LEarn strategic decision-making at gettysburg

On the last day of June 1863, Cavalry General John Buford detected a large force of Confederate troops in the neighborhood of Gettysburg Pennsylvania.  Only weeks past a major defeat at the battle of Chancellorsville, the Union army was engaged in what we now call EMERGENT STRATEGY, reading the actions of the enemy and responding as appropriate. Meanwhile, some 80,000 troops from in the Confederate army were engaged in what they called a “Pennsylvania campaign” as part of a DELIBERATE STRATEGY to position itself in a manner that would cut the nation’s capital off from the rest of the country.  General Lee’s hope was that this would force Lincoln’s hand and lead to an end to the war and, subsequently, a separate Confederate nation on American soil.

At the moment Buford detected the presence of confederate forces in the area, the confederate army was spread out over a 40-mile road between Chambersburg and Carlyle PA, well to the north of Gettysburg. Despite its purpose of gathering intelligence and screening the confederate army from the union army, the main force of the confederate cavalry under its leader Jeb Stewart was not on the scene but was engaged miles away raiding the north for supplies and causing non-strategic havoc. As a result, General Lee and his army were traveling blind, unaware of the position, size and shape of the enemy.  As a result, the confederate army suffered due to poor ALIGNMENT OF STRATEGIC, OPERATIONAL AND TACTICAL DECISIONS. 

This is the essence of the story of the battle at Gettysburg.  A deliberate strategy by a southern army hindered by inadequate OPERATIONAL INTELLIGENCE and poor communication of command versus a northern army that was able to position itself on the grounds providing competitive advantage and with superior interior lines of COMMUNICATION.  A three-day battle ensued that changed the direction and eventual outcome of the war. 

By the end of the year, President Lincoln stood at Gettysburg and in what is now known as the greatest speech in our history, delivered what we now know as the Gettysburg Address.  Lincoln exhorted Americans to honor the sacrifices made by the combatants of both sides by learning from the experience.  That is what we do when we visit the Gettysburg battlefield.  





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