The most important battle of the American Civil war was the bitter three-day engagement fought at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in July 1863. Prior to this battle, the rag-tag armies of the Confederacy under the superb leadership of General Robert E. Lee had basically fought their superior supplied and larger Union enemy to a stand-still.
Fresh off his stunning victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, Lee took his Army of Northern Virginia deep into the heart of the enemy territory and encountered the Union forces at the small town of Gettysburg.
Perhaps the worst mistake ever made by Lee was his decision on July 3rd to launch a daring attack against the Union positions south of Cemetery Hill. His attack was an utter disaster and many historians would argue that this was the point that finally turned the war in the favor of the Union.
During the pre-assault argument - Longstreet told Lee – “It is my opinion that no fifteen thousand men ever arranged for battle can take that position.”
Lee’s fool-hardy attack is known as Pickett’s Charge after General Pickett who led the assault. The attack resulted in over 6000 Confederate casualties and ended the battle with a Union victory.
The irony of the situation is that Lee’s chief subordinate officer, the famed veteran Confederate General James Longstreet had vehemently disagreed with Lee regarding Pickett’s Charge and would have instead fought a defensive battle at Gettysburg.
What would have happened had Longstreet been in command of the Confederate forces at Gettysburg?