Three Days at Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership

By Gary W. Gallagher | Go to book overview

Confederate Corps Leadership
on the First Day at Gettysburg

A. P. Hill and Richard S. Ewell
in a Difficult Debut

Gary W. Gallagher

FORMER CONFEDERATES PURSUED THE QUESTION OF responsibility for the defeat at Gettysburg with almost religious zeal in the years following Appomattox. Accusations about the culpability of Lee's principal lieutenants had surfaced well before the end of the war, but not until the mid-I870s did the debate take on the character of an internecine brawl. At the heart of the controversy lay an attempt on the part of Jubal A. Early, Fitzhugh Lee, J. William Jones, and others to refute James Longstreet's suggestion, first given wide circulation in William Swinton's history of the Army of the Potomac, that Lee had erred badly at Gettysburg. Early and the others sought to absolve Lee of responsibility for any military failures during the war and singled out Longstreet as their primary villain. Longstreet had ignored orders to launch an assault against the Federal left at dawn on July 2, they argued, thereby denying the South a victory at Gettysburg and probably its independence. Although Longstreet stood at the vortex of this war of words, other ranking Confederates also received substantial criticism during and after the war—"Jeb" Stuart for a ride around the Union army that prevented his keeping Lee informed of Federal movements, A. P. Hill for precipitating the battle against Lee's orders and then mounting a weak pursuit of routed Federals, and Richard Stoddert Ewell for failing to seize Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill late in the first day's fighting. 1

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