Creative Twist On The Battle of Gettysburg
It was June of 1863. The war had already been going on for just over two years. General Lee and the Confederates were winning almost every battle, but they still had not knocked the Union Army out of the war. Lee couldn’t continue to wait around and allow the Union to attack. So he decided he must go on the offense and invade the North again, but this time he would go even further. Deeper into the North in hope to crush the morale of the northern citizens and finally put an end to the war.
The Confederates were still spread out along the Rappahannock River. Lee started to send away parts of his army one at a time. First goes General Longstreet. Then goes General Ewell. General A.P. Hill goes last. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia were heading for central Pennsylvania. The army first had to pass through Maryland. Since the army was split up into three different Corps, there were many reports of their location throughout Maryland. The reports showed the Confederates were moving north, which made many northern cities panic. Many major cities put together groups of volunteers and built forts to defend themselves.
The general of the Union Army, General Hooker was not panicked on the other hand. He thought that since the Confederates were marching north, then it would be a great time to hurry south and capture Richmond, the capitol of the Confederates. He thought this could restore his reputation. President Lincoln knew capturing Richmond was a bad idea though. If the Confederate Army was to attack a major northern city, it would not matter if the Union Army captured Richmond. Therefore, Lincoln would not allow General Hooker to invade Richmond. This and many other disagreements between Lincoln and Hooker, eventually lead to General Hooker’s resignation. Now the Union Army did not have a commander, and the Confederate Army was on its way north. Without much notice, General Meade was appointed by Lincoln to take over the Army of the Potomac and rush north to stop the Confederate Army.
Now that the Union Army was tracking down the Confederate Army, Lee ordered General Jeb Stuart and his cavalry south. Due to miscommunication between Lee and Stuart, General Stuart was out of position which left General Lee without his “eyes and ears.” Because of this, Lee did not know how close the Army of the Potomac was to him. However, General Lee and the Army of the Potomac were still able to reach Pennsylvania without being stopped. Along the way, the troops in Lee’s Army looted towns in Pennsylvania. They also rounded up African-Americans and sent them to Richmond to be auctioned off. Lee finally received some intelligence from a spy, concerning the location of the Union Army. The Union Army was closer than Lee thought, so he had to change his plans. Originally, the three separate forces were supposed to meet in Harrisburg, but since the Union Army was close, they could catch up to one of the parts of the Confederate Army and destroy them. Instead General Lee decided to converge his troops in a small town south of Harrisburg called Cashtown instead. Lee felt he had picked out a good defensive position because whether they won or lost he will still live on to fight another day.
The Union Army had been making good progress north. Like Lee, they marched their army dispersed in groups based on their Corps. General Meade planned on merging the army in an area 15 miles north of Frederick along Pipe Creek. Since Meade was new, he had not gained everyone’s respect. General Reynolds decided to disobey orders and continue into Pennsylvania to tryed and defend his home state. General Howard joined Reynolds as well. The two Corps lead by General Reynolds and General Howard were headed for a town called Gettysburg to dig in and set up defenses.
The part of Lee’s army that arrived first at Cashtown was III Corps lead by General Hill. Cashtown seemed too small to hold all of the Confederate troops and some of the them needed shoes so they started to head towards Gettysburg. Calvary troops for the Union’s I Corps were doing reconnaissance in Gettysburg as well. In Gettysburg, the Confederate and Union troops see each other, but they do not start a battle. Instead, they inform their superiors. The orders Hill received from Lee was to stay put until the entire Confederate Army has assembled and to avoid battles. However, General Hill decided to do a heavy reconnaissance the next day. He sent two brigades to Gettysburg. The Union Cavalry is outnumbered by the Confederate forces, but they hold them off until Union I Corps reaches the battle. General Reynolds is killed while organizing his troops, so Major General Abner Doubleday takes over the Union I Corps. During the battle, more Confederate and Union troops arrive around the same time. The Confederate troops lead by General Ewell arrive north of Gettysburg, and the Union troops lead by General Howard position themselves south of the Confederates.
During the battle, a salient is created in the Union line. The Confederates take advantage of this mistake. The Union, on the brink of collapse decide to retreat. They retreat through the town of Gettysburg and on to Cemetery Hill. While retreating through the town, the Union Army was in chaos. The men did not know the roads and alleys, so the streets became crowded. Troops were separated from their units. It was every man for himself. Troops ran through houses, hopped fences, and desperately hid from the chasing Confederates. Although the Union Army was forced to retreat, they managed to retreat onto the high ground. The Union Army was still vulnerable on the hill though, but the attack from the Confederates never came. This allowed the Union Army to dig in and build defenses.
On July 2, 1863, the second day of battle, reinforcements for both the Union and Confederates arrived. The Union Army now has about 94,000 men and the Confederate Army has about 72,000 men. The Union shaped their lines like a fishhook and the Confederates formed an exterior line around the Union line. The Confederates had less men, so their lines were thinner and more spread out. This was not an ideal position for Lee to attack, but even though it was suggested by General Longstreet, he did not want to retreat.
The Confederates performed an echelon attack on the Union left and a feint attack on the Union right. It is a good plan, but a few things go wrong. First the Confederates march directly into the Union lines on the left side because of bad scouting reports and the absence of their cavalry. Also, General Longstreet delays his attack, making the whole operation out of sync. Lee wanted the attack to start in the morning, but it didn’t happen until around 4:00 P.M. The Union lines are not doing much better though. Major General Sickles moves III Corps forward to high ground and creates a salient. This creates a thin line of troops broken off of Hancock’s II Corps. Since there is no time to move the salient back into place, 20,000 troops from a reserve are sent to help. Over on the far left part of the Union line, there is a hill, Little Round Top, and the rock formation, Devil’s Den. The Confederates sent Major General John Bell Hood to push Union soldiers off Devil’s Den and then make his way over to Little Round Top. He successfully drove the Union soldiers off of the rock formations and then started for Little Round Top.
Around the same time, Union Brigadier General Warren was sent to make sure the defensive positions on Little Round Top were properly placed. To his surprise, there were not any Union troops defending the hill. Brigadier General Warren hurries to find Union troops. He quickly finds two Brigades and a few artillery troops from V Corps and rushes them to defend Little Round Top. They get there just before the Confederates. The Union artillery manages to injure Major General Hood. He is taken off the battlefield, but without their General, the Confederates still attack Little Round Top.
The Confederates are attacking the far left end of the Union line. Specifically, they are attacking the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment led by Colonel Chamberlain. The Confederates are ferociously attacking, and the 20th Maine began to run low on ammunition and were taking heavy casualties. The Confederates sent wave after wave of troops. The 20th Maine was on the brink of being overrun by Confederates. The 20th Maine defends off one final wave of Confederates and retreats before the Confederates can send more troops. The Confederates realize their opportunity and advance up Little Round Top and push the Union troops back off the hill and down towards General Sickles and III Corps.
General Longstreet sees the Union troops from Little Round Top retreating into III Corps, and he delays his attack. He then organizes an attack with Major General Hood to smash the left flank of the Union Army which has now reorganized with General Sickles by the Peach Orchard. The Union left flank has suffered many casualties, so General Hancock does his best to reinforce it. His efforts were not enough. The Confederates quickly pushed the Union troops back further into their line. The once spread out fish hook shaped Union line is now becoming a crowded packed-in ball.
General Meade and the Union Army were in major trouble. If the Confederates kept attacking, the Union would take many casualties and lose numerical superiority. Their options are to try to defend themselves and suffer huge amounts of casualties or retreat and regroup and live to fight another day. After weighing each option, Meade decided to retreat the only way they can, South back into Maryland. This leaves the Confederates a clear path throughout the North.
During the retreat south, the Union Army crossed paths with Confederate General Jeb Stuart and his cavalry unit. Although the Union Army was tired and worn down, they greatly outnumber the cavalry unit and nearly wiped them out. General Jeb Stuart and a few of his other men tried to retreat, but the Union sent their cavalry unit after them, and quickly tracked down and wiped out the last of the Confederate’s cavalry. Eventually, the Union Army made their way back to Washington D.C. President Lincoln was infuriated when he saw the Army of the Potomac back in Virginia. Another Union general, General Meade, has failed to defeat Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. Meanwhile, there are reports of the Confederate Army destroying cities up North and resupplying at factories and then destroying them once they are not needed anymore. Lincoln was not the only person upset. Many citizens in the Northern states were angry about the war, and worried for their lives. If the Union Army did not do something soon, the South might win the war. Lincoln decides he must fire General Meade.
Lincoln puts General Hancock in his place. General Hancock knows he must stop the Confederates from destroying the North as soon as possible. He leads the Army of the Potomac north stopping at the destroyed cities, picking up angry citizens willing to fight for the Union Army and get back at the Confederates. The farther north the army gets, the more and more soldiers they pick up. The only problem, is that they don’t know exactly where Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia is. There are reports of the Confederates as far north as New York City, so that is where they head.
While the Union Army was looking for the Confederates, they were just roaming the North causing destruction to cities and resupplying food and ammunition. By the time they reached New York City, they knew they had traveled too far north. If they went any further, they might get trapped in the North. It was also getting late in the fall and it started to get colder out. Lee decided to retreat back south and pursue the Union Army because the size of their armies are similar now, but he doesn’t know that the Union Army has been picking up angry citizens waiting for their revenge on the Confederates.
The Union Army hears reports of the Confederates traveling back south. The path of the Confederates seem to be heading towards Philadelphia. The Union Army rushes there to protect the city. They dig in and set and up defensive fortifications with the northern part of the city to their backs. The Confederates spot the Union Army as they approach the city. Lee has his army stop and set up camp while they think of a battle plan. By now it was late in the winter, and it was getting very cold up North. Lee knew he must act quickly or his troops could get sick and die from the cold if he waited too long.
The next day he organized his lines for the first attack. Since he had no cavalry, he sends a small reconnaissance force to check out the Union lines. This small force takes heavy casualties, but revealed the Union left flank was weaker. Lee thought if tried a feint attack he could get the Union line to shift, and then crush the left side of their. He would feint to the Union right, and then send the bulk of his forces to their left. The attack went according to plan. The Union lines shifted, making their left side even weaker. The Confederates were overwhelming the Union left flank, until it was reinforced. General Hancock ordered a group of soldiers from their reserves to fill in the left flank. These reserves happened to be some of the angry citizens waiting for their revenge. The Union then drove off the Confederate attackers and forced them to retreat. Lee finally realized the Union army had more men than he thought.
The next day, Lee decided to let the Union attack, but the attack never came. And then the next day, he waited for them to attack. But again, it didn’t come. The Confederates are starting to run low on supplies and are getting weak from the cold. The Union on the other hand kept getting resupplied from the city. On day 4, it starts to snow early in the morning. Lee knew he must force the Union to retreat so he can resupply his troops from the city, or his soldiers will soon freeze and starve to death. He decided to attack again. He will flank his troops to the right and left like a pincer attack in hopes of the Union shifting troops from the center of their lines to the flanks. Then he will have a delayed frontal assault at the weakened Union center. Lee executes the attack at noon. The flank attacks aren’t very effective. The Confederates take many casualties and the Union lines don’t shift. Lee still sends the frontal assault. Again he takes heavy casualties and retreats. He must drive the Union back though. He sends frontal assault after frontal assault but each fail. On the 6th try, he failed again, but this time when he retreated, the Union chased after him. His cold, weak, and tired men were quickly caught and overwhelmed.
The Confederates wouldn’t go down without a fight though. They fixed their bayonets and battled in hand to hand combat. The Confederates started to drive back the Union, until reinforcements got there. Once the reinforcements arrived, the Confederates stopped fighting. But the new soldiers who were angry Northern citizens did not. They still hadn’t gotten their revenge. The defenseless Confederate soldiers were ruthlessly killed until other Union soldiers stepped in and stopped them from attacking. The Confederate army was decimated. Their only choice was to surrender. The North had finally won the war.