Friday, July 4, 2008

Today the most famous retreat in American History began

Today, 145 years ago General Robert E. Lee issued these orders which began the long retreat back to Virginia. The Army of Northern Virginia had just been soundly defeated at Gettysburg and the demoralized southern forces picked up the wounded that they could and started for home.

General ORDERS, No. 74.

July 4, 1863.

I. The army will vacate its position this evening. General A. P. Hill's corps will commence the movement, withdrawing from its position after dark, and proceed on the Fairfield road to the pass in the mountains, which it will occupy, selecting the strongest ground for defense toward the east; General Longstreet's corps Will follow, and General Ewell's corps bring up the rear. These two latter corps will proceed through and go into camp. General Longstreet's corps will be charged with the escort of the prisoners, and will habitually occupy the center of the line of march. General Ewell's and General Hill's corps will alternately take the front and rear on the march.
II. The trains which accompany the army will habitually move between the leading and the rear corps, each under the charge of their respective chief quartermasters. Lieutenant-Colonel [James L.] Corley, chief quartermaster of the army, will regulate the order in which they shall move. Corps commanders will see that the officers remain with their trains, and that they move steadily and quietly, and that the animals are properly cared for.
III. The artillery of each corps will move under the charge of their respective chiefs of artillery, the whole under the general superintendence of the commander of the artillery of the army.
IV. General Stuart will designate a cavalry command, not exceeding two squadrons, to precede and follow the army in its line of march, the commander of the advance reporting to the commander of the leading corps, the commander of the rear to the commander of the rear corps. He will direct one or two brigades, as he may think proper, to proceed to Cash town this afternoon, and hold that place until the rear of the army has passed Fairfield, and occupy the gorge in the mountains; after crossing which, to proceed in the direction of Greencastle, guarding the right and rear of the army on its march to Hagerstown and Williamsport. General Stuart, with the rest of the cavalry, will this evening take the route to Emmitsburg, and proceed thence toward Cavetown and Boonsborough, guarding the left and rear of the army.
V. The commanding general earnestly exhorts each corps commander to see that every officer exerts the utmost vigilance, steadiness, and boldness during the whole march.

R. E. LEE,

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