The Battle of Gettysburg: Leadership of General Robert E. Lee

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This is a book review on the book “The Battle of Gettysburg” which is authored by Bruce Catton. During this time of the Civil War, Gettysburg, a little town in Pennsylvania, was one of the bloodiest battles fought on American soil. With the temperatures being high, the soldiers fought this battle that started on July 1st and lasted until July 3rd of 1863. The three day battle during this time was a struggle for most men, as they fought to their limits of existence. However, General Robert E. Lee wanted to have a fight to the finish, and his challenge was accepted by the Union Army of the Potomac.

One night in June, near the town of Salem, Virginia lie fast asleep several thousand Confederate soldiers. As the men lie there in the open field, the men are getting rained on by the steady rainfall. During the night, a courier brought orders from General Robert E. Lee for Major General James E. B. Stuart. Out of all the cavalrymen alive during this time, General James E.B. Stuart was the most famous cavalryman in the last two years. However, General Lee wanted to win the victory on the Northern soil and hoped to win the battle at Gettysburg, a town in Pennsylvania.

There was a total of about seventy thousand men of the Confederate army that was divided into three army corps which consisted of about twenty thousand men each. One under General James Longstreet, another under General Richard Ewell and also A.P. Hill. Even though Hooker’s army was a little shaky, it roughly had ninety thousand men and was bigger than Robert E. Lee’s army. However, in the early June, General Lee was trying to move his men up the Potomac River. Hooker was trying to keep up with the Confederate Army and was about twenty or thirty miles to the east. But unlike Lee, Hooker had not moved his men up the Potomac River.

One of General Longstreet's men had gotten word to Lee on June 28th that Hooker had crossed the Potomac River. Every Confederate army was now in Pennsylvania, except for Stuart’s army. Lee was unsure of where Stuart was and his well being. Lee had to take actions to make sure that all of his armies were ready to fight. They were all to meet at a little town in Gettysburg. Because, Stuart and his men had run into Hookers army, so they now had a hard time catching up to Lee. They were growing tired, trying to regain their position.

On the other hand, for the Union Side, President Abraham Lincoln, with another important battle coming up, had lost confidence in Hooker. Lincoln was afraid of losing another battle and replaced Hooker with General George Meade. General Meade was given the top position in command but was put in a tough position. Lee had learned that Meade had replaced Hooker. Even though General Lee and General Meade didn’t know it, they were both heading towards Gettysburg. Lee was still unsure of where Stuart was at this point and therefore, he had no idea where the enemy troops were located. But Stuart was making his way to Hanover, Pa. Stuart had a small clash with the Federal infantry, and he was unsure of Lee’s whereabouts.

In the early dawn on July 1st, a Confederate general named Henry Heth and his men came to Gettysburg from Cashtown. The battle began when the Confederate skirmishers, also known as the “feelers,” were spotted by Buford’s men, who is a Union general. Both Heth and Buford, set up artillery lines to get ready for action that is going to be taking place. At this time, Buford only had part of his men, while Heth had about six thousand to seven thousand men in his command. But Heth did not know that Buford’s men were coming up fast. Both sides had brigades coming from the north and the south of the roads. While both sides were coming from opposite directions, they met where gunfire just had begun to exchange. It was a dismal failure for Heth’s attack that he had planned.

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At this time, General George Meade was just as puzzled as Lee was. One factor was because all he knew, was about Reynold’s death, and another reason was that there was a fight taking place. However, Hancock, a Union soldier, was making his way north to Gettysburg while the battle between the north and the south, raged on. The Confederate troops, under General Rodes, were moving into the line on Oak Hill. At this time, Lee made the decision for Hill to send in Pender’s men and to make a new attack. But, the Union officers were trying to turn their men around to attack Rodes army. Rodes did not have his men in line, so they resulted in a heavy loss. But Rodes got his men into line again and was ready for a heavier attack.

On the first day of fighting, the Confederate side, with Hills two division, had heavy casualties and Rodes division, had lost two thousand five hundred men. However, on the Union side, half of the eighteen thousand soldiers in action were either captured, wounded or killed. General Lee only had ⅔ of his army present with him but still did not know where Meade’s army was. Lee could see so far, that the victories were the Confederates. Lee was troubled with the day events because instead of having a prepared plan, the battle was taken place by accident. Even though Longstreet was in favor of having Ewell's men moved, Lee was against it. If he would have listened to Longstreet, he might have run head-on with the Union side. At this point, Stewart was still not there and Lee was still unsure of where Meade’s army was.

The next day, on July 2nd, all of the Union army, was gathered except for General Sedgwick’s VI Corps, and they would not get there until late in the afternoon. Meade was worried about the fight and also about if Lee would get around his left and outflank him. However, Longstreet during this time had three infantry divisions. One under General George Pickett, General LaFayette McLaws, and the other one under General John B. Hood. Hood wanted to go behind the Union line to attack but Longstreet had refused. This was because they would carry out Lee’s plan to fight at the lower end of Cemetery Ridge. Lee was really unsure where the Union left flank was and also where Union General Daniel Sickles was. Sickles made a move without getting permission from his commanding officers. Meade on the other hand, wanted Sickles to hold the Ridge and the Round Top but instead, Sickles held part of Cemetery Ridge. Sickles sent some men to see what the Confederates were doing and realized that they were going to be attacked. Sickles decision to cover Cemetery Ridge was a bad mistake because he had no men left to guard Little Round Top. This could make them lose the battle and even the war.

Meade found out what Sickles had done and wanted him to get where he was supposed to be. At this time, it was too late, as Longstreet's men had already attacked. It was then followed by the Union men, as they were overtaken, but made a valiant fight. A cannonball had struck Sickles and he had lost a leg. However, some of Meade’s men had escaped destruction by nightfall. They still held Cemetery Ridge, Round Top and finally the line was secure at this point. The Union army had close calls and Meade’s horse was shot out from underneath of him. But however, at the end of the second day, the firing had stopped for the night and thousands were left untreated in the battlefields. Meade decided to stay and fight with holding a meeting in his headquarters to go over the situation. But for Lee, he felt that he had only one more fight left in him and when he would fight again, he would strike the heaviest blow.

On the next day, on July 3rd, the fighting continued with artillery being exchanged from both sides. With gun firing and roaring cannons, the men continue to fight onwards. While the Union men were fighting the Confederates, the Union men ended up shooting some of their own men in battle. The battle at Culp’s Hill was hopeless because many men had lost their life due to the fact that the Rebel (Confederates) line was broken. However, not much more was happening during the morning battle. With the small amount of gunfire, it was mild, compared to what will happen later.

Another attack was going to be taken place by Lee. With one hundred and fifty artillery’s in place to attack Hancock’s line, Lee was ready for the attack. This attack was later named the Pickett’s Charge. During this time, the Confederates, which had about fifteen thousand men, we're going to be attacking the Union, which had eight thousand men. Two signals, which were gunshots, were given off, then all one hundred and fifty guns were shot off, all at once. Now the big battle has begun to take place.

The fighting grew more than normal, with shells flying from every direction. Every minute the Confederates were firing two or three shots. For the Union, they were firing eighty guns back at the Confederates. During the fighting, there were shells from the Confederates that blew up wagons of ammunition over the Union line. It killed several soldiers during this time. However, only the Union II Corps gunners, kept firing from the beginning and used up all their ammunition. So, all the had left, was a canister. The canister was not much help unless they were in close range.

When the fighting had died down, Pickett moved his men from Seminary Ridge to Emmitsburg road. While they were moving, some of the Union men fired on them. A musket ball, for an instant, could injure or kill up to ten men at a time. At this time, the Confederates and the Unions came closer and closer to one another. The fighting was in close range and many men were wounded or killed. But both sides, came face to face, stabbing one another with bayonets and taking the end of their muskets to hit each other to death. However, out of about five thousand men, Pickett’s division left two thousand nine hundred men lying on the battleground. There was many dead and wounded body’s lying near Cemetery Ridge. General Hancock has carried out a stretcher with a wound to his thigh. But in the end, Lee had lost this battle, and the fighting had died down, at the end of this third day.

In conclusion, the three day battle at Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest battles fought on American soil, in a little town in Pennsylvania. With many soldiers sacrificing their lives to give us freedom, they fought with bravery, courage and strength. Even though the soldiers knew that many were going to die, they fought for what they believed in. On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave his dedication ceremony speech, to honor the dead who lost their lives during the battle of Gettysburg. This speech that he gave, will be later tilted The Gettysburg Address.

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