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Civil War series analyzes Battle of Gettysburg

Discussion: Factors such as terrain affected outcome of battle

By Dillon Brollier
On January 26, 2012

  • Preston Lewis speaks about his civil war experiences as Dr. Maurice Fortin, Dr. William Taylor and Dr. Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai look on. Pam Belcher

For the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, two professors analyzed the Battle of Gettysburg Tuesday at the CJ Davidson Center in the UC.

At the discussion series, Assistant Professor of Security Studies Dr. William Taylor gave a virtual tour of the Gettysburg battlefield, and Assistant Professor of History, Dr. Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai, spoke about the second day of the battle.

Taylor said he hopes attendees left with a better appreciation of the context of the Battle of Gettysburg.

It is important for people to understand the significance of the battle, Taylor said.

"With over 192,700 soldiers engaged and over 57,000 casualties in just three days of fighting, Gettysburg is arguably the most significant battle in American military history," Taylor said.

Wongsrichanalai said he would like the audience to understand how important individual decisions can be.

"Decisions about the placement of troops, the building of fortifications, and military tactics all have enormous consequences for the outcome of a battle, a campaign and the fate of

nations," Wongsrichanalai said.

The actual field the Battle of Gettysburg took place in was the focal point of Taylor's discussion.

Battlefield features such as Culp's Hill, Cemetery Hill, Little Round Top and Round Top all dominated the battlefield in a direct fashion, Taylor said.

"These terrain features played instrumental roles in the intense fighting that occurred at Gettysburg from July 1 through July 3, 1863," Taylor said.  "As a result, the importance of the battlefield itself is the way in which it shaped the battle that took place there, especially at the tactical level."

The Civil War is certainly one of the most defining moments in U.S. history, Executive Director of Library Services Dr. Maurice G. Fortin said.

Fortin moderated the discussion series.

Any time a nation goes through an event such as the Civil War it is something people will always want to study, Fortin said.

"[The Civil War] settled the issue of states' rights that the federal government is the ultimate authority; that each state could not do what it wanted to do in isolation from the rest of the states that had joined together to join a country," Fortin said.

While Gettysburg was an important battle, it was not the Confederacy's last chance to win the war, Wongsrichanalai said.

"The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia managed to retreat intact and this meant that the desperate struggle would continue into 1864, a presidential election year and another critical point in which the Confederacy could have gained its independence," Wongsrichanalai said.

Gettysburg has both a personal and historical importance for Taylor.

Taylor said growing up in Maryland gave him ample opportunity to visit and explore the battlefield of Gettysburg.

"I continued to visit Gettysburg as a Marine officer and scholar, taking my Marines there for battlefield studies and visiting repeatedly while researching the command structure of the Army of Northern Virginia," Taylor said.

The next installment of the discussion series, "Emancipation, 1862," will take place Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. at the Fort Concho Commissary.

 


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