[Descriptive paragraphing, shown below, is normally used to describe an event, how it was seen, felt, remembered, etc.]
It was to be the culmination of General Robert E. Lee’s audacious plan to lead the Army of Northern Virginia in an invasion of Pennsylvania and inflict a mortal blow on Union forces in their own backyard.
Both Union and Confederate troops had converged on Gettysburg, a prosperous little crossroads village in south central Pennsylvania, some 70 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. Confederate forces arrived there on July 1, 1863, looking for shoes for their troops, but unexpectedly encountered a large Union force which had arrived the day before.
After a day of battle, Union forces led by General George Meade still held Cemetery Hill, the high ground south of town which they had previously occupied. Lee had ordered Confederate forces under General Richard Ewell to seize the hills and ridges before Union reinforcements arrived. But Ewell hesitated, believing Union forces were too strong, and no attack was launched. During the night more Union troops arrived.
During the evening and the next morning, from his position atop Seminary Ridge, Confederate General James Longstreet surveyed the bluecoat positions through his field glasses and concluded no attack on Cemetery Hill should be made. Rebel forces would have to attack across 1,400 yards of open fields with but 15,000 men, which he believed to be an inadequate force for such an undertaking.
Longstreet believed Lee’s plan to be dangerous and favored his own plan, which was to circle around the high ground and attack from the south. This was contrary to Lee’s orders to attack the enemy where they were. Lee, spurred on by recent victories, would not change his mind and ordered the assault.
Foreshadowed by General Richard Garnett’s comment, “This is a desperate thing to attempt,” the ensuing Confederate attack led by General George Pickett’s division, known to posterity as Pickett’s Charge, resulted in devastating rebel losses.
Lee’s subsequent withdrawal marked the end of his ambitious plan. His decision, viewed by many historians as a tactical miscalculation, had cost him the opportunity to deliver a decisive blow against the Union.
Copyright 2012. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.