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The Battle Of Gettysburg And The Cost Of Not Obeying Orders

It is unknown at the time the Battle of Gettysburg was being fought, if its importance in determining the final outcome of the war was understood. The Confederate Army made several crucial mistakes that would contribute to losing the battle and changing the tide toward the Union Army. What is difficult to understand, is why the subordinate officers failed their own army by disobeying orders given by General Robert E. Lee. There was hesitation on the part of one officer, the lack of heart from a second and a decision to completely go in another direction from the orders given. Richard S. Ewell hesitated when ordered to take Cemetery Hill. General James Longstreet, after debating the orders of General Lee lost heart and did not fully engage in the battle. General J.E.B. Stuart, completely went into another direction and attempted to take on an alternate offensive.

When planning the offensive General Lee gave orders to General J.E.B Stuart to divide his Calvary troops to guard mountain passes into Pennsylvania and send the remainder to provide cover to Ewell’s 2nd Corp. Stuart chose to attempt to capture supplies. Changing the direction of his forces led them too far east and the Federal Army was allowed to get between him and the Federal Army. He was forced to reroute his cavalry troops north and delayed their arrival until January 2nd.

General Richard S. Ewell was ordered to take Cemetery Hill while the hill was clear. He was more concerned that General Stonewall Jackson should have taken the hill. This little temper tantrum led him to hesitate. The hesitation allowed the Union Army to entrench their troops making it impossible to take the hill. Worse than the hesitation he led his troops to take the hill resulting in more casualties than necessary.

General James Longstreet was well known to be overly cautious preferring defensive warfare over attacks. His troops were ordered to the Peach Orchard and take that territory. He became overly concerned and made a march around the ridge causing several hours delay in his attack. He forced tired and thirsty troops to endure a charge by General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

General Lee also made sever mistakes during the July 1 to July 3, 1863, battles, but it can be argued that if the subordinate generals had followed his orders the outcome would have been very differ net. The disobedience led to more than necessary casualties and defeat here in Gettysburg and ultimately the war.

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