The First Day, Chapters 2 and 3 - Buford and Lee
First, Happy Independence Day to all! Today is the 145th anniversary of the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg.
We see the first day of battle really heating up through the eyes of Major General John Buford. Buford's goal is pretty straightforward - hold the good ground until General Reynolds and his reinforcements get there. Most of the chapter is devoted to Buford's observations. Buford's relief when Reynolds arrives is obvious and palpable:
...[Reynolds] motioned to Buford. They rode out into the road. Buford felt a certain dreamy calm. Reynolds, like Lee before him, had once commanded the Point. There was a professional air to him, the teacher approaching the class, utterly in command of his subject...
Unfortunately for Buford, Reynolds, and I suspect the entire Union army, the chapter is punctuated by Reynolds's death on the battlefield:
...Buford got one last glimpse of Reynolds. He was out in the open, waving his hat, pointing to a grove of trees. A moment later Buford looked that way and the horse was bare-backed. He did not believe it. He broke off and rode to see. Reynolds lay in the dirt road, the aides bending over him. When Buford got there the thick stain had already puddled the dirt beneath his head. His eyes were open, half asleep, his face pleasant and composed, a soft smile. Buford knelt. He was dead...
Chapter 3 - Lee
Meanwhile, back at the Confederate Army, Lee is doing his best to get much-needed information and to command an army with a lot of egos. I have a hard time understanding the logistics of battles because I tend to be unable to visualize them. Obviously, I would not make a good general for that reason. Suffice it to say that Lee's wish is to attack, while his generals, for a variety of reasons, are unable to do so. In any case, Lee is also hampered by the fact that the Union army has already gotten the jump on them - his understanding was that there was only a few militia men in Gettysburg but Buford's calvalry is there and the infantry will arrive soon.
Throughout the battle, Lee consults with Heth, who reports this confusion and then with A.P. Hill. Eventually, he orders General Ewell to attack when it appears he might have the Union on the run, but it has been clear throughout the day that his troops are exhausted. Lee and his men are not in a position of strength, and there is only so much strategy and testicular fortitude, I think, that can make up for that.
So at the end of the chapter, we have this:
Lee shook his head again. He was growing weary of this. Why didn't Ewell's assault begin? A cautious commander, new to his command. And A.P. Hill is sick. Yet we won. The soldiers won. Lee pointed toward the hill.
"They will probably retreat. Or Ewell will push them off. But if Meade is there tomorrow, I will attack him."
"If Meade is there," Longstreet said implacably, "it is because he wants you to attack him."
That was enough. Lee thought: docile men do not make good soldiers. He said nothing. Longstreet could see the conversation was at an end...