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

By Kent Masterson Brown | Go to book overview

Twelve
A strong line of gopher holes

The morning of 8 July was cloudy and dark, but the rain had stopped. The Potomac River was still swollen, and there were no prospects of it falling soon after the heavy rain of the previous day and night. As his army could not cross the river, Lee realized that he must position it in the strongest defenses he could find in the area between Hagerstown and the Potomac as well as reconstruct the pontoon bridge at Falling Waters. The establishment of defenses was the first order of business, as the army’s vast trains crowded in Williamsport needed protection. Lee and his personal staff engineers, Lieutenant Colonel William Proctor Smith, Major John J. Clarke, Captain Henry T. Douglas, and Captain S. R. Johnston, met with Generals Longstreet, Ewell, and Hill and their staffs and staff engineers at Lee’s headquarters. The entourage then mounted up and reconnoitered the area to determine the contours and makeup of a line of defense from Hagerstown to the Potomac. Lee, accompanied by his corps commanders, was in the saddle until dark.1

Meade’s army was approaching the mountain passes, only twelve miles away. General Howard’s Eleventh Corps and General Sykes’s Fifth Corps were both at Middletown. Two or three miles behind the Fifth Corps was Newton’s First Corps. The Sixth Corps, under General Sedgwick, and the Third Corps, under newly appointed General French, were farther to the rear. All of those commands, plus the Artillery Reserve, were expected to move through the mountain passes by evening. The Second and Twelfth Corps had just arrived in the vicinity of Frederick because of their late start and duty along the Baltimore Pike near Two Taverns and Littlestown, east of Gettysburg. They had been on the march since 5:00 A.M. The journey of the Army of the Potomac had been incredibly fast. It slowed down only as

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