Gettysburg: Wanted, A Man to Match Robert E. Lee

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Abraham Lincoln was, on balance, an astute judge of character, but now and then he made a mistake. Unfortunately, during the months that led to Gettysburg, those mistakes involved the commanders of the Army of the Potomac. Everyone remarked on what a splendid army it was, well drilled and copiously supplied, yet no one could lead it to a decisive victory. Now it was summer 1863, and Lee’s rebels were once again marching northward through the picturesque valleys of western Maryland toward Pennsylvania. Lincoln could not afford another mistake.

Ambrose Burnside had been a doozy. What was it about the Rhode Island inventor with the splendidly feline whiskers? Perhaps it was his winning, and entirely justified, modesty that appealed to Lincoln during the summer and fall of 1862, when the President was besieged by regiments of self-promoters. Burnside had, in the early days of the Civil War, a neat…

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