couple of Sickles questions

MikeyB

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Good afternoon everyone. Had a couple of questions for the forum.
1) Roughly how much time elapsed from the advance of the 3rd corps until Longstreet's troops hit them?
2) How much time elapsed from Sickles advance to Meade's conversation with Sickles?
2) When the first 3rd corps units started to advance, was it immediately obvious to the 2nd corps and the signalmen on Little Round top? Or did the topography mask the advance?
3) Where was Meade on the battlefield when the advance started?
4) Were any officers, besides Meade able to countermand Sickles advance? Warren took responsibility on Little Round Top and redeployed V corps troops. Could Warren, or Hancock (was he a senior wing commander by Meade, even if Sickles junior?) or Sykes or anyone else have countermanded Sickles, or did you really need the big man to do it?

What I'm trying to figure out - was there any possible way Sickles' advance could have been countermanded in time before the Confederate attack, if all of the pieces fell magically into place? (ie. Hancock immediately notices the advance, rides 50 feet to the Leister house who consults Meade, who within 10 mins finds Sickles and countermands the order 30 mins before Longstreet comes sweeping in).

Regards,
mike
 

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James N.

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MikeyB, I'm not trying to pass the buck exactly, but am incapable of answering any of your questions offhand without looking them up myself; however, having said that, I CAN tell YOU where to look them up because I'm pretty sure I read full discussions of all these aspects in what is likely the very best source on any questions like this, which I reviewed here right after finishing it: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/gettysburg-the-second-day-by-harry-w-pfanz.138577/

1557426480044.png
 

James N.

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… Were any officers, besides Meade able to countermand Sickles advance? Warren took responsibility on Little Round Top and redeployed V corps troops. Could Warren, or Hancock (was he a senior wing commander by Meade, even if Sickles junior?) or Sykes or anyone else have countermanded Sickles, or did you really need the big man to do it?

What I'm trying to figure out - was there any possible way Sickles' advance could have been countermanded in time before the Confederate attack, if all of the pieces fell magically into place? (ie. Hancock immediately notices the advance, rides 50 feet to the Leister house who consults Meade, who within 10 mins finds Sickles and countermands the order 30 mins before Longstreet comes sweeping in).

Regards,
mike
One thing I DO recall from Pfanz is that despite the overall praise he gives Meade for handling the affair, before the actual fighting started, Meade was strangely remiss in paying any attention at all to Sickles and his very legitimate concerns, complaints, and suggestions. Meade sent his aide-de-camp son to investigate; Sickles himself rode over to Meade's headquarters, and Meade sent Brig. Gen. Henry Hunt to investigate. Since Hunt was only a brigadier he probably lacked the authority to do anything but generally agree with Sickles and his ideas. By the time Meade finally rode the mile-and-a-half over to see things for himself, it was already too late; this was undoubtedly Meade's own fault for putting things off for as long as he did.
 

MikeyB

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One thing I DO recall from Pfanz is that despite the overall praise he gives Meade for handling the affair, before the actual fighting started, Meade was strangely remiss in paying any attention at all to Sickles and his very legitimate concerns, complaints, and suggestions. Meade sent his aide-de-camp son to investigate; Sickles himself rode over to Meade's headquarters, and Meade sent Brig. Gen. Henry Hunt to investigate. Since Hunt was only a brigadier he probably lacked the authority to do anything but generally agree with Sickles and his ideas. By the time Meade finally rode the mile-and-a-half over to see things for himself, it was already too late; this was undoubtedly Meade's own fault for putting things off for as long as he did.
Thanks for the post and citation. I'm happy to take a look at the material
 

Carronade

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One thing I DO recall from Pfanz is that despite the overall praise he gives Meade for handling the affair, before the actual fighting started, Meade was strangely remiss in paying any attention at all to Sickles and his very legitimate concerns, complaints, and suggestions. Meade sent his aide-de-camp son to investigate; Sickles himself rode over to Meade's headquarters, and Meade sent Brig. Gen. Henry Hunt to investigate. Since Hunt was only a brigadier he probably lacked the authority to do anything but generally agree with Sickles and his ideas. By the time Meade finally rode the mile-and-a-half over to see things for himself, it was already too late; this was undoubtedly Meade's own fault for putting things off for as long as he did.
Makes you wonder what Meade was focusing on. Obviously there was a major battle going on, but were there specific things which demanded the commanding general's attention?

The field at Gettysburg was oddly inverted, with the "southern" army to the north and the Union army's front extending roughly from NE to NW. The AofP's rear was to the south, the Emmitsburg Road and Baltimore Pike by which the various units arrived on the field. Sickles' corps was on the far left, we might even say the left rear, so it may not have been a major concern for the army commander.
 

Tom Elmore

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All good questions that will take some research. But I figure Longstreet's artillery opened about 3:40 p.m., while Brig. Gen. Robertson (and Law) advanced at about 4:00 p.m. Brig. Gen. Ward's skirmishers west of Rose Run almost immediately had their hands full.

I would note that the 63rd Pennsylvania was posted along the Emmitsburg road at the Peach Orchard by 10:45 p.m. on July 1. Graham's brigade was posted in mass south of the Trostle buildings by about 9:15 a.m. on July 2. I think the encounter in Pitzer's Woods between Wilcox's Alabama brigade and the 3rd Maine and four companies of the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters kicked off at 10:15 a.m. It seems to me the latter encounter should have set off major alarm bells that the Confederates were already extending southward in force at a fairly early hour on July 2 - well over five hours before they launched their massive attack. That's a lot of time to cede to a crafty opponent. Federal cavalry might have uncovered what lay concealed beyond the woodline on Warfield Ridge, but they were absent. Someone wasn't paying adequate attention, or did personal animosity play a role? It does seem Meade should have investigated more diligently, but Sickles should have informed his boss about the ominous late morning encounter opposite the Union left and dearth of information regarding what lay beyond his limited line of vision.
 

infomanpa

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Good afternoon everyone. Had a couple of questions for the forum.
1) Roughly how much time elapsed from the advance of the 3rd corps until Longstreet's troops hit them?
2a) How much time elapsed from Sickles advance to Meade's conversation with Sickles?
2b) When the first 3rd corps units started to advance, was it immediately obvious to the 2nd corps and the signalmen on Little Round top? Or did the topography mask the advance?
3) Where was Meade on the battlefield when the advance started?
4) Were any officers, besides Meade able to countermand Sickles advance? Warren took responsibility on Little Round Top and redeployed V corps troops. Could Warren, or Hancock (was he a senior wing commander by Meade, even if Sickles junior?) or Sykes or anyone else have countermanded Sickles, or did you really need the big man to do it?

What I'm trying to figure out - was there any possible way Sickles' advance could have been countermanded in time before the Confederate attack, if all of the pieces fell magically into place? (ie. Hancock immediately notices the advance, rides 50 feet to the Leister house who consults Meade, who within 10 mins finds Sickles and countermands the order 30 mins before Longstreet comes sweeping in).

Regards,
mike
I will try to answer some of these, but I am not an expert. I figure if I put something out there, others will join in to correct me!

1) Within an hour or two.
2a) Within an hour
2b) Immediately, yes, since both the Second Corps and signalmen could see them.
3) Meade was at his headquarters (Leister house).
4) Meade was Sickles immediate superior in the chain of command, so only he could countermand.

Meade did have a chance to countermand while talking to Sickles, but it was too late, since Longstreet's attack had begun.
 

Scott Brown

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Don't count me among those who think Meade ignored Sickles. I also don't believe it's fair to say Hunt "generally agreed" with the forward line (which, btw, had not yet been taken up when Hunt rode south from hq with Sickles....the forward movement was actually a series of moves which ultimately resulted in Humphreys moving out to the Emmitsburg Road about 4pm).
Required reading on this would include Hunt's second day piece in Battles and Leaders as well as an old GB Mag article by David Downs entitled "His Left Was Worth A Glance" (GB mag #7). I would also recommend looking at Tremain's Two Days. You will see for yourself that when Tremain went to hq (around 2:15 by my reckoning) to report the ANV column crossing the Emmitsburg Road, Meade "expressed a desire to see" Sickles. That request was ignored. Had Sickles reported then (and been honest about his dispositions to that point, along with his intended future dispositions) there may have been time to pull Third corps back to the spine where they were supposed to be in the first place.
The timing of Meade's request would have been not all that long after Humphreys moved west of the Trostle thicket. My guess is Meade would have asked Sickles about the propriety of that.
 
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Scott Brown

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All good questions that will take some research. But I figure Longstreet's artillery opened about 3:40 p.m., while Brig. Gen. Robertson (and Law) advanced at about 4:00 p.m. Brig. Gen. Ward's skirmishers west of Rose Run almost immediately had their hands full.

I would note that the 63rd Pennsylvania was posted along the Emmitsburg road at the Peach Orchard by 10:45 p.m. on July 1. Graham's brigade was posted in mass south of the Trostle buildings by about 9:15 a.m. on July 2. I think the encounter in Pitzer's Woods between Wilcox's Alabama brigade and the 3rd Maine and four companies of the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters kicked off at 10:15 a.m. It seems to me the latter encounter should have set off major alarm bells that the Confederates were already extending southward in force at a fairly early hour on July 2 - well over five hours before they launched their massive attack. That's a lot of time to cede to a crafty opponent. Federal cavalry might have uncovered what lay concealed beyond the woodline on Warfield Ridge, but they were absent. Someone wasn't paying adequate attention, or did personal animosity play a role? It does seem Meade should have investigated more diligently, but Sickles should have informed his boss about the ominous late morning encounter opposite the Union left and dearth of information regarding what lay beyond his limited line of vision.

Sickles did in fact send Tremain to hq to report the results of the Pitzer Woods skirmish. To put it in perspective, it was basically a ten or fifteen minute firefight. Compared to the all day fighting around Bliss in my opinion it wasn't all that noteworthy.
 
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Andy Cardinal

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Sickles did in fact send Tremain to hq to report the results of the Pitzer Woods skirmish. To put it in perspective, it was basically a ten or fifteen minute firefight. Compared to the all day fighting around Bliss in my opinion it wasn't all that noteworthy.
That's an interesting take since the Pitzer Woods fight is usually prominently featured in histories of the battle. I tend to agree with your assessment, with the caveat that it was prominent to Sickles and played a role in his decision to advance to the Emmitsburg road.
 

Scott Brown

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That's an interesting take since the Pitzer Woods fight is usually prominently featured in histories of the battle. I tend to agree with your assessment, with the caveat that it was prominent to Sickles and played a role in his decision to advance to the Emmitsburg road.
Agreed. And it was Hunt who recommended the recon. I do wonder if Hunt was as neutral as he portrays himself when he accompanied Sickles to inspect the "new" line.
 

Andy Cardinal

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Agreed. And it was Hunt who recommended the recon. I do wonder if Hunt was as neutral as he portrays himself when he accompanied Sickles to inspect the "new" line.
I've had the same thought. My own reading of Hunt is that he tended to agree with Sickles assessment of the position. He did not have the authority to allow Sickles to advance and said he would talk to Meade about it. I would love to know what was said during that conversation.

Hunt said the position Sickles proposed was the only one on the battlefield suitable for offensive operations. But, he added, it would take 2 corps to adequately occupy the position.
 

Scott Brown

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I've had the same thought. My own reading of Hunt is that he tended to agree with Sickles assessment of the position. He did not have the authority to allow Sickles to advance and said he would talk to Meade about it. I would love to know what was said during that conversation.

Hunt said the position Sickles proposed was the only one on the battlefield suitable for offensive operations. But, he added, it would take 2 corps to adequately occupy the position.
Or could it be more a question of Sickles hearing what he wanted to hear and ignoring the rest?
 

FZ11

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Meade was busy commanding and Meade's instructions to Sickles were simple and direct. Hancock and Gibbon saw Sickles advance and were shocked. Sickles advance opened a gap between his assigned position and Hancock's position. Sickles was supposed to be, at least roughly, connected to Hancock.
 

James N.

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Makes you wonder what Meade was focusing on. Obviously there was a major battle going on, but were there specific things which demanded the commanding general's attention?

The field at Gettysburg was oddly inverted, with the "southern" army to the north and the Union army's front extending roughly from NE to NW. The AofP's rear was to the south, the Emmitsburg Road and Baltimore Pike by which the various units arrived on the field. Sickles' corps was on the far left, we might even say the left rear, so it may not have been a major concern for the army commander.
Meade was busy commanding and Meade's instructions to Sickles were simple and direct. Hancock and Gibbon saw Sickles advance and were shocked. Sickles advance opened a gap between his assigned position and Hancock's position. Sickles was supposed to be, at least roughly, connected to Hancock.
Not to be another Meade-basher, but actually at the time there was NO battle - or anything else - going on, at least not in the literal sense. The morning had passed quietly except for the usual skirmishing, and although Meade certainly had his hands full trying to figure out exactly what it was Lee was going to do, it seems he should've naturally thought about his flanks. I don't know the extent he realized Pleasanton had blundered by ordering away Buford's cavalry, but having a distrusted fellow like Sickles holding an exposed flank - especially after his performance at Chancellorsville where he had also moved forward leaving his own flank exposed and Howard's corps isolated - certainly should've given him pause and made him pay better attention.
 


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