MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History


On July 17, 1863, two weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg ended in defeat for Confederate general Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia, the Daily Richmond Examiner brought its readers an eyewitness account of events before, during, and after the battle. The Examiner, one of a handful of newspapers published in the capital of the Confederacy, clearly saw its firsthand narrative as a scoop, billing the story—an excerpt from a letter written by an unnamed officer in Lee’s army—as “the only connected, intelligent and intelligible account that has yet been given to the public of the movements of General Lee from his crossing of the Potomac to his return to Hagerstown.”

An unsigned editorial on the back page of the single-sheet newspaper, probably written by its executive editor, John M. Daniel, struck a pessimistic note. “The Confederacy has lost several thousand able officers & brave soldiers,” it said. “But war cannot be made without such losses.”

The advance of the Second corps crossed into Maryland on Thursday, June 18th, near Shepherdstown. [Major] General [Robert E.] Rodes had already crossed below Martinsburg, and was occupying Hagerstown. [Brigadier] General [Albert G.] Jenkins was at Chambersburg, and [Brigadier] General John D.] Imboden about Cumberland. The Second corps (excepting Rodes’ division) occupied the battlefield of Antietam the 20th, 21st and 22d of June, and marched beyond Hagerstown on the 23d.

“Sharpsburg was black Union, but Hagerstown turned out wild with joy at our approach.”

The reception of these gallant victors of Winchester all through the lower valley was refreshing, and at Shepherdstown fair ladies crowded the streets, and welcomed the) and appropriated according to an accurate distribution by Chief Quartermasters and sub Quartermasters. A Major General got a hat, but as to the rest, hats, shoes, boots, calicoes, whiskey, for the most part, that great unfathomable sponge, the active Quartermaster’s Department got them.

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