27 June 2013

Thoughts on Gettysburg


As we approach the first of July, I tend to turn my thoughts, like probably a lot of folks, towards Independence Day - its history and all that it entails. But, I also start to think about the all-too-important Battle of Gettysburg, the clear tipping point of the War Between the States.

I just recently came across a fantastic article from The Imaginative Conservative that details the events and issues surrounding the Battle of Gettysburg, and Pickett's Charge in particular. This article basically reinforces the generally accepted theory that Gen. Robert E. Lee made a major mistake in terms of his strategy and planning of this key battle especially regarding the events of July 3rd that culminated with the disastrous, aformentioned charge led by Major General George Pickett.

Right quick, in case if anyone is wondering, while there is no direct connection between the battle of Gettysburg and the Georgia Piedmont,  there were several men from Georgia that fought in this epic battle, including  General James Longstreet, who for years erroneously received the blame for the events of July 3 even though he vehemently argued to Lee against it. And while Longstreet wasn't born in Georgia, he moved to Georgia when he was nine and remained there until he went to West Point. Later in life he would move back to Georgia where he lived until he died in 1904.
Gen. James Longstreet, CSA

As I mentioned, Longstreet was wrongly given the blame for this major blunder. In fact, for the better part of a century, it was basically accepted as fact that Longstreet was the culprit behind the ill-fated charge on that third day of July, 1863. That probably had as much to do with Lee being held in an almost God-like stature, but also because Longstreet was considered by many to be a scalawag after the war. He was, after all, the only senior commander of the CSA to join the GOP and he would later endorse Ulysses S. Grant for President in 1868. He was rewarded for that with an appointment for a Federal position in New Orleans where he lived for many years.Regardless, it has now become common knowledge that Longstreet was carrying out Lee's orders, as badly thought out as those may have been.

Many historians have now come to the belief that the real cause of Lee's blunder may have been his heart. Many historians and medical experts believe that Lee was suffering from major heart issues in the Spring and Summer of 1863 and may very well have had a heart attack during the period of the Gettysburg campaign. That might help to explain some of his head-scratching decisions during those fateful days.

 "It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it."
-Robert E. Lee, 1862

Read more about the Battle of Gettysburg: