"But when Major Johnson [sic], who was conducting my division, came suddenly in view of Round Top, with the enemy's signal flags waving thereon, he appeared equally as astonished as I was. And, therefore, if General Lee was relying on his report, he was misinformed as to the true condition of affairs. I had been forbidden to reconnoiter, so had my engineer officer. General Longstreet had not done it, and General Lee had not... "
Here's another excerpt from Lafayette McLaws' 1878 paper, presented before the Georgia Historical Society. In this one, McLaws laments the lack of effective reconnaissance on July 2, 1863 at Gettysburg. <NOTE: Spelling and punctuation errors retained from original, specifically "Major Johnson">
The march was continued at a very early hour and my command reached the hill overlooking Gettysburg early in the morning. Just after I arrived General Lee sent for me - as the head of my column was halted within a hundred yards of where he was - and I went at once and reported. General Lee was sitting on a fallen tree with a map beside him. After the usual salutation, General Lee remarked: "General, I wish you to place your division across this road," pointing on the map to about the place I afterwards went to, and directing my attention to about the place across the country from where we were, the position being a commanding one; "and I wish you to get there if possible without being seen by the enemy."
The place he pointed out was about the one I afterwards went to, and the line he marked out on the map for me to occupy was one perpendicular to the Emmetsburg road. He finally remarked: "Can you get there?" or "Can you do it?" I replied that "I knew of nothing to prevent me, but would take a party of skirmishers and go in advance and reconnoiter." He said, "Major Johnson, of my staff, has been ordered to reconnoiter the ground, and I expect he is about ready." I then remarked, "I will go with him."
Just then General Longstreet, who, when I came up, was walking back and forth some little distance from General Lee, and hearing my proposition or request to reconnoiter, spoke quickly and said, "No sir. I do not wish you to leave your division," and then, pointing to the map, said: "I wish your division placed so," running his finger in a direction perpendicular to that pointed out by General Lee. General Lee replied: "No, General, I wish it placed just perpendicular to that," or "just the opposite."
I then reiterated my request to go with Major Johnson, but General Longstreet again forbade it. General Lee said nothing more, and I left them, and joining my command, put it under cover of a line of woods a short distance off. General Longstreet appeared as if he was irritated and annoyed, but the cause I did not ask. When I rejoined my command I sent my engineer officer, Lieutenant Monteure, to go and join Major Johnson, and gave him instructions what to observe particularly, as he was an officer in whom I had confidence, but [he] was ordered back.
I then reconnoitered myself for my own information, and was soon convinced that by crossing the ridge where I then was, my command could reach the point indicated by General Lee, in a half hour, without being seen. I then went back to the head of my column and sat on my horse and saw in the distance the enemy coming, hour after hour, on to the battle ground.
At length, my recollection is that it was about 1 pm, Major Johnston, of General Lee's staff, came to me and said he was ordered to to conduct me on the march. My command was at once put in motion, Major Johnson and myself riding some distance ahead. Suddenly, as we rose a hill on the road we were taking, the Round Top was plainly visible, with the flags of the signal men in rapid motion. <excerpt describing counter-march etc.>
You will find, as I proceed, that General Longstreet had been ordered to partially envelope the enemy's left and drive it in with his command. But the officer who had made the reconnaissance, and was appointed to lead his troops by the necessary route, to carry our the order, carried Longstreet's leading division not on the flank, but in the immediate presence of a superior force, and so close that he could not withdraw in order to march farther to the left without serious complications. It is true he could have waited, but he was, as I understand it, urged to the assault. <excerpt rehashing details>
I have stated that General Lee must have given his orders for the attack based upon false information, or perhaps it would be better to say wrong information. I am unable to find out whoever did reconnoiter the left, excepting that Major J. was ordered to do so. This I know, for General Lee himself told me. But when Major Johnson, who was conducting my division, came suddenly in view of Round Top, with the enemy's signal flags waving thereon, he appeared equally as astonished as I was. And, therefore, if General Lee was relying on his report, he was misinformed as to the true condition of affairs.
I had been forbidden to reconnoiter, so had my engineer officer. General Longstreet had not done it, and General Lee had not, and, therefore, it must have been that Major Johnson had gone there early in the morning, and not seeing any one, had so reported, and if, after that time, a different state of affairs was known by anybody to exist, it had not been reported to either General Lee or General Longstreet; at least it appears so. All this resulted from defective and deficient organization of our staff corps, not from anybody's fault, but from the force of circumstances. <end of excerpt>
Excerpt from: [Lafayette McLaws, "The Battle of Gettysburg," a paper presented before the Georgia Historical Society, January 7, 1878.]
Previously Posted Excerpts from McLaws' paper:
McLaws' View of Pickett's Charge https://civilwartalk.com/threads/view-of-picketts-charge-maj-gen-lafayette-mclaws-on-july-3.159910/
Hood's and McLaws' preparations just prior to the July 2 assault https://civilwartalk.com/threads/day-2-hoods-mclaws-divisions-prior-to-the-assault.160483/#post-2098161
McLaws' arrival on the field https://civilwartalk.com/threads/day-2-mclaws-arrives-in-view-of-the-enemy.160745/#post-2101966