There are many books on history written by different historians and scholars, and even by those people who are of little touch with the discussed issue. Some historical events have contradictory nature because of a lack of information that was not properly documented. Such events are doomed to provoke different opinions on the matter of reasons, motivations, details, people, exact dates, and other kinds of information which is missing in the scientific archives of historical institutions.
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Thus Civil War history and name the three days Battle of Gettysburg is an event that possesses contradictory nature. As General Lee had brilliant chances to win that battle, historians are still arguing about the reasons for Lee’s defeat.
A retired army colonel Tom Carhart has presented an alternative theory in a rather complete manner in the book “Lost Triumph: Lee’s Real Plan at Gettysburg and Why it Failed”. I consider his book very thought-provoking, as it provides a fresh look at the Battle of Gettysburg. This new theory must evoke the response of scientists, as it is a new vision of the problem:
“The conventional wisdom over the last century and a half have been that Lee risked everything that day – a much-needed stunning victory over the Army of the Potomac in Pennsylvania, the survival of his own army, even, yes, the very life of the Confederacy – on a foolish attack by nine of his forty-three combat brigades launched against ranks of riflemen and clusters of cannon awaiting them in the Union line. If true, that means he was willing to gamble it all on the ability of those 13,000 men to cross a wide and open field under constant artillery and rifle fire, their attack hurled into the teeth of the Union defenses while his other 50,000 men sat by and waited” (Carhart 2).
The structure of the book is extremely ordinary. It consists of a list of maps, a foreword written by James M. McPherson, and an introduction written by the author, though sometimes it can be created by some other author to observe impartiality; also there are sixteen chapters, acknowledgments, notes and index. From first sight, the book seems to be a rather commonplace reading matter on the common topic. But already after having read the introduction of this book I changed my mind.
The beginning of the introductory part is taken from William Faulkner’s “Intruder in the Dust” (1948). The sources were used mainly from different historical and scientific journals and magazines; they contain studies on the military history of the Western World; the history and opinions of different historians about the Battle of Gettysburg; memoirs of people whose opinion is important and who was present during that battle; the information about the arms and equipment of soldiers of that time.
Tom Carhart represents a brilliant explanation of the military plans, gives good examples and analyses of fights that have relation to the main point of the study. Thus he suggests the opinion that General Robert E. Lee possessed a clear plan to win the battle on the third day. This new study represents the idea that Lee had some particular strategy in order to crush the opponents; that could change the result of the whole war. The only thing that I still cannot understand is why analyzing the Battles of Napoleon to understand the reasons for the failure of General Lee’s plan. Is it necessary to dig so deep?
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The thing I liked most is that the author of the book provided maps of battles, as I think this kind of information is crucial for understanding the directions, alignment of forces, and other things that cannot be simply imagined; that is why the visual aids are rather important for historical studies.
Thus we can make a conclusion on the issue of the book book “Lost Triumph: Lee’s Real Plan at Gettysburg and why it Failed” written by a retired army colonel Tom Carhart. One can see that the author does not provide critiques of the plan of action during the Battle of Gettysburg by General Lee. It is obvious that Carhart feels some kind of sympathy for the figure of the general, as he tries to justify his failure.
As a great number of literary critiques and studies on this issue have already been written, I do not find it necessary to write another kind of reading matter on this topic at all. Historical events are likely to be thought-provoking as different events of our planet’s history make us think over the reasons, motivations, and results of certain actions and make conclusions subject to the outcome of the actions.
Carhart does not analyze the reasons for General Lee’s choice to attack the Union forces on Cemetery Ridge, which was entrenched; taking into consideration that the general was free of maneuver. Civil War history and name the three days Battle of Gettysburg is the event that possesses contradictory nature; General Lee had all chances to win that battle, historians are still arguing about the reasons of Lee’s defeat.
The book gives a changed overview of the events of the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg; though the manner of presentation is very interesting and captivating, it involves entertainment and education. As the history of military events raises many problems and solves only a few, this book can be considered a good source to analyze the matter and to entertain oneself.
Carhart, Tom. Lost Triumph: Lee’s Real Plan at Gettysburg and Why it Failed. New York: Penguin Group, 2005.