The battle of Gettysburg is considered one of the most decisive battles of the Civil War. What if I told you that a hunt for shoes started it all? I just had to have an LOL moment when I heard a story, which many think is folklore, of how that battle got started.
Gotta have those shoes!
I love shoes, hey what girl doesn’t? Ha! But this story about a hunt for shoes involves a guy, a rebel commander by the name of Henry Heth. The story goes that Henry may have seen an ad or heard a rumor about a supply of new boots, which were available in the town of Gettysburg, eight miles from where his brigade was camped in the town of Cashtown. Heth’s troops were in terrible need of new boots after having marched for months.
The General ….
Around this time in PA, both Union and Confederate forces were scattered throughout the area. General Heth told one of his commanders, General Pettigrew to go into Gettysburg to get those much needed shoes. When Pettigrew’s brigade was near Gettysburg they “made a B Line” and didn’t even enter the town. Pettigrew reported to Heth that the town was occupied by the enemy, and some of his officers reported hearing drums beating in the farther side of the town. And because of that, they dared not enter the town for the shoes.
Ah, I don’t believe you!
Heth wouldn’t hear it; he really doubted what Pettigrew warned. Some people are just born with hard heads! He sought the advice of General Ambrose Hill. After all, no matter what, he just has to get those darn shoes! Heth explained to Hill what Pettigrew told him. Hill responded that he had solid information from General Lee that the enemy was somewhere in Middleburg, Maryland and really had nothing to fear. What? Too much whiskey I guess… 🙂 When Heth asked Hill if there were any objections to his going into Gettysburg to get the shoes, Hill said “none in the world.”
So on July 1, 1863 Heth goes into Gettysburg with his brigade and stumbles into a Union cavalry and fighting ensues. Both sides scramble and get reinforcements to converge on the town. And in three days the fate of the war was decided. It is known as the greatest and bloodiest battle of the Civil War—90,000 union soldiers against 75,000 Confederates. A third of the fighters perished. The South suffered 28,000 casualties, and the North 23,000.
The Defeated General…
On July 3, General Robert E. Lee retreated and although the war was far from over, Lee never regained the strategic initiative. A major blow for Lee who had given specific instructions not to engage the enemy in Gettysburg until Confederate forces could be concentrated.
Somebody blew this big time. A hell-bent General quite possibly hearing the complaints of his soldier’s aching feet just had to get those darn shoes. Heth later writes an article about this incident, but instead of blaming Lee’s defeat on his own stupidity, he blames Major General J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry “ who were absent from the army during the critical days before the battle.” That article started another firestorm from a staunch Stuart defender. Read more about this here.
So I guess we can say that a desperate hunt for shoes cost the South the war. Ladies, I’d be very careful on that next hunt for shoes, you never know what battle you’ll start 😀