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The Battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg:
How American System Economics Won the Civil War

(or, “Auftragstaktik” - ‘American Style’)

By Janet G. West
July 2016

In memory of W. Allen Salisbury,
who sparked my enthusiasm for understanding history

Related pages

Ulysses S. Grant
Library of Congress
William Tecumseh Sherman

America, and the world, are now at a decisive moment in history, with an insane administration provoking an increasingly dangerous strategic crisis, and the world teetering at the precipice of an unprecendented financial and economic crisis.

Patriotic Americans now find themselves in a political battle with an old enemy – the oligarchical powers of the world, which in modern history are represented as the Anglo-Dutch alliance; and most especially the British monarchy. At the founding of the Republic, they were the Tories and their allies, and it was the British oligarchs who were the sponsors of the Condederacy in our nation’s Civil War, which ought to be rightly considered the Second American Revolution. If we are to win this current battle to save humanity, we can take some lessons from the victories won by the Union in that war.

The Civil War was the crucible in which not only the military capabilities of the Union were tested, but also other resources in-depth, such as economic and medical capabilities, logistics, and communications. It was these extensive capabilities which are what won the war. The battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg, because of their crucial roles as the turning point in the war, exemplify all that distinguished the North’s superior war-winning capabilities from the South’s lack thereof. It was the commitment to American System economics by which the North finally won the war.

Numerous books and articles have been written over the years about the Civil War, and on the Battle of Gettysburg in particular. Some recount the order of battle in stunning detail, others analyze “what might have been ...” Still others assign blame to this or that personality, or to a particular decision for the defeat of the South.

It is not the purpose of this article to go into great detail of each of the cited battles, the armies, etc., but rather to highlight those aspects of the decisons made by leaders on the field, and the mindset of the Confederacy as a whole, which caused one mistake after another to be committed, and the eventual loss of the war. It will contrast the alternate, superior mindset of the forces of the Union, and the application of the principles of American System economics which prevailed, and which led to victory for President Lincoln and the forces arrayed around him.

The author has analyzed the order of battle from the standpoint of the subjective outlook of the troops and leaders on both sides, rather than “objective“ circumstances on the battlefield. It will become apparent, that in both battles, there were decisive turning points, whereby the Confederate leaders, despite an “objective” advantage, either refused or neglected to commit their entire forces in supporting action; and, after throwing their forces into battle, failed to organize adequate logistical support, resulting in increased jeopardy for those troops – all of which spelled defeat.

At the same time, under the leadership of President Lincoln, the application of American System economics and the commitment to save the Union allowed the Northern forces to mobilize logistics “in-depth”, leading to victory.

This author asserts that some of the best examples of the tradition of “auftragstaktik”* in the history of the American military, lies in the conduct of two battles (during the same general period of the Civil War), and both concluding on the Fourth of July, 1863: the battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg. (Of note, the battle of Vicksburg began about a year before the battle of Gettysburg.) On the Federal side, what prevailed was not only a superior economy, culture and education, but, most of all, a passion for maintaining the integrity of the Union - the commitment to the mission - which was the crucial margin giving victory to the Union.

*auftragstaktik: Developed in the 19th century through Gerhard von Scharnhorst, Carl von Clausewitz, and Helmuth von Moltke; it is a style of command in which the military commander gives subordinate leaders a clearly defined mission, and the forces then need to accomplish the goal within a certain time frame. The subordinates carry out the order independently, with a wide lattitude regarding tactics. For this to succeed, they must not only understand the intent of the orders, but must also have the training and guidance to think tactically within a changing strategic situation. It may also include violating a previous order, in order to fulfill the mission. From the German Auftrag and Taktik, “Mission” + “Tactics“, or also “Mission Command”.

Lincoln and the American System of Economics

Abraham Lincoln.

It is the capability of the government to intervene on behalf of the interest of the nation as a whole, through selective credits or investments focussed upon industrial projects or infrastructure, and thereby increasing the productivity and living standard of the average person, which is the hallmark of the “American System” economics. It also features protection of internal industry and agriculture through high protective tariffs, and a National Bank. It is the living expression of the principle of the “General Welfare” as stressed in the Preamble of our Federal Constitution. This type of economics was developed under Lincoln (with Henry Carey serving as his economic adviser) with such success that it was quickly adopted or emulated by other nations around the world over the ensuing years, including Sun Yat Sen in China; under the Meiji Revolution in Japan; by Fredrich List in Germany, and Count Witte in Russia, as well as others. It is this economic system today which is again required to save not only America, but civilization as a whole.

When Abraham Lincoln entered the Presidency in March of 1861, South Carolina had already seceded and the Civil War was looming. The U.S. Treasury was virtually bankrupt, as the “free-trade” Democrats had passed a bill (the Independent Treasury Act in 1846) which assisted the ascendancy of “states’ rights” over the interests of the nation. The Act prevented the U.S. government from regulating the affairs of the banks, and stipulated that the government should be treated like any other depositor. The actions of subsequent presidents further eroded the capability of the federal government to regulate the currency and the banking affairs the nation.

President Lincoln understood that the military was only one aspect of the battle: the other was in the realm of political economy. He well understood that, if allowed, England would wage economic warfare through “free trade” policies, that would destroy the Union through political division of the nation. [1]

In his address to Congress on December 3, 1861, Lincoln emphasized his commitment to American System economics with a proposal from Henry Carey to commence construction of a railroad system that would extend into North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. This was for reasons of internal security, and to further develop the mining and other industrial potential throughout the region, not to mention an increased efficiency in logistics:

“I deem it of importance that the loyal regions of east Tennessee and western North Carolina should be connected with Kentucky and other faithful parts of the Union, by railroad. I therefore recommend, as a military measure; that Congress provide for the construction of such roads as speedily as possible. Kentucky, no doubt, will cooperate, and through her legislation make the most judicious selection of a line...[with] Kentucky and the general government cooperation, the work can be completed in a very short time; and when done, it will be not only of vast present usefulness, but also a valuable permanent improvement, worth its cost in all the future...” [2]

He further emphasized the power of government-backed credit:

“The operations of the Treasury during the period which has elapsed since your adjournment have been conducted with signal success, the patriotism of the people has placed at the disposal of the government the large means demanded by the public exigencies. Much of the national loan has been taken by citizens of the industrial classes, whose confidence in their country’s faith and zeal from their country’s deliverance from present peril, has induced them to contribute to the support of the government the whole of their limited acquisitions. This fact imposes peculiar obligations to economy in disbursement and energy in action.”[3]

Finally, he clarified the priority of labor over capital:

“It is not needed, nor fitting here, that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions, but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above labor, in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by use of it, induces him to labor and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” (emphasis added)[4]

There were also profound differences in economy between the North and the South, even beyond the obvious issue of slavery. Through Henry Carey’s and Lincoln’s initiatives, the North rapidly developed as a powerful economic machine, whose potential would ultimately overwhelm the South.

Within a relatively short time, the North had 85% of the nation’s factories, 67% of the farm acreage, and 66% of the railroad mileage of the nation. True to the economic philosophy of “states’ rights” and “free trade”, whatever railroads existed in the southern states had no common gauge. This made it necessary to transfer goods from the cars of one train to the cars of another, obviously taking up valuable time and manpower during a war mobilization.[5] Building rails of different gauges has been a common tactic amongst colonial powers that have controlled vast areas in Africa and other continents, making it nearly impossible for intra-continental development of the various nations.

The North first developed the method for medical treatment of the wounded on the battlefield, and first established medical teaching colleges. These innovations were largely due to the work of Dr. Jonathan Letterman (1824 – 1872), whose techniques and organization of the medical corps, not only saved thousands of lives, but were so sound that much of modern-day trauma medicine is still based on his work.[6]

At the height of the Civil War, new inventions and the increased use of technology enabled the Northerners to expand the production of goods efficiently. This was crucial in a number of ways – not only for the war effort, but also for domestic improvements.

For example, standardization and mass production of uniforms (with the introduction of sewing machines), allowed for rapid replacement. Further, rifles were also standardized and had interchangeable parts, and could be easily repaired on the battlefield. The North had 38 munitions factories, which produced about 5000 rifles daily. Additionally, the expanded use of mechanical mowers and reapers enabled one person to do the work of three, which meant that even with many of the men off to war, the farms could still be run by only a few women.

In contrast, Confederate rifles were individually handmade, one piece at a time. “Rifles were so scarce in the South that officers would sometimes advise their men to throw stones at the Yankees until they could take weapons off the dead.” The city of Richmond was the gun-making center of the South, producing only about 100 rifles per day. Southern farms fell into disrepair, since they had little advanced machinery; even the so-called “uniform” of the average soldier was hand-sewn, making replacements or repairs haphazard at best. [7]

What Did the Confederacy Believe?

It is beyond the scope of this article to fully examine how the Confederacy was organized and deployed against the Union. The British had recognized the Confederacy as a “belligerent”, which gave its ships equal rights in foreign ports as that of American ships. However, the leadership of the Confederacy pressed for full diplomatic recognition as a new nation.

The initial Confederate states began with South Carolina in 1860, then Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. They were joined by Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Missouri and Kentucky had partisan representation; Maryland was stopped from seceding through martial law, and 48 counties of Western Virginia remained loyal to the Union, becoming recognized as West Virginia in 1863. The leaders met in Montgomery, Alabama, on March 11, 1861, to write the Confederate Constitution; after Virginia joined, the seat of government was moved to Richmond.

Although much of the Confederate constitution was simply copied from the U.S. Constitution, the similarity ends there. The glaring differences are not only in the realm of the protection and promotion of slavery. The Confederate Constitution gave the states greater powers than those granted by the U.S. Constitution: each state was sovereign and independent. It barred the central government from using revenues collected in one state for funding internal improvements in another state; it banned protective tariffs; and rather than a conception of ‘the General Welfare’, it relegated the central government to that of an adminstrator, to carry on the government of the states.

Such was the extent of states’ rights, that the states could (and did) refuse to send militia to defend the Confederacy.

This echoes the false assertion that the philosophy of John Locke created the basis and development of the U.S. Constitution. It is significant that our Declaration of Independence grants,“...Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness...”; whereas Locke asserts that the state is obligated to protect ‘Life, Liberty and Property’. Of course, this included protection of the institution of slavery, as slaves were considered property.

So, how did this world view translate to the level of the outlook of the typical Confederate soldier?

I followed Old Marse Robert
For four year, near about;
Got wounded in three places
And starved at Point Lookout.

— “A Good Old Rebel” 1866 [8]

One author gives some insight to the cultural outlook of the typical soldier, especially to reference to the above quote:

“The average Confederate soldier looked on the ‘Yankees’ with disdain – figuring them to be soft, untrained, cowardly money-grubbers...

“Lee’s men called him ‘Marster Robert’ – ‘Marse Robert’ for short. The term ‘marse’ originated with the slaves as a slurring of ‘master’. On earth, the master was at once their owner and overseer; in heaven, he was the Lord God, Master of all Masters.

“The Confederate soldier borrowed the term from the slave. In a way, his life was not all that different from the slave’s. True, he was a freeman, and the slave was not. Yet each had to obey the authorities without question or protest...a decent master was addressed as ‘Marse So-and-So’; God was simply ‘Old Marster’. In speaking of Lee, Confederate soldiers might easily confuse the two.“ [9]

It should be apparent that someone who identifies with the life of a slave wouldn’t readily take up the personal responsibility required on a field of battle.

“The Confederates also didn’t even value their own soldiers: a free black in Richmond could earn $10.00 a day shining shoes; a Rebel in Fredericksburg would earn $11.00 a month risking his life.”[10]

It truly was a Hobbesian view of man: “every man for himself” (or his family, or his state).

The Inception of “Total War” in America

It is perhaps a common misconception that one must study military battles or strategy to be a commander. However, although Jefferson Davis was trained at West Point, and President Abraham Lincoln had no military training, it must be said absolutely that Lincoln was the better commander. This may have been due in part to his insightful and ingenious methods as a lawyer, but one must take into account his tremendous depth of character, his superior method of thinking, and his deep passion for the preservation of the Union. Lincoln must be seen as truly representing the idea of one of the nation’s first “Commander-in-Chiefs.” He exemplifies the role of the individual acting in history for the benefit of future generations. Without his crucial leadership, it were doubtful that the Union would have prevailed.

The battlefields of the Civil War were the birthplace of the conception of “total war” in the United States. Under the leadership of Generals Grant and Sherman, the development of the principle of “auftragstaktik” was forged.

This principle, “auftragstaktik”, was first developed by the Prussians after their defeat by Napoleon in 1806. This doctrine was developed over time by von Scharnhorst, von Clausewitz, and others. This is a doctrine which encourages commanders to exhibit independent judgement, initiative, improvization, and adaptability to changing battlefield conditions, even to the point of revising orders - so long as it was in line with the intent of the general. It allows for tremendous flexibility while retaining the commitment to the mission, deepening the trust and competencies between the troops and their command.

The concept of “total war” does not signify a war of annihilation against every single soldier on the opposing side, but to crush the means for the enemy to prosecute the war. This is done by breaking his will to fight: destroying his infrastructure and supply capability. Included in this conception, is also “winning the peace”: no retribution; further, economic and other development such that the former enemy becomes an ally.

President Lincoln brought in one of the best military minds of the nation as an adviser, General Winfield Scott. Lincoln, through his own insights and that of such as Scott, drew up a war plan based on this conception of “total war”: not by occupation of the South by the North, but by the destruction of the means of carrying on a war by the Confederate armies. The strategy utilized a naval blockade, and the seizure of the Mississippi River; the armies were to attack the whole strategic line of the Confederacy until a weak spot could be found, then drive through that area to outflank and destroy the enemy. It is well known that although President Lincoln understood the power of this conception, many of his generals did not – until the collaboration of Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman.

Much of what we understand today as “modern warfare” – strategic planning, command, logistics and mapping – was developed under “crash program” conditions; for at the onset of the Civil War, the North was unprepared to fight. Although the majority of officers on both sides were trained at West Point, with education in subjects such as strategy, engineering and mathematics, the largest battle that had been fought recently had been the Mexican War, involving about 14,000 troops. There had been little or no capability for the development of leadership under battlefield conditions.

For a time, President Lincoln himself had to perform the functions that in a modern command system would be discharged by a chief of the general staff (or Joint Chiefs of Staff). Specific duties that were necessary for waging an extensive war, such as adjutant general, quartermaster general, chief of ordnance, etc., were virtually non-existent; there weren’t even accurate military topography maps for the Army of the Potomac until 1863!

Also around that time, Lincoln and Grant collaborated with Congress to create a modern command system. They created the Office of the Chief of Staff, filled by Gen. Halleck, who became the liasion between Lincoln and Grant. Grant was appointed by Lincoln at this time to be the General-in-Chief, and had 17 different commands with 533,000 men under him. With a system of command in place, Grant was able to concentrate on tactics. President Lincoln was often not concerned with the details of Grant‘s strategy, but only the overview. (This is similar to a general of modern times, Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.: “Never tell people how to do things – tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”)[11]

As part of the conception of “total war”, Generals Grant and Sherman understood that the destruction of the economic resources of the enemy (railroads, factories, and other infrastructure) were an effective means of warfare, and sometimes more powerful than the destruction of his armies.

In a letter of September 1863 to General Halleck, then the Commander in Chief, Sherman elaborated his thinking regarding military strategy:

“...The people even of small and unimportant localities, North as well as South, had reasoned themselves into the belief that their opinions were superior to the aggregated interest of the whole nation. Half our territorial nation rebelled on a doctrine of secession that they themselves now scout; and a real numerical majority actually believed that a little State was endowed with such sovereignty that it could defeat the policy of the great whole. I think the present war has exploded that notion, and were this war to cease now, the experience gained, though dear, would be worth the expense.

“Another great and important natural truth is still in contest, and can only be solved by war. Numerical majorities by vote have been our great arbiters. Heretofore all men have cheerfully submitted to it in questions left open, but numerical majorities are not necessarily physical majorities. The South, though numerically inferior, contended they can whip the Northern superiority of numbers, and therefore by natural law they contend that they are not bound to submit. This issue is the only real one, and in my judgment all else should be deferred to it. War alone can decide it, and it is the only question now left for us as a people to decide...our armies must prevail over theirs; our officers, marshals and courts, must penetrate into the innermost recesses of their land, before we have the natural right to demand their submission.

“I would banish all minor questions, and assert the broad doctrine that as a nation the United States had the right, and also the physical power, to penetrate to every part of our national domain...

“I even believe and contend further that, in the North, every member of the nation is bound by both natural and constitutional law to ‘maintain and defend the Government agaist all its enemies and opposers whomsoever...

“War is upon us, none can deny it. It is not the choice of the Government of the United States, but of a faction; the Government was forced to accept the issue, or to submit to degradation fatal and disgraceful to all the inhabitants. In accepting war, it should be ‘pure and simple’ as applied to the belligerents. I would keep it so, till all traces of the war are effaced: till those who appealed to it are sick and tired of it, and come to the emblem of our nation, and sue for peace. I would not coax them, or even meet them halfway, but make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it.”[12]

We shall see the differences in the principle of “total war” and “auftragstaktik” in these two battles amongst the soldiers on both sides, and how the commitment to the mission of defending the Union, as opposed to states‘ rights, was a strategic factor in saving the country.

The Qualities of Leadership: Grant and Sherman vs. Lee

The purpose of this article is not to develop a full analysis or biographies of all of the leaders within the war, but to give a glimpse of the qualities of leaders. It is useful to know something of the character of the key leaders in the Battle of Gettysburg, and the Battle of Vicksburg. It is important to bear in mind that virtually all of the top officers on both sides were trained at West Point (Lee was a top graduate). This underscores the importance of the role played by one’s culture and sense of mission in achieving victory, not just the level of education. Some of the other generals – such as Longstreet, Meade and others will be discussed in the course of the description of the battles.

Robert E. Lee

Robert Edward Lee.

A telling incident as to the state of mind of Gen. Robert E. Lee, is the manner in which he sided with the Confederacy in the first place.

In the spring of 1861, Lee was visited by an old friend of 15 years, Major General Winfield Scott, then commander of the U.S. Army. However, at the same time, Lee’s home state of Virginia had just voted to secede. Lee, loyal to Virginia “first, last and always” resigned his commission of 32 years service to the U.S. Army, and three days later, accepted the command of the Army of Northern Virginia (CSA), with the rank of Major General. Scott, dismayed with Lee’s decision, warned him, “Lee, you have made the greatest mistake of your life, but I feared it would be so.”[13]

Lee had won several battles in the years leading up to Gettysburg, but even he admitted that this was due more to mistakes made by the Union command, than any special expertise on his part.

Ulysses S. Grant

White House Historical Association/The Peace Makers by George Peter Alexander Healy
Lincoln was one of the few people who created “a future for the improvement of mankind.” Here Lincoln with General Sherman (far left), General Grant (center left) and Admiral Porter (right).

As mentioned above, many of the officers on both sides had attended West Point, and had fought alongside each other during the Mexican-American War. This experience gave Grant insights that he might not have had otherwise:

“...I had been at West Point at about the right time to meet most of the graduates who were of a suitable age at the breaking out of the rebellion to be trusted with large commands...All the older officers who became conspicuous in the rebellion, I had also served with and known in Mexico: Lee, J.E. Johnston, A.S. Johnston, Holmes, Herbert and a number of others on the confederate side...The acquaintance thus formed was of immense service to me in the war...I mean that what I learned of the characters of those to whom I was to afterwards oppose. I do not pretend to say that all movements, or even many of them were made with special reference to the characteristics of the commander against whom they were directed. But my appreciation of my enemies was certainly affected by this knowledge. The natural disposition of most people is to clothe a commander of a large army whom they do not know, with almost superhuman abilities. A large part of the National army, for instance, and most of the press of the country, clothed General Lee with just such qualities, but I had known him personally, and knew that he was mortal; and it was just as well that I felt this.”[14]

To assure the reader who has had no military training, or training in strategic thinking, that there still is hope to become a leader, the following passages from Generals Grant and Sherman should inform us that leadership can be developed and strengthened, especially in conjunction with increased responsibility of commanding (or organizing) an army.

For example, the following is a passage from Grant’s memoirs, on being given his first command, after the start of the rebellion (specifically when he was appointed colonel, and ordered to move against Harris in the town of Florida, Missouri):

“My sensations as we approached what I supposed might be a ‘field of battle’ were anything but agreeable. I had been in all the engagements in Mexico that it was possible for one person to be in, but not in command...As we approached the brow of the hill from which it was expected we could see [the enemy’s] camp, and possibly find his men ready formed to meet us, my heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me as though it was in my throat. I would have given anything then to be back in Illinois, but I had not the moral courage to halt and consider what to do; I kept right on. When we reached a point from which the valley below was in full view I halted. The place where Harris had been encamped a few days before was still there and the marks of a recent encampment were plainly visible, but the troops were gone. My heart resumed its place. It occurred to me at once that Harris had been as much afraid of me as I was of him. This was a view of the question I had never taken before; but one I never forgot afterwards. From that event to the close of the war, I never experienced trepidation upon confronting an enemy; though I always felt more or less anxiety, I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his. The lesson was valuable...” [emphasis added][15]

Once, when questioned by the press as to how he intended to defeat Lee, Grant commented, “I know Lee as well as he knows himself. I know all his strong points, and all his weak ones. I intend to attack his weak points, and flank his strong ones.”[16]

William T. Sherman

General Sherman also gives some insight in his memoirs, regarding the quality of character required for leadership:

“To be at the head of a strong column of troops, in the execution of some task that requires brain, is the highest pleasure of war – a grim one and terrible, but which leaves on the mind and memory the strongest mark; to detect the weak point of an enemy’s line; to break through with vehemence and thus lead to victory; or to discover some key point and hold it with tenacity; or to do some other distinct act which is afterward recognized as the real cause of success. These all become matters never forgotten. Other great difficulties, experienced by every general, are to measure truly the thousand-and-one reports that come to him in the midst of conflict; to preserve a clear and well-defined purpose at every instant of time, and to cause all efforts to converge to that end.”[17]

As we shall see, warfare doesn’t necessarily require “playing by the rules”: what had been commonly adopted in many European wars up to that point was “set piece warfare“. One of the major advancements in the Civil War was the method developed first by Grant, and then adopted by General Sherman (and, later in WWII, by others) – marching into enemy territory with no supply lines, and foraging off the land. This was first successfully accomplished in the Battle of Vicksburg.

The Battle of Vicksburg

Map 1: Overview of Siege of Vicksburg

View full size
Courtesy of

In a similar way in which Lincoln would develop a broad strategy and then leave the details to his able generals, we shall see that Grant, Sherman, Meade and other commanders in the Union armies didn’t have to issue direct orders to their subordinates every...single...time they wanted them to deploy in a particular way.

As an example of the principle of auftragstaktik in the field, we see the intent of General Grant to break the back of the Confederacy, by winning Vicksburg, thereby asserting Union control of the Mississippi, which was seen as a vital logistical link by both sides. As we shall see in more detail, Grant’s intent carried over in the command to other officers, who, even if they were not in direct communication with him, nonetheless carried out his orders brilliantly. This was especially apparent in how both Grant and Sherman consciously understood and used the mindset of the Confederate leaders to constantly outflank them.

The Confederacy regarded Vicksburg as a key fortress, and impenetrable. The commander of the Vicksburg garrison, Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton, believed it was an unbeatable stronghold and that the South would prevail. This delusion of being “invincible” seems to be pervasive amongst leaders in the Confederacy.

General Joseph E. Johnston had the overall responsibility for command of the West and had mobile forces; he was primarily based in Jackson, Mississippi. When commanders advised that reinforcements be sent to Vicksburg, Lee and Davis dismissed those concerns, again presuming that their forces were “invincible”. It was this type of mindset which led to one miscalculation after another, leading eventually to the defeat of the South.

The first initiatives against Vicksburg began in 1862. Around April, Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, of the U.S. Navy, attacked and won the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. The fleet then moved up the Mississippi to conquer Natchez, Mississippi, and then forced the surrender of Baton Rouge as well.

Farragut moved his ships up the river, and as they approached Vicksburg, issued a demand that the city surrender to the Union. The Confederate commander, Col. James I. Autrey sent back the reply, “Mississippians don’t know, and refuse to learn how to surrender.”[18][sic]

Although the Navy made a valiant attempt to attack the city from the river, the guns of the ships simply couldn’t be elevated to fire at the enemy batteries high on the bluffs of Vicksburg. Farragut made two attempts, both of which failed. After the third attempt, the Union vessels came under attack by an armored Confederate ram called the Arkansas. They pulled back down the river and remained in the vicinity for about three months.

Then, Major General John McClerland, who had political aspirations, appealed to Lincoln (and tried to employ the fact that he was also from Illinois) to begin raising an army in the north of the Ohio River, to launch an amphibious attack from the Mississippi on the port from the north. Lincoln needed a military victory because of the elections, and with Union forces stalled, he initially approved McClerland’s request.

In October 1862, Grant went directly to Halleck and requested permission to take Vicksburg. He laid out his bold plan: in November, he and his forces (he had about 100,000 troops; Sherman about 30,000) would move south parallel to the Mississippi; then they would move sixty miles east to Jackson, where they would cut the rail lines and flank Vicksburg from the rear; where they would finally lay siege and force Vicksburg to surrender. It seemed like a good plan, and Grant expected little problem.

Major General Halleck responded to Grant, “You have command of all troops sent to your department, and have permission to fight the enemy where you please.”

In December 1862, the plan proceeded. In a move to surprise the Confederates and divert their attention from the main force, Sherman and his troops (now in Memphis) were to be transported by Admiral David Porter to the mouth of the Yazoo River (just north of Vicksburg), then to launch an assault at the Chickasaw Bluffs. Grant was already marching south parallel to the Mississippi to try to distract the Vicksburg defenders.

General Joseph Johnston, aware that Grant was on the move, attacked his supply lines at Holly Springs and Jackson, Tennessee. Grant then retreated somewhat towards Memphis, and tried to relay a message to Sherman to pull back, but it was too late. The Confederates had their own telegraph system, and saw Sherman and his transports advancing; the Union forces came under concentrated fire. The Federal casualties were 1776; the Rebels were 187. Sherman attempted to move further upstream to Haynes Bluff, but rain and fog halted the withdrawal at Milliken’s Bend.

As the new year rolled in, Sherman handed over his command to McClerland around January 4, 1863 (the which was later reversed by Grant, since McClerleand was mistrusted by the officers and troops). They initiated a joint attack on Ft. Hindiman, Arkansas, which was a success. Around the same perod of time, Grant marched to Young’s Point, Louisiana by January 29, just below Milliken’s Bend.

Grant now had four corps under his command: McClerland, Sherman, James McPherson, and Stephen Hurlbut. Hurlbut’s corps remained behind in the Milliken’s Bend area, but the next two and a half months were filled with activity for Grant’s troops – a series of “experiments” thought up by Grant, who considered it better to have men active, than languishing in winter quarters. The first was to cut a canal on the peninsula, and then cut a canal linking Lake Providence down the Red River to the Mississippi below Vicksburg. He also undertook to search for a path along the Yazoo River through Steele’s bayou, but it proved to be too thick a swamp to proceed very far.

To give the reader additional insight as to the thinking in the South that prevailed at the time, an observer in Vicksburg wrote:

“In the midst of all this, Vicksburg – proud, gallant little Vicksburg, firm as the eternal hills on which she reposes, gazes boldly and defiantly upon her enemy, and, with a feeling of inexpressible but justifiable pride she beholds two immense fleets...unable to cope with her, compelled not only to keep a respectful distance, but, astounding as it may seem, actually forced to dig a new channel for the Mississippi! How humiliating to the United States, how more than glorious to her.”[19]

In a particular incident that shows a different view of Grant’s tactics, a Federal soldier who had been captured by the Confederates was confronted by one of the Rebels who sneered, “‘Hasn’t the old fool tried this ditching and flanking five times already?’ ‘Yes,’ came the reply, ‘but he has thirty-seven more plans in his pocket!’”


Meanwhile, Admiral Porter and Col. Charles Rivers Ellet, proceeded down the river towards Vicksburg in a ram called the Queen of the West. One of the prize ships of the South – a Confederate ram Indianola -- was beached and had sustained some slight damage. Realizing its importance, the Union forces wanted to divert attention of the Confederates away from salvaging the Indianola. And, under the principle of auftragstaktik, they proceeded to have some fun with the Rebels.

So, Porter and Ellet had the soldiers and sailors construct a “ship” for such a diversion. The Union soldiers took an old coal barge, and extended it to a length of 300 feet, supplementing it with a raft of logs. They created a “deckhouse” out of canvas, built two fake smokestacks out of barrels, and used painted logs to simulate cannon. They then used pitch fires in iron pots under the canvas housing, to create billowing smoke. When all was ready, they set it adrift down the Mississippi towards the Confederates.

When the Confederate forces saw the ship bearing down on them, the four Confederate rams retreated down the river, and set the Indianola on fire, destroying it. Then, when the “ship” drifted closer to the rams, the soldiers could discern some letters painted on the canvas. As they peered closer, what the Union soldiers had written became legible: “Deluded People Cave In”.

Figure A: Deluded People Cave In

View full size
Courtesy of

When April arrived, the weather improved, but was still very rainy. Grant wanted to go back to his original plan, but that would have meant a retreat back to Memphis, which was politically untenable. To give the reader a sense of his strategic thinking, this is what Grant wrote about this decision in his memoirs:

“Marching across this country in the face of an enemy was impossible; navigating it proved equally impracticable. The strategical way according to the rule, therefore, would have been to go back to Memphis; establish that as a base of supplies; fortify it so that the storehouses could be held by a small garrison, and move from there along the line of railroad, repairing as we advance, to the Yallabusha [river] or to Jackson, Misssissippi. At the time the North had become very much discouraged. Many strong Union men believed that the war must prove a failure. The elections of 1862 had gone against the party, which was for the prosecution of the war to save the Union if it took the last man and the last dollar. Voluntary enlistment had ceased throughout the greater part of the North, and the draft had been resorted to fill up our ranks. It was my judgement at the time that to make backward movement as long as that from Vicksburg to Memphis would be interpreted, by many of those yet full of hope for the preservation of the Union, as a defeat, and that the draft would be resisted, desertions ensue and the power to capture and punish deserters lost. There was nothing left to be done but to go forward to a decisive victory. This was in my mind from the moment I took command in person at Young’s Point.”[20] [emphasis added]

Therefore, Grant changed his plans in mid-stream – he decided to risk everything and move three corps south, commanded by himself. They were to travel down the Mississippi, then cross over below Vicksburg. There, they would face a situation in which the enemy outnumbered them two to one; where they had no supply lines and no possibility of retreat. Sherman and McPherson opposed the plan, and even Lincoln expressed his doubt about the plan’s success.

To get the men and supplies south, twelve vessels under Porter had to run the batteries of Vicksburg. They undertook the move at night, but the shelling by the cannon above the river lit up the sky like daylight. It took the Navy two and one-half hours, with only one transport lost.

While he proceeded southward, and while he made preparations to land the forces from one side of the river to the other, Grant had to keep Pemberton confused. Sherman and his forces were still at Milliken Bend. Grand had ordered Sherman to conduct a feint north of Vicksburg at Chichasaw Bluffs:

“‘The effect of a heavy demonstration in that direction would be good as far as the enemy are concerned,” Grant wrote Sherman, ‘but I am loath to order it, because it would be hard to make our own troops understand that only a demonstration was intended and our people at home would characterize it as a repulse. I therefore leave it to you whether to make such a demonstration.’

“Sherman, who prided himself on being a loyal subordinate, responded indignantly – and typically. ‘Does General Grant think I care what the newspapers say?’ he asked a staff officer. He wrote to Grant: ‘We will make as strong a demonstration as possible.’ Porter still had a few boats above Vicksburg, and they were ordered to get up steam so that the Confederates would think a major landing was planned. ‘The gunboats and transports whistled and puffed,’ said Captain William Jenney, Sherman’s engineer officer, ‘and made all the noise they could. They showed themselves to the garrison and then drifted back and landed the men, who were marched through the woods until they were seen by the enemy.’ Then, the soldiers were taken back on board the boats ‘to go through the same farce again.’

“Pemberton had dispatched reinforcements in the direction of Grand Gulf to help meet the threat from across the river, but now he received an alarming message from Brigadier General Carter L. Stevenson, his commander north of Vicksburg. ‘The demonstration at Grand Gulf must be only a feint,” Stevenson telegraphed Pemberton in a panic,‘Here is the real attack: the enemy are in front of me in force such as have never been seen before at Vicksburg. Send me reinforcements.’

“The regiments that had been sent to fight Grant were hastily ordered to turn around and head back to meet Sherman’s thrust. Some of the Confederate soldiers were so exhausted by the time they got back to the town that citizens in carriages had to help them to their lines. They arrived just in time to see Sherman load his men into their transposts for the last time and sail away.” [emphasis added][21]

Meanwhile, at the same time another brilliant flank was launched to the rear of the Confederates, using the cavalry under Sherman’s command. This was led by Col. Benjamin Grierson, who was a musician and music teacher. Sherman praised him as the “best cavalry officer I have yet had.”[22] They proceeded south from LaGrange, Tennessee, with 1700 men and a battery of horse artillery. Their orders: “Make mischief!” - which they happily proceeded to do. They destroyed rail lines, destroyed communications, and disrupted the delivery of supplies – a great example of the principle of auftragstaktik.

Map 2: Grierson's Raid
Courtesy of

The 500 Confederate cavalry under Lt. Col. Clark Barteau quickly pursued Grierson. After the fourth day, any in Grierson’s command who were weak and injured were sent back north. As they made their way back, they erased any southbound hoof prints that they came across. The Confederates, seeing only northbound tracks, slowed their pursuit, and some forces doubled back, as others proceeded south. The next day, more of the Union forces (these under the command of Col. Edward Hatch), also turned northward. They were to create diversions all of the 175 miles back to LaGrange. Grierson, and his remaining forces continued south. Lt. Col. Barteau took the bait and pursued Hatch, who further delayed the Rebels by engaging them in a fighting retreat.

On the sixth day, Grierson sent out another 35 men of Company B, commanded by Capt. Forbes, and ordered them to sow confusion in and around Macon. As they continued south, they happened to come into the town of Enterprise, Misssisippi. Although their passage had been cleared somewhat by a scouting party of Union troops known as the “Butternut Guerillas“ (who were dressed as Confederate irregulars), this was in the middle of Confederate territory, and safe ground was many miles away! Nonetheless, even though they were obviously outnumbered, the soldiers used the leadership qualities typified by the Union command: Forbes and his company rode up to the gate of the local stockade, waving a white flag of truce. Forbes then announced to the guards that he was demanding the surrender of the garrison, in the name of Grierson and General Grant! He would concede to give them only one hour to decide what they would do. And while the Confederate forces conferred in confusion and alarm, Forbes and his men high-tailed it out of town, and turned southward again. Once more, this is the kind of thinking that outflanked the mindset of the Confederates – by doing the “unthinkable.”

The main body of the cavalry continued on to Newton Station, 50 miles from Jackson. Their timing was such that they arrived in town as two trains entered the station at approximately the same time – one that was eastbound, carrying various goods and munitions, and a westbound, also carrying munitions. This materiel was captured, and then the locomotives were destroyed.

Finally, Pemberton got word of these developments, and ordered several hundred soldiers, some northwards, others southward, to cut off Grierson’s escape. The planned Federal landing was still two days away, but Grierson had successfully pre-occupied the Confederate troops with his actions, and bought precious time!

Company B eventually caught up again with Grierson’s main force, who were galloping towards the Mississippi, burning bridges behind them. Finally, they escaped to Baton Rouge, with the development that one may ascribe to Providence: Near one of the last rivers they needed to cross before getting to Baton Rouge, the Amite River,

“...a Tennessee unit dispatched by General Gardner from Port Hudson had already reached Clinton and was prepared to ambush and destroy the Federals.

“Having arrived with time to spare, the unit postponed its march to the Amite when the good citizens rejoiced at the foreseen capture of Grierson and his raiders, and tendered a complimentary dance to the officers of the command.’

“While we were stretching our legs for the bridge,’ wrote Captain Forbes, ‘the Confederate gentlemen were stretching theirs in the cotillion. After they had danced, they marched. After we had marched, we danced—when we learned they arrived at the bridge just two hours after we had crossed it.’

“Ten weeks later, General Gardner admitted with chagrin that the elusive raiders had caused his surrender at Port Hudson, ‘by cutting off communications and supplies.’ He afterwards met Colonel Grierson and showed him a sheath of telegrams that had compunded his confusion: ‘Grierson was here; no – he was there, sixty miles away. He marched north; no, south – or again, west.’ Confessed the general, ‘The trouble was, my men ambushed you where you did not go; they waited for you till morning while you passed by night.’” [emphasis added][23]

After literally sleeping in their saddles for some days, Grierson and his men were greeted as heroes in Baton Rouge. They had carried out their mission with stunning success, and had covered 600 miles in 16 days!

The flanks worked as Grant had planned. He was able to move his men and materiel across the Mississippi south of Grand Gulf, without sustaining an attack from the Confederates. Sherman’s forces also brought up the rear. Grant intended to have his troops forage, rather than be concerned with having long supply lines; this was later further developed by Sherman, in his March to the Sea.

Grant wrote in his Memoirs:

“I felt a degree of relief scarcely ever equalled since...Vicksburg was not yet taken, it is true, nor were its defenders demoralized by any of our previous moves. I was now in the enemy’s country, with a vast river and the stronghold of Vicksburg between me and my supplies...I was on dry ground on the same side of the river with the enemy. All the campaigns, labors, hardships and exposures from the month of December previous to this time that had been made and endured, were for the accomplishment of this one object.”[24]

While this daring attack was in progress, the newspapers (whose talent for slanders has not diminished over time), along with naysayers in advisory positions around Lincoln, urged the removal of Grant, complaining about some of his previous losses, to which Lincoln responded, “I think we’ll try him a little longer. He fights!”

Meanwhile, Pemberton, who was beginning to get an inkling that all was not well, was refused reinforcements from Johnston. Again, the Confederate mindset prevailed: that “everyone knew” that Vicksburg was “invincible”, therefore, no reinforcements were sent.

Jefferson Davis advised Pemberton to keep his troops in the vicinity of Vicksburg, others advised him to go out and fight with his full forces. Pemberton equivocated, and finally decided to send some troops out, and leave some behind to defend Vicksburg. Typically, he did not even send out scouts.

Thinking strategically, Grant did not move directly north to attack Vicksburg, but instead moved easterly, towards Jackson, to cut off any supply lines, along with the main road leading into Vicksburg. After a few battles along the way, Grant drove the Confederates out of Jackson. In the spirit of “total war“, factories, stores, machine shops, etc., were put to torch. A small irony: Grant happened to sleep in the same hotel room used the night before by Johnston.

Grant used the following method to procure Johnston’s battle plans:

“Some time before, a Memphis citizen had been exiled from that city with much publicity by General Stephen A. Hurlbut, Grants’s commander there. Hurlbut had publicly labeled the man disloyal to the Union and ordered him not to come back. But the expulsion had been staged; the miscreant was in fact a Federal spy, who had quickly obtained a job as a confederate courier. As fate would have it, he had been selected by Johnston to carry a message to Pemberton. The spy brought the message to McPherson, who now showed it to Grant.“ Grant read the message, resealed it, and then sent it on to Pemberton.[25]

The onset of the siege of Vicksburg can be assigned to the initial, May 19, 1863 assault – one that was repelled. The building of the siege-works began with tunnels and trenches of the Union forces, stretching 12 miles around Vicksburg. The Union forces were comprised of approximately 50,000 troops, with 20,000 on their way. Artillery bombardment began and continued 24/7, which finalized the cutoff of supplies. The Union forces had to constantly improvise, such as creating mortars out of tree trunks. The Confederates responded by crafting a honeycomb of caves in the sides of the hills of the city, leading all the way down to the Mississippi.

At the same time, the press—which had only a short time before had scored Grant for losses such as at Shiloh [over 13,000, out of nearly 67,000]—turned to praise him as the battle turned in favor of the Union. It is very much the same today.

“‘Grant now is deservedly the hero,‘ Sherman wrote his wife. ‘He is now belabored with praise by those who a month ago accused him of all the sins in the calendar, and who next week will turn against him if so blows the popular breeze.‘ Sherman concluded caustically‚‘Vox populi, vox humbug!‘“[26]

By July 1, Pemberton was ready to surrender. His troops and the people of Vicksburg were suffering terribly, reduced to eating mules, rats, and stray cats. Grant was prepared to accept the surrender, but deliberately delayed the timing of the final ceremony until July 4 – Independence Day! With the victory at Gettysburg – also on July 4 -- the victory at Vicksburg all but sealed the fate of the Confederacy.

“General Josiah Gorgas, the Confederacy’s chief of ordnance, wrote in his diary: ‘It seems incredible that human power could effect such a change in so brief a space. Yesterday we rode on the pinnacle of success—today absolute ruin seems our portion. The Confederacy totters to its destruction.‘“[27]

The last edition of the Vicksburg Daily citizen was printed on the backside of a piece of wall paper because of the shortage of newsprint:

“It had been set in type on July 2, but was abandoned when the city surrendered. The Federal occupiers then printed the issue, after adding their gleeful ‘Note‘ on the bottom: (Daily Citizen, last paragraph)

“ON DIT.—That the great Ulysses—the Yankee Generalissimo, surnamed Grant—has expressed his intention of dining in Vicksburg on Saturday next, and celebrating the 4th of July by a grand dinner, and so forth. When asked if he would invite Gen. Jo Johnston to join, he said: ‘No! For fear there will be a row at the table.‘ Ulysses must get into the city before he dines in it. The way to cook a rabbit is’first catch the rabbit,‘ &c.

[Note added by the Union troops]


July 4th, 1863

“Two days bring about great changes. The banner of the Union floats over Vicksburg. Gen. Grant has ‘caught the rabbit‘; he has dined in Vicksburg, and he did bring his dinner with him. The ‘Citizen‘ lives to see it. For the last time it appers on ‘wall-paper‘. No more will it eulogize the luxury of mule meat and fricasseed kitten—urge Southern warriors to such diet nevermore. This is the last wallpaper edition, and is, excepting this note, from the types as we found them. It will be valuable hereafter as a curiosity.“[28]

“President Lincoln was both relieved and gratified by the news. A few days later he sent an extraordinary letter to Ulysses S. Grant:

‘My Dear General,‘ the President began‚‘I do not remember that you and I ever met personally. I write this now as a grateful acknowledgement for the almost inestimable service you have done the country. I wish to say a word further. When you first reached the vicinity of Vicksburg, I thought you should do what you finally did—march the troops across the neck, run the batteries with the transports, and thus go below; and I never had any faith, except a general hope that you knew better than I, that the Yazoo pass expedition and the like could succeed. When you got below and took Port Gibson, Grand Gulf and vicinity, I thought you should go down the river and join General Banks; and when you turned northward, west of the Big Black, I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to make a personal acknowledgement that you were right and I was wrong.“[29]

The Battle of Gettysburg

“This battle was to decide not only the future character of the war, but of the nation...The common soldier recognized dimly that this was the pivotal battle of the war, and hence every man’s hand was nerved to do his best.“ [emphasis added]

~ Private Warren Goss, US Army[30]

In the months preceding the battle of Gettsyburg, and after the battle of Chancellorsville, General Robert E. Lee decided to reorganize his army after the loss of one of his key generals, General “Stonewall“ Jackson. He divided Jackson’s corps in two, giving one corps the command of Lt. Gen. Ambrose Posell Hill, and the other the command of Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell. The remaining corps was already under the command of veteran commander, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet. This was possibly the first misjudgement of Lee, leading up to Gettysburg, as both Hill and Ewell were untried corps commanders.

In May 1863, Lee conferred with the Confederate cabinet in Richmond, Virginia (This is the same time frame that the Union western armies had begun to move against Vicksburg). The cabinet debated sending part of Longstreet’s corps to Vicksburg, but Lee objected that this would weaken the Army of Northern Virginia. He argued that the North could constantly replenish their losses with reinforcements, especially through immigration, and that a few more battles with losses like he had at Chancellorsville [about 13,000 casualties out of nearly 61,000], would mean that Lee’s army would soon be wiped out. He concluded that the Army of Northern Virginia must invade the North. His strategy was to seize a couple of towns like Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Baltimore, Maryland, and then send a letter to Washington, DC for a peace agreement.

Lee asserted:

“Our army would be invincible if it could be properly organized and officered...I shall throw an overwhelming force on their advance, crush it, follow up the success, drive one corps back on another and by successive repulses and surprises create panic and virtually destroy the enemy. The war will be over and we shall achieve the recognition of our independence.“[31]

After some discussion, the cabinet agreed to Lee’s plan, and no reinforcements were to be sent to Vicksburg. We saw how well that worked out!

On the Move

Lt. Generals Longstreet and Ewell began moving their divisions northward along the Blue Ridge to the Shenandoah Valley, taking advantage of the rich farmland for food, and of the mountains to screen their march. As they marched towards Maryland, Major General J.E.B. Stuart led cavalry raids against the Union. Although he did some damge to Union forces, he accomplished even more damage against his own army: as the commander of the cavalry forces, he was supposed to be the “eyes and ears“ of the Army of Northern Virginia, but was out of contact with Lee for an entire week! Unlike the cavalry skirmishes led by Col. Grierson in Mississippi, Stuart’s actions ran counter to Lee’s intentions. This was a crucial week, since all of the armies were on the march, and Lee received NO reports as to the movements of the Federals.

At that time, General Joseph Hooker led the Army of the Potomac. As Lee’s army marched north, Hooker remained behind in Virginia. Lincoln’s policy was to keep the Army of the Potomac between Lee and the nation’s capitol. After studying his intelligence reports, surmised that Lee’s line extended some 95 miles. He commanded Hooker to move his army and to plan an attack, figuring “...the animal must be pretty slim in the middle.“ Lincoln wanted to seize the opportunity to cut off and cripple the enemy since he was far from his base; “...We cannot help beating them, if we have the man...”

Gen. Joseph Hooker was not the man. By June 24, all of Lee’s armies had crossed the Potomac. Finally shocked into action by urgent messages from Lincoln, Hooker drove his army on forced marches, and entered central Maryland around June 27. Hooker, complaining constantly that he needed more men and supplies, tendered his resignation. Lincoln promptly accepted it, and chose General George Gordon Meade to be the new commander.

Gen. Meade had been born in Spain in 1815, and he and his family soon came to America, where he received an appointment to the United States Military Academy (West Point) as a young man. He was a civil engineer before the war, and in 1842 was reinstated in the army and became an officer in the Corps of Topographical Engineers. He fought with distinction in the Mexican-American war, and although he was considered competent, his cowardly refusal to pursue Lee across the Potomac led to thousands of additional casualties and prolonged the war.

Meanwhile, the Confederates were desperate for supplies, and there had been rumors of a shoe factory in Gettysburg; so General A.P. Hill ordered a scouting party and sent in Pettigrew’s brigade, anticipating only a local militia. At the same time, Union forces had already been alerted about Lee’s progress, and sent in their own scouting party into the area of Gettysburg, a cavalry division led by Brig. Gen. John Buford, who was relaying messages back to Meade as to Lee’s movements.

Buford’s cavalry-fighting tactics should be noted, because the effectiveness of his forces was enhanced due to superior organization. The soldiers would use their horses merely for a rapid advance, or when it was time to retreat. During actual combat, they would dismount, and then one out of four soldiers would hold the horses to the rear, and the remainder fought as infantry. They also fought with superior technology: the seven-shot Spencer repeating carbine, giving Buford’s two brigades the firepower of almost three times their number.

Pettigrew was caught by surprise by Buford’s cavalry pickets, and was forced to retreat while awaiting reinforcements before initiating a full battle. He reported back to Heth and Hill that Union forces defended Gettysburg - not militia! Incredibly, Heth disregarded this report, and making no further reconnaissance, he received permission from Hill to bring up an entire division (about seven thousand men) into Gettysburg for supplies. This was the second big mistake of the command, not only because they had no intelligence on the capabilites of the Union forces, but this was also disobeying Lee’s own orders to have no engagements until all of the units were up. Thus, from the first day, the Confederates were already at a disadvantage, because they allowed their enemy to choose the field of battle.

The First Day: July 1, 1863

After several skirmishes lasting from about 10:00 a.m. until about 4:00 p.m. in the area of McPherson’s Ridge and Oak Hill (east and north of the town of Gettysburg), the Union forces were compelled to retreat to the area of Cemetery Hill.

Map 3: Overview of July 1, 1863

By this time, Lee had moved his headquarters to Seminary Ridge. Surveying the battlefield, he noted that a strategic hill, Culp’s Hill, appeared to be undefended, and that the Union troops were still in disarray. The Confederates outnumbered the Federals at this point, and he concluded that with a strong assault from Ewell, the day would end in a decisive victory for the South. He sent an aide to Ewell in the late afternoon, with the order, “...attack that hill, if practicable, but avoid a general engagement until the arrival of the other divisons of the army.”[32]

At approximately the same time, General Winfield Scott Hancock had arrived at Cemetery Hill with orders from Meade to take command of the battlefield. Accounts vary as to his encounter with the then-current commander, General Howard, as Hancock was his inferior. However, they collaborated to begin securing the field. Hancock immediately began to organize the troops in defensive positions securing both Culp’s Hill (the right flank for the Union) and Round Top (the left flank). Nicknamed “Hancock the Superb”, his leadership and presence rallied the Army of the Potomac, and after surveying the field, declared it “the strongest position by nature upon which to fight a battle that I ever saw.”[33] By approximately 5:30 p.m., the Federals were indeed dug in with reinforcements.

Back to the Rebels – while all of this was going on, Ewell hesitated. He observed the reinforcements of the Union lines, the additonal artillery being brought up, and, in calculating that the 3rd Division (led by Major General Edward Johnson) was not expected until dark, concluded that an attack at this point would be impractical. Impatient with his commander, Lee had to personally ride out to Ewell and directly order him to take the hill! Ewell agreed to move against the Union forces as soon as Johnson’s troops arrived, but they did not show until dusk, which proved too late to take the field.

Ewell then ordered Johnson to take Culp’s Hill if he found it to be unoccupied, and then assuming Johnson would soon attack, he retired for the night! General Johnson, after discovering that Culp’s Hill was now occupied, decided to wait until morning, without notifying Ewell!

Furthermore, Lee was also considering deploying General Early’s division to the opposite end of the line—the Round Tops—which were still unoccupied at that time. Early protested that the march would be “too time consuming” and would “demoralize” his troops to give up ground that they had fought so hard to gain. This was a crucial blunder: the Round Tops were to become the far left flank of the Union, commanding a strategic overlook of the battlefield below. What was it in the mindset of the Confederate command that such an opportunity was missed—what would the outcome of the battle have been if the Confederates had controlled Little Round Top, on the morning of July 2? We shall see below how hotly contested this ground was!

As commanders, Meade and Lee conducted themselves completely differently. Meade would call conferences several times a day, with all of his corps commanders attending, to discuss tactics and ensure co-operation; Lee insisted on speaking with each corps commander individually, which further weakened close co-operation within his forces.

In the late hours of July 1, Meade called a war council of his commanders to hear their recommendations as to the order of battle. He had originally planned for a defensive battle at Big Pipe Creek, twenty miles southeast of Gettysburg, but when most of the commanders voted approval of the Gettysburg battlefield, he decided to stay put. With its strategic location (the intersection of ten roads), better ground and a strong position (high ground), it was superior to Big Pipe Creek.

On the other side of the field, General Longstreet, one of Lee’s most trusted officers, was advising Lee to flank the Union by moving the army between the Army of the Potomac and Washington, DC. This was sound tactical advice, since the aim was to flank the Army of the Potomac, cut off their supply lines and threaten Washington. Lincoln understood this potential flank, and wanted to keep the Army of the Potomoc deployed strategically. Lee refused to consider it; why?

„“Lee responded to Longstreet: “If the enemy is there tomorrow, we must attack him [there].” Longstreet correctly observed, ”If he is there, it is because he is anxious that we should attack him—a good reason, in my judgement, for not doing so.” But Lee was adamant, “No! They are in position, and I am going to whip them, or they are going to whip me.” [34][emphasis added]

Why did he refuse to accept a reasonable battle plan that could have changed the outcome of the battle? What assumptions determined his choice of attack?

The first day of battle ends, indecisively.

The Second Day: July 2, 1863

For the second day’s fight, Lee’s strategy looked “winnable” on paper. General A. O. Hill was to feign an attack on the Union center, with the real attack to be conducted by Major General Richard Anderson; Ewell was to pin down the Union right (Culp Hill); Longstreet was to take two divisions, circle to the south, and then attack in a northeasterly direction against Little Round Top (the left flank of the Union). Ewell was then to attack from the north when he heard Longstreet’s guns.

Map 4: Lee's Plans for July 2, 1863

In describing the different actions on the battlefield, the reader is asked to bear in mind that many of these actions are happening concurrently, which can be difficult to convey in the written word; please consult the maps for additional clarity.

Longstreet’s offensive was to be made “en echelon” – units lined up like a series of dominoes, one after another, with the troops deployed from left to right down the line, onto the battlefield. Obviously, this required co-ordination and accurate timing.

Earlier that morning, Lee’s scouts had reported that there were no troops from Emmitsburg Road to the Round Top, but unbeknownst to them, Gen. Sickles (USA), who had been a political appointee, later changed this. He didn’t like the particular piece of field on which he was deployed, and moved his forces up without authority. The left flank of the Union was now open on Cemetery Ridge: there was about three-quarters-mile distance between Humphrey’s division (part of the 3rd Corps) and the 2nd Corps. This action nearly resulted in a catastrophe for the Union forces.

Lee, unaware of the change in the battlefield, told Longstreet to attack in the early morning, but again, as in the case of Ewell the previous day, this was not a “direct order.” Longstreet subsequently hesitated to attack until Law’s brigade arrived, which turned out to be around noon – after they had marched for nine hours. Finally at noon, Lee gave a direct order to Longstreet to attack directly across Emmitsburg Road. Longstreet, McLaws and Hood moved into position opposite Sickles. However, again, because of the lack of critical intelligence as to the position of the enemy’s lines, the Confederates found themselves floundering.

Around this same timeframe, the Union forces began to send troops to Little Round Top and had a signal corps there as well, such that when Longstreet was trying to maneuver his troops into the point of attack, his troops’ movements could be detected. He was then forced to conduct his troops on a circuitous march, wasting yet more valuable time. The artillery had arrived in position several hours before the infantry, and Longstreet was not in position until 4:00 p.m.!

Hood had grasped the change in the battle lines caused by Sickles’ actions, and wanted to attack on the Union’s flank (which was strategically appropriate), but permission was denied; Longstreet remained committed to carry out the orders Lee had given. Again, had personal initiative prevailed, the outcome may have been different.

Hood then directed some of his regiments to join in the fighting around Little Round Top and the Devil’s Den; therefore, because of the change in the order of battle, the strength of the Southern army became dissipated very rapidly. Additionally, the nature of the command structure of the Confederates did not allow the leadership to deal with the changed battle lines by moving to a flanking operation. The officers had to deal with an unexpected turn of events, and instead of a unified flank, had to fight with scattered forces. They proved incapable of anticipating and thinking strategically, “on their feet”, to take advantage of any openings.

From about 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., reinforcements for the Union had been arriving. The Union line now extended about three miles, resembling a large fishhook; anchored in the north at Culp’s Hill, curving around Cemetery Hill, and then extending southward to the Round Tops. This configuration allowed increased efficiency of the Union army as a whole – men and supplies could be quickly shifted to meet the demands of the battle (because of the curved shape of the battle lines), and also because of adequate roads to the rear of the line. The hills at either end also afforded good observation and artillery posts, which could be easily defended.

Map 5: Overview of July 2, 1863

As Meade was riding up the lines to check positions, he rapidly apprized Sickles’ actions and became furious. He responded immediately to the change in the battle lines; he took a calculated risk and pulled troops away from the Union right flank (Culp’s Hill) for reinforcements. They had but minutes to move into action; Brig. Genl. Cadmus Wilcox (CSA) was leading his troops directly towards the gap left by Sickles’ actions, and they were advancing quickly. Meade galloped back to his headquarters, as Wilcox’s troops opened fire on the 3rd corps and 6th corps.

Shortly after the initial engagement, Sickles was wounded and taken to the rear lines. His line began to collapse and fall back. The Wheatfield, Devil’s Den and the Peach Orchard changed hands several times, finally being held by the Confederates. With Sickles out of the picture, the next commander was Hancock, who had galloped up to the gap in the line, and seeing one regiment available to fill the gap in the face of the advancing Confederates, exclaimed, “My God! Is that all the men we have?!” [35] Dismounting, he rallied the troops, but they kept falling back. It soon became clear that the only obstacle between the Confederates and the Union troops on the ridge were the 262 men of the 1st MN infantry. If the Confederates got over that ridge, they would be able to break the Union forces in two. This would mean a disaster: the order of the lines would be thrown into confusion, and the Confederates could move to enfilade the line, and carry the day to victory. Hancock had sent for reserves, but needed a precious ten minutes to bring them up. He ordered the 1st MN to “take the colors” of the onrushing Confederate troops.

Col. Colville of the 1st MN later recalled:

“...Every man realized in an instant what that order meant – death or wounds to us all; the sacrifice of the regiment to gain a few minutes time and save the position, and probably the battlefield...and every man saw and accepted the necessity for the sacrifice...[emphasis added].

A veteran of the battle wrote: “...Bullets whistled past us, shells screeched over us; canister and grape fell about us; comrade after comrade dropped from the ranks, but on the line went. No one took a second look at the fallen companion. We had no time to weep...”[36]

The line extended about 100 feet long, with approximately 100 yards for them to cross. The 1st MN went from a march to a double quick, and then at about 50 yards went to a full run, with bayonets. As a veteran of the war commented: “...The men were never made who will stand against leveled bayonets coming with such momentum and evident desperation.”[37]

They held out until the reinforcements from the 82nd NY arrived; Wilcox fell back in shock and confusion. When the smoke cleared, the gruesome penalty was evident: nearly every officer had been killed or wounded; out of the original 262 men, 216 sustained casualties. Abner Doubleday later wrote that Hancock ”...was indefatigable in his vigilance and personal supervision, ‘patching the line’ wherever the enemy was likely to break through. His activity and foresight probably preserved the [Cemetery] Ridge from capture...”[38] After the war, Hancock himself acknowledged the supreme sacrifice given by the men, but argued that he would give the same order again, without hesitation.

About the same time, Humphrey’s Division, slightly north of this action, began to fall back to Cemetery Ridge. Sustaining attacks on both their front and flank, the troops could have easily panicked and fallen into disarray, but they displayed a disciplined “fighting retreat“: a volley, then reloading under fire while walking backward, then another volley, and so on. Within a space of a half-mile, they retreated in this manner, delivering 20 volleys. Humphrey’s left was soon overwhelmed.

Major General Richard Anderson began his attack, and the Confederates’ advance could have been decisive, BUT – Brig. Gen. Carnot Posey’s Brigade was disorganized, and only advanced halfway across the battlefield: the Virginia brigade refused to advance at all! The “en echelon” attack fell apart; the Rebels were forced to retreat, sustaining heavy losses.

While these battles raged, in the southern part of the battlefield at the Round Tops (far left flank of the Union), a new fight was developing. At around 4:00 p.m., Major General Gouvernour Warren, the chief of engineering on Meade’s staff, rode to the crest of Little Round Top and found only signal corps – the surrounding hills were totally undefended. Realizing that troops had to be brought up immediately, Warren bought time by ordering the signal corps to immediately pretend that they were frantically signalling to forces below. He “...directed a battery in the Devil’s Den to throw over a shot...[into the woods below Little Round Top]...It revealed the glistening gun barrels and bayonets of a long line of battle.”

“‘The discovery’, wrote Warren, ‘was intensely thrilling to my feelings and most appalling.’”[39] He quickly surmised that the Confederate troops could overwhelm the hill, and, from that vantage point, enfilade the entire Union line.

His aide, Lt. Ranald MacKenzie galloped to the 5th corps commander, Brig General James Barnes, for reinforcements. The division commander couldn’t be found; Brig. General Strong Vincent, commander of the 1100 men of the 3rd Brigade, intercepted MacKenzie and demanded, “What are your orders? I will take responsibility.”[40]

Vincent quickly brought up several regiments to the south of Little Round Top. The 44th NY and 83rd PA would defend the right flank of the Little Round Top. The 20th Maine regiment of 386 men, was to defend the extreme left flank of the entire Union line. The commander was Col. Laurence Joshua Chamberlain, a master of five languages and professor of rhetoric at thirty-three years old. Vincent approached Chamberlain and gave him his orders: “I place you here. This is the left of the Union line. You understand. You are to hold this ground at all costs.” [emphasis added][41]

Map 6: Detail of Little Round Top

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Below them, the Confederates had turned the 3rd corps left. Chamberlain later wrote:

“The Devils Den was a smoking crater, the Plum Run gorge a whirling maelstrom, one force was charging our advancing batteries next to the Wheatfield; the flanking force was pressing past the base of the Round Top, all roiling toward us in tumultuous waves.”[42]

Thinking deeply for a few minutes, Chamberlain deployed his troops on the right by file into line - to bring the ranks into position facing the enemy and ready to fire. Company B was deployed to his left.

Their opponents, the 15th and 47th Alabama regiments, led by Gen. Oates, had not been idle. Oates, also observing the strategic value of Little Round Top, put his troops on a forced march to take the hill, even though they were thirsty and exhausted from the march the previous day (in 90 degree heat). However, the prospect of breaking the Union line invigorated them, and they charged the hill several times; Vincent’s regiments beat him there by only minutes! Had the Union forces hesitated, the way that Confederate officers had frequently done, once again, we can imagine that the battle might have had a different outcome.

Chamberlain soon faced a potential disaster. After fighting for nearly three hours, he had lost a third of his men, and had run out of ammunition. The enemy began to regroup, for what could be the final assault. Officers of lesser mettle would have shrunk back from such a dire situation. Chamberlain summoned up the courage required for the mission:

“‘ this moment, my thought was running deep...five minutes more of such a defensive, and the last roll call would sound for us. Desperate as the chances were, there was nothing for it but to take the offensive...I stepped to the colors, the men turned toward me. One word was enough: BAYONET! It caught like fire and swept through the ranks...”.[43] [emphasis added]

He led the charge, using the left wing moving down the hill, “ a great gate on its hinges...”[44] against Company B on the right, capturing the Alabamans in the middle. The 200 men crushed the 370 armed Confederates.

Towards the north of the battlefield, under Lees’s plan of battle, Ewell was to attack when he heard Longstreet’s guns, but because of the delays caused under Longstreet’s command, Ewell also advanced too late. Had he attacked decisively - once again - we can envision that the outcome of the battle would have changed. If Meade’s right flank had been pinned down, it would have been impossible to reinforce the crucial left flank.

As the battle raged into the early evening, Early’s division began to move against Cemetery Hill. Two brigades were sent in and, after some back-and-forth fighting, they took the hill for a short period of time. The Union prepared their counterattack; but, again, the mindset of the Confederates thwarted an opportunity: Early inexplicably held back a reserve brigade, and Major General Robert Todes, who was supposed to attack at the same time as Early, arrived late because of a miscalculation of his logistics. The Union regained a tenuous hold on the hill.

At approximately the same time, Johnson’s division attacked Culp Hill, which was only defended by a small brigade. After the Confederates took the hill at about 9:30 p.m., there was an undeclared ceasefire for the night. Once again, without having proper intelligence as to the location of Meade’s forces, the Confederates missed another opportunity: they had camped within two hundred yards of Baltimore Pike—Meade’s lifeline to Baltimore and Washington DC; the rear and right flank of the Union was totally exposed!

The dead and wounded tripled from the previous day: 9000 Union casualties and 6000 Confederate.

The second day ends, indecisively.

The Third Day – July 3, 1863

Incredibly, Lee still believed that victory was virtually accomplished, but for a final push the next day to cause the Union lines to break. He reasoned that if the Army had achieved some breakthroughs with unsupported, uncoordinated brigades, then with a concentrated assault at the weak point in the Union line, the battle would be over. And, again, Longstreet argued that they should flank the Union forces by moving between Gettysburg and Washington DC, choosing their own ground for battle. Lee was not to be persuaded: “The enemy is there, General Longstreet, and I’m going to strike him.”[45]

Map 7: Overview of July 3, 1863

Also at this time, Stuart finally shows up; Lee was furious with him, but, after a short meeting, he turned his attention to the battle.

Lee’s plan was to attack both flanks simultaneously, with Ewell renewing the assault upon Culp’s Hill at dawn (the Federal right flank); Longstreet was to attack the Federal’s left (the Round Tops); and J.E.B. Stuart in the rear to provide reinforcements. Lee planned an artillery attack on the front, to blast through the line’s center (an area where there was a clump of trees, with no hill or other protection – only a low stone wall protecting the Union army), and to follow up with an assault led by Pickett’s division, with 15 regiments of fresh troops. He assumed that Meade would reinforce the flanks, leaving a weak center, through which Pickett’s troops and Longstreet’s corps would create a rout.

Longstreet, upon being told by Lee that he would have 15,000 men, replied, “General, I have been a soldier all my life. I have been with soldiers engaged by couples, by squads, companies, regiments, divisions, and armies, and should know, as well as anyone, what soldiers can do. It is my opinion that no 15,000 men ever arrayed for battle can take that position.” [46]

So, did Lee listen to him? Or, was his state of mind such that he was incapable of utilizing his extensive military training?

At the Union headquarters, Meade called another council of war. He well understood how Lee might think, and anticipated his strategy. He ordered Gibbon to strengthen the front to the 2nd Corps. Asked why, Meade replied, “Because [Lee] has made attacks on both our flanks and failed, and if he concludes to try again, it will be on our center.’” [47] Gibbon and Hayes’ divisions prepared for the attack.

Meade also sent reinforcements with artillery to Culp’s Hill, and initiated the battle at 4:30 a.m., long before the Confederates were fully up. After battling seven hours, with heavy losses, the Confederates finally gave up the field. The Union cavalry, led by Brig. Gen. George A. Custer, then just twenty-three years old, repulsed Stuart’s forces in the rear. Two of the crucial attacks in Lee’s strategy had now failed.

Accounts vary as to whether or not Longstreet neglected to notify Pickett to prepare for a dawn attack, but because of Lee’s policy of only talking with individual commanders, it is not too surprising that the different commands were not coordinated. From approximately 11:00 a.m. to 1 p.m., Longstreet began moving divisions eastward to be prepared to move north and into the Union left flank, while other divisions marched and prepared the order of battle.

Map 8: Pickett's Charge

In preparation for Pickett’s charge, the Confederates had arrayed a line of 140 cannon. The cannoneer for Lee, Col. Edward Porter Alexander, had hoped that 15 minutes of pounding would soften up the lines sufficiently for Pickett’s charge to break through. However, it was prolonged to about two hours!

Alexander had seen faults with Lee’s strategy because he knew that not even all of the cannon were used – 56 of the 2nd and 3rd corps were never fired! Had Ewell’s artillery been deployed, Alexander would have been able to enfilade the Union line. Even with his misgivings of the likelihood of failure, he later recalled, “The fact is that like all the rest of the army, I believed it would turn out all right, because General Lee had planned it.” [48]

Unfortunately, the Confederate troops who were waiting in the woods for the order to advance, were themselves exposed to enemy fire during the cannonade – 300 were killed or wounded simply waiting for the charge to begin.

The Union side had another advantage besides being in a strong defensive position: they were using Parrott guns—cannon that were rifled and therefore a superior technology with increased accuracy (owing to the American System economics applied in the North to manufacture them). After a few exchanges of fire, the Union deliberately disengaged their cannon to save ammunition, and to fool the enemy into thinking that they had been hit. The Confederates took the bait.

After many hours‘ delay, Pickett’s charge finally began approximately at 3 p.m., and the Union artillery opened fire. As the Confederates marched, the artillery tore huge gaps in the lines, and the soldiers would close ranks again. At a dip in the field, the whole line came to a halt to realign formation, but when they had to climb over fences near Emmittsurg Road, they had to break formation and expose themselves to Union fire.

As Longstreet had observed, this strategy of a frontal attack against a strong defensive position, was insane. But, as if to further underscore the tragic flaw in the mindset of the Confederacy as a whole, in the attitude of the troops manifested within Pickett’s own forces, particularly on the crucial flanks.

Pettigrew led the left flank (of the Confederates) with four bridgades of his division, most of which was Brockenbrough’s unit. These brigades came under heavy fire from the 8th Ohio. Nearby, five brigades from Rode’s and Pender’s division, lay resting in a sunken road. They were in a perfect postion to both cover the advancing line, and attack the 8th Ohio. But, without direct orders, without leadership they did nothing, and watched the slaughter of their own forces.

So, perhaps this is what is meant by “states rights”.

On Pickett’s right flank, Kemper’s brigade was to advance with support from Wilcox and Perry’s brigade. By now, the reader can probably guess what happened: no one ordered Wilcox and Perry to advance at the same time, so they came up about 20 minutes after Kemper. If the brigades had all attacked at once, then perhaps it were possible that the Union forces could have been overwhelmed. With the delayed attack, the North was able to hit both flanks, exacting devasting losses for the Confederates.

As the main force of Pickett’s charge came near to the low stone wall, the 715th Pennsylvania broke rank and fell back. Confederate Brig. General Lewis Armistead then took the lead and exploited the breach, breaking the Union line momentarily. At this time, acting jointly without consultation, Hancock and the Vermonters, on either side of the line, ordered flanking actions to close the gap. Because of their own leadership and commitment to the mission, they immediately grasped the situation, and did what had to be done.

The Confederates advanced toward the area of the battery of Lt. Alonzo Cusing, who was mortally wounded, but heroically fired one more round of canister. Not only Armistead was mortally wounded, but by this time, no officer above the rank of Colonel was left on the field, and there was no other leadership within the ranks. This was the “High Water Mark” of the Confederacy.

Whereas in the Union lines, in contast, leadership was represented at all levels: the different regiments coordinated their movements to fill in gaps, and to take flanking actions where necessary. A veteran later recalled, “...each man...acted as though he felt what was at stake in the contest, and all did all in their power to drive the enemy, without regard to officers or whether there were any or not...”[49]

Another Union veteran recounted: “...for two hours we had fought desperately. Our muskets became so heated we could no longer handle them. We dropped them and picked up those of the wounded. Our cartridges gave out. We rifled the boxes of the dead. Artillerymen from the disabled pieces in our rear sprang forward, and, seizing guns and cartridges of the wounded, fought by our side as infantrymen. Many of the men became deaf, and did not recover their hearing for a day or two. It was a grand and terrible scene.”[50]

Hancock rode on horseback up and down the line, rallying the troops. In response to being warned that he was an easy target for the Confederates, he replied, “There are times when a corps commander’s life does not count.” [51] At that very moment, a shot wounded him in the leg, but he refused to be taken from the field until he could see that victory was secured for the Union; he did not have to wait long.

The Confederate troops began to retreat in disarray, and cheers began to resound through the Union lines. Lee had expected a counterattack and rode out to meet the retreating troops. He lamented out loud: “The fault is all mine...I thought my men were invincible...”[52]

The Confederate losses were stunning: Pickett lost his entire division; only one in fifteen regimental commanders survived: the next morning, July 4, only one thousand men out of five reported for duty. The 14th Tennessee regiment, of Archer’s brigade, began the battle with 365 men; only three reported for duty as July 3 closed.

The estimated dead, missing and wounded for the Army of Northern Virginia was about 28,000 and for the Union, a little more than 23,000.

As Lee retreated, he hoped that Meade would attack, having confidence that he was still in a strong defensive position around Seminary Ridge, and could still score a victory against the Union, despite his losses. Hancock and other officers had urged Meade to counterattack, and to pursue Lee before he could cross the Potomac back into Virginia. Meade did pursue, but the heavy rains and mud made progress a nightmare. Then, he waited.

Meade made the terrible decision to let Lee go, and was satisfied to “drive from our soil every vestige of the presence of the invader.” Lincoln was furious when he received Meade’s dispatch: “We had them within our grasp. We had only to stretch forth our hands and they were ours.” He fumed as he paced the floor of the War Department (refering to Meade), “They will be ready to fight a magnificent battle when there is no enemy to fight.”[53]

Were Sherman or Grant in a similar situation, one can envision them aggressively hounding Lee until he had been soundly defeated. Meade’s failure underscores that to flinch at the point of securing the victory, can be devastating – and should be a lesson for us today.

Once it was clear that there was no impending attack, Lee did indeed retreat over the Potomac, and the war continued, with thousands of additional casualties.

The Battle Today

On October 3, 1889, at a commemoration at the Gettysburg battlefield, Brig. Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain gave an address, which echoed in its own way the great Gettysburg Address of President Abraham Lincoln:

“In great deeds something abides. On great fields some thing stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and to dream, and lo! The shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls...”[emphasis added] [54]

Now, as then, the United States of America contends with our old enemy: the oligarchy of England and related families of Europe, as well as their confederate allies inside our country. It were wise to recall the words of President Abraham Lincoln in his annual message to Congress in December 1862, as to the nature of this battle:

“Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We...will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We—even we here—hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free—honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.” [emphasis added][55]

The margin of victory in this present battle resides in the moral qualitites that each of us can contribute to this fight. Our day-to-day mindset, and overall commitment to the mission of saving this nation, will be decisive. As a political organizer, when one is faced with a difficult organizing situation, think like a Unionist; like a great general; think in terms of flanks. Educate yourself and others about the real history of how our nation came to be. Understand the enemy, and strategize to outflank him.

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The Civil War And The American System: America's Battle with Britain, 1860-1876
Published in 1992 by W. Allen Salisbury
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Let us once again fight for the principles of our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and American System economics, not only for ourselves, but for our posterity. Let us impeach Obama, re-enact Glass-Steagall, and join with the BRICS! Let us extend these principles to the rest of the world for the peaceful economic development of the planet. Let us finally destroy the oligarchy that has tortured humanity long enough.

Let us be resolved that “...these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”[56] [emphasis added]

Related pages


[1] W. Allen Salisbury, The Civil War and The American System: America’s Battle with Britain, 1860-1876, (EIR)

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Albert Marrin; Virginia’s General: Robert E. Lee and the Civil War; (MacMillan Publications, 1994)

[6] The National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland has extensive resources documenting this and other contributions to medical practice in America

[7] Virginia’s General...

[8] Randolph, Major Innes (CSA), Good Ol’ Rebel Soldier, (

[9] Virginia’s General

[10] Ibid

[11] General George S. Patton, War as I Knew It, (Bantam Books, 1981)

[12] Sherman, Wm. T., Memoirs, (, 340

[13] Virginia’s General

[14] Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, (Charles L. Webster & Company, 1885) pgs. 191-92

[15] Ibid 248-50

[16] Grant, Ulysses S., (

[17] Sherman, Wm. T, (, 16

[18] Jerry Korn, War on the Mississippi: Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign; (New Jersey: Time-Life Books, 1985), 19

[19] Gordon A. Cotton and Jeff T. Giambrone, Vicksburg and the War, (Louisiana, Pelican Publishing, 2004), 31

[20] Memoirs…, 443

[21] War on the Mississippi…, 96-97

[22] Ibid, 88

[23] Ibid, 95

[24] Memoirs…, 480

[25] War on the Mississippi..., 115

[26] Ibid, 134

[27] Ibid, 157

[28] Ibid

[29] Ibid

[30] Champ Clark, Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide, (Time-Life Books, 1985)

[31] Ibid

[32] Ibid

[33] David M. Jordan, Winfield Scott Hancock: A Soldier’s Life, (Indiana University Press, 1996), 84

[34] Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide

[35] Ibid

[36] Richard Moe, The Last Full Measure: The Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers, (Minnesota Historical Society), 267

[37] Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide

[38] Ibid

[39] Ibid

[40] Ibid

[41] Ibid

[42] Ibid

[43] Ibid

[44] Ibid

[45] Ibid

[46] Ibid

[47] Ibid

[48] Michael Golay, To Gettysburg and Beyond: The Parallel Lives of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Edward Porter Alexander (Crown Publishers, 1994)

[49] Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide

[50] Ibid

[51] Ibid

[52] Ibid

[53] T. Harry Williams, Lincoln and His Generals, (Vintage Books/Random House, 1980), 267

[54] Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide

[55] Bob Blaisdell, Great Speeches: Abraham Lincoln, (Dover Publications, 1991)

[56] Great Speeches: Abraham Lincoln