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War of Little Big Horn

In: Historical Events

Submitted By h2opolo
Words 1581
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10 Gettysburg

The start of 1863 saw the Confederate States of America in a very optimistic situation. Continued success by General Robert E. Lee and the seemingly invincible Army of Northern Virginia had the Confederate high command wanting to push there winning streak with an invasion of the North. Many people on both sides of the conflict where starting to believe that Lee could not lose. Lee himself was quoted saying, “If properly organized and officered The Army of Northern Virginia would be invincible.” He had time and again out generald his northern counter parts leaving a slue of Union Generals unable to muster up the courage to even face him on the battle field. With President Davis’ approval, Lee set the army in motion which would ultimately end with an epic 3 day conflict, changing the fabric of the war and the course of American History. On the 3rd of June 1863 the Army of Northern Virginia left there positions near Fredericksburg to begin their long march north. Right from the start the topography of the area played a huge roll in the campaign. In order to screen his movements Lee moved his army west, over the Blue Ridge Mountains and into the Shenandoah Valley. After entering the valley, Lee ordered J.E.B Stuart and his Cavalry to ride along the eastern edge of the army to further help screen his movements. The tactics and lay of the land that Lee utilized was very successful in keeping the Union Army in the dark. While Lee was moving, the Union commander, Joseph Hooker, was waiting. Unsure of Lee’s intentions, Hooker waited to see what would come of the Confederate movements. With his astonishing defeat at the battle of Chancellorsville, Hooker was timid when it came to taking the field against Lee. After a number of proposals to Lincoln, none of which involved attacking Lee head on, the Union war command became so frustrated with Hooker that he was replaced by George Meade as the commander of the Army of the Potomac. With a late start to the game, the Union army began a brutal, fast paced march northward to catch Lee. As important as the impending battle would prove to be, it started with a simple scavenging action by lead elements of the Confederate Army. Lee, hearing that the Union army had crossed the Potomac, called all his forces to concentrate at Cashtown. On the 2nd of July, while waiting for the entire army to arrive, General Heath, an infantry officer assigned to the 3rd Corps under General A.P. Hill, heard of a large store of shoes in the small town of Gettysburg Pennsylvania. With General Hill’s approval, Heath led a contingent of troops into town. Before he reached the shoes however he was met by dismounted Union Cavalry under the command of John Bufford. Mistaking the cavalry for militia, Heath pressed the attack. Due to the solid position of the Union cavalry, Bufford was able to hold off the rebels until reinforcements arrived. General Heath just about had the cavalry on the run when John Reynolds with the 2nd corps of the Army of the Potomac arrived. And the Battle of Gettysburg was under way. When word arrived to Lee about what was taking place at Gettysburg, he decided to press his advantage. Hill was able to push the union forces back where they set up on the ridges outside of town. This is when the first disagreement of Confederate staff took place. General Longstreet, who replaced Stonewall Jackson, believed that it would be in the best interest of the army to disengage and sweep south in an attempt to set up a defensive position between the Army of the Potomac and Washington. General Lee disagreed. He believed that his army had achieved too much, that the fight was at Gettysburg and he would break the Army of the Potomac there. The first day of the battle ended with the Army of the Potomac positioned in a “fishhook,” running from Culps Hill in the north and ending just north of Little Round Top in the south. The Confederate line was spread out trying to cover the entire Union fishhook. The Union line put them in a very advantageous position. As night fell on July 2nd, the North held the high ground and had the capability of utilizing interior lines. At the start of Day 2 the topography of Gettysburg had a major impact on the events that would unfold. Due to the actions of this day words such as the Wheatfield, Peach Orchard and Little Round Top became synonymous with the American Civil War. It stared when Lee ordered Longstreet’s Corps to attack the left flank of the Union Army. Simultaneously, General Johnson and Early would make distracting attacks on the Union right. The action started with John Bell Hood launching his attack on the left. During the fighting of the day, Hood would make assaults on Devils Den and Little Round Top. The Union army took up defensive positions on Little Round Top minutes before the Confederates came charging up. The end of the Union line was held by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the 20th Maine. After pushing back wave after wave of Confederate charges up the hill, Chamberlain, doubting that his force could hold off another assault, ordered his regiment to fix bayonets. Out of ammunition and out of options, the 20th Maine charged down the hill just as the Rebels started making there way up. The charge overwhelmed the confederates and ended the assaults on the Union flank. Meanwhile, General McLaws led assaults on the Union 3rd corps at the Peach Orchard and the Wheatfield. The Confederate army was able to push the Union back reaching as far as the crest of Cemetery Ridge. However, Union counterattacks where able to push the Confederates back to basically where they started from. During the Day, the Union 3rd corps was all but destroyed, Hoods division was devastated and both sides where shredded in the Wheatfield. The Union Army, utilizing the topography of the area along with interior lines, where able to hold off the confederate attacks. At the end of July 3rd General Lee, still clinging to the idea that his army was invincible, started drawing plans for the third day of the battle. Independence Day 1863 opened with the largest armies ever fielded by the North or the South locked in conflict. General Meade was very confident after the 2nd day of fighting. His Army had stood up to the Rebel onslaught and continued to fortify themselves leading up to the final day of the battle. General Lee believed that in order to strengthen his flanks, Meade had left his center at Cemetery Ridge thin and vulnerable. He then told Longstreet that he planned to send General Pickett in a frontal assault on the Union position behind a stone wall at Cemetery Ridge. Longstreet once again did not agree. He believed the assault was suicide and had no chance of succeeding. Even with Longstreets objections, Lee ordered Pickets division to make the assault. Around 1 o’clock in the afternoon an estimated 150 confederate artillery pieces opened fire on the Union line, the cannonade lasted around two hours and did not have the desired effect. Around 3 o’clock, the assault began. The Confederate forced, around 12,000 men started making there way across the mile of open ground to the union position. The entire time they where in the open. Under a hale of lead most southern soldiers never reached the Union lines. Virginians under the command of General Lewis Armistead where able to temporarily push the Federal forces back at a place known as the bloody angle. However Union reserves charged into the breach and pushed the Confederates back. This is known as the High Tide of the Confederacy. General Armistead lost his life during the assault. General Lee watched on as his assault failed. Seeing that his Army was no longer invincible, General Lee proclaimed “It is all my fault.” With his Army bloodied and broken Lee attempted to prepare for a counter attack that never came. In the after math of the charge, General Pickett’s division was virtually destroyed. The next day Lee ordered his defeated army into an organized retreat back into Virginia. The Army of Northern Virginia would never return to the North. As said by a union soldier many years after the War, “After Gettysburg, all roads led to Appomattox.” The battle of Gettysburg was a colossal event which changed the course of American History. The very word ushers in romanticized visions of the war that divided a nation. Over three days 150,000 men clashed at a small town in Pennsylvania forever changing the landscape and the lives of the people that lived there. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain once said, “In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision place of the soul. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, Heart drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them shall come to this deathless field to ponder and dream;….and the power of the vision will pass into their souls.” Nowhere are these words more evident then Gettysburg Pennsylvania.…...

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