Gettysburg on the History Channel

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#1
Did anyone catch that special on Gettysburg the other night on the History Channel, where they were discussing the artillary and Pickett's charge? I caught only the last 15 minutes of it, and from what I heard in that part they were saying that the reason the Confederate artillary beroge was unsuccessful was due to inferior fuses that left the timing off, high, and over the Fedral lines. I thought that to be very interesting. And they commented that due to this, the amount of smoke contributed to Pickett's men charging in blind right into the Fedral lines. Any comments? Did anyone see this one? Was it a new epsiode? I hated to miss it the other night, for it sounded very interesting.
 

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tomh

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#2
History Channel

jenna,

I believe that the discussion about slow burning fuses was taken out of context on that show. The letter that they refer to was actually about 5" fuzes made at (I believe) Charleston Arsenal. Those fuzes were for large bore siege guns and naval artillery, not field pieces, and none of them would have been used in the battle of G'Burg. Dean Thomas has the actual letter that the show refers to and I will try to get it this weekend to get a direct quote.

The current most popular theory on why the CS arty fired long during the Pickett/Petigrew/Trimble assault is that there was a light breeze coming from the west. The first shots were actually on target but because of the number of field pieces involved Cemetery Ridge was quickly covered with a thick smoke, obscuring the CS gunners' view of their intended targets. They instead focused on aiming at the smoke which they considered to be caused by their successful hits on the Federal line. As the breeze blew the smoke to the east the gunners followed the smoke and walked the arty over the ridge and into the low ground to the east.

Just a humble opinion,
TomH
 

unionblue

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#3
Jenna,

I was lucky enough to see the whole program, but you caught the gist of the show in that last 15 minutes. The fuse problem might have been a contributing factor, one more problem the Confederate army had to deal with, but I am more inclined to go with Tom on this one, the simplest explanation being the most likey explanation as the reason Pickett's charge didn't pan out, smoke obscuring the positions on Cemetery Ridge and Longstreet's objections over the assault in the first place. No 15,000 men made could have taken that ridge across that ground under that volume of fire.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 
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#4
Thanks guys. I had been bummed about not seeing the whole thing. It's amazing how war has shaped up hasn't it? What was it Lee said, somthing to the effect of it is good that war is so cruelt that we may not grow to fond of it. Something like that.

Jenna
 
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#5
Oh and Tom, I look forward to hearing what the letter actually said. Looks like your located right in the heart of CW country, so you guys would have a wee bit more access to info like that I would suspect.
 

gary

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#6
Several things should be remembered.

Confederate ordnance was inferior to the Union. They had problems with their fuses.
While some terrific shots have been made, overall Confederate artillery wasn't as effective as the Union's. Someone said, "Give me Confederate infantry and Union artillery..."

Union deception. The Union gradually allowed their artillery to slow down their return fire and then cease so as to deceive the Confederates as to their effectiveness.

Bad hair day. Yep, Ares/Mars decided against Bobby Lee and the Confederacy.
 

ewc

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#7
gary said:
...Ares/Mars decided against Bobby Lee and the Confederacy.
Military science was also against him. Lee's grand old Napoleonic pont de feu and shoulder to shoulder advance were, as Longstreet warned him, never going to pierce the Union center. These Napoleonic charges sadly litter Civil War battlefields with their detritus of hewn down attackers. The only way Lee was going to breach and exploit the Union lines was with Huey gunships, and I, for one, am very glad they were not available to him.
 

johan_steele

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#8
A note on faulty fuses, both sides had the problem, Upton was mentioned in dispatches at one point because he realized his fuses were faulty and switched to solid shot w/ devestating results upon the Rebel battery he was firing on. It was a common practice throughout the war to mistrust the fuses and solid bolts were often used in lieu or in conjunction w/ shell At Gettysburg day three the Arty on top of Little Round Top was using solid shot to engage sharpshooters in the Devils Den area to good efect... well bad if you were a sharpshooter.
 

gary

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#9
By golly if you're not right about Upton switching to solid shot. I also recall reading about some Confederate dead around Devil's Den. Not a scratch. Concussion induced spiritual departure. Generally though, the Union had superior ordnance.
 

ole

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#10
Bad fuses, superior ornance, smoke.

Jenna, the smoke obscuring the defensive line would have been from union guns. The Confederate artillery was silent when the charge neared the line. I've always looked at the Confederate barrage as a failure with the following picture in my mind: the horizon, a rough mile away, is a low rise. This horizon is lined with Union artillery. From where the Confederate batteries were, this was a hairline dividing the hill from the sky. Draw a pencil line on your living-room wall. Stand against the other wall and try to hit it with an aimed missile of your choice. That any shots hit this line was a miracle. Low is useless. High at least stands to do some damage in the rear of that line.

And Unionblue is quite correct (except for the 15,000 figure). It would have taken 30,000 to break through that line and what, I ask you, would they have done then, exhausted and deep in the heart of at least two fresh Union Corps?
 



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