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

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
Just wondering, when you say ‘better communication between all CSA commanders’, are you thinking about Lee’s orders to his commanders or the way in which the various commanders passed on information?
I only ask because I’ve always felt that Lee wasn’t direct enough. In some respects, it’s probably a good quality that Lee trusted his commanders but I’ve always believed that some of his orders lacked clarity which left many officers indecisive. Longstreet certainly argued on more than one occasion that Lee’s orders lacked clarity, I’d read somewhere that Longstreet actually altered an order from Lee to Stuart because the order was to ambiguous.
Good point that you make.Jackson was the only commander who understood what Lee's strategy was ; Lee gave the orders but gave the commanders in the field the freedom as to how to accomplish what Lee wished.The reason it would be such was that his lieutenants where there in the field and therefor were able to adjust according to the situation which other than TJ I know of no other who was able to understand this approach.What Lee needed was a Chief of Staff who would explain the situation to the generals {This is what General wants you to do but use your discretion on how you accomplish it.}Longstreet was a great corp commander ,that was his levelof achievement.If he had the relation that Jackson and Lee established then he may have accomplished more at Gettysburg.Did he ever challenge Jackson as to orders.Then Jackson did not reveal his plans till the time of battle.
 

clebeurne

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May 18, 2019
May be someone can solve this dilemma which I find myself in; If Lee was a great general in the Union army why when he joined the Confederate army was he assigned a administrative desk job? If not for the death of Johnston at Shiloh when or how would he have been promoted to field command?This may be a large IF but I have not read of how he did receive his command of the ANV.Lee being a devote religious man he could say that Fate of God played its part in this,as to the outcome of all of his battles as it did with Jackson.The only answer could be of rank in the Union army,but the question if one has the best tool why use it digging ditches.Being a engineer prehabs he could have dug trenches along the Union and Southern lines as in WWI.Are engineers more defensive minded than infantry?Were not the battles he was most successful on defensive strategy? Imagine Lee placing his army in a defensive position with Mead on the high ground.any bets on who would either leave or be forced to attack first?What would Johnston have done?
Johnston would've sat and waited.
 

David H.

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Jul 11, 2019
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.
 

Carronade

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May be someone can solve this dilemma which I find myself in; If Lee was a great general in the Union army why when he joined the Confederate army was he assigned a administrative desk job? If not for the death of Johnston at Shiloh when or how would he have been promoted to field command?This may be a large IF but I have not read of how he did receive his command of the ANV.Lee being a devote religious man he could say that Fate of God played its part in this,as to the outcome of all of his battles as it did with Jackson.The only answer could be of rank in the Union army,but the question if one has the best tool why use it digging ditches.Being a engineer prehabs he could have dug trenches along the Union and Southern lines as in WWI.Are engineers more defensive minded than infantry?Were not the battles he was most successful on defensive strategy? Imagine Lee placing his army in a defensive position with Mead on the high ground.any bets on who would either leave or be forced to attack first?What would Johnston have done?

Prior to becoming Davis' advisor, Lee had commanded troops in western Virginia, where he was unable to achieve success, and in South Carolina and Georgia, where he organized defenses after the Union capture of Port Royal Sound in November 1861.

Lee received command of the ANV after Joseph Johnston was wounded at the battle of Seven Pines (it was Albert Sidney Johnston who was killed at Shiloh).
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
Prior to becoming Davis' advisor, Lee had commanded troops in western Virginia, where he was unable to achieve success, and in South Carolina and Georgia, where he organized defenses after the Union capture of Port Royal Sound in November 1861.

Lee received command of the ANV after Joseph Johnston was wounded at the battle of Seven Pines (it was Albert Sidney Johnston who was killed at Shiloh).
Was it Lee's own personality as a leader and his assurance of victory to his army that he was able to maintain this relationship even after a defeat that this army would follow him even to the final outcome or to continue if he order the continuation?Was it that the Northern military knew the character of Lee and it was that which provided Lee that ability to accomplish over generals of less daring,till Grant ?
 

War Horse

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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
It was a logical and despite move. Divide the enemy in the middle thus giving your army the advantage of flanking the two smaller forces. If successful we’d all be discussing the tactical brilliance of the battle instead of “My God what was he thinking”. JMHO
 

CowCavalry

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Aug 17, 2017
You must remember that Lee had acquired his experience under General Scott's command in Mexico as part of the Engineers. Lee did not lead men there en masse. Later in Indian country, he gained slowly the rank of leadership with limited actual experience. He was a qualified engineer, and a great mediator, and was used to bolster the southern coast at the outbreak of Civil War. (John Brown's raid aside, he proved his competence there.)
You could say that organizing the recruits and performing his duties under the President (Davis) were very skilled and meticulous procedures, and with so much clamor among generals for rank, his character would not allow him to bray along with others. He was quiet and patient and very observant, and the wounding of Johnston had occurred on the evening he and Davis together, had decided to visit the battle front. Timely and possibly a strong point of influence in his own beliefs, and others. Thanks,
(hoping my memory isn't faulty here).
Lubliner.
We should not forget that is was Scott who recommended Lee to be placed in command of the USA forces.
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
It was a logical and despite move. Divide the enemy in the middle thus giving your army the advantage of flanking the two smaller forces. If successful we’d all be discussing the tactical brilliance of the battle instead of “My God what was he thinking”. JMHO
THANK YOU for pointing this out.Most people take that one event and hang it on LEE as a great failure without considering the whole strategy for the battle.If there could have been a system of communication between the flanks and Longstreet prehabs Lee would have had time to alter Picketts movements .If fault is to be laid then lay it on the failure to take the mounds after going thought the town.With the Round Top the North was able to observe the movements of Confederate divisions at the field.Was it D,H.or A.P. Hill that halted his troops the first day which resulted in this infamous present for Mead.Then some say that it was the fact that Buford had climb into that steple and observe what and where Confederate troops were.Primary failure for the loss of the battle at Gettysburg was no communication brought on by the failure the first day of not taking Roundtop.Take that and there would have been no CHARGE and an open gate to where ever Lee wanted to visit.Question ;theory'If Lee and Longstreet would have defeated Meade ,did he have the force and ordnance to continue and was there any other force which may have halted ANV from touring the rest of that region .Lincoln would not have surrendered so would he have had to call Grant and the Western army to save the Union at risking losing that section of the Confederacy,Pretend that you were Lincoln.He would have left Sherman and Thomas in the WEST which could have held the WEST .WELL Mr President what would you do?How long would it take Grant to arrive in time to stop Lee from doing an 1812 on Washington or more,a rebellion in the Northeast?There on the first day is when Lee needed a General with a STONEWALL aptitude.and a Hanibal,
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
It was a logical and despite move. Divide the enemy in the middle thus giving your army the advantage of flanking the two smaller forces. If successful we’d all be discussing the tactical brilliance of the battle instead of “My God what was he thinking”. JMHO

Agreed.

Lee is most commonly criticized for making Picket's attack a frontal assault against the middle of the enemy's defensive line. Harsh critics argue that it should have been obvious that frontal assaults like that never worked during the Civil War. But, in truth, they sometimes did.

One example was the attack on Bragg's line on Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga. Sherman had been attacking the Confederate right and Hooker was attacking the Rebel left which left the middle part of the line weak as Bragg sent reinforcements to the right and left.

The situation at Gettysburg on the third day was much the same. Lee attacked the right and left ends of Mead's fishhook line on the second day while some of the echelon attack actually reached the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. In fact, Wright's Georgia Brigade actually broke the Union line near the "copse of trees" that would be Pickett's objective the next day. Wright was not able to hold his position because he was not supported on either his right or left. Apparently there was a breakdown in A. P. Hill's Corps that may have reflected Hill's illness.

In sum, Wright's success on the second day might have led Lee to realistically hope that Meade's line was weak in the center. Lee also realized that "it was now or never" for the ANV because to return to Virginia would likely cause the Confederacy to lose the war by attrition.
 

Pete Longstreet

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It was a logical and despite move. Divide the enemy in the middle thus giving your army the advantage of flanking the two smaller forces. If successful we’d all be discussing the tactical brilliance of the battle instead of “My God what was he thinking”. JMHO
I agree. If successful, that charge would have potentially changed the course of history. But it failed. And with that failure, the discussion is focused on why Lee ever made that charge and was it potentially the biggest mistake made by any general on either side.
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
I agree. If successful, that charge would have potentially changed the course of history. But it failed. And with that failure, the discussion is focused on why Lee ever made that charge and was it potentially the biggest mistake made by any general on either side.]}
All the best plans can be dismantled when a factor in the plans is either overlooked or the fate {forturn} must play her role in this event.The charge was successful ,the divisions made it to the line and even broke thought ,What occurred was the factor that Lee did not have the reserves to support the break and that Meade had the troops to fill the brench .Tnen ,Stuart meet with a bunch of Wolverine cavalry under Custer and was stalled in the rear from attacking from the rear.On the flanks neither side of the Union infantry would bend in fact they were reinforced to prevent that from occurring.Then prior, to the charge ,there was a massive cannonade from Palmerston and his artilarist which landed short of the walled in Union line while the Union artillerist did a massive cannon drill that would make Napoleon proud.If there was error made it was that Lee thought that the Union general and force that he was facing was of the same caliber as the last ones,and more important was that this was Pa,and not Va. and as his own soldiers had fought to protect their homefront so would these do the same."The enemy is here and I shall fight him HERE"Is this Lee being arrogant, overly optimistic or just a battle that was destined by fate Two of the largest armies that came to this ground to fight not a deciding of the war but a battle that would bring the horror of this war to the nation on both sides 'THIS HOLLOW GROUND,for the men of both sides .Lee would return resupply his ordnance ,recruit more soldiers ,and prepare for the next move by whoever Lincoln would send against his ANV.
 

Pete Longstreet

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All the best plans can be dismantled when a factor in the plans is either overlooked or the fate {forturn} must play her role in this event.The charge was successful ,the divisions made it to the line and even broke thought ,What occurred was the factor that Lee did not have the reserves to support the break and that Meade had the troops to fill the brench .Tnen ,Stuart meet with a bunch of Wolverine cavalry under Custer and was stalled in the rear from attacking from the rear.On the flanks neither side of the Union infantry would bend in fact they were reinforced to prevent that from occurring.Then prior, to the charge ,there was a massive cannonade from Palmerston and his artilarist which landed short of the walled in Union line while the Union artillerist did a massive cannon drill that would make Napoleon proud.If there was error made it was that Lee thought that the Union general and force that he was facing was of the same caliber as the last ones,and more important was that this was Pa,and not Va. and as his own soldiers had fought to protect their homefront so would these do the same."The enemy is here and I shall fight him HERE"Is this Lee being arrogant, overly optimistic or just a battle that was destined by fate Two of the largest armies that came to this ground to fight not a deciding of the war but a battle that would bring the horror of this war to the nation on both sides 'THIS HOLLOW GROUND,for the men of both sides .Lee would return resupply his ordnance ,recruit more soldiers ,and prepare for the next move by whoever Lincoln would send against his ANV.
The Confederates did make it to the "angle"... but I have to respectfully disagree with you. Just because they made it, doesn't mean it was a success. Pickett's charge was a failure, and is documented as such. I don't think you can refute facts that have been substantiated for over 150 years.
 

leftyhunter

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los angeles ca
The Confederates did make it to the "angle"... but I have to respectfully disagree with you. Just because they made it, doesn't mean it was a success. Pickett's charge was a failure, and is documented as such. I don't think you can refute facts that have been substantiated for over 150 years.
I hope we can all agree that Pickett's charge was unsuccessfull. The singular question is did Lee have a valid alternative to Pickett's charge.
After three days of heavy fighting the smaller AnV with no logistical support is facing a larger better supplied AoP plus assorted Pennsylvania milita.
If Lee can't somehow force the AoP from the field in one decisive blow then the AnV has to retreat and be constantly threatened by the AoP and will have a hard time obtaining food.
Pickett's charge was the only way to mount a decisive blow against the AoP.
No it didn't work out but it might of worked and Lee had to throw the dice.
Well anyway that's one argument in favor of Pickett's Charge has not a mistake but more of a necessary Hail Merry Pass.
Leftyhunter
 

War Horse

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All the best plans can be dismantled when a factor in the plans is either overlooked or the fate {forturn} must play her role in this event.The charge was successful ,the divisions made it to the line and even broke thought ,What occurred was the factor that Lee did not have the reserves to support the break and that Meade had the troops to fill the brench .Tnen ,Stuart meet with a bunch of Wolverine cavalry under Custer and was stalled in the rear from attacking from the rear.On the flanks neither side of the Union infantry would bend in fact they were reinforced to prevent that from occurring.Then prior, to the charge ,there was a massive cannonade from Palmerston and his artilarist which landed short of the walled in Union line while the Union artillerist did a massive cannon drill that would make Napoleon proud.If there was error made it was that Lee thought that the Union general and force that he was facing was of the same caliber as the last ones,and more important was that this was Pa,and not Va. and as his own soldiers had fought to protect their homefront so would these do the same."The enemy is here and I shall fight him HERE"Is this Lee being arrogant, overly optimistic or just a battle that was destined by fate Two of the largest armies that came to this ground to fight not a deciding of the war but a battle that would bring the horror of this war to the nation on both sides 'THIS HOLLOW GROUND,for the men of both sides .Lee would return resupply his ordnance ,recruit more soldiers ,and prepare for the next move by whoever Lincoln would send against his ANV.
There’s a lot of truth in what you’re saying. However there are a couple of factors that need a little cleaning up. Alexander’s guns overshot the Union position largely due to defective fuses used for the first time. Armistead’s breakthrough was minimal at best. The Union’s interior lines proved they could move large numbers of men effortlessly. Meade actually strengthened the Union center which plays into the (fortune) category. Lee had good reason to believe the center would be weak after attacking the flanks for two days. Unfortunately for Lee, Meade was no fool and anticipated Lee’s logical assumption.
At East Cavalry Field. Stuart was not attempting to attack the Union position from the rear. That is the old Carhart theory. He was simply keeping the Union Cavalry occupied by attempting to flank them. Gregg and his Wolverines did a magnificent job of besting J.E.B. A little side note. Custer was actually ordered to leave East Cavalry field but disobeyed those orders. Again playing into your (fortune) comment. As I recall, I don’t believe he was ever disciplined for disobeying those orders. There are a couple of great books out on the subject. They are “Protecting the Flank at Gettysburg” and “Plenty Of Blame to Go Around” by @Eric Wittenberg. I highly recommend both.
 
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David H.

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Jul 11, 2019
The idea that stuart was to attack the union rear is a myth.
This may belong i a different thread and it may have been discussed before:

What if there is no Pickett's charge on July 3rd and the ANV stays in place on Seminary Ridge? Does Meade attack? How long could Lee have waited for Meade to make a move, given his amount of food and ammunition?
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
The idea that stuart was to attack the union rear is a myth.
Then if he was not to do that ,then what was his assignment ?Was he to do the same movement that he did in the Peninsular campaign against McClellan?Did he git loss while doing this?Did Custer halt this or was there any other reason for his not completing this?Did Armistade or Pickett have any information as to Stuart's mission ,or did Longstreet not even know of this mission? Pickett or Armstead looks to the rear after the break in the line and no Stuart ,no calvary!That day would have been a good day to have had a balloon in the air or just someone high in a tree,
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
There’s a lot of truth in what you’re saying. However there are a couple of factors that need a little cleaning up. Alexander’s guns overshot the Union position largely due to defective fuses used for the first time. Armistead’s breakthrough was minimal at best. The Union’s interior lines proved they could move large numbers of men effortlessly. Meade actually strengthened the Union center which plays into the (fortune) category. Lee had good reason to believe the center would be weak after attacking the flanks for two days. Unfortunately for Lee, Meade was no fool and anticipated Lee’s logical assumption.
At East Cavalry Field. Stuart was not attempting to attack the Union position from the rear. That is the old Carhart theory. He was simply keeping the Union Cavalry occupied by attempting to flank them. Gregg and his Wolverines did a magnificent job of besting J.E.B. A little side note. Custer was actually ordered to leave East Cavalry field but disobeyed those orders. Again playing into your (fortune) comment. As I recall, I don’t believe he was ever disciplined for disobeying those orders. There are a couple of great books out on the subject. They are “Protecting the Flank at Gettysburg” and “Plenty Of Blame to Go Around” by @Eric Wittenberg. I highly recommend both.
May I recommend on NETFLIX a documentary''DEATH and the CIVIL WAR",This is a honest look at the horrors of the war on both sides and then the search and burial of the dead from the battle fields AFTER the war.The South had no Federal aid or funds in their search and burial ,thanks to the women and widows of the South this was done ,no National cemetery for them,At Gettysburg they were dumped in to pits and dirt thorn over{wonder if Lincoln knew of this ?Hollow Ground for these Southern men?As to Custer ,as one who had the personality to see himself as a McClellan this deserted him finally against Sitting BULL and Crazy Horse,should have follow orders EGO as big as Mc's
 

thomas aagaard

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Then if he was not to do that ,then what was his assignment ?
His job was to cover the flank of the army.

Here is a link to a presentation about it by Eric Wittenberg.

But to quote him from a topic about it:

I don't have time to give a lengthy response--I have to give a lecture on Buford at Gettysburg today.

Simply put, there is not so much as a shred of evidence to suggest that Stuart's presence was anything but what he and Lee both explicitly said, which is that the Confederate cavalry was there to guard the flank. Perhaps I will have more time later today to expand.
 

rpkennedy

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Then if he was not to do that ,then what was his assignment ?Was he to do the same movement that he did in the Peninsular campaign against McClellan?Did he git loss while doing this?Did Custer halt this or was there any other reason for his not completing this?Did Armistade or Pickett have any information as to Stuart's mission ,or did Longstreet not even know of this mission? Pickett or Armstead looks to the rear after the break in the line and no Stuart ,no calvary!That day would have been a good day to have had a balloon in the air or just someone high in a tree,

Stuart was defending the army's left flank and reconnoitering what the Federal cavalry was up to. He referred to his actions in a defensive manner rather than an offensive attempt against the Union position.

Edit: Ninja-ed by @thomas aagaard.

Ryan
 
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