With the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg coming up on July 1-3, it’s a good time to recall the importance of that battle.
I devoted three pages in my book “The Art of Clear Writing,” to a description of the battle, which was used as an example of the versatility of a descriptive paragraph. Here is what I wrote:
“Descriptive writing, shown below, is normally used to describe an event, how it was seen, felt, remembered, etc.
The battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, was one of the most pivotal battles in the Civil War. It was intended to be the culminationof 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 previous day.
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. As the night passed, more Union troops arrived.
During the evening and the next morning, from his position atop Seminary Ridge, Major 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 Brigadier General Richard Garnett’s comment, “This is a desperate thing to attempt,” the ensuing Confederate attack led by General George Pickett’s division, know n to posterity as Pickett’s Charge, resulted in devastating rebel losses, including the deaths of two brigade commanders, General Garnett and Brigadier General Lewis Armistead.
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.” (pp 75-77).
Robert E. Lee is justifiably remembered as one of the most courageous and effective generals the country has ever produced. Yet, in making the decision to proceed with Pickett’s Charge, he ordered what amounted to an insufficient number of Rebel troops to attack across an open field some 1,400 yards wide, into the teeth of Union forces massed on Cemetery Ridge, at their strongest point, in what is regarded by many military experts as a cardinal sin. It was clear he missed the brilliant leadership of Stonewall Jackson, killed in May, 1863 by friendly fire at Chancellorsville, Virginia. Whether Jackson would have ordered Pickett’s Charge at the same time and place is open to serious question by many historians.
The vignette, quoted above, is but one of several contained in my easy to read writing book, available on amazon.com as a Kindle Book and in print. The book contains time-tested guidelines and techniques designed to improve the clarity of your writing. The ability to write clearly will help all those seeking employment as well as advance the careers of those already employed. Two Civil War articles, “Antietam and Gettysburg – Two Pivotal Civil War Battles That Saved the Union,” and “Bloody Shiloh and the Rise of U.S. Grant,” are also available on amazon.com as Kindle Books. The book and the two articles are featured on my website at agregardie.com.
Copyright 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.