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

By Kent Masterson Brown | Go to book overview

Five
The scene was wild and desolating

Twenty-six-year-old Private Franklin Gardner Walter of Company A, Thirty-ninth Virginia Cavalry Battalion, had been delivering dispatches for Lee’s headquarters since very early morning. His odyssey began at 3:00 A.M. on 4 July, when he was ordered to carry a dispatch to Dr. Guild. Once he found Guild, the army medical director instructed him to take a message to Dr. McGuire. Returning to Lee’s headquarters, he was sent with yet another message to McGuire, whom he found at Fairfield helping to establish hospitals for the ambulance trains of Johnson’s Division of Ewell’s Corps. Finally, at i:00 P.M. Walter rode into Lee’s headquarters along the Chambersburg Pike and found his company being issued “long-range rifles.” The headquarters was being dismantled and baggage packed. By two o’clock the headquarters baggage train began to move out the Chambersburg Pike and down the Herr Ridge Road toward the Fairfield Road in the drenching rain, escorted by Walter and his company.1

Up to this point, Lee’s orders were being executed like clockwork. Major Harman’s reserve train with all of its cattle and sheep was partly across the South Mountain range, and the rear elements of the trains of Ewell’s three divisions with all their livestock were heading up the road toward Fairfield.

Imboden got his trains in motion on the Chambersburg Pike an hour ahead of schedule. As they started rumbling out of Cashtown, orders were being relayed to the troops along Oak and Seminary Ridges to take down their tents, pack their baggage, and be ready to move. Company drummers sounded “the general.” For the men in Hill’s Corps, that meant departure within an hour; for those in Longstreet’s and Ewell’s Corps, it meant “hurry up and wait.” Rain poured down in sheets.2

-121-

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