Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | July 1, 2013

Three July Firsts

July 1, 1863.  Day on the Battle of Gettysburg was 150 years ago.  Check out this interactive map.

Gettysburg map

Day One of the Battle of Gettysburg was a good day for Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.  What is most interesting to me is that last 700 yards.   Make it a 1000 yards to gain really good defensive fires to the east.  Battles, campaigns, and wars turn on “if”.  If the Corps Commander, Ewell, had pushed about his Commanders to drive across one more killing field of fire while it was still light, the battle would have been different.  Not saying who wins, but it would have been a different fight on Day Two.

During the night and at first light, Meade would have to put in and adjust his newly arriving Corps.  He would have to consider attacking to secure good ground to anchor his lines, maneuver or hold on and see what Lee would do – at a disadvantage.

This battle has so much to study for military professionals.  And, its fun to study for historians.  Lots of “ifs.”

July 1, 1919.  James Albert Bowden, my father, was born outside Covington, Tennessee.  Probably born on a farm in the Bucksnort section of Tipton County in far West Tennessee.  I understand he was born in a farmhouse with a dirt floor.  Humble origins for a good man, Army Officer and Gentleman.   His Mother, Aubrey Tillman Bowden, died just a couple of years later.  He would have been 94 if he still lived in his earthly body.

July 1, 1968.  Day One for my Class, Cl of 1972, at West Point.  Hot, humid hell.  Supposed to be.  1,245 candidates accepted out of 1, 245 fully qualified applicants.  Only time, ever, that no qualified candidate was turned away.  Made us the proud Bottom of the Barrel Class.  1,244 swore an oath to uphold the Constitution that day.  One guy quit early in the day.  Many more to follow.  Beast Barracks was called ‘Beast’ for a purpose.  I was 6 ft tall and 166 pounds on Day One.  By Labor Day 1968 I weighed 132 pounds – and I didn’t have a hard Beast compared to others.

Last class to maintain hard ‘brace’ with neck pushed back as official policy.

Felt like I stepped off the side of the earth.  For 4 years.  Major demarcation line for my life.  All before West Point was childhood and all after was manhood.  And all after was U.S. Army or supporting The Army.  All after was my band of brothers – classmates.


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