Day 2: McLaws Arrives in View of the Enemy

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lelliott19

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"While this was going on I rode forward, and getting off my horse, went to some trees in advance and took a good look at the situation, and the view presented astonished me, as the enemy was massed in my front, and extended to my right and left as far as I could see. The firing on my command showed to Hood in my rear that the enemy was in force in my front and right, and the head of his column was turned by General Longstreet's order to go on my right, and as his troops appeared, the enemy opened on them..."


Last week, I transcribed an excerpt from Lafayette McLaws' 1878 paper describing his view of Pickett's Charge on July 3, 1863. https://civilwartalk.com/threads/view-of-picketts-charge-maj-gen-lafayette-mclaws-on-july-3.159910/ and another, describing Hood's and McLaws' preparations just prior to the beginning of the assault on July 2, 1863 https://civilwartalk.com/threads/day-2-hoods-mclaws-divisions-prior-to-the-assault.160483/#post-2098161 Since everyone seems to have enjoyed discussing those excerpts, here's another describing McLaws' arrival on the field following the counter-march which delayed arrival. <NOTE: Spelling and punctuation errors retained from original.>

After very considerable difficulty, owing to the rough character of the country in places and the fences and ditches we had to cross, the counter-march was effected, and my troops were moving easily forward along a road with fences on the side not giving room enough for a company front, making it necessary to break files to the rear, when General Longstreet rode up to me, and said: "How are you going in?" and I replied, "That will be determined when I can see what is in my front." He said, "There is nothing in your front; you will be entirely on the flank of the enemy." I replied: "Then I will continue my march in columns of companies, and after arriving on the flank as far as is necessary, will face to the left and march on the enemy." He replied, "That suits me," and rode away.​
My head of column soon reached the edge of the woods and the enemy at once opened on it with numerous artillery, and one rapid glance showed them to be in force much greater than I had, and extending considerably beyond my right. My command therefore, instead of marching on as directed, by head of column, deployed at once.​
Kershaw, a very cool, judicious and gallant gentleman, immediately turned the head of his column and marched by flank to right, and put his men under cover of a stone wall. Barksdale, the fiery, impetuous Mississippian, following, came into line on the left of Kershaw, his men sheltered by trees and part of a stone wall and under a gentle declivity.​
Besides the artillery firing, the enemy were advancing a strong line of skirmishers and threatening an advance in line. I hurried back to quicken the march of those in rear, and sent orders for my artillery to move to my right and open fire, so as to draw the fire of the opposite artillery from my infantry.​
I will here state that I had in my division about six thousand, aggregate, which, I think, is over the mark. Well, six thousand men standing in line would occupy over a mile, and in marching in the manner and over the roads we came they would extend a mile and a half. So you will perceive that to form line of battle by directing troops across the country broken by fences and ditches requires considerable time, and it was difficult from the same causes, to get artillery in position.​
While this was going on I rode forward, and getting off my horse, went to some trees in advance and took a good look at the situation, and the view presented astonished me, as the enemy was massed in my front, and extended to my right and left as far as I could see. The firing on my command showed to Hood in my rear that the enemy was in force in my front and right, and the head of his column was turned by General Longstreet's order to go on my right, and as his troops appeared, the enemy opened on them, developing a long line to his right even, and way up to the top of Round Top. Thus was presented a state of affairs which was certainly not contemplated when the original plan or order of battle was given, and certainly was not known to General Longstreet not a half hour previous.​
As I have already stated, General Longstreet had informed me just previous to my arriving in view of the enemy's position, that I would arrive entirely on their flank, and he wished me to march into my position in columns of companies, and when well on the enemy's flank to face or form line to the left and march down upon them. General Kershaw in his report says, his brigade being at the head of my column, that General Longstreet came to him while marching, and told him that his (Gen's L's) desire was that he (Kershaw) should attack the enemy at the Peach Orchard, turn his flank and extend along the cross road with his left resting toward the Emmettsburg road. You can see by the accompanying map what a very different state of affairs existed from what General Longstreet must have thought really did, as it would simply have been absurd for General Kershaw to have attempted to do as he was required or desired. <end of excerpt>​

Image by @ARW borrowed from https://civilwartalk.com/threads/foto-friday-2-22.155108/page-2#post-1994275 Thanks @ARW It's a FANTASTIC image!
Excerpt from: [Lafayette McLaws, "The Battle of Gettysburg," a paper presented before the Georgia Historical Society, January 7, 1878.]
 

lelliott19

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General Longstreet rode up to me, and said: "How are you going in?" and I replied, "That will be determined when I can see what is in my front." He said, "There is nothing in your front; you will be entirely on the flank of the enemy." I replied: "Then I will continue my march in columns of companies, and after arriving on the flank as far as is necessary, will face to the left and march on the enemy." He replied, "That suits me," and rode away.
This part struck me as interesting @Tom Elmore @rpkennedy @pamc153PA @Wallyfish @infomanpa @AUG @ErnieMac @Andy Cardinal or anyone else who might know.....

Was this typically how an attack was planned? That is, in this kind of situation, was it typical for the corps commander to allow his division commander to determine the mode and movement? Thanks
 

Tom Elmore

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I suppose so long as it accorded with the superior officer's own contemplated plan or vision, no problem. With regard to the relationship between Longstreet and McLaws, we can recall their clash over where a battery should be placed along the line. Longstreet wanted it in a certain place and McLaws disagreed; Longstreet prevailed.

Recollect Lee and Jackson at Chancellorsville when Jackson proposed a bold flanking march. Lee considered it briefly, then approved. In my opinion it was in keeping with Lee's own audacious style and he knew Jackson could pull it off.

At Gettysburg, I am left with the impression that Lee kept his corps commanders on a rather short leash. True, Ewell had been entrusted with an independent movement into Pennsylvania at the outset, but after he had rejoined the main body he was mindful of obeying Lee's battle plan.
 
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lelliott19

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At Gettysburg, I am left with the impression that Lee kept his corps commanders on a rather short leash.
Thanks Tom. So do you think he allowed all his corps commanders more leeway prior? Say at Chancellorsville? Or just Jackson?
I always thought that Lee was harboring resentment against McLaws because of Salem Church and that Longstreet was supposed to be specifically directing him after that? This exchange just doesn't sound much like specific direction to me.
 

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As a retired steel mill plant manager, I have always had an interest in management styles of senior leaders.

First off, I agree with Tom's short leash comment. Lee seeing his two new Corps commanders for the first time in battle, Longstreet's performance, the lack of cavalry and most importantly the performance of the AoP forced a management style change.

Starting with Lee, he generally used a delegatory management style. Many point to the famous "take that hill if practicable" order as the poster child of discretionary orders (+ others). Lee could be criticized for the lack of explicit orders. One could argue that Ewell needed explicit orders because of indecisiveness. I believe in Sears Gettysbook book, he tells the story of Lee giving orders to Ewell and Hill to consolidate their men either in Cashtown or Gettysburg. Ewell gathered his generals to determine what to do. Sears went on to say that under Stonewall Jackson, Ewell probably never seen a discretionary order. Ewell was said to say that Lee needed someone on his staff that could write an intelligent order.

Hood on his assault said this.

“I found that in making the attack according to orders, viz: up the Emmettsburg [sic] road, I should have first to encounter and drive off this advanced line of battle; secondly, at the base and along the slope of the mountain, to confront immense boulders of stone, so massed together as to form narrow openings, which would break our ranks and cause the men to scatter whilst climbing up the rocky precipice. I found, moreover, that my division would be exposed to heavy fire from the main line of the enemy, in position on the crest of the high range, of which Round Top was the extreme left, and, by reason of the concavity of the enemy’s main line, that we would be subject to a destructive fire in flank and rear, as well as in front; and deemed it almost an impossibility to clamber along the boulders up this steep and rugged mountain, and, under this number of cross-fires, put the enemy to flight. I knew that if the feat was accomplished it must be a most fearful sacrifice of as brave and gallant soldiers as ever engaged in battle.”

Hood protested to Longstreet several times about his order. Hood wanted to march farther east hopefully to get around LRT. Longstreet responded “Gen’l Lee’s orders are to attack up the Emmettsburg [sic] road. “We must obey the orders of General Lee.”

So within one set of circumstances discretionary and explicit orders were given.

Then there is Lt Col Mudge of the 2nd Mass. Colgrove ordered him to charge in the Spangler's Spring area. Mudge questioned Colgrove's order but was denied. Mudge responded , "it is murder, but it is the order".

As warfare changed from fighting in cleared fields to fighting in woodlots and behind other cover, one would think that more discretionary orders were required because senior officers could not see the field/enemy. I have always been fascinated by crossing the sometimes blurred line of either executing a descrentionary order or was an explicit order simply disobeyed because of more " local" knowledge.

Getting back to my Steel experience, I had people reporting to me that required few explicit orders. They knew what had to be done and they did it. Then there were the others who required lots of handholding and explicit orders to accomplish the task. The steel industry was quite competitive but no one was shooting at you. Interestingly, educational background/excellence was not always an indication of which camp they fell in. I would loved to have known Civil War officers to understand their personalities and if they were a true leader or just a follower.
 
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Andy Cardinal

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Thanks Tom. So do you think he allowed all his corps commanders more leeway prior? Say at Chancellorsville? Or just Jackson?
I always thought that Lee was harboring resentment against McLaws because of Salem Church and that Longstreet was supposed to be specifically directing him after that? This exchange just doesn't sound much like specific direction to me.
I believe division commanders often had some discretion when making an attack. However, my one criticism of Longstreet on July 2 was his seemingly completely hands off approach, which was not normal for a corps commander.

I also note, regarding both Lee and Longstreet -- they were much,more "hands on" on July 3.
 
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lelliott19

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Longstreet on July 2 was his seemingly completely hands off approach
In fairness, Longstreet did actually accompany Wofford's brigade partway as they started off in the assault. McLaws tells it this way:
At the commencement of the charge General Longstreet went forward some distance with Wofford's brigade, urging them on by voice and his personal example to the most earnest efforts. The troops needed no outside impulse, but his conduct was gallant and inspiring.
 

infomanpa

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This part struck me as interesting @Tom Elmore @rpkennedy @pamc153PA @Wallyfish @infomanpa @AUG @ErnieMac @Andy Cardinal or anyone else who might know.....

Was this typically how an attack was planned? That is, in this kind of situation, was it typical for the corps commander to allow his division commander to determine the mode and movement? Thanks
I agree with the previous answers to your question. I just wanted to add that high command often left tactics to their subordinates. For example, decisions like whether to march in columns or line or by the flank would not be decided by corps commanders.
 
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Andy Cardinal

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This a little simplistic, but this is how I have thought of it. Obviously there were great variations as to specific commanders and how they handled their commands.

The Army commander assigned an objective to the Corps commander.

Corps commanders maneuvered their commands to the proper place and directed deployment for battle. The corps commander usually decided how and when the divisions would go in.

Division commanders actually directed the fighting during the battle. They usually decided how to deploy the brigades in their division.

Brigades were the basic fighting unit, and brigade commanders were responsible for the basic tactics used once battle was underway.
 

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One thing I could never understand about this assault is when did the high command come to the realization that the Federal left extended much further than the early morning's recon reported. They insisted on the attack up the Emmitsburg Road thinking they would be hitting the Federal left flank but every field officer there could see what they had in their front. Longstreet must have seen it if he was with Wofford. I just don't get it. Was Lee really properly made aware of the situation at that point of time in the day? I just can't get over there was no adjustment to the battle plans. Not even bringing up what Hood had in his front. It's amazing they got as far as they did on the 2nd.
 

Andy Cardinal

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One thing I could never understand about this assault is when did the high command come to the realization that the Federal left extended much further than the early morning's recon reported. They insisted on the attack up the Emmitsburg Road thinking they would be hitting the Federal left flank but every field officer there could see what they had in their front. Longstreet must have seen it if he was with Wofford. I just don't get it. Was Lee really properly made aware of the situation at that point of time in the day? I just can't get over there was no adjustment to the battle plans. Not even bringing up what Hood had in his front. It's amazing they got as far as they did on the 2nd.
I have had the same questions and never resolved it satisfactorily for myself.

Lee was present on the right as Longstreet's divisions deployed for the attack, so he was aware before the attack was made and at least tacitly approved Longstreet's deployment.
 
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lelliott19

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This a little simplistic,
Maybe simplistic for some, but just perfect for me! :thumbsup: I have very little knowledge of military protocol. About the sum extent of my knowledge is organization - army, corps, division, brigade, regiment, company. I'm certainly no tactician and, although I know it exists, I have never even read Hardee's Tactics :D I really appreciate you providing this easy to understand summary @Andy Cardinal
when did the high command come to the realization that the Federal left extended much further than the early morning's recon reported.
I have had the same questions and never resolved it
Seems to me, it was not until after Hood and McLaws sent numerous couriers back with their protests saying that the orders were impossible to execute due to the extant circumstances. So apparently not until Longstreet came in person, as described in this other excerpt, which, in McLaws' paper, follows the last sentence of this OP precisely. https://civilwartalk.com/threads/day-2-hoods-mclaws-divisions-prior-to-the-assault.160483/
 
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Andy Cardinal

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Maybe simplistic for some, but just perfect for me! :thumbsup: I have very little knowledge of military protocol. About the sum extent of my knowledge is organization - army, corps, division, brigade, regiment, company. I'm certainly no tactician and, although I know it exists, I have never even read Hardee's Tactics :D I really appreciate you providing this easy to understand summary @Andy Cardinal


Seems to me, it was not until after Hood and McLaws sent numerous couriers back with their protests saying that the orders were impossible to execute due to the extant circumstances. So apparently not until Longstreet came in person, as described in this other excerpt, which by the way, in McLaws' paper follows the last sentence of this OP precisely. https://civilwartalk.com/threads/day-2-hoods-mclaws-divisions-prior-to-the-assault.160483/
Which leads me back to my original post in this thread -- I have a tough time swallowing that Longstreet/Lee didn't know until then. I can't shake the opinion that they should have.
 

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Longstreet knew what was there but did Lee fully know? It just never made sense to me especially after walking that part of the field myself and it took a few times to really understand the direction they were going. From the start of the attack their flank was immediately in the air. I can understand what they were trying to do much more on the 3rd than the 2nd. I just can't believe there wasn't an adjustment made after they could obviously see there earlier recon was no good. And again it amazes me it made it as far as id did. I agree with Andy, this has to be on Longstreet's shoulders.
 
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infomanpa

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Maybe simplistic for some, but just perfect for me! :thumbsup: I have very little knowledge of military protocol. About the sum extent of my knowledge is organization - army, corps, division, brigade, regiment, company. [/USER]
I like the mnemonic: A Cold Day's Breeze Really Chills for remembering organization.
 
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lelliott19

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Longstreet must have seen it if he was with Wofford.
Just to clarify...Longstreet came, in person, as a result of Hood and McLaws' repeated requests that he come see the situation for himself. By this time, Hood and McLaws' protestations had been dismissed at least three times. They were about to commence their advance, when Longstreet finally came into a position where he could observe the situation himself. In McLaws' division, Semmes was to follow Kershaw and Wofford was to follow Barksdale. After Kershaw and Barksdale had already advanced, Longstreet joined in with Wofford's brigade partway, at the onset of that brigade's charge.

It's an important distinction. Some historians have criticized Wofford - basically saying that his advance should have been more northerly in direction. Since Longstreet was with Wofford's brigade for the initial part of the advance (at least until they reached the Emmitsburg Road), there was certainly sufficient opportunity for Longstreet to have corrected an error in intended direction, if he felt that one existed. <Being a huge Wofford fan, you'll find that I tend to point this out whenever the opportunity presents itself. :D >
 
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