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 (1863) Battle of Gettysburg
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vpatrick
MA MA USA
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/8/2022 11:18:25 PM
great stuff Tom why i post here just to get some insight you cant get from a book
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vpatrick
MA MA USA
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1/8/2022 11:22:01 PM
I wonder though how did the union adjust their fire? It was much more accurate?
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Tom Barrett
Turbotville PA USA
Posts: 97
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/9/2022 1:47:55 AM
Vince,
I'm thinking that gunners from both sides knew their stuff well and things like distance, degree of elevation, timing of fuses etc. were well and skilfully worked out before the cannonade began. As Phil mentioned the confederate shells and fuses were of an inferior grade. Put another way: I'm thinking the confederate gunners had the math and science of their shots accurately determined beforehand (and knew the visual limitations due to smoke) but inferior shells/fuses failed them. I think the gunners were good, the rounds not so much. That said I'm wondering if the federal accuracy depended not as much on adjusting their fire as having the numbers worked out beforehand and the ammunition functioning as it was supposed to.

Best Regards,
Tom

PS If you're planning to come to Gettysburg in March perhaps I may presumptuously insert myself (briefly) into your story, drive down and meet you.
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"To a pilot , the most important thing in the world is flight. To share it is without price." Richard Bach
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5452
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/9/2022 8:27:09 AM
Alexander married his second wife when he was 66 and she was 40.

Do you think he’d learned not to overshoot by then ?

Forgive the ribaldry. But there is a curious theme in the love lives of some of these Gettysburg commanders : Sickles, especially, took up with a sex obsessed Spanish queen or princess near the end of his remarkably long life.

You might have thought that he’d learned his lesson after his fatal foray to the Emmitsburg Road on 2 July 1863.

Seriously, how can one ever relinquish his interest in this dramatic battle ?

It’s gripped my imagination since childhood, and I hope it never lets go.

Regards, Phil

----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5452
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/9/2022 12:55:06 PM
Quote:
Quote:
Lee was anxious about the prospect of taking on the yankees in that formidable position. He actually used the words that this could only be achieved with “ a great sacrifice of life “ as he surveyed the enemy deployment at the end of Day One.

The remarkable thing about the fighting of the subsequent day is that, although the men of Lee’s army did indeed suffer that loss of life and shed a great amount of blood, the Union loss was much heavier. This was undoubtedly attributable to the collapse of Sickles’s Corps and the desperate patchwork defence that Mead had to deploy to hold things together : it was also due to the tactical skills of rebel soldiers who were able to advance while loading and firing at the same time......something that I find hard to imagine, although Scott Harwig assures us that this was the case .

Regards, Phil


Hi Phil,

Your comments reminds me why I think Lee was hurried and should have been a little more patient (or maybe listened to Longstreet a little), a great loss of life Lee could not sustain and after defeating the Union at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville he did not achieve real victory as the union was easily able to resupply and add troops. Lee's loss of troops would never be replaced effectively ever again and Ill just add to Lee's faults those days of July1,2,3, 1863, he had a gambling problem. I do think Lee was under pressure for a fast decisive win with the political situation in the north where the will was waning and he must have known Vicksburg was not going to hold and a Union victory at Vicksburg would give Lincoln the political power to escape a negotiated settlement or armistice. So he was all in at Gettysburg it would seem though he had a very bad hand.

I cant imagine loading and firing while advancing with shells exploding and rifle fire directed at you all the while closing ranks if true a reason why Lee had so much confidence in his troops?

By the way Im trying to plan a trip with some friends to go to Gettysburg in March hope it materializes hope covid dies down then.

vpatrick



Vince,

Do you think that Lee was a natural gambler ; might it be more fitting to say that he took huge risks because he had to ? I always think that it’s important to distinguish between gambling and being reconciled to risk. Lee was very aware, IMHO, of the need to calculate risk ; a gambler, OTOH, will rely on the turn of the cards or the spin of the wheel. That said, we mustn’t forget that Lee’s father was one of the most notorious gamblers of his age, and does the apple fall far from the tree ? When it comes to outrageous risk taking, Lee’s stand at Antietam was the most breathtaking of all, I reckon. Compared with that, he was really sitting pretty at Gettysburg : close to numerical parity, up against a commander who had been in situ for just a day or two, and with a rather smashing tactical victory to exploit after the first day. Even after the second day, he had succeeded in in inflicting fifty per cent more casualties than he himself had sustained : an overlooked feature of the fight. The old trope that Lee couldn’t replace his losses while his enemy could doesn't look so convincing if you allow that the AoP was being shot to bits at a faster rate then the AoNV, and had suffered loss that wasn’t only greater in absolute numbers, but was heavier in proportionate terms, too. And this was happening on Northern soil, at a time when the political situation of Lincoln’s administration was fragile at best. Not such a bad hand for Lee after all.

I agree with you that he would have done better to listen to Longstreet. It’s hard, though, not to empathise with Lee’s decision : I would go further, and actually sympathise with it.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 144
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/9/2022 4:13:08 PM

9 Jan 2022
Phil,
“Mike, You frequently mention the bickering between southern officers”
“think that Lee was a natural gambler; might it be more fitting to say that he took huge risks because he had to ?”

Petty infighting – there’s a book by WOODWORTH dedicated to the topic with ten examples. I suspect does not fit winners narrative well,
won when rebel leaders booted many chances. And yes one good union example being Pope vs McClellan.
But I say Chickamauga & Gettysburg two major cases. WOODWORTH covers Chickamauga in his book.

I am struck by the irony of the LEE frequent criticism of for risk taking and attacking to much – this last he did not do.
When contrasted with typical Confed results of being defeated by passive defensive and habitual caution and indecision.
(enhanced by bickering)
And yes I have said before because it is such a fixture in the war narrative I can’t imagine why it goes so unrecognised IMHO.

Principle of War – Offensive (US Fm-03)
“Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative. Offensive action is the most effective and decisive way to attain a clearly defined common objective. Offensive operations are the means by which a military force seizes and holds the initiative while maintaining freedom of action and achieving decisive results. This is fundamentally true across all levels of war.” (Yes, success is far more difficult than one principle, but a starting point)

Yes given Lee faced large disadvantage in every resource the only chance he was likely you get was holding the initiative and bold action.
And he was the most successful of all commanders; given his mission and resources. Yes he made mistakes
and maybe sometime over stepped but virtually the only positive results gained by the rebels were by his actions.
Even with Gettysburg operation failure – Union response/effort not possible for ten months –
Best defense is good offense may apply here. From June 62 to June 64 no serious threat to Richmond was made because of LEEs leadership.

Edit – regarding Antietam; from War for the Union Nevins v2 p222
“By retreating Lee would put his army on the defensive for months to come. That no army fighting a defensive campaign with smaller numbers wins a decives battle is a well-tested maxim of war; Hannibal, Marlborough, Frederick, Washington, Napoleon, Wellington, all won their victories when they took the offensive (here cites Maurice, Lee, p151-2) Moreover if Lee fell back he could augment his forces but slowly while the union army would grow rapidly in strength”

Yours respectfully, Mike_C
mikecmaps

Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5452
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/10/2022 7:09:05 AM
Mike,

Regarding alleged excessive indulgence in the offensive by Lee - a charge that I for one repudiate - the uncomfortable thing about Gettysburg is that he relinquished the chance to enjoy the advantage of tactical defence combined with strategic offence .

Regards, Phil

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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5452
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/11/2022 4:21:13 AM
Anyone seeking a brief, concise and thoughtful analysis of the Battle can do no better than to read Hugh Bicheno's book on Gettysburg. If you don't feel like wrestling with a big volume like Coddington's or Pfanz's, but want to be informed and have your interest whetted in short order, then please do try this book. A few routine tasks beckon for me, but as soon as I can I'm going to lift a few passages out of Bicheno's book and pitch them in.

Apologies if you don't find my commendation to your liking , but I can honestly say that I have never found an account that's imparted so much, so profoundly, and in such a readable manner, in such a short time.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5452
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/11/2022 11:08:52 AM
Here we are : Bicheno, page 171, making a rather controversial point about Lee's culpability in respect of the PPT action :

At the very least Lee should have been aware that his artillery ammunition was not only of suspect quality but also of inadequate quantity to perform its allotted task. Once the flank attacks elements had been stripped from it, the assault hinged absolutely on winning and maintaining artillery superiority, and the failure to achieve this is a better choice for the defining moment of the war than the charge itself. It illustrates the endemic failure in Lee's command structure that kept an incompetent like William Pendleton as Chief of Artillery ; it cruelly underlines the industrial backwardness of the Confederacy ; but above all it reminds us that successful generals are not the most promising cohort among whom to seek the fine human virtues often ascribed to them. Every benefit later claimed by Lee for the campaign had already been achieved : military operations had been kept out of ravaged northern Virginia for the year, abundant stores had been captured and the Army of the Potomac severely mauled. Longstreet later suggested that Lee was sometimes overcome by something akin to bloodlust and this remains a plausible explanation why Pickett's Charge went ahead when the preconditions were not fulfilled.

I recoiled a bit from the harshness of that summary, but find it hard to refute.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 144
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/11/2022 1:37:41 PM

Phil & all,
Quite a statement & I do prefer historians who are more positive & forth wright in analysis & conclusions.

Certainly a kernel of truth in what he says. But much a refined and more elegant version of saying too aggressive and attacked to much when boiled down. We could unwind the campaign all the way back to Fredericksburg and say lee should have been passive and retreat under pressure, which we see how well that worked for confederates. It’s long well established the confederate ersatz weapons and ammunition were inferior, unreliable, limited quantities as was true for virtually all basic war supplies from the outset. Under these basic conditions endured by every confederate commander Lee still made the best record of defense of any. I am sure lee did know.

“industrial backwardness” – yes unquestionably & also the arrogance of the myth of southern and King Cotton power – but again this was basic to maintaining slavery, the atmosphere of the whole war & not starting or ending with Lee.

“endemic failure in Lee's command structure” – ignores that Lee successfully held off 2-1 forces for 3 years with this command structure; again we are talking 1860s nature of warfare.
“Longstreet suggested; bloodlust” – and again unquestionably true warfare of the era brutal and bloody – but what war not?? And again refer to Lee in GETTYSBURG – “have to order the death of what you love” as requirement for military leadership. And this also covers “fine human virtues”; Wow! What?? And was there not a Union Commander known for bloodletting? Lee was definitely more efficient in forces committed and numbers lost than other commanders.

So not trying to refute but pointing directly to Lee for what are basic conditions of the time not very convincing; and yes lee made many mistakes, his notion of vague suggestions was dependent on subordinates having nature and willing to carry out those suggestions.

This classic criticism of Lee always leaves out the more successful alternative beyond simply suggesting more passivity. For me this is more a matter of presentation, statement not very convincing since it mis-applies conditions Lee had no control over. But I do like to see someone trying to carry conclusions full out and not mincing words.
Very rousing statement and thought provoking & good for discussion IMHO.

Yours, Mike_C.
mikecmaps
Phil Andrade
London  UK
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/11/2022 2:34:21 PM
Thank you Mike, that's just what I was hoping to evince from you : a balanced response, with some refutation, along with an acknowledgement that the writer makes rousing and thought provoking comments. If you and others don't mind, I'd like to continue picking sections of the text, and throwing them in for us to chew over.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 838
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/11/2022 3:11:21 PM

Quote:
Anyone seeking a brief, concise and thoughtful analysis of the Battle can do no better than to read Hugh Bicheno's book on Gettysburg.


Hi Phil,

Strongly agree...especially with the "thoughtful analysis" comment-:) Bicheno can be very opinionated-:) Which I frankly quite enjoyed. Still remember his description of Barlow and his ego, and Bicheno's speculation that he may well have been shot by one of his one men, he was so hated within the division.

If I had to recommend one book to someone that had never read much of anything about Gettysburg, it would be Bicheno's book.

And agree, before tackling a Pfanz, it would be helpful to already have a solid working knowledge of the battle (I did find Pfanz's maps quite helpful, and in the past, photocopied his maps from his Day Two books, and carried them with me onto the field when I wanted to examine one or two particular aspects of the battle).

Many CW books are written by those with an extensive knowledge of the minutia of a battle (which is great, if that is what you want...), but being buried in the minutia, is it not difficult to lose the larger picture (forest for the trees, if you know what I mean).

And Bicheno can write... too many CW books can be almost painful to read, unless you are really, really studying a narrow aspect of a battle or of the war. Knowing a lot about a subject and putting it down in black and white are two distinct skills, IMO.

s.c.

EDIT: I don't recall ever having seen Bicheno’s book in any of the CW bookstores that I have been in, either at Gettysburg, or at any other battlefield. Might not be something readily available in the US???
Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 838
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/11/2022 3:35:31 PM
Quote:
Longstreet later suggested that Lee was sometimes overcome by something akin to bloodlust and this remains a plausible explanation why Pickett's Charge went ahead when the preconditions were not fulfilled.



I tend to agree with Bicheno and Longstreet-:) At least when it comes to the PPT attack. Just what was the point?? To launch 12,000 men at the very centre of the Union line? And hope for what? That several thousand foot soldiers would complete the charge, and drive off the Union brigades at the point of attack. And then what?? The survivors would be dab smack in the middle of 65,000 Union infantry....

My bias is that Lee knew how close he had come on Day Two. That even poorly coordinated attacks had come close to shattering the AoP, in part due to Sickles move to the Emmitsburg Road, with the result that the the III, V and II Corps had been shoveled into the battle in a somewhat piece meal fashion. This was NOT going to be the case after the end of Day Two, if for no other reason than Lee had now hammered both ends of the AoP, and by Day III, there were no longer any vulnerable flanks etc. to attack.

Coming so close on Day Two, it looks as if a frustrated Lee did have his blood lust up, and out of that frustration .... just wanted the opportunity to land one more blow. But, IMO, the time for that one more blow had come and gone.

Just like at Malvern Hill...Lee had had an excellent chance to shatter the AoP at Glendale, but his subordinates were unable to coordinate their attacks properly, and the AoP was able to escape to fight another day. Yeah, it is hindsight, but Malvern Hill looks not unlike the PPT attack. A frustrated Lee desperately trying to land one coordinated blow. But after the opportunity for that blow to be successful had passed.

And the less said about "why" Lee chose to fight at Antietam, the better IMO-:)

s.c.
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 144
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/11/2022 4:35:14 PM

Phil & all,

RE: Lee offensive & yes they were sometimes failures but . . .

London times July 18 1861 “it is one thing to drive the rebels from the banks of the Potomac . . . but another to reduce and hold in permanent subjection a tract of country nearly as large as Russia in Europe” The 750,000 square miles of rebel territory suggested that they only had to not lose while the North had to Conquer.

This apparently said without considering that Napoleon had projected his campaigns over large distances and areas.
Held Europe from Paris to Warsaw for 6 years, Paris to Lisbon 7 years
Germany 140k sqmi Poland 120k France 210k Spain 195k Portugal 35k equal about 700k sq mi
And Napoleon had no railroads, no steamships, no telegraph, (pop density much greater in Europe)

So I hope this rant may be forgiven in that this classic criticism ignores the major campaigns in Europe of the previous 60 years
and at Solferino 1859 French won by bayonet columns almost completely in attack posture strategy and tactics.

What is the lesson to be taken by contemporary commanders like LEE.

Paris to Warsaw 1000 road miles
Paris to Lisbon 1100 road miles
Paris to Vienna ~800 road miles
Paris to Berlin 650 miles
Veracruz to Mexico city 250 miles
Nashville to Atlanta 250 miles

Longstreet can’t be taken as any authority since it appears he may have purposefully
moved the action on 2nd and third day to failure to satisfy his own vanity and flaunt Lee’s
authority ( I do know that is controversial)
hard to find much real cooperation or subordination that lee was entitled to from Longstreet.

Thanks, Mike_C


Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5452
Joined: 2004
The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/12/2022 10:58:53 AM
Quote:
. And this also covers “fine human virtues”; Wow! What??

mikecmaps


Your reaction echoes mine, there, Mike !

I, too, recoiled in astonishment from that.

Bicheno has an interesting background. He has been an intelligence officer, and, most remarkably, a freelance kidnap and ransom negotiator ! No doubt the latter gave him an insight into the ordeal of people in extremis, which might lend his writing on traumatic events some edge.

He certainly knows how to press the buttons.

I'll pick out some more stuff to cite.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 838
Joined: 2004
The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/12/2022 11:32:51 AM
Quote:
Paris to Warsaw 1000 road miles
Paris to Lisbon 1100 road miles
Paris to Vienna ~800 road miles
Paris to Berlin 650 miles
Veracruz to Mexico city 250 miles
Nashville to Atlanta 250 miles


Mike,

Have to preface my comments below my noting that I know absolutely nothing about mid 19th century European logistics.

But moving an army from Chattanooga to Atlanta (let alone from Nashville) required a railroad.

When Sherman was planning his "March to the Sea", he apparently "did his homework" and demanded census info etc., for the region that he wanted to march his army through. And was comfortable that there was enough farmland etc., that he could raid for supplies.

This was not the case during his Atlanta campaign. He was essentially tied to his rail line, and could not hope to "live off the land". Arguably, his tactics were somewhat dictated by how far from the rail line he was willing to stray.

s.c.

Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5452
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/12/2022 11:57:42 AM
Some choice snippets from Bicheno's introduction :

Outright military victory was never a possibility for the Confederates and the strategy they adopted was defensive, its maximum aspiration being to sicken the North of the war in general and of Lincoln in particular. That won't please you, will it, Mike ?

More to my liking is his sequel ...even when forced onto the defensive Lee succeeded in obliging his opponents to conform to his dispositions, something he continued to do almost to the end, an extraordinary achievement given the growing disparity of resources between the two sides. On occasion - and Gettysburg was one - he erred into believing his army capable of doing more than it could accomplish, but the feeling was mutual and Grant, not a man given to overstatement, judged Lee's presence on the battlefield to be worth 20,000 men.

Another significant theme :

Such revisionism as this account contains emerges from a belief that the only dependable witness is the terrain and from a deep appreciation that in these indifferently trained citizen armies , men from frontier states made markedly more effective soldiers.

That's debatable.

Steve, the provenance of this series of books is British, and this might account for its failure to adorn US bookshelves.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5452
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/13/2022 11:17:07 AM
Bicheno has an uncanny ability to say an awful lot in few words.

Take this, for example, in respect of Longstreet's conduct :

Lastly James Longstreet, according to his own later accounts, chose this occasion to decide that he was a better general than Lee and to drag his feet when his advice was rejected.

He also cites this exquisite verdict from CSA Lt General Richard Taylor That any subject involving the possession and exercise of intellect should be clear to Longstreet and concealed from Lee, is a startling proposition to those having knowledge of the two men.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 144
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/13/2022 12:58:01 PM

1-13-22
Phil
“Outright military victory was never a possibility for the Confederates and the strategy they adopted was defensive
, its maximum aspiration being to sicken the North of the war in general and of Lincoln in particular.”

Don’t want to be ungenerous or unfair, but based on these few lines I see seems like work restates common arguments.

Don’t think even lee ever had idea of “Outright military victory.” Question became would defensive strategy be able
to produce Union political loss of cohesion to “sicken the North.” Proved no. On the two or three times where it came
close (not really very close) was due to Lee’s offensive-defense. But even given that the best chance for success was
a small one, was the commander justified in forgoing the strategy which would give the best chance - offensive-defense.

“Longstreet, this occasion to decide that he was a better general than Lee and to drag his feet”

“That any subject involving the possession and exercise of intellect should be clear to
Longstreet and concealed from Lee, is a startling proposition to those having knowledge of the two men.”

Yes what Taylor said.

Actually from the beginning of lee’s command Longstreet condemned lee with faint praise.
US line officers looked down on staff officers like Lee, he served 26 years as an engineer before
transferring to the cavalry. Longstreet stated “some misgivings as to
the power and skill for field service” of lee (Man – Apx 112)
AS Johnston and lee both received appointments to new cavalry regiments when Davis was Sec. of War.

Yours Mike_C.
mikecmaps
Phil Andrade
London  UK
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/14/2022 7:25:35 AM
At this point I really must seek some opinions from my friends on this thread : here Bicheno strays from the beaten track and ventures comments that I find truly bewildering. I'll just cite the paragraph from page 29 in the introduction :

There is a wonderful moment during the TV version of Gettysburg when Union Colonel Joshua Chamberlain asks some Confederate POWs what they are fighting for : Our rahts , they answer. Rats? echoes Chamberlain uncertainly. Rahts [rights] they repeat indignantly, nicely encapsulating the problem of two peoples divided by a common tongue, usually said of the Americans and the British. The latter will identify easily with those rebs, because they have more recently seen the fruits of their patriotism and courage in adversity frittered away by a self-serving political class. They may also better appreciate the corrosive snobbery of an upper class that objectively preferred defeat to the social consequences of a mass mobilisation, the only way the South could have compensated for a white population less than a quarter that of the Union.

If my memory of the film serves me, it was Joshua's younger brother that questioned the rebs, so Bicheno might have been wrong there. But what do you make of his socio political contentions ? This was written in 2001. I could certainly appreciate and understand the analogy with Brexit and Secession, and that, too, carries much baggage regarding resentment with a political class and a distracted multitude. But what would have inspired Bicheno to venture such an opinion twenty odd years ago ?

Not meaning to allow current political shenanigans to infiltrate the thread, but hoping for some enlightenment.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 144
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/14/2022 12:49:34 PM

01142022
Phil,
Sorry dont mean to be only one commenting but this one needs to be called out.

“corrosive snobbery of an upper class that objectively preferred defeat to the social consequences of a
mass mobilisation, the only way the South could have compensated for a white population less than a quarter that of the Union.”

Not sure if he misinformed or let his keyboard run away with him. In round numbers 100% of Confed
military pop by 1860 census served, not literally but of mil pop of about in round numbers 1 million, 1 million
served so looks generally like mass mobilization, yes. Now yes there were exceptions and exemptions made up
by many under age and over age enlistments and conscript age was increase during the war. Certainly
there was classist snobbery. Union much smaller per cent and so-called-conscription simply an encouragement
to volunteer. Only about 1 in 10 federals who served were conscripted. Both sides regarded being conscripted shameful.

Actually no way to compensate for large difference in pop or other resources, simply had to do best they could with large inferiority.

They preferred defeat to negotiated emancipation.

yours, Mike_C.
mikecmaps
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5452
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/14/2022 2:43:40 PM
Thanks for stepping into this rather difficult breach, Mike.

If I understand Bicheno's point correctly - and I'm by no means sure that I do - he's suggesting that the " Slaveocracy" elite of southern society would rather have faced defeat than armed their black population : hence the repudiation of Pat Cleburne's suggestion that the slaves be armed.

As to how he relates this to the British predicament, I'm at a bit of a loss : perhaps he suggests that the upper classes of British society ( Edward the Abdicator, Lord Halifax and Oswald Mosley etc) would have advocated an accommodation with Hitlerite Germany rather than a war to the death that would expunge the might of the British Empire and, with it, their cherished socio-political status.

What dots are we supposed to join up here ?

Now I've made this foray into unthinkable analogies, I'll leave it alone and get back to Bicheno's narrative of the battle, and his pithy and measured analysis, which I still rate as top notch.

Regards, Phil

----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
vpatrick
MA MA USA
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The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/15/2022 1:33:07 PM
Quote:
Vince,
I'm thinking that gunners from both sides knew their stuff well and things like distance, degree of elevation, timing of fuses etc. were well and skilfully worked out before the cannonade began. As Phil mentioned the confederate shells and fuses were of an inferior grade. Put another way: I'm thinking the confederate gunners had the math and science of their shots accurately determined beforehand (and knew the visual limitations due to smoke) but inferior shells/fuses failed them. I think the gunners were good, the rounds not so much. That said I'm wondering if the federal accuracy depended not as much on adjusting their fire as having the numbers worked out beforehand and the ammunition functioning as it was supposed to.

Best Regards,
Tom

PS If you're planning to come to Gettysburg in March perhaps I may presumptuously insert myself (briefly) into your story, drive down and meet you.



Hi Tom,

Thanks for your answer to my artillery queries and it does seem that the math has to line up with the fuses and if not.. Without beating a dead horse and why I was so stuck on Lees artillery was it would seem the success of Picket's charge depended on it and Lee must have known his artillery accuracy was iffy and someone may have mentioned this already. In any case if my trip materializes in March (life always seems to get in the way of my intended Gettysburg revists) it would be a delight to meet you down there. I believe Larry expressed some interest too in a previous post here it would be great to meet you both, fingers crossed!

Phil I have reread your post several times and for the life of me I cant figure out the parallels that Bicheno was referring to concerning the British. His reference to Mass mobilization and time reference through me off my initial thought of comparing the English Civil war to the American one as both were fought over ideology and both had overtones of rights be it religion or freedom from slavery, but I think as I said its wrong. I wish he would have just said what he was referring to when it comes to the British its weird he didnt with such a statement he made, its maddening to assume he thinks it obvious. I think Mosley and the Nazi sympathizers in Britain as in America dont occupy that much space in historians minds to be the case either, but I never read his books (which I hope to now thank you) and dont know if that would be something he may think about.

vpatrick
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nuts
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5452
Joined: 2004
The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/15/2022 3:58:52 PM
There's a terrific emphasis on the role of artillery in Bicheno's book.

He reckons that the bulk of the damage inflicted on Rodes's Division on Day One was attributable to artillery fire : when you consider that Rodes took well over two thousand casualties that day, that's really saying something.

The generally cited figure for the war as a whole indicates that barely ten per cent of wounds were caused by artillery : the anecdotes from Gettysburg suggest a much higher ratio.

Bicheno has a very high regard for the way that Alexander utilised his guns, especially on Day Two when his performance was the cause of some extremely heavy Union casualties.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5452
Joined: 2004
The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/16/2022 1:29:11 PM
Vince,

The joy of reading Bicheno is not so much because of learning anything new : he just consolidates and expresses in a few words what other scholars expend volumes on saying. He really went off piste, I think, in his allusion to British populism in the later twentieth century being comparable with the South's experience of the Civil War. That apart, I feel that his work makes a profound impact : well it does on me, at least.

He certainly addresses the question you pose in your thread.

The admiration for Porter Alexander extends to his view that, had he been given his head, the effectiveness of the confederate attacks was bound to be even more lethal.

He alludes to the special edge that the close quarters combat bestowed on the Texans of Robertson's and the Mississippians of Barksdale's brigades : extreme aggressiveness, high until morale and resolute leadership, combined with " frontier" skills with fieldcraft and musketry, is evident in the disproportionately heavy casualties suffered by the Union troops in the big fight of Day Two.

Failure to support is depicted as stemming from Lee's command structure, which deprived him of sufficient staff work, and relied excessively on some rather well-born young men the English call " chinless wonders".

He insists that both sides committed egregious blunders, and continues the only fair conclusion is that they cancelled each other out. Meade failed to organise his army as well as he might for defence, but Lee failed to co-ordinate his best advantage in attack.


This is going to time out, so I'll post now and resume with an edit.

Continuing : Bicheno ( how is that pronounced : soft ch, as in charles, or hard ch, as in chianti, or very soft ch, as in sheen ?) reflects : Lee had the prestige to issue detailed orders with reasonable certainty that they would be obeyed, but experience and personal inclination caused him to refrain from doing so and to trust to the direction of his corps commanders. By contrast, , although lacking familiarity with army command, the impatient Meade tried to direct matters in person or through a small number of trusted subordinates to whom he delegated authority .

The next paragraph is a slammer :

" Both were to be disappointed and the reason is not hard to identify. The great Confederate artilleryman and chronicler Colonel Porter Alexander put his finger on it when he wrote , scarcely any of our generals had half [the staff officers ] they needed to keep a constant & close supervision on the execution of important orders An army is like a great machine, and in putting it into battle it is not enough for its commander to merely issue the orders. He should have a staff ample to supervise the execution of each step & to promptly report any difficulty or misunderstanding . Lee had no staff worthy of the name ......but things were little better on the Union side. We have seen how Reynolds died while performing duties he should have delegated to others and Meade's activism also betrays lack of confidence that instructions conveyed by his staff officers would necessarily be obeyed."



Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
vpatrick
MA MA USA
Posts: 2212
Joined: 2020
The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/16/2022 5:53:16 PM
Hi Phil,

I wonder if the lack of staff officers was due to the fact that officers of any sort were in short supply and needed on the front lines and it would be a luxury in 1863 for general Lee to have a full line of staff officers. I wonder too if his staff had more officers at the beginning of the war? Even if Lee had a full roster of staff officers if they were capable of being able to effectively communicate Lee's orders and see whether or not his orders were being carried out capably would not these capable officers be transferred to a command just because of their shown capabilities? I have always thought of "staff officers" to be young and of the aristocratic sort who's connected parents were trying to keep them out of the fighting, by 1863 I would think it would be all hands on deck no matter how big the plantation and a possible reason for the lack of staff officers, but it is an interesting issue you pose that I think needs to be looked at more.

vpatrick
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nuts
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5452
Joined: 2004
The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
1/17/2022 3:17:11 AM
Vince,

The role of the staff officer in those old fashioned black powder battles was far from safe. If I'm right, they frequently came to grief on the battlefield. One of the most harrowing examples occurred at Stones River, when Rosecrans's staff officer was decapitated by a cannon ball and spattered his general with blood and brains. I think that those guys " earned their spurs". The war exacted a terrible toll on high ranking officers, and their staff shared their fate.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 144
Joined: 2020
The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
3/24/2022 6:16:33 PM

dear Phil & Vpatrick,

Regarding civil war staffs and functions generally, and yes Gettysburg saw much poor coordination and poor cooperation on both sides (maybe more on Confed),
Bicheno is IMHO guilty of reading into history regarding staffs. General staffs and army staffs as Bicheno and modern readers suppose with
20/20 hindsight simply did not exist in the manner we understand them today. And while there were certainly staff officers and positions
specified in the US army of 1860s and right up to 1900s even the concept of the modern staff did not exist. And this certainly did impact civil war
operations. Bicheno has a good quote from Alexander acknowledging shortcomings of civil war staffs in hindsight, his follow on statement
“Lee had no staff worthy of the name”, is poor analysis because no one did at that time. The quote (Bicheno) injects 20/21st century
knowledge and understanding to analysis of 1860s people and events – which is avoidable poor history.
Us Army General staff did not exist ‘til 1903, British 1908. And between 1865 and 1903 few of the available lessons from the
Civil War lasted. The intervening period saw pretty much whole sale return in staffs and staff functions etc. in USA
to all the old pre-war methods and institutions, nothing much new ‘til after 1900. This is one reason Acw not a modern war
- modern people and institutions required to fight modern war, they did not exist 1861-1865.

Lee actually did have staff of 14 officers for several functions; Medical, Quartermaster, Commissary, Ordnance & etc. so “no staff”
is not true. But “worthy of the name” is the question and by what standard – 1900s? certainly not.
But 1800s culture, history, knowledge etc. put that out of the question. Yes, Prussia and France were much more advanced
but that’s where culture intervened. Americans did not support a large standing army until after WW2/Korea.
Small standing Army? Little need for permanent general staff etc. The Army Committee sent to observe Crimean war,
that McClellan was a member of, reported a number of developments of Artillery, engineering & etc.
but said not a word about staffs or staff procedures and principles. Just not an interest of American military thinking of that day.

Respectfully yours Mike_C.
mikecmaps
Larry Purtell
Little Meadows PA USA
Posts: 1438
Joined: 2004
The main cause of Confederate failure at Gettysburg Unsupported attacks
3/24/2022 7:08:41 PM
Quote:
Quote:
Lee was anxious about the prospect of taking on the yankees in that formidable position. He actually used the words that this could only be achieved with “ a great sacrifice of life “ as he surveyed the enemy deployment at the end of Day One.

The remarkable thing about the fighting of the subsequent day is that, although the men of Lee’s army did indeed suffer that loss of life and shed a great amount of blood, the Union loss was much heavier. This was undoubtedly attributable to the collapse of Sickles’s Corps and the desperate patchwork defence that Mead had to deploy to hold things together : it was also due to the tactical skills of rebel soldiers who were able to advance while loading and firing at the same time......something that I find hard to imagine, although Scott Harwig assures us that this was the case .

Regards, Phil


Hi Phil,

Your comments reminds me why I think Lee was hurried and should have been a little more patient (or maybe listened to Longstreet a little), a great loss of life Lee could not sustain and after defeating the Union at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville he did not achieve real victory as the union was easily able to resupply and add troops. Lee's loss of troops would never be replaced effectively ever again and Ill just add to Lee's faults those days of July1,2,3, 1863, he had a gambling problem. I do think Lee was under pressure for a fast decisive win with the political situation in the north where the will was waning and he must have known Vicksburg was not going to hold and a Union victory at Vicksburg would give Lincoln the political power to escape a negotiated settlement or armistice. So he was all in at Gettysburg it would seem though he had a very bad hand.

I cant imagine loading and firing while advancing with shells exploding and rifle fire directed at you all the while closing ranks if true a reason why Lee had so much confidence in his troops?

By the way Im trying to plan a trip with some friends to go to Gettysburg in March hope it materializes hope covid dies down then.

vpatrick



Vpatrick, were you able to go to Gettysburg? I'm planning a trip for early April.

Larry
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"My goal is to live forever. So far, so good.
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