Everyone knows the story behind pickett's charge but what i would like to discuss is why in the world would general lee, an extraordinary commander initiate an attack like that. I have heard that he was suffering from chest pains at the time but i dont see why that should hinder his judgement, why do you think he ordered the attack?
The union position at Gettysburg was a triangle, the term fishook was not heard untill the 1900s. The military training of the time taught that a commander would hit both legs of the triangle to pull reserves away from the center. Then a strike at the center would result in a break through. This is the same reason Napoleon struck Wellington's center at Waterloo. The federal commanders were anticipating such a move. At least one unit commander who's troops were issued smoothbores had ordered his men to double charge their cartridges. That involved breaking open cartridges and discarding the powder charge from one and putting the three buckshot and ball from that one in a cartdidge with powder. This unit was near the highwater mark.
well one of the things that have always made me wonder is in the time it would take the confederates the time to approach the union center meade would have been able to bring reenforcements from nearly any point of his line. plus with the cannonade that lasted two hours the federals had to know an attack would come and when that attack came it would be a massive assault. i think lee's best strategy would have been to stage a retreat on the second night and put up concealed positions on herr's ridge or one of the other ridges west of gettysburg. i dont think anyother battlefield provided better defensive positions for the federals.
Well, Meade did know that an infantry attack would follow the artillery barrage; that the artillery was used to "soften up" the Union lines was something Brigadier General Henry Hunt knew well enough to decide to restrict his artillery fire in return, starting a good 15 minutes into the Confederate barrage. It was Meade's determination to stay where he was, and wait for the infantry attack.
I'm not sure how quickly Meade would have been able to get reinforcements up to his center, and I'm not sure he thought he needed to. There were more than a few Federal units in reserve that jumped into the attack when needed, beginning with the 19th Massachusetts and the 42nd New York, who came through the Copse of Trees and pushed back some skirmishers; Hancock then rallied these units when the line at the wall wavered. But there were also the 59th New York, 7th Michigan, 20th Massachusetts, all of which joined the 69th PA at the wall as the Confederates pushed through, as well as the 14th and 16th Vermont, who caused the 2nd Florida to surrender almost to a man.
Was Meade thinking he'd need more, or was he convinced his center would hold? In the end, there were enough Federal reinforcements there to make the Confederates who did break the Union line unable to hold their ground.
Last edited on Sat Feb 13th, 2010 11:53 pm by pamc153PA
i understand that there was reenforcements and lee should have known that an attack that would take 28 mins to even reach the federal lines would take long enough for federal reenforcements to be called up. Lee was far from being perfect his main flaw was butchering his troops in frontal assaults. He did poor enough at Gettysburg to offer his resignation to Davis after the battle and i believe the charge on the third day played a big role in his decision to offer his resignation
thank you doc that proves my point that even if lee would have broke the federal line and was able to hold that position for any period of time that federal reenforcements would have been called up to drive them off, and probably quicker then lee could have reenforced his position on cemetery ridge. It's just plain and simple that Lee made a blunder. he should have known better. But if Stuart and ewell had been successful at turning the union right flank then it may have been his greatest tactical victory.