What If Longstreet Called Off Pickett's Charge?

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I'm not sure that's entirely relevant to the post you're replying to?

If what you're saying is that "it was over before it began" because Pickett's Charge had no chance to succeed, then surely it's worth evaluating whether Pickett's Charge had no chance to succeed or a reasonable chance to succeed, and Lee certainly thought it was possible (with his initial intent).

I think what's going on is that Lee is focusing on the possibilities offered by success (to whit: if all the brigades go in then there's a good chance of success) and Longstreet on the risks of failure (to whit: if all the brigades go in and are repulsed then the army is vulnerable). They are both weighing both possibilities, but make different decisions on the matter.
No never argued it was over before it began at all......that requires using our hindsight they never had.

As I previously stated the only way to prove the centre wasn't the weak link as percieved at the time by Lee (whose decision it was to make) is to carry out the ordered attack.

No attack, there's no reason for Lee to believe the centre was not ripe for attack.....which would leave Longstreet culpable and responsible for the perceived monumental failure

As far as launching the attack, if Lee and Longstreet differ in opinion, it is irrelevant, as one is the superior and one the subordinate. That's why there is a chain of command.
 

Saphroneth

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No never argued it was over before it began at all......that requires using our hindsight they never had.
Oh, sorry, I must have misunderstood this:

I can’t see any other opportunity for Lee to achieve his goal, if Pickett’s charge never happened the fight was lost, if it did happen the fight was lost, it was over before it began.


That or the person I was originally replying to had a different opinion to yours, which I suppose is also possible.
 

Rio Bravo

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Lee thought that Pickett’s splendid division of 15 Virginia regiments could punch through the Union line where a Brigade had so nearly succeeded the day before.
 

d.h.flagg

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My original question is not about the chain of command, but rather what would Lee do strategically if Longstreet called off the charge? Did Lee have time to formulate another plan that same day? Does he wait to see what Meade does? Does he withdraw? Does he plan another charge for the next day?

I know we should stay away from "what ifs" but they can be interesting.
 
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My original question is not about the chain of command, but rather what would Lee do strategically if Longstreet called off the charge? Did Lee have time to formulate another plan that same day? Does he wait to see what Meade does? Does he withdraw? Does he plan another charge for the next day?

I know we should stay away from "what ifs" but they can be interesting.
It is folly to think chain of command would not apply to a monumental command failure......

He likely would have attacked the next day (with Longstreet no longer having responsibility to carry it out)
 

Saphroneth

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My original question is not about the chain of command, but rather what would Lee do strategically if Longstreet called off the charge? Did Lee have time to formulate another plan that same day? Does he wait to see what Meade does? Does he withdraw? Does he plan another charge for the next day?

I know we should stay away from "what ifs" but they can be interesting.
I think it depends on Longstreet's reasoning when asked. If the explanation for example is that the position appears too strong, Lee might revert to his day-two plan (echelon attack converging on the hinge of the Union line); if the explanation is that there was insufficient artillery ammunition, I wonder whether Lee might not consider pulling back and inviting a follow-up attack from Meade.
 
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The problem with the ammo excuse.....is it was also of Longstreet's making.

After learning Lee wants to strike the next day.......Longstreet not only somehow forgets to tell Pickett to move up and be in position the next morning.....but neither tells Alexander to stockpile artillery ammo at the front....nor does so all morning during the delay of Pickett finally getting in position.

Though in reality the artillery bombardment was intended to be short all along, as a longer one simply would give away the point of attack and invite enemy artillery being moved to the sector for counter battery fire.
 

Waterloo50

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My original question is not about the chain of command, but rather what would Lee do strategically if Longstreet called off the charge? Did Lee have time to formulate another plan that same day? Does he wait to see what Meade does? Does he withdraw? Does he plan another charge for the next day?

I know we should stay away from "what ifs" but they can be interesting.
A few people in this thread have suggested that had Pickett’s charge never happened then a similar attack would have possibly happen the following day, I for one would be interested to know how or where that was likely to happen. I don’t think that many people see a withdrawal as an option, what would a withdrawal actually achieve other than an opportunity to consolidate and try again but as others have pointed out, it would have been a logistical nightmare and I would imagine that Lee would have been seriously harried the entire time.
 

Saphroneth

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The problem with the ammo excuse.....is it was also of Longstreet's making.

After learning Lee wants to strike the next day.......Longstreet not only somehow forgets to tell Pickett to move up and be in position the next morning.....but neither tells Alexander to stockpile artillery ammo at the front....nor does so all morning during the delay of Pickett finally getting in position.

Though in reality the artillery bombardment was intended to be short all along, as a longer one simply would give away the point of attack and invite enemy artillery being moved to the sector for counter battery fire.
Well, yes, but what I'm saying is that if Lee asks Longstreet "why didn't you attack", then Longstreet is going to say something. Blaming it on artillery quantities is just one possible thing he could say.

A few people in this thread have suggested that had Pickett’s charge never happened then a similar attack would have possibly happen the following day, I for one would be interested to know how or where that was likely to happen. I don’t think that many people see a withdrawal as an option, what would a withdrawal actually achieve other than an opportunity to consolidate and try again but as others have pointed out, it would have been a logistical nightmare and I would imagine that Lee would have been seriously harried the entire time.
Well, don't forget Lee withdrew historically and didn't get too badly molested.
If he pulls back after no Pickett's Charge then he has foraged heavily in the North and has inflicted serious casualties on the Army of the Potomac, which is a pretty good outcome even if he hasn't humiliated the Union on Northern soil; there's always going to be the question of "what if", though.

Also worth considering is that there was heavy rain starting on the 4th.
 

ErnieMac

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I agree with those stating that from what we know about Longstreet's character there was no way he was not going to obey Lee's orders.

If the unthinkable had occurred I think Lee's two options would have been to issue the necessary orders himself or to get A. P. Hill to take care of the final arrangements. If Longstreet had everything set, but backed away at the last moment before the bombardment started, Hill, nominal commander of 2/3 of the assault force, would be aware of the plan and brought up to speed relatively quickly. Lee could have maintained his supervisory role. I don't think time was an issue, the assaults on July 2 hadn't started until about 4:00 p.m.

If Longstreet balked after it was apparent that the bombardment had done all it could, a much faster decision would be required. If the troops are not sent forward immediately Meade has time to adjust. Artillery ammunition supplies are now at a critical point; Alexander had already told Longstreet, before the bombardment, that there was only enough ammunition for one try. An immediate decision would have been required to send the troops forward or suspend the attack. Lee would have had to make that choice.

And Longstreet would have spent a relatively quiet remainder of the War on the Confederate coast lines or in the Trans-Mississippi.
 
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Well, yes, but what I'm saying is that if Lee asks Longstreet "why didn't you attack", then Longstreet is going to say something. Blaming it on artillery quantities is just one possible thing he could say.


Well, don't forget Lee withdrew historically and didn't get too badly molested.
If he pulls back after no Pickett's Charge then he has foraged heavily in the North and has inflicted serious casualties on the Army of the Potomac, which is a pretty good outcome even if he hasn't humiliated the Union on Northern soil; there's always going to be the question of "what if", though.

Also worth considering is that there was heavy rain starting on the 4th.
Not seeing a strong case for withdrawal.....Lee for three days was confident of the AoNV ability to attack, a failure of Longstreet to execute on day 3 just would reflect on his faith in Longstreet, don't see how it would shake his confidence in the AoNV for another push.
 

Saphroneth

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Not seeing a strong case for withdrawal.....Lee for three days was confident of the AoNV ability to attack, a failure of Longstreet to execute on day 3 just would reflect on his faith in Longstreet, don't see how it would shake his confidence in the AoNV for another push.
I think the point here is that if Lee decided to pull back - or go for another attack - it wouldn't be either because he felt he hadn't done anything or because he was worried about what would happen if he pulled back. It'd be if he felt it was worth another attack sequence, probably an echelon attack this time owing to the lack of artillery firepower required for a grand battery.
 
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I think the point here is that if Lee decided to pull back - or go for another attack - it wouldn't be either because he felt he hadn't done anything or because he was worried about what would happen if he pulled back. It'd be if he felt it was worth another attack sequence, probably an echelon attack this time owing to the lack of artillery firepower required for a grand battery.
Personally from past experiences I think he was victim of not only overconfidence in his army, but disdain for the other.....in his mind not only was his capable of making another effort........but that the other was on the verge of breaking with another effort.....

IMO it did lead to a false sense of destiny was at hand.
 

Saphroneth

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Personally from past experiences I think he was victim of not only overconfidence in his army, but disdain for the other.....in his mind not only was his capable of making another effort........but that the other was on the verge of breaking with another effort.....

IMO it did lead to a false sense of destiny was at hand.
I think at this point we need to consider that the Union army was pretty badly damaged. On July 4 they were reporting only on the order of 50,000 infantry enlisted with the colours, and 11th Corps for example was down to only 5,000 men PFD for whom Gettysburg was their first real victory; if Lee had managed to hit the hinge of the Union line with a converging attack by 12,000 infantry (which is to say, about 20% of his available force) then Meade is going to have a bad time. Similarly 3rd Corps went from 12,600 men on June 30 to 5,600 men on July 4.
Many of these corps are very badly wounded.
 
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I think at this point we need to consider that the Union army was pretty badly damaged. On July 4 they were reporting only on the order of 50,000 infantry enlisted with the colours, and 11th Corps for example was down to only 5,000 men PFD for whom Gettysburg was their first real victory; if Lee had managed to hit the hinge of the Union line with a converging attack by 12,000 infantry (which is to say, about 20% of his available force) then Meade is going to have a bad time. Similarly 3rd Corps went from 12,600 men on June 30 to 5,600 men on July 4.
Many of these corps are very badly wounded.
If Longstreet botches carrying out the planned effort, see another effort very likely.......it would do little to swing the mindset from they will break with one more push to suddenly walk away
 

Saphroneth

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If Longstreet botches carrying out the planned effort, see another effort very likely.......it would do little to swing the mindset from they will break with one more push to suddenly walk away
It's not like Lee was exactly alien to the idea of abandoning an attack plan if the situation no longer suited it - he'd done much the same thing at Chancellorsville, he was attacking while the Union was vulnerable in the advanced line and then stopped attacking once they'd pulled back to the laager line.

Of course, he may be overconfident - but he may instead be the right amount of confident, and launch a converging attack against the hinge of the Union line.
Or if he decides that the whole Union army is present and that they likely have formed reserves (not an unreasonable guess, wrong but not unreasonable) he may instead decide that his best choice is to pull back and invite Union attack.
Or he may decide that since he's not got his attack on the 3rd he can afford to manoeuvre.

Though one intriguing idea is to use the rains on the 4th (and the fact they swell Rock Creek) to march a CS division on the Harrisburg Pike over Rock Creek, then turn onto the minor roads and aim to cut the Baltimore Pike. That leaves Meade with only one line of supply and retreat, the Taneytown road, and Meade cut away from his trains to reach Gettysburg so fast.
 

d.h.flagg

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Interesting what Meade might have done if Picketts Charge did not happen - his army was also in bad shape. And the heavy rain on the 4th would likely have changed any attack plans that were in the works for that day for both armies. I am reminded of Lee's comment that the 'Union army is there and we will strike it' (bad paraphrase!) so maybe Lee makes one more attack as soon as he is able.
 

ErnieMac

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It's not like Lee was exactly alien to the idea of abandoning an attack plan if the situation no longer suited it - he'd done much the same thing at Chancellorsville, he was attacking while the Union was vulnerable in the advanced line and then stopped attacking once they'd pulled back to the laager line.

Of course, he may be overconfident - but he may instead be the right amount of confident, and launch a converging attack against the hinge of the Union line.
Or if he decides that the whole Union army is present and that they likely have formed reserves (not an unreasonable guess, wrong but not unreasonable) he may instead decide that his best choice is to pull back and invite Union attack.
Or he may decide that since he's not got his attack on the 3rd he can afford to manoeuvre.

Though one intriguing idea is to use the rains on the 4th (and the fact they swell Rock Creek) to march a CS division on the Harrisburg Pike over Rock Creek, then turn onto the minor roads and aim to cut the Baltimore Pike. That leaves Meade with only one line of supply and retreat, the Taneytown road, and Meade cut away from his trains to reach Gettysburg so fast.
Lee also backed away from counterattacks at Antietam / Sharpsburg and Fredericksburg when it became apparent that they were not feasible. He was always looking, but did not act rashly.
 

Saphroneth

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Lee also backed away from counterattacks at Antietam / Sharpsburg and Fredericksburg when it became apparent that they were not feasible. He was always looking, but did not act rashly.
Indeed; much in warfare is effectively certain, but the rest is about risk and reward and probability. If we assume Lee would "go for" attacks with a 25% chance of going sour, for example, we'd expect to see about one in four of them go sour (etc.)
 
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