The First Day at Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership

The First Day at Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership

The First Day at Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership

The First Day at Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership

Synopsis

"The Battle of Gettysburg exerts a unique hold on the national imagination. Many writers have argued that it represented the turning point of the Civil War, after which Confederate fortunes moved inexorably toward defeat. Successive generations of historians have not exhausted the topic of leadership at Gettysburg, especially with regard to the first day of the battle. Often overshadowed by more famous events on the second and third days, the initial phase of the contest offers the most interesting problems of leadership, including Lee's strategy and tactics, the conduct of Confederate corps commanders Richard S. Ewell and A. P. Hill, Oliver Otis Howard's role on the Union side, and a series of notable debacles among Lee's brigadiers. Drawing on a range of sources, the contributors combine interpretation and fresh evidence that should challenge students of the battle, Civil War buffs, and military historians to reconsider their understanding of the events of July 1, 1863." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

The literature on the Battle of Gettysburg dwarfs that devoted to any other military operation in American history. Vast in scope and horrible in human cost, the battle serves as a decisive watershed in the popular imagination—before the three days of brutal combat on July I-3, 1863, a Confederate tide swept forward. Following the sharp defeat in Pennsylvania, Southern will and resources slowly drained away. Four and one-half months after the Army of Northern Virginia retreated from the battlefield, Abraham Lincoln seemingly confirmed Gettysburg's preeminence when he dedicated a national cemetery on ground where the Union army had anchored its defense. Speaking of the Northern men who had fought at Gettysburg, Lincoln prophesied that the world "can never forget what they did here." Americans have not forgotten, displaying a persistent interest in new accounts of the campaign and visiting the battlefield, now the centerpiece of the National Park Service's Civil War holdings, in large numbers.

Military historians frequently criticize the popular attention accorded Gettysburg. They see Vicksburg as equally important and the autumn campaigning of 1862 as perhaps more decisive in deciding the fate of the Union. Yet even the most skeptical student scarcely can deny that Gettysburg represented a turning point for both armies. On the Confederate side, soldiers and officers conditioned to expect victories under R. E. Lee's leadership faced the specter of failure. Brigadier General Stephen Dodson Ramseur of North Carolina typified this phenomenon. Supremely confident as Lee's troops marched north, Ramseur assured his wife on June 23, 1863, that the army expected "to make a bold and successful campaign." A month after the battle, a chastened Ramseur conceded that "our . . .

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