Discussion Opinions on Richard Ewell, Overly Maligned, Competent Commander?

rpkennedy

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I do not think that Ewell alone could've taken Cemetery Hill on the 1st of July. A joint attack from both his and Hill's corps would make more sense, but organizing it was a little above his pay grade. I may be wrong, but I think that General Lee himself was at that moment at the positions of 3rd corps and made no attempt to organize an attack on Cemetery Hill. Can we blame Ewell for not trying if Lee himself didn't try?
Ewell also recognized the importance of Culp Hill and gave Edward Johnson orders to attack it. Johnson, when he got there, incorrectly appraised the number of federal forces on the Culp Hill and didn't attack. Here we can scorn Ewell for failure to give more precise and deliberate orders to Johnson.

I agree what Ewell's performance on 1st of July was much better than it is usually painted. The problems of AoNV in Pennsylvania Campaign were a little above Ewell and came from the recent major reorganization. Some time was needed to make all officers and commanders (not excluding Gen. Lee) to accustom themselves to the new structure.
Ewell offered to attempt an attack if Hill would support him but Lee told Ewell that he would be on his own. Ewell was left to make the call.

Ryan
 

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chucksr

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Early attacked East Cemetery Hill on the evening of the 2nd and almost carried the day--even after the Union forces had had a full day to strengthen the position.
That alone makes an argument that a Ewell attack on the evening of the 1st might have been successful.
Still you have the mysterious matter of that "Union force" out on York Rd. to the east that first afternoon--apparently the "sighting" of Union forces on his left also kept Ewell from making further attacks on the 1st.
I don't think that matter is taken into consideration when critics of Ewell's performance at Gettysburg make the claim of "what might have been".
 

NedBaldwin

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He is underappreciated.

Jackson became famous for the 1862 Valley campaign.
Ewell was a critical part of it.
According to some sources, it was Ewell's idea to move up the Luray Valley and attack Front Royal instead of attacking Strasburg head on.
Ewell's division fought Front Royal and did the significant fighting at Winchester.
It was Ewell who held off Fremont at Strasburg, Harrisonburg and Cross Keyes.
It was Ewell who saved Jackson at Port Republic (Tanner: "Ewell salvaged the day").
 

OpnCoronet

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IMO, Ewell's place in the history of the Civil War, is pretty accurate. not the best Corps Commander, but no one better in the ANV(or I think Lee would have replaced him after Gettysburg, if he had anyone better).

Ewell and Hill, too often fail in comparison with T.J. Jackson, whom they both replaced. But, as noted above, there was no one better in the ANV, to replace them, which, I think, says more about the ANV than it does those officers. After all, are they to blame, for not being another Jackson?
 
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I've read that desire to go west from Longstreet but never from Ewell
As previously alluded too by @novushomus I think Johnston might have contemplated bringing in Ewell a few times. Pfanz describes Johnston as a "friend" and someone who had "high regard" for Ewell's abilities. The time in particular I was referring too was winter 63-64. Longstreet after Knoxville campaign asked to be relieved and Ewell wanted to take over for him. Lee and Davis seem to have persuaded Ewell from taking up the venture due to his health. Ewell remarked "I am sorry I was not sent to East Tennessee, my health was plenty good enough"

Early attacked East Cemetery Hill on the evening of the 2nd and almost carried the day--even after the Union forces had had a full day to strengthen the position.
That alone makes an argument that a Ewell attack on the evening of the 1st might have been successful.
.
My question to anyone is did Union strength decrease on Cemetery Hill between afternoon day 1 and 2? I know Meade pulled alot of men from Culp's Hill area leaving only Greene, did he also reduce strength on Cemetery?

I also found Hancock's perspective for reference: "When I arrived on the field about 3:00 pm or between that and 3:30 pm, I found the fighting over, the rear of our troops were hurrying through the town pursued by the Confederates.There was an attempt to reform some of the 11th Corps as they passed over Cemetery Hill but it had not been very successful. I presume there may have been one thousand or twelve hundred organized troops of that corps in position on the hill." had the rebels pursued they could have pushed "over and beyond Cemetery Hill". However he said that by 4:00 pm he had built up the position and "I do not think the Confederate force then present could have carried it out"
 
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MHB1862

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Ewell was indeed a victim of the Lost Cause rhetoric. Jubal Early was a brilliant lawyer and writer. Ewell did not stand a chance against Early's acerbic pen and tongue.
That said, it occurs to me that when Ewell assumed command of Jackson's old Corps he did so thoroughly unaccustomed to Lee's command style. Jackson exercised the widest possible latitude with Lee's discretionary orders. Ewell tended to be more comfortable with direct orders, especially given how new he was to command at that level.
The criticisms leveled at Ewell over Gettysburg have become accepted fact. The truth is more complicated. Could he have taken the hill? Maybe so, but he was not the only officer with reservations. Rodes too was oddly cautious that day. No one on the left was showing much leadership that afternoon.
Ewell's performance at the Wilderness was outstanding. Maybe partly because he was in a stand up fight with a clear mission. There was not much need for him or anybody else in his chain of command to contemplate what had to be done. Yet, he and Early both failed to listen to Gordon.
Then comes Spotsylvania. He lost control of himself and Lee was having none of it. Relieving him was without question the right decision. I don't think Lee made that decision lightly and Ewell certainly did not make it easy for him. Lee handled it firmly and with compassion but it was time for Ewell go.
 

WJC

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Opinions on Richard Ewell, Overly Maligned, Competent Commander?
What's your opinion? Do you think he is overly maligned? Was he a competent commander? How does he compare to Lee's other top commanders such as Longstreet, Jackson, A.P. Hill, Gordon, Early and Anderson?
My opinion has been- and remains- that Ewell was "a competent commander", but not a great commander. He most certainly does not belong in the company of Longstreet and Jackson.
When considering his performance at Gettysburg, it is important to remember that Lee was ultimately responsible for the defeat.
 

WJC

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The reputation of all the Confederate commanders seems to decline due to events beginning in July 1863. Why is that?:unsure:
The same reason that NFL teams are considered great and on their way to a perfect season- until their first loss. Suddenly they must prove they really are 'the real deal'....
 
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His removal at Spotsylvania was about his mental condition, not physical. He was whacking retreating soldiers with the blunt of his sword and Lee got very upset about that behavior.
As noted in these posts, I think Ewell was a solid, competent commander, whose historical legacy is unfortunately framed by the "Lost Cause" proponents who blamed him for failing to assault Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg. It also didn't help his historical reputation that his physical condition caused Lee to remove him from corps command after Spotsylvania.
Then comes Spotsylvania. He lost control of himself and Lee was having none of it. Relieving him was without question the right decision. I don't think Lee made that decision lightly and Ewell certainly did not make it easy for him. Lee handled it firmly and with compassion but it was time for Ewell go.
I looked into this a little more and it actually seems a bit murky why he was ultimately removed. The sword incident must have irked Lee but Ewell didn't officially leave command until May 27-29th when he fell ill. When Ewell recovered a short while later, Lee seemed hesitant to bring him back and wanted to give Early a chance. So Ewell was sent off to Richmond for the time being.
 

Jamieva

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I looked into this a little more and it actually seems a bit murky why he was ultimately removed. The sword incident must have irked Lee but Ewell didn't officially leave command until May 27-29th when he fell ill. When Ewell recovered a short while later, Lee seemed hesitant to bring him back and wanted to give Early a chance. So Ewell was sent off to Richmond for the time being.
My opinion, but if the Spotsylvania incident had not happened, I think Ewell would have been restored to command of the corps.
 
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Yet, he and Early both failed to listen to Gordon.
Gordon said his planned attack would of "resulted in a crushing defeat of General Grant's army." It was an interesting idea though Pfanz dismisses it. What do you all think of the attacks potential? Gordon goes over the plan in some detail starting on end of pg 245 below:
https://archive.org/stream/reminiscencesofc00ingord#page/244/mode/2up

My opinion, but if the Spotsylvania incident had not happened, I think Ewell would have been restored to command of the corps.
I would agree, it was surely a major factor in Lee's decision.
 

rpkennedy

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Ewell was indeed a victim of the Lost Cause rhetoric. Jubal Early was a brilliant lawyer and writer. Ewell did not stand a chance against Early's acerbic pen and tongue.
That said, it occurs to me that when Ewell assumed command of Jackson's old Corps he did so thoroughly unaccustomed to Lee's command style. Jackson exercised the widest possible latitude with Lee's discretionary orders. Ewell tended to be more comfortable with direct orders, especially given how new he was to command at that level.
The criticisms leveled at Ewell over Gettysburg have become accepted fact. The truth is more complicated. Could he have taken the hill? Maybe so, but he was not the only officer with reservations. Rodes too was oddly cautious that day. No one on the left was showing much leadership that afternoon.
Ewell's performance at the Wilderness was outstanding. Maybe partly because he was in a stand up fight with a clear mission. There was not much need for him or anybody else in his chain of command to contemplate what had to be done. Yet, he and Early both failed to listen to Gordon.
Then comes Spotsylvania. He lost control of himself and Lee was having none of it. Relieving him was without question the right decision. I don't think Lee made that decision lightly and Ewell certainly did not make it easy for him. Lee handled it firmly and with compassion but it was time for Ewell go.
Rodes was sick just prior to and during the battle. That helps to explain his lackluster performance.

As for Gordon, much of his argument about the Wilderness comes long after the war. The contemporary evidence of him railing for an attack is sketchier.

Ryan
 

Jamieva

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Rodes was sick just prior to and during the battle. That helps to explain his lackluster performance.

As for Gordon, much of his argument about the Wilderness comes long after the war. The contemporary evidence of him railing for an attack is sketchier.

Ryan
And remember that Rodes account of him wanting to attack at the Wildnerness makes him look really, really good. So that and the time from the event makes it super sketchy to rely on.
 

rpkennedy

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And remember that Rodes account of him wanting to attack at the Wildnerness makes him look really, really good. So that and the time from the event makes it super sketchy to rely on.
If I remember Rhea correctly, Gordon is the only source for his argument to attack earlier than they did and it's from years after the battle. There's no denying, Gordon knew how to spin a good yarn.

Ryan
 
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Jamieva

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If I remember Rhea correctly, Gordon is the only source for his argument to attack earlier than they did and its from years after the battle. There's no denying, Gordon knew how to spin a good yarn.

Ryan

Correct on all accounts. Other historians aside from Rhea have used it for years without questioning it in any way
 

rpkennedy

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The reputation of all the Confederate commanders seems to decline due to events beginning in July 1863. Why is that?:unsure:
The Confederates had a couple of bad days and the Army of the Potomac fought the battle of the war. Many of those who came up short at Gettysburg would do well after the battle.

Ryan
 

WJC

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If I remember Rhea correctly, Gordon is the only source for his argument to attack earlier than they did and it's from years after the battle. There's no denying, Gordon knew how to spin a good yarn.

Ryan
Gordon was a brave, aggressive soldier. After the war he had success as a politician. In both roles, he seems to have been not the least reluctant to promote himself and exaggerate his role....
 


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