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Crises Of Leadership Essay

2143 words - 9 pages

The three-day battle between the North and South at Gettysburg was a turning point. It would be the last time that the South tried to invade the North and was one of the last instances in which the South felt they could win the war. The result of the battle is important, but what is more important is the why. This battle was not simply fought on the battlefield, but in the minds and hearts of the men that fought it. In order to get a better understanding of the battle, one must analyze certain aspects that go into the battle and their effect on the overall battle. In regards to the Battle of Gettysburg, the aspects that could be analyzed in order to fully understand the battle are threefold. First, we must account for the personalities of the men fighting, namely the Confederate commanders at Gettysburg. Next, the actual decisions made by the commanders and the reasons they made such decisions. Finally, the philosophies of war held by each man showed itself to be impactful on the actions of the Confederate Army. All these aspects are related to one another. Assisting in our understanding are the writings of the men that participated in the battle as well as a fictional portrayal of the battle that is the backdrop for the novel The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, which give great insight into how others saw the commanders and what they thought of their decisions and who they were as men. These aspects taken into account with the tactics and strategies employed during battle help uncover why the battle turned out as it did, as a lost for the South and an eventual loss of the entire Civil War for the South.
The personalities of the two most important Confederate commanders were contrasting. General Lee did things not because they were right, but because he felt it was God’s will that he do them and succeed. The will of God had brought the South much success and he felt that the same would occur in Gettysburg. As a commander, Lee was hands-off. He would give his corps commanders orders before a battle began, but he expected his men to change that order and do what the circumstances before them called for. General Longstreet differed in some respects to Lee. He kept things close to him and did not show much emotion. As a commander, he adopted a defensive standpoint and did not feel it necessary to attack unless he knew he would succeed. They butted heads over what strategy to take, but Longstreet always acceded to Lee because he followed orders. This is most evident at the end of the first day. The South, not expecting to be battling, won a victory and Lee wanted to take the momentum and attack again the next day. Longstreet thought that it would be best to take a more defensive position and cut the North off from Washington. This did not sit well with Lee. For one, it would not be the manner of Southern gentleman, as he was, to walk away from a fight. Second, it would not sit well with the men who fought hard for the ground...

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