Pickett’s charge, Lee should have used cold reasoning.

Waterloo50

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#1
4724211B-67E4-4EB8-99BD-1F90591C1B1C.jpeg

Picture:https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/george-edward-pickett

It’s been said that Lee believed in his own hubris, that he was over confident and relied on vintage Napoleonic tactics. He supposedly placed to much faith in the potency of his men.

An intresting article written on behalf of the Centre for technology and national security policy, National defence university explores Lee’s approach to Gettysburg and in particular Picketts Charge. Enjoy.

https://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/defensehorizon/DH-054.pdf?ver=2016-11-15-092816-290
 

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jackt62

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#2
Very interesting article. But I think that the actual facts spelled out in the analysis belie the overall conclusion that Lee "blundered" or made a "mistake" in ordering the charge. I say that because the plan of attack as described in the analysis was in fact, brilliant, and could very well have succeeded had all the moving parts fallen into line. In other words, this was not an irrational throw of the dice by Lee that lacked any thoughtful consideration and preparation. As described, Lee would throw a fresh division (Pickett) against a weakened Union center, while committing other forces to simultaneous flank attacks by Ewell and part of Longstreet's corps, a force (Hill) to support any breakthrough, a preliminary artillery barrage, and a mobile cavalry force (Stuart) to create havoc in the Union rear. So the plan was good, even though it relied on precise coordination and clockwork. Lee certainly believed his troops had the wherewithal to carry it out. But the failure was in the execution by the senior command; Stuart, AP Hill, Longstreet, Ewell all contributed their own parts in causing the charge to fail. Whether the plan was too complicated for success is certainly possible, but that doesn't negate the fact that Lee put considerable care into developing the attack plan.
 
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#3
View attachment 307940
Picture:https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/george-edward-pickett

It’s been said that Lee believed in his own hubris, that he was over confident and relied on vintage Napoleonic tactics. He supposedly placed to much faith in the potency of his men.

An intresting article written on behalf of the Centre for technology and national security policy, National defence university explores Lee’s approach to Gettysburg and in particular Picketts Charge. Enjoy.

https://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/defensehorizon/DH-054.pdf?ver=2016-11-15-092816-290
I have just read the first few paragraphs but will finish the article.
One main point is that the author's contention that "Lee doomed the Confederacy " by trying to execute Pickett's Charge is highly questionable.
By July 1863 the Confederacy had long since lost its most important port New Orleans.V Vicksburg was about to fall and with it of course the Union controls the Mississippi River. The Emancipation Proclamation was in full swing has was recruitment of the USCT.
General Rosecrans was building up his forces in Central Tennessee with no attempt by General Bragg to mount a preemptive strike. Lee must of know that soon Rosecrans was going to mount a large scale invasion to oust the Confederacy from Tennessee and then invade either Georgia or North Carolina.
Also Lee had no choice on attacking the Union center. A large army deep in enemy territory with no logistical support can't have an even larger army surround them and choke off their food sources.
Leftyhunter
 

Northern Light

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#4
Very interesting article. But I think that the actual facts spelled out in the analysis belie the overall conclusion that Lee "blundered" or made a "mistake" in ordering the charge. I say that because the plan of attack as described in the analysis was in fact, brilliant, and could very well have succeeded had all the moving parts fallen into line. In other words, this was not an irrational throw of the dice by Lee that lacked any thoughtful consideration and preparation. As described, Lee would throw a fresh division (Pickett) against a weakened Union center, while committing other forces to simultaneous flank attacks by Ewell and part of Longstreet's corps, a force (Hill) to support any breakthrough, a preliminary artillery barrage, and a mobile cavalry force (Stuart) to create havoc in the Union rear. So the plan was good, even though it relied on precise coordination and clockwork. Lee certainly believed his troops had the wherewithal to carry it out. But the failure was in the execution by the senior command; Stuart, AP Hill, Longstreet, Ewell all contributed their own parts in causing the charge to fail. Whether the plan was too complicated for success is certainly possible, but that doesn't negate the fact that Lee put considerable care into developing the attack plan.
Well, as an experienced general, Lee was also aware that you can make the best plan in the world, but when you hand it to your subordinates, you no longer have control and the plan can fall apart rapidly. Good plans also require some contingency plans and rapid recalulation when plans fall apart. Did Lee change or revise any of his plans?
 
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#6
Well, as an experienced general, Lee was also aware that you can make the best plan in the world, but when you hand it to your subordinates, you no longer have control and the plan can fall apart rapidly. Good plans also require some contingency plans and rapid recalulation when plans fall apart. Did Lee change or revise any of his plans?
General Von Moltke has been quoted depending on the translation " no plan survives contact with the enemy" or " no plan survives the first shot".
Assuming the figures quoted in the article are accurate an offensive force of 75k men should fail if confronting 90k men
Yes there are exceptions to the rule but the general rule is an offensive force should outnumber the defenders by a ratio of three to one.
Not sure if Lee even had an alternative to Pickett's Charge.
Leftyhunter
 
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#7
Perhaps he should have heeded Longstreets's plan/warning all along....
Maybe but if a smaller offensive army is confronting a larger better equipped defensive army and the offensive army has no secure supply line then said offensive army needs to defeat the defensive army quickly. Basically Lee had once again created Antietam 2.0. Once Lee is deep in enemy territory his choice is either retreat or somehow mount a quick and decisive victory to defeat his larger foe.
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#8
Their narrative about Lee's attack on July 3rd is flat-out wrong. Lee's initial plan for that day was a repeat of the attacks of July 2nd: Ewell was to attack Culp's Hill and Longstreet was supposed to reinforce his position with Pickett's Division and attack the Union right. Unfortunately for him, 2 things upset these plans. At first light, Union troops on Culp's Hill launched a series of attacks against Ewell's positions that resulted in serious fighting for some 6 hours and Ewell's retreat from the hill. In addition, Longstreet did not call up Pickett's Division early and was preparing to move further south against the Union flank rather than a continuation of his axis of attack. So, early in the morning of the 3rd, Lee's plan had to be scrapped. With his expectations and plans gone, he eventually came up with what would become Longstreet's Assault.

In addition, they posit that Stuart was supposed to ride into the Union rear and cause chaos. Rather, Lee ordered him off to the left to defend Lee's own rear from cavalry which had been skirmishing out in that direction since the 2nd. This activity was what led to the Stonewall Brigade being left out of the fighting for Culp's Hill on the evening of the 2nd because without cavalry, these infantrymen were needed to keep the cavalry back.

IMO, what Lee came up with for July 3rd was absolutely a roll of the dice but Lee wouldn't throw his men away without at least some inkling of success. With what he knew, it was a reasonable risk.

Ryan
 
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#10
View attachment 307940
Picture:https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/george-edward-pickett

It’s been said that Lee believed in his own hubris, that he was over confident and relied on vintage Napoleonic tactics. He supposedly placed to much faith in the potency of his men.

An intresting article written on behalf of the Centre for technology and national security policy, National defence university explores Lee’s approach to Gettysburg and in particular Picketts Charge. Enjoy.

https://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/defensehorizon/DH-054.pdf?ver=2016-11-15-092816-290
I always argued that Lee had no choice but to invade Pennsylvania. As mentioned by June of 1863 the situation at Vicksburg was not looking good. General Rosecrans most definitely will mount a major offensive it's just a matter of where and when. Also while Lee certainly achieved a major victory at Chancellorsville the AnV had suffered heavy loss's and what if next time General Hooker's subordinates actually become more competent I.e. ignore Jackson's attack on XXI Corps even though General Howard had plenty of warning.
If Lee just twiddles his thumps in Northern Virginia eventually many of his men will be sent West to assist General Bragg and the AoT. Eventually the AoP will mount another offensive. MN Lee knows he needed more men and per Steven Sears book on Gettysburg requested troops that were garrisoned outside New Berne , North Carolina. However President Davis rightly concluded if he weakened the Confederate Army near New Berne the General Burnside could attack the vital rail junction at Goldsboro and work his way north and cut off Richmond from vital food stuffs from North Carolina.
Leftyhunter
 

WJC

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#12
Thanks for sharing this essay.
I find it somewhat disappointing, primarily because the authors unquestionably rely on many of the myths that have pervaded the literature for 150 years. We find the same old, timid McClellan, the "race" to Gettysburg, Lee's failure to appreciate the advantage of the placement and number of the U. S. Artillery. Even though we can agree that Stuart's absence severely disadvantaged Lee in the days leading up to the battle on July 1, 1863, they emphasize it as a crucial detriment on July 2, 1863. Similarly, they completely ignore the facts concerning July 3.
Their analysis of Lee's decision making and his state of mind are far more enlightening. This- not the shoddy background information- give the essay whatever value it has.
 
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#13
View attachment 307940
Picture:https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/george-edward-pickett

It’s been said that Lee believed in his own hubris, that he was over confident and relied on vintage Napoleonic tactics. He supposedly placed to much faith in the potency of his men.

An intresting article written on behalf of the Centre for technology and national security policy, National defence university explores Lee’s approach to Gettysburg and in particular Picketts Charge. Enjoy.

https://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/defensehorizon/DH-054.pdf?ver=2016-11-15-092816-290
I would argue that the author's of the article don't understand the concept of what former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said"You go to war with the army you have".
As I stated earlier the AnV can't outnumber their opponents three to one. Logistics even for their outnumbered troops is a huge issue. The rest of the Confederacy is not doing that well. Sooner or later Union troops from the West will if they are successful in the West ( as of June 1863 they certainly were) they will eventually redeploy to Virginia.
Time is not on the side of the Confederacy. Lee has achieved a major if costly victory at Chancellorsville but he knows the AoP will recruit more men and make another offensive. Lee also knows victory in war always is achieved on the offensive.
Lee has to make a huge gamble.
Leftyhunter
 
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#14
I would argue that the author's of the article don't understand the concept of what former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said"You go to war with the army you have".
As I stated earlier the AnV can't outnumber their opponents three to one. Logistics even for their outnumbered troops is a huge issue. The rest of the Confederacy is not doing that well. Sooner or later Union troops from the West will if they are successful in the West ( as of June 1863 they certainly were) they will eventually redeploy to Virginia.
Time is not on the side of the Confederacy. Lee has achieved a major if costly victory at Chancellorsville but he knows the AoP will recruit more men and make another offensive. Lee also knows victory in war always is achieved on the offensive.
Lee has to make a huge gamble.
Leftyhunter
I agree that an invasion had become necessary for Lee. Davis had already felt out Lee about sending troops west while the AoNV held the line in Virginia and if Lee wanted to keep his army together, he had to take the offensive. Not to mention that in spite of all of his victories, Lee had only managed to maintain the status quo. He had to pull the AotP out of Virginia and beat it elsewhere, hopefully in such a manner as to at least take a few steps towards a more lasting victory. An invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania opened the door for that opportunity.

Ryan
 
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#16
Like you said earlier....Retreat.... Live to fight another day....
True and in 20/20 hindsight that would be the correct move.
The counter argument is what if the AoP catch's up to the retreating AnV. Also an undefeated AoP will make another offensive into Virginia sooner or later.
Lee is certainly in a tough dilemma the classic darned if you do and darned if you don't.
Leftyhunter
 

Tom Elmore

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#17
Two things stood out for me in the article. The first: "If Lee's inclination to attack was strong enough to forego serious analysis of all options, it would not be reversed because conditions were not ideal." We know Lee was an aggressive and usually calculated gambler, but on July 3 he uncharacteristically over-played his hand and, given his less than stellar cards, should have instead folded rather than gone "all-in."

The other was that Meade placed his best corps commander (Hancock) at the exact place where Pickett charged. Indeed, Hancock helped foil Lee's plans on July 2 with a portion of his corps, and he was instrumental in defeating Lee's plans on July 3. In my opinion, Hancock deserves the lion's share of the Union victory at Gettysburg. However, Meade did not place Hancock there. It was more just the luck of the draw that Hancock's corps wound up in that open position, where the full powers of Hancock's forceful commanding presence and decisive decision-making were strongly felt over the entire center and left-center of Meade's line.
 

jackt62

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#19
Well, as an experienced general, Lee was also aware that you can make the best plan in the world, but when you hand it to your subordinates, you no longer have control and the plan can fall apart rapidly. Good plans also require some contingency plans and rapid recalulation when plans fall apart. Did Lee change or revise any of his plans?
Your are correct. Lee can be faulted for both lacking a well running staff organization, and not providing enough oversight over the staff he did have. Overall, Lee's management technique was too much of a "hands off" approach, particularly when dealing with his senior generals, who in the case of post Stonewall Jackson, needed more supervision than Lee was willing or able to give.
 

dlofting

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#20
Your are correct. Lee can be faulted for both lacking a well running staff organization, and not providing enough oversight over the staff he did have. Overall, Lee's management technique was too much of a "hands off" approach, particularly when dealing with his senior generals, who in the case of post Stonewall Jackson, needed more supervision than Lee was willing or able to give.
Very true and it took the battle of Gettysburg for Lee to learn this lesson.
 



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