Battle Of Gettysburg Essay Research Paper Gettysburg — страница 2

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back across Willoughby Run, a small stream a mile or so west of Gettysburg. Reynolds’ decisiveness in committing his troops without delay was the last contribution he would make for his country. Within minutes of arriving on the field, directing sorely needed reinforcements to Buford’s hard-pressed cavalry, this excellent general (some would say the best general in the AOP) fell, struck behind the ear by a Minie ball. Major General Abner Doubleday then became the senior officer on the field. Doubleday’s performances before and after Gettysburg can best be described as mediocre. On July 1, however, he fought the battle of his life. The fury of this first day’s fighting is often overshadowed by the carnage of July 2 and 3, but Doubleday did not hesitate to commit all the

troops he had on hand in a desperate attempt to blunt the Confederate attack. Even Doubleday’s unit placed in reserve, the Iron Brigade’s 6th Wisconsin, engaged the 2nd Mississippi when that Confederate regiment was roughly handling the 147th New York. These Federal regiments, charging under the leadership of Major Edward Page of the 90th New York and Lt. Colonel Rufus Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin, finally captured close to 1,000 prisoners in Gettysburg’s infamous unfinished railroad cut. History does not usually treat the fourth Union commander of the day, Major General Oliver Howard, kindly. His XI Corps was disgraced at Chancellorsville by Stonewall Jackson’s famous flank attack on May 4, 1863, less than nine weeks prior to this fateful Pennsylvania day. Many historians

even treat Howard’s performance on July 1 harshly. Yet the fact remains that Howard, like Buford, Doubleday, and Reynolds before him, saw that the ground at Gettysburg was the best the AOP could hope for in their death struggle with the ANV. Leaving a division under Brigadier General Adolph von Steinwehr in reserve on Cemetery Hill south of Gettysburg, Howard rushed the rest of his winded men, who had come into Gettysburg on the run, to meet a new threat from Lieutenant General Richard Ewell sweeping down from the North of town. A. Wilson Greene makes a compelling argument defending Howard’s strategic performance in his essay, “From Chancellorsville to Cemetery Hill.” Howard’s XI Corps deployed north of Gettysburg shortly after noon, and Howard knew that he was

performing a delaying action, desperately holding on until more reinforcements arrived. “I immediately determined to hold the front line as long as possible and when compelled to retreat from the Seminary Line as I felt I would be, to dispute the ground obstinately; but to have all the time a strong position at the Cemetery . . . that I could hold until at last Slocum and Sickles, with their eighteen thousand reinforcements, could reach the field.” [Greene, pp. 73-74] To this end Howard succeeded admirably, holding back the Confederates until well after 4 P.M. Howard’s men, partly because of their reputation gained from Chancellorsville, are treated with contempt because they eventually retreated through the streets of Gettysburg. The fact remains, however, that the XI

Corps took 2,900 casualties on this crucial day of fighting. The ground they gave up was covered in their blood, and the XI Corps, by delaying the Confederate advance, saved the Union position on Cemetery ridge. Without Cemetery Ridge, a Union victory at Gettysburg would have been impossible. As the sun began to dip toward the western horizon, the fifth general to assume command of the Federal forces arrived: Major General Winfield Hancock, known to his men and to history as “Hancock the Superb.” Arguably the best Corps commander in the AOP, his first task was to tactfully assume command from Howard, who was technically senior to Hancock by virtue of obtaining the rank of Major General first. Howard protested on these grounds, but Meade had specifically placed Hancock in

command until the army commander himself could arrive, and with good reason. The newly arrived Hancock quickly ordered the critically important Culps Hill, the extreme right of the Federal line, to be reinforced before the Confederates could mount an attack. Hancock’s commanding presence rallied the nearly spent bluecoats, and a defensive line on Cemetery Hill, including Culps Hill was secured. The AOP (or at least the portion that was currently on the field) had fought better than they had ever fought before. This record was short-lived however, for on Day 2 uncommonly desperate fighting would be commonplace. Meade himself arrived at the battle a few minutes after midnight, July 2. This sixth and final commander of Union forces at Gettysburg would rely upon his valiant men,