LEE'S REAL PLAN AT GETTYSBURG AND WHY IT FAILED
EXCERPTS FROM THE FOREWORD
BY JAMES MCPHERSON
Every year nearly two million people visit Gettysburg to walk the fields where the largest battle in the history of the Western Hemisphere took place on the first three days of July 1863. Fewer than 2 percent of these tourists, however, find their way to the East Cavalry Battlefield site three miles east of the "high-water mark" at the climax of the Pickett-Pettigrew assault on July 3. Unless specifically asked, the licensed guides who give thousands of battlefield tours each year never take visitors to East Cavalry Field. Most tourists are not even aware that these 750 acres of rolling farmland are part of Gettysburg National Military Park. They leave Gettysburg after driving around the rest of the park without realizing they have missed an essential part of the battle. As Tom Carhart makes clear in this innovative and important new book, one cannot understand the battle of Gettysburg without understanding what happened at what was then known as East Cavalry Battlefield. . . .
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Contrary to common understanding, however, Lee's plan for July 3 was not merely to send 13,000 men spearheaded by Pickett's fresh division against the Union center on Cemetery Ridge. Some visitors to Gettysburg learn that a renewed attack against Culp's Hill by Lieutenant-General Richard Ewell's corps was also part of Lee's plan for July 3. Now we also learn that there was a crucial third component to Lee's July 3 tactics. Thanks to Tom Carhart's painstaking and absorbing reconstruction of events, we now have a clear comprehension of what Lee planned for July 3 – and why it went wrong. . . .
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Why haven't we known all this before? Careful students of the battle have known some of it. But until now, we have not understood how the fight at East Cavalry Field fit into the larger picture of Gettysburg. . . . Tom Carhart has pieced together the whole story from scattered bits of evidence. Lee's and Stuart's after-action reports on the battle provide only vague and incomplete references to the plan – understandably so, since success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan. From his own experience as a combat officer and military historian, Carhart has combined evidence and plausible inference to reconstruct Lee's plan and the reasons for its failure. Given the vast number of writings on Gettysburg, it seems impossible to come up with new information and insights about the battle. But Tom Carhart has done it.
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