Battlefield Detectives - The Civil War: Gettysburg   View more episodes

Aired at 10:00 AM on Thursday, Feb 11, 2010 (2/11/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


00:00:01It's critical to winning the battle.
00:00:03You have to know where the enemy is, what his intentions are, how strong he is.
00:00:07>> On the confederate side, the lack of adequate intelligence information will be a major problem as this battle starts and in fact will continue on all three days of the battle.
00:00:17>> The eyes and ears of general lee's army was a cavalry force led by brigadier general jeb stuart.
00:00:25>> He relied on stuart many times in the past and stuart had never let him down; he'd always given lee the information that he needed.
00:00:32>> But in late june, stuart had lost contact with the confederate army during a mission to disrupt union lines of communication.
00:00:40>> For a critical three or four days in late june and thdays leading right up to the battle, lee hadn't heard a word from stuart.
00:00:47He literally had not heard anything.
00:00:49>> Lee had asked everyone who came into headquarters, "have you heard from general stuart?
00:00:54Where's my cavalry?
00:00:55Have you heard from general " he asked everyone he saw this over and over and over, because he was dying for information.
00:01:02>> Lee usually had a very good sense of where his opponent was, but that wasn't the case during the gettysburg campaign because, and this is something else historians have argued about, but I believe he didn't have a good sense because jeb stuart wasn't doing his job.
00:01:16Jeb stuart's job was to keep lee informed of where the federal army was, what its movements were and he wasn't doing it.
00:01:23>> While lee grew increasingly frustrated, the union had, for the first time in the civil war, a clear advantage in intelligence.
00:01:32>> They've established an intelligence branch of their army which were able to rely on many different sources of information.
00:01:39>> Hi, gentlemen.
00:01:40>> General.
00:01:41>> I understand that you all have seen some confederates in this area.
00:01:45>> The advantage of fighting on home ground passed to the army of the potomac during the gettysburg campaign.
00:01:50It usually rested with the army of northern virginia while it was fighting in virginia, but you would get intelligence from areas beyond the strict military sphere-- simply from civilians.
00:02:01>> Which direction were they headed?
00:02:02Which direction were they coming from?
00:02:04>> The cavalry I saw came from town.
00:02:05They were heading west.
00:02:06>> The locals counted the confederate troops and units and artillery as they came through, and they were extremely accurate on the numbers that went past.
00:02:15They knew within four guns of how many pieces of artillery that lee had brought.
00:02:21And this was information that was reported back through channels and got back to general meade.
00:02:28>> As the confederate army approached gettysburg, news of nearly all its movements was being passed onto general meade.
00:02:35And this was being communicated the telegraph.
00:02:42>> The telegraph essentially is a system where an electrical pulse is sent through wires.
00:02:49This pulse travels at the speed of light.
00:02:51Now this is essentially instantaneous communication and what this will do on the battlefield is really revolutionary.
00:02:59>> Charles ross has studied the role of technology in the civil war.
00:03:03He believes the easy availability of intelligence to meade was vital.
00:03:09>> What was really novel about this was that it allowed a commanding officer on the battlefield to get information in real time without relying on visual cues, without relying on sound or without relying on couriers.
00:03:23Meade had a strategic web of telegraph lines that wove all through maryland and pennsylvania and allowed him to really keep tabs on where all the parts of lee's army were before the battle began.
00:03:36>> So even before the battle had begun lee was at a disadvantage.
00:03:40His intelligence was failing him.
00:03:42Unaware of meade's location, he had not massed his forces effectively.
00:03:47>> It's not where he planned to fight, it isn't when he wanted to fight, but he doesn't have the intelligence to shape the battle to the way he wants it to go, to where he wants to fight the battle.
00:04:00Instead, it develops before he's got his whole army concentrated.
00:04:05>> The opening exchanges took place on the western edge of gettysburg.
00:04:12Union cavalry faced a confederate infantry force more than twice their size.
00:04:18General lee's army was not yet massed, but the commanders in the field sense the possibility of a swift victory.
00:04:26For the union, it was vital they delayed the enemy.
00:04:29The battle could be lost when it had scarcely begun.
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00:08:15>> It's july 1, 1863.
00:08:18Just outside gettysburg, union cavalrymen are about to be attacked by a confederate infantry force more than twice as large.
00:08:28The confederate infantry commander, harry heth, is in a confident mood.
00:08:33>> By any reasonable standard, harry heth's 7,000 infantrymen should have run over 3,000 federal cavalrymen.
00:08:43>> Union cavalry commander, john buford, knew he couldn't win this fight.
00:08:48But he had made an observation that would prove vital.
00:08:51>> Buford understands the terrain very, very well.
00:08:54Buford, as he rode into the gettysburg area, could see the high ground south of the town that will be the key terrain during the battle.
00:09:03>> Buford realized that his army would have time to seize that high ground if he could delay the confederate advance.
00:09:10And he believed his men had the weapons to do the job.
00:09:15>> This is an original sharp's carbine, made in 1863.
00:09:18It was used by the cavalry soldiers in the war and buford's division had a large number of these on july 1, 1863 at the battle of gettysburg.
00:09:30It's a breech-loading weapon and very effective.
00:09:33To load it, troopers would reach under, grab this lever and pull down.
00:09:40That opens the block at the breech of the weapon.
00:09:44The trooper would then reach into their cartridge box and pull out a round, 54 caliber lead bullet.
00:09:52There was a linen wrapping filled with gunpowder.
00:09:56The trooper would push this into the chamber and then bring that lever up, closing the chamber off.
00:10:05The trooper would then bring the sharp's carbine to half-cock and get a percussion cap, put it on the nipple of the gun.
00:10:16The weapon would be brought to full cock, ..
00:10:24>> Buford's carbines were up against the rifled musket.
00:10:29>> To load this musket, the soldier would place it in front of him and retrieve a cartridge from his cartridge box.
00:10:36Now the cartridge is powder and ball wrapped in paper.
00:10:39He has to bite open the rear end of the ctridge to expose the powder, pour the powder into the muzzle and then squeeze out the ball, out of the paper, seating the ball into the muzzle.
00:10:53Then the soldier draws the ramrod and drives the ball home.
00:10:59And then has to prime the musket in order to ignite the powder.
00:11:02Priming is done by putting the lock at half cock, drawing a cap out of the cap pouch, puts the cap on the nipple, pulls the hammer back to full cock, takes aim and fires.
00:11:20>> Ready? load!
00:11:23>> So how do these weapons perform in a rate of fire contest?
00:11:27The union cavalry's carbine will be up against the confederate infantry's musket.
00:11:34>> 15 Seconds.
00:11:35>> It will be a race against the clock.
00:11:37Which gun can fire the most shots?
00:11:42>> 30 Seconds.
00:11:43>> It takes nearly 30 seconds for the rifled musket to get a shot off by which time the carbine has already fired twice.
00:11:50>> 45 Seconds.
00:11:52>> It's clear that the musket is taking at least twice as long to load.
00:11:58Over a two minute period, the carbine gets 10 shots off compared to the rifled musket's four.
00:12:05This far superior rate of fire gave the union cavalry a critical advantage.
00:12:11It had the effect of leveling up the difference in numbers.
00:12:15But buford's tactics were crucial as well.
00:12:19>> He will dismount his ..
00:12:24Giving the impression that these are union infantry here and not cavalry, and giving an impression of greater strength here than actually was.
00:12:34>> So buford had bought his army precious time.
00:12:38>> He knew that his cavalry could not hold for long against a division of confederate infantry, and so he used his troopers in the most effective manner possible, to force the confederates to take the time to shake out into battle lines, bring their artillery up and do all the things that eat up 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour and give united states infantry time to march closer and closer to the relief of the cavalry.
00:13:04>> Buford had very effectively applied one of the key economy of force.
00:13:10In contrast, general lee's failure to mass enough troops for his attack had denied him a swift victory in this first fight.
00:13:18The confederates were inching forward but paying a bloody price, one that would come back to haunt them on day three.
00:13:26Now as union infantry arrived, the battle grew.
00:13:30One of the first infantry clashes was here, in little known herbst woods.
00:13:36Battlefield historian scott hartwig has discovered regimental accounts that reveal just how costly the fight was here.
00:13:44>> Well, this fight is, in a sense, a microcosm of what the whole first day's battle's about.
00:13:52For the union forces it's about delaying and buying time.
00:13:57And to do that, you're sacrificing your soldiers.
00:14:02Now comes this clash that for many of these soldiers is almost indescribable.
00:14:09One of the confederates in the clash said the firing was so heavy, it was like all these thunderstorms all wrapped into one.
00:14:17He also said there was so much smoke with the humidity of that day, it almost became like night within the woods.
00:14:25So imagine soldiers yelling and screaming, cursing, screams of wounded, screams of the dying, all these weapons exploding, dark smoke enwrapping all these men and you start to get a picture of the nature of the battle.
00:14:42>> In the middle of this battle ground lies willoughby run creek.
00:14:45As the confederate 26th north carolina regiment advanced to its edge, they were hit by a murderous round of fire.
00:14:52[Gunfire] >> from that side of the creek to this side of the creek we can see it's almost a hop, skip, and a jump, to get across this creek.
00:15:06They're gonna lose four color bearers.
00:15:10One man's gonna be shot before he gets to the creek.
00:15:15Two men are shot in the creek, and another man is shot on the other side of the creek.
00:15:19And they're simply passing this battle flag on to the next man.
00:15:25>> The 26th north carolina lost 550 men, more than 60% of their total strength.
00:15:32But just 48 hours later, this battered regiment would be lining up for pickett's charge.
00:15:38>> One of the wider implications of the first day's fighting for the confederate army is that in the third day of the battle, lee-- is gonna have toall upon units that fought on the first day to participate in his attack against the center of the union army.
00:15:55So in the end, even though the 26th north carolina is gonna clear these woods, the strategic victory of july 1 lies with the union forces.
00:16:06>> Gains on the battlefield were costing the confederates too much time, too much blood.
00:16:12But as day one wore on, more of the confederate army had arrived on the field.
00:16:17Most of the union army was still miles to the south.
00:16:21So despite suffering trible losses, the confederates gradually push the union troops back, into the very streets of gettysburg itself.
00:16:31>> We have a town of about 2,400 people.
00:16:33You're gonna have upwards of 15,000 soldiers in the union army converging on the town and you have at least an equal number of confederates who are coming into the town itself.
00:16:46So you've got this huge number of people moving into the town.
00:16:50>> And now there was a new obstacle for general lee.
00:16:53The battle had been in fields and woods.
00:16:56Now it was street by street, house by house.
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00:20:22/Wy >> It's day one of the battle of gettysburg.
00:20:58The union army is in retreat, the confederates are pursuing them right through these very streets.
00:21:04But it takes hours for the confederates to get to the south side of town and when they eventually do their soldiers are in no shape to continue the fight.
00:21:13How could this have happened?
00:21:16Intelligence expert kim campbell thinks that the answer to this question can be found in the physical shape of the town.
00:21:23>> The town of gettysburg itself is a rather unique hub of a lot of roads--all the roads in this area of pennsylvania, they all feed into gettysburg.
00:21:33It's major intersection basically.
00:21:36And it's like a big funnel.
00:21:38>> Campbell believes this funnel destroyed the coherence of the confederate forces.
00:21:43He's taken his theory to be tested by an expert in crowd dynamics.
00:21:48Keith still studies crowd behavior in congested environments.
00:21:53He is constructing an exact computer model of gettysburg using the 1863 street plans.
00:22:00Still is going to re-run the confederate pursuit through the town to try to discover what may have happened.
00:22:07>> Keith, what are we looking at here?
00:22:09>> Here we've built a basic model here of the town of gettysburg, where each of these roads is occupied by the union soldiers retreating, and you can see as the red confederate troops are moving forward throh the blue union troops, then we have convergence points.
00:22:24We've a large funnel coming in from all three sides at the top and leading out to cemetery hill at the bottom.
00:22:30>> Yeah, we can see a lot of roads feeding in, only a few roads coming out.
00:22:35>> This is one street intersection in gettysburg.
00:22:38Still's simulation shows troops approaching a road junction.
00:22:43>> This is the intersection at the north, and what we're seeing here is just the troops as they're moving down and merging in.
00:22:50What you end up is very high concentrations of soldiers.
00:22:54>> They're really backing up there.
00:22:56>> Very much so.
00:22:57It backs up much faster, much quicker than you would expect.
00:23:01>> As the program runs, a fascinating pattern begins to emerge.
00:23:05Each dark blue triangle represents one freely moving soldier.
00:23:10As the soldiers file through the streets, the triangles are changing color at the intersection.
00:23:15Yellow and red means men are grinding to a halt.
00:23:18The confederate advance is turning into a massive crowd congestion problem.
00:23:24>> In these high density congested areas, what you've got is soldiers caught in pockets with solers behind them, soldiers in the side of them.
00:23:31They can't move.
00:23:32So they're literally log-jammed into the geometry of gettysburg.
00:23:36>> Still's model demonstrates that the shape of the streets has slowed confederate progress to almost a standstill.
00:23:45Yet as darkness fell most rebel soldiers thought the day had gone well.
00:23:50 lee still felt that victory was within sight.
00:23:54>> He is supremely confident in himself and in his men and he has every reason to believe that with his force concentrated he can deliver battle successfully.
00:24:05>> But he was sadly mistaken.
00:24:07His attack on july 1 had cost him too much.
00:24:10Its chief result had been to drive union forces onto excellent defensive terrain to the south of gettysburg.
00:24:17This would be the decisive factor for the rest of the battle.
00:24:22As the sun rose on july 2, the battle lines had been drawn.
00:24:26The union army was now arrayed in the shape of a hook.
00:24:29Their line stretched for 3 1/2 miles, from culp's hill and cemetery hill in the north, along cemetery ridge to the round top hills in the south.
00:24:39The confederate line was twice as long, starting east of town, curving, and extending down seminary ridge.
00:24:47General meade had lost the town of gettysburg, but his soldiers now controlled the best terrain.
00:24:53>> Many confederate soldiers continued to talk in years later about listening with despair, the rumbling of wagons and troops marching up the road as the union army arrived on the field and the sound of the union soldiers entrenching their position and getting ready for the battle on the next day.
00:25:12>> The union commanders knew a confederate onslaught was imminent.
00:25:16Their good ground had to be held.
00:25:19At the northern end of the union line was a key strategic position: culp's hill.
00:25:26>> Culp's hill is absolutely essential to the union defense because if culp's hill falls, the baltimore pike is naked and the main union artery, logistical artery and communications artery is gone.
00:25:38>> Successive confederate attacks could not take this vital position.
00:25:44Nature has swallowed up virtually all evidence of the fierce fight that took place here.
00:25:54>> There was incredible fighting here at culp's hill that went for eight solid hours.
00:25:57There's no other place in the battlefield where a line was contested for that long and yet it's still often overlooked.
00:26:06>> Painstaking work by cartographer curt musselman is gradually revealing what until now has been a hidden battlefield.
00:26:14>> We're going over every square mile of the battlefield, ..
00:26:19Determining, you know, where features were so that in a sense we're trying to find out where the battlefield really lies.
00:26:26>> Musselman studies 19th century maps of the battlefield.
00:26:30By overlaying these historic maps with modern aerial photographs, he can pinpoint the location of individual battle lines, revealing features that are hidden today.
00:26:41>> There's a number of earthworks shown that are very difficult to find today, not much showing at all.
00:26:47So this is where we would take the historic map and i would draw these lines in by tracing them on the computer screen and then load those to the gps.
00:26:56That would give us the ability then in the field to navigate to where those positions should be.
00:27:03>> So with his co-ordinates downloaded from the computer displayed map, he sets off.
00:27:08A vital tool out in the field is the global positioning system.
00:27:12It constantly indicates his exact position to within two feet.
00:27:17>> What we're doing now is mapping a section of earthworks here on the west side of culp's hill--some people call this stevens' knoll--and I'm using the gps equipment in a line mode so that I get a reading about every second.
00:27:32>> Out in the open, the line of this earthworks easy to follow.
00:27:36But that changes as it enters the woods.
00:27:40Now musselman relies on his gps to guide him towards what he hopes will be physical evidence of the union defenses.
00:27:51>> Now this rock was part of the defensive works here near culp's hill on the battlefield at gettysburg.
00:27:57It might look natural, it looks like a lot of other rocks, but you can tell by the position that it was found in, it's been piled up either as a wall but in this case we know it was part of the breastworks built by the union troops.
00:28:11>> At this very spot on the evening of july 1 union soldiers worked frantically to fortify their position.
00:28:18Every available tool and material was used.
00:28:21Culp's hill was turned into a fortress.
00:28:24So why did the confederates still attack it?
00:28:27Why didn't they try to go round it?
00:28:29Musselman has discovered there's a good reason.
00:28:32On an historic map, he's found what appears to be a mill pond at the foot of culp's hill.
00:28:38But aerial photographs show little evidence.
00:28:41He decides to investigate.
00:28:46>> We're in the middle of what would have been the mcallister mill pond.
00:28:50At this point it was about 150 feet across, from just over there, sweeping all the way back around here.
00:28:58In 1863, it would have been 4-5 feet deep with just water.
00:29:03This expanse of flooded area provided the anchor for the union line at culp's hill.
00:29:09>> Mcallister's mill pond was shaped like a letter "c," a classic buttress against the confederate attack.
00:29:16And this is what supplied it with water: rock creek.
00:29:19>> When we ask ourselves sometimes, "well, why did the confederates attack such a strong natural defensive position as cu's hill with that steep terrain?
00:29:26Why didn't they just go around " well, as they started going further south to get to th extreme right flank of the union army, this is what they ran into.
00:29:36Rock creek and the mcallister mill pond.
00:29:39>> So with these natural barriers blocking their way the confederates were compelled to attack the union defenders behind their breastworks.
00:29:50General lee concentrated all available forces in an effort to punch a hole in the union line.
00:29:58As the light faded on july 2, the confederates hurled themselves at the yankees.
00:30:04The woods rang with musket fire and blood-curdling rebel yells.
00:30:09But the defenses of culp's hill were just too strong.
00:30:15Three miles away, at the other end of the battle line, was little round top hill.
00:30:22Here was another key piece of high ground that the union had fallen back onto at the end of day one.
00:30:29But its defense would depend on more than just rocks and rifles.
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00:34:25>> This is little round top hill, scene of the one of the most famous clashes of the american civil war.
00:34:31It had been occupied by the union since day one.
00:34:34On july 2 the confederates made a desperate assault.
00:34:38On their right flank, the men of the 15th alabama regiment.
00:34:43>> They awoke about 3 a.m.
00:34:45The day of the battle.
00:34:47They had to gather their gear, get assembled and make an incredibly tough march just to get to gettysburg.
00:34:54>> It would be 25 miles, with full equipment, under a hot july sun and with nothing to drink.
00:35:01>> The physical exertions of getting into position rendered many members of the 15th alabama unable to participate, many of them literally fell out of the ranks from exhaustion before the fighting began.
00:35:15>> As the exhausted alabamians attacked, they were met with determined resistance from the 20th maine regiment.
00:35:23>> Attack after attack failed and the men eventually exhausted themselves in the fight.
00:35:28A number of soldiers collapsed from exhaustion and were carried to the rear.
00:35:32Other individuals were simply too enervated, too drained of energy from the heat and from the all-day march to fight any longer.
00:35:40And then the 20th maine launched a counter attack and the counter attack swept the 15th alabama off the field.
00:35:53>> Today thousands come to little round top to see the scene of this epic struggle.
00:35:58Many visitors are impressed by the view, none more so than charles ross.
00:36:04He thinks that the influence this magnificent vantage point played in the wider battle of gettysburg is not fully appreciated.
00:36:15>> The union had a major advantage by having signal stations using flags in a semaphore type communication all the way from one end of the battlefield to the other.
00:36:25>> 2-1-1-2.
00:36:28>> These signal stations used flags in a type of visual morse code.
00:36:34>> 1-2.
00:36:35>> They relayed information from carefully selected observation positions back to general meade.
00:36:42>> Behind me here is the round top area where probably the most important signal station of the entire civil war was located.
00:36:52By having a signal station at his headquarters and one on either extreme of his position, he was able to keep apprised of the situation on either end and make appropriate adjustments with his forces very quickly.
00:37:06>> Not only did the signal stations relay vital information, they acted as a deterrent to attacking troops trying to stay undetected.
00:37:16>> The union signal station on little round top on july 2 is a really good example of how a signal station can influence movements on a battlefield and can cause unexpected delays for one army or the other.
00:37:28>> Well, according to the confederates, the signal station on little round top was really a thorn in their side, especially on day 2 as the confederates tried to make their advance on the union left flank.
00:37:39They had to keep out of view of the union men up in that signal station.
00:37:44>> Confederate colonel edward porter alexander remarked bitterly afterwards: "That wretched little signal station upon round top that day caused one of our divisions to lose over two hours, and probably delayed our assault " >> even though the confederate army had signal flags too, their battle line wasn't positioned on ground that was as good, it wasn't as high, and they couldn't use their signal flags as effectively as the union army could.
00:38:13So lee has to rely much more heavily on either fa conversations with his commanders or couriers on horseback.
00:38:20>> Lee's assault on the left flank, like that on the right had failed.
00:38:24With an over-extended battle line his communications were breaking down.
00:38:29Confusion was growing.
00:38:30Without accurate battlefield intelligence, lee had to rely on his sense of what was happening.
00:38:36But senses can sometimes be misleading.
00:38:39>> If you were a civil war general conducting a battle in real time, one of the best ways of understanding what was happening on the battlefield was by using your sense of sound.
00:38:50Now armies and battles at that time had gotten to a size that was larger than what a general could see in real time from one end to the other, so sound had reached a level of heightened importance.
00:39:04>> Ross has studied the role of sound on the battlefield.
00:39:07He's investigating a phenomenon widely reported throughout the civil war: acoustic shadows.
00:39:13>> An acoustic shadow is a catch-all term for any situation where an observer outdoors is near a loud sound but actually does not hear it.
00:39:28At gettysburg there were really two factors that may have played into the occurrence of an acoustic shadow.
00:39:35One would have been a prominent land mass, such as little round top in front of us here.
00:39:41If we imagine a source of sound such as a cannon in this area emitting sound waves in all directions, what we'll find is that sound waves which interfere with little round top will be impeded or absorbed.
00:39:57A general on the other side of little round top will not hear these sounds.
00:40:02He'll be in an acoustic shadow.
00:40:04>> It's perhaps no surprise that a hill could create an acoustic shadow.
00:40:09But there is another factor that can cause them: the weather.
00:40:13>> If we look at a different direction where the temperature may have been a bigger factor, and let's represent the hot air temperature near the ground with this cross-hatching.
00:40:25A sound wave which will enter that region will find the part of the sound wave residing in the heated area to be sped up and deflected upward, leading to a refraction of sound.
00:40:40And an observer, a commander here at this position would find himself in an acoustic shadow but for a different reason.
00:40:51>> So could acoustic shadows like this really have been occurring at gettysburg?
00:40:57Ross wants to find out.
00:41:01>> We're here on the wheatfield in the battlefield at gettysburg, a great place to try and prove that acoustic shadows could have occurred during those three hot days in july.
00:41:12I'm going to place this annoyingly loud buzzer into the end of this artillery piece and I'm going to crawl away and I'm going to find the spot where I believe sound waves will be refracted due to temperature above me.
00:41:24[Loud buzzing] all right, here I am about 5 or 10 yards away from the cannon and I can still hear it fairly clearly.
00:41:38[Buzzing] we're about 20 yards away now and I can hear the buzzer pretty well, not nearly as well as when I was standing next to it.
00:41:47It's getting a little bit fainter now.
00:41:51[Buzzi] >> as ross crawls farther aw the sound of the buzzer is predictably getting harder to hear.
00:41:59[Faint buzzing] >> we're now about 70 yards away.
00:42:04I can barely hear it.
00:42:11And, yeah, the sound is completely gone at this level.
00:42:18[Buzzing] and there it is again, as clear as a bell.
00:42:22And this definitely is simple proof of the fact that sound waves are being bent upward and at ground level inaudible.
00:42:30A little but higher as clear as ever.
00:42:33>> So acoustic shadows could have occurred with the hot conditions on that second day.
00:42:38This, combined with poor communications, could have further hampered general lee on the day he believed he would break union resistance.
00:42:47>> The second day was really a series of near successes for the army of northern virginia.
00:42:52They almost captured little round top, they almost captured culp's hill, they got in among the guns on cemetery hill and east cemetery hill, they even have got right up to the middle of the union line and yet they didn't quite achieve success in any of these places.
00:43:08>> After two days of fighting, lee was running out of options.
00:43:12 lee now has to confront the same question that he coronted at the end of day one-- so what do I do?
00:43:20>> He would go for the jugular-- a frontal attack on the center of meade's line: Pickett's charge.
00:43:26A massive artillery barrage would proceed it.
00:43:29But would that be enough for victory?
00:43:31Or had the battle actually been you're reconsideringyour ..
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00:47:17>> As the battle of gettysburg enters day 3, an increasingly desperate lee masses his forces for a final attack.
00:47:25But this is now a much depleted army.
00:47:29>> After two days of fighting, lee had lost just under 20,000 men.
00:47:36That's an incredible amount of casualties for his army to suffer in two days of fighting, which takes, really, his offensive capability down to an extremely low level.
00:47:45>> Now the bloody battles on day one were coming back to haunt him.
00:47:52>> A lot of the men that fought here on mcpherson's ridge and seminary ridge from the confederate army on july 1, those that are wounded, will be in the ranks of the confederate soldiers that will make that final attack.
00:48:05>> Lee ordered an all-out assault on cemetery ridge.
00:48:08Its success would depend on an artillery barrage like nothing ever seen.
00:48:13More than 150 cannon would unleash a torrent of fire, paving the way for pickett's charge.
00:48:21>> I believe the only way that the confederate assault could have worked on july 3 was if the artillery bombardment that proceeded it, literally had wreaked havoc along the union line, and I think lee must have expected that it would do so.
00:48:36>> But the artillery ammunition that lee was staking so much on was flawed.
00:48:41Unlike union ordnance, confederate munition production was not a precise science.
00:48:48>> We have a 10 second plug fuse, paper fuse, tapered, cone, and you canee the marks on it to cut it for the different lengths.
00:48:58A plug fuse is more commonly used by the confederates.
00:49:01That's an older design, simpler to manufacture.
00:49:05It would fit in there, be cut, have the men cut to the right length, and tapped in with a hammer.
00:49:10The best fuse is a boreman, used by the union.
00:49:14This is a boreman fuse and you can see the numbers--1, 2, 3, 4, 5--and those are seconds of fuse burning time.
00:49:24And the powder, which is under here, is all compressed to the same amount.
00:49:29So it all burns at the same rate.
00:49:31This is something you make in a factory.
00:49:34The plug fuse you can make in cottage industry.
00:49:37And that's the difference between the union and the confederacy as far as how they're fighting this war.
00:49:43>> But experience had taught confederate gunners how to make the best use of these simpler fuses.
00:49:49Now new research is indicating that the performance of the artillery barrage at gettysburg was affected by another factor.
00:49:58Four months before the battle, an explosion at the rebel arsenal in richmond would resonate throughout history.
00:50:06>> The richmond arsenal was the single largest producer of ammunition for the confederacy.
00:50:12With the arsenal closed, the confederacy had to begin shipping ammunitions, specifically artillery shells from charleston to lee's army.
00:50:21>> Gunners reported that the fuses were not performing as they should.
00:50:25Tests were scheduled for july 10 to try to discover the cause of the problem, tests that would come a week too late for general lee.
00:50:34>> Unfortunately what they didn't anticipate was that the fuses that were manufactured in charleston burned slower than the fuses manufactured in richmond.
00:50:46Lee and his gunners had no idea.
00:50:48They simply assumed that there was a quality control to the process.
00:50:54And as a result, the projectiles carried about 200 yards-- that is the length of two football fields-- over the union position, and exploded in the rear.
00:51:05Had the tests taken place a month earlier, lee would have been notified that the artillery shell fuses burned slower and his gunners could have adjusted accordingly.
00:51:17>> The situation was made worse by the sheer scale of the bombardment.
00:51:21So much smoke enveloped the battlefield that it was impossible to tell whether the shells were hitting their mark.
00:51:28Knowing nothing of this, pickett's soldiers formed up.
00:51:32>> Now the concept is here that we will strike the center of the federal line and we will create an opening.
00:51:37And then we will pass through the opening and like an expanding torrent will just open up the federal line.
00:51:42That's the intent.
00:51:43So as we press on up we have to have enough combat power together.
00:51:47>> 12,000 Confederate soldiers began marching steadily towards the union line.
00:51:52None were aware their fate had already been sealed, sealed before the battle had even begun.
00:51:59>> Kemper's men will lean forward, reach down, grab their hats as if leaning forward into a hail storm.
00:52:05Indeed it was a hail, a hail of bullets and they will continue to march, side-stepping to join us.
00:52:11>> What followed is carnage.
00:52:145,500 Confederates were killed or wounded in barely an hour.
00:52:19The survivors stumbled, shell-shocked, back towards their own lines.
00:52:23Among them was general pickett himself.
00:52:27>> Pickett comes back and lee says "general pickett, get " general pickett says "my division?
00:52:33My division, sir, is dead on the " >> the battle of gettysburg was over.
00:52:39Lee's mighty army of northern virginia had been beaten at last.
00:52:45>> They marched to pennsylvania not even imagining they might lose.
00:52:49Well, they did lose and they weren't confused about that on some level as they withdrew to the potomac.
00:52:54>> The lack of intelligence, poor lines of communication, time lost in the streets of the town, meade's seizure of the best terrain.
00:53:03Amid all the valor of pickett's charge, the stark reality is that the events of the first day, a day when the union was in retreat, had already decided this battle.
00:53:16At gettysburg the aura of confederate invincibility was blown away.
00:53:49>> Antietam creek.
00:53:50Today, a peaceful spot, but once a scene of unprecedented horror.
00:53:56On september 17, 1862, a few miles of maryland were stained red by the blood of thousands of young american men.
00:54:05The battle of antietam was the bloodiest single day in all american history.
00:54:10Nearly 23,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in barely 12 hours.
00:54:16For generations, historians have pondered why antietam was such a killing field.
00:54:21Now, the latest forensic techniques are providing an answer.
00:54:43This is a killing field.
00:54:45A stretch of maryland countryside that was the setting for the american civil war's most brutal battle: antietam.
00:54:54>> Many americans have a very romantic conception of the civil war.
00:54:57They like to think of it as a conflict that somehow wasn't as brutal or nasty as the 20th or 21st century wars.
00:55:03But, in fact, antietam shows us that it's precisely like more recent wars in that regard.
00:55:09>> This was about killing as many of those people that was opposed to you as you possibly could.
00:55:15>> Facing each other across antietam creek that day were lee with his confederate army of northern virginia, and general george brinton mcclellan, recently restored commander of the union army of the potomac.
00:55:2817 Months after it had begun, the war had reached a climactic moment.
00:55:33Lee's bold invasion of maryland had thrown down the gauntlet.
00:55:37By mid-september, the confederates were near the town of sharpsburg, just 50 miles from the capital.
00:55:44>> Now maryland is threatened.
00:55:45What's more, washington's probably threatened.
00:55:48>> Mcclellan was under intense pressure to hit back.
00:55:51His army was twice the size of the confederates.
00:55:54But lee's troops were more experienced, and crucially, mcclellan's habitual caution would prevent him committing all his forces.
00:56:02The end result was a lethal balance of power.
00:56:07>> It is perfectly suited for lee to shift his troops around and match man for man the federals at every point.
00:56:18>> This was really an equal match.
00:56:20Two very capable forces, both placed in proximity of one another, with very lethal weapons could do a great deal of damage.
00:56:28>> The outcome of september 17 was a stalemate, but this was e bloodiest stalemate in american history.
00:56:35A single day's fighting left 22,720 men killed, wounded, or missing.
00:56:44>> It's indescribable.
00:56:46This is america's self-inflicted holocaust.
00:56:50>> How could so many casualties be inflicted in just one day?
00:56:55Archaeologists are investigating antietam's slaughter zones.
00:56:59Forensic experts are examining the very bones of the men who died on this battlefield.
00:57:05>> This is a skull from antietam.
00:57:07You can see there's extensive fracturing, so a very serious gunshot wound to this person's head, which essentially they would have died instantaneously or very soon on the battlefield.
00:57:18>> This was a complex and chaotic battle.
00:57:21Historians have examined its political and military significance.
00:57:25But the sheer slaughter that day has never been scientifically ..
00:57:30Until now.
00:57:32>> They didn't spare anybody in this instance.
00:57:34Even wounded men who were crawling on the ground, they're shooting at those men as well.
00:57:38It's that cruel side that we kind of push underneath the mat.
00:57:44We don't really want to know about it.
00:57:48>> But this eagerness to kill cannot alone explain the huge number of casualti.
00:57:52There were other factors at play.
00:57:54From the beginning of the battle, the use of artillery would be exceptional.
00:57:59Confederate cannon, under major john pelham, had been carefully placed for the forthcoming fight.
00:58:07>> Pelham's battalion of artillery, about a dozen guns-- he has gone into position at night, into a cornfield, so he has amassed battery.
00:58:16>> From their elevated vantage point on nicodemus heights, pelham's gunners had an excellent view of the union lines.
00:58:23Here was massed artillery on ideal ground.