Reminiscences of the Civil War

By John B. Gordon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
GETTYSBURG

Why General Lee crossed the Potomac--The movement into Pennsylvania--Incidents of the march to the Susquehanna--The first day at Gettysburg--Union forces driven back--The key of the position--Why the Confederates did not seize Cemetery Ridge--A defence of General Lee's strategy--The fight at Little Round Top--The immortal charge of Pickett's men--GeneralMeade's deliberate pursuit-- Lee's request to be relieved.

FROM Gettysburg to Appomattox; from the zenith of assurance to the nadir of despair; from the compact ranks, boundless confidence, and exultant hopes of as proud and puissant an army as was ever marshalled-- to the shattered remnants, withered hopes, and final surrender of that army--such is the track to be followed describing the Confederacy's declining fortunes and ultimate death. No picture can be drawn by human hand vivid enough to portray the varying hues, the spasmodic changes, the rapidly gathering shadows of the scenes embraced in the culminating period of the great struggle.

A brief analysis of the reasons for General Lee's crossing of the Potomac is now in order. In the logistics of defensive war, offensive movements are often the wisest strategy. Voltaire has somewhere remarked that "to subsist one's army at the expense of the enemy, to advance on their own ground and force them to retrace their steps--thus rendering strength useless by skill--is regarded as one of the masterpieces of military art."

It would be difficult to group together words more

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