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Conclusion Lee issued orders to his army on the afternoon of July 4, Saturday, for the retreat from Gettysburg. Hill’s Corps moved first, followed by Longstreet’s and then Ewell’s, which was the rear guard. The corps were to march on the Fairfield-Hagerstown Road through Monterey Pass in South Mountain, on to Hagerstown, and then Williamsport, where they would cross the Potomac River into Virginia. When Hill’s Corps reached the approach to the gap in the mountain, it was to take up a defensive position facing east while the rest of the army continued on into the Cumberland Valley. Hill would then follow as the rear guard. The divisional trains of Longstreet’s and Hill’s Corps were to march in the middle of the infantry column.1 Prior to the movement of the infantry corps, there were two large trains that departed the Gettysburg area. The first train to depart was the reserve train, sometimes referred to as Ewell’s Corps train. This train, under the command of Major John H. Harmon, contained much of the supplies, forage , and subsistence, including beef animals on the hoof that had been taken by Ewell’s foragers since they had been in Pennsylvania. Located in the vicinity of Fairfield, it departed at 3:00 a.m. on July 4, with the last wagons on the road by 1:00 p.m. The divisional trains of Ewell’s Corps immediately followed it. The divisional trains carried supplies, ammunition, and wounded. These two combined trains occupied a road space of approximately forty miles. After passing through South Mountain at Monterey Pass, they continued on to Williamsport, where they planned to cross the Potomac River into Virginia.2 92 Conclusion The second large train, occupying a road space of seventeen miles, was composed primarily of wounded. Escorted by Brigadier General John D. Imboden’s cavalry brigade, it departed from the vicinity of Cashtown on Saturday at 4:00 p.m., using the Chambersburg Pike. Its planned route was west through South Mountain, then south down the Cumberland Valley, across the Potomac River at Williamsport, and on to Winchester, Virginia, where the army was to join them. Approximately 8,500 wounded were carried in these two trains while 6,802 wounded who could not travel were left behind and captured by Meade’s soldiers.3 The infantry began their retreat at dark with Hill’s Corps departing Seminary Ridge, later followed by Longstreet’s Corps. Because of heavy rains and a deteriorating road, progress was not as fast as planned for, and Ewell’s Corps did not begin to march until almost noon on July 5. However, the army did successfully cross South Mountain and was in the vicinity of Hagerstown on July 7. From Hagerstown, Lee planned to continue on to Williamsport and cross the Potomac River. However, the bridge at Williamsport had been destroyed, and the heavy rains that hampered the retreat had also raised the water level of the Potomac River. Lee had no choice but to order his army and the trains into a defensive position on the north side of the Potomac and wait for the water level to recede.4 Meade sent his cavalry against the Confederate trains as Lee began his retreat. The off and on clashes between Union cavalry and Confederate forces characterized the retreat. Meade held his infantry in position at Gettysburg until a reconnaissance in force by part of the Sixth Corps on Sunday, July 5, confirmed that Lee had departed Seminary Ridge and was retreating along the road to Hagerstown. Meade responded by moving his army south on routes east of South Mountain and by Tuesday was concentrated in the vicinity of Middletown, Maryland—eight miles west of Frederick. The next day his forces crossed South Mountain on roads and through gaps used the previous year en route to Antietam. July 9 found the Union army in the Cumberland Valley just east of Hagerstown. The next two days were spent in a cautious approach toward Lee’s defenses. On Sunday, July 12, Meade began preparation for an attack on Lee’s position. The next day he conducted a personal reconnaissance and ordered an attack for the following day. When Union troops moved forward, they found the position abandoned. The majority of Lee’s army had crossed over the river the previous night. Only a rear guard remained north of the Potomac. Its clash with part of Meade’s cavalry prior to...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781572337886
Related ISBN
9781572337459
MARC Record
OCLC
721194568
Pages
216
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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