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Where thousands fell

"Where thousands fell" Continued...

Issue: "After Osama," May 21, 2011

Chancellorsville • April 1863

Driving and walking the tree-shaded route of Stonewall Jackson's flank attack will allow you to grasp the war's purest example of bold tactical brilliance. Northern forces outnumbered the confederates 130,000 to 60,000, more than two to one, but Lee and Jackson divided their small force, with Jackson hurrying 30,000 infantrymen on a 12-mile march around Hooker's army. The Confederates came out of the Virginia underbrush screaming the Rebel yell-and the rout was on, until darkness fell. Then Jackson fell, shot by his own men in the confusion. He died eight days later. The North had 17,000 casualties, the South 12,800.

Gettysburg • July 1863

Gettysburg was the single greatest battle of the war, stretching over three days and involving 170,000 men, with over 23,000 Union soldiers and 28,000 Confederates becoming casualties. Driving and walking this Pennsylvania battlefield explains much: The big rocks of Devil's Den were indeed devilish, and the awesome difficulty of "Pickett's Charge"-across a vast expanse, sloping slightly uphill-makes it seem that Robert E. Lee's hope that day was for God to intervene. (That's what Michael Shaara suggested in his fine novel, The Killer Angels; it's well worth reading before a Gettysburg visit.) Some Union soldiers who shot down the hapless Confederates yelled, "Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!"

Cold Harbor • June 1864

By 1864 Abraham Lincoln and his generals had settled on a war of attrition: "doing the arithmetic," Lincoln called it, for the North could lose men and replace them, but Southern forces that lost half as many remained depleted. On the night before battle, all through the lines, Northern soldiers stirred to scrawl their names and home addresses on slips of paper and pin them to the backs of their coats: That way their corpses the next day could be identified more readily. U.S. Grant's forces at Cold Harbor, Virginia, had 7,000 casualties, most of them during a furious 8­minute assault against the Southern lines. Robert E. Lee's army lost 1,500. One blood-stained diary found in the pocket of a dead Northern soldier had this final entry: "June 3. Cold Harbor. I was killed."

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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