This is the fourth in my series of week-long blog posts called Countdown to Gettysburg“. They are written from the perspective of someone who lived at that time and as if the internet existed in 1863.
The introduction to the series is here.
(Check back for updates during the day)
Have you heard what our infantry says every time a cavalryman passes?
“Seen any dead cavalrymen lately?”
Well, it looks like those infantrymen are going to have to stop insulting the cavalry because Stuart is in Hanover with 5000 reb horsemen. As I write this, there’s a battle going on right smack dab in the center of town. It appears that General Judson (Kill Calvary) Kilpatrick has taken his brand new 3rd Cavalry Division into action for the first time. If true (and check back later because I’ll probably have details) then that would make this engagement the largest cavalry action of the war to date.
But Stuart in Hanover! How the devil did he get there? He’s obviously trying to connect with Lee’s army – which is now hurrying toward the road junction of Gettysburg – by moving directly west, right across our front. Apparently, Stuart was raiding somewhere southeast of Baltimore which is heavy sesesch country. I imagine this is why we didn’t hear about his movements until now.
Advance elements of the reb army may already be close to Gettysburg as I write this. There was a report that a couple of brigades from Henry Heth’s Division were sweeping aside the Pennsylvania militia to make way for Richard Ewell’s Corp and were somewhere to the west of Gettysburg causing considerable alarm in the town itself.
Those fat, rich, and happy Pennsylvania farmers are in for a big surprise if the rebs occupy Gettysburg. I hear General Early demanded $100,000 from the good citizens of York or he swore he’d burn the town. There’s also word that the rebs destroyed a large cache of whiskey in Chambersburg. Serves those copperheads right. Maybe now they’ll stop bad mouthing the war and get behind our President.
As in the past when I’ve blogged battles, my sources in the War Department telegraph office, in army intelligence, and officers who are “in the know” will be updating me regularly. I expect to have some news shortly from both the town of Gettysburg and Hanover so make sure you check back later.
As promised, here’s the skinny on the engagement at Hanover. It comes from an account wired to me by a reporter for the local Hanover Citizen.
From what I can gather, old Kill Cavalry Kilpatrick was pretty much ambushed. While the head of his column was several miles ahead near New Baltimore at Abbottstown, the 18th Pennsylvania, which he had left as a rear guard, was bushwhacked right in the center of town by two brigades of North Carolina Tar Heels. Stuart split the 18th in half and there was wild confusion as terrified citizens mixed with union troopers in the center of town, all trying to find cover.
Meanwhile, Brigadier General Elon Farnsworth commanding the 1st Brigade heard the commotion back in town and sent two brigades to investigate. Arriving in town himself, he coolly sized up the situation and led the 5th New York in a spirited countercharge that temporarily broke the rebs advance.
Kilpatrick himself rode like a demon back into town when he heard that Stuart had occupied it. By the time he got there, the rebs had been driven from the town by dismounted union troopers and Farnsworth’s courageous attacks but were still a danger.
So Kilpatrick occupied a range of low hills to the west of town and started to bombard Stuarts exposed positions. Of course, he also bombarded a few houses in the process which likely displeased the residents mightily. It was at this point that he sent a newly minted Brigadier by the name of George Armstrong Custer (who my sources tell me is a real “comer” and to watch his career closely) and two brigades of Michigan troopers in a dismounted counterattack. While my source in intelligence won’t be specific, he tells me that Custer’s men used a brand new rifle in their attack. My guess would be it’s that 7 shot Spencer repeater I’ve heard so much about. At any rate, it was fierce enough and sustained enough that Stuart was forced to make a hasty withdrawal.
As battles go, it wasn’t much. Looks like about 300 total dead and wounded with the rebs getting the worst of it. What gladdens the heart is that our troopers stood toe to toe with Jeb Stuart and gave as good as they got. That bodes well for the future.
And Stuart will have to make a long detour, probably by way of Carlisle, in order to reach Lee’s army at Gettysburg. All in all, a pretty good days work.
Note: My fried at the War Department telegraph office tells me to expect some dispatches a little later. Check back for updates.
From Gettysburg:I entered this place to-day at 11 a.m. Found everybody in a terrible state of excitement on account of the enemy’s advance upon this place. He had approached to within half a mile of the town when the head of my column entered. His force was terribly exaggerated by reasonable and truthful but inexperienced men. On pushing him back toward Cashtown, I learned from reliable men that [R.H.] Anderson’s division was marching from Chambersburg by Mummasburg, Hunterstown, Abbottstown, on toward York. I have sent parties to the two first-named places, toward Cashtown, and a strong force toward Littlestown. Colonel Gamble has just sent me word that Lee signed a pass for a citizen this morning at Chambersburg. I can’t do much just now. My men and horses are fagged out. I have not been able to get any grain yet. It is all in the country, and the people talk instead of working. Facilities for shoeing are nothing. Early’s people seized every shoe and nail they could find. I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant. JNO. BUFORD. Brigadier-General of Volunteers.
[P.S.] – The troops that are coming here were the same I found early this morning at Millersburg or Fairfield. General Reynolds has been advised of all that I know.
General Buford’s cavalry has run into Henry Heth’s men (Pettigrew’s Brigade) from A.P. Hill’s Army. The rebs are moving quicker than anyone here imagined although you’d think after the feats of marching pulled off by Stonewall Jackson in the Shenendoah Valley last year our brass hats would have a good idea of what the rebs were capable of.
And good for General Johnny! Reynolds has pushed his men hard and they appear to be within a few miles of Gettysburg proper. That’s great news. Buford should be able call on the Black Hats if things get sticky later today.
Here’s a little background on Gettysburg I got from the Army:
Established in 1780, Gettysburg lies among a series of gently sloping ridges generally running north to south with the town itself the center of a road net composing of eight main and two branch roads extending in all directions. Running westnorthwest towards Cashtown was the Chambersburg Pike while just to the north the Mummasburg Road also stretched out in a northwesterly direction. Continuing clockwise was the Carlisle Road branching out due north, then the Harrisburg Road to the northeast, the York Road to the east-northeast, the Hanover Road to the east-southeast, the Baltimore Pike to the southeast, the Taneytown Road due south, the Emmittsburg Road to the south-southwest and finally the Hagerstown Road to the westsouthwest
You can see why Bobby Lee chose Gettysburg to concentrate his army for the coming fight. Looks like just about every decent road in southern Pennsylvania goes through the little town. And Baltimore is just two days march from the town down the Baltimore Pike. We better not let General Lee slip by us as he’s done so many times. He could be halfway to Baltimore before we got organized.
I may have one more update later today. If I get any further dispatches from Buford or Reynolds, I’ll definitely post them.
Here’s the latest from Buford who has taken up a strong position on a ridge next to a Lutheran Seminary:
I have the honor to state the following facts: A.P. Hill’s corps, composed of Anderson, Heth, and Pender, is massed back of Cashtown, 9 miles from this place. His pickets, composed of infantry and artillery, are in sight of mine. There is a road from Cashtown running through Mummasburg and Hunterstown on to York pike at Oxford, which is terribly infested with roving detachments of cavalry. Rumor says Ewell is coming over the mountains from Carlisle. One of his escort was captured to-day near Heidlersburg. He says Rodes, commanding a division of Ewell’s, has already crossed the mountains from Carlisle. When will the reserve be relieved, and where are my wagons? I have no need of them, as I can find no forage. I have kept General Reynolds informed of all that has transpired.
Major Rathbone tells me that by morning, it’s likely that Buford’s 2700 dismounted cavalry will be facing upwards of 10,000 rebs. They’ll be coming at him “three skirmishers deep” says the Major, “thick as fleas and mad as hornets.” He’s got a good defensive position but General Reynolds better start moving his I Corp at first light. We don’t know how long Buford can hold the high ground.
One more note from Pinkertons: They’ve identified units of Longstreet’s Army coming fast down the Cashtown Road. And with A.P. Hill sweeping down from Carlisle, our entire left wing is in danger of being flanked before half our boys even get to the battlefield.
Looks like Buford and Reynolds have their work cut out for them in the morning.
And so…there’s no avoiding it. Tomorrow will see these two great armies engaged in what everyone knows is the most important battle of the war. I hope our boys are getting a good nights sleep. They’re going to need it.