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Which came first?

Discussion in 'Battle of Gettysburg' started by infomanpa, Mar 11, 2017.

  1. infomanpa

    infomanpa Private

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    Which action began first, the attack on East Cemetery Hill or on Culps Hill?

    I have consulted several sources and have not been able to come up with any definitive conclusions. Some say that it was meant to be an echelon operation starting with Johnson's division, followed by Early, then Rodes. Others make no such distinction.
     

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  3. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    They occurred almost simultaneously. Hays and Avery step off at about 8 pm with Johnson's Division starting its attack about the same time, driving in Greene's skirmishers about 15 minutes later.

    Ryan
     
  4. E_just_E

    E_just_E 1st Lieutenant Forum Host

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    Here are some timelines in Gettysburg for July 2nd (in EST and not EDT) :

    Sunset: 7:41pm
    Twilight: 8:14pm
    Nautical Twilight: 8:55pm
    Astronomical Twilight: 9:43pm

    Lots of the reports are talking about going off "after the sunset or" "about twilight", which makes that 8ish PM (which will be today's 9ish PM) about right. Astronomical Twilight is just before "pitch black". There are reports that the last troops broke through the Union ECH at "pitch black" and were hoping for reinforcements that did not come. So we are looking for an 8ish to 10ish-10:30ish battle at ECH (add an hour for today's equivalents).

    Not sure about Culps Hill exact times of battle.
     
  5. GABoy

    GABoy Private

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    Everything I have ever read leads me to believe that the attack on Cemetery Hill began first but not by much. The fighting there was brief, however, compared to the struggles at Culp's Hill, which went on well into the night.
     
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  6. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    The infantry firing on Culp's Hill occurred first, because the advance of Jones' brigade and Johnson's division prompted some realignment within the Eleventh Corps. Notably the 17th Connecticut was moved further to the right, but also the 33rd Massachusetts was sent forward to meet an advance from the direction of Culp's Hill, when it suddenly found itself about to be flanked by Avery's brigade and had to quickly fall back. In addition, the 61st Ohio and 157th New York were sent to Culp's Hill as reinforcements, followed by the 45th New York and 82nd Illinois - I figure the latter two regiments moved off less than five minutes before Hays/Avery advanced. These reinforcements would not have been sent if the Cemetery Hill attack was already underway. Hancock dispatched the 71st Pennsylvania when the artillery first opened on the advance of Johnson's division (about 7:15 p.m.); he sent Carroll's brigade to Cemetery Hill about 30 minutes later when firing greatly intensified in that direction.
     
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  7. infomanpa

    infomanpa Private

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    Thanks, guys...that cleared it up. :tongue:

    Joking aside, it appears that official sources don't seem to make it easy to be certain of the timing, which explains the difficulty in resolving this. I would think that Ewell would have given directions to his divisions as to the order in which to proceed. Too bad that there is no record of this. I tend to agree with Tom Elmore, because of the evidence that reinforcing units were sent from Cemetery Hill to Culps Hill. Also, it makes sense that an echelon attack would have been ordered in the sequence of Johnson, Early, then Rodes.
     
  8. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    To be fair, @Tom Elmore is correct in that the skirmishing opened on Johnson's front first. I wasn't counting the initial skirmishing but only the actual attacks. Hays and Avery didn't really skirmish (other than the skirmishing that had been going on all day) before setting out on their attack.

    Ryan
     
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  9. Buckeye Bill

    Buckeye Bill 2nd Lieutenant

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    "The most accurate fire I have yet seen from their artillery."
    Colonel Charles S. Wainwright
    1st Corps Artillery Brigade, USA

    The Confederate battle plan on July 2 called for General Richard Ewell's Second Corps to threaten the right flank of the Union army, while General Longstreet made the main attack against the Union left flank. Ewell planned to open his part of the action by shelling the Union positions on Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill with the artillery battalion of Major Joseph W. Latimer.

    This ridge, known as Benner's Hill, proved the best location available to Latimer and during the afternoon he placed fourteen guns here. At 4 p.m. they opened fire upon the Union batteries on Cemetery Hill. Over twenty-four Union guns replied, including guns on the summit of Culp's Hill and at Stevens' Knoll, midway between Culp's and Cemetery Hills.

    For nearly one and one-half hours the opposing artillery blazed away at one another. The superior firepower and elevation enjoyed by the Union artillery battered Latimer's batteries. One Confederate officer described a scene of "guns dismounted and disabled, carriages splintered and crushed, ammunition chests exploded, limbers upset, wounded horses plunging and kicking." Latimer suffered a terrible wound to his right arm. As he was carried from the field "in a clear and steady voice" he called to his men to fight harder and avenge his loss. But valor alone could not overcome the intense Union fire and Latimer's battalion was forced to withdraw to cover, ending the artillery conflict on this part of the battlefield.


    * Benner's Hill Marker.

    IMG_9840.JPG
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2017
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  10. eBrowne

    eBrowne Private

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    Well, Lt. William Ewing seemed to imply that Culp's Hill was first. Ewing served in Norton's Battery on Cemetery Hill.
    "Near dusk, the infantry on the right having been engaged since 6 P.M., the Division of Gen. Early, of Ewell's Corps, eight thousand strong, charged upon the batteries on Cemetery Hill..." Toledo Blade, July 18, 1863
     
  11. infomanpa

    infomanpa Private

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    Interesting quote by Lt. Ewing. However, it seems to be generally accepted that the engagement on Culps Hill didn't take place until after sunset. At 6 PM, it was over 90 minutes before sundown, so the sun would have still been out in broad daylight.
     
  12. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    Lt. Ewing was probably from Ohio and may have synchronized his watch with the local clock. That would make his timing off by, potentially, an hour. That would put the first attacks around 7pm which is not out of the realm of possibility.

    Ryan
     
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  13. eBrowne

    eBrowne Private

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    The reported times are somewhat meaningless as reported by the combatants. Better to use them as to order the events then to time the events. Originally from Cincinnati, Ewing had moved to Toledo.
     
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  14. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    I figure Johnson's three brigades (Jones, Williams and Steuart) moved out at a few minutes past 7 p.m., and very soon drew fire from the Federal batteries on Cemetery Hill. At that moment the Federals within earshot knew they were about to get hit hard on their right flank. It would have taken these three brigades about 20 minutes to close on Rock Creek, where they were delayed firmly if briefly by Greene's skirmishers (78 NY) - the initiation of infantry fire. The Confederates reasonably concluded that they broke the first Union line at that point, and they began to cross Rock Creek at 7:30 p.m. Due to a bend in the creek, Steuart's left regiments could not keep up with the rest of the line to their right, and it would take a few extra minutes for them to come up and extend the line beyond the unprotected far right of the 137 NY.

    When Hays/Avery advanced about 7:40 p.m. they immediately came into view of the Cemetery Hill batteries and Federal skirmishers in front of the hill, and it would have taken only 5 minutes before Hays' men encountered the closest Federal infantry at the base of the hill.

    In other words, according to my calculations the elapsed time between the artillery opening on Johnson and Early was about 40 minutes, but the time separation of the initial infantry fire was only about 15-20 minutes.
     

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