“That these dead shall not have died in vain” – The Battle of Gettysburg

In late June, 1863, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee led the 75,000 man Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania. The 95,000 man Federal Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, moved north to confront Lee’s forces. On July 1, leading elements of the two armies met at Gettysburg, Pa., as much by accident as design.

Although Lee had intended to fight a defensive battle, the chance meeting of the armies caused him to alter his plans and the success gained on the first day convinced him to continue the attack on July 2. Likewise, Meade determined to commit his entire army and ordered a concentration of forces in defensive positions on the ground south of Gettysburg.

The armies clashed again on July 2 at various places like Devil’s Den, the Wheat Field, Little Round Top and Culp’s Hill. On July 3, both armies remained on the field where Lee ordered three Confederate divisions, about 15,000 men, to attack the center of the Union line. The Confederate attack failed.

Confederate casualties: 28,063 – (3,903 Killed in Action)

Union casualties: 23,049 – (3,155 Killed in Action)

Why it still matters:

The Battle of Gettysburg offers timeless lessons to Soldiers, military leaders, corporate CEOs and others agreed Professor Len Fullenkamp, Army War College lead historian, and Steve Knott, USAWC/retired Navy Captain.


Timeless lessons about leadership:

“As you move around the battlefield you find examples of where leaders stood up, gave directions and their men followed everywhere”. On visits with today’s military leaders, they use Gettysburg experiences to think about the challenges of decision making, the burdens of responsibility, the notion there will always be second-guessers. Video: http://youtu.be/4KtdUOLdU58.

Professor Len Fullenkamp, Army War College historian

The principles and leadership from the battlefield are relevant today to the military and Fortune 500 companies. Gen. Meade will win the battle of Gettysburg because he’s empowered his trusted subordinates, gave them clear direction and then stayed out of their way. Video: http://youtu.be/3DM2q6oZgfY.

– Ret. Navy Capt. Steve Knott, Army War College

Soldier courage, discipline and sacrifice:

“Soldiers in 1863 are no different than Soldiers today with respect to courage, discipline and sacrifice.” Stories of heroism are enduring — like the story of the 1stMinnesota Regiment’s 262 Soldiers who filled a gap in the Union line and attacked 2,000 Confederate Soldiers. Video: http://youtu.be/lOTOLBVHE_0.

Steve Knott


Command responsibilities:

“More often than not, a key individual, at a key place, at a key moment, makes a difference.” That’s why it’s important for a commander to inculcate into every one of those individuals a commitment to the endeavor. Video: http://youtu.be/5JI0PB-SXWg.

Len Fullenkamp

“You have to communicate your intent or your vision to your people, especially your trusted subordinates. Gen. Lee’s failed to do this with Gen. James Longstreet during the battle. You cannot take it for granted as a senior leader that your trusted subordinates get what you want to do through osmosis.” Video: http://youtu.be/hz5-ByjtAsQ.

Steve Knott


Compare/Contrast Gettysburg and today’s battles:

“Combat is combat. It’s timeless. It’s one of those things that bring the past and the present together. Good leadership, decisions, training, and courage and camaraderie was important in 1863. It’s absolutely important today.” Video: http://youtu.be/g67Rqflp4Hg.

Len Fullenkamp

Historical images below of the Battle of Gettysburg provided by the U.S. Army War College:

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“That these dead shall not have died in vain” – The Battle of Gettysburg