Jul 1, 2011

Gettysburg - 1st day

So it ends, this lesser battle of the first day,
Starkly disputed and piecemeal won and lost
By corps-commanders who carried no magic plans
Stowed in their sleeves, but fought and held as they could.
It is past. The board is staked for the greater game
Which is to follow - The beaten Union brigades
Recoil from the cross-roads town that they tried to hold.
And so recoiling, rest on a destined ground.
Who chose that ground?
There are claimants enough in the books.
Howard thanked by Congress for choosing it
And doubtless, they would have thanked him as well had he
Chosen another, once the battle was won,
And there are a dozen ifs on the Southern side,
How, in that first day's evening, if one had known,
If Lee had been there in time, if Jackson had lived,
The heights that cost so much blood in the vain attempt
to take days later, could have been taken then.
And the ifs and the thanks and rst are all true enough
But we can only say, when we look at the board,
"There it happened. There is the way of the land.
There was the fate, and there the blind swords were crossed." - Stephen Vincent Benet