Day 2-Longstreet's Attack up the Emmittsburg Road

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James N.

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Feb 23, 2013
East Texas
… As for Sickles, he would go down in history as the man who unwittingly saved the day at Gettysburg.

Many speculate had Sickles not have moved his men forward and absorbed the main thrust of Longstreet’s attack Longstreet would have easily rolled up Sickles and the extreme left flank of the Union line. Sickles original position was lower than the position he advanced to occupy and would have been a difficult position to defend.
I was really impressed when @Eric Wittenberg showed us the position that had been intended for Sickles during the 2016 September to Remember reunion. I can absolutely understand that Sickles wanted to get out of there and think that he had the best of intentions when shifting his position at his own discretion. Do I remember correctly that Meade had had no idea of the actual terrain when he ordered Sickles to stay down below LRT? That demonstration of the depression where Sickles was meant to remain really changed my view on him. And if it was a mistake to advance and create that salient, he paid for it with the loss of his leg.
I discussed this in my short thread:


Lt. Colonel
Feb 23, 2010
Folks, I can never seem to figure out what is going on with Lee's plans for Longstreet's assault "up the Emmittsburg Road" on Day 2. IF Sickles had kept his corps in the position that Meade wanted him to occupy, wouldn't that have opened Longstreet's Corps up to enfilade fire?
And yet, the Rebs were still surprised to find the III Corps (Sickles') around the Peach Orchard and on Emmittsburg Road. Can someone explain to me just what Lee meant by "up the Emmittsburg Road?" I have read the latest two books out on the Peach Orchard and the second day at Gettysburg. I'm still confused by what happened.
1) If they didn't expect the enemy to be out on the Emmittsburg Rioad, then why attack "up the road?"
1-a) If the enemy wasn't there at the road, wouldn't that have opened the Longstreet's flank up to enfilade fire?
2) If they did expect the enemy to be there, why were the Rebs surprised to find them on the road?
As I said, I'm totally confused. Anyone help clear the "mud" from my head? THANKS!

Lee's plan for Day 2, in so far as he had one(we have little historical facts to go on) can only be inferred from his words and actions on that day.

Certainly the location and direction of LOngstreet's attack, was meant to be a flankiing attack guiding on Emmitsberg Pike. If that is true, then the asault seems targeted on Hancock's flank and rear. From his most recent intelligence report that morning, there were no Union forces anywhere near the Round Tops. So the attack up the road was the most obvious line of attack(easily identifiied leading straight towards the intended target.

Without reliable intelligence, Lee would be forcded to anticipate the AoP's movements from his past experience, that told him that the AoP was slow, even when forced marching and its leaders not very opportunistic(or alert, man times). From this he could estimate that he was only facing a part of Meade's force, and by moving quickly had a chance to destroy A divided AoP in detail? IF, he moved quickly).

Lee was never able to communicate his concern for speed in execution, to his commanders, for whatever reason.
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Crazy Delawares

Sep 16, 2008
South Jersey
Thank you to EVERYONE who answered my question. It does clear up a muddy puddle for me. Now for a "I wonder what would've happened..." If Gen Sickles had stayed back on Cemetery Ridge and the 5th Corps occupied the Round tops. No need to answer, just neat stuff to ponder.:wink: or:banghead:


Mar 23, 2018
Harrisburg PA
General DB Birney was instrumental in holding the line on Emmitsburg Road.
When your are in Gettysburg, I recommend hiring a certified battle guide for a tour. I learned a ton and had an opportunity to ask specific questions.
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