Map Sheds Light on Lee's Fateful Gettysburg Decision
New map indicates Lee couldn't see large numbers of Union soldiers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 28, 2013 4:13 PM CDT
Union reenactors takes part in a demonstration of a battle during ongoing activities commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Friday, June 28, 2013.   (Matt Rourke)

(Newser) – 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. 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.

Their sophisticated mapping software shows the rolling terrain exactly as it would have appeared to Lee—and from his vantage point (he is believed to have surveyed the battlefield from a pair of cupolas), he simply couldn't see throngs of Union soldiers amid the hills and valleys. "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. You can see the panoramic map on the Smithsonian website; click for more on their analysis.

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Showing 3 of 77 comments
1freeusa
Jun 29, 2013 6:49 AM CDT
Prior to the civil war, We were "These united states of america" after the civil war we became "The united states of american. Today we are the United States. Tomorrow we will be "Corporate America"
Brad_Watson_Miami
Jun 29, 2013 6:23 AM CDT
---Famous Direct Reincarnations--- Benjamin Franklin > Abraham Lincoln > Albert Einstein George Washington > Robert E. Lee > Dwight Eisenhower George Custer > George Patton Google: Reincarnation Theory & its 23 Principles/Theory of Luck
Your_Name
Jun 29, 2013 2:23 AM CDT
Something ought to be realized. The Confederacy had the policy to spread race slavery throughout the world. But Mr.Lee--among the most eminent of Lincoln's pardoned traitors--was given an impossible task. The Northern States had five times as much of everything--men, guns, and bullets--as the South..... No matter how badly Lincoln wanted to lose the war--and the way he handled it was disgraceful, as in this example.... Lincoln streadfastly refused to grant freedom to any slaves who might rebel, escape, and take up arms against their masters.... He delayed emancipation (and then probably would have reneged, and withdrawn it, after the 1864 election and the War were over)..... He knew of Lee's superior militarist abilities--but Lincoln evaded finding a trustworthy adversary (U.S.Grant) to destroy Lee.... It was Sherman that brought total warfare to the South--tearing up the railroads, burning the cities and destroying the plantations..... This might not have been necessary, had Lincoln run the war properly.... All Honest Abe could do was sigh and wish Mr.Lee had been on his side.... And to all the honest and honorable Southerners.... I apologize for this tirade.... But Lincoln ought not be worshipped.... I believe Lincoln wanted to stay president forever... (Even though it "killed" him, as his apologists may remark)... Lncoln wasted Union lives, letting many thousands of prisoners of war die, because the Confederacy had starved and tortured them to the point that they could no longer fight.... Lee took a desperate chance... But his fatal mistake was bound to come, after Lincoln allowed the Union Army to win the war.... I hope Lincoln never slept..... Because his way of running that War made it longer and more and more bloody.... Lincoln was one of the most hated men in the world until he was assassinated..... He avoided emancipation of Black People for as long as he could.... And his plan for the emancipated slaves after the war? Why to send them back to Africa, of course!!!.... Lincoln was a child of his times....a racist absolutist who used the emancipation issue to get elected, and then waited years to deliver on his promises.... Lee was a "great general"; many people at the time thought he ought to have been hanged.... That greatly charitable Lincoln (thinking of the 1868 election?) pardoned everyone..... Nice for the South.... Within ten years, the Black people trapped in the South were again reduced to poverty and a condition that some regarded as worse than slavery..... Lincoln probably would have ended Reconstruction more quickly, had remained alive..... The Southern Traitor States ought to have invaded Illinois instead of Pennsylvania.... Because Pennsylvanians tore up the traitor States until they were captured in the Deep South and left there by Mr.Lincoln to be starved, tortured, and to die and rot.... But to all the good and gentle people of the South, I apologize again... Wars make traitors, not the other way around.... And I am now convinced myself that we might be better off in the U.S.A. as fifty sovereign States.... Lincoln would have hanged me....