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

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
Say what?

The Army of Northern Virginia was nowhere near the Round Tops on day one and was not in a position to take them. You're confusing them for Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill. Lee gave Ewell discretionary orders to take Culp's Hill "if practicable," and Ewell determined that it was not practicable for his fought-out soldiers. That was his discretion. Again, that's Lee's responsibility for giving discretionary rather than mandatory orders.

And your "analysis"--if we can call it that--is based on a false assumption, which is that Meade would have stood and fought at Gettysburg if the ANV had taken those two pieces of high ground on July 1. Had it done so, Meade would have retreated to the Pipe Creek Line in Maryland, the big battle would have been at Taneytown, Maryland--the only low spot on the Pipe Creek Line, which made Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg look like a speed bump in a parking lot--if at all, and the Battle of Gettysburg would have been a skirmish between two corps of the AoP and a corps and a half of the ANV.
I do thank you for correcting my lack of knowledge of the battlefield.As a descendant of the Confederacy could you possible give me a way in which Lee could have been victorious at Gettysburg,besides taking Longstreet's suggestion and leave this ground since he remembered Fredericksburg? The big question for me is was the Charge necessary considering the amount of men that such a charge into a cannonade would coast the ANV and then with no reinforcements to follow'There is a story that Pickett at the line looked to the rear and no reinforcements had come up.Was there to be reinforcements My problem is I still dream of ways Lee could have won and the only way would have been to move around Mead or retreat ,How about move the artiliary to the front and then one massive attack on Hancock then around the rear?Like I said but the truth is that this battle really had no other outcome.Lee on the third day attempted with one minute a HAIL MARY and the hand of Fortune;Fate slapped it down, NETFLIX=DEATH and the CIVIL WAR enjoy
 

JKT

Private
Joined
Mar 31, 2017
We’re all “Monday morning QB’s” here. (Disclaimer: always been a fan of old Pete Longstreet, who was there..& of course, after the war, was treated shabbily by the Lost Cause Virginians because of his politics). So rather than cast blame on the “Marble Man”, as Shelby Foote called him, rather, as Foote also said: something to the effect that..Gettysburg was the price the South had to pay for Lee’s offensive fervor (ie. “when he gets his blood up”).
 

CowCavalry

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 17, 2017
The Army of the Potomac was fighting better than Lee had any reason to anticipate. After the first day, McClellan would have retreated, no telling what kind of blunder Burnside would have committed, Hooker could be relied upon to loose his nerve, but this time the AoP was not turning tail after the first setback. When the AoP did not pull out during the night of the second day, Lee was out of options. That must have been maddening. Nothing, absolutely nothing was working the way Lee intended it to go.
Upon the intel that Meade was in command, Lee was reported to have said something to the effect of "he will make no mistake in our front and if we make one in his, he will whip us", so no, Lee did not underestimate Meade or the AOP.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
We’re all “Monday morning QB’s” here. (Disclaimer: always been a fan of old Pete Longstreet, who was there..& of course, after the war, was treated shabbily by the Lost Cause Virginians because of his politics). So rather than cast blame on the “Marble Man”, as Shelby Foote called him, rather, as Foote also said: something to the effect that..Gettysburg was the price the South had to pay for Lee’s offensive fervor (ie. “when he gets his blood up”).
I never was one to throw rocks at Lee as a military commander. In war one goes to war with the army they have and in war "stuff happens". War is less science then art.
Lee did the best he could he had no alternative but to go to Pennsylvania and his plan maybe could of worked but didn't. Such is war.
Leftyhunter
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Upon the intel that Meade was in command, Lee was reported to have said something to the effect of "he will make no mistake in our front and if we make one in his, he will whip us", so no, Lee did not underestimate Meade or the AOP.
I don't think we can cherry pick quotes on this one. Lee had, despite daunting odds & terrible losses, always had a psychological edge over the AoP. That was especially true of its commanders. As Napoleon said, the moral is to the material as three is to one. I have heard it argued by military historians, that at Gettysburg that moral ascendancy played to Meade's advantage. His army found a nice, safe place to deploy & stayed there. Lee's whole campaign was predicated on maneuvering the AoP into a defense of Washington. A defeat there would expose Washington to threat or capture. That was worth fighting for. A battle in nowhere Pennsylvania was empty of strategic impact.

As history has shown, Civil War armies were incapable of battles of annihilation. At Gettysburg, the killed & wounded for both armies was almost identical. Lee's losses in wounded & missing was the difference in the gross total. That was, of course, because he abandoned his wounded & lost thousands of stragglers. The lack of secure communications with Virginia was proven to be the operational constraint that Lee knew it would be.
 
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Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
This is the most simple explanation to Lee's strategy for the battle,this after reading about five books on the battle each with a different interpretation of LEE.There is one thing you may answer = Was Lee ill that day ,did he have angina and had to ride in a coach,? Then the most unanswered one ,after Fredericksburg ,did he not see the advantage of high ground and what not having it had coast Burnside? Did Longstreet advise that the army should move to the flank and avoid this position {he did remember }?There was one battle that I remember where a force attacked an intrinched force on a high ground and take the foe's position,and that was in Tn,But there was a difference=placement of artillery in the wrong area-and soldiers who took advantage of a situation .As to that smashing blow that should have occurred on the first day by not taking the TOPS,The trouble is that on the third day not every movement of Lee's plan went as drawn out and if it had then maybe there would have been a repeat of the FIRE of 1812/
It was not that the Charge failed it was that the whole plan failed to consider that FATE/FORTUNE does determine an outcome.Lee threw a HAIL MARY and Mead and Hancock knocked it down,
Thanks for taking time to write a thoughtful response. My understanding of what Lee hoped to accomplish in Pennsylvania comes from Lee's letters to & from Richmond. Lee is explicit about what his plan was & what he intended to accomplish. He was dreadfully aware that the diminishing manpower of the Confederacy meant that this was his last chance to strike a blow powerful enough to bring on a peace. He was right.

I don't know what Lee was going through physically. However, I was an entrepreneur all my working life. I was also a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador, working with Andean Indians. I can state categorically that dysentery wears you out in a way that is hard for anyone who has never had it to understand. The lack of blood sugar makes you stupid. Modern scholars assert that Lee had dysentery during the Gettysburg Campaign. Given the lack of sanitation, it would be a wonder if he didn't.

Based on personal experience, I know all too well what it was like when G. W. Bush's invasion of Iraq & the financial disaster that followed soon after destroyed my business. The stress of fighting for survival like that, among other things, left me with a blindspot in one eye. What we do know was this: The man was sick, we know that. He was undoubtably sleep deprived, we know that. He probably had some kind of intestinal problem, almost certain. He was under a level of stress that few men could have tolerated, undoubtably. To expect subtlety of mind from a man under those conditions is folly. Under those conditions, you fall back on your training.

Lee had been taught, had taught & had led as a Napoleonic general. What did Napoleon do to win his battles? Send the Imperial Guard in to smash through & wind the day. Lee's Virginians were his Imperial Guard that day. To me, it all fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. Every element interlocks, fixing the others into place.
 
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John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
What repeaters? For a guy who likes to hold himself as an expert, your lack of knowledge is really staggering.

92% of Buford's companies reported their ordnance on June 30, 1863. Among those 92%, there was not a single Spencer or Henry. Not one. Roughly 60% carried Sharps. The others carried other single shot breech loading carbines such as the Gallagher, Merrill, Smith or Burnside. Buford himself probably had a Henry rifle--the only one in the entire command. I have held John Buford's personal Henry rifle, so I know that it exists.

The only Spencers in the entire Army of the Potomac were carried by all of the 5th Michigan Cavalry and four companies of the 6th Michigan Cavalry of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade. Those were Spencer rifles--the Spencer carbine didn't go into mass production until September 1863. And on July 1, the MCB was nowhere near Gettysburg--it was at least 40 miles away.

Below is a table that I compiled from the original source documents--the June 30, 1863 Ordnance Returns of the First Cavalry Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac--when I was writing my book on Buford at Gettysburg:


UnitSharpsBurnsideSmithGallagherMerrill
8th​ Illinois311
12th​ Illinois86
3rd​ Indiana12182
8th​ NY210
6th​ NY232
9th​ NY3811
17th​ PA127108
3rd​ WV89

I might also point out that Buford and his two brigades didn't just "show up." On June 29, they were expressly ordered to go to--and hold--Gettysburg. They did so on June 30. There was no luck about it. They were there pursuant to a designed plan to have a cavalry screen well in advance of the Left Wing of the Army of the Potomac. Buford had the largest division, and he was trusted by Reynolds, the commander of the Left Wing, so the First Division was the logical choice to do so. It was by design.
No matter the weapons they had ,was better than the ones that the Confederate used.I am not an ordnance person ,I am more interested in the what if of a battle as in the fact that Lee's biggest failure was realize that he was in an inferior position on day one ,that Meade was in the same position that he was at Fredericksburg..Question]If Lee was to have attempted a retreat as Longstreet alleged to have suggested,would Meade not that followed and prehabs forced him into battle and would that not been a ground in Lee's favor? If the artillery could have reached the Union lines would Pickett-Armstead have had a better chance to have the force to move around to the rear of Mead's line then forcing him to take troops from the flanks resulting in a encirclement of the AP .A THEORY.The difference of Meade and Lee is that after the first day Mead called a council in to consider options as to next day.I have not read were Lee did this.If Picket and Armstead CHARGE had been successful this would all be mute,then if Lee would have moved after the first day he would have saved all those troops he lost.
 

Eric Wittenberg

1st Lieutenant
Keeper of the Scales
Joined
Jun 2, 2013
Location
Columbus, OH
No matter the weapons they had ,was better than the ones that the Confederate used.I am not an ordnance person ,I am more interested in the what if of a battle as in the fact that Lee's biggest failure was realize that he was in an inferior position on day one ,that Meade was in the same position that he was at Fredericksburg..Question]If Lee was to have attempted a retreat as Longstreet alleged to have suggested,would Meade not that followed and prehabs forced him into battle and would that not been a ground in Lee's favor? If the artillery could have reached the Union lines would Pickett-Armstead have had a better chance to have the force to move around to the rear of Mead's line then forcing him to take troops from the flanks resulting in a encirclement of the AP .A THEORY.The difference of Meade and Lee is that after the first day Mead called a council in to consider options as to next day.I have not read were Lee did this.If Picket and Armstead CHARGE had been successful this would all be mute,then if Lee would have moved after the first day he would have saved all those troops he lost.

This is not the "what if" forum. If you wish to engage in flights of fictional fancy, please do so there.

That said, I will address one part of what you say. Since you clearly have no understanding at all of the pertinent facts, you should be aware that all times, Meade was under very specific orders to maintain his army between Lee and Washington and Baltimore. If Lee moved in that direction, Meade would follow in order to fulfill his orders, but it's not likely that Meade would have attacked because a defeat would uncover Washington and Baltimore. These orders are called the headquarters doctrine and they were inviolable.
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
This is not the "what if" forum. If you wish to engage in flights of fictional fancy, please do so there.

That said, I will address one part of what you say. Since you clearly have no understanding at all of the pertinent facts, you should be aware that all times, Meade was under very specific orders to maintain his army between Lee and Washington and Baltimore. If Lee moved in that direction, Meade would follow in order to fulfill his orders, but it's not likely that Meade would have attacked because a defeat would uncover Washington and Baltimore. These orders are called the headquarters doctrine and they were inviolable.
Thank you for reminding me of this.I am just an Southerner who still fights loss battles seeking a way to win as if it could be fought with a more favorable outcome like replaying a came that you loss and remembering the WHAT IF I had moved this piece or had used a three iron instead of a chipper.After the war there were collections of remembrance of errors and what ifs but the one element that none mentioned is had an effect was what the Romans called Fortuna/luck.a unforseen event that no one expects which decides the outcome .A fog that suddenly comes down and hides the movement of troops .Cannon balls that do not reach the enemies lines.The actions of a single man that effects the other soldiers as taking a flag and charging up a hill followed by others to victory,One man or one unaccountable, event that alters the outcome .On the third day Lee threw a Hale Mary and Fortune knocked it down,One last ,the arrival of troops at Shiloh to reinforce Grant who is on the verge of being pushed into the river,correct?
 
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weasel

Private
Joined
Nov 2, 2018
Location
West Michigan
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.

Thanks for pointing this out, this comes up over and over.

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.

Gallagher, in one of his lectures, says that the Confederate infantry never trusted the fuses and would get very upset if their artillery was firing over the top of them. Explosions over the top of friendly troops were, if not common, not unheard of. I got the impression that this wasn't specific to Gettysburg but rather an artifact of the lack of a solid industrial base in the South.

Adding to the 'fortune' column for the Confederates was the lack of ammunition for Hazard's batteries. Hunt (Chief of Artillery, AoP) seemed to think Pickett et al were lucky to have gotten as far as they did. Those batteries weren't able to effectively fire until the Confederate line came within canister range. After the war, he said "[Hazard's batteries] had unfortunately exhausted their long-range projectiles during the cannonade, under the orders of their corps commander, and it was too late tor replace them. Had my instructions [to cease fire] been followed here...I do not believe that Pickett's division would have reached our lines." (Battles and Leaders of the Civil War/Bradford)
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
No matter the weapons they had ,was better than the ones that the Confederate used.
In what way?
The wast majority of line infantry on both sides was armed with some sort of rifle musket. With Springfields, Enfields and Lorenz's being the most common guns on both sides.
And on both sides there where a minority of units that was armed with smooth bores like the M/1842.

And the firearms where of a quality and model that was sufficiently good so that the limiting factor was the skill of the soldier.
Not the gun.

And have been shown in a number of ways, the skill, on both sides was simply not good.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Thanks for pointing this out, this comes up over and over.



Gallagher, in one of his lectures, says that the Confederate infantry never trusted the fuses and would get very upset if their artillery was firing over the top of them. Explosions over the top of friendly troops were, if not common, not unheard of. I got the impression that this wasn't specific to Gettysburg but rather an artifact of the lack of a solid industrial base in the South.

Adding to the 'fortune' column for the Confederates was the lack of ammunition for Hazard's batteries. Hunt (Chief of Artillery, AoP) seemed to think Pickett et al were lucky to have gotten as far as they did. Those batteries weren't able to effectively fire until the Confederate line came within canister range. After the war, he said "[Hazard's batteries] had unfortunately exhausted their long-range projectiles during the cannonade, under the orders of their corps commander, and it was too late tor replace them. Had my instructions [to cease fire] been followed here...I do not believe that Pickett's division would have reached our lines." (Battles and Leaders of the Civil War/Bradford)
The problem with Lee's artillery at Gettysburg was that the ammunition was too good. He had been resupplied from the arsenal at Augusta. It produced the best quality powder in the world at that time. Alexander's gunners overshot their targets in part because of the unanticipated excellence of the powder being used.
 
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Irishtom29

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
How is that? The quote infers that Lee respects both Meade's abilities as a commander and the fighting capabilities of the AOP. If mistakes were made in Meade's front, doesn't that just prove Lee's point?

Despite the implications of Lee's comment his actions, especially Pickett's Charge, indicate that he underestimated the abilities of the Army of the Potomac.

As the fella said: "Enough of words, actions speaker louder than. Action now, observe all."
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
In what way?
The wast majority of line infantry on both sides was armed with some sort of rifle musket. With Springfields, Enfields and Lorenz's being the most common guns on both sides.
And on both sides there where a minority of units that was armed with smooth bores like the M/1842.

And the firearms where of a quality and model that was sufficiently good so that the limiting factor was the skill of the soldier.
Not the gun.

And have been shown in a number of ways, the skill, on both sides was simply not good.
Don't forget that at least one Union regiment (Delaware) & an unknown number Confederates had exploding minnie balls. The Delaware regiment was in the thick of the repulse of Pickett's Charge. When queried about the curious snapping sound that Union infantry men had heard, ordinance officers told them that they were exploding minnie balls fired by Confederate soldiers. The detailed information on this topic is in The Rifled Musket.
 

Eric Wittenberg

1st Lieutenant
Keeper of the Scales
Joined
Jun 2, 2013
Location
Columbus, OH
The problem with Lee's artillery at Gettysburg was that the ammunition was too good. He had been resupplied from the arsenal at Augusta. It produced the best quality powder in the world at that time. Alexander's gunners overshot their targets in part because of the unanticipated excellence of the powder being used.

No, it wasn’t. The problem was with defective fuses, which had been a longstanding problem. It had nothing to do with the powder used.
 
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Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
No, it wasn’t. The problem was with fiuses, which had been a longstanding problem. It had nothing to do with the powder used.
The fuses were terrible, but the Augusta powder did its part. I am a redleg, that is the kind of thing I suck up like the bottom feeder that I am. The reference I happen to have at hand is from Charleston, but it reflects a ubiquitous condition found in all Confederate artillery reports.

"[Major] Mallet found gunners frustrated by deficiency in all types of arsenal products. The primers did not always fire, the fuses were not precise or even certain to ignite, while variations in the strength of cartridges made accurate ranging almost impossible... All over the Charleston batteries Mallet saw indications that ammunition culled as defective & condemned was finding its way back into use, being indiscriminately mixed with good ammunition."

There was an attempt to sort out the powder & reserve the best for the field guns, but that process was far from perfect. The gunners in Alexander's batteries had been getting the same indifferent powder as Charleston. There was no way to anticipate how the excellent Augusta powder would perform.

An example of just how bad Confederate ordinance was happened at Stones River. Water's Alabama Battery became so frustrated with the faulty friction primers which had been issued that they spent the night before the battle making quill primers. As a result, once a year our living history volunteers fire our 1841 model 6 pnd by linstock & quill primer... training the new folks on the crew is quite an amusing show.

Another factor affected the rifled guns was the variety of rounds issued during the Civil War. Depending on what kind of round was being used with the same powder charge the range could vary considerably.
 
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CowCavalry

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 17, 2017
Despite the implications of Lee's comment his actions, especially Pickett's Charge, indicate that he underestimated the abilities of the Army of the Potomac.

As the fella said: "Enough of words, actions speaker louder than. Action now, observe all."
On the contrary; he made an accurate assessment of his opponent. He made the "mistake" and his attack was repulsed, exactly what he said would happen if he made a mistake.
 
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