Brooke's Charge a little too easy?

Joined
Oct 10, 2019
Location
Mt. Juliet, Tennessee
It's a Georgia brigade so you just know I had to chime in here. :wink:

Peter A S McGlashan, a Scottish immigrant, was then Major of the 50th GA Semmes' brigade. When Lt. Col. Francis M. Kearse was killed on July 2, McGlashan assumed temporary command of the regiment. He was eventually promoted to Colonel and was captured at Sailor's Creek April 6, 1865. Years later, McGlashan delivered an address before the Confederate Veterans Association at Savannah in which he recounted the part played by Semmes' brigade [McLaws' division] at the Battle of Gettysburg. Here's an excerpt:

Our brigade, commanded by the soldierly and gallant Paul J. Semmes, was drawn up directly opposite Little Round Top, and consisted of the Tenth, Fiftieth, Fifty-first, and Fifty-third Georgia Regiments; my regiment, the Fiftieth, was then commanded by F. M. Kearse, a gallant South Carolinian. Directly in our front a wooded slope, strewn with large boulders, extended to the top of the ridge, which was separated by a deep ravine from Little Round Top. At the foot of the slope, near the Emmettsburg Road, lay a farm steading, spring house and peach orchard, defended by a 4-gun battery. On the open ground of the ridge top to our left some forty guns were massed, commanding the approach across the valley, in the woods on our front were massed, unknown to us, Sickles Third Corps, posted behind stone fences and other obstructions, making a very strong position.​
We were ordered to cross the valley, attack and drive in whatever troops might occupy the wooded slope, and carry, if possible, the hights [sic] beyond. A battery near us tried to shell the ground in front, but suffered heavily from the return fire of the enemy's heavy batteries. It was understood that the attack by our right against the enemy's left was ordered at 10 a.m., but for some unexplained reason it was delayed until 4 p.m. In the interim the enemy were heavily reinforcing their lines on Little and Great Round Top. At 4 p.m. the advance began in two lines, Gen. Kershaw's South Carolina Brigade supporting ours. As we went out in the open we were directly exposed to the fire of the enemy's guns, they got our range at once, the first shell killing two men on the left of my regiment.....At the Emmettsburg Road, one-half way across, we encountered the skirmish line of the enemy, which was instantly driven in, and their artillery changed to grape and canister, and so terrible was the fire that nothing but the rapid movement of our line saved it from annihilation.
Cheering, and gallantly led by their officers, the line dashed at the edge of the woods in front. Barksdales' Mississippi Brigade being opposite the clear ground to our left, swept on up the ridge, leaving us as we entered the edge of the woods, when a dense mass of the enemy rose up, delivered a heavy fire right in our faces, and charged us with bayonets fixed. The shock was terrible, so swift was the advance of the enemy down the hill that they broke our line by sheer impact of weight and numbers, the first line was driven back on the second, inextricably mixed, and the struggling fighting mass was broken into squads and groups and slowly driven back before the almost irresistible advance of the enemy.​
And any other troops in existence would have been irremediably broken and scattered under the terrible shock. But these troops were the pride and flower of the South, the men who had conquered at Manassas and Seven Pines, at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and rallying by groups and squads, they gallantly faced their assailants, loading and firing with a rapidity I had never seen equalled. The splendid marksmanship of the Southern soldiers, men raised from childhood with a gun in their hands, told fearfully on the ranks of the enemy, captains, lieutenants, sergeants and corporals seemed to vie with each other in rallying and leading their men, climbing up on the large boulders strewn all about with swords aloft encouraging their men to be instantly shot down, falling in glorious death.​
Generals Benning and Kershaw and Wofford raged up and down the lines like lions at bay while gallant Paul J Semmes with a red skull cap on his head, his fighting cap we used to call it, dashed along the line like a maddened tiger, shouting, "Look to the front men, look to the front, forward, forward." Gallant Col. Kearse leading his regiment and shouting like a demon actually charged sword in hand through the enemy's line and gloriously fell shot through the body to be terribly avenged by his maddened men. Gen. Semmes shot through the thigh, fell beside a large boulder whence we dragged him out and sent him to the rear, with a captured flag. Gen. McLaws cool and imperturbable as if on parade, rallied his line inspiring us all.​
[Colonel Peter A. S. McGlashan, "Longstreet at Gettysburg," an Address delivered before the Confederate Veterans Association, Savannah, Georgia, November 15, 1898.]
<to be continued>
EDIT TO ADD: Has anyone else ever read that Brigadier General Paul J Semmes wore a red skull cap?
Hello, lelliott19, Warbird43 here. Just finished answering your trivia question for 4-17-2020. The red skull cap mentioned was a good clue; in researching it, I came across a thread discussing the action in the Wheatfield on July 2 that contained a reference to BG Paul J. Semmes. Some were wondering why he would wear a red skull cap, and could it have something to do with the Masons. I've done some digging around and found some information that might provide a clue as to why Semmes would be wearing something so conspicuous as a red cap in a battle. Certainly not to identify himself to his troops during the smoke and noise of a fierce fire-fight; that would be a good way to get a bullet thru the head from a Yankee sharpshooter.

As to the red cap having a connection with the Mason, well, yes and no. Semmes, from what I can find, was not a Mason. He was however, a member of a secret society known as the Knights of The Golden Circle. This society drew heavily on the Free Masons (and later the Knights of Pythias) for their rituals and society structure. It was based primarily on preservation of slavery. It existed from 1851-1916 and included many influential people before and after the war. Semmes joined in 1860 as a BG. The KGC was a shadow society and little has been recorded of its activities, other than hear-say.

Just a little on the Free Masons (and I am no expert by any means). Everything in the Masonic world has a meaning, and that includes colors. Red is the Symbol of Regeneration, assigned to the Royal Arch Degree since that degree teaches the Regeneration of Life. It is also symbolic of a pioneering spirit and leadership, promoting ambition and determination. Just the color for a warrior.

In all probability, there were a good number of the KGC in the Confederate armies (and probablly some in the Union armies as well). So it may be that Semmes wore a red skull cap into battle to identify himself to friend and foe alike as a member of the secret society, the KGC, ensuring he would not be shot accidentally by a fellow member. Or, perhaps the wearing of a red cap was a good luck charm. Or, maybe it was to keep his head warm. It's just another of those little mysteries of the Civil War that will never be answered.

Anyway, just wanted to pass these thoughts along; enjoy your trivia questions and researching them. Have a good evening ................ Warbird43, out
 

51st Georgia

Private
Joined
May 31, 2011
Location
Miami FL
The lack of reports from Semmes' Brigade in the OR is doubtless in part due to Semmes' death. However, it is not unreasonable to speculate that no one else wanted to write a report about a sub-par performance.

First of all, as a descendant of a 51st Georgia private, I appreciate so much great information about the movements of that day. It has been frustrating to have almost zero reports.

The only small tidbit I might add to the mystery of the underperforming and hesitating 50th and 51st might be that the 51st was mauled along the Orange Turnpike during Chancellorsville in May, losing their Col and Lt Col and about 100 of their men. (Sears, Chancellorsville).

So having all new regimental leadership plus losing Semmes at the beginning may have been the reason. Remember, Goode Bryan of the 16th Georgia from Wofford's brigade was tapped to succeed Semmes as that brigade's commander. Isn't that unusual not to promote from within??? Something to consider.


ALSO: I have seen Semmes' red cap described as a "turban" in letters. Where, I cannot remember.

PPPS: AHA! Here " When a battle was immimnent, General Semmes dressed with extraordinary care, carefully polished boots, spotless linen, elegant uniform, a brilliant red sash around his waist and shoulders and a red turban on his head. When a fight began, he took his position in front of his brigade, so as to be seen by every man in it if possible. "

Link here
 
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Gettysburg Guide #154

Sergeant
Member of the Month
Joined
Dec 30, 2019
First of all, as a descendant of a 51st Georgia private, I appreciate so much great information about the movements of that day. It has been frustrating to have almost zero reports.

The only small tidbit I might add to the mystery of the underperforming and hesitating 50th and 51st might be that the 51st was mauled along the Orange Turnpike during Chancellorsville in May, losing their Col and Lt Col and about 100 of their men. (Sears, Chancellorsville).

So having all new regimental leadership plus losing Semmes at the beginning may have been the reason. Remember, Goode Bryan of the 16th Georgia from Wofford's brigade was tapped to succeed Semmes as that brigade's commander. Isn't that unusual not to promote from within??? Something to consider.


ALSO: I have seen Semmes' red cap described as a "turban" in letters. Where, I cannot remember.

PPPS: AHA! Here " When a battle was immimnent, General Semmes dressed with extraordinary care, carefully polished boots, spotless linen, elegant uniform, a brilliant red sash around his waist and shoulders and a red turban on his head. When a fight began, he took his position in front of his brigade, so as to be seen by every man in it if possible. "

Link here
Your refection about the experience of Semmes Brigade at Chancellorsville is a good point. I have been thinking more and more lately that I need to spend some more time studying Chancellorsville in order to better understand what happens at Gettysburg. This is not just the idea that Lee is over-confident or that Jackson was a more experienced Corps commander than Ewell. For example, if you learn about the way Brockenbrough handled his brigade at Chancellorsville, you can begin to understand why the morale of that unit might not be the best. Now you have brought to my attention still another clue from Chancellorsville about why and how Gettysburg played out. I have only visited Chancellorsville once, and it left me scratching my head to understand why and how the Union lost! Thanks for convincing me to study Chancellorsville a bit deeper.
 

Scott F

Corporal
Joined
Sep 6, 2015
I have been doing quite a bit of research on some of the topics touched upon here for my new book "Where Defeated Valor Lies, The Rose Farm Gettysburg". Thank you lelliott19 for sharing McGlashan's address to the Confederate Veterans' Association. I have a different version of it from May 1899. Yours seems to be a little more detailed, and answers some important questions I had concerning General Semmes' mortal wounding. McGlashan left out the location in the version I have. On the other hand your version states "Gen. Semmes shot through the thigh, fell beside a large boulder whence we dragged him out and sent him to the rear, with a captured flag. Gen. McLaws cool and imperturbable as if on parade, rallied his line inspiring us all." In my version it merely says, "General Semmes fell shot through the thigh and was sent to the rear on a captured Pennsylvania flag". Besides the flag, in which there is none that I know of captured on that part of the field, Pennsylvania or otherwise, it seems McGlashan believes that Semmes was wounded after they had engaged the infantry. Others believe he was wounded in between two large boulders near the Stony Hill. Kershaw, however, believed he was wounded in Ogden's Wheatfield near the stonewall. The brigade marker c. 1907 and Captain Hillyer 9th Georgia, state it was the ravine near Rose Run. Which one is correct? The answer comes from a letter from Lt. Tennehille to Captain Hillyer (both 9th Georgia). I will let you read it for yourself.
 

Scott F

Corporal
Joined
Sep 6, 2015
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Scott F

Corporal
Joined
Sep 6, 2015
@Scott F Looking forward to your book!

John
It should be out sometime next year. I haven't got a contract on it yet (just finishing up the manuscript) but I have signed the contract for my first book and my publisher is very interested in this one, even more so than my first book. Just have to send in the manuscript and I am confident a contract will soon follow.
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
Can someone explain to me why it appeared to be so easy for Union Colonel John Brooke's brigade to push back the regiments of General Paul Semmes' brigade, who were defending a ridge that Colonel Brooke himself described as almost "impregnable?" After doing some research and making several visits to this steep rocky slope in Rose Woods, I concluded that it's very comparable to the slope of the Little Round Top spur that Colonel Joshua Chamberlain successfully defended at about the same time. I'm wondering if the Confederates were in the process of pulling back their men anyway?

The following map is credited to @Tom Elmore , who previously posted it. Notice the slope contours that attest to its steepness.
View attachment 345140

Here are some of my pictures of the slope.
View attachment 345141
View attachment 345142
I have one question- in the move Gettysburg, Chamberlin orders his men to fix baronets ,since they had no ammunition, and charge the Confederates . I remember watching has he with his sapper raised charging down that hill and chasing the fleeing Confederate soldiers . I do not remember reading of this in Shaara's novel 'The 'Killer Angels'' which this movie was based on nor in any books. So did this happen or is this part of the Chamberlin legacy which he wrote/created?
 

infomanpa

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Location
Pennsylvania
I have one question- in the move Gettysburg, Chamberlin orders his men to fix baronets ,since they had no ammunition, and charge the Confederates . I remember watching has he with his sapper raised charging down that hill and chasing the fleeing Confederate soldiers . I do not remember reading of this in Shaara's novel 'The 'Killer Angels'' which this movie was based on nor in any books. So did this happen or is this part of the Chamberlin legacy which he wrote/created?
The scene is dramatized beyond what happened. Truth mixed in with fiction, like other parts of the movie.
 
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