Tuesday, June 25, 2013

150-years-ago -- THE MARCH TO GETTYSBURG

[Excerpted from Hood's Texas Brigade: Its Marches, Its Battles, Its Achievements by J.B. Polley (New York, 1910)]

Maj. Gen. John B. Hood
(Library of Congress)
Coincidentally with the northward march of Longstreet's corps from the vicinity of Millwood, Va., General Jeb. Stuart, at the head of all the cavalry belonging to the Army of Northern Virginia, save the brigades of Robertson and Imboden, began a ride that, whatever its aim and hope, served only to detach his command from the army and deny to General Lee early and accurate information of the movements of the Federal army. Not until June 29th did General Lee learn, and then only through a scout traveling on foot, that General Hooker had led the Union army to the north side of the Potomac, and was marching it toward Gettysburg. This news called for an immediate change of plan. Ewell's corps, then far to   the north on the march to Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, was recalled, and A. P. Hill's  corps was sent across South Mountain to Cashtown, a little town on the turnpike leading from Chambersburg to Gettysburg, eight miles east of the latter.

The Texas Brigade, on the afternoon of the 27th, camped in a grove of magnificent timber about a mile north of Chambersburg. Commissary trains were belated, and when long after dark they arrived, 
brought only slender rations of rancid bacon and musty flour. In the country roundabout there was a superabundance of all kinds of eatables. The Federal soldiers that had marched through Virginia had taken, with the strong hand, whatever they wanted from the people down there, not even offering to pay in greenbacks. General Lee's order strictly prohibited depredations on private property, but would there be any violation of that order if Confederate soldiers persuaded the good citizens of Pennsylvania to sell them provisions and accept in payment therefor Confederate money? Surely not.

There was no violence used, no threats of any kind made by any Confederate soldier, and none of the citizens complained of having been intimidated and robbed. The greater part of the supplies that found their way into camp were paid for in Confederate money, the rest were voluntary offerings. Soldiers as hungry as were the Confederates could not be expected to refuse proffers of food, even when they suspected such proffers were made through unwarranted fear of ill-treatment. The demanding and the giving were both good-humored; not a house was entered save upon invitation, or consent obtained; not a woman or child was frightened or insulted, not a building was burned, or ransacked for hidden silver and other valuables ; all that was wanted, all that was asked for, all that was accepted, was food. And thus it happened that a member of the Fourth Texas who came into the camp of the Texas Brigade after dark on the 30th of June was able write as follows :

"Remembering the brigade late that night, at its camp near Chambersburg, and being very tired, I lay down near the wagons and went to sleep. Awakened next morning by Collins' bugle, and walking over to the camp, I witnessed not only an unexpected but a wonderful and marvelous sight. Every square foot of an acre of ground not occupied by a sleeping or standing soldier, was covered with choice food for the hungry. Chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese squawked, gobbled, quacked, cackled and hissed in harmonious unison as deft and energetic hands seized them for slaughter, and scarcely waiting for them to die, sent their feathers flying in all directions; and scattered around in bewildering confusion and gratifying     profusion appeared immense loaves of bread and chunks  of corned beef, hams, and sides of bacon, cheeses, crocks of apple-butter, jelly, jam, pickles, and preserves, bowls of yellow butter, demijohns of buttermilk, and other eatables   too numerous to mention.

"The sleepers were the foragers of the night, resting from their arduous labors — the standing men, their mess-mates who remained as camp-guards and were now up  to their eyes in noise, feathers and grub. Jack Sutherland's head pillowed itself on a loaf of bread, and one arm was wound caressingly half-around a juicy  looking ham. Bob Murray, fearful that his captives would take to their wings or  be purloined, had wound the string, which bound half a dozen frying chickens around his right big toe; one of Brahan's widespread legs was embraced by two  overlapping crocks of apple-butter and jam, while a tough old gander, gray with  age, squawked complainingly at his head without in the last disturbing his       slumber; Dick Skinner lay flat on his back — with his right hand holding to the legs of three fat chickens and a duck, and his left, to those of a large turkey — fast asleep and snoring in a rasping bass voice that chimed in well with the     music of the fowls.

"The scene is utterly indescribable, and I shall make no further attempt to      picture it. The hours were devoted exclusively to gormandizing until, at 5 p. m.,marching orders came, and leaving more provisions than they carried, the Texans moved lazily and plethorically into line — their destination, Gettysburg."  

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