December 10, 2020 in History

Gettysburg Battle


The War of the Rebellion has garnered some episodes, notably the Gettysburg battle and campaign, which amounted to a major turning point putting the Norths initial economic and logistic advantage on wheels. Select records, e.g. pertaining to the Iron Brigade of the West and referring to the western or border States yet to be reintegrated as Midwest, have narrated the manned mechanism which contributed to the intense conflict growing less of an inconclusive standoff at some point.

Intended as a major breakthrough by Gen. Lee along the lines of dislodging the Union in Northern Virginia and inciting a more determined resistance or opposition to draft within the Democrats controlled Union states, the Gettysburg campaign fared on the strength of early missions as well as sheer carnage that ensued the annihilation battle as of 1-3 July 1863, thus rendering the campaign somewhat of an attrition type in the aftermath as well as followed by a series of initial blitzkriegs. In fact, regardless of the scale of deployment, these could in no manner amount to mere skirmishes in light of the proportionate tolls counting as high as up to 61% on the Western Iron Brigades manpower alone. Joice has provided an account on how the Civil War might have fragmented or revealed factioned patterns as the ethnic or political minorities had come to perceive their civil rights were manipulated. According to Meredith, this figure is estimated at 63%. In the aftermath of the mission, as of 22 February 1864, Col. Morrow reports on the losses of the 24th Michigan Infantry totaling 316/496=64%, which was representative of the First Brigades toll in proportionate terms. Maj. Mansfield, as of 15 November 1863, has recollections of 233/302=77% KIA and missing in action. Not least, of special interest could be the posterior report by Maj. Gen. Heth advising as of 13 September 1863 on the courage and resolve of Pettigrews manpower which, alongside his own scholarly aptitude, never spared the tough loss incurred. In fact, this is what the rest of the commanders have shared in what pertained to the Day 1 stalemate. 

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The present report looks into whether and how the operational or tactics rationale could be aligned against the status of the Brigade in question, while lending itself to the Unions overall strategy and stakes. In particular, it remains to be seen how the Confederate allies with 3 corps at hand and no artillery reinforcement in sight had expected to outmatch the Army of Potomacs 9 corps, cavalry and artillery included. On the other hand, of special interest could be the reasons why the continuation cost was so high for the latter party, bearing in mind that the disproportionate loss on its elite volunteer manned infantry such as the Iron Brigade was evidently unavoidable.

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Documented Evidence: Analyzing First-Hand Accounts

The record of interest starts off as early as June 30, 1863, with Stanton, Secretary of War, advising Maj. Gens Meade and Halleck, about an intense skirmish drawing near, as indicated in Gen. French being forced to retreat south of Maryland Heights and inquiring into further plans as to how his forces were to be re-deployed after having exhausted the munition and surplus overnight.

The ensuing memorandum as of Juy 2 protocols the minutes of field communications with respect to further status and direction following a fierce standoff the day before. In particular, it is proposed that an optimum move would be to either stay put or retire to anywhere near supplies, as one way of delivering on both prescriptions. For that matter, the choice was between the defensive versus offensive.

In any event, the unanimous sentiment (including the rest of the more aggressive proposals, as by Slocum) suggests that the height was to be withheld and the status quo sustained by all means at least until after adequate reinforcement could have arrived south of Gettysburg.

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Analytical Afterthoughts

It would appear that the Unions Army of Potomac had failed to take advantage of Lees apparent blunders as early as the preparatory stages. Sometime around June 26-28, Stuart was allowed to dismiss select joints of the cavalry on the pretext of reconnaissance around the Unions east flanks that apparently constituted the more vulnerable sections of the pockets or salients arranged as fish-hooks initially. Part of the reason could be the inconclusive outcome involving the two cavalries at the outset, showing that the forces were nearly equal.

Alternatively, partial distraction of cavalry facilities could be seen as an attempt at improving the logistics around the major pathways that had effectively been cut-off. In fact, this issue will warrant some extra elaboration in its own right. For now, suffice it to point out that the concentration of forces for a full-scale assault was compromised, among other things, by Heth opting to replenish supplies south of Gettysburg, PA.

Now, Heth was under Pettigrews command, and when the core regiments approached Gettysburg they identified the Unions deployments without being able to see whether it was regular troops or Northern militia. In order to infer the allocation, or assess the local manpower, an initial reconnaissance in force was attempted that would summarily advance to large-scale assault. In other words, it remains to be seen whether the first day, which occurred on July 1, was mistimed, or whether that stemmed from the initially unbalanced deployment around Gettysburg as depicted above. In any event, the series of three inter-related mistakes could have conveyed the momentum to Potomac fish hooks up north while signaling Lees intents to the factions down south which acted upon the update in prompting the arrival of artillery enforcement. Bearing in mind that it took a matter of days or hours, the Army of Potomac must have boasted far fewer coordination failures early on.

In order to fully appreciate the initial arrangements, one may want to zoom in on the map featuring Gettysburgs infrastructural and commuting lines. Inter alia, evident is the rectangular and linear pattern dominating throughout, which may have predisposed the Unions particular fishhook lines up north which are clearly facing the highways in a parallel fashion while encompassing the angular nodes at the outset.

At this rate, they need not even cut off the pathways astraddle, as the Confederates would hardly venture toward Gettysburg via road sections already controlled and swept through. Simultaneously, the standalone regiment hooks were oriented in a manner encircling the town as a would-be semicircle that could have shaped a compact without being exposed as a kettleif only because the Confederates did not report any artillery handy, with the cavalry hardly providing any offensive advantage or proving adequate on the defensive in the event the Union artillery were to follow suit. In the worst possible scenario, the Potomac fishhooks would have salients or pockets as their flip-side edge without being vulnerable to skirmishes.

On second thought, Lee might have realized that only concentrated, pitched assaults could turn the pockets to the Confederates advantage, which is what accounted for the initial or interim success. In hindsight, however, it appears that an interim outcome of the sort was inevitable and well calculated. In game-theoretic terms, it was neither subgame-perfect nor escalatory in nature, yet still counted as an equilibrium the two strategies would have converged to as a matter of path dependence, or in the aftermath of each others initial resource allocations or spatial arrangements.

Lee must have deemed that, whereas an offensive toll would be skewed at his disadvantage anyway (more so in the event of spatially unbalanced or non-concentrated deployments), that disproportionate loss could have been even heavier in case of further delay, which only prompted him to at least concentrate the assault temporally. In no manner was it an ad-hoc move, nor had it been shaped by the seemingly arbitrarily dismissed units. Rather than further biding his time, which would only act to foster the deployment of Unions artillery reinforcement, Lee was poised to capture the stronghold without defecting on his commitment not to expose the town to any major destruction or civilian casualties. Blooms account could be deemed as a lose-lose outcome for Lee as embedded in the very goodwill risk, or moral hazards, as attached to advancing the campaign into Gettysburg.

On second thought, early incursion into the residential area might have facilitated the sheer loss and the reputation damage alike, as little would the Union commanders take any scruple about wreaking havoc on the disloyal civilians or whoever revealed willingness to cooperate with the Confederacy in terms of supplies or logistics. In effect, the game was skewed on many a level from day one.

The flip side of it would be that, the odds were utterly unfavorable for the Unions Western Iron Brigade first and foremost. On the strength of its past operational success and hard-pressed to deliver on its newly given name as a 1st Corps 1st Division 1st Brigade, it could neither inculcate any loss of morale to the would-be fainthearted of other regiments nor compromise the brand itself as a major facet of the psychic or hybrid war that was additionally being waged by the politically moved clergy and opposed by the now-less excited lay youth audience. Compare with Gant pointing to some overlapping or neutral connotations of reunification beyond zero-sum games. Gatewood and Cameron have found the memory to be a lasting source of identity formation. For the same token, Selzer argued that the victory must have been what Lincoln had counted on reputation-wise.

The latter would at least need a major upheaval, a conclusive victory in a major battle, for one to amount to a turning point acting to solidify the nation toward greater resolve. Bearing in mind that the Unions commanders were being appointed and delegated based on their loyalty and experience early on, perhaps in an attempt to partially recoup West Points occasional instances of ideology laden defecting, the unprofessional yet now-experienced volunteers of the Iron Brigade were supposed to bridge the operational human capital gap even further.

Incidentally, the Brigade must have been doomed from day one, in line with the kind of cascade-type, about-face maneuver, with the infantry serving as reinforcement for cavalry and artillery yet to arrive, rather than the other way around. In effect, that may have been a rethinking of the echeloned arrangement in an inter-temporal rather than spatial manner, whereby the three forces would engage in a sequential or staged manner, as warranted by maneuver leeway. The overlaps or synergy would build up sequentially or indeed explosively later on. Rather than signaling the runaway tactics to evolve into a reversal and follow-up attacks, these stages were to be allocated across the three forces. One final merger of strategy and tactics could, again, showcase the Iron Brigades morale acting as part and parcel of the ongoing hybrid warfare.

In fact, the latter meta-level development could in turn be re-aligned to the Confederate units apparent opportunism or lack of discipline as narrated from the beginning. Mention was made of the non-curvilinear infrastructural architectonics acting to hamper the logisticsmore so when it comes to reshuffling the artillery or cavalry. Whereas for the former link it was anything but a binding constraint, the latter must have been inconvenienced materially by the Unions prior dispositionsperhaps to the extent some of Lees more critical units or facilities were indeed forced to eke out on supplies only to end up locked in on their itinerary timing or en route back.


The analysis could be taken one step further, in recalling that the blockade was Lincolns key strategy ex ante as well as a major linchpin of the Unions advantage ex post. Regardless of whether slavery was a major ethical irritant or just served as a pretext to hide free exploitation or unfair deal with the indigenous populace in the North or Midwest, it amounted to an ultimate resource or endowment based advantage in the Souths agriculture-intensive trade, which was perhaps more profitable with Europe and Britain than it was with the US.

At one point as the bargaining leverage was exhausted, the latter would not mind destroying the Southern economy as the latter posed threats to its own accelerated development. With the export channels already blocked with an eye on the major seaports and the European logistics that would fail to get any insurance or otherwise hedge its outbound craft, the Union must have deemed the success story transferable into the local battles, e.g. I just how the logistics routes had been cut off while its own artillery was forthcoming from down under south of Gettysburg.

All of the above is to suggest that, irrespective of whether intended and well-calculated in its select sections, the Gettysburg battle was strategically and tactically consistent with the background of the War, the Unions stance, and the Iron Brigades unfortunately predestined status from the outset.

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