Paul Mengel

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department or School

History and Philosophy

Committee Member

Steven J. Ramold, PhD, Chair

Committee Member

Robert Citino, PhD

Committee Member

John G. McCurdy, PhD


The question considered is what General Robert E. Lee’s plan for the battle of Gettysburg actually was, and why he fought the battle the way he did, based on a reexamination of extensive commentaries left by the participants in the battle.

General Lee believed that the Confederacy could not outlast the Union but had to win battles to cause the Union to abandon the war. This was one purpose of the invasion of the North. An initially favorable opportunity arose at Gettysburg. Despite some setbacks, Lee was encouraged and kept attacking. His plans failed because the Union Army had so weakened the Confederates that, on the third day, Lee’s subordinate commanders did not show their usual initiative and a pitifully small percentage of the army was involved. Accordingly, the attack failed, no victory to discourage the North took place, and attrition eventually led to the inevitable logical conclusion.