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| Posted By: on: 07/24/2000 18:50:33 EDT
Subject: RE: THe Great Charge.... Was it Stupidity or Raw Courage or????
I was browsing through the pictures that I took that are now on the web. (Thanks Bill!!).... It took me back to that Saturday.. I remeber when I took those, thinking, you have got to be kidding!.. They marched in formation across of a mile in spots of rolling country side, maintaining formation as much as possible... I am out of shape, but I kept thinking, ok they are under fire at this point and at this point they had the presence of mind to dress lines and go back at it. They kept going despite friends, brothers, fathers uncles, family! getting hit, falling, the carnage, and horror. But they KEPT GOING!.. They get to the fence at the Pike, at this point catching the first solid volley fire of the troops on the ridge line, push over through, the fence and now at the double quick get to the wall........ What was it that drove them? what kept them going? Dedication to cause? such fear of dishonor and disgrace that they would rather die then turn back? WOuld we have been of such medal? Could you, I or any of our friends done that??? Was it stupidity on the average soldiers part to keep going? Or was it Raw courage?
I wonder, I wonder......
Was the Charge Stupidy or Raw Courage? Actually probably not either one and at the same time a little of both. To understand why men made that Charge we have to understand a couple of things, Civil War Tactics, the mindset of people back then, as Old Juan pointed out premature death was somewhat more commonplace than today.
Why did soldiers march soldier to shoulder across that field into the face of the enemy? Quite simply (maybe too simply put) Because that's the way it was done. To break through an enemy line you attacked with as many men as possible - you sent 15,000 men against the enemy line, say 6,000 didn't make it to the line, but that still left 9,000 men to break through. Part of this of course was due to the limitations of the weapons at the time, with single shot, relatively slow loading muzzle loaders, the only way to get more bullets fired at the enemy was to put more men in the Line of Battle. The fire and maneuver tactic didn't become practical until weapons weapons improved AND the military strategists realized that there was a better way to fight (?).
But still, what made the men make that awsome march across those fields in the July heat of 1863?
I'm sure I left something out, but those are some of my thoughts on this.
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone's replies. It really got me to thinking 'why' my ancestors did what they did (even though they weren't at Gettsyburg)during their time served in the Civil War. For honor, duty, family, country, or for all of these reasons and more.
Great new site, though I mainly "lurked" on the old one, I was really missing my daily "fix":-) Regarding the charge - I don't think stupidity had much to do with it. Many of the participants were veterans with a very clear idea of the grim prospect before them. But they had confidence in their own ability and in Lee's leadership. One officer wrote that they never doubted but they would plant their banners in the enemy lines. As someone said earlier, most of the men came from tight-knit communities and were serving alongside boyhood friends and relatives. News of any act of "cowardice" reaching home would be an impossible stigma to bear. and its a well-attested fact fact throughout military history that troops fight better when serving with long-term comrades and the bonding which follows.
There were in fact a few reports of some "Shirkers" if that's not too strong a word, but remarkably few