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Casualties of the Confederate Artillery

Discussion in 'Battle of Gettysburg' started by Gettysburg Greg, Jan 9, 2017.

  1. Gettysburg Greg

    Gettysburg Greg Sergeant

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    Lieutenant Frank Haskell was an aid to General Gibbon during the Gettysburg campaign and witnessed many of the historic events that occurred during those three days. His detail-filled essay/letter written just weeks after the battle chronicles what he witnessed during those dark days. He was eating lunch with several generals including General Meade and his staff near the Leister house when the Confederate bombardment that preceded Picket's Charge began. He describes the scene in the Leister farm yard where orderlies and curriers had their horses tied to many of the trees. During the cannonade, many of the Confederate shells aimed at Cemetery Ridge overshot their target and struck all around Meade's HQ on the Taneytown Road. Haskell then describes how many of the horses were killed still tied to the trees. A few days later, Alexander Gardner recorded the scene in his iconic photographs of Meade's HQ, the widow Leister's farm. In this detail from Gardner's photo, you can see the very horses described by Haskell, many still tied to the trees just as he said. I count as many as nine, maybe ten of the four-legged heroes lying dead under the trees. Haskell then accompanied General Gibbon up to Cemetery Ridge where he witnessed the effects of the bombardment followed by the grand charge. His flourishing detailed accounts are well worth reading.
    horse bu - Copy.jpg
     

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  3. Warren

    Warren Private

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    I remember reading an account that one of the first shells of that Confederate bombardment hit a mess orderly tending to the chicken lunch for Meade and the others present, and cut him in half. I'll bet THAT ruined the ambiance of the fine repast that day!
     
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  4. nitrofd

    nitrofd Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    Haskell's book on Gettysburg is worth reading,it is available in paperback.
     
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  5. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    Frank Haskell would go on to command the 36th Wisconsin and would be killed at Cold Harbor.

    Ryan
     
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  6. nitrofd

    nitrofd Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    His book was published after his death.
     
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  7. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    It was. And is an excellent read.

    Ryan
     
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  8. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    Sergeant Thomas W. Smith of Company I, 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, who was assigned at Meade's headquarters wrote, "there were 21 horses killed outright in the garden at headquarters. We lost 11 horses out of our squadron; Captain Carpenter of Company E lost two horses. Nearly every horse at headquarters was wounded or scratched by pieces of flying shell, some of them so bad that they had to be killed afterwards."

    James Cornell Biddle, on Meade's staff, also lost two horses that were tied to the fence close to Meade's horse. (Meade's favorite mount, Old Baldy, was reportedly wounded on July 2 and so he rode "Blackey" on July 3.)

    I also recall a member of Meade's staff saying that someone put a bullet into his horse's head, thinking it had been badly wounded, when in fact the horse had escaped the bombardment unscathed.

    In addition, two pack mules belonging to Meade’s mess carried coffee and sugar; a round shot passed through both during the cannonade.
     
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  9. James_tiberous

    James_tiberous Corporal

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    Am I correct in assuming that the Confederate bombardment happened because the Rebs did not possess high ground they could use in supporting the attack? They basically had to fire blind or lob the shells at the Union lines and hope to hit something. While the Union had the high ground and could punish the Confederate assault as it came on. I'd think they could have commanded the Confederate lines on the other side as well.
     
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  10. Wallyfish

    Wallyfish Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    The Brown's Island munition explosion on March 13, 1863 forced fuse production to a Muntions factory in Charleston SC.

    Apparently no testing of those fuses occurred prior to Gettysburg and they were unaware that the Charlestown fuses burnt slower. I had read a great read on this on the internet but I can't find it now.

    Below is a recap of the Richmond munition explosion. Certainly some Confederate shells hit their mark, but not all. The Leister house is downhill of the crest of cemetery ridge by several hundred yards. So was in battle Smoke or longer burning fuses that caused the over shooting?

    But this Brown explosion impact at Gettysburg is another mystery.

    http://www.richmond.com/news/local/...cle_9683aac6-847f-11e2-b033-0019bb30f31a.html
     
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  11. WJC

    WJC First Sergeant

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    The bombardment of July 3, 1863 was planned to 'soften up' Union opposition prior to the assault. There were also plans to support the assault, once started, with 'flying batteries'. Unfortunately, the lengthy bombardment used up so much ammunition that there was little available for the 'flying batteries'. In addition, Colonel Alexander had acquired nine howitzers to accompany and support the charge from General Pendleton, but Pendleton inexplicably moved them; when they were needed, Alexander couldn't find them.
    The Confederate artillery positions were on "good ground" as Lee described it. Since they held exterior lines, they had an advantage of converging firepower on a particular position. That position was Cemetery Hill. Artillery from all three Corps concentrated their fire there: Ewell's guns from Benner's Hill, the railroad cut and Oak Hill; Hill's guns from Seminary Ridge; Longstreet's guns from the Peach Orchard and along the Emmitsburg Road.
    Unfortunately, There was a terrible quality problem with Confederate munitions: a large variance in the explosive power of the powder which caused shots to fall short or go too long, fuses which caused explosive shells to explode too early or too late to be effective.
    The Union guns did some damage to the Confederate artillery during the bombardment, but their major contribution was decimating the Confederate infantry as they drew closer.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2017
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  12. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    Artillery, both Union and Confederate, tended to overshoot their target. The Confederate infantry was behind their artillery, while Federal infantry was generally in front or beside their artillery, so the irony is that the Confederate infantry lost proportionally more heavily in the bombardment. This, plus the fact that Federal infantry on the objective was largely protected by rock walls, which no doubt saved quite a number of Federal soldiers. Most of Pickett's men were in the open field with no protection from enemy artillery, or even the sun, which likewise prostrated more than a few soldiers. To the north, in Thomas' brigade, one soldier recollected that he and several other comrades fainted that afternoon (from heat exhaustion).
     
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  13. theoldman

    theoldman First Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    I agree with the comments on Haskell's book being an excellent read. He did emphasize that his book is only a 'memoir' and not meant to be history. Never the less I will recommend it to anyone. IIRC he also stated that it was some what accepted in the AOP that ANV infantry was superior to AOP infantry, but the AOP artillery was superior to the ANV artillery. For those who like stats to back up claims like that, I doubt you can find any but I think it was a general opinion. Hunt had the AOP artillery response planed out for the anticipated attack but Hancock countered those orders in II Corps sector. Hancock believed it hurt his infantry's morale if they did not see their own artillery firing back. After the battle Hunt felt strongly that if II Corps artillery had conserved their ammo for the attack, the AOP artillery would have had an even more devastating impact on the assault.

    Any one with an interest in Custer and the LBH battle should recognize General Gibbon's name from that event also.
     
  14. DixieRifles

    DixieRifles 1st Lieutenant

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    This may not be true, but the Confederate bombardment as described in the movie and many discussions said they ran low on ammunition and it would take time to re-arm their cassions.
    I find this baffeling. If Lee planned and ordered a bombarment prior to the charge, I would expect planners would move the ammunition to location required to support it.
    Is it true the Confederate artillery barrage ended earlier than planned??
     
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  15. James_tiberous

    James_tiberous Corporal

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    Thanks!! Interesting that blasted Cemetary Hill. There were guns there, guys from Buffalo NY actually, Weidrichs Battery. I take it that the guns on Cemetary Hill were the first guns to fire on the assault as it came on? This would have been solid shot, long range artillary I assume?
     
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  16. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    Technically, no. It was supposed to last long enough to drive the artillery away and discomfort the infantry. There really wasn't a specific amount of time delegated to this task.

    There was still ammunition but it had been moved further to the rear by the incompetent General William Pendleton. As the ammunition began to run short, Alexander noted that several batteries were moving off of the ridge, realized that this may have been what they were waiting for, and told Longstreet that it was now or never.

    Ryan
     
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  17. WJC

    WJC First Sergeant

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    Much of what happened at Gettysburg (and in any combat situation) was different from what was planned. Here are some useful extracts that might help answer your questions:
    1. Lee's Commander of Artillery, William Pendleton, states in his Official Record concerning the July 3, 1863 assault, that he "found.... many batteries getting out of or low in ammunition, and the all-important question of supply received my earnest attention. Frequent shell endangering the First Corps ordnance train in the convenient locality I had assigned it, it had been removed farther back. This necessitated longer time for refilling caissons. What was worse, the train itself was very limited, so that its stock was soon exhausted, rendering requisite demand upon the reserve train, farther off. The whole amount was thus being rapidly reduced. With our means, to keep up supply at the rate required for such a conflict proved practically impossible. There had to be, therefore, some relaxation of the protracted fire, and some lack of support for the deferred and attempted advance."
    Pendleton was responsible for having sufficient munitions on hand. My opinion- based on all that I have read- is that he failed.
    2. I've never read that there was a set length of time for the bombardment. Certainly Longstreet told his Chief of Artillery, Edward Porter Alexander, to decide when enough damage had been done to launch the assault.
    Alexander wrote two works detailing his wartime experience. The earlier book, written for his family and not intended for publication, is one of the best Civil War books available: Gary W. Anderson (editor), Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1989). As I don't have access to it just now, I'll quote some of his remarks from his second book: Military Memoirs of a Confederate: A Critical Narrative (1907 ) pp. 420-425.
    According to Alexander, Longstreet's last order to him was: "Colonel: The intention is to advance the infantry if the artillery has the desired effect of driving the enemy's off, or having other effect such as to warrant us in making the attack. When that moment arrives advise Gen. Pickett and of course advance such artillery as you can use in aiding the attack." He responded, "General: When our fire is at its best, I will advise Gen. Pickett to advance."
    Alexander records the start of the bombardment: "It was just 1 P. M. by my watch when the signal guns were fired and the cannonade opened. The enemy replied rather slowly at first, though soon with increasing rapidity. Having determined that Pickett should charge, I felt impatient to launch him as soon as I could see that our fire was accomplishing anything. I guessed that a half-hour would elapse between my sending him the order and his column reaching close quarters. I dared not presume on using more ammunition than one hour's firing would consume, for we were far from supplies and had already fought for two days. So I determined to send Pickett the order at the very first favorable sign and not later than after 30 minutes firing."
    At 1:25P. M. , Alexander sent a message to Pickett: "General: If you are to advance at all, you must come at once or we will not be able to support you as we ought. But the enemy's fire has not slackened materially and there are still 18 guns firing from the cemetery."
    He goes on to say "We frequently withdrew from fighting Federal guns in order to save our ammunition for their infantry."
    At 1:40 P. M., noting a "decided falling off in the enemy's fire" and seeing Union guns "limbered up and withdrawn" and
    "no fresh guns replaced those withdrawn", he sent another note to Pickett: "For God's sake come quick. The 18 guns have gone. Come quick or my ammunition will not let me support you properly."
    He states: Soon only a few scattered Federal guns were in action, and still Pickett's line had not come forward, though scarcely 300 yards behind my guns." Longstreet, after ordering Pickett forward, joined him. "It was doubtless 1.50 or later, but I did not look at my watch again. I had grown very impatient to see Pickett, fearing ammunition would run short...."
    Alexander continues: "The suspense was brief and was ended by the emergence from the wood behind us of Garnett riding in front of his brigade." He accompanied Garnett forward, then "rode down the line of guns, asking what each gun had left. Many had canister only. These and all having but few shell were ordered to stand fast. Those with a moderate amount of suitable ammunition were ordered to limber up and advance.
    During the cannonade the reserve ordnance train had been moved from the position first occupied, and caissons sent to it had not returned. Only about one gun in four could be ordered forward from the centre, but from the right Maj. Haskell took five from Garden's and Flanner's batteries, and Maj. Eshleman... sent four somewhat to Haskell's left."
    Alexander joined the guns going forward from the center. When they got to "a swell of ground just west of the Emmitsburg road" they "opened upon troops advancing to attack the right flank of Pickett's division". Eshleman and Haskell "to the left front of the Peach Orchard soon also opened fire. The charging brigades were now close in front of the Federal lines and the musketry was heavy."
    He concludes, "we saw them close in upon the enemy in smoke and dust, and we ceased firing and waited the result."
    Hope this helps.
     
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  18. WJC

    WJC First Sergeant

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    Be careful with "the movie" description. Although I enjoy watching it from time to time, it is filled with inaccuracies, as is the book upon which it was based, The Killer Angels.
     
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  19. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    Alexander was a remarkable soldier, but his description of the length of the cannonade is at odds with multiple sources on both sides of the field. The general consensus, from what I can tell, is that the cannonade tapered off closer to 90 minutes (2:30 p.m.), with the Federals beginning to slack off (by design) at about 75 minutes. In that case the Confederate infantry would have moved forward at approximately 2:45 p.m. (give or take), and reached the wall at the Angle 20 minutes later.

    Over the years I have moderated my criticism of Pendleton, more so after finding a detailed account by one of his aides, Coupland R. Page (Gettysburg Magazine, issue 54, January 2016). Pendleton sent Page to the reserve ammunition train after the infantry advance was already underway, and there Page was informed that the supply was getting low, but there still remained nearly one day's worth of ammunition. It didn't help that some of the ammunition boxes were filled with siege rounds that didn't fit any gun in the army - a mistake by the Ordnance Department in Richmond. It was Page who was dispatched by Alexander to bring up Poague's howitzers, which were nowhere to be found. Incidentally, Page informs that Pendleton's headquarters on July 3 were on a bluff just west of Willoughby Run and just north of the road leading to the Black Horse Tavern - one mile due west of Spangler's woods.

    I can't see how it was not abundantly clear to anyone from General Lee on down to the lowest Private that most of the army's remaining ammunition was being expended on this desperate effort, so to make Pendleton the scapegoat for its failure seems rather unfair to me. After 90 minutes of intense effort the Confederate artillery had succeeded in knocking out a few Federal batteries, but only inflicted, on average, a mere five percent casualties on the Federal infantry defenders. Lots of noise and smoke obscured the essential fact that artillery at long range was rather ineffective.
     
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  20. bdtex

    bdtex Brigadier General Moderator

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    That was a good read. I've read about the Allegheny Arsenal and Washington Arsenal explosions but not that one.
     
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  21. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    I tend to agree. The artillery had done pretty much all that it could realistically do. Pendleton's decision to move the train further to the rear is understandable even if it was questionable. But I still wouldn't describe him as anything other than incompetent. :wink:

    To be fair, Lee was asking the artillery to do something incredibly difficult with, what turned out to be, suspect ammunition. Alexander was skilled, but he wasn't a miracle worker.

    Ryan
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2017
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