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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Petersburg at Gettysburg, Douglas Southall Freeman Loses Count

Throw out your books on the second day at Gettysburg.  They all need rewriting.

Confusion still exists about what Mahone's Brigade of Anderson's Division did, or did not do, at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863.  We know that the attack of Anderson's Division broke down in Posey's Mississippi Brigade, to the immediate right (south) of Mahone's Brigade.  We know that a message for Mahone to advance was received with incredulity by General Mahone, who said he had just received an order from General Anderson to stay put on McPherson's Ridge.

There is no question but that Mahone received an order from Anderson to stay put on McPherson's Ridge.  Douglas Southall Freeman is among those responsible for the confusion.  Longstreet's memoir, From Manassas to Appomattox was available when Freeman wrote.  Longstreet was in charge of the attack on Cemetery Ridge on July 2.  He says the plan was for Anderson's division to attack with four brigades.  OR 27. 2:332, 343.  Anderson's division had five brigades.  Therefore one brigade was not to attack.  That this brigade was Mahone's would be apparent from its position alone if it were not for Mahone's account of the matter.  All Freeman had to do was remember that Anderson's Division had five brigades, not four.

As for what Mahone's Brigade did after the confusion caused by Anderson's contradictory orders was sorted out, there was a book in publication at the time Freeman wrote that should have informed him of the action of the Virginians.  That book is William H. Stewart's A Pair of Blankets, published in 1911 (at 97-98).  Mahone's Brigade sidled to the right and advanced behind the right of Posey's Brigade.  See also James Eldred Phillips Memoir, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia; Hampton Newsome, John Horn and John G. Selby, eds., Civil War Talks: Further Reminiscences of George S. Bernard and His Fellow Veterans (Charlottesville, 2012), 133, 155-156.  Posey confirmed that Mahone was ordered to the right.  Report of Brig. Gen. Carnot Posey, C. S. Army, commanding brigade, OR, 27, 2:634.