View single post by PvtClewell
 Posted: Sun Jul 1st, 2007 01:44 am
 PM  Quote  Reply  Full Topic 

Joined: Wed Jun 13th, 2007
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 420

  back to top

OK, I'll bite and start that new thread on Ewell and Cemetery Hill.

I just got back from a week at Gettysburg at the Civil War Institute and am pretty much full of myself by now. I had access to a roomate's laptop and saw Joanie's question concerning Ewell following Lee's order not to bring on a general engagement, so I corralled a Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide and asked the Big Question. Turns out, by his interpretation, Ewell had not personally spoken with Lee for several days and Ewell was still trying to follow the order not to bring on a general engagement by 5 p.m. on the first day. Go figure.

This comes from Harry Pfanz (Donald's father) from his book 'Gettysburg - The First Day' (page 342): ..."Ewell remarked that he had brought his troops to Gettysburg as ordered by General Lee, and that Lee had given him no further orders. Without additional instructions, he did not feel justified in continuing the advance..."

Pfanz also writes (page 344): "Soon after (Lt. James P. Smith, a staff officer) departure, Capt. Walter H. Taylor, Lee's adjutant, arrived with an oral message to Ewell from Lee. According to Taylor's recollection, Lee said that the enemy was fleeing in confusion and that it was only necessary for Ewell to press him in order to take Cemetery Hill. But neither Lee nor Ewell recalled it that way. Lee's recollection was that he instructed Ewell to attack if practicable but that he was to avoid a general engagement until the arrival of the other divisions of the army (from me - Johnson's division of Ewell's corps and Longstreet's corps were still not on he field). Ewell's memory of the message was that he was to attack only if he could do so 'to an advantage.' When he returned to Lee, Taylor was under the correct impression that Ewell intended to attack, but Ewell began to change his mind."

Harry Pfanz was the chief historian for the NPS before retiring in 1981. He was also the historian at the Gettysburg National Military Park, so you can take his credentials for what they're worth.

From me. Remember that Howard had posted a brigade from von Steinwehr's division on Cemetery Hill when the 11th Corps arrived on the field earlier in the day. And later in the day, by the time the retreating Federals had passed through town, Cemetery Hill bristled with at least 42 artillery pieces and much of the infantry was posted behind stone walls. Sounds pretty fortified to me. Ewell, by contrast, had no good ground to place his artillery (he had not reached Benner's Hill yet). Furthermore, he had to look into a report that a large body of Federals was approaching on his left along the York Road (there weren't).

We always have fun wondering if Jackson could have taken the hill if he was still alive. My gut feeling is that he would have attempted it, but would not have succeeded with exhausted men who'd been marching and fighting all day.

I think Ewell at Gettysburg is a scapegoat in Lost Cause mythology that basically suggests Lee could do no wrong. Lee's style of command was to issue general orders and then let his subordinates work out the details. But in the Gettysburg Campaign, he has two brand new corps commanders (Hill and Ewell) serving him in that capacity for the first time. Plus, Lee is not feeling well himself. To my mind, the whole Confederate command structure is a mess at this point.

Whew. I'm tired.

Last edited on Thu Jul 12th, 2007 12:37 am by PvtClewell

 Close Window