Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Gettysburg Controversies, Part I

The latest installment of my Civil War series for Ashbrook is now available
here. The topic is the continuing controversies about the campaign and battle.

Most of these are on the Confederate side and include the decision to invade Pennsylvania in the first place; the performance of Longstreet during the battle; Lee vs. Longstreet on the question of defense; the effect of losing Jackson at Chancellorsville; and Lee’s decision on the third day to attack the Union center on Cemetery Ridge on the second and third days of the battle. Many of them are the result of personal and professional jealosies that the participants aired after the war, most notably the attacks by Jubal Early and the Southern Historical Society on James Longstreet, who was deemed an apostate. His worst sin was to criticize Lee.

There were plenty of controversies on the Union side as well, although they are not generally as well known as those on the Southern side. These have to do primarily with Meade’s performance as commanding general of the Army of the Potomac during the campaign. They involve the intersection of the claims of ambitious officers, primarily Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles and Maj. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, who also were partisans of the army’s former commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker, and the open war waged by the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, the creation of radical congressional Republicans, against West Point graduates and Democrats (often one in the same) in the Union army. I will address these soon in my next installment.

Discussions - 3 Comments

When you discuss Southern miscues at Gettysburg, you should start with the overall offensive into Pennsylvania, and that started with Jeb Stuart taking his command into Maryland. That's where it all began to go south, as it were. Lee was already in trouble, and he didn't even know it, and he hadn't even crossed into Pennsylvania yet.

Perhaps the best cav commander in American history let his commander down, on the most important campaign for The Army of Northern Virginia in its history.

This piece isn't about miscues but about continued controversies. There's no controversy about Stuart. I addressed the reason for and the impact of Stuart's absence in my earlier piece entitled "Lee's Invasion of Pennsylvania."

Well, I took a broader view of "controversies" than encompassed in your piece.

The Pennsylvania Cable Network television channel broadcasts lectures and tours every year during the anniversary of the battle. They're quite good. If you ever have a chance to watch some of them, or maybe tape them, it's well worth the time.

I recall a battlefield tour guide speaking about Henry Hunt's conduct on the 3d day. Amazing lecture, absolutely amazing.

And there is a call in show every year as well, where you can ask questions of one of the tour guides.

The website is

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