Thursday, February 23, 2012

Edward Porter Alexander on Lee at Gettysburg

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Edward Porter Alexander - Confederate artillerist.  His reminiscences are among the best resources on the operations of the Army of Northern Virginia. Why? They were not intended for publication.

This is a great boon to historians simply for the fact that as far as we can tell, he was being candid concerning the war, the southern cause, and the soldiers he fought with and against.

Unlike many of his ex-Confederate contemporaries writing in the postwar South, Alexander was critical of Robert E. Lee. Here are a few words on Gettysburg, and what Alexander considers the failings on that battlefield - and the alternatives that Lee should have explored.

Now when it is remembered that we stayed for three days longer on that very ground, two of them days of desperate battle, ending in the discouragement of a bloody repulse, & then successfully withdrew all our trains & most of the wounded through the mountains; and, finding the Potomac too high to ford, protected them all & foraged successfully for over a week in a very restricted territory along the river, until we could build a bridge, it does not seem improbable that we could have faced Meade safely on the 2nd at Gettysburg with out assaulting him in his wonderfully strong position. We had the prestige of victory with us, having chased him off the field & through the town. We had a fine defensive position on Seminary Ridge at our hand to occupy. It was not such a really wonderful position as the enemy happened to fall into, but it was no bad one, & it could never have been successfully assaulted.

Well, I do not think that Alexander is giving Lee enough credit for trying to exploit the successes of the 1st, but still - this is a usefully honest critique of Lee written by a prominent soldier in Lee's army - free from the mythology and deity like status that others had built around their former chieftain.


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