As usual, I read and read and analyze and analyze, and, also as usual, I don't always come to the same conclusions as everyone else. What can I say - that's just who I am. An INTP is never impressed by "experts."
At Gettysburg, there were so many things coming together, then drifting away - so many opportunities taken or lost - that it is really hard to prove one's case, even with 20-20 hindsight.
1. Maybe Lee should have refused to engage at Gettysburg at all; should have just continued with his invasion plan - Ewell was already making for Harrisburg when Lee called him back.
2. Maybe Lee should have been more precise and forceful with Ewell in the late afternoon of day one at Gettysburg and given him a more direct and unambiguous order to take Culp's and Cemetery Hills while the Federals were in retreat.
3. Maybe Lee should have kept his cavalry right there with his army all along.
4. Maybe Lee shouldn't have ordered the suicidal frontal attack on the Union center on the afternoon of day three.
5. Maybe Lee should have listened to Longstreet and disengaged on the afternoon of day three; passed Meade's left flank to the south (he had his cavalry by then to screen him) and bolted for Washington.
6. Maybe Lee should have fought on the fourth day instead of returning to Virginia.
Maybe. So many chances. So easy to see them from the distance and clarity of time when we are sitting in our armchairs rather than standing in the Pennsylvania rain, dazed by artillery shells exploding around us, cowed by the screams of a thousand dying men. Maybe. So easy for us to be Lee today and make the right precise "better" choices.
As General Lee himself said so simply (though not truthfully) after the Battle of Gettysburg: "It is all my fault."
Despite the futility of second-guessing, I personally find it interesting to discuss and debate the above issues and more. I will do so in subsequent posts.
Years after the war, when General Lee was President of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) he was having his "mistakes" at Gettysburg explained to him by a student. Lee listened politely, then replied, "Young man, why did you not tell me that before the battle? Even as stupid a man as I am can see it all now."