Civil War Interactive Discussion Board Home
Home Search search Menu menu Not logged in - Login | Register


Twists of fate? - General Civil War Talk - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
 Moderated by: javal1
 New Topic   Reply   Printer Friendly 
 Rate Topic 
AuthorPost
 Posted: Sat Dec 9th, 2006 10:07 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
1st Post
Regina
Member


Joined: Wed Nov 1st, 2006
Location: Connecticut USA
Posts: 65
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Up until my college years, I had little, if any, interest in history.   Through my 20's and 30's, I read books and watched programs about historical people and events (from all time periods and places in the world) as one leisure activity among some others.  Last February, however, I was traveling from CT to Frederick, MD and the route we chose to drive took my sister and myself through Valley Forge Historical Site and Gettysburg National Battlefield.  At Gettysburg, we took the taped auto tour.  This began what I would call an "obsession" for both my sister and myself.  In the last 10 months, we have visited Gettysburg 3 times, visited various other historical sites between VT, NH, CT, PA, MD, VA, NY, NJ, and WVA.  We have also purchased books and DVD's and speak by phone almost daily about what each one of us has read, watched, or learned.  My point now is, to relate what I am finding is the most interesting aspect of the Civil War to me.  Two things:  the first are the stories where individuals displayed extraordinary courage, fortitude, bravery, honor, etc.  There are so many instances in both soldiers and civilians I can't believe it.  The second are what seem to me to be moments when an individual faced a decision, and in making a choice, had a significant part in the outcome of either major battles or the whole course of history.  I can't yet choose a "favorite", but one that I would put on my list of favorites would be General John Buford's decision to post his men along the Chambersburg Pike at Gettysburg the evening of June 30, 1863.  I'd like to read other member's thoughts because I learn a lot reading the posts on this website.   Thanks



 Posted: Sun Dec 10th, 2006 01:01 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
2nd Post
bucktail
Member


Joined: Fri Dec 8th, 2006
Location: Pennsylvania USA
Posts: 6
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Regina,
I can't agree with you more.  It was certainly a brilliant decision, and one that he had to make decisively.  I have often wondered about General Lee's decision to charge the middle of the Federal line at Gettysburg on the third day.  I know that he believed the Federal middle to be it's weakest point, (and I think it was) but he must have known that Pickett's charge would be a failure.  I wonder if it was the only way to get through to his men that the battle was lost?  It may sound strange, but with the confederate sentiments of "fight until the last man", maybe Lee in a strange way felt that he had to prove to his men that this battle was all but lost.  Maybe I'm just crazy and uneducated on the matter.  Any thoughts?  Maybe the charge was a simple twist of fate.
Bucktail

Last edited on Sun Dec 10th, 2006 01:02 am by bucktail



 Posted: Sun Dec 10th, 2006 01:53 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
3rd Post
Widow
Member
 

Joined: Tue Sep 19th, 2006
Location: Oakton, Fairfax County, VA
Posts: 321
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Hi, Bucktail,

I'm not sure I understand what you meant by saying that Lee
must have known that Pickett's charge would be a failure.  I wonder if it was the only way to get through to his men that the battle was lost?
How could he have known that?  Everything in his experience of fighting the Army of the Potomac told him that he would win once again.  Lee's reasoning was sound.  He'd come so close to winning on Day 1, and Day 2 was a squeaker too.  Just one more push, one more try, and his men would carry the day.

If a commander believes he's losing and his soldiers don't, would he deliberately send them on a suicidal mission just to convince them?  Is that what you're saying?

Strikes me the wise commander would say, OK boys, let's hit the road before they destroy us.  Lee loved his army too much to squander it that way.  Also, he had a strong sense of duty to preserve his army so it could fight another day.  His men trusted and believed in him; he couldn't send them to their doom just to make a point.

These are just my opinions, based on what I've read and learned by walking on the battlefields there.  I surely would welcome an expansion of your thoughts, because you put things in a different perspective.

Patty



 Posted: Sun Dec 10th, 2006 02:03 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
4th Post
Regina
Member


Joined: Wed Nov 1st, 2006
Location: Connecticut USA
Posts: 65
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Wow!  I've been wondering basically the same thing that "bucktail" expressed about Lee's frame of mind at Gettysburg.  Obviously, the movie "Gettysburg" is a dramatization, but after watching it, and after reading extensively about the battle, things leading up to the battle, things after the battle, as well as biographies about Lee and some of his own writings, I have to agree that there may be some truth to what "bucktail" is saying.  In the scene in "Gettysburg" where Lee is riding his horse on the morning of July 3 and the confederate soldiers are cheering him, Sheen has a very strange look on his face--like he has just "gone over the edge" mentally and physically.  Also the way Lee kept on with his plan despite what Longstreet was saying, and the way Longstreet seemed to sense that Lee was just tired of the whole thing but was determined just to "lead the men who still want to fight" out of his sense of duty.  I'm sure most people would not agree with the idea, but I'm pretty sure right now that it may be true.



 Posted: Sun Dec 10th, 2006 02:09 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
5th Post
Widow
Member
 

Joined: Tue Sep 19th, 2006
Location: Oakton, Fairfax County, VA
Posts: 321
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Regina, what an excellent topic!

I haven't read enough to pick an act of bravery by a single person which then turned the course of a fight.  Presumably meaning turned a loss into a win.  In the sense of the Battle of Marathon when the runner went for help.  And the little Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dike to save the village from flooding.

Commanders who made tough decisions, chose risky tactics, and unexpectedly won.  One who comes to mind is Samuel Curtis, Union commander at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, on March 6-7, 1862.  He was surrounded, cut off, outnumbered, but he deployed his units shrewdly, made outstanding use of the terrain, took advantage of his enemy's mistakes, and won.

How wonderful that you and your sis can share the excitement and the fun of learning about this most fascinating period of our history.

Patty



 Posted: Sun Dec 10th, 2006 02:36 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
6th Post
ole
Member


Joined: Sun Oct 22nd, 2006
Location:  
Posts: 2027
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

There's probably one of those "twists of fate" moments in every battle ever fought. Gettysburg had its share: Buford's arrival and decision to stand; Sickels' unauthorized move; Longstreet's snit; Ewell's hesitation; Chamberlain's bayonet charge; Lee's decision to cross a mile of open field within the field-of-fire of so many guns.... At Franklin, Wagner's dumb decision to place two brigades well in advance of the main line and the saving one: Opdyke's refusal to be the third brigade and being exactly where his brigade was needed when the line was breached.

Strikes me the wise commander would say, OK boys, let's hit the road before they destroy us.  Lee loved his army too much to squander it that way.  Also, he had a strong sense of duty to preserve his army so it could fight another day.  His men trusted and believed in him; he couldn't send them to their doom just to make a point.


There's lots of discussion available on that one. I have yet to find a logical explanation for making that third-day attack. The best one I've heard has him trying to mess up the Yanks so they would be unable to make an effective pursuit. If that has any credence, he did at least succeed. Gettysburg was three consecutive days of Lee's calling everything wrong. Lee had been wrong before and would be again, but three days in a row? Don't we all wish he had written a memoir?

My favorite "twist of fate" is Wagner's boneheaded placement of two of his three brigades well in front of the main line at Franklin. Opdycke, commanding his third brigade refused to place his men in that position and went into town to take a nap. When the attack came, Wagner's retreating two brigades were in the way of the defenders who couldn't very well shoot when these men were in the way. When the field of fire was open, it was too late to stop the Confederates who broke the line, charged through, and met Opdyke's Brigade.  Now, the Reb's were tired and shot up some when they run up against a relatively fresh brigade of veterans of man battles. They gave it a good fight but were essentially used up. What was a major faux pas was redeemed by a double-back in the twist. (Wagner was relieved the next day.)

Ole



 Posted: Mon Dec 11th, 2006 11:20 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
7th Post
Regina
Member


Joined: Wed Nov 1st, 2006
Location: Connecticut USA
Posts: 65
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Two other "twists" at Gettysburg that boggle my mind are (1) that during the cannonade that preceded the Pickett/Pettigrew charge, they were unaware that they were actually overshooting the Union line, and (2) that Wesley Culp ended up fighting back on the hill where he had once played, and died there, carrying a letter meant for Jennie Wade, who was also killed that day



 Posted: Tue Dec 12th, 2006 02:12 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
8th Post
ole
Member


Joined: Sun Oct 22nd, 2006
Location:  
Posts: 2027
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

It may sound strange, but with the confederate sentiments of "fight until the last man", maybe Lee in a strange way felt that he had to prove to his men that this battle was all but lost.

Bucktail:

Interesting speculations, but I don't think Lee would have shed that blood to prove anything to his men. He either thought the charge would be successful or he had another practical purpose for making it.

Ole



 Posted: Tue Dec 12th, 2006 02:22 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
9th Post
ole
Member


Joined: Sun Oct 22nd, 2006
Location:  
Posts: 2027
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Regina:

If you take a deeper look at those two "twists of fate," I believe you'll find that they both are mythical, the latter being one of those beautiful stories that occasionally light up the musty pages of history books.

Ole



 Posted: Wed Dec 13th, 2006 04:54 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
10th Post
Regina
Member


Joined: Wed Nov 1st, 2006
Location: Connecticut USA
Posts: 65
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Ole--those things didn't really happen?  And also, about my thoughts concerning Lee's state of mind at Gettysburg, I don't think he purposely sacrificed his men or anything like that (and I don't think bucktail was saying exactly that either).  But I do think that something strange was going on with him--he really just had had enough of the whole thing, or he had reached some sort of point where all the things he had been through in his life caught up to him and he was psychologically shaken or felt real fear for the first time.  In my opinion, from what I have read so far, he clearly was "not himself."



 Posted: Wed Dec 13th, 2006 05:41 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
11th Post
ole
Member


Joined: Sun Oct 22nd, 2006
Location:  
Posts: 2027
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Regina:

Important things first: I don't know why Lee made that decision. To us, today, it looks like a boner of major proportions. Lee was not in the habit of making such horrendous mistakes. Ergo, he had a logical reason for doing it. It's been generally stated that he had far too much faith in the ability of the ANV soldier. That's a nice explanation, but I don't buy it. To march a mile across open fields against a line of batteries with additional raking fire coming from his right is not something Lee would normally do.

It has been advanced (Carhart, I think) that the PPT advance was one part of an intricate plan to simultaneously attack Culp's hill and have Stuart attack from the southeast. He had two days of failed coordination under his belt. Why would he expect better on the thrid? It boggles. I'll have to go along with: "he wasn't himself." It's the only explanation that (to date) makes any sense.

The CS cannoneers could not very well have been unaware that they were overshooting the Union batteries on the ridge. The Union guns were skillfully placed just behind the crest of the ridge. When loading, they were barely visible to the CS gunners. When loaded, they were rolled forward enough aim. When fired, they would roll back out of sight. On the CS side, there was no shortage of field glasses to tell if there was a hit. At that distance, you can see shot travel and hit. Shell would mark where it exploded. But now I'm rambling. Forgot to factor in the smoke. Maybe they didn't know they were overshooting.

Re Wesley Culp and Jennie Wade. It's a lovely story and I haven't seen it in my reading, but I have read that it was only a lovely story. Which is why I suggested that you look into it -- I don't much care.

My favorite "twist" happens at Shiloh. Nobody expected a battle there. W.H.L. Wallace's wife comes to visit her husband and arrives in time to nurse him for some days before he dies. If you gotta go, having your beloved by your side calls for a tissue or two.

Ole

 

 



 Posted: Thu Dec 14th, 2006 03:14 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
12th Post
CleburneFan
Member


Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Florida USA
Posts: 1021
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

I would have to say the story of the "lost orders" before the Battle of Antietam, in which, purely by chance, an enlisted soldier comes across General Robert E Lee's battle plans (Special Orders # 191) dropped on the ground and wrapped up with three or four cigars. No telling who dropped these vitally important orders, but the soldier who found them and had the common sense to turn them over to an appropriate superior may have changed the whole tide of that battle.

Having Lee's exact orders spelled out, epsecially the plan Lee had to split his army helped Maj General McClellan to form his own battle plans.

Last edited on Thu Dec 14th, 2006 03:15 am by CleburneFan



 Posted: Thu Dec 14th, 2006 03:21 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
13th Post
CleburneFan
Member


Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Florida USA
Posts: 1021
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Gettysburg experts correct me if I am wrong, but I thought Lee had a definite reason for why he sent Pickett and others across that field and toward the copse of trees  on July 3, 1863. Lee believed, for whatever reason,  that the Union center had been weakened so that Meade could protect his flanks and he wanted to assault the Union Center  thinking it would be the easiest, most effective place to target his primary attack.

If he believed that, I can see why he chose the plan he had. Perhaps the greater question, however, is why did Lee believe that? Why didn't he have better knowledge of Union positions and strength?

Last edited on Thu Dec 14th, 2006 05:42 pm by CleburneFan



 Posted: Thu Dec 14th, 2006 03:23 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
14th Post
CleburneFan
Member


Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Florida USA
Posts: 1021
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

I just have to mention this one last thing. If Davis had not given John Bell Hood an army command exactly when he did, in fact, had not given Hood an army command at all, would it have made a considerable difference in the outcome of the war?



 Posted: Thu Dec 14th, 2006 02:54 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
15th Post
David White
Member


Joined: Tue Sep 6th, 2005
Location: Texas USA
Posts: 909
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

I think Lee believed in his men too much.  They had accomplished longshots before and he thought they would do it again.  Luck finally didn't make an apperance and valor wasn't enough.



 Posted: Fri Mar 30th, 2007 06:54 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
16th Post
Digger
Member


Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Location: Torrington, Connecticut USA
Posts: 5
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

One of the main things that Lee had previous, but lacked at Gettysburg was J.E.B. Stuart.  (At least not until the end).  This factor alone determined much of Lee's failure to form a better strategic plan for the battle.  Let us also not dimish Meade's superb defensive strategy.  The "Fish-hook" defense with it's short interior lines was excellent.  Meade doesn't get enough Kudos then or now. 



 Posted: Sat Mar 31st, 2007 03:35 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
17th Post
Regina
Member


Joined: Wed Nov 1st, 2006
Location: Connecticut USA
Posts: 65
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

True, the Union "fishhook" position was brilliant, and I realize Lee's decision on the 3rd day at Gettysburg is a complicated issue, but I still have some sort of nagging feeling that he was just a bit "off" for some reason.  I wonder if he didn't have it in his head (consciously or subconsciously) that Virginians were invincible, or blessed, or something (from Washington on down) and he was thinking the Virginians would come through with a victory just because they were Virginians!!



 Posted: Sat Mar 31st, 2007 12:53 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
18th Post
Johan Steele
Life NRA,SUVCW # 48,Legion 352


Joined: Sat Dec 2nd, 2006
Location: South Of The North 40, Minnesota USA
Posts: 1065
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Meade was the first competant General Lee faced; and he was on solid defensive ground.

Lee had quite a bit of Cav on the first two days, as much or more than Meade IIRC.  And Meades Cav was fighting for it's life w/ CS Inf.  IIRC It wasn't until the end of the 1st day when 12 Corps broke that Devins men really showed their worth IMHO when they merely sat on a flank threatening... it slowed the pursuit long enough for Hancock to get things organized on the hill.  Then... the ANV wasn't going to get that spot of real estate w/out a scrap.  They got one hell of a scrap.

Gettysburg... a premier example of the American soldier saying: "My hill, you can't have it!"  RR @ 2nd Mannasas, Cemetery Hill & Little Round Top, Belluah Wood, Mortain etc.  I guess there is something in the psyche of the American soldier... we're too darn stubborn to know we've been licked. Especially when nobody bothered to tell us. 



 Posted: Mon Apr 2nd, 2007 02:06 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
19th Post
Old Sorrel
Member


Joined: Thu Mar 15th, 2007
Location: Valley Forge, Pennsylvania USA
Posts: 66
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Hi peepes. great topic.

Lets not forget that Lee wanted a cordinatated attack on july 3rd. To attack Culps Hill and the Union center at the same time. But that went straight to heck when the union forces attacked the rebs in the early morning to regain lost ground suffered on july 2nd.

Lee tested the  union left with very little success. Lee thought the union armys weakest spot was the union center and by attacking Culps hill on the 3rd would prevent union reinforcement to bolster the union center. Unfortionatly for Lee, the Yanks attact first on Culps hill, and by the time Lee could change his attack plans and start his attack on the union center the Culps Hill fight was about over, there for allowing Meade to reinforce his center.

Lee should have listened to Longstreet both on the 2nd and the 3rd, but he had great pride in his men. He thought they were invincible.

One of my favorite twists or what ifs: what if Gen. Joseph E. Johnson had not been wounded, who was equally as cautious as Gen. McClellan, and was replaced with the more aggressive Gen. Lee.   I ponder that all the time.

                                                  JR

 



 Current time is 07:50 am
Top




UltraBB 1.17 Copyright © 2007-2008 Data 1 Systems
Page processed in 0.3828 seconds (7% database + 93% PHP). 25 queries executed.