Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign

By Kent Masterson Brown | Go to book overview

Three
We must now return to Virginia

Lee remained out in the fields until he was satisfied that all of the survivors of Pickett’s, Pettigrew’s, and Trimble’s commands who were able had made their way back to Seminary Ridge and that an adequate defense line was being established to resist any counterattack. After stopping briefly at his own headquarters along the Chambersburg Pike, it was to General Hill’s headquarters in the farmyard of Emanuel Pitzer west of Seminary Ridge, about one mile south of the Fairfield Road, that Lee rode with many of his staff officers, department chiefs, and couriers to discuss the details of returning the army to its base in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.1

Lee had concluded hours before that any withdrawal of the army must be led by Hill’s Corps. Longstreet’s Corps was too far from the obvious routes of retreat, the Fairfield Road and Chambersburg Pike, and Ewell’s Corps would have to execute the longest and most complex movement away from its battle positions in front of Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill in order to get into position to embark on a full-scale retreat. Hill’s Corps, on the other hand, would not have to reposition itself. Its left flank straddled the Fairfield Road, the thoroughfare that Lee knew all along would be the one on which the vanguard of his army would withdraw from Pennsylvania should it become necessary because it was the shortest route to the Potomac River. Furthermore, Hill’s Corps formed the center of the army, and the safest way to get the army on the road south, given the size and configuration of the defense lines, was to start with the corps occupying the center, while keeping the flanks protected. The flanks would be withdrawn simultaneously after the center commands were on the road. Consequently, the planning for the retreat started with General Hill alone at his headquarters.

In the early evening, with maps spread across their knees, Lee and Hill dis-

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