William R Forstchen, Newt Gingrich
JUNE 28,1863, 8:00 PM
HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA CHAMBERSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
The shadows of twilight deepened across the orchards and wheat fields of the Cumberland Valley. The day had been hot, the air heavy with damp heat; now the first stirring of a cooling breeze came down from out of the hills. Fireflies danced through the branches of apple, peach, and cherry trees; crickets sang; and as he rode through the rows of the orchard he breathed the rich evening air of summer, feeling a moment of peace.
He looked up at the moon riding in the eastern sky, nearly full, glowing with an orange warmth, the cold light of the stars beginning to fill the heavens.
As he approached the knoll, the orchard gave way to pasture, the fence dividing the two fields broken down, the split rails so laboriously cut and laid in place gone, except for a few upright posts. He had spoken more than once about this, to not touch the property of these people, but after a hard day's march such fences were easy to burn, and the pasture ahead was dotted with glowing fires. An entire winter of a farmer's labor to fence this field gone now in a single night.
He reined in, not wanting to venture closer to where the troops were camped. Shadows moved about the flickering lights, the scent of wood smoke drifting on the cool breeze mingled with all the other scents of the army… horses, men, food cooking, grease, sweat-soaked wool uniforms, oiled leather, latrines, the heavy mix both repugnant and comforting, the smells that had been his life for over thirty years.
Songs floated on the wind. A boy, Irish from the sound of him, was singing "He's Gone Away." He listened for a moment, feeling a cool shiver. "… But he's coming back, if he goes ten thousand miles."
The boy finished. The song had struck a nerve. More than one of the men coughed to hide the tears; there was a forced laugh, then another song; it sounded like "The Girl I Left Behind Me," but the lyrics were not familiar. He suddenly caught one of the stanzas. It was not the traditional song; it was one of the new verses that soldiers always enjoyed making up.
He listened for a moment, and in the shadows he allowed himself to smile. It wasn't as obscene as some and no worse than some of the songs he had sung when a cadet at the Point so many years ago.
He thought of Thomas Jackson. Thomas would have ridden straight into the camp and scattered them, then delivered a stern sermon about such sinful practices, urging the men to pray instead.
Thomas, how I miss you.
The voices around the nearest campfire stilled. Some of the men turned, were looking his way; he heard the whispers.
"Marse Robert It's him, I tell you. It's General Lee."
He caught a glimpse of an officer stepping away from the fire, coming toward him.
No. Not now.
He lifted his reins; just the slightest nudge and Traveler turned, breaking into a slow canter, and he rode into the shadows. Tracing the edge of the pasture, he followed the broken line of the fence for another fifty yards, the ground rising ahead, climbing to a woodlot At a corner of the field was a towering oak, gnarled, ancient, a remnant of the great forest that had once covered this land, spared by a farmer long ago, perhaps as a reminder of what the land had once been.
No one was about, and he stopped beneath its vast, spreading branches. Atop the knoll the Cumberland Valley spread out before him, a vast arc of farmsteads, villages, and his army, the Army of Northern Virginia. Ten thousand campfires glowed, spreading up and down the length of the valley, great blazing circles of light Where the more restless had gathered, there was singing and laughing.
He remembered the night before the Battle of Sharpsburg last fall, the way the Union campfires had glowed on the far side of Antietam Creek and the surrounding hills. As he'd ridden to inspect their lines, he had commented to Jackson on the vastness of the Union host descending upon them.
"Won't be as many of their fires tomorrow night," Thomas had replied coldly.
"Thomas is dead." He whispered the words softly, a simple statement of fact that carried so much weight, perhaps the very outcome of the war.
You have lost your left arm, but I have lost my right. That is what he had sent as a message upon hearing of Jackson's wounding last month at Chancellorsville. And then he had died. How I miss that right arm tonight, he thought sadly. If Jackson were here, I would know without a moment's doubt how to react. But all had changed now.
Where was the Union's Army of the Potomac camped tonight? This morning he had thought they were a hundred miles off, still down in northern Virginia and around Washington. An hour ago he had learned the truth.
The Dutchman, his trusted commander of First Corps, Gen. James "Pete" Longstreet, had come to him with a spy. He had never liked spies, though they were as much a part of war as any soldier and at times far more important than having an extra division on the field. The spy was an actor Pete had hired on his own.
That in itself said something, that his second in command had spent a fair sum of money to send an actor across the fields, villages, and towns of Maryland and Pennsylvania in search of the Army of the Potomac. That was a job Jeb Stuart and his cavalry were supposed to perform, not someone who strutted upon the stage.
The Army of the Potomac was coming north. It was not in Washington; it was coming north and moving fast. By tomorrow night its campfires would be lit not thirty miles from here.
Stuart had failed him. Reports should have been flooding in, detailing the movement of every division in the Union army. There had not been a single word. For that matter he couldn't even tell for sure where Stuart was at this moment
There was the other side of the coin as well. If Stuart had failed to report in, he had most likely failed as well in his other task of screening the movement of this army. He had to assume that the Army of the Potomac might indeed know where he was, how his forces were spread out all the way from the Maryland border to Harrisburg… and just how vulnerable he was.
I should have known three days back that those people were on the march and following, he thought bitterly. Not tonight, not like this, from a spy slipping through the lines to whisper his report, declaiming his lines as if I were part of a breathless audience hanging on every word.
The anger began to flare. "Damn!"
He knew that if those who followed him had heard that single word it would have sent a shock through the entire army. "The Old Man was so angry he swore," they'd whisper. Staff would have stood stock-still in stunned silence; generals noted for their command of Anglo-Saxon would have been rooted in place.
They make me too much a statue of marble, he thought. I have already become a legend to them. Legends can create victory. Convince your men that they can win, convince the enemy they cannot win, and the battle is half decided before the first shot is fired.
He dismounted, loosely holding Traveler's reins so that his old companion lowered his head to crop the rich clover of the pasture. He sat down under the oak tree, a mild groan escaping him as he settled back, resting his head against the rough bark, and he let the reins go.
They're coming North. That means a fight soon, maybe as early as two days from now, definitely within a week. It is, after all, what I wanted, but not quite yet. And not here, not on the Union army's terms.
A shower of sparks swirled up from the nearest campfire as another rail was tossed onto the flames, another song started, "Lorena."
He listened, humming absently.
"The years creep slowly by, Lorena,
"The snow is on the grass again…"
His wife, Mary, loved that one; so had his daughter Annie, the memory of her stabbing his heart.
" 'Us dust to dust beneath the sod;
"But there, up there, 'tis heart to heart"
Dear Annie, to think of her thus, returning to dust His youngest daughter dead at twenty-three the winter before. She had gone off to North Carolina to marry, and now she was gone forever.
Only last week a major from a North Carolina regiment had come to his tent nervous, respectful. He had been home recovering from wounds and just wanted to say that Annie was buried in the churchyard of his village, that the grave was well tended, fresh flowers placed upon it by the local women. The officer had actually choked back tears as he spoke, then saluted as he retired. He thanked the major, closed his tent flap, and silently wept a rare luxury, to be alone for a few minutes to cry for a lost child before others came, looking for orders, for advice, looking for a commander who could not be seen to weep.
He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out the letter he had been writing to his wife, Mary, until yet again command had interfered, Longstreet arriving with his spy. Though it was dark, he knew the letter by heart already, having labored over it trying to find just the right tone to still her fears.
My dearest wife,
I take pen in hand praying that this missive finds yon well, and that the protection of our blessed Savior rest upon you.
I write to you this evening with news which we must bear calmly. As you know from my last letter our son Rooney was wounded on June 8th in the action at Brandy Station. As I assured you then his injury was not serious; neither bone nor artery was damaged. I stayed with him throughout that night before leaving to embark upon this campaign the following morning.
I was just informed this day, however, that Rooney was taken prisoner last week. Captured in the house where he had been resting and has been sent to Fortress Monroe. Thankfully our young Robert, who was tending to him, was able to escape capture and is safely back in our lines.
My dear wife, do not be overly concerned. Though this bitter and terrible struggle has divided our country, it has not severed all bonds of friendship between old comrades nor has it stilled all sentiments of Christian charity. I am certain that friends of old on the other side, upon hearing of our son's plight, will come to his aid and insure his well being and restoration to health.
' Though I can ask no special favors, I am certain that our beloved son will soon be listed for exchange and returned safely to our loving embrace.
I know that your prayers are joined with mine for the protection of our son. That we pray, as well, that this campaign shall bring an ending to this bitter conflict.
He folded the letter up, looking back across the valley. No father should be asked to fight a battle into which his own sons must be sent When first he had seen them carrying Rooney back from the fight, features pale, thigh slashed open, he had feared the worst and nearly lost his composure. And though he was certain that friends would indeed intervene to ensure Rooney's protection, nevertheless there were some who might do him harm. It was obvious that the cavalry raid to capture Rooney had been launched for no other reason than to seize his son.
So far we've managed to keep the deeper darkness at bay, he thought. In most civil wars Rooney would have been hanged, if for no other reason than to bring me pain. We've fought so far with some degree of chivalry, the memories of old comradeship tempering the fury, but for how much longer can we do that? It has to end soon. It has to end; otherwise the rift will become too deep. It has to end as well, he realized, because if not, we will surely lose.
The song "Lorena" ended; a harmonica struck up a jig; some of the men began dancing, the firelight casting cavorting shadows across the pasture.
He wished he could give them another week, better yet two weeks, of this easy campaigning, living off the rich land, fattening up, getting ready for what lay ahead, but Longstreet and his actor had changed all that.
But while he would have preferred another week, he knew, as well, that he was not up here for a leisurely march; ultimately he was here to fight, and this time to fight a battle that would end the war.
That was the plan he had laid out before President Davis a little more than a month ago. It started when Secretary of War Seddon suggested that part of Longstreet's corps be detached and sent west to relieve the besieged city of Vicksburg on the Mississippi. He had gone down to Richmond to meet with President Davis and the cabinet to present a counterproposal to win the war through a decisive victory in the East.
He tried to remember this Grant who was emerging so rapidly as the Union leader in the West and who had been so aggressive in besieging Vicksburg. So many other faces he could recall: comrades of old from Mexico; from the west plains of Texas; from the parade ground at West Point; John Reynolds, who was Commandant of Cadets at the Academy; Winfield Hancock; Fitz-John Porter, his old aide-de-camp, all now stood against him-and yet he could fondly remember their voices, their laughter, their friendship.
Many of the younger ones had been cadets at the Point when he was superintendent, a memory that burned hard when he read the casualty lists in the Northern papers and saw more than one name from those days, a boy who had come to a Sunday, tea at his home, or one whom he had gently chided for a minor infraction and was now dead, in effect killed by him.-
Grant, though, was someone he did not know enough to understand and therefore could not second-guess; and if Grant should win at Vicksburg, he knew they'd bring him east. No, it had to end before then.
He had argued against reacting directly to Grant at Vicksburg. By the time they deployed Longstreet west, the fight might very well be over. Besides, that would leave him with less than fifty thousand men, and surely the Army of the Potomac would come swinging in again, especially if they knew that a third of his forces were gone.
No, take the war into the North. Get into the rich farmlands of Pennsylvania to feed his troops, threaten a state capital, perhaps even take it. That would bring the Army of the Potomac out into the open. We then pick the place, lure them in, and finish it
Up here in Pennsylvania there would be no falling back; it would be a fight in the open, a chance for an Austerlitz, a Waterloo, the two great battles taught at the Point as classic examples of decisive victory. Do that and end it. Such a victory would leave Washington open for the taking, could perhaps even swing England and France to our side and end the war before winter.
Such a thing, however, required the crucial first step, another slaughtering match with the Army of the Potomac. He knew it would be no easy fight; it would mean yet more losses, ten, maybe twenty thousand men to do it, and as he contemplated that butchering he looked back to the fire, to the singing and dancing and laughing.
They believe in me.
Legend can become a trap if you believe it yourself. Napoleon had six years to contemplate that fact as he rotted on Saint Helena. Santa Anna learned it beneath the walls of Chapultepec. Might I now learn it here?
He stretched, sighing, hands resting lightly on his knees.
The men are ready… but am I?
"Sir, we'll storm title gates of hell for you this day," one of his regimental commanders had cried as they'd charged into the inferno at Chancellorsville.
The impious words haunted him. It had not been a patriotic cry of resolve, a willingness to die for Virginia, or this nation called the Confederacy, or even in defense of home. No, it had become personal with this army; these men would fight and die for him.
He could see it in their eyes: the reverent gazes, the way men-even the officers-removed their hats, spoke with lowered voices, fell silent and stared at his approach. He looked back to the men dancing around the fire. They had seen him pass, falling silent, and when they realized he wished to be alone had reverently stood back. Even now, as they danced, more than one stood at the edge of the crowd looking in his direction.
I must be as fit as they are, and of late I have not been. That realization hit with a sharp intensity.
The death of Jackson and the decision to reorganize the army, he sensed, were the core of the problem. He had not felt comfortable with entrusting half the army to a new corps commander and instead had taken Jackson's command and split it into two new corps.
Dick Ewell, one of Jackson's veterans, out of action since losing a leg at Second Manassas, now had Second Corps. He thought, at first, that the choice was a good one. Yet of late he wondered. Sometimes when a man lost an arm, a leg, something of the old fighting spirit disappeared along with the limb. But two weeks ago Dick's first action in command of a corps at Winchester had been well fought, but far too many of the routed Union troops had been allowed to escape from what should have been a certain trap.
Ambrose Hill, a brilliant division commander, famed for his red fighting shirt and powerful presence in battle, had been given the newly created Third Corps. He had hoped for some of Jackson's mad dash with Hill, a driving spirit that could move a corps twenty-five miles in a day, throw it into battle, and win.
It was not turning out that way. Hill hid it well, but some said he could barely stay in the saddle, that his temper was short, and he was given of late to periods of withdrawal and morose depression. He was sick and barely fit for the next action.
Then there was Longstreet, the third of his commanders, "Pete" Longstreet the old warhorse. Solid, reliable, but everyone knew that he could be too methodical, slow, and firm of opinion.
Pete was not for this campaign. It still touched a bit of a sore point that Pete had gone over his head, taking his case directly to the President, agreeing with Seddon's scheme to transfer his corps to Mississippi in order to relieve Vicks-burg. He'd allowed the issue to pass, and since the start of the campaign Longstreet had performed adequately but without real enthusiasm. Adequate was not good enough; he would have to be pushed.
Finally there was Stuart, the boy hero, infatuated with glory. Since the start of the war, the Union cavalry had been a minor annoyance. Brandy Station, fought only three weeks ago, indicated that times were changing. Stuart had been caught off guard. Rooney had said as much.
He wondered now if Stuart's failure to win at Brandy Station lingered and was driving Stuart to seek some new feat of daring and in the process forget what his primary mission was for this campaign, to shield the right flank of the Army of Northern Virginia as it advanced into Pennsylvania.
I have four men who are supposed to be my direct instruments of command. One is still trying to find his way after losing a leg, the second is sick, the third is bullheaded and not fully committed to this operation, and the fourth, well me fourth has simply disappeared.
"Who is truly in command here?" he whispered.
If I am in command, if my men trust me, if they place their very lives into my safekeeping, if my country places in my hands its continued existence, then I must lead with strength. This cannot be another Second Manassas or Chancellorsville, he thought bitterly.
In both actions mere had been a moment, like a hazy vision, of what could lie ahead with just a few more minutes of time, luck, and determination. Both times they had come so close to a total victory, and both times the chance had slipped away, once because of darkness, the other because of Jackson's fatal wounding. And both times nearly twenty thousand of his finest young men had fallen.
'I will not let that happen again," and as he whispered those words he looked at the men gathered around the camp-fire. Some of them will die within the next week, and by God's Grace it must mean something this time.
This army has one more good fight in it, perhaps the best fight it will ever give. After that the numbers, the relentlessly building power of the North, will tell, no matter how valiantly we fight.
Grant struck him as the embodiment of that new power. He was faceless, remorseless like a machine, it was said, willing to grind down an opponent no matter what the cost. If they take Vicksburg and we do not counter it with a shattering victory in the East, the tide will turn. Grant and his triumphal veterans will be unleashed here or into Tennessee. The noose will tighten, England will stand back, and the Union army will be at the gates of Richmond to stay, with all of his beloved Virginia a scorched battlefield.
He lowered his head.
It is in my hands now, is it not, my Lord? he asked. The burden is mine, the path ahead is mine, and it rests now with me. That is Your Will. I ask You to give me the strength.
I will not let this opportunity, this moment, slip away. The rank and file of the army is ready; it is the top, the commanders, who are not. It is I who have been detached, delegating to others. In the next action I must be in control. The old ways of doing things when Jackson was still alive are finished, at least for this next fight. I must lead, or we shall lose this war.
The thought was startling. It was one thing to contemplate such thoughts when studying the history of others, men such as Napoleon or Caesar or even his own step grandfather-in-law, George Washington. To think such things in relationship to one's self was to him suspect. And yet, still reeling from the intelligence brought to him by Longstreet, he now knew it to be true as he sat atop the knoll in Pennsylvania. The war rested on his shoulders.
If the killing was to end, he must not waver. That, he knew, was the eternal paradox of command. To command well one had to truly love one's army; yet to command well, one had to order that army into a maelstrom of fire and death.
If they are willing to go there, he realized, I must be willing to lead them, if need be to take direct control and abandon my old practice of delegating. 'To take on the aspect of a tiger" was how Shakespeare put it, Lee remembered
Standing up, he stretched, looking back over at the nearest campfire. With his movement, the men about the fire fell silent He mounted, taking up the slack reins, and urged Traveler to a swift canter.
As he rode past, the men came to attention and saluted. He removed his hat in acknowledgment, and a cheer echoed across the field.
It was picked up, jumping from campfire to campfire, ringing in his ears as he rode back to headquarters, knowing that all things were now possible.
Maj. John Williamson of the Fourteenth South Carolina, Perrin's brigade, Pender's division, of the Third Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, raised his hand in salute as the shadowy figure trotted past the edge of their camp.
He had seen the old man numerous times, had passed within feet of him when going into action at Sharpsburg. His old college roommate, Walter Taylor, was Lee's aide-decamp, and more than once John had gone to headquarters to visit and seen Lee there. Yet never had John grown used to the presence, to the thrill of it More than one of his friends said that they were in the presence of a new Washington, a presence they would one day tell their grandchildren about If they lived to have grandchildren. "Coffee, sir?"
John turned. It was Sergeant Hazner, holding a tin cup, offering it
John grinned. Real coffee. Where Hazner had gotten it he didn't bother to ask. Chances were some shopkeeper down in Chambersburg was tonight clutching a receipt from Hazner promising payment from the Confederacy for coffee… ten pounds, upon the close of hostilities."
There had been strict orders against looting, so now southern Pennsylvania was blanketed with such receipts.
"And try this, sir." In Hazner's other hand was an open tin can.
John took the can, sniffed it "What the hell is it?"
"Milk in a can, sir. Never seen the likes of it before. Think of it. Wonder what Yankee thought of it how many girls he's got squeezing a cow's teat with one hand, holding these little cans underneath with the other."
John laughed, poured half the can into his coffee, and offered it back. He blew on the lip of the cup and took a sip, groaning with delight
"And real sugar in it too."
"Hazner, what the hell did you do this time to be bribing me like this?"
"Well, sir, there is that little game tonight and I was wondering, us not being paid in months…"
John shook his head. "George, I'm as broke as you are. Besides, I don't loan out money for gambling. Bad practice; suppose you lose and then get killed in the next fight where will I be?"
"Without coffee and good grub for starters, sir."
George stepped back to the fire, picked up his own cup, upended the rest of the canned milk into it and then came back to join his major.
John smiled, glorying in the warmth, the sensation of real coffee, the interesting taste of canned milk.
After a year of campaigning in Virginia, this was close to paradise. Yesterday the regimental headquarters had butchered an entire hog, and not just a skinny runt. This one was a fat sow, and John had woken in the morning to the smell of fresh bacon and for dinner had downed a succulent roast lovingly cooked by Cato, the colonel's servant.
He had on new boots and trousers, yet another Hazner find, and would curl up tonight under a blanket "paid for" by the regimental quartermaster from a store in Greencastle.
The land here was rich, orderly, the fields squared off, the orchards properly pruned, the farmhouses as big as mansions, the barns as big as churches. It was a long way from the hills of Carolina and the fought-over ground of Virginia.
"There's a fight coming on," Hazner ventured.
John nodded, looking over at his friend. The two had grown up together, George several years his senior and thus always looked up to as the older brother, replacing the one lost to yellow fever when John was just a boy. George was the son of the town blacksmith and had inherited his father's strength, with broad shoulders, a trim waist, and dark, powerful eyes. Being the son of a judge and the largest property holder in the valley had, of course, destined John to another path. Both had accepted that, but they had held to their friendship in spite of the differences of class. With the coming of the war, George had readily accepted that John would be an officer and he would be a sergeant In front of the men they played their proper roles. In private moments they would let it drop, and John would still look to his friend as he once had, as an older "brother" who would make sure he got through the war alive.
"You think so?" John asked, hiding his anxiety. "I figured we'd have at least a couple of more weeks without any worries."
George nodded sagely, motioning to the darkness that now concealed Lee.
"The old man came out here to think. You go ask your friend Walter about it tomorrow, and he'll tell you that something's up. You could see it in the way the old man rode up here, and the way he left. I tell you, this picnic is about to end, and it's time to pay the bill."
John nodded, saying nothing. He could sense the eagerness in George's voice, the desire to get on with it He sipped his coffee in silence. He was suddenly terrified.
In the times between battles he managed to keep it concealed, but when the realization came that in a day, a week, he would again hear the thunder in the distance, see the coils of dirty yellow smoke drifting on the horizon, the pace of the column quickening, his stomach knotted and blind terror tore into his soul.
He knew that George was aware of that terror, though no word had ever been directly spoken; such things no one ever spoke of, even to a trusted friend. It wasn't just the terror of what was to come, it was the terror as well of failing, of humiliating himself before his men.
Every battle was the same, the sense of dread, the conviction that fate would finally turn the card of death. Even as he contemplated the thought, he realized that his hands were trembling.
He saw George looking at him from the corner of his eye, and John laughed, trying to cover. "Coffee's strong, gives you the jitters." He downed the rest of the cup and lowered his hands.
"It's alright," George whispered. "Everyone feels that way at times." "You don't."
'Too stupid, I guess. Shows you what your book learning got you, sir. Makes you think too much."
Think too much. He could imagine a lot of things at this moment, what it felt like to have a leg blown off by a solid shot, to get a minie ball in the guts, to have your manhood shredded by a canister.
He'd seen that, seen the myriad of wounds, the thousand different nuances of how a man could die in battle, all of it taking place under an uncaring heaven, all of it a madness that he was part of and from which there was no escape. He wondered if Lee, by deciding one way or the other how to fight the next battle, had set in motion a path that would lead to his own death.
"What the hell!" George sighed "Better sooner than later, I say. Let's get it over with now so we can go home."
John nodded. Several men came over, one of them asking George if it really was Bobbie Lee who had just ridden by. George laughed, telling them that Lee had just shaken his hand, and John turned away, walking off into the darkness.
He looked out across the valley, the flickering fires, the moonlight illuminating the hills, and wondered how it would look the day after he was dead.
It would.still be the same, going on, continuing, uncaring. George would survive. He had sensed that from their very first day. George was as strong as an ox and as steadfast as one. He was right, as well. He didn't think, didn't worry; he just did his job.
Why did I have to be cursed so? John wondered.
There was no graceful way out, no honorable way to escape this. I'll have to stand again on that damned firing line, unflinching before the others, shouting commands, doing what is expected of the son of a judge, but inside my guts will turn to water. How is it that the others can do it without fear and I cannot?
He thought of Elizabeth, sweet Elizabeth, wondering what she would say of him if he ever confessed his terror. Southern women were told to not tolerate such things in their men, not in this time of national crisis. They were to be as the Spartans, to send their sons, their brothers, their fiances oft to battle with a promise of love held eternal, urging their menfolk to return either with their shields or upon them.
Fine for the poets, for those who stay behind. All he wanted was to be back there, to have married as he had wanted, to have her curled up by his side and, dare he dream it, filled with passionate ardor.
instead he was here, and he feared that within the week he would be dead.
He walked farmer into the field, knelt down and vomited, retching miserably, sobbing with fear, wishing he were anywhere but here in Pennsylvania, marching to battle with the Army of Northern Virginia.
JUNE 29,1863,11:00 PM
HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OP THE POTOMAC NEAR FREDERICK, MARYLAND
Brig. Gen. Henry Hunt, Chief of Artillery, Army of the Potomac, wearily dismounted, barely acknowledging the salute of the headquarters orderly who took the reins of his horse.. Average in height at five and a half feet, showing the first signs of middle-age stoutness, with a full brown beard streaked with wisps of gray, Henry looked typical of the officers of the much battered Army of the Potomac. The hard week of forced marches from Virginia up to the border of Pennsylvania through debilitating heat, relieved only by the occasional thunderstorm, had left all of them dirty, exhausted, stinking of sweat-soaked wool, horse, and bad rations. Once dapper uniforms were now a universal dingy, mud-streaked blue. There seemed to be an infinite weariness to Henry, a hard-edged cynicism, like that of a barroom pugilist who has seen better days and now fights without hope of glory.
Henry walked stiffly; the long hours in the saddle, the grueling heat of the thirty-mile ride, even after the sun had set, had been exhausting. The roads he had traveled had been choked with begrimed, weary men, supply wagons, thousands of exhausted stragglers, and long columns of his artillery, cloaked in swirling clouds of powdery dust that clogged the nostrils and left one's eyes feeling as if they had been rubbed with sandpaper. All of them, near on to a hundred thousand men of the Army of the Potomac, tangled into a sweltering, cursing, tidal mass, were flowing northward and looking for a fight.
A subtle, electric-like sense now permeated the army, knowing that somewhere up ahead a battle was brewing, building like a summer storm concealed on the far side of the mountains but already felt and tasted in the air. It created a strange mix of feelings. The long-ago dreams of glory were dead. The men on the roads were the pragmatic survivors of a new type of warfare fed by factories and railroads. They knew there was precious little glory to be found when charging an entrenched foe. And yet, in spite of their knowledge of the horror that awaited them, there was a grim determination, a desire to be at it and to finish the job. Somewhere up ahead, perhaps just around the next bend, there might be an end to it all, the decisive fight that would decide the issue.
And so the long, swaying columns had flowed along roads stretching from Frederick clear down to the suburbs of Washington, the old Army of the Potomac, which he loved with all his soul and in spite of all its defeats, still they marched. No longer were they boys filled with a dream of some desperate glory… they were veterans heading to a fight
Tomorrow perhaps, the day after, there would be another battle, and more than one of them was walking to.his death. As Henry rode among them throughout the long, hot, dusty day, he was filled with a morbid curiosity, looking into faces, wondering how many of them, before the week was out, would never laugh again, would never again write home asking a sweetheart to wait promising to return, asking a mother to send a favorite treat and a new pair of socks, or manfully telling a father not to worry.
He had reined in and dismounted atop a low rise just before sunset awed by the panorama laid out before him. Far back to the southern horizon a long column, like a slow-moving serpent or giant prehistoric creature, was crawling toward him. It was a creature of fifty thousand legs, tens of thousands of wheels, flashes of evening light reflecting off steel, iron, and bronze gun barrels, crawling toward him, sweeping past, flowing down into the valley ahead, and the sight of it filled him with wonder.
This is the beating heart of the Republic, Henry thought, men rising up from a thousand hamlets, towns, farms, and cities, all coming to this place, moving now like some great horde from out of ancient history. Shadowy in the dust, he had watched them pass, tin cups and empty canteens clanging on hips, an occasional drum or fife playing in a vain effort to keep up the pace, then falling silent.
Conversations, as if rising from the throats of ghosts, drifted around him, someone talking about a new daughter, proudly showing an ambrotype, a snatch of laughter at the punch line to an obscene joke; a stanza of a song floated in the air counterpointed by a sergeant cursing.
A captain stepped out of the column, helping an exhausted boy to the side of the road, where he collapsed in a clatter of equipment and began to cry as his comrades continued on. The captain gave the boy his canteen before turning to rejoin the never-stopping column. The captain caught Henry's eye for a second. Nothing was said between them, just a sort of embarrassed acknowledgment of this small act of mercy for a boy who was played out and no longer of use to an army that needed men who could continue to march toward death. The boy lay back, features deathly pale, and passed out, canteen clutched in his hands.
Where he had stopped, a dead Confederate trooper and a couple of dead horses lay. A pile of dirt marked where several Union troopers, killed in a skirmish, had been hastily buried by their comrades. Few in the passing column even noticed. Long ago this army had gotten used to fresh graves, dead men, and horses lying by the side of roads, acting as signposts for what was to come.
He casually looked over at the Reb. The heat was beginning to take effect so that his threadbare uniform, which the boy had undoubtedly once been so proud of, was now tight-fitting, bulging, a stir of wind bringing to him the sickly sweet smell as the boy began to return to the earth.
Henry backed away even as a couple of men in the column pointed out the corpse and urged a young lieutenant, obviously new to his job, to go over and take a look. The lieutenant grinned weakly and ignored the jibes, a sergeant threatening the two with a burial detail for the Reb if they said another word.
Having relieved himself by the side of the road, making sure to stand a respectful distance away from the corpse and the exhausted boy, Henry remounted and fell in with the river of men.
The long, flowing column dropped down from the crest of the hill, continuing northward, the land ahead cloaked in twilight All were disappearing into the darkness, fading from view.
There will come a day, Henry thought when we shall be no more. Whether we die tomorrow, or die abed fifty years hence, this moment will forever haunt us. We'll remember the sounds, the smells, the feel of this summer evening, and turn back to it in our memories as eagerly as we remember a first love. But even then the memory will fade, and finally it will be lost to the world forever. Perhaps 100, 150 years from now, as an army of ghosts, we might return to this place, to this road in Maryland, marching toward Pennsylvania and a dark rendezvous with death.
Henry looked again at the men around him and wondered how many of them saw it as well and thrilled to the wonder of it and how many of them would still be alive a week from now. Will I even be alive this time tomorrow? he wondered
Strange, there was no fear. He smiled at the thought and took a secret pride in it When he had charged the Mexican line at Chapultepec-a mad, insane dash with a single six-pound gun, galloping to within a hundred yards of their line, unlimbering and opening fire-everyone said he had been fearless. Little did they know the terror of that moment or again at First Bull Run when he'd deployed a battery at the bridge, keeping the line of retreat open for the last stragglers. Those had been terrifying moments; it was simply a question of not showing it
Something whispered to Henry that death was close, very close, a shadow waiting just on the other side of the next hill. And yet, to have this moment was worth everything. He knew he did not have the words to articulate it, — to express either to himself or to the rest the feelings of this instant; others could do that far more eloquently. But mere was a deep sense of acceptance; and falling in alongside a regiment from Maine, he pushed on.
The regiment's exhausted colonel, slumped in his saddle, nodded a greeting. They rode together in silence into the twilight until the regiment was ordered to break for the night Henry rode on alone to the outskirts of Frederick and a meeting with his new commander, George Meade.
He caught the eye of a staff officer and asked directions. A tent pitched at the edge of a peach orchard was pointed out Henry made his way through the mass of hangers-on, orderlies, staff officers, reporters, all the annoyances that always trailed a headquarters, and was surprised when, after showing the written summons from Meade, he was immediately led into the presence of the new commander.
He had never been close to George Meade, who until less than a day ago had commanded Fifth Corps, but then no one was close to Meade. It struck Henry as a hell of a way to run an army. Here they were heading into a fight and Washington decides to switch commanders yet again. Joe Hooker was out as commander of the Army of the Potomac; George Meade was in.
For a lot of reasons Henry was glad to see Hooker leave, especially because of the fiasco last month at Chancellorsville. But he should have been fired the day after that battle ended, not with the army on the march, a fight brewing just ahead. He could only hope that Meade would seize control quickly and firmly.
Outside of his previous command with Fifth Corps, Meade was not well-known by the rest of the. Army of the Potomac. And in an army that was fond of nicknames, the best Meade could rate was "Old Snapping Turtle" or "Goggle Eyes."
Meade looked up from his field desk, and Henry thought that at this moment he did indeed look like a snapping turtle, balding head a bit too big for his long, skinny neck, eyes bulging, scraggly beard not trimmed in weeks, a decidedly unattractive man who at first glance did not do much to inspire confidence the way George McClellan, first commander of the Army of the Potomac, could. But then again, what had McClellan accomplished with all his good looks, bravado, and gold lace except one defeat after another?
Maybe, just maybe, Meade would be the kind of snapping turtle who would bite onto Lee and hang on. If only we had done that at Chancellorsville when it was realized that Lee had split his army into two separate wings. Rather than stay on the defensive and let Lee control things, it could have ended right there, rather than turn into yet another debacle of confusion and defeat
Meade shifted the cigar in his mouth, and with a grunt motioned for Henry to sit in a camp chair, while at the same time sliding over a bottle of bourbon and two glasses with his left hand. As Henry poured the drinks, Meade finished scanning the report in his other hand and then wearily tossed it on the table and with the stub of a pencil wrote a comment on the back.
"The good citizens of Frederick filed a complaint that some of our boys got drunk, broke some windows, and stole a case of whiskey from a tavern," and he motioned to the paper. "I'm to initiate an investigation by order of the War Department"
Henry said nothing.
"Damn War Department all it knows how to do is needle' and harass, and in the middle of all of this I'm supposed to take the time to track down a couple of drunk cavalrymen. Then, in the next breath, they're screaming for me to tackle Lee and finish him. Hell, I'm not even sure where he is."
"Newspapers I saw this morning say he's outside of Harrisburg," Henry offered.
"To hell with the damn newspapers. I got a lost cavalry lieutenant who wandered in a couple of hours ago claiming that Early, with a corps of Confederate infantry, is in York; and a drunk preacher came in here saying that Harrisburg was burned to the ground last night, Lee's across the Susquehanna, and he seen it"
Meade waved his glass of bourbon vaguely toward the north. "All I know is the Rebs are in Pennsylvania, and we are scattered out across a front of damn near fifty miles trying to find them. By God, if Lee should close on us tomorrow we'll get a hell of a drubbing the way we're spread out Hunt I've been in command of this army less than a day, and it's taking time to grab hold of the reins."
Meade nodded toward the half-open tent flap and the crowd standing back at a respectful distance. "Nearly all of them are Joe Hooker's old staff."
Henry grunted and shook his head.
"I'm keeping them on for now. There'll be time enough later to switch things around."
"Where are you planning to concentrate?" Henry asked, trying to read the map that was spread out on Meade's desk.
Meade pointed to a penciled-in line he had traced just south of the Maryland-Pennsylvania border.
"I'm ordering the army to concentrate just east and norm of here, on a line from Westminster to Taneytown.
"John Reynolds is on the left here at Frederick with his First Corps, supported by Howard and the Eleventh Corps. Tomorrow they'll push up toward Emmitsburg, while I move headquarters to Taneytown," and as he spoke Meade traced out the movement on the map with a dirty forefinger.
"Reynolds is a good man," Henry interjected. "He'll find them if they're there."
Henry didn't feel it was in any way proper to add that everyone knew that when Joe Hooker had been relieved of command of the army just yesterday morning, word was that Lincoln had wanted Reynolds to take command. Reynolds had refused, and Meade was the second choice.
Meade looked at Henry with a cool gaze, but Henry said nothing more.
"Reynolds has John Buford with a division of cavalry in front of him that has orders to cross into Pennsylvania and take a look up toward Gettysburg."
"Gettysburg, lot of roads junction there," Henry interjected. "It might be worth taking and holding."
"I have a report that some Rebs, Jubal Early's division, passed through there two days ago but then continued on toward Harrisburg."-
"And where's our cavalry?"
Meade snorted. "Useless as ever. No solid reports. They're trailing after Stuart, but they've had no hard contact with Lee's main body."
Henry pointed to the mountain range that arced up through southern Pennsylvania, turning in a great curve from north to east, the Cumberland Valley beyond. Meade nodded.
"I suspect Lee is indeed on the other side of the South Mountain Range, over here at Chambersburg, moving up toward Harrisburg. Buford moving into Gettysburg just might trigger something, cause Lee to feel his rear is threatened and turn back around toward us.
"Lee must have heard by now that we are coming up. He can't leave his rear open," Meade continued. "We'll brush up against his flank. Perhaps I can lure him back down this way to where I want him."
Meade continued to trace out movements on the map, Henry craning his neck to look as Meade pointed out his proposed position along the south bank of Pipe Creek.
"I think it might be good ground," Meade announced. "The south bank of the stream is high, open fields of fire, perfect for artillery."
"It looks like damn good ground," Henry offered. "The question is, will Lee bite once he's got a look at it? Usually we wind up fighting on in places he picks."
"Can you suggest anything better?" Meade asked testily.
Henry nodded. The position Meade had chosen was good. It covered Washington, which would keep the politicians happy, while at the same time forcing Lee to turn away from Harrisburg. But the question lingered: Would Lee accept battle on land chosen by Meade? In every action fought against the Army of Northern Virginia it had always been the Rebs who ultimately selected when or where a battle would be joined.
"We don't know each other very well, Hunt," Meade finally announced after a long, awkward silence, "but I know your work. Last year, at Malvern Hill, you were masterful in the way you placed your guns."
Henry nodded his thanks.
Malvern Hill. The mere mention of those two words triggered the memory of that July 1st, a year ago this week, he realized.
Six days of bitter fighting, retreating from the gates of Richmond, crawling and stumbling through the tangle of woods and marshes, McClellan fumbling the battle every step of the way. But at last McClellan had turned and given Henry the ground of an artilleryman's dreams… open fields, a broad crest of a hill, clear fields of interlocking fire. And he had seized the moment, arraying over a hundred guns, bronze twelve-pound smoothbores, three-inch rifles, even a couple of batteries of heavy twenty-pound rifles for counterbattery work.
Lee had walked straight into it
That battle had revealed what Henry knew was perhaps the one weakness of Lee, an aggressiveness that bordered on pure recklessness if his blood was up and he smelled victory.
For a commander who normally planned his actions, Lee had allowed the battle to unfold haphazardly, throwing troops in piecemeal rather than slamming them forward all at once. But even if he had sent a full corps up that hill, rather than a brigade at a time, the result would have been the same, and just as ghastly.
Throughout that long afternoon Henry had worked his guns with finesse, sweeping the open fields, solid shot tearing through the columns as they deployed, canisters tumbling over lines of men who fell like broken toys.
The screams still haunted him; five thousand Confederate infantry, damn fine troops, had gone down in mangled, bloodied heaps. He had been awed by the Rebs' audacity, their relentless will, and the sheer madness of their charge. Though he was a professional, the sight of what his guns could do to packed lines of infantry had stunned him. It was, Henry knew, the finest and most terrifying example of the power of artillery yet seen in this war.
"It's how I want to see artillery used in the next fight," Meade continued, interrupting Henry's memories.
Henry leaned forward slightly. He was called Chief of Artillery for the Army of the Potomac, but that was a title he had held in name only for the last six months. Hooker had always suspected that Henry was a "McClellan man"; and in an army torn by political factionalism, such a suspicion, justified or not, had been a kiss of death when Hooker took over. Though he'd managed to hang onto his title, Hooker had relegated him to a desk-and paperwork.
Damned madness. At Chancellorsville, if he had been given a hundred guns to array around the Fairview clearing, he'd have cut the guts out of Stonewall Jackson's charge. But Hooker hadn't listened. He'd panicked and lost the battle.
It's this damn political infighting that is as much the enemy as the Rebs, Henry thought If only we could get as united as the Army of Northern Virginia was, united with a belief in a single, capable leader, with a single purpose, we could win this war in a month.
"You and Joe Hooker," Meade said, gaze still fixed on his empty glass, "I know what happened between the two of you when Hooker took command of this army back in January."
He stared up at Henry for emphasis. There was no need, Henry thought, for Meade to play this point too hard. There was a lot of grumbling from some about Meade's ascension, especially at this moment. But for Henry the removal of Hooker could only mean the chance to get back his real job as artillery commander in the field, and it was obvious Meade was offering just that
"I'm putting you back in charge of the Artillery Reserve, active field command."
Good enough. Henry nodded his thanks. But if there was any chance for what he truly wanted it was now, and he had to go for it
"Sir, am I to be retained as commander of all artillery," he asked cautiously, "or just the reserve artillery attached directly to army headquarters?"
Meade said nothing for a moment
"What are you pushing for, Hunt?" Meade finally asked.
"Sir, half of our artillery is assigned to the direct command of headquarters as the Artillery Reserve, which means me. But what about the other half, nearly a hundred and fifty guns divided up into small units and assigned to various corps commanders? Do I have control of those batteries as well."
"Don't push it Hunt I was a corps commander until yesterday morning. I didn't take kindly to units being taken from me. Corps commanders like to have a couple of batteries under their direct control."
"In a crisis you need a unified command for artillery" Henry replied. "Allow me to put two hundred, three hundred guns into a unified command, and I'll sweep the field clean. It's concentrated artillery that will decide the next fight sir. The land up here is open, Better fields of fire than in central Virginia."
Henry looked into Meade's eyes, saw the coldness, and fell silent He knew his enthusiasm, his near fanatical belief, had again run into the politics of command.
Meade replied, his voice cold and threatening, "Yesterday you were nothing but a glorified inspector. Hooker wouldn't have given you a pinch of owl shit to command. I've given you back half the artillery of this army. Be satisfied with that"
"Then why the hell have an artillery commander if half his strength is frittered away?" Henry replied, and he instantly regretted his brashness. But it was exactly what was wrong with this damned army; everything was always a compromise, done in half measures, and the men they commanded suffered as a result
Meade bristled and leaned forward menacingly. "Do you want the job or hot, General? You want it, you take it on my terms. If not, I've got fifty men outside this tent who will jump at the chance."
Henry nodded, saying nothing.
"Do we understand each other, General? Corps artillery stays where it is. You may advise in regard to those units, but corps commanders still control their own guns. Take it or leave it"
"Yes, sir. I understand."
"That's settled then. There's something else, though, that I want to ask you."
Frustrated that his hopes had been dashed, Henry lowered his gaze for a moment while pouring another drink for himself. He tried to reason that he was a damn sight better off than he had been twenty-four hours ago; but if ever there had been a chance to create a true unified command it was now, and the chance had slipped away.
'It's the real reason I asked you to come here."
"Sir?" Henry looked back at Meade, wondering what else he wanted.
"You served under Lee before the war in Mexico, didn't you?'
Surprised, Henry nodded. "Yes, we were stationed together at Fort Hamilton in New York City."
"I never knew him that well. I understand the two of you were close."
Henry hesitated for a second. "Professionally, yes."
'Tell me about him."
"Just that, Hunt. Tell me about him."
Henry looked down at his glass. Lee, in his fatherly way, had chided him on his drinking more than once.
What can I tell him? Henry wondered. If ever an army held an opposing general in awe, it was the Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee. He was an endless source of speculation, comment, damning, and grudging praise.
Lee was a hard man to get close to. He had many acquaintances but few true friends. Was I that, Henry wondered, just another acquaintance?
No, it was different, a sense in a way of being a younger brother to an elder, or a favored student to a mentor. They shared a love of the precision of engineering, the bringing of order out of chaos, and a love for gunnery, its history and practice.
Curious, for both of them saw it as an abstraction, an intellectual exercise of trajectories, rates of fire, and the beautiful ritual of drill. Neither of them wanted to think about the end result when it was done for real, the shredded human flesh blasted and burned, the way both of them would see it done a few years later at Chapultepec.
They had spent many an afternoon together on the parade ground, training new recruits. And afterward, when drill was done, the two of them leaning on a gun, admiring the beauty of the harbor and bustling traffic of hundreds of ships, talking about the army, engineering, history, but never quite about themselves. That was something Lee always kept reserved.
"I'm waiting, General," Meade interjected, breaking into Henry's thoughts.
"I doubt if there is anything more I can add to what has already been said," Henry finally replied, a bit selfconsciously.
"A lot of men in this army served with him," Meade replied coolly, "but all of them say the same thing, 'He never talked about himself.'"
"Well, they're right"
"Damn it man, within the week, maybe as early as tomorrow, I'll have to face him on the battlefield. I want something, anything. He sure as hell knows how to read us. I want the same."
Henry was startled. He could see it in Meade's eyes, hear it in his voice, a terrible loneliness, a certain desperation that made Henry uncomfortable. In a way he couldn't blame him. Everyone talked about how a general who brought victory against Lee would save the Republic. Few added the observation that losing a battle might mean the end of the Union. He would not want to be in Meade's shoes right now.
Henry nodded and took another sip of his bourbon.
"He has a gentle soul," Henry finally offered.
"What?" and mere was an incredulous look on Meade's face.
Henry leaned back in his chair, looking out the half-opened tent flap, feeling the cool breeze that stirred, causing the canvas to softly crack and flutter. The hint of cool air after the heat of the day was refreshing.
Strange, it reminded him of the night before Chapultepec, the staff meeting with old Winfield Scott, the cool breeze that finally stirred to kill the heat of day. Maj. Robert Lee sitting in the corner throughout the meeting, taking notes. At the end of the meeting, it had been Lee who'd suggested that they all pray. Lee had led them and not once had he called for victory; in fact, he had asked for God's mercy to be shown on their foe and that the Will of the Lord be fulfilled.
"A gentle soul," Henry continued. "He is devout; we all know that. Yet beyond that there is a profound gentleness. I saw him chew out a teamster for lashing a mule, telling him that cursing would motivate neither man nor beast. From anyone else mere would have been derision once he'd walked away; but that teamster lowered his head, ashamed, and once Lee left the teamster patted the mule and led him by the bridle.
"I know that when he was superintendent of West Point" Henry added, "he chided many an upperclassman for hazing a plebe. In fact personally he hated the tradition of hazing and tried to stop it"
"I heard about that" Meade replied. "Hell, we all survived it. Hazing at the Point toughens a boy into becoming a man."
"He didn't see it that way," Henry replied, and even as he spoke he felt a touch of shame, remembering his own tears at the end of his first day at the Point and how only a year later he, too, had harassed new cadets without mercy.
"I'll never forget him coming out to the practice field one day and pulling a young soldier from my gun crew, taking him aside. A letter had just come in with news for the boy that his mother was dead. Lee decided to tell him personally. The boy broke down and Lee held him the way a father would hold a child. I saw the two of them kneeling side by side, Lee's arm around the boy's shoulders."
Even as he described it, Henry fought to control the tightness in his throat
"He knew every soldier in our command by name. The boys loved it. I can't say that they were close to him the way some commanders allow those under them to be close. Rather, it was a reverent awe. A few saw him as an old granny, especially when he took to praying, but even those would not deny his courage and honesty.
"I think," Henry continued, "that must be paining him now. That boy who lost his mother was killed at Fredericksburg leading his regiment Lee would remember and pray for him. He remembers all those who've served under him."
"Damn well he should," Meade growled. "He put enough of them in their graves."
"I know he prays for me," Henry added slowly. "In fact sir, he'll even pray for you."
Meade looked at him with his cold stare. "If he's so holy, then why the hell didn't he become a preacher?"
"There's the other side," Henry replied, trying not to let a touch of hostility slip into his voice. "He's a fighter. Something comes over him in battle, a sense that it is God's Will, and he must be the instrument of that Will. That is why he is dangerous."
"Because he believes he is right, There are no self-doubts once action is joined. He gives himself over and then unflinchingly flings everything he has into the fight. Only when it is done does he come out of the fog of battle, cover his face, and mourn those whom he has slain.
"When he comes at you in this next fight he will not hesitate. He wants this war to end, and the only way he sees how is to break our will to resist Sir, remember, he will seek the battle of decision the same way Napoleon would. Napoleon was someone he admired." "Lee admires the Corsican!’
"Not for his politics, but yes, for his method of battle. Napoleon was a master at breaking the will to resist, the climax of the grand charge that sends the enemy fleeing the way he did at Marengo and Austerlitz. Lee cannot afford another half victory like the last several fights. It goes against his nature, and it tears at his soul."
"What do you mean, 'tears at his soul'?'
"He wants to believe there is purpose in this world, 'a logic and reason, God's higher plan, if you will. War, in contrast, represents chaos to him. If he justifies his own actions, it is that he seeks to end the chaos on God's terms, which means a swift victory, brutal in the Old Testament sense if necessary, but a finish."
Meade snorted derisively and poured another drink.
"Fight and the devil take the hindmost" Meade growled. "If you want a purpose, there it is. I never had any use for worrying beyond that. When you are dead, that's it"
"You asked for my opinion on the old man," Henry replied coolly. "Every battle where men are killed-both his and ours-with no conclusive result gnaws at him. It represents chaos to him. He'll want to close it off. The irony is that in so doing he'll create a bloodbath. I expect that when we finally collide, he'll come at us like a wolf at the scent of his prey."
If we can choose our ground and dig in, then let him come at us."
"Make sure that it's him coming at us and not the other way around," Henry offered.
Meade looked up at him coldly, the glance a signal that Henry was offering advice where it wasn't wanted, but he pushed ahead anyhow.
"He'll come straight at us, but if he can see a chance to flank, he'll do it He lost Jackson, who was the master of that game. There's a hole now in his command, which I doubt either Dick Ewell or Ambrose Hill can fill. This change in his high command might put him off balance. As a result there's a chance Lee might take the reins himself rather than let his subordinates run things once battle is joined. I heard from a prisoner that he fought the ending of Chancellorsville that way, right down to taking charge of individual brigades. He might do that again next time, and if so, be careful, sir. He'll come in hard then. If blunted, look for a flank. Keep a sharp eye on the flank, sir."
"I appreciate the advice," Meade said coldly, "but it's Lee I want to know about, not your analysis of how I should fight"
"That's about it" Henry replied quietly. "You liked him, didn't you?"
Henry nodded reluctantly. "I trusted him. At times he seemed a little too perfect In peacetime that could put some men off; but in war, a man like that who can inspire perfect trust…" and his voice trailed off.
He realized he had just insulted Meade and, fumbling, he poured another drink for himself, nearly finishing the bottle.
"We probe farther north tomorrow. I want the Artillery Reserve up in support position by Wednesday the first" Meade leaned back over the table and pointed at the map. "As soon as you arrange that then I want you to go survey the land along the creek up by Westminster. I want you to accompany General Warren. He's my chief topographical engineer, but I want an artilleryman's eyes looking at it as well. See if this could be your next Malvern Hill. We want good ground."
His tone indicated dismissal and, standing, Henry saluted and left the tent
The camp was quiet It was past midnight; a mist was rising, cool, pleasant after the heat of the long day. Campfires had burned down to smoldering embers, more than one staff officer curled up on the ground, a few sitting in camp chairs, talking softly. A couple looked up, curious, then returned to their private conversations, ignoring him.
Henry walked back to where he had dismounted, spotted his horse tied to a peach tree, saddle taken off. The orderly had even rubbed him down. Caesar was cropping the rich grass. He looked up at Henry's approach, snorted, and accepted the scratch behind the ears.
Henry had named all his mounts after generals of classical history. Hannibal, the last, had broken a leg at Fredericksburg. Before him there had been Hasdrubal, Pompey, and Vespasian. He sadly wondered how long Caesar would survive.
Never get attached to them, he thought, and never get attached to the men either.
That must be eating Lee alive. He was attached more than any of them to those he commanded. He wanted the killing to end, but he knew as well that in order for it to end he had to be absolutely ruthless. The strain might very well destroy him, but even that he would see as the Will of God
Henry suddenly felt a terrible wave of sadness, of remorse and pain for the old man.
Damn, he's a traitor, he tried to reason, but at least for this moment he allowed himself a moment of pity.
Leaning against Caesar, Henry watched the moon hanging low in the western sky, wondering where Lee was, what he was thinking, and wondering as well if he could kill Lee if given the chance.
The chilling thought was there as well that Lee, the gentle, the soft-spoken and kind, would kill him without a moment's hesitation if that was necessary for victory, and Henry knew he had to brace himself to do the same.
JULY I, 1863, 8:45 AM
UNION MILLS, MARYLAND
Henry Hunt reined in, Warren at his side. Warren uncorked a canteen of water and handed it over to Henry, who nodded his thanks. The day was already warm, though a light shower had brushed across the landscape shortly after dawn.
"This is a damn good position," Warren offered, and Henry nodded in agreement
The ground before them sloped down to a broad, open marshy plain, bisected by a narrow creek. A mill with a pond backed up beyond was to his right He carefully studied the area, while Warren, with one leg drawn up over the pommel of his saddle, took a small sketchbook out and carefully traced in the topographical details, noting down distances, buildings, roads, elevations.
"Clear fields of fire," Henry announced. "This must have been lumbered off years ago for the mill down there. God, I could line a hundred guns up along these heights and hold it till doomsday."
"If they come down this far."
Henry, still holding Warren's canteen, leaned over, watching as the engineer drew his map. Personally he found Warren to be difficult at times, a bit too officious; but he respected the man for his eye, his sense of ground, how it affected battle and movement
"We've got the potential for a remarkable defensive position here," Warren announced, inverting the pencil in his hand, tracing out the line they had ridden along so far with the blunt end. 'This creek bottom just east of Taneytown over to here; open fields of fire along the entire length. This is good killing ground, exceptional." Henry nodded in agreement.
Henry dismounted, one of his staff taking the reins. The men riding with them were nervous. Everyone was on edge, not knowing where the rebel cavalry might be lurking. He walked a few yards along the road they had come out on while riding the ridgeline bordering the creek. The road, he realized, must be the main pike running from Westminster up toward Littlestown and Gettysburg beyond. It was well paved with crushed limestone, but torn up now by the passage of thousands of troops and cavalry. If the fight should come down this way, it would be a main line of advance.
He scanned the ground, a bit rocky but still a good position to dig in guns. Yes, if it should be fought here, along this line, this would be the place to hold.
Stretching, he walked back to his mount and got back in the saddle. Warren was finished sketching, folding up his notebook. Henry passed the canteen back over.
"Pipe Creek," Warren said, "if it's going to be anywhere, I hope it's here. Whoever holds this land will win."
As the two turned to ride on, Henry paused, looking off to the north. He wasn't sure, but there seemed to be a tremor in the air… artillery fire. He waited, head raised; again a distant, flat thump, more felt than heard. He looked over at Warren, who nodded in agreement They waited for a moment but all that greeted them was silence, and finally they rode off to the east
JULY I, 1863, 9:00 AM
NEAR CHAMBERSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
"Battalions, forward march!"
The colonel shouting the order sat ramrod straight astride his mount, sword drawn, the tip of the blade resting against his shoulder, obviously nervous that the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia was watching. The young officer's voice echoed across the orchard, picked up by company captains, rippling down the line. He raised his sword and saluted as the column moved onto the Chambersburg Pike and headed east toward the South Mountain gap.
Lee returned the salute, reining in Traveler, and moved to the side of the road, clearing the way for the brigade of Georgia troops that were filing out of the orchard. A lone fifer at the front of the column valiantly tried to play "Dixie." The boy looked over at Lee, turned bright red, and completely fumbled the tune, a ripple of laughter echoing through the column at his discomfort
Lee smiled and touched the brim of his hat in salute to the boy who, crestfallen, looked as if he was about to burst into tears.
"Don't you worry, General, we can fight a heap better than Jimmie can play," a wag shouted from the middle of the column.
A piercing cheer erupted, the men raising their caps in salute as they passed Lee.
"They're in good spirits this morning."
Lee nodded, looking over at Pete Longstreet who was riding beside him. "They're ready for what has to be done," Lee said quietly, watching as the column passed before him. "In spite of the hard marching of the last three weeks, the men look healthier, they're living well off of the land up here.
"You saw the report I sent over to you last night from Harry Heth?" Lee asked, looking back at Longstreet
"The contact his division made with Yankee cavalry last night near Gettysburg? Yes."
"If Stuart was where he was supposed to be, we'd know more about what's down this road," and as he spoke Pete gestured to the east
"That's what we'll find out today," Lee said. "It might be nothing more than a forward screen, backed up with some militia."
"Or it could be the entire Army of the Potomac concentrating there. We're still spread out sir."
"We won't be by the end of today," Lee replied sharply. "We are at Cashtown, as planned. If the Army of the Potomac is indeed coming up, as your spy reported, Cashtown is very defendable ground. And don't worry about our young prodigy. General Stuart will be reined in; I've sent couriers put to look for him."
Longstreet said nothing, but Lee could read the doubt in his eyes, the caution that hung over "the Dutchman." In the past it has always been a good balance, the impetuous Jackson, ready to leap off into the unknown, Longstreet the opposite, forever preaching about defense. But Jackson was gone. Longstreet was the senior of the corps commanders now and had to be pushed to show more audacity.
The column continued to pour out of the orchard and onto the road, and Lee felt a thrill at the sight of them. They were typical of the hard-fighting Army of Northern Virginia. Many wore gray four-button jackets, some were dressed in whatever could be found or sent from home. Butternut brown was fairly common, the wool spun, woven, cut stitched, and dyed by loving hands. Some wore butternut pants as well, but a fair number had on sky blue trousers, taken from Yankee prisoners.
Most of the men had shoes, yet again captured, though more than one boy was barefoot this morning. On the soft dirt roads of central Virginia on a summer day this hadn't been a problem, but this road was a main pike, and as it cut through the South Mountain Range there were sections that had been macadamized with crushed limestone gravel so the going would be tough on bare soles.
In this, the third year of the war, the men passing before him were tough, lean, hard survivors who knew their business. They were stripped down for summer campaigning: a blanket roll over the left shoulder maybe containing an extra pair of socks and shirt, perhaps a Bible stuffed in a breast pocket, a haversack that for once was bulging with rations, a cartridge box with forty rounds, and a good Enfield.577-cal. rifle on their shoulders, in total not more than twenty-five to thirty pounds of equipment
Headgear in this army truly was a mark of individualism. A few wore kepis, mainly the officers and NCOs; most had on slouch caps, broad brimmed, dirty, sweat stained, more than one on the point of falling apart. A man in the middle of the column was wearing a tall stovepipe, which he courteously removed as he passed, and directly behind him was a redheaded, bucktoothed lad wearing a woman's bonnet the men around him grinning as he took it off and tried to hide his joke before Lee noticed.
They looked up at him eagerly, eyes bright, some doffing their hats in respect others saluting, the bolder ones calling out his name, a few asking if the Yankees were up ahead.
It had rained during the night. The air was heavy, damp, coiling wisps of fog trailing up from the mountain range just to the east The air was rich with morning smells, crushed hay, peaches, and cherries ripening in the orchards. Mingled in, of course, was the smell of the men passing, a rank mixture of scents that every army throughout history cloaked itself in.
Lee edged Traveler onto the road and broke into a smooth canter. Traveler, well rested and well fed for a change, took the pace eagerly. They passed the head of the Georgia column, and this time the fifer boy held his tune.
Next on the road was a battery of three-inch rifles, four guns, battery horses looking like they had just been "requisitioned" from a farm, leaning hard into the ton and a half of gun and caisson. The battery was from Virginia, and he looked at the faces of the boys, wondering if any were the sons of old friends or neighbors from long ago.
The road ahead pushed up through the gap in the South Mountain Range, orchards and split-rail fences flanking the pike, giving way to woods filled with stately old elms and chestnuts that canopied the road. The day promised to be warm, but here in the pass the slanting rays of the morning sun, poking out from a scattered bank of rain clouds, had yet to take off the chill. It was pleasant, like stepping into a dark springhouse on a hot day. Moisture from a shower still clung to the leaves and branches that arced overhead.
The pike was filled with his army-too many men, in fact, for this single road-and at times they were at a standstill, leaning against rifles, waiting for the traffic to clear up ahead. Their spirits were good, though. The day was still young, and they were an army used to triumphs, now moving deep within enemy territory. The world around them was new, fresh, untouched yet by the ravages of war, and thus a world to fill them with curiosity and interest.
But after passing more than a mile of troops frozen in place, Lee felt an increasing frustration. He wanted this army moving, concentrating, not locked in place, and finally he waved for his aide, Walter Taylor, to come to his side.
"Get a courier forward. I want to know what the delay is up ahead, and tell whoever is responsible to clear the road and keep this column moving!"
Salutes were exchanged, and an eager young boy, delighted with his task, set off at a gallop, knowing that thousands of eyes would be upon him, that he bore an order from Genera] Lee, and perhaps the fate of the Confederacy rested on the safe delivery of the message.
Edging around the stalled columns, Lee and his entourage crested the top of the pass and started downslope, the column ahead still mired in place.
And then he sensed it
He didn't hear it; rather it was a feeling in the air, a certain tension, a distant pressure. Looking to the side of the road, he saw where several men had broken away from the column, climbed up into trees, and were shading their eyes against the morning sun. They were looking to the east. One of the men was pointing, exclaiming that there was "mischief."
There was a fight up ahead.
The pass came down out of the mountain and into a sloping orchard. Lee turned from the road, weaving through a broken-down section of fence, and cantered through the rows of peach trees, the nearly ripened fruit hanging thick on the branches.
It was ground he had examined on a map, but only now was he seeing it for the first time. Yet already he knew it the steep, dropping slope that offered a perfect defensive position to either side of the road, the orchards and pastures on the lower slope providing clear fields of fire. It was his fallback position, a place where he had hoped to lure the Army of the Potomac into battle, but what he was feeling in the air whispered to him that such plans were in the past
Longstreet rode beside him, quiet his staff trailing behind.
Lee reined in by a small clapboard-sided church and dismounted. There, to the east was a darker cloud, dirty yellow and gray, eight, maybe ten miles off. A slight tremor in the air, a distant thump of a summer storm far away, of a battle not so far away. Longstreet was still beside him, glasses raised.
"More than a skirmish," Longstreet announced. "Spread out across a half mile or more of front"
'1 knew nothing of this," Lee said, looking around at his staff;
They shifted uncomfortably; all were silent.
"Courier coming," Longstreet announced, as the rider approached on a lathered mount reined in, saluted, and handed the dispatch to Taylor.
"From General Heth, sir," Taylor announced. "He is engaged before Gettysburg. He reports contact with at least one brigade of Union cavalry."
"When was that sent?" Longstreet asked.
"Eight-thirty this morning, sir."
Longstreet pulled out his pocket watch and sighed. 'Two hours ago. If it was just cavalry, Harry would have pushed them back by now. I think there's infantry up there, sir."
Lee, still dismounted, said nothing, uncasing his field glasses and slowly scanning the horizon to the east A shower of rain passing close by half obscured the view. He caught a flash of what appeared to be artillery, clouds of smoke hanging low in the heavy morning air, again blocking off the view.
The courier sent forward earlier to ascertain the reason for the delay on the road came back in and reported. Johnson's division coming down from the north was filing onto the same road up ahead, their supply wagons, thousands of men, creating a snarl of confusion.
Lee looked at Taylor coldly. "That was not the order of march I detailed last night"
"There must have been some confusion, sir."
"Obviously," Lee replied sharply.
He turned away with head lowered, field glasses dangling from his neck, hands clasped behind his back, a gesture that indicated to those around him that he was on edge.
The tie-up on the road was unacceptable. It could be expected with green troops, but this was an army that needed to move fast especially if a battle was developing just ahead. Someone had "misunderstood" orders yet again. It had happened two months ago at Salem Church, and a certain victory had been thrown away. He would not let it happen again. Not today, especially not today, with so much at stake.
"Colonel Taylor, would you please get out the maps."
There was a scurry of activity. The church was found to be unlocked; a table and chairs were carried out Lee, like Jackson, refused to use a place of worship for military activities and hesitated even to intrude on a private residence. The furniture was set up under a wide-spread elm behind the church. The headquarters map was unrolled on the table and Lee came over, Longstreet and the staff gathering around.
The courier from Heth was still with them, and Lee looked up. "Lieutenant, is General Heth in the town?" He hesitated, looking again at the map, "Gettysburg?"
The courier, somewhat nervous, came up to the table and shook his head. "Ahh, no sir. There's a big school building up on the crest of the hill just to the west of the town. The Yankees are dug in there. We got right up to it yesterday before retiring back when the Yankee cavalry rode in. I heard the boys say it was a Lutheran seminary."
‘That's west of the town?" Longstreet interrupted.
"We didn't see any, sir."
"They're there," Lee said quietly, looking up from the map and back to the east. "Harry would have driven them by now if it was just cavalry. It's obvious he hasn't; the battle is spreading."
"Heth's orders were to probe, not seek a fight," Longstreet interjected. Lee nodded.
"We don't know what's up there," Longstreet continued, and he traced the network rjf roads coming into Gettysburg. "They could be moving up right now, and we're spread out"
"I know that" Lee replied. This time his tone indicated that he wanted silence.
More couriers were coming in as the minutes dragged out while Lee stood silent, gaze locked on the map. Reports now of two Union infantry corps, definitely the Union's First Corps, possibly the Eleventh as well.
It was Pete.
"Their entire army might be deploying behind that town."
"You're advising me to break off."
"Sir, Harry Heth stuck his neck into it up there," and Pete pointed off to where the plumes of smoke were boiling up. "There's confusion on the road; we'll be feeding in piecemeal the rest of the day. Pull Heth back. This land right here,
sir, it's good ground. They'll come up, just like at Fredericksburg last December. The politicians back in Washington will be screaming at Meade to attack. He's new to his job as commander. He'll feed them in. Atop these heights, we can mow them down."
Lee stepped back from the map, looking to where Pete was pointing. The ground was good, right on the eastern flank of the mountain. Orchards dotted the upper slope, and even as he looked Pete continued to press his case.
"Guns up in the orchards-just drop a few trees for clear fields of fire-infantry farther downslope. Flanks anchored, and a secured line of communications behind us back to Chambersburg. Just like Fredericksburg, even better, sir, with a narrower front Let them come on, sir."
Lee nodded, then motioned for Longstreet to mount Lee got into the saddle and rode down the slope, Longstreet coming up by his side. Cutting across an open pasture, reining in at the edge of a cornfield where the stalks were already waist high, they stopped. Lee turned and looked back up the slope. Longstreet was right; the ground was good, very good.
The Dutchman, feeling that he was winning his point continued to press the argument "They'll come up these slopes, and it will be a slaughter."
"Malvern Hill in reverse," Lee said quietly. "One year ago today."
Longstreet nodded. Everyone in the army knew Malvern Hill was a sore spot with Lee, a battle he wished he had never fought a disaster of disorganized brigades charging up an open slope into the muzzles of over a hundred Union guns.
"It will never happen," Lee said quietly, eyes locked on the slope they had just ridden down. "
"Always consider the position from the view of your opponent Look at this place," Lee announced, pointing. "Would you attack if they were up there?".
"I don't quite follow you, sir."
"Just that, General," Lee replied sharply. "Neither you nor I would attack if those people were dug in here. We learned that at Malvern Hill. They learned it at Fredericksburg. You have a good eye for ground, General. This position is perfect, and that is why they will never attack us if we dig in here. It's too perfect"
"He'll be under pressure from Washington though."
"And we're under a different pressure, General. We can't dig in and wait. Supplies will have to move up through that single road we just traversed. Three, four days and this countryside will be stripped clean of food, and then we'll have to either attack him or pull back.
"No, sir," Lee continued. "Meade will see us dug in here, and he'll wait us out. Then we will have to withdraw, and we will have gamed nothing, sir, nothing." He slapped his thigh as he spoke.
"General Longstreet, we cannot continue to fight indecisive battles. Down that road lies defeat. Vicksburg is in trouble; that was part of our reason for coming up north, to try and divert forces away from the fighting in the West Our own Army of Northern Virginia will never be stronger than it is this week.
"I want this war to end. What will another Fredericksburg give us? Twenty thousand of their men casualties, five to ten thousand of ours, and the slaughter will have given us nothing. Another battle like that just wears us down a little bit more, and they will continue to get stronger in spite of their losses. They can replace their losses in a month; we no longer can.
"We will not end the war fighting defensively in this place, not here. The enemy is up that road, General. General Heth has met them. You saw the map. We know that two of our divisions, Early and Rodes, are coming down on Gettysburg from the north and northeast. We are coming in from the west I think, sir, we just might have them. Push in hard, and if God wills it we can catch part of their army and annihilate it before the rest comes up.
"Our job is to find the right place and shatter the Union army. We have to win a victory so decisive that the North's will to fight will be shaken, and they will agree to a truce. Any victory less than that will ultimately be a strategic defeat. We have had two years of bloody, indecisive fighting. Now is the time for that decision, and down that road toward Gettysburg is where we are going to force it"
"What about Stuart?"
"He'll be found today."
"I hope so."
A rolling thunder, clearly audible now, washed over them, and both looked back to the east
"General Longstreet you are now my right arm. I ask you to understand that I could always count on you in the defense; you demonstrated that at Sharpsburg and Fredericksburg. I need more from you now, General, much more. I need your voice of caution, but I need you to see the opportunity for attack, for audacity."
"I am not Jackson," Longstreet replied coldly.
Lee could sense that he had injured his lieutenant's pride. Jackson had been the darling of the Richmond newspapers, and dead he had been immortalized into an icon that it was impossible to compete against
"No, nor am I asking that. We have an opportunity here. I want this action pushed, and I am counting on you to see that it is done."
Pete looked back, almost longingly, at the hills he had hoped to dig in on.
"General," Lee asked softly, "if you were Meade, would you attack us here?"
Pete did something that was a rare sight He smiled and then shook his head. "No, sir. Not here. The ground is too good."
Lee smiled and, turning Traveler, trotted back up the hill to where the staff waited expectantly. Taylor came forward, grinning, holding up a dispatch.
"It's from Stuart" Taylor announced triumphally. "One of the couriers you ordered sent out yesterday morning just reported back in. Stuart was riding toward Carlisle. He is turning about He'll be here by this evening, and his lead brigade should be in by midnight"
Lee felt a wave of relief. The decision of several nights back to aggressively seek Stuart to take more direct control, was bearing fruit He looked over at Longstreet who nodded, as if the final point had been won.
"Colonel Taylor, it's obvious that battle has been joined, not where we planned, but Providence has ruled differently. Pass the order to all division and corps commanders. Press the action toward Gettysburg and seize the high ground overlooking the town."
He could sense the ripple of excitement sweep through his staff. He nudged Traveler and then turned to look back. "Be certain to return the table and chairs to their proper place, Walter."
Returning to the road, he turned east heading toward Gettysburg.
1:30 PM, JULY I, 1863
FIELD HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC
Breathing hard, Henry Hunt climbed the last steps up onto the widow's walk of the Antrim, a mansion at the edge of Taneytown. Meade, with
Hooker's old chief of staff, Gen. Dan Butterfield, was leaning on the railing, attention focused to the north.
Henry didn't need to be told where to look. Smoke was boiling up from Gettysburg, ten miles away. Uncasing his field glasses, he leaned against the railing and focused. The church spires of the town were clearly visible, the smoke just to the west A dull rumble was echoing down, thumping, building, then drifting off.
The day was becoming hot the morning scattering of showers giving way to a dull sky, not quite clear, not quite hazy, the type of weather that could clear or brew up into an afternoon of fierce storms. The air was heavy, humid, and oppressive.
Turning his field glasses to the west, he clearly saw the Catholic school and convent over at Emmitsburg. Dust was swirling up from me road in front of the school.
"Whose men are those over there?" he asked, looking to one of Meade's staff, who were all silently clustered to either side of the general.
"Dan Sickles's Third Corps."
"Are they moving up?"
"The Eleventh Corps is on the same road and should be in Gettysburg by now," Butterfield announced, not looking back, attention still focused to the north. "We're holding Dan in place for the moment, waiting to see what develops."
Henry nodded and said nothing. He had fairly well memorized the maps of the region over the last couple of days. It was clear that Lee was coming over the South Mountain Range, but was the main thrust toward Gettysburg or was that a diversion and would he hit toward Emmitsburg instead?
He knew the answer without even having to ask it Lee would move on Gettysburg. It was a better road connection, allowing him to thrust in nearly any direction. Holding Sickles in reserve at Emmitsburg might be prudent in order to cover the left flank, but Henry sensed it was a waste. Push toward the sound of the guns.
"You hear about Reynolds?" Butterfield asked, turning back at last to look at Henry.
"John Reynolds, First Corps?" He felt a sudden tightness. The old professional army was small, and with every action the rank of comrades thinned.
"Word just came in. Killed a couple of hours ago."
John had always led from the front; it was only a matter of time. He had been Commandant of Cadets at West Point and many an officer in the army today had first served under him there and worshipped him. Everyone believed John was destined for greatness and that corps command was simply a stepping-stone. It had been, right into a grave.
Henry looked at Meade, who was still hunched over the railing, field glasses trained on the hills to the north. It was Reynolds who was supposed to be commanding this army now. That's who they had really wanted back in Washington. For once the politicians had been right Meade was good, but John would have been better, a mind perhaps capable of matching Lee's.
But John was dead. He lowered his head, turned, and moved to the other side of the widow's walk, leaning over the side, looking down. Couriers, staff, cavalry escort waited in the open yard below. Dust stirred from farther south and east; columns of troops coming up, Fifth Corps and Second Corps, strung out along twenty miles of road. The entire army was on the move. By tomorrow they'd be concentrated. He looked back to the north, the rumble of fire growing for a moment
Fight them there or here?
It was a meeting engagement up there, us and them, racing to bring up reinforcements. We win the race, hold the good ground, we roll them up. It was a chance, a roll of the dice, but against Lee that was how things had to be played.
He stirred. Meade was looking back at him, and Henry stiffened.
"Your report Hunt"
"I surveyed the ground along Pipe Creek as you ordered, sir."
"Warren has already given me the map."
Henry nodded. Warren had ridden on ahead while he had turned aside for a few minutes to check his batteries parked just outside the town.
"It's a damn good position, sir. Everything you thought it might be. Solid protection on the flanks, clear fields of fire along the entire front good roads behind the lines to move men, and a rail line just seven or eight miles back at Westminster, linking us back to Baltimore."
"If we can lure Lee down into it," Meade replied. 'I'm sending out a circular to the corps commanders that it still might be our position, but it looks like things are being decided differently up there."
Meade pointed toward the norm and the distant clouds of smote.
"You hear about John Reynolds?" Meade asked.
Henry nodded, not saying anything.
"He was in command up there. Now it's General Howard who's senior on the field," and as he spoke Meade gestured toward the dark smudge of smoke rising up into the heavy air.
Henry didn't let his feelings about General Howard show. It wasn't wise to do so when generals were discussing other generals. Some now considered Oliver to be a jinx. He had done well early in the war, losing an arm in a gallant charge at Fair Oaks; but the disastrous rout at Chancellorsville only eight weeks back, when he allowed his entire corps to be flanked and his men panicked, sat squarely on his shoulders. He could be sanctimonious, too, not inspiring confidence when things got tense.
"I've decided to stay here for now," Meade continued. "I've got people spread out from here halfway back to the outskirts, of Frederick. John Sedgwick's Sixth Corps is still thirty miles off. The dispatches are coming here, and I'm stuck in this town for now."
Meade leaned back over the railing, gaze fixed on the northern horizon. "I just sent Winfield Hancock forward to take command until the rest of the army comes up."
Henry could not help but let something slip, a nearly audible sigh of relief, and Meade nodded. "Hancock will put backbone into the fight up there. You head up there as well. You might catch Winfield on the road if you move quickly; he left just a short while ago."
"My orders, sir?"
"Organize the artillery. You know your job, Hunt Put yourself at Hancock's disposal. If it's Gettysburg, and Hancock decides that's the ground to fight it out on, I'll come up later in the day. If not, you help cover the retreat back to here and the line along Pipe Creek. Until we're certain, keep the rest of your Artillery Reserve here in Taneytown, but you are to go forward."
Henry nodded and felt a cool shiver. The long months of exile, of pushing paper, were over. He was being cut loose to fight
Meade turned away without waiting for a reply, and Henry bounded down the stairs, racing through the broad open corridor of the house and out onto the porch. A young orderly from his staff stood jawing with Henry's headquarters sergeant-major, the two of them relaxed in the shade of the porch. At the sight of Henry's approach, the two stiffened.
Henry pointed at his sergeant "Williams, get back to my headquarters. Tell them to come up to Gettysburg. You'll find me up there, most likely near where General Hancock is. The Artillery Reserve is to concentrate here, at Taneytown, and await my orders; but get the batteries ready to move at a moment's notice. You got that?"
The sergeant grinned as he swung into the saddle. "Good fight coming, sir?"
"Sure as hell looks that way."
"Don't get yourself killed, sir," and the sergeant was off.
Henry mounted, spurring his horse, orderly falling in behind with guidon. Leaving the grass-covered yard, Henry weaved his way through the town, which was clogged with troops, supply wagons, and, annoyingly, dozens of civilian buggies and wagons filled with curiosity seekers, the vermin who seemed to mink that a battle was an event for their amusement. Several called out asking what was happening, but he ignored them. One local had had the audacity to set up a stand selling lemonade and cider. Henry made no comment as several men, having drunk their fill, walked off without payment the proprietor shouting for Henry to arrest them. The man looked healthy enough and should be toting a rifle rather than making a few pennies off men who, might be dead by nightfall.
The day was getting hotter, and he reached for his canteen even as he rode, cursing himself for not having filled it at the well back at the house. The lieutenant trailing behind him was new, the boy he replaced having broken a leg in a fall from a horse the day before.
"What's your name, son?" Henry asked.
"Joshua Peeler, sir"
"Where you from?"
Henry nodded and then let the conversation drop. Never get too close to them. Boys carrying guidons drew bullets, lots of bullets.
Henry gained the road heading out of Taney town to Gettysburg. Coming up to a low crest just north of town, he could again see the smoke billowing up on the horizon. The field sloping down before him was already beginning to fill with the signs that he was approaching a battle. Skulkers lingered at the edge of the pasture. At the sight of his approach, they ducked back into the woods. The hay in the field was trampled down, fences torn apart, dozens of small, coiling circles of smoke indicating where a couple of regiments had taken a break and built fires to brew up a quick cup of coffee and fry some salt pork before marching on. Half a dozen men were resting under the shade of an elm, and at his approach one of them held up a provost pass, indicating they had been given permission to fall out of the march. They were obviously played out, done in by the heat and the pace of the advance. Several exhausted horses, cut loose from caisson or wagon traces, wandered freely along the road, one of them collapsed in a ditch, gasping for breath.
It was something about the damn war that always affected him. As a boy the sight of an animal in pain had always bothered him. He had once shot a rabbit and not killed it clean. The poor thing started to scream, sounding just like a baby in agony. He couldn't bring himself to kill it, his father having to do it instead. The memory had haunted his childhood nightmares for months. In a world where animals were slaughtered without thought, Henry had been a curiosity, avoiding open mockery only by the strength of his fists.
And yet he had chosen the bloodiest of professions and the bloodiest of arms within that profession. He had seen entire caisson teams, six horses, cut down by a single burst, animals with legs blown off still running, trying to keep up with their harness mates. After Chapultepec, they had burned the carcasses of fifty horses from his battery after carving off the choicer cuts of meat for dinner.
He rode past the collapsed horse, which looked up at him wide-eyed, as if asking forgiveness for being old and weak. He pressed on.
The road dipped down into a hollow, the air pleasant, cool. Fording the calf-deep stream, Henry tossed his canteen to his orderly, who dismounted, went upriver a dozen paces, and filled it
The shaded glade was peaceful, water swirling around the legs of his horse, who lowered his head to drink. For a moment he could almost forget the war. There was a flash memory of childhood, of playing in the creek on a hot summer day, building dams and little watermills out of sticks and pieces of wood. The lieutenant filling the canteen knelt in the water, splashing some on his face, childlike and innocent looking as if he were about to challenge Henry to a water fight
He wanted to forget everything for a minute, to linger here, soaking up the peace, the cool in the midday heat the quiet without fear of what was to come.
A clattering stirred him from the peaceful moment and he looked back to the ford. An ambulance was crossing and came to a stop. The driver jumped down, letting the horses drink, and started to fill canteens. At Henry's approach, the driver stood up and saluted.
"From Gettysburg?" Henry asked.
One of the wounded was painfully climbing out of the back of the ambulance, a lieutenant of cavalry. "Are you with Buford?"
The man, cradling the stump of an arm, nodded. Henry dismounted, took the man's canteen, and knelt down to fill it.
"What's going on up there?"
"Hell of a fight," the lieutenant whispered, "hell of a fight."
"Who were you facing?"
"I got hit early. Kilmer in there," and he nodded to the ambulance, "leg got blown clean off. Mina, he's dead. Died a few minutes ago. Shot in the head; kept calling for his wife."
Henry handed the canteen back to the battle-shocked lieutenant, who was trembling as if the day was icy cold. "What were you facing, son?"
"I heard it was Heth, rest of A. P Hill's corps behind him. Quinn, I tried to stop the bleeding, but that damn driver wouldn't pull over. Kilmer just needs a drink, and he'll be alright"
Henry spared a glance into the back of the ambulance. It was obvious that the lieutenant's traveling companions were dead, and the boy wasn't far behind. The tourniquet on his arm had slipped.
Henry called the driver over. The driver looked into the back, sighed, and then guided the lieutenant over to the bank of the stream. Sitting him down, he started to reset the tourniquet the boy feebly struggling to get back up to give a canteen to Kilmer.
"Hospital area's just to the south of town, a few miles back," Henry offered.
Henry's orderly came up and, mounting, Henry started off, looking back at the lieutenant who was crying like a lost child.
Riding up the slope from the creek bottom, he had to yield the road several times. Ambulances raced past followed by a lone, panic-stricken rider crying out that the Rebs were into Gettysburg and everyone was dead.
Long experience had taught him that the rear of a battle always looked like a battle lost, and this was no exception. The closer he came to Gettysburg, the more disastrous things appeared. Dozens of exhausted soldiers, collapsing in the July heat, lined the sides of the road, lingering with them the men who had simply collapsed morally and were finding anyway possible to get out of the fight
A scattering of men were drifting down the pike, obviously having been in a fight All were dirty, faces looking like they had escaped from a minstrel show, smudged black from tearing open bullet cartridges with their teeth. He caught glimpses of corps badges, the First and the Eleventh. There was no sense in asking them about the fight. These were men who were getting out and their litany would be the same, that the battle was lost Things must still be holding up front because there was only one true sign of a general retreat when the guns fell back.
A dead horse was sprawled in the middle of the road, covered in lathered sweat next to it an overturned supply wagon filled with rations. A couple of small boys were poking around inside, obviously delighted with all the excitement Anxious civilians lined the road, all of them asking for reassurance, news. The healthy-looking young men in civilian garb caused his blood to boil, and when several shouted questions he was tempted to pull over, grab them by the collar, put guns in their hands, and push them forward.
Off to his left he caught glimpses of a high, tree-clad hill flanked by a lower rise, and he almost pulled over to climb it but decided to push straight on. An old woman standing by a crossroads held up a small basket with fresh-baked bread at his approach, and he reined in for a moment grateful for the offering.
"My boy's with the army?" she said, looking at him hopefully. "Jimmy Davidson, Fifty-third Pennsylvania. Do you know him?"
"No, ma'am, I'm sorry I don't" "He'll be all right, won't he?" He reached out and touched her arm. "I lost my youngest at Antietam. You'll see that Jimmy is all right, won't you?"
"I'll see what I can do, ma'am." She smiled.
"How far to Gettysburg, ma'am?"
"Only two miles or so. The road comes up behind the cemetery where my husband's buried."
"Thank you, ma'am," and he rode on, not looking back as she called out for him to take care of her precious boy.
It was strange but the sound of battle had drifted off, and he half wondered if the engagement had ended and it had, in fact, been simply a diversion. Was Lee up to one of his usual tricks? He felt a vague uneasiness. The entire army was streaming toward Gettysburg, and to turn it about now would be a nightmare.
Along a ridge to the left he caught glimpses of some troopers, mounted, a Union guidon fluttering fitfully in the hot afternoon breeze. Stragglers by the dozens were corning over the ridge, most of them wounded, moving woodenly, slowly; helping each other. A man collapsed and several comrades gathered around to try to bring him back to his feet
Henry pushed on, caught sight of a rise ahead crested with a graveyard, and felt his pulse quicken. Some guns were up there, the crews digging in, dirt flying. He urged his mount to a swift canter and came up the slope.
There was no need to ask for General Hancock. It was plain to see where he was, marked by his corps guidon and a knot of orderlies and staff. Winfield was in the middle of the road atop the crest, standing out in silhouette like some ancient god of war, wreathed in billowing smoke. He was one of those naturals, Henry realized. You could not help but like him, listen to him, be ready to follow him, even though he was six years younger and not so long ago inferior in rank. War propelled some men forward, and Winfield was one of them.
At his approach Hancock turned, an orderly pointing back down the road, calling attention to Hunt. Winfield smiled and Henry gave a casual salute.
"Good place for your guns here, Henry," Winfield announced, nodding to the cemetery to the left of the road. Henry, saying nothing, appraised the ground. The hill was a clear circular slope, with excellent fields of fire, except for a knoll that extended off to the northeast that would be hard to cover. Ring the upper slope with guns, put a battery or two out on the knoll to secure the flank. Typical of cemeteries, the trees were cut back, well trimmed, "the open area beneath the branches offering clear fields of fire for canister. A cemetery makes a damn good killing ground, he thought. He barely considered the irony of the thought.
"Are things simmering down?" Henry asked.
"Hardly. Storm's about to break any second. The Rebs have Early's division coming down on us from the northeast, I'm told. Rodes's division is to the north, and all of A. P. Hill's corps are hitting us on the far side of that ridge. We had a hell of a fight to the west a couple of hours ago. They drove us back at first; but that's the Iron Brigade up there; and those boys will hold till the bitter end."
As Hancock spoke, he pointed out the lay of the land, the town below diem, the open fields beyond to the north. Henry could clearly see dense columns of Confederate troops coming down the road from the northeast, deploying into battle lines, moving through lush, green, patchwork-quilt fields, turning them dark, macabre with their presence, which implied approaching death. Smoke wreathed the hill to the west of the town, but there was little firing at the moment
"Is this the place for the fight?" Henry asked. '"This morning I looked at a place ten miles south of here. It's even better than this. Do you think we could pull Lee down, or is this where we should fight?"
"This is good ground right here, as everyone's been saying, Hunt. Buford saw it so did Reynolds. We might hold them on the far side of town; if not we fall back to this crest dig in, and wait for the rest of the army to come up. For once we have the right position. Put enough guns in the cemetery, and you'll cut the Rebs down like ripened wheat."
Henry nodded. Yes, the guns could do that; the question was, would the infantry support hold?
"Are you in command here, sir?"
Hancock leaned back in the saddle and laughed softly. "That's what the old snapping turtle back in Taneytown said. You can find Oliver Howard over there," and Hancock pointed to the east side of the road. Less than two hundred yards away was a knot of officers.
"We sort of agreed that he'll handle the situation on the east flank; I'll see to the west Hell of a way to run a war, but the men will come to me."
"Is that Eleventh Corps deployed north of the town?"
"Yes. Damn Dutchmen, I think they'll break when it hits."
Henry nodded, still surveying the ground. Even as he did so, the pace of fire to the west started to pick up, and then, with a startling roll of thunder, four or five Confederate batteries to the north and east of town opened up.
"Ah, here comes the storm," Hancock announced.
Within minutes it was indeed a storm, a thunderous arch of fire that swept from northeast to due west, across a front of several miles. After gaining the heights west of Gettysburg, the rebels were now advancing to finish the battle off and drive the Union army from the field. Henry was tempted to go farther forward, to look over several batteries he could see north of town; but damn all, they were under the command of Eleventh Corps and he knew Howard would not tolerate any interference.
Half a dozen batteries were atop the crest of the cemetery. That was his place; dig them in, lay out the fields of fire. He had a gut feeling that Reynolds and Hancock had bitten off a bit more than they could chew. Two corps of the Union army were up, but it was evident from the volume of Confederate artillery fire, upward of a hundred guns or more, that perhaps half of Lee's army was beginning to circle in.
If Meade decided that this was a holding operation, it was going to take one hell of a lot of holding, and the cemetery was going to be the key.
Even as he reached that conclusion, Henry could see men breaking out of the battle smoke to the north of town. Tiny, antlike figures, running hard, were zigzagging back and forth, panic-stricken men.
"Goddamn Dutchmen breaking," Hancock snapped. "Just like at Chancellorsville. Can't this army ever hold?"
"I'll see to the guns atop the crest here," Henry said. "I only have one orderly. Can you send a courier back, sir? Tell any batteries on the road to come forward at all possible speed."
Hancock nodded, shouted the order, and a rider was off.
"Damn all to hell, Henry!" Hancock cried. "Seems like we have one hell of a battle coming down on our necks this day!"
Henry looked at him in amazement The bastard was actually enjoying it. Thrilling to the challenge, the mastery of it and even the fear. All he knew was that he was scared half to death at what he was seeing. The Rebs were beginning to break through, on a vast arc, all across the north side of town; and in less than an hour they'd be into his guns atop the hill.
His guns, and he'd better get them ready for it Turning away from Hancock, Henry rode through the gate of the cemetery, past the graves, and up to where the guns were digging in.
4:00 PM, JULY I, 1863
MCPHERSON'S RIDGE GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
The shell burst knocked him to the ground. Maj. John Williamson, of the Fourteenth South Carolina, felt as if he were floating, not sure if he was alive or already drifting into death. He came back up to his knees. Someone was helping him. He could feel hands on his shoulders, pulling him up.
No pain, just the numbness. The thought triggered a momentary panic. He had seen men eviscerated, entrails looping out onto the ground, stand back up and try to go forward, momentarily unaware that they were dead, until finally the dark hand stilled their heart and they fell.
He started to fumble, feeling his chest, stomach. Where am I hit? "Sir! Sir!"
Sound was returning. The hazy mist behind his eyes was clearing. It was Sergeant Hazner who was speaking, holding him by the shoulders, turning him around. "Are you all right, sir?"
He tried to speak, but the words wouldn't come.
Someone else came up to his side. Private Jenson, his orderly, eyes wide with fear. "You're alright, sir, just stunned!"
Hazner was shouting, and John looked around. The noise, the noise was returning, a wild roar, the swirling insane thunder of musketry, artillery, men screaming, cursing, crying.
He looked past Hazner. The charge was losing force. The regiment was staggering to a halt, men now crouching in the middle of the open field.
"All right. I'm all right. Keep moving!"
He broke free from Hazner's grasp, and at that instant another shell detonated… and Jenson seemed to disappear into pulpy mist, what was left of him spraying over them.
Hazner staggered back, stunned, face covered with Jenson's blood.
John turned away, struggling not to vomit. — "John!"
He looked up; the voice was clear and recognizable, Lt Colonel Brown, commander of the regiment.
"Goddamn it, John, move these men!" Brown screamed. "We've got to move!"
The sense of what he was supposed to do, why he was here, returned. He saluted as Brown turned about and disappeared back into the smoke.
John looked down the length of their line. Only minutes before (or was it hours?) they had stepped off, moving past the wreckage of Harry Heth's division, which had fought itself out Heth's boys had shouted that they were facing that damned Black Hat Brigade of the Yankees' First Corps.
The ridge ahead was wreathed in a dirty yellow-gray cloud of smoke, the only thing visible the pinpoint flashes from muskets and artillery. Above the smoke he caught occasional glimpses of a cupola crowning a large brick building.
"Come on, boys!" It was Brown, stepping in front of the line, waving his sword. "We can't stay out here! Come on!"
The battle line started to surge forward. He heard Brown screaming, urging the men on.
He spared a quick glance for Hazner. The sergeant face covered with Jenson's blood, pushed back into the line, screaming for the men to keep moving.
"Go, goddamn it go!" John screamed, adding in his own voice, pushing through the battle line, urging his men forward.
The momentum of the charge began to build again, and he felt swept up in it, driven forward like a leaf, one of thousands of leaves flung into the mouth of a hurricane.
Men were screaming, a wild terrible wolflike cry, the rebel yell.
"Go! Go! Go!"
He kept screaming the single word over and over, urging his men on. Some were ahead of him, running forward, heads down, shoulders hunched, staggering as if into the blast from the open door of a furnace.
He caught a glimpse of the colors. Then the flag bearer spun around, going down in a heap. An instant later he was back up, like a sprinter who had lost his stride but for a second. Disbelieving, John saw that the boy had lost his right arm, blown, off at the shoulder. The boy was holding the colors aloft with his left hand, waving them defiantly, screaming for the regiment to press in and kill the bastards.
They were at the bottom of the swale, the ground flattening out, then rising up less than a hundred yards to the crest
No fire from up forward. Were they running?
The smoke was drifting up, rising in thick, tangled coils.
"Go! Go! Go!"
John caught a glimpse of their line. "Merciful Jesus!" The cry escaped him. The Yankees weren't running. They had always run when the charge came in. Not this time. They were standing up, preparing to deliver a volley, bright musket barrels rising up, coming down in unison.
A thousand voices all mingled together as one, screams of terror, rage, defiance… calls to press on, to charge, to halt to run. Momentum carried them forward, inexorably forward into the waiting death.
He saw the rippling flash, the explosion of the volley. It swept over them, through them, tearing gaping holes in the line. Men spun around, screaming. The entire line staggered, dozens dropping. Bodies went down in bloody heaps, punched by two, three, even half a dozen rounds.
The line staggered to a halt. Those who were left were raising their rifles, ready to return fire.
"No! Now, charge them now!" The words exploded out of him, and he continued forward, sword raised high.
The mad spine-tingling yell, which had nearly been extinguished by the volley, now redoubled. Men came up around him, shouldering him aside, pressing forward.
The Yankees were so close now John could see their faces, so blackened by powder they looked like badly made-up actors in a minstrel show. Some were frantically working to reload; others were lowering rifles, bayonets poised, others swinging guns around, grabbing the barrels. Yet others were backing up, starting to turn, to run.
The sight of them unleashed a maddened frenzy, his men screaming, coming forward, shouting foul obscenities, roaring like wolves at the scent of blood. They hit the low barricade of fence rails in front of the seminary and went up over it. A musket exploded in his face, burning his check. Clumsily he cut down with his sword, the blade striking thin air, the.man before him disappearing.
The melee poured over and around him. They were into the line, breaking it apart. The Yankees were falling back, some running, most giving ground grudgingly, as if they were misers not willing to give a single inch without payment It was the Black Hats, the Iron Brigade; after then-stand at Second Manassas and their valiant charge at Antietam they were the most feared brigade in the Army of the Potomac.
His men surged forward, pressing them across a narrow killing ground, the two lines sometimes touching and exploding into a flurry of kicks, jabs, punches, and clubbed rifles, then parting, firing into each other across a space of less than a dozen yards.
They pushed around the brick building, crossing over the ' top of the crest As the land dropped away, what was left of the Yankee formation broke apart, the last of them turning, running.
John caught a glimpse of men leaping out of the open windows of the seminary, one man dropping from the second floor, his legs snapping as he hit the hard ground. A Yankee officer was by the entryway, wearing a bloody apron, waving a hospital flag.
"Major Williamson! Secure that building! Round up the captives."
He caught a glimpse of Brown in the press, the one-armed flag bearer beside him, still waving the colors. "Hazner!"
The sergeant was by his side, rounding up a mix of men as John sprinted for the steps. The Yankee officer was still in the doorway; he caught a glimpse of green shoulder straps, a surgeon.
"This is a hospital!" the Yankee shouted. "Hazner, check the building."
The sergeant shouldered past the Yankee surgeon and cautiously stepped through the door. He hesitated for a second and then plunged into the gloom.
John, the hysteria of the charge still on him, panting for breath, kept his sword pointed at the surgeon.
"I surrender, sir."
"You're damn right you surrender," John gasped.
The surgeon stared, gaze drifting down to the sword that John held poised, aimed at the man's chest.
John suddenly felt embarrassed; the mad frenzy was clearing. The man was a surgeon, a non-combatant He lowered the sword. "Sorry, sir," he said woodenly.
The surgeon nodded.
"I need help in here," and the surgeon gestured into the building.
The stench was drifting out through the open doors… blood, excrement, open wounds, ether, a steady, nerve-tingling hum, groans, cries for water, air, engulfed John as he went inside. He stepped over the body of a Yankee gunner, both legs gone just above the knees, a sticky pool of blood congealing on the floor. The corridor was packed with wounded, men cradling shattered limbs, gasping for air. Frothy bubbles of blood mushroomed from chest wounds. A boy still clutching his fife was crying; a grizzled old sergeant, left foot shot away, sat cradling the lad in his lap.
The sergeant looked up at John, eyes smoldering. John looked away, unable to say anything. He caught a glimpse into a classroom, desks pushed together, a door torn off from its hinges laid across the desks, now serving as a surgeon's table. They were working on a boy, stripped naked from the waist down, taking his leg off, the meat of the thigh laid open. It reminded John of butchering day, the way the meat of the leg was cut away. He averted his gaze. "Gave you hell, we did."
He looked down; a lieutenant, pale, sweat beading his face, cradling a shattered arm, holding it tight against his chest, looked up at him defiantly.
"Gave you damn Rebs hell, we did."
John nodded, looking away, trying to find Hazner.
John looked back down. "A drink. Got anything."
Caught by surprise, John reached around to his canteen and unslung it, handing it down.
The lieutenant tried to reach up, grimacing as he let go of the arm. John could see the white of the bone, arterial blood. spurting. The lieutenant groaned, grabbed the arm again.
"Here, let me help," John whispered, as he knelt down, uncorking the canteen, holding it up.
"Whiskey mixed in there; take it slow."
The lieutenant tilted his head back, took a long gulp, choked for a moment, then nodded for more. John held the canteen, let him drink again.
The lieutenant sighed, leaned back. "Ah, that's good, thanks, Reb."
He started to cork the canteen and saw the pleading eyes of a man lying next to the lieutenant, shot through both cheeks, bits of bone and teeth still in the wound. The man couldn't speak, but his desire was clear.
It was Hazner. The sergeant was standing in the corridor, looking at him.
John handed the canteen to the man shot in the face.
'Take it slow, rinse your month out first" The Yankee nodded, eyes shiny, unable to speak. "Where you from, Reb?" It was the lieutenant "South Carolina." He hesitated, then the question spilled out "And you?"
"Indiana. Lafayette. Nineteenth Indiana." "Iron Brigade?"
The lieutenant's eyes brightened. "Yes, by God, and we gave it to you today."
John had a flash memory of the final volley, the way the muskets had caught the sunlight sifting through the smoke, the flashing barrels lowering as if guided by a single hand, the shattering volley at near point-blank range.
"You did well, Lieutenant"
"You won't win this one, Major."
John said nothing.
"We'll keep fighting. Keep fighting, we'll never give up." "Nor will we," John said quietly. "Lieutenant you're next"
Two orderlies stepped to either side of John and reached out with blood-caked hands, helping the lieutenant up. John stood up, motioning for the man next to him to keep the canteen. Inwardly he regretted the decision. It was hot The day was still long, but he didn't have the heart to take it back as the man raised it up and vainly struggled to rinse his mouth out so he could get a drink, blood, watered whiskey, bits of teeth, and saliva dribbling down his jacket.
John stood, heading toward Hazner. The lieutenant was going through the door into the operating room. The boy on the table before him was dead, two orderlies lifting the body off, clearing the way for the next customer for the knife. John caught the lieutenant's eyes for a second.
"Good luck." '
"You too, Reb."
"Major, you gotta see this."
Hazner was by his side, pointing.
John followed as Hazner reached the staircase and started up.
Damn strange war, John thought Ten minutes earlier I would have killed him, killed everyone in here; now I leave my canteen with them.
Hazner took the steps two and three at a time, shouldering aside the Yankees who cluttered the way. Surprisingly, some of them were still armed, but he could see the fight was out of them as they leaned against the blood-splattered walls or sat in dejected silence.
Reaching the top floor, Hazner pointed the way to a ladder that ascended into the cupola. One of his men stood with lowered musket pointing it casually at several officers. One of them made the gesture of offering his sword; John waved him aside.
He followed Hazner up the ladder, and as they emerged through the hatchway, the relative silence inside gave way to a thunderous roar.
John stepped up onto the platform. "My God."
Hazner looked at him, grinning like a child. "Best seats in me house!" the sergeant cried.
John soaked in every detail and knew that if he should live a hundred years, this moment, this place, would forever be etched into his soul.
A great, vast sweeping line, rank upon rank, regiments, brigades, entire divisions were arrayed in a giant arc, closing in on the town of Gettysburg from the northeast north, northwest and directly below from the west.
Dozens of battle flags, red Saint Andrew's crosses and state flags marked the advance. Formations moving forward behind the colors looking like inverted Vs.
They were running, the Yankees were running, and he felt a wave of exultation. All semblance of formation was lost crowds of men were stampeding, pouring into the streets of the town, surging around the perimeter, jumping fences, stumbling, falling. The roads were tangled knots of artillery limbers and caissons, ambulances, supply wagons. A thunderclap erupted to his left, and John turned, saw the first gun of Pegram's battalion already in place. Other guns we're coming up the road, driving hard, swinging into position.
The noise was beyond anything he could imagine, louder even than in the woods of Chancellorsville. It was a wild, steady, thundering roar, punctuated by the shrieking rebel' yell as the arc closed in, driving the Yankees.
A hissing scream snapped past the cupola, followed an instant later by another, the shell bursting fifty yards behind them.
He looked past the town. A hill rose up beyond, wreathed in smoke, billowing clouds igniting… artillery.
"Here, sir, got this from one of them Yankee officers."
Hazner handed John a pair of field glasses..One of the cylinders was badly dented, the lens cracked. He closed his left eye and focused the one good lens, training it on the hill.. The lower slopes were swarming with men, disorganized clumps, flotsam tossed up on a stormy beach, the tide of defeat sending them up and over the hill. Here and there defiant groups clustered around their flags, turning, firing, then continuing to fall back.
The top of the hill was crowned by a cemetery. Guns ringed the crest. Even as he watched, a battery of three guns laboriously climbed the hill, gunners leaning against the wheels, helping the exhausted horses. Men came running down to help. A mounted officer galloped up to the battery, reining in, gesturing, pointing.
"Digging in up there, sir."
John said nothing, studying the position.
It was good ground for them. He caught a glimpse of a swarm of men, running up the road that crested the hill. An officer cut in front of them, waving a sword. Some of them surged around the officer, continuing in their mad flight, but most slowed, a few collapsing on their hands and knees and then staggering back'up, forming around a flag.
John turned and looked back westward. The Cashtown Road, the road they had advanced on only this morning, was clearly visible, all the way back to the South Mountains. It was packed with troops, long, swaying columns. Afternoon sunlight poked through the clouds, flashing on the muskets. He saw a cluster of officers riding alongside the road coming toward him. Men were raising rifles, hats held aloft, a rippling movement that swept down the line as the officers pressed forward at a slow canter. "Come on!" John cried.
He slid down the ladder, landing hard, and ran down the stairs. Reaching the main floor, he gingerly stepped around the wounded. The surgeon who had surrendered the building tried to say something, but John avoided him, moving fast.
He raced out of the building. All was confusion outside, wounded Yankees, wounded Confederates now intermingled. Those who could walk were coming up from the field where the charge had swept in. Several hundred bluecoats, disarmed, sat around the building, a few sentries guarding them. A column of troops, moving on the double, was coming up over the crest, following their colors, a North Carolina state flag. The men were panting, canteens rattling. A number of men had pairs of shoes tied by the laces and slung over their shoulders or around their necks, booty stripped from the dead, but there was no time yet to try them on. He reached the road just as the knot of officers came up the slope.
Men were stopping, seeing who was coming, cheering.
John took a deep breath and stepped in front of the group. "Walter! Walter!"
One of the officers looked over, saw John, smiled, and reined in.-
John, remembering that his old friend was now a superior in rank, came loosely to attention and saluted.
Lt Col. Walter Taylor, chief of staff to Gen. Robert E. Lee, leaned over and extended his hand. "John, how are you?"
'Tolerable. A hard fight"
"Saw you go in. You were magnificent The general said it was a proud day for South Carolina."
John caught a glimpse of the general coming up the slope, General Longstreet by his side.
"Walter, can I have a word with the general?".
Walter looked at him appraisingly. He was the gatekeeper, the one who fended off the glory seekers, the hangers-on, the dozens, the hundreds who every day wanted to see Lee.
"Up there, Walter," and he pointed to the cupola. "Go up there. You can see the whole thing. There's a hill beyond the town; that's where they're falling back. I saw everything from up there."
Walter nodded. "Follow me."
Lee approached. John looked up at him. He had seen Lee numerous times. Being an old college roommate of the chief of staff meant that he was often invited to headquarters for a late-night drink or game of cards. Yet every time he had seen him, there was a cold chill, a sense of reverent awe, a belief that if their country was to survive that this man would be the savior. He remembered him from just three nights back, sitting alone in the field, most likely contemplating all that was now happening.
John remembered as well his own panic and terror of that night It had lingered about him like an unpleasant scent in the air that would not disappear. He had mastered it again for the moment, caught up in the hysteria of the charge, but the fear was still there, whispering to him, warning that something terrible was just ahead.
He forced the thought aside. He was about to speak to the "Old Man," and he had to play his part.
He self-consciously tugged at his uniform and caught a glimpse of Sergeant Hazner by his side, fumbling to button up his jacket
Walter intercepted Lee; the two exchanged words; Lee looked over, nodded, approached the last dozen yards, and stopped.
Lee, eyes bright calm, looked down, the touch of a smile on his face. "I trust you are well, Major Williamson."
John, surprised that Lee remembered his name, could barely speak for a moment
"The blood, sir, are you hurt?"
John looked down at his uniform… his orderly, head gone, body collapsing. He shook his head. "No, sir. One of my men…" and his voice trailed off.
Lee nodded, a fatherly look of understanding in his eyes. "South Carolina did splendidly today," Lee finally replied. "I saw the charge go in."
"Thank you, sir," and he hesitated, not sure what to say next
"You have some information for me?"
John gulped, nodded. "Sir. From up there," and he pointed back to the cupola. "I was just up there. We're driving them, sir, really driving them. But south of the town, they're beginning to reform. Artillery, I'd say at least thirty guns, sir, and what's left of their infantry; most of it is rallying."
General Longstreet reined in beside Lee, catching John's last words.
"Fresh troops?" Longstreet asked.
"I didn't see any, sir."
John was surprised at how casually Longstreet had interrupted the conversation, but Lee did not react
Lee looked over at Longstreet "We have their First and Eleventh Corps here, and we've defeated them," Lee said. "It might be nightfall before the rest of them begin to come up."
"We are not sure what's beyond that hill," Longstreet replied, pointing east where the crest of Cemetery Hill was just visible, covered in smoke.
Lee looked back down at John. "Thirty guns?"
"I can't promise that sir, but I think that's close. I saw a battery coming out of the town and moving into place. There might be more soon."
Lee turned his attention back to Longstreet
"Sir," Longstreet said slowly, "we've done well today, very well. We don't want to get tangled up in that town. If we try for that next hill now, we might be sticking our necks out"
"General Longstreet we have them on the run. We will drive these people, drive them, sir!"
He stopped for a second, looking with solemn determination from Longstreet to Taylor, then back to Longstreet again. John stood by, aware that Lee barely noticed that he was there.
"Drive them, sir, drive them. If they are running, I will press them."
As he spoke the last words, he gestured toward the town, to the heart of the battle. John turned to look and sensed that the thunder was abating, the attack dying off even as Lee called for the battle to continue.
"Now is when to press them," Lee said, his voice sharp. "I want those people driven off that far hill within the hour. Colonel Taylor, let us go find General Ewell."
Longstreet began to speak, but a glance from Lee stilled him.
"General Longstreet, return to your corps. Have them come forward with all possible haste. General Hill is not well today. If need be, you are to assume control over his men still on the road and press them forward. I want Johnson and Anderson's divisions to come forward and prepare to go into action."
Without waiting for a reply, Lee reined Traveler around and started toward the town.
John saluted as he passed, but the general did not notice.
"By God, what is going on with him today?" Longstreet asked, looking over at Taylor.
"His blood is up, General. His blood is up."
Walter saluted as Longstreet, features grim, turned his mount and started back in the opposite direction.
Walter looked down at John. 'Take care, John. It's a hot day."
John saluted, saying nothing as Walter set off to catch up with Lee.
A hot day. Suddenly he felt very thirsty. "Sergeant, you got a drink?''
Hazner shook his head. "Gave my canteen to some Yankee."
"Damn it," John sighed.
"Sir, we better get back to the regiment. The Old Man's blood is up, and you know what that means."
John watched as Lee cantered down the road, heading into the town, hat off, acknowledging the cheers of his men, urging them forward. He could sense the vibrant excitement rushing through the army, the indefinable something, the inner spark that Lee could strike and, once struck, exploded into flame. It felt as if they were on the edge of a distant dream, that just beyond the mist, the smoke ahead, were the green, sunlit fields… of home.
"Perhaps today is the last day," John whispered. "Perhaps today we will finish it."
"That's it Dilger, feed it to 'em, damn them, feed it to 'em!"
Sitting down to see under the smoke, Henry braced his elbows on his knees and trained his field glasses on the column of Confederate infantry cresting over Seminary Ridge.
"Number one… fire!"
The first of Dilger's Napoleons recoiled with a thunderclap boom, smoke jetting from the muzzle and touchhole. "Number two… fire!" Henry waited expectantly. "Number three… fire!"
A yellow blossom of fire ignited fifty yards short of the Reb column.
"Number four… fire!"
No detonation from the second… "Goddamn fuses," he muttered softly. Number three's shell slammed into the flank of the column and detonated, toylike figures of men tumbling over.
"That's the stuff, number three!" Henry cried, coming back to his feet.
The powder-begrimed crew paused for a second in their labors, looking over at Henry, grinning, but knew better than to revel in their glory, and within seconds were back to work.
"Number one, set your damn sights!"
Captain Dilger, whose Ohio volunteer battery had been in action since midmorning, came up to the general. "Sir, ammunition?" Dilger asked, voice barely a whisper.
Henry unslung his canteen and handed it over. The captain
took a mouthful, rinsed, spat it out, and then took several long
"I'm bringing up more," Henry said, "just keep pouring it in."
"Thank you," but his voice still cracked, raw from hours of shouting, breathing the thick, sulfurous fumes, and from sheer exhaustion.
"Pour it on 'em," Henry replied. "You've got infantry columns in flank, by God," and he pointed toward the seminary, where snakelike lines of butternut and gray, following their regimental flags, were pouring over the ridgeline north of town, streaming down into the fields beyond, maneuvering past the town and heading east
"My God, the arrogance of those people marching like that" Henry exclaimed excitedly. "Just pour it on. I'll make sure you get resupplied." He started to turn away.
Henry looked back.
"Ah, sir. My men, it's been…" His voice trailed off under Henry's icy gaze.
"We hold this hill till the last gun, the last man," Henry replied sharply. "I don't give a damn if you are the last man standing, these guns don't go back another inch."
Number one fired again. He turned his attention back, but the smoke was too thick; it was impossible to see.
"You have the range!" Henry shouted, section commanders and gun sergeants looking back at him. "Smoke or no smoke, keep pouring it on!"
He stalked off, barely flinching as a shot plowed through the trees overhead, branches ripping off, littering the ground around him.
Looking downslope, he watched as the infantry continued to dig in. Most of them were General Schurz's Germans, the one reserve brigade from Eleventh Corps who had been held back by Howard to fortify the hill. They were the only fresh troops left; and though most of their comrades had broken and run in the debacle north of town, these men still looked fit, eager to prove their name.
A colonel, seeing Henry, came off the line, approached, and gave a friendly salute. "Think the Rebs are going to keep coming?" he asked.
"By God, I hope the bastards do come," Henry growled.
Even as he spoke, there was a flurry of rifle fire, confused shouts. Out of the smoke clinging to the bottom of the hill, shadowy, forms emerged, dark blue uniforms, running, most of them unarmed. One of them spun around, going down, his comrades leaving him behind. They reached Schurz's line, refusing to stop, crying that everything was lost and that the Rebs were coming.
Henry watched disdainfully as the men, several of them officers, staggered past. A light breeze eddied across the face of the hill, lifting the smoke, revealing hundreds of panic-stricken Union troops still pouring out of the town.
The infantry colonel, features drawn, looked over at Hunt. "A shameful.day for Eleventh Corps," he sighed, shaking his head. "We broke at Chancellorsville and again today. Damn it all, sir, I have good men in my command; its just that we keep getting put out on the flank."
"Redeem it then, Colonel. I'm counting on you to cover my guns. You want to redeem your honor? Then hold, man. You've got to hold."
Dilger's battery fired again, the infantry downslope and in front of the guns crouching low, cursing as the shells screamed over them.
"If it comes to canister rounds, I want clear fields of fire in front!" Henry shouted. "We won't have time to stop for anyone still in front. Make sure of that, Colonel. When the time comes, you pull back in around my guns and clear the field for my canisters."
Henry turned and continued down the line without waiting for a reply. Next to Dilger, to the east and nearly astride the main road to Baltimore, were the three twelve-pound Napoleon smoothbores of Stewart's Battery B, Fourth U.S. Regulars.
Their professionalism showed. At midmorning, on the flank of the railroad cut the Rebs had surged up to the muzzles of their guns and the battery had held, — before being ordered to retreat back to the cemetery.
The intensity of their fight showed. Limber wagons, caissons, and even the field pieces were scored and splintered from rifle fire. The once-polished bronze barrels were blackened, the men grimy, uniforms torn, more than one soldier with a makeshift bandage around an arm or leg. Some infantry had been drafted into the ranks to replace those lost in the final melee, the new recruits serving on the wheels and prolonge to maneuver the pieces back into place after firing. The smoothbores didn't have the range to accurately shell the troops maneuvering to the north of town, so instead they were carefully dropping case shot against any columns of Rebs moving within the town of Gettysburg.
No need to offer advice here, Henry thought as the sergeant on the number two piece, not satisfied with the aim, crouched back down, sighting along the barrel, urging the two men working the prolonge to shift the trail piece a couple of inches to the right Both his hands suddenly went up, signaling that the gun was correctly laid. He barely touched the elevation gear positioned under the breech and detached the rear sight Reaching into the pouch dangling from his hip, he pulled out a fresh friction primer and inserted it into the breech, then clipped the lanyard to the primer. Stepping back and to the side of the gun, he uncoiled the lanyard until it was taut. The sergeant did his job with an almost detached calm, even though the air was alive with the hum of bullets, the shriek of enemy solid shot, and shells winging in. "Stand clear!"
The infantrymen pressed into service jumped back from the gun, turning away, covering their ears. The sergeant looked back over his shoulder to Stewart, the battery commander, waiting for the signal. As his gaze swept back, he caught a glimpse of Henry. There was a flash of recognition and a nod. O'Donald… sergeant back with Battery A of the Second, long before the war, his first command.
Henry returned the nod and smiled, remembering O'Donald as the quintessential Irish artilleryman, loudmouthed, a first-class brawler who could clear out a saloon, especially if some cavalrymen dared to make a comment about gunners. He was proud of his craft, every inch a professional.
"Number two… fire!"
O'Donald jerked the lanyard, turning half away as he did so. The Napoleon let off with a roar. Mingled in with the discharge was the sound that was music to Hunt's ears, the almost bell-like ring from the bronze tube as it belched forth its twelve-pound shot, a sound distinctly different than the sharper crack of the ten-pound rifles.
The crew leapt to work, rolling the gun back into position.
It was Hancock. Winfield Scott Hancock, trim looking, almost dapper in a sparkling white shirt, cuffs and collar still clean. His coat was adorned with two
stars on each shoulder and neatly tailored. He was no dandy though. There was a radiant power that generated the instant respect that Henry always felt in his presence. Hancock reined in hard, followed by half a dozen of his staff.
"Glad to see you're still alive, Henry!" Hancock shouted, leaning over from the saddle, extending his hand.
"You too, sir."
Henry grinned. Winfield was his definition of a commander, a man who led from the front and set the example. Another shell whistled past. Winfield didn't notice it, even though those trailing behind him flinched and ducked low in their saddles. "Henry, they'll do it any minute now."
Henry spared a quick glance back to the north. The massive columns, what looked to be an entire division, were still-moving, continuing to flank to the east. 'They might wait till those reinforcements are in position."
"I think that's Johnson," Hancock replied, "the old Stonewall division, the best they've got.
But it'll be an hour or more before they're in position.
"They're pressing hard, damn hard. Bobbie Lee won't wait. He's coming straight in with what he's got."
Bobbie Lee. Damn, how strange this all is. There was a time when I would have led a battery straight into the gates of hell if that old man had asked me.
He can go to hell by himself for abandoning the flag and his oath to it. Henry thought bitterly. Let him come and try to take this hill now.
"Henry, can you hold?"
"Ammunition. Give me enough, and I'll hold this hill until Judgment Day. But if they come on now, I'll need more ammunition for later when Johnson comes in."
"You hold now; I'll worry about later. Give 'em everything you've got!"
As if in fulfillment of Hancock's prophecy, Henry saw a column of Confederate infantry emerging out of the smoke that drifted along the streets of the town. They were on the Baltimore Pike, charging straight in. Another column poured out of a side street, spreading out, no semblance of order, just a ragged tangle, coming on fast, jumping over fences, moving through back lots, kitchen gardens, and alleyways.
"This is it!" Hancock roared.
Spurring his mount, he tore past Henry, waving his hat, standing in his stirrups, shouting for the men to get ready.
Henry looked over his shoulder. His orderly was still trailing, leading his mount He ran over, got back into the saddle, and grabbed the reins.
'This road is the Baltimore Pike," and as he spoke he pointed at the road that passed in front of the cemetery gate; "it heads back to Littlestown. There are troops and batteries strung along it for miles. I want you to ride like hell."
The boy nodded, looking past Henry, taking in the sight of the advancing Confederates, eyes wide.
"Look at me, damn you!" The boy shifted his gaze and stiffened under Henry's icy stare.
"Any batteries you pass, tell them I am ordering them up here on the double. I need ammunition, especially canister. You tell any battery commander you meet, press the ammunition forward. If need be, drive the horses till they drop and then push the damn limber wagons by hand! Now go!"
The boy, impressed with the urgency of his mission, forgot to salute as he reined his horse about and set off at a gallop.
Henry moved along the line, angling downslope to a knoll at the northern tip of Cemetery Hill, where the Reb assault would first hit. Wiedrich's First New York Light Artillery, one of two batteries of Napoleons kept back by Howard and ordered to dig in, held the forward point. The men had been frantically working throughout the afternoon, their efforts undoubtedly spurred on by the sight of the disaster befalling their comrades north and west of the town.
Crescent-shaped lunettes, piles of dirt, fence rails, logs, anything that could stop an incoming round, were thrown up around the four guns. Decimated regiments, what was left of Adelbert Ames's brigade from the battered Eleventh Corps, deployed around the guns, a lone regiment farther downslope. Henry reined in behind the four guns, judging the lay of their fire as the four guns slammed case shot into the advancing enemy.
Red flags-the Saint Andrew's crosses of the Army of Northern Virginia-were streaming out of the town, half a dozen regiments at least, not slowing to shake formation out from line to column; they were coming on at the double.
It was General Ames, face powder blackened, uniform sleeve torn, hat gone, hard pushed but obviously boiling for a fight, standing by Henry's side.
"Land north of town is a worthless piece of shit!" Ames shouted, pointing to the indefensible flat ground. "I told Howard, put us all here, but he sent us over there instead. I lost half my brigade."
Henry said nothing, attention focused on the advancing Rebs, still four hundred yards out. Every gun that could be brought to bear, more than thirty of them, was opening up. Case shot ignited over the enemy lines, dropping dozens. Still they pressed on.
"Good ground here though," Ames continued. "Let the sons of bitches come. You back me up, Henry, just back me up."
Henry remembered Ames as an infantry captain before the war, the star on his shoulders a very recent climb to the exalted rank of brigadier general, supposedly for organizing and training some regiment from Maine to a fighting pitch and leading it into action at Fredericksburg.
"It's the other way around!" Henry shouted back. "Support my guns, and we hold this hill."
Ames, noted for a volatile temper, colored slightly, then broke into a grin. "All right then, damn it, all right"
Ames left him, going on foot down the slope to his forward regiment the Seventeenth Connecticut deployed at the bottom of the hill.
Henry rode straight into the middle of Wiedrich's battery, the men working slavishly at reloading, fuses on the case shot cut to two seconds.
Guns recoiled, their thunder joined by the other batteries ringing the hill. He beard the sharp whine of shells from Stevens's guns, deployed on a knoll flanking the east side of Cemetery Hill, the three-inch bolts skimming close to where he stood, dropping down into the rebel lines, detonating with deadly accuracy.
"Canister! Switch to canister!" Henry roared.
Wiedrich's loaders, working at the caissons, deployed twenty yards behind the pieces, picked up the premade rounds, tins holding seventy iron balls and strapped directly to serge powder bags so that the close-in ammunition could be loaded more swiftly. The loaders ran forward, gun sergeants swearing, urging the men oh.
Henry watched, always the professional. He carefully eyed the pieces, nodding with approval as gun sergeants actually raised elevation slightly to loft the canister rounds across the three hundred yards to the closing enemy lines. On a flat plain he'd still be ordering case shot, but this high up, canister would plunge down into the Rebs with enough force still remaining to break an arm or smash a skull.
The first gun fired, the other three following suit in a matter of seconds. The deadly dance continued: gunners wheeling pieces back into place, rammers sponging out gun bores to kill* any sparks, loaders running up with ammunition, sergeants directing the lay of their piece, depressing elevation slightly, even as the rammers.slammed the rounds in. Pieces were primed, crews stepping back, section commanders shouting the order, the one-ton Napoleons lifting up with a terrifying recoil. The hissing scream of canister tins bursting as they cleared the breech echoed around Henry, iron balls shrieking downrange. If close enough, one could hear the sound of that hot iron tearing off arms, legs, killing with a hideous cruelty.
And still they came on. The enemy lines were spreading out, a brigade or more coming straight at Wiedrich and Ames.
The Seventeenth Connecticut, down at the bottom of the slope, opened up with a sharp volley. Schurz's men, on the left flank, opened as well, a good hard volley that cut into the flank of the Reb charge.
Another volley from Connecticut and then the men started to pull back, not running, Ames directing the orderly retreat, his high, clear voice ringing, making it clear he'd shoot the first bastard who tried to run.
The Seventeenth poured up the hill, the sight of their pullback heartening the Rebs; who let loose a triumphal shrieking roar. The defiant note of it, almost a mocking laugh, stiffened the men around Henry.
"Come on and get it, you sons of bitches!" one of the men of the Seventeenth cried as he came up over the lunette of Wiedrich's second gun.
His cry was picked up by others who stood, holding rifles high, bitter men, angry at the beating they had been taking all day, ashamed, and now ready to prove something.
"Come on, come on and get it!" the scream rolled up and down the line.
"All the cowards have run off. What we have left is the steel." It was Hancock, reining in by Henry's side. He stood up tall in the stirrups, right fist punching the air. "Come on, come on and get it, you bastards!"
Henry, looking at him, felt that here was a moment he 'would forever hold in memory, the late afternoon sun slanting in, illuminating Hancock, behind him and arrayed up the slope of Cemetery Hill, six batteries, thirty guns, firing, smoke billowing, tongues of fire lashing out, and Hancock filling the foreground like a god of war, fist raised high, urging the enemy to just try and take the hill.
The men of the Seventeenth filled in around the guns, hunkering down, rifles poised, flinching as the guns beside them fired yet again. The range was down to less than 200 yards and then to 150.
For a gunner this was a murderous dream, to be up on a good slope, supported by infantry, the enemy in canister range with only a scattering of ineffective counter-battery fire in support… it was impossible to miss them.
' "They're actually going to try for it!" Hancock exclaimed.
Henry didn't need to be told. Enemy flag bearers were at the fore, colors leaning forward, officers waving swords, the rebel yell echoing.
A hundred yards, they were on the slope, over the low stone wall abandoned by the Seventeenth pouring up the road, breaking into a run.
"Wiedrich, load double canister!"
His battery commander didn't need to be told. The charge was coming on fast; Ames's men were pouring it on, volleys by companies and regiments, then the steady staccato roar of independent fire.
Gun sergeants waited, poised, crouching low, holding lanyards taut The Rebs, seeing what was ahead'-a full battery loading with double canister-slowed, until officers and noncoms, screaming for the charge, pushed them forward. In the fore was a lone mounted officer, hat gone, white hair streaming, standing in his stirrups, urging the men on.
Wiedrich's four guns' recoiled, each piece discharging nearly 150 two-ounce iron balls. Six hundred man-killing rounds filled the space in front of the battery, screaming downrange, turning the space ahead into an impenetrable killing zone.
The impact was devastating. Entire lines went down. Men were picked up, pitched backward half a dozen yards, decapitated bodies, broken limbs, shattered muskets, torn-up sod, gravel, and dust, the debris swirled up by hundreds of canister rounds flung high into the air.
"That's it!" Hancock screamed. "Again, give it to them again!"
Amazingly, out pf the dust and smoke, a rebel battle line emerged. There were gaping holes, but still they pressed on. Rifle lire flickered out of the smoke.
Henry's mount let out an agonizing shriek, rearing up, nearly throwing him. The horse started to roll over on its side. Kicking his feet out of the stirrups, Henry jumped clear, rolling as the horse crashed down, its hooves flaying the air.
Stunned, Henry came back up to his feet and was staggered as the horse, thrashing in its death agony, kicked him just above his left knee, nearly knocking him back over. For a second he thought the leg was broken.
He stepped back and then felt a tug at his left shoulder. He looked down and saw the ragged tear where a rifle ball or a shell fragment had torn off his shoulder strap.
The sound of battle redoubled into a thundering roar. He looked up. Hancock was still mounted, still standing in his stirrups, shouting. A gun sergeant, stepping back, pulling his lanyard taut, ready to fire, suddenly spun around and collapsed, clutching frantically at his throat, bright arterial blood spraying out in a geyser.
The section commander came up, tried to grab the lanyard, and went down as well.
Beyond the gun, Henry could see them pouring in; several of the Rebs, dashing forward with fanatical bravery, were already up on to the lunette, bayonets poised, only to be swept away as the men of the Seventeenth rose up to meet them. Hand-to-hand fighting exploded around the guns.
Henry limped forward into the middle of the melee, ducking low under a musket butt swung by a screaming Reb, who was suddenly tossed backward, shot in the chest Henry reached down and picked up the lanyard.
He looked forward. Men were coming out of the smoke, a flag bearer in the lead.
He jerked the lanyard taut and then pulled. The Napoleon leapt back with a thunderclap roar. Those in front of the bore simply disappeared, blown into a pulpy spray.
He dropped the lanyard, pulled out his revolver… but there was nothing left to shoot at… only the smoke engulfing them. He caught shadowy glimpses of Rebs falling back, running, disappearing into the smoke. The charge was broken.
On the ground, in front of the gun he had just fired, was a rebel flag, a red Saint Andrew's cross, torn to shreds, staff gone, a twitching body next to it the flag bearer, the bottom half of his body nothing but a ghastly tangle of charred flesh that was still smoking from the blast
One of Wiedrich's gunners scrambled over the lunette and started to pick up the flag. The Reb feebly reached out trying to hang onto the colors. The gunner stopped, knelt down by his side, and relinquished the flag, gently putting the colors back into the hands of the dying boy. The gunner cupped his hands around the Confederate's, leaned over, whispering something. The eyes of the dying boy shifted, looking up at the gunner. He started to say something, lips moving. Henry heard the words drifting as the two spoke together.
" 'He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…'"
The boy shook convulsively and then was still.
The gunner closed the Reb's eyes and then gently pried the bloody fingers loose.
He picked up the flag. There was no triumphal waving of it The men of the battery stood silent staring at him. The gunner came back over the lunette, tears streaming down his blackened face.
The smoke was lifting. What was left of the Rebs receded back down the slope. Flanking batteries continued to pound them, bright sparkling airburst of case shot igniting. Stevens's battery had lifted its range, pouring shell into the streets of the town.
"Henry, you all right?"
Still dazed, Henry looked up to see Hancock, blood streaming down his face from a ball that had creased his cheek.
Henry nodded, unable to speak, stunned by all that had happened and what he had just seen.
Hancock motioned for him to step away from the battery. Henry followed and Hancock dismounted, pulled out a clean white handkerchief, and absently dabbed at the nasty furrow plowed across his cheek.
"He came on too soon," Hancock said, voice calm.
Henry looked at him, finding it hard to believe that only minutes before Hancock had appeared godlike, standing in his stirrups, ignoring the hail of fire, and was now talking quietly, as if they were neighbors sitting on a porch, chatting about the weather.
"A brigade. He thought he could trigger another panic, push us off this hill with just one brigade," Hancock continued, shaking his head. "Damn, is that man arrogant This isn't Virginia anymore. We're on our own ground now. He came on too soon."
Henry looked past Hancock. The column north of Gettysburg was still moving, flanking around the edge of town, starting to shake out from column into line. A brigade last time, now a division, a full division.
"Look to the seminary; more forming up there."
Henry shifted his gaze. Amid all this madness Hancock was already thinking ahead and had noticed what was going on a mile away.
"Another division over there, I suspect Maybe fresh, maybe the troops that hit Doubleday earlier. Either way, half hour at most and then they'll come in again, hitting us from both sides of the town."
"Ammunition," Henry said, "I've got to get more ammunition up here, more guns."
"Jones, give your horse to the general."
Hancock motioned for one of his orderlies to come over and dismount. The boy offered the reins to Henry.
"Henry, I don't want you down here when they come in again," Winfield said softly.
"When that division over there charges," and he pointed to the northeast "they'll roll over this position."
He paused, looking at Wiedrich's men. "God save them, Henry," he whispered, "but they stay here. That charge will have to take this battery first We'll lose where we are standing, and that battery with it. But we can still hold the crest of this hill, and that is what will count in the end. Get your other batteries ready to enfilade this position as they come up and over it. This fight will be decided farther back, at the cemetery," and he pointed up the hill to the crest
Hancock remounted, staff gathering around him. "I'll see you at the top of the hill in half an hour, Henry. That's where we stop 'em, teach 'em that they aren't going to take this hill."
Hancock, with a touch of the spurs, turned his mount and galloped off.
Henry looked at the sorry mare that had been passed off to him as a remount.. "Can you get me more ammunition, sir?"..
It was Wiedrich, Ames coming up behind him.
"I'll have more canister down to you. Hold your case shot till they start to come in," and he pointed at the rebel division shifting from column to line. Even as he spoke, several shells from Stevens burst over the formation.
"We stay here till we get overrun, is that it?" Ames asked.
Henry couldn't lie. He simply nodded.
"I'll get back the honor of Eleventh Corps right here," Ames said grimly. "We stay with this battery till the end."
Henry dropped the reins of his mare and shook their hands. It was chilling to know that he was shaking hands with men who would most likely be dead within the hour. They knew it as well and didn't flinch from it, and that kind of courage filled him with awe. There was evidence enough of that on this hill, here in Pennsylvania, that they wouldn't back off another inch. Well, if this was a chosen place to die, then so be it, and that thought filled him with a cold and hard-edged resolve to see it through to the end.
"What you do here will mean that this hill holds, that we won't go down to defeat tonight"
Neither of the two spoke. This was not the time for the staged dramatics that some officers favored when the men were watching. This was three comrades, all veterans of the old prewar army, all three knowing what their profession might ultimately demand, and now willing to pay that price.
He started to turn away; then a memory, a grim duty came to him. He walked over to Caesar, lying on his side, breathing raggedly, mouth covered with froth, blood pouring out of the wound that had torn open his breast.
Never get attached to them, he thought, not in this trade. He cocked his revolver and leveled it. Somehow he sensed that Caesar knew what he was doing, why he was doing it and that it was an act of mercy. The eyes looked up at him. He thought again of the rabbit he had shot as a boy, the creature screaming. His hands started to tremble. He closed his eyes and squeezed the trigger.
Some of the gunners were looking at him, saying nothing. The blood-soaked Confederate flag was draped over the open lid of a caisson, the man who'd taken it standing beside the red flag, eyes wide, vacant, gaze unfocused.
Gen. Henry Hunt, Commander of Artillery, Army of the Potomac, mounted and rode back up the hill to the cemetery.
6:15 PM, JULY I, 1863
THE LUTHERAN SEMINARY GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
"Where is Johnson's division?" Gen. Robert E. Lee's gaze locked onto Walter Taylor and the staff arrayed behind the nervous chief of staff. No one answered.
"Anderson's division is going in." As he spoke, Lee pointed to his right, "But I don't see Johnson!" _ Arrayed behind Seminary Ridge, Anderson's division, a battle line stretching for over a quarter mile southward, nearly five thousand men, was moving forward. The first wave of skirmishers crested the ridge, moving at an oblique to the right in order to sweep around the southern flank of the town and hit Cemetery Hill on its eastern flank.
However, there was no sign that Johnson was launching his attack from the east side of town. The signal, Pegram's massed battery firing a twenty-gun salvo, had cut loose more than ten minutes ago, and still no movement…
"If they don't strike simultaneously…" and Lee's voice trailed off.
He paced back and forth angrily, hands clasped behind his back. He paused, looking back at his staff. "I thought the first strike by Ewell an hour ago, uncoordinated as it was, could perhaps sweep those people off that hill," he announced.
"It was hard to coordinate from the town," Taylor offered. "Ewell's men fought a running battle for two miles; orders did not get through to everyone."
Lee fixed Taylor with his sharp gaze. "Jackson would have found a way. He never would have slowed for an instant. I directly ordered Ewell to take the hill at once and left him with the understanding that the attacks would push forward."
His frustration, ready to boil over, triggered a response that he had spent a lifetime trying to master, to regain an outward calm. Venting his frustration on his staff would only serve to make them nervous and jittery at a time when he needed them to think rationally and with cool judgment He knew the impact his slightest gesture or word could have on this army.
He turned away, leading Traveler by his reins. He caught a glimpse of his headquarters detail watching him at a discreet distance, looking anxious. He ignored their concern, his gaze fixed to the southeast.
Anderson's skirmishers swept down onto the open plains south of town. The first wave, moving two hundred yards behind the skirmishers, came over the ridge, the formation breaking up as it scrambled over barricades and around buildings. A cheer erupted from the regiment nearest to him.
The men were looking his way, pointing, an officer pausing, turning, raising his sword in salute.
Lee raised his hand, and the cheering redoubled, picked up, echoing down the line.
Such displays always embarrassed him, and at moments like this left him humbled. In minutes those boys would wade into an inferno of case shot shrapnel, and canister. More than one was poised at the edge of the eternal.
Why? For Virginia for this thing called the Confederacy? He looked back at Taylor and the others, boys really, just boys dressed up and playing at glory… More than one of them would do it for me. Use such devotion only when you must when there is no other way, he thought with sharp self-reproach.
The first assault on the hill had placed him in that position yet again. An hour ago he had ridden into town, instinct telling him that Ewell would not press the issue hard enough.
He had found his corps commander in the center of the town and issued a direct order to send everything he had in against the hill.
Ewell had argued against it, wishing for Johnson to come up first and secure his own left flank.
"Give me a brigade, sir, and I'll take that hill!"
It was old "Dick" Trimble, attached to Ewell's headquarters, who had interrupted their argument Essentially a general in waiting, he was ready to be slotted in when a command opened up… as they always did on the field of battle.
Lee had looked into Trimble's eyes and seen that gaze, the sense that a man would willingly die at that moment and all he had to do was nod.
He had made that nod, telling Trimble to round up what troops he could, believing that one more push could trigger another panic in the Union ranks… and now Trimble was reportedly dead on that hill, that accursed hill.
He raised his field glasses, scanning to the east side of town. Nothing. It was impossible to see where Johnson was forming, but nevertheless fire from that flank should be increasing; there should be some sign that an attack was underway.
Why wasn't he there?
Within seconds Taylor was at his side. "Ride. I want Ewell to get his people in there! No more waiting." "Sir!"
Taylor viciously raked his spurs, mount half-rearing, and he was off at a gallop, leaping the broken fence that lined the Cashtown Road, riding down the hill and into the center of town, where Ewell's headquarters were located in the square.
"Here it comes, Howard. My God, what a sight!" Winfield Scott Hancock reined in, raising his glasses, scanning the Reb battle line cresting Seminary Ridge. One brigade was clearly in view, already passing the seminary, angling to their right Mounted officers were farther to the right. Now flags were appearing there as well, skirmishers coming forward on the double.
Down in the open fields, Buford's skirmishers, exhausted from having been in action since dawn, were still doing their job of holding his left flank, reluctantly pulling back yard by yard, retreating in relays, a forward line breaking off, mounting, riding back a couple of hundred yards, passing through a dismounted line of their comrades, who then mounted again.
One-armed Oliver Otis Howard, commander of the shattered Eleventh Corps, remained silent watching the display, like Hancock,' field glasses raised.
The battle below them spilled out across the pastures and the neatly arrayed fields of summer wheat and cornfields to the west of the road to Emmitsburg.
"Smart of Henry to order his guns to cease fire," Hancock said. "Saves ammunition till they're close and clears the smoke a bit"
Winfield looked over at him. Howard was still feeling prickly over the orders from Meade to relinquish field command to an officer who had only been promoted to corps command less than a month ago. He sensed that Howard was still shaken by the rout norm of town, but now that the crisis was upon them, nothing showed but a steady calm.
"And still nothing from over there," Howard announced, glasses trained to the east side of town.
One brigade was fully deployed, well over a thousand yards away. Behind it in the dips and swales, he caught glimpses of columns moving along the road, racing through farmyards, tearing aside fences… more troops still maneuvering from marching column to battle line.
Shells flung by Stevens's battery were detonating across the front of the line of the first brigade, where the Rebs crouched in the waist-high corn. To their flank a battery was wheeling into position, a good fourteen hundred yards out
He grinned. A lot of good those guns would do supporting their attack, firing up toward higher ground at that range. Perfect. There was no real position for the Rebs to establish counterbattery and suppress Henry's guns.
"They're off, Howard. By God, they're off. Damn it they should either send that brigade in now with whatever they've got in the town or wait the extra half hour until everyone is formed. God, I can't believe Lee is attacking like this."
"In another hour it'll be getting dark. He must push it now while there's still light"
Hancock nodded. It was obvious that the big salvo from the Reb batteries deployed around the seminary was some sort of signal for a general assault. Strange, at times you could hear something like that twenty miles away, and then at other times you could be a mile off and it was barely noticeable.
"Just wait" Hancock muttered, glasses trained on Johnson's men. "Dear God, a half hour is all I ask."
The silence that had hung over the field for the last ten minutes was shattered when a field piece, one of Wiedrich's guns at the tip of the salient on the north slope, fired. A second later the gun to its left kicked back. The salvo raced across the northern and western slope of Cemetery Hill, jumping to Stewart's battery, then Dilger's, and continued.
The first of the shells sparked, igniting in the air near the seminary above a knot of officers. Geysers of dirt shot up; the line seemed to be smothered under a curtain of fire.
"Thirty-eight… thirty-nine…" one of his staff was counting, voice pitched high with excitement
As the explosion from the last gun on the left drifted away, a cheer echoed along the line and within seconds one of Wiedrich's Napoleons finished reloading and cut loose with a second round.
"With the guns on the east flank of this hill, we roust have sixty pieces, sir!" one of his staff cried excitedly.
"And enough ammunition for a half hour at this rate of fire," Howard replied laconically.
Hancock caught a glimpse of Henry galloping past the gatehouse. Several limber wagons were coming up the road, horses covered with sweat, crews lashing teams that were obviously blown, barely able to walk up the final slope. Henry, waving his hat, reined in, pointing for them to cut off the road. Gunners leapt off the wagons; stragglers on the road were pressed into service, helping to tear down the fence flanking it.
From the crest, Henry's guns were tearing into the advancing line with brutal accuracy. In the still evening air, the smoke was quickly banking up around the hill, but the gunners knew enough to keep depressing their barrels and cutting fuses shorter.
Hancock turned to look back down the Emmitsburg Road and then over to the Baltimore Pike. He had sent word down the former to Dan Sickles to bring up his Third Corps, the same order going to Slocum and the two divisions of his Twelfth Corps coming up the Baltimore Pike from Littlestown.
The Emmitsburg Road was rapidly turning into part of the battlefield. Buford's skirmishers lined the post and rail fence, trading shots with Confederate infantry clear down to a distant rise crowned with a peach orchard.
Baltimore Pike was in chaos, jammed with hundreds of stragglers who would dodge into the woods at the sight of'a provost patrol, then step back out and press on, mingling with the walking wounded, all of them instinctively heading as far away as possible from the carnage.
And there was no relief in sight
"I'm going back down there," Lee snapped to his staff.
Mounting, he spared a final glance toward Anderson's division. A gale of artillery fire swept over them as the forward brigade advanced into canister range, men struggling to get over the heavy fences lining the pike toward Emmitsburg.
He ordered several of his staff to wait at headquarters across the road from the seminary, edged out onto the road into Gettysburg, and set off at a swift canter, guards of his headquarters company swinging ahead and to either flank, carbines and revolvers drawn.
The road into town was a shambles, covered with the litter of war, upended caissons, overturned ambulances, dead horses, dead men, wounded, both Union and Confederate, lying to either side waiting for help, cast-off rifles, cartridge boxes, blanket rolls, uniform jackets, a broken banjo. Hundreds of torn paper cartridges covered the road, and clinging over it all was the heavy sulfur stench of burnt powder and torn flesh.
A column of Union prisoners stood to one side of the road, pushed back at his approach. They looked up at him, some with surprise, others sullen or openly defiant An officer, bloody bandage around his head, offered a salute, which he returned. "The fight ain't over yet sir," the Yankee officer announced. "This isn't Virginia. You're in the North now."
Lee pressed on, saying nothing.
Hospital flags, both Union and Confederate, hung from houses marking where surgeons were setting up for business. Blue and butternut wounded mingled together outside the makeshift wards. He tried to ignore the hysterical screams coming from an open window and the glimpse of orderlies trying to wrestle a man up onto a table.
A column of infantry, motionless, blocked the center of the road ahead, the men standing at ease, a knot of them squatting in a circle in the middle of the road, while one of their comrades carved generous portions from a smoked ham.
At the sight of his approach, they snapped to attention, the corporal dropping his knife and flipping the edge of a blanket over the ham to try and hide the booty.
He rode past, slowing for a moment at the sight of officers at the head of the motionless column. "Whose troops are these?"
A colonel, eyes red rimmed and half concealed behind mud-splattered spectacles, features pale, wearily looked up, staring blankly, then came to attention. "Mine, sir," he announced, voice barely a whisper. "Colonel Bradley, sir, Thirty-fifth Georgia."
"May I ask, sir, what you are doing here?"
"General, kind of a tangle here, sir. I was told to form my men on this road and await orders. No orders have come."
Lee looked down sharply.
The colonel let his gaze drop and then, inexplicably, his shoulders began to quiver, head going down. A sob escaped him.
"Sir? What is wrong?" Lee asked softly.
The colonel looked back up. "My boy, sir, my only son…" and he froze, eyes wide and unfocused as he fought to regain control.
Lee looked past him. The men of the colonel's command were watching the encounter. It was obvious their sympathy was with their colonel. Lying by the side of the road was a body on a makeshift stretcher, features calm in death, long blond hair brushed back from the face. One of the boy's comrades sat by the stretcher, crying, head lowered.
He could sense this was a tight-knit regiment, most likely men all from the same town or county, the colonel, older, a schoolmaster look to him, the body on the stretcher a young boy, not more than sixteen, most likely a "pet" of the regiment
He caught the eye of a major standing behind the colonel. "Take over, Major. I want your men to put pressure on that hill," and Lee pointed to the south.
He leaned over, hand resting on the colonel's shoulder. "Your son is in the care of Our Savior" Lee whispered. "You, sir, shall be in my prayers tonight"
The colonel looked back up. "How can I ever tell my wife?" the colonel replied, voice haunting and distant He tried to say more but couldn't and turned away, covering his face.
Lee squeezed the man's shoulder and rode on toward the center of town.
What future now for them? he wondered. What comfort can their country ever give them that would repay the loss of an only son.
He thought of his boy wounded at Brandy Station less than four weeks ago, still not recovered. I have four sons, and to lose but one would be all but beyond my heart to bear.
God, I must end this! No more after this. Push it hard today, push it and win so that this madness can finally stop.
The sound of battle echoing from the hill was increasing every second. The crackling of a musket volley ignited like a long string of firecrackers. Passing side streets, he caught glimpses of the smoke-clad heights, ringed with fire, the smoke catching and holding the early evening sunlight which bathed the landscape in a hellish ruddy glow.
The center square of the town was directly ahead. The press of men, the litter of battle, dead horses, knots of prisoners, all made it difficult to move. His troop of cavalry escorts pressed ahead, clearing the way.
Directly in the middle of the square, sitting in an open buckboard carriage, wooden leg propped up, was Dick Ewell, commander of Second Corps. His coat was open, hat off, thin wisps of what little hair he had left plastered down with sweat. A knot of officers stood around him. Jubal Early, commander of the division that had stormed into the town, was one of them.
At his approach, they stiffened. He had left them in this same spot an hour ago, and it seemed like nothing had changed since.
There was. an obvious look of relief on Walter Taylor's face, as if a terrible burden had been lifted. That alone told Lee everything:
"When I left you gentlemen an hour ago," Lee said, deliberately making an effort to stay calm and keep his voice in control, "the understanding was that when Pegram's battalion fired a salvo that would be the signal for you to launch your assault."'
"We heard no salvo, sir," Ewell replied.
Lee looked at him, incredulous. It was indeed possible, but somehow he couldn't force himself to believe it
"Well, can you not hear the guns of those people up there?" and his voice raised slightly as he pointed toward Cemetery Hill. 'Is that not signal enough that the attack is pressing in."
"Sir, my men, sir." It was Jubal Early, standing by the side of Ewell's carriage. "They've marched twelve miles, fighting a running battle for the last two. We're still rounding up prisoners. You shouldn't even be in here, sir. This town is not yet secured."
"I need to be where the battle is," Lee replied sharply, "but, sir, it seems as if no battle is being fought on this flank. An hour ago I told you that hill could be taken if pressed quickly enough;"
"Dick Trimble died, and a fair part of Gordon's brigade died trying for it, sir," Jubal replied softly. "The first attack was premature."
Lee felt his features flush. He could see the look in Walter's eyes, the boy edging forward, trying to intervene, to head off the confrontation. An icy glance told him to back off. Lee turned his attention straight at Ewell and those gathered around him. "Sir, I want that hill taken!"
He pointed south, arm stiff, his voice ringing so that for an instant it seemed as if everyone tangled up in the confusion-filled square had fallen silent.
"No excuses. I have tolerated such excuses too often in the past when we had the chance to smash them, and always they got away.
"I am not advising you gentlemen; I am ordering you. I want that hill taken before dark." His voice echoed. All stood silent, stunned by the outburst.
"Where is Johnson? Why is he not going in?"
"He will any minute now" Ewell replied nervously, obviously startled by the outburst "l sent another courier to urge him to move. One of his brigades somehow took the wrong road and started eastward; he is waiting for them to come about and form. Johnson also reported that Union infantry, coming up from the east and south, are threatening his left flank. He reports it is Twelfth Corps."
"Now! I want the attack now!" Lee shouted, cutting him off. "Anderson is committed. Johnson must press straight in with everything he has and worry about his flank later."
The roar of musketry from the hill was rising in volume.
"Both flanks of the hill attacked at the same time, so they are forced to split their fire. That is what I wanted. We can still do it."
"Sir, we've fought a long fight today," Ewell offered, "trying to coordinate an assault from both wings on the run. It's not easy, sir."
"I know it's not easy!" Lee snapped. "Victory is never easy; only defeat is easy. We have a chance to smash them, sir. Smash them! I will not let it slip out of our grasp. I am sick of wasting lives in battles that do not bring final victory. No more waste. Not this time."
His voice pitched up as he said the last words, half standing in his stirrups.
Inwardly he was furious with himself for the outburst, the dramatic display, allowing passion to take control. Jackson had been known for such moments. Longstreet was feared for his famed explosions of rage. That was never me though. I've spent a lifetime learning mastery of myself. The realization of it made him even angrier.
"You are to go directly to Johnson and order him to go in with what he has. Do it now!" Lee announced, his voice set at an icy pitch.
He hesitated for a second. "Walter, go with him."
Ewell, obviously startled by Lee's tone, and the none too subtle insult of having Lee's staff officer go along to make sure the order was carried out, simply saluted.
Ewell's driver mounted-wide-eyed in the presence of Lee and the display of temper-grabbed the reins, and swung the carriage around. Lee wanted to shout with exasperation at the sight of Ewell's carriage trying to inch its way through the mad jumble of confusion that filled the square. Wooden leg or hot, Ewell should be mounted, not riding around town in a carriage.
Walter, showing initiative, simply left him and disappeared behind a jumble of ambulances abandoned at the east end of the square.
Early was looking up at him, silent, dark eyes penetrating.
"Do you wish to say something, General?" Lee asked.
"Go ahead then."
"Malvern Hill, sir."
"That's Malvern Hill up there, sir. It might look easy from a distance, us having them on the run as we did. But they've got artillery up there, lots of it A year ago today, sir, we fought at Malvern Hill, and you saw what their artillery did to us there."
"We could have swept them off that hill an hour ago," Lee replied heatedly. "We should have done it"
Early fell silent as if judging his words carefully.
"Go ahead," Lee said, trying to keep his voice calm.
"Your blood is up, sir. That's all I'll say, sir. Your blood is
Startled, Lee said nothing. Looking away, gaze fixed on that bloody hill, that damn bloody hill.
His guidon bearer grunted from the impact of the bullet. Hancock reached out, grabbing the boy by the shoulder as he leaned drunkenly from the saddle, half falling, guidon dropping.
The guidon had to stay up. The men had to see it, but he would not let go of the boy.
"I'm sorry, sir, sorry," the boy gasped.
Someone on foot was beside him, reaching tip, grabbing the boy, easing him out of the saddle, the youth gasping, clutching his stomach.
Shot in the gut, as good as dead, Hancock thought, trying to stay detached, looking away. A staff officer dismounted, picked up the guidon, and remounted, holding it aloft
Another volley tore across the western slope of the hill, a rebel yell echoing up. They were charging again, coming up over the fences lining the Emmitsburg Road. Behind them a battery of four guns was cutting across a field, caissons bouncing, the first gun sluicing around to a stop, preparing to unlimber at murderously close range.
Henry's gunners, following orders, were ignoring it for the moment concentrating everything they had on the advancing infantry.
A blast of canister, aimed low, tore into a section of fence, which exploded for fifty feet of length into tumbling rails, splinters, and bodies. The charge pressed forward, coming up the slope into the face of forty guns ringing the crest of the hilltop. Gunners, working feverishly, were not even bothering to roll the pieces back into place, simply loading and firing. Some of the crews had even stopped swabbing, running the risk of a hot bore or spark triggering a premature blast in order to save an additional ten seconds.
Shimmers of heat radiated off the guns directly in front of Hancock. Even as he watched, a loader slammed a canister round into the open bore. The rammer pushed him aside, started to drive the round in, and then was flung backward as the powder bag hit a hot spark, seven-foot ramrod staff screaming downrange, rammer writhing on the ground, right hand blown off, shoulder broken, face scorched black.
His comrades pulled him back behind the firing line, the gun sergeant screaming for a replacement ramrod, running back toward a limber wagon.
The Rebs were pushing closer, not coming on in a wild heads-down charge but advancing slowly, pouring in a fierce fire, trying to break up the batteries before pressing the final hundred yards.
Bullets sang around Hancock's ears, his staff ducking and bobbing in their saddles. He rode the length of the line, voice too hoarse to continue shouting. Henry came past, waving his hat, three limber wagons, two chests of ammunition strapped to each, bouncing behind him. He waved them into place, one wagon per battery.
The crest of the hill was crowded with limber wagons and caissons, each with six horses, all of them pressed nearly side to side. Hancock could almost pity the trace riders for the caissons. Regulations stated that when in action the mounted rider of the six-horse team had to remain in the saddle, ready to guide the caisson around if the guns needed to be moved quickly.
It was a ghastly job in the middle of a fight. A man was expected to sit with his back to the enemy, all hell breaking loose, arid just wait It was a type of courage he wondered if he could ever muster… to do nothing but wait.
He reached the south end of the battle line, where a low stone wall jutted out to the west for fifty yards, a small grove of trees behind the wall. Buford's skirmishers crouched behind the wall; Calef's hard-fought battery of mounted artillery occupied the angle, pouring shot into the enemy flank. The four Reb guns deployed on the far side of the road opened on Calef, but he ignored them, his men simply ducking as a shell screamed in, then returning to their work of laying down case shot on the road.
He focused his glasses-down the Emraitsburg Road, looking south. Something was on it, dark, serpentlike, still distant, but coming. It was Sickles, responding to his urgent plea for immediate support
"General Hancock, sir!"
He looked back. A courier, one of Howard's men, was riding up hard, waving his hat "They're coming, sir. The Rebs east of town; they're coming!"
He looked back south. A half hour, maybe more. Damn!
He turned, following Howard's messenger, riding along the crest looking west judging the strength and determination of the Reb attack hitting his left flank. A lot of the Rebs were still wearing blanket rolls and backpacks, a sign they had maneuvered straight from the march into battle formation without taking time to form regimental depots, drop-off points for all excess baggage, before going into the fight.
Rather than lose a precious blanket and haversack of food, the men were carrying the extra weight into battle. He wondered if they had been watered before the attack or were coming in with dry canteens.
For whatever reason, their attack was slow. The artillery's concentrated fire had battered Anderson's division down, keeping them pinned along the road. But the guns had to shift if there was any hope of flinging back the new assault on the right Henry was up at the crest of the hill, frantically waving, directing the redeployment swinging guns around to face north and east
The Rebs along the fence, however, had yet to react to push forward, though they had to have seen by now that the artillery fire was slackening.
He eased his mount through a hole in the cemetery wall and weaved his way past a parked row of caissons. Passing the nearest one, he looked in as a loader pulled a round of case shot out of a storage slot and, with an awl-like punch, set the fuse at two seconds.
"How many left?" Hancock shouted
The loader looked up, startled by the presence of a corps commander gazing down at him.
"Ahh, three case shot, sir. Half a dozen canister."
"Webster, get that damn shell up here!"
The loader, responding to the cries of his sergeant, tried to salute, gave up, and ran back up to the firing line, Hancock following.
He could hear the cry, the rebel yell. Reaching the battery, he reined in. Through holes in the smoke he saw them coming, definitely a brigade, maybe two, heading straight for the east slope of the hill, advance skirmishers already trading fire on the side of the wooded hill that flanked the cemetery.
'"This is where it's going to be decided!"
Henry was by his side, eyes wide with excitement, rivers of sweat streaming down his face. "Got one more battery still coming up!" and he pointed back down the Baltimore Pike.
Struggling up the hill came a battery of six Napoleons, horses covered with foaming sweat, more than one of the mounts all but dead, limp in their traces, oblivious to the whip blows from the drivers.
A thunderclap volley ignited from the north end of the hill. Ames's men, still dug in around Wiedrich's battery, had stood up and fired, the blow staggering the Reb advance, which slowed for a moment then continued on.
"Ammunition?" Hancock shouted, looking over at Hunt
"Unless Jesus Christ Almighty drops a' few limber wagons from the heavens, what we've got here is it. Some of the guns are out of canister; they're shooting solid shot!"
Hancock cast a glance to the western horizon. The sun was blood red, hanging low, soon to slip behind the South Mountains.
A half hour till sunset a half hour. God, it seemed like an eternity.
The Rebs pressed in, battle lines past the flank of the town, spreading out A broken line of skirmishers pressing out from the streets formed a loose screen between the two divisions.
Wiedrich's four guns fired in salvo, entire lines going down under the blasts. Stevens's battery was pouring it on, ignoring the increasing fire from long-range skirmishers pressing up the slope of the wooded hill. The six Napoleons coming up behind Henry were swinging into position, forming to face straight down toward the cemetery gate below, knocking over headstones, shattering monuments.
Once the first gun was unhooked from its caisson and positioned, Henry detailed the drivers to head down to Stewart and rum over their caisson of ammunition to the beleaguered battery. The crew assigned didn't look too pleased at leaving their own battery with orders to ride straight into an inferno, but the men lashed their teams and pushed down the slope.
A steady stream of wounded were coming back from the firing line on the west slope. No breakdown there yet. He noticed only a scattering of unwounded trying to get out. Some of the men, as they reached the crest, paused, gazing to the north and east, taking in the sight of Johnson's advance. Several of them, seeing Hancock, slowed and, in spite of their wounds, fell in on the makeshift final line.
The charge was coming on faster, pushing in. Another blast of canister, this one at point-blank range. Stewart's and Dilger's guns, no longer engaged against Anderson, had swung around, and once again were pouring in enfilade fire to support their comrades on the right
The first line of the charge disappeared, going down, piling atop the dead and wounded from the earlier charge. The second wave, less than fifty yards out slowed-rifles flashing, lowering, firing a sharp, rippling volley-and then, with bayonets lowered, came in at the charge, high wolf yip shrieks sending a corkscrew down Hancock's spine.
The swarm piled up over Wiedrich's guns, tangling in with the gunners, Ames's infantry, all of them a seething, boiling mass, cloaked in a smoky haze.
A lone caisson came out of the inferno, trying to gain the road, upended, throwing the driver as it rolled over, horses shrieking. Another caisson, down in the middle of the confusion, blew, top lid soaring a hundred feet into the air, flinging men in every direction.
The point of the salient broke, men streaming back, pouring up the road and along the flank of the knoll, followed by the charging swarm. Stewart's guns-now caught fully in flank-turned, continuing to fire, even as the breakthrough spread toward them.
The second line-a hodgepodge of regimental fragments from First and Eleventh Corps-dug in around the gatehouse, stood up, trying to fire over the heads of their fleeing comrades, who, ducking low, scrambled up over the barricades for protection, more than one of them caught between the two fires, going down, struck front and back at the same instant.
Johnson's men, smelling victory, pressed forward, the slope behind them carpeted with casualties as the artillery fired with unrelenting power.
The right section of Stewart's battery was swarmed under, the remaining section retreating slowly up the slope, retiring by prolonge, gunners firing, ropes trailing to the caissons pulling the guns back a dozen yards while the crews reloaded, the last of their infantry support clinging around the pieces, bayonets poised.
The charge kept coming. Hancock caught a glimpse to his left; Anderson's men, at least the regiments closest to Johnson's charge, were up, pressing in as well, heartened by the advance to their flank.
He looked back to the west. The sun seemed motionless.
Ignoring the warnings of his headquarters staff, Lee rode down the middle of the road oblivious to the rain of bullets kicking up geysers of dust in the street, shattering windows, splintering the sides of wooden buildings, and ricocheting off the brick ones.
The head of the charge was up over the forward knoll, pressing up into the smoke that circled the hill, reminding him somehow of an old etching of Mount Sinai, wreathed in eternal storm clouds.
The men, my God, the men, he thought, his stomach knotting. Hundreds of them were down, covering the approaches to the hill. Wounded were coming back up the street, many with uniforms torn and limbs shattered by artillery fire. At the sight of him some held their wounded limbs up, bearing them proudly like holy stigmata.
The gesture was almost frightening to him, a sacrilege. He fixed his gaze on the hill, the bloody hill that seemed to fill the sky ahead.
A glare of light, then a hail of rifle fire exploded in the smoke, followed a couple of seconds later by a storm of bullets sweeping the street. One of his cavalry escorts pitched out of the saddle; another had a horse go down.
"General Lee, you must retire!"
It was Walter Taylor, back from his mission to Johnson, racing out from a side street, moving to place himself between Lee and the rifle fire.
Lee fixed him with an icy gaze. "No. I will not hide at a moment like this."
"Remember Jackson," Walter replied, still moving to take Traveler's reins.
"I do remember Jackson," Lee said fiercely. "If he had been here, this attack would have already taken that hill. Time, Walter, it is always a question of time. We are losing the light."
"Sir, your getting killed will not change any of this now."
"The charge; it looks weak. What is going on?" Lee looked over at Taylor.
'Two brigades only, sir. Johnson claims there's a Union division forming on his left, a couple of miles down the Hanover Road. He's deployed a brigade to contain them. The other brigade is still forming and trying to come up."
Lee motioned him to silence.
The rebel yell!
In the dim light he saw the banners go up over the barricades around what looked to be a gatehouse. Another caisson blew, followed almost instantly by yet another exploding alongside the first.
The yell, the spine-tingling yell. Wounded in the streets paused, looked back, some of them raising their voices, howling. Others stood riveted, watching the charge.
Lee looked around at his staff. All were gazing up at the hill, some shouting. The charge pressed forward, colors dipping, going down, coming back up, going down, then coming back up yet again, still advancing.
My men, though. Oh, God, my men. They were dropping by the scores, the hundreds. "Finish it, for God's sake, finish it" The words escaped him like a desperate prayer.
"Fire! Fire! Fire!" Henry, screaming like a madman was on foot, in front of Hancock, in the middle of his guns.
Hancock wanted to scream for him to stop. Some of their own men were still in front, running back from the gatehouse, tangled in with the charging Rebs.
The gunners hesitated; a sergeant looked back at him. Henry shouldered the sergeant aside, drew the lanyard taut, and with a wild cry pulled it
The Napoleon, loaded with double canister, reared back.
As if the gun was a flame that leapt to the other pieces, the batteries fired.
Sickened by the impact Hancock said nothing, unable to speak as more than a thousand iron- balls, a visible blur, slammed into the ranks. A headstone, torn off. at its base, flipped high into the air, an ironic sight that frightened him almost as much as the carnage.
"Reload! Reload!" Henry was stalking down the line, clawing at the air, frantically waving his arms.
Hancock wanted to scream for him to stop, for all of them to stop, to end the madness of it Out of the smoke some of them were rising up, hunched over, pressing forward, a lone color coming back up, then another.
The Rebs were into the guns, but they were too few. The wave broke, collapsing. Some of the Rebs simply stood there in numbed shock and then woodenly dropped their weapons.
Farther down the slope, Hancock saw a column coming up over the knoll where Wiedrich's battery had been. It must be another brigade of Rebs, but they were coming in too late!
"Look, sir, look!"
Hancock turned. A column of Union infantry, coming forward at the double, was spreading out to either side of the Baltimore Pike… Twelfth Corps at last!
On his other flank he already knew that the advance regiments of Sickles's Third were coming up. It was hard to see as the shadows lengthened, but he could catch glimpses of a heavy skirmish line pushing up across the fields along the Emmitsburg Road, hooking up with Buford's men.
'Tire, pour it in, pour it in!" Henry, pacing behind his guns, pointed down the slope toward the forward knoll, where the. emerging enemy line was trying to shake out into formation. The blasts of canister swept down the hill; the hundreds of men down on the ground in front of the guns and still alive covered themselves, many screaming in terror.
The men of Twelfth Corps, coming on fast, poured down into the narrow valley that dropped down the east flank of Cemetery Hill and then rose up to the knoll where Stevens's overworked battery was still hard at it
At the sight of their approach, whatever fight was left in the Rebs melted away. Turning, they streamed back down the slopes of Cemetery Hill.
Hancock edged his mount forward, the horse stepping nervously around a team of six animals, all of them dead, piled up in front of their caisson.
Henry's back was turned, shaking his head as a captain screamed to him that they were out of ammunition. "Solid shot, you still have solid shot! Give it to them!" "Henryr
Henry turned, looking up at him. "Cease fire," Hancock said quietly.
Henry stood there, riveted to the ground, mouth open, shoulders shaking as he gasped for breath.
Gunners around him seemed frozen, looking at the two. "We held the hill," Winfield said quiedy. Henry simply stood there.
A gunner by Henry's side staggered away, letting his rammer drop, legs shaking so badly he could barely walk. A section commander, leaning against an upturned caisson, slowly doubled over and vomited convulsively, body shaking like a leaf. The men of the battery seemed to melt, dissolve. Some simply sat down, staring vacantly. Others leaned drunkenly against their pieces. A color bearer held the national flag aloft and slowly waved it back and forth, but no cheer sounded; the only thing to be heard was the cries of the wounded.
"Henry, you held the hill."
Henry turned and slowly walked over to one of his pieces, the men around it silent, faces and uniforms blackened.
"No," Henry whispered, nodding toward his men, "they held the hill."
Hancock dismounted and went up to his side, putting a hand on Henry's shoulder.
Henry gazed at him, turned away, leaning against the wheel of a gun, his body shuddering as he broke down into silent tears.
No one spoke.
Winfield Scott Hancock looked down across the field of carnage, the cemetery piled high with the harvest of his profession, the results of his greatest victory. Lowering his head, he walked away.
11:50 PM, JULY I, 1863
Brig. Gen. Herman Haupt, Commander, U.S. Military Railroads, stepped off the engine cab before the train had skidded to a stop. Exhausted, he stretched, his back popping as he shifted from side to side. At forty-six he was beginning to show the first signs of middle-age portliness. His flowing brown beard was increasingly flecked with gray, and as was so typical of the army, he was wearing a uniform rumpled and stained from too many days of not changing. The uniform was pockmarked with cinder burns, his face streaked with grease and dirt.
The ride up from Baltimore had been a bone-jarring, five-hour ordeal, just to cover thirty miles of track. The track laying of the Western Maryland Railroad was typical of such lines: Slap the rails down as quickly as possible, and the hell with grading and curve radius. Just get the damn thing up and running, then worry later about smoothing things out.
There were no telegraph, no sidings, no fuel or water for the locomotives. He looked around at the small depot of Westminster and the utter chaos that confronted him. Meade had ordered all supply wagons for the Army of the Potomac to concentrate at this point, and it was his job to open up the rail line and organize a depot
Several miles outside the town, the train had started to pass open fields packed with wagons… thousands of them.
They were jammed into pastures, wheat fields, cornfields and here in the town the main street was jammed solid. Five thousand wagons, ambulances, reserve artillery limbers, and tens of thousands of mules. Their braying was a maddening cacophony that most likely could be heard clear back to Baltimore.
The sight of it all, the noise, were a shock; and if it wasn't for his innate sense of duty, he would have succumbed to the temptation to simply get back on the train and let someone else try to sort all of this out
A scattering of infantry was standing about, obviously bored with their duty, though at the sight of a general getting off the train they started to stiffen up a bit in a vain attempt to look soldierly. Civilians milled about gawking at the jam of wagons, and at the sight of him a delegation swooped down.
He turned and tried to get away, but they were upon him.
"General, are you in charge here?" a portly gentleman wearing a scarlet vest shouted, following after him.
He tried to continue on, walking back along the train, as if inspecting the wheels.
Exasperated, he turned. It was always the same: Self-important civilians, who on one hand were damn grateful that the army was there to protect them, but in a heartbeat were ready to switch their song and start complaining.
"I'm in command of the military railroads supporting the army," Herman replied wearily.
"This, sir, is the property of the Western Maryland Railroad," the loudmouthed civilian replied sharply.
"The army has seized this line," Herman replied coolly. "It will be returned to civilian control once this campaign is concluded."
"Well, General, there are a few things we need to discuss. No one seems to be in control here. We had a terrible fight here two days ago, several men killed on both sides."
Terrible fight? This pompous ass should have been at Second Manassas and seen trainloads of the wounded, blood dripping through the floorboards, as they rolled back to Alexandria; his crews vomiting as they scrubbed the cars down afterward; then sending them back to Manassas to pick up another thousand.
"The streets are clogged with your wagons," the civilian continued. "There are soldiers and mule drivers who are drunk wandering about scaring the ladies of the town, and now there's word that the rebels have whipped the Army of the Potomac up at Gettysburg and are coming this way."
Herman looked around at the self-appointed delegation and sensed that more than one of them might very well be delighted with the last statement.
"And you want me to…?" Herman asked softly.
"Straighten out this mess, General. Straighten it out"
"Precisely my intent Now if you will excuse me, I have work to do, though I would appreciate some volunteers to. help unload the supplies I've brought up with me," Herman snapped, and without waiting for a reply he stalked off.
Of course they didn't follow, but he- could hear their raised voices as they began to argue with each other.
A small knot of officers was under the awning of the depot, nervously looking toward Herman as he approached.
"Who is in command here?" Herman asked.
"Ah sir, honestly we're not sure," one of them, a colonel, replied.
That was a bad sign, Herman realized. When things were going well, there would have been an instant argument as to who was, indeed, in command; when they were going wrong, no one wanted that responsibility.
"Well then, I am in command," Herman offered, and there were no objections.
"What's the situation?" he asked.
"Sir, you've got the supply wagons of seven corps in this town. Meade passed the order this morning for the army to abandon its supply train and have them concentrate here, while the troops moved north toward Gettysburg."
'Troops here in town?"
"Hard to say. Each corps commander detailed off a couple of regiments to accompany their trains. There're a couple of companies of cavalry here, and a heavy artillery regiment out of Washington came in as well. They're hauling those big four-and-a-half-inch guns."
Herman digested the information. Troops from seven different corps. Regiments assigned were usually units that were either burned out or not of the best quality. No corps commander would detail off his best when there was a fight brewing. Six, maybe eight thousand troops wandering around here, not sure what to do next No central command at all.
"Colonel Benson, One Hundred and Third New York, Twelfth Corps."
Herman studied the man for a moment He seemed alright no liquor on his breath, unlike a couple of the other men gathered about
"Fine then, Benson. You're in command of the infantry for this supply depot"
"On whose authority, General?"
"My authority and the hell with what anyone else says. I run the military railroads for the army, and you are now under my command."
"And if my corps commander recalls my unit General? Damn it all. There's a fight brewing, and we're stuck down here staring at a bunch of goddamn mules."
As if to add weight to his argument a team of mules, frightened by a blast of steam from the locomotive, took off, braying madly, dragging a wagon up onto the tracks behind the train, the wagon tipping over, mules still tied to their harnesses kicking and screaming.
"You're with me, Colonel. I want the regiments from the various corps rounded up. I'm going to need men here, a couple of thousand at least to off-load trains that will be coming up shortly. I want a defense established around this town. I was up at Hanover earlier today and damn hear became a guest of General Stuart"
At the mention of Stuart's name, the other officers started to whisper excitedly.
"That's it exactly. If the Rebs figure out what we have down here, we'll have company soon enough; and as it looks right now an old lady could shoo us out of here with a broom. So get to work. Your men can start by off-loading the hospital supplies I just brought up."
He turned away without waiting for a reply and spied more supplicants, complainers, and the annoyingly curious closing in. Swinging around the back end of the train he had just ridden up from Baltimore, he headed toward a row of parked wagons half-filled with rations and climbed up into the nearest one, drawing the back cover closed.
He was tempted to simply stretch out on the pile of cracker boxes and try to catch some sleep. It had been a mad, impetuous five days. When word had first come in that Lee was across the Potomac, he had gone from headquarters in Washington up to Harrisburg, there to examine the rail lines in case the Army of the Potomac should find itself campaigning along the Susquehanna. As the rebel army approached the capital of Pennsylvania, it was finally decided to drop the. bridges spanning that broad river, the one directly in front of the city burning even as Confederate raiders swarmed upon the opposite bank. Leaving Harrisburg, he had routed back through Reading, there stopping to confer with the governor, then to Philadelphia, then back to Baltimore and up to Hanover, nearly running into Stuart's cavalry on the way.
Hanover as a base of supply was out, with nearly twenty bridges destroyed by the raiders. Back to Baltimore once more and now here to Westminster, with rumors swirling that action had been joined at Gettysburg.
His sojourn of hundreds of miles in just five days did not strike him as anything unusual. The locomotive had changed everything. A journey that would have taken Napoleon, or even Scott in the war with Mexico, weeks to complete, could now be done in a day. This war ran on railroads, and it was his job to make sure it ran smoothly, at least up to the point where the railroad ended and the mule-drawn wagons, as ancient as the wars of Caesar, began.
Finding a lantern up at the front of the wagon, he struck a Lucifer on the side of a box of hardtack, lit the wick, and hung the lantern up. Reaching into his oversize haversack, he pulled out a small hand-sketched map of the region and spread it out on a box.
Gettysburg, of course, would be the place they'd collide. He had surmised as much back on June 28th while still in Harrisburg. A beautiful place, rolling hills, rich farmland, a good place for a defensive fight, and with its road network, a natural draw for both armies.
Once the bridges across the Susquehanna went down, Lee would inevitably turn southward, not wanting to get pinned against the west bank of the river. He needed to keep his line of communications open down the Cumberland Valley but at the same time seek out the Army of the Potomac. It would have to be somewhere between Carlisle and Westminster that the two sides would slam into each other, and Gettysburg fit the bill.
Strategy, however, was not his concern. It was railroads, the pulsing arteries of this new kind of war, that he must be concerned about; and that was why he was here at Westminster. Harrisburg as a supply depot was out now that the bridges were down. Hanover was out as well, thanks to the rebels burning most of the bridges along that line. And besides, Hanover was only twelve miles from Gettysburg and not truly secure. Only this morning he had discovered that fact when the train he was on nearly stumbled into a detachment of Confederate cavalry.
That was always the point of vulnerability for a railroad. A regiment of cavalry, in an hour, could wreak havoc that could take days to repair, even a lone bushwhacker with a crowbar could loosen a rail and take a train off the tracks. A depot, and the line behind it, had to be secure. He had to set up that secure base now. At best, the Army of the Potomac could operate for three days, perhaps five at the most, without a supply depot; but beyond that, it would get dicey.
The way this railroad was set up, it would be impossible. Impossible, however, was just the type of challenge he secretly enjoyed facing. Pulling a notepad out of his haversack, he began to jot down what was needed, ideas that had been forming on the gut-churning ride up here.
Given enough time, he'd love to put a thousand men from his Military Railroad command to work grading this line; a couple of weeks' work, however, and by that point the issue would hopefully be decided. No, focus on what can be done now.
There's not enough firewood here. Sending men out to bring in seasoned lumber for the locomotives would be problematic. A lot of good wood had most likely already been emptied out of farmers' woodpiles by the passing armies. Take it from the stockpile in the main marshaling yards for the Military Railroad at Alexandria; a couple of trainloads should see us through for the next several days. Water. There was no tank here, let alone a pump to bring the water up from the stream. We'll need to man haul it up from the creek below the depot Better get canvas buckets; a thousand should do it. He chuckled at the thought of the fat civilian hauling buckets up out of the creek. No, they'll all disappear once that kind of labor starts.
He began to jot down his list of priorities.
No telegraph to signal trains moving up and back on this single-track line. It'll take at least four to five days to string the necessary wire.
Without the telegraph and with no sidings, each train would tie the track up for hours. We must bring up extra locomotives and cars from the army depot and then put them on this line in convoys. Five trains, each with ten cars, four hours up, an hour to off-load, then three hours back. As soon as they clear the line, send up the next convoy of five trains. That will give us 150 carloads a day, 1,500 tons of rations, uniforms, ammunition, boots, fodder, grease, coal oil, leather harnesses, horseshoes, bandages, ether, crutches… all of the offerings to war produced by a thousand factories from Chicago to Bangor.
The bridges along this line will have to be surveyed, just in case Confederate raiders do get astride the line and bum them. Once measured, replacement timbers can be cut and loaded back at Alexandria, ready to be rolled up for repairs.
It will take eight hours to turn the trains around, if I can get enough men to unload them once here in Westminster. Too slow though for messages. And though it hurt his pride as a railroad man, he made a note to the War Office to retain the services of the Adam's Express Company. They had the fastest horses in the region, with riders trained to handle them. Ship a dozen horses and riders up here by the next train and use them to run messages and orders back to the nearest telegraph station outside of Baltimore and up to Meade at Gettysburg.
Ironic, he thought I actually lived there for a while, teaching college. He wondered if the battle had damaged the college or injured any of his old friends.
Next he drew up a quick report to the War Office, outlining what he had done over the last day, the damage observed to the rail line up to Hanover, and his decision to establish Westminster as the primary depot for the Army of the Potomac.
He double-checked the list of material requested, mentally comparing it to what he knew was stockpiled in the warehouses at Alexandria, already loaded aboard boxcars and flatcars.
What he was doing did not strike Herman as being all that unique. It was simply how war was now fought or should be fought with cool efficiency and the application of a nation's industry to a single goal, something that America, perhaps more than any nation in history, was now ideally suited for.
If the enemy burns a bridge, haul out the prefabricated replacement and drop it in place, and then keep the trains moving. If they burn a depot, set a new one up, as we did after Second Manassas. Just keep the tidal wave of supplies moving until finally they give up… or, he thought grimly, we lose our will.
That was impossible. He had come from a Europe that was divided, perpetually at war with itself. No, this place had to be different And once this was finished, I can go back to other things, other dreams, to run a rail line clear across the continent and then see a hundred new cities spring up in its wake.
A locomotive whistle shrieked, disturbing his thoughts. He pulled back the canvas cover of the wagon and saw that the infantry rounded up by the reluctant colonel had finished unloading the two cars filled with hospital supplies. Folding up his notes, he jumped off the back of die wagon and waded through the tangle of men, climbing up into the cab of the engine. His orderly, a captain according to the military but far more at home at the throttle of a locomotive, was busy studying the water gauge.
"Everything set Johnson? Enough wood and water to get you back down the line?"
"I think so, sir, but I tell you, this line is a hell of a mess. Not like the B and O, that's for certain."
"Make sure these get handed off," Herman said, folding up his plans and orders, jotting down addresses on the back of each.
"You staying here, sir?"
"Someone's got to get things organized around here." Johnson grinned. "Have fun, sir. It looks like a hell of a mess around here." "Not for long."
"Just don't get in any trouble like you did at Manassas. I like serving with you, sir."
Herman smiled. That had been a close shave, when the Rebs poured in behind General Pope and cut the rail line back to Washington. He had pushed a train down the line to try and find out what was going wrong and wound up getting chased by Confederate cavalry and nearly killed.
Giving Johnson his orders, Herman jumped down from the cab. Johnson eased the throttle in, bursts of smoke thumped from the stack, and with a gasping hiss the engine started to back up, pushing the two empty boxcars and wood tender behind it Someone had finally untangled the overturned wagon and mules behind the train, clearing the track. The shriek of the whistle set thousands of the noisy animals to braying, their cries echoing across the town.
Five thousand wagons, all those damn mules. Have to get that organized and quick, Haupt thought If a panic ever sets them off, it could turn into the biggest stampede in history.
The train eased around the sharp curve behind the depot and started back toward Baltimore.
Herman turned, looking around at the pile of boxes littering the side of the track, the hundreds of wagons parked in the fields and along the streets, the milling civilians, the infantry starting to drift back off into the dark.
He caught the eye of the colonel and motioned him over.
"In eight hours, trains are going to pour into this place. I need a thousand men ready to work in relays off-loading the cars. The whole timetable depends on getting the supplies off the cars as quickly as possible.
"I want a loading platform built; I'll sketch it out for you shortly. Next we need several hundred men to form a bucket brigade down to the creek. All locomotives will be topped off with water before heading back; that will be done at the same time we're unloading. The first two trains up will be loaded with firewood. They're to be unloaded and set up in piles along the side of the track. Teams of thirty men will then be assigned to each pile to load the wood on to each engine as it comes in.
"Next I'd like to get some kind of shedding up. It can be open sided, roofed with canvas, but I want the rations and ammunition properly stored. The far side of the shed should have a clear approach for wagons, which will then be loaded up. Traffic has to be sorted out and wagons cleared from the streets. They'll come in from one direction, load up, then head back out
"Finally, details to the churches, any large buildings. Hospital supplies can go in there for now. You have that?"
The colonel looked at him, obviously overwhelmed. "I'll write it all down," Herman said wearily, pulling his notepad back out
"And one final order, Colonel." "Sir?"
"A cup of coffee; in fact a whole pot if you can get it"
11:55PM JULY 1ST 1863
Riding into the town square, Lee edged Traveler around a line of ambulances clogging the Hanover Road. Torches and lanterns hanging from porches cast a flickering glare on the chaos of vehicles, artillery limbers, dead horses, and a column of troops trying to snake their way through the confusion, heading to the skirmish line on the south side of town.
Dozens of civilians were out in the street many of them women. He remembered an old saying that when one became a parent all boys become your children. He paused for a second, looking down at an elderly woman reading a Bible to a tattered barefoot soldier, shirt gone, bloody, bandages wrapped around his stomach. The boy was in shock, trembling like a leaf, head resting on her lap. She paused, looking up. There was no hatred or anger, only an infinite sadness in her eyes, and he wondered if her own son was at this moment digging in on that hill south of town. He saluted and rode on.
A smattering of musket fire rippled from the crest of the hill, followed seconds later by the flash of artillery. A shell fluttered over the square, men pausing, looking up. A wounded soldier, eyes bandaged, started to scream hysterically until his comrades quieted him down.
"Flag of trace. Send someone up to that hill. Offer my compliments to General Hancock and please tell him that this town is a hospital area. There are civilians here, and many of their own wounded as well. Also, we wish to remove our wounded from the front of the hill. Ask for a ceasefire till dawn." "Sir?"
Lee looked over at him.
"Sir, that is a concession to them, an admission of defeat."
"Just do it I'll not have these people suffer anymore over a foolish point of military protocol."
Walter saluted, turning back, shouting for an aide.
Was it a defeat? Lee asked himself.
Experience had long ago taught him that in the rear of a battle defeat and victory often looked the same. In the center of the square he paused, looking again to the hill, illuminated by the moon, which shown brightly overhead.
Defeat? Not possible, not with this army. They've checked us for the moment but in the morning we shall play a different tune.
He opened his jacket and pulled out his watch. It was time for the staff meeting, nearly midnight
He turned north, riding the short distance to the railroad station that had been designated as headquarters for the army, passing through the line of dismounted cavalry who formed a cordon around the low, single-story brick building. Dozens of horses were tethered or held by orderlies, nearly blocking the entry. The low buzz of conversation stilled at his approach, heads bobbing up, young fresh-faced privates dressed in homespun, staff lieutenants, some of them still sporting finely tailored uniforms of gray, battle-stained brigade commanders, all of them stood silent
He could sense the mood. They were exhausted. It had, after all, been a very long day, and the night was now half-gone. It had been a day that had exploded with high hopes and triumph and closed with bitterness.
His gaze swept them, each of the men stiffening slightly when they sensed that his eyes were upon them.
I could order them in now, right now, he realized… and they would do it I order men to die and they do not hesitate;
they go forth gladly, eager to be the first to fling themselves into the dark mist If they trust all in me, my God, I must not fail them. I must not
Slowly he dismounted, someone taking Traveler's bridle. He patted Traveler affectionately. "See that he has water and something to eat" Lee whispered. "A pleasure, sir."
Lee caught the boy's eyes, smiled. Again the reverent look. He wanted to pause, to ask the boy who he was, where he came from, what regiment he served with. No time for that now. I know what has to be done, and it's time to get to it
He stepped up onto the siding platform, past the sentries flanking the open doors, and into the waiting room of the station.
A table, a fine dining room table, most likely dragged over from the hotel across the street filled the center of the room, maps spread out upon it
The men hunched over the maps looked up as one and came to attention.
They were all here, Longstreet Ewell, Hill, Jed Hotchkiss, the chief cartographer for Jackson before his death, and finally, standing to one side, the errant Jeb Stuart His gaze held on Stuart, who stiffened and formally saluted.
"I am glad to see that you are well, General Stuart"
The room was silent He caught a glimpse of Longstreet standing to one side and could sense the barely concealed anger.
Stuart started to say something, but Lee motioned him to silence.
"General Stuart there is time enough later for us to discuss what has happened these last few days. The hour is late. I am more concerned with what will happen in the morning."
Though he spoke softly, he fixed Stuart intently with his gaze, conveying with a single look that the issue would not be forgotten. The man had to be reined in but not broken. A touch of uncertainty at this moment would be good, making him more attentive to the task ahead.
Lee stepped up to the map table, taking off his gauntlets, laying them to one side.
Spread out on the center of the table was a sketch map in Jed Hotchkiss's bold hand of the day's battlefield.
Hotchkiss cleared his throat "Sir, as you can see, this hill, the locals call it Cemetery Hill, dominates the position south of town. Their First Eleventh, and we believe a division of Twelfth Corps now occupy that hill, along with sixty pieces of artillery.
"Their left flank, extending on what is called Cemetery Ridge," and as he spoke he traced out the position, "stretches south for a mile, up to this crossroads in the middle of a peach orchard, where the road to Emmitsburg crosses a road that heads west to Fairfield."
"These two hills behind that crossroad?" Lee asked.
'1 got a brief look at them just before dark, sir. The higher of the two is wooded. It appears as if they have established a signal station atop it One of my staff saw flags up there. The lower of the two, with a rocky race, is clear cut on its western slope, facing us, and giving them an excellent field of fire. This left flank, the ridge, the crossroads, the two hills are occupied by Dan Sickles's Third Corps and Buford's division of cavalry."
Lee nodded, finger tracing out the line.
"And their right?"
"The locals call this position Culp's Hill."
"Difficult ground," Dick Ewell interrupted. "In our last attack, one of Johnson's brigades swept across the face of it. The crest was occupied by a mix of First Corps and at least a brigade from Twelfth Corps. They're digging in."
"And our own left?"
Hotchkiss looked over at Ewell.
"It's up in the air, sir," Ewell replied hurriedly in his high, piping voice. "That's where the other brigade of Johnson got tangled up. Sir, I assure you, there was a division of Union troops deploying out there beyond Grip's Hill. We even took a couple of prisoners; they're Twelfth Corps."
"Are they still there?"
Ewell was silent
"I don't know, sir. The men are exhausted; it's dark. If we had a couple of regiments of cavalry, we'd soon find out" and as he spoke his gaze shifted to Stuart
"We don't have them yet," Lee replied, saying each word sharply and clearly.
"My first brigade will be up before dawn," Stuart quickly interjected.
Lee looked up. "I am not looking for excuses, gentlemen. At the moment I am seeking answers."
The room fell silent the men around him looking pale and drawn as they stood beneath the flickering light of the lanterns suspended from the ceiling.
"I need to know if my flank is secure," he announced after a long silence. "General Ewell, inform General Johnson that I wish an immediate reconnaissance to our left Inform him as well that General Stuart's men will be coming up the road from Hanover, and that they are to link up and contain any threats developing in that direction."
Ewell nodded and stepped from the room.
Lee returned his attention to the map. Left, center, or to the right?
"What else do we know?"
"Their Second and Fifth Corps are coming up," Jed continued.
"How soon?" Again silence.
"How soon?" And this time his voice was sharper and more insistent
"We have to assume they will be up by morning," Longstreet finally interjected. 'To assume otherwise would be dangerous."
"I need to know what exactly is their disposition," Lee replied coldly. "I cannot continue this operation on assumptions. I hear no mention of their Sixth Corps; that's the strongest formation in their army."
"Sir, we brushed around them two days ago down past Manchester," Stuart announced.
Jed quickly pointed to the second map on the side of the table, which covered the entire region from Harrisburg in the north down to Washington and west to the valley.
"Here, sir, twenty-five miles to the southeast, nearly halfway back to Baltimore."
'Two days ago. They could be marching behind us even now."
"No, sir," Stuart quickly replied. "My main force is in Hanover. It is, in fact, sir, securing your left flank. No one is moving to flank you."
Lee looked back up at Stuart He knew the boy was reaching for justifications, to make it appear as if he had been performing a valuable service. Indirectly he had. Sixth Corps, old John Sedgwick's command, could very well be twenty-five miles off. Sedgwick might be popular with his own people, but his performance during the Chancellorsville campaign had been abysmal. By all rights Sedgwick should have been crushed against the river after the battle at Salem Church, Lee thought Only the incompetence of my own people saved him.
Sedgwick might still be a day away.
The silence dragged out Left, right or center?
Too many unknowns with the left An advance along that axis also drags us farther away from our reserves, communications, and supplies still on the other side of the South Mountains. Any maneuver would be clearly visible from Cemetery Hill as well.
The center? The vision held for a moment the flags going up the hill, heights crowned with smoke and fire and then the final shattering volley, the men streaming back. So close, so close. And now four thousand of them dead or wounded, the town a charnel house.
My fault I thought we could push them off. Just one more push. Perhaps if it had been better coordinated, all of Johnson's brigades going in at the same time as Anderson. No matter what the cause, though, four thousand men were dead or wounded for nothing. Tomorrow the Union will have even more forces on those hills, and our casualties would be even greater. I cannot let that happen again.
He kept staring at the map, gauging, judging distances, the ticking of the clock in the stationmaster's office, the steady undercurrent of the ever-present army outside, distant conversations, a horse whinnying in pain, the echo of a pistol shot ending the cries, the creaking of wagons passing, the moaning of the wounded suffering inside the jostling ambulances.
His finger traced across the map of the battlefield one more time. "Here."
There was a stirring as the men around him leaned over.
"Our left is uncertain. Besides, deployment to that flank will be observed from the cemetery. We tried the center…" and he fell silent
"It is here, on our right These two hills. Our advance to that position will be covered by this ridge," and as he spoke ' he pointed out the crest running south from the seminary.
"Deploy by dawn, advance en echelon overlapping the two hills, cutting off this road that goes back to Taneytown. Doing that we flank Cemetery Hill and cut them off."
No one spoke and slowly he looked up, his gaze meeting Longstreet's.
Longstreet said nothing, unlit cigar clenched firmly in the comer of his mouth. He caught a flicker of a gaze from Ewell, who had come back into the room. Hill, obviously ill, eyes glazed, stared at the map, saying nothing. Jed Hotchkiss, assuming the role of a lowly major in a roomful of generals, stood with gaze unfocused, eyes locked straight ahead.
"General?" Lee asked.
Longstreet took the cigar out of his mouth and finally shook his head. "We were thinking of something different, sir."
"Before you arrived here, sir." Ewell shifted uncomfortably.
Pete fished in his pocket for a match and struck it against the side of the table, puffing his cigar to life.
"You know that I always seek the advice of my commanders," Lee replied evenly. "Go ahead."
"Our opportunity for a decisive victory here is finished, sir."
Lee could feel his features flush. He lowered his eyes, looking back at the map.
"I don't see it that way, General Longstreet," he finally replied.
The tension in the room was palpable, hanging in the air like the smoke coiling up from Pete's cigar. No one dared speak.
"Do you know why we are here?" Lee finally asked. "Sir?"
"Here, gentlemen, here," and his voice rose slightly as he stabbed down with a fingertip, pointing at Hotchkiss's map of Pennsylvania and Maryland.
No one spoke.
"Three weeks ago, before we started this campaign, you know that I met with President Davis. Gentlemen, you might be filled with confidence, it is fair to say that our President is confident, but I tell you we are starting to lose this war."
"Sir, that is not true," Stuart interjected heatedly. "Those Yankees run whenever we… hit them."
"General Stuart, hear me out!"
Stuart, crestfallen, lowered his head.
"Dispatches from Richmond arrived only three days ago indicating that Vicksburg will most likely fall within the week. You've seen the newspapers we've taken up here; they're already proclaiming the victory.
"In central Tennessee, Bragg is falling back. Before the summer is out, Chattanooga will be threatened; and if that falls, Atlanta will soon be on the front line. A Union army has landed before Charleston, and even now they are closing the ring on that city.
"General Stuart, I have already heard that you captured a hundred and twenty wagons outside of Washington and that is what slowed your march."
Stuart puffed up slightly, but a glance at his commander warned him to silence.
"How desperate are we for supplies when a hundred wagons and their mules become a major prize?"
No one spoke.
"Don't you see that they can replace those wagons in a day? If tonight we had captured that accursed hill and had taken every gun on it, a day later their foundries would cast a hundred more guns to replace them. Their blockade is strangling us as surely as an executioner's rope."
Lee stepped back from the map table, arms folded, right hand absently rubbing his left shoulder. "We must finish this, and there is only one way to do it Ours is the only army of the South capable of ending it We must seek the battle of annihilation. We must bring out the Army of the Potomac and crush it No more Fredericksburgs, Chancellorsvilles, or Manassases. We must achieve a Saratoga, a Yorktown, a Waterloo."
As he spoke the last words, Lee brought his clenched fist down on the table, startling Ewell, who looked at him with surprise. -
"Defeat the Army of Potomac in detail, force the surrender of their commander, then march on Washington. Even then it will not be over. But it will turn the tide. Such a victory will break the political alliance that Lincoln is barely holding together in Congress. Perhaps, with the Lord's blessing, it would mean, as well, that England and France will at last recognize our government and move to lift the blockade."
He paused, lowering his head, attention again fixed on the map;
"That is why we are here," he whispered. "It's not to seek a half victory; it is to end this war now."
He nodded toward the open window racing the Carlisle Road.
"Those boys out there, they are not immortal. They are mere flesh and blood. They have trusted us with their lives; and we, gentlemen, God save us, are empowered to trade those lives for what we believe in. I will not trade one more life for half a goal, half a victory that simply leads to defeat.
"Realize this. We have but one good fight left in us. We lost fifteen thousand men at Chancellorsville." He hesitated, "And we lost Jackson… then we let them get away. We cannot afford one more battle like that That is why I want it to end here, today."
"General, today we lost eight thousand men," Longstreet said softly, voice calm, almost like a distant echo.
"God save us, I know."
"And taking those hills south of town, we'll lose eight thousand more."
Lee looked up at him.
"Don't you mink I know that as well? Our goal is their army, to defeat it to finish it and there will be a bloody price in the doing of it"
"We fought a good fight here today," Longstreet replied, "but the final price, sir, that last charge negated our gains."
"We smashed two of their corps," Lee replied sharply, and then hesitated. 'They also lost John Reynolds, one of their best"
"A good man, John." Hill sighed, the first words that had escaped him.
'They checked us though, sir," Pete continued, pushing in. "The last assault…"
His words trailed off. Lee knew. Pete was always talking about the defensive, of letting them attack.
"That hill, sir," Longstreet finally continued, "I couldn't have picked better ground. Sir, you spoke against just such an assault only this morning up at Cashtown, and yet we nevertheless charged into such a position just before sundown."
Lee nodded, looking at Longstreet. Yes, that was true. That morning seemed like an age ago. Yes, the land before Cashtown was indeed the same. He nodded for Pete to continue.
"I came to agree with you there, sir, back at the base of the South Mountains. Yes, we do need to seek the final battle, but what happened here this evening ended that chance for this battlefield. Sir, the Union army is concentrated here. We try to flank to that hill south of town here, and in an hour they can shift an entire corps to it, and we are faced with the same problem yet again…"
Lee started to speak, to point to the two hills south of town; but as he looked at Pete, he fell silent
Jackson is gone, he realized yet again. I always listened to Jackson, trusted him; even when he foiled before Richmond, I still listened. If this were Jackson before me, offering an objection to a plan, I would listen. I must realize that; otherwise why have commanders who can think? I know now I must take more direct control of this army. His gaze drifted to Hill, then to Ewell, then finally back to Longstreet Longstreet is now my right arm more than any other.
"Go ahead, General Longstreet"
"You were focused on that hill, that cemetery. We all were. It was so damn close. We just had to get to the other side, and we thought we could win. Sir, I, too, was caught by it I saw the tail end of the assault and for a moment I believed we would take it; then their guns, sir, their guns just shredded our lines. And, sir, those guns will still be there tomorrow morning, dug in deeper and resupplied."
Lee nodded slowly. "But I must ask, sir, what is on the other side of that hill?"
Longstreet looked over at Stuart and then to Jed Hotchkiss. "They have two lines of retreat from the far side of that hill" and as he spoke Longstreet traced out the roads back to Westminster and Taneytown. "Sir, it would have been yet another partial victory. Some, perhaps most, of the Yankees would have gotten out along those two roads. And then we would have to fight them again."
He pointed down to the map of Gettysburg and the hills south of town.
"We do this attack tomorrow; and after we take those hills, then what? The road to Baltimore will still be open, and they will retreat Even if they abandon the army's immediate supply trains, they will get out dig in someplace else, and men we'll have to attack yet again."
Lee, staring again at the map, did not speak.
"Sir, it's defensive. This ground is defensive. Beyond that there is no barrier we can pin them against to finish it Jeb and his boys might dream of a glorious sabre charge to wipe them out once we get them running, but it won't happen."
"Sir, we could finish it if you would break them up," Stuart said heatedly.
"No offense, Jeb, but you are not Murat and this is not Napoleon's army. Those days are finished. These Yankees are not a mob running away, armed with smoothbores, where they can only get one shot off before you are into them. The rifle has changed all that They might be broken, but you try and charge and they'll shred you at two hundred yards."
"We don't need a discussion of tactics now," Lee interjected.
"General Lee, I beg you to step back and take a look, a long careful look at what'you are proposing tomorrow and what will be the result even if we do take those hills."
Lee was silent gaze locked on the maps.
He finally looked up.
"Most likely at this very moment General Meade is looking at nearly the same thing. He knows where we are. He knows our line of communication traces back to Chambersburg. Given that we are deep inside their territory, enough civilians have most likely slipped through to tell him that my own corps is still stretched out between Chambersburg and Cashtown, while Hill and Ewell are already up here.
"We know that Hancock was in command of that hill today. He held it He will wish to continue to hold it That is most likely what he is advising Meade to do at this very moment. We could ride out of here now, sir, go to the south end of town and listen to them digging in up there. They are digging in on Culp's Hill as well and down along the ridge that stretches to the two hills south of town.
"It's the good position; the roads leading in are good; all he has to do is dig in.
"Let him," Longstreet announced, voice becoming animated. "Then we know exactly where he is. Sir, he will pour into this point like water going down a funnel, and they will pour up die roads from here, here, and here. That sir, is what Meade will see and what Meade will do."
Lee held up his hand, a quiet gesture, not dismissive, simply indicating a wish for silence.
Again he could hear the ticking of the clock, the rattle of an ambulance passing outside the window, the first of a long train of ambulances coming down from the cemetery.
Four thousand men tonight, he thought And the price tomorrow? If it was worth it, then I would pay it; but if Pete is right would I have but a half victory here even if we did win… and at what cost?
The silence continued. His gaze locked onto the map.
The wrong decision here, and the men being carried past the window would have shed their blood for what? By attacking, does that redeem the mistake of the last charge or just add more to the bill, and without meaning, without results?
Take control back. That is what I resolved to myself back at Chambersburg three days ago. But instead this place, this ground, is now taking control of me. And that realization was fundamental and startling to him.
He noticed that someone, without comment had placed a tin cup of coffee by his side and, without taking his eyes off the map, he took the cup and sipped.
The pendulum of the clock continued to drift back and forth, measuring out the seconds with a tick-tock steadiness.
He looked up. "General Longstreet what is your proposal, sir."
Longstreet, normally so rigid in his presence, exhaled. There was no smile, just the slightest of nods, and he stepped to Lee's side.
"Sir, go south of those hills. Here," and he pointed forcefully to the sketch map, the Rocky Hill and the high, wooded hill anchoring the south of the Union line. "A mile, two or three if need be. Swing around their right, sir. Cut the Taneytown Road without a fight Move toward the Baltimore Road, here, sir, above this place, Littlestown. We do that sir, and it will dislodge them from here without a fight and then we pick the ground."
Lee nodded thoughtfully but said nothing, gaze still on the map, the soft murmur of men talking outside and the clock continuing its steady beat
As Lee studied the map, it seemed as if some lines of movement stood out sharply, like traces of light in his mind, while others faded to a distant blur. Numbers shifted and played in his mind… rates of movement which division where, supply lines, which roads were macadamized and which were but dirt lanes. And of the other side? If they are coming here, then what are their lines of communication? Where is their railhead? They always marry their line to a railhead. Where is that?
The lines on the map led to that point, and in his mind he saw other lines, as if cut with fire, radiating out from it
"Have any of our supply wagons come through the gap back to the Cumberland Valley yet?" he asked, his voice soft.
"No; sir. General Pickett is still with them," Longstreet replied, "but they have orders to start in the morning to come here."
Lee said nothing. Looking over there on the map, the road from Chambersburg down to here, that line now standing out sharp in his mind as he studied the map, then another line southward, back toward Greencastle, on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. Another line on the map seemed to shine out now, due west to east from their railhead, to the South's base of supplies.
"Dear God," and for a moment he was startled, for the words had escaped him, a barely audible whisper, and all in the room were surprised, but none commented.
He took another sip of coffee, put the cup down, adjusted his spectacles, rubbed his eyes, then looked up at his men.
They were like a frozen tableau.
"We are fighting the wrong battle here," Lee announced, his voice steady.
"Then we flank the hills?" Longstreet asked.
"No, General Longstreet."
"What you just said, sir, a few minutes ago." Lee looked over at the clock and realized that he had been lost in thought for at least ten, maybe fifteen minutes.
"And that is?" Longstreet asked quizzically.
"About them pouring into Gettysburg like water down a funnel. You are right, General Longstreet They will all be here by tomorrow morning. Though we do not know for certain the location of their Second Corps, or their Sixth Corps, that is what Meade will do; he will concentrate here and dig in. You are right in that sir, and they will be ready for us no matter where we strike here.
"Though your plan, sir, is along the right lines, I think we should be more audacious, General Longstreet" And then he traced a line across the map far to the south, Emmitsburg, Taneytown, and then finally Westminster.
"General Longstreet you spoke with great clarity just now, sir. We have all become focused on here, on this place, these roads leading to Gettysburg, these surrounding hills, and have forgotten how we have fought in the past at Chancellorsville and especially Second Manassas.
"If they are here tomorrow, what is behind them? Not just behind the hills, sir, that you suggest we flank, but farther back, ten miles, twenty miles?"
No one spoke.
"Nothing, except their supplies, which are most likely based at Westminster."
He traced his finger on the map, estimating distances, his generals gathering closer.
"Jed, how far would you estimate?" and his cartographer leaned closer to watch.
"Here at Gettysburg, back to Fairfield, then Emmitsburg, then straight to Westminster."
Jed studied the map for a moment. "Thirty-five miles, but that's a rough guess, sir."
"Jackson did over fifty in two days when he marched around them at the start of the Second Manassas campaign," Lee replied, and he chose the analogy deliberately, looking over at Longstreet
He could see that the comment hit a nerve with Longstreet, who stiffened slightly and then made direct eye contact with Lee and held it
"Westminster is their supply head; it is the closest railroad," Lee continued, still looking at Longstreet "Move toward that gain the march on them, and it will be like Jackson taking Manassas Junction. We will have their supply line and be between them and Washington. Panic will ensue.
"All of the Yankees will be concentrated here at Gettysburg. They'll have to turn around and force march back. It will be a mad tangle. That is the disadvantage this town hides. Getting in is easy; getting back out quickly, that will be a problem. And while they do that, we simply dig in and get ready to receive them."
"How are these roads?" Longstreet asked, at last breaking eye contact with Lee to look at Hotchkiss.
Lee smiled inwardly. Longstreet was rising to the challenge, the bait. It would become for him an issue of pride, to match Jackson and what was now the immortal legend.
"Emmitsburg to Taneytown to Westminster is a good pike, sir," Hotchkiss replied. "Solid bridge over Monocacy Creek."
"I crossed through Westminster, sir," Stuart quickly interjected. "Excellent roads. You could move an entire corps along them without a problem."
Lee held up his hand, indicating for everyone to remain calm. For a moment this afternoon he thought that final victory was, indeed, unfolding before Gettysburg. He realized now that if he had not launched that final, desperate evening assault he would have rejected Longstreet's reasoning, which had triggered this new line of thought, believing that come dawn the fight could be pressed to a successful conclusion on this ground. He knew now that Longstreet, without a doubt, was right Today, exactly one year later, he had fought Malvern Hill here at Gettysburg on July 1st. He would never make that mistake again.
The battle here at Gettysburg was finished.
"We turn this back into a battle of maneuver, gentlemen, the thing we have always done best the thing that our opponents have never mastered. But let me say it before all of you quite clearly. I am not seeking a half victory. By abandoning this field, some will see that as an admission of defeat something we have never yet done, completely abandon a field. In so doing we return to a war of maneuver. We cut their line of supply while at the same time continuing to secure our own line of supply by moving our wagon trains back down to Greencastle. The ultimate goal must be to force the Army of the Potomac to territory that we choose and then fight a battle to finish this once and for all."
He looked carefully at each one in turn. 'That is what I will expect from you, what our country expects from all of us, and nothing less is acceptable. We are here to win not just a battle."
He paused for a moment
"We are here to win a war."
He looked around the room. Ewell's gaze seemed a bit distant; most likely he was still in shock after the debacle before Cemetery Hill, but Longstreet Stuart and even Hill had stirred. In their eyes was that light, that terrible fire he had seen before in men anticipating battle and knew could blaze within him as well.
There was a final gaze back at the map of Gettysburg, then over to the other map, his glance catching a creek north of Westminster… Pipe Creek.
He took a deep breath and pushed the map of Gettysburg aside.
Perhaps the fate of our nation rests on what I've just done here, he thought, but that thought held only for a moment until finally, like the map, he pushed it aside as well. Such thoughts, at such moments, could only serve to cripple one's will, and there was a campaign to be planned.
2.00 AM, JULY I, 1863
"It's General Meade."
Henry Hunt, who had fallen asleep sitting against the wheel of a caisson, stirred, looked up blankly. Hancock stood above him, silhouetted by the moonlight
"Better get up," Winfield said, and leaning over, he offered his hand.
With a groan Henry took the hand, and came up to his feet.
"How long did I sleep?" "An hour, maybe two." "Sorry."
"You needed it" "What about you?"
Hancock chuckled. "No rest for the wicked."
In the bright moonlight Henry could see the cavalcade, a troop of cavalry riding escort guidon of the Commander of the Army of the Potomac shining silver in the moonlight staff officers trailing behind as Meade trotted around the side of the gatehouse to the. cemetery and came up the hill. One of Hancock's staff rode down to meet them and pointed the way.
Henry stretched, absently tugging at his uniform, trying to smooth it out. His mouth felt gummy, the taste sour. His eyes were scratchy. As he stretched, every muscle and joint ached in protest
He caught the scent of coffee and nodded his thanks as a sergeant approached bearing a hot cup. He blew on the rim, took a scalding mouthful, and rinsed his mouth out; then he took a deep swallow, the coffee jolting him awake.
Still a bit disoriented, he looked around. In the moonlight it seemed as if the grounds of the cemetery were a seeming mass, a strange, almost frightful sight, as if the graves had opened and the dead were rising up.
The men were digging in. Shovels flashed in the moonlight; lunettes were going up around the guns rimming the crown of the hill. Shattered caissons, upended wagons, dead horses, empty limber boxes, anything that could stop a bullet or shell were being piled up, strengthening the defensive line.
Farther down the slope, he could see dozens of lanterns, slowly bobbing and weaving about, stretcher parties working to bring in the wounded.
"Lee asked for a truce a couple of hours ago," Hancock announced. "Their boys and ours are down there helping the wounded. Damn, Hunt, there are places you can barely move the ground is so covered with bodies."
He had a flash memory of the flag bearer torn apart, the ground smeared with blood, entrails, parts of bodies. Lowering the cup of coffee, he caught a scent of the air. It was a mixture of raw, upturned earth (cemetery dirt, he. realized coldly), the still-clinging sulfur smell of burnt powder, but layered in was the stench of open flesh, bodies torn open; and though he knew it was his imagination, he felt the air already held the first sickly sweet smell of decay, the flesh preparing to go back into the ground from which it came.
He gagged, then, embarrassed, mumbled that the coffee was strong.
Meade approached, Winfield stepping forward to meet him, offering a salute. Henry put his cup down on a caisson lid and came to stand by Winfield's side.
"Winfield, Hunt, glad to see you're both alive," Meade offered as he dismounted.
"How are things on the road?" Winfield asked.
'Usual. Total chaos. God, is there anything left of Eleventh Corps up here? I swear I saw every last one of them halfway back to Taneytown."
"Some of them held," Winfield offered. "Ames's brigade put up a hell of a fight"
"I heard. Too bad about Ames."
Henry didn't know, and he looked over at Winfield.
"Reb stretcher party brought him in an hour ago," Winfield offered. "He died just after they carried him into our lines."
"Damn," Henry whispered. "A good man."
Meade said nothing, walking up to the line of guns ringing the crest carefully stepping around the tangle of bodies that still Uttered the slope. "So they came up this far?"
"Right to the mouth of the guns," Winfield replied. "Henry's people tore them to shreds."
Again the image of the flag bearer, cut in half. Henry pushed the thought away.
"Is this position worth holding?"
Henry could see Winfield's features crack into a grin. "It's Fredericksburg in reverse. By God, I hope they come again tomorrow. We have the ammunition now and two more batteries. Let them come."
Meade nodded, looking down the slope toward the town. "So he asked for a truce."
"Right thing to do," Hancock replied. "I was thinking of offering one myself but didn't have the authority. It's ghastly down there. Some of our men were crawling down to offer them water; a couple got shot doing it I'm glad he offered."
"Not like Lee to make a concession of defeat like that"
"I don't think it was a concession, sir. It was a Christian act"
Meade grunted, saying nothing for a moment. "Think he'll come again?"
Winfield folded his hands behind his back, looked down, and kicked at the ground for a moment.
"Not like Lee to concede ground, especially after he's given blood for it like this. Here, at this point? I don't think so. His stretcher bearers and doctors down there, they'll talk and tell everyone we're digging in even now. If he couldn't take it at dusk with damn near two divisions, he must know he can't take it tomorrow. He must figure we're bringing more men up."
Winfield looked over expectantly at Meade.
"Your corps and my old boys from the Fifth should be coming up by dawn. That only leaves John Sedgwick out of the fight for tomorrow."
"When can we count on him being up though?" and Henry could sense the slight tone of doubt in Hancock's voice. There were some men who swore by" old "Uncle John," especially the boys who served under him. There were others though, men like Winfield, who thought he was too cautious and too slow when speed was needed.
"His men should be forming to march even now. I expect them no later than mid-afternoon. But you haven't answered my question."
Winfield hesitated again, attention focused on the town, which was ablaze with light.
"Bobbie Lee's like a pit dog. Once he sinks his teeth in, he worries you to death and won't let go. Sank his teeth into us today, and we broke a couple of them off. That will only serve to get him mad and want to jump in and bite again."
"So you think he'll come at us again tomorrow right here."
"I didn't say that, George."
Meade sighed, features sour, and he rubbed his forehead.
"Sir, I do believe there'll be a fight tomorrow. If we had John up, I'd even say go in after them. Dan Sickles came up here a couple of hours back and we talked. He says the right flank of the Rebs is in the air and wants to push up west and north."
"Dan Sickles always wants to go pushing when he should be sitting still, damn the man!" "Just a thought," Hancock replied. "So you think he'll hit again."
"He has to. He damn near won a major victory today and then threw it away by getting too bold at the last second. He needs to retrieve that tomorrow. He knows just how important morale is with his army. Damn it, he seems to run on little if anything else at times other man sheer brass. He'll come at us."
Meade nodded. "Fine men. It will be here."
Winfield said nothing for a moment "I didn't say it would necessarily be here, this place."
"Then what the hell are you saying?"
"Watch the flank. With Lee it's always the flank."
"And you said this was a good position."
‘That I did."
'Then for once let us have him try our flank while we have the location^ Make this hill the center anchor of our line. Artillery up here can dominate everything for a radius of a mile."
Meade looked over at Henry, who nodded in agreement
"We leave Sickles on the left but come midmorning we refuse that line, anchor it back. I remember two hills down there, about two miles from here."
"The Round Tops, locals call it" Henry offered. "The smaller is clear cut excellent artillery ground."
"Fine then. Refuse that flank, pull it back from the crossroads, and anchor it with concealed batteries on those hills. We put Fifth Corps behind the hills as reserve. Winfield, your corps behind this position as reserve covering this hill and that position over mere," and as he spoke he waved toward Culp's Hill.
"This is a good site; the roads coming in are good; we'll have our full strength up by late tomorrow; then let Bobbie Lee try and dig us out."
Winfield was silent.
"Don't you approve?"
"It's an excellent position, sir. But I wonder if Lee sees it that way," Winfield said. "What do you mean?" "This situation, does he see it as too good?"
"Lee's instinct is to attack. He knows we are here," Meade replied sharply. This whole campaign was to bring us out from Washington in order to engage us in the open. Fine, we want it, too. One thing Lee does not understand is that we are in Pennsylvania now, and the boys will fight like hell to defend it. From everything I heard about this evening's fight both of you saw that"
"Yes, they fought like hell," Winfield offered.
"He'll come on, and here's where we dig in. Hunt come dawn, start bringing up the rest of your reserve. I want a firm anchor on the left flank, that hill you mentioned. See what guns you can put on top of the hill to the right of here as well.
"Winfield, I want to meet with all corps commanders in a half hour. There's a house just back down the pike a quarter mile or so; meet me there."
Meade extended his hand. "Winfield, you did well today. Damn well."
"The men did, sir."
Meade grunted and stiffly remounted. Without further comment he trotted off, guidon fluttering behind him.
"I wonder if I should have said more," Winfield said softly.
"What do you think, Henry?' "About Lee? Tomorrow?" "Yes."
"Remember, I served under him at Fort Hamilton." "I know; that's why I asked."
"A subtle mind, we all know that Something gets him angry though, and he could be bull-headed. We saw that this evening."
He looked down at the town. A distant cry echoed, a high, pleading shriek that died away.
"Goddamn war," Hancock whispered. "When in Christ's name is it ever going to end?'
"Maybe when the last of us is dead."
Winfield looked over at him.
"You didn't answer my question, Henry."
"Nor did you answer Meade's."
Winfield chuckled softly. "Because I couldn't. When it comes to Lee… — I just don't know. I'm certain about the flank. That has always been his way. In fact, he surprised me a bit today with the last attack. I'd have shifted, gone for the low ground between here and the Round Tops. I think he got worked up, thought he could push us and we'd crack. Now he knows we won't
"We whipped him good today. Let's hope it gets him so damn mad that tomorrow he comes straight in across those fields," and he pointed toward the open land west of the hill.
"I think it will be one of two things," Henry finally replied.
"Chancellorsville. Distance is about the same. Swing behind the seminary, head southwest come out below the Round Tops, then cut in. The flank, just like you said. If so, I'll be on that hill, and by God he'll pay."
"Second Bull Run and he'll march fifty miles to get into our rear."
Hancock stood silent hands folded behind his back. He finally looked over at Henry and smiled. "Henry Hunt pray for another Chancellorsville. If Lee tries that on us again, this time we'll bloody him'good."
Henry said nothing. Picking up his cup of coffee, he took a sip and grimaced. It had gone cold. He drank it anyhow. Two hours' sleep was enough. It was time to get down to the rocky hill, Little Round Top, and start digging in.
4:00 AM, JULY 2,1863 HERR'S RIDGE
"Sir, I think you should see this."
John Williamson drifted in the half-real world of waking and numbed sleep. He tried to ignore Hazner for a minute, to hold on to just one more precious minute of rest, the opiatelike sleep of complete exhaustion, devoid of dreams, of nightmares, of all that he had seen.
"Sir." Sergeant Hazner roughly shook him, and John sat up. Hazner was crouched before him, a dim shadow in the moonlight
"What is it?"
"Over there by the road, sir. Something is up."
John turned, fumbling for the glasses in his breast pocket. The world around him was hazy, wrapped in early morning mist and smoke drifting from smoldering fires. The air was rich, damp, carrying the scent of crushed hay, and that other smell, the smell of a battlefield. Where the battle had started, dead men and horses scattered about their campsite alongside the pike were beginning to swell.
The camp was quiet at least nearby, but he could hear low moans, cries from a nearby barn, bright with lights. Even as he put his glasses on, two stretcher bearers staggered toward him, carrying their burden, who was babbling softly, lost in delirium. Even in the dark he could see that the stretcher bearers were Yankees, white strips of cloth tied around their arms to indicate they were prisoners who had given their parole and were now pressed into service.
One of them looked over at John. "Vere the hospital? Ve lost?"
It took him a moment to understand what the Yankee was saying. His accent was thick, German from the sounds of it
John pointed toward the barn. The Yankee nodded his thanks and pressed on.
John spared a quick glance down at their burden. In the soft glow of moonlight the man they were carrying already looked dead, his features ghostly white, dark, hollow eyes wide with pain. Since he was wrapped in a blanket it was impossible to tell which side he was on.
Across the gently sloping valley below, lanterns bobbed up and down, like fireflies drifting on a summer night The rising mists gave it all a dreamlike appearance, of spirits floating in the coiling wisps of fog. A lantern or candle would stop, hover for a moment and then move on. He watched as one knot of men stopped, lantern laid down on the ground, men gathering around, one going down on his knees and covering his face, while comrades gently picked up a body to carry it off.
Around him all was still, what was left of his regiment lost in druglike sleep. A man cried out softly, tossing, and sat up, breathing hard. Embarrassed, he looked about caught John's gaze, then looked away, lying back down.
Fires had burned down to glowing embers, thin coils of smoke rising straight up, mingling with the damp night air.
"I think that's your friend, Colonel Taylor, over on the road," Hazner whispered, touching John on the shoulder and drawing him back.
"Well, sir, if he's out and about back here behind the lines at this time of the morning, that tells me something is up."
"And you want to know what it is." John sighed. "Is that what you woke me up for?"
"Well, sir, I don't have the social connections you have."
"Goddamn, Hazner. Can't it wait till morning?" 'It will be that in another hour, sir. I was about to get you up anyhow."
Every joint of his body ached in protest, and he was tempted to tell Hazner to go to hell and lie back down. But the sergeant was right. If something was up, it'd be good to know it now.
After the bloody assault of the afternoon, the regiment had gone into reserve. He had watched the final assault go in against that damn hill on the far side of the town, a charge that had gone down into flaming ruin, wiping away the sense of triumph. Perhaps the regiment would be ordered up, and the thought of that knotted his stomach. Not another charge, not like yesterday, God forbid, never another charge like that
He looked to the road and saw that it was indeed Taylor, half a dozen staff with him. They were dismounted, gathered in a tight circle, one of the men holding a lantern over a map that was pressed against the flank of a horse. John moved toward them, feeling a bit nervous about intruding, but Hazner had set him on a course and he could not turn aside, for now his curiosity was up as well.
As he approached, Walter looked up. "John?"
"How are you, Walter?"
"Good to see you're still alive."
"Same for you."
There was an awkward moment and John felt he should withdraw.
"A hard night" Walter finally offered. "How did it go up there?'
"They held the hill. We lost a lot of good men, and now the Yankees are digging in. You can hear them up on that hill moving more men in."
"So that means we attack again come dawn?" John struggled to control the pitch of his voice, offering the words casually, as if discussing a distasteful chore that he simply needed the light of day to accomplish.
Walter sighed. "John, you know I can't discuss that with you."
"I know, Walter. But if my men need to get ready, I'd better see to it"
An approaching horseman, coming from the west, stilled their conversation. John recognized the rider as one of the young couriers on Lee's staff, a cheerful lad still filled with a starry-eyed dream of glory. The boy's mount was exhausted, blowing hard, covered in lathered sweat. The boy reined in before Walter and saluted.
"Sir, I was sent back to tell you that the road is clear all the way down to Fairfield, and that scouts have been posted in that town. A patrol led by Major Hotchkiss is moving toward Emmitsburg but has encountered nothing so far. At least one brigade of Yankees marched through Fairfield early in the evening, just after dark, coming up from Emmitsburg, but turned east toward Gettysburg, moving on the road that comes out near the rocky hill south of town."
"How do you know that?"
"We captured a few stragglers, sir. Third Corps."
"But the road we want is clear?"
"At least to Fairfield, sir. One of the stragglers said there was nothing behind them."
"Did you hear him say that?"
"Yes, sir. But any man that would talk like that I wouldn't trust sir. No honor in a man who would say that to someone on the other side."
One of Taylor's followers snorted disdainfully.
"No honor in any of them bastards."
"Lieutenant Jenson, go tell that to the Yanks still holding the hill," Walter replied softly.
"Did you see General Longstreet on the turnoff to the Fairfield Road?" Taylor asked.
"Yes, sir. I passed the word to one of his staff. They said he was trying to get a few hours' sleep before setting off."
"Jackson would already be moving," Jenson whispered.
Walter turned and looked sharply at his companions. "I will not tolerate that" he replied sharply. "If the general were here, you wouldn't have dared say that"
John watched the interchange. Jenson lowered his head
and muttered an apology. John could see that Walter was exhausted, leaning against his horse for support Hazner approached, bearing two cups of coffee, and with his usual good sense he held one out to Walter, who gratefully took the steaming cup while John took the other one. Such a gesture meant that John could linger for a few more minutes and perhaps find out what was brewing.
The first sip was hot and when it hit his empty stomach, John gagged. He'swallowed down the bile, took a deep breath, then another sip, which settled the rebellion. Walter half drained the cup and set it back on an upright fence post Then he looked up at the courier.
"Good work, Vincent General Lee is asleep. His headquarters is the house across from the seminary. Report there, but don't disturb the general. Like Longstreet he needs some rest too."
"Yes, sir." The boy saluted and tried to urge his mount up to a gallop, but the poor exhausted beast would only give a slow trot as he set off down the road.
Walter looked back at John.
"Emmitsburg, that's off to the south of here, isn't it?" John asked. Walter smiled.
"Just relax, John. It won't affect you for hours. Go back and get some sleep."
Jenson, who was standing behind Walter, turned and, looking back toward the town, stiffened. "Sir, I think that's General Lee approaching."
All turned. John saw Lee, riding alone, coming out of the mist cloaking the road and stopping to take Vincent's report Again, for John, it had a dreamlike quality. The wisps of fog and smoke drifting, the outline of the seminary up on the next hill, light shining from the windows, and beyond, die glow of distant campfires from what must be the Union lines.
Here and there in the surrounding fields, men were standing up, rising like apparitions from out of this place of battle, watching as Lee approached. The world was still, as if the thunder of the previous day must now be paid for with a vow of silence. The only sound was the soft clip-clop of Traveler's hooves.
Walter stepped away from the group as all stiffened to attention. "Sir, I thought you were asleep," Walter said.
"I wanted to check on things and see General Longstreet off."
"We're working on it now, sir. Sir, you really should get a little more rest."
'Time enough later, Walter. Vincent told me the road is open."
"Yes, sir. Scouts are pushing down toward Emmitsburg."
"The way is clear and can't be observed?"
"We were studying that just now, sir," and Walter nodded toward the map still resting against the flank of a horse. "There's some concern about the rocky hill south of Gettysburg." As he spoke Walter drew a line with his finger across the map.
"This ridge here should block that view. That's at Black Horse Tavern, where Hood's division will pass. McLaws is supposed to come down by a different road farther back. As we move through Black Horse, a regiment of skirmishers will deploy along the ridge in front of the tavern to keep back any Yankee cavalry that might come up. With the rain yesterday, dust should be to a minimum."
"Are the men up yet?"
Walter pulled out his watch and opened it, Jenson bringing a lantern over. "It's just about four-thirty, sir? They should be falling in right now."
"Fine, then let's go and see them off."
"Sir, I can attend to that Might I suggest you get some rest sir? I know you haven't had more than two hours' sleep since yesterday morning."
Lee leaned over and put a hand on Walter's shoulder. "Thank you for your concern, Walter, but now is not the time for it. The men must see me; they must understand how. important this day is."
Walter said nothing. The staff began to mount and Walter looked back at John. "Not a word. We don't want wild rumors flying around the camp. You know how men out on a picket line will talk with the other side. Orders will come down soon enough."
'I’ll keep it quiet, Walter."
'Take care of yourself, John."
"You too, Walter."
The cavalcade set off, heading west John watched as they disappeared into the mist. Three times now he had seen Lee in the last five days. And thousands had died across those five days.
"A flanking march, that's it" Hazner whispered, picking up the cup that Walter had left half-empty, draining off what was left
"Looks that way."
Hazner looked back to the east "First light" he announced.
It was hard to tell if the glow on the horizon was from the Union campfires or approaching dawn.
"Things have changed." Hazner sighed. ‘I thought we'd push straight in come dawn."
John said nothing, sipping the last of his coffee, chewing on the grinds.
‘I wonder what would have happened if we had. It's not like the old man to break off an action like this," John whispered.
"We'll never know. No sense dwelling on that. It makes a man crazy wondering. Let's just hope it means we stay alive another day and not wind up like those poor bastards in that barn."
"A wonderful thought" John sighed.
"I'm going to get a little sleep, sir," Hazner announced. "You should, too."
"First you wake me up, and now you go to sleep. Thank you."
"Well, my curiosity got satisfied, sir, and now I can rest easy. You heard them talking. Longstreet is off on a flanking march. He'll go slow as he usually does, and that means we can skip getting killed this morning." Without waiting for a reply, Hazner went back to his fire, tossed a few sticks on, and then flopped down on a ground cloth, oblivious to the dead mule that was lying on its back only a few feet away.
If only I could be like him, John thought enviously, to put aside all thought, to sleep next to a dead animal without concern, and awake with a smile, in fact eager for what he calls "the mischief ahead." Whether Longstreet moves slow or not, another fight is still ahead. It's never going to end. It may be mischief for Hazner, for me it's pure terror.
As he rode west Lee's gaze lingered for a moment on an overturned caisson, dead horses collapsed around it One was still alive, forelegs shattered, its lungs working like a bellows. The earth was torn up from the previous day's battle where Pegram had massed over thirty guns to support the assault… dead horses, plowed furrows of dirt from incoming solid shot tearing in, an abandoned limber wagon with shattered wheels. And more dead horses. Poor beasts. The dying horse cried piteously.
"Lieutenant Jenson," Lee sighed, "please put that creature out of its misery."
Jenson angled away from the group, passing through the shattered fence. Lee did not look back as a pistol shot broke the silence.
The regiments that had fought the previous day's battle were camped in the fields to either side of the road, exhausted men, lost in oblivion. Let them rest; it won't be till later in the day that their time will come. A few, unable to sleep, lined the road, watching as he passed… but none spoke. A barn and house to his left were aswarm with activity, hundreds of men lying in the farmyard, around the house, on the porch. Most were silent a few crying; a knot of men were on their knees, hats off, praying over a comrade. Lee took his hat off, holding it to his breast as he rode past
He pressed down the road, moving aside to let a train of ambulances pass, followed by several dozen stretcher bearers, Union prisoners who looked up at him curiously. He nodded and continued on. A cluster of tents, pitched next to the road, was ahead; atop the crest of the next hill, the ridge top poked above the fog like an island in a sea of white moon glow. He rode into the mist flanking the hill, the cool dampness soothing, cloaking him for a moment He entertained a passing fantasy, that he could somehow stay here, let the burden drop away.
I let raw emotion take control The last assault never should have gone in. And I could see it in the eyes of those around me, the staff meeting at the train station in that accursed town. No one would say it, but I know they were thinking it. I pushed Ewell's men forward, and now thousands are gone from the ranks.
When I stand before God, will those who fell be in judgment? How do 1 answer for all the blood upon my hands? John Reynolds died near here, supposedly just beyond the hospital barn, a godly man Reynolds.
Out on the frontier, Texas, he remembered how the natives believed that the spirits of the slain lingered at the place where they had fallen.
Does John now linger here? Is his spirit drifting with this fog? The men, Reynolds's valiant men who so manfully held us throughout yesterday morning and afternoon… was this mist not a mist at all, but rather their souls?
He shivered. Pagan superstition, don't let it haunt you now.
John, I'm sorry. This war never should have divided us. Duty, you and I lived for duty. We learned that at the Point, taught it to our cadets in turn. We were trained for this, believed it to be our sacred trust. A soldier must not ask why once he has drawn his sword for his nation. He takes his orders and carries them out unflinchingly; thus it was with the Roman Republic, with the Crusaders, with my own father who rode with Washington.
But… ami now responsible for all this death? For John, for the bodies that are swelling in the fields around me?
He slowed, suppressing a gag as they edged around a dead horse that had been nearly cut in half by a bursting shell, the broken body of a man twisted up in the offal.
"Lieutenant Jenson, find some men, get that poor man out
of that mess, and have them drag the horse off the road. I don't want troops seeing that"
If I start thinking of this now, dwelling on all that this means, it will slow me, make me hesitate. One gets lost in it, the sight of a column of men, buoyant, filled with youthful zeal, marching along the road on a spring morning, their voices rising with the wind, a vast ocean sweeping toward victory, or the lines going forward, the first shock of battle joined, the air splitting with thunder… those are the moments we give ourselves over to the dark god
The duality of man is so apparent then, men like myself who kneel in prayer to the Prince of Peace, who then rise up and go forth, open-eyed, into the red field, filled with mad passion for war and glorying in the moment. It is now, though, that we see the truth in what we do in this darkness before dawn.
And he visibly shook himself, as if trying to cast off a weight upon his shoulders.
Not now. Long after this day is over I can dwell on my sins. I must stay the course with all my strength; to do otherwise is a betrayal of all who have already lost their lives, leading us to this moment.
Traveler's pace slowed as they went up the slope, the mist thinning. He stopped and lowered his head and took his hat off.
"John, old comrade, rest in peace. You did your duty as I must do mine. Forgive me if I have wronged you.
"God, give me strength and Your guidance for this.day ahead. Lead me to what is right so that this struggle might come to the end that You decree. Thy will be done.’
Startled, he looked to his left, where voices had echoed "amen" in response to his prayer. Several men stood by the side of the road, infantry, staring at him, all with hats off.
"Good morning to you," Lee said self-consciously.
"General, sir. Heard we were marching south. Are we giving up here and headin' home?"
"Just do your duty, men, and all will be well."
The men, ladened down with dozens of canteens dripping with moisture, saluted.
"We was out fetching water for our company," a corporal announced. "Full canteens, haversacks, and eighty rounds per man. Sounds to me, sir, like a fight coming, sir."
"Return to your company, Corporal. You'll be moving shortly."
The men saluted gravely. The crest ahead was a beehive of activity, lanterns casting dim circles of light. But the sky was brightening; and looking back to the east he could see a band of violet and gold tracing the horizon, the shoulder of Orion, hovering in the morning sky.
"General Longstreet sir." It was Walter, back at his side, nodding toward the tents.
Longstreet was up, standing over a table, map spread out men gathered around him. Lee rode up and all came to attention, formally saluting.
"Good morning, gentlemen."
An orderly took Traveler's reins as Lee dismounted, another man bringing up a cup of tea, which he gratefully took, blowing on the rim before taking a sip.
"Another scout just came in," Longstreet reported. "Jed Hotchkiss reconnoitered down to a hill that overlooks Emmitsburg. He reports campfires along the pike road south of town."
"Not many, a couple of regiments, infantry or cavalry, not sure, sir. Lots of signs, though, of heavy troop movements from yesterday."
As Longstreet talked, he nodded to a copy of Jed Hotchkiss's map spread out on the table. John Hood and a couple of his brigade commanders were on the far side of the table.
"Sure would like to have a brigade of cavalry out in front of us on this," Hood offered.
"You have two companies from my headquarters detail," Lee replied.
"And the rest of Stuart's men?" Hood asked, and again there was that slight note of reproof in another man's voice. The universal challenge of the last week: "Where is Stuart?"
"They'll be coming in on our left flank by midmorning. Their arrival will help to keep those people in Gettysburg from looking the other way."
"Still, sir, it would be nice to have a bit more support. We're up north now. I don't have a single boy with us who knows this country the way we did back in Virginia. I'll be running half-blind."
"Jed Hotchkiss will be with you, General Hood, once you reach Emmitsburg, and he has studied this region for months."
Lee drew closer to the table and set his cup of tea down. "Let me make something very clear to everyone," he said slowly, deliberately lowering his voice, forcing those around him to draw closer. "I will not tolerate any more wishes, any more concerns as to what Stuart is doing or not doing, whether we should have taken that hill last night or not" He paused, looking pointedly at Longstreet "Or any regrets that Jackson is no longer with us. We are in command here. I, and from me to you, down to those boys who trust us with their lives. We must show confidence, gentlemen, as is our duty. Do we understand each other clearly on that gentlemen?"
"Yes, sir," Hood snapped.
Even as he spoke, Lee could see that the light was shifting. He could see Hood's face by the first touch of dawn.
"This will be like Manassas again. A long, hard march with the army split Ewell will hold before Gettysburg, drawing back his left flank onto the ridge west of town. Hill's men will wait until late in the day before setting out General Longstreet this is the day for your corps to show all that it can do. You must move swiftly and without hesitation. This is not a tactical march, sir, of but a few miles, to swing around the cemetery or even around that rocky hill. You must be audacious and move with the utmost speed. That above all, sir, audacity and speed."
He hesitated, but then decided to add one more thought. It was the type of flourish he did not like, since it smacked of theater, but if it kept their focus then he must
"Back on the road a few minutes ago three men asked me if by marching south we were going home. That is exactly what we must think on this day, gentlemen. I do not want another half victory or, far worse, what we had yesterday, though some claim it as a victory. Yes, men will die this day, and tomorrow and the day after. I want those deaths to mean something. I want this army to go home after this, the war ended. We can do that We must do that After this, I want our army to march south, back home, with victory won."
He lowered his head, his voice barely a whisper. "If we fail in this, gentlemen, then we must answer to all those who have already given their lives to bring us to this moment Keep that in your hearts this day."
He looked back up. Hood stood before him, silent and to his surprise several of the men had tears in their eyes.
"Thank you, sir, for this chance," Hood said.
"The South is with you this day, sir."
Hood nodded and looked over to Longstreet "It's nearly five, John, time to start moving."
Hood saluted, hesitated, then extended his hand to Lee. Lee took it. Though slightly uncomfortable with such displays, he knew that Hood needed this final touch, as if seeking a blessing.
Hood mounted and rode back out to the road. Looking up, Lee could see that the column was just about formed, backed up along the road to Chambersburg. No bugles sounded, no drum rolls or fifers. In the still morning air the sound just might carry far enough to the Union lines.
"McLaws and Pickett?" Lee asked.
"McLaws sets off in another half hour," Longstreet answered. "He'll move down to Fairfield on the next road to the west Pickett will be sweeping along'the flank of the South Mountain on the other side, heading down to Greencastle. There's a good road there, from the head of the pass straight east to Emmitsburg.
"That is one of my concerns. We'll be moving three divisions, plus artillery, through that one town, all of it funneling into one road down to Emmitsburg."
"It was your suggestion, General, that triggered this move."
"And the road is better than the one Jackson used at Chancellorsville, far better."
Pete stiffened slightly. Good. Let that rivalry play a bit in his mind this day. He knew that Longstreet held a touch of resentment for Thomas, like an older brother who, though he loved his brother, still was bothered by the attention that seemed at times to be favoritism to a younger sibling.
"You have always been the anvil general," Lee said. "Now you must be the hammer."
"Any more word on their movements?"
"We know for certain that four corps are in Gettysburg. Their left wing, which was in Emmitsburg yesterday, the First, Third, and Eleventh Corps, are all in Gettysburg. That move has unmasked their left for what you have proposed. Their Twelfth has moved in on the right flank, the wooded hill above the cemetery."
"So that leaves three corps unaccounted for."
"Your thoughts?" Lee asked.
"They're most likely coming up hard, marching through the night I don't think Meade will keep, anything back."
"I agree. Though not within the realm of what is proper, still, the truce before that hill resulted in my men mingling with theirs and learning some information. Those people up there were all talking about staying. A doctor helping to move the wounded from before the cemetery gate said that the gunners and infantry were digging entrenchments and gun positions. He also said a couple of Union stretcher bearers claimed that Meade was now on the field.
"I think, General, you will have an open road before you this day. Again, the same as at Manassas."
"Battalion… forward march!"
The command was a distant echo, coming from out of the mist, cloaking the road to the west Lee looked over at Longstreet and nodded-as his companion called for an orderly to bring up their mounts. Lee settled into the saddle and with Pete by his side trotted down the sloping ridge to the junction in the road that led toward Fairfield. The head of the column was just at the turnoff, Robertson's brigade of Texans and men from Arkansas in the lead. Brigade colors were uncased, held up, marking the advance.
At the crossroads the command was given for the column to turn to the right and Lee could sense the ripple of excitement racing down the line. Several men started to cheer, and for a second Lee feared that the cheer would be picked up by thousands of voices. Officers barked commands for silence, and the men settled down.
As the flags passed, Hood and Robertson riding together at the very front of the line, Lee and Longstreet saluted.
"We'll give you that victory, sir!" Hood shouted, and again a suppressed cheer started to erupt
The First Texas strode past long-legged men dressed in tattered gray frock coats, many of them barefoot lean, tough boys born on the frontier, Hood's first command-heroes of the desperate fight in the cornfield of Antietam and the triumphal charge at Chancellorsville. They looked up at him eagerly, some saluting, others doffing their ragged hats.
They were veterans enough to know what was now being done. It would not be an assault forward; this was a flanking march, a march through rich Yankee farmland where the com was already waist high, the winter wheat was ready for harvest and orchards filled with peaches were ripening. It was a flanking march and they were in the lead, ready to set a blistering pace.
Columns were formed up in the fields adjoining the road, preparing to fall into place, couriers riding back and forth, a battery of guns edging up to the road, ready to swing in behind Robertson.
The excitement in the air was electric, for the moment casting aside the dark thoughts of earlier. If only war could be like this, Lee thought Nothing more than mornings of setting off on the march into new lands, confidence and dreams intact and no dark, boiling clouds of smoke and fire at the end of the day. For surely that is where these boys were now marching, into those clouds, and yet they were doing so with light hearts this day.
"Your men look ready," Lee offered, and Pete nodded sagely.
"They didn't see yesterday, last night except for some of the wreckage back here from Heth's attack. They're eager to get into the fight"
Lee looked over at Pete, wondering if there was a note of reproof in what was just said. No, it was just Pete, sanguine in all things, no subtlety or intent other than a calm observation.
'Too bad one of them daguerreotypists isn't around," Walter observed, "this would make quite an image."
Would it? He remembered some of the paintings of Washington, that rather ridiculous one of him crossing the river, or at Yorktown taking the surrender. Would someone, one day, paint this moment? Lee and Longstreet and the flanking march?
Don't think of such vanities. Too many men in both armies do, and it is sinful to contemplate our actions in such a light at this time.
Behind them Longstreet's headquarters staff was breaking camp, dropping the tents, packing up the map cases and gear, loading only the essentials into an ambulance. Tents and other nonessentials were to be left behind, to follow up after the infantry and artillery had passed. The entire column was stripped down for rapid movement He could see that his veterans were traveling light a thin blanket roll over the left shoulder, haversacks stuffed with rations, some men with a chicken or slice of fresh meat tied to their belt and, of course, cartridge boxes packed with forty rounds and an additional forty rounds stuffed into pockets. With each brigade would go a couple of wagons bearing extra ammunition and a few ambulances. The bulky, slow-moving wagon trains with all those vast impedimenta of war would follow later.
"I think it's time for me to get moving" Longstreet announced.
Lee looked over at his old "war horse." There was a fire in Pete's eyes, an eagerness to get moving. "Pete."
Longstreet looked at him, a bit surprised, for Lee rarely used the affectionate nickname by which he was called by nearly everyone else.
"I need to say it one last time. Move with speed. If you must set a mark, then let it be Jackson. Move as he did; slow for nothing. I say that not as a reproach, but simply as an order."
"This, is your plan. You were the one last night who caused me to stop, to think, to remember how we did it before. Otherwise I might have gone straight in this morning. If victory comes of it, I shall let it be known to all that you were the one who conceived it"
"No, sir. I was not thinking so much on this scale. But thank you, sir."
"You keep talking of this new kind of war, General. And in some ways you are right It is all changing, rifled weapons, factories, massed armies of hundreds of thousands. None of that was thought of when I was a cadet at the Point"
"It wasn't for my class either, sir."
"But audacity, aggression still must count You have a hard march the next two to three days. Fairfield to Emmitsburg and from mere to Taneytown. Once there rest but not too long; do not slow down. Once you have secured Taneytown, Hill's corps will be on the road behind you. With Taneytown and Emmitsburg secured, I can shift our line of communications, abandon the road to Chambersburg, and march south to Emmitsburg, bringing Ewell up as well.
"I suspect by then that Meade will be onto us and coming down your way. You must push on to Westminster; that is the key. As soon as Hill starts to come up in support of you at Taneytown, then Westminster must be taken. If you can secure that, we will have their supplies and that good base you speak of, the ground south of Pipe Creek. And then you will have the battle you seek, with them coming at you.
'Pete, you might be facing everything they have and doing so alone until the rest of the army comes up. Yet again, it will be like Manassas, when Jackson held alone for nearly two days."
Longstreet shifted uncomfortably. Jackson had been furious over that action, later stating that Longstreet had come up too slowly and taken too long to deploy out while Thomas held alone, his men reduced to throwing rocks at the charging Yankees before Pete's men finally swept in.
"End this war, Pete. And believe me, with you astride their line of communications, cutting them off from Washington, they will come on with a fury. Hill will push in on your flank at the right moment, with Stuart closing from behind. But I need you to move hard and take the foundation to do it on."
"Yes, sir. It will be done."
Lee hesitated. "End this cursed war," he whispered. "I fear we have but one chance left like this. Our final chance."
Startled, Longstreet stared intently at Lee. He drew himself up and saluted. "Yes, sir."
The ambulance ladened with headquarters gear moved to the edge of the road. The last of Robertson's brigade passed, men of the Third Arkansas. The headquarters ambulance rolled into the road behind their two ammunition wagons. General Longstreet, his staff trailing, fell into the road behind Robertson. Morning fog drifted up from the creek flanking the road. Without looking back, General Longstreet disappeared into the mist
Behind Lee the sun broke the horizon. Dawn of July 2, 1863, had come.
8:30 AM, JULY 2,1863
LITTLE ROUND TOP GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
Focusing his field glasses, Henry Hunt scanned the road to Emmitsburg that bisected the open valley below. The road, well built and flanked by post and rail fences, cut straight to the southwest to Emmitsburg, ten miles away. Along a mile of the pike directly in front was Buford's cavalry division, most taking it easy, sitting around smoking fires made of piled-up fence rails. After yesterday's hard fight, they deserved some time to rest
A thin line of pickets was deployed along the slope rising up from the road to the west, a knot of riders loitering in a peach orchard along the east side of the pike. Focusing on the group, he watched as one of the men gathered handfuls of the nearly ripe fruit, dumping them into a saddlebag. Several troopers were playing catch with the fruit, one of them pitching a shot at the back of an officer riding past Fortunately for all concerned, the shot missed, and Henry could not help but chuckle.
Raising his gaze, Henry studied the ridge that sloped up to the west. A thin line of dismounted troopers was deployed along the ridge. Occasionally one would pop off a shot the puff of smoke drifting up. From the next ridge beyond he caught an occasional glimpse of movement Confederate skirmishers.
It didn't seem threatening, typical of the type of action along the flanks of a battlefield. The skirmishing was half-hearted, just an occasional shot to announce to the other side not to come too close. He lowered his glasses, carefully studying the layers of ridges that marched off westward, climaxing in the South Mountain Range, twelve miles distant It was hard to discern; the day was humid, a bit hazy, but it seemed as if a low cloud of dust was kicking up between the ridges below the South Mountains.
Not my job to play scout he thought. I'm here to see to artillery deployment get the batteries in place up here on this hill, then go back to headquarters behind the cemetery, check on ammunition reserves, and wait to see what comes next
Behind Henry one battery was now in place, bronze twelve-pound Napoleon smoothbores, perfect for close-in support The guns were well positioned, barrels depressed to sweep the lower slope of the hill. A second battery, ten-pound rifled Parrott guns, was coming up now, laboriously making its way through the trees. They had extra limbers to the rear, more than enough ammunition. Things, at least for the moment were just about taken care of here.
He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck with his free hand.
Perhaps I can finally get a few hours' sleep before things heat up again. They didn't come in at dawn like expected. Maybe we battered them hard enough that Lee will back off. But if he backs off… then what?
A coil of cigar smoke drifted around Henry, and he looked over his shoulder.
Damn! It was Maj. Gen. Dan Sickles, commander of the Third Corps, now holding the left flank of the line around the lower end of Cemetery Ridge and the two Round Top hills. Sickles was coming toward him, puffing away like a belching locomotive, holding, of all things, a heavy goblet of cut glass, half filled with brandy. Sickles was short features florid, mustache drooping around the sides of his mouth. An energetic man with a high-pitched voice. Sickles was the backslapping and hearty manliness type that Henry found to be distasteful in an officer.
Henry turned away, hoping Sickles would simply wander on. Raising his glasses, he scanned what might be dust drifting along a distant ridge.
"You don't like me, Hunt, I can tell."
Henry lowered his field glasses and looked over at Sickles. He wearily shook his head. "Sir, it's not my place to like or dislike you. You're a general in command of a corps."
"You West Pointers," Sickles announced, as if launching into a speech for the benefit of the men who were digging in to either side of them, only a few feet away, "and I'm not part of your club. You West Pointers, I'm passable as a commander of a brigade of volunteers, but a corps? You just don't feel comfortable with that"
Henry looked pointedly to the infantry, who had stopped their work and were enjoying the confrontation, many of them grinning.
"These are my men, Hunt," Sickles announced with a flourish, the hand holding the glass of brandy sweeping out as if he were about to launch into a speech. "Best damn corps in this damn army. I don't care if they hear what I've got to say."
"I do," Henry replied, his voice pitched low.
'Take Hooker, for example," Sickles continued. "Wouldn't listen to me at Chancellorsville, the stupid son of a bitch. But then again, there was no love lost between the two of you either."
"We saw differently on a few things," Henry replied non-committally.
Henry slid off the rock he had been perched on and
walked down the slope a couple of dozen feet Sickles followed.
"Sir, such a conversation around the men is not in the best interest of morale," Henry said quietly.
Sickles laughed. "Part of the game at times" Sickles replied, but this time his voice was as low as Henry's. 'Troops like it when they feel their commander stands up to the high muckety-mucks. I know these men, Hunt They're tough soldiers, but they're citizen-soldiers, volunteers, not professionals. They fight for different reasons than you and I. If only someone on top really knew how to lead them, we'd've ended this war months ago.
"You weren't there at the Chancellor House when Hooker got knocked out by that artillery round. All of them, all those damn West Pointers standing around like a herd of sheep, hemming and hawing, no one with the guts to take over. I'd of taken command if I thought the others would have followed, but I didn't have that little date of graduation behind my name. We could have won that damn fight, smashed Lee up good that day rather than the other way around. Then Hooker, his brain all addled, stands back up and everyone starts saluting like goddamn puppets on strings. Puppets, Hunt, we're led by puppets."
Henry said nothing, raising his field glasses back up and focusing on a distant ridge. Actually Sickles was right If someone had seized the moment before Hooker regained consciousness, had shown a little guts, they might not be sitting atop this hill in Pennsylvania this day, but instead be in Richmond.
"Nice quiet place up there on the Hudson, like some papist monastery," Sickles continued. "But I didn't go hide in some monastery, Hunt I learned my business on the streets of New York with the likes of old Clinton and Tweed.
"You don't hesitate in that game. You jump in with both feet grab hold, and thrash your opponent till he begs for mercy and crawls on the floor, and then you kick him in the ass for good measure. That's just as much war as what you learned. Don't let go and always know what the other man is thinking, whether he's your friend or your enemy. That's leadership, Hunt learning how the other man thinks; then use that to get him with you or get him the hell out of the way."
Henry sighed, trying to keep his field glasses focused, but his eyes hurt not enough sleep. He lowered the glasses and wiped his face. Already the day was getting warm.
Draining off the rest of the brandy, Sickles set the glass down on a rock. Smiling, he reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a thick cigar, a Havana, and offered it Henry nodded a thanks, bit off the end, and then fumbled in his pockets for a Lucifer. Dan reached into his breast pocket produced a match, and Henry puffed the cigar to life.
"I was stationed at Fort Hamilton, New York Harbor, for five years," Henry finally offered. "Even met you a few times at various functions, Fourth of July parades, receptions at City Hall, though I doubt you'd remember."
"Nice place, Fort Hamilton. Right in the harbor, out of the stink of the streets," Sickles replied. "That's when Lee commanded it?"
"I remember him from those times. Elegant distant a bit too pious for my blood. Understand you used to pray with him, studied the Bible together."
"Yes, we did." He was surprised that Sickles knew that bit of information.
"A good politician, a good general for that matter, knows such things about his friends and his enemies. You liked him, didn't you, Hunt?"
"Yes, I did."
Henry puffed on his cigar, and Dan chuckled softly.
"It's all right I'm not one of those damn fire-eating Republicans; you say a good word about that old man on the other side, and next thing you know you've got some damn congressman screaming for your hide before those witch-hunters with the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War."
‘I respect Lee. Anyone who doesn't is a fool, sir."
Sickles laughed. "Would never want to play poker with him. He had that look."
Henry could not help but laugh softly in reply and took another puff on the cigar. It was a good one, the best he had smoked in months. The image of Lee playing poker. No, chess was more his game; poker did not fit with Lee.
"It's always about Lee, isn't it?" Sickles offered. "Always we're wondering what he is thinking, what he is doing, chasing his tail. Politics, Hunt, is like war. The moment you start chasing the other man's tail, you've lost You've got to keep him off balance, make him dance to your jig. That's why we keep losing. Lee picks the song, and we dance to his tune.
"Chancellorsville, damn it to hell! Hooker knocked out like a cold fish, everyone staring wide-eyed, twittering like a bunch of harem eunuchs."
Henry could not help but smile at the analogy.
"Everyone kept looking at that map, saying we were flanked and Hooker knocked out cold. No one was looking at the map thinking maybe we've got them bastards flanked instead, not just flanked but divided in half, by God. We could of smashed them up good. Meade's entire corps was poised above Jackson's left flank. All that was needed was someone with the guts to go in. Meade lacked the stomach then, orders or no orders, and now he's the one running the show today."
Henry said nothing.
"Meade hates me. I could point to the sun and say it is in the east and he'll tell me to go to hell, it's in the west"
"I don't think it's that bad," Henry replied.
"I know. Nothing would please him more than me getting a bullet in the head or my leg blown off."
Henry said nothing, shifting his cigar and raising the field glasses back up. Typical of most politicians, Sickles talked too much. Yet he did have guts, there was no denying that and even some damn good sense about battle. Though an amateur, he had led his Excelsior Brigade well during the Seven Days and handled a division at Fredericksburg and Third Corps at Chancellorsville. Before Jackson hit the flank, Sickles repeatedly warned Hooker that something was up, first suspecting that the troop movement to his front was a retreat then just before they got hit judging it to be an attack about to be unleashed. His troops fought like demons trying to hold back the tide throughout that terrible night of May 2nd, with Sickles on the front line throughout
It was the other side of him, though, that was unsettling. Though Henry held little truck in how some rambled on about officers having to be gentlemen, nevertheless, Sickles was rather unsavory on many counts. He was a ward heeler out of New York, the kind who used the waves of foreigners pouring into the city as a political army to advance his own power. It was the scandal regarding his wife, however, that had shocked the entire nation.
Discovering that she was having an affair with the nephew of Francis Scott Key, Dan Sickles had confronted the man in Lafayette Park, directly across from the White House, pulled out a pistol, and gunned him down. Then, in a bizarre twist, Edwin Stanton, now the secretary of war, defended him in court, cooking up a strange new plea never heard of before-that he had been 'temporarily insane" and thus not responsible. Of course the jury had been delighted with the entertainment provided and let him off. Then Sickles does an about-turn and brings the fallen strumpet back into his bed, showing up in public with her by his side as if nothing had ever happened.
It was all but impossible to understand such a man, such a world. He calls the Point a "papist monastery." Well, better that than the world of a man like Sickles.
Is that what I am fighting for? Henry wondered. I have far more in common with Lee than with this person standing beside me. Yet it is his world I'm fighting for out here, this brawling, strange new behemoth that our Republic is evolving into. Lee fights to preserve a different world, elegant though built on the corruption of slavery, but still elegant, where men are expected to act as gentlemen and ladies, well, to act as true ladies.
Sickles, the boys from the factories of New England, the swarming mobs in the back alleys of New York, the miners coming up out of the pits of Pennsylvania and the smoke-belching iron mills, the Irish and the Germans by the hundreds of thousands swarming off the boats and into our ranks, are something new, different, a strange, vibrant energy that I barely understand.
"You think something is going on over there, don't you, Hunt?"
Henry lowered his glasses.
"Reconnaissance is not my job, sir. I'm up on this hill to place guns".
He nodded back over his shoulder where the Second Battery was laboriously working to bring up their guns, cutting down trees to clear a way, twelve horses, double teamed to a single caisson and piece, struggling up through the woods on the north flank of the hill.
A brigade from Third Corps was digging in along the crest of the slope, piling up rocks, dragging in logs. The front slope of the hill had been lumbered off the year before, thus providing a beautiful field of fire straight down to a jumble of rocks at the base of die hill and out toward an open wheat field beyond. It was wonderful ground. An entire rebel corps would bleed itself out trying to take this hill once they were dug in.
"So why are you sitting here looking west, Hunt, rather than with your guns?" Henry smiled. "Curious." "So am I."
"Hard to tell, but it does look like some dust stirring up out beyond that next ridge," Henry noted. "You look close and you can see some Reb skirmishers along that second ridge." Even as he spoke he noticed a bit more dust, a plume rising up from behind the ridge.
Sickles raised his own field glasses and stared intently for a moment.
"Where's General Warren?" Henry asked. "He's the chief topographical engineer. I thought Meade sent him down here to take a look."
"Up on the next hill," Sickles said, pointing toward the large, wooded hill-the Big Round Top, locals called it- that was to their left.
Henry turned his glasses and saw where the Signal Corps had established itself, building a perch halfway up a large tree. There was an occasional fluttering of flags. He had thought about trying to work a battery up that mountain, but a quick survey showed it would have required an entire regiment of men, armed with axes, to clear the way and open out a field of fire. If the battle did spread out there, it would have to be an infantry fight.
"I've got a good regiment up there," Sickles announced, "Second Sharpshooters supporting that signal station. They're tied into a signal station down at Emmitsburg."
"Wonder why Buford down there doesn't push out a bit to the west and see what's up?"
"Go ask Meade," Dan replied. "I just got word from Buford that he's pulling out Relieved from the field to head back to Westminster to refit after the fight"
"One of his staff came up about thirty minutes ago to tell me. They're going down to Taneytown." "Who's replacing them?"
"I am. I'm sending down Berdan's men, First Sharpshooters." "No cavalry?" "Nope."
"Strange, no cavalry on our flank. There's nothing between us and Emmitsburg, is there?" Henry asked.
"My men were the last unit out of there late yesterday. Nothing between us and the Potomac except for the Signal Corps and a regiment or two of cavalry that came in behind us last night"
Henry lowered his glasses and took another puff on his cigar. "I'd better get back to headquarters. My batteries look like they're moving in fine up here."
"My batteries, Hunt Remember, the corps commander has direct control of his battalion of guns. You just advise."
Henry bristled and looked over at Sickles. The politician turned general smiled.
"Relax, Hunt You do good work."
Sickles looked past Henry. "Ah, here comes Warren. Good man, commanded a regiment under me before moving up to headquarters."
Henry looked back over his shoulder. Maj. Gen. Gouvenor Warren, puffing hard, was laboriously walking up the steep slope, trailed by several of his staff.
"A good man even though he's West Point, too?" Henry offered.
"Sometimes it doesn't ruin a man completely. Warren has a good eye for ground."
"West Point training," Henry could not help but say. "You don't learn how to read groundwork wandering around Manhattan."
Sickles chuckled. "Hunt, I might actually like you. You've got guts."
Warren, breathing audibly, approached Sickles, while calling for one of his staff to fetch their mounts. "Feel like a mountain goat going up and down these hills," Warren offered, as he saluted.
"Have a cigar, Gouvernor."
Warren waved the offer off. "I think something is up," Warren announced, bending over slightly to catch his breath.
"Signal from Emmitsburg reports dust on the road that goes from Fairfield to Emmitsburg. Also, from up on that hill," and he pointed back to Big Round Top, "you can catch glimpses of some kind of movement, but too much dust to tell."
There was a flutter of signal flags from the perch atop the mountain even as Warren spoke.
Sickles turned and looked back to the west, meditatively chewing on his cigar. Henry uncorked his canteen and offered it to Warren, who nodded a thanks and took a long drink.
"Day's going to get hot real quick," Warren offered. "Maybe we should ask Buford to go over to that next ridge and take a look around."
"Buford is pulling off the line, going back to refit"
Warren sighed, looking back to the west. "Might be nothing. Still think we should take a look."
'I'll send Berdan up, give him a regiment for additional support" Sickles announced.
Henry looked over at the general. "Sir, I remember hearing your orders were to dig in along this line, not to push for-" ward."
Sickles just looked over and grinned. "Hunt, when you get back to headquarters, tell his High Almighty that we might have a problem developing. Also, I think we should put a little more strength down forward, into that peach orchard by the road to Emmitsburg. This hill's a good spot, but my right flank is on low land, no clear fields of fire. If we move out to that orchard and the next ridge, we'll have a better position in case something is developing."
"Sir, orders were to deploy along this line," Warren observed. "I was sent here to survey this position for defense, not half a mile forward."
Sickles grinned, saying nothing.
Henry nodded. "I'll report it," Henry finally offered.
"I'll ride with you, Hunt," Warren announced.
"Hunt, take an extra one," Sickles said, and he produced another cigar and tossed it over. "One of my old constituents keeps me supplied."
Henry nodded his thanks, and with Warren by his side they struggled up to the crest. Their mutual staffs were already mounted, and Henry wearily swung into the saddle. For a moment he was disoriented, not sure which way to go. He had come up this way before dawn, and the lack of sleep left him feeling light-headed, dizzy.
"This way, Hunt," Warren said, and they started down the slope.
Henry looked back over his shoulder. Sickles was deep in conversation with an officer wearing the distinctive green uniform of the Sharpshooters.
‘I don't trust him," Warren announced.
"Exactly. He hates Meade. He most likely vented it on you the same as he did me. It'd be like Sickles to go off half-cocked."
"Do you think something is up?"
"I came up here to survey the land, Hunt, same way you came up here to lay the guns."
"Still, after what happened last night, Lee won't back off. Not now." Even as he said the words, Henry thought of Sick-les's comment that we danced to Lee's tune.
"I need some sleep, Warren. Let's just hope nothing happens."
"Where do you think it will happen? Frankly, I hope Lee tries to take those two hills. With Sickles's corps on top, it will be a damn killing ground, just like last night"
Last night The memory of the rebel flag bearer cut in half, the carnage piled up in front of his guns.
"Where do you think it will hit?" Henry asked.
"South," Warren sighed. "This place is too good. He won't do us the favor of coming straight in. I think he's moving south and coming around our flank,"
"Sgt Major Quinn!"
Sgt Maj. Michael Quinn, First United States Sharpshooters, knew something was up. Colonel Berdan had come riding into their camp at the base of the rocky hill, shouting for an officers' meeting.
Tossing what was left of his coffee on the ground, Quinn started over to where the officers of the regiment were gathered in a circle around Colonel Berdan. There was no need to be told; the regiment was going out
Captains were breaking away from the group, shouting orders, as Quinn approached Berdan and saluted.
"Quinn, we're ordered to do a reconnaissance in force. I'll be at the center of the line. I want you down by the right flank. Sickles thinks there's something going on a couple of miles to our front So push in and don't let any of the boys wander about I want us to go in there hard and fast"
'Try and gain a high point where you can see something." Quinn, shifting the plug of tobacco in his cheek, grinned. "Shoot straight Quinn."
"Always do, sir."
Berdan swung up onto his gray horse and started out, his tamed Sharpshooters deploying into open skirmish order behind him.
The men were skilled, well-seasoned professionals. All the foolishness about keeping alignment, forming into lines, advancing by command was beneath them. They were better than that, and they knew it Let the others fight the way their granddaddies did, standing in volley line. The Sharpshooters were a new kind of soldier for a new kind of war.
As the three hundred men fanned out, each set his own pace, moving quickly without urging. It was hard to tell the difference between officers and men. The uniforms were the same, dark green trousers, jacket and green forage caps. Each man was armed with a long Sharps rifle, breechloading, and every one was deadly accurate, expected to hit nine out of ten times at three hundred yards. Besides the forty rounds in their cartridge boxes, each man carried an additional forty to sixty rounds in pockets and haversacks.
Quinn, running back to where his gear rested against a towering oak, swept up his rifle and canteen, then sprinted down to the right of the line, falling in with some of the men from E Company.
"So, Quinn, what're we hunting?" a corporal asked.
"Recon forward. Old Dan thinks the Rebs are moving to our front"
Coming up out of a shallow swale, they passed across the edge of a wheat field, the golden stalks hanging heavy, ready for harvest, then dropped down through a narrow band of forest and rough ground.
The pace was swift No orders needed to be given, just occasional glances toward Berdan riding in the middle of the line, which was spread out across a couple of hundred yards. Looking back, he could see where a lone regiment was coming out as well, their flag dark blue with a state seal. It looked to be Maine, most likely the Third. One regiment in support then. Most likely not much, just a little skirmishing ahead, something to get the blood moving.
A pheasant kicked up from the edge of the trees as they emerged into an open pasture, the ground sloping up toward a peach orchard. The man next to Quinn aimed his rifle at the bird.
"Bang!" he cried, and several men laughed, another sighting on a second pheasant and doing the same.
Directly ahead was the cavalry, Buford's men. They were starting to pack up, saddling their mounts. In the past, cavalry had been certain to draw hoots of derision, the usual jibes of "Hey, ever seen a dead cavalryman?" but not today. Word had spread about what Buford's boys had done, and the Sharpshooters approached the camp respectfully, several offering compliments. One of the troopers tossed Quinn a peach, which he grabbed and stuck into his haversack for later.
A cavalry lieutenant rode up to Quinn and nodded, falling in by his side for a moment.
'Take care up ahead, Sergeant. Some of my boys think there's trouble brewing."
"We'll see to it, sir. Aren't you boys joining us?"
"We're ordered down to Westminster, supposed to secure south of here first, some place called Taneytown. Some supplies and such moving through there. So the place is yours now."
The lieutenant fell away as they reached the edge of the orchard. The post-and-rail fence lining the road was down, consumed as all such fences had been for firewood. Crossing the road, Quinn looked to his left and saw Berdan hold up his hand then point, angling them a bit on the oblique, with Berdan now riding straight up the road that headed due west
Well, the old man wasn't going to fool around. Follow the road west and we're bound to run into something. Quinn pushed to the right a hundred yards before turning west again.
They passed a couple of cavalry troopers coming back off the line, one of them cradling an arm that looked to be busted.
"Son of a bitch got me while I was trying to piss," the trooper grumbled, and the men around Quinn could not help but laugh.
"Lucky he didn't shoot off your short arm," a wag replied.
The trooper cursed them all and rode on.
They pushed up over a low crest, and at that moment the old senses began to kick in for Quinn, that strange prickly feeling that he had just stepped across into another world, a place where the game of hunter and hunted was played for real.
Several men around him clicked their weapons to half cock. Quinn did likewise.
"See one," and a man next to Quinn slowed, leaning in against a tree, raising his rifle.
"Not yet," Quinn hissed, "keep moving."
A second later there was a fluttering whine through the branches overhead, a few leaves snapping off a branch, slowly spinning down.
A rifle snapped to the left, a man out on the road, standing near Berdan. The colonel slowed, reining in for a moment, then held up his hand, pointing forward again.
Coming out of the trees, the skirmish line pushed into another pasture. The feeling was not a good one, open field, a marshy creek below, then a low rise ahead. Damn Rebs were most likely up there in the trees, us in the open.
"Alright, boys, let's pick it up!" Quinn shouted, and he started off at the double. Puffs of smoke snapped from the distant tree line. An eruption of torn-up earth kicked up near Quinn's feet He shifted slightly, zigzagging, running now, heading down the slope, the ground getting thicker with tuffs of high marsh grass, and-with a leap he was into the narrow creek, almost completely across. He ducked down, edging up against the muddy bank. Raising his rifle up, he let it rest on the ground while he scanned the tree line, notching the rear sight to two hundred yards.
A puff of smoke. He took careful aim and squeezed. Another man was beside him, firing at almost the same instant
Levering the trigger guard down, Quinn reached into his pocket, pulled out a cartridge, and slipped it into the breech, levering it shut, then cocked his piece.
More puffs of smoke rippled along the tree line. Men were hunkered down along the creek bank, firing back. Most of the shots coming in were high, buzzing overhead, but one slammed into the muddy bank, spraying him with mud. Centering on a puff of smoke, he fired again and reloaded.
Leaning up, he looked to his left Berdan, at the shallow ford across the creek, was shouting for the men to press forward. Behind-him the Third Maine was deploying from column into line.
"Come on, boys, let's get this over with."
Quinn stood up, crouching low, and set off. Racing across the meadow, hunkering down for a moment behind a split-rail fence, taking another shot… and this time seeing it hit. Dumb fool, looked to be an officer, standing out in the open, an easy shot at 150 yards. The man collapsed, a couple of men running over to him, both going down as well while Sharpshooters to either side of Quinn drew careful aim and fired.
The fire from the crest slackened. Again looking to the left, he saw the Third Maine surging forward, a heavy double line of skirmishers mingling in with the Sharpshooters.
Quinn reloaded, took a deep breath, and stood up, running straight for the slope and tree line. Another round zipped past this one so close he felt the slap of the round passing his face.
A Reb, not fifty yards off, stepped out from behind a tree, rifle poised, aiming straight at Quinn. The Reb spun around and disappeared.
They were into the trees, the air thick with the sulfurous clouds of yellow-gray smoke. He spared a quick glance around. Ten, maybe fifteen Rebs were down. He pushed up the slope, dodging through the brush, ducking under low-hanging branches, and crossing over the crest. The land ahead sloped away, down to another marshy creek. The Rebs who had occupied the tree line minutes before were out in the middle of the field, running, fifty, maybe seventy-five or more.
It was a slaughter for the next minute. The Sharpshooters took their favorite stances, some kneeling, others finding branches to rest their barrels on, a few going down on their stomachs. Rifle fire rippled up and down the line. Barely a dozen Rebs made it to the far slope.
"Hey, you're Yankees!"
Startled, Quinn saw a freckled face peeking up from behind an old, rotting tree stump. It was a boy, no more than nine or ten, about the same age as his own son. The boy stood up, gaping.
"Goddamn it, get down!" Quinn shouted, and running up to the lad, he pushed him back down behind the stump.
"Green uniforms. You're the Sharpshooters!" the boy cried happily. "I seen pictures of you in the illustrated papers."
"Sonny, just what the hell are you doing out here?"
"Came out to tell you what was happening, but them dirty Rebs stopped me."
The boy rubbed his backside. "One of them spanked me.
' Said he was going to take me back to my ma and make sure she whopped me, too."
"He was right, too, you little fool. You should be home."
"Ma tried to keep me in the cellar, but I snuck out."
Quinn sat down by the boy's side. A couple of men were looking over at the two, grinning.
'Take a hickory stick and give it to him, Quinn." One of them laughed.
The boy looked over at the man and stuck his tongue out "Where do you live, sonny?"
"Over the next hill, farm across from the tavern," and as he spoke he pointed off to the west.
"Keep moving!" Berdan was out in front again, back to the enemy, sword held high, urging the men on.
"You stay put right here, boy," Quinn said. "Once we get up to the tavern, I'll send someone back to get you and bring you home. And don't you move an inch till we come back for you. Your ma's most likely worried sick about you."
"Oh, you won't never get to the tavern."
The boy puffed his chest out
"That's why I snuck out; I'm a spy."
"What do you mean we won't reach the tavern?"
"Why, there're thousands of Rebs over there, whole lines of them. They've been marching by for hours. I figured it was my duty to tell you. Will I get a medal for it?"
The men to either side of Quinn were already up, moving forward.
Quinn watched them heading out then looked back to the boy. He grabbed him by the shoulders. "Listen, sonny. We're not playing a game now," and as he spoke he squeezed the boy's shoulders. 'Tell me the truth. Tell me what's going on over by your house."
"Like I said, sir," and now he could see that the boy was becoming afraid. His eyes were wide, and his voice started to break.
"Rebs, thousands of them on the road, marching toward Fairfield, right past my house, just over the next ridge."
Quinn looked toward the next ridge, where the surviving Rebs had disappeared. Dust appeared to be rising up on the far side.
"Stay here. Don't you move. Don't move." The boy began to cry.
"I don't want to get whopped. That Reb spanked me awful hard. Don't let Mama whop me too."
"Just stay here, son. I'll make sure your ma doesn't whop you, if you promise to stay here."
The boy nodded solemnly, brushing the tears from his muddy cheeks.
Quinn stood up. The skirmish line was down almost to the creek. He set off hard. Running toward the middle of the line.
Berdan was riding in front, urging the men on. A few shots smacked overhead. The men were eager, pushing forward, already across the marshy ground. The left flank was into a pasture on the far side of the road, the right wading through waist-high corn.
A volley exploded from the woods atop the next crest, several hundred rifles firing at once. In an instant dozens of men were down.
Berdan's horse reared up, shrieking with pain. The colonel hung on as the beast staggered, turned, and then flipped over on its side as another round tore out its throat. Horse and rider rolled over into the stream.
"Jesus Christ Almighty!" Quinn screamed, as he leapt into the muddy water.
Berdan's horse kicked spasmodically, the colonel trapped underneath. Quinn leveled his rifle against the horse's skull and fired.
"Get him out!" Quinn screamed. Half a dozen men struggled with the carcass, pushing and shoving, one of them suddenly pitching over, the back of his head exploding.
Quinn grabbed Berdan by the shoulders and struggled to keep his head above water. The men dragged the horse a few feet, one of them pulling out a knife to slice a stirrup free and then cut the reins that were tangled in Berdan's limp hands.
"Is he dead?" someone cried.
Quinn felt for the colonel's throat.There was still a pulse.
"You and you! Get a blanket, use it as a stretcher, round up a few more men, and get him out of here!"
Quinn stood up, looking around. Where the hell was Trepp, second in command?
He thought he caught a glimpse of him off to the left, but it was impossible to tell for sure. A captain was suddenly standing over Quinn, looking down in shock as they dragged Berdan up onto the bank of the creek and then rolled him into a blanket It was Fuller, Company B.
"Sir, there was a boy back up there in the woods we just took!" Quinn shouted. "Says he lives over beyond the next ridge. Says that thousands of Rebs have been marching past his house all morning, moving south toward Fairfield."
"Sir, a boy hiding up in the woods."
Fuller ducked down low as another volley erupted from the next ridge, one of the men attempting to carry Berdan going down with a gut shot.
"Sir, I think we're tangled into something here. Someone should go back now and tell General Sickles that we're facing a large force. A division, maybe even a corps, moving to our left flank."
"What boy? What's his name?"
Exasperated, Quinn stood up. Fuller was obviously rattled, his eyes wide as he looked at the colonel, who was moaning softly, the wounded man next to the colonel curled up into a ball, fumbling to keep his guts in with his hands.
Fuller looked back at him.
"I didn't ask for his goddamn name. But he's a local boy, sir, and I believe him."
"We get boys telling us tall tales all the time, Quinn. Jesus, am I suppose to tell Sickles we're getting flanked all because of a report from a boy?"
"This isn't Virginia, sir. It's Pennsylvania and I think the boy was telling the truth."
"Get on with your duty, Quinn."
"Sir! I think the general needs to be told."
"I'm getting us the hell out of here, Quinn. The colonel is down. We're going back and sort things out. And I'll be damned if I make a report based on what a boy said."
"Yes, sir. Damn you, sir."
Quinn turned and started back to the right "Quinn! You might be a pet of the colonel's but goddamn you, you'll face discipline for this!"
Quinn ignored him, sprinting along the creek bed till he reached the right of the line. Turning, he darted into the com, moving a few dozen feet, falling down, then getting up and sprinting again. Stalks of corn were leaping into the air as minie balls snapped into the field. Puffs of smoke, just ahead, showed where the advance of the skirmish line was.
Quinn, half crawling, pushed through. A lieutenant, obviously frightened, looked over his shoulder as Quinn approached.
"I saw the colonel go down," the lieutenant gasped. "I know."
"What the hell is going on?" The lieutenant half stood up even as he spoke. "Looks like we're pulling back."
Quinn got up on his knees for a quick glance, then ducked back down. "Lieutenant, sir, we gotta get up on that ridge. Captain Fuller's pulling us back, but I think we should move forward."
"Sir, one good sprint, and we'll be into the woods. We need to get a look over that ridge," and he quickly explained what the boy had told him.
"Hell of thing to get killed for. Some damn loudmouthed brat running around in the middle of a fight."
Quinn said nothing, his gaze locked on the lieutenant.
"All right, Quinn. We get to the top, have your look, and then get the hell out of here."
"Your idea, Quinn. You lead the way."
He wanted to tell the lieutenant to go to hell, but saw that the youngster was trembling like a leaf, though trying to hide it, to make a manful show by courteously offering Quinn the lead.
Quinn knelt up again. "Those of you around me!" he shouted. "I'm making a run for the woods straight ahead. Any of you with some guts, come with me. The rest of you, well, you can go to hell!"
Making the sign of the cross, he took a deep breath, stood up, and started forward at a run. From the comer of his eye, he saw a dozen or more men stand up, going forward with him. Fortunately, the furrows for the cornfield were plowed in the direction he wanted to go. Gasping for air, he continued to run, the wood line less than fifty yards ahead.
Rifle balls zipped past He heard the sickening slap of a round striking something hard just behind him. He didn't look back, but somehow he knew it was the lieutenant
The western flank of the cornfield was bordered by a split-rail fence. He ran straight into it, knocking the fence over, the impact knocking him over as well. Rolling, he half came up and saw a Reb aiming straight at him from not ten feet away. The Reb fired… and missed.
The Reb turned and ran. Quinn set off after him, going up into the woods. Another Reb stepped out bayonet poised. Quinn slowed, leveled his rifle, and fired, knocking the Reb over backward. Fumbling for a cartridge, Quinn levered the breech open, even as he dodged up the slope. The branch of a tree sheered off next to his head, splinters flying from the impact of the round. Quinn dropped, saw the puff of smoke, chambered a round, and took a deep breath, but the man who had shot at him was gone.
He could see the crest just ahead, less than twenty yards off. He looked back and saw half a dozen of his men were into the edge of the woods. From either flank there were shouts, someone screaming that Yankees were in the woods.
Quinn pressed up the hill. Flashes of fire burst to his left and right. He rushed forward, gained the crest and dropped behind a rotten log. And saw the boy was right.
There, not three hundred yards away, was the road, packed with infantry, moving like a wave, dust swirling up in low-hanging clouds. A battery was directly below him on the road, bronze Napoleons, sunlight reflecting off their barrels, gunners riding on the caissons. A heavy skirmish line was out in the field directly ahead, deploying out moving up to add their weight to the fight He caught glimpses of flags, half a dozen or more marking the line of march, emerging from the dust and disappearing into the dust all heading south.
Damn. It was big, damn big, and he felt an icy chill with the realization of all that this implied.
"All right Yank! Don't you move a goddamn inch." Shit
"Real slow now, Yank, just let that rifle of yours drop and put your hands out where I can see 'em."
Quinn turned his head ever so slightly. The Reb was standing a bit behind him, twenty feet away, gun nervously trained on his back.
"That'sright, Yank. No fuss now. Just do as I tell ya."
Well, at least I'll live out the day. The thought raced through him… most likely paroled after the fighting's over and live awhile longer. Get home alive. Beth, my boy, the farm… miserable little patch of land but still, better than what we had in Ireland…
He looked back to the road and before he even quite realized what he was doing he was up and trying to run. Strangely, there was no pain, just a numbed shock that knocked the wind out of his lungs. There was darkness for a moment and then he was looking up at green leaves, sunlight filtering down.
"I told you not to move, Yank."
The voice was weary, a bit hard to understand the accent was so thick. Deep South from the sound of it.
He felt something tugging at his hands. The man was taking his gun.
"Fine piece you have here, Yank. One of them Sharps rifles, ain't it?"
Quinn tried to speak but couldn't. "You get him, Will?'
"Yeah. Damn fool tried to run. Y'all get the others?' "We got 'em."
The man knelt down by his side. Quinn could barely see him; the sunlight behind him was blinding. He looked old, beard gone to gray.
"Sorry I had to kill you, Yank. Like I said, you should'a just been sensible about this."
He tried to breathe and couldn't. He felt as if he were drowning. Then hands grabbed him under the shoulders. The Reb pulled him up. There was a terrible stab of pain now. The Reb eased him back down, sitting up against the side of a tree.
"There, you might breathe easier now."
Quinn could only nod.
"Spit out that chaw, Yank. You'll choke on it."
Quinn opened his mouth, and he was shocked when the Reb, in a fatherly way, actually stuck a finger into Quinn's mouth and helped him clear out the tobacco.
"I think I'll keep this here gun, if you don't mind, Yank."
The Reb casually reached into Quinn's cartridge box and took out the ammunition. Next he went into Quinn's haversack, took out a piece of salt pork and pocketed it, and then hesitated when he drew out the peach, the peach one of Bu-ford's men had given him.
"Mind if I eat this, Yank?"
Quinn shook his head.
The Reb sat looking at him for a minute. "You got kin?"
Kin? Quinn slowly nodded and feebly touched his breast
The Reb opened Quinn's jacket, reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a daguerreotype. The case was smeared with fresh blood, and the Reb wiped it off on his trousers. The Reb opened the case, looked at the image, and sighed. "Pretty wife. Good-looking young boy, too."
Quinn was suddenly ashamed. He was crying. He didn't want this man to think he was crying because he was afraid or because of the pain. No. Not that He had forgotten. He had become caught up in all of this and forgotten what would be left behind… and now would indeed be left behind.
"I know, Yank. I know." "Come on, Will. We got 'em on the run." The Reb was squatting beside him and looked up. "I'm comin'."
The Reb put the open daguerreotype into Quinn's hands. "I'm sorry, Yank. I wish the hell you'd just given up. Saw the way you charged in. You was right brave; but damn me, you was a bit too brave today. Just couldn't let you go back and tell what we is doin' over here."
Quinn struggled to keep the tears from coming. All he could do was nod. He tried to look back to the road; it was barely visible. It didn't matter though, not now. His gaze fell on the daguerreotype; the image etched into the mirror-like surface was lost to view… even as the darkness settled and all went still.
Will Peterson, Second Georgia, of Benning's brigade, Hood's division, stood up.
"Nice gun you got off him," someone said.
"Yeah, a real nice gun," Will said softly, as he bit into the peach and walked away.
10:30 AM, JULY 2,1863
GETTYSBURG, HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA
Returning the salute, Lee motioned for General Stuart to enter the small room that was now his headquarters. He paused for a moment, looking out the window, across the street to the Lutheran seminary, which was still serving as a hospital. Even now wagons and ambulances were lined up downslope, out of view of the Union position atop the cemetery. Those men who could be moved were being loaded up, to be taken back to Chambersburg, but according to a report just turned in, at least a thousand men would have to be left behind, their wounds too critical to endure the jostling twenty-mile ride. That was one of the reasons he hated to concede a battlefield; abandoning wounded was disturbing and hurtful to morale as well.
He turned to look back at Stuart, who stood expectant, nervous.
"I trust you have managed to get some rest since last night, General Stuart?" Lee asked.
Stuart hesitated. To answer that might imply that he was not seeing to his work, and yet it was obvious he was exhausted.
"A little, sir."
"You will need all your energy today, sir," Lee replied, deliberately pitching his voice low and soft, a hint of reproach in his tone.
"I'm ready for whatever you have for me, sir." "Let me make something quite clear, General," Lee said, and he stepped closer. Stuart gulped and nodded. "I expect to see your best these next few days." "As always, sir."
Lee hesitated, but then pushed ahead. 'That has not always been the case, especially this last week."
Stuart said nothing, but his features reddened
"This army cannot accept that, sir. Too much rests upon you. I assume that you are aware by now that I had no word that the Army of the Potomac was moving. None, sir, none until a hired actor, playing amateur spy, came to General Longstreet four days ago bearing the news. That, sir, should have been intelligence brought in by you."
"General Lee, I was shielding to the east…" He fell silent as Lee held up his hand.
'It will not happen again," Lee said sharply, fixing Stuart with his gaze.
Stuart gulped and stiffened. "No, sir."
"Then we understand each other and can move forward."
Lee waited a moment, wondering if he should press it further, to make it clear that one more lapse would result in dismissal. He could see the anxious look in Stuart's eyes; gone was any of the defensive bluster of last night.
"Fine. Now come over here."
He drew Stuart over to the table covered with Jed Hotchkiss's map of the region and quickly traced out the line of march that Longstreet was now taking.
"Risky without cavalry cover," Stuart offered.
Lee looked up at him with some surprise. Was it an admission of his own failure to provide proper support, or a rebuke for going ahead without the cavalry first coming in?
Stuart saw the look and nodded. "I should have had at least a brigade up here ready to march, sir, at the head of this column. I am sorry."
Lee finally offered a trace of a smile. "I thought of order-
ing Robinson down from the Cumberland Valley" Lee replied, "but decided against it They are still needed to cover our own supply line. General Longstreet has a small detachment of mounted troops, made up of headquarters guard details. What is the position of the Union mounted forces?" Lee asked.
Stuart quickly traced out the latest intelligence. "Scattered in pursuit of my own forces. It looks as if the largest concentration is near Hanover to the east of here."
"And to the south, down toward Taneytown, Westminster?"
"Perhaps a brigade, sir, under Merritt That is all I know."
Lee nodded. "When can I expect the rest of your command to be concentrated here?"
"By mid-afternoon, sir. I have two brigades up ready, deployed, and concealed northeast of town as you ordered, sir."
"Fine then. Once you are concentrated, I expect a sharp demonstration on your part I want General Meade looking in your direction, not to his own rear. I will concede, General Stuart that your opponents fear you."
Stuart offered a smile, but a glance from Lee broke that.
"I want them to think that you are the vanguard of some kind of movement to their right I will temporarily detach one brigade of infantry to you from General Ewell's corps. You will make arrangements with him for that they will be yours to control until dusk. Use them to create the illusion of a solid infantry deployment in that direction.
"If Meade should move forward, do not get drawn into a direct confrontation, but do not shy away either. Demonstrate, probe; if you see some tactical advantage, hit, but don't become too deeply engaged."
"If all goes well, I will move with the army later today, followed this evening by General Ewell. At that point you, sir, will be in sole command here. Maintain the illusion of a possible attack on Meade's right as long as possible. When General Meade does turn about to meet me, you will then be in his rear. Press and harass him, and keep his cavalry occupied; but General Stuart, you must maintain contact at all times with me. I expect efficient communications at all times. Am I clear on that, sir?" 'Yes, sir, perfectly clear."
Lee hesitated then decided he had to do it "No mistakes this time, General Stuart" "No, sir."
Lee gave a curt nod of dismissal.
Stuart saluted and left. Seconds later he and his staff were galloping down the road back into town. Lee watched him go and then let his gaze return to the ambulances swinging out onto the road heading back toward Chambersburg. He watched only for a moment then returned to his work.
11:00 AM, JULY 2,1863
FAIRFIELD ROAD EMMITSBURG
The courier was edging along the side of the road, pushing his way around a battery, standing in his stirrups, and looking toward Pete and his staff. The day was getting hot; the courier's horse was lathered, the animal blowing hard, the lieutenant's face covered with dust, traced with rivulets of sweat streaking his forehead.
Longstreet nodded, motioning the boy over. Excited, the courier drew up alongside the general and saluted. "Message from General Robertson, sir," and the boy handed the paper over.
Pete, swinging one leg up over the pommel of his saddle, opened the message and quickly scanned it.
"Robertson has Emmitsburg. Pete announced, looking back to his staff. "They took the signal station up behind a Catholic convent, St Mary's College," and he paused, looking at the time on the note, "thirty minutes ago."
There were nods of satisfaction.
"Did the signal station get any messages off after we came into view?" Pete asked, looking back at the courier.
"Not sure, sir. They was waving them flags something fierce though as we came through the town. Some mounted boys up front got up there quick and took 'em prisoners."
"Anything else in the town?"
"No, sir, just some stragglers. General Robertson said
that it looked like a whole hell of a lot of Yankees were there yesterday though. Stragglers from First and Eleventh Corps, he said."
Pete nodded, pulled a pencil out of his breast pocket, and flipped the message over.
Secure road south and north of town; push out pickets. Clear your men from the road. Law's brigade will start toward Taneytown.
Signing his name, he handed the message back. "Where is General Hood?"
"Sir, I heard he was reconnoitering east of the town. Moving toward the bridge over Monocacy Creek."
"Get back to Robertson; tell him I'm coming up shortly," and he nodded a dismissal.
As the boy pushed back onto the crowded road, Pete turned to his staff. "One of you stay here in case any more couriers come back looking for me. One of you go back up the road as far as Fairfield, keep them things moving, keep them moving. I'm going up to join General Hood and can be found on the road to Taneytown."
Wearily swinging his leg off the pommel, he slipped his foot into the stirrup and urged his mount to a slow trot. The road was narrow, coming down out of a low ridgeline that cut across the road toward Emmitsburg. The battery that had just rumbled past had come to a stop, and pushing around it, he swore at the sight of an ammunition wagon blocking the way ahead. The driver and half a dozen men were squatting down looking at the rear axle, the left rear wheel splayed out at a drunken angle… apparently a lug nut and the wheel had come loose.
"Damn it!" Pete snarled. "Don't just sit there staring; get some men and, if need be, heave that damn thing off this road. You're blocking the entire column!"
"Ah, sir, we can fix this in ten minutes."
"I don't have ten minutes! Heave it off the road now!"
The men saluted and as he rode on he heard one of them whispering that "Old Pete" was in a bad temper.
Damn it, I am in a bad temper! he thought angrily. Two or three breakdowns like that could delay a column for an hour or more. If this was going to work, they had to get into Taneytown before Meade began to shift He had to assume that the signal station had sent a warning, that even now staff officers were galloping about Meade's headquarters, heading out to the various corps. Fifth and Sixth Corps were still not clearly accounted for. If they were coming up from Westminster or Taneytown, they could be turned around in fairly short order, and the race would be on.
The rear of Law's brigade was ahead of him, swinging down out of the pass, keeping a good pace. An orchard opened up to his right and he edged his way off the road and into the rows of peach trees. The trees nearest the road had already been stripped by the passing column, but in the middle of the orchard the fruit was still untouched. As he moved up to a slow canter, he reached out and snagged one from an overhanging branch and bit into it grimacing slightly. The fruit was still hard, not quite ripe. In Georgia they'd be ripe, and he thought for a moment of his boys-a summer evening, picking peaches for a cobbler-and forced that away. They're dead. Don't dwell on that now. My babies are dead and gone from the typhoid.
He rode on, half consuming the peach and then tossing it aside. The orchard gave way to a wheat field. It took a moment to find an opening in the split-rail fence. The wheat brushed against his boots, heavy golden stalks ready for the harvest. In fact part of the field had already been cut, but no one was working the field today. Not with a war on.
He hated trampling down the hard labor of another. There were more than a few who these last two weeks were taking pleasure from it, making the Yankees feel what a war is like, the men said; but his nature rebelled against such wanton destruction and vandalism. Someday this war was going to be over. If we win, we have to be neighbors once more.
As he reached the bottom of the field he saw the farmer standing by his barn, a portly wife clinging to his arm. Pete tipped his hat, and she offered a wan smile. The farmer just glared at him, saying nothing.
The path from the barnyard led back down to the main road into Emmitsburg, and he followed it The street was packed with troops, men of Law's brigade. The village was typical of the region, small two- and three-story houses, packed together tightly, their front steps right on the walkways flanking the roadway. Windows were open, curious civilians peering out at the flood of men pouring down their „thoroughfare. A tavern had a provost guard outside its door. The troops streaming past peppering him with jests and more than a few barbed comments about good infantry going thirsty while officers lingered inside. He was tempted, just for a second, to actually stop and go in, to see if any officers were indeed malingering within under pretense of securing contraband liquor. The guard nervously saluted as Pete continued on.
The road curved down a gentle slope, past a church that had a Union hospital flag hung from a window. The doors were open and he could see a surgeon at work. Some casualties from the previous day's fight had most likely been moved down here during the night A dozen soldiers, a mix of Yankees and his own, were on the steps of the church, one rebel boy moaning, holding a crushed foot up in the air, blood dripping from his smashed boot Several others were obviously sick, one an old man with a waxy pallor and blue lips, wearing a tattered uniform, a soldier from the Texas Brigade.
Several of the Yankees saluted, and Pete returned die gesture as he pressed on. Directly ahead was the intersection with the Gettysburg-Emmitsburg Road. A regiment in open order was deployed in a field north of the intersection, slowly pushing up along either side of the road in a heavy skirmish line. As he reached the junction, he spied Robertson, commander of the lead brigade in the march. Robertson was standing to the side of the road, talking with his staff.
Behind him, in the fields to the south of town and below the convent, the Texas Brigade was deployed, guarding the approach to the south.
"How are things here?" Pete asked.
Grinning, Robertson saluted.
"No real trouble so far, sir. Skirmish to take that signal tower," and he pointed up to the high ridge behind the convent "Gotta figure we just knocked on the back door of the Yankees."
"Why is most of your brigade off that way then?" Pete asked casually. Robertson was a good officer, who knew his business.
"A couple of the stragglers we picked up"-and he gestured to where half a hundred Yankees were sitting glumly in an open field, guarded by several mounted provost guards- "one of them said there was a brigade of Yankee cavalry south of here and coming up this way."
Pete nodded, shading his eyes as he scanned the road to the south. No dust on the road, no sense that anything was coming, but still a brigade of Yankee cavalry slamming into their line of march could play havoc; even a brief delay at the crossroads here would reverberate clear back to Gettysburg, bringing the entire march to a halt He silently cursed Stuart Rather than rounding up headquarters details and mounted staff to push the head of the column, it should have been a full division of Stuart's troopers securing the way.
'Talked with him about a half hour ago, sir. He's heading east with his staff to scout the bridge at Monocacy. He should be at the front of Law's brigade. The head of their column should be a couple of miles down the road by now."
Pete nodded, gaze still looking south, then turning in the saddle, he studied the road northward. All of the wheat and corn in the fields to either side of the road was trampled down, hundreds of burnt circles marking campfires, clear evidence that a lot of men had been through here in the last couple of days.
"So far though," Robertson offered, "it looks like every one of them Federals hightailed it up to Gettysburg yesterday. Other than that sorry bunch sitting over there, a couple of surgeons and the Signal Corps unit, there was nothing here."
"Could change damn quick though," Pete responded. "Rest your men, then fall in on the rear of Hood's column once the rest of the division has passed. If there's a fight up ahead, I want your brigade of Texans in it I want to keep my units together as much as possible. But if anything starts to loom up from either direction, you get word up to me quick. I'm going forward, and once into Taneytown I will establish headquarters there. You got that?" '
Robertson repeated the orders, and Pete nodded approvingly.
He looked around again. To the west of the north-south road, it was good ground, perfect for a defensive fight; on the other side, however, the land gave way to gently rolling farmland. If this plan worked, the entire Army of Northern Virginia would funnel through here across the next two days. If the Army of the Potomac should react by coming back down the main road to Gettysburg, they could possibly cut his corps off, strung out all the way past Taneytown.
Then it was going to get dicey. We stretch out If we grab Taneytown and start to move toward Westminster, then we have them. But if they react now, coming south on this road, it will be us who are scrambling.
He looked back to the north.
"If there is cavalry coming up from the south, we can handle it I'm more worried about a damn corps of infantry coming back down this road from the north. Before you push on, get up this road a bit scout it out find a good defensive line to slow them down."
He hesitated for a moment Perhaps I should stay here, at least till I get a full division forward. He looked back toward the town of Emmitsburg. The torrent of troops continued to pour down the main street reached the intersection with the Gettysburg Road, and pressed on eastward. The pace was quick. Hood was doing a good job. The men were moving along sharply. Now that they were out of the pass above Emmitsburg and into open country, we should be able to make close to three miles an hour to the Monocacy Bridge. The road was a good one, a pike surfaced with crushed limestone.
Should I stay here to keep an eye on things?
No. That's what I would have done yesterday. Not today. I can't think that way today. Trust Lee's instincts. It was I who first put this scheme forward; I have to keep it moving. The old man was right Jackson is dead. I have to take his place now. To hell with the myth about Jackson's foot cavalry. Let them see what my corps can do for a change.
He looked over at his staff. The boys were tired. Most had not slept since yesterday morning, and he could see more than one who had that wistful, dogged look in his eyes, hoping he'd declare that here was headquarters and they could grab a few minutes of sleep in the shade.
We do that and it sends a signal to every soldier marching past. Headquarters is here; this is the center; we can begin to slacken the pace.
"Come on," Pete said, "we got some more riding."
None of them said anything. A few were obviously a bit surprised at his determination to go to the front of the march.
Swinging out into the open fields beside the road, Pete urged his mount up to a near gallop, weaving through open pastures, rich land of wheat corn, apples, and fat milk cows. It was getting decidedly hot even as he rode, and he took his hat off for a moment letting the breeze cool his sweat-soaked brow.
Troops marching on the road saw him pass, a few offering a cheer. He wasn't the type that most of the men cheered, no Jackson, but damn it he would show Jackson a thing or two this day. He passed a battery of three-inch rifles, moving at a sharp pace, the road ahead darkened by the swaying column of infantry, the men moving briskly, some of the shorter men pushing along at a slow trot Something must be up, he realized, an order from forward to come along on the double.
And then directly ahead, he heard it, the patter of musketry, puffs of smoke rippling along the far ridge, a low stretch of ground, the crest, open pasture and fields. Whoever was shooting was down in the wheat and com. He slowed for a moment, not sure if they had, in fact, run into Union troops contesting their approach, then saw some men in butternut sprinting from the road, deploying out along the base of the ridge and moving up, arms still at the shoulder.
Coming down from the ridge ahead was a knot of mounted men, one of them John Hood, and Pete angled over toward him, coming on fast, his mount laboring hard, exhaling noisily. John was heading for the road but then swerved at Pete's approach and came straight toward him.
"What's happening, John?" Pete shouted, even as he reined in hard.
"Damn Yankee cavalry, that's what gives. The bridge over Monocacy is just on the other side of that ridge. We were just about on it, and then from the other side, out of Taneytown, we saw them coming up, riding hard, a regiment at least and more on the way."
"Can you force it?"
"I'm doing that right now."
Even as he spoke, the volume of fire was increasing. A regiment of troops down on the road was moving forward on the double in columns of four, heading up toward the low rise. As the head of the regiment crested the rise, the racket swelled, and he could see several men tumble out of the ranks. The column slowed and then began to deploy into a battle line.
"We're trying to find a ford so we can flank it, but I think they've beaten us to the bridge." "Who is it?" "Buford."
"Damn!" Pete sighed. It would have to be him. A year ago, at Second Manassas, John Buford had put up a hell of a fight and almost delayed Pete's march through the Bull Run
Mountains. Reports were he had done it again yesterday before Gettysburg. Why the hell was he here now?
"Sir, maybe you should get up." Henry Hunt groaned, raising his hat off his face, squinting up at his orderly, who was looking down anxiously.
He wanted to curse the young lieutenant and tell him to go away. The orderly was holding a tin cup of coffee as a peace offering, and Henry gingerly took it by the rim, swearing softly as it burnt his fingers before he could finally take the handle. He blew on the thick brew.
"What's going on?"
"Some real upset, sir."
He stood up, bones creaking from the effort, rubbing his eyes with his free hand and looking around. All was quiet along the brow of the cemetery. There were occasional distant pops from skirmishers off beyond the wooded hill to the northeast As he faced that way, the thump of distant cannon fire washed over him. The volume picked up even as he stood there.
Are things opening on our right? he wondered. Is Lee trying to flank us there? Around the headquarters, back behind the slope, there was a flurry of activity: staff officers riding back and forth, knots of men talking.
Strange how it worked, so many self-important men around a headquarters, all of them acting as if the fate of the war rested on their ponderings and swapping of rumors. It was like a hive of bees getting riled up whenever something happened.
"What's the upset?"
"Sickles has moved."
"You can see for yourself, sir. Apparently he did so without telling General Meade."
The orderly motioned to the west, and Henry followed him, coming out from under the shade of an elm, squinting from the harsh noonday light. Slowly walking up the slope of the cemetery, he sipped the coffee. He hated the feeling when awakening from a midday nap, especially after an exhausting night of work. It was hard to think clearly. You felt sticky, aware of just how long it has been since you had a decent bath, a change of clothes, and a proper meal.
A gun crew was directly ahead, the men standing, pointing off to the south, intent on whatever it was they were watching. As he came up alongside the three-inch gun, he finally saw what they were looking at a mile away… an entire corps of Union troops, flags flying, moving as on parade, sweeping out across the fields toward the Emmitsburg Road. Though long ago cynical about the grandeur of war, he had to inwardly admit that it was a powerful sight
"General Meade galloped out of here a few minutes back, swearing a blue streak," Henry's orderly said. "Everybody saw it"
"Better get down there," Henry sighed. The orderly, who had been leading Henry's horse, handed over the reins. Henry drained the rest of the coffee, tossed the cup on the ground, and mounted.
"There's more, sir. Right after General Meade rode out I was talking with a sergeant with the Signal Corps. He said there was some confusion about the signal station down at Emmitsburg."
"Yes, sir. It's been hazy all morning, sir. This sergeant said there was some sort of signal, but they couldn't read it clearly. And then nothing. The station atop that big round hill on our left flank has been trying to raise them, but no response. Seems that there's a bit of worry about it"
"Well, there're a lot of rebel cavalry coming in around our right. That's the skirmishing you're hearing."
Henry looked toward the northeast Puffs of smoke rippled in front of the crest locals called Culp's Hill. His orderly was right It was cavalry, dismounted skirmishers. "Infantry?"
You can still see what's left of the Rebs who attacked last night; they're on the far side of town.
Worry about that later. Stuart coming in, and on the right flank, might mean a move. Should I check this out? he wondered.
He suppressed a groan as he spurred his mount to a fast canter. Too damn much riding these last couple of days, enough to bounce your guts out For a brief instant he thought about just turning back to headquarters, finding the shade of the tree that was so comfortable, and waiting it out But two things drove him. If Sickles was on to something down on his flank as well, he'd better go up and see about the deployment of guns… that and he was just damn curious to see what was going to happen.
They followed the crest line down along the position held by Second Corps. The men were up, shading their eyes, looking southwest watching the spectacle; and it was indeed a spectacle, long battle lines of blue sweeping across the fields. He weaved his way down onto a farm lane that cut through a woodlot and then came out to a narrow road heading west. The pasture to either side of the road was trampled down, clear indication that lines of infantry had just passed through. He turned onto the road and within a couple of minutes came up on the rear of the advancing corps, men moving forward in a vast formation, the sight of which quickened his pulse. The road was jammed with artillery limbers, batteries assigned to Third Corps; and as he passed, several men shouted to him, asking what was happening.
He ignored their calls, weaving in and out through the formation until his orderly pointed toward the knoll crowned by a peach orchard. The confrontation was already on, Meade and Sickles facing each other, still mounted, staff back a couple of dozen feet away, soaking in every word. He edged up to the group and reined in.
"And I tell you," Sickles was shouting, waving an arm toward the west, "there is something big moving out there, at least a division, maybe a corps going for my flank."
"Goddamn it, Sickles!" Meade roared back. 'I'll break you for this, bust you out of this army. I don't have time for amateur generals running about whenever the whim seizes them."
"Been going at it like this for the last ten minutes," a guidon bearer whispered, coming up to Henry's side.
He ignored him, trying not to be too obvious a voyeur to the confrontation.
"Listen," Sickles replied, lowering his voice, "it's good ground here; half my corps were looking up at this knoll. Beyond that, I tell you we're getting flanked. The signal station tried to communicate that from Emmitsburg, and now we can't raise them at all."
"How in God's name do you know that?" Meade shouted. "We could barely see it yesterday it was so damn hazy. Based on that, a signal station we can't see, and now you're moving without orders?
"Can't you hear the Confederate artillery on the right flank?" Meade shouted, gesturing back to the north. "Lee might very well be moving on our right, and you are overextending the left
"Goddamn you, Sickles! Damn you! You moved up from Emmitsburg yesterday without waiting for orders. Now you're moving again without orders. Are you in command of this army or am I?"
Sickles said nothing.
"Answer me, damn you!"
"You are," and mere was a long hesitation, "sir."
"General Sickles, if you desire to still have your command five minutes from now, you'll listen to me, damn you. Turn your corps around and go back to the position assigned to you."
Dan sighed, looking around at the men watching the confrontation. He wearily shook his head "At least let me send a brigade forward as reconnaissance, that and send a couple of regiments south toward Emmitsburg to find out what is happening, why we can't raise the signal station down there."
"Your heard me, damn you. Every man back to his original position right now."
Dan looked frantically around, like someone cornered in a barroom brawl, hoping for support. All around him were silent. "Order the men back to their original positions," he finally said to no one in particular, his voice filled with weariness.
Members of his staff sat mesmerized, not moving. "Do it!" he roared.
Staff officers turned and moved off. Meade, glowering, looked around and with a savage jerk turned his horse about
"After this is over, by God there will be an inquiry into this, Sickles. I promise you that"
Without another word, the army's commander rode past Henry. Henry watched him go, wondering if he should ask for orders, but figured it was best not to deal with the man at this moment
The confrontation broke up. Bugle calls echoed across the fields, the vast movement grinding to a halt, like a lurching machine that had suddenly seized up. Thousands of voices rose up, expressing the eternal sentiment of soldiers of the Republic, that the damn officers didn't know what the hell they were doing.
' Dan caught Henry's eye, and before Henry could turn away he rode up.
"Can't you talk to him?" Sickles asked, an imploring note in his voice.
"Me? If you couldn't I know I sure can't."
"You see my point, don't you?"
"It's not my place to say," Henry replied cautiously. Sickles was noted as a damn cagey courtroom fighter. The last thing Henry needed was to be cited as having lent support to Sickles's position. Meade's words were not idle ones; they rarely were. Once the campaign was over, Meade would go after Sickles, political friends be damned.
"You heard about Emmitsburg?"
They couldn't read the signal, but one of my staff was up there, on the Big Round Hill, and said there was a lot of frantic waving and then nothing. Nothing, I tell you."
"Hunt, they're flanking us. You can smell it. The dust in front of my lines; you can see that even now.
"After you left I sent a probe forward and it got savaged. Berdan is damn near dead, and a hundred men lost. If the Rebs were fighting that hard, just a mile in front of me, that tells me they don't want us looking over that next ridge. It tells me we're being flanked."
"So why advance forward, unmasking your left?" Henry asked, unable to avoid getting sucked in.
"Because if they're flanking us, we should hit them first It's the same as Chancellorsville all over again. Hit us, fix our attention, then slip around our flank. I said it at Chancellorsville, by God, and no one listened. And now we're doing it again. Twenty more minutes and I'd've been into them, goddamn it!"
"You should have cleared it with him," Henry finally offered.
"I sent half a dozen messengers to him. Half a dozen and always the same reply, that he had things well in hand "
The battle formations to either side of Sickles were at a halt and now facing about starting the hike back toward the main line half a mile away. Sickles looked around, squinting, features scarlet.
Henry almost felt a moment of pity for this foul-mouthed ward politician turned general. He had been humiliated in front of his entire command. Every soldier, down to the most dim-witted private in the Third Corps, would know about that humiliation within the hour.
"You'd better get back and establish headquarters," Henry finally offered.
"Hunt would you do me a favor?"
"Go south. You've got a good mount Just take that road down to Emmitsburg. You could get there in an hour. Scout it out."
Henry said nothing. Scouting was not his job. It was artillery and Sickles knew that If Meade found out that the chief of artillery had gone off scouting at the request of Sickles, he'd be out of a job.
Dan lowered his head and turned his mount back. "Hunt, this day will wind up haunting both of us for the rest of our lives." He rode off, leaving Henry alone at the peach orchard, except for the orderly, who like all orderlies waited patiently.
Henry nudged his mount forward, the orderly falling in by his side, the young officer knowing better than to say anything. For a brief moment Henry was tempted to detail the lad off, send him down the road as Dan requested. No, one boy wandering off on his own would most likely get lost or wander into trouble and get himself killed.
All the way back to headquarters, and even as he settled back under the elm tree, Dan's words haunted him. The nap was an unsettling one and brought Henry no rest or peace.
1:00 PM, JULY 2,1863
THE WHITE HOUSE
President Abraham Lincoln settled into the chair by the table covered with maps. Sighing, he adjusted his glasses and wearily looked at them, half listening as Edwin Stanton, Secretary of War, droned on about the situation. To one side of the table were the latest newspapers from Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, all of them screaming about the rebel invasion.
"The reports indicate that Lee's casualties last night were substantial," Stanton announced. 'It's a heartening indicator."
"Strange," Lincoln whispered, "we now call the deaths of so many young men heartening."
"It's the most successful repulse we've seen yet of an attack by Lee, in fact the first clear defeat since Malvern Hill a year ago…"
"And do you think he will come on again today?" Stanton nodded.
"It's not like him to back off from an attack."
Lincoln picked up one of the maps brought over from the War Department showing southern Pennsylvania and most of Maryland. Blue and red pencil markings traced out the route of the two armies as they converged on Gettysburg.
"Should we be confident that General Meade will react correctly?" Lincoln finally asked.
"He was chosen by you," Stanton replied cautiously.
"Upon your recommendation."
"He is the only one capable right now. Unfortunately, Reynolds turned it down."
"And now he is dead."
Lincoln nodded, looking back at the papers, one of them dated from Chicago only two days ago. How remarkable, he thought When I came to Congress from Springfield only
seventeen years ago the journey had taken more than a week. Now papers can be rushed from Chicago in just two days. The Chicago paper's top story was a report from Grant's army proclaiming that Vicksburg would fall within the week.
"There is nothing we can do to affect things now," Lincoln said, again looking back at the map. "Let us trust that General Meade will prove himself worthy of the men who serve him;"
1:45 PM, JULY 2,1863
BATTLE OF MONOCACY CREEK
Brig. Gen. John Buford fought to regain his saddle, his mount nervously shying back from the shell burst that had detonated a dozen feet away. The trooper who had been reporting to him was down, lying still in the middle of the road, covered in white dust. "You hurt, General?"
Head ringing from the concussion, John turned. It was Gamble, commander of his First Brigade.
He was stunned from the blast, and it took a moment for his thoughts to clear.
Gamble leaned over, grabbing the reins to John's horse.
"Are you hurt, sir?"
"No, no. I'll be fine in a moment"
"They're spreading the line," Gamble shouted, "extending to our right!"
John nodded, willing the pounding in his chest to settle down, his thoughts to clear.
It was getting decidedly hot the air thick, sticky. He looked back to the east toward Taneytown. The rest of Devin's brigade was coming up on the pike, troops of cavalry spreading out across the fields, riding hard.
But the horses were blown, moving slowly. Hard days of campaigning, the fight yesterday, were telling now. Cavalry could move quickly when need be, but then horses had to be rested. Push too hard and your entire command is on foot. That's why he had requested the pullback to the rear, to give the mounts a day or two to feed on the rich pastures, get reshod after nearly two hundred miles of marching in the last two weeks, and even more importantly, resupply his command with ammunition and rations.
And now this, a battle that was never supposed to happen, a dozen miles to the flank and rear, with me in the way, taking a break at Taneytown when a scout brought the word in that Rebs were on the road to the west
From the bluff overlooking the river, he could see the bridge below, a solid affair, stone foundation, wide enough for two wagons to pass. Ten more minutes, and the Rebs would have had it. Only a hard ride, a flat-out gallop of five miles by his lead regiment the Eighth New York, a ride that had killed at least a dozen mounts and blown the rest could secure the crossing, even as the Rebs were racing in from the other side.
Now the damn affair was spreading out. This wasn't a raiding force probing the army's flank; it was a full-out attack. As his regiments came up from Taneytown, the Rebs were pouring their men in as well, rapidly extending to either side of the bridge, looking for places to cross and envelop him.
The Rebs had at least a division on the other side of the river, the trooper who was killed having just reported that they had taken a man who claimed to be with Law's brigade, Hood's division.
Damn, if I'm facing Hood down here, a dozen miles south of Gettysburg, that must mean all of Longstreet is behind him. They wouldn't just send a lone division this far off the flank. No, this was like Second Manassas all over again, with Longstreet again on the other side. Fix our attention in one direction, then slip around to the flank or rear. It was always the same with the Army of the Potomac. We focus on Lee, then he weaves like a boxer, dodging off in another direction, and our damn generals sit there dumbfounded. Once, just once, why couldn't it be the other way around?
The opposite bank of the creek was a shadowland of smoke and flickering gunfire. The air was still, humid, the smoke cringing to the ground, hanging in choking clouds beneath the trees that lined the banks of the stream. His men were giving back, rifle fire echoing in the shallow valley, but doing so slowly, with measured pace. Ammunition was low; every shot had to count.
He turned about and drew back a hundred yards, coming back out at the crest on the east side of the creek. Heat shimmers were rising off the pike to Taneytown, distorting the column of troopers coming up to reinforce the line.
"Should I tell Devin to put his men in on the right?" Gamble asked.
John raised his field glasses, scanning the opposite slope on the far side of the river. He caught glimpses of an infantry column a half mile away heading to his right. A second artillery battery was swinging into line. I don't have a single damn field piece, Calef won't be up for another half hour, and now there are two batteries on the other side, most likely more coming up.
I held the good ground for the army yesterday, did my duty, pulled back to refit, and now this. How the hell did Hood get around to the rear?
John looked over at Gamble, who was still awaiting orders. "We've got to hold them here, right here. Lose this line and there is no defendable position between here and the far side of Taneytown"-he hesitated for a second trying to remember the name "-along Pipe Creek.
"On the right, Gamble; put whatever we've got in there."
John shook his head. "We don't have any now."
Hood was a good player, he knew what to do. Yesterday, Harry Heth was impetuous, came on too fast; Hood though, John was different Aggressive as all hell, but he'd get a full division up and then come storming in with everything at once. Just keep extending the line until he finds a place to get across and turns us. That and some of my men have gone in with cartridge boxes half-empty. The few precious companies armed with repeating Spencer rifles were just about empty, having poured out nearly everything they had up at Gettysburg yesterday.
This was going to get bad real quick.
"Find a trooper with a damn good horse and get him over here now" John announced.
Dismounting in front of a farmhouse on the crest of the hill, he walked up to the porch. A woman with two children behind her stood in the doorway.
"I’d suggest you get your family down into the cellar," Buford said.
The woman turned, pushing the children inside, but returned a moment later, bearing of all things an earthen mug filled with foaming buttermilk.
In spite of his concern for her safety, he gratefully took the offering and downed it. It was cool, delicious. He drank it so fast his head ached for a moment
"Ma'am, please find some shelter."
"You're wounded, sir," and she pointed to his left arm. He glanced down, saw the torn sleeve, and for the first time felt the pain. The last shell burst must have nicked him.
"I'll be fine. Now please go with your children."
"Have your wounded brought in here where it's safe."
Safe? He couldn't help but smile. This house, on the crossroads, would be a target for the guns deploying on the other side.
"Down to the cellar with you, ma'am. I'll send one of my men to stay with you."
Gamble came up, leading a trooper riding a fine-looking stallion, which had obviously just "joined" the army.
Buford pulled out his dispatch book, folded it open, and addressed a note to Meade.
2:00 PM, JULY 2,1863
MONOCACY CREEK, FIVE MILES WEST OF TANEYTOWN
My command, while proceeding through Taneytown, was informed by a scout that Confederate forces, in at least brigade strength, were approaching from Emmitsburg. I have moved my entire command up, securing the east bank of Monocacy Creek at the stone bridge on the Emmitsburg-Taneytown Pike. I am
facing Hood's division, having directly observed at least two brigades so far and believe that Longstreet's corps is behind him.
He paused for a moment, then added the next line.
I believe Longstreet's intent is to turn the left flank of our army.
I intend to hold this position at whatever cost, though my ammunition supply is limited and many of my mounts are worn. I believe you should move sufficient forces here with all possible dispatch to secure this position; otherwise Taneytown and Westminster will be threatened.
Pulling out his pocket watch, he checked the time and handed the dispatch up.
"Ride back toward Taneytown," Buford ordered. 'Take the road north to Harney, the one we came down this morning, then proceed directly to Gettysburg. Stop for nothing. I want this personally delivered to General Meade. To Meade and no one else. Do you understand me?"
The trooper, obviously pleased with the importance of his role, nodded eagerly and saluted.
The trooper was off with a clattering of hooves, leaning far forward, crouched down on the neck of his mount.
Buford looked back at the woman, who was still standing in the doorway of her house. 'This road here"-and he pointed to the farm lane that intersected the pike at a right angle and headed north, disappearing as it turned down toward the river-"where does it lead?"
"That's Bullfrog Road," she replied. "It heads down to a ford across the river, about a mile north of here."
John nodded. Gamble had heard what she said and didn't need to be told.
"Get a regiment down to that ford. That's where he'll try and turn us. I'm staying here for right now. It's yesterday all over again, Gamble. We've got to hold. We've got to hold."
Gamble casually saluted and started to turn. As Buford watched, a shell screamed in, bursting in the front yard. He looked back at the open doorway, the woman standing there unflinching. Another shell roared in… and then he was down.
There was a glimpse of sky, torn rafters of the porch, cedar shingles smoking, no noise, just a sense of floating. He caught a glimpse of white. It was the woman, kneeling by his side.
"You all right?’
He wasn't sure if he had actually spoken or not, but she nodded in reply, taking his hand. Gamble was by her side, features pale, cradling an arm. He knelt down, grimacing as he reached out, touching John on the shoulder. There were tears in Gamble's eyes.
"You've got to hold…," John Buford tried to whisper, "for God's sake, please hold."
2:05 PM, JULY 2,1863
Coming to the edge of the woodlot, Longstreet reined in. Bullets were snicking through the trees, leaves fluttering down around him. "Right down there," Hood announced, pointing. He was right A ford, the river shallow to the right of the crossing for a good hundred yards. The banks were a bit steep. It'd be tough getting up on the far side, but it was better than trying to force the bridge with a frontal charge against men armed with breechloaders.
Two batteries were already in place, shelling the crest behind the bridge. He raised his field glasses and focused on a plume of smoke. It looked like a farmhouse at the crest was on Are. Now that would be a signal that could be seen for miles.
The entire river valley for nearly half a mile was an inferno, stabs of light flickering in the smoke, the high crack of Sharps rifles, the tearing roar of volleys from his side. Behind him, weaving down a farm lane, a column approached, George Anderson's brigade, running at the double, men staggering with exhaustion in the ninety-degree heat, having marched nearly twenty miles and now going into this.
From the opposite side of the creek, he saw an open line of Union cavalry coming down the hill, cutting across the field, stopping a hundred yards from the riverbank, troopers dismounting, pulling carbines from saddle holsters, units of five men, four dismounting, the fifth staying mounted and grabbing the reins of the other horses.
The troopers raced down to the banks of the narrow stream, sliding down into the high grass, nestling in behind trees. No artillery though, not a single gun, thank God. One field piece, loaded with canister, would murder the men about to sprint to the ford.
Hood came up by his side.
"Almost in place."
Pete took out his pocket watch and shook his head. This had been going on for well over an hour and a half. If the signal station back in Emmitsburg had indeed warned Meade, reinforcements could already be approaching Taneytown.
"Send them in now."
'Twenty more minutes, and I'll have the entire brigade up." "Now!"
Hood looked over at him, saluted.
"You stay here with me." "General?"
"I need you for a lot more… John, after this. I don't want you getting hurt now. Give the order, then come back here."
John galloped off. Pete continued to scan the approach to the ford. It was a steep bank down for the last fifty yards. He could see the Yankee cavalry deploying along the stream, crouching down low, getting ready. His artillery, halfway back toward the main bridge, was now up to three batteries, all of them pounding the slopes on die other side with case shot. The third battery, as ordered, was deploying out to enfilade this ford, the first shot already winging in, kicking up a geyser of water twenty feet high.
The long roll of a drum stuttered behind him, a bugle picking up the call. The first two regiments of Anderson's brigade started down the road, on the double, racing around a bend in the road. In another minute they'd be in sight of the troopers defending the ford.
Hood, his horse lathered and panting, came up to Longstreet's side, reining in.
"It's going to get tough. I've ordered the next regiment to fall in on the right They will be going straight down to the stream in open order."
Pete nodded, saying nothing, lowering his glasses to watch the battle unfold.
The charge, advancing in columns of four, came around the final bend in the road. They were now in view. He could see Yankee troopers standing up, raising carbines, beginning to fire.
The charge pressed in, men dropping, sprawling in the roadway, staggering to either side. The head of the column hit the stream, men losing their footing on the large slippery rock that some farmer had laboriously put into place at the bank of the river.
Men jumped into the stream, rifles held high, bullets smacking the water around them. They were in thigh deep, desperately struggling to get across, churning the water into a muddy foam. The column stalled at the middle, breaking apart men going down, bodies floating, wounded fleeing back to the shore.
The road was packed with men who started to spread out, falling in to either side of the ford, dodging into the high grass and trees, opening fire. The attack stalled.
He waited, Hood softly cursing by his side. A hundred men or more were down, littering the road, the riverbank, floating in the slow-moving current Shells arced in, detonating along the far bank and in the field beyond, where mounted troopers struggled to control the horses of those who were fighting on foot
Anderson's third regiment came out of the woodlot to Pete's right deployed in heavy skirmish order, moving fast rifles poised as they went down into the narrow valley. Long minutes passed as they pushed to the edge of the stream, adding their weight of fire to the two regiments that had gone to ground at the ford.
"Now, damn it now!" Hood shouted, and he started to go forward, Pete reaching out to grab his reins.
Only thirty yards of thigh-deep water separated the two sides. Hood would be dead in minutes if he went down there.
A surge finally built up. A couple of dozen men leapt into the stream, fifty yards below the ford, and tried to storm across. Only three or four made it, slamming in against the muddy slope and then pushing up, going hand to hand with the troopers who had drawn revolvers to face them.
That small charge seemed to set off a fuse. A wolflike shriek began to echo, build, sending corkscrews down Pete's
"That's it!" Hood roared. "Go! Go!"
Anderson's men stood up, swarming by the hundreds into the stream, running with high, exaggerated steps as they splashed through the water.
The charge stormed across the stream, scores of men falling, but more and more gaining the opposite shore. From out of the thin band of trees, a scattering of Yankees emerged, running back to their mounts, followed seconds later by a gray-and-butternut swarm. Most of the troopers gained their mounts, leaping into saddles, spurring horses, but more than one fell in the excitement, or jumped astride a horse that was so worn it could barely get up to a canter before its rider was dropped.
"Let's go," Pete announced and he came out of the wood-lot, Hood by his side, and raced down the slope, avoiding the road, which was littered with the wounded, dead, and dying.
Reaching the stream, he let his horse drink for a moment. It was a grim landscape. A couple of hundred casualties at the very least Bodies floated in the stream, plumes of pink spreading from them. Exhausted men lay on both shores, pushed to the limit by the long march, the heat and this short but deadly fight He crossed the stream, his mount slipping as it struggled to get up the muddy bank.
The battle was sweeping up the gentle slope ahead, a strange sight exhausted infantry pursuing equally exhausted cavalry. If he had but one regiment of fresh mounted troopers, he could bag the whole lot in front of him.
He pushed on, following the skirmishers advancing up the slope and onto the high footing beyond Atop the crest the ragged line had halted and were blazing away, men shouting, loading frantically. Gaining the line, he saw their target. Hundreds of Yankee troopers were falling back, crowding the pike, all semblance of order gone, streaming toward the rear now that they were outflanked.
The volume of fighting down at the main bridge was beginning to drop off. They were giving up, pulling back. The sight filled him with frustration. They were getting away, damn it. But he could sense that this unit was beaten.
Long minutes passed, his skirmishers engaging at a range of several hundred yards, not feeling strong enough to try and push forward and close. Finally another regiment came up, men staggering as they deployed into a heavy battle line and at last began to squeeze in on the pike.
A final determined band came up the road when they were less than a hundred yards away from the burning farmhouse. A volley dropped several men as the last of the troopers veered off, cutting out into the open fields beyond.
His skirmishers finally closed on the main road, and a hoarse cheer rose up as they greeted troops from Law's brigade coming up from the main bridge.
Anderson, who had been on the skirmish line, came back, features pale, obviously on the edge of dropping from heat exhaustion. "Sir, you'd better come over here."
Pete followed the brigade commander over to the burning farmhouse. Half a hundred wounded and dead troopers were on the front lawn. A surgeon, aided by a lone woman, with two small children clinging to her side, stood at the busted gate.
The surgeon looked up coldly at Pete, who stiffened and saluted.
"My surgeons will be up shortly. We'll establish our hospital here, and your men will be tended to also, Doctor." The surgeon said nothing.
Anderson motioned to one of the bodies. "Sir, that's Buford," Anderson announced.
Pete sighed, dismounted, went up to his old comrade, and knelt down. He wasn't sure if John was alive or not The wound was ghastly, through the lungs.
He wasn't good at moments like this. Bad enough when it was your own men. Harder though when it was someone from long ago, now on the other side, and it was you who'd done it to him.
John opened his eyes. "We have to hold," John whispered.
"You did, John. You did just fine." "Pete? Is that you?" "Yes, John, it's Pete." Buford sighed, closed his eyes. "I'm sorry, John; it had to be done." But Buford was gone.
General Longstreet stood up, catching the cold gaze of the woman standing protectively over the body. "Your house, ma'am?" "Yes."
"My apologies, ma'am. My quartermaster will give you a voucher for payment I pray that you and your family are safe."
"My husband isn't. He died at Gaines Mills," she paused, "fighting on your side."
There was nothing he could say.
He turned away, walking back out to the road. Men from Law's and Anderson's brigades were forming up, gathering beneath their standards on the far side of the road. They were finished for now, played out and needed several hours' rest before he could push them again.
He saw Anderson, leaning against the fence, doubled over. The man vomited. It wasn't fear, it was just the exhaustion after a tough fight Pete waited until the brigade commander, spitting and coughing, stood back up, features pale.
"You had two regiments that didn't engage?"
"I want them on the road in fifteen minutes." Anderson hesitated, then saluted and walked off, his legs rubbery.
Pete drew out his pocket watch. It was nearly four in the afternoon. Too long. Too damn long.
He looked back at John Buford's body.
Maybe you did buy enough time, Pete thought but God I hope not
Remounting, he turned east and continued on toward Taneytown as the roof of the burning farmhouse collapsed, sending up a pillar of flame and smoke.
4:00 PM, JULY 2,1863
NORTHEAST OF GETTYSBURG
It was hard to conceal his delight as the light battery of horse artillery galloped into position, guns bouncing and careening behind their caissons, mounted gunners yelling with delight
Stuart snapped off a salute as the unit raced past him, deploying out into an open field to the northeast of the wooded hill flanking the cemetery held by the Army of the Potomac. The range was extreme. The fire would be nothing more than a nuisance, but that was not the main intent.
For the last hour he had "been running the brigade of infantry ragged. They had marched five miles, swinging far north of the town, cutting across fields and down lanes beyond the sight of the Yankees, finally to emerge into view along a stretch of the road leading back to York. After marching in plain sight for several hundred yards, the column dipped out of view, heading to the east then countermarched back around by a concealed lane, only to re-emerge and do the march in sight yet again.
Farther afield small troops of cavalry simply galloped back and forth along roads and farm lanes, dragging brush, kicking up dust while the bulk of his command concentrated east of town skirmished with the Union cavalry that was beginning to come up and probed down around the right flank of the Union lines.
It reminded him of the stories of Magruder down on the Peninsula the year before. A passionate devotee of amateur theater, Magruder had hoodwinked McClellan into believing that two thousand men before Yorktown were actually twenty to thirty thousand.
Though still smarting from the rebuke and the clear threat from Lee, he had to admit that this afternoon he was beginning to enjoy his work.
4:15 PM, JULY 2,1863
HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC
Hunt saw the courier galloping up the Taneytown Road. He was astride a magnificent stallion, the animal stretching out, running hard, as its rider guided the horse around the clutter of ammunition wagons slowly moving along the road.
Henry stepped down from the porch of the small house below Cemetery Hill that was now the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac. Staff officers, who had been clustered about, nervously looking to the northeast, where the sound of gunfire was rapidly increasing, barely noticed the arrival of a courier storming up the road from Taneytown.
The courier was a cavalryman, hat gone, uniform so coated with dust that he almost looked like a rebel in dark butternut The man reined in hard, swinging down from his saddle.
Several of the staff moved toward the rider, one of them extending his hand, asking for any dispatches.
"My orders from General Buford are to present this directly to General Meade!" the courier shouted, obviously agitated.
Henry felt a cold chill. Buford was supposed to be on his way to Westminster. He moved into the group. "I'll take you to him."
Leading the way, Henry stepped into the small parlor, where Meade stood at a table hunched over a map, while Warren was tracing out a position.
"Based on the Confederate movements against our right flank, I think we have to extend to the right," Warren said, looking around die room,
"General, a dispatch rider," Henry announced. "He says the message must be given to you personally."
Meade looked up, slightly annoyed at the cavalryman standing in the doorway. "Who are you?" Meade snapped.
"Sergeant Malady, Eighth New York Cavalry, Buford's division, sir."
Meade came erect, extending his hand, while the trooper fumbled in his breast pocket and pulled out the note.
Meade unfolded it, started to read, and Henry could instantly tell that the news was bad. Meade finished reading and then seemed to go over the note a second time. All in the room were silent Meade finally passed it to Dan Butterfield, his chief of staff, and turned away for a moment
"What the hell is it?"
General Hancock, who had been standing on the front porch as the courier came in, was now behind the trooper, pushing his way into the room.
"General Buford reports that he is engaged with Hood's division on Monocacy Creek along the Emmitsburg to Taneytown Road," Butterfield announced.
"Jesus Christ Almighty," Hancock cried, stepping up to a map pinned to the wall and after several seconds stabbing his finger at a spot on the lower left corner.
Meade turned, looking back at the trooper. "Did you see this?" he asked sharply.
"Yes, sir. We were in Taneytown. It was around one. I remember that because one of the church clocks struck as we rode in. A scout came in from the west and we were ordered to horse. It was a hard ride; a lot of the horses were about ready to drop."
"Yours looks pretty good," Hancock interjected.
'Well, sir, I sort of arranged a swap with a civilian when we got to Taneytown," and the trooper dropped his eyes as he spoke.
"Go on," Meade snapped.
"By the time we got up to the bridge, Gamble's brigade was really into it A lot of heavy fire. I could see rebel troops on the far side; columns of them just beginning to deploy. My regiment was ordered in on the right to cover a ford; at least that's what I heard. It was then that General Gamble came up, spotted me, and ordered me to report to General Buford to carry that dispatch."
"And you took it personally from General Buford."
"And he said he believed all of Longstreet's corp was behind the attack?" "Yes, sir."
"Did you see that? Other divisions?" ' "No sir, not exactly. But I tell you, sir, we were getting hit as hard as we were over by the seminary yesterday. They had three batteries up. There was a hell of a lot of shooting. When I got back to Taneytown, I could still hear the gunfire."
"The condition of your men going in?" Hancock interjected.
"Well, sir, to be honest not so good. The horses were pretty worn; a lot of us were short on ammunition. I heard the troopers who had Spencer repeaters were all but empty. But we'll make a good fight of it"
Hancock looked over at Meade, who stood silent arms folded, eyes fixed on the map.
"We'd better get people down there now," Hancock said.
"That will take four hours or more," Meade replied, eyes still fixed on the map.
Warren stepped up to the map.
"That report from the Round Top signal station that came in a half hour ago of smoke being seen to the south. It fits. Also, losing contact with Emmitsburg. Sir, this doesn't look good."
Meade Was still silent
"Maybe Sickles was right," Butterfield interjected, and Meade turned, fixing him with his sharp gaze.
Henry said nothing for the moment Butterfield had been the previous commander's chief of staff. Meade had kept him on simply because the man clearly knew the routine. No one in this inner circle had any real love for Sickles, but Henry knew that Butterfield's comment showed remarkably bad timing since Meade was still fuming about the incident earlier in the day.
And yet if Hood was indeed on the flank, then Sickles had been right How absurd, Henry thought the foul-mouthed amateur showing up, at least for the moment all the professionals.
"Butterfield, I want a meeting of all corps commanders within an hour. Get the staff out to round them up."
Hancock, an incredulous look on his face, turned toward Meade.
"A staff meeting? That will take hours. We've got to act now."
Meade shook his head.
"All seven corps are up, and we are deployed for battle here. Sedgwick's men are coming in even now after marching thirty-five miles."
He then pointed toward the north.
"General Slocum is reporting at least a division of Confederate infantry, supported by Stuart moving on our right. You can hear the fire coming from over there."
All were silent for a moment the steady thump of artillery echoing, growing louder as several batteries up on Cemetery Hill began to reply.
"Goddamn it I have reports now of infantry moving on my right flank, something I can see with my own eyes, and now this courier reporting Longstreet to my rear a dozen miles away, something I can't see.
"I want my corps commanders' opinions before we move this army again," Meade said firmly.
"Pulling the corps commanders in just isn't wise. If Lee does hit us here in the next hour, you want the corps commanders with their units. And besides, you don't need them to make this decision. You are in command. You are."
"And you want me to do what?" Meade responded.
"Sixth Corps is exhausted. But Fifth is camped right along the Taneytown Road. You could have them marching within the hour" Hancock pleaded.
Again Meade shook his head. "Marching where? To my right or to the rear?"
"The rear of course. Send Fifth Corps down to Taneytown now, sir."
Meade sighed wearily and shook his head. Again the thumping of gunfire rattled the windows of the small farmhouse.
"That's our active reserve for the moment. Sixth Corps is just too worn out from the march to be of much use now. I'm not going to detach an entire corps based on one report from a courier."
"Sergeant, tell him!" Hancock shouted, looking back at the cavalry trooper. 'Tell him what Buford said!"
The sergeant stood there gape-mouthed, unable to reply.
Meade put his hand up, beckoning for silence.
Henry caught the eye of the trooper and nodded toward the door. The cavalryman stepped outside, Henry following, along with Warren, as the two generals within exploded at each other.
Henry led the trooper down to the fence bordering the Taneytown Road and, reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a flask and offered it.
"God bless you, sir."
The trooper tilted his head back and took a long swallow.
"You said that you saw what was going on at that bridge?" Henry asked.
"Yes, sir, I did, but only for a minute or so while General Buford wrote out the note."
"How long have you been in the army?"
"Since we signed up back in sixty-one. I've been in every campaign since, sir."
"You know we get a lot of couriers galloping in here" Warren interjected, "claiming they've seen the whole rebel army."
I didn't say that, sir," and there was a slightly indignant tone to his voice. "I saw at least two brigades over there, sir. Well, not exactly saw, but down around the bridge, the width of the firing, sir, you know the sound, it was wide, a front of half a mile maybe."
As he spoke the trooper extended his hands wide, and Warren nodded.
"I saw another column moving to flank our right"; the trooper continued, "that's where my regiment went off to cover. It was just like yesterday when we fought Heth and Pender. You could just tell that there was a whole hell of a lot behind them, building up, pushing in. Sir, General Buford ain't prone to exaggerating, sir. If he said that Longstreet's entire corps was coming down that road, by God, I'd believe him.'
Henry nodded. The trooper was right; Buford was a good man. Yesterday John Reynolds had marched to Buford's rescue, not waiting for the nicety of formal orders properly countersigned.
"One of my batteries is parked over there," and Henry pointed across the road. "Go down there; get some water and fodder for your horse and some food for yourself. Wait there."
"Thank you, sir."
"And, trooper, did that civilian willingly trade you horses? That is one beautiful mount you got there."
The man grinned, saying nothing, as he handed Henry his flask and saluted.
Henry turned to go back into the fray.
It was the trooper. "Yes?"
"For God's sake, don't let the generals screw this one up. We can lick those bastards any day of the week, if only they'd give us some good ground and let us fight"
Henry fixed the trooper with his gaze. He understood the sentiment, but still it bothered him, even though he knew the man was right.
Without comment, Henry turned and walked back toward the small, whitewashed house.
"Henry, what do you think?" Warren asked, falling in by his side.
"I think Longstreet is flanking us, that's what I think."
"What's in front of us then?" and Warren nodded toward the sound of gunfire.
"I don't know, but I'm willing lo bet it's a diversion," Henry offered. "We've only seen what appears to be one division of infantry over there, just a couple of batteries, no massed battalions of guns, so where the hell is the rest of Lee's army? It's either hidden behind the seminary or it's marching to the south.
"You and I rode that ground around Westminster yesterday morning, along Pipe Creek."
Yesterday morning? God, was it really just a day ago?
"It's damn good ground, Henry. Damn good. High land, open fields of fire for anyone dug in along the south bank, and Westminster as the primary base directly behind it. My God, if Longstreet seizes that, he'll cut us off from the railroad and our supplies and be between us and Washington."
As they walked back to the house, couriers were already dashing off, heading to the various corps headquarters to fetch the generals in.
Hancock was out on the porch, face red; He caught Henry's eye. "We wait," Hancock snarled. "Goddamn it, we wait"
Henry, unable to believe what Hancock was saying, walked into the small, whitewashed house. Meade was leaning over the map table, fist balled up, Butterfield by his side. The room was boiling hot It gave Henry a claustrophobic feeling. Meade looked up with a cold eye. '"Well?" Meade snapped.
"I didn't say anything, sir."
"But you're thinking it."
That trooper, I talked with him outside. General, he's a good soldier, been in the army since the start of the war and not some naive kid straight from the farm. And Buford is a damn good cavalryman. If John is telling us Longstreet is on our flank, we'd better believe him."
Meade sighed. Stepping back from the table, he picked up a tin cup of coffee and sipped on it, turning to look at the map of southern Pennsylvania and northern Maryland pinned to the wall.
Warren came in and stood silently by Henry's side.
"You two surveyed that Pipe Creek line, didn't you?"
"Yes sir, we did," Warren replied. "An army on defense would have a huge advantage at Pipe Creek and an especially big advantage if they were defending the south side of that valley. If Pete Longstreet slides into that position, he'll be astride our line of communications."
Meade said nothing for a moment, the room silent except for the annoying buzz of horseflies, and the distant boom of artillery coming from the right flank.
"Stuart is on our right with at least a division of infantry, maybe more. You can see him out there from the top of the cemetery. Reb infantry and artillery are deployed from the seminary clear down to opposite the ridge in our center, and there're still Reb skirmishers in the town. What the hell is that?"
"Diversion," Warren replied.
Meade finally looked back at the two. For a moment the combative, dyspeptic look was gone, replaced by an infinite weariness. Henry knew that Meade had not had a moment's sleep since yesterday, had only been in command of this army for five days. It was one thing to command a corps, to receive the orders to take or hold a position; it was an entirely different game to make those orders, orders upon which the fate of this army and the Republic might hang.
"At least send a division down there," Warren said softly. "Fifth Corps is astride the road back to Taneytown. Get a division on the road now, and they can be in Taneytown before dark. If Buford is indeed holding Longstreet at Monocacy Creek, the division can reinforce. If Longstreet is into the town, it will stall his advance. I'll go down with them and send back a report."
Meade did not reply, attention focused back on the map.
'Turning this army around; marching it south, will be a bloody nightmare."
He paused for a moment
"John reported contact with two brigades only. He surmised that Longstreet was behind the attack, but he didn't see it. It could be a diversion. Lee hit us hard last night and we gave him a bloody nose. Maybe he thinks he can't push us off this ground, so he's trying to scare us off instead. We start marching south, then he hits us, storming out from behind that ridge behind the town with us strung out on the roads. It could be that you know."
Warren nodded in agreement "But I don't think it is."
"Listen to me," Meade said coldly, "it's fine for all of you to guess, to think, but if I make one mistake, just one goddamn mistake, I can lose this war."
Don't make the right decision, and we can lose this war as well, Henry thought
"A division," Meade finally said, "Fifth Corps. Crawford's men are rested. Get them on the road, Warren. You go with them. Henry, detach a couple of batteries from the reserve and send them along."
Warren was out the door, in seconds.
Meade caught Henry's eye.
"You want me to go with them?" Henry asked. "If it's a fight for Taneytown, I should scout out the artillery positions."
"My job here is done for the moment All our guns are in position. I've surveyed the line from one end to the other twice. If we are going to shift south, I need to be down there."
Henry followed Warren out the door, calling for a horse.
Even as he mounted, the sound of guns, again from the right, thundered. Ignoring them, he spurred onto the road, orderly following, racing to catch up to Warren, who was already off at a gallop.
4:30 PM, JULY 2,1863
General Lee reined in, turning to look back toward the seminary on the ridge to the east. The ground before it was still littered with dead Union soldiers and horses. It was a grim sight, the air thick with that sickly, cloying scent
He pulled out his pocket watch… four-thirty. If we had stayed here, it would be happening now, hitting them on both flanks, the wooded hill next to the cemetery, the place the locals called the Round Tops on the other flank. He had observed the strange movement down on the flank at noon, an entire Union corps advancing, and it had caused a heart-stopping moment He had ordered a division from Hill's corps off the line of march, deploying them out in response behind the crest next to the tavern. And then, strangely, the movement had stopped, and they had turned about and marched back to the Round Tops.
Curious, some confusion in orders most likely. It had been a tempting moment though. If that corps, a scout reported it to be the Third, had stayed there, it would have been vulnerable on its left
But no, this was no longer the place. That decision had already been made.
A deep rumbling, Stuart's light artillery continuing their demonstration to the flank of the wooded hill, hopefully fixing the attention of the Union forces. Doctrine always was to have cavalry securing the flank along the intended line of advance. One of Ewell's divisions was still deployed in the open ground north of town, plainly visible, his other two divisions occupying the seminary and the ridge to the south, giving every indication possible that they were preparing to attack. Once darkness settled, they'd pull out, attempting to reach Fairfield before falling out to rest for several hours.
Pickett, who was still on the far side of the mountains, would move, along with the supply wagons, pulling back down the main road from Chambersburg to Greencastle. From there Pickett was to advance over the mountain and come into Emmitsburg, to fall in on the rear of Ewell tomorrow morning.
How far Longstreet had advanced, he wasn't sure. The last dispatch rider, coming in a half hour ago, reported fighting along the creek that bisected the road between Taneytown and Emmitsburg.
This was the vulnerable moment, one that if he contemplated it too much, would freeze up his nerves. Longstreet, with two divisions, might be as far as Taneytown. Hill, so sick he could barely keep in the saddle, was now on the road, the head of his column down to Emmitsburg, the last of the troops now streaming toward Fairfield. Ewell and Stuart were here, and Pickett was still twenty-five miles away.
We are spread out all over the map, and if now, at this moment, Meade should stir and come storming down from those hills, and at the same time dispatch a corps to move on Emmitsburg, the Army of Northern Virginia would be cut to ribbons.
How many times have I courted disaster like this? Chancellorsville, everyone talks about it now, the audacity of Jackson's march; but that was an act of desperation. The Second Manassas campaign, that was a calculated move; but I knew the character of Pope, the bitterness between him and McClellan, and acted accordingly. That was nearly a year ago. If someone on the other side realizes I'm doing it again, this time they just might strike first and catch me on the roads. McClellan almost achieved that last September when one of my couriers lost our campaign plan, and we barely got the army back together in time to stop the Union forces at Sharpsburg. That was so close I spent half the day thinking they might just break through and split our forces. Let's hope Pipe Creek doesn't turn into another Antietam Creek if Meade figures out what I am doing.
An artillery battery, one of Hill's units that had been in yesterday's fight and waited hours for the infantry to pass, came clattering in from a field on the north side of the pike, a staff officer leading the way, motioning for the gunners to start south. The artillerymen silently saluted as they passed; orders had been repeatedly given to all the men that there would be no demonstrations, no cheering.
"Going around 'em again, ain't we, General?" one of the gunners shouted as he rode by, astride the lead trace horse of a three-inch rifled piece.
Lee said nothing, just nodding in reply, and the man grinned, offering a proud, almost exaggerated salute.
"It's going smoothly," Walter Taylor offered.
"As long as they don't stir over there," Lee replied, nodding back toward Gettysburg.
"How do you know that?"
"They never have."
"Someday they just might" Lee said softly. "Remember, this army is all we have, Walter. It's got one more good fight in it and we came too close to using up that fight here. I came too close. I realize now that I was trying to match our blood against the ground those people over there held.
"General Longstreet was right But even if we seize the land south of here, and force those people over there to come at us, they will do it with a fury. We'll finally be between them and Washington, and the cost will be high. When that time comes, and it might be as early as tomorrow, it has to be decisive, not just another hollow victory."
He sighed, gaze still fixed back toward Gettysburg.
"Keep a sharp eye on things here, Walter. Ewell is in command on this front I know that rankles Stuart, him being senior in rank, but he needs to be reined in a bit
"If anything stirs, if the enemy starts to move on Ewell, send for me at once. If not and once Ewell starts to pull out after dark, catch up to me; I will reach Taneytown tonight and make headquarters there."
"Sir, that's a long ride for you."
Lee fixed his adjutant with a cool gaze. 'I'm not that old, Walter," Lee said softly.
Walter shifted uncomfortably. Ever since the "incident" back during the winter, which one doctor called trouble with the heart, Walter had increasingly taken on the role of monitoring how much rest Lee got and how long he spent in the saddle. There wasn't time for that now, even though Lee's stomach had been troublesome throughout the day.
"It's a wicked hot day, sir," Walter finally offered. "At least try and find a cool spot by a creek to take a few minutes."
Lee sighed and then smiled. "Just keep an eye on things here. Make sure Ewell and Stuart keep fighting the enemy and not each other."
As if to add emphasis to Lee's words, the sound of artillery fire increased off beyond Gettysburg, Union guns along the brow of Cemetery Hill opening up, replying to the harassing fire from Stuart. What sounded like the rattle of musketry was added in as well.
Walter smiled and men offered a salute.
Lee, followed by the rest of his staff, edged down to the side of the road; and gently nudging Traveler to a trot, Lee started south, toward Emmitsburg, leaving Gettysburg behind.
6:00 PM, JULY 2,1863
Numb with exhaustion, Pete Longstreet, legs trembling, swung down from the saddle. He leaned against his mount for a moment, waiting for feeling to return to his feet and calves. He'd been in the saddle for nearly fourteen hours, ridden over twenty-five miles, fought a battle, and been in the forefront of the pursuit of Buford's broken division. Several hundred prisoners had been rounded up on the road to Taneytown, men with blown horses that couldn't move another step.
The village was in utter chaos; dead horses littered the streets; skirmishing continued along the road to the east Anderson's men, pushed far beyond the limit were literally collapsing along the sidewalks. Behind them, the head of McLaws's division was coming into view. They had not been in the fight for the river crossing; but like everyone else, they had been on the road since before dawn, a long day's march in the July heat
He finally stepped away from his horse, holding the reins, and walked slowly, grimacing as he stretched, shoulders and back aching. A staff officer came up, saluted, and said he had found a house they could use as headquarters. Pete nodded and followed the man down a bend in the road to a splendid-looking, two-story, Federalist-style mansion on the south side of town.
The lawn was torn up, bits of paper and horse droppings littering it indicating that only a day ago a large number of troops had been here.
" 'The Antrim' locals call it" the staff officer announced. "Nice place."
"Fine. Put someone on the main road so they can direct couriers. Send a dispatch back to General Lee telling him I am establishing headquarters here for the night."
"Then we're stopping here?" the officer asked.
Pete slowed, looking up at the captain. Hell of a day. We actually got around them. Buford's dead. Damn, John was a good man. His men, most of them, got out though, riding in every damn direction.
He sighed, coming to a stop, leaning against his horse for support
Meade must know by now. That fight started around the bridge early in the afternoon. He must be sending something down here by now, perhaps a full corps. And to the east Prisoners were saying there were a hell of a lot supplies already stockpiled at Westminster, but that was still another ten miles away.
We stop tonight Meade could pull out start moving down that road, maybe even get troops into Westminster by dawn.
Everything was so damn confusing. He was exhausted, needed food, needed to just relieve himself, to then sit and think.
"Get into that house; see if you can rustle up some food, a place to sit down; get the maps out I want McLaws and Hood in here, and see if one of our boys can find a few locals who are on our side.
The captain looked at him, confused.
"Which do you want me to do first sir?" "Let's start with the food." Pete sighed. "Now get moving.
The captain nodded and turned, trotting off, heading to the mansion still a hundred yards away, Pete walking stiffly, leading his exhausted mount
He heard another rider coming up and, looking back, saw that it was McLaws, trailing a few staff officers, all of them covered m the white chalky dust kicked up from the crushed limestone paving of the road.
"My God, what a march," McLaws announced, taking off his hat and wiping the sweat from his brow.
Pete nodded, saying nothing.
"We camping here, sir? My boys are beat"
Pete stopped, lowering his head. That's what I should do, he realized. We're into their rear, a good march, in spite of the incident back at the bridge. But there's still Westminster. Meade might even be moving toward it now. If he gets there first he can slip around our right and fall back to Washington without a fight… then what?
McLaws looked at him expectantly.
"Behind you? What's going on?"
"Hood's boys are blown, still forming up back at the bridge. A rider just came up reporting that the head of Hill's corps is just coming into Emmitsburg.''
"Our corps artillery?"
"Between Emmitsburg and the bridge."
Pete looked back up at McLaws. "My men did over twenty-five miles, general. Even Old Jack would be proud of what we did today."
That rankled him slightly. Always it was Old Jack.
He exhaled noisily, looking back down at the ground, kicking at the dust "One hour here. Get your men fed, get water. Then I want you back on the road."
"On the road. It'll cool off a bit at dusk. On the road by dusk. You should have good moonlight. I want you to push to Westminster."
"Sir, that's kinda risky to my way of thinking."
"Hood here. Me heading off to God knows where? Sir, I'll bet at least ten percent of my men are dropped somewhere between here and Emmitsburg. You push us through the night and I won't have a thousand left standing under their colors come dawn."
"I don't push you now, and we have to attack there tomorrow, you won't have a thousand left come sunset" Pete whispered. "It's the good ground. It's always about the good ground. Who gets it first holds it and makes the other man attack. I'd rather have your men half-dead from exhaustion, than dead forever up here in Maryland."
McLaws lowered his head. "What about the road north of here, the one going straight to Gettysburg."
"There's nothing on it yet. As Hood comes up, I'll have him cover that approach."
'Three hours, at least give 'em that chance to cook up a decent meal, find clean water, sleep a little bit"
Pete shook his head. "Give 'em three hours, and they'll stiffen up and be useless. An hour, then march. I want you on the road by dusk."
"I want those retreating Yankee cavalry to see you. I don't know what they have in Westminster, but I'm willing to bet it will be like Second Manassas, maybe a couple of good regiments, but the rest of 'em units assigned to guard detail because their commanders feel they can spare them. Hell, we do the same thing. We pick the unit we feel is used up or can't be relied on anymore to guard the wagon trains. It'll be a scratch command down there, and it will fall apart the moment you push it
"You on the road, heading straight at them"-Pete forced a smile-"it just might spook them."
"And suppose those Yankee cavalry are waiting?"
"You'll have a hundred or so mounted in front to feel out any traps. But I think they're played out. John Buford is dead."
"Damn," McLaws whispered. "I didn't know that"
"You marched past his body back at the bridge. We captured Gamble; looks like he'll lose an arm. The fight is out of them. They'll give back, falling into Westminster, and, General, I want you in there by dawn."
McLaws finally nodded in agreement
"Good. My headquarters will be here until General Lee comes up. I'll try and come up to you in the morning. Take the town; block the roads coming down from the north."
"That road that heads north, goes straight through the village of Harney and then on to Gettysburg. Apparently a fair part of the Union army moved up it yesterday. They just might turn around and come straight back down. If so, Hood will have to block it until the rest of the army comes in and can be passed along to you. So until that happens, you, sir, will be the lead on the right, while Hood holds the center here.
"Sooner or later Meade will wake up. And when he does, General, I want you on there, dug in and ready."
McLaws saluted and started to turn.
"They just might be on the edge of a panic," Longstreet said. "If so, fuel it, get them running. Get them running."
7:45 PM, JULY 2,1863
TANEYTOWN-HARNEY ROAD, THREE MILES NORTH OF TANEYTOWN
He let his horse gulp down water for a minute, dismounting with Warren, kneeling down into the cool stream to splash his face with water, then taking a canteen, filling it, and half draining it.
Even as he did so, Henry looked around warily. It was the same place he had stopped only the day before, riding north to Gettysburg. He knew that for certain because the dead trooper, who had been in the back of the ambulance when he had stopped here on the way to Gettysburg, was lying by the side of the stream. He tried, not to notice him, though the scent of his body hung heavy in the evening air.
They had begun to pass cavalrymen from Buford's command a half hour ago, small scattered detachments from half a dozen regiments, the men moving slowly, dejected, talking of a terrible fight along the road half a dozen miles away. He had let most of them go, telling them to stay the hell off the road and let the infantry, pass. A dozen or so, who still seemed game, he had drafted as an escort. The men were on the far side of the creek, obviously nervous, carbines unsheathed.
A broken unit always made a minor setback sound like a defeat and a defeat a disastrous rout. These men were talking about thousands of Rebs. Whether it was true or not, he sensed they'd know in a few more minutes, and his gut instinct was to be ready.
Standing up, he pulled out his revolver, half-cocked it, checked the spin, making sure percussion caps were in place, then gently let the hammer back down. He mounted, looking over at Warren, who was already mounted and waiting.
He followed Warren's lead, splashing up the opposite bank. The waiting troopers, led by a grim-faced lieutenant with a cheek laid open by a shell fragment or bullet, spread out as they went down the road. They were very good, moving cautiously, a couple of men on the road, the rest filtering into the trees, meadows, and cornfields to either side of the lane. Several of them would move forward a hundred yards, pause, look around, then motion the rest up, who would leapfrog forward. And then the ritual would be repeated again.
Twilight was setting in, the western sky a dull, shimmering red, a dark, haze-shrouded sun slipping below the horizon; flashes of heat lightning, or was it gunfire, sparkled to the east
They reached a broad, open plateau. Henry remembered it. Taneytown was just a mile or so off. The lead trooper out ahead stopped, leaned forward slightly, then held his hand up.
Henry nudged his mount the poor beast breathing hard as it slowly went up to a trot Warren by his side. They came up to the trooper's side. The lieutenant already had his field glasses out Henry looked over at him in the twilight The glasses were high quality, beautiful brass trim work, the man dressed in what was obviously a tailored uniform. Dandy or not he at least was here rather than safely back home in some countinghouse or law office in New York, angry about the retreat glad to have fallen in with someone from headquarters who wanted to find out what the hell was going on.
"There, sir," the lieutenant whispered, and he pointed, even as he passed over his field glasses.
There was no need for them though. Clouds of dust were boiling up from a road, most likely the main pike between Taneytown and Emmitsburg. In the fields north of town hundreds of campfires sparkled, troops swarming around them.
Far closer though, not a quarter mile away, a skirmish line of Reb infantry was deployed, advancing toward them.
A flash of gunfire, the report of the rifle echoing even as a bullet hummed overhead.
"Infantry, lots of it" Warren announced.
"As we told you," the lieutenant replied, a bit of a sarcastic edge to his voice.
"Son, we had to see it for ourselves," Warren replied soothingly. "Those were Meade's orders. I never doubted you."
A couple of the troopers escorting them dismounted. Drawing his Sharps carbine, one of the troopers levered up his rear sight, squatted down in the middle of the road, and took careful aim.
‘Not yet," Henry said.
Annoyed, the man looked up at him.
It was getting dark, but the field glasses revealed a lot Troops were marching through the town, visible through side alleys and where the road they were on finally intersected with the main road in the middle of the village. He caught a glimpse of what looked to be a field piece crossing the intersection.
Another bullet snicked past and then another, this one kicking up a plume of dust in the middle of the road, Warren's horse snorting and backing up.
"Damn it sir, they're getting close," the lieutenant announced.
"Open up on them," Henry, replied.
The trooper sitting in the middle of the road fired first followed a few seconds later by several more, one of the men catching Henry's eye, silhouetted by the western twilight, poised in the saddle, horse absolutely still as the man took careful aim, a bright flash of light erupting as he squeezed the trigger. He watched for several seconds, cursed under his breath, and then levered the breech open, reaching into his cartridge box for another round.
"A division at least," Warren said, "and looks like they're continuing east toward Westminster."
"Can't see their colors though," Henry replied. He looked back to the lieutenant.
"You said you were fighting Hood?"
"Yes, sir. We caught a couple of them before we got flanked. It was Hood's division."
"Wonder if that's them in the town?" Warren muttered.
"You want me to go down and ask?" the lieutenant interjected.
Henry looked over at him. The youth wasn't being sarcastic; he was trying to make a joke, and Henry nodded.
"It's more than Hood" Henry offered "The battle with you at the river was mid-afternoon. Take a couple of hours to get everyone reorganized and on the road What's down there now is the next division, pushed through, continuing on. Hood will come up later. Or maybe the next division has already moved on, and that's Hood coming in to occupy Taneytown."
"We're being flanked," Warren interjected. "By God, he's done it to us again. Longstreet's corps, and I'm willing to bet Hill is right behind him. Back at Gettysburg Ewell is just demonstrating to keep our attention. As soon as it gets dark, he'll pull out as well."
"I could have told you three hours ago we were facing the head of their army," the lieutenant offered and this time there was a bitterness to his voice. "Just like yesterday, bur we didn't have Reynolds this time to come in as support Damn, if we'd had the ammunition, a brigade of infantry, and a couple of batteries, we could have held that bridge till hell froze over."
The skirmishing was picking up. A ball slapped dangerously close, passing between Henry and Warren.
Warren turned his horse.
"The line we surveyed yesterday, Henry. Do you think they know about it?"
"If not Longstreet will figure it out real quick. He has a damn good eye for ground."
"I'm figuring the same."
"Lieutenant pull back slowly, keep an eye on things. You've got a division of infantry coming up. They should be approaching in another hour or so. I'll tell them to deploy on the far side of the creek, but there isn't anything they can do tonight. You help them get a feel for things. General Hunt and I are going back to headquarters."
"I got maybe a hundred rounds left for the men with me," the lieutenant replied.
"Then use them wisely" Warren replied.
The two started off, moving at not much more than a steady trot
"Do you think Meade's already moving?" Henry asked. "By God, if they're advancing on Westminster, we've got to get troops in there by dawn."
"Sedgwick just marched his entire corps up from there, thirty miles straight. If he pulled the rest of Fifth off the line while we were coming down here, he just might make it by dawn."
"Do you think he did that?" Warren said nothing.
As they crossed back over the stream, Henry looked again at the dead trooper lying in the shadows. He wondered if someone would finally get around to burying him. Behind them, the lieutenant, with a dozen men and a hundred rounds, slowly gave ground in the opening shots of the battle for Taneytown.
11:00 PM, JULY 2,1863
"Are you certain about this, Major?"
Gen. Herman Haupt commander of the U.S. Military Railroads, looked up at the begrimed officer standing before him. The flickering of the coal oil lamp hanging from the ceiling of the tavern made the cavalryman look deathly pale.
"I'm certain of it, sir. There's Confederate infantry on the road not five miles from here. I saw them with my own eyes. Column of infantry, moving slow but moving, skirmishers deployed forward. I was up in a barn about a hundred yards off the road. We'd pulled in mere to look for some fodder for our horses and rest a bit Next thing I know, the road is swarming with Rebs."
"A brigade, a division, a corps?" "I didn't stay around to count them, sir. I took my men and we got the hell out of there."
Haupt nodded, looking back down at the map traced on a scrap a paper spread out on the bar.
The first word that trouble was brewing had come in just before six, a lone trooper, absolutely panic-stricken, riding down the main street shouting that the Rebs were coming. He had the man arrested, given a drink to calm him down, and the shaken boy claimed that there had been a vicious fight west of Taneytown. Buford was dead, Gamble dead, and the entire division routed.
By eight, more troopers were coming in; enough information forming that Haupt had finally sent a dispatch rider back to Baltimore bearing a report that there had been an action of at least division-level strength. He then called an officers' meeting, which had proven to be chaotic. There was no real system of unified command here, with units from seven different corps assigned to guard duty. He had over ten thousand men here, including the heavy artillery units sent up from Washington, but each of them answered to a different commander, and they were not all that enthusiastic about taking orders from him, an unknown. Several of the regimental commanders openly called for an immediate evacuation. The meeting ended with him ordering them to get their troops ready for a fight and deploy to the west side of town.
Now more and more defeated cavalry troopers were coming in, singly, in small bands, and this major with a hundred or so men.
He looked out the window and could feel the beginnings of panic. Civilians were again out in the street; men were gathered in small knots talking, obviously agitated. It wasn't looking good..
Until this hit, everything had been going according to plan. The third convoy of trains had come up early in the evening, been unloaded, and sent back. Another convoy was due at two in the morning. So far he had unloaded over fifty carloads of rations, rifle and artillery ammunition, shoes, medical supplies, including dozens of oversized hospital tents. Wood was stockpiled, the bucket brigade to water die engines was working, and several hundred laborers had built a fairly adequate platform for unloading and half a dozen roughshod, open-sided sheds to store ammunition and rations.
I have no orders to evacuate. In fact, I can't If I do that it will leave the army dangling twenty-five miles away at Gettysburg, cut off, with only the supplies in their haversacks and the field ammunition trains.to support them. I've got nearly five thousand wagons here, waiting to start the convoying of supplies up to the front once the order is given. Try to pull those out now in the middle of the night and it will trigger a panic.
He looked back down at the map. Lose this and the army is cut off. He looked back up at the major. "Get some rest, but report back to me at dawn."
"Why, here of course."
"Didn't you hear me, sir? You got Rebs, thousands of them, not three hours' march away." "I know that I believe your report." "And what's to stop them?"
"You, Major, for one. The troops I have here in town. Besides, Meade will have a corps down here by morning." "Really?" "Of course."
He fixed the major with his best poker gaze. He had sent two dispatches up to Meade this evening, the last one going out an hour ago with the report that Westminster was threatened. All that had come back so far were reports dated from late in the afternoon, reporting back to the War Department routine dispatches that said precious little other than, that Lee seemed to be skirmishing but not yet fully attacking at Gettysburg.
He could only hope that by now Meade had stirred himself and was sending something down this way by force march. But to say anything different… not now.
The major nodded and wearily left the tavern. Herman watched him go, then called for an orderly to go back out and round up all the unit commanders yet again. Troops had to be deployed, dug in, streets barricaded, supply wagons moved to the east side of town.
Even as he started to give orders, the cavalry major was back out on the street, getting on his mount A sergeant holding the bridle, looked up. "So what did he say, Major?"
"Darn, fool plans to defend the town rather than evacuate."
"Our orders, sir?"
"Find a place to camp. We report to him at dawn."
"Shit sir. The whole Reb army will be here by morning."
"I know, Sergeant Let's get the men rested, then find some ammunition. There's gonna be one hell of a battle here come dawn."
"For what? So we can get killed come dawn? Goddamn generals have done it to us again." "Enough, Sergeant. Enough." The two rode off.
Dick Hansen, a mule driver with Third Corps, his wagon loaded with thirty boxes of.58-cal. rifle cartridges, was leaning against the side of the tavern soaking up every word. He had slipped into town after dark, dodging around the provost guards and laborers, looking for a drink, just a single damn drink. It had been three long days since he had tasted a drop. The tavern, of course, had been a draw, even though such places were always lousy with officers. And now this.
Rumors had been drifting through the vast wagon parks since mid-aftemoon. Meade was dead, the army defeated yet again; then someone reported he had climbed a church steeple and seen smoke off to the west Now those cavalry boys riding in, all lathered up, scared half to death.
So now he knew… and he'd be damned if he got killed just because some goddamn general wanted to make a name for himself. He'd seen battle once, at Fair Oaks. The humiliation of being drummed through the camp, the sign declaring that he was a coward hung around his neck, the taunts of the bastards for his having excused himself from certain suicide by running away, didn't bother him all that much. Let them get killed. In fact, he later heard most of them had gotten killed at Antietam..
Lousy bastards deserved it Service with the supply trains, which his captain had sent him to, that's where a man of intelligence should be anyhow. Good rations in the wagons, always a chance for a bottle, even for the girls who trailed along behind the army, though such pleasures did eat up most of the pay of twelve damn greenbacks a month.
And twelve dollars a month wasn't enough to stay here. Not with those wolves coming this way. He'd seen them once, not much better than animals the way the Rebs came charging in. And by God, that's what they would do here come dawn.
Dick Hansen slipped away into the dark, dodging through back alleyways, finally reaching his wagon. The mules, stinking lousy beasts, were hitched up. Let the others unhitch theirs, but not Dick Hansen. Something told him it was going to get hot, so he had left them in their harnesses throughout the day, ready to go at a moment's notice.
He climbed up onto the rough seat and untied the reins.
"Come on, you sons of bitches," he hissed.
"Hey, Hansen, what the hell are you doing?"
It was Ben Fredericks, another driver with First Corps, his wagon parked next to Dick's. Ben, sleepy-eyed, was peeking out from the tailgate.
"We're ordered back to Baltimore," Dick announced.
"Whole goddamn rebel army is coming this way!" Dick shouted. "I was down at headquarters. Orders are coming out now for us to get the hell outta here."
"What the hell you say, Hansen?"
Shit It was Sergeant Vernon, supposedly in charge of their detachment coming out from behind his wagon parked behind Fredericks's.
"You heard me, Sergeant A whole rebel corps is marching right this way."
"From where, damn it?"
"That road going west Taneytown, I heard. They've licked the army, and we're ordered out of here." 'I ain't heard nothing."
'Well, you just heard it from me, Sarge, and I'm following orders!
"Come on, you sons of bitches!"
He cracked the whip over the ears of the lead mule, and the six whip-scarred beasts lurched forward, squeezing between two parked wagons, heading out across the field, weaving their way around hundreds of other wagons.
"What the hell are you doing?"
The cry echoed and reechoed across the field.
"Army's beat, Rebs are coming here by dawn, and we're pulling back to Baltimore. You all better get moving right now!"
And the panic began.
11:30 PM, JULY 2,1863
THE ANTRIM, TANEYTOWN
"General Longstreet, it's General Lee."
Sprawled out on a sofa in the front parlor, Longstreet came awake. Someone had draped a comforter over his body, and he pushed it back. Embarrassed, he sat up.
I wasn't supposed to do this, Pete thought Not with men still on the march. All he could remember was coming into the house, speaking to the owner for a moment assuring him that his property would be respected and all that was needed was the parlor.
He had sat down, just to take a moment-to collect his thoughts.
"How long have I been asleep?" Pete asked. "About four hours, sir. We kind of figured you needed a bit of a rest"
"You shouldn't have done that" "Sir, you needed it"
It was Alexander, his young acting chief of corps artillery, leaning against a table brought into the middle of the parlor, several of his staff gathered around the maps spread out on it There was the smell of coffee in the air and fresh baked bread.
"Good hosts," Alexander said, coming over, offering
Longstreet a fine china cup filled to the brim with coffee and a piece of buttered bread.
Pete nodded thanks, drank down a mouthful of the scalding brew, and then consumed the bread.
"Where's General Lee?"
"He's in the town, sir. Someone just rode in to report. I sent an orderly up to guide him here."
Pete nodded, standing up, suppressing a groan from the ache in his back and lower legs.
"What happened while I was asleep?" Pete asked.
"Nothing to worry about, sir. A rider came in from McLaws about a half hour ago. He's halfway to Westminster, reports no resistance. Hood's division is here; they're deployed out north of town blocking the road from Gettysburg. A bit of skirmishing there a couple of hours ago, a few cavalry stragglers. A report that some Yankee infantry is on that road on the other side of a creek a couple of miles north of town."
"Infantry? How much. Who?"
"Not sure, sir. It was dark. But they're there."
"Head of his column is coming in now. Pettigrew, he's commanding Heth's division. They're filling in on the right of Hood and going into camp. Pender is behind them."
A commotion outside stilled their conversation. Pete looked out the window. It was General Lee, staff trailing behind him, dismounting.
Pete stepped out of the parlor. The wide double doors of the mansion were open, torchlight outside casting a warm light on Lee, who stiffly dismounted, patting Traveler on the neck before letting an orderly take his beloved mount away.
Pete went out onto the porch and saluted as Lee ever so slowly came up the steps.
"General, it does my heart good to see you," Lee said.
The way he said it caused a flood of emotion inside of Pete. He had always respected Lee, admired his audacity, even though he had not agreed, at times, with how that audacity was played out But the way he said, It does my heart good," touched him. He knew it was real.
Pete extended his hand, helping Lee up the last step. The clasp held for a second. Lee, several inches shorter, looked up into Pete's eyes. "You should be proud, sir, in fact the entire South will be proud of what your boys did today."
"You were the one who gave the orders," Pete replied, suddenly embarrassed.
"A day ago, at just about this time, I was ready to attack at Gettysburg yet again. I realized, though, that your words, your advice, were correct If ever someone writes a history of this army, they will cite this march as one of the great feats of this war, sir."
"Ewell and Stuart?" Pete asked, features red, wishing to change the subject
"I received a report an hour ago from Taylor. Two of Ewell's divisions were on the road after dark. The last is to pull out by midnight Stuart will stay in the Gettysburg area through tomorrow, demonstrating to their front and right"
"We need to concentrate our army now, sir," Longstreet said. "We are in a dangerous position at the moment. Those people are concentrated and rested. We are strung out yet along thirty miles of road and tired. We must bring everything together tomorrow."-
As they spoke, the two walked into the parlor, Pete's staff respectfully coming to attention. Lee gazed at the map for a moment, nodding approvingly, asking about the Union deployment north of Taneytown and the latest report from McLaws.
Finally he went over to the sofa that Longstreet had been dozing on and sat down.
Nothing needed to be said. The staff withdrew out into the corridor, the last man out extinguishing the coal-oil lamp — on the table. Before they had even closed the door, General Lee was asleep.
The men looked at Pete, and he could see they were gazing at him in "that way," the look usually reserved for Lee or for Old Jack.
Longstreet nervously-cleared his throat and walked back out on to the veranda. Fishing in his breast pocket, he pulled out a cigar and struck a Lucifer, puffing the cigar, exhaling sofdy.
The almost full moon was high in the Southern sky. It was a good night, a very good night
11:45 PM, JULY 2, 1863
HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, GETTYSBURG
"We move starting at four in the morning," Meade repeated, looking up bleary-eyed at Henry and Warren. "But sir, by then they'll be in Westminster." "I just got the latest dispatch from there sent up by Haupt It gives no indication of that other than some cavalry from Buford drifting in, reporting the action at Monocacy Creek."
"And that dispatch was dated three hours ago, about the same time we were in front of Taneytown. A lot can happen in those three hours."
Meade sat back in his chair, taking another sip of coffee. "Sedgwick's men are in no shape to march. They covered damn near thirty-five miles today. The only other unit in reserve is Fifth Corps. I've already dispatched one division; the other two will join them by seven in the morning.
"We're leaving First and Eleventh here. They're fought out anyhow, and besides, there're over five thousand wounded here to cover. And someone has to watch Stuart and Ewell, our own cavalry is in such disarray. That leaves Second, Third, and Twelfth Corps, which I'm sending down the Baltimore Pike toward Westminster, and they have to be pulled off the line and shifted over. Try to do that in the middle of the night, and it will be chaos."
He looked down again at the map. "No, no, we try to move them now, they'll be exhausted come dawn and not more than five miles on the road anyhow, with twenty more to go. Let them rest; they'll need it"
Henry could almost feel a sense of pity for this man. He knew that something inside was tearing at him, the realization that if he had reacted immediately, when that first courier had come in, an entire corps could already be approaching Westminster, with Fifth Corps hitting Taneytown.
What would history say of those lost six hours? Wasted, wasted on a damn staff meeting that had dragged on for over two hours of bitter arguing. One of Hancock's orderlies had filled him in on it Hancock shouting that they should move now, Sickles arguing that his corps should storm straight across that ridge he had been obsessed with all day, Howard saying it was a trap for them to stay put and Sedgwick so exhausted he had fallen asleep in the corner.
By the end of the meeting, a couple of dozen stragglers from Buford had come in, grim evidence of what was going on to the south. At that point it was already getting dark, and yet in spite of the evidence, Howard kept pointing to Seminary Ridge, the hundreds of campfires flaring to life, and there had been more hesitation.
Finally he had decided, at nine, that the army would move, its primary axis dropping back on Westminster, with a secondary thrust toward Taneytown, but to do so at first light Seventy-five thousand men, hundreds of wagons, over two hundred artillery pieces were concentrated on just a few square miles of ground. Moving that in the dark would be madness; starting it six hours ago, it could have been done.
And those six hours were gone forever, wasted, and Meade knew it
"If they take Westminster, we're cut off from Washington," Meade whispered. "They'll go insane down there. Halleck, Stanton, the president all of them will be screaming for me to attack."
"Lee won't turn on Washington," Warren offered, "not with us in his rear. He'll have to face us."
"He wouldn't dare make that move. We've still got over twenty thousand troops garrisoned in Washington behind the heaviest fortification system in the world. He'd never go up against that not with us coming down behind him."
"So he'll dig in along Westminster?'' Meade asked.
The tone caught Henry off guard. He was not used to Meade asking for advice, for support He was obviously rattled, ready to drop with exhaustion, suddenly frightened by the prospect of all that was unfolding. It frightened Henry. That kind of mood is contagious. It starts with the commander, and then spreads like a plague down the line. It was like that at Chancellorsville and at Second Manassas, the last hours when Pope fell into a panic.
"It's a tough position," Henry offered. "There're two things to hope for though."
"And that is?"
"Get there fast sir. They most likely will attack Westminster by dawn."
Meade lowered his head.
"Herman Haupt is in command down there," Warren offered. "He's got somewhere around ten thousand men. He might very well put up a hell of a fight If he does and the lead column pushes hard enough, it can still be retrieved."
"Put Hancock in the lead," Henry offered. "His troops are almost astride the Baltimore Road. Get them moving now."
"That will leave the center open," Meade replied.
"It's no longer the center," Warren responded forcefully. "Put Hancock on the road now, then Sickles as planned, followed by Twelfth Corps; Sixth in reserve ready to move either toward Westminster or Taneytown. The Fifth hits Taneytown, perhaps severing their line of advance."
"And if Haupt can't hold Westminster?''
"The second hope," Henry interjected, "is that if they have taken Westminster, it will most likely only be a division at most. They'll be exhausted, troops strung out from Emmitsburg to Westminster, with die head at Westminster. They might not have time to survey the ground up around Pipe Creek. Hancock forces the creek and deploys. We cut off their head at Westminster. We'll then be astride our base of supplies, with Lee strung out We then start pushing west, rolling him up, and meeting the Fifth Corps in Taneytown."
"You think we can do that?"
Meade was indeed exhausted, Henry realized. No sleep. for two days, suddenly overwhelmed by the full realization that Lee had again done the unexpected. He needed sleep.
I do too, Henry thought I can barely stand.
Worn down and demoralized, Meade could only nod.
"Fine then. All right send someone up to Hancock. It's almost midnight now. Tell him I want his corps to quietly pack it up, to start moving at two in the morning. Tell Howard to then detach a brigade, push them down to fill in along Hancock's line."
Warren and Hunt looked at each other. They'd won their point
"Get some sleep, sir," Warren offered.
There was no need to give the advice though. Meade's head was resting on the table. He was out
The two stepped out onto the porch and spotted a young orderly sitting on the steps. It was Meade's son, new to the staff.
"Your father," Henry said softly, "get him into bed and make sure he gets at least four hours' rest"
The boy, who had been dozing, came awake, nodded, and went inside.
Henry pulled out his watch. By the light of the moon, he could read it… midnight
"I'll take the orders up to Hancock," Warren offered. "Get some sleep, Henry. Tomorrow's going to be a tough day."
Henry didn't need to be told. He stepped off the porch. His orderly had unsaddled Henry's horse and spread out a blanket the saddle as a pillow.
Henry nodded his thanks and collapsed on the ground.
The last minutes of July 2,1863, ticked down for Henry; and in a few minutes he was fast asleep, falling into an exhausted, dreamless sleep.
11:50 PM, JULY 2,1863
John Williamson sat down on the cool, damp ground with a stifled groan, leaning back against the trunk of an ancient oak. The campfires around
him were beginning to flicker down. The men had been given a few hours to cook a hurried dinner, a short rest, and then orders to be ready to march long before dawn.
Hazner was by his side, curled up on the bare ground, a tattered quilt his blanket, haversack a pillow. He was snoring away contentedly, and John envied him his oblivion.
The march had been grueling, John and Hazner assigned to the rear of the regimental column to prod the men along, and when necessary to sign off permission for men too exhausted, or sick, to fall out of the line of march. Between yesterday's battle and the stragglers, the regiment was down to less than half of what it had been only three days ago.
He tried to close his eyes, to sleep as Hazner did, but couldn't Finally he reached into his haversack and pulled out a small leather-bound volume. Elizabeth had given it to him on the day he left for the war, and the mere touch of it made him smile, remembering how she had kissed the book before handing it to him, asking him to write often, that it would be the way in which they could still touch each other. She had fancied him to be a writer, and the thought of it made him smile. She who loved Scott Hugo, and Dickens fancied that perhaps he would become such as well.
He opened the volume up and skimmed through it The first months of his journal were filled with pages of neatly written notes, vignettes when the world still seemed so young and innocent… a snowfall in camp and how the boys from the hot bottomlands of Carolina had frolicked… the first shock of battle before Richmond… the strange night after Fredericksburg when the Northern Lights appeared*-a sign of the Norse gods gathering in the souls of the slain- and then long weeks of nothing, just blank pages.
He fumbled for a pencil in his haversack and rested the volume in his lap, looking off across the fields, the shadows of men covering the ground, the warm, pleasant smell of wood smoke and coffee, so reminiscent of a world of long ago.
"My dearest Elizabeth," he wrote, hesitated, then scratched me line out No, this is just for myself..
"I am in Maryland tonight" he began again, now writing for himself. "At least I think that is where we are. It gets confusing at times with all the marching. A long one today, twenty miles or more. Tomorrow there will be another fight; if not tomorrow, then the day after.
"Why I am here I can no longer say with any certainty. There was a time, long ago, when I believed, but in what I can no longer say. All I long for is for this to end, to go home, and to somehow leave behind all that I have seen, to forget all that I have felt I feel a shadow walking beside me, filling my nights with coldness. If I live, perhaps there will be a day when we will speak of these times with pride, but will I be there? And if not what will be then said of me? What will you say, Elizabeth, if I do not return? Will you remember me? Will you wait for me across the long years of your life, or will memory fade and one day you will seek warmth, seek love with another?"
He stopped for a moment pencil raised, ready to scratch out the last line. What if I die, and she reads that?
No, let her. Fine for others to hide their fears with noble sentiments, but this is my life, the only one I shall ever have. There is no romance in this agony, and those who speak of glory rarely have seen the truth of it
He looked back down at the page.
"I wish I could fool myself into believing that what I do matters," he wrote. "But does it? Why did this war have to come into my life? Why now? Elizabeth, I would trade, in ah instant, all of this for just a day, a night as it once was, as it should have been for us. I care not for what others speak of, of all the things we now say caused this war. I just long to go home… but I cannot… and I fear I never will.
"I just want to live. If I should survive this, all I ask is for you to stay by my side, for us to grow old together in peace."
"Writing in that book again, sir?"
John nervously looked up. It was Hazner, half sitting up, looking over at him. John hurriedly closed the book.
"Ruin your eyes, John, writing by moonlight" John laughed shyly but said nothing.
'Writing to her?" 'Wot really."
"Why don't you get some rest, Major. We're goin' to need it come morning."
"Can't get to sleep." George sat up, stretched, and looked around. "Everything — quiet?" "Yup."
"John, you shouldn't think so much." "Can't help it"
"Like I always said, if your name's on the bullet, your name's on the bullet Nothing can change that" "Wish I had your Presbyterian view of life." 'What? You know I'm Baptist." John laughed softly and shook his head. George grinned softly.
"Do you think we'll ever get home?" John asked, and then instantly regretted the question. Though they had been friends since childhood, still, out here the social division between officer and sergeant should have stopped him from ever asking that And yet, though surrounded by these thousands of men, never had he felt so lonely and haunted.
"I guess most soldiers wonder that," George offered. "Even them fellas that marched with Pharoah against Moses, as you read about in the Bible. Just before they got to the Red Sea, I bet one of them asked the man next to him, "
'Hey, think we'll get home for dinner tonight after killing that Moses?"
George laughed softly at his own joke. "Worrying ain't gonna change it"
John said nothing, but he could not help but wonder, were they indeed like Pharoah's army? Was God, and dare he think it, if there is a God, does He stand against us or with us. John stuffed the book back into his haversack and slid down, resting his head against a root of the oak tree.
"Something changed today. I could've sworn we'd go straight into that town," John whispered. "I wonder about that How a general looks at a map, ponders on it, then says,
'No, let us go here rather than there.' You could sense that from Walter Taylor. I wonder if that means that you and I will now live, or…" His question trailed off.
"We're here, John. Just let it go at that You did good yesterday. I heard the men talking about it"
"How you led that charge. They believe in you." "Do your
George chuckled. "Course J do; otherwise I wouldn't scrounge up coffee and borrow money from you. Of course I do. Just that you think too much at times."
John was silent for a moment "George, if something does happen to me."
‘I know," George whispered, "but it won't. I got a feeling
for these things. You'll go home when this is done. Be a judge like your poppa, maybe even a congressman someday, and have lots of children."
John looked at the cold, uncaring heavens. To think of that dream was too painful to bear, and he pushed it away. He wanted to say more, but a moment later he heard Hazner snoring. His friend had drifted back off*.
Alone, John looked at the low-hanging moon as it crossed the midnight sky.
4:15 AM, JULY 3,1863
THE ANTRIM, TANEYTOWN
"General Longstreet." A hand was on his shoulder, shaking him awake. He opened his eyes, disoriented for a moment It was Alexander, his artillery chief.
"General Lee is awake. He wants you, sir."
Pete sat up on the blanket that he had spread out on the floor and stood up, stockinged feet hitting the cool, polished wood. All was quiet in the house, the pale glow of moonlight shining in through the high windows, casting soft blue shadows across the room.
Alexander motioned toward the parlor, across the hallway, where the gentle glow of a coal-oil lamp flickered. Whispered voices echoed. Leaving his comer of the dining room, where he had fallen asleep on the floor, Longstreet stepped out into the main corridor that ran down the length of the house. A dozen or more men were sprawled out several snoring loudly. A private quietly tiptoed down the hallway, carrying an empty coffeepot heading to the kitchen.
The old man had a firm and fast rule. If they occupied a house, try not to intrude too much. The upstairs was off-limits, the fine feathered beds being used even now by the owner and his family. It was amazing the number of men in the house, the hundred or more camped outside, and how quiet it was. The sleep of exhaustion, Pete realized. How the old man had the energy to be up now was beyond him. He pulled out his pocket watch and flipped it open. By the reflected moonlight, he saw it was a little after four. Lee had grabbed only three or four hours at most.
He ran a hand through his hair and half buttoned his uniform jacket His mouth felt gummy, sour tasting. How long since I bathed? He couldn't remember. A cool stream, a bar of soap, how nice that would be right now. And fresh clothes, a white boiled shirt, clean socks. God, how I must smell. He had left his boots back in the room, thought about putting them on, and then decided not to.
He crossed over to the parlor.
Lee, jacket off, shirtsleeves rolled up, was leaning over a table, map spread out Walter Taylor was with him and several staff. They looked up at Pete, and he could see the exhaustion in their eyes.
"You sent for me, General?" Pete asked. "What is it? Problems with Ewell?" and he looked over at Taylor. The young man was obviously on the point of collapse, and Pete sensed he had just come in from Gettysburg.
"No, sir," Taylor replied. "I left Gettysburg a little after ten at night. The last of Ewell's divisions, Johnson's, was starting to file onto the road. Stuart was demonstrating hard, and the Yankees still seemed to be in place."
"Then what is it?"
"A courier just came in from McLaws," Lee announced. "They've yet to take Westminster. He's stopped on the outskirts."
Pete said nothing.
"I understand you ordered him to take the town by dawn."
"Yes, sir, I did. If he stopped, there must be a reason."
"The courier from McLaws reports that a civilian came into McLaws's lines from Union Mills" As he spoke, he pointed to the map, and Pete leaned over to study the position.
"This civilians report, we have to give it the most serious consideration," Lee reported. "He claimed Stuart slept in his house on June thirtieth and agreed to stay in our camp, under guard, until Stuart would verify his veracity. He claims
Sedgwick's entire corps force-marched through, heading to Gettysburg on the morning of the second."
"That's good news at least," Pete offered. "It means Sedgwick must have marched twenty, maybe even thirty miles yesterday. His men are exhausted and now in Gettysburg. That accounts for all their corps."
"But Hancock is moving back down the road to Westminster," Lee replied.
"We had to expect they'd move sometime."
"I was hoping for eight to twelve more hours, but then again we were lucky to get this far without interference."
"Meade is no Burnside or McClellan," Pete said. "He's cautious, but he will react correctly once he's sure of the threat"
"This civilian reports that a courier came into Union Mills shortly after one in the morning. He reined in, asked for directions, and this civilian claims that he overhead the courier saying that the Union army was pulling back from Gettysburg, with Hancock in the lead, heading toward Westminster."
Pete nodded. It usually wasn't like Lee to kick up a fuss over the report of a lone civilian, especially one who was not a Virginian. But at this moment it had to be accepted.
"McLaws believed the report and sent it by fast rider back to me. He's asking for orders, afraid that he'll get tangled into a fight in Westminster. He reports thousands of troops there, including cavalry and some heavy artillery. He's concerned that he'll get engaged, and then Hancock will hit on the flank."
Pete shook his head.
"Hancock won't be there until well after dawn, if at all."
"We must assume they are stirring, General Longstreet. That had to be expected all along, and in fact we want them to."
"Yes, sir, once we've seized a good position."
'I want you to go up and straighten things out yourself."
"McLaws also reports a vast supply train in Westminster. I want that seized. Then we can leave our wagon trains west of the mountains. We can send them back as far as Falling. Waters on the Potomac River for safety. That will free us up to move much more quickly. We will defeat the Union army using their own supplies."
'I’ll leave at once."
"And another thing, General."
'Talk to this civilian closely. He claims to know the area. The report is that Meade was considering a defensive line along this creek," and again Lee pointed at the map. "Pipe Creek is its name. Several of my staff talked with sympathizers in town here, and they said the same thing, that there were rumors, or they had overheard conversations, that Meade wanted to draw us down here to fight If that is true, that meant he must have picked out a good position."
As he spoke, Lee traced out the creek that flowed north of Westminster and then curved south, just to the east of Taneytown.
"Apparently Meade sent Warren and Henry Hunt to survey it just before things started at Gettysburg. Our supposed friend stated that he watched Warren sketching a map and overheard a statement by Hunt talking about good fields of fire."
Pete nodded. The chief topographical engineer for the army and head of artillery surveying a defensive line? Both of those men knew ground. Given the right spot Hunt was usually brilliant with gun deployment and Pete had sensed his hand in the defense of that accursed Cemetery Hill only two days ago. Any ground they liked was worth looking into.
"I'll push McLaws in, then start moving people here," and Pete traced his finger over the map toward Union Mills. "I'll try and take a look myself, and men send a message back if this is the defensive line we want. What reinforcements can I expect?"
"I'm keeping Hood here," Lee announced. "He's
deployed north of town here, and there's been some skirmishing reported. It looks like Fifth Corps is approaching."
'That splits my command to pieces," Pete said. "McLaws on the right flank, Hood here in the center, and Pickett still twenty or more miles away."
"I know, but it can't be helped. I'm passing Hill's corps up to you. You will take direct command. I've already sent an order to that effect. Hill is too sick to continue."
"The entire corps?"
"Yes, that will give you at least four divisions to secure the right I think Meade will make his main thrust coming down the road to Baltimore. It's the shortest route back to their lines around Washington. They will look to turn our flank there, then slip around and into position. We must not allow that to happen.
"Ewell will file in here by midday, though his men will not be in shape to fight until rested, having marched all night If possible, I will forward up additional troops from him as well. I'll be in direct control here for now."
Pete looked back down at the map. Things were getting a little unorthodox. All three corps were jumbled up and split apart. The last time they had tried a maneuver of this scale was Second Manassas, and both corps had remained intact
What Lee was suggesting here was an ad hoc division of command, Lee directly controlling the center and left and Longstreet the right.
"A long front ten miles or more between Taneytown and Westminster," Longstreet offered.
"I know. Their response will be toward one flank or the other. If aggressive, they'll try and cut us in half here. If more concerned about regaining their base of supplies and protecting Washington, it will be toward Westminster. I suspect it will be the latter. Take that town; get Hill's men in position; see if that civilian's report is accurate.
"While you attend to that I'll have people out surveying the land in between along the south side of this creek.
"If all is secure here, I'll pass Ewell's command down to you as well, or at least give you Pickett by the end of the day. If their main assault comes in this direction,! want you to hold Westminster nevertheless, and I'll send down what I can."
Pete said nothing for a moment and just studied the map. The first hard stage of marching was over. Now it was time to secure the base and then find a good place to hold. If Warren and Hunt had been out exploring this ground, they had found it and would know it He had to get it first
Saluting, Pete left the room and then paused to look back. Lee was still leaning over the map. He caught Taylor's eye. "Get him to sleep," Pete whispered, almost mouthing the words, and Taylor nodded.
Alexander was out in the corridor, holding Pete's boots and a cup of coffee. "Let me help you get these on, sir."
Pete nodded his thanks and sat down, cradling the china cup filled to the brim with the warm brew as Alexander knelt to help him.
"Guess I'm coming with you?" Alexander asked hopefully.
'That you are, young sir. Get outside and round up the rest of the staff; they're going too. I want to move within ten minutes."
Alexander grinned. "I've already called to have our horses saddled."
At forty-two, Pete felt very old. Sighing, he stood up and walked out the door. The horizon to the east revealed the first faint glimmer of dawn of July 3,1863.
5:45 AM, JULY 3,1863
Never had he seen such wild insanity. The main street of Westminster was packed solid with hundreds of wagons, tangled together so tightly that nothing could move. Several wagons were upended, mules still tangled up in their harnesses frantically kicking at each other in their desperate struggle to escape. Most of the wagons were abandoned, drivers having run off, joining in the uncontrollable-stampede heading east
He edged his mount along the narrow sidewalk, his horse nervously stepping over a body sprawled in front of a tavern that had been looted. The man had been shot in the back, a broken bottle of whiskey by his side. A civilian stood in the doorway, an old shotgun cradled in his arms.
Haupt nodded and said nothing. The civilian ignored him.
All order, all control had broken down during the night. How and why it had started he still didn't know. Suddenly hundreds of wagons had begun jockeying to get on the Baltimore Pike, drivers screaming that the Rebs were attacking. He had tried to send a scraped-up detail of men to stem the tide; but it was far too much, and most of them had simply joined the stampede.
Then the wagons still parked to the west side of the town had come pouring in, a wagon loaded with cartridge rounds upending and igniting. The thousands of rounds going off had truly enhanced the terror, flames leaping to a second wagon loaded with artillery shells and several hundred pounds of powder. That had exploded in a massive fireball. Several houses had caught on fire and burned, casting a lurid light on the mad scene.
The houses were still smoldering, a detail of civilians wearily carrying buckets to keep it from spreading. They looked at him coldly as he rode past.
In the early light of dawn, he surveyed the madness: the carnage, burned-out wagons, dead animals, another dead man, this one a cavalry trooper.
To the west he could hear the steady rattle of musketry growing closer.
A mule driver, terrorized, was still with his wagon, stuck in the middle of the street behind an upended load of rations, hemmed in on both sides and to the rear by more wagons, all of them abandoned. In his madness the driver was lashing out with his whip. There was no place for the poor tormented mules to go, and they screamed pitifully as their driver continued to lash them, crying out for them to move.
Herman drew his revolver, disgusted with the spectacle. "Goddamn you, stop that!"
The mule driver looked at him, eyes filled with fear, and continued to lash the bloody backs of the mules.
Herman cocked the revolver, aimed it over the head of the driver, and tired. He re-cocked the pistol and now pointed it straight at the driver's head.
The driver stopped the whipping, looking at Herman with a blank stare.
"Drop that whip, you damn coward."
The man did as ordered.
"Get down off that wagon and do one of two things: either find a rifle and get up on the line or go join the rest of your friends and get the hell out of here. But so help me, you raise that whip again and I'll blow your brains out"
The driver was off the wagon and, uttering a strange animal-like moan, he started to run, heading east away from the fight
The mules looked over at Herman, their backs lashed open. He was tempted to put them out of their misery but couldn't bring himself to do it. He rode on, heading up the slope, the rattle of musketry growing louder.
As he rode he turned and looked back. The street was choked, impassable. He shifted in the saddle, reached into his breast pocket and pulled out the message that had come in an hour ago.
Headquarters, Second Corps, Army of the Potomac Near Gettysburg 2:00 AM, July 3,1863
To the commander of the garrison at Westminster Sir, my corps is now on the march, having departed
Gettysburg shortly after one this morning, and shall
approach Westminster via the road to Baltimore. I implore you to hold your position regardless of loss. I shall come to you with all possible speed.
If anyone would come with "all possible speed," it was Winfield. If he had been in command of this army, there would have been no delay yesterday afternoon and evening.
But where was the cavalry? One good division right now could make all the difference. Instead, there was nothing but this scratch command and thousands of mule drivers running like madmen in every direction.
As he looked at the nearly impenetrable pileup of wagons clogging the street, a cold voice within told him it was over, to round up a crew, send them down the street, shoot the mules, and start setting the wagons on fire-and try to get out with what he could.
And yet Hancock had said he was coming.
He hesitated to leave his headquarters down at the depot, hoping that somehow, just behind the message that was over three hours old, perhaps Hancock himself just might come riding in with an advance guard.
No, it was twenty-five miles to Gettysburg, a ten-hour march for a corps moving fast, very fast
To the west the sound of fire was picking up. So they were pushing in at last. Hell, a guard of old ladies armed with brooms could have swept them out of there during the worst of the panic.
With dawn breaking, the Rebs had to feel confident now, could see what was ahead, the mad confusion in the town, and would push straight in. He could imagine them over there. The sight of thousands of wagons, the piles of supplies stacked up around the depot these would whip the rebels into a frenzy.
A wounded cavalry trooper came limping down the street blood squishing out of his boot
"How is it up there?" Herman asked.
"Won't hold much longer, sir. Goddamn infantry with us, they're just melting away. If we still had Buford, all the ammunition down here, we'd give 'em a hell of a fight but not now."
Herman nodded, reached into his breast pocket pulled out a notepad, and hurriedly scribbled on it.
"This is a pass for the last train out Get yourself on board"
He passed the note down to the cavalryman, who forced a weak grin and saluted. "Didn't relish the thought of winding up in Libby Prison."
'Trooper, you're worth saving," and Herman looked back with disgust at the pileup clogging the street
He nudged his horse and rode to the crest of the hill at the west end of town.
A mix of cavalry troopers, infantry, and at least a few wagon drivers was drawn out in a rough line, crouched down behind trees, pressed up against the sides of the last houses in town, some of the men up in the buildings, firing from the second floors. Bullets were snicking in, bits of clapboard exploding in splinters, fragments of brick puffing out A shell screamed in, breaking the window of a house, detonating inside with a flash.
He had ordered up the heavy four-and-a-half-inch guns, two batteries, twelve beautiful heavy guns, posting them to hold this crest, and finally he spotted them, gunners working feverishly, one of the guns recoiling with a throaty roar.
He rode toward the batteries, and as he did so he crested the hill.
The sight was a shock. Barely 250 yards off was a heavy battle line of Rebs, emerging out of the smoke and early morning fog. These weren't skirmishers probing and fumbling in the dark. With the light of dawn they were no longer. hesitating. They smelled victory; they saw die prize ahead.
"Sir, will you get the hell off that horse!"
He saw the battery commander coming toward him, crouched low.
Herman didn't argue and dismounted, the battery commander grabbing him by the arm, pulling him behind a Umber wagon. The protection chosen didn't give him much confidence. There were several hundred pounds of powder in the Umber.
Five guns of the first battery fired a salvo, followed seconds later by six more guns, positioned a hundred yards to the right, a cheer bursting from the gunners as the deadly spray of canister tore into the advancing rebel line, dropping dozens of the enemy.
The enemy advance slowed, came to a stop, and hundreds of rifles suddenly rose up and then dropped down level.
The volley ignited. It sounded like a swarm of angry bees rushing overhead, around them, a ball ricocheting off the wheel of the limber. Half a dozen horses, still harnessed to the battery's limber wagons, started to kick and scream or just collapsed.
Ramrods were withdrawn all along the rebel line, men working to reload. Gunners were back up around Herman, scrambling to load as well. The Rebs went into independent fire at will, and within a minute a storm of.58-cal. minie balls was whistling in. It seemed as if the entire rebel brigade out there was concentrating on this one position. The men with the guns began to drop.
A rebel battery was revealed by the puffs of smoke, the flashes of light barely visible in the fog, shells streaking in.
"I could use some more infantry support," the battery commander cried, even as his six guns recoiled sharply, sending another storm of canister into the enemy line. More canister went downrange from the second battery. They were doing it right, not engaging in counterbattery, but working to keep the infantry back instead. I don't have any more."
"A couple of the regiments up here, they're doing their
job, but most of the rest are melting away or already disappeared with those goddamn wagon drivers."
"How long can you hold?"
The major stood up straight, slowly scanning the enemy line, ignoring a spray of splinters that tore up from the top of the limber wagon as it was scored by a bullet
"They'll finally go for the flanks, lap around us. Half hour, maybe an hour. They won't come straight in against my guns, damn them."
Herman actually smiled. This man and his heavy artillery, which threw twice the weight of the lighter field pieces, were actually itching for a fight He most likely had been stuck in a garrison around Washington since the start of the war and been moved up here only because someone back at the War Department liked the idea of some heavy artillery posted somewhere else.
As luck would have it the last convoy of trains that had come up at two in the morning actually had a few hundred rounds of 4.5-in. canister rounds on board, the battery commander sending down fifty men to haul the rounds up by hand, since it was impossible to move a caisson through the streets.
"Where's the rest of the army?"
Herman told him of Hancock's urgent appeal.
The major shook his head.
'It'll be damn near noon before they get in. You're asking the impossible. We'll be flanked within the hour."
Then we fall back into the town, fight them house to house. Your men have hand weapons. There's no way we'll be able to move your guns out So when it finally hits, spike your weapons, smash or take the rammers with you, and men fall back into town. I'm passing the same order to the infantry. We hold the town."
The major shook his head but smiled. "You're not a line officer, are you, sir?"
"Goddamn. Wish we had more railroaders running this army."
"McClellan was a railroader."
The major spit on the ground. "Well, every business has some bad apples."
"Just hold as long as you can, Major. I'm going to see the other officers on this line to pass the word."
Leading his horse and trying not to crouch too low and thus look absurd, Herman started to walk away, then looked back. "Major."
"If it falls apart, get yourself back to the depot. I'm taking the trains out, if we can't hold. I want as many of your men as possible, and you, to go with me."
The major forced a smile. "Sir, I have a bad feeling about today, a dream last night, you know the kind. But thanks."
Herman left him to his work and his nightmares and started down the line, shouting encouragement to the small detachments of Buford's cavalry who were still game, having rallied during the night around a sergeant, captain, and even the colonel of the Eighth Illinois, whose arm was wrapped up in a bloody sling. The half a hundred men gathered round him were mostly armed with the precious Spencer repeating rifle. A supply of ammunition had been found, boxes of it were stacked up behind an overturned wagon, and the men were pouring it in, fifty troopers with the firepower of an entire regiment. They were fighting like true professionals, hunkered down low, taking careful aim.
The weapon in their hands wasn't a carbine; only now was the factory starting to make the lighter weapon, these men had purchased, with their own money, the standard long-barreled weapon and now were putting it to damn good use.
One of the troopers looked back at Haupt. "Just keep the ammunition coming, and we'll hold them all day, sir!"
Herman nodded and continued on.
"Hold until they flank, then into the town," he kept repeating.
We've got to hold. Hancock is coming.
6:15 AM, JULY 3
DUNKARD CHURCH NEAR WESTMINSTER
"General, why have you not taken that town?"
It was obvious to all the staff gathered around General McLaws that Longstreet, who had just ridden up, was about to explode. They edged back from the confrontation.
McLaws stepped down from the entry to a small Dunkard church facing the main road from Taneytown. The sight of the building caused a flash of memory for Pete. A Dunkard church had been the center of fighting at Sharpsburg. They were a pacifist sect. Ironic, we keep bringing battles to their doorstep.
"Sir," McLaws said, obviously taken aback by Longstreet's sudden appearance. "As I tried to tell you last night, my men are exhausted. We had no good maps, there were bands of Yankee cavalry all up and down the road, but we're getting a grip on it now."
"Show me," Pete said coldly.
Together they moved along the edge of the road, which was packed with infantry still in column, the men slowly shuffling forward, the brigade shifting from column to line of battle just back from the top of the hill. Two batteries were atop the crest, hard at work as Pete and McLaws rode into position.
Morning fog and smoke cloaked the open valley. Just beyond the next ridge he could see several church spires and a column of smoke slowly rising straight up in the still morning air. Flashes of gunfire rippled along the next ridge, suddenly counterpointed by nearly a dozen flashes of light Seconds later a deep rumbling thump rolled over them.
Pete cocked his head; the sound was a bit different
"I know," McLaws said. "Looks like two batteries of twenty pounders dug in as tight as ticks on a dog along that ridge."
"Dismounted cavalry, what's left of Buford's men. There're a knot of them armed with those damn repeating rifles. Playing hell with us. They also have some infantry."
"Not sure yet but seem disorganized. Prisoners we picked up during the night; some were from Sixth Corps, some from the First and Second."
"Second? How many?" Pete asked, now anxious.
"Just a few. Said they were part of the wagon guard detail."
"Just telling you what was reported to me, sir." "Alexander?'
"Here, sir," and his chief of corps artillery came up. "Get the map out."
As Alexander reached into his map case, Pete carefully surveyed the line ahead. A single brigade was advancing, spread out across a quarter mile of front Stalled in front of the guns, beginning to lap around the flanks. But there wasn't enough weight
"You should be hitting him with everything, damn it This is what Heth did two days ago. If he'd gone in all at once, he'd've taken Gettysburg before Reynolds came up."
"Sorry, sir. But like I said, it was damnable confusion on that road. Brigades, regiments all tangled up. It took half the night to straighten everything out"
"It was damnable confusion for them, too!" Pete snapped, pointing toward the town.
"I've got a second brigade deploying now behind us,' Semmes's brigade. That's Kershaw up on the line."
"And the rest of your men?"
"I have Wofford's brigade deploying out to flank the town to the south. He's reporting back that you can barely see what's ahead; it's thick with wagons as far as you can see. And, sir, I ordered Barksdale to swing his brigade around to north of the town. Cut across that road to Baltimore."
"The road north of town, sir. I have men moving on it" and McLaws hesitated. "Isn't that what you wanted, sir?"
Pete grunted and nodded even as Alexander unfolded the map and handed it over to him.
"You did something right" Pete offered coolly.
"There're supposed to be thousands of wagons down there, trains, too," McLaws interjected.
"I want that road, I need to find ground we can hold, and I want that damn town. If we get the wagons with the supplies, so much the better."
Don't get diverted the way Stuart did when it comes to supply wagons, he thought Lee wants the supplies, so do I, but getting the defensible ground is the important thing.
He studied the map for a few seconds.
"You have someone who can guide me to the Baltimore Road?’
"That civilian," and McLaws nodded to his staff officers. A lone civilian, middle-aged, prosperous looking, with a good horse, was sitting among them, chatting amiably.
"What do you think about him?" Pete asked.
"Everything he's saying seems to hit center. Described Stuart to perfection, his staff, and willing to wait here till Stuart comes in. Says we can shoot him if he's lying."
Pete studied the man for a moment As if sensing he was being watched, the civilian looked up and nodded.
"Detail off a couple of your staff to ride with us and keep an eye on that man. Give me some of the men from your company of cavalry as well. If he leads us astray, or makes a dash for it" Pete hesitated, "well, I'm not saying shoot him, but make it damn uncomfortable for him."
McLaws went over to his staff, and Pete looked at Alexander and then back at the rest of his staff, who were easing their way through and around the brigade that was forming up behind them.
"I think General McLaws has things in hand here," Pete said, his voice low. "I want to go north and east Look at that road, see the land up by Union Mills. If Hancock is coming down, that might very well be the place to meet him. Not here. This town is flanked by hills. It's a trap."
McLaws came back with several of his staff and the civilian.
"Mr. William Shriver, this is General Longstreet." The civilian bowed slightly, though in the saddle. "I recognized you, sir." "How?"
"Why, from the illustrated papers of course." "The report you gave. About seeing two Union officers around Union Mills two days ago."
"Yes, sir. A General Warren and a General Hunt, I believe, sir."
"Describe them, please."
Shriver offered a quick description and Pete nodded. It seemed close enough.
"Why are you helping us?" Pete asked.
"I have six sons serving with the Confederacy, sir. They're with the First Maryland, Johnson's division, and with the First Maryland Artillery. We of Maryland are behind the Cause, sir."
"Didn't seem that way last time we came up here to Sharpsburg."
"I'm sorry, sir, if some of my neighbors reacted thus. But I can assure you of the truth of my report"
"For your sake, let's hope so."
The man did not seem to be insulted by this questioning of his honesty.
"I understand your need for caution, sir," he replied.
"The quickest way to Union Mills without getting too near this town?"
"I know a way."
"If we wander into Yankees, sir," Alexander interjected sharply, "I will make it a point of holding you responsible." He casually let his hand drift down to his holster.
The civilian laughed, though it was forced and a bit nervous.
"There're Yankees wandering all over here, most of them cowards and running away. The roads east and south of here are supposed to be packed with them. I can't promise you, sir, but if we do meet Yankees, toss me that revolver, and you'll see me make a fight of it as well."
Pete smiled slightly. "Fine then. Now let's move."
Pete looked back at McLaws and motioned him over.
"Next time, General," Pete said softly, so that no one, and especially the civilian, could hear, "when I say I want something taken by dawn, I expect it to be taken by dawn and not two hours later. Do we understand each other?"
McLaws nodded nervously and saluted.
"Now get in there and take that town. Once you do, send another brigade up the road toward Union Mills. I'll most likely be there."
With staff and the small cavalry escort, they now numbered several dozen, and as the cavalcade started off Pete looked back. The Second Brigade, which had been forming up, was sweeping up the slope, battle flags held high, heading straight toward Westminster. McLaws, sword drawn, was out front, urging them on.
6:40 AM, JULY 3,1863
NEAR HARNEY ON THE GETTYSBURG-TANEYTOWN ROAD
Gen. George Sykes, new commander of the Fifth Corps, who had taken over the corps after Meade's elevation, surveyed the map spread out on the table before him. Raising his field glasses, he again tried to examine the ground ahead that was cloaked in morning mist
He looked over at Warren and shook his head. "I can't see a damn thing."
General Crawford, the divisional commander who had led the probing assault at dawn, nodded his head in agreement
"We came up out of the low ground just ahead and got hit on front and flanks. They're out there, sir. A division at the very least."
Sykes looked back down at the map. He was an old professional, a graduate of the class of 1842 from, the Point a veteran of Mexico, and most recently in command of the division of regular army troops that was part of Fifth Corps. On the road behind him that same division was now filing in from Gettysburg after a hard, six-hour march through the night
He studied the map sketched out by Warren, and then fixed his gaze on a cavalry captain, one of the survivors of Buford's command who had fallen back into the lines of Fifth Corps after yesterday's bitter defeat at the bridge.
"The ground around that bridge," Sykes asked, and as he spoke he pointed to its position on the map. "Defendable, if we seize it?"
"Yes, sir. If we had been fresh, backed by artillery, and with sufficient ammunition, we could have held it all day."
Sykes looked back at Warren. "What do you think?"
"We can't do both," Warren replied, shaking his head.
"I agree," Sykes said. "Our orders are to take back Taneytown. But that was given last night, and Meade is now at least twelve miles away. If I thought the bridge was more practical, I'd go for it"
The cavalry captain stirred, clearing his throat nervously. Sykes looked up at him. "Go on, Captain."
"Sir, the ground around Taneytown, it's wide open, almost a flat plateau. In fact the town is down in a bit of a valley."
"Meaning it would be hard to defend except in a stand-up fight"
"Sir, once you take it, then what? Yesterday that road was packed with Rebs clear back beyond Emmitsburg. It most likely still is. Take the bridge, and you plug 'em up that way."
"In other words, go for the bridge rather than the town," Sykes replied.
"I'm just a captain, sir," the cavalryman said cautiously.
Sykes smiled. "Appreciate the comment captain. The question is, what is our mission here?"