Gettysburg: The Big Question
by Benjamin G. Moore, Col, USA (ret)
This article was first published in the October 1998 issue of The Red Dragon, the newsletter of the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion Association. The author, Benjamin Moore, enlisted in the Army 2-27-42 and was commissioned from OCS 12-22-42. He was a platoon leader and forward observer with the 95th Cml Mortar Bn in Germany, company commander in the 91st Cml Mortar Bn, and CO of the 2nd Cml Mortar Bn in Korea 7-9-51 to 25-6-52. He had many other distinguished and varied assignments in the Regular Army. Col. Moore retired in 1968, living in Georgia where he pursued his hobby of Civil War research and helped people track down their ancestors who served in that conflict. Col. Benjamin Gray Moore, Col, USA, (Ret.) passed away April 5, 2005 in Butler, GA
Ben Moore intended to give the contents of this article as an address at the 2nd CMB's reunion banquet in Gettysburg on 9-11-98. Due to the time constraints that developed, he actually delivered only two short sections: the Introduction and the end-piece, A Tribute to the Blue and Gray. Those plus the main portion, The Big Question, are reproduced below in their entirety. They are the words of a widely recognized and renowned authority on the Civil War
It is a privilege and an honor to be here tonight to speak to a group of men who have my great respect and my warmest personal admiration. I think there is always a bond that time cannot break, as long as we live, between those who have borne the battle together, and I am very proud that I could be a part of our mutual experience in doing what Civil War soldiers called "seeing the elephant," or seeing life and death together in the combat zone in war.
My topic tonight, of course, is not the Korean war that we fought together, but one in which our ancestors fought in response to the call their communities made on them to come forward and put their lives on the line in support of causes they held dearer than life. That war, which we call the Civil War, was for one side a crusade to save the Union, and for the other a declaration of independence from that Union. How deeply our ancestors felt about the issues in that war is marked by the intensity of the combat that ensued; over 600,000 lives lost in the military, the most in any other single American war and up to the time of the war in Vietnam more than in all our previous wars combined.
My appearance here tonight is in a way a kind of Civil War anniversary for me because 50 years ago I was on the faculty of the Army Chemical Corps School at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, and taught a course there in American military history to the advanced class which included the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg and in that class was someone you all know very well who is one of the leaders in organizing this reunion and the Red Dragon Association, and who is here tonight, and that is Col. Bruce Elliott. That is one of the main reasons I made a special effort to be here myself tonight.
Tonight, I am going to talk about one of the great battles of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, but I am not going to re-fight the battle in all its detail as we have just, in effect, done that on our tour yesterday over the battlefield with a professional guide whose outstanding knowledge impressed us all.
No battle in any war that was ever fought has probably raised more questions and generated more controversy than the Battle of Gettysburg and some of those questions and controversies are still unsettled and being debated to this very day. So what I am going to do is just touch on some of those questions and controversies and some of the opinions about them.
General Lee and his army lost the Battle of Gettysburg. It pains me very much to have to say some unflattering things about General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia in losing this battle because I am a great admirer of General Lee, both as a General and a man of elevated and unimpeachable personal character. I hope that what I have to say will not offend anyone and will just be accepted as an honest effort to answer some of the questions about the battle that have stirred up so much controversy.
The Big Question
I will start my remarks tonight about the Battle of Gettysburg with what I call "the big question." Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia previously had defeated in battle every Union commander brought into the field against them, including four commanders of the Army of the Potomac in succession; McClellan, Pope, Burnside and Hooker. Lee's army, just two months before Gettysburg, had won a masterpiece of a battle against that Union Army at Chancellorsville. The big question is this: how could the Army of Northern Virginia have performed so poorly in comparison with that Union Army at Gettysburg? And, how could Lee lose at Gettysburg when he had won his previous battles against the Army of the Potomac while being outnumbered in every battle? And how could the Union Army of the Potomac defeat such a successful commander as Lee with a commander like Meade who had been in command of the Union Army for only 3 days?
My short answer to that question is: the Confederate Army under Lee was defeated because it made more mistakes at Gettysburg than did the Union Army under Meade. Also chance, which frequently plays an important part in battles, favored Meade and his Union Army more that it did the Confederate Army under Lee. Also, another important factor was that the Union Army managed its defensive role in the battle much better than the Confederate Army did its offensive role. This is just another way of saying that in this battle command and control in Meade's Union Army was much better than it was in Lee's Confederate Army.
Now I would like to summarize for you as briefly as possible the mistakes I think were made by the Confederate Army on the first and second days of the battle, and which contributed to their defeat in the battle as a whole. And then I will discuss the third day in somewhat more detail.
The first mistake that was made by General Lee and his army was getting involved in a general engagement at Gettysburg with the Union Army of the Potomac in spite of the fact that General Lee had issued orders that he did not want his subordinate commanders to do so. This general engagement occurred on the morning of July 1, 1863 when General A. P. Hill's Third Corps of Lee's army made a reconnaissance into Gettysburg using infantry instead of cavalry. Cavalry could have withdrawn without causing a general engagement but infantry could not. They did not use cavalry because General Lee's cavalry under its commander General J. E. B. Stuart was absent and would not arrive at Gettysburg until very late on the second day of the battle.
Stuart's critics alleged that he was out of touch with Lee and his army and late in arriving in Gettysburg because, instead of carrying out Lee's orders, Stuart had embarked on a wild ride around the Union Army like the one he had made in 1862 as an act of bravado and disdain for the enemy. Those critics also charged that, by such a daring and bold excursion this time, he hoped to redeem his military reputation as a great cavalry leader. That reputation had recently been badly damaged in the cavalry battle at Brandy Station, Virginia on June 9, 1863, when Stuart had been surprised and narrowly escaped defeat by the cavalry of the Union Army of the Potomac. The allegations were not true. This time Stuart rode to get past the Union Army which was ahead of him, pass around it, and join the leading elements of Lee's army in Pennsylvania as ordered by General Lee.
General Stuart was not present because of poor planning and execution of the cavalry component of Lee's campaign which started him too late, caused his best route to be blocked by the Union Army, forced him to take a longer route around the Union Army and put the Union Army between him and Lee's army. General Stuart was also given several different missions to perform on the way to Lee's army in Pennsylvania, some of which were incompatible with his getting to the leading elements of Lee's army in an expeditious manner. Unfortunately, Stuart made the mistake of letting some of these missions, such as gathering supplies for Lee's army, take priority over rapidly advancing to and supporting the forward elements of Lee's army in Pennsylvania. Not only was Stuart late but he was out of touch with Lee's army from the time he crossed the Potomac River until late in the second day of the battle. In all Lee's previous battles Stuart had been the eyes and earsof Lee's army. In his absence, and out of touch, Lee was operating blind and deaf, and as a consequence his people made a mistake and used infantry to do a cavalry job and stumbled into a battle at a time and place not of his own choosing , and, as it turned out, at a great disadvantage in comparison with the terrain the enemy would by chance fall heir to in the battle. If Stuart had been present on the morning of July 1st, there would probably never have been a battle at Gettysburg.
The second big mistake also occurred on the first day when Lee's army drove advance elements of the Army of the Potomac back through the town of Gettysburg and let them take possession of Cemetery Hill, a key terrain feature which dominated the high ground and excellent defensive terrain along Cemetery Ridge all the way down to two other hills, Little Round Top and Big Round Top. This terrain, once organized by the Union Army for defense, materially assisted the Union Army in turning back assault after assault by the Confederates during the next two days.
To compound the mistake in letting the Union Army get possession of this terrain, the Confederates failed to make an effort to retake it on the afternoon of the first day before the Union had it strongly organized for defense. General Lee issued a permissive, discretionary order to his Second Corps commander General Ewell to retake it if feasible. Ewell did not attempt to take it, giving various reasons but most probably he did not attempt to retake it because in the absence of General Stuart and his cavalry he was unsure how much of the much larger Union Army he might be taking on if he attempted to do so. Later Ewell was severely criticized for not taking Cemetery Hill because if he had done so the Confederates could have placed artillery there and enfiladed the entire terrain along Cemetery Ridge down to and including the Round Tops, making it impossible for the Union Army to organize a defense there, a defense which repelled all Confederate efforts to dislodge it.
On the second day Lee decided to execute an envelopment of the left flank of the Union line, but that flank, which in a reconnaissance of the Union line early in the morning of July 2nd was found to be very vulnerable, "in the air," and not anchored on any strong terrain feature, was found to be completely changed when the Confederate attack finally got under way late in the afternoon. When the attack was made it was a failure, and it was charged that General Longstreet, whose troops made the effort, was negligent in getting his troops into position too late to take advantage of the vulnerability of the Union line while it existed. Moreover, it was charged that he was deliberately late because he was angry with General Lee for not taking his advice that the attack not be carried out, but that instead a wide turning movement be made around the Union flank to get between the Union Army and Washington and bring them to battle in the open.
Now I will discuss the third and last day's battle. In my opinion the mistake on that day was conducting this battle at all for it was done in a way that was almost suicidal to the Confederate troops involved in what became known as Pickett's Charge.
There are those who feel that none of Lee's major subordinate commanders performed well at Gettysburg, meaning his corps commanders: Longstreet, Ewell and Hill and his cavalry under J. E. B. Stuart. They cite Longstreet's "less than diligent" performance on July 2, Ewell's "failure to carry" Cemetery Hill on July 1, A. P. Hill's less that energetic performance during the three days which may have been traceable to illness, and Stuart's absence from the battle during the advance into Pennsylvania, during the initial contact with the Army of the Potomac on the first day, and until so late in the second day that he made no contribution on that day. Lee himself characterized the performance of his corps commanders as "imperfect and halting" (see p. 47, Duty Faithfully Performed, by Gary Gallagher) and Stuart as "failing to carry out his instructions."
After the bloody fighting and its disappointing results achieved on the second day, Lee decided to renew the attack against the Union defensive line again on the third day. This time Lee picked the center of the Union line as the objective for his attack. This seemed logical because Lee had tested the right and left flanks of the Union line in the fighting of the first two days and the indication was that General Meade had probably weakened his middle on Cemetery Ridge by diverting troops to meet the previous threats to his right and especially his left.
Of course, the question does arise as to why Lee would renew the attack at all on the third day when the Union had such an advantage of position on what was recognized as very strong defensive terrain. Also, Confederate efforts to do what they called "dislodge them" from that had not been encouraging. However, both military and political factors could have played a part in motivating Lee to renew the attack. On the military side Lee, not having defeated the Union Army decisively on any day of the campaign, by the third day was in a real dilemma. He had a larger than his army, the undefeated Union Army, on his hands. Trying to disengage and withdraw from such close contact in the face of an undefeated enemy might involve great risk, so why not hedge against that risk by trying again to win the battle or deal out so much additional punishment in the form of casualties that any immediate interference or pursuit by the enemy would be unlikely? Also Lee apparently believed that if things had gone just a little differently on the first and second days he would have won a tactical victory, and he still had faith that his army could win a battle again over an army that it had in the past already defeated in four different battles under four different commanders.
On the political side there were also factors which may have motivated Lee to try one more time to achieve a military success at Gettysburg. This was a battle on Northern soil, and it was especially important for the South to do all it could to win it. The Union was already an established country. The Southern Confederacy was a country striving to be established. The South had won important battles against the North, but always on Southern soil. The North had also been winning battles on Southern soil. So from the standpoint of its international prestige and credibility, the South needed to show that it could win a major battle on Northern soil. It would also help to encourage the Southern home front and possibly discourage the Northern home front.
To carry out this attack on the third day, General Longstreet was placed in overall charge. Under Longstreet was Pickett's division of Longstreet's First Corps, along with several units from Hill's Third Corps, including Heth's Division led by General James Pettigrew in the absence of General Heth who was wounded. Also present to participate were brigades from Pender's and Anderson's divisions. The number of men actually involved in what was called Pickett's Charge was for many years considered to be about 15,000 but this figure has been revised downward considerably to perhaps 11,500. And now even that figure is being challenged by the Civil War author Michael Priest who argues that the correct figure was nearer 6,000 (see John Michael Priest, Lee's Gallant 6000?, North & South Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 6). General Longstreet argued against the attack which Lee planned for the third day, and when Lee said that 15,000 men would take part on the Confederate side, Longstreet is reported to have said that 15,000 men who could make a successful assault over that field could never be found.
The distance from the Confederate position on Seminary Ridge to the Union defense on Cemetery Ridge was seven tenths of a mile. This was the distance traversed by the troops to assault the Union lines. The width of the front rank of the attacking Confederate troop formations was 1.06 miles. The advance would be over open terrain with little or no cover or concealment in plain view of the Union troops on the higher ground at Cemetery Ridge. And, instead of being in an extended order type of formation within individual units, the Confederate troops within units were in close order, marching almost shoulder to shoulder.
Needless to say, there was no chance that this attack would surprise the Union troops on Cemetery Ridge. They watched in amazement at the approach of the massed ranks of the Confederates with plenty of opportunity for artillery and rifled muskets to be ready and waiting to shoot those ranks to pieces, which is exactly what they did. Only a few of those who began the march to the Union lines were able to survive long enough to close with it, and fewer still penetrated into the Union position.
To put it bluntly, the attack was an extremely heroic and valiant effort, but militarily it was a disastrous failure. In spite of the fact that the attack had been preceded by a nearly two hour Confederate artillery bombardment of the Union lines, this had been ineffective in destroying the Union artillery or infantry weapons or suppressing their fire because most of the rounds overshot the target and were not sighted to enfilade the target. To get enfilading fire, the Confederate guns should have been so positioned that the long axis of the impact area produced by the shells which were fired was aligned with the long axis of the target so that both overs and shorts would hit somewhere within the designated target area. This element seems to have been neglected in the artillery planning. There was also a problem with the Confederate time fuses which may have been a factor in so many shells not hitting the target area.
After this day's battle was over it was realized by both Union and Confederates that this almost suicidal attack was the biggest and most tragic mistake of all on the part of the Confederates in the three day battle. General Lee took the blame saying, "it was all my fault," and "if I thought that charge would fail I would not have ordered it."
General Winfield Scott, the man who led the American army to victory in Mexico in the war of 1846-1847, said of Lee, who served under him in that war, that Lee had the best eye for appreciation of terrain in military terms that he had ever seen, and which had helped him [Scott] win military victories in Mexico. The big question here is, how could that same man, General Lee, have so badly misjudged the consequences of ordering such a frontal, almost suicidal, assault over the terrain of the third day at Gettysburg? For years the answer you would have gotten to that question was that it was over-confidence on the part of Lee and his troops, and that Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia had been so successful up to that point that Lee thought his troops could do anything.
Now, however, another answer has emerged as perhaps the more correct one. That answer is another question which has been debated for years: was the failure of the massed, close order infantry attack, such as that of the third day at Gettysburg, a signal that the technology of the shoulder arm, the rifled musket firing the so-called minie ball (really the minie bullet), had made obsolete and outmoded the prevailing infantry combat and tactics? It was said that there never was a more dramatic demonstration of a failed form of infantry tactics than that attack. Had crossing "the deadly ground" in such assaults been rendered non-productive and obsolete by the increased muzzle velocity, accuracy, range, rate of fire, and killing power of the combination of the rifled musket and the minie bullet?
After two years of war, the generals seemed not to have learned this lesson that infantry in the attack in close order formations were far too vulnerable, especially against troops so armed, fighting from prepared positions. Were the officers who had not learned such lessons prisoners of their education in the battles of the Napoleonic wars or their experience in the Mexican war of 1846-1847 when such tactics were acceptable?
I do not think many of us think there is much of a link between the third day at Gettysburg and the rifled musket, the minie bullet, and the 4.2 inch mortar in the Korean war, but I think there is one. Are you aware that exactly the same principle in the minie bullet that permitted such improved performance in the rifled musket was exactly the same one which made possible such an accurate mortar as the rifled 4.2 inch mortar? You will recall that on the base of the 4.2 inch shell that was being fired there was a brass pressure plate and a rotating band of softer metal and that when the propelling charge went off the pressure plate was pushed up into the rotating band and engaged it in the rifling of the mortar sealing in the gases and imparting rotation to theround as it was pushed forward, and increasing the accuracy and the range of the round. Well, this bears a striking similarity to what happened to the minie bullet in a rifled musket. The minie bullet, made of soft metal such as lead, had a v-shaped hollow in the round tapering to a point in the nose of the bullet. When the musket or rifle was fired, the wall of the softer bullet was pushed into the rifling of the musket or rifle sealing in the gasses and enhancing muzzle velocity, accuracy , range and killing power. I do not know the complete history of the development of the 4.2 inch mortar but that person who developed it must have been familiar with the minie bullet and the rifled musket, as they preceded the development of the 4.2.
General Lee's generalship in the Confederate Army did not end at Gettysburg. Gettysburg was not a typical performance for Lee and he felt such deep regret at the defeat that he tried to resign, but President Davis would not let him go. He had no one better than Lee to turn to, and he still had confidence in Lee. As for Lee, although he had been a master of the offense before Gettysburg, he demonstrated in the last year of the war in battles with General Grant that he was just as much a master of the defense.
Lee has been criticized for being too offensive minded by those who have said that the offense, being so much more costly in manpower, and manpower in the South being so much scarcer and harder to replenish than in the North, that Lee should have engaged primarily in a manpower-conserving defensive strategy. More and more it is recognized, however, what Lee had recognized all along, and that was that the only chance the South had to prevail and win its independence was to cause the North to become so disenchanted with the war that it would abandon its efforts to subdue the South as being too costly in blood and treasure. Lee had won enough major battles to recognize that the South was not going to win the war in some battle of annihilation. To break the North's will to continue the war, if it could be done at all, would be to take the offensive and the initiative away from the North and, wherever possible, spoil, baffle, preempt, and checkmate the North's campaign plans to the point where its level of frustration and its cost in casualties and money so greatly exceeded any progress being achieved toward victory that it would one day say, "let the erring brothers go in peace."
One of the Confederate objectives in the Gettysburg campaign of taking the war away from Southern soil and to the North, giving the North a taste of the war , and spoiling or delaying any plans for a Union offensive in Virginia in the summer and fall of 1863 was consistent with a "will breaking" strategy. In the long run ,however, the South gave out of the means to pursue such a strategy before the North's will to continue the war to victory gave out. And it appears that Lee gained little in a "will breaking" strategy at Gettysburg because defeating such a previously successful commander as Lee and his army at Gettysburg seemed to be a step forward for the North toward victory in the war. Now they knew that Lee was not infallible.
On the other hand, Lee could take considerable satisfaction in a prediction he had made which came true. It was Lee's view that the Union Army of the Potomac had suffered such damage at Gettysburg that "it will be seen for the next six months that that army will be as quiet as a sucking dove." In fact, it would not be until ten months later, in March 1864 when Ulysses S. Grant began his so-called Overland Campaign, which ended at Richmond, Petersburg and Appomattox, that the Army of the Potomac would launch another major offensive in Virginia. One might reasonably say then that the Battle of Gettysburg had spared Virginia a major summer and fall offensive against the Army of Northern Virginia in 1863 which was one of the Confederate objectives in the Gettysburg campaign. (see Gary W. Gallagher, Duty Faithfully Performed, Gettysburg, Pa., Farnsworth Military Impressions, 1997, p. 48)
After his repulse in the attack of July 3rd, Lee expected that the battle would continue. He waited, hoping the Union Army would come out for an open field fight, so he waited a day, and when they did not, as night fell on July 4th, he began his withdrawal back to the crossing of the Potomac river. However, when he got there the water was so high the river could not be forded, and a pontoon bridge he had left there for his return crossing had been destroyed by Union cavalry. Lee, therefore, immediately took steps to prepare defenses to guard his army and the crossing site until he could get over the river.
Meade did not initiate an aggressive pursuit of Lee and his army as it withdrew from Gettysburg. He did not catch up with Lee's army at Williamsport on the Potomac until July 10th. Meade began to organize his army for an attack, but on the night of July 13-14, Lee safely crossed the Potomac back into Virginia.
President Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton had been taking an active interest in Meade's failure to initiate a hot pursuit of Lee. To them it appeared that Meade was acting as if his mission had been accomplished, and that all he had to do now was to escort Lee out of the country, or as Lincoln said, "act like an old woman trying to shoo her geese across a creek." President Lincoln's son Robert said later that his father had been so frustrated he actually cried when he heard that Lee was safely back in Virginia. President Lincoln and Secretary Stanton were furious at Meade's failure to destroy Lee's army when it had been trapped against the Potomac River with no way to cross over. Meade, however, had done something that four previous commanders of the Union Army of the Potomac had not been able to do, and that was to defeat Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, and he had done this at a time when the Lincoln administration badly needed a victory in the east to encourage the military and the people to "stay the course" and continue to support the war to victory.
However, because Meade did not destroy Lee's army , he never received the rewards and honors to which he was rightly entitled. He was a major general and was never advanced to lieutenant general like Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan were. And when, after the war, an Army of the Potomac Association was organized, Sheridan who was a "Johnny come lately" to the Army of the Potomac was made president, and not Meade who had a much longer association with that army. General Meade was personally hurt about this and so were the citizens of his home city of Philadelphia, and other parts of Pennsylvania, who resented this and held it against the national administration.
This is not the only debt to Meade that was never repaid. For the last year of the war he had one of the most unenviable situations an army officer could have. He was the de jure, or legally appointed, commander of the Army of the Potomac but Grant as General in Chief of all the Union armies made his headquarters in the field with Meade and was the de facto, or in fact, commander of the Union Army and called all the plays. No self-respecting officer would like to be the head of something in name only with your superior constantly calling all the shots. Only a man of Meade's patience and self-control could have stood it. As a consequence, I have great admiration for General Meade as a man and as a professional soldier.
General Meade has received recognition in The Civil War Book of Lists (Conshohocken, Pa, Combined Books, 1993) in the ten best commanded battles in the war. General Meade was selected for his command at Gettysburg as one of the ten best commanded battles of the war. Unfortunately, General Lee was selected as the commander of one of the ten worst commanded battles for his performance at Gettysburg. (see pages 63 and 64, above reference)
It was noticed during the American Civil War, especially by foreign observers, that battles once started soon seemed to be out of the control of the higher commanders. Unlike the present day when commanders have almost minute to minute reports during a battle on the status of both friendly and enemy units which can be used to direct the battle and exercise unified command and control, in the Civil War higher commanders had only very poor capabilities of this type, and frequently were ignorant at the time of what was actually taking place. However, in the absence of effective command and control from the top, the battle did not fight itself. Instead, those at the lower levels, both lower ranking officers and enlisted men, often found themselves thrown on their own responsibility to act as best they could in these circumstances.
Acting only within the framework of what was known in a restricted local area, the big battle sometimes soon degenerated into numerous local firefights all over the battlefield instead of one larger synchronized and coordinated effort. Because of this, it appears that the outcome of the battles was frequently more dependent on what happened at the lower level among those on the line of contact with the enemy than previously thought and that those on the lower level should be accorded more recognition than previously has been accorded to them. In other words, it may be a historical fallacy always to say that general this, or general that, won the battle because his men probably won it for him.
A Tribute to the Blue and GrayI have unbounded admiration and a deep abiding respect, and sympathy for the generation of soldiers of both the Blue and the Gray who rose so magnificently to bear the burden of public duty in fighting that war. May I therefore end my talk tonight by paying tribute to those soldiers.
One of the most inspiring and gratifying things to me about the Civil War is that a country so torn apart by hostility and animosity between the sections that they went to war against each other, were after the war eventually reconciled to each other, and came back together as one people, as Americans. This is so unlike the blood hatreds that have lived for centuries between those living in other parts of the world in places like the Balkans in Europe, and in the Middle East. In this country, regardless of the allegiance of our ancestors or our personal sympathies in that war, we have far more in the legacy our ancestors left to us to draw us together than to divide us. Whether we come from the Blue or from the Gray, there is more than enough honor, and glory, and tragedy to go around for neither side had a monopoly. Both sides more than paid their dues in blood on many a hard-fought battlefield. At one time or another both sides savored the bitter-sweet taste of victory or the bitter taste of defeat. For it has been truly said that there is nothing so dreadful as a battle lost unless it is a bloody battle won. Both sides had heroes innumerable, and unfortunately a few cowards as well. Both sides had their brilliant Generals, and also their share of military blockheads. Thus, we Americans can be even-handed and honor American valor without distinction of uniform.
Now, as for the fighting men on both sides, it was as the historian of classic Greece, Thucydides, said, the most remarkable thing about war is that it takes away ones personal freedom, and puts one in what he called "the region of necessity." Both Johnny Reb and Billy Yank, both the Blue and the Gray were, in a sense, prisoners of history. They were in the region of necessity, and were obeying the commands placed upon them by the society in which they lived to respond to the call of public duty. No generation in our country's history, in proportion to its numbers, has ever paid a higher price in blood to honor the obligation that society placed upon them. Regardless of who won or who lost, there was enough heroic sacrifice and suffering on both sides to consecrate every Civil War battlefield in this country, and prove American's valor and patriotism for all time.
Let us hope there will never be a time when the sacrifices of these men will be forgotten, and that what these men put back together in countless acts of reconciliation be rendered ineffective or torn apart by the divisive tendencies that we sometimes see operative in our society today. Moreover, let us pray that there will never be a time when rights and privileges in our country will be elevated to such a status in this country that public duty and obligation to our country will be forgotten. Let us see that this does not happen by keeping before our citizens and our children the magnificent and inspiring example and selfless sacrifices of the Blue and the Gray. For the soldier in the ranks the Civil War was a punishing test, not only of physical stamina, but more than that, it was a supreme test of the human spirit, and it is to the human spirit that we pay tribute when we say, "All honor to the Blue and the Gray."
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