Comparing Picketts Charge w/ Charge up Missionary Ridge and Longstreet at Chickamauga

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
Can the battle concepts be considered equivalent in these three situations - Gettysburg day 3, Chattanooga day 3 and Chickamauga day 2

In each situation one side had a defensive position shaped like an upside down fish hook - a concentration around a northern point (Cemetery/Culp Hills; Tunnel Hill; Kelly Field) with a long tail extending south (Cemetery Ridge; Missionary Ridge; along the Lafayette Road)

In each situation the attacking side put pressure on the northern end of the line, unsuccessfully as an attack in itself but successful in drawing the opponents reserves and then a larger assault is launched at the face of the tail.

The attack breaks through at Chattanooga and Chickamauga but not at Gettysburg due to difference in terrain? defensive troop placement? leadership? force concentration?

Thoughts?
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Can the battle concepts be considered equivalent in these three situations - Gettysburg day 3, Chattanooga day 3 and Chickamauga day 2

In each situation one side had a defensive position shaped like an upside down fish hook - a concentration around a northern point (Cemetery/Culp Hills; Tunnel Hill; Kelly Field) with a long tail extending south (Cemetery Ridge; Missionary Ridge; along the Lafayette Road)

In each situation the attacking side put pressure on the northern end of the line, unsuccessfully as an attack in itself but successful in drawing the opponents reserves and then a larger assault is launched at the face of the tail.

The attack breaks through at Chattanooga and Chickamauga but not at Gettysburg due to difference in terrain? defensive troop placement? leadership? force concentration?

Thoughts?
You might also find interesting Steve Davis's recent vol. 2 on John Bell Hood. He makes a detailed comparison of Hood's attack at Franklin with Pickett's.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Gettysburg is different because the defenders were stationary and preparing for the fight. At Chickamauga Rosecrans was trying to adjust his line and his divisions were moving. If they weren't set and prepared, the US Army of the Cumberland was probably not going to be able to resist an assault by Longstreet's 1st Corp. At Little Round Top at Gettysburg it was a much closer thing, because the US forces were shifting. By the third day at Gettysburg, the Confederates were up against troops that had been stationary for about 48 hours. The US infantry men and artillery batteries were ready. By the time of Chattanooga, Bragg's Confederate Army of Tennessee had given up its outposts on the Tennessee River, they had lost Lookout Mountain to Hooker's force, they had retreated from the advanced position on Orchard Knob, and the poorly supported forward trenches in front of Missionary Ridge had also been evacuated. I think Bragg was considering giving up the Missionary Ridge position entirely, and he probably should have done that.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Gettysburg is different because the defenders were stationary and preparing for the fight. At Chickamauga Rosecrans was trying to adjust his line and his divisions were moving. If they weren't set and prepared, the US Army of the Cumberland was probably not going to be able to resist an assault by Longstreet's 1st Corp. At Little Round Top at Gettysburg it was a much closer thing, because the US forces were shifting. By the third day at Gettysburg, the Confederates were up against troops that had been stationary for about 48 hours. The US infantry men and artillery batteries were ready. By the time of Chattanooga, Bragg's Confederate Army of Tennessee had given up its outposts on the Tennessee River, they had lost Lookout Mountain to Hooker's force, they had retreated from the advanced position on Orchard Knob, and the poorly supported forward trenches in front of Missionary Ridge had also been evacuated. I think Bragg was considering giving up the Missionary Ridge position entirely, and he probably should have done that.
Great points about Chickamauga - made worse by the poor timing of Wood's pullout ...
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
In comparing the defensive positions at Cemetery and Missionary Ridges, the federal position and artillery at Gettysburg was strongly placed with excellent fields of fire, and the flanks, particularly at the northern most hills, were able to withstand Confederate assaults. In contrast, Confederate artillery positions astride Missionary were placed at the topographical crest instead of the more effective military crest. Moreover, placing rifle pits at the bottom of the ridge allowed them to be easily overrun and in fleeing up the ridge, hampered firing on the oncoming federals. The flanks had already disintegrated or were disintegrating at Lookout Mountain and Tunnel Hill.
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
There is also the factor of the defending commander to be considered at Gettysburg and Chattanooga: Meade vs. Bragg. Meade and his subordinate commanders, especially Hancock, were skillful in moving reserves to threatened locations. Additionally, Meade was anticipating an assault on the Union center, and was benefiting from the successful results of the Confederate repulse on Day 2. Whereas Bragg, never completely at ease with many of his subordinates, suffered from a certain type of hesitation in conceiving and executing battle plans; sending Longstreet and his contingent to East Tennessee was probably not the wisest military move.
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
In one respect, Thomas' defense of his position at Horseshoe Ridge at Chickamauga was successful: his flanks were being engulfed, Confederate forces had already achieved a breakthrough that doomed the AotC, so Thomas could only hope to hold out for a limited amount of time before either surrender or withdrawal. He chose withdrawal (I guess he was technically ordered by Rosecrans), and that was the right move.
 

SgtDarby8OVI

Private
Joined
Jun 30, 2021
As I see it, the key difference with Chickamauga is that Longstreet's attack had the depth that Pickett's Charge and the others lacked. Although the Gettysburg attack was a wide front that was supposed to concentrate on a fixed point, the wings of the attack were unable to support the center and there was nothing behind to exploit the breakthrough at The Angle. Longstreet's assaulting column at Chickamauga was in columns of divisions so that when they hit that hole, those veteran brigades had depth, power, and momentum. This proved a problem after the breakthrough, since it took longer to swing that momentum away from pursuing the routed Union right wing and direct it towards the hastily forming defensive line on Horseshoe Ridge (Hood was wounded trying to accomplish that task), but the initial attack was a very effective sledgehammer. The attack at Franklin was also wider than it needed to be, given the weak point in the center of the Union line where the Columbiana Pike entered town, and suffered much the same problem as the wings got bogged down and offered little support to the center. As noted by others in this thread, Union success at Missionary Ridge was the combination of the Army of Cumberland's resolve, Bragg's poor planning, and the precipitous decline in morale within the Army of Tennessee.
 

Georgian183

Private
Joined
Apr 17, 2021
Terrain also played a monumental role in Longstreet's assault at Chickamauga. The terrain limited line of sight, and provided tons of concealment. Rosecrans had been notified Longstreet's Corps was on it's way to Chickamauga (or already present), and the various field commanders knew the general position of the Confederate line, ie just opposite their own. The tree cover allowed Longstreet to mass his troops with secrecy, the Union commanders none the wiser. Another point to note is how close the Union and Confederate Lines were before Longstreet's breakthrough; having walked the ground, I would say the troops were no more than 200-250 yards max from one another due to how heavy the tree cover was. Lee had none of this available to him on July 3rd.
 

Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
Location
Northern Alabama
With respect to Chattanooga, Bragg's engineers, for whatever reason, indifference or incompetence, laid out the defenses incorrectly. They were primarily located more nearer the geographic crest of the ridge rather than the "military" crest. Thus the Federal assaulting troops, once having overrun the Rebel defenses closer to the base of the ridge, were in defilade for much of the assault and the thinly-stretched Confederates on the crest were simply overwhelmed.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
In comparing the defensive positions at Cemetery and Missionary Ridges, the federal position and artillery at Gettysburg was strongly placed with excellent fields of fire, and the flanks, particularly at the northern most hills, were able to withstand Confederate assaults. In contrast, Confederate artillery positions astride Missionary were placed at the topographical crest instead of the more effective military crest. Moreover, placing rifle pits at the bottom of the ridge allowed them to be easily overrun and in fleeing up the ridge, hampered firing on the oncoming federals. The flanks had already disintegrated or were disintegrating at Lookout Mountain and Tunnel Hill.
An excellent point about the poor placement of the Confederate guns on Missionary Ridge. Elemental military principle that somebody missed.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
As I see it, the key difference with Chickamauga is that Longstreet's attack had the depth that Pickett's Charge and the others lacked. Although the Gettysburg attack was a wide front that was supposed to concentrate on a fixed point, the wings of the attack were unable to support the center and there was nothing behind to exploit the breakthrough at The Angle. Longstreet's assaulting column at Chickamauga was in columns of divisions so that when they hit that hole, those veteran brigades had depth, power, and momentum. This proved a problem after the breakthrough, since it took longer to swing that momentum away from pursuing the routed Union right wing and direct it towards the hastily forming defensive line on Horseshoe Ridge (Hood was wounded trying to accomplish that task), but the initial attack was a very effective sledgehammer. The attack at Franklin was also wider than it needed to be, given the weak point in the center of the Union line where the Columbiana Pike entered town, and suffered much the same problem as the wings got bogged down and offered little support to the center. As noted by others in this thread, Union success at Missionary Ridge was the combination of the Army of Cumberland's resolve, Bragg's poor planning, and the precipitous decline in morale within the Army of Tennessee.
Not to beat a dead horse, but that's a good point regarding Longstreet's attack at Chickamauga - and it characterized his other well-planned assaults during the war.
 

Jantzen64

Corporal
Joined
Aug 10, 2019
In comparing the defensive positions at Cemetery and Missionary Ridges, the federal position and artillery at Gettysburg was strongly placed with excellent fields of fire, and the flanks, particularly at the northern most hills, were able to withstand Confederate assaults. In contrast, Confederate artillery positions astride Missionary were placed at the topographical crest instead of the more effective military crest. Moreover, placing rifle pits at the bottom of the ridge allowed them to be easily overrun and in fleeing up the ridge, hampered firing on the oncoming federals. The flanks had already disintegrated or were disintegrating at Lookout Mountain and Tunnel Hill.
Yeah, my admittedly limited study of this particular aspect seemed to place great weight on poor engineering with regard to placement of artillery and rifle pits, as well as IIRC, a relatively thin line . . . .
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
IMHO, a very interesting comparison is the charge at Franklin
The Davis book I referred to is worthwhile for the comparison he makes. (In his first volume on Hood, he does the same thing with Hood's attack at Atlanta on July 22 and Jackson's attack at Chancellorsville).
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Can the battle concepts be considered equivalent in these three situations - Gettysburg day 3, Chattanooga day 3 and Chickamauga day 2

In each situation one side had a defensive position shaped like an upside down fish hook - a concentration around a northern point (Cemetery/Culp Hills; Tunnel Hill; Kelly Field) with a long tail extending south (Cemetery Ridge; Missionary Ridge; along the Lafayette Road)

In each situation the attacking side put pressure on the northern end of the line, unsuccessfully as an attack in itself but successful in drawing the opponents reserves and then a larger assault is launched at the face of the tail.

The attack breaks through at Chattanooga and Chickamauga but not at Gettysburg due to difference in terrain? defensive troop placement? leadership? force concentration?

Thoughts?
On Chickamauga:
Longstreet's attack does have good depth and power, a concentrated thrust with reserves to exploit the breakthrough.

OTOH, Longstreet's attack here can approach through covered terrain, not exposed to fire, particularly artillery fire. They are able to over-run the gun line Mendenhall is trying to build opposite the breakthrough before he can hit them. All of this, of course, is aided by a horrendous Union error where Rosecrans is told he has a gap in his line and orders Wood to close it -- an order that should have been ignored because Wood knew there was no gap. Longstreet's attack, by luck, came directly through the gap Wood's foolish move created.

Longstreet would have struck a heavy blow no matter what -- but the magnitude of his success is largely related to the Rosecrans-Wood fiasco.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Can the battle concepts be considered equivalent in these three situations - Gettysburg day 3, Chattanooga day 3 and Chickamauga day 2

In each situation one side had a defensive position shaped like an upside down fish hook - a concentration around a northern point (Cemetery/Culp Hills; Tunnel Hill; Kelly Field) with a long tail extending south (Cemetery Ridge; Missionary Ridge; along the Lafayette Road)

In each situation the attacking side put pressure on the northern end of the line, unsuccessfully as an attack in itself but successful in drawing the opponents reserves and then a larger assault is launched at the face of the tail.

The attack breaks through at Chattanooga and Chickamauga but not at Gettysburg due to difference in terrain? defensive troop placement? leadership? force concentration?

Thoughts?
On Chattanooga:

At the northern end, Sherman puts on an exhibition in how to fumble around and mess up a tactical offensive; Cleburne puts on a master-class in how to defend a position.

At the southern end, Hooker's men get astride the ridge, turns, and advances north. This is late in the day, but by itself renders the Missionary Ridge position untenable for the Confederates. They are outflanked and any troops on top of the ridge are helpless against the Union sweeping north.

In between, the Confederate indifference or incompetence mentioned elsewhere is evident. Bragg's army has occupied this position since September -- but Confederate officers are trying to lay out a better defensive position on November 24 (Hardee and Cleburne wanted Bragg to retreat, Breckinridge convinced Bragg to stand). With two months to prepare, it should have been impossible for any Union frontal assault to succeed. Instead, it was possible for the Yankees to advance up the steep ridge under cover, to get close to the Rebels at the top of the ridge before assaulting.

This is a fiasco on the Confederate side. From the mess at Wauhatchie to the assault on Missionary Ridge, the Confederate AoT looks disjointed and split by politics. The entire concept of sending Longstreet off to attack Knoxville (November 3) as Grant is getting ready to break out of Chattanooga is mind-boggling. The inadequate defenses of the Confederates is astonishing. The fractured, back-biting Confederate command structure is ... well ... a major reason Grant won so easily, despite the fumbling on his side.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
On Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg:

This one looks like a result that should be expected.

If the Confederate bombardment had somehow worked, maybe Pickett would have had a chance. If the Yankees had broken, maybe the Confederates could have made this work. Otherwise ... it looks like a failure before it starts.

The Rebel artillery is out-matched. Pickett's charge advances across open fields, exposed to massed artillery fire. It has open flanks (the Yankees move forward to wheel against those flanks and enfilade them. Even if the Rebels had broken the first line, there are masses of Union troops available to counter-attack and re-establish the position.

The attack might have achieved a great success except for all that. IRL, it was a disaster -- and it is not hard to see why.
 
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