Chamberlain had a rare combination of intelligence, leadership qualities, and bravery under fire. But according to Bruce Catton (in the second book of his Army of the Potomac trilogy, IIRC), the moment when Chamberlain had his men fix bayonets and execute a right wheel forward was far from the only turning point of the second day at Gettysburg. Apparently it was touch and go over a long stretch of the Union front, with the Confederates coming breathtakingly close to breaking the line at several places and times over that long afternoon and evening. Chamberlain was a hero, and his heroism prevented the Union line from being overrun. But there were other brave Union soldiers that day, less well known to us than Chamberlain, whose heroism had the same result.
Having read the essay linked to by pervert, I think the writer was kinda weak in marshalling facts to support his position that Pickett’s Charge wasn’t a bad idea. Just to pick a for-instance, arguing that the successful Union assault on Marye’s Heights (Fredericksburg) during the battle of Chancellorsville, should inform our thinking about the relative odds Lee faced on July 3 at Gettysburg, may or may not be justified with detailed argument, but simply tossing in and implying that it is so undermines rather than aids his case.
Not to mention, the writer brings in the ancient “don’t dare leave the battlefield without the victory” bushwa. I realize that troop morale is important, but the reality is that the Army of Northern Virginia believed in Lee, and were likely to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he knew what was best, no matter what he did. If Lee had disengaged (not retreated, in the writer’s false trichotomy, but disengaged) after either the first or second days, and found better ground between Gettysburg and Washington on which to fight, his troops would have surely believed that the Old Man had yet another ace up his sleeve; they would have disengaged and marched cheerily, and fought without reservation on new ground.
Finally, it seems that the writer can only make the case that victory was possible in Pickett’s charge; he hardly makes the case that it was likely. Like it or not, the Confederate troops that day had to march up that open slope for over a mile in the open, under an intense artillery barrage. ISTM that even if a couple thousand troops had made it to the Union line, rather than a couple hundred, they were still a mile away from supporting troops (which would have had to cross the same ground under the same artillery fire), so it still wouldn’t have been enough force where needed to change the outcome; it would have simply meant a bloodier fight on top of the ridge. And I think that’s the best Lee had a right to hope for.
At times, I think the Lost Cause fills the same place in the minds of Southerners that the Red Sox have with New Englanders.