Defense Horizons. Lee's Mistake: Learning from the Decision to Order Pickett's Charge, August 2006, Number 54
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC CENTER FOR TECHNOLOGY AND NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY
Pagination or Media Count:
At the Battle of Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee made a mistake that doomed the hopes of the Confederate States of America to compel the United States to sue for peace. Why one of the great generals of his time made such a blunder continues to be a topic of research and intense debate. Lee said little at the time or afterward to justify his decision to launch what has become known as Picketts Charge, so analysis must be inferential and inconclusive. The aim of this issue is to explain Lees fateful decision, not with new facts but with new analytical methods, to illuminate decision making in combat. Understanding how commanders draw on reason and experience to make sense of information, weigh alternatives, and make decisions in conditions of urgency and uncertainty is central to improving military performance in the fast, unfamiliar, wired warfare of the information age. Lees leadership of Confederate forces at Gettysburg constitutes a valuable case to study the order of battle and technology of both sides are known in detail, and the terrain and troop movements have been studied thoroughly. Only the cause of Lees misjudgment remains elusive. The pages that follow examine the facts that might have influenced Lees state of mind and his decision, offer and test alternative hypotheses on how he was thinking, draw conclusions, and apply those conclusions to matters of current interest. The authors hope is to reveal lessons of value in improving todays military decision making. They begin with a general framework for analyzing cognition in combat, hoping that it will help explain Lees decision making at Gettysburg.
- Humanities and History
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics