Battle of Gettysburg

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Union and Confederate Armies
Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, Weapons, and Tactics

The Gettysburg Infantry: The Union and Confederate Soldier

The armies (Battle of Gettysburg - Strength of the Armies) that marched into Pennsylvania in the summer of 1863 were well acquainted with each other. The Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Major General George G. Meade, had been at the literal mercy of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee, for nearly nine months prior to opening of the Gettysburg Campaign. Though Union forces often outnumbered Lee's forces on any given battlefield, Lee's brilliant tactics, the leadership of his generals, and the spirit of his troops had secured numerous victories for the Confederacy, among them the humiliating defeat of the Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg in December 1862 and at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863 (see Army Warfare). Morale among Lee's victorious soldiers was at an all time high and the invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania that summer provided an added boost. Yet the Union Army was far from being a totally dejected lot. Though poor morale and crushed spirits caused hundreds of men to desert the Army of the Potomac, the ranks were still filled with veteran soldiers determined to see the war through. Though their army had suffered terrible losses, most reasoned that these defeats were caused by the constant change in army command, poor generals, and interference from politicians, not by their will to fight. With the Army of Northern Virginia now on Northern soil, the Union men found their roles to be one of liberation, unanimous in their determination to drive Lee's Confederates out of the North. It was enough for many of the deserters to rejoin the ranks as the army set out in pursuit of Lee.

The armies that fought the Battle of Gettysburg were similar in many ways. They were organized in a similar fashion of "rank and file" with privates and sergeants, lieutenants and captains, majors and colonels, quartermasters and clerks, teamsters and ordnance officers (American Civil War Infantry Organization). Both armies drilled using similar instruction manuals, marched to an almost identical drum beat, used similar weapons, and lived most of their soldier days in tented camps or sleeping under the stars. The soldiers who wore the blue and the gray also shared many similarities (The American Civil War Soldier). Most had been farmers before the war, thrust into the conflict as volunteers in 1861 with the belief the war would last only a few short months. Others joined later or were conscripted (drafted) into service, convinced that they were needed but uncertain of their place in protecting their homes while being so far away from them. Still others were "substitutes" paid to join the army by others rich enough to afford the $300 necessary to buy another man's services. Though politics and causes were different, Yank and Reb alike served to protect their homes, their states, and the rights for which each soldier deeply believed just. Most of the soldiers were young men, the average age approximately 21 years. By the summer of 1863, these young men were hardened veterans of war, experienced to the rigors of marching long distances and the horror of battle. For most, war-time service was a brutal journey into manhood. (The Soldier's Life.)

Weapons and Tactics at Gettysburg

A variety of weapons was carried at Gettysburg. Revolvers, swords, and bayonets were abundant, but the basic infantry weapon of both armies was a muzzle-loading rifle musket about 4.7 feet long, weighing approximately 9 pounds. They came in many models, but the most common and popular were the Springfield and the English-made Enfield. They were hard hitting, deadly weapons, very accurate at a range of 200 yards and effective at 1,000 yards (Civil War Firearms and Weapons). With black powder, ignited by percussion caps, they fired "Minie Balls"—hollow-based lead slugs half an inch in diameter and an inch long. A good soldier could load and fire his rifle three times a minute, but in the confusion of battle the rate of fire was probably slower.
 
There were also some breech-loading small arms at Gettysburg. Union cavalrymen carried Sharps and Burnside single-shot carbines and a few infantry units carried Sharps rifles. Spencer repeating rifles were used in limited quantity by Union cavalry on July 3 and by a few Union infantry. In the total picture of the battle, the use of these efficient weapons was actually quite small. (Civil War Small Arms.)
 
Those who fought at Gettysburg with rifles and carbines were supported by nearly 630 cannon—360 Union and 270 Confederate. About half of these were rifled iron pieces, all but four of the others were smoothbore bronze guns. The same types of cannon were used by both armies. (Civil War Artillery.)
 
Almost all of the bronze pieces were 12 pounders, either howitzers or "Napoleons." They could hurl a 12-pound iron ball nearly a mile and were deadly at short ranges, particularly when firing canister. Other bronze cannon included 24 pounder howitzers and 6 pounder guns. All types are represented in the park today, coated with patina instead of being polished as they were when in use.
 
Most of the iron rifled pieces at Gettysburg had a 3-inch bore and fired a projectile which weighed about 10 pounds. There were two types of these—3-inch ordnance rifles and 10 pounder Parrotts. It is easy to tell them apart for the Parrott has a reinforcing jacket around its breech, The effective range of these guns was somewhat in excess of a mile, limited in part because direct fire was used and the visibility of gunners was restricted.
 
Two other types of rifled guns were used at Gettysburg—four bronze James guns and two Whitworth rifles. The Whitworths were unique because they were breech loading and were reported to have had exceptional range and accuracy. However, their effect at Gettysburg must have been small for one was out of action much of the time.
 
These artillery pieces used three types of ammunition. All cannon could fire solid projectiles or shot. They also hurled fused, hollow shells which contained black powder and sometimes held lead balls or shrapnel. Canister consisted of cans filled with iron or lead balls. These cans burst apart on firing, converting the cannon into an oversized shotgun.
 
Weapons influenced tactics. At Gettysburg a regiment formed for battle, fought, and moved in a two rank line, its men shoulder to shoulder, the file closets in the rear. Since the average strength of regiments here was only 350 officers and men, the length of a regiment's line was a little over 100 yards. Such a formation brought the regiment's slow-firing rifles together under the control of the regimental commander, enabling him to deliver a maximum of fire power at a given target. The formation's shallowness had a two-fold purpose, it permitted all ranks to fire, and it presented a target of minimum depth to the enemy's fire. (Napoleonic Linear Tactics.)
 
Four or five regiments were grouped into a brigade, two to five brigades formed a division (American Civil War Infantry Organization). When formed for the attack, a brigade moved forward in a single or double line of regiments until it came within effective range of the enemy line. Then both parties blazed away, attempting to gain the enemy's flank if feasible, until one side or the other was forced to retire. Confederate attacking forces were generally formed with an attacking line in front and a supporting line behind. Federal brigades in the defense also were formed with supporting troops in a rear line when possible. Breastworks were erected if time permitted, but troops were handicapped in this work because entrenching tools were in short supply.
 
Like their infantry comrades, cavalrymen also fought on foot, using their horses as means of transportation. However, mounted charges were also made in the classic fashion, particularly in the great cavalry battle on July 3.
 
Cavalry and infantry were closely supported by artillery. Batteries of from four to six guns (American Civil War Artillery Organization) occupied the crests of ridges and hills from which a field of fire could be obtained. They were usually placed in the forward lines, protected by supporting infantry regiments posted on their flanks or in their rear. Limbers containing their ammunition were nearby. Because gunners had to see their targets, artillery positions sheltered from the enemy's view were still in the future.

The Gettysburg Cavalry
 
The role of the cavalry at the beginning of the Civil War was very limited. Horsemen of both armies were initially limited to patrolling and scouting, guarding supply trains and railroads, and providing escorts to generals. They were only used in battle as shock troops, a tactic which dated back to the Romans. A favorite jibe from the infantry was: "Did you ever see a dead cavalryman?" The foot soldiers believed the cavalry to be "dandies on horseback" who never saw much fighting and always had the easy life. Certainly, the dash and spirit of the more flamboyant cavalry leaders provided the newspapers with many stories of harrowing rides and gallant duels in the saddle. Southern troopers commanded by General J.E.B. Stuart had the grandest reputations of being the best horsemen, ready to ride on a raid at a moments notice or rush to the front to do battle just as the tide was beginning to turn. Of course, truth was very different from the romantic descriptions of newspapermen. Soldiering on horseback was a hard life with plenty of danger. The cavalry's military role had dramatically changed by 1863 and the armies were making use of their horse soldiers in more combat situations. Cavalry divisions were utilized by commanders as advance scouts and as a mobile fighting force. These new strategies culminated in the largest cavalry battle of the war fought on June 9, 1863 at Brandy Station, Virginia. Brandy Station was the opening clash of the Gettysburg Campaign. (Civil War Cavalry.)
 
Union troopers of General John Buford's Division opened the Battle of Gettysburg against Confederate infantry of General Heth's Division on July 1st. The cavalrymen were limited by their numbers and the moderate range of the carbines they carried, but were able to deter the Confederate skirmishers for a few hours until Union infantry arrived. While the armies did battle around Gettysburg, cavalry units skirmished in Hunterstown, Pennsylvania, and on several roads east of town.

Cavalry were dependent on fast movement so a cavalryman's first priority was care of his horse. Each cavalry regiment had a blacksmith who shod and cared for the animals in camp. On active campaign, a trooper had to look out for his own animal and care for it. If the horse was disabled, it was easier for a Northern soldier to get a new mount from the herd which usually accompanied the army. Southerners brought their own mounts with them into service and woe be to the man whose horse pulled up lame or was injured. It sometimes meant the trooper became a foot soldier until another horse could be obtained. The armament of a typical cavalryman at Gettysburg included a light steel saber, a pistol and a carbine. By the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, breech loading carbines were standard issue in all Union cavalry regiments. Two regiments, the 5th and 6th Michigan Cavalry, were armed with Spencer Repeating Rifles, a rifle that held a seven-round magazine. The carbine version of this weapon appeared in the Army of the Potomac after Gettysburg and made a great difference in firepower. On the cavalryman's saddle was strapped his baggage which included a shelter tent, blanket, poncho, saddle bags for rations and a canteen.
 
Confederate cavalrymen traveled lighter than their Union counterparts and were not usually armed with the more modern carbines. Short, muzzle-loading carbines were more common in Southern regiments, including imports from England. Some Southern troopers preferred to leave their sabers behind and carried extra pistols instead of sabers, for close work. Southern arsenals attempted to mass produce breech loading carbines, even making copies of Union carbines made by the Sharps Rifle Company. Attempts at mass production of the weapon failed and Southern cavalrymen relied upon a varied stock of captured and imported arms.
 
Cavalry regiments were composed of ten companies of 100 to 110 troopers each. There were five squadrons in a regiment, a squadron being a combination of two companies. This was later changed and the regiments were divided into three battalions. Cavalrymen could fight either mounted or on foot in a staggered skirmish line. Fighting on foot did eliminate some of the unit's firepower as one soldier was designated as a holder for four horses, including his own, while the other three troopers were detailed to the firing line.
 
The Army of the Potomac's Cavalry Corps, commanded by General Alfred Pleasonton, was made up of three divisions and included two brigades of Horse Artillery- batteries with enough horses for drivers and gunners alike. Each division had two to three brigades which either acted in concert with the remainder of the corps or acted as scouts and escorts when the army was on the move such as during the Gettysburg Campaign.
 
The cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General J.E.B. Stuart, was organized into one large division, divided into brigades, and accompanied by six batteries of horse artillery (American Civil War Cavalry Organization). General Stuart was legendary amongst cavalry leaders for his daring exploits and raids around the slower moving Union forces. Southern writers composed songs and poems about his exploits. The morale of his troopers was very high and they fancied themselves as superior horsemen. One even boasted that twenty Northern horsemen were no match for a single Confederate cavalryman. But Stuart's men were thwarted at Gettysburg by determined Union cavalry regiments which were better armed and led by experienced officers who had learned some of their tactics from the foe. Cavalry not only opened the battle, but closed it in a fierce contest east of Gettysburg. In a decisive showdown on July 3rd, Union General David Gregg's Cavalry Division thwarted a drive on the Union right flank by General J.E.B. Stuart's Cavalry. The battle was fought dismounted until a last desperate charge to break through the Union positions was beaten back by General Custer's Michigan Brigade. From Gettysburg on, cavalry would never be the same.

The Gettysburg Artillery

Gettysburg cannons.gif

Artillery played a crucial role in determining the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg. Artillery units fought desperately side by side with their infantry counterparts during all three days of the battle and Union guns made up the difference during the July 3rd finale known as Pickett's Charge (Battle of Gettysburg Artillery (Gettysburg Campaign): Army of the Potomac and Gettysburg Campaign Artillery: Army of Northern Virginia). Today, there are hundreds of cannon that line park avenues at locations where Union and Confederate batteries were established during the battle. Each position is marked by a tablet or monument with a compliment of cannon of the type used by that organization during the battle. Visitors are quick to note that the guns on both sides are very similar in design and made of bronze or iron. In fact, Confederate artillery units were not only armed with Southern-made cannon, but a number of captured Union guns filled Southern artillery organizations. One popular story relates that a captured Confederate soldier was observed closely inspecting the guns of a nearby Union battery. The man would look at the "US" stamped on the top of each gun barrel then simply nod his head in acknowledgement. When a Union soldier asked the Southerner what he was looking at, the man replied, "Ya'll have as many of them thar US guns as we have!"
 
There were four distinctive types of cannon on the battlefield which could be distinguished by their shape and material composition.
 
Artillery in the 1800s fought side by side with infantry units because the range of the big guns limited them to visible targets. Like the infantry weapons, Civil War-era cannon were muzzle loaders and required a crew of eight men to aim, load, and fire the weapon. Maintaining the large guns was an important job and discipline in the artillery was very strict due to the value of the weapon. One artillery unit was referred to as a battery. Composed of six cannon and just over one hundred men, the battery was commanded by a captain. Many batteries were companies of an artillery regiment. Battery A, 4th US Artillery or Battery B, 1st New York Light Artillery are examples of this. Some Northern states raised "independent" batteries, which were not attached to an artillery regiment. New York supplied fifteen independent batteries including Captain Andrew Cowan's 1st New York Battery and Captain Patrick Hart's 15th New York Battery, both of which fought at Gettysburg. Confederate batteries were, for the most part, labeled by the nicknames of where they were raised or by the name of the battery commander. The "King William Artillery", commanded by Captain W.P. Carter, was typical of a Virginia organization. In the same battalion were the "Jeff Davis Artillery" from Alabama, and the "Morris Artillery" and "Orange Artillery" from Virginia.

There were several different types of field cannon developed prior to and during the war with many different nomenclatures. Four distinctive models were used in the field:

12-pounder bronze gun, Model of 1857
12-pounder bronze gun, Model of 1857.jpg
12-pounder bronze gun, Model of 1857

12-pounder bronze gun, Model of 1857. Commonly referred to as the "Napoleon", this bronze smoothbore cannon fired a twelve-pound ball and was considered a light gun though each weighed an average of 1,200 pounds. This powerful cannon could fire explosive shell and solid shot up to a mile and charges of canister up to 300 yards with accuracy. The Napoleon was a favorite amongst some Northern artillerists because of its firepower and reliability. Two Union batteries armed with Napoleons at Gettysburg were very effective in holding back Confederate infantry attacks and knocking down opposing Southern batteries. Battery G, 4th US repeatedly slowed Confederate infantry attacks against the Eleventh Corps line on July 1 while Captain Hubert Dilger's Battery G, 1st Ohio Light Artillery almost annihilated two Confederate batteries with accurate and punishing counter-battery fire at long distance. Most Union Napoleons were manufactured in Massachusetts by the Ames Company and the Revere Copper Company. Confederate industry replicated the Napoleon design at several foundries in Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina. The Confederate design differed slightly from Union-made guns but fired the same twelve pound shot, shell and canister rounds used in Union manufactured guns.

2.9-inch (10-pounder) Parrott Rifle
2.9-inch (10-pounder) Parrott Rifle.jpg
2.9-inch (10-pounder) Parrott Rifle

2.9-inch (10-pounder) Parrott Rifle. This iron cannon was rifled and fired an elongated shell made specifically for the gun. Designed before the war by Captain Robert Parker Parrott, this gun was longer than a Napoleon, sleeker in design, and distinguishable by a thick band of iron wrapped around the breech. The Parrott design went through several improvements during the war and was changed in 1863 to a larger 3-inch bore and matching Parrott shell. The 3-inch Parrott was standardized the following year and most 2.9-inch guns were withdrawn from service. Parrott Rifles were manufactured by the West Point Arsenal in Cold Spring, New York and also made in 20 and 32-pounder sizes. The 10-pounder Parrotts used during the Gettysburg Campaign had an effective range of over 2,000 yards. The 5th New York Battery was composed of six 20-pounder Parrotts. Confederate copies of the Parrott Rifle were produced by the Noble Brothers Foundry and the Macon Arsenal in Georgia. Parrott Rifles in 10 and 20-pounder sizes were sprinkled throughout some Southern batteries.

3-inch Wrought Iron Gun
3-inch Wrought Iron Gun.jpg
3-inch Wrought Iron Gun

3-inch Wrought Iron Gun. This sleek weapon was also called the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle and was designed by John Griffen, superintendent of the Safe Harbor Iron Works in Pennsylvania. The initial design was built by the Phoenix Iron Company of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania which manufactured most of the 3-inch Rifles used in the Union Armies. This iron gun was similar in length to the Parrott Rifle, fired an elongated shell, and was deadly accurate up to a mile. Much lighter than the Napoleon, the gun weighed an average of 800 pounds and could be easily transported and manhandled by its crew. Only a limited number of copies of the Ordnance Rifle were produced at Confederate arsenals.

 

Model 1841 12-pounder Howitzers. A pre-war bronze gun dating back to the 1840's, a number of howitzers were still in use by the Army of Northern Virginia during the Gettysburg Campaign. The barrels of these guns are several inches shorter than other artillery pieces giving them a stubby appearance. These powerful guns packed a whallop at close range but were not desirable for long range work. Larger 24-pounder field howitzers were also produced and though some appeared at Gettysburg, their use was mostly limited to forts and stationary defenses by this time of the war.

 

There were a number of other unusual guns in use by both sides during the campaign. Two of these are:

 

3.8-inch James Rifle. The James Rifle was a bronze rifle similar in shape to the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle, and was produced by the Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee, Massachusetts. It was not a widely used cannon in either army, though the 2nd Connecticut Battery was armed them at Gettysburg. The James Rifle fired a 14-pound elongated shell and were accurate up to 1,700 yards.

Civil War Cannon firing.gif

2.75-inch Whitworth Rifle. Imported from England by both North and South, only the Confederacy actively used these unique guns in the field. Designed by Sir Joseph Whitworth before the American Civil War, it fired an elongated 12-pound iron shell which fit snuggly into the fine rifling of the tube. It was also unusual in that it was a breechloader. A locking ring around the breech allowed the end of the gun to be opened so that the shell and powder charge could be loaded through the breech. The gun's unusual shape and distinctive shells were a curiosity when compared to other ordnance, though they were extremely accurate and could fire a solid shot beyond 2,800 yards. Two of the guns were in use by Hurt's Alabama Battery at Gettysburg and the shrill whine of the Whitworth shells was distinguishable above the roar of the cannonade before Pickett's Charge. Though the Whitworth cannon was very accurate, it had a myriad of problems with the breech mechanism. According to Colonel E.P. Alexander, the Whitworth was not as desirable a weapon as the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle.

 

Civil War cannon were mounted on carriages made of oak with iron fittings. There were several different sizes of carriages to accommodate each type of cannon. Carriages at the park today are made of cast iron and are made to replicate the look of the old carriages. These were made in a Gettysburg foundry by Calvin Hamilton, a Civil War veteran, between 1895 and 1910.

 

There were many types and styles of artillery rounds manufactured during the Civil War. Smoothbore guns such as 12-pounder Napoleons and howitzers fired round cannon balls. Elongated or conical-shaped shells were used in rifled cannon. The four basic types of artillery round included SOLID SHOT for use against large infantry formations or opposing artillery, and SHELL which was a hollow iron shell filled with black powder and ignited by a length of paper fuze or a percussion fuze. CASE was similar to a shell- hollow inside and filled with black powder with the addition of iron balls. The fourth type of artillery round was CANISTER, a tin can filled with iron balls and used against infantry and cavalry formations at close range. When fired, canister turned the cannon into a large shotgun.

 

An artillery shell was affixed to a wooden base and a cloth bag filled with one to two pounds of black powder. The shell was placed into the muzzle of the cannon and rammed into the breech. The bag was pierced with a sharp wire through the vent at the breech and ignited by a friction primer- a copper tube filled with ignition powder & fulminate of mercury. The primer was attached to a lanyard that when pulled, drew a serrated wire through the primer igniting the charge. An efficient gun crew could load and fire up to three rounds per minute. This deadly efficiency was never more evident than on July 3rd during Pickett's Charge. A variety of ammunition was used against the Confederate infantry formations. One solid shot plowed into Company I, 53rd Virginia Infantry knocking out 12 men. As the Confederates swarmed up to the Union positions, Union gunners desperately loaded and fired double charges of canister into the gray ranks with devastating results. It is no wonder that infantrymen had such high respect, and loathing, for the big guns. (Civil War Artillery.)

A battery was an intricate organization of men, horses, and ordnance. There were multiple duties for each man to perform when not in battle including care of the horses, gun and carriage maintenance, and routine stock duties. In battle, each man had a specific assignment to serve the gun, though many were cross-trained and could perform other duties when required. One battery in the Union army consisted of six cannon, all of similar type and caliber and each with its own limber and caisson. Teams of six horses were used to pull the limbers and caissons that held ammunition chests containing the different types of shells used in each gun. The gunners walked during the march or trotted alongside the limbers when moving into a position. Only when the situation called for fast movement did they ride on the limbers and caissons when going into battle. Once in position, the gunners would unlimber the cannon and the limber would move to a position directly behind the gun. The caisson team would move to a location behind the limber to await further orders.

Confederate batteries were smaller, composed of only four guns and often of different types and calibers. For example, Captain Charles Fry's Virginia Battery, the "Orange Artillery", had two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles and two 10-pounder Parrott Rifles. Captain Hugh Ross' Georgia Battery had one Napoleon, three Parrott Rifles, and one Naval Parrott Rifle. Due to a scarcity of horse reserves in the South, Confederate batteries were forced to limit their horse teams to only four animals. Mules were used when horses were unavailable, but they were not considered a satisfactory substitute as they were more difficult to control. 

In the Army of the Potomac, the artillery was organized by brigades. One brigade was commanded by a major, lt. colonel or colonel though several were commanded by captains, and was composed of four to five batteries. Every corps had one artillery brigade assigned to it for the use of the corps commander. The artillery brigade commander was responsible for posting his batteries and making certain that each was properly serviced and supplied. Two brigades of horse artillery were assigned to the Army of the Potomac's Cavalry Corps. The army also had a well organized Artillery Reserve composed of five brigades. These reserve brigades supplied extra batteries to support the batteries assigned to the infantry corps, and added an extra amount of firepower when and where it was needed.

The Army of Northern Virginia organized its artillery into battalions, each commanded by a major or colonel. One battalion was composed of four batteries and one battalion was assigned to an infantry division. For example, Major William T. Poague's Battalion, assigned to Pender's Division of Hills Corps, was composed of the Albemarle (Virginia) Battery, the Charlotte (North Carolina) Artillery, the Madison (Mississippi) Light Artillery, and Brooke's Virginia Battery. In addition, each of the three army corps had an artillery reserve of two battalions. Despite the larger number of artillery organizations in Army of Northern Virginia, the Union held the advantage in the actual number of guns present during the battle. Many of the Confederate batteries were understrength and missing their total compliment of cannon. (American Civil War Artillery Organization.)

(Sources listed at bottom of page.)

Recommended Reading: Brigades of Gettysburg: The Union and Confederate Brigades at the Battle of Gettysburg (Hardcover) (704 Pages). Description: While the battle of Gettysburg is certainly the most-studied battle in American history, a comprehensive treatment of the part played by each unit has been ignored. Brigades of Gettysburg fills this void by presenting a complete account of every brigade unit at Gettysburg and providing a fresh perspective of the battle. Using the words of enlisted men and officers, the author and renowned Civil War historian, Bradley Gottfried, weaves a fascinating narrative of the role played by every brigade at the famous three-day battle, as well as a detailed description of each brigade unit. Continued below.

Organized by order of battle, each brigade is covered in complete and exhaustive detail: where it fought, who commanded, what constituted the unit, and how it performed in battle. Innovative in its approach and comprehensive in its coverage, Brigades of Gettysburg is certain to be a classic and indispensable reference for the battle of Gettysburg for years to come.

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Gettysburg Campaign (June-July 1863)

Recommended Reading: Gettysburg--The First Day, by Harry W. Pfanz (Civil War America) (Hardcover). Description: Though a great deal has been written about the battle of Gettysburg, much of it has focused on the events of the second and third days. With this book, the first day's fighting finally receives its due. Harry Pfanz, a former historian at Gettysburg National Military Park and author of two previous books on the battle, presents a deeply researched, definitive account of the events of July 1, 1863. Continued below.

After sketching the background of the Gettysburg campaign and recounting the events immediately preceding the battle, Pfanz offers a detailed tactical description of the first day's fighting. He describes the engagements in McPherson Woods, at the Railroad Cuts, on Oak Ridge, on Seminary Ridge, and at Blocher's Knoll, as well as the retreat of Union forces through Gettysburg and the Federal rally on Cemetery Hill. Throughout, he draws on deep research in published and archival sources to challenge some of the common assumptions about the battle--for example, that Richard Ewell's failure to press an attack against Union troops at Cemetery Hill late on the first day ultimately cost the Confederacy the battle.

 

Recommended Reading: Gettysburg--The Second Day, by Harry W. Pfanz (624 pages). Description: The second day's fighting at Gettysburg—the assault of the Army of Northern Virginia against the Army of the Potomac on 2 July 1863—was probably the critical engagement of that decisive battle and, therefore, among the most significant actions of the Civil War. Harry Pfanz, a former historian at Gettysburg National Military Park, has written a definitive account of the second day's brutal combat. He begins by introducing the men and units that were to do battle, analyzing the strategic intentions of Lee and Meade as commanders of the opposing armies, and describing the concentration of forces in the area around Gettysburg. He then examines the development of tactical plans and the deployment of troops for the approaching battle. But the emphasis is on the fighting itself. Pfanz provides a thorough account of the Confederates' smashing assaults—at Devil's Den and Little Round Top, through the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard, and against the Union center at Cemetery Ridge. He also details the Union defense that eventually succeeded in beating back these assaults, depriving Lee's gallant army of victory. Continued below.

Pfanz analyzes decisions and events that have sparked debate for more than a century. In particular he discusses factors underlying the Meade-Sickles controversy and the questions about Longstreet's delay in attacking the Union left. The narrative is also enhanced by thirteen superb maps, more than eighty illustrations, brief portraits of the leading commanders, and observations on artillery, weapons, and tactics that will be of help even to knowledgeable readers. Gettysburg—The Second Day is certain to become a Civil War classic. What makes the work so authoritative is Pfanz's mastery of the Gettysburg literature and his unparalleled knowledge of the ground on which the fighting occurred. His sources include the Official Records, regimental histories and personal reminiscences from soldiers North and South, personal papers and diaries, newspaper files, and last—but assuredly not least—the Gettysburg battlefield. Pfanz's career in the National Park Service included a ten-year assignment as a park historian at Gettysburg. Without doubt, he knows the terrain of the battle as well as he knows the battle itself.

 

Recommended Reading: Gettysburg, Day Three, by Jeffry D. Wert. Description: On July 1 and 2, 1863, armies commanded by George Meade and Robert E. Lee clashed in the hilly farm country surrounding Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Badly bloodied, the outcome of the battle still uncertain, they fought on into a third day, one whose close would decide the Civil War. Jeffry Wert, a Pennsylvania high school teacher and well-published scholar of Civil War history, offers a sweeping account of that third day of battle, one that relies heavily on letters, diaries, and other primary sources. Continued below.

From those combatants, we learn of the "carnival of hell" that was Pickett's Charge, when "the incessant rattle of musketry sounded like the grinding of some huge mill." We read of the heroic Union defense of Culp's Hill against equally heroic Confederate attackers, of a stirring charge of Virginia cavalry that elicited "a murmur of admiration" from opposing Michigan horsemen led by George Armstrong Custer, and of the exhaustion and terror of ordinary soldiers, one of whom mused, "What men are these we slaughter like cattle and still they come at us?" Like the battle itself on that final day at Gettysburg, Wert's narrative unfolds with breakneck speed, and sometimes with so much detail as to yield momentary confusion as it proceeds from one butchery to the next. Still, his account is painstakingly researched and very well written, and it deserves a place on the shelf alongside the work of Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote, and other popular historians of the Civil War. --Gregory McNamee

 

Recommended Reading: Gettysburg--Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill (Civil War America) (Hardcover). Description: In this companion to his celebrated earlier book, Gettysburg—The Second Day, Harry Pfanz provides the first definitive account of the fighting between the Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill—two of the most critical engagements fought at Gettysburg on 2 and 3 July 1863. Pfanz provides detailed tactical accounts of each stage of the contest and explores the interactions between—and decisions made by—generals on both sides. In particular, he illuminates Confederate lieutenant general Richard S. Ewell's controversial decision not to attack Cemetery Hill after the initial southern victory on 1 July. Pfanz also explores other salient features of the fighting, including the Confederate occupation of the town of Gettysburg, the skirmishing in the south end of town and in front of the hills, the use of breastworks on Culp's Hill, and the small but decisive fight between Union cavalry and the Stonewall Brigade. Continued below.

About the Author: Harry W. Pfanz is author of Gettysburg--The First Day and Gettysburg--The Second Day. A lieutenant, field artillery, during World War II, he served for ten years as a historian at Gettysburg National Military Park and retired from the position of Chief Historian of the National Park Service in 1981. To purchase additional books from Pfanz, a convenient Amazon Search Box is provided at the bottom of this page.

 

Recommended Reading: General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse. Review: You cannot say that University of North Carolina professor Glatthaar (Partners in Command) did not do his homework in this massive examination of the Civil War–era lives of the men in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Glatthaar spent nearly 20 years examining and ordering primary source material to ferret out why Lee's men fought, how they lived during the war, how they came close to winning, and why they lost. Glatthaar marshals convincing evidence to challenge the often-expressed notion that the war in the South was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight and that support for slavery was concentrated among the Southern upper class. Continued below.

Lee's army included the rich, poor and middle-class, according to the author, who contends that there was broad support for the war in all economic strata of Confederate society. He also challenges the myth that because Union forces outnumbered and materially outmatched the Confederates, the rebel cause was lost, and articulates Lee and his army's acumen and achievements in the face of this overwhelming opposition. This well-written work provides much food for thought for all Civil War buffs.
 
Recommended Reading: ONE CONTINUOUS FIGHT: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 (Hardcover) (June 2008). Description: The titanic three-day battle of Gettysburg left 50,000 casualties in its wake, a battered Southern army far from its base of supplies, and a rich historiographic legacy. Thousands of books and articles cover nearly every aspect of the battle, but not a single volume focuses on the military aspects of the monumentally important movements of the armies to and across the Potomac River. One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 is the first detailed military history of Lee's retreat and the Union effort to catch and destroy the wounded Army of Northern Virginia. Against steep odds and encumbered with thousands of casualties, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee's post-battle task was to successfully withdraw his army across the Potomac River. Union commander George G. Meade's equally difficult assignment was to intercept the effort and destroy his enemy. The responsibility for defending the exposed Southern columns belonged to cavalry chieftain James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart. If Stuart fumbled his famous ride north to Gettysburg, his generalship during the retreat more than redeemed his flagging reputation. The ten days of retreat triggered nearly two dozen skirmishes and major engagements, including fighting at Granite Hill, Monterey Pass, Hagerstown, Williamsport, Funkstown, Boonsboro, and Falling Waters. Continued below.
President Abraham Lincoln was thankful for the early July battlefield victory, but disappointed that General Meade was unable to surround and crush the Confederates before they found safety on the far side of the Potomac. Exactly what Meade did to try to intercept the fleeing Confederates, and how the Southerners managed to defend their army and ponderous 17-mile long wagon train of wounded until crossing into western Virginia on the early morning of July 14, is the subject of this study. One Continuous Fight draws upon a massive array of documents, letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and published primary and secondary sources. These long-ignored foundational sources allow the authors, each widely known for their expertise in Civil War cavalry operations, to describe carefully each engagement. The result is a rich and comprehensive study loaded with incisive tactical commentary, new perspectives on the strategic role of the Southern and Northern cavalry, and fresh insights on every engagement, large and small, fought during the retreat. The retreat from Gettysburg was so punctuated with fighting that a soldier felt compelled to describe it as "One Continuous Fight." Until now, few students fully realized the accuracy of that description. Complimented with 18 original maps, dozens of photos, and a complete driving tour with GPS coordinates of the entire retreat, One Continuous Fight is an essential book for every student of the American Civil War in general, and for the student of Gettysburg in particular. About the Authors: Eric J. Wittenberg has written widely on Civil War cavalry operations. His books include Glory Enough for All (2002), The Union Cavalry Comes of Age (2003), and The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads and the Civil War's Final Campaign (2005). He lives in Columbus, Ohio. J. David Petruzzi is the author of several magazine articles on Eastern Theater cavalry operations, conducts tours of cavalry sites of the Gettysburg Campaign, and is the author of the popular "Buford's Boys." A long time student of the Gettysburg Campaign, Michael Nugent is a retired US Army Armored Cavalry Officer and the descendant of a Civil War Cavalry soldier. He has previously written for several military publications. Nugent lives in Wells, Maine.

Sources: Gettysburg National Military Park; Dean Thomas, Cannons, An Introduction to Civil War Artillery, Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, 1985; James Hazlett, Edwin Olmstead, & M. Hume Parks, Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, University of Delaware Press, Newark, 1983; Monroe Cockrell, editor, Gunner With Stonewall, Reminiscences of William Thomas Poague, McCowat-Mercer Press, Jackson, TN, 1957; George M. Neese, Three Years in the Confederate Horse Artillery, Morningside Bookshop, Dayton, 1988; Norman L. Ritchie, editor, Four Years in the First New York Light Artillery, the papers of David F. Ritchie, Edmonston Publishing, Hamilton, NY, 1997; Bell Irvin Wiley, The Life of Billy Yank, The Common Soldier of the Union, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1952 & 1978; Bell Irvin Wiley, The Life of Johnny Reb, The Common Soldier of the Confederacy, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1943 & 1978; John D. Billings, Hardtack & Coffee or The Unwritten Story of Army Life, Benchmark Publishing Corp., Glendale, NY, 1970 (reprint); Albaugh, William A., III, Hugh Benet, Jr., and Edward N. Simmons, Confederate Handguns. Philadelphia: Riling and Lentz, 1963; Edwards, William B., Civil War Guns. Secaucus, N.J.: Castle Books, 1978; Fuller, Claud, The Rifled Musket. Harrisburg: 1958; McAulay, John D., Carbines of the Civil War, 1861-1865. Union City, Tennessee: Pioneer Press, 1981; Mitchell, James H., Colt, the Man, the Arms, the Armory. Harrisburg: 1959; Woodhead, Henry, ed., Echoes of Glory: Arms And Equipment Of The Union and Echoes of Glory: Arms And Equipment Of The Confederacy. Morristown, N.J.: Time-Life Publishers, 1991; Edward G. Longacre, The Cavalry At Gettysburg, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, Rutherford, 1986; John S. Mosby, Stuart's Cavalry in the Gettysburg Campaign, Moffat, Yard & Company, New York, 1908; David F. Riggs, East of Gettysburg, Custer vs. Stuart, Old Army Press, F. Collins, CO, 1970; Mark Nesbitt, 35 Days To Gettysburg, The Campaign Diaries of Two American Enemies, Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, PA, 1992; Robert F. O'Neill, Jr., The Cavalry Battles of Aldie, Middleburg, & Upperville- Small But Important Riots, June 10-27, 1863, H.E. Howard Inc., Lynchburg, VA, 1993; Heros von Borcke, The Great Cavalry Battle of Brandy Station, Palaemon Press Ltd., Winston-Salem, NC, 1976; Catton, Bruce, Glory Road. Doubleday & Co., Garden City, N.Y., 1952; Dowdey, Clifford, Death of a Nation. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1958; Downey, Fairfax, The Guns at Gettysburg. David McKay Co., New York, 1958; Freeman, D. S., Lee's Lieutenants, Volume III. Charles Scribners Sons, New York, 1944; _______, R. E. Lee, Volume III. Charles Scribners Sons, New York, 1935; Mongomery, James, The Shaping of a Battle: Gettysburg. Chilton Co., Philadelphia, 1959; Randall, James G., Civil War and Reconstruction. D. C. Heath & Co., New York, 1937; Stackpole, Edward J., They Met at Gettysburg. Eagle Books, Harrisburg, Pa., 1956; Stewart, George R., Pickett's Charge. Houghton, Mifflin Co., New York, Boston, 1959; Tucker, Glenn, High Tide at Gettysburg. The Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis, 1958; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

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