column on its way to Gettysburg, and
neither knew that the other was near. Had they
effected a junction it would have saved the rebel cavalry
a long, fruitless, and exhausting march, which kept
them out of the battle on the first day. It
was one of those accidental circumstances which seemed
to favor us in this campaign, while almost every incident
at Chancellorsville was against us.
Finding Ewell had left York, Stuart
turned and marched on Carlisle, which he found occupied
by our troops. He demanded the surrender of
the place under a threat of bombardment. General
W. F. Smith, one of the heroes of the Peninsula, was
not to be affected by menaces; and Stuart, whose time
was precious and who had no ammunition to spare, turned
off in hopes of reaching Gettysburg in time to take
part in the battle. He arrived there on the afternoon
of the 2d, with horses and men worn out by their extraordinary
exertions; on their way whole regiments slept in the
saddle. This force when it reached the field
found Robertson’s, Jones’, and Jenkins’
brigades, and White’s battalion ready to join
By evening Meade was fully apprised,
by telegrams and Buford’s scouts, that the enemy
were concentrating on Gettysburg. He knew that
Reynolds at Marsh Creek was only about six miles from
Hill at Cashtown, but he sent no orders that night.
He simply stated that the enemy were marching on
Gettysburg, and he would issue orders when they developed
their intentions. Thus the opposing forces were
moving in directions that would necessarily bring them
in contact, and a fight or retreat was inevitable.
Reynolds had the true spirit of a
soldier. He was a Pennsylvanian, and, inflamed
at seeing the devastation of his native State, was
most desirous of getting at the enemy as soon as possible.
I speak from my own knowledge, for I was his second
in command, and he told me at Poolesville soon after
crossing the river, that it was necessary to attack
the enemy at once, to prevent his plundering the whole
State. As he had great confidence in his men,
it was not difficult to divine what his decision would
be. He determined to advance and hold Gettysburg.
He directed the Eleventh Corps to come up as a support
to the First, and he recommended, but did not order,
the Third Corps to do the same.
Buford, with two of his cavalry brigades,
reached the place that night, but not without considerable
difficulty. He left Fountaindale Gap early in
the morning and attempted to move directly to his
destination, but he came upon Pettigrew’s brigade
of Hill’s corps, and was obliged to fall back
to the mountains again. Later in the day he
succeeded, by going around by way of Emmetsburg.
Before evening set in, he had thrown out his pickets
almost to Cashtown and Hunterstown, posting Gamble’s
brigade across the Chambersburg pike, and Devin’s
brigade across the Mummasburg road, his main body
being about a mile west of the town.
While these great movements were going
on, some minor affairs showed great gallantry on the
part of partisan officers. Captain Ulric Dahlgren
made a raid upon the rebel communications, capturing
some guns and prisoners, and gaining very important
information which will be referred to hereafter.
The two armies now about to contest
on the perilous ridges of Gettysburg the possession
of the Northern States, and the ultimate triumph of
freedom or slavery, were in numbers as follows, according
to the estimate made by the Count of Paris, who is
an impartial observer, and who has made a close study
of the question:
The Army of the Potomac under General
Meade, 82,00 men and 300 guns.
The Army of Northern Virginia under
General Lee, 73,500 men and 190 guns.
Stuart had 11,100 cavalry and 16 guns.
Pleasonton had about the same number of cavalry, and