Skip to comments.New map may explain Lee's decisions at Gettysburg
Posted on 06/29/2013 6:49:03 AM PDT by Michael.SF.
GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) On the second day of fighting at Gettysburg, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee listened to scouting reports, scanned the battlefield and ordered his second-in-command, James Longstreet, to attack the Union Army's left flank.
It was a fateful decision, one that led to one of the most desperate clashes of the entire Civil War the fight for a piece of ground called Little Round Top. The Union's defense of the boulder-strewn promontory helped send Lee to defeat at Gettysburg, and he never again ventured into Northern territory.
Why did the shrewd and canny Lee choose to attack, especially in the face of the Union's superior numbers?
Our analysis shows that he had a very poor understanding of how many forces he was up against, which made him bolder," said Middlebury College professor Anne Knowles, whose team produced the most faithful re-creation of the Gettysburg battlefield to date, using software called GIS, or geographic information systems.
(Excerpt) Read more at news.yahoo.com ...
J.E.B. Stuart dropped the ball.
Longstreet was apprised of the importance of little round top by his division commanders on the right and was informed that the Union forces there were out of position and could be overrun. He declined to even look at the ground.
As an aside I think Longstreet gets a "bum rap" he seems to have been right: Lee should have early on gone around the left flank of the Union army.(Lee's right flank.)
My understanding is that Longstreet had advised Lee to take up a defensive position and let the Union beat its own brains out assaulting their position, similar to Fredericksburg, but Lee wanted to assume the offensive.
Even the oft maligned ‘Pickett's Charge’ was a viable plan, one that went awry due to the poor aim of the artillery bombardment which failed to accomplish it's task.
Studies such as this one are usually informative to those whom are relatively uninformed. On the other hand, it does provide updated teaching opportunities to the students, which is probably what the whole point of the study was about (as opposed to adding any real new insight).
The defeat can be laid at the feet of Stuart.
Lee needed his cavalry. Without them he was fighting blind, could not disengage.
Which is exactly why he invaded the North.
Apparently the existence of new fangled computer tools makes analysts incapable of understanding that large bodies of troops in 19th Century military operations created huge clouds of dust while on the march.
I was going to point that out, too...
Strategy vs. tactics.
You mean, like not having Stonewall Jackson? I agree, but I still enjoyed going over the map.
Stuart still has his fans, some of whom are down on Lee. See, for example, the essay Stuart at Gettysburg.
An amazing revelation. Before air reconnaissance, commanders were at the mercy of what they could see in line of sight, and what they could gather from intelligence (cavalry and spies). High ground was important, but did not necessarily solve all of the visibility problems. This has been the case since the beginning of warfare. It’s amazing that these scholars spent all of their time reconfirming what any student of military history knows.
Especially since the temperatures at the time were said to be in the 90's.
Because at the time, the Round Tops were virtually undefended, and by capturing them, Lee could have deployed his artillery very effectively against the Union left and pushed them off Cemetery Ridge.
The more puzzling question to me has always been why Meade or Hancock didn't see the strategic importance of the high ground to begin with.
Longstreet was right one hell of a lot more than he was wrong. Unfortunately, he always seemed less than enthusiastic in carrying out orders he did not agree with.
IMNVHO, Best general in the Civil War on either side: General George B. Thomas, victim of a PR cabal by Grant, Sherman, Schofield, and their pals in DC, all of whom admitted it long after the war.
He was an all-around guy, a master of logistics, engineering, training, cavalry, artillery, and maneuver on defense and attack. Careful and methodical, he took very good care of his troops and tried to minimize casualties.
Genius, especially when compared to Grant.
In the face of uncertainty over the exact position and numbers of Union troops converging on Gettysburg, I have often wondered why General Lee didn’t simply refuse the battle there and establish himself on terrain nearby more suitable to defense. Since he would still remain, in the Liddell Hart formulation, strategically offensive, the Union commander would be compelled to attack him to dislodge the Confederate Army from Union territory. But now Lee would be tactically defensive and the 3 to 1 offense to defense ratio would favor him and not Meade.