Gettysburg, 1863

Because the Civil War isn’t over. Its images, dreamlike, stay with us—young boys lying face-down in cornfields and orchards, and Robert E. Lee on Traveller. And Lincoln, dead in the White House, and the sound of crying.

The Civil War disturbs us, all these long years after, troubling our sleep. Like a cry for help, like a warning, like a dream. And we pore over it, trying to break the code, its meaning just out of reach.

–Connie Willis


Here, via Venderleun, is an interactive map of the Battle of Gettysburg, showing how the fighting unfolded over the three days. Selected panoramic views and “viewshed” maps show what the commanders could–and could not–see at decisive moments.

10 thoughts on “Gettysburg, 1863”

  1. That is exceedingly cool.
    One thing I’m wondering about Lee’s plan while scrolling through.
    He definitely placed too much trust in his recce patrols. On the other hand intelligence is an imperfect art most of the time, so there’s never going to be absolute certainty.
    However, clearly he saw those hills were there. I see he wanted to outflank Union forces, but is it too much Monday morning quarterbacking to wonder why the hell he thought advancing up hill would be a good idea?

  2. @Grurray – I read/heard somewhere that after Pickett’s charge – well, after the war, Longstreet never spoke to Lee again.

    BTW didn’t realize it until hearing it on the radio yesterday, but the Battle for Vicksburg ended just a day/2 from Gettysburg

  3. On the 2nd, Confederate attacks to the southern flank met stiff resistance and were repelled. Perhaps we can excuse Lee’s miscalculations about the Union’s numbers because of incomplete information due to his positions and terrain. Although, you would think that after they successfully maneuvered against him it would have given him pause about his premises and decision making. What seems inexcusable is he made the same mistake the next day on the other side of the battle field.

    “Still hidden from his sight were portions of the late-arriving Federal forces and the strategic advantage of the Union’s compact position, where officers could deploy units quickly in response to attack.”

    That says it all right there.

  4. …and let us not forget (from the advantage of hindsight) that had Geo Meade pursued the retreating Lee the Civil War could have ended in 1863.

  5. I don’t think Meade was in shape to pursue. Wellington’s comment about Waterloo comes to mind. “It was a damned close run thing !”

    Better we should recognize the role of Buford in stopping the Rebs the first day. He was played in the movie by Sam Elliot, one of my favorite actors and perfect casting.

    Stuart wandered away and left Lee blind until the last day.

  6. I posted the Connie Willis quote in comments on another blog….someone suggested that with the dismal state of history education and historical knowledge in the US today, it is probably not valid to assume that these images of the Civil War are resident in the collective mind anymore.

  7. The interactive map was nice. Having read about the battle casually, here and there, over the years, it was never brought home to me (until now) how thoroughly the union forces were defensively arraigned. The blues, on the high ground, 4/5 surrounded (with support pouring in through the remaining 1/5); it was a big, strong redoubt. Gen. Lee’s army needed more than courage to carry the day and they didn’t have it.

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