07/01/2003 Entry: ""
Posted by Maynard @ 08:13 AM MST
Gettysburg: Day 1
Today, tomorrow, and Thursday mark the 140th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg. It is difficult to underemphasize the importance of this battle in American and World history. If the Union had lost, there would not have been a new birth of freedom, here or anywhere else in the world, for a very long time.
The battle can be seen as a microcosm of the war. The beliefs and attitudes of the South manifested in their leaders and it cost them the battle. No where was this more apparent than in General J.E.B. Stuart.
General Lee had three Corps under his command, led by Generals Longstreet, Ewell, and Hill. This was the main body of his force, but his eyes and ears were the cavalry, led by Stuart. Lee had crossed into Maryland on June 16th, sending his cavalry ahead of him with orders to scout ahead and do damage to the Union rear lines. The orders can be interpreted as giving Stuart a free hand, but prudence dictates that he should have stayed in contact with his superior. As a result of Stuart's independence without authority, Lee had no idea where his enemy was.
The two armies converged on a small college town in Pennsylvania, rumored among the Confederate soldiers to have shoes. Some scouting parties were sent ahead to retrieve any shoes they could find but they found advance pickets from the Union Army instead. Battle soon ensued, with both sides rushing in from the surrounding area. Most of the fighting that day took place in the town and area just south of there, including a cemetery. On the gate of the cemetery was a sign that read "All persons found using firearms on these grounds will be prosecuted with the utmost rigor of the law."
Occasionally the rules must be ignored for a higher cause.
By the late afternoon the Confederacy held the town, but the Union held the hills to the south. The two armies were almost equal in number, but Lee did not know that. "Where is my cavalry? Have you seen Stuart?" he is recorded as saying. Stuart's failure came to bear fruit, and what a rotten apple it turned out to be. Without the intelligence that Stuart could provide, Lee was not equipped to press the battle in the late hours of the day. If Lee had he might have been able to defeat the Union Army, but its a bit shortsighted to accuse him of timidity when he was denied the information he desperately needed.
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