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One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863

One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863

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One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863

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May 15, 2008


The titanic three-day battle of Gettysburg left 50,000 casualties in its wake, a battered Southern army far from its base of supplies, and a rich historiographic legacy. Thousands of books and articles cover nearly every aspect of the battle, but not a single volume focuses on the military aspects of the monumentally important movements of the armies to and across the Potomac River. One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 is the first detailed military history of Lee’s retreat and the Union effort to catch and destroy the wounded Army of Northern Virginia.
Against steep odds and encumbered with thousands of casualties, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee’s post-battle task was to successfully withdraw his army across the Potomac River. Union commander George G. Meade’s equally difficult assignment was to intercept the effort and destroy his enemy. The responsibility for defending the exposed Southern columns belonged to cavalry chieftain James Ewell Brown (Jeb) Stuart. If Stuart fumbled his famous ride north to Gettysburg, his generalship during the retreat more than redeemed his flagging reputation.
The ten days of retreat triggered nearly two dozen skirmishes and major engagements, including fighting at Granite Hill, Monterey Pass, Hagerstown, Williamsport, Funkstown, Boonsboro, and Falling Waters. President Abraham Lincoln was thankful for the early July battlefield victory, but disappointed that General Meade was unable to surround and crush the Confederates before they found safety on the far side of the Potomac. Exactly what Meade did to try to intercept the fleeing Confederates, and how the Southerners managed to defend their army and ponderous 17-mile long wagon train of wounded until crossing into western Virginia on the early morning of July 14, is the subject of this study
One Continuous Fight draws upon a massive array of documents, letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and published primary and secondary sources. These long-ignored foundational sources allow the authors, each widely known for their expertise in Civil War cavalry operations, to describe carefully each engagement. The result is a rich and comprehensive study loaded with incisive tactical commentary, new perspectives on the strategic role of the Southern and Northern cavalry, and fresh insights on every engagement, large and small, fought during the retreat.
The retreat from Gettysburg was so punctuated with fighting that a soldier felt compelled to describe it as “One Continuous Fight.” Until now, few students fully realized the accuracy of that description. Complimented with 18 original maps, dozens of photos, and a complete driving tour with GPS coordinates of the entire retreat, One Continuous Fight is an essential book for every student of the American Civil War in general, and for the student of Gettysburg in particular.
About the Authors: Eric J. Wittenberg has written widely on Civil War cavalry operations. His books include Glory Enough for All (2002), The Union Cavalry Comes of Age (2003), and The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads and the Civil War's Final Campaign (2005). He lives in Columbus, Ohio.
J. David Petruzzi is the author of several magazine articles on Eastern Theater cavalry operations, conducts tours of cavalry sites of the Gettysburg Campaign, and is the author of the popular "Buford's Boys" website at www.bufordsboys.com. Petruzzi lives in Brockway, Pennsylvania.
A long time student of the Gettysburg Campaign, Michael Nugent is a retired US Army Armored Cavalry Officer and the descendant of a Civil War Cavalry soldier. He has previously written for several military publications. Nugent lives in Wells, Maine.
May 15, 2008

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One Continuous Fight - Michael Nugent

© 2008 by Eric J. Wittenberg, J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Printed in the United States of America.

Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available from the Library of Congress.

ISBN 13: 978-1-932714-43-2

eISBN 13: 978-1-61121-034-7

05 04 03 02 01 5 4 3 2 1

Second edition, first printing

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This book is dedicated to the soldiers of both North and South whose Gettysburg legacy was to be laid in an unknown and long-forgotten grave along the route of retreat. Family and friends often never knew what became of their loved ones, and lamented not having the opportunity to say goodbye.

Known But To God

Readers are encouraged to study and refer back to this map in order to understand and remember the relative locations of the towns and terrain features discussed in detail throughout the book.

The critical terrain feature is the South Mountain range, which begins above the Potomac River and runs generally north into Pennsylvania west of Gettysburg. Robert E. Lee's wagon train of wounded traversed the range through the Cashtown Pass near its northern end, while the main components of the Army of Northern Virginia marched via the Monterey Pass just above the Mason-Dixon Line. Control of these passes was vitally important to both sides.

Lee’s army and its train of wounded were heading for the Williamsport and Falling Waters crossings to put the Potomac River between them and George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac. Lee’s final defensive line began just west of Hagerstown, Maryland, and angled south through Downsville to the river.


Foreword by Ted Alexander

Preface by Noah Andre Trudeau

Introduction and Acknowledgments

1. A Vast Sea of Misery: The Wagon Train of the Wounded

2. The Retreat of the Main Confederate Army Begins

3. July 4: The Midnight Fight in the Monterey Pass

4. Meade’s Pursuit Begins

5. The Confederates Garrison Williamsport

6. July 6: The Battle of Hagerstown

7. July 6: The Battle for Williamsport

8. July 7: In Full Pursuit

9. July 7: Skirmish at the College of St. James and the First Battle of Funkstown

10. July 8: Heavy Fighting at Beaver Creek Bridge and Boonsboro

11. July 9: Sniping Along the Lines

12. July 10: The Second Battle of Funkstown

13. July 11: The Armies Jockey for Position

14. July 12: The Second Battle of Hagerstown

15. July 13: A Frustrating Day Spent Waiting

16. July 14: The Crossings at Williamsport and Falling Waters

17. The Federal Advance and Aftermath



Appendix A: Driving Tour: The Retreat from Gettysburg

Appendix B: Driving Tour: The Wagon Train of the Wounded

Appendix C: Order of Battle




Area of Operations of the Retreat frontis

Imboden’s Wagon Train Route

Operations at Gettysburg July 4

Monterey Pass July 4-5

Granite Hill July 5

Williamsport, Maryland

Smithsburg July 5

Battle of Hagerstown July 6

Wagoners Fight at Williamsport July 6

AOP’s Pursuit of ANV

Boonsboro July 8

Battle of Funkstown July 10

AOP Takes Position July 10-12

Williamsport Defense Lines July 13

Tour Map: Retreat

Tour Map: Wagon Train

Photos and Illustrations

Photos and illustrations have been placed throughout the book for the convenience of the readers.


ROBERT E. LEE’S RETREAT from Gettysburg is one of the most misunderstood and least studied events of the Civil War. Much has been written about the prelude to Gettysburg. There have been a number of works on Brandy Station and other cavalry actions that occurred in Virginia before the opposing armies moved north of the Potomac River. The same can be said for Second Winchester and the other actions surrounding that event. One of the best studies of this period remains Here Come the Rebels! by Wilbur S. Nye. A seminal work, Nye’s book traces in detail the movements of Lee’s army from late May to June 30, 1863.

The gold standard for any serious student of the campaign remains Edwin Coddington’s Gettysburg: A Study in Command. Coddington’s work has stood the test of time. It remains the most recommended single volume on the campaign by Gettysburg park rangers and battlefield guides. While Coddington produced a thorough study of the campaign and battle, his coverage of the retreat is thin at best. The reason is that Dr. Coddington was dying of cancer when he wrote the final part of the book. Although it contains much useful data and insights—particularly on Federal commander George G. Meade’s generalship during this period—it lacks the depth found in other parts of his book.

Other writers have attempted to address the retreat from Gettysburg. One of the first modern Civil War writers to devote a book to the subject was John W. Schildt. The author of numerous books on Antietam and Gettysburg, Schildt’s Roads from Gettysburg appeared in 1979 and was reissued in a revised edition in 1999. It is a good read with anecdotal references from diaries and regimental histories. These sources, combined with a stirring narrative, offer readers a good sense of what the retreat was like for the common soldier. However, Schildt’s book is short on analysis and context, which makes it difficult to figure out the big picture scenario of what was transpiring on the way back to Virginia.

In 1986, prolific Civil War author Edward G. Longacre published The Cavalry at Gettysburg: A Tactical Study of Mounted Operations during the Civil War War’s Pivotal Campaign, 9 June –14 July, 1863. This award-winning and solidly researched and detailed study was well received by students of the war, but its weakest coverage was the retreat from the battlefield. Certain accounts of the retreat, particularly dealing with the routes to the Potomac River, appear to have confused Longacre. He is in good company on that score.

I believe that some of the confusion concerning the retreat routes from Gettysburg stems from the maps and text found in The West Point Atlas of the Civil War. On one of the maps, the wagon train of wounded protected by Confederate cavalry under John Imboden winds its way to Chambersburg and then south to Hagerstown via Greencastle. Other maps show the train leaving the Chambersburg Pike to head to Waynesboro, and then to Greencastle and Hagerstown. Nearly every historian has continued to use these erroneous routes in their writings. Imboden’s own story of the wagon train, published in several postwar magazine articles, as well as numerous eyewitness civilian accounts, confirm the cross-country trek taken through Franklin County, Pennsylvania. I traced the route in my automobile more than two decades ago using old county maps as my guide. Relic hunters at different points along the way have uncovered an array of abandoned artifacts, including bullets, artillery shells, personal items, and more. These finds help confirm the actual path traversed by Imboden’s train.

I would be remiss if I did not mention a few other Retreatistas out there seeking the truth as they see it regarding this neglected subject. In 1999, I had the honor to be the guest editor of a special edition of North and South Magazine entitled The Retreat From Gettysburg. Eric Wittenberg contributed a splendid piece on the Battle of Monterey Pass and two other hardcore Retreatistas, Steve French and Kent Masterson Brown, also contributed to this issue. Steve, one of the leading gurus on Confederate cavalryman John Imboden and the wagon train of wounded, wrote on that subject. Kent did a solid piece of work on General Lee’s defenses at Falling Waters. In 2005, Kent published Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics and the Pennsylvania Campaign, one of the finest logistical studies ever written.

Now, let me turn to Wittenberg and his company of Retreatistas, J. David Petruzzi and Michael F. Nugent, and their book One Continuous Fight: The Retreat From Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4–14, 1863. I have known Eric as a fellow Civil Warrior, colleague, and a good friend for more than a dozen years, and am well aware of the outstanding reputation of both J. D. and Mike. Together, they utilized the scholarship of the people mentioned above and, more importantly, trekked the back roads with me many times to obtain a firm grasp of the terrain over which the armies maneuvered. To their credit, they also went above and beyond the call, rooting out obscure sources others have missed or ignored. Many of them have never been used in any capacity. It is fair to say that this merry band of Retreatistas has combed the countryside more thoroughly than Albert Jenkins’ cavalry to bring their readers scores of previously unpublished soldier accounts of the retreat and extensive fighting encompassed within it.

I opened this Foreword by mentioning familiar names associated with the Gettysburg campaign, such as Brandy Station and Second Winchester. There is also a familiar name associated with the retreat from Gettysburg: Falling Waters. What most students of the Civil War in general, and even Gettysburg in particular, don’t know is that there were more than twenty separate combats during the retreat to the Potomac River—in addition to the widely mentioned battle at Falling Waters. One Continuous Fight—deeply researched, wonderfully written, and perfectly titled—covers each of these nearly two-dozen combats in meticulous detail. In addition to what is probably the best account of Falling Waters written to date, the efforts of Wittenberg, Petruzzi, and Nugent elevate the actions at Hagerstown, Williamsport, Funkstown, Boonsboro, to the status they have long deserved. They prove conclusively that the old saw who ever saw a dead cavalryman? was a lie. One of the most interesting segments of One Continuous Fight carries readers into Monterey Pass, where a Medal of Honor was earned. Excepting Gettysburg, the heretofore largely ignored fight was likely the largest and bloodiest Civil War action in Pennsylvania.

The long, exhausting, and bloody retreat proved to be a watershed event for the horse soldiers of both sides. Up until that time, the Union cavalry had frequently been misused as an escort for supply trains and for other miscellaneous duties. At Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, the Union troopers proved they could fight spur-to-spur with Jeb Stuart’s Confederate horsemen. The blue horse soldiers were relentless in their pursuit of the Confederates following their defeat at Gettysburg. Indeed, the strike forces of Judson Kilpatrick, John Buford, and David Gregg, sent forth by General George Meade, refused to allow Lee’s retreating columns any time to rest and reorganize. For example, at Falling Waters, Union cavalry nearly checkmated Lee’s crossing of the Potomac, capturing more than 1,500 Southern infantry and mortally wounding a division commander, Brigadier General J. Johnston Pettigrew.

From June 15 – July 14, Stuart’s cavalry rode farther and fought more individual actions than any other command in the Army of Northern Virginia. For more than a week following the battle of Gettysburg, these same horsemen bore the brunt of combat with their Federal counterparts. While casualty figures are inconclusive for this period, Stuart’s cavalry probably lost some 1,000 men killed, wounded, and captured. Hundreds more straggled behind on foot because their horses had worn out. The fighting and hard riding whittled down many commands to the bare bone. Brigadier General Beverly Robertson’s brigade, for example, began the campaign with some 900 men; fewer than 300 mounted men crossed the Potomac River on July 14.

Like the historic retreat itself, One Continuous Fight boasts surprises of its own. Included within these pages is a large amount of vivid firsthand accounts gleaned from letters and diaries. These exciting eyewitness testimonies illuminate and bring to life the momentous events that unfolded along the roads leading away from Gettysburg. Like all Savas Beatie military titles, this one includes good maps and lots of them. They are critical for understanding the tactical details and wide maneuvering of the two armies.

Continuing and improving upon the tour included in the back of their earlier and related book Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg (Savas Beatie, 2006), Wittenberg, Petruzzi, and Nugent offer a detailed driving and walking tour section that includes one for the retreat, and another for the route of the wagon train of wounded. The icing on the cake is the inclusion of GPS coordinates! These tours alone are worth the price of this book. Be prepared to drive off of the beaten path to places most Civil War students have never seen, let alone visited. Ride with George Custer’s Wolverines up Monterey Pass and examine at Smithsburg evidence of the accidental damage wrought by Stuart’s Horse Artillery on July 5, 1863. Walk the streets of Hagerstown with this tour in hand, and you will immediately be reminded that this was an urban battlefield where combat devolved into small unit firefights (not unlike what we heard about in our own day at places such as Hue City or Fallujah). Discover on the edge of Funkstown a stone barn surrounded by a stone wall. How many people know that elements of Jenkins’ cavalry held off Buford’s Yankee troopers there? View barns and farmhouses that bear no markers or monuments, but stand today as mute witness to events such as the mortal wounding of General Pettigrew. Stand at Williamsport on the Potomac shore and read how Richard Ewell’s Third Corps made the tedious crossing back into Virginia. Follow Imboden’s wagon train of misery through the Pennsylvania countryside, much of which remains unchanged since the days of the Civil War. These are but a few of the delightful gems awaiting you.

One Continuous Fight: The Retreat From Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 is one of the most original, most deeply researched, and most scholarly works to come out on the Civil War in many years. With it, Civil Warriors can finally make some sense out of the tangled series of events that occurred during the ten fateful days following the battle of Gettysburg.

Ted Alexander (El Jefe de Retreatistas)

Chief Historian, Antietam National Battlefield

November 2007


THE CHRONICLES OF CONFEDERATE General Robert E. Lee versus the Army of the Potomac’s commander de jour are filled with dramatic encounters that dominate military histories of the Civil War: Lee versus McClellan, Lee versus Burnside, Lee versus Hooker, Lee versus Meade, and Lee versus Grant. For most students of the conflict, even those with more than a passing interest in the subject, Lee versus Meade means Gettysburg, period. Yet Meade faced Lee on his own hook for nearly nine months—much of it involving active campaigning. Perhaps because the end results were unspectacular, or because they fall between the high points of Gettysburg and Ulysses S. Grant’s ascension to overall command, the full Lee versus Meade story has not received the attention it deserves.

There is much to recommend a closer inspection of the military actions in the East immediately after Gettysburg to the start of what became known as the Overland Campaign. Both Lee and Meade faced intense political pressure from their respective capitals and both played a wary, careful game, less willing to risk losing than to gamble everything on winning. Both were impotent onlookers as substantial portions of their armies were taken from them and moved across the chessboards of war to operations in the West, where opportunities for major victory seemed greater. Tragically, each suffered personal blows during this period: Lee the death of his daughter-in-law Charlotte, and Meade the news of a turn for the worse in the health of his son John Sergeant.

Interestingly, each man was moved by a mix of personal motives and professional vexations to proffer their resignation, and in each case the request was refused by their respective commander-in-chief. It is my strong suspicion that were each asked to look back at their actions and decisions during this period, the words lost opportunities would figure prominently in their individual self-evaluations.

When it came to handling the often touchy relations with the central government, Robert E. Lee was far more practiced than George G. Meade. By this point in the war Lee had become a master at outlining a course of action that was specific enough to obtain the necessary bureaucratic backing but vague enough to allow him maximum flexibility of action once underway. While this provided Lee with great freedom of maneuver, it also led to serious misunderstandings. For example: Lee always claimed than an important part of his pre- Gettysburg strategy included the establishment of a phantom army corps under P. G. T. Beauregard close enough to Washington to draw to it some of the forces that would otherwise be arrayed against him. Jefferson Davis, whose role it was to implement this plan, was equally adamant that it never existed. Lee was also able to remain aloof from any public scrutiny of his performance. When Davis sent him a clipping from the Charleston Mercury that was highly critical of Lee’s handling of the Gettysburg campaign, the general refused to answer in kind, stating that to take notice of such attacks would I think do more harm than good and would be just what is desired.¹

George Meade, on the other hand, was facing the rough and tumble of the political and media spotlight for the first time. He was uncomfortable around correspondents and suspicious of their motives. The mis-reporting of one of them so offended Meade that, at the end of 1864’s Overland Campaign, he had the individual publicly ejected from the army’s camps. Perhaps the most emblematic image of Meade’s political discomfort is that of him in March, 1864, testifying for three hours in a Capital basement hearing room before an unfriendly U.S. Senator (representing the Committee on the Conduct of the War) concerning the combat decisions he had made—starting with Gettysburg. Throughout his testimony one senses the soul of a fighter caught in the headlights of politics and shifting priorities. His comments regarding the ultimately ineffectual sparring with Robert E. Lee that he had directed through the summer and fall of 1863 are peppered with hints at an aggressiveness not translated into actions: Every disposition was made for the battle …. which I believed or hoped would take place, My desire was to give battle to General Lee, It not being my desire to avoid a battle, except to avoid it on his terms.²

The marching and scrapping that Lee and Meade engaged in between August 1 and November 30, 1863, was not a matter of small skirmishes. Mounted brigades backed by infantry clashed on August 1 near Brandy Station in a reconnaissance that cost Hampton’s Carolina-Georgia cavalry brigade nearly half its strength. On October 14, an overeager effort by Lieutenant General A. P. Hill to snag the trailing corps of Meade’s withdrawal into Washington’s defenses resulted in a debacle at Bristoe Station, where waves of valiant Confederates hurled themselves unsuccessfully against an unbending Union entrenched line resulting in thousands of irreplaceable Rebel casualties.

Less than a month later, on November 7, two poorly positioned Southern brigades were pinned against the river at Rappahannock Station, adding another 2,000 to Lee’s losses. Lest it seem that Meade was playing the better hand, there followed events in late November when his all-out effort to break up Lee’s reduced army came to naught at Mine Run. Capping this period of military activity was Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick’s ill-starred Richmond raid, a badly bungled operation that Meade termed a pretty ugly piece of business.³

The end of the Lee versus Meade period saw both men worn by the travails of their encounters and mentally preparing for a potentially decisive spring campaign. This time is coming, indeed has come, when everyone must put out their strength, Lee wrote his son Custis in late March, 1864.⁴ Tomorrow we move, Meade told his wife on May 3. I hope and trust we will be successful, and so decidedly successful as to bring about a termination of this war.

Scrolling back to the top of this little studied but fascinating period, we find Lee and Meade after Gettysburg trying to divine each other’s intentions and move their battered pieces of war in the most effective ways possible. War, however, is not a board game. Also in the mix are the effects of bad weather, the vagaries of differing personalities, and the simple limits of flesh and blood. The full story of the opening gambits of Lee versus Meade after Gettysburg is the subject of this book. Authors Eric J. Wittenberg, J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent have brought together an impressive array of primary materials, so that much of the action unfolds in the words of those who were there.

The driving tours accompanying the narrative add an important extra dimension. History is not an armchair pastime, and following in the footsteps of the armies provides wonderful opportunities for a personal linking of yesterday with the present. It opens the way to a vicarious appreciation of how everyday people passed through one of the seminal events in the making of the United States. To stand where they stood, to see something of what they saw, adds immeasurable value to the weight of their words and memories. The authors of this book have taken the time and care to get the story right and the tour directions correct; I encourage you to take full advantage of both.

Noah Andre Trudeau

Washington, D. C.


In advancing he cannot be resisted because he bursts through the enemy’s weak points; In withdrawing he cannot be pursued because, being so quick, he cannot be caught.

—Sun-Tzu, The Art of Warfare¹

THERE IS NO BATTLE OF the American Civil War that has been more deeply studied, written about, or debated than that which took place in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, during three sultry summer days in July 1863. Each year, nearly two million people visit the fields, ridges, and hills surrounding the town, a veritable sculpture garden of monuments placed lovingly by veterans and state governments to mark this or that portion of earth emblazoned on their individual and collective memories. A dedicated minority of visitors walk the lesser-seen areas of the battlefield, while most elect to stay on the National Park roads and leave their vehicle only long enough to stand at places made famous in Gettysburg lore—Little Round Top, The High Water Mark, Devil’s Den.

The guest of the aura of the Gettysburg battlefield, however, sees only one portion of the grand operation known collectively as The Gettysburg Campaign. Dozens of small skirmishes and several all-out brawls erupted between elements of the two armies both during their advance into Pennsylvania and the subsequent withdrawal from its bloody fields. As the eyes and ears of the armies, subsisting and maneuvering in that deadly no-man’s land between them, the cavalries of both sides bore the brunt of the fighting during the advance and retreat. For many of those troopers, whether they wore blue or gray, the days following the great battle unveiled some of the most arduous contests they had seen since the war began two summers prior.

Until recently, the subject of the Retreat from Gettysburg claimed very little attention compared to the main battle except for some worthy magazine articles here and there. In 2005, Kent Masterson Brown’s seminal work Retreat From Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, & the Pennsylvania Campaign (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2005) was released to wide acclaim. Finally, the logistical nightmare of the Army of Northern Virginia’s withdrawal of its men, equipment, and wounded from the battlefield received its due.

So how does the book you hold in your hands differ from Brown’s? Whereas Brown’s book masterfully details and highlights the complex logistical aspects of the Retreat, the main subject of this book concerns the fights and skirmishes, both large and small, that erupted as predator chased still-dangerous prey back to and across the Potomac River. With a combined forty-plus years of studying those ten days following the Gettysburg carnage, we had uncovered scores of new untapped resources that much more fully told the stories of the men whose fighting was not nearly finished. It is our humble belief that the combination of these two books gives the reader the full story of the Retreat, with each providing its own specialty of purpose.

During the retreat, it was the Confederate cavalry’s mission to screen the Southern army’s routes of march, secure mountain passes, escort the miles-long wagon train of wounded, and fend off attacks from their counterparts. Before the Potomac River and relative safety could be reached, it was the Union cavalry’s duty to break them. Both sides were tenacious in their often-detached and deadly work out in the no-man’s land, leading the 13th Virginia Cavalry’s surgeon to write from Hagerstown on July 12, I have seen very little of the cavalry on this trip. They have always been in advance or on the right or left …. Our men …. feel confident of giving the Yankees a whipping if they come up to them.²

For most of the troopers of either side, many veterans after two full years of bloody struggle in war-ravaged Virginia, a horrid autumn day of massive casualties at Antietam, and finally ponderous assaults that strew their dead upon the broken land and village streets of south-central Pennsylvania, such whippings were expected. It was one continuous fight, reported an exhausted Private L. T. Dickinson of Company A of the 1st Maryland (C.S.A.) Cavalry, of the long march from Gettysburg, and even after that, for we had skirmishes every day.³

The names of the places of these fights along the routes of retreat are not nearly as famous as those storied landmarks of the Gettysburg battlefield, but they too yearn to be visited and studied. Their names would ring loud in the memories of the soldiers who clashed with their aggressors there – the Monterey Pass, Raven Rock Road, Hagerstown, Funkstown, Boonsboro, Falling Waters, and Williamsport. For Captain John W. Phillips of the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry, the scraps leading up to and following the main battle were the defining contests: "While the Battle of Gettysburg ended, as the shadows of night fell on that memorable day [July 3], to the main body of Meade’s Army, to the Cavalry Corps, it did not end. As for the days and weeks preceding, so for days and weeks succeeding, with the cavalry, that which was really the Gettysburg contest went on."

The Gettysburg Campaign began in June 1863 with the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia staring at each other across the Rappahannock River. On June 9, 12,000 Union cavalrymen and 3,000 infantrymen splashed across the Rappahannock and lit into Jeb Stuart’s cavalry in the fields around Brandy Station. A fourteen-hour slugging match ensued that still stands as the greatest cavalry battle in the history of North America. However, for all its majesty and glory, Brandy Station only delayed the advance of Robert E. Lee’s army by one day. By July 31, the armies had returned to the same positions from which they had commenced the campaign eight weeks earlier. As a book end to the great battle, another day-long cavalry battle raged over the hills and fields at Brandy Station on August 1.

Most studies of the Gettysburg Campaign end with Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia crossing the Potomac River on July 14. However, it took the armies another two weeks to reach their original starting positions along the Rappahannock, two weeks of hard marching and severe fighting. More telling is that most of the official reports of the campaign extended all the way to the return to the Rappahannock, meaning that the participants did not believe that the campaign ended with the crossing of the Potomac. Although the detailed tactical narrative contained in this book ends with Lee’s crossing the Potomac, an Epilogue provides an overview of the fighting that took place between July 14th and the 31st. In that way, the story of the Gettysburg Campaign is completed.

Follow along with us as we recount the exploits of, primarily, the horsemen of North and South, as well as the infantry and artillerymen, down the routes of retreat from Gettysburg. Wherever possible, we have allowed the soldiers themselves to tell you their own story in their own words. Our narration is intended solely to link together their memories of the nearly two-dozen important engagements and skirmishes of the retreat and clarify the strategic value of each major and minor contest along the way. The concluding chapter explores George Meade’s decision not to attack Robert E. Lee’s fortified positions near Williamsport, as well as the fallout of that resolve. Finally, driving tours of both the main retreat route and the route of the Wagon Train of Wounded are included, featuring detailed examinations of the landscapes of these engagements, giving the reader the most important ingredient of all to understanding how and why battles took shape as they did: the terrain. One cannot come to a true understanding of these engagements without first examining the ground itself, nor can one begin to question their logic and form an opinion about the merit (or lack thereof) of each without absorbing the invaluable lessons proffered by the landscape itself.

Readers should take note that the retreat encompassed a swirling, and often confusing, series of marches, skirmishing, and larger engagements. Several actions took place in different areas simultaneously—in addition to the constant movements of many different columns from each army through Pennsylvania and Maryland. In an effort to avoid confusion, in a few instances we have devoted complete chapters to distinct battles and major skirmishes. Throughout the narrative we have endeavored to include sufficient commentary to keep readers on track when different events over two or more chapters occur concurrently, and have included the main date under discussion in each chapter title. Even the driving tours in the back of this book could not be laid out entirely chronologically. Hopefully, all of this will serve as a poignant lesson about just how wide-ranging, disconnected, and uncoordinated the movements and fights (however large or small) were during the retreat from Gettysburg.

Whether the ancient Sun-Tzu envisioned the tactical mind embodied in the persona of a Robert E. Lee or Jeb Stuart while penning his lines is impossible to determine; what is abundantly clear, however, is that the Gray Fox and the Beau Sabreur skillfully earned their monikers as they maneuvered their army out of the Keystone State and onto familiar soil after the martial butchery at Gettysburg. Likewise clear is that those in command of the bluecoats did their utmost to catch them.

Upon no one does more praise belong than the common soldier himself, regardless of the color coat he wore. Here for the first time in so many of their own words ringing loud with the horror of battle, the monotony of inactivity, and the anxiety of impending doom, is their story.


As with every project of this magnitude, there are many people to thank. To prepare this book for publication, we spent countless hours retracing the steps of the armies along the retreat route and discussing the subject with many folks over the years, and if we omit someone, please know that it is unintentional.

First and foremost, we thank Ted Alexander, the chief historian at the Antietam National Battlefield. Ted grew up and lives along the retreat route, and is one of the leading scholars of the topic. He is always eager and willing to share his knowledge with students. The driving tours herein are based on tours developed by Ted over the years. Ted also accompanied us along the way and shared many of those obscure details and tidbits that add so much to such a story. We were constantly amazed and educated as he pointed out those countless points of interest along the way. He also reviewed the manuscript for us, and graciously wrote the Foreword. We are honored to be counted among Ted’s Merry Band of Retreatistas, and we can’t thank him enough for all he has done to help us.

D. Scott Hartwig, chief historian at the Gettysburg National Military Park and another scholar of the Retreat, reviewed the manuscript for us. Jeffry D. Wert and Noah Andre (Andy) Trudeau, well-known Civil War historians and authors of fine works of their own on the Battle of Gettysburg, also read through our work, and we are grateful to each of these gentlemen. Ed Coleman drew the fine maps for this book that so indispensably complete the story, and we appreciate his diligence in charting the movements of the armies as they headed for their date with destiny along the banks of the Potomac River.

Dave and Carol Moore generously allowed us to use their lovely home on Herr’s Ridge in Gettysburg as our base of operations, which we have long appreciated. Their hospitality and support over the years for our various projects is treasured beyond words. Friends and fellow Gettysburg students Steve Basic, Duane Siskey, Stan O’Donnell, Karl Fauser and Ilona Douglas accompanied us as we drove the highways and back roads of the Retreat routes, offering helpful suggestions and ideas that have made this a much better book. Dimitri Rotov gave us some excellent suggestions to tighten up the analysis set forth in this book’s conclusion, and we greatly appreciate his input. Bryce A. Suderow assisted with the research, as did Steve L. Zerbe and Tonia J. Teej Smith. Henry E. Persons, Jr. provided us with some very useful material on the role of the Georgia infantry at the July 10, 1863 Battle of Funkstown. Jennifer Goellnitz of Cleveland, Ohio, who is the authority on all things related to A. P. Hill, kindly shared her store of material on Hill’s role during the retreat with us. We deeply appreciate their assistance in tracking down those obscure and previously unused sources.

Dean Shultz is truly The Dean of all things Gettysburg. Dean has forgotten more details than most of us will ever know, and has mapped just about every square inch of soil touched by the Gettysburg Campaign. He accompanied us on drives of the retreat routes and gave us the benefit of his vast store of knowledge about people, places, and events. We thank him for always being there when we need him, for the many conversations throughout the years, and he and his wife Judy for their hospitality at their period home.

Our thanks and appreciation is also extended to several owners of war-time homes along the retreat routes. When approached without prior warning by a group of strangers, they graciously took us in, gave us tours of their properties, and passed on local stories regarding the campaign that simply cannot be found in any book (until now!). Jack and Kristen Holden own the well-preserved Baker Farm near Funkstown, Maryland, which was the headquarters of Federal Brig. Gen. John Buford during the Second Battle of Funkstown. They gave us a tour of their home and period barns, and allowed us to walk the property to get a rare glimpse of that part of the battlefield. Joyce L. Horst, a descendant of Michael Hege, lives next to the Hege Farm home along what was known as the old Pine Stump Road near Marion, Pennsylvania. Joyce is the family historian and graciously shared with us her collection of family papers relating to the war. Michael Hege was a victim of Confederate depredations during both the advance and retreat of Lee’s army, and left a detailed letter describing his experiences. Joyce gave us copies of the papers, and the letter is quoted herein for the very first time. Joyce’s brother Charles Morton owns the Michael Hege home, and we are grateful to both of them for passing on their family’s stories and for allowing us to examine the beautiful Hege property.

We also express appreciation to George Franks, owner of the Donnelly farm along Falling Waters Road where Confederate General James J. Pettigrew met the cavalryman’s bullet that soon ended his life. George is an avid student of the Retreat, and an untiring and valuable coordinator of efforts to publicize the story of the Retreat and save pertinent sites. George was enthusiastic about this project and gave us very useful information about his property. Our thanks are due to Robert Grandchamp of Warwick, Rhode Island, for pointing us to sources regarding the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery that proved very useful.

We are likewise grateful to several folks of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, who passed on valuable local history to us concerning the interesting story of the mortally wounded Lt. Col. Benjamin F. Carter of the 4th Texas Infantry. Carter was taken from a private home along the retreat route to the Zion Reformed Church in Chambersburg for care, as recounted in Chapter 1. Pastor Jeffrey Diller of the church pointed out to us that Carter had previously cared for the stepson of the pastor at the time, upon the son’s mortal wounding in August 1862, and Carter also allowed Capt. Mark Kerns to be buried on the battlefield in Carter’s own coat. The story comes full circle when Carter was cared for by the mother at the church in Chambersburg in late July 1863, only days before his own death at the Academy Hospital. We thank Pastor Diller for helping us add this poignant human touch to a story so often full of pain and suffering. F. Joan Bowen, the Historian and Chairperson of Records and History of the First United Methodist Church, did a great deal of digging for us to try to solve the mystery of where Carter’s remains were interred. A footnote in Chapter 1 reveals the details known today, and we thank Joan for her assistance. Larry Chalmer of the Franklin County Historical Society copied the Society’s file on Carter for us, and we are grateful for his generous assistance.

We owe an enormous debt to Theodore P. Savas, managing director of our publisher Savas Beatie LLC. Ted is every writer’s dream, an endlessly patient mentor who stays with a project every step of the way, as he did with the companion volume Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg (2006) by Wittenberg and Petruzzi. Ted allowed us a wide berth in determining the scope of this project and through his masterful editing, helped make a good story a fascinating one. We still owe him an expensive steak dinner. Thank you, Ted, for your friendship and guidance over the years.

Finally, we owe our respective spouses—Susan Wittenberg, Karen Petruzzi, and Diane Nugent—a debt that cannot be repaid. They generously allowed us countless hours of research and writing, as well as many days away from home to visit these sites so that we can fully and properly honor the memories of the men who fought, suffered, and died during these ten crucial days. Then, they tolerated even more hours as we sat in front of our computers and discussed the project endlessly on the phone. This project could not have been begun, worked, or completed without the love and support of these wonderful ladies.

Eric J. Wittenberg

Columbus, Ohio

J. David Petruzzi

Brockway, Pennsylvania

Michael F. Nugent

Wells, Maine

Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, commander, Army of the Potomac.


Gen. Robert E. Lee, commander, Army of Northern Virginia.


Chapter 1

A Vast Sea of Misery: The Wagon Train of Wounded

As many of our poor wounded as possible must be taken home.

— Robert E. Lee

THREE DAYS OF COMBAT AT Gettysburg decimated Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Confederate losses were at least 4,637 killed, 12,391 wounded and 5,161 missing.¹ The enormous task of safely evacuating the ambulatory from the field fell upon Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden. Fortunately for the Confederates, Imboden rose to the occasion and turned in his finest performance of the war during the ordeal that followed.

John Daniel Imboden was born forty years earlier near Staunton, Virginia. He attended, but did not graduate from, Washington College in Lexington (today Washington & Lee University). Imboden taught for a time at the Virginia Institute for the Education of the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind in Staunton, studied law, practiced in Staunton, and was twice elected as a representative to the Virginia Legislature.² He won acclaim as the commander of the Staunton Artillery at Harpers Ferry, and was wounded at First Manassas in July 1861. The following year, Imboden resigned from the artillery to raise companies of partisan rangers. He fought at Cross Keys and Port Republic during Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign.

In January 1863, Imboden received a promotion to brigadier general. His 1st Virginia Partisan Rangers reorganized into two regular cavalry regiments, the 18th Virginia Cavalry and the 62nd Virginia Mounted Infantry, and a battery of horse artillery. However, Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown Jeb Stuart, the Army of Northern Virginia’s cavalry division chief, was not fond of Imboden, so his command was not made part of the regular mounted forces of the army.

Because of Stuart’s animus, Imboden’s independent Northwestern Brigade received orders directly from General Lee. Imboden and Brig. Gen. William E. Grumble Jones led what came to be known as the Jones- Imboden Raid, a mounted strike into northwestern Virginia during April and May 1863. The raid captured thousands of horses and cattle for the Confederacy and severed the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.³ During the Gettysburg campaign, Imboden’s command included the 18th Virginia Cavalry, led by his brother Col. George H. Imboden; the 62nd Virginia Mounted Infantry under Col. George H. Smith; the Virginia Partisan Rangers under Capt. John H. Hanse McNeill; and the Staunton Horse Artillery, Virginia Battery, under Capt. James H. McClanahan—in all, some 2,245 troopers.⁴

Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden, Commander, Northwestern Brigade.


Once it became apparent the battle of Gettysburg had ended, Imboden was summoned to army headquarters at 1:00 a.m. on July 4. A weary General Lee arrived, dismounted, and leaned against his horse, Imboden recalled, The moon shone full upon his massive features and revealed an expression of sadness that I had never before seen upon his face. Awed by his appearance, I waited for him to speak until the silence became embarrassing.⁵ Imboden broke the silence. General, he exclaimed, this has been a hard day on you.

Yes, it has been a sad, sad day to us, replied Lee. He praised the performance of Pickett’s Virginians during the infantry assault of the previous day, and then added mournfully, "Too bad! Too bad! Oh! Too bad!"

Lee’s headquarters tent and those of his staff were staked among the fruit trees of an orchard on the south side of the Chambersburg pike west of Seminary Ridge.⁷ Lee motioned Imboden into his tent, where the tired commander seated himself and explained the situation. We must now return to Virginia, observed Lee. As many of our poor wounded as possible must be taken home. Lee continued:

I have sent for you because your men and horses are fresh and in good condition, to guard and conduct our train back to Virginia. The duty will be arduous, responsible and dangerous, for I am afraid you will be harassed by the enemy’s cavalry. Nearly all the transportation and care of all the wounded will be entrusted to you. You will cross the mountain by the Chambersburg road, and then proceed to Williamsport by any route you deem best, and without a halt till you reach the river. Rest there long enough to feed your animals; then ford the river, and do not halt again till you reach Winchester, where I will again communicate with you.

I will place in your hands by a staff officer, tomorrow morning, a sealed package for President Davis, which you are to retain in your possession till you are across the Potomac, when you will detail a reliable commissioned officer to take it to Richmond with all possible dispatch and deliver it into the President’s own hands. And I impose upon you that whatever happens, this package must not fall into the hands of the enemy. If unfortunately you should be captured, destroy it at the first opportunity.

The next morning, a staff officer delivered Imboden’s written orders and a large envelope addressed to Davis.¹⁰ The success of the route of retreat would hinge upon speedy movement and security for the wagon train. Lee impressed upon Imboden that there should be no halt [along the way] for any cause whatever. Lee’s staff prepared a detailed evacuation plan and provided Imboden with specific direction:

[I]n turning off at Greenwood have your scouts out [to the right] on the Chambersburg road … also keep scouts out on your left toward Waynesborough. From Greencastle … send a scouting party through Hagerstown, and hold that place until the train shall have crossed the river. At the river … [send] out your scouts toward Hagerstown, Boonsborough, etc., … I need not caution you as to … secrecy of your movements, promptness and energy, and increasing vigilance on the part of yourself and officers.¹¹

With his orders in place, Imboden set about preparing for the heavy task that lay ahead of him.

Assembling the Wagon Train

The shortest route to Hagerstown, Maryland, was via Fairfield and the Monterey Pass above it. Unfortunately for Imboden and his already sizeable task, the Monterey Pass was steep, very narrow, and the road wound in a series of sharp turns. Lee knew that Union soldiers were operating in the area. If the enemy cavalry choked off this route, the consequences for the withdrawal would be devastating. Therefore, Lee decided to send the main army by the Fairfield route.

Imboden’s wagon train would have to take a cross-country route. It would move west along the Chambersburg Pike through the Cashtown Pass, turn south at Greenwood and proceed on to Marion, pass south through Greencastle and into Williamsport. This route was less likely to be blocked or otherwise impeded, but it too was fraught with peril. The trip would be longer, and there would be more opportunities for Union soldiers to play havoc with the long column.

Confederate preparations for the retreat did not go unnoticed by the town’s citizens. On edge after three interminably long days, even the slightest movement grabbed attention. Teenager Daniel A. Skelly and his family had been caught squarely in the middle of the exciting scenes in town over the course of the battle. As an old man, Skelly reflected on the night of July 3. He had tried to go to sleep in his West Middle Street home, but was restless, and was unable to sleep soundly. About midnight I was awakened by a commotion down in the street, he recalled. Getting up I went to the window and saw Confederate officers passing through the lines of the Confederate soldiers bivouacked on the pavement below, telling them to get up quietly and fall back. Very soon the whole line disappeared. As Skelly remembered it, "we had to remain quietly in our homes for we did not know what it meant. I went back to bed but was unable to sleep.¹²

The task of assembling hundreds of wagons and ambulances and carefully loading the wounded began in the early morning hours. Imboden realized quickly that the train would not get underway until late in the day. Regimental and brigade surgeons and their staffs had to compile lists of the wounded, and physically gathering and loading all those who could be moved into the wagons was a monumental task. Across all units, every able-bodied soul—including band members, black servants, and drummer boys—were conscripted to gather the fallen and load them into the vehicles.¹³

Additional artillery, twenty-three pieces in all, arrived as did Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry brigade, which had been ordered to cover the rear of the train. By noon on July 4, a torrential downpour blanketed South Mountain, adding to Imboden’s troubles and the agony of the wounded men.¹⁴ Imboden was fully cognizant of the crushing responsibility General Lee had placed on his shoulders. And per Lee’s instructions, Imboden resolved that once the train started, it would not halt until it reached its destination—even if that meant that disabled wagons had to be abandoned along the way.¹⁵

With the rain still pouring in sheets, soaking everything and turning roads into muddy gruel, the wagon train began moving toward Chambersburg at about 4:00 p.m. Luther Hopkins, a trooper of the 6th Virginia Cavalry, was resting on the ground while allowing his horse to graze along the Chambersburg Road when he heard a low rumbling sound … resembling distant thunder, except that it was continuous. Hopkins and a few of his comrades wondered what it was. They soon found out. A number of us rose to our feet and saw a long line of wagons with their white covers moving … along the Chambersburg Road…. The wagons going back over the same road that had brought us to Gettysburg told the story, and soon the whole army knew that fact. This was the first time Lee’s army had ever met defeat.¹⁶ The wagon train presented quite a sight. It was the longest wagon train I ever saw, recalled another Southerner, some said it was 27 to 30 miles long.¹⁷ A band member of J. Johnston Pettigrew’s Brigade saw it as a motley procession of wagons, ambulances, wounded men on foot, straggling soldiers and band boys, splashing along in the mud, weary, sad and discouraged.¹⁸

Imboden directed the operation from Cashtown. Detachments of guns and troops were inserted into the column at intervals of one-quarter to one-third of a mile.¹⁹ By the time the last wagons had joined the grim procession from Cashtown the following morning, the train stretched more than seventeen miles.²⁰

Stuart’s cavalry division had hundreds of unserviceable mounts that had broken down at Gettysburg due to the fighting and hard riding. They had been corralled together, and those that could be taken along with the army were placed in an enormous column in the road, constituting, as one of Stuart’s troopers recalled, a grand cortege of limping horses after the wagon train. As the wagon wheels churned up the muddy roads in the monsoonal rains, the poor lame beasts had a progressively harder time keeping up. Those that couldn’t were left where they fell.²¹

Most of the wagons were of the Conestoga style, so named for the Pennsylvania valley in which they were built and perfected. Typically about eighteen feet long, most of the wagons had been built for rolling stock, and so able to hold six barrels of supplies in two rows of three each. They had no springs to cushion the forty-mile ride ahead. They also offered little or no protection from the downpour.²² Pvt. Robert James Lowry of Co. G, 3rd Arkansas Infantry, felt compassion for the plight of his comrades—especially since his brother, Sgt. John F. Lowry, was among the wounded. Scarcely one in a hundred had received adequate medical care and most had not eaten in 36 hours, Lowry explained. The wagons did not have springs and the wounded lay on the bare boards.²³

The rain fell in blinding sheets; the meadows were soon overflowed and fences gave way before the raging streams, wrote Imboden. During the storm, wagons, ambulances, and artillery carriages by hundreds—nay, by thousands—were assembling in the fields along the road from Gettysburg to Cashtown, in one confused and apparently inextricable mass. As the afternoon wore on there was no abatement in the storm. Canvas was no protection against its fury, and the wounded men lying upon the naked boards of the wagon-bodies were drenched.²⁴ The sounds of the tempest nearly drowned out the agonized cries of the wounded. Horses and mules were blinded and maddened by the wind and water, and became almost unmanageable, continued the cavalry leader. The deafening roar of the mingled sounds of heaven and earth all around us made it almost impossible to communicate orders, and equally difficult to execute them.²⁵

Lt. Randolph A. Shotwell of the 8th Virginia Infantry left a vivid description of the journey of the wagon train of wounded:

Soon the difficulty of the road, which was narrow and rocky, added to the drenching rain, and the bottomless mud, caused the trains to become crowded, and embarrassed, filling the highways and rendering the movements of the footmen, i.e., the prisoners and their guards exceedingly wearisome. Wagons, ambulances, artillery, cavalry, stragglers, wounded soldiers, Yankees, and guards were irretrievably mixed, and the continued succession of momentary halts, to be followed by a rapid trot of a 100 yards, and then another halt, resulting from the breaking down of wagons, or difficulty in passing mud holes, were so inconceivably vexatious, and fatiguing that I have often wondered why all the prisoners did not escape for the guards became almost indifferent, especially in the confusion after dark, when the crowded trains were painfully toiling up the winding pass at Cashtown. Doubtless more of the prisoners would have escaped had they not been too near to physical and mental exhaustion.²⁶

Signs of the Southern withdrawal provided enormous relief to Gettysburg’s citizens. Fannie Buehler lived on Baltimore Street, and had had a trying time since July 1, taking care of the wounded of both sides in her home. Like most civilians, she got little rest on the night of July 3 and heard the same commotion Daniel Skelly had about midnight. ‘Our Boys’ suspected the enemy was beaten from some little things they heard, she wrote, and believed they were preparing for retreat from what they saw; consequently they kept a close watch upon them, and soon found they were not mistaken. She continued,

They were really going away. The enemy retreated cautiously and very quietly, and many of our citizens did not know of their going until seven or eight o’clock in the morning, for they did not withdraw their last pickets until the advance of their now broken army neared the Potomac … [W]e could, from our garret window, see the army wagons winding their way among the hills far off in the distance…. All we knew certainly was, the Rebels were gone.²⁷

According to young Billy Bayly, soldiers, hundreds of wagons, and stragglers began drifting back in the direction whence they came. Some asked about the nearest route to Hagerstown. That morning our host of visitors had, like the Arab, folded their tents and quietly stolen away.²⁸

Some Rebels tried to cover the retreat with an ominous threat. Diarist Sallie Broadhead noted that late on the night of July 4, warnings were issued that the town was to be shelled and that all women and children should vacate their homes. Realizing it was a hollow threat and that their unwelcome guests were leaving the field, the next day she exclaimed, What a beautiful morning! Her joy was tempered once she took in the sights beyond her doorstep. It seemed as though nature was smiling on thousands of suffering.²⁹

John L. Schick owned a large general store at the corner of Baltimore Street and the town square. The raiding of his stock during the battle, threats of the shelling, and evidence of the Confederate withdrawal, at long last, was more than he could take. On July 4, he reminisced, I smoked 21 cigars in one day.³⁰

An incident along the journey back to Virginia.

Battles and Leaders

The Wagon Train Rolls South

Imboden left Cashtown about 8:00 p.m. and rode toward the head of the column. For the next four hours he listened to the agonizing cries of the wounded and dying. Recalling the dreadful ride, he wrote, During this one night I realized more of the horrors of war than I had in all the two preceding years.³¹

From nearly every wagon the wounded cried out. My God! Will no one have mercy and kill me, and end my misery?

Oh God! Why can’t I die?

Stop! Oh! for God’s sake, stop just for one minute; take me out and leave me to die on the roadside.

I am dying! I am dying! My poor wife, my dear children, what will become of you? Ever practical, Imboden pointed out, No help could be given to any of the sufferers. On, on we must move on.³²

The cries of the suffering men filled the night. Try as they might, no one accompanying the train could ignore them. Marched all night through rain, Capt. Francis M. Imboden, the general’s younger brother, plaintively noted in his diary. Several thousand wounded suffering awfully.³³

A wounded Tar Heel found a bale of hay to ride on. It was a luxury compared to the plight of his comrades, but still he endured a cold, wet, and miserable journey. When we reached the top of the mountain, it got very dark, but there was no halt made, a steady trot being kept up all night. I could never tell how we got along without some accident. During the night we passed Thad Stevens Iron Works, which Ewell’s troops had burned as they passed on some days before, and they were still smoking. The next morning, the sun broke through the clouds for a while, warming the countryside. Those wounded men who had been riding through the cold night began to feel the effect of the sun. Although hungry, tired, and sore, they cracked jokes with the natives. The local citizens jeered in return, telling the Confederates that they would never get across the Potomac, and that they would soon be gobbled up.³⁴

When the Confederate army fell back from Gettysburg, I followed our marching column in an ambulance, suffering very much from the wound I received in the arm, recalled Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood, a division leader in James Longstreet’s First Corps who had suffered a severe wound on July 2. "In the same vehicle lay Gen. Wade Hampton, so badly wounded that

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  • (4/5)
    With Lee defeated at Gettysburg and Grant victorious at Vicksburg, the Union could have won the war in July 1863 - if George Gordon Meade had not acted according to his character. It is true, many of his units were mauled in battle and he was faced with Lincoln's restriction of keeping his army between Lee's army and Washington. The South Mountain range further shielded Lee's forces from a vigorous pursuit. After all, the battle of Gettysburg only happened because General Heth exposed his forces beyond the South Mountain range. Finally John Imboden and Jeb Stuart both handed in stellar performances in leading the wounded, the POWs, the trains and the army back to Falling Waters, blocking all attempts of the Federals of inflicting extensive destruction.Meade did not make good use of the road network. Instead of either mounting a vigorous push pursuit along the northern approach road from Chambersburg to Falling Waters or of cutting Lee off via Harper's Ferry, he sent his forces onto country roads. His disastrous cavalry corps commander Alfred Pleasanton further diminished the effectiveness of the pursuers by splitting up his cavalry forces into division-sized attacks which were too weak to break through the Confederate rearguards. A good part of Wittenberg's book is devoted to these costly but futile cavalry skirmishes that exhausted both sides but proved indecisive.The Federal infantry was hampered by an absence of confident commanders. Most aggressive Union generals had been wounded or killed during the battle. Thus, the pursuit was under the direction of the plodding General Sedgwick - under orders NOT to bring on a general engagement. Union caution allowed Lee to retreat back to Virginia. Not attacking Lee in his entrenched position at Falling Waters was probably a sane decision. Otherwise a lost chance.Wittenberg is a cavalry specialist, thus the book will be enjoyed most by those interested in the mounted arm. The movement of the infantry forces is only sketchily presented. On the maps, the Union movements are indicated at the corps level, to abstract for my taste. A real theater map would have shown the abundance of idle Federal forces.The combination of the two included driving tours and Google Streetview allows neat armchair tourism of this beautiful remote area. Unfortunately, the Google Streetview ends in the middle of the road at Falling Waters (never reaching the Potomac Fish club). It is surprisingly difficult to catch a glimpse of the Potomac in Google Streetview due to the foliage and the sketchy coverage of the smaller roads.