Confederate Gunner George Neese during the Retreat from Gettysburg to Monterey Pass

George Neese. Three years in the Confederate Horse Artillery, New York and Washington, The Neale Publishing Company, 1911 Pg. 189-193

July 4 — It seems that the great battle is over and from all appearances our forces intend to strike out for Dixie’s fair land. The last reverberations of the deep booming thunder of the artillery that shook the hills around Gettysburg have died away, and the thick sulphury folds of the battle cloud that hung like a canopy over the battle-scarred plain and hugged the bloody crest of Cemetery Hill had dissolved in the soft summer air before General Lee’s army unwound itself from its deadly coil, and like a huge and dangerous serpent glided slowly and defiantly away toward the Potomac.

As soon as the Federal commander was thoroughly convinced that the Confederate forces were withdrawing from his front, he dispatched his cavalry on missions of destruction, to harass our rear and if possible destroy the immense trains of commissary and ordnance stores that were on the road toward the Potomac, by the way of Hagerstown valley.

Vast squadrons of the enemy’s horsemen soon swarmed and hung along our track like hungry vultures, ceaselessly watching for vulnerable points to attack and to seize booty, to the great terror and consternation of quartermasters, clerks, servants, cooks, and teamsters.

The arduous and responsible duty devolving on the Confederate cavalry during the retreat was to guard and defend the retiring trains of wagons and ambulances against all inroads and attempts that the Federal cavalry were liable to make for their capture or destruction, and more especially to strenuously oppose and foil all efforts of the enemy to make any advantageous interposition between General Lee’s army and the Potomac.

At sunrise this morning we moved to Fairfield and remained there until General Ewell’s wagons and ambulances passed, and then we followed them as a rear guard. It was nearly night when the last ambulances passed Fairfield, and at about six o’clock this evening we took up our line of march and followed them, the great caravan moving on the Hagerstown road.

At dark we struck the foot of the Blue Ridge. The road was muddy and slippery, the night dark; rainy, dreary, and dismal. The train moved very slowly, with halts and starts all night. Every time an ambulance wheel struck a rock I heard the pitiful groans of the wounded. Now and then an ominous and inauspicious boom of a Yankee cannon came rolling through the thick darkness from the top of the mountain, and apparently on the road we were on, which unmistakably indicated that the enemy was seriously interfering with the movements of our wagon train.

To-day while we were at Fairfield a drenching thunder-shower passed over, and we went in a stable for shelter during the rain. While we were in there some of our boys played marbles for amusement. Eventually one of the marbles rolled through a crack in the floor, and in order to get it we raised one of the boards in the floor, and under there we found a large store-box full of good, clean, nice bed-clothes, sheets, blankets, counterpanes as white as snow, and beautiful quilts, all of which had been recently hidden from the supposed desecrating hands of prejudged thieving Rebels. We left everything in the box and reported our find to the family that owned the stable, and told them to move their goods to the house and fear no danger of being molested. The family seemed to be astonished at our find and utterly surprised into coyish silence to learn that their goods were safe even when discovered by the dreaded Rebels.

I am almost convinced that a strong sentiment prevails throughout the whole North that the Southern army is composed of thieves and robbers mixed with barbarians and savages, and this malignant spirit is instilled into the populace and encouraged by irresponsible, mean lying newspapers that are published by men who have never been south of Mason and Dixon’s line.

Just yesterday, after the little fight with the Yankee cavalry near Fairfield, a young lady came to me and asked whether our men would allow her to take care of a wounded man that was lying in the road near her father’s bam. I told her to go and take care of as many wounded as she could find, and assured her that our men would not disturb her nor willingly interfere with her humane and laudable mission. I also told her that we did not come to Pennsylvania to make war on women.

July 5 — We were on the march nearly all last night, and most of the time we were mixed up in an ambulance train. Our march was very slow, and seemed more like a dead march than anything we have done in the marching business since the war. The surroundings were about as cheerful as a tomb.

The cannon we heard in the forepart of the night belonged to the Yanks, and they were shelling some of our wagon trains on top of the mountain. This morning just before day Colonel Thockmorton, commanding the Sixth Virginia Cavalry, came down the mountain with his regiment in a rather stirred-up condition, as if something wild and very dangerous had been seen in front. Captain Chew asked Colonel Thockmorton where he was going. He replied, ” Down the mountain. A Yankee battery fired canister into the head of my command, and I am not going up there again until daylight.” Captain Chew then remarked, ” Colonel, my battery was ordered up here to support your regiment, and if you go back, I will too.” Accordingly we went back down the mountain a short distance, fed our horses and waited for day. Immediately after daylight we renewed our march up the mountain, and when we arrived on top the Yankee destroyers had vanished from the scene of their last night’s destructive operations, and all was still and quiet on the mountain highlands. From all accounts and appearances the Yankee force that struck the wagon train on top of the mountain last night was considerable and overwhelming, as we had but few men to protect the train at that point in particular. It was not the train that we were guarding that was destroyed. The Yanks destroyed about ninety wagons, and they did their work well. Some of the wagons were chopped to pieces and others were burned. I saw the debris, such as skillets, frying pans, camp kettles, and all sorts of camp furniture scattered all along the road.

I made a little tour of inspection this morning where the Yankee raiders attacked the wagon train last night, merely to see whether I could find any evidence or trace of the resistance our few wagon train guards offered to the overwhelming force of Yankee cavalry that swept along the road. I found very few battle scars or marks on the trees and bushes, but behind a rock in a thick clump of trees lay one of our sharpshooters, still and silent in the bivouac of the dead, and no earthly reveille will ever wake him again. He was shot through the brain, and no doubt was killed by his adversary firing at the flash of the sharpshooter’s gun, which still lay by the dead body and pointed to the front.

After we were on the summit of the mountain about two hours we went down a mile on the Emmitsburg road on picket. We had about five hundred infantry of McLaw’s division with us for support. The infantrymen threw up breastworks along the front of our position. We remained on picket all day, and this evening we moved back a mile and camped at Monterey Springs on the summit of the Blue Ridge, sixteen miles, east of Hagerstown. General Longstreet’s infantry came up the Emmitsburg road this evening.

 

 

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