Gettysburg

Commander

Historum Emeritas
Jun 2006
1,362
Jacksonville, FL
Today marks the Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Why not create a discussion about it.

The Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – July 3, 1863), fought in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, as part of the Gettysburg Campaign, was the bloodiest[1] battle of the American Civil War and is frequently cited as the war's turning point. Union Major General George G. Meade's Army of the Potomac decisively defeated attacks by Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, ending Lee's second and final invasion of the North.
 

Lord_Cronus

Historum Emeritas
Jun 2006
1,047
Georgia
I wouldn't call it a descisive victory for the north. I would say marginal at best. Casualty tolls were 23,000 for the north and 28,000 for the south, hardly decisive. That plus the fact the Meade was unable to stage a quick pursuit.

The whole battle was a mistake, started when A.P. Hill ordered Heth's division to the town to acquire shoes thinking the federal army was another days march from the town, which the bulk of it was but Buford's cavalry and Reynold's corps was out in advance of the army. If Lee had went on and sent the forces he had near the town into action sooner it may have went differently. But, as a result of a gap in logistics, due to the absence of JEB Stuart, he had no way of knowing what was in front of him. Though the Confederates were able to take McPherson farm, and then eventually occupy Seminary Ridge, if they would have pressed sooner and sent Buford back before the I Corps had a chance to show up it would have made a strategic advantage for them in having line of site at the advancing enemy columns. Moreover, Ewell's failure to try and take Culp's Hill was a big turning point for the battle.

For the next two days, the same problem that had plagued the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) since the Pennisula Campaign was a failure to coordinate attacks simultaneously. When Hood's Texans made the charge up Little Round Top, the entire Confederate line was suppose to make an assault at once. However, Longstreet was delayed buy two brigades that were moving out of site of the signal corps atop the hill. Had they went forward the hill could be taken with little resistance, as the signal corps was the only defence at the top. The delay allowed Strong Vincent's brigade to come up and occupy the hill. This coupled with Sickle's moving his division forward to take the bulk of the assault led to the withdraw of the Confederates.

I'd like to take a moment to address something. The charge of the 20th Maine is regaurded as the act that saved the hill. I feel it important to note that the Texan's were already withdrawing down the slopes, they weren't coming back up again they were falling back to their lines. The charge was against a retreating enemy, which there's nothing wrong with that, but it didn't save the day.

The third day was suppose to be another full on advance of the line, but actions on Culp's Hill changed that. War strategies of the time dictated that if the flanks were assaulted and could not be destroyed, the center would be the weakest point. Which up till, the morning of July 3 was true to the Amy of the Potomac (AOP). Meade had concluded the night before that Lee would assault the center, and moved troops in to reinforce there. What followed was the largest event in the history of America, Pettigrew's assault. I'm not gonna call it Pickets' charge, though he was principal commander. The fact is more North Carolinians made the charge than any other state. Lee had ordered all guns, about 150, to Seminary Ridge. They would lay a barrage on the works of Cemetary Ridge. The barrage did little more than wast ammunition due to the heavy smoked produced that made it hard to see what you were hitting. It is worth mentioning the Meade's headquarters was struck, although he wasn't in it.

The Federal artillery had been responding but quit to save ammo, and seeing this it was judged that the barrage was successful. Longstreet was ordered forward. The estimates are between some 11,000 and 15,000 men went across a mile of open ground in full view of artillery on Little Round Top, and Cemetary Ridge. It gives me chills just thinking of that many men coming forward in lines and given that eery rebel yell. Though tried in vain, the charge failed. Armistead's brigade and a handfull of Pettigrew's North Carolinians made it over the stone wall at what is now known as the High Water Mark. Pickett lost nearly his whole division including all senior officers. What is so remarkable about it, was when the men returned they wanted to go again! They had just been through what must have been the closest account to anything just shy of hell imaginable and they wanted more.

The ANV withdrew the next day during a rain storm, unable to cross the Potomac due to a cavalry raid on their pontoon bridge. They were poised to stage a fight near Williamsport, but it never came. Meade gave them a two day head start, and when he had his army ready to destroy them there was nobody there to fight. They had snuck away during the night.

Didn't mean to get long winded, that's my account of Gettysburg. As far as a turning point, I don't believe so. I consider Chancellorsville as the end of the Confederate dominance on the field. After Jackson's death Lee was never the same.

A little trivia question for everyone. Who was the only civillian killed at the Battle of Gettysburg?
 
Jun 2006
268
Lord_Cronus said:
I'd like to take a moment to address something. The charge of the 20th Maine is regaurded as the act that saved the hill. I feel it important to note that the Texan's were already withdrawing down the slopes, they weren't coming back up again they were falling back to their lines. The charge was against a retreating enemy, which there's nothing wrong with that, but it didn't save the day.
So would you say it is rather gutless to charge a retreating army? Kind of like kicking a man when he's down?
 

Lord_Cronus

Historum Emeritas
Jun 2006
1,047
Georgia
I wouldn't say it was gutless, Chamberlain had no way of knowing that the enemy was retreating. But nearly every story you read talks of how the charge, "Saved the line." Don't get me wrong, the move was bold, and Chamberlain was a damn fine comander. I just think it has been over glorified, the man got a medal of honor for it. I think if he can get one for that then every single man that charged Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg derserved the same thing.
 

Commander

Historum Emeritas
Jun 2006
1,362
Jacksonville, FL
So you do not agree that had Chamberlain retreated or surrended the flank, that the Confederate Army wouldn't have been able to march up and attack the Union from behind and squeezing them in the middle like a sandwich?
 

Lord_Cronus

Historum Emeritas
Jun 2006
1,047
Georgia
Commander said:
So you do not agree that had Chamberlain retreated or surrended the flank, that the Confederate Army wouldn't have been able to march up and attack the Union from behind and squeezing them in the middle like a sandwich?
I don't disagree with it. I've been on top of Little Round Top, and you can see every bit of the battlefield. If the Confederates had taken it and brough up artillery it would have been doomsday for Meade. Chamberlain managed to keep the men's morale so high that they stayed to the last round of ammunition they had was fired despite the hell that Col. William Oates and his Alabamians put them through. I've actually been on the rock the Oates touched marking the farthest advance up the hill, and they came very close to taking it.

This is something I forgot to mention earlier. Oates and his men had been hurried up to the field for the charge up LRT. When they got to position they had no water and very little rest. Before they had a chance to get either they were ordered forward, in the heat of the day with no water. Hence the line in the movie Gettysburg when Oates is captured he is asked if he needs anything and he replies, "May I have some water?" This is one of the reasons that they weren't putting up much of a fight when Chamberlain came down the hill, they were just dog tired and thirsty.

I'm gonna put up a few photos from my recent trip to Gettysburg so those of you who haven't seen will be able to picture the battle.
 

Lord_Cronus

Historum Emeritas
Jun 2006
1,047
Georgia


The cluster of trees in the center slightly to the right is the Angle. The lone tree to the left of that is the High Water Mark. The picture was taken from the NC monument where Pettigrew stepped off, it's about a mile distance from there.



This what was know as the Valley of Death. This is looking down from Little Round Top. The area where the rocks are to the left is the Devil's Den.



This is Plum Run, after the battle it was called Blood Run.

I've got some more pictures, but I don't have a web URL to put them on here. Does anybody know how I can attatch them so I can get them on here? I have a good one looking down from where the 20th Maine was.
 
Jun 2006
185
kahn said:
Lord_Cronus said:
I'd like to take a moment to address something. The charge of the 20th Maine is regaurded as the act that saved the hill. I feel it important to note that the Texan's were already withdrawing down the slopes, they weren't coming back up again they were falling back to their lines. The charge was against a retreating enemy, which there's nothing wrong with that, but it didn't save the day.
So would you say it is rather gutless to charge a retreating army? Kind of like kicking a man when he's down?
My opinion on this one is rather simple. War is not meant to be a pretty thing and a 'respectable thing' in my opinion. You're going to war to win the war. That's why I never really liked the European style of fighting. It was a gentleman's sport. In my eyes, that's not war. That's playing ches with a friend, but this time with real life people. Therefore, I feel that attacking a retreating army is not only a smart thing to do, but necessary. If they live, they will attack another day. If they are dead, they will not attack another day.