Law's "Old Third" Brigade - Another Gettysburg "What If?"

Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Jun 1, 2018
Northern Alabama
"What ifs" are sometimes interesting, but can get old in discussion pretty fast, at least for me. But one I don't recall ever having seen posed with respect to Gettysburg involves assuming an aspect of the reorganization of Hood's Division hadn't taken place following Antietam. Like all "what ifs," it involves the assumption of a domino series of events not taking place and taking place such as Jefferson Davis not wanting to give his nephew a brigadier generalship and a (mainly) Mississippi brigade to command; that Law was still promoted to brigadier as actually happened but that instead of adding more Alabama regiments to the 4th that was already in the Old Third, that he kept the original composition...2nd and 11th Mississippi, 6th North Carolina State Troops, and 4th Alabama. This brigade, although of "mixed" state origin, was arguably one of the hardest hitting veteran brigades in Lee's army. And this is not meant to disparage Law's new all Alabama brigade in any way, nor it's performance on July 2nd, but just pondering "what if." What if it had been the Old Third instead attacking up Little Round Top? Would it have possibly made a difference? What if it had been the the one of the other regiments in the Old Third attacking into the teeth of the 20th Maine's defense on Little Round Top that day? The 4th Alabama instead of the 15th for instance, or the 2nd or 11th Mississippi, or the 6th North Carolina? Would it have mattered? Just some random thoughts...
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Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Feb 18, 2013
Hoover, Alabama
I don't think it makes a difference. The federals defensive position was very strong. To me, it's like saying if another brigade had charged the wall at the foot of Marye's Heights, the attack would have been successful. Solid defensive positions are hard to overcome... no matter who's making the charge.
I agree, if you use the assumption that the Union had large numbers of troops waiting behind the lines and that they could move them relatively easily to wherever they were needed; taking the hill became a moot point. It is often much easier to take a hill than it is to hold it.

Gettysburg Guide #154

Member of the Month
Dec 30, 2019
If you assume that the right two regiments in Law's line would still need to move by the left flank to fill the space in the middle of Robertson's Brigade, then we probably have about even numbers in the fight against the 20th Maine. In a fight with even numbers, I like the defenders on the higher ground every time.