Gettysburg Seminar Papers

The Most Shocking Battle I Have Ever Witnessed:


Toward the close of the second day of battle at Gettysburg a member of Union General George G. Meade's staff reportedly remarked that it had been a close thing — meaning the outcome of the day's fighting. Meade responded, "Yes, but it is all right now. It is all right now." Despite a severe battering the Union Army of the Potomac had stood the hardest blows that Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had thrown at them. But it had indeed been a close thing. At numerous points during the afternoon and evening's fighting the Confederates seemed on the verge of victory, yet each time the Union army found a way to retrieve the situation. Neither side had the lock on courage. Both sides fought with a desperation that underscored every soldier's understanding that great issues were at stake in this battle.

Some of the battlefield's most well known landmarks are associated with the second day's battle; Little Round Top, Devil's Den, the Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard, Cemetery Hill, Culp's Hill. All were the scene of heavy fighting that day and each had its role in shaping the outcome.

The papers of the 2006 Gettysburg National Military Park Seminar explore this dramatic, tragic, and controversial day. They probe a diverse range of subjects; an in-depth analysis of Robert E. Lee's July 2 battle plan, George G. Meade's contemplated offensive against the Confederate left, the experience of battle on July 2, Captain Samuel Johnston's controversial reconnaissance of the Union left, the important role of the U.S. Sharpshooters, the crucial battle for the Peach Orchard, the attack of Ambrose Wright's Georgians late in the afternoon which nearly cracked the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, and the story of the critical role that the Union artillery on Cemetery Hill played. I am proud to note that six of the eight papers were produced by National Park Service professionals, and Tim Orr and Bill Hewitt, the other two contributors, have worked or currently work as seasonal rangers at Gettysburg.

Special thanks go to those who helped make the seminar and this book possible; Evangelina Rubalcava, for managing all the seminar logistics, Chris Little, our editor, John Heiser, for his superb maps that support nearly every essay, and Scott Hartwig, general editor and all around guru of layout and design of this book you are holding.

John Latschar
Gettysburg National Military Park
February, 2008

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