Chancellorsville and Gettysburg
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- United States
More informationAbner Doubleday began the Civil War as a Union officer and aimed the first cannon shot in response to the bombardment opened on Ft. Sumter in 1861. Two years later, after a series of battles (including Antietam, where he was wounded), Doubleday took over a division in the Army of the Potomac's 1st Corps.
These are his memoirs of service in two of the War's great campaigns. At Chancellorsville, a very promising start made by General Hooker against Lee's Confederate forces fell to a defeat when, in Doubleday's estimation, normal and prudent precautions against surprise in the heavily-wooded battlefield were not carried out; he also seemingly apologizes for Hooker's lack of leadership during the battle as a result of his having been stunned by a cannon ball hitting the post against which he was leaning.
After Chancellorsville, Hooker was replaced as Army Commander by General George Meade. Doubleday describes the curious circumstances that led the two opposing armies to meet at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. When Doubleday's superior, General John Reynolds, was killed by a sharpshooter on the first day's battle, he took over the 1st Corps and fought it well against converging Confederate divisions that badly outnumbered him. The Corps was forced by battle losses to retire, but its desperate fight bought the time needed for Union reinforcements to pour into Gettysburg and thus prevent a defeat in detail.
General Howard of the XIth Corps replaced Doubleday as the senior commander on the field, and mistakenly wrote to Meade that 1st Corps had routed after practically no fighting. Thus, when Meade arrived, he removed Doubleday from command of 1st Corps, replacing him with a more junior general from another Corps. The snub would embitter Doubleday against Meade. This book is in part Doubleday's revenge, as he picks apart Meade's indecision after the battle was essentially won, with the repulse of the famous Pickett's Charge. In his view, Meade could have won the war at that moment. (Summary by Mark Smith)