Gettysburg: Was A.P. Hill to blame for the Battle?

AThompson

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Given the fact that elements of Ewell corps had been in Gettysburg on the 26th of June and that Pettigrew had done a recon on the 30th of June and seen was he determined to be Union Regular Cavalry and thus reported it to Hill , Why did Hill give permission for Heth to go to Gettysburg knowing that Union Cavalry were around the area?.

One theory I have is that Hill was itching for a fight and being new to corps command wanted to prove himself to Lee , Was Hill a hardened battlefield commander so naive as to think Union Cavalry would not be without close infantry support after all he had no way of knowing where the Union Infantry was.

I think what's interesting here is why he chose to ignore Pettigrew's report even if it was backed up by a member of Hills staff who was with Pettigrew at Gettysburg at the time of the recon.

I would love to know what people think on this subject.
I have a slightly different take. There's usually more than one reason for something and you can't discount personality and ambition, but I've looked at it as a bit more mundane.

If Lee had ordered the consolidation, I have to think the assumption was that the Federal army wouldn't be closing in on the point of consolidation. I don't have his report with me at the moment, but I recall Hill saying that he had been ordered east to join with Ewell and this was part of that movement. Then the recall occurs, but the object is still to meet with Ewell and consolidate. Moving to Gettysburg is part of that consolidation.

Before moving further east on June 30, he sent Pettigrew on a recon in force. When the possibility of some Federal cavalry presented itself, he sent two divisions and two artillery battalions, then cautiously advanced when he encountered Federal cavalry in order to develop it. At least the initial response seems to be in line with his orders and nothing out of the ordinary.

Here's another question, just to add to the conversation. If Hill stops the movement of the entire corps and fails to link with Ewell because some Federal cavalry is in the way, I don't think that looks good. If a Civil War army stopped its movement because a brigade or two of cavalry was standing in the road, they wouldn't ever get anywhere. I don't think Hill can be criticized for bringing on an engagement that ultimately turned out to be general, because he initially started fighting dismounted cavalry. We'd be laughing at him today for being scared of a few cavalrymen if he had done that (and I can't imagine Lee being impressed). Buford's men did not react in typical fashion and then the appearance of the First Corps turned a "minor scrap" into a fight with the First Corps. Then we know the rest of the story, but he didn't.
 

Scott1967

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Here's another question, just to add to the conversation. If Hill stops the movement of the entire corps and fails to link with Ewell because some Federal cavalry is in the way, I don't think that looks good. If a Civil War army stopped its movement because a brigade or two of cavalry was standing in the road, they wouldn't ever get anywhere. I don't think Hill can be criticized for bringing on an engagement that ultimately turned out to be general, because he initially started fighting dismounted cavalry. We'd be laughing at him today for being scared of a few cavalrymen if he had done that (and I can't imagine Lee being impressed). Buford's men did not react in typical fashion and then the appearance of the First Corps turned a "minor scrap" into a fight with the First Corps. Then we know the rest of the story, but he didn't.
Hill was under direct orders not to bring on an engagement , A man of Hill's experience must have know that dismounted cavalry that don't run from infantry normally have good reason not to ie they have support close by.

Personally I think Hill knew exactly what he was doing and the consequences it would bring regardless that he was new to corps command he was a battle hardened senior commander in Lee's army.

I'm going to dispute what you said about Hill not knowing what was going to happen with all due respect I think he knew exactly what was going to happen I'm with Mosby on this one.
 

AThompson

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That's what's great about the battle (and really, any history conversation). We don't really know what he thought and can amicably agree to disagree. Mosby certainly had the benefit of knowing what happened before opining. Buford also continued to give up ground, so it wouldn't necessarily have appeared he was staying - Hill's interpretation could just as easily have been that Buford was being obstinate. Any number of small skirmishes and fights happen during a campaign that don't erupt into battle. Now that we (or Mosby) knows what happened, I think it's easier to say Hill should have interpreted it in the way we know it ended up. But at the time, knowing what he knew, I think he's justified in doing what he did.
 

Lincoln56

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Hill was under direct orders not to bring on an engagement , A man of Hill's experience must have know that dismounted cavalry that don't run from infantry normally have good reason not to ie they have support close by.

Personally I think Hill knew exactly what he was doing and the consequences it would bring regardless that he was new to corps command he was a battle hardened senior commander in Lee's army.

I'm going to dispute what you said about Hill not knowing what was going to happen with all due respect I think he knew exactly what was going to happen I'm with Mosby on this one.
Regardless of whether Hill knew exactly what he was doing, why didn't he feel a need to shake out a skirmish line before proceeding instead of leading with his artillery? Do we know of any similar circumstance in the Civil War where artillery led the infantry? Admittedly, the skirmishers would have made the same contact with Buford but perhaps Hill would've recalled Lee's orders to not bring on an engagement and backed off. Leading with artillery indicates to me Hill had no intention of avoiding an engagement.
 

Scott1967

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Regardless of whether Hill knew exactly what he was doing, why didn't he feel a need to shake out a skirmish line before proceeding instead of leading with his artillery?
I would imagine because it was Heth leading not Hill as far as I'm aware and you can correct me as my memory is a bit fuzzy but Hill was still in Cashtown and Heth was inexperienced at division command.

But yea very strange leading with artillery unless of course you know exactly what's in front of you.
 
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i believe someone alluded to this above - Without defending Hill's tactical handling of his men, didn't the ANV need Gettysburg to remain open to maintain the shortest line of communications with II Corps? If Hill had pulled up short, then the AoP could have consolidated its strong defensive position west of town and made coordination between the II and III Corps problematic.
 

rpkennedy

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A man of Hill's experience must have know that dismounted cavalry that don't run from infantry normally have good reason not to ie they have support close by.

To be fair to Heth (and Hill), the dismounted cavalry didn't actually put up much of a fight. Archer's Brigade reported only a handful of wounded men in total and I don't imagine that Davis suffered much more. What the cavalry was doing was playing for time but they could have been doing that for any number of reasons not related to waiting for reinforcements. And when Cutler and Meredith arrived, Buford's troopers were preparing to move out as they had delayed as long as they could. Reynolds and Wadsworth literally arrived in the nick of time.

Ryan
 

rpkennedy

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Regardless of whether Hill knew exactly what he was doing, why didn't he feel a need to shake out a skirmish line before proceeding instead of leading with his artillery? Do we know of any similar circumstance in the Civil War where artillery led the infantry? Admittedly, the skirmishers would have made the same contact with Buford but perhaps Hill would've recalled Lee's orders to not bring on an engagement and backed off. Leading with artillery indicates to me Hill had no intention of avoiding an engagement.
To me, it demonstrates that Heth wasn't expecting any resistance. If he expected any kind of real contact, he would have had his infantry in front with the artillery supporting them if necessary.

Ryan
 

rpkennedy

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i believe someone alluded to this above - Without defending Hill's tactical handling of his men, didn't the ANV need Gettysburg to remain open to maintain the shortest line of communications with II Corps? If Hill had pulled up short, then the AoP could have consolidated its strong defensive position west of town and made coordination between the II and III Corps problematic.
Not really. Ewell was supposed to skirt north of Gettysburg and join the Third Corps at Cashtown. IIRC, on the morning of July 1, Rodes was just short of Arendtsville (pronounced Arntz-ville) with Early around Heidlersburg.

Ryan
 

Lincoln56

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I would imagine because it was Heth leading not Hill as far as I'm aware and you can correct me as my memory is a bit fuzzy but Hill was still in Cashtown and Heth was inexperienced at division command.

But yea very strange leading with artillery unless of course you know exactly what's in front of you.
You are correct @Scott1967 meant Heth not Hill.
 

ivanj05

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To me, it demonstrates that Heth wasn't expecting any resistance. If he expected any kind of real contact, he would have had his infantry in front with the artillery supporting them if necessary.

Ryan

I see your point here, but it raises a question in my work addled brain. If Heth, and presumably by extension Hill, expect little to no resistance, why send in two full brigades of infantry (Archer and Davis) plus artillery (Pegram)? Isn't that a fair amount of overkill, even for a reconnaissance in force?
 

Lubliner

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I see your point here, but it raises a question in my work addled brain. If Heth, and presumably by extension Hill, expect little to no resistance, why send in two full brigades of infantry (Archer and Davis) plus artillery (Pegram)? Isn't that a fair amount of overkill, even for a reconnaissance in force?
It sounds all contradictive to me. Heth being an advance to 'feel for the enemy' and develop his strength while scouting ahead, would have been worse off to stop dead and report without knowledge of his front with enemy contact. Especially since Lee needed that information due to being blind of his situation there. And by using cannon artillery and creating a show of force sounds like 'shock' treatment compared to a gradual wave of skirmishers. Besides not knowing all in his front, the artillery was a good signal that opposition had been met, and he was in the act of 'feeling the enemy'. It was only by luck that the Yankees were able to bring on an engagement by arriving on the field when they did. I think Heth did right. He shouldn't be held at fault for a show of force, and developing a situation he had to report upon. If those two Union Corps had been 3 hours later, Heth would have been praised.
Lubliner.
 

dennmorr

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Just to add on a bit, Ewell opted to detour his two divisions towards Gettysburg when he received reports of firing in that direction. One has to give him credit for making that choice which ultimately allowed him to get two-thirds of his corps onto the field on July 1.

Ryan
Would it be fair to say that Ewell brought on the general engagement?
 
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