Would the Outcome of Five Forks Have Been Different Without the Infamous Shad Bake?

JeffBrooks

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#1
One of the best known snafus of the war took place during the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865, when George Pickett and Fitzhugh Lee, assuming that the Union forces would not attack anytime soon, went off for a shad bake lunch with General Tom Rosser, about a mile and a half north of the Confederate line, without bothering to tell their subordinates where they were going. They were out of communication with their troops when Sheridan's attack shattered the Southern line and, thanks to an acoustic shadow, did not even know a battle was going on until the outcome was already decided.

My question is simply this: assuming that Pickett and Lee had not gone to the shad bake, but remained where they were supposed to be, would it really have made any difference?
 

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#2
I think the die was cast and Pickett and Lee being on the battlefield wouldn't have made much difference. The Union forces had already flanked the poorly dispersed Confederate forces and although having a central command on the battlefield would have better coordinated the response to Sherdian's and Warren's attacks, I stil think the Confederates would have been forced from their positions although I do believe the withdrawal would have been more orderly with fewer prisoners being taken. There were just not the reinforcements that could be sent to the trouble spots on the battlefield even if Pickett and Lee had been there to direct them. George Pickett and Fitzhugh Lee were negilgent of duty in my opinion on April 1, 1865 but their presence on the battlefield would have done little to stop the incoming blue wave that was about to sweep their positions.
 
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jackt62

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#3
I agree. The outcome of Five Forks would not have been changed had Pickett and Lee been with their commands instead of attending Rosser's shad bake. Personally, that whole incident has probably been magnified beyond its actual importance over the years because it makes for a great story. In fact, I understand that RE Lee did not find out about that meal until well after the war.
 
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#4
The question I think depends upon whether orders would have been promptly given to shift troops to the left to block Crawford, and whether such orders if given could have been carried out effectively.

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The 38th Virginia was on the extreme Confederate left and when their Colonel (George Griggs) realized what was happening he dispatched couriers to brigade and division HQ to report the federal movement. But with General Pickett off at the shad bake and no one knowing where he was, there was no one in command to report to. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered, but abandoning their posts without making any provisions for command in their absence was inexcusable and potentially, if not actually, catastrophic.
 
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bankerpapaw

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#6
One of the best known snafus of the war took place during the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865, when George Pickett and Fitzhugh Lee, assuming that the Union forces would not attack anytime soon, went off for a shad bake lunch with General Tom Rosser, about a mile and a half north of the Confederate line, without bothering to tell their subordinates where they were going. They were out of communication with their troops when Sheridan's attack shattered the Southern line and, thanks to an acoustic shadow, did not even know a battle was going on until the outcome was already decided.

My question is simply this: assuming that Pickett and Lee had not gone to the shad bake, but remained where they were supposed to be, would it really have made any difference?
I know the war was drawing to a close, but I always wondered why Pickett and Lee were not charged with der
One of the best known snafus of the war took place during the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865, when George Pickett and Fitzhugh Lee, assuming that the Union forces would not attack anytime soon, went off for a shad bake lunch with General Tom Rosser, about a mile and a half north of the Confederate line, without bothering to tell their subordinates where they were going. They were out of communication with their troops when Sheridan's attack shattered the Southern line and, thanks to an acoustic shadow, did not even know a battle was going on until the outcome was already decided.

My question is simply this: assuming that Pickett and Lee had not gone to the shad bake, but remained where they were supposed to be, would it really have made any difference?
I know the war was about to end, but I've always wondered why Pickett and Lee were not charged with dereliction of duty. Not enough time to start proceedings?
 

Jimklag

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I know the war was drawing to a close, but I always wondered why Pickett and Lee were not charged with der

I know the war was about to end, but I've always wondered why Pickett and Lee were not charged with dereliction of duty. Not enough time to start proceedings?
Really? It would be Lee who would charge his subordinate, Pickett, with dereliction of duty. And who, anywhere in the whole CSA, had the nerve to charge Lee?
 
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Really? It would be Lee who would charge his subordinate, Pickett, with dereliction of duty. And who, anywhere in the whole CSA, had the nerve to charge Lee?
Pickett was not Lee's subordinate and both were guilty so I don't see why it would be a problem. Had the war not ended so quickly afterwards, I think charges would have been pressed.
 

Jimklag

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Pickett was not Lee's subordinate and both were guilty so I don't see why it would be a problem. Had the war not ended so quickly afterwards, I think charges would have been pressed.
Pickett was not Lee's subordinate? Lee was commander of all the CSA armies by the time of Five Forks. Every single man in the southern armies was subordinate to R.E. Lee. Also, Lee was commander of the ANV and Pickett was a division commander in that army. You must have an interesting definition of subordinate. And no one, including Jefferson Davis, was ever going to charge R.E. Lee with anything at any time in any forum.
 
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Pickett was not Lee's subordinate? Lee was commander of all the CSA armies by the time of Five Forks. Every single man in the southern armies was subordinate to R.E. Lee. Also, Lee was commander of the ANV and Pickett was a division commander in that army. You must have an interesting definition of subordinate. And no one, including Jefferson Davis, was ever going to charge R.E. Lee with anything at any time in any forum.
We are discussing the actions of Fitzhugh Lee, who left his post to attend the shad bake. No one has ever suggested that Robert E. Lee had anything to do with it.
 
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#13
I've never seen a map that shows that Grigg's regiment (the 38th Virginia) was detached from Steuart's brigade and sent to Ransom's left at the beginning of the action. Here's Griggs' report after the battle:

"Early in the action Colonel Griggs (with the Thirty-eighth) was ordered from his brigade, and to go to the left of Brigadier-General Ransom which he did at a double quick. Finding no troops but a few cavalrymen, who left to join (they said) their command, he deployed his regiment into single file, and opened a destructive fire upon the enemy, who were marching in view, to the rear of their line of battle, in three columns to our left. Colonel Griggs dispatched a courier to brigade and division headquarters to report this movement of the enemy, and continued to deploy his regiment and fire upon the enemy, and kept his front in check; but there being no troops on his left, the enemy’s column soon passed to the rear of his line and opened upon his front and rear. Many of the men having expended all their ammunition, and the enemy rapidly closing all means of escape, the few men left were ordered to retire. After cutting through the lines of the enemy, Colonel Griggs reported in person to General Pickett the condition he was in. The general replied, “He knew it, but could not help it – had done all he could.” The regiment fought odds of about ten to one, in full view of the enemy, where each private could see for himself the odds against him. Yet there seemed no unusual excitement or fear among them, and some were seen to club their muskets after they had fired their last round of ammunition."

Here's a post I did about visiting the battlefield a couple of years ago: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-38th-virginia-at-five-forks.139598/#post-1674464
 

JeffBrooks

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#14
I know the war was about to end, but I've always wondered why Pickett and Lee were not charged with dereliction of duty. Not enough time to start proceedings?
The army surrendered barely a week after the battle and the Confederate government disintegrated within weeks. So, yeah, not enough time to start proceedings.

Would have been interesting, though.
 

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