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28i. Lee Consolidates

Section 28H speculates on how Lee may have pressed his attack towards Westminster, but another late night musing revealed a major obstacle to any such movement in the first week of July. He has over 20,000 Union prisoners to contend with!

As Day 2 (THURS July 2) dawned Lee ordered that the Union officers be separated from the enlisted ranks. This was an effort to quell any organized break away by the prisoners; even though they were surrounded by thousands of CSA troops. Next, Lee himself rode into town and confronted the Mayor. He demanded that the people provide prepared food, livestock and supplies like grain to feed the mass of humanity huddles just south of the town. Failing that he threated to simply unleash them to rampage through the town taking what they wanted. One problem solved at least for the short-term.

Early that morning he had sent a Union Colonel south with a message to Meade. Lee requested a trainload of medical and basic supplies be sent in from Hanover. The return would carry out some of the more severely wounded, both Union and CSA, who needed immediate care. As an incentive, Lee offered to send out LTG Slocum as well. His Twelfth Union Corps had not participated in any of the Day 1 ambush and he had readily surrendered himself to save his Corps from attack and turned them away. Lee considered him as having acted most honorably and deserving of returning to his Corps. Meade agreed and by Friday afternoon the train was en route back to Hanover.

At the Thursday morning commanders’ conference, Lee assigned Longstreet the task of assembling the defenses against a Union attack from the south. He began moving the chess pieces into place. Anderson’s Division remained the center point guarding the approaches from Emmittsburg and Taneytown. Early’s Division was shifted south astride the BALTO Pike and was ready to support any attack from Taneytown. To his north, Johnson’s Division was aligned facing east astride the road and rail approaches from Hanover. As soon as it was free, Rodes would march his division through the city and out the SE corner and position itself between Johnson and Early. This would re-establish Ewell’s Corps as the eastern flank.

Longstreet turned Hood at Cashtown and sent him to the southern end of Seminary Ridge. From there he could support Anderson’s right flank. Similarly, McLaws was bivouacked south of Cashtown and west of Hood.  To his dismay, Pickett was held at Chambersburg and told to prepare to receive prisoners.

As the defenses shifted into place, Hill’s Corps was handed responsibility for the Union prisoners. The overall plan was to march them back to Virginia. So began a complex dance to move those tens of thousands of soldiers; if only to keep them from starving. First, the officers and wounded were evacuated to Cashtown. There Lee had had his supply wagons off-load much of their supplies; particularly the ammunition that was not in immediate demand. As wagons were freed, they ferried wounded to Cashtown. Heth’s battered division accompanied this shift. Under Pender’s supervision, thousands of prisoners were moved west and assigned the task of burying the dead from the Day 1 battlefield. They were told they would only be fed after that task was accomplished.

The next step was a bold one. All the officers under the rank of Colonel were loaded onto wagons and taken north to Carlisle. There they were ‘exchanged’ for military supplies from the warehouses; the ones that Ewell did not have time to loot and burn before being recalled by Lee. On Friday, the mass exodus westward began. Wounded were shifted to Chambersburg. Heth and Pickett began an exchange of positions with Heth escorting POWs west and Pickett shifting to Cashtown. From there, Heth would continue southward into the Cumberland valley having gathered supplies to feed the POWs. In a parallel move, Pender began to ferry and march thousands of POWs towards Fairfield. They would shelter there to gather supplies and then use the pass through the South Mountain to join up with Heth.

By Sunday, almost all of the Union POWs were well west of Gettysburg. Lee could then turn his attention to gathering the necessary supplies and making plans to press his attack towards Westminster. He detached Anderson’s Division from Hill and assigned it to Longstreet. In the meantime, Stuart’s 6000+ cavalrymen had taken their position west of Gettysburg on the fields where the Day 1 battle had been fought. CSA Quartermasters were scouring the countryside north and west of Gettysburg for any all items useful to the ANV.

Meanwhile, Richmond and WASHDC were engaged in a political dance of their own. Jefferson Davis was pressing Lincoln to agree to a negotiated settlement. But GEN Halleck was advising Lincoln to delay. GEN Sherman was pressing his attack on Vicksburg and would likely claim a major Union victory within days.

Lee firmly understood the precarious position he was in as an island of the Confederacy in hostile territory. As soon has he had rested his men and gathered supplies, he was going to have to push towards Westminster and pressure Baltimore. His original plan of looking east to Philadelphia was off the table. Even with only 7 of his original 9 divisions, he’d need to move or risk dying on the vine in Pennsylvania.

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