What if No Pickett's charge during Gettysburg?

Oct 2015
1,196
California
I'm not so sure about this, despite Lee's after action report that made the battle sound like an accident. I suspect he was being somewhat disingenuous. There were four Confederate divisions marching toward Gettysburg on the morning of July 1. They weren't all looking for shoes. Possibly none of them were, despite Heth's later claim to the contrary. Lee knew he had to win a quick victory. He had successfully concentrated his army, or expected to at Gettysburg. He thought he could swallow up a small part of Meade's army there. He may not have expected Meade to concentrate at Gettysburg as quickly as Meade did.
Well whatever the case may be for the engagement at Gettysburg a number of things certainly could have been done better.

  1. Better artillery placement by the Confederates.
  2. Better fuses on the Confederate shrapnel, so that they didn't over shoot as much before exploding.
  3. Better fuses on the Union shrapnel so they didn't overshoot as much before exploding, which by luck hit troops hiding in the woods.
The thing is that the edge had shifted to defense: shrapnel was still iffy but good enough to replace round shot, and canister and grapeshot were devastatingly effective - one volley of double canister by 10 guns laid waste to an entire brigade. The rifled musket and mini ball improved accuracy for those stationary and able to maintain volley fire at 6 volleys/minute, or fired more slowly but measured over the low stone wall. Also the Confederates had to march 3/4 mile in high heat up a moderate slope on open ground with some obstacles in their path. This is why Longstreet argued so intensely against it.

And as luck would have it, a dawn attack with disposition through maybe half the field at night, would have been into the rising sun - blinding the attackers and illuminating the field for the defenders.
 

Zip

Jan 2018
568
Comancheria
Little Round Top was critical. Cannon placed on its summit could fire down the length of Cemetery Ridge rendering it almost useless as a defensive position. It was held by the 20th Maine commanded by Joshua Chamberlain on day 2. Had the Confederates taken it, history would been different although on pure strategic considerations the Union was bound to win the war if not the battle IF it persevered.
Little Round Top was defended by two brigades of the 5th Corps, Vincent's and Weed's, a total of 8 regiments, plus a company of Regulars. The 20th Maine was one the four regiments of Vincent's brigade. The other regiments involved didn't have colonels as skilled at tooting their own horns as Chamberlain. Both Vincent and Weed were killed there.

In fact the hill was a rather poor artillery platform, crowded and uneven, and with poor sighting to the north. Had the hill fallen it would've been vulnerable to Federal counter attack anyway. And it didn't fall; in fact the rebels weren't that numerous and their assaults were poorly coordinated. Far more important and threatening to the Federal position were the rebel attacks on the wheatfield, peach orchard and north of the peach orchard. That was where the fighting was most ding-dong and the Federals almost broken. Almost.
 
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Zip

Jan 2018
568
Comancheria
Gettysburg was one of two times the Army of the Potomac was hitting on most of its cylinders. The other time was the Appomattox Campaign when Grant finally had the dead wood cleared away and the army at last had four capable and aggressive corps commanders--Humphreys, Griffin, Parke and Wright.

And with the Army of the James was all tuned up with Ord in command and Gibbon and Wetzel his corps commanders. And Sheridan running ad hoc combat groups (kampfgruppes?) and kicking any asses that needed kicking.
 
Feb 2019
859
Pennsylvania, US
Little Round Top was defended by two brigades of the 5th Corps, Vincent's and Weed's, a total of 8 regiments, plus a company of Regulars. The 20th Maine was one the four regiments of Vincent's brigade. The other regiments involved didn't have colonels as skilled at tooting their own horns as Chamberlain. Both Vincent and Weed were killed there.
I love the man to death, but he was certainly knew how to self-promote... though he did risk his life, he did take initiative and he was a model sort to be recognized by the public. He was articulate and intelligent and rather modest about his own role in his narratives - which ultimately make him appealing - but he also seemed to be able to calculate his statements for a bit of effect. We tend to always want to cast people who are good at publicizing themselves as frauds or boastful. Is it wrong to capitalize on your service in the war? No - most everyone rushed to publish their memoirs after the war. Was Chamberlain a pompous, self-serving type? Doesn't seem like it.

Chamberlain risked a lot, suffered a lot, had stories to tell and he was able unlike many other men, to tell them very, very well... his only fault is that he made himself more memorable and likable in his recollections than his peers (who may, incidentally have been dead after LRT... lol... perhaps "conveniently" is the better word?).
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,239
SoCal
I love the man to death, but he was certainly knew how to self-promote... though he did risk his life, he did take initiative and he was a model sort to be recognized by the public. He was articulate and intelligent and rather modest about his own role in his narratives - which ultimately make him appealing - but he also seemed to be able to calculate his statements for a bit of effect. We tend to always want to cast people who are good at publicizing themselves as frauds or boastful. Is it wrong to capitalize on your service in the war? No - most everyone rushed to publish their memoirs after the war. Was Chamberlain a pompous, self-serving type? Doesn't seem like it.

Chamberlain risked a lot, suffered a lot, had stories to tell and he was able unlike many other men, to tell them very, very well... his only fault is that he made himself more memorable and likable in his recollections than his peers (who may, incidentally have been dead after LRT... lol... perhaps "conveniently" is the better word?).
LRT = Little Round Top, correct?
 
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Zip

Jan 2018
568
Comancheria
Both armies were badly shot up and their organizations severely damaged. An army in such condition is more capable of running than chasing.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,239
SoCal
Both armies were badly shot up and their organizations severely damaged. An army in such condition is more capable of running than chasing.
What's the difference between running and chasing?
 

Zip

Jan 2018
568
Comancheria
What's the difference between running and chasing?
Fear and desperation are very effective motivators. And it's an easier task to run than chase; the runner knows where he's going but the chaser must take into account the runner's options and detail forces to counter them. Successful pursuits were rare in this war: even after a rout such as Nashville the victorious and well organized and led Federal army couldn't bag the whole defeated army.

Grant chased Lee down after the fall of Petersburg, true. But his forces were in much better shape than Meade's were after Gettysburg--better organized, better led and in better physical and moral condition.
 
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