soldier with rifle american civil warThe American Civil War

Joe Ryan and Brad Schaeffer
Debate Gettysburg



Brad Schaeffer is in the business, along with James M. McPherson and Stephen Sears, of perpetuating the myth the Battle of Gettysburg happened by accident.

As such, Brad certainly is an appropriate person to step into the trial court and play the role of adversary in seeking, by reference to admissible evidence, to persuade a jury that, indeed, as he and his pals claim, the battle happened by accident. Here is the verbatim exchange between us on the issue.

The debate began, when Brad commented on my reply to a post that reads:

The Post: The entire story line of the movie is plausible given the outcome. Lee was virtually blind without cavalry. Buford found it strange, saw the advantage and deployed. Heth and Lee had no idea what they were up against. The Union had the high ground. Lee did order Pickett to charge. Lee needed a huge victory and was desperate as illustrated by his bare footed troops. He gambled, lost, and never recovered from Gettysburg. The rest is history.

 My Reply: Buford to Reynolds at 10:30 p.m. on the 30th:  “The enemy’s pickets (infantry and artillery) are within 4 miles of this place, on the Cashtown Road. My parties have returned that went north, northwest, and northeast, after crossing the road from Cashtown to Oxford in several places. . . The road is terribly infested with prowling cavalry parties. Near Heidlersburg today, one of my parties captured a courier of Lee’s. He says Ewell’s corps is crossing the mountains from Carlisle, Rodes’ division being at Petersburg in advance. Longstreet is behind Hill. I have many reports of the enemy advancing upon me from toward York. I have to pay attention to them, which causes me to overwork my horses and men. I can get no forage nor rations; am out of both. Should I fall back, advise me what by what road.”

The Situation 

Phase One

Phase Two

Because Brad’s comment is dense and lengthy, I have separated the text into sections in order that the serious student might more easily digest the pro and con arguments. (Someone inquired: “What is a serious student” I answer: one who digs.

 RYAN:  You begin by contending that "all Buford's message shows is that Lee was in the process of hastily concentrating his scattered army." This is hardly an accurate statement of reality. The contrary is plain from the objective fact that, according to his July 31, 1863 official report.. .

SCHAEFFER: Lee had just lost a major battle at the end of a campaign that surely he knew some thought ill-advised.  His battle report will of course use hindsight to try and diminish the fact that he had been caught unawares in enemy country.  You yourself have accused Lee of lying in certain instances.  Yet you trust his battle reports less than a month after the South’s most devastating loss as accurate?

Joe Ryan Replies: You raise here, at the outset, a very crucial issue that requires serious analysis, analysis the historians consistently ignore. What to do with General Lee's Gettysburg battle reports? The reports (there are two of them, one of which is dated six months after the event.) were plainly used, not to diminish the fact that he had been "caught unawares in enemy country" but that he had not.

The available evidence points to the fact that, after intense internal debate, Lee gained the permission of the Confederate Government to launch the Gettysburg Campaign on the representation that the campaign, as Longstreet complains, was to be "offensive-defensive;" that is, the army would move with the initiative but it would fight on the defensive.

Here's how Longstreet saw the understanding: "All that I could ask was that the policy of the campaign should be one of defensive tactics; that we should work so as to force the enemy to attack us, in such good position as we might find in his own country, so well adapted to that purpose, which might assure us of a grand triumph. To this, [Lee] readily assented as an important and material adjunct to his general plan." And, again, Longstreet writes, "The plan of defensive tactics gave some hope of success;" and, again, "I sent up a note (on June 28) suggesting a chang.e of direction of the head of our column east. This I thought to be the first and necessary step towards bringing the two armies to such concentration as would enable us to find a way to draw the enemy into battle, in keeping with the general plan of campaign." And, "Lee had announced beforehand that he would not make aggressive battle in the enemy's country."

Note: Here Brad loses it. Longstreet chose to write it this way: “This, I thought to be the first step towards bringing the two armies to such concentration as would enable [Lee] to find a way to draw the enemy into battle.” That is exactly what was happening.


The evidence shows that as early as February 1863, if not October 1862, when he sent Stuart to Gettysburg, General Lee was planning the Gettysburg Campaign. Jed Hotchkiss memorializes this in his journal entry for February 23: "I got secret orders from [Jackson] to prepare a map of the Valley of Virginia extended to Harrisburg, PA, and then on to Philadelphia. . . so I went to reducing a map of Cumberland County."

Lee's first lie: Assuming Longstreet's understanding of Lee's "policy" was the Confederate Government's, to make it seem it was also Lee's, Lee needed to offer an objective for the campaign that matched the policy, and the objective he chose to offer was the "capture of Harrisburg."

The reason Lee was taking the army into Pennsylvania, he told his government, was to "capture Harrisburg." In the end, all his officers, save only one, supported this story. The idea being that, by occupying Harrisburg the enemy army would be "forced" to attack Lee's. But the evidence is objectively undisputed that no reasonable person could possibly believe an army could cross the Susquehanna River in front of, or near, Harrisburg, in late June─because it would not be fordable.

Therefore, the conclusion is inescapable that General Lee never intended to march his army up to the river. Still, at the outset of the campaign, as he put his army in motion from Culpeper, he must have intended to march it somewhere. For no serious student of military history can think for a moment Lee at the outset meant to simply wander about the enemy's country.

See, Wading the Susquehanna

Gettysburg The Coalfields

The Historians Take Lee to Harrisburg

When you want truth from General Lee you go to his private letters to President Davis. Here is what he wrote Davis on September 13, 1862, just before the Battle of Antietam, which, like Gettysburg, he had planned to happen: "To look to the safety of our own frontier, and to operate untrammeled in an enemy's territory, you need not be told, is very difficult. Every effort however will be made to acquire every advantage which our position and means may warrant."

Now, the basic premise of  Brad’s position, as it is with the historians he pals with for profit, must be recognized for what it is: despite his planning the campaign for months, if not a year, General Lee had no realistic objective in mind when he commenced moving 80,000 men and 20,000 animals from safe haven into the enemy's territory. The great captains of history, Napoleon, Esienshower, are laughing in their graves at such an objectively stupid idea.

Given time, distance, and numbers the only realistic objective General Lee could have recognized, in June 1863, was to get his army to Frederick. Being weaker in the whole than the enemy, he could not get there directly, he knew he could not attack the enemy’s army if it were concentrated; so he had to try and get there indirectly, from the direction of Gettysburg, after bringing the enemy in pieces to him, forcing the lead piece back on the rest, and breaking past the enemy's left flank by Emmitsburg to Frederick. Had this happened, the enemy would have had but two choices: attack Lee behind the Monocacy River or fall back in front of Washington. That Lee "hoped" (McPherson’s favorite word) to create this situation is plainly seen in the fact that, before leaving Virginia, he had peppered Davis with pleas that the troops in the Carolinas be moved to Culpeper to form an army under Beauregard's command, to operate with Lee against Washington.

And now Lee's plan would be in sync with the Confederate Government's idea of it: The army, now almost three times the size it was when it was last at Frederick, could stand behind the Monocacy and wait for the enemy army to attack it; and if Beauregard's army materialized at Culpeper, the enemy would necessarily think a long time before doing it; and the goal of the campaign would be realized: as long as the enemy army was not operating in Virginia the Confederate capital was safe.

Until yesterday I had assumed that Lee's Gettysburg battle reports were available for publication in the OR, because they were part of the records contained in Confederate Adjutant General Samuel Cooper's wagon train that Sherman captured at Goldsboro. But now, thirty years after I began to dig, I find this is not true.

 In the video General Lee lied , I was, as a trial lawyer, skeptical of the authenticity of the second report dated "Jan__1864." In its opening paragraph it describes itself as a "detailed report." Yet, when it is compared to the first report, dated July 31, 1863, you find that the two are identical, except that the second shifts the blame for the happening of the battle directly upon the shoulders of JEB Stuart. Indeed, the whole nonsense about Lee's eyes being missing caused the battle to happen by accident originates in the language of the second report.  Compare them.

First Report: "Preparations were now made to advance upon Harrisburg; but, on the night of the 28th, information was received from a scout that the Federal Army, having crossed the Potomac, was advancing northward. . . As our communications with the Potomac were thus menaced, it was resolved. . . to [concentrate] on the east side of the mountains. . . By the route [Stuart] pursued (with Lee’s permission), the Federal Army was interposed between his command and our main body, preventing any communication from him. . . The march toward Gettysburg was conducted more slowly than it would have been had the movements of the Federal Army been known. The leading division of Hill met the enemy in advance of Gettysburg on the morning of July 1."

Second Report: "It was expected that as soon as the Federal Army should cross the Potomac, General Stuart would give notice of its movements, and nothing heard from him since our entrance into Maryland, it was inferred that the enemy had not yet left Virginia. Orders were therefore issued to move upon Harrisburg. The expedition of Early to York was designed in part to prepare for this undertaking by breaking the railroad between Baltimore and Harrisburg, and seizing the bridge over the Susquehanna at Wrightsville. . . . The advance against Harrisburg was arrested by intelligence received from a scout the night of the 28th, to the effect that the army of Hooker had crossed the Potomac and was approaching the South Mountain. In the absence of cavalry, it was impossible to ascertain his intentions; but to deter him from advancing farther west, and intercepting our communications with Virginia, it was determined to concentrate the army east of the mountains. Hill's corps was accordingly ordered to move toward Cashtown on the 29th. . . The advance of the enemy to the latter place was unknown, and the weather being inclement, the march was conducted with a view to the comfort of the troops."

Both reports recite, as the reason the army corps where positioned as they were, Lee's intent to "advance upon Harrisburg." Both reports recite as the reason Lee changed his mind and ordered the army to advance upon Gettysburg, the fact that a scout brought word the night of the 28th that the enemy's advance posed a threat to the army's communication with Virginia through the Cumberland Valley.

Plainly these statements are fabrications intended to hide from public view what, in fact, was Lee's plan to bring the enemy to, as Longstreet admits, an engagement at Gettysburg. This is plain, because Lee could not reasonably have believed his "advance upon Harrisburg" could result in the occupation of Harrisburg, and because from his private communication with Davis on June 25 we see his admissions that he not only knew on that date that Hooker was crossing the Potomac, but also that he intended to abandon his communications. When his supposed reports are read in light of these admissions, it is impossible not to see what the reports were designed to conceal: all along he was focused on bringing on an engagement at Gettysburg.

Also telling is the changing nature of the excuse he offers to explain the obvious slowness of the march of Ewell's and Hill's corps toward Gettysburg; a slowness objectively seen simply by calculating the time it ordinarily would take Lee's army to march a certain distance, the ordinary marching day taking it at least 15, if not 20, miles onward. (Logically, if you in fact don't know or expect the enemy to be marching toward the same point you are marching on, prudence suggests you should not tarry getting there.) And certainly this business about explaining away why the corps were in fact marching slowly is key to revealing Lee's intent. The only logical reason for Lee to intentionally move slowly toward Gettysburg is to induce the enemy to think they can concentrate more men there before he can, the slowness invites the enemy to try.

Finally, the second report places the blame for the defeat at Gettysburg squarely on Stuart. Yet, it is again plain that Stuart's movement was an integral part of Lee's plan of inducing the enemy, by his maneuver, to disperse from its concentrated position at Frederick, which he could not attack, to a dispersed position which he could attack, Stuart's presence between York and Washington selling the idea that, with Early at York, Lee meant eventually to concentrate there. As he told Davis on the 25th, "Our concentration at any point compels that of the enemy."  

JEB Stuart and the Gettysburg Campaign
Gettysburg: Jones and Robertson

Gettysburg: Harrison and Meade
Confederate Cavalry and Gettysburg

So, yes, Brad, Lee used his report─the one dated July 31, 1863, a report he knew would be made public─to mask the fact that, contrary to his representation to the government that he would fight on the defensive, he intended, from the beginning, to bring on an engagement at Gettysburg, where in his opening move in the campaign he would be the attacker.

As for the report dated “Jan__1864” Charles Marshall wrote it after the surrender to throw the blame for the defeat at Gettysburg onto the dead Stuart’s shoulders which most of the officers, fending off public inquiries themselves, bought into. Marshall, it turns out, palmed the report off as Lee’s, by giving a copy of it to William Swinton who caused it to be published in the Historical Magazine of New York, in April 1869. In 1872, Jubal Early, claiming he got it from Marshall, caused it to be published in the Southern Magazine, and the Southern Historical Society published it in its journal, in 1876. It is from these publications that the Federal Government obtained a copy to publish in the OR. You serious students might try to find the existence of a handwritten manuscript copy of the report, actually signed by General Lee. Good Luck with that. I would try the Virginia Historical Society, first. The National Archives, second.

Final paragraph of Second Report as it Appears in Historical Magazine 1869

That the public was actually distraught over what was recognized immediately as a great defeat for the Confederacy, foreshadowing the outcome of the war, you need only read General Lee’s letter to President Davis dated August 8, 1863 in which he tendered his resignation as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. “Mr. President,” he wrote, “We must expect reverses, even defeats. I know how prone we are to censure and how ready to blame others for the nonfullment of our expectations. This is unbecoming in a generous people, and I grieve to see its expression. The general remedy for the want of success in a military commander is his removal. . . I have seen and heard of expression of discontent in the public journals at the result of the expedition. . . I therefore request [you] take measures to supply my place.”


RYAN:  Lee issued orders the night of June 28th, which Hill and Ewell carried out on the morning of June 29, that they begin marching in the direction of Gettysburg. 

SCHAEFFER: Actually on the evening of the 28th Lee’s first order to Ewell after discovering the Union Army’s dangerous proximity was to concentrate at Chambersburg, not Gettysburg.   He then re-ordered Ewell the next morning south towards Gettysburg via Heidlersburg (a logical place as anyone reading a map can see).  We know these orders came later because Johnson’s II Corps division was already on the march to Chambersburg.  In fact, they were well underway west when Lee issued  new orders which is why Ewell didn’t recall Johnson’s division from its march west.  This meant he would only be moving south with 2/3 of the II Corps.  You fail to mention  Lee’s orders to Ewell once at Heidlersburg that went out on the evening of June 30 and they were for him “proceed to Cashtown or Gettysburg as circumstance might dictate.”  Either  town.   He left Ewell the choice.   They are eight miles apart.   This is hardly the specific orders of a man planning an attack but rather the more general kind implying he is trying to get his troops together asap, leaving it up to his Corps commander to decide where best to do this. 

And why on the 27th was Lee content to have his army spread out over fifty miles and yet now he suddenly orders this concentration on the 28th.   Why would you have your army out like a spring by June 27 from Chambersburg to Carlisle and even near the Susquehanna in the face of the approaching enemy if only to order them to converge again on the following day?

Joe Ryan replies:  No, we don't know anything of the kind. What we know is that there exists at the Virginia Historical Society what I call the Gettysburg letterbook. There exists in the letterbook a message written in the handwriting of Charles Venable, which Venable labels "from memory, a sketch of letter" and which he dated as "June 28 7 1/2 a.m." The three pages preceding his "sketch of letter" contain the text of the two letters Lee sent Davis from the Potomac, both dated June 25. The two pages following the "sketch of letter" contain a message Lee sent Imboden dated July 1.

The authenticity of the letterbook (was it created contemporaneously with the events it records or was it manufactured later) is in serious doubt, so much so that any trial lawyer trying to introduce it into evidence in court would probably, upon objection, find the court rejecting it as not trustworthy. See, The Gettysburg Letterbook   

First, going through it page by page, you find the letterbook contains communications that ordinarily don't go together in one book, given Confederate Regulations. As we know from the letterbooks available from the Antietam Campaign, Lee's HQ staff was required to have a general order book, a special order book, and correspondence books. Ordinarily, the message to Imboden would be copied into one book, the movement order to Ewell in another book, and certainly private correspondence directed to the President of the Confederacy in yet another book.

Second, everyone on Lee's personal staff, Long, Taylor, Marshall, and Venable took turns writing the text of the documents into the book, a strange cooperative effort, given the division of labor among them as aides to Lee.

Third, it is important to recognize what is missing from the book: the other orders Lee clearly issued to his corps commanders. For example, where is the order Early says Lee sent to Ewell on June 25, telling Ewell to tell Early to destroy the Wrightsville bridge? Where is the order Lee sent Ewell telling him to tell Early on the 29th to meet him at Heidlersburg? 

Finally, there is the fact that the letterbook first surfaced in the hands of Charles Marshall after the war and was kept by him for many years, until he turned it, and other papers, over to a man named McCabe who eventually turned it over in the 1920s, to the Southern Historical Society, today the Virginia Historical Society.

Of all Lee's staff officers, Charles Venable's role as aide to Lee is the most illusive. Venable was a professor of mathematics before the war and after, he was the Chairman of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Virginia. His fellow aides, Taylor and Marshall, invoked his name to explain how it came to be that Special Order 191 got "lost." Taking all these circumstances into consideration, the suspicion looms large that Venable, with or without Lee's involvement, manufactured what at best can be described as an ambiguous composite of several orders issued at different times between June 25 and July 1.

If you assume Venable inserted the writing in the letterbook contemporaneously with the event, he necessarily had to do so before Marshall came along on July 1 and inserted the text of the Imboden message. From a trial court view it is simply not credible that, had Venable actual knowledge of the text of an order Lee directed to issue, he would have forgotten in just three little days the exact wording of the order issued and the time and date it was issued. Yet that is what you must believe if you want to prop your case, whatever it is, on proof of the order. And in doing so, you must ignore the fact that ordinarily the aide has in his hand a draft document, the text of which he copies simultaneously into the letterbook. How else could Taylor, who wrote in the two pages of Lee-to-Davis letters, and Marshall, who wrote in the long messeage to Imboden, have accomplished the transcription? And yet, Venable did not have in his hand the one paragraph message? But had to “sketch” it from “memory?

The message begins with, "I wrote you last night stating that Hooker [had] crossed the Potomac and is advancing by way of Middletown. . . "

In their eagerness to manufacture narrative the historians explain the obvious confusion away, by assuming Venable had forgotten the actual date Lee's message to Ewell was sent, because they hang their narrative on the arrival of the scout the night of June 28; i.e., Lee could not have known Hooker was advancing "last night," the night of the 27th.

But the evidence shows that E.V. White, with his regiment, was at Point of Rocks on the 25th and was with Early sometime on the 26th, and that Howard's 11th corps entered the Middletown Valley the evening of the 25th and his cavalry encountered Confederate cavalry at Turner's Gap on the morning of the 26th. It does not take the intelligence of a professor of mathematics to recognize the probability that White left scouts behind when he moved north along the South Mountain on the 26th, and that those scouts reported to Lee on the 27th that Hooker was advancing into the Middletown Valley.

News of this fact, received by Lee on the 27th, would have created a crisis of decision for him. (At least it would for me, if I were representing him in the trial court.) And, if we treat Venable's "sketch of letter" as having any relevance at all to reality it must be that Venable is explaining away the fact that Lee's first reaction to that news was fear Hooker was doing the one thing that he was gambling Lincoln would not allow Hooker to do; and that is, to plant his superior army across Lee's line of retreat. 

However, as the 27th passed, more scouts came to Lee to say Hooker was massing his main body around Frederick which gave Lee the relieving thought that Hooker was not coming into the Cumberland Valley, and Lee countermanded the "March to Chambersburg" element of Venable's composite. Instead, as the scouts came in, Lee heard what he wanted to hear: Reynolds was marching toward Emmitsburg. (Reynolds, upon reaching Emmitsburg on the 29th reported rebel scouts in his front near Monterey Gap on the 28th; See, General Lee Takes A Great Risk)

As for Johnson's division, no, we do not know that the countermanding order reached Ewell at a time when Johnson was already marching to Chambersburg. On the 27th and 28th, Johnson's division was camped along the road between Carlisle and Chambersburg, its head a few miles south of Carlisle and its rear brigade at or near Shippensburg. See, Gettysburg: The First Day

Venable's text reads: "I desire you to move in the direction of Gettysburg, via Heidlersburg, where you will have turnpike most of the way. You can thus join your other divisions to Early. . . keep on the east side of the mountain. When you come to Heidlersburg you can either move directly on Gettysburg or turn down to Cashtown. Your trains and artillery you can send, if you think proper, on the road to Chambersburg, But if the roads. . . are good, *they had better follow you."


As I have shown, the road net available to Ewell was perfectly suited for the movement of his trains, artillery─and Johnson's division─to either follow Rodes, or cross the mountain at Shippensburg or at other points between Shippensburg and Carlisle. It was a simple thing for Ewell to order Johnson to countermarch, if in fact, Johnson had begun to march south upon Ewell's receipt of Lee's alleged first order. Even if Johnson was marching south, he could have turned east at Shippensburg and crossed the mountain to Ardentsville, a place Early admitted had been agreed upon between himself and Ewell, when he left Ewell on the 25th, that he would march toward on the 29th.

The reason Lee included Cashtown as a possible concentration point is obvious: He "hoped" (McPherson's favorite word) that the enemy infantry coming up, would come away from Gettysburg, out onto the rolling plain. But Reynolds was no fool, he saw Gettysburg for what it was, a tactical obstacle he could use in an emergency to blunt the enemy's pursuit.)

Why, Brad asks, spread out? Why indeed. Liddell Hart would answer with the simile of the gladiator whose weapons are the trident and the net, a net Lee cast over Adams and York counties to catch the enemy in. Lee and Meade, both educated at West Point, would point to Professor Bigelow's Principles of Strategy and talk about the fact that each must try and determine the point where the other is about to concentrate and try to get there furstest with the mostest.
See, Reynolds Decides to Move on Gettysburg  

Underlying Brad’s questions, of course, is the reality that, indeed, someone is responsible for Johnson's division not being in line of battle at 3:30 p.m. on July 1, the absence of which shattered any possibility General Lee could successfully execute his plan to get his army to Frederick. The historians, too lazy to start again at the beginning, have no clue who.

RYAN: Heth's division arrived at Cashtown the afternoon of the 29th, and, had Lee wanted him to, could have easily occupied Gettysburg that night or the morning of the 30th or indeed any time on the 30th.

SCHAEFFER: ─which he very well might have done had he anticipated the enemy would be in its possession the next day.  But he did not. Nor is there any record of Lee believing the enemy to be anywhere near Gettysburg. 

Joe Ryan replies: In the trial court, where the judicial process reigns, we encounter every day parties to litigation, and their witnesses, testifying under oath that they did not foresee this or that happening, or that they did not know of this fact or that. Unlike the manner in which historians work, we do not blindly take the parties or their witnesses at their word, but we test what they say against what an objectively reasonable person, given the established circumstances, would probably know and, as a consequence, probably do. By this test, my experience tells me a supra-majority of twelve ordinary citizens─sitting as a jury in my courtroom─would probably decide a reasonable person in Lee's circumstances would be waiting for the enemy to appear in the vicinity of Gettysburg by July 1.

First, Charles Marshall's protestation to the contrary, no reasonable person in Lee's circumstances would take an army of 80,000 men on a 100 mile march into the enemy's territory and not assign someone to watch the enemy's reaction. Given this plain reality, the preliminary question becomes whether Lee had readily available the personnel to assign this task to.

The answer is plainly "Yes" in the person of E.V. White's 35th Battalion of Virginia Cavalry. The evidence shows that Lee was in communication with White between June 22 and June 25, that White on June 25 was at Point of Rocks, within easy observation, from the crest of Catoctin Mountain, of Howard's corps, followed by Reynolds', crossing the pontoon bridges Hooker had laid near Edwards Ferry, that when Howard's cavalry approached Turner's Gap on the 26th it encountered Confederate cavalry, and that Venable in his sketch of a letter of Lee's to Ewell, states that on the 27th Lee decided to order Ewell to countermarch to Chambersburg, the only rational purpose for this─the immediate danger of Hooker appearing in the Cumberland Valley across his line of retreat.

See, Reynolds Decides to Move on Gettysburg  and   General Lee Takes a Great Risk

Second, since it is not subject to serious dispute that no reasonable person in Lee's shoes would expect that his army would be capable of crossing the Susquehanna River in late June, it is plain that, despite his protests to the contrary, General Lee had no intention of "advancing on Harrisburg" when he crossed the Potomac on June 25; yet, he ordered Rodes's and Johnson's divisions to position themselves at Carlisle, and Early's to position itself at York, while the main body of six divisions occupied the 11 miles of the road between Chambersburg and Cashtown,for three days.

The objective question for serious students now becomes,Why? Given the principles of strategy all West Point graduates of the time had been taught to apply in their military operations, the only rational explanation is, to create the danger that the Confederate army might concentrate in the vicinity of York and move to occupy Baltimore or Washington. Reacting to this danger the enemy army will abandon Frederick as its base and move  its weight eastward to block the apparent threat, leaving only a piece, instead of the whole, to deal with the secondary danger the enemy might attempt to turn the Union left.

Third, the evidence shows that Hooker had occupied Gettysburg with a cavalry division on June 28, but that on June 29 Meade allowed the division to be moved east to join in blocking the threatened enemy movement toward Washington from the direction of York. Buford was then ordered to replace that division with two brigades, and on the night of the 29th he encountered Confederate infantry controlling the road between Fairfield and Gettysburg; shying away from an engagement, he went around by way of Moritz Tavern and arrived at Gettysburg midmorning on the 30th.

That Buford's movement to Gettysburg, and Reynolds to Moritz Tavern, was reported to Lee cannot be seriously denied by objectively reasonable people─with this knowledge, the only thing left for Lee to know, is how long will it take before the pressures of the situation he has created induces the enemy to move up to Gettysburg where his main body is waiting.

The strategic situation naturally created by Lee's positioning of his forces was a dynamic one: As Lee said to Davis on September 13, 1862, during the Antietam Campaign, no general can reasonably expect that the enemy will allow him to roam untrammeled in their territory. The enemy, finding that their adversary is not moving to attack them, will naturally be impelled to move to attack their adversary.

The trigger to concentration came to Lee in the person of the scout on the night of the 28th, telling him that Reynolds and Howard had begun marching from the Middletown Valley toward Emmitsburg, which meant to any reasonable person in Lee’s shoes that, in two days, the enemy will be appearing in his front; and, accordingly, Lee ordered Ewell to concentrate his corps at Heidlersburg and began moving Hill's corps forward, anticipating using these corps in a classic "L" formation to overwhelm by the sweep of their arms the fraction of the enemy's army that first arrived. There is nothing extraordinary about any of this, just standard military tactics of the times.

RYAN: From this factual reality it is reasonably plain that Lee had no intention of occupying Gettysburg.

SCHAEFFER: No one said he marched on the 29th with that intention.  But there is no denying that Heth’s intention on the 30th was to enter the town but the presence of Union cavalry stopped him as, per Lee’s orders, there was to be no fighting until the army was united.  Nor is there any denying the Hill felt compelled to send 2/3 of his corps back to Gettysburg again on July  1.  Ewell moved on Gettysburg of his own discretion—again it was the logical place to meet as Hill sent him word he was on his way there.  Where else was Ewell to go?  Again how is this evidence of a planned  Hannibalesque  pincer movement on the part of Lee orchestrating this maneuver from all the way back at Greenwood seventeen miles back.

Part of the reason Lee didn't order Gettysburg's occupation one would think is he was unfamiliar with it's defensive terrain south of the town.  One would think had he been given a complete picture of the terrain that Buford, then Reynolds and Hancock (even the inept Howard) saw as prime ground for gaining the upper hand he may have ordered its immediate occupation as well as at least Cemetery and Culp's Hills.  But now we are getting into speculation.  The fact is he didn't know what was to his front which was ostensibly Hill's purpose in his returning to Gettysburg on July 1.

Joe Ryan replies: Brad is confusing myth with reality: Hardly is it so there is "no denying that Heth's intention on the 30th was to enter the town."  The jury has two choices: take Heth at his word, or recognize there is no intelligent reason to enter the town.

Lee left us three reports to mask the reason he had positioned his troops as he did. His reports say nothing about ordering Hill not to bring on an engagement until the army was concentrated.

Hill's report, supporting Lee's charade, says nothing about being ordered not to bring on an engagement until the army was concentrated. Hill's report reads: "I was directed to move in the direction of York, and to cross the Susquehanna, menacing the communications of Harrisburg with Philadelphia. . . Accordingly, on the 29th I moved Heth's division to Cashtown... following on the morning of the 30th with the division of Pender. . . On arriving at Cashtown, Heth, who had sent forward Pettigrew's brigade to Gettysburg had encountered the enemy at Gettysburg (principally cavalry). . . A courier was then dispatched with this information to Lee, ... also to Ewell informing him that I intended to advance the next morning and discover what was in my front." To suggest that Hill's courier to Lee did not carry the fact Hill meant to advance on the 1st is silly. Thus, from the reports, it is plain that Hill was advancing with Lee's approval, everyone knowing the advance, in conjunction with Ewell's, would result in an engagement with Reynolds who Lee's cavalry was watching.

Heth writes in his report that he "ordered Pettigrew to take his brigade to Gettysburg, search the town for army supplies (shoes especially) and return the same day. On reaching the suburbs Pettigrew found a large force of cavalry near the town, supported by an infantry force. Under these circumstances, he did not deem it advisable to enter the town, and returned as directed." Pettigrew, killed at Falling Waters, did not write a report, leaving us with the problem of taking Heth's word for Pettigrew's state of mind, something reasonable jurors might not want to do, preferring to judge the situation by the objective circumstances.

 What are those circumstances? First, we know Lee is lying about the reason his forces are moving in the direction of Gettysburg. Why, then, is he moving his forces there? Second, we know Heth has no reasonable basis to think marching 8,000 men 8 miles to Gettysburg (a 16 mile round trip) will result in the acquisition of "army supplies" much less shoes. Heth knows that Early's division has preceded him to Gettysburg and cannot reasonably expect Early left anything of value for him to find. That this is plain, one need only read Buford's message to Pleasonton, written after he entered the town: "I entered this place at 11:00 a.m. [The enemy] had approached to within a half mile of the town when the head of the column entered...My men and horses are fagged out. .. Facilities for shoeing horses are nothing. Early's people seized every shoe and nail they could find." Third, had it been Lee's intent to occupy the town it would have been Heth's division, not Pettigrew's brigade, that marched the 8 miles.

The business about it being Lee's "order not to bring on an engagement until the army was fully concentrated" is pure myth. The story of the order pops up in different narratives after the war, by different persons who attribute to Lee saying it at different times and places.

Brad wishes to explain away the objective fact that Ewell and Hill marched slowly, by manufacturing out of nothing the idea their troops were "footsore." Hardly can this be true. Rodes division was camped at Carlisle 48 hours. Early's division, except for Gordon's brigade, was likewise camped at York for 48 hours, and Heth's division was camped between Chambersburg and Cashtown for 72 hours. All these troops were plainly well rested when they began to march toward Gettysburg and the distance they had to march was a cakewalk.

As for Hannibal and "pincer" movements,  Lee was doing essentially what he did at Second Manassas, dividing his army into two wings, having one of them (Jackson's) fix the enemy in battle while the other appeared at a right angle and caved in the enemy's flank.

Finally, it is silly to suggest Lee would necessarily be up at the front when the first contact was made between the opposing forces. When Jackson engaged with Pope at Manassas Lee was 20 miles away at Salem.

As for the rest of Brad’s post it can be summed up as a complaint that the huge holes in the objective written record, coupled with the dissembling inherent in it, leave you with the challenge of having to think through the problem by reference to the judicial process; hard work indeed. If the "case" were tried in a courtroom the process would take at least ten weeks, a huge commitment of time, money and energy. But you, and no doubt hardly any one else, has the time or inclination to do it: much easier to read the fictional narrative of Sears, or McPherson, or Guelzo.

Schaeffer’s Last Word: To compare the 2nd Manassas Campaign with the PA campaign is a bit of a stretch my man.  As Sam Jackson said on Pulp Fiction, "it ain't  in the same ballpark, hell it ain't even the same sport."  All I'm gonna say on that. That's a tangent discussion I'd rather not get dragged into.  Because it requires us agreeing on what Gettysburg was all about first to even be able to compare notes.

I gave you the last substantive word so I will stay with it. Although I do sense a growing agitation on your part of one who is well aware of the holes in his case and thus must defend it anyway as you have so much time devoted to pursuit of your theory which, though compelling, doesn't stand up to closer scrutiny because, with all due respect, it isn't how it happened. I'm sorry about that. I approached this as a friendly, respectful discussion of one learned student of the war to another. I thought it would be fun. I hide behind no pseudonyms and you may google me as you wish. Please know that I have studied this battle for thirty years (as have many thousands of students of this fascinating subject, I am no one special) and, were I so inclined, I could delve into the minutia of the matter as you do; but as this is youtube and others are reading so I should hope we keep it interesting. You seem to have this notion that no one but you are capable of independent thought. I assure you I am quite able to read the same evidence as you, sir. It just so happens that, with minor deviations, I agree with the accepted narrative. That is MY conclusion. That others like Sears, McPherson (who I recently penned some app content with), Guelzo, Freeman, Catton, Foote, etc, share the same views, I do not view as a pejorative but rather an affirmation. 

I sincerely respect your dissenting opinion and I have learned a few things from this discussion. All I ask is you extend to me the same courtesy and respect. Certainly, as a lawyer, you must see that you have to be willing to bear the rigors of cross-examination, given the unorthodox nature of your theories. I would assume one doesn't publicly post such provocative material only to have a unilateral discussion on it. No "reasonable man" would do that. The fact is there are many many holes in your case, holes which you plug up by either speculation (that assumes men under duress in war will always act in a "reasonable" fashion), or discounting those who were there who nonetheless tell a different tale than yours as fabricators and liars. That, combined with no compelling hard evidence of your own, does not make for a strong case. If you were to take your circumstantial and accusatory case to trial, I would happily be the opposing party. IMHO.

Joe Ryan’s Last Word: Brad tells us he has studied the situation for thirty years and could, if he wished, “delve into the [details],” but won’t because he wants “to keep it interesting.” We have a saying in the trial court: If you have the facts on your side pound them, if you have the law pound that, if you have neither, pound the table. That’s how Brad ends his case: He shies from explaining how the facts support his case; he gives you no intelligent explanation what Lee’s objective was in moving his army into Pennsylvania; he gives no explanation why Lee put Early’s division at so much risk by positioning it way out on a limb at York; he gives no explanation for the appearance of a second official report of Lee’s after the war; he gives no explanation for the strange appearance of the Gettysburg letterbook, and he offers no evidence to explain why Lee would not use White’s battalion of the 35th Virginia Cavalry as his “eyes.” And he makes no effort to deny the fact that Stuart was at Westminster on June 30, because that’s where Lee expected him to be.

What Brad does provide us, is a classic example of one hand washing the other: He’s in bed with McPherson and Sears, helping them sustain their position as the “go-to” talking heads in the civil war buff business.

Map of Adams County

Brad wants a Mulligan, wants to reopen his case.

Schaeffer: I'm trying to leave this gracefully but your lack of respect for others is so boorish that it must be answered.

Joe Ryan replies:  Losers in court on occasion do vent their frustration as Brad is doing here. In my world adversaries by their skill as advocates earn respect; pretenders who try to sell the jury gullible phony stories do not.

Schaeffer: First some quick points. Please show me evidence that White sent Lee word of the AoP's crossing and I'll gladly read the dispatches. Isn't it up to you to show us that Lee did use him, not up to me to prove a negative that he didn't? You may want to consider the competence of Beverly Robertson, who ranked Grumble Jones and thus was in ultimate control of Jones' 6th, 7th, 11th and 12th regiments of VA cavalry and White's 35th Battalion of VA Cav, (see I can do that whole detail thing too but it's just pedantic in this medium) to find out why no evidence that White warned Lee --it doesn't exist because he never did, and you would have produced it, being the good lawyer you are, if it did. Why didn't he? Who knows. We may never know.  But why must I prove he didn't. You must prove he did if you are going to make the claim. Supposition is not proof.

Joe Ryan replies: Brad’s late argument demonstrates the thinness of his grasp of the details, for the record plainly shows that Robertson was irrelevant to the situation: it was Grumble Jones, whose regiments maintained position on the east side of the Blue Ridge until moving into the valley and across the Potomac and up to Chambersburg. In the process, as Jones makes clear in his report, White’s battalion was not reporting to him where it was, or what it was doing between June 26 and July 1. Robertson filed no report. See, Jones and Robertson 

 As for White’s battalion, the available direct and circumstantial evidence easily support the reasonable inference that a reasonable person in General Lee’s shoes most probably would have used the presence of White at Point of Rocks on June 25 to watch for the enemy’s appearance in the Middletown Valley.

First, we have General Lee’s letters to President Davis, the content of which show us Lee’s knowledge of Hooker’s movements came to him through scouts. On June 18, Lee writes Davis: “The enemy has been thrown back. . . The last reports from the scouts indicate. . .” On June 22, Lee writes Davis: “I have the honor to report that. . . “Lt.Col. White has cut the B & O Railroad east of Point of Rocks.”  On June 23, Lee writes Davis: “Reports of movements of the enemy east of the Blue Ridge cause me to believe that he is preparing to cross the Potomac. A pontoon bridge is stated to be laid at Edwards Ferry, and his army corps that he has advanced to Leesburg appear to be withdrawing [from Virginia].” And, on June 25, as he was crossing the Potomac, he writes Davis: “I think I can throw Hooker across the Potomac.”

Second, we have O.O. Howard, commanding 11th corps, telling us that, on June 25 at 11:00 a.m., his leading division was on the left bank of the Potomac, between the Monocacy and Point of Rocks marching toward the Middletown Valley.  During the day of the 25th, a brigade of Union cavalry preceded Howard into the valley and headed for Crampton’s and Turner’s gaps on the morning of June 26. On the 26th, Stahel reported to Reynolds that his cavalry reached Boonesboro that morning and found rebel cavalry and a skirmish ensued. Howard reported to Reynolds on the 26th that a squadron of his HQ cavalry “dashed into Boonesboro. . . chasing out a squad of rebel cavalry.

Third, we have Early telling us, in his report, that “Col. White’s battalion of cavalry was ordered to report to me. . . and on the morning of the 26th. . . I sent White’s battalion on the pike through Cashtown toward Gettysburg.” Early mentions E.V. White as being present when White’s battalion reached Hanover on the 27th. (Union reports state that White’s battalion entered Gettysburg “the night of the 26th.)

Fourth, we know that, on June 26th, Lee’s headquarters was at or near Hagerstown, and that, on the 27th, he was somewhere between Hagerstown and Chambersburg. It is a distance of ten miles from Boonesboro to Hagerstown.

Finally, we have the indisputable fact that no reasonable person in General Lee’s shoes would march 80,000 men into the enemy’s country and not have scouts watching for the appearance of the enemy approaching its flank and rear. To deny this fact, is to say General Lee was incompetent in his role as an army commander, a denial that to date no historian is willing to make.

 From these facts, then, the fact-finder may reasonable infer that the rebel cavalry Howard says his cavalry chased out of Boonesboro most certainly communicated that fact to Lee. Which explains why Venable tells us, in his "sketch of letter" that Lee sent Ewell an order on the 27th to countermarch to Chambersburg.

Schaeffer: As to the letter book you say, as with many pieces of contemporary evidence, it's a mysterious fabrication. Who knows? How does one debate that point? It becomes a yes it is, no it's not, yet it is, no it's not, etc... dialectic. 

Joe Ryan Replies: The evidence shows there is nothing “mysterious” about the letterbook’s fabrication. (What Brad means by inserting the adjective --"contemporary"--I cannot fathom.)

First, one need only compare the objective record of how Lee’s HQ staff handled various types of communications during the Antietam Campaign with how they handled the same types of communications during the Gettysburg Campaign. In the former, they adhered precisely to Confederate Regulations: They had different letterbooks which they used to record different types of communications, and they were operating in the context of having agents of the Confederate Adjutant General’s Office present with them, looking over their shoulders and duplicating all movement orders, general as well as special, in separate books which they controlled, these latter books being eventually delivered to the AG’s office. Yet, with the latter, we have nothing except one book everybody is writing various things in which gives us the convoluted text of what is supposed to be several orders mixed together.

 Second, the absence of all movement orders being recorded in the Gettysburg letterbook gives rise to the reasonable inference that Lee’s staff intentionally chose to omit them, except for a single order written by an intelligent and secretive individual on Lee’s staff, who intentionally chose to make the text ambiguous.

The inference that arises from this, is that Lee intentionally hid from view what his actual instructions to his corps commanders were, from the point in time he crossed the Potomac on the 25th to July 1. The reasonableness of the inference to be drawn from these circumstances is strengthened by the way in which the letterbook finally surfaced in public, more than fifty years after the events recorded in it.

Schaeffer:  Early was only at risk if the Union Army was nearby. Perhaps therein lies your answer?

Joe Ryan replies: Brad is being obtuse here. “. . . if the Union Army was nearby?” Excuse me, Brad, but the problem is a bit more complex than that. In the dynamic situation Lee faced─the reality─taking Venable at his word, Lee, on the 27th, ordered Ewell to countermarch his corps to Chambersburg, because a scout had brought the word, after being chased out of Boonesboro, that the enemy corps were appearing in the Middletown Valley, which meant Lee was in imminent danger of having his army of 80,000 men and 20,000 animals blocked at the base of the Cumberland Valley, from returning to Virginia, by a superior, concentrated force.

At this moment in time, Early’s division of 10,000 men is fifty miles from Chambersburg, a two day march at the mnimum, during which time its march might be blocked by a superior enemy force coming up from Emmitsburg. Indeed, maybe the hero Buford might appear in Early’s front and do to him what the historians say Buford did to Heth.

Schaeffer:  Fortunately for the readers here this is not a trial and we are not in court but rather a simple discussion about a fascinating chapter of US history. I need not explain nor apologize for approaching this as someone who feels no need to dump my entire historical library onto a youtube post when I think the burden of proof is on you--and I'm sorry, speculation, supposition and circumstantial evidence, peppered with accusations of mendacity sans motive on the part of the participants and discounting learned scholars is hardly the foundation for a winning case. I think you realize this and so, as the bard cautions, "me thinks he doth protest too much."

Joe Ryan Replies:  On the contrary, when the serious student enters this site he or she is indeed challenged with the responsibility to view the facts in the light of the judicial process. This site is a teaching experience offered free; it is not here to sell the student a product, or a book, or an app; it is here to demonstrate that Brad’s “learned scholars” are lazy professors of history who, like him, skip the hard work of digging objectively into the details; embracing in the process, self-serving stories self-interested witnesses constructed long after the events their stories claim to record,embracing as well manufactured documents that lack trustworthy foundation. McPherson and Sears, in the judgment of this channel, do their students and readers a disservice by perpetuating, for their personal profit, the myth that the Battle of Gettysburg happened by accident, and it does not hesitate in saying so.

Finally, students take notice that, though Brad's got his Mulligan twice, he has no explanation what General Lee's objective was in marching his army into Pennsylvania. The "learned scholars" tell you it is, the "capture of Harrisburg." But the objective record demonstrates, indisputedly, the capture of Harrisburg could not possibly have been Lee's objective. So what then was it?

If you decide it must have been to bring the enemy to battle at Gettysburg, you have an explanation for Lee’s hiding his intent from his government and the general public.

Postscript. Brad refuses to recognize a rule of this site is that Ryan gets the last word. Brad recognized this yesterday but today comes back to repeat himself again and again. When the case is closed, Brad, the case is closed. It's in the jury's hands now.

Brad's second last shot is to attack the nature of advocacy. He writes: "A trial lawyer's job is not necessarily to unearth the truth.  It is to be an advocate for a client.  If the client's position and the truth happen to coincide that's wonderful and makes the lawyer's job easier for sure.  But if not, the lawyer is paid to be first and foremost the client's rep.  regardless of the truth, regardless of guilt or innocence."

Poor Brad. A lawyer's duty as an advocate in court is to zealously present his client's case, marshaling all the evidence he can that supports it, consistent with his professional responsibility to make no false statement of fact or law to a court, or to fail to correct a false statement of material fact or law previously made to a tribunal. It is plain, here, that Brad speaks for his pal, Professor McPherson and company, while I speak for General Lee. See, Joe Ryan's Introduction to the Battlewalks   

Here's Brad's last shot, at least he says it is his last shot.

Schaeffer:  You think Professor McPherson is thinking of Joe Ryan right now?  Doubtful.  And now neither am I.  I'm sure you'll have a book out soon that will turn the world of Civil War round tables upside down.  Maybe even win a McPherson.  Then again, probably not. 

You are right about one thing.  The case is certainly closed, your youtube rants notwithstanding.  Real historians closed it long ago.  Good day to you sir.

Joe Ryan Comments:  There it is, students: Brad, speaking for the lot of them, tells you the "historians" closed the case a long time ago. Beg to differ with him, but the objective history of General Lee's military operations remains to be written by one of you. It's tough work, starting from scratch, drilling into the mass of detail to establish the facts, discarding phony evidence manufactured to mask General Lee's true intent, but you will find it exciting, worthwhile and rewarding. The mask was justified by the times, I suppose, but 150 years later it's time to bring out the truth.

One of Charles Marshall's sons, H. Snowden Marshall, wrote British Major-General Frederick Maurice, in 1925, telling him he remembered his father saying that "there was a trait of character in General Lee that tended to obscure the truth of history." If anyone knew the truth it would have been Charles Marshall, the man most responsible for shaping the phony basis of the story the historians tell students.

While The Jury is Out, Brad Moves To Reopen His Case

Brad is being willfully blind here. His case depends upon his convincing you that, by the time General Lee reached Chambersburg on June 27th, he did not know the enemy army was in Maryland. In quoting Lee’s letter “in full context” Brad has left out the fact that since June 22 Lee had been receiving reports from his “scouts” that Hooker was concentrating his army corps at Leesburg and erecting pontoon bridges across the Potomac. Now, setting Brad and his pals aside, most reasonable minds would probably infer from this fact that Lee would reasonably be thinking Hooker would in fact cross the Potomac in reaction to his crossing.

Brad’s blindness continues as Lee, with Longstreet in tow, moves through Hagerstown to Chambersburg during the 25th, 26th, and 27th. This is shown by his refusal to accept the plain fact that members of E.V. White’s battalion of rangers watched for the enemy corps to appear in the Middletown Valley on the 26th and would have most certainly reported that fact to Lee; and he ignores the fact that similarly White’s scouts in front of Monterey Gap on the 28th would report to Lee the movement of enemy corps toward Emmitsburg.

Brad now seizes upon the word after found in the letter Lee sent to Davis from the field at Gettysburg, on the 4th, to prove what? To prove that Lee did not know the enemy was “advancing” until after Early reached York the morning of the 28th. But Lee’s letter to Davis does not say this. It says that the two corps (Longstreet’s and Hill’s) closed up at (Chambersburg) “and soon afterward intelligence was received that the army of Hooker was advancing.” Longstreet’s report states, “The command reached Chambersburg on the 27th.” So, “soon afterward,” Brad, can reasonably be seen to mean that sometime during the 27th a scout came to Lee to report that the enemy in Maryland was advancing.

And what, Brad, was Lee’s first reaction to the scout’s report? Did he order concentration at Gettysburg, Brad? No, he did not, unless you want the students to throw out of your case Venable’s “sketch” of  Lee’s letter, which Venable─a professor of mathematics─dated as June 28 at 7:30 a.m. In it, Lee ordered Ewell to countermarch Rodes’ and Johnson’s divisions from the vicinity of Carlisle to Chambersburg, a march of 33 miles. Assuming Lee’s order, dated by Venable as “last night” (i.e., the night of June 27th), arrived in Ewell’s hands sometime during the early morning of the 28th, Johnson, the lead division, might have reached the vicinity of Shippensburg by the night of the 28th. (Keep in mind, students how critical  Johnson’s division becomes on July1)

But, most important, is the question, why would Lee order Ewell’s corps (Early’s division being at York 52 miles away) to countermarch to Chambersburg, upon hearing from the scout on the 27th that the enemy was “advancing?” There can be but one reasonable conclusion to reach here: At the precise point in time Lee had Venable write the order, Lee must have thought the enemy army was advancing westward, through the Middletown Valley, to get across his line of retreat to Virginia and he thought he had no choice now but to try to get back to the Potomac, before the enemy army could concentrate at Hagerstown and block him with superior force. What other possible reason might a general in Lee’s shoes be thinking, if not this? What point would there be to ordering, on the 25th, the divisions of Ewell’s corps to march from Chambersburg to Carlisle and York and, then no sooner do they reach these points than you order them to march back to Chambersburg.? Why have them march over four, possibly five, days a round trip distance of 66 miles and 104 miles?

Plainly, given the objective circumstances,  a second scout came to Lee the night of the 28th (When Johnson was now near Shippensburg), to tell him that the enemy was advancing in the direction of Emmitsburg. Now, it makes sense that Lee countermands his order to Ewell, telling him now to move via Heidlersburg in the direction of Gettysburg.

And what about the elephant Brad does not acknowledge is in the room? What’s missing, folks, from Brad’s late, repetitive efforts to make his Gettysburg app credible? He’s not explaining what Lee is doing in Pennsylvania, he having plainly conceded that Lee’s objective was not Harrisburg.

The undisputed evidence, folks, shows that, on the 25th, when Lee, with Longstreet and Hill, was just then crossing the Potomac, he sent a messenger to Ewell, who then was at Chambersburg with his corps, telling Ewell to march Rodes and Johnson to Carlisle and Early to march to York. Why? Brad has no answer, so do they all─McPherson and Sears and Guelzo and their pals─have no answer.

Look to Jubal Early for the answer. It is he who discloses to you the fact that, on the 25th when he was at Chambersburg, he received Lee’s order to march toYork, from Ewell; and, at that time, he and Ewell understood that Lee expected them─from their respective positions at Carlise and York─to be marching toward each other no later than the 29th, meeting at some point between York and Carlisle. Which is exactly what Early was preparing to do on June 30th. In conformance with his understanding with Ewell, formed on the 25th, Early was anticipating marching toward Dillsburg while Ewell, with Rodes and Johnson, would be marching toward Churchtown. What is important, is the converging direction of their anticipated march, with the question of where along their line of march they would join, being left to Lee to say as events unfolded.

Text Box: Early Gave H.B. McClellan This time Line

Early Gave McClellan This Map

Early wrote his report in the manner he did to explain that when he marched east from Chambersburg on the 25th, he knew Lee expected that he would be marching west no later than the 29th. “ [M]y division remained in camp on the 25th, and I visited Ewell at Chambersburg, and received from him instructions to crossthe South Mountain to Gettysburg, and then proceed to York. . . , and rejoin him at Carlisle by way of Dillsburg.”

In his autobiography, a manuscript Early left at his death in 1894 which was published by his son, in 1912, Early wrote that his division reached Greenwood on the 24th, and that on the 25th he visited Ewell at Chambersburg.

“In accordance with instructions received from General Lee, General Ewell ordered me to move with my command across the South Mountain, and through Gettysburg to York, for the purpose of cutting the Northern Central Railroad and destroying the bridge across the Susquehanna at Wrightsville

. . . . I was also ordered to rejoin the other divisions at Carlisle by way of Dillstown from York, after I accomplished the task assigned to me.”


In a letter Early wrote to H.B. McClellan, who then was writing his book about Stuart, Early enclosed the time line and map and said this:

“I send you an exact copy of the memorandum I made in Ewell’s presence when I received his orders to move to York. The memorandum was made to note each day’s march as agreed on, in case of emergency we might readily communicate with each other. We had maps of the country which gave the roads with great accuracy. . . Ewell was to have sent Jenkin’s cavalry to me on the 28th to burn the bridge at [Wrightsville] and that did not occur. . . I had to send French’s cavalry on the 29th to burn some bridges which White failed to burn and he did not get back in time for me to move on the 29th. That morning I received the order to move back to the west side of South Mountain and hence I started back next day by the way of Heidlersburg and Arendtsville which was on the road to Shippensburg and Chambersburg. (Another explanation for the delay is that, because Jenkins did not arrive, Early had to send Gordon’s brigade)


I send you also Ewell’s letter to me dated the 28th at Carlisle. It was his purpose to have moved more leisurely, but in finding [no?] supplies he hurried on looking to get them at Carlisle.”. . .


I was to go back to the west side of  South Mountain, expecting to get more specific instructions on the way as to my ultimate destination. . . .”


The copy of Ewell’s letter of the 28th that Early enclosed in his letter to McClellan reads:

“General Jenkins lost so much time reconnoitering that I had no time to send him as I intended. General Lee has a heavy force (`tight corps’) toward Gettysburg. General Trimble saw him last night. General Lee seems inclined to concentrate about Chambersburg, so that I don’t know yet whether I move toward Harrisburg or not. So it is important that I hear from you so as to give you the shortest line of march.” (These documents are in the hands of the Virginia Historical Society)


Bringing together Venable’s sketch of  letter with Early’s letter to McClellan and the time line, map, and Ewell’s June 28 letter, we must sort out what appears to be a confused record.

First, assuming Early honestly reproduced the text of Ewell’s letter, it is clear that Ewell had not received an order from Lee to countermarch to Chambersburg when he sent it by messenger to Early. Therefore, the countermarch order had to be received by Ewell after the letter to Early was sent, but certainly the order must have been received sometime on the 28th, probably in the morning which resulted in Johnson marching south in the direction of Shippensburg.

Second, by agreement reached between them on the 25th, Early intended to march west from York on the 29th, but, because Ewell did not send Jenkins, he had to march Gordon to Wrightsville and Gordon was unable to get back to York in time for the division to being marching west toward Shippensburg on the 29th.

Third, Early understood on the 25th that on the 29th Ewell would be marching east toward Churchtown, and this makes reasonably clear that Early expected to get final instructions as to his division’s destination as he marched west.

These facts all point to the fact that Ewell’s marching and Early’s marching were intended as the means to set up the happening of the Battle of Gettysburg. The evidence simply does not support any other explanation for why they were marching.

To put the problem another way: why would Lee, crossing the Potomac on the 25th, want Early, then about to start marching east to York from Chambersburg, to be marching west on the 29th? What was Lee thinking, on the 25th, would be happening on the 29th?

Could it reasonably be that on the 25th Lee was thinking that, given his movements, the enemy might be advancing toward Gettysburg by the 29th? You young students, digging into the details, you see it, don’t you?

Finally, Early tells us nothing─in his report, his autobiography, or his letters to McClellan─about receiving an order from Lee through Ewell to march west, other than what he tells us happened on the 25th and what happened on the 29th.

Here is his report’s version of the event:

“On the evening of the 29th, I received, through Capt. Elliot Johnson, aide to Ewell, a copy of a note from General Lee, and also verbal instructions, which required me to move back, so as to rejoin the rest of the corps on the west side of the South Mountain, and accordingly, at daylight on the 30th, I put my whole command in motion. . . .”


Early’s inserting this text into his report simply means that at the time Lee sent forth a messenger with this note to Ewell, who sent it on to Early with verbal instructions, Lee’s intent as to the direction of Early’s march on the 29th had not changed from his intent on the 25th.

Early continues with his report to say,

“. . . I put my whole command in motion, moving by Weiglestown and East Berlin in the direction of Heidlersburg, from which I could move either to Shippensburg or to Greenwood by way of Arendtsville, as circumstances might require. . . At East Berlin. . . a courier from Ewell met me with a dispatch, informing me of the fact that he was moving with Rodes by way of Petersburg to Heidlersburg, and directing me to march in that direction. I encamped about 3 miles from Heidlersburg and rode to see Ewell, and was informed by him that the object was to concentrate the corps at or near Cashtown”


Here Early gives us a solid clue that telegraphs what is actually happening. Arendtsville, in the developmental stage of the anticipated battle at Gettysburg, is plainly the key. The shortest, quickest way back to Chambersburg was for Early to March from York to Gettysburg to Cashtown, not to march from York to Heidlersburg to Arendtsville. Going toward Chambersburg by way of Arendtsville is a roundabout way that bypasses Gettysburg, leaving it open for the enemy to occupy if they wish to. It is a way to set up Rodes and Early in position to come down on the flank of the enemy, should they come up to meet the advance of Lee’s main body from the direction of Cashtown.  Look at the map and think about it. And notice that Early, in his report, does not tell us about the letter he received from Ewell, dated June 28.

In his autobiography, Early tells his story this way:

“During my movement to York, Ewell had moved towards Harrisburg and reached Carlisle with Rodes and Jenkins’ cavalry, Johnson going to Shippensburg. Longstreet and Hill had also moved into Pennsylvania and reached the vicinity of Chambersburg, while the enemy had moved north on the east side of the South Mountain, interposing between ours and Washington. (It appears from this that, if Early could cross the mountain at Ardentsville going west, Johnson could cross it going east.)


Late on the afternoon of the 29th, Captain Elliot Johnson, aide to Ewell, came to me with a copy of a note from Lee to Ewell stating the enemy’s army was moving north and directing a concentration of the corps on the west side of the South Mountain; and also verbal instructions from Ewell to move back to join the rest of the corps. . .  In accordance with these instructions, I put my whole command in motion at daylight on the 30th, taking the road by way of Weiglestown and East Berlin toward Heidlersburg, so as to be able to move from that point to Shippensburg or Greenwood by way of Arendtsville. . . At East Berlin. . . a courier reached me with a dispatch from Ewell, informing me that he was moving with Rodes by way of Petersburg to Heidlersburg, and directing me to march for the same place.”


Notice that, again, this time in writing his manuscript, Early has left out of the narrative the fact that he received a letter from Ewell dated June 28. Only when his role in the matter of Stuart is under fire, does Early, in 1878, disclose the fact that he received Ewell’s letter. (Apparently the original of this letter is hidden somewhere in somebody’s collection.)

So, for you serious students of General Lee’s military operations your best objective evidence of what Lee’s objective was, in entering Pennsylvania, is the following:

1.         Lee’s letters to Davis

2.         Early’s report, his manuscript and his letters with enclosures to McClellan

3.         Venable’s sketch of letter

4.         Lee’s first report dated July 31, 1863

5.         Principles of Strategy as taught at West Point circa 1861

6.         Calculations of time, distance and numbers

7.         The nature of the Susquehanna River in June

8.         The location of White’s battalion on June 22-25

9.         Howard’s encounter with Confederate cavalry on June 26

10. Reynolds encounter with Confederate cavalry on June 28

11.       Buford’s message to Reynolds the night of June 30

12. The road net shown by available 1860 maps of Adams, Cumberland, and York counties.

Joe Ryan Civil War Youtube Channel