Thursday, September 15, 2011
Gettysburg: Turning Point of Turning Points
Gettysburg: Turning Point of Turning Points: The first three days of July 1863 were perhaps the most important three days in American military history. In Adams County, Pennsylvania, near the town of Gettysburg, the Army of the Potomac (Union) clashed with the Army of Northern Virginia (Confederacy). In the month prior to the battle, Confederate troops had been pillaging various towns across Southern Pennsylvania in search of supplies (shoes and food). But these Confederate troop movements had a secondary purpose; to draw part of the Union Army away from its garrison around Washington. Confederate General Robert E. Lee arranged his troops to do battle in a town with sprawling fields, rolling hills, and minimal military significance. And on July 1st, Lee gained the upper hand over Union General George G. Meade, as Confederate troops bombarded the Union's low-lying positions with artillery fire. Yet July 2nd proved a watershed in the battle, as Confederate troops moved to attack Union positions at Little Round Top, and Colonel Joshua Chamberlain (depicted by Jeff Daniels in the above video) guided his Union troops to a gut-wrenching victory. Gettysburg's third day (July 3rd) offered archetypal imagery for American civil religion, as it included Major General George Pickett's ill-fated Confederate charge, which gave the Union Army all the momentum it needed for the remainder of the Civil War.