What if No Pickett's charge during Gettysburg?

Jun 2017
734
maine
It also seems like Lee's plans changed dramatically after pushing the Union men through the town and towards the hills and high ground that would later become a problem. According to Longstreet, the original plan was to work with the mess Hill had instigated, then feint and move between the Union army and the capitol, find some good ground and get the fight on their terms... Lee later changed his mind, much to the surprise and dismay of Longstreet, who pointed out that the Union men were so well ensconced up on Cemetery Hill that it was all the more reason to *not* fight them...

Who knows what changed his mind...
A note on shoes at Gettysburg. Freeman (Lee's Lieutenants) stated that the Confederate army had heard a rumor that there was a large supply of shoes in Gettysburg. No further comment.
 
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Feb 2019
909
Pennsylvania, US
Perhaps a major problem, basically, was mismanagement--understandable mismanagement that followed the Confederate army's reorganization following the death of Stonewall Jackson. Officers (such as Ewell) were used to absolute obedience demanded by Jackson and unaccustomed to Lee's expectation of their using their own judgement. The Confederates seemed unclear about the status of their own forces: for example, Allegheny Johnson didn't know that Walker's Stonewall Brigade was already busy elsewhere at the time the order was issued for the attack on Culp's Hill (although it did participate). Rodes was negligent in that he never figured out how to coordinate his attack with Early's. It was a "comedy of errors" but the results were so sad. Pickett's charge was inadequately planned. Really, there were insufficient guns and the Union army fooled Lee into underestimating its firepower.
That is an interesting point... I know that up until Gettysburg, the Union army had a tendency to never act like a cohesive fighting group and more like a bunch of people who just so happened to show up all around the same place. The Confederacy would concentrate their divisions and be able to act as a single fighting force... most say Gettysburg was the first time that the Union had that synergy where all parts were working as one. It would also make sense that if Jackson were the key to the Confederate cohesion, once he was gone that too would dissolve into chaos.

I have read a theory that Lee hadn't altered his original plan and I am sympathetic to this idea. This (alleged) inflexibility was costly.
The “changed tactics” story was first published a year or two after the war when William Swinton wrote a rather comprehensive book on the Army of the Potomac... one of the many people he interviewed was James Longstreet who was the originator of the story. The volume was published in Lee's lifetime and the two remained on very amicable terms - so was it true and Lee was humble enough to allow it to be openly acknowledged?

Early openly claimed that it was Longstreet who had bungled Gettysburg because the charge should have happened at dawn, as he remembered Lee commanding... but instead happened at 4pm, after a spate of diversionary movements. It's an interesting theory, though there were also first hand accounts that would make Early's story seem ingenuine.

A Richmond newspaper correspondent laid the blame on Hill... as he watched Hill's assault on the Union center (which was the weakest point of the line) and said some a large portion of Hill's force - some15,000 soldiers - sat idly during the attack. He styled the story as Hill loosing Gettysburg singlehandedly.

After Lee's death, Longstreet reiterated the “changed tactics” story in an article written for the NY Times... he made public a letter he had written to his uncle a few days after the battle that expressed his sentiments at Lee's sudden shift in tactics... The article itself is a very sanguine piece lacking the personal attacks that were more characteristic of those responding to Longstreet's earlier insinuations about Lee. Was his judicious tone proof of some higher character or greater integrity - indicative of honesty? Or, was Longstreet just a better spin doctor, as after the war he was employed by the same government that he had fought to separate himself from (duplicitous?).

Because I have been so focused on Maine's regiments at Gettysburg, it comes somewhat as a shock to realize how many others were there!
I love those Mainers too... its rather hilarious to me (as I am rather ghoulish, I suppose) that the state of Pennsylvania had demanded that Reynolds take partial command of the fight on PA soil, and after an initial sweeping entrance that poor Lancaster boy was shot right off his horse. LOL. Such an anticlimax.

If the 20th Maine had been any more than 20 minutes (some even say 10) late getting to their position, the Confederates would have already have swarmed the hill, flanked the Union men and have a foothold to begin funneling men in to break up the defensive position. If Chamberlain was an hour late there probably would have been no battle there at all.... it would have been held by the Texans and Alabamans. JWC was the hingepin to maintaining that defensive position.

It would be interesting to make a list of the small near-miss variables that could have impacted the outcome of the battle... like a “pick two and win” sort of game:

Had Hill been organized when he attacked the weak Union center on Cemetery Hill and broken through the line...

Had Chamberlain been15 minutes late for taking his position at Little Round Top...

Had Chamberlain's Company B indeed been killed...

Had the Confederate artillery taken out their targets...

Had Stuart conveyed much needed information about the enemy positions as he encountered them...

Had Pickett's Charge been initiated in the early hours of the morning versus the afternoon...

There must be quite a few of these... it would be a fun list.
 
Jun 2017
734
maine
he made public a letter he had written to his uncle a few days after the battle
I have reference to that letter as well. It is difficult to make sense of it. Of course, it was written under stressful conditions.

Longstreet certainly is blamed by the "Lost-Causers," but IMO Lee would have done better to have heeded Longstreet. After the battle, Lee himself never blamed Longstreet.
I love those Mainers too... its rather hilarious to me (as I am rather ghoulish, I suppose) that the state of Pennsylvania had demanded that Reynolds take partial command of the fight on PA soil, and after an initial sweeping entrance that poor Lancaster boy was shot right off his horse. LOL. Such an anticlimax.
Certainly the Maine 20th has reaped "glory" but, to my mind it is the Maine 16th (from this area) that is admirable. When it left Augusta, Maine where it was originally mustered it, it numbered 1000--only 1/4 of whom made it to Gettysburg. When that battle was over, there were only 40-45 left The Union Army states: " at the close of the terrible three
days' fighting, all that remained of 248 officers and men, who entered the battle, were 2 officers and 15 enlisted men [remained"]. The regiment was the sacrifice to allow the 1st Corps to reach Cemetery Hill. One of the captured officers was Abner Small (from the next town): his diary still exists. Earlier this year another member of MGS sent me a PBS video:Sixteenth Maine at Gettysburg | Sixteenth Maine at Gettysburg Unfortunately it begins with an advertisement which I can't remove :mad: but it is a good look at a Union regiment as well as a sad description of its fate (General Reynolds figures in this).

There are a lot of "ifs" on that list! But I myself doubt that much would have been changed as far as Pickett's charge. But for Gettysburg itself, yes it is an interesting speculation.
 
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Zip

Jan 2018
766
San Antonio
Ahh, Gettysburg was a sideshow anyway. The main action was out west where the men of the Midwest were dismantling the rebellion piece by piece; Vicksburg being about to fall and Rosecrans running Bragg out of middle Tennessee at the time. Skinning while the easterners held a leg.
 
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Feb 2019
909
Pennsylvania, US
Ahh, Gettysburg was a sideshow anyway. The main action was out west where the men of the Midwest were dismantling the rebellion piece by piece; Vicksburg being about to fall and Rosecrans running Bragg out of middle Tennessee at the time. Skinning while the easterners held a leg.
I don't know if it's good to ever delegate a large-ish battle to the “side show bin”... as much as I do shamelessly adore Grant and his exploits in the West. I would agree Vicksburg was undoubtedly key because of its position of holding the Confederacy “halves” together...

Gettysburg ended the threat of Confederates harassing the capital and effectively forcing an end to the war. So if only for that fact, it was pretty key. It was also a turning point in the offensive momentum/morale for both sides... which if you have ever been in a close sports match of any kind, seems like such a powerful and intangible element that determines the winner even beyond ability and prowess.

Also, that artillery bombardment... 🤯 LOL.

Also, for those who love cavalry battles, the Union cavalry with it's fresh attitude “make-over” finally was a worthy advisary... and it was Buford's move to not allow the Rebels to traipse through Gettysburg again that was unexpected from the US cavalry and rather more like what a good cavalry officer should do...

Also, the battle itself was so close and rather pivotal - if you even just look at it from a purely psychological aspect - that's why people are still fascinated by it and love to rehash it and theorize about it over and over... I think because it was not a moment of pure genius (like some of the battles in the West) but an endless series of snafus and turns of luck that cause Gettysburg to be so enduringly interesting.
 
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Zip

Jan 2018
766
San Antonio
Also, the battle itself was so close and rather pivotal - if you even just look at it from a purely psychological aspect - that's why people are still fascinated by it and love to rehash it and theorize about it over and over... I think because it was not a moment of pure genius (like some of the battles in the West) but an endless series of snafus and turns of luck that cause Gettysburg to be so enduringly interesting.
An excellent post.
 
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Feb 2019
909
Pennsylvania, US
Certainly the Maine 20th has reaped "glory" but, to my mind it is the Maine 16th (from this area) that is admirable. When it left Augusta, Maine where it was originally mustered it, it numbered 1000--only 1/4 of whom made it to Gettysburg. When that battle was over, there were only 40-45 left The Union Army states: " at the close of the terrible three
days' fighting, all that remained of 248 officers and men, who entered the battle, were 2 officers and 15 enlisted men [remained"]. The regiment was the sacrifice to allow the 1st Corps to reach Cemetery Hill.
I'm actually headed to Gettysburg today for fun (to buy peafowl from a guy who has a peafowl and daylily farm - what a combo... I didn't realize he was literally on the far side of Little Round Top, so I will have to stop there)... I will have time to drive around, so I will look for monuments for the Maine 16th and see if there is any literature in the visitor's center. I need to broaden my Civil War favorites list, so this will be a good start!
 
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Jun 2017
734
maine
I'm actually headed to Gettysburg today for fun (to buy peafowl from a guy who has a peafowl and daylily farm - what a combo... I didn't realize he was literally on the far side of Little Round Top, so I will have to stop there)... I will have time to drive around, so I will look for monuments for the Maine 16th and see if there is any literature in the visitor's center. I need to broaden my Civil War favorites list, so this will be a good start!
According to Brian Swartz of Bangor Daily News, it is located on Doubleday Avenue. The 16th Maine Infantry monuments at Gettysburg -- complete with pictures and picture-taking advice. Incidentally, his Civil War blog is very Maine focused.
 
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