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

By Kent Masterson Brown | Go to book overview

Nine
The cutting and slashing
was beyond description

Early on the morning of 6 July there was action at the rear of Lee’s columns of infantry and artillery. Ewell’s Corps remained at the rear, although Lee had originally ordered it to take the lead that day. But that was not practicable. The previous night the men had bivouacked about one and one-half miles west of Fairfield. All night long the trains accompanying Ewell’s Corps had been escorted through Monterey Pass by the Eleventh Virginia Cavalry. At dawn, Early’s Division took up the line of march toward Monterey Pass, followed by Johnson’s. Rodes’s Division brought up the rear. Early’s and Rodes’s Divisions switched positions in order to provide “fresher” troops at the rear. A dense mist covered the area, reducing visibility; the morning was very dark. From all appearances it would be another rainy day.1

Just behind Rodes’s Division was the Union Sixth Corps with all of its artillery batteries in position on a ridgeline facing the Confederate rear guard. The rear guard of Rodes’s Division was formed by the battered little brigade of North Carolinians led by Brigadier General Junius Daniel.2

In an effort to test the strength of the Confederate rear guard, General Sedgwick moved forward the leading brigade of his First Division, commanded by Brigadier General Thomas H. Neill. Colonel McIntosh’s cavalry brigade rode ahead of the infantry, feeling its way through the heavy fog. In a dense wood near the mountain base, Union troops came upon Daniel’s skirmishers, who withdrew nearer to the brigade’s battle lines. The Forty-fifth North Carolina, formerly Daniel’s own regiment, was ordered to occupy a small knoll on the left front of Daniel’s Brigade that was covered with tall wheat. That morning the regiment was commanded by Captain James A. Hopkins, a twenty-nine-year-old physician from Rockingham County, North Carolina, who had formerly commanded Company E of the regiment.

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