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Gettysburg-Third Day 150 Years Ago

Today was the third day-Pickett’s Charge and all.  I have a few choice comments about this day in Pennsylvania.  Trivia wise, I find it interesting that Longstreet’s Chief of Artillery, E. Porter Alexander, was the first and only member of the Confederate Air Force.  He was a balloonist and the only member of the army to assend up in a balloon.  All the others were civilian contractors. 

Now to the artillery preparation for the afternoon assault.  I find it hard to understand how effective that bombardment could ever have been.  The Southern batteries were firing up hill and there was no way to effectively adjust fire to be on target.  The fire either hit in front of the Union line or went over.  Very few rounds could be expected to hit near the Union guns.  Also, the Union artillery was ordered to cease fire because General Henry Hunt, Union artillery commander, did not want to discourage the Confederate attack.  He knew that it would be a giant killing field in retribution for what was unleashed on the Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg. He thought that if the Union guns kept up the fire maybe the attack would be cancelled. 

The big loosers were the Union artillery horses and caissons parked beyond the defensive line.  The sound of the explosions and the screaming of the wounded horses must ahve been incredible.  Did you know that the artillery exchange was heard all the way in Pittsburgh?  The soldiers were eventually interred in the cemetery but the hundreds of horses were burned.  World’s biggest smelly barbeque!!  The soldiers were reinterred from their initial graves into the cemetery for 4-cents each.

Pickett’s Charge is always the main topic of discussion but there was another battle occurring at about the same time.  That was the cavalry battle on the East Cavalry Field about three miles away which some historians believe was to be the coup d’grace as Stuart and his mounted Cavalry Corps came ridding into the Union rear.  He was stopped dead in his tracks by George Armstrong Custer and his Michigan brigade.  It is hard to imagine the  sound of the impact of the two cavalry forces hitting head to head at full gallop.  Many who visit Gettysburg do not even know about this action.  What would have been the result of it coming off as Lee may have invisioned?

Lastly a bit of opinion.  Today an editorial in the St Louis Post Dispatch stated that the objective of the war has not been achieved even today.  Well lets see.  Somewhere between 623,000 qand 800,000 men, mostly white, died to end slavery.  The freed slaves now have the right to vote and to all the other rights of this wonderful country.  Yes they suffered for many years but….   They have access to public schools but many are not faithful in attendance or cooperative in doing home assignments.  Many public schools are governed by African-American school boards which may seem to be more interested in self gain than in educating the children.  Without education there cannot be the full participation in the benefits available in this country. 

We are often treated to the story of how slaves yearned for family life.  It is always sad to hear about slave families being separated by unfeeling masters.  But today where is the African-American family unit?

Jews, Italians, Russians, Germans and many others including Vietnamese and Bosnians came to this country with little money or language skills, including my ancesters.  They insisted their children go to school and almost all have met success since their arrival.  I try to understand but it is hard to be sympathetic to the cries of “give me more” after 150 years.  When does this idea that some people are owed end?

White Americans served, suffered, and died to provide the opportunity.  Prejudicial behavior is now illegal.  But personal qualification is an individual responsibility and cannot be guaranteed regardless of how many laws are passed.

 

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