Thursday, June 6, 2013

150 Years Ago Today Ewell's 2nd Corps Was Moving Toward Gettysburg

Ewell had taken command of the Second Corps only a few days before on June 1st. He had followed Lee's advice and retained most of Jackson's staff, who knew how the Corps functioned from a practical point of view. Jackson's Corps Engineer James Boswell had been killed in the same friendly fire tragedy that brought Jackson down at Chancellorsville; Ewell replaced Boswell with Captain Henry Brown Richardson, who had previously been his and Early's Division Engineer. Lee had chosen Ewell to lead the advance through the Shenandoah Valley because he had been with Jackson during the first Valley campaign, and therefore knew the Valley well. Here is an excerpt from my forthcoming book:
Elements of Longstreet’s First Corps began moving up the Rappahannock on June 3 [1873], and Ewell’s Corps followed soon after, with headquarters breaking camp on June 5.  They were headed back toward the Shenandoah Valley, where Ewell’s men would be expected to clear the way for another invasion of the North.   Ewell’s Corps reached Front Royal in the Valley on June 12 and headed quickly toward Winchester.  On June 13, Ewell and his lieutenants mounted a perfectly planned and executed attack on the strongly fortified Federal garrison which numbered about 7000 men.  While Robert Rodes's Division moved north to cut off a Federal retreat, Edward Johnson’s Division took up positions directly south of town, and Jubal Early’s Division climbed the mountains to the west, from where they overpowered federal artillery positions protecting the town.  Perceiving their hopeless situation, Federal troops began their retreat the following morning.  Ewell had foreseen this move, however, and had ordered Johnson’s division to intercept them, which he did near Stephenson’s Depot northeast of town.  In all, Ewell’s Corps took 4000 Union prisoners in and around Winchester.
In fact, this was almost a repeat performance of the first battle of Winchester, except that Ewell had considerably more men under his command, and the advantage of hindsight, which enabled him to correct errors made during the first Valley campaign. Henry Richardson also remembered the first battle of Winchester, when as an ordinary soldier and mounted orderly for General Richard Taylor, he had received special mention for reconnaissance of enemy positions, which soon led to a commission as Lieutenant, CSA Engineers.

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