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General Ewell the Federal troops are retreating in confusion. It
is only necessary to push those people to get possession of those
heights. Of course, I do not know his situation, and I do not want
him to engage a superior force, but I do want him to take that hill,
if he thinks practicable.
This passage is from July 1,
Chapter 3. It is spoken by General Lee, and
it is paraphrased from something the historical Lee said during the
battle. Lee’s statement is well known to historians, as it represents
a small error that may have cost him a potential victory. The phrase
“if he thinks practicable” allows Ewell to choose whether or not
to attack Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill. Many historians have argued
that Lee’s orders were never truly that ambiguous—Lee wanted the
hills taken, unless the entire Union army was sitting on them. But
Ewell, overly cautious, does not take the hills, and the Union army
quickly digs into them. “Stonewall” Jackson had been killed several
weeks before Gettysburg, and Ewell had been chosen to replace him.
Many historians believe that Jackson, who knew how to move his troops,
and who knew Lee very closely, would have taken the hills without
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Killer Angels!