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Question(s) on Longstreet's Counter-March

Discussion in 'Battle of Gettysburg' started by W. Richardson, Apr 30, 2017.

  1. W. Richardson

    W. Richardson Captain

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    I have been reading an article on Gettysburg by General McLaws in the SHSP Vol. 7, p. 69

    “I then reconnoitred myself for my own information, and was soon convinced that by crossing the ridge where I then was, my command could reach the point indicated by General Lee, in a half hour, without being seen. [1] At length - my recollection is that it was about 1 P. M. - Major Johnston, of General Lee's staff, came to me and said he was ordered to conduct me on the march. My command was at once put in motion - Major Johnston and myself riding some distance ahead.
    Suddenly, as we rose a hill on the road we were taking, the Round Top was plainly visible, with the flags of the signal men in rapid motion. [2] I sent back and halted my division and rode with Major Johnston rapidly around the neighborhood to see if there was any road by which we could go into position without being seen. Not finding any [3] I joined my command and met General Longstreet there.”
    Source: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 7, p. 69


    Now my question(s) are…….

    A. If McLaws had found a route by crossing the ridge where he was then, and could reach the point in a half hour without being seen [1]……..then why not, once it was found that they could not go by the route Johnston was using without being seen [2], go back and cross the ridge that McLaws, by his own reconnaissance, they could reach the point indicated by Lee, in a half hour, without being seen?

    B. When searching around the area for a road to get to the position indicated by Lee without being seen but could not find one [3]………….why did not McLaws point out to Longstreet the ridge where McLaws said they could cross without being seen and reach the point in a half-hour?


    Respectfully,
    William
    Major-General McLaws.jpg
     

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  3. Bee

    Bee 1st Lieutenant Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017

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    Just for you, William: Rockstar Ranger Matt Atkinson on this very topic :smile:

     
  4. MaryDee

    MaryDee Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    After the video, we now have more and more questions! I've always wondered why didn't they follow Porter Alexander's tracks. But there were so many more issues going on here!
     
  5. BillO

    BillO Captain

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    As my given name is also William I watched as well. Thanks for posting.
     
  6. W. Richardson

    W. Richardson Captain

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    Thank you Bee ! Matt is the best :smile:

    Hope you are doing well and Bee.jpg haven


    Respectfully,
    William
    Bee.jpg
     
  7. Bee

    Bee 1st Lieutenant Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017

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    Happily ensconced in the hive and wishing I had your puppy :smile:
     
  8. W. Richardson

    W. Richardson Captain

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    I can't give up my Buddy Ben. He is sleeping under my chair at this very moment............lol.....

    Respectfully,
    William
    SAM_0223.JPG
     
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  9. War Horse

    War Horse Captain Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017 Member of the Year

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    Maybe this will help William, "The march began between noon and one O'clock--probably closer to the latter hour--when Captain Samuel Johnston led McLaw's division forward. From their rest area on Herr Ridge, the Confederates followed a lane down the slope, struck a road along Marsh Creek, turned left, crossed the Fairfield Road at the Black Horse Tavern, and entered a road that led southeasterly to Pitzer's Schoolhouse. A short distance beyond the tavern. reaching the crest of a small hill, Mclaws halted the column. Little Round Top, with its signal station could be seen in the distance. The division could not pass over the crest without exposing its ranks to the enemy. While the one-and -half-mile-long column halted, McLaws and Johnston searched for an alternate route. The division commander soon returned to the head of the column "saying things I would not like to teach my grandson," according to a nearby soldier. Riding with the vanguard of Hood's column, Longstreet spurred ahead as soon as McLaws's men stopped. He joined McLaws, and when he learned the reason for the delay, he exclaimed: "Why, this will not do. Is there no way to avoid it?" McLaws replied that during the morning he had reconnoitered a route that would avoid the hill, but it required a countermarch. "Then countermarch," barked Longstreet. According to Brigadier General Joseph Kershaw, whose brigade led the division, the two generals were displeased, "both manifesting considerable irritation. McLaws later blamed Johnston for the "dilemma," asserting that the two divisions "had been placed by an error of his (Lee's) staff officers." Johnston, who refused to become involved publicly in the postwar contention about the battle---"I do not want to be a party with General Longstreet, who always treated me with so much kindness and consideration when we were thrown together"---denied in private correspondences that he had guided the march to the hill, but he undoubtedly was mistaken. If he and Major Clarke had examined the roads during their reconnaissance as he stated, how could the trained engineers have overlooked the crest" He may have become confused and led McLaws down the wrong road, at the record offers no explanation. Johnston claimed that he recommended to Longstreet that the troops skirt the hill by marching across the fields, but the general "preferred the road." Hours earlier Porter Alexander had faced the same problem at the rise and detoured through the fields without exposing his batteries to Union view. The tracks of the artillery wheels must have been visible, but Longstreet and McLaws chose not to follow them, which would have saved valuable time. They never gave the reasons; perhaps Johnston was correct---Longstreet thought it better to stay on the roads.

    General James Longstreet "The Confederacies Most Controversial Soldier" Page 269 & 270.
    By Jeffry D Wert

    McLaws never offered an uninhibited alternative route to Longstreet. It was McLaws's route that they took which required a counter march. As a matter of fact he (McLaws) was the cause of even more delays during the counter march. His post war hatred of Longstreet probably resulted in this claim if he indeed made it.

    I hope this was helpful.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2017
  10. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    I question whether Alexander's artillery left any visible trail, but do wonder why an aide could not have been sent forward to find him and inquire about the route he took.

    The irony is that the Round Top Signal Station observed the countermarch, per this 1:30 p.m. July 2 message to Butterfield: "A heavy column of enemy's infantry, about 10,000 strong, is moving from opposite our extreme left toward our right." It must have perplexed the staff to learn that a full Confederate division or more was moving northward, away from the Union far left, but there is no indication that any steps were taken to act upon this information. Just think, if Meade had moved forces away from his left in response to this solid intelligence, the countermarch might be hailed today as a masterpiece of deception, even if it was unintended.
     
  11. John S. Carter

    John S. Carter Sergeant

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    We can say that errors of judgement occur during a battle.The fact is that the Union army by being on the high terrain and the South choose to attack a force that was fortified Lee did not survey the terrain in which he was about to send thousands of soldiers on to ,that was the worse mistake Lee made,Meade did not use his reserve force to attack following the failed charge.
     
  12. John S. Carter

    John S. Carter Sergeant

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  13. John S. Carter

    John S. Carter Sergeant

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    May be I am in correct,but would you say the as many good and great general that the South had,they also had some who would not know which booth to put on first with out a manuel of directions? IF McLaw is responsible for this judgement,then can we say that McLaw is at fault for the loss at Gettesburg and not Longstreet which we have place so much guilt for this.I think that if he had not turned Republican then he would have recieved a better judgement.This does not answer your questions but you do bring a rather interesting point that prehabs demonstrates how this may have effected the outcome.
     
  14. WJC

    WJC 2nd Lieutenant

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    After reading your comments, let me pose another question: If Johnston was riding with McLaws during that time, why didn't McLaws tell Johnston that he had reconnoitered a quick, safe route instead of blindly waiting until the Johnston route proved faulty?
    We've all, at one time or another, been in a car traveling from a to b, when someone says, "You know, we could go by way of c and save some time." What were they talking about during their ride, if not the best way to get where they were going?
    Was this just another case of 'follow the expert', even though he doesn't seem to know what he's doing?
     
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  15. W. Richardson

    W. Richardson Captain

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    Yes !! Very helpful Mike..............Thank you my friend !


    Respectfully,
    William
    Old Pete.jpg
     
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  16. Yankeedave

    Yankeedave 1st Lieutenant

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    McLaws was present at Lee's hq for the early morning meeting that sent Johnson on his scouting expedition. McLaws requested to accompany him or at least send a representativeto accompany Johnson. Lee denied the request.
    E. P. Alexander's artillery train had to have left a mark. This is some 15+ batteries, some 50 guns and over 300 horses. The route was either ignored or missed because they were in different areas.
    There are discrepancies in the time of Longstreet's arrival. Shortly before noon on july 2 Anderson's division fights a skirmish with two regiments of the Union 3rd on Seminary Ridge around present day Berdan circle and the nps amphitheater.
    Working backwards we have Longstreet's command in column behind Pitzer's woods before noon. Anderson's division is described as being in the rear and being moved up the road passing McLaw's and Hood's road column's. Anderson's command then turned left in the road, thru a gate and into pitzer's woods to fight with Casper Tripp's battalion. I am wondering how much of the one p.m. to four p.m. maneuvering that is after this both on the clock and on the map and how Col. Alexander's trail might be diffused as it deployed.
     
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  17. lelliott19

    lelliott19 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    E P Alexander had this to say about the situation:
    This had been done by noon, when three battalions, - my own, Cabell's and Henry's - were located in the valley of Willoughby Run awaiting the arrival of the infantry. Riding back presently to learn the cause of their non-arrival, the head of the infantry column was found halted, where its road became exposed to the Federal view, while messages were sent to Longstreet, and the guide sought a new route. The exposed point had been easily avoided by our artillery, by turning out through a meadow, but after some delay there came orders for the infantry to countermarch and take a road via the 'Black Horse Tavern.' This incident delayed the opening of the battle nearly two hours.
    Do you read this to mean that Alexander personally (or one of his aides) rode back to determine the cause of the delay? I know it doesn't say he showed them the alternate route, but wouldnt he have surely offered to lead the way?
     
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  18. War Horse

    War Horse Captain Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017 Member of the Year

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    I believe it was one of his aides and I also believe for whatever reason Longstreet chose to take the route discovered by McLaws rather than risk going overland. Longstreet preferred to stick to the roads for some reason. I doubt we will ever really know why.
     
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  19. Yankeedave

    Yankeedave 1st Lieutenant

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    Willoughby Run being a thousand yards west of the crest of seminary/pitzer woods et al.

    McLaws Division was quartered in the swale west of Seminary Ridge, between there and McPherson's Woods on the evening of july one. Reporting to Lee, McLaws noted that lee's hq was a short distance away. Something like a hundred yards.
    McLaws was present for the early morning meetings of july two. His div. received orders to move and reported little delay. Anderson and Alexander by actions or words place themselves opposite sickles by noon.
    This leaves hood.
    Some of Hood's men place themselves amongst anderson and mclaws at the same time the latter place themselves in the road parallel to the woods around noon.
    As Longstreet extends his right, does Sickles try to match him?Longstreet extends Anderson, then McLaws. Finally Hood is the strawbreaker.
    below is the peach orchard at right, the rose farm in the center, and sickles extending to the left. By edwin forbes.
    440px-Gettysburg_Peach_Orchard_Edwin_Forbes.jpg
    The results of this line: looking east to west.
    220px-Battle_of_Gettysburg.jpg
    Emmitsburg Road to right in above photo. In the below photo the road runs obscured from right to left thru the middle ground.
    HODTG02291216.jpg
     
  20. BillO

    BillO Captain

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    I'm curious as to why you don't think a battalion of artillery with it's numbers of horses and mules plus all the support wagons wouldn't have left a trace?
     
  21. War Horse

    War Horse Captain Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017 Member of the Year

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    I'm sure it did, but when moving a Corps, do you trust those trails?
     

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