Battle of Gettysburg Headquarters

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Confederate Headquarters at Battle of Gettysburg

General James Longstreet's Headquarters at the Battle of Gettysburg

Gen. Longstreet's HQ marker
Longstreet's HQ marker.jpg
Gettysburg NMP

It was near this location on Warfield Ridge where General James Longstreet established his headquarters late on the afternoon of July 2. His infantry column had marched over 18 miles to arrive near this point and deploy along Seminary Ridge to the north and Warfield Ridge to the south in preparation to strike the Union line. By this time, Union General Daniel Sickles had moved troops of his Third Corps forward from Cemetery Ridge to establish a thin line of infantry and artillery from the Peach Orchard on the Emmitsburg Road to the Devil's Den, just west of Big Round Top. Union artillerymen had set up their guns in the orchard and General Longstreet saw this as an opportunity to concentrate his artillery fire on their position, blasting it from two directions at once. But it also presented a roadblock for the infantry that were to attack up the Emmitsburg Road as General Lee wished and would necessarily alter Lee's original battle plan. Longstreet conferred with his two division commanders, Generals John Bell Hood and Lafayette McLaws, near this location. He pointed out the general direction and course the attack was to follow and gave orders for the attack to begin as soon as possible. All three generals realized the difficulty in making the charge as their troops had to cross open farm fields with little or no concealment making their formations an inviting target for the gunners at the orchard.

Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863
Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863.jpg
Official Gettysburg Battlefield Map

West Confederate Avenue.jpg

(Right) Picture of West Confederate Avenue today, looking south. Kershaw's Confederates were positioned behind the stone wall at left. Gettysburg NMP.
 
This was the site where Brig. General Joseph Kershaw's Brigade of South Carolina soldiers formed their ranks behind the stone wall that still borders the woods, with the Georgia brigade under Brig. General Paul Semmes 150 yards behind and also placed behind a stonewall. Kershaw walked through the woods and peered ahead over the ground his troops were soon to cross. "I found (the Union troops) in superior force," the general wrote, "strongly posted in the Peach Orchard, which bristled with artillery, with a main line of battle in their rear... to Little Round Top. I placed my command in position under cover of the stone wall, and communicated the condition of matters to Major General McLaws." The men were ordered to stay hidden behind the wall and for the flags to remain cased. Here the men waited and watched Hood's troops as they passed moving to their starting points south of here. Volunteers took empty canteens to fill from the well of a nearby farm house, while some men played cards, read letters from home, or slept after the long march.

Longstreet moves to attack.gif

A few minutes before 4 P.M., Confederate artillerymen rolled their guns into the fields and opened fire on the Union batteries near the Emmitsburg Road, concentrating on those in the Peach Orchard. At that same moment, General Sickles had just about completed the movement of the last of his Third Corps into his new advanced position and was conferring with General Meade who had finally arrived on the scene. The shriek of Southern cannon shells from two directions stunned both officers. Sickles offered to withdraw but Meade replied that it was too late. The commanding general ordered Sickles to hold his new line, and then issued orders to send reinforcements to Sickles' corps.

Meanwhile, General Longstreet rode to the southern end of his line where Hood's troops had just stepped off toward the Round Tops. With red battle flags waving in the light afternoon breeze, brigade after brigade moved out in solid battle lines toward the thin Union line. Some Union artillerymen turned their attention to these infantry formations, very inviting targets for the big guns to hit with solid shot and shell. Longstreet, assured that his infantry had moved off, next rode along the line of waiting troops back to this area where he conferred once again with General McLaws. Over the next four hours his troops would be involved in some of the deadliest fighting yet seen during the war.

McLaw's Division was to follow upon the heels of Hood's division in the attack, but it was not until 5 o'clock when General Kershaw received orders to move into the attack. His enthusiastic South Carolinians clambered over the wall and as the men fell into place, the color sergeant of the 7th South Carolina unfurled the regiment's flag. Within a matter of seconds, a Union battery found the range and sent a shell crashing into the 7th's color guard, killing two and wounding three. Color bearers in the other regiments wisely chose to wait until the order to advance was given before they unfurled their flags. With Semmes' Brigade close behind, Kershaw's South Carolinians moved off toward the Rose Farm and Peach Orchard.

The Flaharty Farm site from the Georgia Monument
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Gettysburg NMP

One of the many mysteries about Gettysburg is where General Longstreet established his headquarters on July 2. Evidence points to a small farm that was located on the Millerstown Road, just west of the woods on Warfield Ridge where his headquarters marker sits today. The farm was owned by J. Flaharty and is now part of Eisenhower National Historic Site. The Flaharty farm was sold and the buildings were abandoned or destroyed in the years following the Civil War, and very little is known about them or their use by Lee's corps commander who later admitted, "My headquarters was in the saddle..." at Gettysburg. Sometime after 1900, a small wooden frame building at the nearby Warfield Farm was labeled "General Longstreet's Headquarters" by the owner who purportedly relocated it to his property from the Flaharty site. Yet there was nothing about that non-nondescript wood shed to prove this claim and the question of any building having been used by General Longstreet as a headquarters remains unanswered to this very day.

Battle of Gettysburg, Second Day, July 2, 1863
Longstreet's Assault, Battle of Gettysburg.jpg
Longstreet's Attack, Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863

South Carolina Memorial
South Carolina Memorial.jpg
Gettysburg NMP

The Georgia Monument is located here as a tribute to the Georgians who served at Gettysburg including many in Longstreet's Corps. It was dedicated on September 21, 1961. Also at this stop is the South Carolina Memorial, placed here during the Civil War centennial celebration. The memorial stands at this location because of it's relationship to General Kershaw's brigade, but like most state monuments it commemorates the services of all South Carolina troops who served at Gettysburg.
 
(Right) South Carolina Memorial at Gettysburg National Military Park.
 
The state had ten volunteer infantry regiments, two cavalry regiments, and four artillery batteries in the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg and all saw heavy fighting during the three day battle. The monument's unique design features the carved outline of the state and shield flanked by palmetto trees, the state symbol. Funds for the monument were raised by private donations and through the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The memorial cost an estimated $20,000 and was dedicated by the governor of South Carolina on July 2, 1963.


Lee's Old War Horse

General James Longstreet
General James Longstreet.jpg
Generals in Gray

General Robert E. Lee referred to General James Longstreet as his "Old War Horse."
 
Though a marker for General Longstreet's Headquarters stands at this location, the general admittedly spent very little time here, preferring to remain mobile during the battle near his division commanders or at General Lee's side near army headquarters on the grounds of the Lutheran Seminary. In the post-war era, General James Longstreet grew to become one of the more controversial personalities connected to the Confederate defeat at the battle. At the height of Reconstruction in the 1870s, Longstreet joined the Republican Party. It was not a popular decision among most Southerners who saw the Republicans as the party which pursued the war against the South and attempted to punish the southern states with bitter policies during reconstruction.
 
As post-war debates became widespread as to exactly where the South may have gone wrong, attention centered on the Battle of Gettysburg as the turning point. Lee refused to join in any such debate and died in 1870 without any response to the discussion. Many Southern political leaders and former generals, including Jubal Early and Sandie Pendleton, were quick to point out that Longstreet had not cooperated with Lee at Gettysburg by not supporting his commander's wishes as fully as he should have. Longstreet responded with criticisms of Lee's field decisions and strategy. By this time, the stature of Lee was so great and his abilities as a Southern commander so highly regarded that many in the South saw Longstreet's comments as treachery. The war of words continued until the last days of General Longstreet's life, though he was exonerated time and again by the veterans who had marched, fought, and bled under his command on many a battlefield.


Three days at the place known as Gettysburg
Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863.jpg
Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863

War Department Towers

Longstreet Tower
Longstreet Tower.jpg
Gettysburg NMP

One of the last three remaining War Department-era observation towers stands at this site and offers the visitor a panoramic view of the battlefield. Originally, there were five towers constructed by the United States War Department on the battlefield and this is the only one built on West Confederate Avenue. From the observation deck, one can appreciate the distance that Longstreet's Confederates had to cross to reach the Union positions at Little Round Top, the Wheatfield and in the Peach Orchard. The tower also overlooks the farm that is today Eisenhower National Historic Site, the retirement home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The farm buildings used by General Longstreet as a temporary headquarters stood on the Eisenhower property, but they no longer exist.

The tower was the last major structure to be placed on West Confederate Avenue, which was also laid out and paved by the US War Department at the turn of the century. William Robbins, a Confederate veteran of the battle and one of the first battlefield commissioners, promoted the avenue so that Confederate artillery and infantry positions could be marked. Robbins worked with original reports and documents while relying on eyewitness testimony from visiting veterans to compose the tablets. This portion of West Confederate between Millerstown Road and the Emmitsburg Road is lined with numerous Confederate battery positions as well as several state memorials and brigade markers.

Source: National Park Service; Gettysburg National Military Park

Recommended Reading: General James Longstreet: The Confederacy's Most Controversial Soldier (Simon & Schuster). Description: This isn't the first biography to be written on Confederate General James Longstreet, but it's the best--and certainly the one that pays the most attention to Longstreet's performance as a military leader. Historian Jeffry D. Wert aims to rehabilitate Longstreet's reputation, which traditionally has suffered in comparison to those of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Some Southern partisans have blamed Longstreet unfairly for the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg; Wert corrects the record. He is not “uncritical” of Longstreet's record, but he rightly suggests that if Lee had followed Longstreet's advice, the battle's outcome might have been different. Continued below...

The facts of history cannot be changed, however, and Wert musters them on these pages to advance a bold claim: "Longstreet, not Jackson, was the finest corps commander in the Army of Northern Virginia; in fact, he was arguably the best corps commander in the conflict on either side." Wert describes his subject as strategically aggressive, but tactically reserved. The bulk of the book appropriately focuses on the Civil War, but Wert also briefly delves into Longstreet's life before and after it. Most interestingly, it was framed by a friendship with Ulysses S. Grant, formed at West Point and continuing into old age. Longstreet even served in the Grant administration--an act that called into question his loyalty to the Lost Cause, and explains in part why Wert's biography is a welcome antidote to much of what has been written about this controversial figure.

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Recommended Reading: General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse. Review: You cannot say that University of North Carolina professor Glatthaar (Partners in Command) did not do his homework in this massive examination of the Civil War–era lives of the men in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Glatthaar spent nearly 20 years examining and ordering primary source material to ferret out why Lee's men fought, how they lived during the war, how they came close to winning, and why they lost. Glatthaar marshals convincing evidence to challenge the often-expressed notion that the war in the South was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight and that support for slavery was concentrated among the Southern upper class. Continued below...

Lee's army included the rich, poor and middle-class, according to the author, who contends that there was broad support for the war in all economic strata of Confederate society. He also challenges the myth that because Union forces outnumbered and materially outmatched the Confederates, the rebel cause was lost, and articulates Lee and his army's acumen and achievements in the face of this overwhelming opposition. This well-written work provides much food for thought for all Civil War buffs.

 

Recommended Reading: Lee's Lieutenants: A Study in Command (912 pages). Description: Hailed as one of the greatest Civil War books, this exhaustive study is an abridgement of the original three-volume version. It is a history of the Army of Northern Virginia from the first shot fired to the surrender at Appomattox - but what makes this book unique is that it incorporates a series of biographies of more than 150 Confederate officers. The book discusses in depth all the tradeoffs that were being made politically and militarily by the South. Continued below...

The book does an excellent job describing the battles, then at a critical decision point in the battle, the book focuses on an officer - the book stops and tells the biography of that person, and then goes back to the battle and tells what information the officer had at that point and the decision he made. At the end of the battle, the officers decisions are critiqued based on what he "could have known and what he should have known" given his experience, and that is compared with 20/20 hindsight. "It is an incredibly well written book!"

 

Recommended ReadingBrigades of Gettysburg: The Union and Confederate Brigades at the Battle of Gettysburg (Hardcover) (704 Pages). Description: While the battle of Gettysburg is certainly the most-studied battle in American history, a comprehensive treatment of the part played by each unit has been ignored. Brigades of Gettysburg fills this void by presenting a complete account of every brigade unit at Gettysburg and providing a fresh perspective of the battle. Using the words of enlisted men and officers, the author and renowned Civil War historian, Bradley Gottfried, weaves a fascinating narrative of the role played by every brigade at the famous three-day battle, as well as a detailed description of each brigade unit. Continued below...

Organized by order of battle, each brigade is covered in complete and exhaustive detail: where it fought, who commanded, what constituted the unit, and how it performed in battle. Innovative in its approach and comprehensive in its coverage, Brigades of Gettysburg is certain to be a classic and indispensable reference for the battle of Gettysburg for years to come.

 

Recommended Reading: Gettysburg Heroes: Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground (Hardcover). Description: The Civil War generation saw its world in ways startlingly different from our own. In these essays, Glenn W. LaFantasie examines the lives and experiences of several key personalities who gained fame during and after the war. The battle of Gettysburg is the thread that ties these Civil War lives together. Gettysburg was a personal turning point, though each person was affected differently. Continued below…

Largely biographical in its approach, the book captures the human drama of the war and shows how this group of individuals--including Abraham Lincoln, James Longstreet, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, William C. Oates, and others--endured or succumbed to the war and, willingly or unwillingly, influenced its outcome. Concurrently, it shows how the war shaped the lives of these individuals, putting them through ordeals they never dreamed they would face or survive.

 

Recommended Reading: Civil War High Commands (1040 pages) (Hardcover). Description: Based on nearly five decades of research, this magisterial work is a biographical register and analysis of the people who most directly influenced the course of the Civil War, its high commanders. Numbering 3,396, they include the presidents and their cabinet members, state governors, general officers of the Union and Confederate armies (regular, provisional, volunteers, and militia), and admirals and commodores of the two navies. Civil War High Commands will become a cornerstone reference work on these personalities and the meaning of their commands, and on the Civil War itself. Continued below...

Errors of fact and interpretation concerning the high commanders are legion in the Civil War literature, in reference works as well as in narrative accounts. The present work brings together for the first time in one volume the most reliable facts available, drawn from more than 1,000 sources and including the most recent research. The biographical entries include complete names, birthplaces, important relatives, education, vocations, publications, military grades, wartime assignments, wounds, captures, exchanges, paroles, honors, and place of death and interment. In addition to its main component, the biographies, the volume also includes a number of essays, tables, and synopses designed to clarify previously obscure matters such as the definition of grades and ranks; the difference between commissions in regular, provisional, volunteer, and militia services; the chronology of military laws and executive decisions before, during, and after the war; and the geographical breakdown of command structures. The book is illustrated with 84 new diagrams of all the insignias used throughout the war and with 129 portraits of the most important high commanders.
 
Recommended Reading: Pickett, Leader of the Charge: A Biography of General George E. Pickett, C.S.A. Publishers Weekly: This first modern biography of the man who led the final Confederate attack at Gettysburg depicts neither an archetypical cavalier nor a shallow incompetent. Though Pickett's promotion owed something to the patronage of his superior Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, he had an excellent record of brigade command and did as well on July 3, 1863, as anyone was likely to have done in the circumstances. Continued below...
Nevertheless, Pickett lost the confidence of Robert E. Lee and spent most of the rest of the war on peripheral assignments in North Carolina and southern Virginia. Performing adequately under direct supervision, Pickett showed no aptitude for independent command despite some successes, notably in organizing the defenses of Petersburg in 1864. Longacre's sympathy for his subject leads him both to overestimate Pickett's military capacities and to understate Gettysburg's impact on a man who in its aftermath arguably suffered from what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder. This work is still a useful addition to the literature on Confederate command in the Civil War.

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