Brockenbrough's Brigade

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Hussar Yeomanry

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I was originally going to respond to @Tom Elmore's excellent thread on the 8th Ohio

Instead to avoid thread jacking I'll post it here:


Brockenbrough's (Mayo) brigades performance is an increasing enigma to me.

Colonel Brockenbrough has held temporary brigade command before so he should somewhat know what he's doing.

3 Regiments are veterans of pretty much every battle that the ANV was in (Field's 1st Brigade of A. P. Hill's famed Light Division). Yes these regiments are on the small size but these are battle hardened men.

OK so the 22nd Virginia Battalion have only seen action at Chancellorsville (losing 6 killed, 23 wounded and 6 missing) and are actually Heavy Artillerymen from the Virginia defences and are less than thrilled with now being infantry. But has their presence introduced some sort of poison to the brigade?

So why does a mostly veteran brigade under a semi experienced commander perform so poorly? I accept that their position in Pickett's/ PPT Charge is unenviable and that they may have been slightly late in setting off but that seems insufficient. I accept that it also by the point of Pickett's Charge has pretty much become two seperate commands, the other half now under Colonel Mayo but the more I look the less it makes sense and as @Coonewah Creek says in the thread on the 8th Ohio that if Brockenbrough/Mayo had pressed forward at all ably then that the 8th would not have been able to so expertly flank Davis' Brigade.

Anyone have any thoughts on this?
 

Scott Brown

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Imagining no Colt Park is critical to understanding this, imho, along with the effect the artillery fire from Cemetery Hill had on Brockenbrough's unit (not to mention day 1 losses). The stubborn skirmishing of Orland Smith's brigade to the north of Sawyer's 8th OH may have also played a role.
 

Hussar Yeomanry

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Imagining no Colt Park is critical to understanding this, imho, along with the effect the artillery fire from Cemetery Hill had on Brockenbrough's unit (not to mention day 1 losses). The stubborn skirmishing of Orland Smith's brigade to the north of Sawyer's 8th OH may have also played a role.
Oh, given their position in the charge and everything you mention I don't think there is any chance of them completing the charge. But to do as little as they do? Other less veteran Confederate brigades had been hard used on Day 1 and were in the PPT charge (and shouldn't have been - but that's another story) and act very differently. It is that which has me fascinated (from my admittedly safe and comfortable armchair in a different country rather than a hot and humid Pennsylvanian killing field).
 
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Scott Brown

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Certainly frustrating that we have no reports from Brockenbrough, Betts, Mayo, Christian or Bowles, not to mention Pettigrew, and Heth's report doesn't get into July 3 at all.
 

Scott Brown

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From D. S. Freeman in Lee's Lieutenants, Vol 3, pg. 148...."As the division then was extended along Seminary Ridge, Brockenbrough's weak brigade under Col. Robert M. Mayo and "Joe" Davis's shattered, inexperienced troops, almost without field officers, were to be on the extreme left. If anyone questioned the prudence of this arrangement, no hint of it has survived."
 
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Hussar Yeomanry

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To add something to the mix one book (the excellently illustrated but infuriatingly unreferenced and occasionally misleading Gettysburg by Hugh Bicheno states 'John Brockenbrough was absent mourning the death of his brother'. Most other sources (other than the one you have referenced while I was typing this) however that I have seen suggest that Mayo commanded half the brigade with Brockenbrough the remainder. [EDIT - Which must have done wonders for unit cohesion]

Do we know which is true?

[I only keep my copy of Bicheno's Gettysburg because it gives me a good sense of where was what for it has great maps. I tend to ignore his commentary...]
 

Scott Brown

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Check that - Mayo's report can be found in the Supplement to the OR 5, Serial no. 5, pg. 415. Scott Bowden referred to this report as "disingenious in several respects." (see pg. 495 n. 204 in Last Chance for Victory).

Brad Gottfried wrote an article on Brockenbrough's brigade in GB Mag #23 also....
 
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Coonewah Creek

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"Joe" Davis's shattered, inexperienced troops, almost without field officers
Only partially true...true, the 55th NC and 42nd MS were "green," but they had undergone their baptism of fire on July 1st at the Railroad Cut and had certainly proven themselves. The 2nd and 11th MS were two very experienced regiments that had proven themselves on many fields of battle with the ANV. Remember, the 11th MS had not participated in the debacle at the Railroad Cut on July 1st since they had been detached and guarding the divisional trains at Cashtown. They were fresh and at full strength on July 3rd, anchoring the left flank of Davis's brigade during the charge.
 
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Hussar Yeomanry

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Sears Gettysburg (P418) 'The Brigade's divided command imposed by Brockenbrough - he led the 40th and the 22nd Virginia Battalion, while Colonel Robert M Mayo took charge of the 47th and 55th Virginia - did not help matters at this point especially when Colonel Mayo could not be found to give the order to advance. In due course these Virginians would lurch forward independently of everyone else. "We were a long ways behind, and had to run to keep up with the brigade," explained Colonel William S. Christian of the 55th Virginia. And as it happened, Brockenbrough's Brigade would suffer its fate independently of everyone else."

His sources are Hess Pickett's Charge and [Colonel] Christian to John W. Daniel, Oct 24, 1904, Daniel Papers, University of Virginia. [Others are cited but appear to relate to prior paragraphs]

So, a significantly later Source... justifying things?

Also... mass confusion?

And yeah for two major engagements 22% seems low.
 

Scott Brown

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Sears Gettysburg (P418) 'The Brigade's divided command imposed by Brockenbrough - he led the 40th and the 22nd Virginia Battalion, while Colonel Robert M Mayo took charge of the 47th and 55th Virginia - did not help matters at this point especially when Colonel Mayo could not be found to give the order to advance. In due course these Virginians would lurch forward independently of everyone else. "We were a long ways behind, and had to run to keep up with the brigade," explained Colonel William S. Christian of the 55th Virginia. And as it happened, Brockenbrough's Brigade would suffer its fate independently of everyone else."

His sources are Hess Pickett's Charge and [Colonel] Christian to John W. Daniel, Oct 24, 1904, Daniel Papers, University of Virginia. [Others are cited but appear to relate to prior paragraphs]

So, a significantly later Source... justifying things?

Also... mass confusion?

And yeah for two major engagements 22% seems low.

Gottfried has the same scenario in his GB mag article as Sears vis-a-vis Brockenbrough being present and splitting the brigade....looks like he is citing Mayo's supplement OR but it also looks like Coddington is....
 
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rpkennedy

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Colonel Brockenbrough had commanded the brigade before but had shown no real capability and Gettysburg was no different. The brigade's actions on July 1 were lackluster (at best) when they applied very little pressure against part of Stone's Bucktails and the 2nd and 7th Wisconsin of the Iron Brigade. On July 3, once again, the brigade's effort was rather pitiful, barely starting before falling apart. Brockenbrough has to take nearly all of the blame since he did so little that historians have trouble pinning down exactly what he did.

There's a reason that Lee relieved him of command after the battle and the regiments were folded into the Tennessee Brigade.

Ryan
 
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rpkennedy

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As a follow-up, it's possible that most of their casualties were sustained on July 3. Major Mansfield of the 2nd Wisconsin described the fight with the Virginians as a push by skirmishers and Colonel Robinson of the 7th Wisconsin wrote about a tougher fight but the real threat came from the left where the 24th Michigan and 19th Indiana were being torn apart. Considering that Brockenbrough's men had some cover from the trees and the quarry, it's a real possibility that their casualties were fairly minimal. So perhaps, the artillery fire did make short work of a rather timid brigade.

Ryan
 

Jamieva

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Lee's disastisfaction with Brockenbrough went well back before Gettysburg. GB was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Antietam they basically were not engaged.
Fredericksburg was terrible. He couldn't keep the brigade together at all. Lee brings in Heth to take over the brigade after Fredericksburg. From Field's wounding at 2nd manassas, through Fredericksburg it was still referred to as Field's brigade.

He takes back over brigade command when Heth is promoted to division command. July 1 and 3 both his performance was poor. Falling Waters....yes poor. You catch a trend here?

That was it for Lee. He as booted back down to regimental command and left the army in the 63-64 winter
 
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nc native

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Only partially true...true, the 55th NC and 42nd MS were "green," but they had undergone their baptism of fire on July 1st at the Railroad Cut and had certainly proven themselves. The 2nd and 11th MS were two very experienced regiments that had proven themselves on many fields of battle with the ANV. Remember, the 11th MS had not participated in the debacle at the Railroad Cut on July 1st since they had been detached and guarding the divisional trains at Cashtown. They were fresh and at full strength on July 3rd, anchoring the left flank of Davis's brigade during the charge.
Actually the 55th NC Infantry had seen the elephant at Fredricksburg. I remember an account written
by an officer who witnessed a reckless charge they made when the Federals were getting a little too close
to the stone wall for comfort during the battle. This assualt was halted and called back by General Hood
after achieving its objective of driving back the Federals that had gotten close to the wall. The writer of this
account described the regiment as consisiting of mostly old men and boys and the men of the 55th NC
were not shy about expressing their disappointment at being ordered back to the Confederate lines.
 

Coonewah Creek

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Actually the 55th NC Infantry had seen the elephant at Fredricksburg
Unless we are talking the possibility of two 55th North Carolina Infantry Regiments...I believe it was organized in May 1862. It then served in the Department of North Carolina until it was assigned to Davis's brigade. This regiment, although it had some very minor engagements prior to Gettysburg (including a minor skirmish at Suffolk), Gettysburg was its first real battle. I do not believe this regiment was with the ANV at Fredericksburg, nor were any of the other regiments that would comprise Davis's brigade.
 
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