Bill Bennett

 Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from Bill Bennett’s latest book, America: The Last Best Hope, released last week. The book can be purchased here.

Robert E. Lee moved north once again in late June 1863, pushing hard into Pennsylvania. With crisis looming, Lincoln accepted the petulant resignation of General Joe Hooker. He turned to General George G. Meade, a native of the Keystone State. Lincoln hoped that Meade could be relied upon to "fight well on his own dunghill."

When Lee encountered the federal main force at Gettysburg, he
resolved "to whip them." Lee was hampered by the absence of his great cavalry commander, General James Ewell Brown (J. E. B.) Stuart. Stuart had once humiliated the federals by riding completely around them. Now, he was ranging too far away, capturing badly needed Union supply wagons, but leaving Lee "blind" as to his enemy’s movements.

Confederate Generals Stuart and George Pickett had long since captured hearts throughout the South as dashing Cavaliers; the former sported a full red beard, an ostrich plume in his hat, and a brilliant red sash around his middle, while the latter
wore his hair shoulder-length in perfumed ringlets. Pickett was the last man in the West Point class of 1846 (an appointment gained for him, ironically, by Congressman Abraham Lincoln), but he made up for his dismal academic standing by his bravery and energy.

A Union officer, Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at thirty-four was tall and lean with a flowing mustache. He was a professor of classics in civilian life. He could speak eight languages—English, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Syriac, Hebrew, French, and German. It is doubtful any other man on the field that day was so learned. But many fine minds and brave hearts threw their bodies into the breach on those disputed grounds.

Commanding the Twentieth Maine, Chamberlain knew he had to hold Little Round Top on the field at Gettysburg. If the Confederates gained that high point, they could pour artillery fire down onto Union troops below and very likely win the battle—maybe the war.

Bill Bennett

Bill Bennett is the author of Our Country's Founders .

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