Reminiscences of the Civil War

By John B. Gordon | Go to book overview

distasteful one to me. It would be far more agreeable to applaud and eulogize every officer in both armies of whom it is necessary for me to speak. But if I write at all, I must write as I think. I must be honest with myself, and honest with those who may do me the honor to read what I write. In a former chapter I have already spoken of General Sheridan as probably the most brilliant cavalry officer who fought on the Union side. I shall not be misunderstood, therefore, when I say that his twenty-six days of apparent indecision, of feeble pursuit, of discursive and disjointed fighting after his two crushing victories, are to me a military mystery. Why did he halt or hesitate, why turn to the torch in the hope of starving his enemy, instead of beating him in resolute battle? Would Grant have thus hesitated for a month or a day under such conditions -- with a broken army in his front, and his own greatly superior in numbers and inspired by victory? How long would it require any intelligent soldier who fought under Grant, or against him, to answer that question?

General Meade was criticised for the delay of a single day at Gettysburg -- for not assailing the Confederate army the next morning after the last Southern assault -- after the brilliant charge and bloody repulse of Pickett's command. From the standpoint of a Confederate who participated in the conflicts both at Gettysburg and in the Valley, I feel impelled to say, and with absolute impartiality, that the Union archers who from sheltered positions in Washington hurled their sharpened arrows at Union generals in the field for not gathering the fruits of victory must have emptied their quivers into Meade, or have broken their bows prior to that month of Sheridan's campaigning after the 19th and 22d of September.

From my point of view, it is easy to see why Meade halted after the Confederate repulse of the last day at

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