Robert E Lee
General Robert E Lee / General Robert Lee
General Robert E Lee commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and on July 1-3, 1865, would face the Union Army at Gettysburg. The Confederates were fighting a losing battle on the western front and Robert E Lee was asked to send some of his troops to reinforce Vicksburg which was crumbling under the pressure from General Ulysses S. Grant.
Lee met with C.S.A. president Jefferson Davis and instead asked permission to take his army north to invade Union soil. Firstly, Lee needed to resupply his army off the rich bounty of the northern countryside and provide the battle-ravaged South a chance to recover. He looked to threaten Washington and perhaps sway the favor of the war by northerners against the conflict.
Jefferson Davis gave Lee full support, and with trickery to avoid detection, he was able to move his army from Fredericksburg west to Culpepper, VA. The plan was to mass his troops there and use the Blue Ridge mountains on his east to mask his northerly movement from the Union army camped north of Fredericksburg.
Lee had a head-start but was being pursued by the Union Army while advancing north through western Maryland and into Pennsylvania. Lee had not heard from Confederate cavalry commander J.E.B. Stuart in weeks so his army was going blind into enemy territory.
Word got to General Lee through a Confederate scout that the Union army was near and he turned his army southeast and converged his forces on Gettysburg Pennsylvania. Coming fresh off a victory at the battle of Chancellorsville, the Confederates were confident and poised, and Lee wanted to meet the Union army on enemy soil and defeat them.
On Gettysburg day 1, the Confederate army pushed the Union defenses back south through town but General Ewell was unable to take full advantage to capture the heights south of town. Robert E Lee had instructed Ewell to attack the heights "if practicable" and Ewell decided against it.
On Gettysburg day 2 Lee ordered the attack on the Union left and right flanks and was again unsuccessful in securing the heights still in control of the Union army.
On Gettysburg day 3 Lee ordered a massive infantry assault on the Union center that would thereafter be known as Pickett's Charge. Lee's second, General James Longstreet vehemently opposed this plan yet Lee persisted that there the enemy stood and they would be attacked.
This led to disastrous results and the Southern army was decimated by casualties
resulting from the ill-fated charge. Lee would meet his troops as they retreated and said, "All this has been my fault". Lee had lost one of the pivotal American Civil War battles.
Robert E Lee was forced to retreat his army back to Virginia over the Potomac River and would never again launch a massive offensive against enemy territory. Lee would continue to keep the Army of Northern Virginia intact for the next 2 years but his decision to attack the north had not went well and this would be a turning point for the north in the Civil War.
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