Gettysburg: Hallowed Ground

I had decided to visit Gettysburg as it is one hour north-west of Baltimore and on the way to Chicago. I am fascinated by the Civil War and have always wanted to visit Civil War battle sites. I stayed to absorb the battle scene. It is hallowed ground and I had the Zechus to stand where heroes gave their lives to preserve the Union and be the hope for mankind. Baruch Hashem that the Union was victorious.  I expected to say Psalms (Tehillem); however, forgot my Siddur and failed to pay proper respect.  The Gettysburg battlefield is such hallowed ground that Mitch Morgenstern as an Orthodox Jew is obligated to recognize the sacrifice and tragedy of men.  I feel that the Torah learning in America is ultimately due to the sacrifice of these men.  I would like to sit in the middle of the site and learn a Blatt of Daf Yomi.  We as Orthodox Jews have to be in the conversation of America, be a light to America.   As I wrote yesterday, this is the legacy of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.

I am now watching on YouTube the 1993 movie, Gettysburg.  I am 1:38 hours into a 4 hour movie.

I started my visit, by viewing the 22 minute film narrated by Morgan Freeman and saw the Cyclorama.

Afterwards, went to visit the battle sites. I crossed Taneytown Road and walked along the High Water Mark Trail to The Angle and the High Water Mark. This was the center of the Union line and was the target of Pickett’s Charge . Generals Pickett and Trimble marched on the Union line with approximately 12,000 soldiers. The Union center had 7,000 troops but was well dug in and had the high ground. Pickett’s Charge was an infantry assault ordered by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee against Maj. Gen. George G. Meade’s Union positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Its futility was predicted by the charge’s commander, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, and it was arguably an avoidable mistake from which the Southern war effort never fully recovered psychologically.

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There is an area called the High Water Mark, as this was thee farthest point reached by the attack has been referred to as the high-water mark of the Confederacy. Up until Gettysburg, the Union was losing battle after battle, demoralized, with no end in sight. Lincoln’s magnificent Gettysburg address was delivered on November 19, 1863 at the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery .

I met Greg, who has been to Gettysburg many times. He is Southern.  He walked me through the battlefield and gave me a private tour. He told me that Lee never attacked the center of the Union. He went after the Union’s flanks and attacked the center from three sides. However, at Gettysburg on July 1st and 2nd, the Confederates attacks on both Union flanks had failed.   General Robert E. Lee was determined to strike the Union center on the third day. On the night of July 2, General Meade correctly predicted at a council of war that Lee would try an attack on his lines in the center the following morning.  However, there seems to be some contradictions because it does appear that the Union reinforced their right and left flanks, leaving the center somewhat vulnerable.

Greg added that there was speculation that Lee was ill that morning, was frustrated, and as a result uncharacteristically attacked the Union center. Lee did have the superiority of numbers, so the decision may have made some sense. However, Pickett had to march his army in the hot sun, a little under one mile from their front line located at Seminary Ridge.

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He had to turn and funnel his troops into The Angle where the union was dug in on Cemetery Ridge. The Union army held the high ground and when the confederate army came within range, the Union army opened up with a devastating barrage of iron the mowed down the Confederate troops. The Union army held strong during the three days of Gettysburg and turned the tide of the war.

Greg also told me that Longstreet and Lee did not get along and Longstreet hesitated attacking the Union left flank because of their defeat the day before.  He knew the Union had brought up reinforcements, and felt he would not be victorious. Greg also told me the Jeb Stuart’s Calvary were to attack the Union forces from the rear or from the east and put the Union army in a vise. However, Lee had no idea of Jeb Stuart’s location and Jeb Stuart arrived late on July 2nd, too late to make a difference on July 1st and 2nd, and seemingly ineffective on July 3.

Years later, when asked why his charge at Gettysburg failed, General Pickett replied: “I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”[2]   for his failure.  While the confederate battle strategy may have had shortcomings; it was the Yankees.   The Union field generals fought an inspired battle (I would add a God inspired battle), leading their men to stand up to the Confederate army, with courage and  fortitude,  which was lacking in many battles up until Gettysburg.

Map of Pickett’s Charge, July 3, 1863.

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