Monday, July 8, 2013

July 12, 1863 (Monday): The Enemy Strongly Posted

Williamsport, Maryland

[HAGERSTOWN, MD.,] July 12, 1863-10. 30 a. m.
General MEADE:
     Our infantry occupies the town. One brigade of cavalry on the right and another on the left of town. General Wright's column of the Sixth Corps moved up from Funkstown, and his advance is within one-half mile of town, on our left.
     The enemy had two pieces of artillery near the town, which they withdrew after firing a few shots. They have a battery of 20-pounder Parrotts in position on the Williamsport road, about 1 1/2 miles from town, which fired a few shots. The battery is supported by infantry, and the road is lined with skirmishers.
The best news I can find from Union men is that the enemy has taken position, his right resting on the Potomac, near Williamsport, his left within 1 1/2 miles from here, Longstreet commanding the right, Hill the center, Ewell the left, Stuart's cavalry covering the flank.
    All agree that no ammunition has been received by the rebels, and the way they received our attack shows that they are saving their powder. They have, however, plenty of provisions.
    We captured wheat enough in one of the mills to feed the army a week. Shall await further orders.

     O. O. HOWARD.

July 12, 1863-4. 30 p. m. (Received 8 p. m.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,

    Upon advancing my right flank across the Antietam this morning, the enemy abandoned Funkstown and Hagerstown, and my line now extends from the latter place to Fair Play. The advance of the cavalry on the right showed the enemy to be strongly posted on the Hagerstown and Williamsport road, about 1, 5 miles from Hagerstown. On the left, the cavalry advance showed them to be in position back of Saint James' College and at Downsville. Their position runs along the high ground from Downsville to near Hagerstown. This position they are intrenching. Batteries are established on it. It is my intention to attack them to-morrow, unless something intervenes to prevent it, for the reason that delay will strengthen the enemy and will not increase my force.

 Official Records, Series I., Vol. 27, Part 1, Page 91, Part 3, Page 992.

The climactic battle of the Gettysburg campaign would never come.  Lee's position was too strong and the attack on the 13th would not come.  It is very possible Lee would have preferred to be attacked, occupying a position of great strength.  Meade would not oblige, earning the displeasure of the President. 

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