Gettysburg 150th Anniversary
Exactly 150 years ago this July 1, two mighty armies met at an obscure Pennsylvania town, precipitating a three-day bloodbath that was the American Civil War’s greatest battle. Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s 70,000-strong Army of Northern Virginia, buoyed by its stunning triumph at the Battle of Chancellorsville, faced newly appointed Union Army of the Potomac commander General George G. Meade’s 90,000 Federals. When the Battle of Gettysburg concluded late afternoon July 3, 1863, 50,000 Union and Confederate Soldiers – nearly one of every three involved – were killed, wounded or captured/ missing. Almost 8,000 of those had given what President Abraham Lincoln famously described in his November 1863 Gettysburg Address as “the last full measure of devotion.”
That horrific battle, however, did more than just turn back Lee’s second invasion of the North; it proved that when the Army of the Potomac was given the leadership it deserved, it could beat Lee. Under Meade’s leadership, that is just what the army did in the bloody 1864-65 campaigns, forcing Lee’s April 9, 1865, surrender at Appomattox. The Battle of Gettysburg was the launching pad for final Union victory in the Civil War.
Yet, as Ralph Peters explains in this issue’s fascinating Battle Studies article, “No other battle in history has fallen victim to as many myths and outright lies as Gettysburg.” Peters exposes – and destroys – 10 myths about the Civil War’s most famous battle, employing the same razor-sharp analysis that has made him today’s most insightful strategist. A native Pennsylvanian and lifelong student of the battle, Peters applies the same rigorous commitment to facts that allowed him to produce his best-selling historical novel Cain at Gettysburg (Tor Forge, 2012), the most realistic and accurate portrayal of the battle’s combat ever written.
One aspect of the Battle of Gettysburg that is not a myth is the courageous sacrifice of Union artilleryman Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing, the subject of this issue’s Leader. Cushing’s “Faithful Unto Death” heroic stand helped defeat the Pickett-Pettigrew Charge and propel Meade’s army to victory.
We cover many other great history subjects this issue, as well: Julius Caesar as he waged war to expand the Roman Empire; U.S. Army combat engineers during World War II; the tactical nightmare GIs would have faced had they invaded Japan in 1945; and Lithuanian partisans who opposed Soviet aggression from 1944-53. We also present an interview with VFW commander in chief John Hamilton, a third-generation Marine and decorated Vietnam War veteran.
Our interactive articles challenge readers to make their own “history,” by taking command at the decisive 1759 Battle of Minden, choosing a target at the 1776 Battle of Trenton, and leading a Canadian infantry attack near Antwerp in 1944.
Jerry D. Morelock, PhD, Armchair General Editor in Chief
Originally published in the July 2013 issue of Armchair General.