Sickles Venture Forward


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miscreant

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Sickles move forward against orders before the onset of day 2 at Gettysburg:

Was anything really lost (or gained) by him moving forward ahead of the Federal line? Leaving the line and creating a gap in it isn't the brightest but when all was said and done, did his follie really do any damage? I'm not sticking up for the crazy nut, I'm just curious from a tactical side of it.
 

1SGDan

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My opinion has always been that this poor deployment led Longstreet's attack away from the intended target.
 

cash

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Very much so. Both his flanks were in the air and there was a gap in his center. His men were stretched too thin, and as a result when the confederate attack hit him he was in very bad shape, which meant that several Second Corps units had to leave their positions to come to his aid, further weakening the Cemetery Ridge position, meaning that the outcome on Cemetery Ridge was more in doubt than it should have been, given the natural strength of the ground there.
 

rpkennedy

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I would say losing some 10,000 Union men would constitute a pretty big loss to end up pretty well where he was to start with.

R
 

BillO

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I agree with everyone here (maybe I oughta go into politics). His movement seriously derailed Lee's plan for an echelon attack that was supposed to roll up the cemetary ridge position. So that's a plus but it pretty much wrecked his corps in the process so the cost was quite high.
 

rpkennedy

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Not only his Corps but 1+ divisions from the Second Corps and 2 divisions from the Fifth Corps. Quite a price to pay to inconvenience Lee's plan.

R
 

judi

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I asked a ranger once on a walk if anyone figured out the deaths that Sickles move caused. He told me no not that he knew of but that the Wheatfield, DD, and LRT were all places that probably would not have been in the fight if he had stayed where he belonged. Then add into it the number of 3 Corps Deaths.

That is a lot of deaths due to one politician who thought he knew more than the military men.

The word idiot comes to mind
 

Dugger

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Oddy, I can defend Sickles....messed up Lee's plan. Absorbed, like a death cushion, the brunt of Longstreet's attack. Till the day he died he defended that move. Hell, who knows? He is cool to watch on the film of the 1913 reunuion. He was the toast of the town fer a week. Not totally an idiot. How many Condederate deaths did his corps kill? They had to fight it out over ground they (Lee) thought was not defended. Never be resolved...but man he chewed up a LOT of Longstreet's corps.....lots. Anyone got da balls to defend Sickles? Tough to do since the "official" word as been cast.
 

1SGDan

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Doug
Oddly I would have to agree. Not by design or by some military genius Sickles move altered the day
Dan
 

ole

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The official word has not been cast. There is no verifiable historical record that proves Sickles' move was wrong. All is opinion -- based on solid historical fact, but opinion nevertheless.

Everyone knows that some orders are discretionary. In this case, I consider it a worse offense to make a discretionary move that messes with the Army Commander's plan of defense. That he messed up the opponent's offensive plan probably saved him from being shot on the spot.
 

wilber6150

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Well, my only question on this would be this would Sickles have been in a better position to repell Longstreets attack where he was or where he moved to.. He did chew up a lot of Longstreets men, but at the same time pretty much used up his corps and parts of others..Could he have had the same result with fewer casualties if he stayed and built emplacments?
 

TDMD

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Sickles move forward against orders before the onset of day 2 at Gettysburg:

Was anything really lost (or gained) by him moving forward ahead of the Federal line? Leaving the line and creating a gap in it isn't the brightest but when all was said and done, did his follie really do any damage? I'm not sticking up for the crazy nut, I'm just curious from a tactical side of it.
In my opinion, he created a glass jaw for Longstreet to hit. There were several weaknesses to Sickles deployment forward:

1) It created three open flanks for the Confederates to hit. (both of his and Hancock's left were exposed)
2) It created a salient in the lines.
3) It disrupted Meade's defensive scheme, forced the use of troops otherwise intended as a reserve and forced Meade to weaken his line elsewhere.
4) The line he adopted had some 400 yd gaps between Ward and DeTrobriand and a gap between DeTrobriand and Graham (These had to be plugged by artillery, some of Burling's men and reinforcements from Caldwell and Barnes.)
5) It was too long a line for a corps of a shade less than 10,000 men.
6) Third Corps was organizationally ill-suited to adopt the extended position. (It was a two division corps, which meant that only Burling's men were in reserve, instead of the standard two divisions forward, one in reserve alignment). Burling became a supernumerary and his brigade was parceled out a regiment at a time to cover weaknesses in the line.
7) Instead of being anchored on LRT, his left hung in the wind.
8) Instead of being connected to Hancock, his right was hanging.
9) He moved farther away from rear and flank support (Had he stayed put, Fifth Corps was 15 minutes away, after the move, they were 45 minutes away.)
10) He disobeyed orders.
11) Given Longstreet's orders, and his unwillingness to veer from them because of Lee's rigidness that morning (which was fed by Johnston's failed recon mission), he would have presented his right flank to Sickles if he deployed as ordered.
12) Reinforcements from Second and Fifth Corps had to come in piecemeal because of the lay of the land.
13) The AotP suffered more than 2,000 more casualties than Longstreet trying to defend and cover the retreat of Sickles' Corps.

Those are pretty compelling reasons revealing the larger ramifications of Sickles' mistake.
 

TDMD

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Oddy, I can defend Sickles....messed up Lee's plan. Absorbed, like a death cushion, the brunt of Longstreet's attack. Till the day he died he defended that move. Hell, who knows? He is cool to watch on the film of the 1913 reunuion. He was the toast of the town fer a week. Not totally an idiot. How many Condederate deaths did his corps kill? They had to fight it out over ground they (Lee) thought was not defended. Never be resolved...but man he chewed up a LOT of Longstreet's corps.....lots. Anyone got da balls to defend Sickles? Tough to do since the "official" word as been cast.
Longstreet went in with about 19,000 men. Union forces in the area ranged from 40,000 heavily engaged (50,000 when including the lightly engaged and those diverted but not engaged to support Sickles' screw up, the latter being most of Sixth Corps and most of Twelfth Corps). Longstreet suffered some 6,000 casualties, the Federals over 8,000. One of the few times in the war that the attackers suffered fewer casualties than the defenders giving credence to Longstreet's claim about the 'best three hours fighting of the entire war'.
 

TDMD

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Well, my only question on this would be this would Sickles have been in a better position to repell Longstreets attack where he was or where he moved to.. He did chew up a lot of Longstreets men, but at the same time pretty much used up his corps and parts of others..Could he have had the same result with fewer casualties if he stayed and built emplacments?
I do believe that Sickles' first position was the better of the two. My previous post explains why I think so.
 

Mdiesel

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I do believe that Sickles' first position was the better of the two. My previous post explains why I think so.
I agree. Sickles had no business moving forward & killed alot of men by doing so. Lee was sending Longstreet in with a plan based on a false scouting report. Lee was lead to believe Meade's flank was along the Edmmitsburg Rd. & exposed. The repoert was false & Longstreet would have found the Federals in nearly the same positions they held on the 3rd if Sickles hadnt make his blunder.... we all know how that assault ended. Plus Meade had to pull thousands of troops from Culps Hill to reinforce Sickles, making the critical point vulnerable.
 

cash

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In my opinion, he created a glass jaw for Longstreet to hit. There were several weaknesses to Sickles deployment forward:

1) It created three open flanks for the Confederates to hit. (both of his and Hancock's left were exposed)
2) It created a salient in the lines.
3) It disrupted Meade's defensive scheme, forced the use of troops otherwise intended as a reserve and forced Meade to weaken his line elsewhere.
4) The line he adopted had some 400 yd gaps between Ward and DeTrobriand and a gap between DeTrobriand and Graham (These had to be plugged by artillery, some of Burling's men and reinforcements from Caldwell and Barnes.)
5) It was too long a line for a corps of a shade less than 10,000 men.
6) Third Corps was organizationally ill-suited to adopt the extended position. (It was a two division corps, which meant that only Burling's men were in reserve, instead of the standard two divisions forward, one in reserve alignment). Burling became a supernumerary and his brigade was parceled out a regiment at a time to cover weaknesses in the line.
7) Instead of being anchored on LRT, his left hung in the wind.
8) Instead of being connected to Hancock, his right was hanging.
9) He moved farther away from rear and flank support (Had he stayed put, Fifth Corps was 15 minutes away, after the move, they were 45 minutes away.)
10) He disobeyed orders.
11) Given Longstreet's orders, and his unwillingness to veer from them because of Lee's rigidness that morning (which was fed by Johnston's failed recon mission), he would have presented his right flank to Sickles if he deployed as ordered.
12) Reinforcements from Second and Fifth Corps had to come in piecemeal because of the lay of the land.
13) The AotP suffered more than 2,000 more casualties than Longstreet trying to defend and cover the retreat of Sickles' Corps.

Those are pretty compelling reasons revealing the larger ramifications of Sickles' mistake.
This is an excellent summary. I would add that had Sickles not moved forward, it is very likely that the 1st Minnesota would not have had to make their charge to save the Federal position on Cemetery Ridge, thus the 1st Minnesota likely would not have been destroyed.
 

prroh

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Meade was furious because Sickels had moved to neutral ground, meaning the ground could easily be covered by artillery on both sides and thus untenable for Union and rebels.

Sickels saw the elevation in front of natural gun platform which could sweep his line as similar topography had at Chancellorsville. Ole Dan, in trying to improve his position, actually put himself in harm's way.

A big "what if" is what would have happened if he stayed in place. Longstreet's left flank would have been exposed in a potentially catastrophic way, so that one could say Sickels move saved Lee from perhaps the biggest misstep of the war.
 

Mdiesel

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Meade was furious because Sickels had moved to neutral ground, meaning the ground could easily be covered by artillery on both sides and thus untenable for Union and rebels.

Sickels saw the elevation in front of natural gun platform which could sweep his line as similar topography had at Chancellorsville. Ole Dan, in trying to improve his position, actually put himself in harm's way.

A big "what if" is what would have happened if he stayed in place. Longstreet's left flank would have been exposed in a potentially catastrophic way, so that one could say Sickels move saved Lee from perhaps the biggest misstep of the war.
Interesting What if, but I think Longstreet would have seen the situation & adjusted his lines accordingly.
 

TDMD

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Meade was furious because Sickels had moved to neutral ground, meaning the ground could easily be covered by artillery on both sides and thus untenable for Union and rebels.

Sickels saw the elevation in front of natural gun platform which could sweep his line as similar topography had at Chancellorsville. Ole Dan, in trying to improve his position, actually put himself in harm's way.

A big "what if" is what would have happened if he stayed in place. Longstreet's left flank would have been exposed in a potentially catastrophic way, so that one could say Sickels move saved Lee from perhaps the biggest misstep of the war.
Yes. You raised an excellent point about Sickles comparing Sherfy's Peach Orchard to the Hazel Grove terrain feature at Chancellorsville.

My only nitpick, would be that Longstreet's right (not his left) would have been the exposed flank facing Sickles, had he stayed put.
 

TDMD

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Interesting What if, but I think Longstreet would have seen the situation & adjusted his lines accordingly.
Longstreet did modify the plan slightly, but given Lee's stubbornness that morning I think Old Pete was reticent to try anything that would be too radical a deprture from Lee's orders. You might remember that Lee actually under Longstreet's head in the council of war that morning, giving McLaws direct orders as to how he wanted him deployed in front of Longstreet. Longstreet started to tell McLaws how to deploy and Lee said 'no' and gave his order. That might have been at least partly accountable for the often perceived notion that Longstreet was sullen on July 2. That - plus the ongoing argument a strategic turning movement.
 

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