Three Days at Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership

By Gary W. Gallagher | Go to book overview

"A Step All-Important and
Essential to Victory"

Henry W Slocum and the Twelfth
Corps on July 1-2, 1863

A. Wilson Greene

EVERY CIVIL WAR BATTLE PRODUCED A GALLERY OF HEROES and rogues—commanders whose conspicuous valor, bold gambles, or fatal errors pursue them through history to their everlasting glory or shame. At the Battle of Gettysburg, the Army of the Potomac certainly conformed to this pattern. On one side proudly stand the likes of Brig. Gen. John Buford, Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, and Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain, whereas on the other lurk the blemished visages of Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard, Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles, and Brig. Gen. Alexander Schimmelfennig.1

Usually absent from either list are the ranking officers of the Twelfth Corps. Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum and his eight subordinate commanders have attracted less attention from Gettysburg scholars than the leaders of any other Union corps. Despite this neglect, some observers have credited Slocum's corps with crafting the Union victory, none more eloquently than Oliver Otis Howard: "The most impressive incident of the great battle of Gettysburg," wrote the Eleventh Corps commander in 1894, "was Slocum's own battle.... Slocum's resolute insistence the afternoon of July 2nd and his organized work and battle the ensuing morning, in my judgment prevented Meade's losing the battle of Gettysburg. It was a grand judgment and action; a step all-important and essential to victory." 2

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