The Copse of Trees

Tom Elmore

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IMO, even if there were no orders to left oblique (the evidence for both the pro and con positions is shaky, IMHO), there is evidence that some of the movements resulted in a practical oblique. For example, several accounts talk about forming to the left which would appear and move similarly to an oblique.

R

Pickett's division, as it marched, was also continually dressing to the left to close gaps, which must have looked much like what Hall is trying to show - just like a left oblique. We know this to be the case because several skirmishing companies on the right, like Company H of the 24th Virginia, which was on the extreme right of the division skirmish line, had proceeded straight ahead, and by the time they reached a point due south of the Codori buildings, there was no one behind them, and they must have been feeling quite exposed and vulnerable.
 

rpkennedy

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Pickett's division, as it marched, was also continually dressing to the left to close gaps, which must have looked much like what Hall is trying to show - just like a left oblique. We know this to be the case because several skirmishing companies on the right, like Company H of the 24th Virginia, which was on the extreme right of the division skirmish line, had proceeded straight ahead, and by the time they reached a point due south of the Codori buildings, there was no one behind them, and they must have been feeling quite exposed and vulnerable.

IIRC, that's almost exactly what Captain Smith stated. He said that the dressing to the left caused what was, in essence, a left oblique.

R
 

FZ11

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Maybe for part of the Carolinians (or the left of the Confederate line that actually ended a bit South of the Federal line/Ziegler's grove.) But there are zero contemporary Confederate references to support that, and the Left of the line (Brockenbrough) kinda went half way there and back.

All (but one) contemporary primary Confederate references say that the target was "the enemy line". Just makes too much sense that it will not be a landmark, esp. since all those landmarks were about invisible. The Right line of the Confederates was just North of Sherfy's; a pretty unfortunate arrangement if you target Ziegler's grove :wink:

Despite all the stories, there is some actual data about Pickett's charge: Federal recipients of the Medal of Honor for capturing particular flags. I am not going to get into the whole data, but some of it is fascinating. For example, the flag of the 18th VA (Garnett's brigade) that was the seventh from the right regiment and legend has it that it went across to the North of the Codori farm, with those obliques (another fun suburban legend,) had its flag captured by someone from 1st MN. Contemporary testimonies by a couple 1st MN soldiers say that they stayed were they were the day before (i.e. right where their monument is.) Unless you believe in teleportation or some magic converging rush of anyone towards the CoT, you got to believe in a pretty much parallel to Emmitsburg Rd single line Kemper-Garnet-Fry-Marshal-Davis attack, attacking from Ziegler's Grove to the S of the PA monument...
Of course there was a left oblique by Pickett.....And there is a reason for the left oblique.....There is a 300-400 yard gap between Pettigrew's right and Pickett's left. Pickett has to left oblique to close the gap.....It's elementary Watson.
 

Mark Roth

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Whereve I Am
My wife, who has little interest in any sort of history and who can usually be quite blunt about what she sees, pointed out last week at Gettysburg that "those trees don't look old enough." I, not yet knowing the value of this site, tried to come up with an excuse that we must have been seeing the "grandchildren" of the original trees.

Seeing the reconstruction work for Zeigler's Grove, the fact that she was right about the Copse of Trees, and was very interested in seeing witness trees, I should have realized she was on to something.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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So, which is, please? The battle walk I watched one day had me very convinced there was no copse of trees. He also stated ( not me ) Zeigler's Grove was the objective. The thing is, would not Zeigler's Grove be seen from the other side as a ' copse of trees ' in 1863? No one had the faintest idea of stating " Objective is Zeigler's Grove ", the whole Confederate army would not have recognized it by that name.
 

Gettysburg Greg

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Always an interesting discussion when it comes to the Copse vs the Grove. Briefly, here's my input: Pettigrew and Trimble attacked straight across the field towards Ziegler Grove. There was a several hundred yard gap between these men and Pickett's Division. As the advance continued Pickett's men had to left oblique to close up the gap. This placed them in front of the Copse when they reached the Union line. Since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, I will add a couple thousand here in these two images. The first one shows the comparison between the Copse and the Grove as seen during the battle in a highly magnified detail from Mathew Brady's panorama taken from LRT ca. July 15, 1863. The modern photo I took is Lee's view from Seminary Ridge. Keep in mind that Ziegler Grove appeared much larger and the Copse was smaller in 1863. I try to keep an open mind on this subject, but no doubt, these photos support the Grove over the Copse as being the target of the PPT Charge. Interesting discussion, thanks.
copse mu2.jpg


copse2.jpg
 

E_just_E

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Maybe there was a gap between Garnett and Fry, but it is highly unlikely. Multiple contemporary sources from both sides reporting a single continuous line. Pickett's Right was by Serfy's house. Even at 50% attrition and continuous leftward movement there is no physical way to get to the angle before crossing the federal line. Geometry :smile:
 

Tom Elmore

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Of course there was a left oblique by Pickett.....And there is a reason for the left oblique.....There is a 300-400 yard gap between Pettigrew's right and Pickett's left. Pickett has to left oblique to close the gap.....It's elementary Watson.


Since the right of Fry was near the corner of the woods (where the Virginia monument stands) and the left of Pickett (56 VA) was to their right front where the woods jutted out in front of Seminary Ridge, I think the gap between Fry and Pickett at the outset was more like 700 feet, and the gap was naturally closed because the two wings were aligned in different directions - Pettigrew being aligned with Seminary Ridge facing about 105 degrees (or 15 degrees south of due east) and Pickett being aligned facing 85 degrees (by my calculations), or just five degrees north of due east. So there is no need for Pickett to left oblique.
 

E_just_E

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Since the right of Fry was near the corner of the woods (where the Virginia monument stands) and the left of Pickett (56 VA) was to their right front where the woods jutted out in front of Seminary Ridge, I think the gap between Fry and Pickett at the outset was more like 700 feet, and the gap was naturally closed because the two wings were aligned in different directions - Pettigrew being aligned with Seminary Ridge facing about 105 degrees (or 15 degrees south of due east) and Pickett being aligned facing 85 degrees (by my calculations), or just five degrees north of due east. So there is no need for Pickett to left oblique.

they were much closer together. Here is Garnett's formation in pretty close approximation. Its left is right about at an imaginary line between the VA and PA monuments.
image.png
 

Yankeedave

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Colorado
And you are gonna put your faith in an artist's redition?
Present at Sumter Hall replaced the fallen flag. On the Peninsula he command Hookers division artillery and served in the engineers. Promoted to Col. he led a michigan regiment at 2nd Bull Run and Antietam were they took 60% casualties and loosing 20 of the 23 field officers, including Hall himself. He was cited for gallantry at Antietam and again at Fredericksburg. At Gettysburg, leading a brigade, he fought Rans Wright's brigade on day 2. In reserve his brigade counterattacked at Pickett's Charge closing the break. He was cited for gallantry for a third time and promoted to the rank capt. In the regular army. Col. Hall's health began to fail and he was granted leave. He would return home and never served in the feild again. Col. Hall would die in 1867.
So yeah i might take this man's word on it.
 

Tom Elmore

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Attached (Pickett 001) is my interpretation of the brigades of Garnett and Kemper in position for the attack, their advance picket line and batteries in front. As shown, the infantry line is hidden from view by running through the low ground. The left regiment (56 VA) had to break to the rear behind a battery, which another source identifies as Woolfolk's. Also, the 3 VA is shown amid an orchard, which is confirmed by a member of that regiment.

When the brigade was preparing to advance it closed to the left to fill in the gaps left by casualties inflicted during the artillery duel. Then moving forward, the line of the 11 VA was broken by the Rogers house at the Emmitsburg Road, as is confirmed by participants, as shown on the other attached map (Pickett2 001). Even then, the far right skirmish company (H/24 VA) no longer had the rest of their regiment behind them, and the two skirmish companies of the 11 VA (D and A) were now directly in front of the 24 VA. The main line would continue to dress left at an increased pace after crossing the Emmitsburg Road, further isolating the right companies on the picket line.
 

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theoldman

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upper mid-west
This is an interesting intellectual exercise and has been discussed in various threads by various people. My initial response was to go with the time honored "copse of trees" but now I am not so sure. I have also seen the theory on either the History Channel or Smithsonian that fencing , particularly along Emmitsburg Road, caused the initially long, linear formation to bunch up to be aligned with what today we know as the "copse of trees". I have been a skeptic of that theory on the basis of artillery, much of that ground had been covered in day 2 fighting, and the units had "pioneers" with them to open gaps in fencing.

I will say that tactically the only hope the attacking forces had was to mass at a point and try to breach the Union line with massed numbers at a very narrow point, hold the shoulders and let follow on forces expand the breach. They had no hope and it would have been suicide to try to stay in a linear formation going against a numerically superior foe who had the high ground. I think the PPT officers and soldiers were brave but not suicidal.

So if it was Zieglers grove or some other prominent land mark there had to be some point where the attack was aiming. I guess it could have center mass of the Cemetery Ridge too. I cannot recall order given that directed units to "guide" on any particulate formation or unit in the attack but it would make sense to do that.

Everyone on Seminary Ridge had to know by day three that the entire AoP was across that open field on the high ground. :banghead:Yet one fresh division, one beat up division, and a handful of mixed units tried to do so. :banghead::banghead:
 

E_just_E

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Attached (Pickett 001) is my interpretation of the brigades of Garnett and Kemper in position for the attack, their advance picket line and batteries in front. As shown, the infantry line is hidden from view by running through the low ground. The left regiment (56 VA) had to break to the rear behind a battery, which another source identifies as Woolfolk's. Also, the 3 VA is shown amid an orchard, which is confirmed by a member of that regiment.

When the brigade was preparing to advance it closed to the left to fill in the gaps left by casualties inflicted during the artillery duel. Then moving forward, the line of the 11 VA was broken by the Rogers house at the Emmitsburg Road, as is confirmed by participants, as shown on the other attached map (Pickett2 001). Even then, the far right skirmish company (H/24 VA) no longer had the rest of their regiment behind them, and the two skirmish companies of the 11 VA (D and A) were now directly in front of the 24 VA. The main line would continue to dress left at an increased pace after crossing the Emmitsburg Road, further isolating the right companies on the picket line.


That orientation is different. Pretty much N-S, which I am not sure that makes much sense, based on the orientation of the advanced artillery that was parallel with a bit of an agle to the right with Emmitsburg Rd. Also the size of these brigades is abbreviated by at least 1/3. Garnett's bridade (as shown on #29 and this accounts for a double line of about 1500 men, minus pickets and some officers who were not on formation) physically takes the space from Spangler's road to past the next fence to the North to about the edge of the VA monument. I personally measured the distance (see above.) Add that much to the right for Kemper's, and in that direction you are running out of space. So in your scale, where the 1 is should the the 8, and then add Kemper's (pretty much an equal line) to the right. That will be ending across Emmitsburg Rd, where the Excelsior Brigade monument is, pretty much.

Also, are you sure that it was Roger's and not Serfy's house?
 

Tom Elmore

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Here are regimental frontages (in feet) of the main line based on my calculations, before the duel. My method is to count the number of estimated enlisted men who are in the line, assume two ranks (front and rear), and allot each man a front of 22 inches. I realize there are other variables at play, but in practice this method seems to work well across the board.

56 VA - 235 feet
28 VA - 280
19 VA - 264
18 VA - 254
8 VA - 173

3 VA - 271
7 VA - 277
1 VA - 170
11 VA - 298
24 VA - 328

The main artillery line was positioned just west of the crest as shown, and the guns run up to commence firing.

No matter how long of a line is envisioned, or what orientation angle is chosen for Pickett's division, there are certain conditions that must be satisfied based on eyewitness accounts, including:

1. The 56 VA has to be close up against a battery prior to the charge.
2. The 3 VA has to be in an orchard prior to the charge.
3. The 1 VA has to pass through Stribling's battery during the advance.
4. The line of the 11 VA has to be broken by a dwelling during the advance.
 

E_just_E

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Here are regimental frontages (in feet) of the main line based on my calculations, before the duel. My method is to count the number of estimated enlisted men who are in the line, assume two ranks (front and rear), and allot each man a front of 22 inches. I realize there are other variables at play, but in practice this method seems to work well across the board.

56 VA - 235 feet
28 VA - 280
19 VA - 264
18 VA - 254
8 VA - 173

3 VA - 271
7 VA - 277
1 VA - 170
11 VA - 298
24 VA - 328

The main artillery line was positioned just west of the crest as shown, and the guns run up to commence firing.

No matter how long of a line is envisioned, or what orientation angle is chosen for Pickett's division, there are certain conditions that must be satisfied based on eyewitness accounts, including:

1. The 56 VA has to be close up against a battery prior to the charge.
2. The 3 VA has to be in an orchard prior to the charge.
3. The 1 VA has to pass through Stribling's battery during the advance.
4. The line of the 11 VA has to be broken by a dwelling during the advance.

Your numbers for the Garnett Brigade add up to 1206 feet (14472 inches) that will account for 658 x 2 = 1316 people, about 324 less than Garnett had. I used the same 22 inches and assumed a 750 men front for my approximation when I measured it and it still looks at least 1/3 longer than yours for some reason.

Agreed with the eyewitness accounts

3 VA, the left-most regiment in Kemper's brigade and to the right of Garnett's 8th VA was likely around Spangler's house and orchard.

11 VA's line was likely broken by Sherfy's house down the road.

As far as batteries go, we really do not know where they were located also, so Stribling's battery is a moving target as well... I measured the 56 VA left close to in line with the imaginary line between the VA and PA monuments, thus dead smack in the middle of "Alexander's Knoll" with plenty of batteries to be closed to before the charge...
 

Yankeedave

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Colorado
So its up over the crest into the swale. Oblique down it, then up over the next...skirmishers are out, and the troops around lee's monument are supposed to come up behind in columns but the artillery wreaked this forcing pickett to go in alone? i dunno man...
 

Tom Elmore

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Sherfy House - built of bricks in the 1840s; still displays bullet holes in its brickwork.
Klingel House - said to have been a log structure originally; the NPS is restoring it to its 1863 appearance.
Rogers House - described as a single story log house; Pfanz described it as a "small white frame building."

Lt. Col. James Risque Hutter of the 11th Virginia wrote, "Early in the charge the Eleventh Regiment encountered a white weather-boarded house with a paling enclosing a small yard." [Supplement to the Official Records]

Unless Hutter is mistaken, we can rule out the Sherfy House, although the Klingel House may be a possibility.
 

Gen Cleburne

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Cleveland, TN
All of these comments have validity, and further my theory: that the 'legendary' copse of trees, and its' significance in the battle, is a complete fabrication.
Several have reconstructed battle formations, with correct intervals. There was simply not enough room to accommodate the massed units, if one presumes such a small, unnoticable aiming point. And talk of the 'obligues' are really inconsequential. No field commander would micromanage to such a degree. The tactical commanders would issue impromptu orders, as the terrain dictated, with the objective in mind.
I believe that the L wing had more of a direct assault, and was intended to be shielded somewhat by Zieglers Grove. Time was of paramount inportance as they were in the beaten zone for artillery throughout the assault up to said grove.
Yes, there were inevitable 'adjustments'- what assaults have not? A soldier may not have recalled an actual order- he just maintained his dress and interval, as ordered.
 
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