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Preface My close association with the Battle of Gettysburg and the National Military Park began in 1985, when I was a student at the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and I became a frequent visitor to the battlefield and studied the events in the first three days of July 1863 with great interest . Dr. Jay Luvaas and Colonel Harold Nelson (later a brigadier general) guided me in these studies. These two War College faculty members regularly conducted staff rides and on-the-battlefield discussions as we students plunged into an in-depth study of the battle and the campaign. Throughout my time at Carlisle, I regularly drove the short distance to Gettysburg to walk the ground and explore some aspect of the battle I had been studying. Many times I would vary the route so I could drive along the same routes Lee’s forces followed in late June 1863 as they complied with his order to concentrate in the Gettysburg-Cashtown area. After graduation my close proximity to Gettysburg came to a temporary end. However, I continued studying the campaign and battle and eventually began giving presentations to Civil War Round Tables and other groups. Three different assignments and six years later, I renewed my close proximity to the battlefield when I returned to the War College as a faculty member. Part of my teaching duties involved conducting staff rides for students , officers of active duty and reserve units, and ROTC cadets. While a member of the faculty, I passed the written and oral examinations and became a licensed battlefield guide. This gave me exposure to individuals with a vast knowledge of Gettysburg, which they were willing to share. I xii Preface spent my summers giving tours and the rest of the year reading, studying, and giving talks to various groups. I began to ask myself what had caused the campaign and battle to develop as it did. Were any actions or decisions so important that they influenced everything that followed? Over time I began to develop a list of these decisions. These were decisions of such magnitude that, had they not been made, the events at Gettysburg would have played out differently. This is not to say that George G. Meade would have been the vanquished and Robert E. Lee the victor, although it might have happened that way. That is beyond the scope of this book. I leave it to the reader to decide if the outcome would have been different. However, the sequence of events leading to the outcome would have been different, the orientation of the opposing forces may have been different, it could have been a two-day or four-day rather than a three-day battle, and it may have occurred away from Gettysburg rather than around the town. The critical decisions were chosen based on my military background and extensive experience on the ground at Gettysburg, a close reading of the voluminous primary material, and the even more voluminous secondary sources. Perhaps other historians might choose different decisions, depending on their training and background, and might interpret critical events in different ways. However, I firmly believe the nineteen decisions enumerated in this book are the core decisions of the campaign and the battle. The campaign and the Battle of Gettysburg did not happen as a result of random chance. Events unfolded as they did because of a series of decisions made by commanders at all levels on both sides. There were many decisions made before, during, and after the battle. However, out of all the decisions made, there were nineteen critical ones that had a major impact on shaping the campaign and the battle. My criterion for a critical decision is that, after the decision was made, it shaped not only the events immediately following it but also the conduct of the campaign or battle from that point on. Some of these were major strategic and operational decisions, while others were tactical. Some of the tactical decisions were minor but had major impact. Had they not been made, the character of the battle and the decisions that followed would have been different. The difference would have been of such magnitude as to change the sequence and course of events of the Battle of Gettysburg. This is not another history of the Battle of Gettysburg that covers all of the events, happenings, and decisions. My assumption is that the reader will already have a basic knowledge of the battle. My...


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