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Mission Command Analysis

MissionCommand Analysis


The Civil War

The Civil War occurred during the period of 1861-1865 (Fleche 2012).Notably, the conflict was instigated by several factors. Firstly, theissue of slavery had threatened to undermine the country’s statusas a hub of liberty. In fact, the American Constitution had claimedthat all men were created with equal rights. Republican candidateAbraham Lincoln won the presidential election in 1860 and pledged toeradicate slavery (Fleche 2012). However, some of the territorieswere opposed to this plan since they undermined the power of thenational government. Consequently, seven slave states in the Southernregion seceded and created a new country. The resultant nation wasreferred to as the Confederate States of America. Furthermore, theCivil War occurred due to a desire to prove whether the country wasdissolvable or indivisible. An analysis of historical documentsreveals that the commander executed bad mission command and hencelost the battle of Gettysburg.

President Lincoln was opposed to the secession of the southernstates. People from the northern region also questioned thelegitimacy of such divisions. Secession threatened the country’sstability and democracy. It was also feared that a dangerousprecedent would be set such that other states could leave the union(Fleche 2012). The Civil War was triggered by a succession of eventsat Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay. The Confederate forces claimedownership of the fort and attacked the federal army. Furthermore, theSouthern insurgents forced the northern militia to surrender bylowering the nation’s flag (Fleche 2012). Subsequently, four morestates joined the Confederacy (Fleche 2012). In retaliation,President Lincoln assembled a large army to suppress the attacks fromthe Southern forces.

The Confederacy had competent military commanders while the Unionboasted a large, well-equipped army. Hence, many confrontationsensued such as the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861 and the Battle ofShiloh in 1862 (Fleche 2012). President Lincoln expanded his federalpowers by increasing the size of the Union army and suspending thewrit of habeas corpus (Fleche 2012). The surrender of General Lee wasthe end of the Civil War.

TheBattle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg occurred for three days in July 1863 (Catton2014). The conflict was precipitated by the confrontation between theConfederate forces and the Union militia at Chancellorsville. In lateJune, General Robert Lee advanced his Army of Northern Virginia intoPennsylvania after vanquishing Northern soldiers (Catton 2014). Thecommander was motivated to attack the Union forces due to severalreasons. Firstly, General Lee sought to press his army’s advantageover the Federal militia. Besides, he wanted to collect supplies thatwere available in Pennsylvania. Since Virginia was ravaged by intensefighting, General Lee desired to take the fighting elsewhere (Catton2014). He also wanted to discourage the Northern cities fromparticipating in war. General Lee was optimistic that the peacemovement would be strengthened if he won a victory in the Federalterritory.

On July 1, the Army of the Potomac fought with some of theConfederates (Catton 2014). Notably, the Union forces were led byGeneral George Meade. The conflict occurred in the town ofGettysburg. Generals Richard Ewell and A.P. Hill also led someConfederates in the battle. Ultimately, 30,000 northerners defeated20,000 southerners (Catton 2014). The fighting intensified on thefollowing day as the Confederates attacked the Union forces from bothsides. The southern army comprised of 90,000 soldiers while thenorthern group had 70,000 soldiers (Catton 2014). The battle on thesecond day occurred in areas such as Peach Orchard, Wheatfield,Little Round Top, and Devil’s Den (Catton 2014). Notwithstandingthe progress of the Confederates, Union forces still commanded thelargest territory. On July 3, General Lee spearheaded the “Pickett’sCharge” against the Federal army at Cemetery Ridge (Catton 2014).Although some Union forces were killed, thousands of Southern militialost their lives. Consequently, General Lee withdrew his forcestowards Virginia. The three-day battle of Gettysburg led to thedeaths of over 50,000 soldiers from both sides (Catton 2014). Manyother fighters were either wounded or captured.

Buildinga Cohesive Team through Trust

General Lee did not build a cohesive and trustworthy team to ensurethat the battle would end successfully. The war required soldiers tocooperate and hence repel enemy attacks. General Lee was aware of thefact that his forces were hemmed in from several sides (Catton 2014).Consequently, it was expected that the southern militia would becomediscouraged. General Lee sought to address any tendencies towardsdespondency. Mental confusion could also undermine the morale of theConfederates. Therefore, General Lee attempted to unite his forcesagainst the power of the Federals.

Admittedly, the commander’s army failed to present a united front.For example, General Lee allowed his cavalry to engage in otherassignments. Jeb Stuart was permitted to take some men from the armyin his personal vendetta against the whites (Catton 2014). Hence,General Lee lacked the necessary input from the cavalry with regardsto tracking troop movements. The services rendered by Stuart’sforces would usually protect the Confederates against ambush attacks(Catton 2014). On the other hand, the southern army would bestrengthened by the presence of a well-prepared cavalry.

Furthermore, General Lee lost the Battle of Gettysburg since he couldnot assemble a cohesive and trustworthy team. The commander orderedGeneral Ewell to capture the high ground next to the Cemetery Bridge(Catton 2014). However, Ewell did not launch immediate attacks.Instead, his apparent delay allowed the Union soldiers to acquirereinforcements. The Confederates lost numerous opportunities tovanquish the Federals and press their advantage. General Lee alsofailed to address the concerns raised by James Longstreet (Catton2014). Consequently, the southern army could not strengthen itsposition relative to the Union forces. Indeed, the commander lost thebattle at Gettysburg since he failed to establish a cohesive team.

Creatinga Shared Understanding

General Lee could not create a shared understanding with some membersof the Confederates. For example, Longstreet viewed the Federals asinvincible due to their strong positions (Catton 2014). The Unionforces could not be breached. Longstreet advised General Lee toforego the attacks on Meade’s militia. Instead, Longstreetsuggested that the army should move east between Washington and theUnion forces. In this regard, the Confederates would build afortified defensive position. Longstreet sought to encourage attacksfrom the Union forces (Catton 2014) Nevertheless, General Leedisregarded the merits of such plans. In fact, he erroneouslybelieved that the Confederates were invincible.

Notably, the southern army was hampered since it lacked a cavalrydesigned to track troop movements. In particular, Jeb Stuart had ledsome soldiers into battle with the Federals. Ultimately, the cavalrycould not accomplish its stated goal (Catton 2014). Consequently,General Lee lacked the necessary firepower to launch attacks on theUnion forces. The blatant lack of shared understanding hinderedGeneral Lee from vanquishing the Federals (Catton 2014). Longstreet’ssuggestion would have allowed the Confederates to recoup andreorganize their troops in preparation for attacks.

General Lee’s decision to attack the Union army also betrayed alack of shared understanding. In this respect, the commander orderedGeneral Longstreet to lay siege on the enemy forces (Catton 2014). Infact, the former believed that the defensive stronghold at thesouthern side of Cemetery Ridge was quite weak. Nonetheless,Longstreet took several hours to prepare his troops for battle(Catton 2014). In fact, the attack was launched over six hours afterthe order was given. During the intervening period, the Federals usedthe opportunity to fortify their strategic positions. AlthoughLongstreet captured the Peach Orchard, he suffered significant lossesat the Wheat Field, Devil’s Den, and Little Round Top (Catton2014). Therefore, General Lee’s inability to create a sharedunderstanding had calamitous consequences.

Providinga Clear Commander’s Intent

The commander provided a clear demonstration of his intent. TheBattle of Gettysburg occurred after seven southern states seceded andformed a new country. Slave states desired to maintain theexploitation of many black immigrants. However, President Lincoln wasdetermined to exterminate slavery from the nation (Fleche 2012).Although the Battle of Gettysburg was classified as part of the CivilWar, General Lee had a clear commander’s intent. For example,Virginia was barely recognizable due to the intense fighting betweenthe Federals and the Confederates (Catton 2014). Consequently,General Lee desired to engage in war elsewhere.

The commander was also intent on acquiring new supplies for histroops. Notably, the soldiers had engaged in previous battles withunprecedented success (Catton 2014). However, such victories wereobtained at the expense of depletion of the army’s resources. Forexample, soldiers needed access to adequate firepower to equip andprotect themselves against all sorts of threats. Food supplies werealso required to safeguard the physical health of the Confederates(Catton 2014). Therefore, General Lee intended to gain essentialsupplies during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Additionally, the commander intended to win a confrontation in thenorthern territory. Granted, many battles had been fought in theSouth. Hence, any victory for the Confederates lacked any merit sincethe Federals were in foreign territory. On the other hand, a victorysecured in the northern region would have subdued the Union forces bydepleting their morale. In this regard, General Lee endeavored toweaken the resolve of the northern people (Catton 2014). Numerousdisplays of military supremacy were enough to discourage the Federalsfrom participating in future war. The commander hoped that the Unionforces would surrender and contribute to the peace initiatives.

Exercisinga Disciplined Initiative

Granted, General Lee exercised disciplined initiative while leadingthe Confederate forces. The commander was forced to assume astrategic defensive position by the Union soldiers (Catton 2014).Furthermore, General Lee could not count on the expertise ofLongstreet’s forces since the latter soldiers were fighting inRichmond (Catton 2014). In addition, the Confederates wereoutnumbered by the Union army. General Lee’s soldiers weresurrounded from three sides such that retreating became impossible(Catton 2014). Consequently, General Lee took the initiative tosurprise enemy forces. His bold and decisive actions were gearedtowards destabilizing the Union army under General Meade.

General Lee understood that his forces could never match up to theNorthern soldiers. In fact, the Confederates were fewer by over20,000 (Catton 2014). Nevertheless, General Lee was convinced thattaking the initiative would make up for his army’s deficiencies.Moreover, the Confederates needed to increase the options availableto their forces during war. On the other hand, General Lee wouldexpose his armies to relentless onslaught from the Federals (Catton2014). Since his forces were hemmed in and outnumbered, it would becatastrophic to wait for attacks. Taking the initiative was also aprudent since it allowed the soldiers to interrupt the plans of theUnion forces. In fact, several soldiers were ambushed because theFederals lacked proper awareness.

Besides, taking the initiative helped General Lee to acquire suppliesfor his ravaged army. The rival forces had subjected the Confederatesto severe fighting. Consequently, General Lee’s soldiers lackedammunition and food resources (Catton 2014). In this regard, theConfederates had to take initiative in pursuit of essential supplies.Conversely, the available ammunition would be depleted if theFederals were permitted to attack from three sides (Catton 2014).General Lee’s ability to take initiative saved his soldiers fromincurring a more substantial loss at the hands of the Union forces.


Indeed, General Lee executed poor mission command during the battleof Gettysburg. In particular, the commander failed to build acohesive team when he allowed his cavalry to engage in otherassignments. Jeb Stuart was given license to attack some of the Unionforces. Consequently, General Lee’s army was unable to mount aserious challenge to the threat posed by the Federals. The commanderalso found it impossible to create a shared understanding with hisarmy officers. In fact, both Generals Longstreet and Ewell launchedlate attacks that allowed the enemies to acquire more ammunition. Inthis regard, the commander’s orders were disobeyed. General Leealso ignored the advice provided by Longstreet and instead chose toattack the Union forces. The latter had noted that it was impossibleto vanquish the Federals. Nevertheless, the commander stated hisclear intention of acquiring supplies for his militia. General Leealso wanted to discourage the northern people from participating inwar. Previous victories convinced him that he could gain more ground.Besides, General Lee exercised disciplined initiative through hisdecision to launch surprise attacks. The Confederates lacked enoughfirepower and were surrounded from all sides. Hence, the commanderdecided to ambush the Union forces. Notwithstanding, General Lee’spoor execution of mission command caused his army to lose the battleof Gettysburg.


Catton, Bruce. 2014. The Battle of Gettysburg. Brisbane: NewWord City.

Fleche, Andre. 2012. Revolution of 1861: The American Civil War inthe Age of Nationalist Conflict. North Carolina: University ofNorth Carolina Press.