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

NedBaldwin

Major
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California
On Chattanooga:

At the northern end, Sherman puts on an exhibition in how to fumble around and mess up a tactical offensive
We disagree on that.


A point of comparison between the battles is that just like how Sherman drew over half Bragg's forces to the north end of the line, Bragg drew over half of Rosecrans forces to the north end of his line. So when the assault came, the force left to defend the southern tail of the line was a fraction of the defending army. At Gettysburg, Lee's attacks at the north end didnt seem as effective in thinning the rest of the line

A point of difference is that at Chattanooga, the 3 divisions (Bate, Stewart, Anderson) along the southern portion of the line had to cover over 4 miles; a smaller force over a longer line than at either Chickamauaga or Gettysburg
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
We disagree on that.


A point of comparison between the battles is that just like how Sherman drew over half Bragg's forces to the north end of the line, Bragg drew over half of Rosecrans forces to the north end of his line. So when the assault came, the force left to defend the southern tail of the line was a fraction of the defending army. At Gettysburg, Lee's attacks at the north end didnt seem as effective in thinning the rest of the line

A point of difference is that at Chattanooga, the 3 divisions (Bate, Stewart, Anderson) along the southern portion of the line had to cover over 4 miles; a smaller force over a longer line than at either Chickamauaga or Gettysburg
But none of that is the crucial factor in the success or failure of the attack.

At Gettysburg:
Longstreet's attack was probably doomed before it was launched -- Longstreet certainly thought so.​
For Longstreet's attack to succeed, the Confederate artillery would have needed to do much more in their bombardment. They failed for a bunch of reasons; the Yankees artillery was stronger and better supplied. This leaves the Confederate assault very vulnerable as it makes an exposed approach. I have walked that path with a descendant of a man who lost a leg there -- no one was shooting at us, but it is a long way for troops under fire.​
Pickett's Charge arrives at the Union line already a bit battered. The Yankees are waiting for it. There is no surprise, no diversion, no misdirection. The Yankees have known for hours where the attack will come -- it is obvious from the artillery bombardment if nothing else. From the high ground, they can observe the advance. They can position reserves to meet the attack, support in case the front line is actually breeched. They actually advance a brigade and bring Kemper's Brigade under enfilade fire as they hit.​
At Chickamauga:
Longstreet's attack is generally well organized and run -- but the #1 reason for the huge success is the Rosecrans-Wood fiasco. Without Rosecrans' error, Wood's would still have his division in line; without Wood's deliberate decision to obey an order he knew made no sense, Longstreet would have run straight into a division of infantry set to defend instead of an undefended gap in the line. (While we are at it, this would also mean Wood's division would be defending the southern portion of Rosecrans' line instead of moving north, away from the fighting, to join Thomas at the northern end.) Longstreet's attack would have hit hard, but the key factor in its' success was the gap in the Union line.​

At Chattanooga:
The critical factor is not the length of the line on the ridge. It is the failure of Bragg's army to properly fortify their position in a two month period. Thomas' troops advanced bravely, but the Confederate defense is incompetently organized. In a war where it would soon be assumed an army could make itself virtually invulnerable to a frontal assault in three days by entrenching, just how does Bragg's army mess this up? (The steepness of the ridge is also a factor -- but neither Grant nor anyone else thought that attack would work before it went in and up the ridge.)​
Once Lookout Mountain has fallen, Missionary Ridge position is certain to be outflanked and Bragg is too outnumbered to hold here. Sherman blows his attack on the northern end and Cleburne smacks him back with a division and a half -- and Grant has enough troops that Hooker can be thrown in as a diversion that dooms Bragg's Missionary Ridge position all by itself. Once Hooker gets astride the ridge and starts moving north, there is no defensive position that can be held.​
Thomas troops are another diversion, designed to take pressure off poor Sherman in the North-- they take the center on their own initiative and pent up frustration. Sherman -- Grant's intended main blow -- is stopped completely by Cleburne (who also covers the retreat of the shattered AoT), the only reason the Bragg's army survives this disaster.​
Also noteworthy in all this is the virtual non-impact of Confederate artillery on the battle. Throughout the war, the AoT artillery never seems to have a major impact on any battle. Considering that Braxton Bragg was a well-known artillery officer before the Civil War, I have always wondered how that could be possible, and Chattanooga is a position where they could have done great execution on advancing Union troops.​
Longstreet misses this day of battle, having been sent to take Knoxville on November 4 in another fiasco. I can see the advantage of re-taking Knoxville -- but how is it a good idea to send troops away from Chattanooga while Grant is building up to break the siege of Chattanooga? How is it a good idea to swap Longstreet for the troops already headed for Knoxville, delaying that operation? If they just keep Longstreet at Chattanooga, Bragg has about 4,000 more troops to hold his position and Longstreet could be more competent than most.​
Overall, Gettysburg is the only one where the attack has nothing special about it, no advantage to make it succeed. The only thing that could have done that was the artillery bombardment, the greatest ever seen in America to that time -- and it failed. After that, it is simply might-against-might, a head-on attack that surprised no one, advancing across open fields. No wonder it failed.

Chickamauga benefits from luck and terrain. Longstreet's attack approaches through covered terrain (no gauntlet of artillery fire to run). It hits a gap in the Union line (Wood knew an attack was coming on his front, but moved out of the way, leaving that gap -- he should have been court-martialed). If you can picture the troops in front of Pickett getting up and marching away minutes before the attack hits, then you can see these two as similar.

For anyone interested, there is a particularly good discussion of the problems with the Confederate defense of Missionary Ridge in McDonough's Chattanooga -- a Death grip on the Confederacy, starting on page 182, which you can find here: https://www.google.com/books/editio...ga+Death+Grip+Confederacy&printsec=frontcover

Chattanooga is a mish-mash battle. Bragg should have listened to Hardee and Cleburne, who wanted to retreat; instead he listened to Breckinridge and stayed another day. The failure of the AoT to prepare a better defense from September to November is the prime reason Thomas' troops can advance up the slope of Missionary Ridge so easily, but that terrain is also difficult for the defense (too steep).

If there is a factor that explains the difference between these three, it probably comes down to terrain, surprise, and luck.
  • Pickett's Charge suffers on all three: an exposed advance across open terrain into heavy fire against a prepared enemy with no sign of luck.
  • Chickamuaga benefits from all three: an advance through covered terrain against an enemy who is disorganized and unprepared because of luck.
  • Chattanooga: an advance up the ridge through terrain that is covered against enemy fire because the Confederates have done a poor job of organizing it (unknown to the Union, who certainly did not expect it). That is a lot of luck, which generated surprise.
 
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Belfoured

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But none of that is the crucial factor in the success or failure of the attack.

At Gettysburg:
Longstreet's attack was probably doomed before it was launched -- Longstreet certainly thought so.​
For Longstreet's attack to succeed, the Confederate artillery would have needed to do much more in their bombardment. They failed for a bunch of reasons; the Yankees artillery was stronger and better supplied. This leaves the Confederate assault very vulnerable as it makes an exposed approach. I have walked that path with a descendant of a man who lost a leg there -- no one was shooting at us, but it is a long way for troops under fire.​
Pickett's Charge arrives at the Union line already a bit battered. The Yankees are waiting for it. There is no surprise, no diversion, no misdirection. The Yankees have known for hours where the attack will come -- it is obvious from the artillery bombardment if nothing else. From the high ground, they can observe the advance. They can position reserves to meet the attack, support in case the front line is actually breeched. They actually advance a brigade and bring Kemper's Brigade under enfilade fire as they hit.​
At Chickamauga:
Longstreet's attack is generally well organized and run -- but the #1 reason for the huge success is the Rosecrans-Wood fiasco. Without Rosecrans' error, Wood's would still have his division in line; without Wood's deliberate decision to obey an order he knew made no sense, Longstreet would have run straight into a division of infantry set to defend instead of an undefended gap in the line. (While we are at it, this would also mean Wood's division would be defending the southern portion of Rosecrans' line instead of moving north, away from the fighting, to join Thomas at the northern end.) Longstreet's attack would have hit hard, but the key factor in its' success was the gap in the Union line.​

At Chattanooga:
The critical factor is not the length of the line on the ridge. It is the failure of Bragg's army to properly fortify their position in a two month period. Thomas' troops advanced bravely, but the Confederate defense is incompetently organized. In a war where it would soon be assumed an army could make itself virtually invulnerable to a frontal assault in three days by entrenching, just how does Bragg's army mess this up? (The steepness of the ridge is also a factor -- but neither Grant nor anyone else thought that attack would work before it went in and up the ridge.)​
Once Lookout Mountain has fallen, Missionary Ridge position is certain to be outflanked and Bragg is too outnumbered to hold here. Sherman blows his attack on the northern end and Cleburne smacks him back with a division and a half -- and Grant has enough troops that Hooker can be thrown in as a diversion that dooms Bragg's Missionary Ridge position all by itself. Once Hooker gets astride the ridge and starts moving north, there is no defensive position that can be held.​
Thomas troops are another diversion, designed to take pressure off poor Sherman in the North-- they take the center on their own initiative and pent up frustration. Sherman -- Grant's intended main blow -- is stopped completely by Cleburne (who also covers the retreat of the shattered AoT), the only reason the Bragg's army survives this disaster.​
Also noteworthy in all this is the virtual non-impact of Confederate artillery on the battle. Throughout the war, the AoT artillery never seems to have a major impact on any battle. Considering that Braxton Bragg was a well-known artillery officer before the Civil War, I have always wondered how that could be possible, and Chattanooga is a position where they could have done great execution on advancing Union troops.​
Longstreet misses this day of battle, having been sent to take Knoxville on November 4 in another fiasco. I can see the advantage of re-taking Knoxville -- but how is it a good idea to send troops away from Chattanooga while Grant is building up to break the siege of Chattanooga? How is it a good idea to swap Longstreet for the troops already headed for Knoxville, delaying that operation? If they just keep Longstreet at Chattanooga, Bragg has about 4,000 more troops to hold his position and Longstreet could be more competent than most.​
Overall, Gettysburg is the only one where the attack has nothing special about it, no advantage to make it succeed. The only thing that could have done that was the artillery bombardment, the greatest ever seen in America to that time -- and it failed. After that, it is simply might-against-might, a head-on attack that surprised no one, advancing across open fields. No wonder it failed.

Chickamauga benefits from luck and terrain. Longstreet's attack approaches through covered terrain (no gauntlet of artillery fire to run). It hits a gap in the Union line (Wood knew an attack was coming on his front, but moved out of the way, leaving that gap -- he should have been court-martialed). If you can picture the troops in front of Pickett getting up and marching away minutes before the attack hits, then you can see these two as similar.

For anyone interested, there is a particularly good discussion of the problems with the Confederate defense of Missionary Ridge in McDonough's Chattanooga -- a Death grip on the Confederacy, starting on page 182, which you can find here: https://www.google.com/books/editio...ga+Death+Grip+Confederacy&printsec=frontcover

Chattanooga is a mish-mash battle. Bragg should have listened to Hardee and Cleburne, who wanted to retreat; instead he listened to Breckinridge and stayed another day. The failure of the AoT to prepare a better defense from September to November is the prime reason Thomas' troops can advance up the slope of Missionary Ridge so easily, but that terrain is also difficult for the defense (too steep).

If there is a factor that explains the difference between these three, it probably comes down to terrain, surprise, and luck.
  • Pickett's Charge suffers on all three: an exposed advance across open terrain into heavy fire against a prepared enemy with no sign of luck.
  • Chickamuaga benefits from all three: an advance through covered terrain against an enemy who is disorganized and unprepared because of luck.
  • Chattanooga: an advance up the ridge through terrain that is covered against enemy fire because the Confederates have done a poor job of organizing it (unknown to the Union, who certainly did not expect it). That is a lot of luck, which generated surprise.
Good points. I'd only note that I accept Dave Powell's analysis of the Wood-Rosecrans fiasco. As you've pointed out, Longstreet's assault was well-designed even accounting for Wood's pull-out.
 

wausaubob

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Location
Denver, CO
I doubt a continuous, cohesive line on Missionary Ridge was possible. The narrowness of the ridge made rallying difficult. The Army of the Cumberland was torqued up and I think the westerners wanted to take the ridge more than the southerners wanted to hold it.
Those very steep ridges were physically difficult to ascend, but they were so narrow that each defending regiment and brigade was on its own. If it faltered, other forces were going have difficulty reinforcing an endangered position. This was made more worse by Bragg employing his reserve, Cleburne's people, to block Sherman from spreading eastward towards Chickamauga Station. When the battle for Missionary Ridge started, Bragg's reserve was already committed and any other attempt for units to support each other was made problematic by the terrain.
 

wausaubob

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We disagree on that.


A point of comparison between the battles is that just like how Sherman drew over half Bragg's forces to the north end of the line, Bragg drew over half of Rosecrans forces to the north end of his line. So when the assault came, the force left to defend the southern tail of the line was a fraction of the defending army. At Gettysburg, Lee's attacks at the north end didnt seem as effective in thinning the rest of the line

A point of difference is that at Chattanooga, the 3 divisions (Bate, Stewart, Anderson) along the southern portion of the line had to cover over 4 miles; a smaller force over a longer line than at either Chickamauaga or Gettysburg
At Chickamauga Bragg's tactics caused Rosecrans to try to re-align his defense. It was too late for that and he made a mistake in the attempt. Wood's division in any stationary position would have created more problems for Longstreet and Hood. The Confederates may have still carried the day, but they would have not have had the energy to defeat Thomas' people.
At Chattanooga, Sherman's attack on the north end of Missionary Ridge was probably ill advised. He should have been moving further east, threatening the railroad. After the main battle, when Hooker and Sherman reached the railroad, the Confederates were finished in Tennessee for about 1 year.
But at Chattanooga Bragg was trying to create a line out of troops that had been poorly supported and already defeated. Why there any more people in the forward trenches in front of the ridge then a thin line of observers is perplexing. No artillery was stationed there, because if the position faltered the guns would be lost. Why Bragg tried to defend a line which had never been thought of as a combat line, but simply as a way to disperse the camping activities of the army can only be explained by Bragg's insecure position with his own subordinates.
Defensive troops that are not moving were very difficult to defeat in the US Civil War. They were better rested, had better moral, and probably could estimate the range better then troops that were moving into position. It probably took only hours for stationary troops to recognize cover and start improving on it.
 

wausaubob

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Could we include Hancock's attack on the Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania in this discussion?
And Big Black River, the second assault at Vicksburg, Meade's temporary success at Fredericksburg, and other battles in which the Confederates attacked. Cover helped the attackers. Because it partially neutralized artillery. Too much distance to cover helped the defenders, because the artillery got its licks in, and the defenders could estimate the rifle range.
 

edfranksphd

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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.
You mean the same Bragg who had just achieved the single greatest battlefield victory for the CSA during the entire war just 2 months earlier at Chickamauga. Or was that just a fluke? The what about his invasion of KY back in the Fall of 62 which had the entire North in catatonic fits for weeks and recovered middle TN for the CSA for another 9 months, till Jun 63; Or the Bragg who kicked the hell out of the Yanks at Murfreesboro for 3 days, and surprised the heck out of them when he retreated, unmolested, by the grateful Yanks. Bragg was the best fighting general in the West the CSA had, likely. Is greatly underrated for a variety of reasons. If he was such a dolt, why would Davis rely on him as his chief adviser for the last yr of the war?
 

trice

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Good points. I'd only note that I accept Dave Powell's analysis of the Wood-Rosecrans fiasco. As you've pointed out, Longstreet's assault was well-designed even accounting for Wood's pull-out.
Somewhere along the line, my own opinion became that Rosecrans was his own worst enemy. He had a tongue that could strip paint, but he seems to have used it without understanding that he was leaving a trail of angry men behind him. Three times since they had crossed the Tennessee he had ripped Wood up one side and down the other over executing orders too slowly; the last one had been shortly before the fiasco here, in front of Wood's staff. When Wood gets this order, he is already fit-to-be tied and he is going to execute this stupid order fast, no matter what. Hey, presto -- Union disaster.
 

jackt62

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You mean the same Bragg who had just achieved the single greatest battlefield victory for the CSA during the entire war just 2 months earlier at Chickamauga. Or was that just a fluke? The what about his invasion of KY back in the Fall of 62 which had the entire North in catatonic fits for weeks and recovered middle TN for the CSA for another 9 months, till Jun 63; Or the Bragg who kicked the hell out of the Yanks at Murfreesboro for 3 days, and surprised the heck out of them when he retreated, unmolested, by the grateful Yanks. Bragg was the best fighting general in the West the CSA had, likely. Is greatly underrated for a variety of reasons. If he was such a dolt, why would Davis rely on him as his chief adviser for the last yr of the war?
Those examples tend to prove my point. Bragg was not a blundering incompetent, but simply often ineffective because of poor leadership skills and indecision or hesitation in conceiving and executing battle plans. At the outset of Chickamauga, Bragg was unable to assert his authority over Hill and Polk who botched and neglected to carry out Bragg's well thought orders to fall upon isolated segments of the AotC. The breakthrough at Chickamauga was indeed a lucky break (or fluke if you will), that resulted from the unintentional gap in Rosecrans' line and that was exploited by Longstreet. The Kentucky "Heartland" offensive could have gone differently but for Bragg's misunderstanding and undue attention to the political situation in that state, a lack of coordination with Kirby Smith, and a failure to make the most of the tactical advantage gained at Perryville. Similarly, Bragg's initial thrust at Murfreesboro, while successful at first, fizzled out and ended in withdrawal and further dissension with his subordinates. Overall, Bragg's deployment of the AoT resulted in a long, lengthy retreat through Kentucky and Tennessee and was shown to be particularly ineffectual by being outmaneuvered by Rosecrans' at Tullahoma and ousted from what should have been a strong position around Chattanooga. Davis' reliance on Bragg as chief advisor had more to do with Davis's extreme loyalty to his friends than anything else; in any case, the most notable aspect of Bragg in that role resulted in the loss of Ft. Fisher and the last major Confederate port at Wilmington.
 

Belfoured

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Somewhere along the line, my own opinion became that Rosecrans was his own worst enemy. He had a tongue that could strip paint, but he seems to have used it without understanding that he was leaving a trail of angry men behind him. Three times since they had crossed the Tennessee he had ripped Wood up one side and down the other over executing orders too slowly; the last one had been shortly before the fiasco here, in front of Wood's staff. When Wood gets this order, he is already fit-to-be tied and he is going to execute this stupid order fast, no matter what. Hey, presto -- Union disaster.
I think Dave Powell's detailed and excellent analysis paints a better picture of Wood and his response to the order. Dave has pointed out that the sources for the "I hold the fatal order", etc story were Rosecrans acolytes. It's definitely worth reading vol. 2 of his trilogy just for that. The order also contained some ambiguity.
 

Joshism

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The attack breaks through at Chattanooga and Chickamauga but not at Gettysburg due to difference in terrain? defensive

Pickett et al at Gettysburg was across open terrain again a solid, elevated Union line including artillery. They were hit it both flanks by artillery fire and even a few regiments moving out temporarily in front of the Union line.

Longstreet at Chickamauga had some of the greatest depth of any attack of the war. He also had cover for his attack as Chickamauga battlefield is very wooded. No flank fire. Wood's division still being in place would have only slowed the attack, not stopped it.

The AOC at Missionary Ridge pretty much everything went wrong for the Confederates. They didn't have enough men to cover their line properly. The Confederate positions were poorly situated. Confederate morale was low. I don't think there was much flank fire. Union artillery at Orchard Knob was I think actively firing on Missionary Ridge until the infantry got close, as opposed to stopping before the attack began at Gettysburg (and being irrelevant at Longstreet's Chickamauga attack, and absent entirely for the attackers at Franklin).

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.

Hood's attack at Franklin was over a very wide frontage, with no depth. It's basically the opposite of Longstreet at Chickamauga.

Could we include Hancock's attack on the Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania in this discussion?

A big difference between the Mule Shoe and the other attacks discussed was that it occured at dawn. Also, the defenders' line curved away from the attack rather that being a straight line.

When I visited Spotsylvania, a NPS ranger pointed out the Confederate trench line was improperly placed relative to the crest of the slight ridge it was on due to being dug in the dark.
 

SgtDarby8OVI

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Just for fun, let me add a reenactor's perspective to this most excellent discussion. Over many years of reenacting I have participated in recreations of Pickett's Charge, Longstreet's attack at Chickamauga, Upton's assault at Spotsylvania, and Hood's attack at Franklin. With the exception of filming part of Pickett's attack as a reb for the movie Gettysburg, I have been a Union infantryman. What we haven't touched on in the Pickett's charge discussion is actually portrayed well in the movie--the role the Emmittsburg Road fence played in blunting the momentum of the attack, particularly in the center. While the flank units were getting enfiladed by the Delaware troops on the right and the 8th Ohio on the left, many of Pickett's men were bogged down at the fence, either dismantling it, returning fire, or just hunkering to avoid the small arms fire from the main Union line. When added to all the other factors mentioned in this thread, its a deal-breaker when it comes to getting to the Union line with enough men and momentum to break it. In all the years of seeing this attack reenacted, I have rarely seen the terrain, numbers, or disposition of troops allow it do be done correctly. Instead, nearly every reb still standing as the battle winds down attacks the wall at multiple places and dies spectacularly. Ironically, the best video of the charge was Jack Foley's 125th Classic Images footage taken the year before I joined. If I recall, there was no fence, so many of the attackers simply stopped and returned fire prior to Armistead's rush to the wall.

Longstreet's attack was not done well at 150th Chickamauga due to terrain and lack of energy in the scenario. It was pretty disappointing.

I am biased towards the Mule Shoe assault because my first reenactment was 125th Spotsylvania, where the Union force rose at 2 AM, marched to the starting point, and attacked occupied Confederate works silently in columns of divisions before encountering massive rebel reinforcements. Minus the bloody, point blank hand-to-hand combat and driving rain that characterized the real battle, it still stands as one of the most realistic scenarios I ever participated in. Subsequent events over the years (including the 150th) have never come that close to getting it right (125th also in Classic Images).

It was also the 125th anniversary of Franklin that found me in realistic earthworks under assault from masses of Southern infantry. I recall the breakthrough and arrival of Opdyke's reserves (and a squad armed with Henry rifles) being convincingly carried out and effective in destroying the breakthrough (this also has a CI video).

I would love to hear from folks who have done other version of these attacks or a Missionary Ridge scenario. If you haven't found them already, most of the Classic Images videos have been remastered by Lionheart Films and are on Youtube.
 

jackt62

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A big difference between the Mule Shoe and the other attacks discussed was that it occured at dawn. Also, the defenders' line curved away from the attack rather that being a straight line.
While the Union assaults did successfully breach the Mule Shoe, determined Confederate resistance and influx of reserves, and lack of sufficient federal support, meant that those assaults ultimately were pushed back. But the tentative assault by Emory Upton on May 10th on a narrow front led Grant to commit to a wider and more massive assault by II Corps 2 days later that got much closer to achieving its goals than Pickett's charge ever did at Gettysburg. Or in other words, Longstreet predicted that his assault would come to naught, whereas Grant had good reason to believe that his attack stood a good chance of success.
 

trice

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I think Dave Powell's detailed and excellent analysis paints a better picture of Wood and his response to the order. Dave has pointed out that the sources for the "I hold the fatal order", etc story were Rosecrans acolytes. It's definitely worth reading vol. 2 of his trilogy just for that. The order also contained some ambiguity.
It is a bad order, no question about it. If Wood knows that there is no gap on his left, it is an impossible order to execute as written. That is exactly why Wood should have questioned it before obeying it.

I have not read Powell's analysis, although I have seen some brief comments from him on it. One thing that is clear is that his division moved with alacrity, because two of his brigades moved off before Longstreet's attack hit, and the third was already moving when the attack hit. My first exposure to this event would have been in reading Glenn Tucker's Chickamauga: Bloody Battle in the West long ago, but I have read many other accounts since then, including Cist's, Cozzens', Woodsworths', etc.

My point in the last post was only that Rosecrans' earlier berating of Wood fed into a moment when he needed to be saved by a subordinate questioning/clarifying his order -- and an officer still smarting from reprimands for not obeying orders promptly was not likely to do that when getting a direct order. (Wood denied this happened)

If you take the accounts at face value, Rosecrans dictated that order off a single report that a gap existed in his line. He did not check it with his chief-of-staff, Garfield, who was only a few steps away, but deeply busy. If he had, Garfield probably would have told him there was no gap or handled the movement of Brannan, and there would have been no such order. Looking at the order itself, it should have included some qualifying statement or information (such as "If there is a gap between your left and Reynolds right ..." or "It is reported that ..." or "Brannan's division is leaving ...") to clue Wood in to what Rosecrans thought was going on. Instead it looked like this:

Headquarters Department of Cumberland, September 20th-1045 A.M.
Brigadier-General Wood, Commanding Division:
The general commanding directs that you close up on Reynolds as fast as possible, and support him.
Respectfully, etc.
Frank S. Bond, Major and Aide-de-Camp
There isn't any ambiguity in the order itself -- which is why the order creates a problem. In context, it makes little sense because Brannan's division had not been withdrawn -- making it impossible for Wood to "close up on Reynolds" without pulling out of line.
Rosecrans had a tendency to get wound too tight with nervous energy on campaign. He would sleep little, keep his staff up to all hours, and in the midst of conflict he tended to dash off too many orders. Garfield was actually good at his chief-of-staff job (but not liked or trusted by much of the army). If Rosecrans had run this through him, the result would probably have been better.

All the accounts of this really start with an 1884 work by Henry Cist, who was an AoC man and wrote a book, but not present at the battle. The events surrounding it had been rehashed over campfires for months during the war, then undoubtedly untold times where veterans gathered after the war. No one is sure exactly of the source(s) for Cist's account, but it might have been any one of a large group, or even most of the group. Wood denied Cist's account after it was published, including the earlier reprimand. Rosecrans himself blamed Wood directly and consistently for the gap, starting with his official report of the battle.
 

SgtDarby8OVI

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Here is one more little tidbit on the Rosecrans/Wood debacle. The staff officer who reported the gap to Rosecrans that triggered the order to Wood was Capt. Sanford Kellogg. Three decades later, during the creation of the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park, Kellogg was in charge of working with veterans to locate, mark, and map their positions on the battlefield. His interactions with some of the units, particularly those marking that particular part of the field, were so contentious (and his maps so inaccurate) that he was eventually dismissed from the Park Commission and reassigned by the War Department as "Special Attache to France" in 1893. (see Cozzens, This Terrible Sound, pp. 359-61 and Timothy Smith, A Chickamauga Memorial, p. 49)
 

Belfoured

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Aug 3, 2019
It is a bad order, no question about it. If Wood knows that there is no gap on his left, it is an impossible order to execute as written. That is exactly why Wood should have questioned it before obeying it.

I have not read Powell's analysis, although I have seen some brief comments from him on it. One thing that is clear is that his division moved with alacrity, because two of his brigades moved off before Longstreet's attack hit, and the third was already moving when the attack hit. My first exposure to this event would have been in reading Glenn Tucker's Chickamauga: Bloody Battle in the West long ago, but I have read many other accounts since then, including Cist's, Cozzens', Woodsworths', etc.

My point in the last post was only that Rosecrans' earlier berating of Wood fed into a moment when he needed to be saved by a subordinate questioning/clarifying his order -- and an officer still smarting from reprimands for not obeying orders promptly was not likely to do that when getting a direct order. (Wood denied this happened)

If you take the accounts at face value, Rosecrans dictated that order off a single report that a gap existed in his line. He did not check it with his chief-of-staff, Garfield, who was only a few steps away, but deeply busy. If he had, Garfield probably would have told him there was no gap or handled the movement of Brannan, and there would have been no such order. Looking at the order itself, it should have included some qualifying statement or information (such as "If there is a gap between your left and Reynolds right ..." or "It is reported that ..." or "Brannan's division is leaving ...") to clue Wood in to what Rosecrans thought was going on. Instead it looked like this:

Headquarters Department of Cumberland, September 20th-1045 A.M.
Brigadier-General Wood, Commanding Division:
The general commanding directs that you close up on Reynolds as fast as possible, and support him.
Respectfully, etc.
Frank S. Bond, Major and Aide-de-Camp
There isn't any ambiguity in the order itself -- which is why the order creates a problem. In context, it makes little sense because Brannan's division had not been withdrawn -- making it impossible for Wood to "close up on Reynolds" without pulling out of line.
Rosecrans had a tendency to get wound too tight with nervous energy on campaign. He would sleep little, keep his staff up to all hours, and in the midst of conflict he tended to dash off too many orders. Garfield was actually good at his chief-of-staff job (but not liked or trusted by much of the army). If Rosecrans had run this through him, the result would probably have been better.

All the accounts of this really start with an 1884 work by Henry Cist, who was an AoC man and wrote a book, but not present at the battle. The events surrounding it had been rehashed over campfires for months during the war, then undoubtedly untold times where veterans gathered after the war. No one is sure exactly of the source(s) for Cist's account, but it might have been any one of a large group, or even most of the group. Wood denied Cist's account after it was published, including the earlier reprimand. Rosecrans himself blamed Wood directly and consistently for the gap, starting with his official report of the battle.
Cist is a big part of the problem. And by ambiguity, I should have been clear that I meant "in the context". The major takeaway I got from Dave's analysis is that Wood did not act as Cozzens argued - a guy who was po'd at the earlier rebuke and had an implicit "I'll show him" intent. As for Rosecrans blaming Wood ( as he did repeatedly), I've always found it ironic that Rosey has become a figure that some of his more zealous supporters claim was falsely scapegoated by Grant for Iuka. "What goes around comes around ........"
 
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