Skip to comments.150 years ago today -- the Gettysburg campaign begins
Posted on 06/10/2013 3:07:23 PM PDT by lowbridge
On June 10, 1863, the lead troops of General Robert E. Lees Army of Northern Virginia left the armys staging area near Culpeper Court House, Virginia and began a march northward.
Their destination: Pennsylvania where Lee hoped to win a major battle on Northern soil and end the Civil War with a Southern victory.
Soon his army would be trailed by his main Northern adversary, the Federal Army of the Potomac. Ahead of both armies, across the Potomac River and in the heartland of southern Pennsylvania, lay the quiet crossroads town of Gettysburg, which would become the site of the largest battle ever fought in North America.
It would also prove to be decisive battle of the American Civil War.
The war would continue for almost two more years until it claimed 620,000 American lives, but by many measures the battle of Gettysburg was its turning point.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/06/10/150-years-ago-today-gettysburg-campaign-begins/#ixzz2Vr01YXli
(Excerpt) Read more at foxnews.com ...
I guess Gone With the Wind is all we get.
Maybe General Buford can shed some light on the situation.
I think Gettysburg was a fine movie. The script was taken almost verbatum from The Killer Angels, which was a great book.
I do not think it was the decisive battle although certainly a bitter defeat for the greatest of armies. I always felt the decisive battle was the Wildnerness in ‘64 when although soundly beaten, Grant didn’t go back towards DC but instead went around the left flank and even deeper into Virginia where the battle of attrition and losses, the southener’s couldn’t make good on, began to pile up.
If Mexico is considered to be part of North America, then the largest battle ever fought in terms of duration, numbers involved and casualties would arguably have been Tenochtitlan, in 1521.
Confederate Captain Joseph Graham letter to his father written July 30, 1863. He witnessed the entire Pickett's Charge from an advantageous vantage point and describes in his own words what he witnessed - some observations defy prior speculation on what transpired on the final day.
Joseph Graham to William A. Graham, Culpepper [Culpeper] County, July 30th, 1863.
Since I left Kinston, I have travelled between seven and Eight Hundred miles, and have been engaged in one of the bloodiest conflicts of the War. We met the Enemy about two miles from Gettysburg, Pa., on the 1st. day of this month, and drove him, after a sharp contest, lasting all day, to Cemetery Hill, beyond town, distant about half a mile. During the next morning, nothing more than skirmishing occurred, until about two and a half P.M. When Longstreet's Corps arrived upon the Enemy's left, and commenced engaging him in his fortified position on the 'Hill.' In about half an hour, the fight became general, along our right, and right centre, (the right half of our Corps.) Our men advanced and fell back, in succession, until about six o'clock, when a desperate charge dislodged the Enemy from his position, but unfortunately our reserve was not near enough to support the brave, but decimated ranks of the assailants. Just at this time, the sun being nearly down, our Battalion was ordered up at a gallop, under the thickest fire I ever experienced to support our men, who had been overpowered by the enemy's reinforcements, and compelled to fall back with great loss. Darkness soon put an end to the operations, and the night passed off very quietly. This night and the night previous, the Enemy spent in fortifying his positions, already very strong from the nature of the ground. it was equal, if not superior to his situation at Malvern Hill. And that I think, naturally, the finest position for defence I ever saw.
We slept upon the field, and no sound was audible, except continuous din of the enemy's tools, and the awful groans of the wounded and dying. The next sun brought the fatal 3rd. day of July. Everything remained quiet 'till about 12 1/2 P.M. (by the watch I saw) when we began shelling their positions. On both sides I think there must have been between 350 and 400 guns in action. And after the heaviest Artillery duel of the war, (and said to have been heavier than the cannonade at Balaklava) and lasting about one hour and ten minutes, we silenced all their guns. They report that we killed and disabled nearly all their cannoneers, and they were compelled to get detachments from their Infantry to man their pieces. My men behaved very handsomely indeed, and shells from my guns blew up two of their Caissons loaded with Ammunition. The firing was terrific, and I never expect to hear anything to compare with it. We whipped them fairly in the Artillery, and they were in an elevated and fortified position, and we have no works at all. The distance was about 1 1/4 miles, over an open and gradual slope. The Infantry were to have charged through the dense smoke immediately upon the cessation of our fire, but by some mismanagement, there was quite a delay, until everything became settled, and the Enemy had time to prepare for the charge.
It was a very oppressive day, and our troops were much fatigued by the work of the two days previous, and consequently had to advance very slowly, exposed all the time to the Enemy's fire. The most of our Artillery Ammunition then expended, we could not do much towards driving off their batteries. However, our men advanced steadily, but I fear with too feeble determination, some, up to the work, others, not so far, and so on, 'till some did not go more than 150 yds. Gen'l Pettigrew told me that when the front line gave way, (we advanced in two lines) he could see their Artillery limbering up their guns to retire from the works. Our second line was 1000 yards from the first, and of course not near enough to support it. This being the case, the first was completely routed, and broke through the second, spoiling the whole affair. I saw the whole charge, the view was open from my position, to the Enemy's works, on the Heights. The lines moved right through my Battery, and I feared then I could see a want of resolution in our men. And I heard many say, 'that is worse than Malvern Hill,' and 'I don't hardly think that position can be carried,' etc., etc., enough to make me apprehensive about the result. Davis' Miss. Brigade was the first to give way. The slaughter is represented as terrible, but so far as I would judge, it was not near as bad as reported. And much is owing to the cowardice of the enemy, for when our men retreated, so much disordered, if they had charged upon them, our Army would have been utterly routed and ruined. It is painful to make such admissions, but they are nevertheless true. this part being over, the day passed off quietly in the centre. Gen'l Lee's plan was excellent, but some one made a botch of it indeed. Had we carried those Heights, that Army would have been ruined. There were only two avenues of escape, and Ewell had one, and Longstreet the other. So that they must have surrendered or been cut to pieces, and entirely ruined. They would have been scattered over the whole country, and we must have had Washington City, and Baltimore. And I hoped a speedy peace. But the fortune of war was otherwise. On the night of the 3rd. Inst., after the crippling of that day, the Enemy began to retire his Artillery, and kept moving out all night, Longstreet having moved back when we could not carry their works. On the 4th. Inst. they threw out heavy lines of skirmishers, and pretended as if they intended to advance upon us. That night, about dusk, both Armies, badly crippled, retired in different directions. they towards Baltimore and we towards Hagerstown. If we had only remained 'till the next day we could have claimed the victory. But our supplies were exhausted, and a retrograde movement absolutely necessary. And for want of transportation, we left about 4500 wounded to fall into their hands. Neither side buried the dead of July 3rd. before leaving. It was an awful affair altogether.
Vicksburg was much more decisive.
I tend to agree with you, except that Grant was not “soundly beaten” at the Wilderness. It was a tactical draw, but a strategic Union victroy, since the South could not afford to fight draws. Grant however claimed Vicksburg was more important strategically even than Gettysburg.
I loved reading both Grant and Longsteet’s memoirs. They were, IMHO, the first “modern” generals who understood the implcations of the new technology on warfare. Longstreet was sadly underappreciated and vilified by many in the South.
Interesting: the siege of Vicksburg was happening about this same time.
It would be a hoot if there was “live tweeting” on North and South sides......
Very poor acting by Robert Duvall. I was very disappointed.
“The South had the upper hand and the momentum up until this point. They were fighting in Northern territory!” And in so doing lost many of the tactical advantages that the ANV enjoyed when fighting on their home turf. The failures of JEB Stuarts cavalry division to properly screen the advance could not be compensated for with local friendly intel.
Duvall wasn’t in Gettysburg. Lee was played by Martin Sheen. Duvall was in Gods and Generals.
“I always felt the decisive battle was the Wildnerness in 64 when although soundly beaten, Grant didnt go back towards DC but instead went around the left flank and even deeper into Virginia where the battle of attrition and losses, the southeners couldnt make good on, began to pile up.”
Both battles were pivotal, but The Wilderness battle, I think, was the most decisive, because when Grant did not turn tail the South was forced to admit it could not win the War. At least after Gettysburg the South reasoned, “Well, we got thumped in enemy territory, but we still have our own, and we can beat the enemy there.” However, after The Wilderness, the South had to see the writing on the wall: “We have stopped them on our own soil, but they do not leave. And there are more of them than there are of us.”
JEB Stuart screwed up BIG TIME at Gettysburg. Lee lost confidence in him after that.
The absence of Stuart’s cavalry immediately before the Gettysburg fight, when Lee had been depending on Stuart’s cavalry to act as his eyes and ears, put Lee into an almost impossible position, and left him only two real choices: Attack with what he had and with what he knew; or withdraw. For several reasons, Lee could not withdraw. Thus, he found himself having to attack; and at that he almost won the fight.
It was a defeat for the second greatest army.
The greatest was the one who defeated them.
As a pure coincidence I picked up a copy of Killer Angles last week and have been reading it.
They mostly disliked Longstreet because of what he did after the war. He became one of those hated Republicans. They hated him so much, they blamed the loss of the war on Gettysburg, and blamed their loss at Gettysburg on Longstreet.
Certainly he did well during the war, and fought and bled for the insurrection. He commanded over half of Lee’s army during the Penninsula battles, when Jackson turned in a relatively poor performance.
Grant became acquainted with and courted Longstreet’s fourth cousin, Julia Dent, and the couple eventually married. Historians agree that Longstreet attended the Grant wedding on August 22, 1848 in St. Louis, but his role at the ceremony remains unclear. Grant biographer Jean Edward Smith asserted that Longstreet served as Grant’s best man at the wedding.John Y. Simon, editor of Julia Grant’s memoirs, concluded that Longstreet “may have been a groomsman,” and Longstreet biographer Donald Brigman Sanger called the role of best man “uncertain” while noting that neither Grant nor Longstreet mentioned any such role in either of their memoirs.
Killer Angels was in part based on Longstreet’s memoirs.
The south had won defensive battles in the east, but lost in the west. Tennessee was lost, along with the south’s major source of pork (protein). Vicksburg chopped off Texas (beef), Arkansas, and took most of Mississippi. After defeat at Vicksburg, US forces would turn east toward Chattanooga and Atlanta’s capture would assure the reelection of Lincoln.
The south was losing the war, but just losing more slowly in the east due to the decision to suck more rebel units from the west to the east.
And as the south slowly lost in the east, US Naval supremacy on the high seas took increasing effect.
Meade pushed out forces to north and south of Pickett’s line of advance, so the southern forces waltzed into a cross fire. Yet the men of North Carolina got all the way to the Union lines. Amistead and Hancock, good friends in California before the war, were severely wounded within yards of each other. Hancock survived.
The 20th Maine on the south side of the US Army lines was cited in Army manual FM 100-5 on Operations.
This is no doubt what Graham believed, but it is quite incorrect.
The Federal artillery was not "silenced" by enemy action. For the most part they were intentionally shut down to give that impression, sucking the enemy into a disastrous charge.
A lot of the southern artillery fire was high, going over the ridge and into the rear areas of the Army of the Potomac. Caused some havoc there, but wasn't very effective against the actual Union positions.
Gen'l Lee's plan was excellent, but some one made a botch of it indeed. Had we carried those Heights, that Army would have been ruined. There were only two avenues of escape, and Ewell had one, and Longstreet the other. So that they must have surrendered or been cut to pieces, and entirely ruined.
Very large "had." Lee disagreed with Graham.
Couple months later he formally offered his resignation to Davis, accepting full responsibility for the defeat at Gettysburg.
The great delusion of the War. The Napoleonic decisive victory that would "destroy" the enemy army and win the war at a single thrust.
Such may have been possible in theory, but nobody ever pulled it off in WBTS.
It is more likely that given the size of armies and the balance between offense and defense, it just wasn't possible short of extreme stupidity or treason by a commander.
In fact, I don't know of a single decisive victory of the Napoleonic type between Waterloo and WWII, when blitzkrieg made it again possible. Involving modern armies, of course, not modern armies vs. guys with spears. Tannenburg perhaps came closest, but even it did not knock Russia out of the war immediately.
It did take awhile for the incompetent union to kill of the republic. It should have been over in a month or two if you compare the two sides militarily/industrially.
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Lee's goals were two fold and more fundamental. He wanted to move his army into Union territory to let it live off their land for a while, drawing his supplies from Northern farmers instead of Southern ones while at the same time building up a reserve of supplies he could take home to supply him during the leaner months. And he wanted to get his army away from Jeff Davis, who had been discussing sending parts of it west to save Vicksburg. He wasn't out to hunt down and fight the Union army.
The strategic reason for moving into the North....
Vicksburg was taking a beating with the siege and so the thought was to counter the Vicksburg move with an “invasion” of the North. It was intended to strike fear into the Northerners.
The turning point was Picket's charge. The commanders lost their nerve and fell back to an old failed strategy of moving their troops in a massive formation towards an objective. I think it is referred to as Napoleonic tactics. Technology had made it obsolete. Besides, Lee was best suited for gorilla tactics versus direct face to face attacks.
I don’t see how you get a month or two before invention of the internal combustion engine and airplane.
Also consider that Buchanan’s sec of War (Floyd) moved large numbers of weapons to southern forts where they could be stolen easily. That act of treason gave the south a running start.
Then figure that southern militias were initally better trained, being assigned routinely to slave catcher patrols, and with a need to be ready to put down a slave insurrection. In the north the militia was starting at a very low level, particularly in the northeast where there was no threat from Indians.
It took a while to train, equip, men, and still longer to train and equip generals and their staffs. Longstreet in particular is known for having the best staff in either army.
Napoleon never pulled it off either. He won many victories, but the army he destroyed would be replaced by a new army a few years later.
It takes time to train an army, but longer to train generals and their staffs. Austerlitz destroyed the fighting men but the staff survived to raise another army and fight again.
A biographer said that he rose above victory by giving credit for Chancellorsville to Jackson, and he rose above defeat by accepting blame for Gettysburg.
No matter what, they won’t let anthing bad stick to Lee.
Napoleon, a number of times, defeated and dispersed the enemy army, in essence destroying it as an armed force. This was never done during the WBTS. Armies were defeated, but not destroyed.
However, in my opinion if Grant had been in command at either Antietam or Gettyburg, Lee would have had a very difficult time indeed getting away across the Potomac. Both McClellan and Meade arguably allowed him to escape. I don’t think Grant would have done so.
He was almost the only counterpuncher in the Union Army, as was seen at Shiloh. Which was arguably almost as bad a defeat day one as Chancellorsville was for Hooker. But Grant didn’t whine or retreat, he regrouped and counterattacked.
In the east, maybe. But in the west?
Wasn't Hood's army effectively destroyed in his Tennessee campaign?
Good point. But Hood was able to retreat with his basic army structure intact. It fell apart during the retreat due to straggling and desertion, but I suggest that’s a good bit different from what happened to the losing armies at Austerlitz, Jena or Waterloo.
ever stop and think that the war didnt go or turn out like anyone, especially the south, thought or anticipated?
i guess war is like that. people start them for reasons that rarely, if ever, work out.
I submit that Grant surrounded, defeated and dispersed the army defending Vicksburg. They were given paroles, and scattered themselves to their homes, destroying that army.
My limited understanding is he was nearly as successful at Henry and Donalson, though some small forces were able to break out, to include Forrest and Floyd (the latter wanted for treason for his acts as Buchanan’s secretary of war).
Similarly, Grant did the same to Lee’s army at Appromatox Court house, and Sherman did the same to Johnston’s army in NC.
I hold that Thomas did a similar job at Franklin.
No doubt you have seen the famous map of Napoleon’s army in Russia.
That passes for destroying an Army too. I would like to see a similar map of Lee’s army retreating from Richmond.
No doubt you have seen the famous map of Napoleon’s army in Russia.
That passes for destroying an Army too. I would like to see a similar map of Lee’s army retreating from Richmond.
May be a better image.
Note the degrees were per Reamur, different from Farenheit or Celsius. The problem was it was unseasonably warm, and the rivers hadn’t frozen, so crossings were more difficult than expected.
Also, on the way out Nappy took his time, waiting for the surrender he was sure would come after each battle. On the way back he rushed, and fighting fewer battles, lost much to desertion (and repopulated the households whose husbands and fathers had been killed in battle on the way out.)
Hood went in to the Nashville campaign with 38,000 men, not counting Forrest. He lost about 20,000 of those men, in killed, wounded, captured, or deserted. 52.6% losses (not counting Forrest)
At Austerlitz, Napoleon’s opponents had 85,000 men, of which 27,000 were killed, wounded or captured. 31.7% losses
Thomas compares favorably in the percent of casualties inflicted on his enemy. He almost compares to Blenheim.
At the battle of Blenheim, Duke of Marlborough, his opponents began with 56,000 men and lost 20,000 killed wounded or drowned. with another 14190 captured. 61% losses.
Ahh, but a successful siege is not the same thing as an open-field battle in which the enemy army is destroyed, as an army, on the field.
In fact, at the time it was a truism that once an army allowed itself to be pinned down in a siege it would inevitably have to capitulate eventually, unless a relieving force was successful.
At ACH Lee’s army was not destroyed, it surrendered because being surrounded, out of ammo, etc. its defeat was inevitable. Same for Johnson, although his army was not in as immediately bad shape as Lee’s. There just wasn’t any more point in continuing to fight once Lee surrendered. In both cases, these armies were defeated and dispersed as the result of a successful campaign, not a single decisive battle.
You have a point about Franklin, but Thomas wasn’t there. He was the theater commander, but not on the battlefield. Also it was Hood destroyed the army. :)
I guess I should concede Nashville as a decisive battle. As its result the CSA western army more or less fell apart. But it was not the result of two more or less equal armies meeting in battle and one destroying the other. Hood’s army had already been more or less destroyed as a result of his inept campaign. He was just too stubborn and/or stupid to admit it.
Possibly it’s a nit, but I think there is a real difference between a single decisive battle and a campaign or war that results in an enemy’s eventually being work down and defeated. IOW, Cannae and Austerlitz were very different from WWI. Or the Battle of France and the conquest of Germany in WWII.
Thanks for the correction. Not sure why they even cast Martin Sheen. He was terrible. I can understand why everyone was excited when Duvall got picked for the sequel (can it properly be called that?).
Some wanted Lee to disperse the army so soldiers could disperse to the hills and carry on a guerrilla war. The surrender put an end to that talk and the war.