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Battle of Gettysburg, 150 years ago

by SW VandeCarr
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SW VandeCarr
#1
Jun30-13, 07:42 PM
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The Battle of Gettysburg was the decisive battle of the American Civil War, fought from July 1 to July3, 1863 just south of the Pennsylvania town for which it is named. It was a Union victory but the southern commander Robert E Lee escaped with a good part of his army intact. The war would last another 21 months until April, 1865. Had Lee won, he planned to march on Philadelphia and thus hoped to force Lincoln to the negotiating table.

Geographically, the Gettysburg Campaign was inverted. Lee's forces first entered Pennsylvania on June 15 through the Shenandoah Valley while Union forces were mainly concentrated in northern Virginia. On learning of Lee's invasion, they marched north to meet their foe. Lee's forces had meanwhile spread out over five Pennsylvania counties to requisition supplies from the population.

A small Union force was the first to arrive at Gettysburg, an important crossroads. About the same time, Lee decided to occupy the town and Confederate forces began marching south from the northeast, north and northwest. The first shots began to attract more troops from both sides and the battle was on. The Union forces were driven out of Gettysburg town on the first day, but took up a strong position on Cemetery Ridge, south of town. The ridge ran north to south with a hook pointing east at its north end. Lee took a position on the lower wooded Seminary Ridge about a mile away to the west with open flat ground between the two ridges.

The battle was probably decided on the second day July 2 after both sides were reinforced. General Mead took command of Union operations and decided to assume a defensive posture. It's not always true that the best defense is a good offense because Lee's attacks failed to break the Union line. However, it was a close call because the loss of a hill called Little Round Top at the southern end of Cemetery Ridge would have exposed the entire Union line to Confederate fire and possibly decided the battle for the Confederates. The Union barely held it, but they did hold it.

By July 3, Lee was running out of supplies and manpower for sustaining an offensive posture. Nevertheless he decided on one last charge, sending a full division under General Pickett across a mile of flat open country toward the Union center on Cemetery Ridge. Later Lee would encounter a dazed Pickett alone on the battlefield. He supposedly told Pickett to "see to your division." Pickett answered, "General Lee, I have no division!". A force of nearly 15000 men was destroyed as fighting unit.

The battle resulted in around 50,000 killed, wounded or MIA. Both sides spent July 4th gathering up their dead and wounded under a truce. That night Lee withdrew and eventually reached Virginia. Mead was fired by Lincoln for not pursuing Lee aggressively.

http://explorepahistory.com/story.php?storyId=1-9-12
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HallsofIvy
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Jul1-13, 10:54 AM
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Thanks for the listing. I have been watching shows about Gettysburg for last week now!

Three of my four great-great-grandfathers that I have been able to get information about were at Gettysburg. Two, in the 2nd and 20th Georgia regiments, Benning's brigade, Hood's division, were in the "Devil's Den". The third, in the 48th Georgia, Wright's brigade, Anderson's division charged up cemetery ridge. He was shot through the body and semi-invalid for the rest of his life.
SW VandeCarr
#3
Jul1-13, 11:49 AM
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Quote Quote by HallsofIvy View Post
Thanks for the listing. I have been watching shows about Gettysburg for last week now!

Three of my four great-great-grandfathers that I have been able to get information about were at Gettysburg. Two, in the 2nd and 20th Georgia regiments, Benning's brigade, Hood's division, were in the "Devil's Den". The third, in the 48th Georgia, Wright's brigade, Anderson's division charged up cemetery ridge. He was shot through the body and semi-invalid for the rest of his life.
You're welcome. The Civil War probably affected virtually every family in the South. I have a strong interest in history in general and the Civil War in particular. Back in the 80's, when I worked in DC, I visited every battlefield and historic site I could including Gettysburg (at least five times). I find that southerners share this interest much more than northerners, some of whom can't distinguish between the Civil War and the American Revolutionary War.

256bits
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Jul1-13, 07:34 PM
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Battle of Gettysburg, 150 years ago

The view Lee had, or rather did not have, of the battlefield may have led to his defeat.

Michael Rubinkam, The Associated Press
| Jun 29, 2013 | Last Updated: Jun 29, 2013 - 8:14 UTC


On the second day of fighting at Gettysburg, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee listened to scouting reports, scanned the battlefield and ordered his second-incommand, James Longstreet, to attack the Union Army's left flank.

It was a fateful decision, one that led to one of the most desperate clashes of the entire Civil War - the fight for a piece of ground called Little Round Top. The Union's defence of the boulder-strewn promontory helped send Lee to defeat at Gettysburg, and he never again ventured into Northern territory.

Edit: please don't quote entire text for copyright reasons.

http://www.windsorstar.com/technolog...653/story.html
SW VandeCarr
#5
Jul2-13, 07:28 PM
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256bits:"The view Lee had, or rather did not have, of the battlefield may have led to his defeat".

There's a lot written about this battle and alternative scenarios. One question was why did Lee fight there at all? The Union had the high ground and Lee himself guessed that Mead would be cautious and take a defensive posture. The ground favored the Union. After the Confederate attacks failed on the second day, CSA General Longstreet, wanted to break off the engagement and move toward Washington about 80 miles (130 km) away.

This maneuver would have forced Mead into the open and put Lee's army between the Union army and the capital, something forbidden in every strategic calculation by Union commanders. Longstreet had already identified good ground on the Maryland border where Lee would have had the advantage.

Then there's the interesting question of what Lee really would have really done if he'd won and it was Mead who withdrew his army under the cover of darkness. While Lee was in Pennsylvania, who was protecting Richmond? The free population of the 11 seceded states was about 5.5 million while the North had about 23 million to draw from. Lincoln was actually delighted when he heard Lee was in Pennsylvania. He was something less than delighted when he heard Lee had escaped with most of his army and was back in Virginia.

Whether Lee underestimated the Union strength or not at Gettysburg probably wouldn't have changed his choice to take the offensive. That was his style. When he defended Richmond in the 1862 Peninsula Campaign he had little more than half the men that McClellan had but he attacked almost every day in different places for 7 days before an intimidated McClellan eventually withdrew from the very edge of the Confederate capital.
turbo
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Jul2-13, 07:57 PM
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Gettysburg has been all over the newspapers in Maine, not just for coverage of the widely-cited accounts of the 20th Maine, but also for accounts of the 16th Maine. I won't link to them because PF doesn't need the server load, but a simple Google search will do.

Maine lost a lot of soldiers in that conflict, despite the fact that our state is widely separated from the fronts in that war.
Integral
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Jul3-13, 09:19 AM
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Though Turbo didn't get specific, it was the 20th Maine Regiment which held Little Round Top for the Union.

I am a "Yankee" with interest in the Civil War. I have a more general intrest in Military history, my readings started with Napoleon, then expanded to the American Civil war. I am currently reading Sherman's memoirs. Very good reading.

My G4th patronymic grandfather was with the 7th Iowa at Pea Ridge. His one and only battle, as he suffered wrist and shoulder wounds, seems to me he was firing his rifle when hit.
bluemoonKY
#8
Aug11-13, 07:14 PM
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Quote Quote by SW VandeCarr View Post

By July 3, Lee was running out of supplies and manpower for sustaining an offensive posture. Nevertheless he decided on one last charge, sending a full division under General Pickett across a mile of flat open country toward the Union center on Cemetery Ridge. Later Lee would encounter a dazed Pickett alone on the battlefield. He supposedly told Pickett to "see to your division." Pickett answered, "General Lee, I have no division!". A force of nearly 15000 men was destroyed as fighting unit.

Lee sent three full divisions across a mile of flat open country toward the Union center. One of the divisions was Pickett's division, but the other two divisions were from General Hill's Corps. It was more like about 12,000 Confederate soldiers that charged the Union lines on Cemetary Ridge, not 15,000. The took 50% casualties.
SW VandeCarr
#9
Aug11-13, 09:06 PM
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Quote Quote by bluemoonKY View Post
Lee sent three full divisions across a mile of flat open country toward the Union center. One of the divisions was Pickett's division, but the other two divisions were from General Hill's Corps. It was more like about 12,000 Confederate soldiers that charged the Union lines on Cemetary Ridge, not 15,000. The took 50% casualties.
That's correct. I was thinking of a modern division, about 15,000 men. In those days, I believe a division was about 5,000 men. According to the Wiki article, about 12,500 men took part in the actual advance on Cemetery Ridge. Maj. Gen Pickett's division was coordinated with Brig. Gen Pettigrew's Division and it was elements of this force that reached "The Angle", a key objective, before being thrown back. Maj. General Trimble's division also took part in the assault. Lt. Gen Longstreet was in overall command of the assault.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pickett's_Charge

Pickett's division nominally had 5700 men

http://www.battlefieldanomalies.com/...t_division.htm
Integral
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Aug12-13, 12:30 PM
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Union Civil War divisions, at full complement, was 10,000 men in 3 brigades of 3 regiment with 1000 men each. Then there was another 1000 in supporting roles. Trouble is they were rarely at full complement due to battle losses and furloughs. So 5000 man divisions were not uncommon. The Confederate army was not that uniform, division and corps structure varied according to state and need. Division and regiment size varied more in the Confederate army.
HallsofIvy
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Aug12-13, 08:31 PM
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One of the peculiarities (to us) of early American wars is that they did NOT, generally, send "replacements" for regiments. Regiments (the basic unit of manpower) were raised in localities and, typically, what they did after one regiment went off to war, and started taking casualties, was start raising another regiment, not start raising replacements to fill in the casualties for that first regiment.
HallsofIvy
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Aug12-13, 08:40 PM
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Quote Quote by SW VandeCarr View Post
256bits:"The view Lee had, or rather did not have, of the battlefield may have led to his defeat".

There's a lot written about this battle and alternative scenarios. One question was why did Lee fight there at all? The Union had the high ground and Lee himself guessed that Mead would be cautious and take a defensive posture. The ground favored the Union. After the Confederate attacks failed on the second day, CSA General Longstreet, wanted to break off the engagement and move toward Washington about 80 miles (130 km) away.

This maneuver would have forced Mead into the open and put Lee's army between the Union army and the capital, something forbidden in every strategic calculation by Union commanders. Longstreet had already identified good ground on the Maryland border where Lee would have had the advantage.
On the other hand, it would have put the union army on the rear of the Confederate army. Where were their wagons have gone? To put the Confederate army between the wagon train and the Union army, while they were moving away from the union army, would have put the wagons ahead of the Confederate army, slowing them enormously. That was not so bad when they were retreating, but if they wanted to look like they were attacking Washington, it would have been intolerable. Further, Washington itself still had very strong defenses, manned by several strong infantry divisions. Do you think the Confederates wanted to get caught between the Washington defenses and the Army of the Potomac?

Then there's the interesting question of what Lee really would have really done if he'd won and it was Mead who withdrew his army under the cover of darkness. While Lee was in Pennsylvania, who was protecting Richmond? The free population of the 11 seceded states was about 5.5 million while the North had about 23 million to draw from. Lincoln was actually delighted when he heard Lee was in Pennsylvania. He was something less than delighted when he heard Lee had escaped with most of his army and was back in Virginia.

Whether Lee underestimated the Union strength or not at Gettysburg probably wouldn't have changed his choice to take the offensive. That was his style. When he defended Richmond in the 1862 Peninsula Campaign he had little more than half the men that McClellan had but he attacked almost every day in different places for 7 days before an intimidated McClellan eventually withdrew from the very edge of the Confederate capital.
turbo
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Aug12-13, 10:14 PM
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Quote Quote by Integral View Post
Though Turbo didn't get specific, it was the 20th Maine Regiment which held Little Round Top for the Union.
That is true, though the details may be in conflict. I think that is widely held that when Chamberlain's men were out of powder and ball, he ordered them to fix bayonets and charge the confederates in a downhill motion that that swept from left to right and held that rocky top.

Still, not wanting to clutter up this forum, all of this can be found on line.
Integral
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Aug12-13, 10:31 PM
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Quote Quote by SW VandeCarr View Post
256bits:"The view Lee had, or rather did not have, of the battlefield may have led to his defeat".

There's a lot written about this battle and alternative scenarios. One question was why did Lee fight there at all? The Union had the high ground and Lee himself guessed that Mead would be cautious and take a defensive posture. The ground favored the Union. After the Confederate attacks failed on the second day, CSA General Longstreet, wanted to break off the engagement and move toward Washington about 80 miles (130 km) away.

This maneuver would have forced Mead into the open and put Lee's army between the Union army and the capital, something forbidden in every strategic calculation by Union commanders. Longstreet had already identified good ground on the Maryland border where Lee would have had the advantage.

Then there's the interesting question of what Lee really would have really done if he'd won and it was Mead who withdrew his army under the cover of darkness. While Lee was in Pennsylvania, who was protecting Richmond? The free population of the 11 seceded states was about 5.5 million while the North had about 23 million to draw from. Lincoln was actually delighted when he heard Lee was in Pennsylvania. He was something less than delighted when he heard Lee had escaped with most of his army and was back in Virginia.

Whether Lee underestimated the Union strength or not at Gettysburg probably wouldn't have changed his choice to take the offensive. That was his style. When he defended Richmond in the 1862 Peninsula Campaign he had little more than half the men that McClellan had but he attacked almost every day in different places for 7 days before an intimidated McClellan eventually withdrew from the very edge of the Confederate capital.
Lee lost his maneuver general with the death of Stonewall Jackson in May '63 at Chancellorsville. He could give Stonewall an idea of what he wanted then Stonewalls foot cavalry would disappear and reappear in a position that would force the Union to react. In addition to Stonewall JEB Stuart frequently caused confusion and disorder with his rides around the Union Army. At Gettysburg JEB took off on a ride around the Union army, but failed to find the supply train and his absence left Lee without his eyes. Without Stonewall, Lee simply could not fight the battle he wanted to fight, without JEB he did not know where the Union army was or exactly how to evade it. I personally think Stonewall was a large reason for early Southern success. Gettysburg was the first major battle in the east in which Stonewall did not participate.


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