Myths About a Battle

Gene Scheel [Loudoun Extra, June 20] seeks to perpetuate a myth about the Civil War that is based on at least two false assumptions. In asking "Did Stuart's Tardiness Change the Course of History?" he assumes the Battle of Gettysburg was a planned affair with a timetable known in advance to Confederate officers.

The Battle of Gettysburg was an accident that neither Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee nor Union General George G. Meade expected. Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart could not have been "tardy" or "late" for the battle because it is impossible to be late for an accident, which is, by definition, an unplanned event.

The second false premise is that Stuart was heading for Gettysburg when he left Rector's Crossroads on June 23. He was, in fact, headed for York, Pa., well to the east of Gettysburg. It was there he had been told he would meet the head of Richard Ewell's corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.

From Maj. [Henry B.] McClellan's account, which Scheel briefly cited: "The letter . . . informed General Stuart that [Jubal A.] Early would move upon York, Pa., and that he was to place his cavalry as speedily as possible with that, the advance division of Lee's right wing. . . . York, Pa., was designated as the . . . possible (if not probable) point of concentration of the army."

Scheel also did not quote Lee's order of June 22, in which he told Stuart to "take position on General Ewell's right, place yourself in communication with him, guard his flank, keep him informed of the enemy's movements, and collect all the supplies you can for the use of the army."

On June 24, Ewell's troops were already beyond Chambersburg, heading north and east. Had Ewell stopped in place, it still would have taken Stuart two to three days to reach him by the most direct route available. But Ewell did not stop. By June 28, the day after Stuart crossed the Potomac, he was on the outskirts of Harrisburg, north and east of Gettysburg, and Early was, indeed, approaching York.

Thus, the Shepherdstown crossing Scheel seems to think Stuart should have used was more than 50 miles behind Ewell, and the roads approaching it were filled with slow-moving wagons heading north to support the army, or south filled with the supplies and forage the Confederates were gathering in Pennsylvania.

Scheel also claims Stuart's return to sleep after reading Lee's letter of June 23 "was unlike his take-charge attitude earlier in the war." To take a more realistic view of the matter, consider that McClellan said "it was late in the night when a courier arrived from army headquarters . . . " and "a pitiless rain poured without cessation from the clouds, and the land was drenched."

Knowing he could not begin his movement in any direction until morning, Stuart's return to sleep in the middle of the night showed nothing more or less than a soldier's good sense in getting his rest while he had the chance.

Comparing the distance from Shepherdstown to Gettysburg (45 miles) to the 155 miles Stuart and his men traveled is a cheap shot that implies that Stuart could see the future and know the site of a battle no one else knew was coming until the evening of June 30, nearly a week after he began his march.

Lee and his officers made a lot of mistakes in the course of the Gettysburg campaign, but Stuart's route was not one of them. The fortunes of war turned his march through Rockville, Westminster and Hanover into a time-consuming detour. Had the pivotal battle in Pennsylvania started on July 1 in or near York, as Lee expected when the campaign began, Stuart would have been in an ideal position to offer his support.

Stevan Meserve


Bill's Biased Underpinning

House Bill 751 to amend the Code of Virginia Affirmation of Marriage Act for the Commonwealth of Virginia originally cited an astonishing prejudicial foundation wholly without statistical merit, which was later omitted, but in fact continues to be used as verbal justification for the bill:

"Whereas, because very few homosexuals will 'marry' or seek civil unions, the legal effect for homosexual marriage or same sex unions is not primarily about marriage itself, but is directed at weakening the institution of marriage, which is foundational to this country's history and tradition; and where heterosexual marriage requires sexual exclusivity, advocates of same sex unions merely prefer sexual exclusivity, but do not demand it."

I challenge our legislators and the people who support this outrageous statement to show me its basis in fact. Whom did you poll? How large was the statistical sample? What were the demographics of the audience? What was the margin of error? Which reputable, unbiased research firm concluded this finding?

In their effort to make gays and lesbians feel as unwelcome in Virginia as possible, our legislators are not only denigrating the worth and dignity of individual human beings created by God and endowed with the inalienable human rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, they are also systematically destroying the possibilities for Virginia to excel in the 21st century.

In his writings, Richard Florida talks about "The Rise of the Creative Class" [the name of his book] in the United States. He talks about a new paradigm for academic development that is largely based on the openness and the acceptance of different people and diverse ideas.

There is proof of that when you look at places such as San Francisco, New York and Austin -- places where the innovations and creativity that will be desperately needed for America to retain economic leadership in a globalized economy are found to be thriving.

More and more businesses and the communities that want to attract it understand that the Creative Class is their gateway to the future.

When this class is sizing up a new company and community, acceptance of diversity and of gays in particular is a sign that reads "welcome."

Yet, Virginia feels no need to take hold of the self-responsible prerequisites of future prosperity. I wonder why? Just how dependent are we willing to be on the military-industrial complex and government funding to fuel our local economies?

An ironic outcome, wouldn't you say?

S. Ann Robinson