General Lee, General Longstreet, & Aide-de-camp Walter H. Taylor
Grace Episcopal Church - Berryville, Virginia - June 21, 1863
“Hereabouts we shall probably meet the enemy and fight a great battle, and if God gives us the victory, the war will be over and we shall achieve the recognition of our independence.” These were the prophetic words of General Robert E. Lee in June 1863. In motion was Lee’s bold plan to invade the North, strike into Pennsylvania, attack Harrisburg and then Philadelphia. If the Union Army of the Potomac could be destroyed or seriously damaged, the South could dictate peace terms to Washington.
General Longstreet however was against the plan from the start. “Old Pete” as he was known by his battle hardened troops, had been recommended for promotion by Lee to Lieutenant General in October 1862. After approval he was assigned command of the I Corps. After watching his troops mow down brigade after brigade of enemy troops in front of Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg, Longstreet had developed a theory that an army should always secure itself on good defendable ground and let the enemy attack it’s fortified positions. Longstreet said of Lee’s plan to invade the north, “I then accepted his proposition to make a campaign into Pennsylvania, provided it should be offensive in strategy but defensive in tactics, forcing the Federal army to give us battle when we were in strong position and ready to receive them.”
General Lee on the other hand was an aggressive commander, who seemed to be able to read the mind of his opponent. Born into an elite heritage of military ancestors, Lee had an instinct for war that had made him successful from the Mexican War to the present. He had watched and admired the aggressive nature of his general Stonewall Jackson. Although having differing views Lee always consider the counsel from his “Old War Horse” Longstreet.
Sensing the magnitude of the events which were soon to take place General Lee attended Sunday services at Grace Episcopal Church in Berryville. Not particularly religious, Longstreet followed where General Lee led.