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Retreat from Gettysburg

Discussion in 'Battle of Gettysburg' started by pamc153PA, Jul 6, 2012.

  1. pamc153PA

    pamc153PA 1st Lieutenant Forum Host

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    I found this at the same place I found Gen. Imboden's account of his meeting with Lee after the battle. I thought that account was so poignant, so I read on, and found more of Imboden's descriptions, this time about the retreat itself:

    Lee orders General Imboden and his brigade of cavalry to protect the retreating train of Confederate wounded as it retreats back across the Potomac River into Virginia. The column moves out at four o'clock in the afternoon and stretches for miles. Wagons carry the severely injured while the walking wounded straggle behind. The column makes its way west through the Pennsylvania mountains. We rejoin General Imboden's story the evening of July 4:
    "After dark I set out from Cashtown to gain the head of the column during the night. My orders had been peremptory that there should be no halt for any cause whatever. If an accident should happen to any vehicle, it was immediately to be put out of the road and abandoned. The column moved rapidly, considering the rough roads and the darkness, and from almost every wagon for many miles issued heart-rending wails of agony. For four hours I hurried forward on my way to the front, and in all that time I was never out of hearing of the groans and cries of the wounded and dying. Scarcely one in a hundred had received adequate surgical aid, owing to the demands on the hard-working surgeons from still worse cases that had to be left behind. Many of the wounded in the wagons had been without food for thirty-six hours. Their torn and bloody clothing, matted and hardened, was rasping the tender, inflamed, and still oozing wounds. Very few of the wagons had even a layer of straw in them, and all were without springs. The road was rough and rocky from the heavy washings of the preceding day. The jolting was enough to have killed strong men, if long exposed to it. From nearly every wagon as the teams trotted on, urged by whip and shout, came such cries and shrieks as these:

    'O God I why can't I die!'
    'My God I will no one have mercy and kill me!'
    'Stop! Oh! For God's sake, stop just for one minute; take me out and leave me to die on the roadside.'
    'I am dying! I am dying! My poor wife, my dear children, what will become of you?'

    Some were simply moaning; some were praying, and others uttering the most fearful oaths and execrations that despair and agony could wring from them; while a majority, with a stoicism sustained by sublime devotion to the cause they fought for, endured without complaint unspeakable tortures, and even spoke words of cheer and comfort to their unhappy comrades of less will or more acute nerves. Occasionally a wagon would be passed from which only low, deep moans could be heard. No help could be rendered to any of the sufferers. No heed could be given to any of their appeals. Mercy and duty to the many forbade the loss of a moment in the vain effort then and there to comply with the prayers of the few. We must move on. The storm continued, and the darkness was appalling. There was no time even to fill a canteen with water for a dying man; for, except the drivers and the guards, all were wounded and utterly helpless in that vast procession of misery. During this one night I realized more of the horrors of war than I had in all the two preceding years."

    To say that this must have been a hellish night for him doesn't seen to cover it.

    http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/gtburg2.htm
     

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  3. tmh10

    tmh10 Major

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    Im sure the authors of One Continious Fight read this account as it was enough to give you chills reading it. A lot of people read about the battle at Gettysburg but know little of the events of the retreat. Thanks for posting this topic.
     
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  4. prroh

    prroh Captain

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    To make matters worse, the train of wounded was hit several times by Union cavalry. Some wagonloads of wounded were captured whilst others fell over the ledge on the side of the road. All this during a rainstorm that would be remembered by many veterans of both sides who claimed it was one of the worst storms they had experienced.
     
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  5. GAvolunteer

    GAvolunteer Corporal

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    I am speachless.
     
  6. pamc153PA

    pamc153PA 1st Lieutenant Forum Host

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    Prroh, your post reminded me of this part of the retreat, which is also one of my favorite least-talked about battles of the Gettysburg Campaign, the Battle of Monterey Pass. I have toured this part of the retreat route, and the mountainous, winding roads--in the night, during a huge storm--would have been horrendous, themselves, not to mention in wagons full of wounded, being pursued.

    Here is a good, detailed description of the battle:

    http://www.montereypassbattlefield.org/contents/history_of_the_battle.htm
     
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  7. prroh

    prroh Captain

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    In one of the more bizarre scenes of the war, guests at the upscale summer resort, Monterrey House, came out on the porch for after dinner drinks and cigars. Protected from the heavy rain by the overhang, the formally dressed guests watched, unmolested, as the long columns of Confederates trudged past .
     
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  8. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    The roads were very muddy, too.
     
  9. BillO

    BillO 1st Lieutenant

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    The 1st. Rockbridge artillery lost more men in the retreat than in the 3 day battle. Their wounded and walking wounded were with the wagon trains and were captured.
     
  10. ole

    ole Brev. Brig. Gen'l Retired Moderator

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    So far, the pursuit does seem to definitely tentative, and justifiably so.
     
  11. Rob9641

    Rob9641 Captain Civil War Photo Contest
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    My recollection is that part of the reason Meade's pursuit was "tentative" was that he sent so many of his troops via the macadamized roads, because of the rain, so they went by way of Frederick and Middletown, which was a lot farther.
     
  12. matthew mckeon

    matthew mckeon Brigadier General Moderator

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    One Continuous Fight focuses on the cavalry. Retreat From Gettysburg by Kent Masterson Brown is an outstanding account of the retreat, mostly from Lee's point of view.
     
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  13. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Retreat From Gettysburg notes that the AOP after Gettysburg was pretty beat up with a lot of commanders out of action, supplies far to the rear, out of supplies locally and so on. Lee managed the retreat very well.
     
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  14. whitworth

    whitworth 2nd Lieutenant

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    Imboden's portion of the Confederate retreat from Gettyburg was largely forgotten by the historians that wanted to keep the rebels in the war, since mostly, all the survivors of the war, were Americans in 1865.
    The retreat was devastating for Lee's army, it was easy to completely forget it. Little accounting for those who died on the retreat back to Virginia, or how many who survived the trip never were active again in the Army of Northern Virginia.
    In addition to losses of soldiers, the Confederacy lost half their cavalry and artillery horses, that they had when their Pennsylvania invasion started.
     
  15. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    The Retreat from Gettysburg author has a different viewpoint. His is that the supplies pillage from Pennsylvania Countryside kept Lee's army alive, when had no action been taken, it would have starved to nothing.

    From Retreat from Gettysburg pp 389-390 by Kent Masterson Brown

    retreat.jpg
     
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  16. jessgettysburg1863

    jessgettysburg1863 2nd Lieutenant

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    A hellish account of what the wounded must of gone through.
     
  17. damYankee

    damYankee Sergeant Major Forum Host

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    Proving once again that denial is not a river in Egypt.
     
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  18. Diana9

    Diana9 2nd Lieutenant

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    Proving once again that "War is hell."
     
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  19. Dugger

    Dugger Banned

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    Utter rubbish. It was not a tactical defeat it was a total strategic defeat....especially when coupled with the fall of Vicksburg on the DAY AFTER. They (Confederates) were killed to almost nothing.... not starved to nothing in 1863, that came later. Lord have Mercy. It never ceases to amaze me how some "academics" or whatever can spin a WAR LOSING campaign into some kinda positive. Nice how this battle and sortie helped keep Lee's army "alive".... ya right, his army was killed in Pa. never to recover. How much they brought back to eat is utterly moot. War was over in July 1863. Just took another year and a half. Very akin to the Geman retreat in the summer and fall of 1918. Beat...but kept it up fer awhile. I dam well mean that. Over.....as long as Lincoln could win re-election....which he did.

    I have issues with a lotta "academics" and I are one. Go figure. They are just as capable of being idiots as anyone. Trust me. Folks need to know that.
     
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  20. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    I tend to agree. The loss of officers and men when replacement was difficult seems to be more costly than the benefit. OTOH, if the army was doomed without the Pennsylvania expedition and survived with the loot then the cost was worth it. It'd been much better without Gettysburg.
     
  21. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    I suppose, but the question I have, was the army doomed staying in Virginia? If so, then it was a reasonable calculated risk that got mucked up by the Gettysburg distraction. Given a choose between no army and a lessor army which is preferable?
     

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