I just finished reading my hard cover copy of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory and it was a far different experience than reading it on a computer or iPad screen while making edit after edit. The editing process was clinical and nothing like reading it in the flesh, it was to maybe misuse a term “sensual.” As I read it I found it hard to believe that when I started writing it, that it was just an introductory chapter to my Gettysburg Staff ride text regarding the role of religion and ideology to the men that fought the American Civil War.
Never in my wildest imagination did I expect that wildly aggrieved White Americans, following the lead of Donald Trump would have denied the results of a completely legitimate election, and assaulted Congress when it was in session to formally certify the results of the Electoral College. Nor did I then imagine that a former President and his followers would continue to deny election results long after he was out of office and the results were certified. Nor could I imagine at any former President would abscond with highly classified documents, not comply with subpoenas to return them and that the Justice Department and have to get a warrant to search his residence and retrieve them. Nor did I expect members of a political party supposedly committed to the “Rule of Law” to target FBI agents, other Federal Law Enforcement agencies and Judges for death because of a legal search.
Now my book is out and available for purchase at Amazon and will be available in bookstores on October 1st. But as I was thinking about what I had written and current events I began to ruminate on it I came up with this little essay.
Though the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, the 14th overturned the “Dred Scott” decision to give Blacks citizenship, and the 15th granted Black men suffrage, the ghosts of racism and twin myths of the Noble South and Lost Cause still haunt our Nation and contribute to our current divide. Sadly, the curse of White Supremacy and Christian Nationalism, which were prominent in causing the Civil War, defeated Reconstruction, and restored White rule remain a clear and present danger today.
Unlike 1860, ours is not a sectional divide, but a nationwide racial, religious and political chasm. The changing racial and religious demographics of the country, the passage of laws that gave Blacks, other minorities, Women, and LGBTQ+ people civil and voting rights echoing Abraham Lincoln’s understanding of ever increasing liberty found in the Declaration, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” provide grist for grievance.
The growing tensions exploded after Barack Obama shattered the Color barrier of the presidency, provoking massive growth in violent, militarized White Supremacist and anti-Semitic groups, and the dramatic reemergence of the “Great Replacement“ conspiracy theory. Conservative Christians found more grievance when LGBTQ+ citizens gained equal rights including marriage. In Donald Trump, these aggravated groups found a man who catered to their grievances and perceived victimhood. Trump’s ideas redound today in the pronouncements of many Republican elected officials who subordinate themselves to Trump, including all of the 2016 presidential candidates, who he mocked, insulted, and belittled at every turn.
Trump and his propagandists play upon the same fears of “White Replacement” evoked by Southern leaders and Secession Commissioners. Historian Charles Dew portrayed Georgia Supreme Court Justice and Secession Commissioner Henry Benning’s apocalyptic vision of the outcome of a Northern invasion of the South; he told his audience, “We will be overpowered and our men compelled to wander like vagabonds all over the earth, and for our women, the horrors of their state cannot contemplate in imagination.” This then, was “the fate that Abolition will bring upon the white race. . . . We will be exterminated”.
Trump encourages violence. The politicians, pundits, and preachers who serve as his propagandists whip his followers into a frenzy of hatred reminiscent of the worst moments in our history. This is evidenced by mass murders at Black churches, supermarkets, Jewish synagogues and community centers, and what amount to be lynchings of Black men by Whites.
On June 1st 2020, Trump used a violent attack by Secret Service, Park Police, Washington Metropolitan Police, and Bureau of Prisons officers against peaceful citizens in Lafayette Park gathered to protest the murder of George Floyd, as cover for a photo-op with a Bible outside St. John’s Church. The next day he tweeted with pride about the “Overwhelming Force and Domination” used by police. The violence echoed police attacks on Civil Rights marchers in the 1960s.
Trump’s “Big Lie” of the “stolen” election and the assault on the Capitol echoed the violence of the Confederate response to Lincoln’s election. In 1861 Southern Slave States seceded from the Union, seized Federal facilities, mints, armories, and military bases, and opened fire on Fort Sumter, beginning the bloodiest war in American history.
Some of Trump’s followers call for violence and civil war following the FBI’s legal search of Trump’s Mar a Lago home. Instead of trying to calm them, Trump and acolytes like Steve Bannon, Tucker Carlson, and Republican office holders or candidates continue to incite violence against law enforcement.
Lincoln mistakenly believed that Southerners would come to their senses and calls for secession and civil war would lessen after the 1860 election. Only fools would believe that Trump and his followers will back down now, in light of the January 6th insurrection and the mounting number of criminal and civil investigations against Trump. Like Southerners in 1860 they feel cornered, and are lashing out against their best interests.
Religious intolerance fuels race hatred. Authoritarian leaders like Trump fuse religious and the politics of race in a ruthless drive for political power. History, including ours shows that the result of such fusion results in war, and crimes against humanity. The damage to the victims, perpetrators, and society is felt for generations.
Like the antebellum period, faith has emerged as a political weapon. “But,” wrote British historian and military theorist B. H. Liddell- Hart, “one should still be able to appreciate the point of view of those who fear the consequences. Faith matters so much in times of crisis. One must have gone deep into history before reaching the conviction that truth matters more.” The Confederacy’s ghosts still haunt us through White Supremacy, Christian Nationalism, and Donald Trump. We must learn the lessons, or see our democracy torn asunder from within, with blood flowing in our streets.
Over the past couple of weeks I have been amazingly busy and where I have been pretty much too exhausted to write, despite the plethora of patently palpitating potboilers regarding the perfidious behavior of the twice impeached former President and his pernicious and parasitic promoters following the excruciatingly proper search warrant and search of Trump’s porous pleasure palace of Mar a Lago, issued by profoundly proper Attorney General Merrick Garland and proficiently pulled off by by the FBI. (Yes I know this was an excruciatingly long sentence but I could not resist trying to use all of those words beginning with the letter “p” when so many synonyms were available. It is just one of my peculiar proclivities, see I couldn’t even perchance avoid it in my parenthetical note, but I digress.)
When all of this dropped almost a week and a half ago I was blown away, not because I didn’t think that Trump had made off with classified materials, or in my opinion had already either shared them with hostile foreign powers, or was planning to do so for perfidious profit, and not in the interest of patriotism, but perfidy, or as better known as profit and treason.
The really fascinating but terrifying thing to watch was the mass hysteria that the legal and properly carried out search evoked among the Trump Cult, from the highest elected officials, the pernicious low life’s of the Trump propaganda machine, and his cult of hard core “true believer” followers for whom truth is less important than remaining faithful to the Big Lie, and the Bigger Liar.
My morbid fascination with the onslaught of profoundly disprovable propaganda put out by Trump’s Army of pundits, politicians, and preachers from Monday until Garland dropped the bomb requesting the Judge to unseal the search warrant and inventory of what was recovered was surreal. The demands went to protests, and the protests to terrorism directed at the FBI, including the release of the names and personal data of the agents and the Judge involved in the search warrant and its execution. In one case a former January 6th participant attempted a failed attack on the FBI’s Cincinnati Field office, after which he was killed in a shootout with law enforcement.
Since then, most of Trump’s cult has upped the ante, demanding the release of the Affidavit to the Warrant which the Justice Department is wisely resisting because of the sensitivity of the documents to the investigation. What we have here is a clear cut case of obstruction of Justice, mishandling of government documents, including Classified, Secret, Top Secret, and Top Secret SCI (Special Compartmentalized Information) none of which are to be removed from where they are stored or viewed in SCIFs unless to be briefed in similar secure facilities, of which Mar a Lago is not. Likewise, the need for a former President to require access to such information is not his, but of the current President, should the current President believe that a former President be able to help in a given situation might grant access. But such is not the case when a former President absconds with 11 sets of classified materials, as well as cases of numerous other official government documents, and then lies after being subpoenaed by the National Records Office of the National Archives and the Justice Department for them for over a year.
Trump was given so much latitude in returning the documents without penalty before the warrant was issued it makes one’s mind spin. If it were you or me, you bet your ass that we would be in jail, possibly without parole until trial. But Trump and his cavalcade of incompetent lawyers and cult like followers, whether elected officials or complete private citizen morons, would rather lie, obfuscate and possibly aid Trump in actions that while illegal, might also constitute treason of the former President shared them with any foreign leaders or agents. While serving as President, Trump was notorious for his complete disregard of classified materials and their potential impacts on national security, a fact attested to by two of his National Security Advisors, two Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a former Director of National Intelligence, and many others involved in his administration. Then there is the almost ejaculatory defense of Trump by Russian propagandists, and their transition to mourning that he is no longer an assest after the warrant and search. Dare call Trump’s actions treason. I do. There is much more to this story. There are multiple Federal and State criminal and civil cases moving through the court, and also the House Committee investigating the January 6th attack on Congress, an event orchestrated and encouraged by Trump in order to defy the results of a legal election to maintain his personal power.
There is much still to be added, but none of it will be good for either Trump or our national and the principals and laws it was founded upon.
As for me I will not give up the fight against totalitarianism, treason, and theocratic fascism. To quote the Christian German General Henning von Tresckow who gave up his life in the attempt to kill Hitler:
“A man’s moral worth is established only at the point where he is ready to give up his life in defense of his convictions.”
As my book “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Religion and the Politics of Race in the Civil War Era and Beyond”, states: I am a historian, retired career military officer, and priest. As a historian I believe the truth, even when uncomfortable or damning, should be told. I take as inspiration a statement by Sir Patrick Stewart, in his role as Captain Jean Luc Picard, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The First Duty.” In the story Picard tells Cadet Wesley Crusher, “The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based.”
I spent 37 years as an officer in the US Army and Navy. I fully agree with Captain Picard, charge me with living in the past, present, and future, but my duty, and anyone commissioned or appointed by his or her government must be committed to the truth and upholding the law, former Presidents, current politicians, pundits, and preachers be damned. Truth matters. The distinguished history professor Timothy Snyder wrote, “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.”Truth matters, but it is human nature to take solace in myths and believe they are true. However, many myths are deadly. The deadliest include American Slavery’s “positive good,” the “Noble South,” the “Lost Cause,” the evils of Reconstruction, the good of Jim Crow, and the nonexistence of institutional racism in the United States. These are lies so big and toxic that one has to call them whoppers.
With that I am done for the night. Wednesday will be busy. Be safe, take care and enjoy life all,that you can.
The big day, or actually the first big day for “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Religion and the Politics of Race in the Civil War Era and Beyond. The people who preordered the book and the historians and civil rights leaders who wrote critical reviews of the book are getting theirs as well. It will be available in stores on 1 October, the actual release date, that it the really big date. If you want a copy now Amazon is fulfilling orders within days of the order. If you want it signed, and you are either not local, or we will be seeing one another soon, you can order on Amazon Prime and send it to me and I will send it back to you, that way you pay no shipping. If you want it signed please e-mail me or put your e-mail in the comments and I will send you my address via e-mail. I am going to try to avoid being doxed by the haters.
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory is a hard-hitting history of the impact of racism and religion on the political, social, and economic development of the American nation from Jamestown to today, in particular the nefarious effects of slavery on U.S. society and history. Going back to England’s rise as a colonial power and its use of slavery in its American colonies, Steven L. Dundas examines how racism and the institution of slavery influenced the political and social structure of the United States, beginning with the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Dundas tackles the debates over the Constitution’s three-fifths solution on how to count Black Americans as both property and people, the expansion of the republic and slavery, and the legislation enacted to preserve the Union, including the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act—as well as their disastrous consequences.
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory squarely faces how racism and religion influenced individual and societal debates over slavery, Manifest Destiny, secession, and civil war. Dundas deals with the struggle for abolition, emancipation, citizenship, and electoral franchise for Black Americans, and the fierce and often violent rollback following Reconstruction’s end, the civil rights movement, and the social and political implications today.
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory is the story of perpetrators, victims, and bystanders; slaves and slaveholders; preachers, politicians, and propagandists; fire-eaters and firebrands; civil rights leaders and champions of white supremacy; and the ordinary people in the South and the North whose lives were impacted by it all.
I am grateful for all the historians, authors, and civil rights leaders who offered these reviews after reading an early draft of the manuscript. They all have my profound respect.
Dr. James ”Jim” McPherson the George Henry Davis ’86 Professor Emeritus of United States History at Princeton University, and author of “Battle Cry of Freedom, the American Civil War” wich won the Pulitzer Prize in 1989 writes:
“A richly documented history of the ideology of racism that manifested itself in slavery, the Confederacy, the overthrow of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the myth of the Lost Cause that glorified the Old South and the Confederacy.”
Dr. Charles Reagan Wilson, Professor Emeritus at the University of Mississippi and author of numerous books on Souther history and society including ”Baptized in Blood, the Religion of the Lost Cause” wrote:
“The ghosts of American slavery and the Civil War haunt this sweeping interpretation of how a toxic blend of white supremacy and tribal religion continue to shape American society. Beginning with the arrival of the first Africans in North America in 1619, Dundas traces how race and religion became an American ideology that influenced politics and public policy. The extensive citation of first-person quotations lends unusual authority to the account. The heart of the study is the period from the antebellum era through the end of Reconstruction, but within a chronological narrative, Dundas weaves philosophical meditations on the mix of idealism and ruthless power that shaped the antebellum and postbellum worlds, with special insight on the American South’s pivotal role in his story. While this is a historical study, the author analyzes its significance for the social and political divisions of the twenty-first century, making it an especially timely study. The author’s wide knowledge of military history serves him well, as he looks at the American experience of the Civil War in a broad perspective. Scholars of southern history, American religion, the Civil War, and contemporary politics will all find this work of interest.”
Dr. Charles Dew, Ephraim Williams Professor of American History at Williams College, and author of “Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War” writes:
“Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory is a book for our time. Steven L. Dundas has skillfully woven slavery, race, racism, politics, and religion into a single entity in telling this country’s complex story. Every American would profit from what he is telling us.”
Dr. Lloyd “Vic” Hackley, military civil rights pioneer and Vietnam War hero before becoming President of the North Carolina Community College System, Vice President of the University of North Carolina System, and Chancellor of North Carolina A & T University writes:
“Steve Dundas has written the definitive account of America’s onerous history with African Americans. A must read to fully understand, teach or discuss the institution of slavery, racism, religion and their current impacts. Every school library should have a copy.”
Dr. Joe Levin, Esq., cofounder of the Southern Poverty Law Center writes,
“Commander Dundas not only brings us a powerful history of slavery but, more importantly, the consequence of untruths and how twisted religious beliefs shaped America. All educators should read it and ensure that its message is delivered to their students.”
Dr. John Fea, Distinguished Professor of History at Messiah University and author of ”Why Study History?”, ”Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?” and ”Believe Me: the Evangelical Road to Donald Trump” writes:
“Steven Dundas offers us a fast-moving introduction to the links between Christianity and slavery in early America. If you are interested in learning more about the roots of racial strife in America, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory is a good place to start.”
Dr. Riccardo Herrera, Professor of History at the the Army War College, and author of ”For Liberty and Republic, the American Citizen as Soldier: 1775-1861” and “Feeding Washington’s Army: Surviving the Valley Forge Winter of 1778“ writes:
“Steven Dundas has written a powerful call for Americans to reexamine their too-often mythologized Civil War, Reconstruction, and their ongoing impact on American life. Dundas has infused his work with a strong moral and ethical clarity that is rarely seen.”
Dr. Leanna Keith of the New York Collegiate Academy and author of ”The Colfax Massacre” writes:
“In this concise, personal account, Steven L. Dundas offers a review of religion and ideology in the Civil War era and its aftermath. Taking a broad view, Dundas considers expressions of religious fervor and sermonizing in relations to the establishment of slavery in 1619, the role of the Constitution of the United States, and the painful legacies of the Civil War in Jim Crow and Lost Cause America. Dundas adopts a friendly and familiar tone, quoting at length, and synthesizing based on his careful reading of secondary sources. In its most original passages, the book considers the role of evangelical zeal in promoting conflict in the leadup to the war on both sides of the divide.”
Dr. Margaret Sankey, Professor at the USAF, Air University and author of “Blood Money: How Criminals, Militias, Rebels, and Warlords Finance Violence” and “Women and War” writes:
“Moved by a staff ride to Gettysburg, Professor Dundas–a career naval officer, chaplain and educator–has written an electrifying new take on the American Civil War and its continuing presence in politics, race relations and corrosive mythology. From the first chapters, he center the long tail of slavery, back to the colonial origins of the states, with a grip that does not permit a reader to slide into ‘it was about states’ rights’ or to look away from the system of enslaving human beings that underwrote the commodity production of the southern economy and had the enabling support of northern brokers like Fernando Wood. His key insight, which should have a place in the anti-racism and anti-extremism training we do in Professional Military Education, is that the south definitely lost the war but infiltrated the peace with rhetoric of reunion, white brotherhood, U.S. imperialism (making up with brothers in grey by fighting in Cuba, for one!), Jim Crow constraint of African-American civil rights and vicious terrorizing in the form of nightriders, Klan activities and local lynching. Dundas’ history is visceral, often told in the voices of the participants, and pulls no punches with the searing injustices, large-scale violence and personal tragedies of the nation’s founding and original sin of slavery. This is a book to put in the hands of any military reader who understands that racism, an ugly thread woven into our American story, is a national security issue.”
Chris Rodda, Senior Researcher at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and author of ”Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History writes:
“With no sugar coating of America’s history of slavery and racism, Steve Dundas adds to the story of the religious ideology used to slavery, not as a side note but as the significant factor that it was. A very timely read as we face the growing threat of of today’s Christian nationalists and white supremacists.”
Dr.John Patrick Daly of the State University of New York, Brockport, and Author of “When Slavery was Called Freedom: Evangelism, Proslavery and the Causes of the Civil War” writes:
“Steve Dundas’s “Mine Eyes have seen the Glory” is a lively and wide-ranging account of religion and the politics of race in the South. His expert handling of religion and religious ideology is compelling and especially powerful on the origins and lasting power of the Lost Cause. The book’s innovative style will appeal to college students and all students of history.”
Kristopher D. White Chief Historian, Emerging Civil War, and author of several books on the Civil War writes:
“Military history is more than just the mud and blood of the battlefield. The enduring values and beliefs of a nation equate to policy, policy and politics drives strategy, and strategy drives the prosecution of a war. In Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, Steven L. Dundas weaves together the story of the country’s original sin, slavery, into the larger fabric of antebellum and wartime America. Every aspect of American life was directly or indirectly touched by the “peculiar institution.” From the pulpit to the slave auction block, and from the cotton fields of the Deep South to the ramparts of Battery Wagner, Dundas takes readers on an unforgettable journey through the heart of perhaps the darkest chapter in American history—chattel slavery. Through exhaustive research and primary and secondary accounts, Dundas allows the evidence to speak for itself in this powerful examination from the Middle Passage to Emancipation, and beyond. This tome will be welcomed by military and social historians alike as it peels back the layers of some of the most overlooked and critical aspects of our collective history like never before.”
I am now beginning the edits on my draft manuscript of my next book, like “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” began as an introductory chapter in my Gettysburg Staff Ride tome. It’s title is “A Great Civil War in a Revolutionary Age of Change”. It will deal with the many technological, military, sociological, economic, industrial, diplomatic, and informational factors that made the Civil War the first modern war as well as the beginning of social and constitutional advances that are still at the heart of our political debate.
The book will be released in the heat of the the 2022 mid-term election. Those elections will be dominated by Right Wing hysteria regarding Critical Race Theory, and claims by conservative snowflakes that the mere mention of American racism will cause their children to be uncomfortable and traumatized. The people doing this have been terrorizing educators and school boards, with many educators receiving death threats and violent demonstrations at school board meetings. Since I have long experienced online harassment and death threats from White Supremacists and many who claim to be Christians, I expect that this book will considerably raise my profile and lead to much more targeted harassment and threats by these modern day book burning fascists.
But that is the path that I have chosen. Freedom and truth matter, and for those who believe as I that tyranny must be resisted, and that White Supremacists and theocratic Christians pose an existential threat to our democracy I cannot be silent.
What makes these people even more dangerous is that many believe that their actions to crush the rights and persecute other citizens are blessed and ordained by their god. They are banning and burning books, undermining civil rights, constitutional rights, and voting rights. the support open violence including murder of Blacks, Jews, Muslims, Women, LGBTQ people, other racial, ethnic, and religious minorities and political Liberals, who they call ”Communists and Socialists.” On January 6, 2021 they under the direction and with the wholehearted encouragement and support of former President Donald Trump, attacked the Capitol in order to allow Trump to remain in office after he lost a free and fair election.
Yale historian Timothy Snyder wrote:
“The European history of the twentieth century shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary men can find themselves standing over death pits with guns in their hands. It would serve us well today to understand why.”
I completely understand why that happens. Yehuda Bauer said, “Thou shall not be a perpetrator, thou shall not be a victim, and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.” I cannot be a bystander, and thus as long as I have breath I will continue to write and fight.
Pardon the delay in the publication of this article. I started it the day after the hearing and didn’t finish it because I was tired. The next night I went to dinner and Top Gun, Maverick. Then for the next few days between work around the house, catching, doing some work with publicity for the book, catching up on some reading, watching some movies and documentaries about the Civil Rights Movement as I ponder my next book, in light of current reverses to civil, voting, reproductive, and religious rights by Christian Nationalists and their militant supermajority on the Supreme Court. I need to get with my agent soon for his advice in regard to the five other books I in some stage of development.
I will be making a trip to Washington, DC tomorrow to see DC United play my all time favorite team, Bayern Munich. Thursday I will visit the National Museum of African American History, then have some dinner before heading back to my hotel to watch the live hearings on Thursday Night. Friday I will visit some of the preserved Civil War fortifications around DC, and spend the night in Annapolis and return home Saturday. I will be my first trip to see and do things I want to do since the beginning of COVID. So without further delay the long delayed article.
On December 14th, 2020 the Electoral College cast its ballots and elected Joe Biden as President Elect. Between November 4th and that day President Trump’s legal team had filed 61 challenges in State and Federal Courts, filing 61 lawsuits, losing 60 outright and winning a portion of another that had no bearing on that court’s final decision.
Likewise, Trump personally attempted to pressure Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensberger to find over 11,000 votes to flip Georgia into his column and disenfranchise Georgia voters. Raffensberger refused and testified as to that fact before the committee.
White House advisors and cabinet members told Trump that he lost and needed to concede. He did not, even as then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recognized the legitimacy of the election. However, Trump would not do so and turned to allies outside the administration willing to do anything, especially illegal, to keep him in power.
The situation came to a head on the evening and night of December 18th when in a surprise visit by Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne obtained access to the President when a junior White House aid admitted to the White House without higher authorization. That is hard to get. I know, because in 2009 a friend of mine from Iraq, who was then Chief of Staff to the National Security Advisor, got Judy and me a private tour of the West Wing, not even to meet the President. The amount of background checks and security required was incredible. One does not get to casually drop in to the Oval Office unless something is seriously awry. Thus when the clown car of clueless, criminally minded, conspiracy theorists pitched a draft executive order for the President to order the Department of Defense to use the military to seize voting machines, and to appoint Sidney Powell as a ”Special Counsel” with full security clearance to do the job of ensuring Trump remained President despite having lost the election and having every lawsuit to overturn the election defeated, often dismissed by Trump appointed Federal judges.
At this point Cassidy Hutchinson, realizing that there were no adults in the room notified Pat Cipollone, and Mark Meadows. Cipollone was the first to arrive followed shortly by Meadows and senior advisor Eric Hirschmann. There was a heated argument which included much profanity and threats, with Hirschmann telling Flynn to ”sit his ass down.” Cipollone demanded their evidence which they failed to supply. There was much profanity, threats of fist fights and violence before the meeting finally ended, with Meadows escorting Giuliani off the White House Grounds. Trump, now realizing that there was no legal way to overturn the election, and the the clown car had no way to keep him in office, decided to use the mob of his supporters to do that very thing. Barely two hours later, Trump sent out a tweet for his supporters to come to Washington on January 6th because it ”would be wild.”
Almost immediately right wing activists, militia groups, and provocateurs, began calling for violence and revolt to keep Trump in power. One used an image from Game of Thrones to call for a ”Red Wedding”, a reference to the murder of people coming to what they thought was a wedding but in which they were massacred. Others, talked of a ”rope day” which is a reference to bringing ropes to hang Trump’s enemies, which included the gallows that was set up hang Mike Pence. Many provocateurs including Steve Bannon, Alex Jones, and many others spread the call of Trump to overthrow the election, start a revolution and kill their opponents.
The violence incited by Trump’s YouTube, Instagram, and other social media propagandists became so vile, violent, and profane and murderous that it makes any person with a modicum of decency, a moral center, and respect for our laws and our system of government sick and frightened for our future as a democracy.
During the following two weeks leading up to 6 January there were meetings, a ”war room” was set up in the Trump Hotel where Trump’s cabal of coup planners made their contacts and gathering their shock troops that led the assault on the Capitol. These included the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Members of these group brought military grade weapons, including AR-15 type rifles, grenades, body armor, kevlar helmets, bear spay, stocks of ammunition, and a 30 day supply of food. They were primed for battle, and as the day grew closer and it became clear that Vice President Pence would most likely fulfill his duties to certify the Electoral College vote and formally declare Joe Biden as President, Pence became one of their targets for death.
The night before the assault on the Capitol and Trump’s own rally on the Ellipse, a large rally was held within hearing distance of the Oval Office, complete with Sidney Powell, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Alex Jones, Proud Boys and other miscreants urging the crowd to fight like hell for Trump the next day. The language was that of a pre-combat pep talk. It was incendiary and promoted violence against anyone who opposed Trump or supported Biden, continuing to promote the big lie of the stolen election. According to testimony Trump had the doors of the Oval Office in order to take it in and enjoy it.
That same evening two pipe bombs were left near the offices of the Democratic and Republican parties near Congress. The person who left them has never been identified or arrested.
I will return to 6 January after I come back. between then and now I will post about my travels.
The past couple of weeks have been somewhat surreal. The continued revelations of former President Trump and his allies to attempt a coup to keep him in power, the decision of the Trump appointed majority on the Supreme Court to destroy the Establishment Clause in two cases, and to overturn Roe v. Wade by using poor history and case law to destroy any legal precedent regarding the Fourteenth Amendment after when it was ratified in 1868, when women had few rights to property, civil rights, rights to their medical treatment and the right to vote, the last which was enshrined in the 19th Amendment, 51 years after the 14th Amendment. While Roe v. Wade gave women some choice regarding their reproductive rights, and control of their bodies, the Equal Rights Amendement was never ratified, leaving women with far fewer Constitutionally protected rights than men.
That being said, I thought that rewriting an article from our last visit to Munich in 2018 worked very well considering the most recent actions of the court and Republican state legislatures to crush the civil rights of women ad blacks, uphold the rights of people to arm themselves to the teethe with military grade weaponry with few safeguards as to how they can be purchased. The understanding of settled law and precedent has been demolished such that no protections after 1868 can be safeguarded, based on the perverted legal doctrine of ”Originalism,” which is much like the various Christian Fundamentalist doctrine of BiblicalInerrancy, which though unprovable tries to deduce the meanings of the writers, without the tools of hermeneutics, historiography, or the Christian tradition and reason. The doctrine of originalism depends on interpreting the Constitution as if the Founders intended it to be enshrined as scripture rather than a compromised document that most felt at the time would need to be changed.
Now I am 62 years old. Many people of my generation and my parents generation elected these madmen. Those who will save us from tyranny have to be young people of ideals, integrity, and who believe in the founding principle of the Declaration of Independence, enhanced by the words of Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address, who also believe in the protections of the Constitution.
So I leave you with this for tonight. Please, read it and share it.
On one of our trips to Munich we had breakfast and then since Judy’s knees were not up to a lot of long walks or standing took our rental car out to see a couple of places that we had not visited. We went to the grave of the anti-Nazi martyr Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and friend Christoph Probst who were executed in February 1943 for publishing anti-Hitler, Nazi, and war pamphlets. Following that we went to the BMW Museum and BMW World. The first was sobering, the second interesting because I like fast cars, but the visit to the cemetery was far more important.
I won’t write about the BMW Museum, that is something for true automotive enthusiasts. Instead I will write about that visit to the Friedhof at Perlacher Forst in Munich where Sophie Scholl is buried.
The cemetery is adjacent to the Stadelheim Prison where she was held before her trial and executed on February 22nd 1943. I have written about her and the White Rose resistance movement before. The year before I visited the White Rose Museum and study center at the Ludwig Maximillians University of Munich but last year I didn’t get the chance to make a pilgrimage to her gravesite. I made it a priority this visit.
Visiting a memorial or museum is one thing. However, I find that visiting the gravesite of a martyr, or the mass gravesites of the victims of the Holocaust, other mass killings, or cemeteries where those killed in battle, engenders something of a personal or spiritual connection.
We parked on the street outside Stadelheim, which is still an active prison surrounded by tall walls and guard towers. While Judy waited with the car I walked to the cemetery and then to the gravesite which is on the opposite side of the cemetery from the main entrance. It is a very peaceful place, with many trees and the sections cordoned off by carefully trimmed grapevines.
When I reached the gravesite I paused, and remained for about ten minutes contemplating the cost of real resistance to tyranny. She and her companions had no political, military, or economic power. They were students, and a number had served as medics on the Eastern Front before resuming their studies.
Unlike the men who launched Operation Valkyrie 17 months later they had no connections to any kind of power: they were not part of the movement of German conservatives and militarists who initially supported Hitler and then had second thoughts. When Hitler came to power they were children. They resisted because they found what was happening to go beyond any sense of ethics, morality, or in some cases, like Sophie, their Christian faith.
At her trial she told the notorious President of the Nazi People’s Court, Roland Freisler:
Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.
While I was their I tried to imagine her courage as she testified to the truth and went to her death. The woman who shared Sophie’s cell wrote of her final words before going to her execution:
How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?
Many people today are being faced with the same questions that Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and friends, including Christoph Probst who was executed the same day had to make. Thankfully, for the most part the future imitators of Hitler have not yet seized full power in Europe or the United States, but it wouldn’t take much for that to happen. Too many people, and not just conservatives, would be willing to sacrifice freedom in the name of security if a major war, terrorist attack, or natural disaster that threatened their well being and/or their economic or social status occurred. Likewise, we Americans have a pretty lousy history in dealing with suspect minorities and dissenters in times of crisis.
In such a situation, how many people would allow their government to oppress and terrorize people that they distrusted due to their race, ethnicity, or religion? I think that the numbers are a lot higher than we would want to admit. The preservation or self and wealth is often more of a motivation than faith, or the rights and liberties of others.
During the Nazi era many non-Nazis supported the Nazi programs because they thought that they benefited them. The same is true in any authoritarian State regardless of the ideology that it subscribes and its people hold dear.
The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.
An addendum for tonight,
My question to you, and me is hers. If you think you are “safe,” you are only kidding yourself, no matter what your political or religious belief may be. Men like Trump or Boris Johnson, Orban of Hungary, Erdogan or Turkey, Bolsonaro Of Brazil, Marcos of the Philippines, Putin of Russia, or Kim Jun Un of North Korea have no real friends or allies. Their supporters, even the most loyal, are like those of Hitler and Stalin only are safe until they realize their mistaken trust in their leader.
As I write this more and more creditable and documented forensic evidence emerges during the various investigations into the crimes of former President Trump and his militant followers who attacked the Capitol Building on 6 January 2021 with the intent to stop the final ceremonial counting of the Electoral College Vote, even threatening to hang Vice President Mike Pence and murder many members of Congress.
It’s up to you young people. I’ll fight as long as I can, as will other older veterans and resisters. But the long term fight belongs to you. What way will you choose to burn?
I have grown weary of domestic terrorists murdering and maiming innocent people. Most of them are young angry white men, who often target their victims based on their race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. Their preferred victims seem to children and the elderly. There are few places in our country that can be considered safe. I have dealt with PTSD and its aftereffects for over a decade. I have lost count of the hundreds of people I have seen die, many due to gun violence. If you have never stood over the bodies of those whose bodies are destroyed, literally torn apart by high velocity semiautomatic rifles and handguns, then this is simply an exercise in political rhetoric. When I saw the picture above with the police officer crying his hands as he walked through the carnage.
When I saw what was happening in Highland Park, I could not wish anyone a happy Independence Day. I say that because there are a significant number of our citizens and elected leaders, especially those of the Trumpified and QAnon GOP. They have private heavily armed so called militias like the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, which function as did the Nazi Brownshirts who go around, even after their major role in attacking the Capitol and trying to force a coup to overthrow the government and invalidate an election that Trump lost decisively in both the Electoral College and the popular vote, still use intimidation tactics to target LGBTQ gatherings and even readings to children in public libraries.
I recognized that Highland Park terrorism was likely directed at Jews, first because Highland Park has a large Jewish population, second because I saw one of the terrorist’s bloody videos before they were taken down. The video was flooded with a Welsh rope Rune used as a symbol of right wing Finnish group, with Nazi leanings, known as Suomen Sisu.
It is indeed a time to mourn, but to get angry and to whatever is needed in the courts, in our legislatures, and in taking to the streets to demand that our local state and federal representatives take action to restore what the founders meant in the Second Amendment which the Roberts Court in an opinion written by the late Antonin Scalia which turned the amendment on its head in 2008.
We also need to be ready take up arms against these terrorist groups. Lest anyone be confused, these efforts have to be defensive in nature, not threaten any public official, but limited to working within the laws of our states and working with law enforcement to ensure that peaceful protestors, or the people to assemble.
However, I have to pause for the night. I have a long day tomorrow, and there is much more to say. But I will conclude with the words of the German general Henning von Tresckow who gave up his life to overthrow Hitler, “A man’s moral worth is established only at the point where he is ready to give up his life in defense of his convictions.”
This week I have been posting about Gettysburg and the solemn observance of Independence Day on 4 July, 1863.
So tonight I will repost a final article from my Gettysburg text. It deals with the human cost of the Battle of Gettysburg. In his Gettysburg Address Abraham Lincoln said:
“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”
I am a now recareer military officer who suffers from PTSD, TBI and other afflictions after serving in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province in 2007-2008. I have seen firsthand the terrible effects of war. I am also a historian and I have served as Assistant Professor at a major military staff college which helps educate senior military officers from this country and other countries. In that capacity I taught ethics as well as led the Gettysburg Staff ride, or study of the Battle of Gettysburg. When whenever I teach about Gettysburg or any other military campaign, I always attempted to deal with the human cost of warand its attendant afflictions.
Gettysburg was the most costly battle ever fought on the American continent. Around 50,000 men were killed or wounded there in three days of battle. William Tecumseh Sherman noted that “war is hell.” I agree, there is nothing romantic about it. The effects of war last generations. Although we spent over 20 years at war, war itself is an abstract concept to most Americans. It is fought by professionals and only experienced by most Americans on the news, movies or most the banal manner, video games; thus the cost in human terms is not fully appreciated, and nor can it be, we are far too insulated from it. Over the past forty plus years our politicians have insulated the public from war, and in doing so they have ensured that we remained in perpetual war which benefits no one. That is a big reason why I write so much about it, not to glorify or romanticize it, but to try in some war to help make it real to my readers. This is a another draft chapter from my Gettysburg text, and as a side note, the pictures, with the exception of the color photos taken by me at the Soldier’s Cemetery, all were taken after the battle.
Walt Whitman Wrote:
“Ashes of soldiers South or North, As I muse retrospective murmuring a chant in thought, The war resumes, again to my sense your shapes, And again the advance of the armies. Noiseless as mists and vapors, From their graves in the trenches ascending, From cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee, From every point of the compass out of the countless graves, In wafted clouds, in myriads large, or squads of twos or threes or single ones they come, And silently gather round me…”
Too often we look at distant battles and campaigns in terms of strategy, operations, tactics, leadership and the weaponry employed. Likewise we might become more analytical and look at the impact of the battle or campaign in the context of the war it was fought, or in the manner in which the tactics or weapons used revolutionized warfare. Sometimes in our more reflective moments we might look at individual bravery or sacrifice, often missing in our analysis is the cost in flesh and blood.
Admittedly the subject is somewhat macabre. But with the reality being that very few people in the United States, Canada or Western Europe have experienced the terrible brutality of war it is something that we should carefully consider any time the nation commits itself to war. By we, I mean all citizens, including the many soldiers, sailors and airmen who never see the personally see people they kill, or walk among the devastation caused by the highly advanced, precision weapons that they employ from a great distance, sometimes thousands of miles. In some parts of our military we have men and women who have the mission of targeting and killing enemies and then walking home to their families, but in the Civil War killing in combat “remained essentially intimate; soldiers were able to see each other’s faces and to know whom they had killed.” 
While the words of William Tecumseh Sherman that “War is Hell” are as true as when he spoke them; the tragic fact is that for most people war is an abstract concept, antiseptic and unreal; except for the occasional beheading of a hostage by Islamic militants or the videos shot by the perpetrators of crimes against humanity on the internet. Thus the cost of war and its attendant cost in lives, treasure and to the environment are not real to most people in the West.
We use words to describe the business of war which dehumanize the enemy, and we describe their deaths in words more palatable to us. Dave Grossman, the army infantry officer who has spent his post military life writing about the psychology of war and killing wrote:
“Even the language of men at war is the full denial of the enormity of what they have done. Most solders do not “kill,” instead the enemy was knocked over, wasted, greased, taken out, and mopped up. The enemy is hosed, zapped, probed, and fired on. The enemy’s humanity is denied, and he becomes a strange beast called a Jap, Reb, Yank, dink, slant, or slope. Even the weapons of war receive benign names- Puff the Magic Dragon, Walleye, TOW, Fat Boy, Thin Man- and the killing weapon of the individual soldier becomes a piece or a hog, and a bullet becomes a round.”
We can now add the terms Haji and Raghead to Grossman’s list of dehumanizing terms for our opponents from our most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The words of Guy Sager in his classic work The Forgotten Soldier about World War Two on the Eastern front is lost on many that study war:
“Too many people learn about war with no inconvenience to themselves. They read about Verdun or Stalingrad without comprehension, sitting in a comfortable armchair, with their feet beside the fire, preparing to go about their business the next day, as usual…One should read about war standing up, late at night, when one is tired, as I am writing about it now, at dawn, while my asthma attack wears off. And even now, in my sleepless exhaustion, how gentle and easy peace seems!” 
In an age where so few have served in the military and even few have seen combat in some way shape or form many who study war are comfortable experts who learn about war with no inconvenience to themselves. When I hear men and women, the pundits, politicians and preachers, that Trinity of Evil who constantly exhort governments and peoples to go to war for causes, places or conflicts that they have little understanding of from the comfort of their living rooms or television studios I grow weary. I fully comprehend the words of Otto Von Bismarck who said: “Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war.” 
As a historian who also is a military chaplain who has seen war I struggle with what Sager said. Thus when I read military history, study and write about particular battles or engagements, or conduct staff rides as like the Gettysburg trip that we are embarking on, the human cost is always present in my mind. The fact that I still suffer the effects of PTSD including night terrors and chronic insomnia keeps what I do in good focus, and prevents me from being a comfortable expert.
Thus, it is my view, to conduct a staff ride, to walk the battlefield; especially in somewhat uncomfortable weather is a good thing. It connects us more in at least a small way to the men that fought there, died there, or brought home wounds that changed them forever.
To walk a battlefield where tens of thousands of men were killed and wounded is for me a visit to hallowed ground. I have felt that at Waterloo, Verdun, Arnhem, Normandy, the Bulge, the West Wall, the Shuri Line on Okinawa, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Stone’s River, and of course the battlefield which I have visited more than any in my life, Gettysburg. There are times when I walk these fields that I am overcome with emotion. This I think is a good thing, for as an American who has family ties to the Civil War, Gettysburg in particular is hallowed ground.
In doing this I try to be dispassionate in how I teach and while dealing with big issues that my students will face as Joint Staff Officers. Some of them will become Flag or General Officers, with the responsibility of advising our nation’s leaders as well planning and conducting the military operations on which the lives of thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of people depend. Thus I do feel a certain responsibility to teach not only the strategy and other important military aspects of this campaign, but also the cost in human lives and ethical considerations. I take this work seriously because it forces us to remember what war is about and its nature, which Clausewitz wrote is “a paradoxical trinity-composed of primordial violence, hatred and enmity…”which William Tecumseh Sherman so rightly understood without the euphemisms that we so frequently use to describe it: “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it….”
As the sun set on the evening of July 3rd 1863 the battered Army of Northern Virginia and the battered but victorious Army of the Potomac tended their wounds, buried their dead and prepared for what might happen next. On that afternoon it was as if “the doors of Hell had shut” and the next day, the Glorious 4th of July “The heavens opened, and a thunderstorm of biblical proprotions drenched the battlefield, soaking dead, wounded and able-bodied men equally.”
Following the disastrous attack aimed at the Union center, Lee and his surviving commanders prepared for an expected Union counter attack. However, George Meade, the commander of the Army of the Potomac who had correctly anticipated Lee’s assault decided not to gamble on a counter attack, though it was tempting. He knew too well the tenacity and skill of the Confederate commanders and soldiers on the defense and did not want to risk a setback that might give Lee another chance, thus “the two sides stared at each other, each waiting for the other to resume the fighting, neither did.”
As the Confederate army retreated and Meade’s army pursued another army remained at Gettysburg, “an army of the wounded, some 20,350 in number, a third of them Confederate….” Just 106 surgeons were spared from the Army of the Potomac and “the comparatively few overburdened surgeons and attendants now on duty still labored every day to the point of exhaustion.” These overworked men were aided by local volunteers as well as members of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, the Christian Commission and the Sisters of Charity. These men and women “brought organization to the hospitals, relief to the medical staffs and the local volunteers, and immense comfort to the wounded, whether blue or butternut.”
The dead and wounded littered the battlefield and the sights and smells were ghastly:
“Wherever men gazed, they saw dead bodies. A New Yorker thought they “lay as thick as the stones that is on father’s farm.” A stench smothered the field, moving John Geary to tell his wife, “My very clothes smell of death.” A Regular Army veteran exclaimed, “I have seen many a big battle, most of the big ones of the war, and I never saw the like.”  A resident of Gettysburg walked up to Little Round top and wrote of what she observed from the peak of that rocky hill:
“surrounded by the wrecks of battle, we gazed upon the valley of death beneath. The view there spread out before us was terrible to contemplate! It was an awful spectacle! Dead soldiers, bloated horses, shattered cannon and caissons, thousands of small arms. In fact everything belonging to army equipments was there in one confused and indescribable mass.”
At Joseph Sherfy’s farm, scene of some of the heaviest fighting on the second day, his barn “which had been used as a field hospital, was left a burnt ruin, with “crisped and blackened limbs, heads and other portions of bodies” clearly visible.” When the rains came, the wounded suffered terribly. Many of the field aid stations were set up next to the creeks that crisscrossed the battlefield, and those streams quickly flooded as torrents of rain water caused them to overflow their banks. “A New Jersey soldier watched in horror as the flood waters washed over and carried away badly wounded men unable to move to safety….”
Oliver Howard took his escort to do a reconnaissance of the town on July 4th, one of the cavalry troopers described the scene:
“The battle field was the Awfulest sight I ever saw…The woods in front of our men the trees were riddled with Cannon ball and bullets evry limb shot off 20 feet high. Some say the Rebel dead lay six deep in the grave yard where we lay. Nearly every grave stone was shattered by shots and everything was torn to pieces. I went through the town on the 4th of July with the General. The streets were covered with dead. Every frame house were riddled with balls the brick ones dented thick where shot had hit.”
Field hospitals were often little more than butcher shops where arms and legs were amputated by overworked surgeons and attendants while those with abdominal wounds that could not be easily repaired were made as comfortable as possible. Triage was simple. If a casualty was thought to have a reasonable chance at survival he was treated, if not they were set aside in little groups and allowed to die as peacefully as possible. Churches were requisition for use of the surgeons. A volunteer nurse noted: “Every pew was full; some sitting, some lying, some leaning on others. They cut off the legs and arms and threw them out the windows. Every morning the dead were laid on the platform in a sheet or blanket and carried away.”
Chaplains were usually found with the doctors, caring for the physical as well as the spiritual needs of the wounded. Protestant chaplains might ensure that their soldiers “knew Jesus” and Catholics administered the Last Rites, often working together across denominational lines to care for their soldiers.
A Union chaplain described the ministry in the field hospitals and aid stations:
“Some of the surgeons were posted well up toward the front to give first aid. More of them were in the large field hospitals of division in more secure places at the rear. The chaplain might be at either place or at both by turns. Some made a point of watching for any wounded man who might be straggling back, who perhaps could be helped up into the saddle and ride back to the hospital. When the demand for help became urgent the chaplains were nurses. As the rows of wounded men grew longer, chaplains went from man to man to see what could be done to relieve their pain, perhaps to take a message or letter. All day into the night this work would continue. A drink of water, a loosened bandage on a swollen limb, a question answered, a surgeon summoned, a whispered word of comfort marked their course. Each night at sundown the men who died during the day were buried, with a short prayer, side by side in a common grave, each in his uniform with canvas wrapped around his face and a strip of paper giving his name and regiment in a bottle buttoned under his blouse.”
The war would challenge the theology of the clergy who served as chaplains on both sides, as “individuals found themselves in a new and different moral universe, one in which unimaginable destruction had become a daily experience. Where could God belong in such a world? How could a benevolent deity countenance such cruelty and suffering? Doubt threatened to overpower faith….”  That sense of bewilderment is not lacking today among those of faith who return from war.
Some men, clergy and laity alike would attempt to find a theological meaning to the suffering. Many would do so in the theology of John Calvin which emphasized the Providence and foreknowledge of God. That theological frame of reference, of the results of battles and the death or wounding of men in war and the attendant suffering was found in the will, or providence of God was quite common among men of both sides who grew up during the Second Great Awakening, as it is today; and for some it was carried to fatalistic extremes. However, others like Colonel William Oates of the 15th Alabama, who considered himself a believing Christian, wrote that he believed God:
“endowed men with the power of acting for themselves and with responsibility for their acts. When we went to war it was a matter of business, of difference of opinion among men about their temporal affairs. God had nothing to do with it. He never diverted a bullet from one man, or caused it to hit another, nor directed who should fall or who should escape, nor how the battle should terminate. If I believed in such intervention of Providence I would be a fatalist….”
The carnage around the battlefield was horrifying to most observers. Corporal Horatio Chapman of the 20th Connecticut Volunteers wrote about the sight on Cemetery Ridge on the night of July 3rd following the repulse of Pickett’s Charge:
But in front of our breastworks, where the confederates were massed in large numbers, the sight was truly awful and appalling. The shells from our batteries had told with fearful and terrible effect upon them and the dead in some places were piled upon each other, and the groans and moans of the wounded were truly saddening to hear. Some were just alive and gasping, but unconscious. Others were mortally wounded and were conscious of the fact that they could not live long; and there were others wounded, how bad they could not tell, whether mortal or otherwise, and so it was they would linger on some longer and some for a shorter time-without the sight or consolation of wife, mother, sister or friend. I saw a letter sticking out of the breast pocket of one of the confederate dead, a young man apparently about twenty-four. Curiosity prompted me to read it. It was from his young wife away down in the state of Louisiana. She was hoping and longing that this cruel war would end and he could come home, and she says, “Our little boy gets into my lap and says, `Now, Mama, I will give you a kiss for Papa.’ But oh how I wish you could come home and kiss me for yourself.” But this is only one in a thousand. But such is war and we are getting used to it and can look on scenes of war, carnage and suffering with but very little feeling and without a shudder.” 
Colonel William Oates of the 15th Alabama whose brave troopers assaulted Little Round Top on July 2nd wrote:
“My dead and wounded were nearly as great in number as those still on duty. They literally covered the ground. The blood stood in puddles in some places on the rocks; the ground was soaked with the blood of as brave men as ever fell on the red field of battle.” 
Another Confederate soldier described the scene west of the town on July 4th:
“The sights and smells that assailed us were simply indescribable-corpses swollen to twice their size, asunder with the pressure of gases and vapors…The odors were nauseating, and so deadly that in a short time we all sickened and were lying with our mouths close to the ground, most of us vomiting profusely.”
The burial of the dead was too much for the soldier’s alone to accomplish. “Civilians joined the burial of the dead out of both sympathy and necessity. Fifty Confederates lay on George Rose’s fields; seventy-nine North Carolinians had fallen on a perfect line on John Forney’s farm.”
Those tending the wounded recalled how many of the wounded selflessly asked medical personnel to tend others more badly wounded than themselves; a volunteer nurse wrote her sister: “More Christian fortitude was never witnessed than they exhibit, always say-‘Help my neighbor first, he is worse.’” The Confederate wounded were the lowest priority for the badly overwhelmed Union surgeons and Lee had not done much to help, leaving just a few surgeons and attendants to care for the Confederates left on the battlefield. The Confederate wounded housed in the classrooms of Pennsylvania College were left in dire straits:
“All the rooms, halls and hallways were occupied with the poor deluded sons of the South,” and “the moans prayers, and shrieks of the wounded and dying were everywhere.” Between 500 and 700 wounded Confederates were jammed in with “five of our surgeons” and “no nurses, no medicines no kinds of food proper for men in our condition….”
Across the battlefield the wounded were being treated in a variety of makeshift aid stations and field hospitals:
“Sergeant Major David E. Johnson of the Seventh Virginia was taken to the Myers house after the bombardment, suffering from a shrapnel wound to his left side and arm. “The shed in which I was placed,” he recalled, “was filled with the wounded and dying….I spoke to no one, and no one to me, never closed my eyes to sleep; the surgeons close by being engaged in removing the limbs of those nearby to be amputated….I heard nothing but the cries of the wounded and the groans of the dying, the agonies of General Kemper, who lay nearby, frequently being heard.”
The suffering was not confined to the hospitals; John Imboden commanding the cavalry brigade protecting the Confederate wounded being transported home and supply trains described the horror of that movement:
“Scarcely one in a hundred had received adequate surgical aid, owning to the demands on the hard working surgeons from still far worse cases tat had to be left behind. Many of the wounded in the wagons had been without food for thirty-six hours. Their torn and bloody clothing, matted and hardened, was rasping the tender, inflamed, and still oozing wounds….From nearly every wagon as the teams trotted on, urged by whip and shout came such cries and shrieks as these:
“My God! Why can’t I die?” “My God! Will no one have mercy and kill me?” “Stop! Oh! For God’s sake stop for just one minute; take me out and leave me ton die on the roadside.” “I am dying! I am dying! My poor wife, my dear children, what will become of you?”
Eventually, by July 22nd with most of the wounded evacuated a proper general hospital was set up east of the town and the remaining wounded taken there. That hospital, named Camp Letterman grew into “a hundred –acre village of cots and tents, with its own morgue and cemetery, and served more than 3,000 wounded before it was finally closed in November.”
As for the families of the dead, many never found out the details of their loved one’s deaths, which caused their losses to be “in some sense unreal and thus “unrealized,” as the bereaved described them, recognizing the inhibition of mourning that such uncertainty imposed.” Much was because of how overwhelmed the field hospital staffs were, and how inadequate their records of treatment and the dispositions of bodies were sketchy at best. “Reports from field hospitals were riddled with errors and omissions, often lacked dates, and were frequently illegible, “written with the faintest lead pencil.”
the killed and wounded were the great and the small. John Reynolds who died on day one, Winfield Scott Hancock, the valiant commander of the Union II Corps was severely wounded during Pickett’s Charge. Dan Sickles, the commander of Third Corps who had nearly brought disaster on the Federal lines by advancing to the Peach Orchard on July 2nd had his leg amputated after being grazed by a cannon ball at the Trostle Farm. Sickles, who survived the wound and the war, would visit the leg, which had carefully ordered his surgeons to preserve. The leg is now displayed at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington D.C.
The Army of the Potomac lost a large number of brigade and regimental commanders including Strong Vincent, the young and gallant brigade commander who helped save Little Round Top; George Willard who brought redemption to his Harper’s Ferry brigade on Cemetery Ridge stopping Barksdale’s charge on July 2nd; Colonel Augustus Van Horne Ellis who before being killed at Devil’s Den told his staff “the men must see us today;” and the young Elon Farnsworth, who had been promoted from Captain to Brigadier General just days before his death in a senseless ordered by his division commander Judson “Kill Cavalry” Kilpatrick, against Hood and McLaws dug in divisions as the battle ended.
The Confederates suffered grievous losses. Divisional commanders like Dorsey Pender and Johnston Pettigrew were mortally wounded, John Bell Hood was severely wounded, Isaac Trimble, wounded and captured while Harry Heth was wounded. Casualties were even higher for commanders and the brigade and regiment level, the list included excellent commanders such as Paul Semmes and William Barksdale, while Wade Hampton, Stuart’s best brigade commander was seriously wounded and would be out of action for months. The toll of brigade and regimental commanders who were killed or wounded was fearful. “At the regimental level approximately 150 colonels, lieutenant colonels and majors had been killed, wounded or captured. Of that number nineteen colonels had been slain, the most in any single battle in which the army had been engaged. Captains now led regiments.”
In Picket’s division alone all three brigade commanders, Kemper, Armistead and Garnett were killed or wounded while twenty-six of forty Field Grade officers were casualties. Forty-six percent (78 of 171) of the regiments of the Army of Northern Virginia suffered casualties at the command level. The Confederate casualties, especially among the best leaders were irreplaceable and Lee’s Army never recovered from the loss of seasoned leaders who were already in short supply.
For some like Private Wesley Culp of the 2nd Virginia it was a final trip home. Culp had grown up in Gettysburg and had taken a job in Virginia prior to the war. In 1861 he enlisted to serve among his friends and neighbors. He was killed on the morning of July 3rd on Culp’s Hill on the very property owned by his uncle where he grew up and had learned to hunt.
One witness, Frank Haskell looked in at a field hospital in the Union II Corps area and wrote:
“The Surgeons with coats off and sleeves rolled up…are about their work,… “and their faces and clothes are spattered with blood; and though they look weary and tired, their work goes systematically and steadily on- how much and how long they have worked, the piles of legs, arms, feet, hands, fingers…partially tell.” 
All told between 46,000 and 51,000 Americans were killed or wounded during the three days of Gettysburg. Busey and Martin’s Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg list the following casualty figures, other accounts list higher numbers, some as many as 53,000. One also has to remember that many of the missing soldiers were killed in action, but their bodies were simply never found.
Killed wounded missing total
Union 3,155 14,531 5,369 23,055
Confederate 4,708 12,693 5,830 23,231
Total 7,863 27,224 11,199 46,286
To provide a reference point we need to remember that in 8 years of war in Iraq the United States suffered fewer casualties than during the three days of Gettysburg. It was the bloodiest single battle in American history, and it was a battle between brothers not against foreign enemies. To put it another perspective, even at the lowest estimates that the Army of Northern Virginia suffered more casualties that the U.S. losses in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Robert E Lee testified to Congress following the war “the war… was an unnecessary condition of affairs, and might have been avoided if forbearance and wisdom had been practiced on both sides.”  Lee’s “Old Warhorse” James Longstreet asked “Why do men fight who were born to be brothers?”
Of the two Longstreet was certainly most honest. Lee made a false equivalence between the years of Southern attempts to negate the rights of Free States and to expand slavery. The North was patient, even when the Souther states began to secede the were not calls for war but reconciliation. Longstreet would go on, be reconciled and make himself persona non grata in much of the South for fighting for Reconstruction, and openly stating that slavery was the root cause of the war, he grieved the loss of so many friends who he had served with on both sides before the war. Lee on the other hand didn’t even attend the funeral of Stonewall Jackson, and was harsh toward his critics as well as towards those he believed had failed him.
The carnage and death witnessed by survivors of Gettysburg and the other battles of the war changed Civil War soldiers as much as war has before or after. James Garfield, who served as a general in the Union army and went on to become President of the United States noted: “at the sight of these dead men whom other men killed, something went out of him, the habit of a lifetime, that never came back again: the sense of the sacredness of life and the impossibility of destroying it.”
Others, like veterans of today had trouble adjusting to life after the war. “Civil War veterans had trouble finding employment and were accused of being drug addicts. Our word “hobo” supposedly comes from homeless Civil War veterans- called “hoe boys” – who roamed the lanes of rural America with hoes on their shoulders, looking for work.”  Following the war, during the turmoil of Reconstruction and the massive social change brought about by the industrialization of society and rise of “industrial feudalism” numerous veterans organizations were founded, for those that belonged to them they were “one of the principle refuges for old soldiers who had fought for a very different world than the one they found around them.” The Grand Army of the Republic was the most prominent of these organizations. “In more than 7,000 GAR posts across the United States, former soldiers could immerse themselves in a bath of sentimental memory; there, they established a ritualized camp geography, rekindled devotion to emancipation and preached the glories of manly independence.”
At the end of the war, Joshua Chamberlain, the hero of Little Round Top who was well acquainted with the carnage of war suffered immensely. His wounds never healed fully, and he struggled to climb out of “an emotional abyss” in the years after the war. Part was caused by his wounds which included wounds to his sexual organs, shattering his sexuality and caused his marriage to deteriorate. He wrote his wife about the “widening gulf between them, one created at least in part by his physical limitations: “There is not much left in me to love. I feel that all too well.”
Gouverneur Warren, who had helped save the Union at Little Round Top wrote to his wife while on Engineering duty after the war: He wrote in 1866 “Indeed the past year…was one of great despondency for me…I somehow don’t wonder that persons often remark how seldom I laugh, but it is really seldom that I do.” He wrote again in 1867 “I wish I did not dream that much. They make me sometimes dread to go to sleep. Scenes from the war, are so constantly recalled, with bitter feelings I wish to never experience again. Lies, vanity, treachery, and carnage.”
The killing at Gettysburg and so many other battles “produced transformations that were not readily reversible; the living into the dead, most obviously, but the survivors into different men as well, men required to deny, to numb basic human feelings at costs they may have paid for decades after the war ended, as we know twentieth and twenty-first-century soldiers from Vietnam to Iraq continue to do; men who like James Garfield, were never quite the same again after seeing fields of slaughtered bodies destroyed by me just like themselves.”
When one walks through the Gettysburg Soldier’s Cemetery one finds that the graves are arrayed in a fan shape, with designated areas for the dead from each loyal state that had soldiers at Gettysburg. They are placed without regard to rank as an acknowledgment of their equality. Those that could be identified are marked, while hundreds of others are marked as unknown. When I look at those that are marked ”unknown” I realize that all were sons, husbands, fathers, nephews, and friends of others. Their families never had closure.
Joshua Chamberlain asked the most difficult questions when viewing the devastation around Petersburg in the final days of the war:
“…men made in the image of God, marred by the hand of man, and must we say in the name of God? And where is the reckoning for such things? And who is answerable? One might almost shrink from the sound of his own voice, which had launched into the palpitating air words of order–do we call it?–fraught with such ruin. Was it God’s command that we heard, or His forgiveness that we must forever implore?”
I do believe with all my heart that Chamberlain’s questions should always be in our minds as we send young men and women to war, of any kind or for any reason.
 Faust, Drew Gilpin, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War Vintage Books, a division of Random House, New York 2008 p.41
 Grossman, Dave On Killing: The Psychological Costs of Learning to Kill in War and Society. Back Bay Books, Little, Brown and Company New York 1995, 1996 p.92
 Sager, Guy The Forgotten Soldier originally published as Le Soldat Oublie Editions Robert Laffont 1967, Translation Harper and Row Inc 1971, Brasey’s Washington D.C 2000 p.223
 Clausewitz, Carl von. On War Indexed edition, edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1976 p.89
 Wittenberg, Eric J, Petruzzi, David and Nugent, Michael F. One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia July 4-14 1863 Savas Beatie LLC New York NY and El Dorado Hills CA 2008,2001 p.27
 Brinsfield, John W. et. al. Editor, Faith in the Fight: Civil War Chaplains Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg PA 2003 pp.121-122
 Ibid. Faust. This Republic of Suffering p.267
 Oates, Willam C. and Haskell, Frank A. Gettysburg: The Confederate and Union Views of the Most Decisive Battle of the War in One Volume Bantam Books edition, New York 1992, originally published in 1905 p.138
 Catton, Bruce The Army of the Potomac: Glory Road Doubleday and Company, Garden City New York, 1952 p.333
 Guelzo, Allen C. Gettysburg: The Last Invasion Vintage Books a Division of Random House, New York 2013 p.469
 Brown, Kent Masterson Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics and the Gettysburg Campaign University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London, 2005 p.56
 Imboden, John D. The Confederate Retreat from Gettysburg in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War Volume III, The Tide Shifts.Edited by Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel Castle, Secaucus NJ p.424
 Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion pp.469-470
 Ibid. Faust. This Republic of Suffering p.267
 Ibid. Faust. This Republic of Suffering p.113
 Wert, Jeffry D. A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee’s Triumph 1862-1863 Simon and Schuster, New York and London 2011 Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.444
 Sears, Stephen W. Gettysburg Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Company Boston, New York 2004 p.466
 Flood, Charles Bracelen, Lee: The Last Years Houghton Books, New York 1981 p.124
 Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence, The Passing of the Armies: An Account of the Final Campaign of the Army of the Potomac, Based on the Personal Reminisces of the Fifth Corps G.P Putnam’s Son’s 1915, Bantam Books, New York 1993 Amazon Kindle Edition p.41
Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia tried to lick its wounds and regroup following its last disastrous attacks on 3 July 1863. It prepared hasty fortifications on Seminary Ridge in case Meade’s Army of the Potomac attempted to attack on July 4th, but that attack would not come. Meade had no inclination of allowing the Confederates to do to his forces what his did to Lee’s during Pickett’s Charge.
Between the two armies lay tens of thousands or dead, dying, and grievously wounded and maimed soldiers. I will write about that tomorrow.
A Union soldier, Elbert Corbin, Union Soldier at Gettysburg 1st Regiment, Light Artillery, N. Y. S. Volunteers (Pettit’s Battery) wrote of the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg:
“Dead men and plenty here – and I saw plenty of them in all shapes on the field – Help to wound & Kill men then Patch them up I could show more suffering here in one second than you will see in a Life…”
Long after the Battle Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who commanded the 20th Maine in its defense of Little Round Top 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 souls.” 
The ground was consecrated by the blood of the men who fell there, and like Chamberlain whenever I visit the hallowed ground of Gettysburg I have a sense that the spirits of those men still linger.
On the morning of July 4th, “The day after the battle began muggy and cloudy, and there was a tremendous rainstorm” as the Army of Northern Virginia and Army of the Potomac licked their wounds on the bloodstained Gettysburg battlefield. Both armies had suffered severely in the fighting and around 50,000 soldiers from both sides lay dead, dying or wounded on the battlefield. It was a somber day, the sweltering heat sunshine which had bathed the battlefield as Longstreet’s’ Corps attacked Cemetery Ridge was now broken by heavy rain and wind. The commanders of both armies, General Robert E Lee and Major General George Meade attempted to discern the others intent while making their own plans.
Early in the morning of July 4th, or rather very late the night of July 3rd, General Robert E. Lee called Brigadier General John Imboden, to his headquarters to discuss the withdraw of the Army of Northern Virginia from the place of its defeat. Lee had spent the evening of July 3rd with Longstreet they “rode together along the lines on Seminary Ridge and conferred with other generals.”
When Lee arrived to meet Imboden the brigadier felt the need to say something and said to Lee: “General, this has been a hard day on you.” Lee waited some time before replying mournfully, “Yes, it has been a sad, sad day for us”and then praised the conduct of Pickett’s men saying “I never saw troops behave more magnificently than Pickett’s division of Virginians did today in that grand charge upon the enemy.” He continued and lamented what he believed to be the lack of support from the rest of the army, then paused and “exclaimed in a voice that echoed loudly and grimly through the night, “Too bad! Too bad! Oh, too bad!” It was a strange thing to say, and showed his inability to comprehend the strength and tenacity of his opponent on that final day of battle, and how many of Lee’s decisions, including the fact that “he had denied Hill’s permission to throw his whole corps into the assault,” contributed to his defeat.
Lee realized, that unless “he could somehow entice Meade into counterattacking along his Seminary Ridge line, he must get the army back to Virginia with all speed. There was only enough ammunition for one battle, if that…and lee had to consider that Meade might aggressively seek to cut the routes south to the Potomac.” Thus he wasted little time in preparing the army for its return. Lee “chose his routes, decided on the order of march, and then, despite the lateness of the hour and his bone-deep weariness after three days of failure and frustration, went in person to make certain that his plans were understood by the responsible commanders.” He felt, if not in his words, but in his actions, that he had been failed by his subordinates, but the fault did not lay with his subordinates, but rather with his inability to clearly communicate his orders and expectations in detail to his new Corps commanders, Richard Ewell and A.P. Hill who had never served directly under his command, and James Longstreet who constantly opposed what he believed would lead to disaster.
Lee was finally aware that the method of command he had employed so successfully with Stonewall Jackson had failed, and in “the task of saving his army, he trusted no one with any discretion at all.” Unlike “the vague and discretionary orders he had issued throughout the week leading up to battle and even during the past three days of fighting…his instructions were now written and precise….”
Across the valley that separated the armies, Meade explained “that he had not wanted to follow “the bad example [Lee] had set me, in ruining himself attacking a strong position.” In not attacking Meade was probably correct, despite the criticism he received from contemporaries and later commentators. Lee’s army, though defeated was not broken and held good ground on July 4th, likewise the lack of supplies, exhaustion of his troops and foul weather would likely have doomed any attack. Instead he told a cavalry officer “We have done well enough…”
About 1:00 P.M. on July 4th Imboden’s troopers escorting the ambulance trains carrying the wounded began to withdraw. As they did “a steady, pounding rain increased Imboden’s problems manifold, yet by 4 o’clock that afternoon he had the journey under way. He estimated this “vast procession of misery” stretched for seventeen miles. It bore between 8,000 and 8,500 wounded men, many in constant, almost unendurable agony as they jolted over the rough and rutted roads.”  Although beaten, the Lee’s army “retained confidence in itself and its commander” and they retreated in good order.
Across the carnage strewn battlefield on Cemetery Ridge George Meade took inventory and “unsure about the nature and extent of Lee’s movements from information he had already received, he realized he had a busy day ahead.” The army, tired from three weeks of hard marching and three days of brutal combat was exhausted; Meade’s was down to about “51,000 men armed and equipped for duty.” About 15,000 were loose from the ranks, and though they would return “for the moment they were lost.” The torrential rain “was a damper on enthusiasms,” and the Federal burial parties, exhausted from the battle and engaged in somber work, “dug long trenches and, after separating Rebel from Yankee, without ceremony piled the bodies several layers deep and threw dirt over them.”
Meade ordered his trains to bring the supplies from Westminster Maryland on the morning of July 4th as Federal patrols pushed into the town to see what Lee’s army was doing, but apart from isolated skirmishing and sniper actions the day was quiet. During the afternoon, “David Birney summoned the band of the 114th Pennsylvania “to play in honor of the National Anniversary” and up on the “line of battle.” They played the usual “national airs, finishing with the Star Spangled Banner.” As they did a Confederate artillery shell passed over them, and with that last shot the battle of Gettysburg was over. Meade, signaling the beginning of an overly cautious pursuit, wired Halleck: “I shall require some time to get up supplies, ammunition, etc. [and to] rest the army, worn out by hard marches and three days hard fighting.”
Surgeons and their assistants manned open air hospitals while parties of stretcher bearers evacuated wounded men for treatment and other soldiers began to identify and bury the dead. A Confederate soldier described the scene west of the town on July 4th:
“The sights and smells that assailed us were simply indescribable-corpses swollen to twice their size, asunder with the pressure of gases and vapors…The odors were nauseating, and so deadly that in a short time we all sickened and were lying with our mouths close to the ground, most of us vomiting profusely.”
Halfway across the continent Confederate Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton surrendered his emaciated forces at Vicksburg to Major General Ulysses S Grant which cut the Confederacy in half. Of course Lee had a direct hand in that debacle as well by rejecting all attempts to send significant forces from his army to defeat Grant and save Vicksburg.
It was a fitting day of remembrance as it was the 87th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the significance was not lost on any of the commanders. Grant, the victor of Vicksburg had eliminated a Confederate army of over 43,000 troops, and William Tecumseh Sherman wired his friend a most appropriate message: “This is a day of jubilee, a day of rejoicing for the faithful.”
Lieutenant Elisha Hunt Rhodes of the 2nd Rhode Island wrote:
“Was ever the Nation’s Birthday celebrated in such a way before. This morning the 2nd R.I. was sent out to the front and found that during the night General Lee and his Rebel Army had fallen back. It was impossible to march across the field without stepping upon dead or wounded men, while horses and broken artillery lay on every side.” 
As Lee withdrew Meade slowly pursued and lost his chance of trapping the Confederate Army before it could escape across the rain swollen Potomac River. Lee completed his withdraw under pressure on July 14th as his rear-guard under the command of Major General Harry Heth fought a delaying action against Union forces in which the accomplished academic and author Brigadier General James Pettigrew was mortally wounded.
Meade’s lackluster pursuit was criticized by many including President Lincoln who believed that had Meade been more aggressive that the war could have ended there. Had Lee’s army been destroyed in little over a week after the surrender of Vicksburg it could have well brought about the downfall of the Confederacy in the summer of 1863. Even so the skill of Meade in defeating Lee at Gettysburg was one of the greatest achievements by a Union commander during the war in the East. In earlier times Lee had held sway over his Federal opponents. McClellan, Porter, Pope, Burnside and Hooker had all failed against Lee and his army.
Many of the dead at Gettysburg were the flower of the nation. Intelligent, thoughtful and passionate they were cut down in their prime. The human cost some of over 50,000 men killed or wounded is astonishing. In those three days more Americans were killed or wounded than in the entire Iraq campaign.
The war would go on for almost two more years adding many thousands more dead and wounded. However the Union victory at Gettysburg was decisive. Never again did Lee go on the offensive. When Grant came east at the end of 1863 to command Union armies in the East against Lee the Federal armies fought with renewed ferocity and once engaged Grant never let Lee’s forces out of his grip.
 Primono, John W. The Appomattox Generals: The Parallel Lives of Joshua L Chamberlain, USA, and John B. Gordon, CSA, Commanders at the Surrender Ceremony of April 12th 1865 McFarland and Company Publishers, Jefferson NC 2013 p.187
 Catton, Bruce The Army of the Potomac: Glory Road Doubleday and Company, Garden City New York, 1952 p.322
 Wert, Jeffry D. General James Longstreet The Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier, A Touchstone Book, Simon and Schuster, New York and London 1993 p.293
 Trudeau, Noah Andre. Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage, Harper Collins Publishers, New York 2002 p.530
 Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee an abridgment by Richard Harwell, Touchstone Books, New York 1997 p.341
I decided to take this weekend to take some parts of my Gettysburg Staff Ride text to debunk the mythology of the Lost cause that presented Robert E. Lee as one of the greatest, if not the greatest General in American history. I am not the first or the last to do this. Like many people of my generation, almost everything I read about Lee was what a great General and American he was. There was little mention of his active support of slavery, or his sedition and treason against the United States. But that is another story. Tonight we deal with Lee’s incompetence at the tactical and operational levels of war at Gettysburg, his willful ignorance of his own position and what was facing him a little over a mile way.
At the same time it juxtaposes Lee’s hubris with the often underrated and dismissed opposing commander of the Army of the Potomac, Major General George Meade. Lee’s actions are described in the first section, while Meade’s which in an edited form are a vignette in Army Doctrine Publication 5-0, The Operations Process. Unlike Lee, Meade listened to his staff and sought the counsel of his subordinate commanders. Likewise, where Lee never left his headquarters on Seminary Ridge, observing the battle from a distance on 2 July, Meade was in the thick of the action at numerous threatened throughout the battle. Thus, unlike Lee who knew nothing of the real situation on the battlefield and the condition of his Army, and did not want to know it, Meade knew the situation and then that night sought the counsel of his Corps Commanders and Staff.
This is an important point to note when evaluating the Generalship of Robert E. Lee. In every battle except Fredericksburg and Cold Harbor where he was on the defensive and his army well dug in, he always lost a higher percentage of his troops engaged than his Union counterparts, even when he won. If an Army commander knows that he cannot match the overwhelming numerical and firepower advantage of his opponent he has to do everything that he can to husband his soldiers and not to waste their lives in battles that even if won, would not materially alter the course of the war is either incompetent, negligent, or so arrogant in regards to their abilities, that they cannot be regarded as great commanders. To do so is to propagate a murderous myth.
Part One: Lee
As night fell on July 2nd 1863 General Robert E Lee had already made his decision. Despite the setbacks of the day he was determined to strike the Army of the Potomac yet again. He did not view the events as setback, and though he lacked clarity of how badly many of his units were mauled Lee took no external counsel, to make his decision, his mind was made up and he neither wanted advice or counsel. By now his subordinate commander’s opinions were irrelevant, and to that end on every day of the Battle of Gettysburg he refused any counsel that did not agree with his vision, which had become myopic and disconnected from the reality faced by his rebellious nation and the Army that he led. After two full days of combat in which his forces failed to break the Union defenses, in which The Army of the Potomac’s commanders out-generaled Lee’s commanders time and time again, and every division he threw at the Union defenses suffered 40% casualties on the first two days, including one division commander mortally wounded and three others wounded. Likewise, numerous brigade and regimental commanders had been killed or wounded.
With the exception of A.P. Hill who came and submitted a report to him at dusk on July 2nd, Lee neither required his other two corps commanders, James Longstreet or Richard Ewell to consult with him, nor took any action to visit them. Lee now lived in a bubble, and his very small staff were nothing more than cyphers, there to transmit orders, not to assist in the planning or coordination of his operations.
Despite the massive casualties and being repulsed all along the line, Lee did “not feel that his troops had been defeated”and he felt that “the failure on the second day had been due to a lack of coordination.”1
In his official report of the battle he wrote:
“The result of this day’s operations induced the belief that, with proper concert of action, and with the increased support that the positions gained on the right would enable the artillery to render to the assaulting columns, that we should succeed, and it was ultimately determined to continue the attack…” 2
While Lee’s charge of a “lack of coordination”of the attacks can certainly be substantiated, the fact of the matter was that if there was anyone to blame for his lack of coordination it was him, and even Lee’s most devoted biographer Douglas Southall Freeman would write that on July 2d “the Army of Northern Virginia was without a commander.” 3 Likewise, Lee’s decision to attack on July 3rd, having not taken counsel of his commanders or assessed the battle-worthiness of the units that he was planning to use his final assault on the Union center was “utterly divorced from reality.” 4 His plan was essentially unchanged from the previous day. Longstreet’s now battered divisions were to renew their assault on the Federal left in coordination with Pickett and two of Hill’s divisions.
In light of Lee’s belief that “a lack of coordination”was responsible for the failures of July 2nd it would have been prudent for him to ensure such coordination happened on the night of July 2nd. “Lee would have done well to have called out his three lieutenants to confer with them and spell out exactly what he wanted. That was not the way he did things however…” 5
Lee knew about the heavy losses among his key leaders but “evidently very little was conveyed to him regarding the condition of the units engaged this day.” 6 This certainly had to be because during the day his only view of the battlefield was from Seminary Ridge through binoculars and because he did not get first hand reports from the commanders involved. Lee was undeterred and according to some who saw Lee that night he seemed confident noting that when Hill reported he shook his and said “It is well, General,…Everything is well.” 7
It was not an opinion that Lee’s subordinates shared. Ewell and his subordinates were told to renew their attack on Cemetery and Culp’s Hill on the night of July 2nd, but “he and his generals believed more than ever that a daylight assault against the ranked guns on Cemetery Hill would be suicidal-Harry Hays said that such an attack would invite “nothing more than slaughter…” 8
James Longstreet was now more settled in his opposition to another such frontal attack and shortly after dawn when Lee visited him to deliver the order to attack again argued for a flanking movement around the Federal left. Lee’s order was for Longstreet to “attack again the next morning” according to the “general plan of July 2nd.” 9 Longstreet had not wanted to attack the previous day and when Lee came to him Longstreet again attempted to persuade Lee of his desire to turn the Federal flank. “General, I have had my scouts out all night, and I find that you still have an excellent opportunity to move around to the right of Meade’s army and maneuver him into attacking us.” 10
Lee would have nothing of it. He looked at his “Old Warhorse” and as he had done the previous day insisted: “The enemy is there,” he said, pointing northeast as he spoke, “and I am going to strike him.” 11 Longstreet’s gloom deepened and he wrote that he felt “it was my duty to express my convictions.” He bluntly told Lee:
“General, I have been a soldier all of my life. I have been with soldiers engaged in fights by couples, by squads, companies, regiments, divisions and armies, and should know, as well as any one, what soldiers can do. It is my opinion that no fifteen thousand men ever arranged for battle can take that position.” 12
But Lee was determined to force his will on both his subordinates and the battle. Lee was convinced that the plan could succeed while Longstreet “was certain” that the plan “was misguided and doomed to fail.” 13 Longstreet, now realized that further arguments were in vain recalled that Lee “was impatient of listening, and tired of talking, and nothing was left but to proceed.” 14
Even a consultation with Brigadier General William Wofford whose brigade had help crush Sickle’s III Corps at the Peach Orchard and had nearly gotten to the crest of Cemetery Ridge could not alter Lee’s plan. Wofford had to break off his attack on July 2nd when he realized that there were no units to support him. Lee asked if Wofford could “go there again”to which Wofford replied “No, General I think not.” Lee asked “why not” and Wofford explained: “General, the enemy have had all night to intrench and reinforce. I had been pursuing a broken enemy, and now the situation is very different.” 15
The attack would go forward despite Longstreet’s objections and the often unspoken concerns of others who had the ear of Lee, or who would carry out the attack. Walter Taylor of Lee’s staff wrote to his sister a few days after the attack the “position was impregnable to any such force as ours”while Pickett’s brigadier Richard Garnett remarked “this is a desperate thing to attempt”and Lewis Armistead said “the slaughter will be terrible.” 16
Pickett’s fresh division would lead the attack supported by Johnston Pettigrew commanding the wounded Harry Heth’s division of Hill’s Third Corps and Isaac Trimble commanding two brigades of Pender’s division, Trimble having been given command just minutes prior to the artillery bombardment. 17 On the command side few of the commanders had commanded alongside each other before July 3rd. Trimble had just recovered from wounds had never been with his men. Pettigrew had been given command when Pender was wounded was still new and relatively untested, and Pickett’s three brigadiers and their brigades had never fought together. Two of the divisions had never served under Longstreet. From a command perspective where relationships and trust count as much as strength and numbers the situation was nearly as bad is it could be. Although the Confederates massed close to 170 cannon on Seminary Ridge to support the attack ammunition was in short supply and the Lieutenant Colonel Porter Alexander who had been tasked with coordinating fires only controlled the guns of First Corps.
The assaulting troops would attack with their right flank exposed to deadly enfilade fire from Federal artillery and with the left flank unsupported and exposed to such fires from Union artillery on Cemetery Hill. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Longstreet noted “Never was I so depressed as on that day…” 18
Part Two: Meade
While Lee took no counsel and determined to attack on the night of July 2nd little more than two miles away Major General George Meade took no chances. After sending a message to Henry Halleck at 8 PM Meade called his generals together. Unlike Lee who had observed the battle from a distance Meade had been everywhere on the battlefield during the day and had a good idea what his army had suffered and the damage that he had inflicted on the Army of Northern Virginia. Likewise during the day he had been with the majority of his commanders as opposed to Lee who after issuing orders that morning had remained unengaged, as was noted by the British observer Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Fremantle who wrote that during the “whole time the firing continued, he sent only one message, and only received one report.” 19
Meade wired Halleck that evening: “The enemy attacked me about 4 P.M. this day…and after one of the severest contests of the war was repulsed at all points.” 20 However Meade, realizing that caution was not a vice still needed to better assess the condition of his army, hear his commanders and hear from his intelligence service, ended his message: “I shall remain in my present position to-morrow, but am not prepared to say until better advised of the condition of the army, whether operations will be of an offensive or a defensive character.” 21
As Meade waited for his commanders his caution was apparent. Before the attack on Sickles’ III Corps at the Peach Orchard Meade had asked his Chief of Staff Brigadier General Dan Butterfield to “draw up a contingency plan for withdraw to Pipe Creek.” After the attack on Sickles Alfred Pleasanton said that Meade ordered him to “gather what cavalry I could, and prepare for the retreat of the army.” 22 Some of his commanders who heard of the contingency plan including John Gibbon and John Sedgwick believed that Meade was “thinking of a retreat.” 23. Despite Meade’s flat assurances to Halleck his army’s position had been threatened on both flanks, though both were now solidly held, but some of his subordinates believed, maybe through the transference of their own doubts, that Meade “foresaw disaster, and not without cause.” 24
In assessing Meade’s conduct it has to be concluded that while he had determined to remain, that he was smart enough to plan of the worst and to consult his commanders and staff in making his decision. Meade wrote to his wife that evening “for at one time things looked a little blue,…but I managed to get up reinforcements in time to save the day….The most difficult part of my work is acting without correct information on which to predicate action.” 25
Meade called Colonel George Sharpe from the Bureau of Military Information to meet with him, Hancock and Slocum at the cottage on the Taneytown Road where he made his headquarters. Sharpe and his aide explained the enemy situation. Sharpe noted “nearly 100 Confederate regiments in action Wednesday and Thursday” and that “not one of those regiments belonged to Pickett.” He then reported with confidence that indicated that “Pickett’s division has just come up and is bivouac.” 26
It was the assurance that Meade needed as his commanders came together. When Sharpe concluded his report Hancock exclaimed “General, we have got them nicked.” 27
About 9 P.M. the generals gathered. Present were Meade, and two of his major staff officers Warren just back from Little Round Top, wounded and tired, and Butterfield his Chief of Staff. Hancock action as a Wing Commander was there with Gibbon now commanding II Corps, Slocum of XII Corps with Williams. John Newton a division commander from VI Corps who had just arrived on the battlefield now commanding I Corps was present along with Oliver Howard of XI Corps, John Sedgwick of VI Corps, George Sykes of V Corps and David Birney, now commanding what was left of the wounded Dan Sickles’ III Corps. Pleasanton was off with the cavalry and Hunt attending to the artillery.
The meeting began and John Gibbon noted that it “was at first very informal and in the shape of a conversation….” 28 The condition of the army was discussed and it was believed that now only about 58,000 troops were available to fight. Birney honestly described the condition of III Corps noting that “his corps was badly chewed up, and that he doubted that it was fit for much more.” 29 Newton who had just arrived was quoted by Gibbon as saying that Gettysburg was “a bad position”and that “Cemetery Hill was no place to fight a battle in.” 20 The remarks sparked a serious discussion with Meade asking the assembled generals “whether our army should remain on that field and continue the battle, or whether we should change to some other position.” 31
The reactions to the question showed that the army commanders still had plenty of fight in the. Meade listened as his generals discussed the matter. Hancock said he was “puzzled about the practicability of retiring.” 32 Newton later noted that he made his observations about the battlefield based on his belief that that Lee might turn the Federal left and impose his army between it and its supplies, as Longstreet However Newton and the other commanders agreed that pulling back “would be a highly dangerous maneuver to attempt in the immediate presence of the enemy.” 33
Finally Butterfield, no friend of Meade and one of the McClellan and Hooker political cabal who Meade had retained when he took command posed three questions to the assembled generals:
“Under existing circumstances, is it advisable for this army to remain in its present position, or retire to another nearer its base of supplies?
It being determined to remain in present position, shall the army attack or wait the attack of the enemy?
If we wait attack, how long?” 34
Gibbon as the junior officer present said “Correct the position of the army…but do not retreat.”Williams counseled “stay,” as did Birney and Sykes, and Newton, who after briefly arguing the dangers finally agreed. Oliver Howard not only recommended remaining but “even urged an attack if the Confederates stayed their hand.” Hancock who earlier voiced his opinion to Meade that “we have them nicked” added “with a touch of anger, “Let us have no more retreats. The Army of the Potomac has had too many retreats….Let this be our last retreat.” Sedgwick of VI Corps voted “remain” and finally Slocum uttered just three words “stay and fight.” 35
None of Meade’s assembled commanders counseled an immediate attack; all recommended remaining at least another day. When the discussion concluded Meade told his generals “Well gentlemen…the question is settled. We remain here.”36
Some present believed that Meade was looking for a way to retreat to a stronger position, that he had been rattled by the events of the day. Slocum believed that “but for the decision of his corps commanders” that Meade and the Army of the Potomac “would have been in full retreat…on the third of July.” 37 Meade would deny such accusations before Congressional committees the following year as Radical Republicans in Congress sought to have him relieved for political reasons.
Much of the criticism of his command decisions during the battle were made by political partisans associated with the military cabal of Hooker, Butterfield and Sickles as well as Radical Republicans who believed that Meade was a Copperhead. Both Butterfield and Birney accused Meade before the committee of wanting to retreat and “put the worst possible interpretation on Meade’s assumed lack of self-confidence without offering any real evidence to substantiate it.”Edwin Coddington notes “that Meade, other than contemplating a slight withdraw to straighten his lines, wanted no retreat from Gettysburg.” 38
Alpheus Williams of XII Corps, wrote to his daughters on July 6th regarding his beliefs about Meade on the night of July 2nd. “I heard no expression from him which led me to think that he was in favor of withdrawing the army from before Gettysburg.” 39 Likewise the message sent by Meade to Halleck indicates Meade’s own confidence in the upcoming battle of July 3rd. If Meade had some reservations during the day, as he mentioned in the letter to his wife they certainly were gone by the time he received the intelligence report from Sharpe and heard Hancock’s bold assertion that the enemy was “nicked.”
As the meeting broke up after shortly after midnight and the generals returned to their commands Meade pulled Gibbon aside. Gibbon with II Corps had the Federal center on Cemetery Ridge. Meade told him “If Lee attacks tomorrow, it will be in your front.” Gibbon queried as to why Meade thought this and Meade continued “Because he has made attacks on both our flanks and failed,…and if he concludes to try it again it will be on our center.” Gibbon wrote years later “I expressed the hope that he would, and told General Meade with confidence, that if he did we would defeat him.” 40
If some of his generals and political opponents believed Meade to be a defeatist, that defeatism was not present in his private correspondence. He wrote to his wife early in the morning of July 3rd displaying a private confidence that speaks volumes: “Dearest love, All well and going on well in the Army. We had a great fight yesterday, the enemy attacking & we completely repulsing them- both armies shattered….Army in fine spirits & every one determined to do or die.” 41
The contrast between Lee’s and Meade’s decision making process is Meade did what Lee should have done, he had been active on the battlefield, he consulted his intelligence service and he consulted his commanders on the options available to him. Lee remained away from the action on July 2nd he failed to consult his commanders. He failed to gain accurate intelligence on the Federal forces facing him and he failed to fully take into account his losses. Meade better demonstrated the principles of what we now call “mission command.”
1 Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee’s Lieutenant’s a Study in Command, One volume abridgement by Stephen W Sears, Scribner, New York 1998 p.558
2 Lee, Robert E, Reports of Robert E Lee, C.S. Army, Commanding Army of Northern Virginia Campaign Report Dated January 20th 1864. Amazon Kindle Edition location 594 of 743
3 Freeman, Douglas S. R.E. Lee volume 3 Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York 1935 p.150
4 Sears, Stephen W Gettysburg Houghton Mifflin Company, New York 2003 p.349
5 Coddinton, Edwin Gettysburg, A Study in Command Simon and Schuster New York 1968 p.455
6 Trudeau, Noah Andre Gettysburg, A Testing of Courage Harper Collins, New York 2002 p.4117 Ibid p.412
8 Ibid. p.347
9 Ibid. p.430
10 Wert, Jeffry General James Longstreet, the Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier A Tuchstone Book, Simon and Schuster, New York 1993 p.283
11 Foote, Shelby The Civil War, A Narrative, Fredericksburg to Meridian Random House, New York 1963 p.529 12 Ibid. Wert p.283
13 Ibid. Sears p.349
14 Guelzo, Allen C. Gettysburg: The Last Invasion Vintage Books, a Division of Random House, New York 2013 p.377
15 Ibid. Foote p.531
16 Ibid. Wert p.287
17 Ibid. Freeman p.589
18 Ibid. Wert p.290
19 Fremantle, Arthur Three Months in the Southern States, April- June 1863 William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London 1863 Amazon Kindle edition p.266
20 Sears, Stephen W Gettysburg Houghton Mifflin Company, New York 2003 pp.341-342
21 Ibid. p.342
22 Guelzo, Allen C. Gettysburg: The Last Invasion Vintage Books, a Division of Random House, New York 2013 p.355
24 Foote, Shelby The Civil War, A Narrative, Fredericksburg to Meridian Random House, New York 1963 p.524
25 Trudeau, Noah Andre Gettysburg, A Testing of Courage Harper Collins, New York 2002 p.413
26 Ibid. Sears p.342
27 Ibid. Trudeau p.413
28 Ibid. Sears p.342
29 Ibid. Trudeau p.415
30 Ibid. Guelzo p.556
31 Ibid. Guelzo p.556
32 Ibid. Sears p.343
33 Ibid. Sears p.343
34 Ibid. Trudeau p.415
35 Ibid. Guelzo p.556
36 Ibid. Foote p.525
37 Ibid. Guelzo
38 Coddinton, Edwin Gettysburg, A Study in Command Simon and Schuster New York 1968 pp.451-452
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Last night I posted an article about Robert E. Lee’s inability to understand the connection between national strategy and operational level command in regard to engaging in offensive operations that did nothing to help his rebellion. In fact his opposition to sending large forces to defeat Grant and relieve Vicksburg, combined with the incompetence he displayed during the Gettysburg Campaign ensured the defeat of the Confederacy, for which I am grateful, despite my ancestors fighting for the Confederacy and against the Union for their land and human property.
This article, like last night’s article demonstrates Lee’s unfitness as a senior commander, who despite serving as the Commandant of West Point and student of Henri Jomini’s understanding of Napoleon, whose two major offensive operations into Union territory ended in failure and the irreplaceable loss of soldiers in 1862 at Antietam and 1863 at Gettysburg. Lee’s strategic incompetence allowed the Confederacy to be cut in half, lose control of the Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland rivers, and the conquest of most of Tennessee, putting Union Armies under the command of William Tecumseh Sherman on the frontier of Georgia with Atlanta dangling as a prize.
Lee’s hubris in the Gettysburg Campaign showed the limitations of a man who despite every opportunity never grasped the consequences of treason and sedition. Nor a man who,fully appreciated, until it was too late the Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic aspects of modern war. Lee was still fighting Napoleonic warfare, without the benefit of Clausewitz and the Enlightenment. Likewise, he made decisions about who would command his Corps, and Divisions based on expediency and a preference for Virginians, regardless of better choices. That is where our story begins.
Discretionary orders are important to the success of commanders who desire that their subordinates have the necessary freedom to exploit opportunities within the broader operational context. They are a key element of what we now define as Mission Command and thus expressed clearly in the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Desired Leader Attributes the ability to operate on intent through trust, empowerment and understanding. In this chapter we will look at how Lee conducted war and how his decision process and communications, particularly the use of discretionary orders influenced the outcome of the battle and how important the issuance of clear orders is to a successful campaign.
To be effective such orders need to be clear and concise and they must be employed in a manner that are within the capabilities of one’s subordinate commanders to both understand them and carry them out. Thus a commander must always be ready to adjust his method when his command goes through a major turnover of personnel. After the loss of Thomas ”Stonewall”Jackson at Chancellorsville and the subsequent reorganization of the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee continued to operate as if nothing had changed, despite his own recognition that the army suffered from a want of qualified senior officers.
Robert E. Lee habitually issued discretionary orders with varying degrees of effectiveness. With Jackson, a man of ruthless battlefield instincts, Lee was able to do this, even when Lee’s intent was less than clear and even with Jackson such orders occasionally went awry as was the case during the Seven Days. Lee’s aide Walter Taylor noted that Jackson “took the suggestion of General Lee into immediate consideration, and proceeded to carry it into effect.” This was not to be the case with those that followed Jackson, something that Lee failed to adjust to that would doom his army at Gettysburg.
Part of this is attributable to Lee’s distaste for administrative routine. Taylor noted how Lee’s “correspondence…was constantly a source of worry to him. He did not enjoy writing; indeed he wrote with labor, and nothing seemed to tax his amiability as the necessity for writing a lengthy official communication.” But more importantly in the matter of communicating orders and following up, much of the issue came down to Lee’s near fatalistic understanding of faith and life in regard to the providence of God. For Lee victory and defeat came down to God’s will, as he wrote his wife after his ill-fated 1861 campaign in western Virginia “But the Ruler of the Universe willed otherwise and sent a storm to discontent a well laid plan and to destroy my hopes.”  But for Lee, the concept of “duty” became a secular manifestation of his religion.” 
J. F. C. Fuller attributes much of the manner in how Lee conducted battle to this sense of duty as well as belief in providence. Fuller notes that it “controlled the whole of his generalship.” Lee explained his concept of command to the Prussian observer, Captain Justus Scheibert:
“You must know our circumstances, and see in battle that my leading would do more harm than good. It would be a bad thing if I could not then rely on my brigade and divisional commanders. I plan and work with all my might to bring my troops to the right place at the right time; with that I have done my duty. As soon as I order the troops forward into battle, I lay the fate of my army in the hands of God.” 
That firm belief in providence and the hand of God was evident in Lee’s comments to Major General Isaac Trimble as the army advanced into Pennsylvania. “We have again outmaneuvered the enemy, who even now does not know where we are or what our designs are. Our whole army will be in Pennsylvania day after tomorrow, leaving the enemy far behind and obliged to follow by forced marches. I hope with these advantages to accomplish some single result and to end the war, if Providence favors us.”  Lee’s belief in Divine providence was little different than every religious fundamentalist who believed that faith would result in victory without reason.
Fuller is one of the harshest critics of Lee bluntly notes that “this lack of appreciation that administration is the foundation for strategy; this lack of interest in routine, and his abhorrence to exert his authority…” were key factors in many of his army’s problems, from command and control, discipline and the material and logistics aspects of war. Likewise his absolute reliance on his subordinates to carry out his orders, and unwillingness to interfere once the battle was joined was a major factor in his failure at Gettysburg, where Russell Weigley noted in a rather kind and subdued way that “Lee…was sometimes served less than well by his corps, division and brigade commanders.” 
Throughout the Gettysburg campaign Lee issued vague orders that his subordinates either failed to understand or willingly interpret in a manner that Lee did not intend. Lee’s biographer Michael Korda notes that “the phrase if practicable…led to many unfortunate consequences, since it provided subordinate commanders a kind of escape clause, allowing them to argue after the event that what they had been order to do was not, in their view “practicable.”
From the time that Robert E Lee learned that the Army of the Potomac had crossed the Potomac into Maryland on June 28th, he attempted to adjust his campaign plan and concentrate his army in preparation for battle. At that point his army was scattered and he did not want to provoke an engagement until he could concentrate his forces. Stuart’s cavalry, the absence of which was a matter of great consternation to Lee was chief among his concerns. Lee had hoped that Hooker would pursue him north, but finding the information out from Longsteet’s spy Harrison disturbed Lee greatly. 
Lee expected to know about Hooker’s movements from Stuart. However, Stuart was nowhere to be found; operating nearly fifty miles away separated from Lee’s main body much of the Army of the Potomac. Lee’s aide Walter Taylor wrote: “No tidings had been received from or of our cavalry under General Stuart since crossing the river; and General Lee was consequently without accurate of the movements or position of the main Federal Army.” However, while Stuart certainly can be blamed for taking his best cavalry off on a ride around the Federal army, he acted in accordance with how he interpreted Lee’s orders, as Douglas Southall Freeman wrote: “What was possible was permissible. That, as Stuart saw it, was the substance of his orders.” 
This was especially true after Stuart had been surprised at Brandy Station by the Federal cavalry and pilloried in the Confederate press, the Richmond Sentinel saying Stuart had been “outgeneraled” and the Richmond Whig predicting that “We shall not be surprised if the gallant Stuart does not, before many days, make the enemy repent sorely the temerity that led them to undertake this bold and insulting feat….” Lee’s orders provided just enough ambiguity and wiggle room for the wounded Stuart to do precisely what he did.
Lee’s orders gave Stuart the options of moving back to screen the army or passing around the Federal army, leaving the decision to Stuart’s discretion. “You will, however, be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing them all the damage you can…” Major Henry McClellan, Stuart’s aide recorded that he also received a “lengthy communication from General Lee…” which “discussed at considerable length the plan of passing around the enemy’s rear….”  Stuart in his official report wrote: “The commanding General wrote me, authorizing this move if I deemed it practical.”
That being said Lee was clear enough that he expected Stuart to “lose no time in placing his command on the right of our column as soon as he should perceive the enemy moving northward.” Though Stuart had detected Hancock’s II Corps moving north near Manassas he elected to make his movement around the Federal Army. Stuart’s biographer Burke Davis noted that Stuart “sought no advice on the all-important detour of June twenty-sixth, which changed his direct. He did not so much consult his brigadiers as he swung his column southward to pass around the enemy.” Though Lee at a number of points during lead up to Gettysburg signaled his frustration with Stuart’s absence and its effect on his abilities, he failed to draw the appropriate conclusions that a prudent commander, operating deep in enemy territory would assume from the lack of contact. Lee should have assumed that Stuart was because of his move “become temporarily incommunicado” but instead, “inferred from Stuart’s silence that Hooker had not crossed the Potomac.”
Lee’s vague order was the first in a series of command and control issues that plagued him during the campaign and combined with Stuart’s vanity and need to redeem his reputation, Lee’s ill use of the cavalry he did have under his control were all contributing factors leading to the disastrous encounter at Gettysburg, but there was more to come.
Now that Lee knew that the Army of the Potomac had crossed into Maryland and was now under the command of George Meade he began to take action to reassemble his widely scattered army in the vicinity of Chambersburg and Cashtown. A.P. Hill’s Third Corps was already near Cashtown, and Longstreet’s First Corps was on its way up. The most important issue Lee had was to get Ewell’s Second Corps, then near Carlisle preparing to attack Harrisburg, back in contact with the rest of the Army.
Lee sent two sets of orders to Ewell on the night of the 28th, after getting Harrison’s intelligence, but they did not reach Ewell until the morning of the 29th. The first orders were for Ewell to move to Chambersburg, and the second, to concentrate at Heidlersburg where he could either continue to Cashtown or turn south to Gettysburg.  The intent was good, Lee appears to have desired to minimize congestion on the turnpike in order to more rapidly assemble his army, however the orders caused much discontent at the Second Corps headquarters and “made Old Bald Head most unhappy.” Many of his soldiers with Harrisburg in plain sight were likewise upset the “disappointment and chagrin were extreme” while a soldier in “Maryland Steuart’s brigade recalled the “ill-concealed dissatisfaction” of the men, who “found the movement to be as they supposed “one of retreat.” A staff officer noted that Ewell was “quite testy and hard to please” at the news and “became disappointed, and had everyone flying around.”
Despite his displeasure Ewell did move promptly to comply with Lee’s orders “Lee had not communicated any particular sense of crisis to the case, and the Second Corps’ march proceeded at the usual pace.” Likewise the fact that there were two orders caused several problems that would manifest themselves on July 1st all of which would affect the outcome of the battle.
The first regarded the movement of Second Corps. On receipt of the first order to proceed to Chambersburg Ewell promptly started Allegany Johnson’s division as well as the Second Corps Wagon Train and two battalions of its Corps Artillery Reserve down the turnpike.  When they arrived near Cashtown on the first they would become entangled with Anderson’s division of Hill’s Third Corps, slowing that unit’s attempt to move to battle. This massive traffic jam also delayed two of Longstreet’s divisions which were moving to link up with Hill’s Corps. 
Ewell was able to direct Rodes and Early’s divisions toward Heildlersburg, but the vagueness of Lee’s changing the objective of the march “to Cashtown or Gettysburg and leaving it up to the commander to choose between the two”caused Ewell problems. Had Johnson’s division and the rest of the corps been available early on the afternoon of July 1st at Heildlersburg with Rodes and Early’s divisions it might have completely changed the outcome of the battle. Ewell had been very successful under Jackson, whose orders “were precise and positive” where Lee had not only revered the course of Ewell’s advance on Harrisburg back to Chambersburg, but then modified with the order to proceed to either Cashtown or Gettysburg. 
Lee’s order again contained a discretionary clause, to advance to Cashtown or Gettysburg “as circumstances dictate.” Ewell was upset not knowing what “circumstances” Lee had in mind.”  On the night of the 30th he discussed the order with Rodes and Early as well as Major General Isaac Trimble, and complained of the order’s “indefinite phraseology” and made the comment “Why can’t a commanding General have someone on his staff who can write an intelligible order.” Ewell’s acerbic comment could easily be applied to many of Lee’s orders issued during the next few days, but in spite of it Ewell did handle his “first discretionary order very well indeed” as he issued his movement orders for July 1st in a manner that would allow his divisions to move on either location should the situation dictate.
As Ewell attempted to comply with Lee’s orders on the 29th and 30th to rejoin the army his other two corps were resting. Third Corps under A.P. Hill was at and around Cashtown west of Gettysburg. On the 30th Hill allowed Harry Heth to advance Johnston Pettigrew’s brigade to Gettysburg. When Pettigrew discovered Buford’s cavalry division there he withdrew and reported to incident to Hill and Heth who refused to believe it. Hill did pass on that news to Lee and alerted Lee that “that he intended to march there in the morning” but the “announcement seemed not to have disturbed the commanding general, since he expected to move his headquarters only as far as Cashtown the next day.”  This lack of reaction was to have enormous consequences for Lee.
On the morning of July 1st, Hill ordered Harry Heth to advance his division to Gettysburg without the benefit of cavalry support or reconnaissance and backing them up with Pender’s division. As they advanced the leading brigades under Brigadier General James Archer and Joseph Davis met Federal forces. Heth became embroiled in a fight with Buford’s cavalry, which developed into a fight with Reynolds’s I Corps, a fight that resulted in Heth’s division being mauled and helping to bring a general engagement. That engagement drew in Ewell’s corps as well before Lee knew what was happening.
Lee had a number of chances to prevent the meeting engagement that developed on July 1st 1863. Lee noted in his after action report that “It had not been intended to deliver a general battle so far from our base unless attacked…” but there are no records of him giving such instructions prior to the battle. There are no reports indicating that he urged caution on his commanders not to bring on a general engagement before July 1st, when the battle was already underway, nor are there records of any warning orders to his corps commanders upon learning of the presence of the Federal army north of the Potomac.
In the end of the day it was Lee’s “laxness with respect to reconnaissance and his lack of control of Hill’s movements caused him to stumble into battle.”  The battle began without him knowing it; his subordinate commanders committed nearly half of his army into battle before he issued an order, Lee wrote “A battle had, therefore, become in a measure unavoidable….” But such is not the case. Lee had the ability and command authority to break off the engagement before it took on a life of its own, but he did not do so.
Lee arrived early enough in the battle to make his influence known. He was told of Ewell’s movements by Major G. Campbell Brown of Ewell’s staff and instructed Brown in very strong terms to tell Ewell “that a general engagement was to be avoided until the arrival of the rest of the army.” Ewell, did not get that message until after his forces were heavily committed noting in his report “that By the time this message reached me….It was too late to avoid an engagement without abandoning the position already taken up.”
Lee was not happy that battle had been joined by Heth and Taylor observed that “on arriving at the scene of the battle, General Lee ascertained that the enemy’s infantry and artillery were present in considerable force”  and when Lee arrived on Herr Ridge, Heth asked permission to renew his attack when Rodes entered the fight. Lee’s initial response was negative “No, I am not prepared to bring on a general engagement today. Longstreet is not up.”
After observing the battle for a time it became evident that Ewell’s corps was also heavily engaged and Lee began to change his mind. Heth reported that the Federal troops in front of him were withdrawing and Lee sensed an opportunity to strike a blow that might bring the climactic victory that he sought. Lee analyzed the situation and with Heth back at his division Heth wrote that “very soon an aide came to me with the orders to attack.”
The order was given in the heat of the moment, and Lee always aggressive responded, but it was a bad decision. “It committed him to a major confrontation on this ground…without sufficient troops on hand and without knowledge of the whereabouts of the rest of the Federal army,” and Lee knew this. He told Anderson at Cashtown not long before- meeting Heth: “I am in ignorance of what we have in front of us here. It may be the whole Federal army, or it may be only a detachment. If it is the whole Federal force we must fight a battle here.” But he was worried, telling Anderson “If we do not gain a victory, those defiles and gorges which we passed through this morning will shelter us from disaster.”
Despite the success that his soldiers we now enjoying as they drove the I Corps and XI Corps back through the town Lee gave yet another vague order. This one to Ewell, who having already committed his corps to battle in the full knowledge that Lee did not desire a general engagement was confronted with another discretionary order, Lee said “General Ewell was…instructed to carry the hill occupied by the enemy, if he found it practicable, but to avoid a general engagement until the arrival of the other divisions of the army.”
The Army of Northern Virginia came very close to sweeping Federal forces from the field on July 1st in spite of Lee’s lack of planning and clear commanders’ intent. But close was not enough. His forces which were committed in a piecemeal manner were unable to follow up their initial success. The situation faced by Ewell in Gettysburg was chaotic; his units were badly disorganized, and burdened by thousands of prisoners on the confided streets of the town. Rodes’ division had sustained frightful losses and he had no assurance of support from Hill. Rodes’ after battle report supported Ewell’s decision. He wrote that before “the completion of his defeat before the town the enemy had begun to establish a line of battle on the heights back of the town, and by the time my line was in condition to renew the attack, he displayed quite a formidable line of infantry and artillery immediately in my front, extending smartly to my right, and as far as I could see to my left in front of Early.”
Lee’s orders to Ewell, to take the high ground “if practicable” were correctly interpreted by Ewell despite his critics; he nature of the terrain, the number and condition of the troops that he had available for an attack, and the nature of the orders given by Lee late in the day was strong factors for Ewell to not attack. Coddington noted that these problems “upset Ewell, for he was faced with the prospect of organizing a new attack with tired men even while he felt constrained by Lee’s injunction not to open a full-fledged battle. No wonder he was uncertain!”The fact that Lee was not far away and did not issue a “peremptory order to Ewell” to attack also has to be noted.  If Lee had sensed that Ewell was not going to attack and really wanted him to he could have issued a direct order which Ewell, would have surely obeyed. “Lee realized that Ewell was not Jackson…and should have modified his method of command accordingly.” 
That evening Lee rode to Ewell’s headquarters and met with Ewell, Early and Rodes. “No reference was made to the possibility of an attack that evening on Cemetery Hill.” The question was put to them about what to do the next day. Lee asked “Can’t you with your corps attack on this flank tomorrow?” Jubal Early answered for Ewell saying “flatly that he did not believe an attack should be made from Gettysburg against Cemetery Hill the next day.” Early added, “even if such an action were to succeed… it would be at a very great cost.”  Lee suggested to Ewell and his commanders that Second Corps around to the right along Seminary Ridge “where it might be better put to use, and twice he gave in to Ewell’s pleadings to remain where he was.” This was yet another mistake that would haunt Lee during the rest of the battle, but the “notion of imposing his will on a subordinate was simply too alien to Lee’s nature for him to even to admit as a possibility.” Fuller wrote “it was Lee’s inexhaustible tact that ruined his army.” 
Whether Lee intended to engage the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg so early in the campaign is debated. His multiple and contradictory strategic aims left his commanders acting much on their own. Lee’s lack of clear commander’s intent to his subordinate commanders created confusion on the battlefield. They also paved the way to many controversies in the years following the war as Southerners sought to explain the failure of the Lost Cause, for which Lee could not be blamed.
Much of the controversy comes from Lee’s own correspondence which indicates that he might have not fully understood his own intentions. Some correspondence indicates that Lee desired to avoid a general engagement as long as possible while other accounts indicate that he wanted an early and decisive engagement. The controversy was stoked after the war by Lee’s supporters, particular his aides Taylor and Marshall and generals Early, Gordon and Trimble. Men like Longstreet and were castigated by Lee’s defenders for suggesting that Lee made mistakes on the battlefield.
The vagueness of Lee’s instructions to his commanders led to many mistakes and much confusion during the battle. Many of these men were occupying command positions under him for the first time and were unfamiliar with his command style. Where Stonewall Jackson might have understood Lee’s intent, even where Lee issued vague or contradictory orders, many others including Hill and Ewell did not. Lee did not change his command style to accommodate his new commanders.
That lack of flexibility and inability to clearly communicate Lee’s intent to his commanders and failure to exercise control over them proved fatal to his aims in the campaign. Stephen Sears’ scathing analysis of Lee’s command at Gettysburg perhaps says it the best. “In the final analysis, it was Robert E. Lee’s inability to manage his generals that went to the heart of the failed campaign.” 
The vagueness of Lee’s intent was demonstrated throughout the campaign and was made worse by the fog of war. Day one ended with a significant tactical victory for Lee’s army but without a decisive result which would be compounded into a strategic defeat by Lee’s subsequent decisions on the 2nd and 3rd of July.
 Taylor, Walter. General Lee: His campaigns in Virginia 1861-1865 With Personal Reminiscences University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln Nebraska and London, 1994 previously published 1906 p.45
 Ibid. Taylor General Lee: His campaigns in Virginia 1861-1865 With Personal Reminiscences p.25
 Lee, Robert Edward. Recollections and Letters of General Robert E Lee A Public Domain book, Amazon Kindle edition location 548
 Taylor, John M. Duty Faithfully Performed: Robert E Lee and His CriticsBrassey’s, Dulles VA 1999 p.35
 Fuller, J.F.C. Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship, Indiana University Press, Bloomington IN 1957 p.112
 Korda, Michael. Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee Harper Collins Publishers, New York 2014 p.348
Tucker, Glenn. High Tide at Gettysburg, The Bobbs Merrill Co. Indianapolis Indiana 1958 p.24
 Ibid. Fuller Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship p.125
 Weigley, Russell F. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military History and Policy University of Indiana Press, Bloomington IN, 1973 p.116
 Ibid. Korda, Michael. Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee p.446
 Sears, Stephen W. Gettysburg. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston and New York 2003 p. 139
 Taylor, Walter Four Years with General Lee Original published 1877. Heraklion Press Kindle Edition 2013 location 1199
 Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee’s Lieutenant’s a Study in Command, One volume abridgement by Stephen W Sears, Scribner, New York 1998 pp.554-555
 Ibid. Freeman Lee’s Lieutenant’s a Study in Command, p.552
 Nolan, Alan T. R. E. Lee and July 1 at Gettysburg in the First Day at Gettysburg edited by Gallagher, Gary W. Kent State University Press, Kent Ohio 1992 p.16
 McClellan, Henry Brainerd The Life and Campaigns of Major General J.E.B. Stuart Commander of the Cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia 1885. Digital edition copyright 2011 Strait Gate Publications, Charlotte NC location 6123 unfortunately this letter cannot be verified as no copy exists, McClellan presuming that it was destroyed sometime during the march.
 Dowdy, Clifford. Lee and His Men at Gettysburg: The Death of a Nation Skyhorse Publishing, New York 1986, originally published as Death of a Nation Knopf, New York 1958 p.60
 Lee, Robert E. Reports of Robert E Lee, C.S. Army, Commanding Army of Northern VirginiaCampaign Report Dated January 20th 1864. Amazon Kindle Edition location 503
 Davis, Burke JEB Stuart: The Last Cavalier Random House, New York 1957 p. 325
 Coddington, Edwin B. The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, A Touchstone Book, Simon and Schuster New York, 1968 p.183
 Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command p.189
 Ibid. NolanR. E. Lee and July 1 at Gettysburg p.24
 Ibid. Foote The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two Fredericksburg to Meridian p.474
 Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee’s Lieutenant’s a Study in Command, One volume abridgement by Stephen W Sears, Scribner, New York 1998 p.571
 Gallagher, Gary. Confederate Corps Leadership on the First Day at Gettysburg: A.P. Hill and Richard S. Ewell in a Difficult Debut in The First Day at Gettysburg edited by Gallagher, Gary W. Kent State University Press, Kent Ohio 1992 pp.54-55
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