Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Sentinals and the Heroes

When I visited Gettysburg, as I did at the dawn of the 21st century, I was immediately struck by one thing on the preserved battlefield. 

The stone sentinels.  The bronze sentinels.

On the battlefield, there are statues.  Monuments.  Monument after monument.  In a way, you can consider Gettysburg as a huge outdoor art gallery.  It's overwhelming, and, if you don't know the history behind them, even a bit puzzling.

Battalion monuments. Individual monuments. State monuments.  Union monuments.  Confederate monuments.  Monuments and markers where people fought, and people died.  Monuments in meadows and hills.  I wish I had my pictures in electronic form from that trip, but I don't.

According to battlefield historians, people actually ask how those monuments were protected during the battle and how all the bullet holes were repaired afterwards.  (They also ask questions such as "how did they direct traffic during the battles?" and "why were all the battles fought in national parks?")

I don't think I would last long as a public historian, not that I am even a historian. 

But I digress - just a little.  I had promised to blog about Confederate heroes at Gettysburg today. 

Day three of the Battle of Gettysburg dawns.  Actually, the fighting started at 4am, before dawn.

Both sides basically occupied the same ground as they had at the end of the second day's fighting.  In the morning, the Confederates would try (and fail) to take Culp's Hill.  The rebels then made a deadly gamble.

First, there would be a massive bombardment of the Union center under General Longstreet, lasting nearly two hours.  Then, 12,000 Confederate troops were ordered to attack the heart of the Union lines. 

Divisions headed by Major General Isaac R. Trimble, Major General George Pickett and the other headed by Brigadier General General James Johnston Pettigrew, participated.

The "charge" (which it wasn't for those soldiers; it was a walk across a mile of hell and over a stone fence, as bullets mowed them down) is, today, commonly called "Pickett's Charge" after General George Pickett.  I am not a military historian, and I am not going to debate the details of who ordered it, who didn't want to do it, and so forth.  One thing, though, is certain. People have been trying to blame one participant or the other for the defeat for the past 150 years.

Today, you can find "the high water mark of the Confederacy" on the Gettysburg battlefield.  This is as far as the Confederates got in their invasion of the North, during Pickett's Charge.  They would never get that far again.

Except for one small instance, the Confederates were not able to break through the Federal lines.  Pickett lost over half of his division.  He lost every one of his 15 regimental commanders. 

So, could you say, that those 12,000 Confederates were heroes?  Perhaps.  They were certainly brave, as they continued to charge while their fellow soldiers died all around them.  I do not agree with their cause but I can't argue against their bravery.

If we look for a one true hero of Gettysburg, we will probably never find that person. 
Confederate reenactors

So, the battle finally ended, but at what a cost - 51,000 dead, injured, captured.  There were some skirmishes on July 4, but the battle is considered to have ended on July 3.

Are you related to anyone who fought in the Civil War, and may have been at Gettysburg?


  1. Wow! I have to say I love your writing style. I'm typically not a huge fan of History but you found a way to make it interesting. :)

    1. Thank you - I hope to get people interested in history - it is, after all, the story of the human race. And it tends to be so badly taught in schools that people are turned off to it for life. It's a shame!

  2. How interesting that I saw this post as I hail from Alabama! My first thought is that I don't have any relatives that fought in the Civil War, but maybe I do? I'm sure it wouldn't take much of an online search to see if I do. Thank you for intriguing me enough to go do a little snooping now. :)

    1. Good luck. There are a lot of online resources for this type of research and I wish you success. Neither my mother or father's family were in this country in time for the Civil War, but I have met people (both North and South) who have ancestors who fought in the war.


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