Historical Markers
Gettysburg Campaign [Ewell's New Orders] Historical Marker
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Gettysburg Campaign [Ewell's New Orders]

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
PA Route 34, .3 mile south of Carlisle near Interstate 81

Dedication Date:
July 29, 1949

Behind the Marker

Historical interpretation changes over time, as researchers find new evidence and re-examine older works, updating and changing them as needed.
General Richard Stoddard Ewell.
General Richard Stoddard Ewell.
This historical marker, erected in 1949, reflected what was known about the Gettysburg Campaign at that time. The marker, however, has two glaring errors on it-the date, and the mention of two divisions of Ewell's corps. Here is what happened, as we now understand it.

On the evening of June 28, General Robert E. Lee was encamped in markerMessersmith's Woods, located on the eastern edge of Chambersburg. That night, one of General James Longstreet's spies reported to him that the Union Army of the Potomac was north of its namesake river and approaching Frederick, Maryland. This startling news forced General Lee to abandon his plans to capture Harrisburg. Instead, he needed to recall Ewell's scattered corps and concentrate the army in one spot. Lee decided to gather his army at the small village of Cashtown, located just east of South Mountain between Chambersburg and Gettysburg.

To that end, Lee ordered General A. P. Hill, commander of his Third Corps, to move his divisions across the mountain to Cashtown. James Longstreet's First Corps, encamped just north of Chambersburg, would follow. Lee then sent a messenger to Ewell at Carlisle, informing him of the enemy's movements and ordering him to bring his corps back to Chambersburg. But then, probably after poring over maps of Pennsylvania, Lee changed his mind. At 7:30 in the morning of June 29, Lee sent Ewell a second order, countermanding the first:
Edward "Alleghany" Johnson in military dress.
Edward "Alleghany" Johnson

If you have not already progressed on the road, and if you have no good reason against it, I desire you to move in the direction of Gettysburg, via Heidlersburg, where you will have the turnpike most of the way, and you can thus join your other divisions to Early's, which is east of the mountains. When you come to Heidlersburg, you can either move directly on Gettysburg or turn down to Cashtown. Your trains and heavy artillery you can send, if you think proper, on the road to Chambersburg. But if the roads which your troops take are good, they had better follow you.

On the morning of June 29, Ewell was getting ready to move his two divisions at Carlisle-those of Robert Rodes and Edward Johnson-toward Harrisburg. [MAP] Early that morning, Ewell sent engineer officers from his staff to the front to confer with General Albert Jenkins, commanding the cavalry that were skirmishing with Yankee militia only a few miles from the Pennsylvania capital. As Jenkins' Virginians fought the bluecoats at markerOyster Point and a Confederate artillery battery in position at markerPeace Church fired at the Yankee militia, Jenkins and Ewell's staff officers examined the enemy defenses from some high ground and concluded that Harrisburg would be an easy conquest.

So the orders went out for the infantry to assemble and be ready to attack Harrisburg. Then Lee's first courier arrived with the message to head back to Chambersburg. "Our disappointment and chagrin were extreme," recorded a Maryland officer in Johnson's Division when the column moved back toward Chambersburg instead of east to Harrisburg. Ewell sent Johnson's troops down the Carlisle Pike, along with the corps supply trains and reserve artillery. Rodes would follow in turn.
Charge of Ewell's Corps on the cemetery [sic] gate.
Charge of Ewell's Corps on the cemetery [sic] gate.

But before Rodes was ready to move, Lee's second messenger arrived, instructing the corps to march south toward Gettysburg instead of back to Chambersburg. Johnson was already moving back to Chambersburg. In order not to wear out the troops already on the march south, Ewell sent Johnson orders to continue his march on the 30th as far as Green Village, then turn east and take a country road to Black Gap and Fayetteville, where the road joined the main route from Chambersburg to Gettysburg. Since it was now late in the afternoon, Ewell decided to let Rodes' Division remain in Carlisle overnight. The march would start on the morning of the 30th. If all went well, upon reaching Heidlersburg, Rodes would join markerEarly's Division, which was moving up from York. Ewell's two divisions would then be ready to move to join the rest of the army assembling near Cashtown.

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