On Lee, Stuart, Orders, and Gettysburg....

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Eric Wittenberg

1st Lieutenant
Keeper of the Scales
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1585485909045.jpeg

Col. Charles C. Marshall
Wartime Artwork, Artist unknown, PD image

Submitted for your consideration...

These are the three orders given to Jeb Stuart on June 22 and 23, 1863. They constitute the operational orders for what became his expedition. They are as clear as mud. The person responsible for drafting them was R.E. Lee's military secretary, Col. Charles C. Marshall. In an attempt to downplay his own role, Marshall later claimed that Stuart should have been shot for disobeying said orders. Read them for yourself and determine whether Stuart disobeyed them. I will submit to you that if you review them carefully, you will conclude that Stuart, in fact, obeyed them to the letter.

This is the first order, sent to Stuart on June 22, 1863. It was written by Lee's military secretary, Col. Charles Marshall:

HEADQUARTERS, June 22, 1863.

Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, Commanding Cavalry

GENERAL:
I have just received your note of 7. 40 this morning to General Longstreet. I judge the efforts of the enemy yesterday [ERIC'S NOTE: LEE REFERS HERE TO THE JUNE 21, 1863 BATTLE OF UPPERVILLE] were to arrest our progress and ascertain our whereabouts. Perhaps he is satisfied. Do you know where he is and what he is doing? I fear he will steal a march on us, and get across the Potomac before we are aware. If you find that he is moving northward, and that two brigades can guard the Blue Ridge and take care of your rear, you can move with the other three into Maryland, and take position on General Ewell's right, place yourself in communication with him, guard his flank, keep him informed of the enemy's movements, and collect all the supplies you can for the use of the army.

One column of General Ewell's army will probably move toward the Susquehanna by the Emmitsburg route; another by Chambersburg. Accounts from him last night state that there was no enemy west of Frederick. A cavalry force (about 100) guarded the Monocacy Bridge, which was barricaded. You will, of course, take charge of [A. G.] Jenkins' brigade, and give him necessary instructions. All supplies taken in Maryland must be by authorized staff officers for their respective departmentsby no one else. They will be paid for, or receipts for the same given to the owners. I will send you a general order on this subject, which I wish you to see is strictly complied with.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. E. LEE,
General

Longstreet sent this letter with Lee's first order, also dated June, 22, 1863:

HEADQUARTERS, Miliwood,
June 22, 1863
7 p. m.

Maj. Gen. J. E. B. STUART, Commanding Cavalry:

GENERAL:

General Lee has inclosed to me this letter for you, to be forwarded to you, provided you can be spared from my front, and provided I think that you can move across the Potomac without disclosing our plans. He speaks of your leaving, via Hopewell Gap, and passing by the rear of the enemy. If you can get through by that route, I think that you will be less likely to indicate what our plans are than if you should cross by passing to our rear. I forward the letter of instructions with these suggestions.

Please advise me of the condition of affairs before you leave, and order General Hampton,whom I suppose you will leave here in command, to report to me at Millwood, either by letter or in person, as may be most agreeable to him.

Most respectfully,

JAMES LONGSTREET,
Lieutenant-General.

P. S. I think that your passage of the Potomac by our rear at the present moment will, in a measure, disclose our plans. You had better not leave us, therefore, unless you caxi take the proposed route in rear of the enemy.

Longstreet conveniently forgot about this order when he wrote his post-war memoirs and blamed Stuart for being "late" to Gettysburg.

Late in the afternoon on June 23, Lee sent a second order, also drafted by Marshall. It's so full of holes that one could drive a truck through them. But this is THE operational order for Stuart's expedition.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
June 23, 1863
5 p. m.

Maj. Gen. J. E. B. STUART, Commanding Cavalry:

GENERAL:

Your notes of 9 and 10.30 a. m. to-day have just been received. As regards the purchase of tobacco for your men, supposing that Confederate money will not be taken, I am willing for your commissaries or quartermasters to purchase this tobacco and let the men get it from them, but I can have nothing seized by the men.

If General Hooker's army remains inactive, you can leave two brigades to watch him, and withdraw with the three others, but should he not appear to be moving northward, I think you had better withdraw this side of the mountain to-morrow night, cross at Shepherdstown next day, and move over to Fredericktown.

You will, however, be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hinderance, doing them all the damage you can, and cross the river east of the mountains. In either case, after crossing the river, you must move on and feel the right of Ewell's troops, collecting information, provisions, &c.

Give instructions to the commander of the brigades left behind, to watch the flank and rear of the army, and (in the event of the enemy leaving their front) retire from the mountains west of the Shenandoah, leaving sufficient pickets to guard the passes, and bringing everything clean along the Valley, closing upon the rear of the army.

As regards the movements of the two brigades of the enemy moving toward Warrenton, the commander of the brigades to be left in the mountains must do what he can to counteract them, but I think the sooner you cross into Maryland, after to-morrow, the better.

The movements of Ewell's corps are as stated in my former letter. Hill's first division will reach the Potomac to-day, and Longstreet will follow to-morrow.

Be watchful and circumspect in all your movements.

I am, very respectfully and truly, yours,

R. E. LEE,
General.

The commander of the two brigades Lee mentions was Brig. Gen. Beverly H. Robertson, who disobeyed Stuart's very detailed orders. Had he obeyed them, he and two brigades would have been in Chambersburg on June 30, and would have escorted Hill's Corps on July 1. However, Robertson dillydallied and didn't enter Pennsylvania until July 3. The best laid plans of mice and men....

"Fredericktown" is modern-day Frederick, Maryland.

Stuart's very able adjutant, Maj. Henry B. McClellan, later claimed that there was a third, verbal order delivered to Stuart on the night of June 23, but there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim. Instead, it seems likely to me that the June 23 written order is what McClellan claimed, since it would have been delivered to Stuart that night. McClellan also claimed that it more or less repeated the June 23 order, which lends further credit to the thought that there was no third order. Personally, I do not believe that there was a third order.

Since these are the operational orders for what became Stuart's expedition, it's fair to say that these are the ground rules under which Stuart operated. After years and years of study, and after examining nearly every minute of Stuart's expedition in detail (see Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg for that analysis), J. D. Petruzzi and I came to the conclusion that, while there was indeed plenty of blame to go around, Stuart nevertheless obeyed these orders to the letter. Jeff Wert disagrees with us, and Jeff and I have had some very spirited discussions about this subject over the years. Then again, that's what makes this fun.
 
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Such a strangely worded (and confusing) sentence, is it not Eric? Very ambiguous:

If General Hooker's army remains inactive, you can leave two brigades to watch him, and withdraw with the three others, but should he not appear to be moving northward, I think you had better withdraw this side of the mountain to-morrow night, cross at Shepherdstown next day, and move over to Fredericktown.
 
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dlofting

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Please advise me of the condition of affairs before you leave, and order General Hampton,whom I suppose you will leave here in command, to report to me at Millwood, either by letter or in person, as may be most agreeable to him.
Perhaps if Lee had included a similar suggestion in his orders to Stuart the Gettysburg story might have been different...but that really wasn't Lee's style.
 

Jamieva

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Such a strangely worded (and confusing) sentence, is it not Eric? Very ambiguous:

If General Hooker's army remains inactive, you can leave two brigades to watch him, and withdraw with the three others, but should he not appear to be moving northward, I think you had better withdraw this side of the mountain to-morrow night, cross at Shepherdstown next day, and move over to Fredericktown.
Would I be wrong to assume that the second part of the order was supposed to have the word NOT taken out before appear? That would then present Stuart options for either scenario. Otherwise we have an order that says 2 different things to do if Hooker doesn't move, with nothing about what to do if he does.
 
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Would I be wrong to assume that the second part of the order was supposed to have the word NOT taken out before appear? That would then present Stuart options for either scenario. Otherwise we have an order that says 2 different things to do if Hooker doesn't move, with nothing about what to do if he does.
You beat me at it. IIRC Sears in his book "Gettysburg" says it's possible that the word "not" may have been added "by a clerical error" (a quick search in Google books says it's on page 553, but I cannot verify that at the moment. Please correct me if it's wrong.)
 

Eric Wittenberg

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Jamie, anything is possible.

Here's what I know: the text that I posted here was a direct copy/paste out of the online version of the Official Records found here: http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/m/moawar/waro.html. I am therefore quite confident that what I posted is verbatim what appears in the OR. Whether a clerical error was made at the time that the messages were transcribed is not something that I care to speculate on. I can speak of what I know.
 
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E_just_E

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HEADQUARTERS, Miliwood,
June 22, 1863
7 p. m

[....]
One column of General Ewell's army will probably move toward the Susquehanna by the Emmitsburg route; another by Chambersburg.
Got to double-check my notes at some point, but this is pretty strange, since Ewell's army in a single column had already arrived in Greencastle, PA and was on its way to Chambersburg, just hours before this was written. That whole "Emmitsburg route" bit is just bizarre... And I can see Stuart who was ordered to catch Ewell's right (i.e. his East-most forces) being misdirected because of it.
 
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Eric Wittenberg

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Got to double-check my notes at some point, but this is pretty strange, since Ewell's army in a single column had already arrived in Greencastle, PA and was on its way to Chambersburg, just hours before this was written. That whole "Emmitsburg route" bit is just bizarre... And I can see Stuart who was ordered to catch Ewell's right (i.e. his East-most forces) being misdirected because of it.
Ewell entered Pennsylvania on June 22, Emanuel. So, you're correct. But Lee may not have known that because of the delays endemic in communications in those days.
 

War Horse

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Probably not. Lee had a habit of trusting Marshall to write his orders, and I believe that's what had happened.
Were duplicates of the orders made and sent to Richmond? The way I see it is if a mistake was made, it changes nothing. The orders from the OR are the orders Stuart received and he acted accordingly. Mistake or no mistake. Anything else is a What If.
 
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Were duplicates of the orders made and sent to Richmond? The way I see it is if a mistake was made, it changes nothing. The orders from the OR are the orders Stuart received and he acted accordingly. Mistake or no mistake. Anything else is a What If.
Sure it is a "what if" and I know that "what if" discussions get not much credit here. But in this case and to me personally it seems to be obvious that the mistake must have been made by Marshall, by inadvertedly adding that little word "not". It makes no sense and I hope I will be forgiven when I say I find it a bit unfair to accuse Lee of a blurry order (or worse) when all he probably did wrong was not to read through the written orders of his subaltern staff officer. I know, I know, it's in the ORs ... but Lee was no madman, even with his usual way if issueing orders that left a lot to interpret, he would not have contradicted himself within two or three sentences. Or let's say from all I read about him I cannot imagine that. So, to me, in this case the OR, although they are the only written "facts" that are accessible to us, seem not to be the ultima ratio. My humble personal opinion. And by no means do I want to criticize Stuart. After reading Sears it has become clear to me that Longstreet was wrong to accuse Stuart of joy riding to promote his reputation or even fame.
But hey, nobody is perfect. I don't like him any less for that.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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The best part is having this thread. " Killer Angels " has been such a mixed blessing- the more interest awakened on what occurred 150 years ago the safer is History. A huge amount of present day buffs owe their first fix to Shaara then there's the shock, it's a novel. That poor Stuart wasn't guilty as set up by Longstreet's dialogue is almost a shocking concept, it's such a widely held belief. He's been able to stop rolling in his grave since " Plenty of Blame ", may be sleeping now.

Still in the bleachers , without the slightest claim to skills be able to argue any of this personally, no need. Bookmarked.
 
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Jamieva

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If I remember right from my reading, Lee leaned more toward verbal orders. If they were written, they were not by Lee himself but by one of the staff officers who would then take it to the recipient. So odds are Lee never saw how this order was written. I think it's safe to say if he had, he might have corrected it some.
 

Stone in the wall

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This part is very clear; Jue 23 1861 5 p.m. You will however, be able to judge whether you can pass around their army WITHOUT HINDERANCE, doing them all the damage you can and cross the river east of the mountains. In either case, after crossing the river, you MUST move on and feel the right of Ewells troops......
 
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