Longstreet's Planned Reverse Attack on July 3rd

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Henry Hunt

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Longstreet's Planned Reverse Attack on July 3rd

"On the the following morning our arrangements were made for renewing the attack on my right, with the view of passing around the hill occupied by the enemy on his left, and to gain it by flank and reverse attack. This would have been a slow process, but I think not very difficult. A few moments after my orders for the execution of this plan were given, the commanding general joined me and ordered.... the assault to be made directly at the enemy's main position on Cemetery Hill." [1]

[1] The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Vol XXVII, pt 2, 359.
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924077728255&view=1up&seq=1
 
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rpkennedy

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@Henry Hunt. The above is an example, in my opinion, of why you don't have to be a lost cause supporter to fault Longstreet at Gettysburg.
In what way? Lee's instructions were to continue the fight on the right but didn't specify how that was supposed to happen. Longstreet, having seen marginal success in frontal assaults the previous day and having seen heavy reinforcements arrive on the south end of the field, didn't want to take that path. While I agree that Longstreet knew that this was not what Lee intended, Lee's vague orders gave Longstreet the discretion to think about a move to the right.

Ryan
 
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rpkennedy

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A what if:
If Longstreet had Picketts men up and could have extended the Confederate right on day 2, would that have been enough to overlap and break the federal left?
No, probably not. By the morning of July 3, Union troops held Little Round Top in strength, occupied Big Round Top, and had troops covering the rear near BRT. Throwing Pickett's Division out to the right would still require Law and McLaws to continue to attack again right into the teeth of a heavy force. It would have been ugly.

Ryan
 

Cavalier

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@rpkennedy Thanks for commenting. To explain my comment: It is my impression that Lee issued orders for a mutually supporting attack between several elements of his army, both infantry and artillery, of which Longstreet's was the most important because his attacking force was intended to breach the Union line. I believe the target of the attack by Longstreet's force was intended to be the Union troops to the Confederate left of the peach orchard, the Union center or there abouts, (there is also the theory that the actual target of the attack was the Eastern and Southern faces of Cemetery Hill, I believe).The attack was intended to take place in the morning. When Lee arrived at Longstreet's location on July 3rd. he finds no preparations for a morning attack as he had ordered, but instead is told that Longstreet has been scouting a way around big round top to strike the Union rear and has issued orders to execute that movement. That Longstreet would take it on his own to issue orders for an attack on a position so radically different from the one his commanding General desired, while realizing also that the attack was to take place in the morning, seems to be beyond the discretion normally allowed to a corps commander, even one in Lee's army. By taking it on his own to change the attack target without consulting the commanding genenal he is, it seems to me, also negating whatever advantage the artillery bombardment would give to the attackers, they would be softening up the wrong area. Longstreet has just changed the entire attack to something the army commander never intended. He could have discussed this with Lee on the evening of the 2nd., he didnt. The opinions I expressed above are those of a rank amateur. I am sure there are guys here on this forum who are experts! Sorry to be so long winded.
 
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Cavalier

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Correction to above. In my reference above to the theory that Cemetary Hill was the actual target of The PPT charge I should have said Western and Southern faces not Eastern and Southern faces. Sorry for the error.
 

ivanj05

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One thing to keep in mind here is the Union advantage of both numbers and interior lines. Given those two things, it would be very difficult for Longstreet to ever overlap the Union left, even with Pickett's division, while maintaining effective contact with Hill in the Confederate center.
 

WJC

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@Henry Hunt. The above is an example, in my opinion, of why you don't have to be a lost cause supporter to fault Longstreet at Gettysburg.
How so? It is a quote from his OR submitted to his CO....
It shows that Longstreet was preparing a particular plan of attack that was changed by Lee- something most everyone acknowledges.
 
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Henry Hunt

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A what if:
If Longstreet had Picketts men up and could have extended the Confederate right on day 2, would that have been enough to overlap and break the federal left?
Found another what if for you:

A.P. Hill: "When the attack on the left centre on the 3rd day at Gettysburg was determined on, I begged General Lee to let me take in my whole Army Corps. He refused, and said what remains of your corps will be my only reserve, and it will be needed if Gen'l Longstreet attack should fail." [1]

Its curious that A.P. Hill after being effectively AWOL for the past two days suddenly wanted to gamble everything....

[1] Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 41 (Richmond: Elliot Jones’ Sons Inc, 1916), pg 40.
https://books.google.com/books?id=3TDGhFAo60kC&pg=PA40&dq=#v=onepage&q&f=false




 

Cavalier

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@WJC. It is my impression that Longstreet knew that his plan was not the attack that Lee intended and that the attacks were supposed to come off in the morning. I believe he further knew that other elements of the army were issued orders that were designed to support his attack, (Ewells attack on the Union right and the artillery bombardment). He didn't consult his commanding General in planning an attack and issuing orders to implement that attack that were not what his commanding General intended and would have drastically altered what his commanding General did intended. In my opinion, and that's all it is,Longstreets action, in this case
 

Cavalier

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@WJC. Sorry for the interruption, once again my lack of computer skills kicks in. To continue........... Longstreet's action, in this case, exceeds, in my opinion, the leeway a corps commander has in interpreting his commanding General orders. His actions here result in a long delay and an attack that is not the attack envisioned by Lee. It's the lack of consulting with Lee that bothers me
the most. I appreciate you comments and of course it's all just my opinion.
 
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Rick Richter

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@WJC. Sorry for the interruption, once again my lack of computer skills kicks in. To continue........... Longstreet's action, in this case, exceeds, in my opinion, the leeway a corps commander has in interpreting his commanding General orders. His actions here result in a long delay and an attack that is not the attack envisioned by Lee. It's the lack of consulting with Lee that bothers me
the most. I appreciate you comments and of course it's all just my opinion.
There is no evidence to support the idea that Lee ordered Longstreet to attack in the morning. That came from post-war anti-Longstreet factions. Lee's orders were also general in nature and gave Longstreet the usual leeway to do what he thought best. Longstreet said as much in his report, which Lee endorsed without any issues
 
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Henry Hunt

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There is no evidence to support the idea that Lee ordered Longstreet to attack in the morning. That came from post-war anti-Longstreet factions. Lee's orders were also gen8in nature and gave Longstreet the usual leeway to do what he thought best. Longstreet said as much in his report, which Lee endorsed without any issues
The idea of a morning attack comes from the memoirs of Porter Alexander and Walter Taylor. They as you noted are anti-Longstreet partisans, you can either chose to believe them or not. Its ashame that most of the eye witnesses to the event are writing with an agenda.
 

Rick Richter

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Interestingly, Alexander reversed himself in Fighting for the Confederacy, doubting that a morning attack order had been given. In his annotated edition, Gary Gallgher agrees with Harry Pfanz that no order had been given for a morning attack. Rather, Lee's order to Longstreet was given at about 11 AM, and Longstreet was then given permission to wait for the arrival of Law's brigade (see Pfanz, Gettysburg, the Second Day, p. 111-112). Lee was certainly impatient that morning for the attack to begin, but he had not given orders for the attack to be initiated in the morning. This is on the second day's battle. On the third day, Pickett's division had to arrive before an attack could be made, and no orders were given to this effect the night before.
 
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Henry Hunt

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Interestingly, Alexander reversed himself in Fighting for the Confederacy, doubting that a morning attack order had been given.
Thanks, then that leaves Taylor. It would have made sense for Longstreet to fight in conjunction with Ewell that morning. However I have yet to see any solid information that Lee ordered this. Meade's spoiling attack at Culp's Hill on the 3rd day surely played a role in disrupting things. I'm also still uncertain as to why the PPT charge was unsupported by more units from Longstreet or A.P. Hill. The charge as it was made on July 3rd simply makes no sense without Anderson or McLaws following up the attack.

Taylor: "Longstreet reinforced by Pickett's three brigades, which arrived near the battlefield during the afternoon of the 2nd, was order to attack the next morning; and General Ewell was directed to assault the enemy's right at the same time."[1]

[1] Walter Taylor, Four Years With General Lee. (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1878), p. 102.
https://archive.org/details/fouryearswithge00tayl/page/102
 
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Rick Richter

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Taylor appears to be revisionist in his writings, as part of the staunch pro-Lee, anti-Longstreet faction. See Hess' description of the preparations for Pickett's Charge that took place all through the morning of the 3rd; Lee was a full participant, not waiting at his headquarters stamping his feet for the assault to begin.[1]

[1] Earl J. Hess, Pickett's Charge: The Last Attack at Gettysburg (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), p. 22-27.
 

infomanpa

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A what if:
If Longstreet had Picketts men up and could have extended the Confederate right on day 2, would that have been enough to overlap and break the federal left?
No, probably not. By the morning of July 3, Union troops held Little Round Top in strength, occupied Big Round Top, and had troops covering the rear near BRT. Throwing Pickett's Division out to the right would still require Law and McLaws to continue to attack again right into the teeth of a heavy force. It would have been ugly.
Greywolf's question was regarding July 2. Do you think that Longstreet's attack would have been successful if he would have had Pickett up that day?
 
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A what if:
If Longstreet had Picketts men up and could have extended the Confederate right on day 2, would that have been enough to overlap and break the federal left?
A what if? What if any of the attacks launched by the Confederates had gone off as planned? Lee said in private if he could have just gotten all of his Corps to launched coordinated attacks like he planned the south would have been victors.
 

Henry Hunt

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A what if? What if any of the attacks launched by the Confederates had gone off as planned? Lee said in private if he could have just gotten all of his Corps to launched coordinated attacks like he planned the south would have been victors.
On Day 2 Rodes and Pender were the main problems. Rodes got stuck going through town and Pender went down wounded. If their divisions had of attacked with force I think they had a good chance of overrunning Howard's Corps and Cemetery Hill.
 
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