"I sat on my horse watching the shells passing over me, now bursting over artillery, now over the enemy's lines and then suddenly against Round Top, until it became monotonous, as the results could but be conjectured. But finally, during a temporary lull in the artillery fire, my attention was attracted by seeing a number of my command, among them General Wofford on horseback, looking intently down our lines towards Gettysburg, and I rode in that direction and saw the advancing Confederates moving to the charge on the enemy's centre."
In 1877, former Confederate Major General Lafayette McLaws sent inquiries to the former Colonels and Brigadier Generals of his division at Gettysburg. Where exactly was your line? What do you recollect about the order to withdraw from the base of Little Round Top? Where again was that battery that you prevented your men from capturing? What were the significant events that occurred outside of my observation? His object was to write a paper to be presented, first before the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah, but later to other groups, too.
Whether you think McLaws was a good division commander or not, you have to admire his diplomacy. After the ill-fated assault on Fort Sanders, Longstreet removed him from command and had charges preferred against him. So, in McLaws' post-war essay, it would have been easy to heap blame upon the Old War Horse. But he didn't. He criticizes neither Lee nor Longstreet. He states what happened - what he observed and what was reported to him directly from his subordinates. McLaws had no political aspirations - there is no campaigning in his account. He had no military reputation - he had nothing to lose. Here, then, is an excerpt from McLaws' first version of "The Battle of Gettysburg."
In the early morning of the 3d my new line was careful revised. Kershaw and Semmes' brigades towards the Round Top, and the others extending diagonally towards the peach orchard -- all concealed by the woods from the batteries on the hills. My skirmish lines were to the front, commanding half-way across the wheat field, which is shown on the map <Unfortunately, McLaws' map is not included.>
We lay undisturbed by the enemy. The exertion and excitement of the previous day had been tremendous, and excepting burial parties, those engaged in attending to the wounded and collecting and stacking arms, my division was resting. What the next move was to be was unknown to me. My troops were in close proximity to the enemy, and my front was covered with woods. If the enemy had determined to commence the offensive, my command would become engaged at very short notice, and I therefore stayed with it.
It was not notified that it was in contemplation even to make any further attack by either Hood's or my division, nor was I informed that it was the intention to assault the enemy's centre with Pickett's division, with the assistance of troops from other corps. I was not told to be ready to assist, should the assault be successful, nor instructed what to do should the assault fail and the enemy advance. I contented myself with reconnoitering my ground and vicinity in all the directions necessary for movement in any emergency, and took my position among my troops.
I became early aware that artillery was concentrating along my rear, on the crest occupied by my line, before I advanced, and that not only the corps artillery but the guns from Hill's corps and others were preparing for a grand opening. And when the numerous guns opened, shaking the very earth between the opposing armies, the shot and shell from the batteries on our right poured over my command; those of the enemy crossing ours, going in the opposite direction, but all bent on the same mission of destruction.
Not a shot, as I can remember, fell among my men. We were resting entirely undisturbed, excepting now and then a bomb shot would come from Round Top, fired at some of us moving about, and got in view of the batteries, in mere wantonness, as the chance was very small and they did not care to waste a shell on one, two or three.
The enemy appeared to be waiting the assault to follow the storm of shot and shell. Of course there was not a soldier in either army of any experience who did not know that an assault was to be made somewhere, and the shells, as they bursted over the enemy's lines gave of themselves a pretty sure indication to them that it was on their centre that the shock was to be given. Not only was that a sign, but undoubtedly they could see our preparations from every prominent signal station from Round Top on their left to the cemetery on their right; and disposed their forces, stationed their reserves, and made all other needful preparations to meet the shock and to meet it at the exact portion of their lines it was made.
The forces of the enemy were on a crest overlooking our position, the hill, known as Cemetery Hill, declining to their rear, so that they could move their troops without being seen by us, whilst our movements were plainly visible for fully a mile distant on an average along our entire front; and down the main roads for a mile further all between the armies was swept by artillery.<to be continued>
[Lafayette McLaws, "The Battle of Gettysburg," a paper presented before the Georgia Historical Society, January 7, 1878.]
Image borrowed from @Robert Gray 's previous post https://civilwartalk.com/threads/general-lafayette-mclaws.159155/#post-2076808