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An Insightful Look at the Battle of Gettysburg

History buff Rich Meyer presents a lecture at the Sayville Library.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, history buffs gathered at the recently to listen to a presentation about the Battle of Gettysburg from Rich Meyer.

In his presentation, Meyer offered an overview on one of the bloodiest battle of the war. Aside from just the facts, Meyer presented attendees with a more in-depth look at the people, their lives and their military history as well as the battle details.

General Robert E. Lee won an amazing Southern victory at Chancellorsville from May 2-6, 1863 but he lost his most capable subordinate, Stonewall Jackson. The Confederacy considers two options. One was they could take the 15,000 men and send them to Vicksburg. The second option, the one Lee wanted, was to use those 15,000 soldiers, replace the ones lost in Chancellorsville and invade the North.  The Confederacy authorized Lee to go ahead with his invasion.

As General Lee is ready to march North, he reorganizes his army into three corps of about 20,000 to 21,000 each: Army of Northern Virginia, Army of the Potomac and Intelligence Factor. In choosing the leaders of these armies, their inexperience would become a liability to Lee since many of the men has not led armies of that size.

“One of the myths about Gettysburg was it was an accident,” Meyer said. “But most generals involved knew they would be fighting somewhere in that area. In the beginning of the battle,  one of the myths was they were looking for shoes. They were actually looking for supplies.”

By the end of day one, the Federates lost 6,000 troops, and Unions lost 9,000 troop -- a great victory for Lee. The second day attacks, Meyer said, were not coordinated. “The thing that would have been a game changer would have been walkie talkies because of all the problems with communication,” he said. By day two, the Confederates lost 16,000 or 17,000 and Union numbers are about the same. On day three, Lee feels he needs just one more push and he can win the battle with better coordination. He is forced to revise his plan.

Not only did Meyer provide attendees with a play by play of the battle, he also showed slides of his many visits to the site. A secondary part of his presentation was a look at today’s Gettysburg battlefield and how to get the most out of a visit. A brand new visitor’s center was built in 2008. More than 60 percent of the gift store is devoted to literature, as more books have been written about Gettysburg than all other civil wars.

There’s also plenty of different ways to view the battlefield. Options include a driving tour – self guided; driving tour with audio tape or CD; guided tour with license guide; park ranger talks and living history; hiking trails; tour bus; bicycle tour; and Segway tours. Meyer also gave a listing of accommodations and restaurants in the area.

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