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Does this map explain WHY General Lee ordered disastrous charge at Gettysburg 150 years after battle?
- Team of geographers and cartographers have produced an interactive online map
- Shows the terrain as it would have appeared through the eyes of Gettysburg commanders
- Helps explain how and why commanders made their decisions at key moments of the battle
- Battlesite was reconstructed online using historical maps, texts and photos
- The battle which occurred from the July 1-3, 1863 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania resulted in 51,000 casualties of which 28,000 were Confederate soldiers
- The Union was considered the winner of the battle.
PUBLISHED: 16:52 EST, 28 June 2013 | UPDATED: 18:00 EST, 28 June 2013
On the second day of fighting at Gettysburg, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee listened to scouting reports, scanned the battlefield and ordered his second-in-command, James Longstreet, to attack the Union Army's left flank.
It was a fateful decision, one that led to one of the most desperate clashes of the entire Civil War — the fight for a piece of ground called Little Round Top.
The Union's defense of the boulder-strewn promontory helped send Lee to defeat at Gettysburg, and he never again ventured into Northern territory.
Battle plan: New technology provides the chance to re-examine how the Civil War battle was won and lost
Why did the shrewd and canny Lee choose to attack, especially in the face of the Union's superior numbers?
While historians have long wrestled with that question, geographers and cartographers have come up with an explanation, by way of sophisticated mapping software that shows the rolling terrain exactly as it would have appeared to Lee:
From his vantage point, he simply couldn't see throngs of Union soldiers amid the hills and valleys.
Point of view: It could all be a question of topography and General Lee may have charged into battle not realizing there were Union soldiers in the hills and valleys beyond
Anniversary: Union soldiers fire a volley at Confederate troops during re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg on June 28, 2013 at the start of the 150th Gettysburg celebration and re-enactments in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Battle story: Union forces turned away a Confederate advance in the pivotal battle of the Civil War fought July 1-3, 1863, which was also the wars bloodiest conflict with more than 51,000 casualties
Awaiting orders: Members of the 1st Tennessee wait to take part in in a demonstration of a battle during ongoing activities commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg
Horseback: Musket fire rings out again at Gettysburg as re-enactors take field for 150th anniversary
No detail overlooked: Wearing period uniforms, thousands of Civil War buffs gathered on a private farm outside the actual battlefield to take part in the battle re-enactment considered the pinnacle of the hobby
'Our analysis shows that he had a very poor understanding of how many forces he was up against, which made him bolder,' said Middlebury College professor Anne Knowles, whose team produced the most faithful re-creation of the Gettysburg battlefield to date, using software called GIS, or geographic information systems.
Developed for the Smithsonian Institution to mark Gettysburg's 150th anniversary, the panoramic map went live on the Smithsonian website Friday, giving history buffs a new way to look at the Civil War's pivotal battle, which took place July 1-3, 1863.
Visiting history: The sights and sounds of faux warfare are also a big draw for visitors ¿ about 200,000 people are expected to descend on the small, south-central Pennsylvania town
High degree of realism: Floridians portray wounded soldiers from the 1st N.C. Infantry as part of demonstration of a Confederate field hospital
Role-play: Over three days, more than 10,000 re-enactors will pay tribute the major battles that took place in Gettysburg during the US Civil War 1861-1865
Walking into battle: Confederate troops advance on Union positions during a re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg - if only they'd have been able to see over the tops of nearby hills as per the new Smithsonian website
A grand scale: Confederate and Union troops clash
Gettysburg: 160,000 men fought at Gettysburg. Some 50,000 soldiers -- North and South -- were killed or wounded. It was the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil and it changed the course of U.S. history
Down and out: A Union soldier lies on the ground during a re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. Over three days, more than 10,000 re-enactors will pay tribute the major battles that took place in Gettysburg during the 1861-1865 US Civil War
Tooting his horn: George Proulx of Cumberland, R.I., plays revelry during the activities
'Our goal is to help people understand how and why commanders made their decisions at key moments of the battle, and a key element that's been excluded, or just not considered in historical studies before, is sight,' Knowles said.
Long before the advent of reconnaissance aircraft and spy satellites, a general's own sense of sight — his ability to read the terrain and assess the enemy's position and numbers — was one of his most important tools. Especially at Gettysburg, where Lee was hampered by faulty intelligence.
'We know that Lee had really poor information going into the battle and must have relied to some extent on what he could actually see,' Knowles said.
The geographer applied GIS to find out what Lee could see and what he couldn't.
To reconstruct the battlefield as it existed in 1863, researchers used historical maps, texts and photos to note the location of wooden fences, stone walls, orchards, forests, fields, barns and houses, as well as the movement of army units. High-resolution aerial photos of the landscape yielded an accurate elevation model. All of it was fed into a computer program that can map data.
Lee is believed to have surveyed the battlefield from a pair of cupolas, one at a Lutheran seminary and the other at Gettysburg College, both of which yielded generally excellent views.
Reenactors: The events are years in the making after being jointly planned by the Park Service and a host of community organizers and volunteers
To the beat of the drum: Union re-enactors march by Confederates during today's three-hour re-enactment of the battle¿s first day
Confederate troops move into position: 150 years ago, General Lee simply couldn't see many of the Union soldiers amid the hills and valleys. As a result, the Confederate general underestimated his enemy's troop strength
One to remember: Confederate reenactors prepare for a demonstration of a battle during ongoing activities commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg
One for the history books: A Confederate army invading the North under Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Union Army of the Potomac led by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade collided over three blazing summer days at Gettysburg, 150 years ago this week in the Civil War
Bloody: The Union and Confederate armies officially reported a combined 5,747 dead, 27,229 wounded and 9,515 captured or missing over 72 hours of fighting
But a GIS-generated map, with illuminated areas showing what Lee could see and shaded areas denoting what was hidden from his view, indicates the terrain concealed large numbers of Union soldiers.
'What really came through as a new discovery for us in this project was seeing how few federal forces Lee could see, particularly on Day 2, when he decides to send Longstreet,' Knowles said.
Historian Allen Guelzo, who wasn't involved in the project, agreed that Lee's view probably misled him.
Guelzo, director of Civil War-era studies at Gettysburg College, took a visitor up to the school's cupola and motioned toward the peak of Little Round Top, just visible in the distance.
'You can see a lot from up here, and Robert E. Lee might have thought on July 2 that he had seen everything,' said Guelzo, who has written a new book on the Battle of Gettysburg. 'But, in fact, the dips and folds of the ground, the foliage as it was on the ground in various groves and woods, all of that concealed what turned out to be the deadly truth.'
High stakes: The battlefield contest itself involved the highest possible political and national stakes
Crucial battle: The July 1-3 battle on Pennsylvania farmland would mark the turning point of the war as the Union claimed its biggest victory, repulsing Lee¿s second incursion into the North
Famous: Gettysburg also would be the bloodiest battle with some 51,000 casualties and give rise to Lincoln¿s timeless 'Gettysburg Address'
How it began: The battle started July 1, 1863, when Lee massed his Army of Northern Virginia at a crossroads at Gettysburg, driving Union defenders back to Cemetery Hill
No shortage of information: Gettysburg may be the most documented battle ever
Conversely, the Union Army occupied higher ground, and used it to great advantage.
Union Gen. Gouverneur Warren spied Longstreet's troops just as they were about to launch their attack on an undefended Little Round Top. Frantic, Warren dispatched an officer to round up reinforcements.
They got there just in time, and withstood the Confederates.
In Warren's case, GIS confirmed what historians have long known.
For Knowles, the mapping project and the mysteries it revealed helped Gettysburg come alive.
'Commanders always had to make decisions with really limited information ... committing men's lives to scraps of information or intuition, or what you can see at a certain day or a certain time,' she said. 'This analysis, for me, is making the battle more human.'
Three day battle: The fierce combat raged over fields, a sunken road and on hilltops until nightfall. Through it all, the Union desperately held its positions, and then on July 3, momentum turned against Lee
End game: By July 4, 1863, a defeated Lee began withdrawing southward toward Virginia, his bloodied and exhausted column strung out for miles
Turning point: Lee¿s defeat at Gettysburg marked a turn for the worse for a Confederacy whose end would come ultimately in 1865
Gearing up: Gary Wear of Apple Valley California, with Moody's Battery Confederate artery prepares for battle
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2351158/New-map-explain-Lees-decisions-Gettysburg-Americas-bloodiest-battle-remembered-150-years-on.html#ixzz2XcTMBF00
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