The public hears a lot about Gettyburg because it lends itself so readily to the form of an epic narrative. Day one: An accidental meeting of the North and South, and the South pushes back the North. Defeat for the North. Day two: Robert E. Lee attacks both federal flanks simultaneously but is stalemated. Day three: Lee masses his army and attacks the center of the federal line and his forces are nearly destroyed. Day four: Lee withdraws his troops back into Virginia and General George Mead's pursuit is desultory. Final irony: Mead has won the battle but Lincoln, tired of dilatory generals, fires him anyway. Coda: Lincon gives his Gettysburg address while the odor of death still taints the air.
Lee's massive assault on the center of Mead's line is often called "Pickett's Charge" although Pickett was only one of the several generals leading the attack. One of the talking heads makes a misleading interpretation of the situation, saying that this was Lee's make-or-break invasion of the North. That was Lee's perception but not everyone's. Lee's "old warhorse", Longstreet, disagreed, arguing that the strong union defenses should be bypassed and the Confederates should take up a stand on ground of their own choosing, somewhere to the east. Mead would have to follow because such a move would threaten cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore. Longstreet could barely bring himself to order the charge, and he and Lee had a falling out.
What a terrible affair.
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