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

By Kent Masterson Brown | Go to book overview

Eleven
By the blessing of providence,
I will do it

As the fighting raged in the streets of Hagerstown and east of Williamsport on the afternoon of 6 July, Lee’s main columns stretched on the road from just west of Fairfield all the way to Leitersburg, Maryland. Many soldiers heard the gunfire coming from Hagerstown and Williamsport. The troops had been on the march since dawn; many would not halt until late that night. The entire army would be in Hagerstown by the morning of 7 July.

The movement of Lee’s army from the morning of 5 July until the afternoon of 6 July was one of the most critical episodes of the retreat from Gettysburg, although it was far from being filled with battle action. As if he had memorized the words of Clausewitz, Lee moved his forces at a steady but deliberate pace toward Monterey Pass, always posting a strong rear guard, so his adversary was unable to rule out the possibility that he was withdrawing to the mountains in order to fortify them.

While Ewell’s rear guard battled elements of the Union Sixth Corps east of Fairfield on the afternoon of 5 July, Hill’s Corps continued its slow march up the Maria Furnace Road toward Monterey Pass. Because of the slowness of Hill’s Corps and the overarching need to cover the entrance of the Emmitsburg-Waynesboro Turnpike to the pass, Longstreet’s columns, including the four thousand prisoners of war guarded by the remnants of Pickett’s Division, took the Jack’s Mountain Road east of Jack’s Mountain and the Emmitsburg-Waynesboro Turnpike through Fountaindale instead of the Maria Furnace Road. They then followed the turnpike west, up the steep eastern entrance to Monterey Pass, using the same approach to the pass employed by Kilpatrick’s cavalry division on the stormy night of 4 July. All of Longstreet’s Corps reached their positions at Monterey Pass by 1: 00 A. M. on 6 July.1

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