Robert E. Lee, Battle of Gettysburg (American National Biography)

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Russell F. Weigley, "Lee, Robert E.," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-00622.html.
Following Chancellorsville, Davis finally reinforced Lee to the strength the general believed necessary for a new invasion of the North. On 3 June 1863 Lee set out for Pennsylvania, but he did so without Stonewall Jackson, who had died on 10 May of complications from wounds suffered at Chancellorsville. Ever since the Pennsylvania campaign climaxed at Gettysburg on 1-3 July, debate has persisted over whether Jackson's absence accounts for Lee's inability--at Gettysburg or in any of his subsequent battles--to achieve the sort of complete tactical success that the flanking maneuvers led by Jackson at Second Manassas and Chancellorsville had provided. Probably the circumstances of the battle of Gettysburg would have precluded such bold maneuver anyway; in particular, Lee was hampered by a lack of familiarity with the terrain. At Gettysburg less ambitious attempts against both enemy flanks failed on 2 July, and the next day the battle ended with the defeat of Major General George E. Pickett's famous charge against the Union center. The skillful defensive tactics of Major General George G. Meade as Federal commander helped impose on Lee his highest casualties yet: 28,000, about 35 percent.

Lee probably gambled on Pickett's Charge because he recognized that no more throws of the dice of a strategic offensive would be possible. His cumulative casualties were already too great: here lay the fatal flaw in his strategy. He would still, nevertheless, risk attacking on the battlefield in the hope of destroying the enemy army, as he had done from the beginning.
How to Cite This Page: "Robert E. Lee, Battle of Gettysburg (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/index.php/node/16005.