Three Days at Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership

By Gary W. Gallagher | Go to book overview

The Peach Orchard Revisited

Daniel E. Sickles and the Third Corps
on July 2, 1863

William Glenn Robertson

WARFARE RANKS AMONG THE MOST COMPLEX OF HUMAN endeavors. Participants must take into account a wide variety of variables, including terrain, weather, technology, and human frailties, all of which combine to produce a particular outcome. Not the least of warfare's complexities stems from the interaction of personalities among senior commanders. In any army in any century leaders have had their friends and their enemies, equals and subordinates they could trust and those they could not. Strong personalities breed strong reactions, both positive and negative. Such interpersonal relationships always affect the outcome of great events, far more in fact than participants usually admit. So it always has been, and so it always will be, as long as humans make war on each other in an organized manner. Obvious to contemporaries, this important web of interpersonal relationships often disappears from view after a conflict unless individuals choose to illuminate the relationships in their writings. Even when described in memoirs and other postwar accounts, these relationships often become distorted, generating claims and counterclaims that increasingly obscure the original issues and circumstances.

In seeking to reconstruct and analyze past events, historians must be aware of the relationships among senior officers and the frequent distortions of those relationships in postwar writings. Some historians unfortunately become parties in the debate rather than honest brokers, doing little more than perpetuating the arguments of principals with whom they have come to identify. Objective truth is thus obscured rather than illuminated.

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