150 Years was Day 2 of the Battle of Gettysburg. My Grandfather’s Grandfather’s unit – 2nd SC was in the fight. This was their Battle of Gettysburg. They lost a third of their men that day.
Daniel Webster Holland was one of 4 brothers from a devoutly Methodist family in Greenville County, SC. They believed that slavery was a sin against God. But, when SC seceded, they served their state – as expected under the 1787 US Constitution I swore an oath to support against all enemies foreign and domestic on 1 July 1968 and 7 June 1972.
D.W. Holland was ill and was assigned the “duty driver” for Longstreet’s wagon according to family oral history. He didn’t walk with his Regiment that day – as he did on many other battles.
Grandfather Holland was in company B, “Butler’s Guards” from Greenville County, 2nd SC Infantry, Kershaw’s Brigade, McLaw’s Division, Longstreet’s Corps, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg.
On Day 2, 10 Confederate Brigades attacked 13 Union Brigades. The Rebels pushed the Yankees back, but didn’t conclude the battle. The attack was effective, but not decisive. As an Infantry officer in the U.S. Army I was taught to plan to attack at a 3:1 advantage if at all possible, not a 1:1.3 disadvantage.
This day’s fight, like yesterday’s, can be measured in hundreds of yards. Longstreet didn’t get his Corps in position and ready to go until 4 pm. By then the Yankee line went south (their left) to Little Round top. There Joshua Chamberlain and his Maine boys – arguably – saved the Union. Those Yankees fought magnificently.
If Longstreet had listened to John Bell Hood – his Division commander on his right – and sent the boys just another 200 to 400 meters to the right, then the Maine valor would have been for naught. The enfilading fires would have rolled up that regiment and the Yankee flank for more than 3 hours to darkness would have rolled up. It could have been Chancellorsville II. But, it didn’t happen.
Another huge “if” in battle. There are tactical, operational and strategic level “ifs” then and now – and in the future. The “If” and the reaction to the “If” are the military history that change the path of civilizations – and all history.
Meanwhile, the human cost is heavy.
There is no glory in war. No glory in battle. There is death, destruction and the release of great evil. There are no just wars or good wars. But, there is great honor in fighting – when the fighting must come. There is honor in serving to defend family, faith and freedom – 150 years ago and today.