Confederate victory at Gettysburg, Day 3

MichaelWinicki

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It's worth remembering that we don't actually know the ammunition state of those guns, though I expect they had some ammunition. The presence of the Rebel brigades would however be likely to prevent Stannard being able to wheel out for enfilade.

True.

No telling how long the two brigades of Anderson would have been able to hold the field and how far they would have gotten in the face of that wall of artillery.

Plus even though they were chewed up, Caldwell's division plus what was left of Birney's division could have lent some sort of limited support if need be.

All in all, I believe the probability of success still favored the blue side.
 

Saphroneth

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All in all, I believe the probability of success still favored the blue side.
I think what it's worth realizing is that in some situations it can be worth it for Lee to roll the dice even if the raw odds of success indicate he's likely to lose...* and that it's quite possible for bad luck to strike the USA as it did the CSA the previous day.
For example, an artillery "stop line" is only really able to stop an enemy attack if it's got infantry support - guns alone can't output enough damage to stop a charge, so the infantry has to help stop the charge and it's the period when the attackers are paused in front of the guns eating cannister that they actually take the damage - and if Stannard still wheels out of line and thus presents his flank to the incoming Rebel brigades then they can roll him up and get at the artillery line.
(Stannard's unit is quite "green" in terms of battlefield experience, after all.)


* a 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 chance of the attack allowing for the destruction or heavy defeat of the Army of the Potomac, crippling Union warfighting capabilities going into 1864, is arguably worth it as that results in a much higher probability of CS independence.
 

MichaelWinicki

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I think what it's worth realizing is that in some situations it can be worth it for Lee to roll the dice even if the raw odds of success indicate he's likely to lose...* and that it's quite possible for bad luck to strike the USA as it did the CSA the previous day.
For example, an artillery "stop line" is only really able to stop an enemy attack if it's got infantry support - guns alone can't output enough damage to stop a charge, so the infantry has to help stop the charge and it's the period when the attackers are paused in front of the guns eating cannister that they actually take the damage - and if Stannard still wheels out of line and thus presents his flank to the incoming Rebel brigades then they can roll him up and get at the artillery line.
(Stannard's unit is quite "green" in terms of battlefield experience, after all.)


* a 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 chance of the attack allowing for the destruction or heavy defeat of the Army of the Potomac, crippling Union warfighting capabilities going into 1864, is arguably worth it as that results in a much higher probability of CS independence.

1 in 4 is even perhaps optimistic.

Even as it player out in actuality both Lang and Wilcox suffered greatly. Not sure how much more punishment they could have taken.

IMO if Lee was going to "Roll the dice", a run-up-the-gut may not have have offered the best chance of success on July 3rd.
 

Saphroneth

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1 in 4 is even perhaps optimistic.

Even as it player out in actuality both Lang and Wilcox suffered greatly. Not sure how much more punishment they could have taken.

IMO if Lee was going to "Roll the dice", a run-up-the-gut may not have have offered the best chance of success on July 3rd.
The thing I think that has to be appreciated is that Lee's actions are actually in keeping with the Napoleonic mode of thought.
Already Lee has badly damaged the Federal army - as the end of Day Two he's inflicted considerably more casualties than he's taken, knocked several corps more or less entirely out of the Federal ORBAT (1st, 3rd) and others (11th) should be out of the line being rested but Meade doesn't have the troops to spare to do this. He's also launched an echelon attack which (with hindsight) should have worked, and would have done were it not for the untimely wounding of two of his quite senior subordinates.
The Army of the Potomac is probably more vulnerable than it will ever be again, and so Lee tries to seal the deal rather than go home without taking the chance.

What Lee has actually ordered on day three is:

Step 1 - attacks on the wings, to draw off the Federal reserves. (This bit works - Meade commits all his reserves.)
Step 2 - an artillery bombardment to damage the Federal line. (This bit works to some extent - many of the defending guns in that sector are smashed, and Meade himself has to evacuate his CP because of overs).
Step 3 - an attack with all his available troops to break through the Federal centre, which is weakened by step 2 and which if it succeeds will doom much of the Federal army (because there's no reserves, see step 1).

This does not get executed in the way he ordered it because the second wave gets held back (which can't have failed to have some impact) but Pickett's men actually reach the Federal main line of resistance in one area despite there being only one wave - with two waves then reaching the Federal MLR with much of the force is at least plausible.
Meanwhile if Lang and Wilcox's advance had been synchronized better, and if there hadn't been the oblique march where some brigades ate fire for several minutes, then you end up with a situation where Stannard can't wheel out of line (as Lang and Wilcox are in position to punish him if he does) and where Pickett's brigades take less punishment on the way in.

All that adds up to a plausible sequence of events in which the attack reaches and breaks into the Federal position, and consequently to Meade having to pull back to restore the situation - he can't throw in reserves in a counterattack because he doesn't have any available, so to be able to counterattack he has to pull men out of the line and form them into a reserve... but to do that he needs time, which means distance, which means pulling back.

Whether or not this is likely is actually hard to judge, because of the natural human tendency to treat what happened as the middle of the probability range. But if the attack had been successful then it would have aligned with everything that the Napoleonic Wars had taught about how successful attacks work, which means we shouldn't think of it as completely ridiculous.
 

Generic Username

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1 in 4 is even perhaps optimistic.

Even as it player out in actuality both Lang and Wilcox suffered greatly. Not sure how much more punishment they could have taken.

IMO if Lee was going to "Roll the dice", a run-up-the-gut may not have have offered the best chance of success on July 3rd.
With regards to the artillery, those in the Center (i.e. Hancock's of 2nd Corps) had exhausted their ammunition by the time Pickett stepped off.

Looking at the overall picture, however, what other option did Lee have on July 3rd? The PPT Charge, meanwhile, offered the chance to eliminate 3-4 Corps if successful. This would effectively mean the destruction of the Army of the Potomac.
 

MichaelWinicki

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The thing I think that has to be appreciated is that Lee's actions are actually in keeping with the Napoleonic mode of thought.
Already Lee has badly damaged the Federal army - as the end of Day Two he's inflicted considerably more casualties than he's taken, knocked several corps more or less entirely out of the Federal ORBAT (1st, 3rd) and others (11th) should be out of the line being rested but Meade doesn't have the troops to spare to do this. He's also launched an echelon attack which (with hindsight) should have worked, and would have done were it not for the untimely wounding of two of his quite senior subordinates.
The Army of the Potomac is probably more vulnerable than it will ever be again, and so Lee tries to seal the deal rather than go home without taking the chance.

What Lee has actually ordered on day three is:

Step 1 - attacks on the wings, to draw off the Federal reserves. (This bit works - Meade commits all his reserves.)
Step 2 - an artillery bombardment to damage the Federal line. (This bit works to some extent - many of the defending guns in that sector are smashed, and Meade himself has to evacuate his CP because of overs).
Step 3 - an attack with all his available troops to break through the Federal centre, which is weakened by step 2 and which if it succeeds will doom much of the Federal army (because there's no reserves, see step 1).

This does not get executed in the way he ordered it because the second wave gets held back (which can't have failed to have some impact) but Pickett's men actually reach the Federal main line of resistance in one area despite there being only one wave - with two waves then reaching the Federal MLR with much of the force is at least plausible.
Meanwhile if Lang and Wilcox's advance had been synchronized better, and if there hadn't been the oblique march where some brigades ate fire for several minutes, then you end up with a situation where Stannard can't wheel out of line (as Lang and Wilcox are in position to punish him if he does) and where Pickett's brigades take less punishment on the way in.

All that adds up to a plausible sequence of events in which the attack reaches and breaks into the Federal position, and consequently to Meade having to pull back to restore the situation - he can't throw in reserves in a counterattack because he doesn't have any available, so to be able to counterattack he has to pull men out of the line and form them into a reserve... but to do that he needs time, which means distance, which means pulling back.

Whether or not this is likely is actually hard to judge, because of the natural human tendency to treat what happened as the middle of the probability range. But if the attack had been successful then it would have aligned with everything that the Napoleonic Wars had taught about how successful attacks work, which means we shouldn't think of it as completely ridiculous.

Yes, I see the Napoleonic connection to the events of the final 2 days.

No, I don't see the attack on July 3rd as being ridiculous... I know many ACW generals had a similar thought pattern.

I just view it (the likely success of the attack) as Longstreet did.

I remember the first time I stood on Seminary Ridge looking over the area Pickett & Co had to cross and thinking, "**** that is looonnnggg way to the Union line."

But no harm in taking a "Well it could have worked view"... Makes for an interesting discusssion. :wink:
 

MichaelWinicki

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With regards to the artillery, those in the Center (i.e. Hancock's of 2nd Corps) had exhausted their ammunition by the time Pickett stepped off.

Looking at the overall picture, however, what other option did Lee have on July 3rd? The PPT Charge, meanwhile, offered the chance to eliminate 3-4 Corps if successful. This would effectively mean the destruction of the Army of the Potomac.

I think the whole discussion of what batteries had ammo and which ones didn't could be its own thread, but from my understanding the ones on the southern end of Cemetery Ridge had some ammunition left.

Be it as it may, unless the attacker found an "empty hole" in the enemy's front (like what would happen in a battle a couple months after Gettysburg), the types of attacks that offered the greatest chance of success were flank attacks.

If I felt I had to attack again on July 3rd it would have been some sort of flank attack– perhaps in the area of Big Round Top.

But to bring this conversation back around... I feel the Confederates had a better chance of winning the battle on July 2nd than they did July 3rd. That's just my opinion.
 

Generic Username

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I think the whole discussion of what batteries had ammo and which ones didn't could be its own thread, but from my understanding the ones on the southern end of Cemetery Ridge had some ammunition left.

Be it as it may, unless the attacker found an "empty hole" in the enemy's front (like what would happen in a battle a couple months after Gettysburg), the types of attacks that offered the greatest chance of success were flank attacks.

If I felt I had to attack again on July 3rd it would have been some sort of flank attack– perhaps in the area of Big Round Top.

But to bring this conversation back around... I feel the Confederates had a better chance of winning the battle on July 2nd than they did July 3rd. That's just my opinion.
On the Southern and Northern ends, they still had ammunition yes but their Center didn't. With regards to the proposed option, the Federals were occupying a continuous line in that region too, and thus there is no open flank to attack:

century_3_344_gettysburg18.gif


As Sap noted, if Stannard's Brigade still wheels out for the flank attack that open's a hole for Wilcox and Lang to nicely slide into with their own brigades:

350px-Pickett%27s-Charge.png
 

Saphroneth

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I remember the first time I stood on Seminary Ridge looking over the area Pickett & Co had to cross and thinking, "**** that is looonnnggg way to the Union line."
That actually doesn't matter, because the open-fire range for the Union defenders was 100 yards or less in almost all cases. The several hundred yard approach march was almost entirely under only long range artillery fire (and not from many guns), and that simply doesn't cause casualties rapidly.

The conditions of the defence are Napoleonic - the attackers open fire at 100 yards or less with a hit rate in the vicinty of 1 in 100 to 1 in 200 during firefights.
 

MichaelWinicki

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On the Southern and Northern ends, they still had ammunition yes but their Center didn't. With regards to the proposed option, the Federals were occupying a continuous line in that region too, and thus there is no open flank to attack:

View attachment 377940

As Sap noted, if Stannard's Brigade still wheels out for the flank attack that open's a hole for Wilcox and Lang to nicely slide into with their own brigades:

View attachment 377941

There's always a flank.

I don't think given the line of artillery south of Stannard's position that Wilcox and Lang were going to have an easy time doing anything.
 

MichaelWinicki

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That actually doesn't matter, because the open-fire range for the Union defenders was 100 yards or less in almost all cases. The several hundred yard approach march was almost entirely under only long range artillery fire (and not from many guns), and that simply doesn't cause casualties rapidly.

The conditions of the defence are Napoleonic - the attackers open fire at 100 yards or less with a hit rate in the vicinty of 1 in 100 to 1 in 200 during firefights.

Oh I've read Paddy Griffith's book too.

There's excerpt after excerpt of how the Union artillery tore gaps in the Confederate front as it advanced... Which no doubt caused not just physical loss but it probably wore on the troops mentally.
 

Generic Username

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There's always a flank.

I don't think given the line of artillery south of Stannard's position that Wilcox and Lang were going to have an easy time doing anything.
I do not see an open flank anywhere, from 2nd Corps on down you see 3rd Corps, then 5th Corps and then elements of 6th Corps in a continuous line, with two brigades of the latter refusing the extreme flank in the form of Grant and Russell. With regards to Wilcox and Lang, at the very least, they'll roll up Stannard by hitting him in the flank, thus saving Pickett's Division from enfilading fire.
 

MichaelWinicki

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I do not see an open flank anywhere, from 2nd Corps on down you see 3rd Corps, then 5th Corps and then elements of 6th Corps in a continuous line, with two brigades of the latter refusing the extreme flank in the form of Grant and Russell. With regards to Wilcox and Lang, at the very least, they'll roll up Stannard by hitting him in the flank, thus saving Pickett's Division from enfilading fire.

If that's what you believe... OK.
 

Saphroneth

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Oh I've read Paddy Griffith's book too.

There's excerpt after excerpt of how the Union artillery tore gaps in the Confederate front as it advanced... Which no doubt caused not just physical loss but it probably wore on the troops mentally.
Well, "tore gaps" is probably overselling it at most ranges - we shouldn't allow the evocative language to overcome what actually happened when cannister and shot were fired, which was that canister fired 27 balls in a tight cluster; shot fired a single iron cannonball which could hit up to two people when directed at a two-deep line seen head on.

At optimum range canister can hit up to 8-10 people (4-5 files, at 100 yards where the shot cone is at the ideal dispersion - spread out enough to hit multiple files but still dense enough to blanket the area - and elevation isn't an issue), but most shoots were not optimum; this is why there were 33,000 Union artillery fires at Gettysburg (as well as a couple of million million small arms rounds) and about 23,000 Confederate casualties (from all causes including captured-unwounded). On average each Confederate casualty took 1.3 artillery fires and ~100 small arms rounds, so it should be immediately apparent that if we look at the artillery alone we should expect about one casualty for every 2-3 Union artillery rounds.

If we assume that all of the guns from Daniels down to Ames (45) fire canister at ideal dispersion range then they might cause as many as 400 casualties, but they'll only actually get one shoot each at that level of effectiveness - at 300 yards and the correct range setting the density reduces the effectiveness of the fire by half or more, while at 50 yards the reduced spread of the cone also reduces the density by half. And if you have the range setting wrong then cannister at 300 yards just kicks up dirt ahead of the advancing men.

This is absolutely enough to cause a single brigade to stop, assuming this idealized situation happens, but then again it is the full artillery of two army corps - and if Stannard wheels out of line by as little as 100 yards (i.e. he has a front of about 300 men enfilading Pickett's main charge) then it means that the Confederates don't have to enter that zone of maximum cannister effectiveness to enfilade him.

It's also worth pointing out that if 10% of the artillery fires at Gettysburg were cannister and they hit an average of 4 men each (50% of theoretical maximum effectiveness) they'd still account for more than half the total Confederate casualties - which means either everything else was basically useless at causing casualties or the cannister wasn't as effective as that.



Per 67th on the spread effect of cannister:



The cone of dispersion is such that at 100 yards almost all the balls are in a elongated circle about 11 feet in diameter, with a few random balls knocked off course falling outside this (extreme spread is about 32 feet diameter, but about 90% of balls are in the inner cone).

If the troops are 6 ft tall, and packed shoulder to shoulder then about 30% of the balls go over or under the target. The effect on a line is lethal, with whole files blasted away.

At 200 yards, if the magnus effect is ignored the inner cone has opened to 22 feet then 83% of balls go over or under. This overestimates the effect due to the magnus effect displacing the balls. Suddenly rather than concentrated violence of knocking a hole in the line the effect is reduced to a few men hit scattered throughout a company.

At 3-400 yards the balls are so dispersed that hits become very unlikely indeed, assuming you aimed correctly. At 350 yards the correct elevation is about 1.5 degrees. Being 0.25 degrees off in either direction will send the whole blast over or under the target.




So the high lethality of canister is very much a thing of the 100 yard range window specifically, which is to say musket range. Interestingly this means that if soldiers in the Civil War actually did use their rifles as rifles as a matter of course then canister's effectiveness would be drastically reduced as the attacking soldiers could engage and disable the guns from outside canister range...
 
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Saphroneth

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I think that topic deserves it's own thread at some point.
Well, we have the maps, right? If there's an open flank Lee could have attacked, then either it's evident from the map that there was a dispositional error in Meade's line creating an open flank, or you're proposing an operational-level movement entirely around the Union flank to cut in to the south (without good roads to follow).
 

MichaelWinicki

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Well, we have the maps, right? If there's an open flank Lee could have attacked, then either it's evident from the map that there was a dispositional error in Meade's line creating an open flank, or you're proposing an operational-level movement entirely around the Union flank to cut in to the south (without good roads to follow).
Well, "tore gaps" is probably overselling it at most ranges - we shouldn't allow the evocative language to overcome what actually happened when cannister and shot were fired, which was that canister fired 27 balls in a tight cluster; shot fired a single iron cannonball which could hit up to two people when directed at a two-deep line seen head on.

At optimum range canister can hit up to 8-10 people (4-5 files, at 100 yards where the shot cone is at the ideal dispersion - spread out enough to hit multiple files but still dense enough to blanket the area - and elevation isn't an issue), but most shoots were not optimum; this is why there were 33,000 Union artillery fires at Gettysburg (as well as a couple of million million small arms rounds) and about 23,000 Confederate casualties (from all causes including captured-unwounded). On average each Confederate casualty took 1.3 artillery fires and ~100 small arms rounds, so it should be immediately apparent that if we look at the artillery alone we should expect about one casualty for every 2-3 Union artillery rounds.

If we assume that all of the guns from Daniels down to Ames (45) fire canister at ideal dispersion range then they might cause as many as 400 casualties, but they'll only actually get one shoot each at that level of effectiveness - at 300 yards and the correct range setting the density reduces the effectiveness of the fire by half or more, while at 50 yards the reduced spread of the cone also reduces the density by half. And if you have the range setting wrong then cannister at 300 yards just kicks up dirt ahead of the advancing men.

This is absolutely enough to cause a single brigade to stop, assuming this idealized situation happens, but then again it is the full artillery of two army corps - and if Stannard wheels out of line by as little as 100 yards (i.e. he has a front of about 300 men enfilading Pickett's main charge) then it means that the Confederates don't have to enter that zone of maximum cannister effectiveness to enfilade him.

It's also worth pointing out that if 10% of the artillery fires at Gettysburg were cannister and they hit an average of 4 men each (50% of theoretical maximum effectiveness) they'd still account for more than half the total Confederate casualties - which means either everything else was basically useless at causing casualties or the cannister wasn't as effective as that.



Per 67th on the spread effect of cannister:



The cone of dispersion is such that at 100 yards almost all the balls are in a elongated circle about 11 feet in diameter, with a few random balls knocked off course falling outside this (extreme spread is about 32 feet diameter, but about 90% of balls are in the inner cone).

If the troops are 6 ft tall, and packed shoulder to shoulder then about 30% of the balls go over or under the target. The effect on a line is lethal, with whole files blasted away.

At 200 yards, if the magnus effect is ignored the inner cone has opened to 22 feet then 83% of balls go over or under. This overestimates the effect due to the magnus effect displacing the balls. Suddenly rather than concentrated violence of knocking a hole in the line the effect is reduced to a few men hit scattered throughout a company.

At 3-400 yards the balls are so dispersed that hits become very unlikely indeed, assuming you aimed correctly. At 350 yards the correct elevation is about 1.5 degrees. Being 0.25 degrees off in either direction will send the whole blast over or under the target.




So the high lethality of canister is very much a thing of the 100 yard range window specifically, which is to say musket range. Interestingly this means that if soldiers in the Civil War actually did use their rifles as rifles as a matter of course then canister's effectiveness would be drastically reduced as the attacking soldiers could engage and disable the guns from outside canister range...

Interesting stuff.

Also what has to be taken into consideration has to be the mental stress artillery fire had on unprotected infantry... I'm sure there was some and deserves its own study.
 
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MichaelWinicki

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Well, we have the maps, right? If there's an open flank Lee could have attacked, then either it's evident from the map that there was a dispositional error in Meade's line creating an open flank, or you're proposing an operational-level movement entirely around the Union flank to cut in to the south (without good roads to follow).

I think a discussion about a potential assault on July 3rd, in the same general area of Little Round Top & Big Round Top probably has merit.
 

Saphroneth

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I think a discussion about a potential assault on July 3rd, in the same general area of Little Round Top & Big Round Top probably has merit.
Not only do you have a Union line there that's fairly solid (i.e. no weaker than anywhere else), you also have the problem that gaining the Round Tops themselves doesn't actually inflict serious threat on Meade's line - you need to push past them to gain control of the road and thus begin rolling up the Federal flank, but if you're doing this with the fresh troops then you're not pressuring the Union centre and consequently Meade can pull troops out of that area to form a new reserve. He has more time to react, basically.

Remember that the Round Tops weren't a target on July 2 - nobody actually considered them useful. It was all a SNAFU that led to fighting over them because a Confederate division veered off course when its commander went down.
 
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