Saturday, July 03, 2021

Do You Hear the Artillery?

On this day in 1863, the largest artillery barrage ever conducted in North America took place 163 miles away in the tiny borough of Gettysburg. It was actually a 90-minute duel between Union and Confederate red-legs as Robert E Lee's Army of Northern Virginia tried to soften up the Union center before the doomed Pickett's charge. 

Lee was warned against making the assault by the person he called his "warhorse," General James Longstreet. Lee went ahead anyway and lost half the men sent in perhaps the biggest blunder of his career.

The rest is history.

While Confederates were in Pennsylvania, they helped themselves to just about everything that wasn't nailed down so Lee could feed his army. This included black people, most of whom were free. 

One woman wrapped herself in an American flag as rebels marched from Chambersburg to Gettysburg in a show of defiance. 

"You oughn't be doing that, ma'am," said a Texas who broke ranks.

"I'm not afraid of you."

"You misunderstand me. It's just that us Texans aren't used to seeing that flag wrapped around breastworks without charging."  

22 comments:

Jeff Fox said...

In 1865, a Frenchman named Édouard de Laboulaye birthed the idea of the French gifting a monument to the people of the United States. Laboulaye, an ardent admirer of the United States, envisioned a monument that would commemorate the upcoming 1876 centennial of the Declaration of Independence. He was also inspired by the abolition of slavery, which demonstrated America’s ideals of liberty and freedom. In addition, the gift would celebrate the close relationship between France and America.

Sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi began to conceptualize the structure that would later become known as "Liberty Enlightening the World". In 1875, Laboulaye and Bartholdi formed the Franco-American Union to raise money from the French people to finance the project. Laboulaye proposed that the French would finance the Statue, and the US would provide the site and build the base, making it a joint project of the two countries.
Bartholdi’s design is symbolic in many ways, such as: The seven rays of her crown evoke the light that liberty offers to the world, and represent the seven seas and seven continents. The tablet is inscribed with July 4,1776 in Roman numerals, referencing America's Declaration of Independence and associating it with the concept of liberty. To symbolize the end of slavery, Bartholdi placed a broken shackle and chains at the Statue’s foot.

July 4th is the National holiday we celebrate our nation's independence. Our country has its problems, but it's still the greatest nation on earth. Lady Liberty has given hope to millions of immigrants. Let's remember to give thanks for our liberties, not just on the fourth of July, but every day.

Anonymous said...

We all should be grateful for the ability to live in such a great country with such freedom. I'd love to see Americans come together and show their gratitude. I just watch a video of college students saying this isn't the greatest country in the world and some even said they are embarrassed to be American. They admitted that college opened their eyes with their teaching. I'm saddened to hear this from the young in our country. No matter which party. No matter who you vote for. We as a nation need to look at how our division is affecting the young and their perceptions and the future. I pray on this day we all refocus and remember our blessings to be citizens of the united states' of America and how proud we should be and how we should honor our veterans and our flag.

Anonymous said...

Is it true the Union Army rolled cannonballs the the hill at the Southern Army

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have never read this. It seems ridiculous. A cannonball would be ineffective unless it was fired.

Anonymous said...

5:00 PM, We are only as free as the amount of wealth we have accumulated. America is not in the top 20 list of Developed countries. We do not have free health care for everyone, defined pension benefits, a real safety net for our working class. Prayers will not help, we need strong political commitment to make this country great again and stop the decline of our middle class that we have experienced in the last 40 years. Yes, we should honor our veterans as they are real heroes of this country and start working on getting America back on track.

Anonymous said...

I’ve read much about the civil war and this is the first I’ve heard about cannibalism. Source?

Anonymous said...

Unless the cannon ball was rolled down a hill and crushed a ankle and that dam musket fired blowing off someone's head.

LVCI said...

Let's keep in mind, regardless what you see in movies, cannonballs don't explode. They're like bowling balls made of metal.

Doc Rock said...

I am completely confused as to why Robert E. Lee remains revered by so many. After refusing Abraham Lincoln's request to lead the Union forces (the Army of the Potomac), Lee decided he couldn't go against "Old Virginny" and, instead chose to lead the Army of Northern Virginia. Even when it became demonstrably clear the Confederates could not win (Grant took Vicksburg the same time Lee led his men to slaughter at Gettysburg), Lee, nonetheless, pressed on for nearly two more years. It devastated the South (the burning of Atlanta and Sherman's March to the Sea are just two examples), impoverished most Southerners for generations, and needlessly killed or maimed countless numbers of Union and Confederate soldiers. In my book, Lee is the greatest mass murderer in US history. The irony of ironies is that the Lee plantation is now our most well-known national cemetery - Arlington.

Bernie O'Hare said...

i Have read nothing about this tactic , which both sounds ridiculous and would be a waste of a resource that does a lot more damage coming out of a barrel. As a former artilleryman, I know.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I am completely confused as to why Robert E. Lee remains revered by so many."

Allen Guelzo, a very widely respected civil war historian, has a bio of Lee coming out in September. I believe I promised, and forgot, to send you this link. https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Lee-Allen-C-Guelzo/dp/1101946229

He also wrote Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President.

I had the privilege of listening to two of Guelzo's lectures about Lee. His decision to invade the North was sound. He and Longstreet knew Vicksburg was about to fall. They were also aware of a large anti-war sentiment in the North. If you look at some of the Democratic newspapers in that time period, which I have done at Smithsonian's Chronicling America, there was a widespread antiwar sentiment. Lee was also cognizant that the north had vastly more resources. By invading the north, he would take pressure off his own state in feeding and supplying an 80,000-man by helping himself to northern resources. Moreover, it would divert the Army of the Potomac from the south to come and meet him as he threatened the capitol or other points in the north. A major defeat in the north would leave it wide open. So his strategy was quite sound.

The mistake he made was to attack in Gettysburg. Longstreet thought the wiser course would be to find another place in which the south held the high ground, not the north. Lee may have been somewhat overconfident bc of his army's recent victory at Chancellorsville. In fairness, his overconfident troops began fighting before his army was concentrated in violation of his own orders. But Lee pressed on, and we can say in hindsight that was a mistake.

According to Guelzo, Lee grew up penniless, despite being from a noted Virginia family. His father, a revolutionary war hero, was a spendthrift who actually abandoned his family. This resulted in a Lee who was driven by three things - perfectionism, a desire for independence and a massive need for security. Even though he would marry into wealth, he was a penny pincher his entire life. He owned no slaves, but his wife's family did. According to some sources, he was cruel to them on at least one occasion.

Lee would later be indicted for treason, an offense of which he was no doubt guilty. He was never pardoned, although Grant did stop the indictment from moving forward.

Guelzo believes that, in Lee's final years, he found the three things he sought as President of what was then Washington College. His perfectionism, desire for independence and need for security were achieved in that role.

In my opinion, Lee does not rank among the world's top generals. That belongs to Caesar, Hannibal, Cao Cao, Washington (despite losing nearly every battle) Wellington, Napoleon and Marshall.

Doc Rock said...

Bernie, Lee's foray into Pennsylvania may have been a "sound" tactical move. However, as Longstreet noted (and was forever labeled a traitor by Confederate sympathizers in the post-bellum South), Lee never held the high ground at Gettysburg - nearly always a prerequisite for winning a battle. After the Confederate failure to breach the far left of the Union line (Little Round Top) on July 2, Lee should have licked his wounds and retreated. Nonetheless, he proceeded with the ill-fated Pickett's Charge on July 3. But Lee wasn't the only doofus general at Gettysburg. George Meade, the Union commander, failed to chase the Army of Northern Virginia during its retreat beginning on July 4. Heavy rains had swollen the Potomac - making it impossible for the Army of Northern Virginia to cross. Meade's forces could have pinned down Lee's army and destroyed them. Lincoln was not pleased with "Old Bugeyes."

Anonymous said...

What a bout General Giap ?

Anonymous said...

Not sure I follow how free healthcare and pensions come into play. Or wealth for that matter. I agree the middle class is dwindling but that does not for me change my idea of freedom.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Giap simply was not in enough battles. Incidentally I would include Grant

Anonymous said...

1.06
try
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Meade
" Recent historical works have portrayed him in a more positive light. They have acknowledged that Meade displayed and acted upon an understanding of the necessary changes in tactics brought about by improvements in weapons technology, such as his decisions to entrench when practicable and not to launch frontal assaults on fortified positions. In addition, the Army of the Potomac had suffered very heavily at Gettysburg, with over 20,000 casualties and the loss of many of its best officers and enlisted men, including three corps commanders, and Meade may have been fully justified in not attempting a rapid pursuit with his army in such a battered condition."

Anonymous said...

He threw out the French and the U.S.A.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yes, he was a good general, but was not in enough of them. I also neglected Saladin. Alexander and others. This story was about Gettysburg. Perhaps I'll do a story down the road on my top ten generals. A friend and I discuss this all the time. Of course, you're talking to someone who was merely a Staff SGT in the reserves and who hardly qualifies as an expert.

Anonymous said...

12.19
" His decision to invade the North was sound.
as long as you consider an act of desperation a sound decision.
With the loss of Vicksburg the South was cut in half. The rebs were not able to stop the Union from doing that-with all of the forces available. after Vicksburg the situation would become even worse.
So betting on 1)a big military victory 2)a sea change where the Union just agrees to stop fighting and accept an rebellion is a stretch.
The South was doomed from the beginning as numbers/productive capability of the North would have crushed the South.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It was a good strategy, as explained in a lecture at the Army War College. The North was vastly superior to the south in terms of resources. Lee and Longstreet knew Vicksburg was going to fall. They had to act to take away the power of resistance in the North. The power of resistance is means x will to fight. The north had the means, so you had to take way the will to fight. The north was very divided. Lincoln was in trouble politically. If you lack means or will, the power of resistance is 0 and you lose. It would be absurd to attack the North's means bc it was too massive. But you could attack the north's will. The only way the south wins is if the north quits. It is the same strategy of exhaustion employed in Vietnam. Lee referred to it as northern war weariness. At the time of Gettysburg, northern war weariness was setting in. The Democratic platform was calling for peace and a negotiated settlement.

Lee's plan was to come to Harrisburg Pa and wait. He believed the union army would arrive piecemeal and he could pounce on them, one corps at a time and totally destroy the Army of the Potomac. Destroying the union army would win the war. His plan was to be concentrated and catch the union spread out. Unfortunately for Lee, the union army was much closer and caught Lee while he was spread out. He was attempting to concentrate. He was caught with his pants down bc JEB Stuart, his eyes, failed to keep him informed. JEB was usually gone 3-4 days. This time it was 8.

Lee's strategy was sound. His tactics at Gettysburg were bad.

Anonymous said...

Lee, unlike Trump was instrumental in the uniting of our country after the war. He urged his troops to return to their homes and be good citizens. I'll throw my hat in the ring and say Lee was a great general, more for his efforts after the war. Trump continues to have rallies to keep the fire hot in his army in waiting. Maybe he should look to the past in leaders like Lee, Washington and Cincinnatus.

Speaking of greatest generals, Daniel Morgan should be a contender. Unfortunately, his service was cut short by poor health.

Anonymous said...


"Lee would later be indicted for treason, an offense of which he was no doubt guilty. He was never pardoned, although Grant did stop the indictment from moving forward."


http://www.gdg.org/research/People/RELee/pardon.html