Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 37.djvu/147

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139
Eeview of the Gettysburg Campaign.

His greatest concern at the moment seemed to be to break the shock of the repulse, and its possible effect upon the troops, and probably it was this, coupled with his great magnanimity, that led him to say as reported, "It is all my fault." Whether this speech fell from General Lee or not, it is conceded on all points that the assaulting column was not lacking in courage, and that the failure did not rest upon the shoulders of the troops.

Was the failure then because the plan was inherently weak and incapable of success; or because there was no concerted and simultaneous action from the centre and wings at the same time, or because of both?

It would seem the plan was inherently weak because of the immense distance to be traversed by the assaulting column before reaching the point of attack, and because of the want of cover to shield its progress. The distance to be traversed, and the projection of the column so far in advance, necessarily made the movement largely independent, and put it out of reach of support at the critical moment of its life, even had a general advance been vigorously pressed. No general advance could have kept pace with the assaulting column. It could not have been expected to do so. The most that could have been expected was that a vigorous attack all along the line would keep the enemy's attention engaged, and prevent reinforcements being sent to the crucial point. But unless Pickett succeeded in establishing himself securely in the enemy's position so that he could hold it, he was out of reach of immediate help.

A more vigorous attack by the Confederates would doubtless have aided Pickett, and prevented to some extent the relief sent to Hancock, and to the disabled Federal batteries, but it is unreasonable to suppose that such an attack however general or vigorous would have successfully carried the lines at other points or brought it in reach of Pickett, or materially interfered with Meade's dispositions. As Meade occupied interior lines with shorter communications, and now with superior numbers, and with his troops under excellent natural cover, it was well nigh impossible by any attack the Confederates could have made, to prevent the easy shifting of his men to points where they were most needed.