The Battle of Gettysburg is one of the most important engagement in the history of the Civil War. The battle lasted 3 days, resulting with the Confederate Army losing against the Union. This battle has been a great lesson we have learned and applied in today’s Military.
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Knowing the capabilities, strengths and resources of our enemies are extremely helpful in winning our battles. The end state of this battle could’ve ended differently if General Lee would’ve have the confidence to make better decisions, the support from his subordinate leaders, better understanding of the battlefield situation and enough supplies to last the battle.
On the first day, the battle initiated with the Confederate Hill and Ewell’s Corps engaging with the Union Buford’s Calvary. Thanks to the information provided by a spy contracted by Gen. Longstreet, this gave an advantage to the Confederate Army against its enemy. The information provided the location and size of the enemy (at the moment), to include their weak points. Today we use similar techniques such as local national’s informants, UAV’s, Observers and satellites to observe and gather information to help commanders have a better understanding and planning before making any engagements. During the engagement, the Confederate encountered and killed the I Corps commander, General Reynold, who days prior were sent to reinforce the unit who was already at Gettysburg. This event triggered the Union to push back its counter attack despite of outnumbering their enemy. One great example of this was during Operation Iraqi Freedom I when we took out a great portion of top leaders within the ranks of the Iraqi Army and they retreated. However, due to the lack of new information on the enemy size and not having one of his top general who was a great analyst, Gen Lee hold on his attack. Not having new information gave insecurities to some of his subordinates commanders and in exchange refusal to comply with his orders were given. This is was the beginning of what later was the one of the reason why Gen Lee and the Confederate Army lost this battle. Despite of not having enough data and not being able to continue his attack, the Confederate Army manage to inflict great damage to the Union forces. That day Union forces lost over 12,000 Soldiers due to casualties and being capture while the Confederate lost over 6,000.
On the second day after assessing the enemy situation with reconnaissance, the confederate noticed the swift change of the Union defense perimeter. With this new information, Gen Lee manage adapt to the situation and make changes to his plan. Originally the plan involved on flanking both, left and right side of Union defense line, but later changed to have one element conduct an echelon attack while the other flank on the right. The plan was great strategically. Attacking from both sides simultaneously would’ve cause great confusion and chaos to the Union who have not received reinforcements and haven’t fully recovered from the day prior. However, the downfall to this plan was short timing and execution. Not aware of the Union reinforcements enroute to the battlefield cause this plan not to have the desire effects that Gen Lee expected. Also arguments within their leaders before executing the plan did not helped the situation neither. However, the plan was executed as Gen Lee ordered and it was about to become another success for the Confederate Army if it wasn’t for a subordinate unit who refused to advance. The reason were not cleared nor explained during the research. But I believe that it could’ve been a couple of things, like lack of communication within units or subordinate commanders not having clear understanding on the plan. At the end, the Union took advantage of this and manage to halt the Confederacy assault. The result of this day ended with the Confederate Army obtaining more ground and producing over 9,000 casualties for the Union.
On the 3rd and final day of this battle Gen Lee was too confident of was he had done in the previous days, which is greatest downfall for most leaders. His plan was the same but with an addition to have another element flanking from the rear of the Union. Supplies were low due to Lee not expecting this much resistance from the Union and not planning this battle to last this long. Because of this unfortunate events, we learned to plan ahead, have enough supplies for any operations, and when to request with enough time in advanced when needed. The role were reverse and the Union initiated their attack in attempts to recover the ground they lost the day prior. This also set a series of traps against the Confederate Army who were about flank them. The confederate responded to this with an assault in order to penetrate enemy lines assisted with a barrage of artillery shells. However, their attempts was neutralized by the Union behind defensive walls and artillery. At that time Lee lost almost half of his forces to include high ranking officers giving him no choice but to retreat from the battlefield, marking the end of the Battle of Gettysburg.
The Union order of battle during the Battle of Gettysburg includes the American Civil War officers and men of the Potomac Army. There were more than 100,000 men who were further divided into seven corps. Each corps was commanded by different generals. General John Buford commanded the cavalry division who decided for the army to stay in the area overnight and waited for the Confederates to return the following day. This would set stage for the Battle of Gettysburg. General John Reynolds commanded the First Army Corps. Having to rush his infantry to the battlefield in a swift counterattack on the Confederates he was instantly killed. General Abner Doubleday took over the First Corps and deployed his troops on a line west of the Seminary Ridge and held their ground until overwhelming numbers forced retreat through Gettysburg. General Oliver Howard commanded the Eleventh Corps who took charge of the field after General Reynolds was killed. He secured Cemetery Hill as the final Union position. General Daniel Sickles led the Thirds Corp to Gettysburg. He was determined not to allow the Confederates to hold higher ground. They moved forward from Cemetery Ridge on the 2nd day resulted in the bloodiest day of the battle which he lost most of his men and a leg. General Gouverneur Warren serving as General Meade’s Chief of Engineers, spied the Confederates forces moving around the Union left, and rushed the troops to the hill’s defense which ultimately saved the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. He would later command the Fifth Corps. One of the many incredible things that happened during the battle was this 22-year-old West Pointer, LT Alonzo Cushing who commanded Alpha Battery of the 4th United States Artillery. Prior to Pickett’s Charge, LT Cushing decided to remain on the battlefield with his only surviving cannon. He fought against the Confederate infantry attack until he was shot dead at his post. Faithful unto death, his dedication to duty helped turn the tide at Gettysburg. In 2010, LT Cushing became one of the few that was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The use of Artillery in the Battle of Gettysburg proved to be vital by the Army of the Potomac. The superiority in the artillery firepower wasn’t due to the number of artillery pieces, but the manner in which the guns were employed against the Confederate Army and the way Federal commanders chose to use them. At a battery level, Union artillery was on the organized by six gun batteries while the Confederate army was organized by four to six gun batteries which consisted of different types of artillery pieces. Because of this, there was often mix ups and problems such as unpredictability in fire rates and ranges. The Union artillery also had better quality of gunpowder and ammunition. Artillery batteries were constructed of two types, foot artillery and horse artillery. Foot artillery Soldiers accompanied the infantry and the horse artillery Soldiers rode horses in order to keep up with the units that they were currently supporting. All of the artillery pieces used were line of sight weapons. At the time, they did not have the range or fire direction ability to conduct indirect fire.
Because of being a line of site weapon, the artillery crews were exposed to musket fire which resulted in heavier casualties among the crew. One of the largest concentrated artillery attacks in history was conducted by the Confederate army. The attack lasted over two hours and was conducted by approximately 170 artillery pieces in which was focused on Union troops defending Cemetery Ridge. On the other side, Union commanders slowed their artillery in order to conserve ammo for the infantry assault. Because of this, southern commanders were persuaded that they had caused a great deal of damage to their Union foes. Due to the limited visibility on the battlefield, the Union artillery opened up on the south with a great deal of firepower eventually stopping their advance. With the smallest cannon being the 10-pound parrot rifle and the largest being the 24-pound field howitzer, it proved that the artillery used wasn’t the most effective because of the ammunition or the amount of pieces being used, but the way that the commanders on both the Union and the Confederate side used them against one another.
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