Monday, October 10, 2016

Diary of Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle: Tuesday, June 30, 1863

This morning, before marching from Chambersburg, General Longstreet introduced me to the Commander-in-Chief. General Lee is, almost without exception, the handsomest man of his age I ever saw. He is fifty-six years old, tall, broad-shouldered, very well made, well set up — a thorough soldier in appearance; and his manners are most courteous and full of dignity. He is a perfect gentleman in every respect. I imagine no man has so few enemies, or is so universally esteemed. Throughout the South, all agree in pronouncing him to be as near perfection as a man can be. He has none of the small vices, such as smoking, drinking, chewing, or swearing, and his bitterest enemy never accused him of any of the greater ones. He generally wears a well-worn long grey jacket, a high black felt hat, and blue trousers tucked into his Wellington boots. I never saw him carry arms ;* and the only mark of his military rank are the three stars on his collar. He rides a handsome horse, which is extremely well groomed. He himself is very neat in his dress and person, and in the most arduous marches he always looks smart and clean.

In the old army he was always considered one of its best officers; and at the outbreak of these troubles, he was Lieutenant-Colonel of the 2d cavalry. He was a rich man, but his fine estate was one of the first to fall into the enemy's hands. I believe he has never slept in a house since he has commanded the Virginian army, and he invariably declines all offers of hospitality, for fear the person offering it may afterwards get into trouble for having sheltered the Rebel General. The relations between him and Longstreet are quite touching — they are almost always together. Longstreet's corps complain of this sometimes, as they say that they seldom get a chance of detached service, which falls to the lot of Ewell. It is impossible to please Longstreet more than by praising Lee. I believe these two Generals to be as little ambitious and as thoroughly unselfish as any men in the world. Both long for a successful termination of the war, in order that they may retire into obscurity. Stonewall Jackson (until his death the third in command of their army) was just such another simple-minded servant of his country. It is understood that General Lee is a religious man, though not so demonstrative in that respect as Jackson; and, unlike his late brother in arms, he is a member of the Church of England. His only faults, so far as I can learn, arise from his excessive amiability.

Some Texan soldiers were sent this morning into Chambersburg to destroy a number of barrels of excellent whisky, which could not be carried away. This was a pretty good trial for their discipline, and they did think it rather hard lines that the only time they had been allowed into the enemy's town was for the purpose of destroying their beloved whisky. However, they did their duty like good soldiers.

We marched six miles on the road towards Gettysburg, and encamped at a village called (I think) Greenwood. I rode Lawley's old horse, he and the Austrian using the doctor's ambulance. In the evening General Longstreet told me that he had just received intelligence that Hooker had been disrated, and that Meade was appointed in his place. Of course he knew both of them in the old army, and he says that Meade is an honourable and respectable man, though not, perhaps, so bold as Hooker.

I had a long talk with many officers about the approaching battle, which evidently cannot now be delayed long, and will take place on this road instead of in the direction of Harrisburg, as we had supposed. Ewell, who has laid York as well as Carlisle under contribution, has been ordered to reunite. Every one, of course, speaks with confidence. I remarked that it would be a good thing for them if on this occasion they had cavalry to follow up the broken infantry in the event of their succeeding in beating them. But to my surprise they all spoke of their cavalry as not efficient for that purpose. In fact, Stuart's men, though excellent at making raids, capturing waggons and stores, and cutting off communications, seem to have no idea of charging infantry under any circumstances. Unlike the cavalry with Bragg's army, they wear swords, but seem to have little idea of using them — they hanker after their carbines and revolvers. They constantly ride with their swords between their left leg and the saddle, which has a very funny appearance; but their horses are generally good, and they ride well. The infantry and artillery of this army don't seem to respect the cavalry very much, and often jeer at them.

I was forced to abandon my horse here, as he was now lame in three legs, besides having a very sore back.

* I never saw either Lee or Longstreet carry arms. A. P. Hill generally wears a sword.

I observed this during the three days' fighting at Gettysburg, and in the retreat afterwards, when every one else looked, and was, extremely dirty.

SOURCE: Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States: April-June, 1863, p. 253-7

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