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View Diary: 150 years ago, the greatest July 4th of them all (117 comments)

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  •  Buford's Stand At East Cemetery Hill (8+ / 0-)

    There are three pivotal points in the Battle of Gettysburg.

    • General John Buford's dismounted cavalry slowing down the Confederate infantry, allowing Union forces to take the high ground.
    • Colonel Joshua Chamberlain's defense of Little Round Top.
    • The disaster of Pickett's Charge.

    Chamberlain & Pickett are usually the biggest topics of discussion when discussing Gettysburg, but I've always been fascinated by Buford. Without his decision to make a stand, Gettysburg probably goes very differently.

    Buford's division suffered more than 130 casualties on July 1. The men had fought for more than twelve hours, and had given the Confederate infantry as well as they had received. The fight allowed Reynolds time to bring the infantry to bear and to allow for the defense of East Cemetery Hill. By buying time and by delaying the Confederate approach, Buford and his weary men allowed the commanding high ground and interior lines of defense to be held by the Army of the Potomac.

    Had Buford's men not succeeded, had East Cemetery Hill fallen to the Confederates, the course of the battle might have taken a different course. As Buford himself wrote, "The zeal, bravery, and good behavior of the officers and men on the night of June 30, and during July 1, was commendable in the extreme. A heavy task was before us; we were-equal to it, and shall all remember with pride that at Gettysburg we did our country much service."

    When it comes to Pickett's Charge, I still wonder how any military commander, especially one that was considered one of the best of his era, could have thought marching 13,000 men in nine infantry brigades 3/4 of a mile across an open field while under artillery barrage from the Union line was anything other than insane.

    Especially since Lee had already watched the Union suffer through the same stupidity at the Battle of Fredericksburg, where General Ambrose Burnside lost his job after he ordered thousands of Union soldiers to attack across open ground & the Confederate forces (entrenched behind a stone wall) shot 'em down like dogs.

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