On this day 152 years ago: The Battle of Gettysburg

JULY 3, 1863 – GETTYSBURG, PA – 152 Years ago

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1 – July 3, 1863. At 1:00 PM on July 3, 1863 Colonel E. P. Alexander, commander of the Confederate artillery on that day, gave the order and 150 Confederate guns open up against the Union line located approximately 1 mile away along Cemetery Ridge. The plan was to soften the Union defenses and then charge through the Union line and rout the Army of the Potomac.

This is a 6 minute portion from the movie, Gettysburg, which shows General James Longstreet discusisng the plans with his field General.s


This is a 4 minitue snipet from the movie showing Picketts charge:


This is another 4 minute snippet showing General Armistad ralling the troops.  He shouts,  “Give them the cold steel boys” and they go over the top.


At about 1:30 PM, the order is given and 12,500 Confederate soldiers emerge from the woods behind Seminary Ridge. They line up in formation about 1 mile across, bayonets fixed and glistening in the bright July sun. It was an amazing sight.
At about 2:00 PM, General Pickett gallops on his horse to General James LongstreLet, commander of Lee’s First Corp . Pickett asked Longstreet, “General, shall I advance?” Longstreet’s memoir recalled: “The effort to speak the order failed, and I could only indicate it by an affirmative bow.”[x] General Longstreet felt the charge was doomed and could not verbalize the order to charge. He nods and General Pickett gives the order to march forward towards the Union line. The charge is known in history as Pickett’s Charge. Watch the movie Gettysburg for a vivid view of the Battle of Gettysburg, Pickett’s Charge and see all the entire battle unfolding before your eyes.

Lieutenant General James Longstreet                General Robert E. Lee

I visited Gettysburg one item in my life and that was the day after Nachum and Alyssa Caplan’s wedding in Baltimore. I wandered onto the battlefield with no clue what I was looking at. I asked someone walking by for information. He told me that he is of the Southern persuasion and comes often. He showed me the high water mark, the bloody angle, and gave me an outline of Pickett’s charge . He told me that it has been debated for years as to why General Lee ordered the attack, when they were going p against a dug in and fortified Union line. This Southern gentleman explained that General Lee was suffering from dysentery and his mind was not clear. The wisdom and failure of Pickett’s charge has been debated every since the war. Who was to blame? Who let General down? Was General Longstreet a traitor ? 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.”
William Faulkner commented on this moment before the charge of the possibilities, when all the hopes and dreams of the Confederacy can come true. Read it with a Southern drawl.

For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come to far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose than all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago.
– William Faulkner, novelist

I read this fascinating account of the battle by Colonel C. E. Alexander written by him in 1877.

E. P. Alexander at Gettysburg

Letter From General E. P. Alexander, Late Chief Of Artillery, First Corps., A. N. V.

Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. IV. Richmond, Virginia, September, 1877. No. 3.

Montgomery, Alabama. March 17th 1877.
Reverend J. William Jones, Secretary:


Edward Porter Alexander (Library of Congress)

Dear Sir — I have your favor of the 27th ult., enclosing copy of letter from , giving an outline of his views of the campaign and Battle of Gettysburg, and inviting my comments thereon. I take great pleasure in giving them in the same frank spirit in which they are asked, and asking no one to accept them to whom they do not commend themselves, and not pretending to know every thing about it.
My rank and position during that campaign was colonel of artillery, commanding a battalion of six batteries attached as reserve to Longstreet’s corps; and on the field of Gettysburg I was placed by General Longstreet in command of all of his artillery on the field as chief of artillery for the action. As I had belonged to the United States Engineer Corps before the war, and as General Longstreet at that time had no engineer officers on his staff, I was frequently called on, also, during the campaign, as an engineer officer. I mention these facts only that you may form an idea of my personal opportunities of observation and information.


Gettysburg: Hallowed Ground

The next day after the Caplan wedding, I 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 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 Bloody Angle and the High Water Mark. The highwater mark of the Confederacy refers to an area on Cemetery Ridge near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, marking the farthest point reached by Confederate forces during Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863. Similar to a high water mark of water, the term is a reference to arguably the Confederate Army’s best chance of achieving victory in the war.  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.


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 up until Gettysburg Lee never attacked the center of the Union line He went after the Union’s flanks and attacked the center from three sides. However, at Gettysburg on July 1st and 2nd, the Confederate 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.


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 center 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]     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.



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