My wife asked me the other day, "what was the Civil War about anyhow?"
This caught me a bit off guard, since historians have written about the causes of the Civil War ever since the Civil War broke out and still battle over interpretations. How does one answer a loaded question, whose answer spans monumental issues like slavery, states rights, constitutions and the invariable role of individuals who don't always behave predictably?
We are in the midst of commemorating the 150th anniversary of that war, which spanned from 1861-1865. More men were killed — 625,000 — in the American Civil War than in any other conflict the United States has been in since the American Revolution.
The statistics of famous campaigns and battles are staggering — tens of thousands of men killed and wounded in the space of a few months — like the Union campaign to bring Vicksburg, the key to controlling the Mississippi River, to its knees, or in three short days early in July in the rolling countryside of Pennsylvania at a place called Gettysburg.
The "high tide" of the Confederacy was marked at Gettysburg by the most famous charge of the war, led by Gen. George *Pickett on the third day of battle, July 3, 1863.
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The impact of this efficient killing machine on the approaching Confederates was devastating. As their comrades fell, their units would reorganize and tighten their ranks. Smoke from the cannonade from both sides soon drifted over the field dramatically reducing visibility. The noise was deafening. As they approached withina a few feet of the Union line, the Confederates charged. Some were able to scale the low stone wall separating them from their enemy, but the devastating fire from the Union troops forced a retreat. The battle was over.
“. . .the grand march moved bravely on.”