This is primarily a travel blog in which I write about traveling in our motorhome. Our travels have

Nacogdoches, TX, United States
I began this blog as a vehicle for reporting on a 47-day trip made by my wife and me in our motorhome down to the Yucatan Peninsula and back. I continued writing about our post-Yucatan travels and gradually began including non-travel related topics. I often rant about things that piss me off, such as gun violence, fracking, healthcare, education, and anything else that pushes my button. I have a photography gallery on my Smugmug site (

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Battle of Gettysburg

We hired a tour guide this morning to drive us (in our car) around the battlefield and narrate the battle.  His name was Dave and he was excellent.  A lot went on at Gettysburg over the 3 days of the battle.  When you read about the battle it’s more like reading individual accounts.  Dave managed to put it all into perspective by tying everything together and presenting it in a time-line fashion.  He was so descriptive it was like watching a movie in your mind.
As you should know by now, the Battle of Gettysburg was Lee’s second invasion of the North (the first was Antietam in September 1862).  Both times he used the Shenandoah/Cumberland Valley as his avenue of approach.  This time, the Union Army shadowed him, staying between his army and Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia.  Once Lee was North of the Potomac River he divided his army to make it easier for them to forage for themselves and their animals.  His men would confiscate the food they needed along the way.
Lee had not intended to do battle with the Federals at Gettysburg.  He kind of stumbled into it because he had not heard from Jeb Sturart and his cavalry for 3 days, thus did not know where the Union Army was located.  Gettysburg was a major road intersection with ten roads leading into the town from all points on the compass.  When Lee ordered his divided army to come together, all the roads they were on led to Gettysburg.  It was a similar situation with the Union Army, which was blocking the roads to Baltimore, Washington, and Philadelphia.  These roads also led to Gettysburg and when Union scouts found the Confederate Army and Gen. Meade ordered all of his men to come together, they followed the roads into Gettysburg.  You might say that the battle was fought in Gettysburg because that’s where all the roads led.
The first 2 days of the battle belonged to the Confederates.  The Union troops kept falling back until they ended up on Cemetery Ridge at nightfall on the second day. This backfired on the Confederates because by the morning of the third day the Union troops were entrenched on the highest ground in the area.  The Confederates were upbeat and optimistic, thinking they would finish off the Union Army and win the war that day.  They almost did, but almost doesn’t count in war.  After several assaults on the Union lines, Lee ordered what has become known as Pickett’s Charge.  It was actually made up of Pickett’s, Trimble’s, and Pettigrew’s divisions for a total of about 12,500 men, stretched out over a mile-long front.  An hour long barrage of 250 Confederate cannons preceded the assault.  When the Confederates stepped out of the woods they faced three-quarters of a mile of open fields, all uphill, to walk before they could reach the union lines. All in the face of about 100 artillery pieces firing at them.  They would run the last 200 yards if they made it that far.  It was 87 degrees and humid.  There was no breeze and black smoke hung over the battlefield.  The noise was horrendous and continuous.  Out of the 12,500 men, only about 200 actually made it all the way to and through the Union lines before either being killed or captured.  Most were stopped before they got within 200 yards of the Union lines.  After only an hour it was all over with about 50% of the Confederates making it back to their lines.  The rest were killed, wounded, or captured.

When General Pickett arrived back at the Confederate lines, General Lee told him to "see to his division."

General Pickett answered, "Sir, I no longer have a division."
Total casualties for each side were about the same.  Union casualties were 23,055 and Confederate casualties were 23,231 (almost a third of the invading army).  Union losses included 3,155 killed and Confederate losses included 4,708 killed.
The battle was considered a turning point because for the rest of the war (almost 2 more years) Lee was on the strategic defensive, forced into the war of attrition he feared until he was cornered at Appomattox.
There are over 1,500 monuments on the battlefield.  Most are memorials to Union divisions, regiments battalions, batteries, etc.  In the first 20 or 30 years after the Civil War, the US was hostile towards the idea of allowing their enemies to erect monuments at Gettysburg.   The South wasn’t too crazy about erecting monuments to a battle they lost and was in the North.  The South was finally given permission to erect a monument on the battlefield sometime in the 1880’s and there could only be one monument per state.  It wasn’t until 1917 when the first southern monument was erected by Virginia.  Georgia did not erect a monument until 1964.  When North Carolina submitted plans for their monument in 1929, a change was required before it could be erected.  The sculpture could not display the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy (the Confederate’s battle flag).  The design had to be changed to show the flag furled around the pole so that it could not be recognized as the “Rebel” flag.  The last southern state to erect a monument was Tennessee in 1982 .

Interesting Facts
After the battle 37,574 rifles left lying on the battlefield were collected.
·      24,000 were still loaded
·      6,000 had one round in the barrel
·      12,000 had two rounds in the barrel
·      6,000 had three to ten rounds in the barrel

In the heat and confusion of battle, many soldiers did not realize their rifle was loaded, or had not fired, and rammed another ball down the muzzle. Some repeated this until there were ten rounds in the barrel.
Many accounts of the battle mention that Confederate troops looted a shoe factory in Gettysburg.  However, there was never a shoe factory or shoe warehouse in Gettysburg.
The Confederate wagon train of wounded men sent back to Virginia after the battle was 17 miles long.
More than 3,000 horses were killed at Gettysburg.
An estimated 569 tons of ammunition was fired during the 3 days of fighting.

The US army paid 13 cents per pound for lead gathered by Gettysburg civilians after the battle.  After a boy was killed trying to pound open an artillery shell to get the lead pellets out the army refused to accept lead from children under 18.

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