“General, I have no division”

Today, July 3, marked the close of the three-day battle between the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg in 1963. The day’s most famous event was Pickett’s charge.
Gettysburg is a remarkably fascinating battle. It was a decisive battle, in the sense that it marked a crucial turning point in the war, and thus fascinates military historians. It was a relatively “even” battle, in the sense that it might have gone either way, and so it makes an inherently dramatic story. It also seems to represent all of the beauty and horror of the Civil War: the qualities of courage, strategic brilliance, and idealism counterbalanced by an equal amount of death, slaughter, and failure.
Touring the Gettysburg battlefield during a family vacation years ago remains one of my fondest vacation memories. There is something uniquely humbling about standing on ground where men fought and died; somewhere in the back of your mind, you wonder what it must have been like in the chaos of battle. Could I have done it?
The anniversary is an excellent excuse, at any rate, to watch the amazing film Gettysburg, one of my favorite war movies. If you’re up for some summer reading, Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels is considered the definitive Gettysburg novel. And I must also recommend the computer game Sid Meier’s Gettysburg!, which does a great job of both being a good game and walking you through the pivotal battles of the campaign.

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