Note: The annual anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg is this weekend. To commemorate that, we are posting, with permission, excerpts from Battlelines: Gettysburg that describe aspects of the battle. Battlelines: Gettysburg contains the battlefield drawings of Alfred Waud and Edwin Forbes, the only two artists who witnessed the battle.
Lee kept his army at Gettysburg because he believed he could win. The first day of the battle had been a good one for the Confederates, and Lee’s experience had been that given the right amount of pressure at the right time, Union forces would collapse. He believed that a second day of battle with the Confederates hitting hard at the Union lines could make that happen again.
Lee had developed a special relationship with his battlefield commanders, people like James Longstreet, Richard Ewell and A.P. Hill. His orders to them were often general and sometimes vague – deliberately so, because he want to give them room to make their own decisions and because he believed they could understand his purposes.
The fierce fighting around Devil’s Den, depicted by Alfred Waud.
But this method of command put enormous pressure on these generals to understand Lee and carry out his vague plans. It also assumed that when the actions of these general had to be coordinated, they would work together in a mutually cooperative way.
But that didn’t happen.