Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Assault

Pickett's Charge (or the Pickett-Pettigrew Assault, if you prefer) at Gettysburg 150 years ago today was a human disaster. It was also a clearcut Union victory. General R. E. Lee, the Confederate commander, threw too few troops into what was essentially a suicide mission, with a sort of magical thinking (and hubris, we must suppose) that somehow his boys would be able to pull off a miracle and break the Union center, winning a decisive victory. They could not, and they did not. The defenders lost about 1,500 casualties, whereas the Confederate attackers lost more than 6,500 (including prisoners) -- half of the men involved.

Lee had done the same thing at the Battle Of Malvern Hill, Virginia, the previous year (July 1, 1862), ordering a frontal assault against massed Union defenders. At Malvern Hill, the Confederates lost more than 5,500 casualties to about 2,200 Union, with fewer prisoners being taken. Malvern Hill serves a a remarkable prequel to Gettysburg's third day, and sheds light on the consistency of Lee's mindset.

150 years later you can still walk across the open fields from Confederate to Union lines at Gettysburg, and see what Lee expected for yourself. You can do the same at Malvern Hill, because it, too, is preserved for posterity.   

Today's Rune: Wholeness.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

Two very bad decisions by Lee.