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"Dissing" the Generals

Discussion in 'Battle of Gettysburg' started by Tom Elmore, Jan 9, 2017.

  1. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    Three examples:

    1. On the late afternoon of July 2, while the soldiers of Kershaw's brigade were resting prior to their charge, up rode a "doughty general clad in a brilliant new uniform, a crimson sash encircling his waist ... great golden curls hung in maiden ringlets to his very shoulders. His movement was superb as he sat his horse in true knightly manner. ... As he was passing, a man in Company D, 3rd South Carolina roused up from his broken sleep ... (and) called out, 'Say, Mister, come right down out of that hair,' a foolish and unnecessary expression that was common throughout the army when anything unusual hove into sight. ... [The General] 'became mad as a March hare' ... dashed up ... and demanded in an angry tone, 'Who was it that spoke?' ... As no reply was given, he turned away, saying 'D-----, if I only knew who it was that insulted me I would put a ball in him.' But, as he rode off, the soldier (replied), 'Say, Mister, don't get so mad about it. I thought you were some d--- wagon master.' " [Richard Wheeler, Witness to Gettysburg] [commentary: The officer is not identified, but it sure sounds like none other than Maj. Gen. George Pickett, who just happened to be on the field at that time and near that location.]

    2. July 3, Cemetery Hill. "About the time the rebels began their charge, Gen. Meade, attended by only one officer, appeared among our guns, on foot, saying to our officers that this point must be held at all hazards. When the cry went round that ammunition was getting short, Gen. Meade picked up a shell, stepped up to a gun, asking if that could not be used. Just then up came a boy with a supply, and seeing someone in his way, he grabbed him by the arm, saying, 'Out of the way, you old fool,' and clapped a shot into the gun. Gen. Meade retired in good order, smiling, we supposed, at the boy’s earnestness. (This was an Irish lad serving as No. 6 on the gun). When told how he had treated the commanding General he could not believe it. [W. E. Parmelee, Battery H, 1st Ohio Light Artillery, article in the National Tribune, September 2, 1886]

    3. June 29, on the march to Gettysburg, between Frederick and Bruceville, Maryland. "General Robert Tyler of the Reserve Artillery had been sitting on horseback for some time, and seeing a branch (laden with cherries) fall near him, reached for it and got it just as Private Meacham of the 20th Indiana was about to pick it up. The latter, unaware of the rank of his successful rival, administered to the general’s posterior a kick which sent him sprawling in the mud, and sent his spectacles flying. The General … enraged (by the laughter of bystanders) ordered me to place the man under guard till evening, but during the march he disappeared and I heard no more of it." [Robert Stoddart Robertson, Personal Recollections of the War, A Record of Service with the Ninety-Third New York Infantry]
     

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  3. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    These have a decidedly apocryphal and post-war sound - I wonder how much if any truth there is in any of them? As I remember, Tyler was later made commander of the brigade made up of the various regiments of heavy artillery from the defenses of Washington, D. C., that were sent as reenforcements to Grant at Spotsylvania in May, 1864.
     
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  4. eBrowne

    eBrowne Private

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  5. eBrowne

    eBrowne Private

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  6. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    Thanks, eBrowne, I couldn't figure out what "Irish promotion" meant. I think all of the stories have the ring of truth. They are all incorporated as snippets within accounts, and I see no reason to doubt their authenticity. In two of the cases, it was claimed the soldier did not realize he was dealing with a general officer.

    I can't recall any historian linking the Confederate general with golden ringlets to Pickett, no doubt because Pickett is not expected to have been on the battlefield on July 2. However, Corporal John W. Stevens of Company K, 5th Texas wrote an account that is timed to July 2, prior to 4 p.m., in which he states: "As we were forming, Generals Longstreet, Hood and Pickett were all sitting on their horses just in front of us."
     
  7. eBrowne

    eBrowne Private

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    "It was a Marietta boy who grabbed General Meade by the arm shouting, "Out of the way, old fool," when the General was in the way at Gettysburg, when Pickett was coming in the final charge July 3rd. The General retired smiling, at the boys earnestness and hurry to get a shell into the gun. When the charge was over and the boy told what he had done, he nearly fainted. Who was the boy? Well, he was the First Sergeant when the war closed and a good one. We called him W. H. Styer."
    William E. Parmelee, Marietta Sunday Observer, Sept. 1, 1918.
     
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  8. SquirrelHudson

    SquirrelHudson Corporal

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    Pickett with gold curls?
     
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  9. Jamieva

    Jamieva 1st Lieutenant Forum Host

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    Ringlets
     
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  10. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    My understanding was that at the beginning or maybe the height of the artillery barrage Meade and his staff quickly relocated to Powers Hill and then at Slocum's headquarters on Stevens Knoll (below) and didn't return to Cemetery Ridge until Pickett's Charge was already over. I suppose that doesn't make this anecdote impossible, but since Meade was mounted it still sounds unlikely to me.

    DSC04489.JPG
     
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  11. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    Assuming that Gen. Meade had nothing better to do and this story is true, it still has several problems: WHERE was it that he picked the shell up from and what kind was it? A shell for that particular gun SHOULD have only been back at its limber box in the rear; perhaps it was a Confederate shell that had somehow come to rest near the gun - if so, was it the same type or caliber? Parrott shells won't fit in a Napoleon, and vice versa. Assuming it was the correct shell type, if it HAD been fired it was likely now deformed and might jam in the barrel! Also if that were the case, it would now be nothing but a projectile without a propellant charge, therefore useless. As a graduate of West Point, Meade, although a topographical engineer by trade and not an artilleryman, would have nevertheless known all this from his student years.
     
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  12. eBrowne

    eBrowne Private

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    I think that Gen. Meade was in the Cemetery twice. He first went to the Cemetery on foot during the artillery barrage. After the Charge, he rode over to near the Angle then up over Cemetery Hill. This Syer-Meade incident probably occurred when Meade was on foot during the Cannonade. Battery H was equipped with 3-inch ordnance. Hill's !st W.Va. Battery C was equipped with Parrotts. William Jenvey of that battery wrote "Our ammunition having given out , we fired a few of the Rebel shells, hot as they were, literally paying them back in their own coin." As you can see, it was possible to fire back rebel shells which the Union did when their ammunition was running out.
     
  13. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    Meade and staff first rode south along the Taneytown Road to the Cassett barn, but after Butterfield was wounded by a shell fragment there, he relocated to Power's Hill. If his next destination was Stevens' knoll, he would be very close to Cemetery Hill. It is interesting that the account suggests Meade thought the attack would be made against Cemetery Hill.

    As for the shell, could not some have been brought up and laid close by the guns? The limbers and caissons were posted behind the hill for protection, perhaps beyond the regulation distance. In fact, one of the batteries there was accused of abandoning their position and tossing unused shells away, which would imply that a stockpile was kept close by the guns. Infantrymen posted nearby were often drafted to assist the artillery, and not being trained to work at a gun crew position, could at least run shells up from the limbers/caissons, which could explain extra rounds by the guns, especially since the artillery bombardment had just concluded, when supply temporarily outstripped demand. But perhaps the shell that Meade picked up had been cast aside for other reasons not known to Meade. I just read a Confederate artilleryman's [Lt. Colonel Thomas Carter] account describing a visit to his command by General Ewell, with Carter commenting that Ewell did not understand the artillery very well, but then a lot of developments in the arm had occurred since Ewell's and Meade's days at West Point.
     
  14. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    To be fair to Ewell, he had never been an artilleryman. He was an old dragoon.

    Ryan
     
  15. eBrowne

    eBrowne Private

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    At times shells were placed next to the cannons, but I don't know if this occurred at Gettysburg. At Port Republic, canister was laid next to the guns of Battery H in anticipation of a charge.
    This incident of a battery "dumping shells" and retreating down the Baltimore Pike was explored in "Controversy in the Cemetery" (Gettysburg Magazine). It will be further explored in the upcoming issue of the Gettysburg Magazine.
    Gen. Hunt in The Third Day at Gettysburg stated that he went to Meade's Headquarters and was told that Meade was at the Cemetery. Capt. Huntington of Battery H stated that "During my absence General Meade, with his Chief of Artillery came upon the hill...he directed that the fire be greatly slackened..." (True?, False? ) The men of Battery H report that Meade arrived on foot and also on horseback. We know that Gen. Meade rode over Cemetery Hill after the Charge. Does anyone have any evidence that Meade was on foot in the Cemetery (on Cemetery Hill) during the Cannonade?
    It is difficult to place exactly when this Meade-Styer event occurred, and certainly if Meade was mounted then it probably did not happen when he rode over Cemetery Hill.
     
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  16. E_just_E

    E_just_E Captain Forum Host

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    I really want to believe this story but it just does not add up. The 3th SC of Kershaw's Brigade started their march towards the Rose Farm (and then through the Peach Orchard) about 4:30 PM. 3rd SC (not to be confused with the 3rd SC Bat, also in Kershaw's brigade) was the right flank of the brigade. Before that, they would be just East of the Eisenhower farm site. To start at 4:30, get in formation etc, I suspect that if someone was sleeping that would have been around 2:30 or so and not late afternoon. Pretty sure that Pickett did not make it to the battlefield by that time, and if he did, he had no business being over there. If he met Longstreet, it was likely where Longstreet was, which is close to his statue today. Just does not pass the stink test as far as I am concerned :wink:
     
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  17. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    E_just_E, we disagree. I think it quite possible. The 7th South Carolina was the right regiment of the brigade, but the 3rd South Carolina was to its left. Tired soldiers have been known to sleep whenever an extended halt is made, even during a fierce cannonade. Pickett could have come by way of Willoughby Run, past Pitzer's schoolhouse and then ridden south along Warfield Ridge to reach the 5th Texas, which was only 2,500 feet or so further south than the 3rd South Carolina at its jump off position on the same ridge, and which takes a horse just over four minutes to cover at a trot. As for Longstreet, he was sighted all over the field around his two divisions that afternoon. He was close to Kershaw's Brigade at one point, as recorded by John Coxe of the 2nd South Carolina. I know of no other general officer who matches that precise description of long blond curly ringlets; the original source of that encounter is D. Augustus Dickert's History of Kershaw's Brigade, p. 235 or 236. (Dickert suggested the general was from A. P. Hill's corps, which makes no sense.) Also, since Hood went into position after McLaws, it is possible that Pickett was heading back at the time and stopped briefly near Kershaw's Brigade for a final look at the field before retracing his route back to his division, still quite some distance from Gettysburg. In any event, it is plausible with regard to timing and location, in my opinion, if we accept Corporal Stevens' sighting of Pickett as being accurate. I will be on the lookout for additional information on Pickett's whereabouts on the afternoon of July 2.
     
  18. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    Artillery practice was a part of the curriculum at West Point regardless in what branch-of-service a cadet found himself after graduation. The same was true at VMI where Jackson taught not only Natural Philosophy (physics) - poorly! - but also artillery drill and tactics to all the students.
     
  19. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    That is true. Of course, his school days were long gone by the time of the Civil War.

    Ryan
     
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  20. eBrowne

    eBrowne Private

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    THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE APPEARED IN THE GRAND ARMY SCOUT AND SOLDIERS MAIL
    OCT. 6, 1883 P. 2
    ALTHOUGH IT IS SIGNED "Q", THIS IS MOST LIKELY WILLIAM PARMELEE OF BATTERY H, 1ST OHIO LIGHT ARTILLERY. (NOTE F.C.L. IS A GAR PLEDGE MEANING FRIENDSHIP, CHARITY, LOYALTY). PARMELEE WROTE OTHER ACCOUNTS THAT APPEARED IN THAT NEWSPAPER.
    PRESUMABLY PARMELEE IS DESCRIBING AN INCIDENT THAT OCCURRED DURING THE CANNONADE. IF SO, PARMELEE PLACES MEADE ON CEMETERY HILL DURING THE CANNONADE. OBVIOUSLY THIS IS AN "ARGUABLE POINT." HOWEVER, WHEN GEN. HUNT ARRIVED AT MEADE'S HDQ'S, HE WAS TOLD THAT MEADE HAD GONE TO THE CEMETERY. ANYONE THINK THAT MEADE MIGHT HAVE GONE FROM HIS HDQ'S TO THE CEMETERY TO POWER'S HILL OR AT SOME TIME BEEN AT THE CEMETERY DURING THE CANNONADE. I BELIEVE THAT AFTER PICKETT'S CHARGE THAT HE WAS ALSO IN THE CEMETERY OR IN THAT AREA.

    An Episode of Gettysburg
    Editor Scout and Mail:

    As Gettysburg is being ventilated now, here is an incident that occurred there that has never been in print, and may be worthy of record:-
    During Pickett’s charge on Cemetery Hill, in the afternoon of July 3, the little house back of the hill on Taneytown Road, became too hot for the army headquarters, staff and escort, and they went to the rear, while Gen. George G. Meade, with only one attendant, came upon the hill near the Cemetery, saying, quietly, to the officers in charge, “This point must be held!”
    While standing near the guns of an Ohio battery the supply of shot began to fail and our fire to slacken. Gen. Meade picked up a shell from the ground, stepped up to a gun and said to No. 1, “cannot this be used?” just then up came No. 2 with a supply of shell, and finding Gen. Meade in his place at the gun, grabbed the General by the arm, gave him a sharp jerk, with, “Out of the way here, you old fool!” and slapped a shell into the gun, and went about his duty all unconscious to whom he had acted so roughly. He had no idea it was the Commander of the Army of the Potomac. It is needless to say that General Meade retired in good order from the gun smiling; so that we lookers-on of this bit of byplay knew that he did not feel insulted at the rough treatment of the energetic artilleryman.
    When the charge had been repulsed, and we twited the brave fellow about it, he blushed, turned pale and actually showed fear – he could not realize or believe he had done it. But too many, had seen and heard it. He was a brave, quiet, well disciplined fellow, that under ordinary circumstances would rather have cut off his hand then have it used against his general.

    Yours in F.C.L. “Q.”

    Post 15, Toledo, Ohio
     
  21. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    The cannonade lasted from about 1 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. (on the Confederate side), but tapering off a few minutes earlier on the Union side as intended - a lengthy period that would have enabled Meade to cover a lot of ground. Since the supply of ammunition was dwindling, and Meade could actually converse and be heard might indicate the rate of fire was slackening, suggesting the cannonade was winding up.
     
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