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crockett 
Cannon
Posts: 6327
02-05-18 11:33 AM - Post#1667788    


I've read that the charge was supposed to be supported by artillery? It sounds like the artillery "rolled along" with the troops? That seems impossible as far as taking along ammunition, etc.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 7385
02-05-18 12:39 PM - Post#1667798    

    In response to crockett

It is somewhat amazing to me that your recent questions have corresponded to the Chapters I am reading from the book "Lee" by Clifton Dowdey.

Back in the 80's, I commanded a Confederate Reenactment Unit of an original Virginia Unit that was in Pickett's Charge. One time after we had participated in Gettysburg's Annual Remembrance Day in the Fall, we were actually allowed to reenact Pickett's Charge from the woods to the modern day highway. Now we were all in great shape in those days, but even though it was cooler because it was the Fall and not July, it was rather tiring to maintain a Battle Line going forward and we did not have anyone shooting at us.

Most of the supporting Confederate Artillery Fire for Pickett's Charge had been spent from Colonel Porter Alexander PROPERLY following Lee's orders. However, because Longstreet was sulking that morning, he did not order Pickett and especially two other Confederate Divisions forward as he had been ordered to do earlier in the day. Longstreet had also not kept Lee informed while he was Dilly Dallying instead of attacking early in the day, else Lee would have called off the attack after Porter had shot most of the Artillery Ammunition up.

Yes, a small number of guns "were advanced" along with Pickett's Troops. Some smaller guns were taken by horses in what was called "Flying Artillery" and perhaps one or two guns were manhandled along the route of the charge. When that was done, they often "drafted" additional Infantry Soldiers to help drag the guns and ammunition caissons with them.

"Flying Artillery" or moving Light Artillery all over the battlefield was first used by American Artillery at the Battle of Palo Alto in the Mexican War. They actually advanced the guns AHEAD of the Infantry and did so much damage, that the battle was easily won. Edited to add: They could do that because the opposing Infantry was armed with Flintlock Smoothbore muskets and their range was much shorter than the Light Artillery. They also moved before the Mexican Artillery found "their range" to shoot back at them.

"The Gallant Pelham" or Major John Pelham had further developed the Flying Artillery on the first day at the Battle of Fredericksburg and did much to stop/break up the Union Attack.

So by the time of Gettysburg, Southron Artillery especially, but also Federal Artillery knew how to advance the guns to support an Infantry attack.

Gus

Edited by Artificer on 02-05-18 12:48 PM. Reason for edit: No reason given.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 7385
02-05-18 01:43 PM - Post#1667816    

    In response to Artificer

BTW, at the 125th year reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Mountain, I commanded the Second of the two Confederate Grand Divisions. I made a point of asking for three Confederate Batteries (one gun each and not four guns as was the case during the War) who I knew their Commanders very well. I got two of the Batteries assigned to us.

The day before the Battle Reenactment, I spoke with the Commanders and asked if they wanted to "Advance their Guns" with us during the reenactment? Normally at the Reenactments the Artillery opened the Battle with a few rounds, but had to stop after that and just had to wait by their guns till the reenactment was over.

Now both of those Units had Original Full Size 12 pound Napoleon Tubes with reproduction carriages. At first they were highly surprised and one said he would love to do it, but did not have the manpower to move his gun. I told him we would be coming down a gentle slope from the hill top they were to begin the battle and we would assign Infantrymen to help them roll their guns forward.

Now I admit it would have been a crazy thing to do had the slope not been gentle and had my Unit and some other Infantry Units not had some Artillery training. It was not hard to get the guns down the hill and since the slope was gentle, the guns did not "get away from them" and roll down the hill on their own. They got to fire two or three additional shots that way and they were really happy to do it.

The Federal Reenactors thought it looked great and their Artillery was green with envy.

Gus

 
tenngun 
Cannon
Posts: 7585
tenngun
02-05-18 06:33 PM - Post#1667859    

    In response to Artificer

I would like to watch this. I look at the topography and the complexity of moving, getting a place where you can hit the enemy and not hit your own men and move fast enough to keep up with an advancing line, and wonder how it was done. to military reinactors, the dedication and commitment of practicing the evolutions is amazing.

 
crockett 
Cannon
Posts: 6327
02-06-18 09:47 AM - Post#1667969    

    In response to tenngun

I walked across the field once, it is rural farm land and off hand it would seem very difficult to roll any sort of artillery. I was just wondering how such a thing could be accomplished. Also, what would be the purpose. As I understand the attack, an early strike was made on the Federal Right. The idea was the only place to pull reinforcements was the federal center. Once the center was further weakened then the "charge" began. As a kid- I thought a "charge" was everyone running as fast as they could, not marching at a walking gate.
In any event, the charge is spread out which keeps the federal line spread out. Then, at a critical point all advancing troops head for the tree, the idea to split the line. I think Napoleon was the one who came up with this tactic. The whole thing depended on timing- which I think is why until recently (Ted Turner Movie) Longstreet was always blamed for the failure. In any event, this rolling artillery, to be honest I can't understand the benefit, why not just keep firing from the confederate line, unless the advancing infantry would be in the line of fire.

 
tenngun 
Cannon
Posts: 7585
tenngun
02-06-18 10:21 AM - Post#1667976    

    In response to crockett

That ending is the problem. It was a line of sight wepeon and under heavy fire conditions very hard to shoot over your guys heads and hit the enemy. At a walking pace it took about half an hour to move the men across the field. Advancing artillery over that same open ground fast enough to be able to deploy and fire while under fire had to have been a nightmare. Made worse by the lay of the land since the land drops between seminary ridge and emitesburg turnpike then drop again before the final rise to cemetery ridge. You couldn’t fire from the low country, so your target areas to place your guns is sparse. Awe inspiring.
I THINK that the great mistake was thinking the center had to be weaker by the flank attacks. As an arm chair general I could see the attac working maybe on the early evening of 2 July, instead of putting 3 corps men under Longstreet put Pickett men under Hill and throw them at cemetery hill.
What if’s always work on paper, but if truth is the first causultie of war the plan is the first causultie of a battle.

Edited by tenngun on 02-06-18 10:30 AM. Reason for edit: No reason given.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 7385
02-06-18 02:30 PM - Post#1668027    

    In response to crockett

  • crockett Said:
I walked across the field once, it is rural farm land and off hand it would seem very difficult to roll any sort of artillery. I was just wondering how such a thing could be accomplished. Also, what would be the purpose. As I understand the attack, an early strike was made on the Federal Right. The idea was the only place to pull reinforcements was the federal center. Once the center was further weakened then the "charge" began. As a kid- I thought a "charge" was everyone running as fast as they could, not marching at a walking gate.
In any event, the charge is spread out which keeps the federal line spread out. Then, at a critical point all advancing troops head for the tree, the idea to split the line. I think Napoleon was the one who came up with this tactic. The whole thing depended on timing- which I think is why until recently (Ted Turner Movie) Longstreet was always blamed for the failure. In any event, this rolling artillery, to be honest I can't understand the benefit, why not just keep firing from the confederate line, unless the advancing infantry would be in the line of fire.

’’

I have walked the grounds of “Longstreet’s Advance” many times as an adult, a Career Marine and as a Reenactor. Though I was not a Career Infantry Marine, I had a very good eye for ground even when first trained in Squad Tactics and had a fair amount of experience Commanding 150 or more troops at Tacticals in different ground conditions, when I walked the grounds of Gettysburg. I was also offered the Command of a Confederate Regiment for the movie “Gettysburg,” but was stationed in California when they filmed it and I could not take enough time off to do it.

Since the Confederate Forces were spread out over between 1 ¼ and 1 ½ miles during the Assault, different Divisions contended with different types of ground to cross. There were some cornfields and if the rows were planted parallel to the Emmetsburg Pike, that would have been difficult to drag guns across by men, but not by horses. In other areas, they crossed wheat fields that really would not have been that difficult to drag some guns by hand as long as additional troops were added to the Gun Crews. (I can say that by us actually dragging full size original 12 lb Napoleon guns across fields that had very high and thick fallow grass, that would have been more difficult than wheat fields.) Some areas of the ground had swales where the attacking Confederates “disappeared” to the Union forces for a short while during the attack. Still, those swales were not that deep that guns could not have been dragged by horses and even by additional hands to help the gun crews.

Here is an original daguerreotype photo of dead soldiers lying in a wheat field on the battlefield just after the Battle. The wheat was flattened by troops crossing/fighting over it.
http://www.civil-war.net/cw_images/files/images/099.jpg

Many personal accounts tell of how hot the sun was on that day and even waiting Confederates grouped in any shade provided. So I admit I was surprised by this information:

“Whatever the truth, the bombardment began at one o'clock in the afternoon by Alexander's clock or at 1:07 according to Michael Jacobs, a professor at nearby Pennsylvania College (now Gettysburg College) who also meticulously recorded weather conditions during the day (clouds in the early morning, with mostly clear skies by two, and a high temperature of 87 degrees). Depending on the source, the thunderous fire lasted anywhere from one to two hours, with the consensus landing on a little more than an hour. At first, Porter had intended only to fire his guns for about twenty-five minutes but then realized that the damage done in this time was insufficient. He worried, though, that if the bombardment went on for too long, he would run out of ammunition and the Confederate infantry would be forced to advance without any artillery support. When the Union artillery's counter fire began to fall off, Alexander took it as a sign that the enemy guns had been knocked out—just as the Union artillery chief hoped he would.”
https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Numbers_at_Pickett_s_Ch...

OK, Field Guns (Cannon) were used in the UnCivil War as “Support Weapons” not unlike how we use modern medium/heavy machine guns (similar to the effects of period case/grape shot) and modern mortars (similar to the effects of period exploding shells) – against opposing Infantry. Of course they also fired solid shot and exploding shells at opposing gun crews to “silence their guns.” The effective range of smooth bore guns was they could hit opposing gun batteries at 1,000 yards and with rifled guns, that range increased to 1 ½ miles IF they had a clear field of fire. Gun Crews opened up with case/grape shot at around 400 yards and tore huge holes in opposing Infantry, especially if at an angle to their battle line. So the primary reason they took the Field Guns with them on the advance, was to silence as many Union Guns as possible and cause them not to do as much damage to the advancing Confederate Infantry, while giving the possibility of opening holes in the Federal Defences.

As Tenngun already mentioned, most of the Field Guns were line of sight to direct line of hit weapons, because the gun tubes could not be elevated enough to fire over the heads of your own troops. However, the South had some Howitzers at Gettysburg that could be elevated to shoot above your own troops. The problem was that the Confederate Chief of Artillery, Brig. General Pendleton, initially offered the 9 Confederate Howitzers to Col. Porter Alexander for the bombardment, BUT inexplicably moved them and they were not available to Alexander when he most needed them.

Yes, a “Charge” in the day meant the troops marched in formation at normal pace to keep their battle lines intact and would stop occasionally to realign their formation, when the distance was fairly far. It has been said they were not ordered to “Charge” or “Run towards the Enemy,’ until they got within 400 yards, but even that is a pretty fair distance for troops to run and then be expected to fight hand to hand. 400 yards for troops to run with arms and equipment would fatigue modern troops with plenty of water and good food/diet. The Confederate Soldiers were tough, but their diet had been poor for weeks before the battle and their water was limited and they were already fatigued from moving up and in some cases from fighting the day or two before; so I doubt they were expected to Run at the Federals until much closer than that. BTW, it would have taken between 20 and 30 minutes for all Confederate Forces to have come into contact with Union Forces considering the distance they had to cross and realigning on average of two times. (Of course the Smart Confederate Commanders took advantage of the swales in the ground and realigned their men there, when possible, because they could not be seen by most Federal Troops firing at them.)

Gus


 
crockett 
Cannon
Posts: 6327
02-07-18 09:04 AM - Post#1668173    

    In response to Artificer

Well, I've thought about the thing for years and change opinions back and forth. It was a complicated attack that required precise coordination. The prior day at Round Top should have been a red flag the Federals, on their own turf, might be an entirely different opponent, much more determined.
I guess sometimes you are better off to quit while you're ahead. Lee should have had a rapid means of communication, such as the artillery was out of ammunition. The attack should have been called off.

 
tenngun 
Cannon
Posts: 7585
tenngun
02-07-18 10:22 AM - Post#1668202    

    In response to crockett

Battles are won by the side that makes the least mistakes. Longstreet might have been right but he wasn’t in command. Lee had a heart condition and was sick, Ewell and Hill were cautious on one hand a little to aggressive on the other. Stuart was sloppy.
Renolds loss threw the first day in to confusion at a critical time. Hancock arrived in crisis and was toss in to juggling he missed the importance of the round tops. Mead didn’t get a chance to survey the ground before his armies engaged and was already thinking defensively. Silckles made a poor decision.
I take off my hat and say Mr Lee with reverence, but it was a poorly fought battle. Lee made two real bad mistakes that resulted in Sharpsburg and Gettysburg.
When you stand on any WBTS battle field and think about how it was for a commander who often had incompleat maps, inability to get a message to a sub commander on sene, or a quick response back, no place to even see the battlefield in real time it’s amazing any commander did as well as he did.

 
nhmoose 
58 Cal.
Posts: 2070
nhmoose
02-07-18 02:38 PM - Post#1668242    

    In response to tenngun

I would like to thank all of the posters with knowledge of this battle for posting and teaching what they know.

I toured the Battlefield in 1982 with a very good interpreter hired for that tour. I was at the National Fire Academy at the time and I found the tour excellent that brought me to tears at times.

Thank you folks for this discussion.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 7385
02-07-18 05:18 PM - Post#1668268    

    In response to crockett

I, too, freely admit I wondered for years why Lee really invaded the North a second time, after the results of Sharpsburg or Antietam.

For a long time I figured Lee was doing it to bring the War back to the North and cause the Anti War feelings of many Northerners to cause a political end, that would force the U.S. Government to sue for peace and allow the South to freely separate. There was also the possibility it would cause the South to be recognized by England and France. While these things may have been a very small part of the reason for the second Northern Invasion, it was not the primary reason.

One thing I did not realize for many years was how much President Davis tried to act as Commander in Chief from Richmond and interfered badly with Lee. Davis was known for moving troops all over the place when he thought threats existed and that sometimes severely weakened Lee's Army. Davis also did not ensure the government supplied the Army of Northern Virginia properly. The more I learn of how Lee had to deal with Davis, the more amazed I am Lee was able to do what he was able to do.

Lee's strategy for invading the North was primarily to keep Union Forces concentrating on his Army and thus not attacking Richmond or other key places in the East. It also kept some of the pressure off Confederate Forces in the West.

On top of that, as mentioned in an earlier post, Lee's Army was only barely supplied. So Lee's Army had to do a lot of "living off the land" wherever the Army was. Once the Army had been somewhere, they had pretty much used up the local area ability to "live off the land" for that year and perhaps the following year. So by once again moving into the North, he could forage for his Army off the land and this time the enemy's land. It did not work as well as hoped; but they did get some small relief of food, plus forage for their animals by going North.

A Confederate thrust towards Harrodsburg did prove the Federals were more determined when they fought on their own ground, as one would expect. Meade concentrating his Army, also caused Lee to call those forces back.

One thing many people did not realize was Meade had set up a VERY effective intelligence gathering ability, that no earlier Northern Commander had done. Of course that worked even better in Northern Territory.

Perhaps Lee's primary fault as a Commander was he was not more forceful with some of his subordinates. He believed his subordinates would primarily do the right thing when needed and was not as exacting in his orders when he should have been. His bond with Jackson was such that he never had to do these things, but it was a different matter with some other subordinates.

Lee's less exacting orders allowed J.E.B. Stuart and the Cavalry WAY TOO MUCH latitude, especially as how the Federal Cavalry had proved they finally were good enough to fight Stuart at Brandy Station - at the beginning of what would become the Gettysburg campaign. Had Lee been more forceful with Stuart about having enough Cavalry available to act as "the eyes of the Army," it is probable there would never have been a battle at Gettysburg.

OK, going to have to stop here and continue in the next post.

Gus


 
tenngun 
Cannon
Posts: 7585
tenngun
02-07-18 05:35 PM - Post#1668271    

    In response to Artificer

I read that more books have been written about Gettysburg then any other battle or war. I can’t prove that but it is the world most famous battle.
Mead is often almost ignored in most of them. It’s often forgotten that Mead was the commander of the army of the Potomac through all rest war. He took command in the middle of a crisis having to deal with another generals deployment. He takes a back seat an historical ‘also running today’.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 7385
02-07-18 11:17 PM - Post#1668318    

    In response to tenngun

You are absolutely correct that Meade never got/gets what he deserved. He was one of the North's most capable subordinate Generals and "rose to the occasion" at Gettysburg. His main problem as far as history is concerned was he did not "follow up" his victory at Gettysburg and allowed Lee to "escape," so Lincoln fired him as overall Commanding General.

Of course that led the way for Grant to be appointed overall Union Commander. I don't believe Meade would have done as well as Grant, so it was probably the best thing overall for the Union that Meade did not get overall Command.

BTW, the truly forgotten hero of Gettysburg for the Union was Brig. Gen. John Buford, whose Cavalry stopped/slowed down the Confederate Advance so long on the first day. He actually set the battle up for a Union victory.

Gus

 
tenngun 
Cannon
Posts: 7585
tenngun
02-08-18 12:03 AM - Post#1668322    

    In response to Artificer

John Buford is truly another one of those guys pushed in to the background by the north flamboyant. He was one of the best of the war.

 
crockett 
Cannon
Posts: 6327
02-08-18 10:59 AM - Post#1668398    

    In response to tenngun

I think there might have been a political slant, the next Presidential Election in the North. Try to get a political solution. I think the insiders in the Confederacy realized that may be their only hope.
Lee was outstanding as sort of a counter puncher- on defense but both Northern Invasions didn't do that well. Stonewall Jackson contributed a lot to Lee's status, Jackson's demise changed a lot. Lincoln wanted Washington DC protected at all costs which helps explain why the Federal invasions, if they ran into resistance, simply went back to DC. Lee played that situation very well. That changed with Grant.
I read some writings of Jefferson Davis. He claimed the numbers in terms of men and equipment were overstated as a deterrent to the Federals, that things were far less in reality. Davis was a West Point grad, Sec. of War, hero in the Mexican War. I think he is viewed at times rather harshly on the assumption the Confederates had more men and supplies than was the situation. I think the North was more efficient in rationing out materials, the Confederacy might not have had a strong enough government to coordinate operations- that's something I've tried to research but I haven't had much luck.
All told, Gettysburg cost the ANV a loss in men they could not afford. They should have rambled around a bit- just to show they could- and then beat a hasty retreat back to Virginia.
The embargo was the real problem. The south needed a better Navy. The armies were holding their own.

 
tenngun 
Cannon
Posts: 7585
tenngun
02-08-18 09:22 PM - Post#1668470    

    In response to crockett

All true. At the very beginning the south knew, for all the ‘one southerner can whump ten Yankees” talk, it could not win a war with the north. It gambled that the north would not be willing to pay the price.
Then it was hamstrung by what it was fighting for. A confederation of sovereign states is on a par with the allies that Napoleon preferred to fight. A strong central government is needed to handle a crisis. The political theory of the south was not fit to when a war it needed to win.
The philosophy worked when the enemy was six weeks away by sea, did not work when the enemy was just over the hill or river.

 
Artificer 
Cannon
Posts: 7385
02-10-18 01:26 AM - Post#1668673    

    In response to crockett

There is no doubt the Lee/Jackson team was something almost of legend.

Unlike the two times Longstreet had independent command, Jackson's independent command "in the Valley" is still being studied today for having done so much with fewer troops than the forces he opposed. Lee had recognized not only a real fighter in Jackson, but also an excellent tactician and that is part of the reason why he gave Jackson the independent command in the Valley.

However, it was not the same Jackson in the Seven Days battles as it was before and after. It has now come to light that in those battles, Jackson was suffering under clinical exhaustion. Fighting in the valley really wore him out, but also when Jackson was bringing his troops to join the rest of Lee's Army. Jackson rode about 50 miles ahead of his troops to confer with Lee one night and then back the 50 miles the next day to hurry his troops to support the defense of Richmond. Further, Jackson hardly slept during the Seven Days Battles and this clinical exhaustion explains why he didn't do better.

We sometimes forget that it is not the Military Commanders, but rather the Civilian Heads of Government the Military serves under, who set the overall objectives in War. Both sides set an unusually high importance on the enemy’s Capital, believing the capture of the enemy’s capital would end the War through suing for peace.

Washington, D.C. had already been captured and burned in the War of 1812 and it did not end that War. While D.C. was a huge staging point for Soldiers and Supplies, it had no other strategic importance outside the Seat of Government, which could have been temporarily moved as it had in the War of 1812. There was no large strategic manufacturing capability in D.C. and losing D.C. would not have meant the loss of strategic raw materials. However, it was at least somewhat possible that losing the Capital would cause the North to sue for peace from a psychological standpoint. Still, had the Federal Government remained strong, losing the Capital would only have been a temporary loss, at most.

Losing Richmond would have cost the South much more than honor or psychological issues. One of, if not the most important Steel manufacturing facilities in the South was Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond. It was one of the very few places cannon and armor for ships were made, besides many other kinds of Ordnance. Too many Confederate “laboratories” for making powder and other War Materiel were also located in Richmond. Finally, the fall of Richmond would have meant the loss of important Iron Ore from Virginia as well as other supplies and manpower.

So even though both sides set such store in protecting their capitals, the South needed to protect Richmond far more than the North needed to protect D.C. Both sides realized this.

The main objective of Lee as the Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, was to keep the Capital and most of Virginia out of Enemy hands for the reasons outlined above. Therefore that dictated Lee’s strategy. Lee knew that as long as he had a large enough Army to stop/turn back invasions and threaten D.C., the North would keep far too many Troops garrisoned in/around D.C. to protect it and hopefully the North would eventually tire of War and sue for peace.

However, unlike Northern Commanders who never had to worry about enough supplies and food for their Armies, the largest of Lee’s everyday problems was not only keeping his Army resupplied, but even more importantly keeping his men and animals fed. No major Union Commander ever faced having to do battle with ill-supplied and especially poorly fed, or at times, half starving troops. Just keeping his Army fed, used up much of Lee’s efforts and dictated not only where he would campaign, but more importantly how he could campaign.

Never before in American History had Logistics been so important in War, because never before had such huge numbers of men, animals and materiel been involved.

Gus




 
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