15 comments on “Bloody Angle

  1. This side of the pond we tend to overlook your civil war on the basis of subliminal assumptions that the wars of Europe were/are of far greater consequence (wrong of course) – even in our school history lessons. That is a great shame as the history, imagery and passion conveyed in this wonderful poem could teach many a lesson on a myriad of levels.

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  4. “Bloody Angle” is a problematic name, as it was applied to so many battles and compared to other sites, the angle on Cemetary Ridge was fairly subtle. In fact, I’ve heard the term applied to the mess Sickles created with his Third Corp. on Day 2 of the battle.

    That said, I love the idea of the poem, although there are interesting nuances that I wish could be included. Most importantly was the rail fence which most soldiers in the charge refused to cross. Then the fact that Pickett’s brigade commanders, all of whom died, were all classmates of Hancock and his division commanders at West Point. The failure of Heth’s division to support Pickett (Heth’s men had been shot up on the first day by Union Cavalry with their new repeating carbines and were in no shape to be in this attack) meant that part of the Union line could swing forward to fire on the advancing Rebels from each side (much like the Charge of the Light Brigade). Pickett’s Charge involved bravery but also a series of mental errors; like the Light Brigade attack, it should never have happened.

    Beyond that, Gettysburg is probably the closest thing in battle ever to a demonstration of divine providence. With every Confederate attack, something almost magically happens on the Union side to block the attack. A Union commander sees sunlight reflecting on metal in a woods and detours a unit just arriving on the field to defend Little Round Top (the troops gained the summit only 5 minutes ahead of the enemy). The fact that Buford’s cavalry had the new carbines, or that John Reynolds refused to take command of the Union Army and thus was the first commander to arrive. Reynolds designed the battlefield and called the Union Army to gather there — and then was killed by a sniper after the key work was done. A college teacher, Joshua Chamberlain, won the Medal of Honor there, leading a bayonet charge when his men ran out of ammunition. Key people were at the right place when they were needed. None of this had to happen. It just did. If any one of those things had failed to happen, the result of the battle would have been very different. Yet they all happened. When you see so many improbable events line up perfectly, what do you think?

    My great-grandfather was there with the Union cavalry. A Kentuckian, he felt that slavery was an insult to God, a mortal sin, and he and his brethren joined Pennsylvania units to fight.

    You are a gifted poet. I think you could do more with the majesty, mystery and magic of this remarkable battle.

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