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 Posted: Thu Sep 8th, 2005 03:26 pm
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MAubrecht
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This was on the old board and I wanted to repost for new members.

Hello all. I just published my latest review of Tom Carhart's book entitled "Lost Triumph: Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg and Why It Failed" for The Free Lance-Star: Town & Country (Fredericksburg, VA). I wanted to share it with you as I see there are some serious CW readers here. I am currently working on the next one for Michael Ballard's "U.S. Grant; The Making of a General 1861-1863" that will run this weekend. I will post after it goes to press.

Next up is "To Make Men Free" by R. Croker. Thanks and Enjoy.

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Lost Triumph: Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg and Why It Failed by Tom Carhart Ph.D.
By Michael Aubrecht, FLS Town & Country
Date published: 8/13/2005 CIVIL WAR
Also online at: http://www.fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2005/082005/08132005/121201

My own obsession with Civil War history began in 1978 when, at the age of 6, my parents took me on a trip to the national military park at Gettysburg, Pa. It was my first introduction to the War Between the States, and as our weekend progressed, the tales of these brave men and their three-day battle captivated me as nothing had before. What had started off as a simple family vacation changed my life forever, as Gettysburg left a remarkable impression that remains to this very day.

Over the years, I have read stacks of books on the subject. Unfortunately, very few have provided any original insight. Most have presented the same events over and over, while drawing identical conclusions. As a result, the explanation for the North's victory and the South's defeat has become rather commonplace. The two reasons that are most widely accepted as determining the outcome of the battle are the Union's tactical advantage (due to the occupation of the high ground) and the absence of J.E.B. Stuart's Confederate cavalry on the first day of fighting. Although these facts provide both logical and believable answers, other questions still remain.

Most prominent is the mysterious rationale behind the desperate and disastrous charge by Pickett on the third day that resulted in massive Confederate casualties and the subsequent retreat of all Southern forces. For years, many historians (including me) have reluctantly accepted the notion that Robert E. Lee was the unfortunate victim of multiple circumstances that were beyond his control. Others have accused the general of sporting a sense of invincibility that ultimately played into the hands of his more cautious adversary, George Meade.

Inevitably, one must ask oneself how a commander as brilliant as Lee could tactically blunder in such an epic manner. After all, the very logic of ordering an attack as doomed as Pickett's Charge is mind-boggling when judged against his previous victories. Simply stated, it doesn't make sense.

This is a query that has sparked debate for generations. Some historians over the years have attempted to hypothesize, but few have ever presented their alternative theories in such a complete manner as Tom Carhart, author of "Lost Triumph: Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg and Why It Failed." A most original and thought-provoking work, "Lost Triumph" presents a refreshing study of the Battle of Gettysburg that will leave many seasoned historians re-evaluating their own convictions.

A West Point grad himself (Class of 1966) and an infantry combat veteran who was awarded two Purple Hearts for service in Vietnam, Carhart is a very credible subject-matter expert. He is the author of several military histories and holds a Ph.D. in history from Princeton University. His work on "Lost Triumph" is further validated in the book's foreword, which is written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson.

With meticulous attention to detail, Carhart spends the first few chapters of his book constructing a solid foundation for his assumption. This includes personal biographies of the battle's main participants, a thorough and unbiased synopsis of the cause of the Civil War and, most importantly, an unparalleled presentation of the 1800s curriculum taught at West Point, which provided the majority of Civil War commanders with their "playbook." A summary of all previous battles leading up to Gettysburg is also outlined in order to emphasize the relative success of the Confederacy up to that point.

One of the many interesting character profiles in "Lost Triumph" is a recollection of the distinguished, but rarely discussed, service record of a young Union commander named George Armstrong Custer. Often remembered solely for his tragic defeat at the Little Big Horn, Custer's performance during the Civil War was quite impressive. Carhart also provides equally compelling portraits of the supreme commander, Lee, and his subordinate J.E.B. Stuart. By clearly defining these individuals, Carhart helps the reader to understand what made each of them special. He then shows how they were trained to execute the intellectual art of war.

Complete with maps of Napoleon at Austerlitz, Frederick the Great at Leuthen and Hannibal at Cannae, Carhart's book provides a marvelous tutorial on the art of warfare as presented to West Point officers. In essence, Carhart teaches the readers what Lee was taught, thus opening up their minds for his own conclusion that the Confederate commander had actually intended a more diverse plan that, if executed correctly, could have won the day--and perhaps the war.

Carhart's conclusion, based on the principles and tactics that Lee would have most certainly called upon, presents another strategy that includes a crucial rear assault by Stuart's cavalry. When combined with the frontal assault of Pickett's infantry, it would most likely have cut the Union lines in half. Only in the final hours of the battle was the attack reversed through the daring actions of Custer and his men.

The author then goes on to outline a very convincing series of events that, when added to our current knowledge base, leave little doubt that Lee was not guilty of poor planning. Rather, he was unable to launch the simultaneous assault he so desired, resulting in the ill-fated debacle that wiped out Pickett's troops, including Gen. Lewis Armistead.

In an e-mail interview with me, Carhart explained what inspired "Lost Triumph" and what separates it from previous studies on the Battle of Gettysburg.

"If I were to say anything additional about the book," he said, "it would be that I have spent most of my life confused about Lee's one 'bad day' on 3 July at Gettysburg. But I have always believed, and my research has confirmed, that Lee simply didn't have any 'bad days.'" He added: "Instead, he had formulated a plan for 3 July that, had it been carried out, would have resulted in one of the greatest battlefield triumphs in recorded history. It was truly brilliant, but the brilliance was all Lee's--I did no more than stumble over it and finally expose it to the light of day."

I, for one, am grateful for Carhart's "stumbling," which has not only renewed my own interest in the Battle of Gettysburg, but has also provided me with a better understanding of that fateful day of July 3, 1863, when the balance of power in the Civil War shifted on the sacrifice of more than 5,000 men.

For more information on "Lost Triumph," visit the author's Web site at tomcarhart.net.

MICHAEL AUBRECHT of Spotsylvania County is the author of "Onward Christian Soldier: The Spiritual Journey of Stonewall" and "Christian Cavalier: The Spiritual Legacy of J.E.B. Stuart." Visit his Web site at angelfire.com/ny5/pinstripepress.

Last edited on Thu Sep 8th, 2005 03:27 pm by MAubrecht



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 Posted: Fri Nov 11th, 2005 02:54 pm
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HankC
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Carhart's book is loosely based on extremely flimsy evidence. Basically he asserts that Pickett in the center, Johnson on the left and Stuart in the USA rear were to deliver simultaneous assaults.

Johnson was getting nowhere on Culp's Hill, Stuart was failry easily rebuffed and Pickett was destroyed by artillery and a lesser amount of infantry. There is no cotemporary evidence that any of these men, or their immediate superiors,  felt they were acting in concert.

Battles are not won in frontal attacks by 3 divisions of infantry and 1 of cavalry.

Unfortunately, Carhart manipulates available evidence and makes up more to bolster his thesis. Where conversations do not exist, he makes them up. I belive the term for this is 'fiction'...

 

HankC



 Posted: Sat Nov 12th, 2005 07:23 pm
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MAubrecht
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Hank, I certainly understand the skepticism in regards to this book. Although I don't specifically endorse 100% of his conclusions, I will stand-by my statement that he will have historians reevaluating many of their own convictions and he has rejuvenated interest in the topic of debate over the notion of Lee's ego-driven "blunder" vs. a more “logical” and strategic explanation. As a Stuart biographer myself, I agree that J.E.B. has taken the fall (thanks to Lee’s own memoirs) over the South’s defeat at Gettysburg unfairly (in SOME regards), BUT I still find it difficult to just accept that the reasoning behind Pickett’s Charge was as “black and white” as a desperate massacre that was poorly planned and poorly executed. After speaking directly with Carhart, his “West Point” proposal is a pretty good argument and he is well aware of the discussions he has generated (on both sides.)

 

Regardless, I love the fact that some of my reviews spark debate and if this one seems controversial just wait when I post my next one on “What Caused the Civil War? Reflections on the South and Southern History” by Edward L. Ayers. As soon as that goes to press, I’ll copy it here and we can all get ready to return some volleys. - All in good faith of course.



 Posted: Mon Dec 11th, 2006 06:02 pm
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Zod
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"Carhart's book is loosely based on extremely flimsy evidence. Basically he asserts that Pickett in the center, Johnson on the left and Stuart in the USA rear were to deliver simultaneous assaults.

Johnson was getting nowhere on Culp's Hill, Stuart was failry easily rebuffed and Pickett was destroyed by artillery and a lesser amount of infantry. There is no cotemporary evidence that any of these men, or their immediate superiors,  felt they were acting in concert.

Battles are not won in frontal attacks by 3 divisions of infantry and 1 of cavalry.

Unfortunately, Carhart manipulates available evidence and makes up more to bolster his thesis. Where conversations do not exist, he makes them up. I belive the term for this is 'fiction'..."

 

I don't think the plan was for simultenous assaults, rather one based on an enfilading en echelon attack meaning to continue to try and "roll up" the Union line that was first demonstrated on the 2nd of July.  "Making up evidence" is a bold criticism.  One realizes upon an inital presentation of the argument that, had Stuart gotten to the rear, his cavalry would have caused havoc (one imagines the effect of Stannard being harassed by these riders, and it's effect on their withering fire into the right flank of Kemper).  Perhaps a chase by Doubleday allows Johnson to finally slide leftward southeast past Spangler's Spring?  The only evidence as it were is the mind of Lee, long gone.  Nonetheless an interesting book and at it's center, bold.



 Posted: Mon Dec 11th, 2006 07:54 pm
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I think it fails in one very important aspact... it fails to recognize that the AoP was rather instrumental in the defeat of Lee's plans (whatever they may "really" have been).

The Union left & right bent but did not break, the center held & Lee was soundly defeated and never again took the offensive.  I think the Union Army had something to do with it.



 Posted: Tue Dec 12th, 2006 12:07 am
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Johnny Huma
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I am not sure if I have read this book or not that I have read so many on Gettysburg.

Longstreets assult on the third day would be more real since he was the one who  the task fell to. I agree with some of the folks here as to why would Lee all the sudden become an Idiot on July 3rd. Lee did have a plan and he stated that his plans had not changed since July 1st. That they were infact the same..And that plan was to take Cemetery Hill...Lee would have gained nothing be splitting the Union line at the Copse of Trees while the guns on Cemetery Hill and Ridge played Havoc on his troops. One overlooks the facts that the famous attack at the Copse of trees was not exactly the order that History plants that it was.  Those trees at the time of the battle were no larger than 10 feet high and pretty hard to see at a distance of a mile away. Why would Lee assemble 15,000 troops to trip over themselves to break the line there? In fact the fictional Copse of trees never even came into play until 1887. Longstreet himself says the attack was to be made in the area of the trees...But what trees was he really talking about..Well not on the battlefield today stood Zeiglers Grove which now in its place stands the Cylclorama building and Visitors Center. The Grove is long gone..But to attack at that point would have made more sense as it offered protection to the attacking forces who would have had an objective of Cemetery Hill..Lees objective on all three days was Cemetery Hill..It commanded the field with its road network and slight elevation. The attack ended up at the Copse of trees for one reason..Flanking fire..When you are being hit by flanking fire you move away from it not into it..Since the Rebs were taking flanking fire from both sides the results ended at the Copse of trees..Not exactley where it should of and was a bit short of the intended target...Longstreet never sending the supports that were to be sent for the attack also had a large effect on why there was flanking fire to begin with. Lee was too good of a General to send men to the slaughter for no other reason as to break the Union Line in the center and then do what?  No the stories told at Gettysburg are stories that have been fabricated for many many years..Memorials are placed and the story becomes History and the common Visitor takes what a Battle Guide tells them is true because of course it has to be true there is a monument there stating it is...There is a lot of research into Gettysburg within the last 20 years that shows infact that a lot of these things stories were probably not true or even close to how they are told now..Only study and reading and walking the battlefield will lead to a conclusion that some of what is told just does not make sense..Lee's plans at Gettysburg were as solid as any other of his battleplans...Although Lee did not point fingers he could have pointed them in many directions in those 3 days..A combination of new Corps commanders and missed opportunity by them and their subordinates did not help the situation..And I will agree with Johan that the AOP had a lot to do with it..Their Generals made fewer mistakes than Lees did and Hancock did a superb job against the odds...Meade kept his head and did not try to go on the offensive give Culps Hill on the morning of the 3rd..He let Lee come to him and he had the ground...There was no contest on the 3rd day of battle Meade won hands down...The second day he was hanging by a thin string and if the en echelon attack would have continued down the line as was planned there may have not been a 3rd day.

As for the Stuart fiasco I have read so many pro and cons that it is hard to figure it all out..I have ordered the book" A lot of blame to go around " or something like that,which I hope has better insight to this mystery for me...

I love new books that challange what the story told is and what really may have been the real story..Keeps us all thinking and learning a debating it all..And thats of course all we have left since the results will always be the same we can only ask

How and why...There are so many books written on Just Gettysburg one could not read them all in a lifetime...Which brings me to I think I am going to write a book...

Look for it in the near future..."Gettysburg and the Dutch Women"

Questions...If Heth had not stopped to eat the Dutch Womens Cherry Pies would of he infact been in a different position at the time the bullet struck his head..and was it really a wad of paper that saved his life or was he actually stealing some of the Dutch Womens cherry pits burried deep in the brim of his hat...?

Just kidding.....;)

Huma

Last edited on Tue Dec 12th, 2006 12:12 am by Johnny Huma



 Posted: Tue Dec 12th, 2006 01:04 pm
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Zod
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Johan Steele wrote: I think it fails in one very important aspact... it fails to recognize that the AoP was rather instrumental in the defeat of Lee's plans (whatever they may "really" have been).

The Union left & right bent but did not break, the center held & Lee was soundly defeated and never again took the offensive.  I think the Union Army had something to do with it.

 

"I think the Union Army had something to do with it."- I've heard that before.  It has a certain ring to it.


Yes, the book does little to recognize the mettle of dem Yankees opposing the frontal assault.  Who the hell really knows the effect of double cannister?  But the argument is plain.  Stuart had 6,000 calvalry soldiers (an additional 1,000).  The long-held belief was of left-flank protection.  But the area of engagement is some two miles away from Culp's Hill (Carhart got me, I've never been to East Calvalry Field, "Bonnie-Howton" Road).  The road network in this area shows a path leading right back to Culp's and Cemetery Hill's and Cemetery Ridge.  Lee (and those he studied) showed an abnormal ability to coordinate well-timed attacks.  It is very possible that, if successful, Stuart's men engage the rear of the Union right on Culp's and Cemetery Hill's and Cemetery Ridge at a point just before the Trimble-Pickett-Pettigrew attack forms en echelon near the Emmitsburg Road (?).

Just imagine the effect of these calvalry on the artillery batteries in the area.  The effect on Webb and perhaps, ultimately, even Sedgewick behind Little Round Top. 

I have not reached the conclusion of the book but it poses another "what if" and "by chance" that keeps us all in the game, willing to attempt preservation against the march of time.

I have to ask this, has anyone had the opportunity to fire an old Spencer rifle?  That sommabitch looks like it gets hot in a hurry.



 Posted: Tue Dec 12th, 2006 02:33 pm
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HankC
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Calling Pickett's charge an attack 'en echelon' is inaccurate.

En echelon attacks are wave-like. Each succeeding unit waits for the unit on theiir flank (echelon) to engage.

All 3 divisions in Pickett's charge stepped off simultaneously. Neither Johnson nor Stuart were ordered to engage at the 'sound of the guns' or any other synchronization. In fact, Johnson's attack on Culp's Hill had begun at 5 am and ended by noon...

 

HankC



 Posted: Tue Dec 12th, 2006 05:16 pm
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ole
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"I think the Union Army had something to do with it."- I've heard that before.  It has a certain ring to it.
Zod: I'm reasonably certain Pickett said that upon being asked why "his" charge failed.

HankC:

En echelon attacks are wave-like. Each succeeding unit waits for the unit on theiir flank (echelon) to engage.
If a line steps off simultaneously but approaches the opposing line obliquely, isn't the effect the same? Or are we talking technically precise terms? I don't speak technical, so I'm probably wrong.

Ole



 Posted: Tue Dec 12th, 2006 07:34 pm
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The effect *may* be same, but I get wet in both a bathtub and a lake, but that does not make my bathtub a lake ;)

By attacking en echelon, both surprise and initiative are retained. The enemy does not know when or how many, if any, are poised to attack. As circumstances arise, orders for the uncommitted units can be modified.

Longstreet's July 2 attack is as good an example as any. The pressure on the US left forced Hancock to redeploy 2nd Corps divisions to the wheatfield. Then as the attack progressed it eventually hit that weakened sector...

 

HankC



 Posted: Tue Dec 12th, 2006 09:15 pm
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HankC:

Thanks. That what I was asking. If getting wet in the bathtub is en echelon, what is getting wet in the lake?

Unless I'm mistaken (which is not unlikely), Pickett's division stepped off simultaneously in a line roughly parallel with the line on Cemetary Ridge. Toward the end of that approach they were to shift direction to appoach obliquely. Wouldn't that movement necessarily cause Kemper's Brigade to make first contact? Followed by Garnett? If this is technically not en echelon, what is it called? There could have been no surprise for the Yanks that day, nor initiative for the Confeds. Is that what makes it something else?

Can you recommend a single-source where the terms are described and illustrated? I do better with pictures.

Ole



 Posted: Wed Dec 13th, 2006 05:34 am
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Michael,

Have been told to avoid this book by many who consider themselves afficionados of the Battle of Gettysburg.  But I'm stubborn, and did pick up a copy of it so I can make my own judgment on the contents that he included in the book.  It's my way of trying to be fair to the author, and believe me when I say, if I like it, I will speak on it, and if I don't like it, I will say why as well. 

Main problem I have, especially with the big time publishers, is that they will print anything on the Battle of Gettysburg, and most of the times do so not for the merit of the work, but the cash that comes in when folks buy the books.

Hope all is well.

Regards from the Garden State,

Steve Basic



 Posted: Wed Dec 13th, 2006 01:49 pm
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Zod
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HankC wrote: Calling Pickett's charge an attack 'en echelon' is inaccurate.

En echelon attacks are wave-like. Each succeeding unit waits for the unit on theiir flank (echelon) to engage.

All 3 divisions in Pickett's charge stepped off simultaneously. Neither Johnson nor Stuart were ordered to engage at the 'sound of the guns' or any other synchronization. In fact, Johnson's attack on Culp's Hill had begun at 5 am and ended by noon...

 

HankC

Although the Trimble-Pickett-Pettigrew did not mimic Lee's "en echelon" attack on July 2nd (with it's wavelike attack up the Union line), and although the Divisions stepped off of Seminary Ridge at the same time, the order of the Divisions was en echelon, meaning parallel lines, overlapping, supportive, with the ultimate flexibility to seek out weak points and envelop the defending lines with supporting Brigades (in Pickett's case, the Brigades of Wilcox and Lang with Armistead in direct support of the shock Brigades of Kemper and Garnett).

One of the main points asserted by Carhart in "Lost Triumph" is that Lee was particularly studious of Napolean's infantry tactics.  En echelon was the order of the day.  My main earlier point was to recognize the idea that the Army of the Potomac on Cemetery Ridge may have had something to do with the whole affair, rather than pin the ultimate point of failure on East Calvary Field, some three miles away.  When it comes down to it, no soldier, regardless of temperament, could withstand Stannard's flank fire. 

Some evidence asserted by Carhart to support the development of Lee's calvary attack into the rear of the Union line in concert with the Pickett-Trimble-Pettigrew attack:
  • Stuart's signal cannonade at about 11:00am
  • The addition of Jenkin's Brigade to Stuart (numbering in total some 6,000 riders).
  • The absence of Confederate calvary on the right flank.
 

 



 Posted: Wed Dec 13th, 2006 02:51 pm
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I realized last night that this may be the source of your confusion...

"In" echelon , means to be in support of or behind another unit, providing extra punch, close support or a ready reserve. Standard practice is to deploy brigades 2 deep, so this may be noted only when *extra* brigades are deployed for additional depth, as at Chickamauga on 20 September.

"En" echelon (pronounced "on")  means to attack in sequence believng that exposing a weak point will cause the defensive line to roll up...

And it is quite possible, and typical,  to attack 'en echelon' with units that are 'in echelon' as Longstreet did on 2 July ;)

On 2 July, Kershaw and Barksdale's attacks are good examples of the technique. They attacked 'en echelon'. During Kershaw's attack, the defending US units on Barksdale's front, in the Peach Orchard, began firing at Kershaw, who was not attacking them. This covered the US position with smoke, depleted ammunition and confused their focus. Barksdale approached through the smoke and overruns the Peach Orchard line (which had defense issues regardless). This unhinged the entire rest of the US line, in both directions. Then, Wofford and Semmes brigades, 'in echelon' behind Kershaw and Barksdale, were in position to exploit the breakthrough.

Pickett was missing Jenkins' brigade on 3 July. Having Armistead form behind Kemper is a typical deployment. However, it is atypical to have no brigade behind Garnett.

 

HankC



 Posted: Sat Dec 16th, 2006 07:27 pm
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Eric Wittenberg
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This is the review of this book that I placed on my blog in September 2005.  Nothing has changed; if anything, after hearing Carhart speak, I remain even more convinced than ever that this book is nothing but intellectually dishonest crap.

Eric

I’ve always been one to buck settled history. In my mind, the only way to make sure that history remains a living, breathing, evolving thing is to challenge its settled assumptions. Properly and responsibly done, revisionism can be a powerful and welcome tool that causes us all to sit back and ask whether we should change the way we look at things. Consequently, I’ve always been known as one who’s not afraid of tilting at windmills.

However, doing so carries a great deal of responsibility. Whenever we challenge settled interpretations of history, we must do so carefully. Words are an extraordinarily powerful tool, and the choice of words can play havoc on people and on settled interpretations. Consequently, the only appropriate way to revise settled history is to do so responsibly and where there is ample evidence to support those revisionist interpretations of history.

I wish I could say that Tom Carhart’s recent book, _Lost Triumph: Lee’s Real Plan at Gettysburg–and Why It Failed_ is a worthy piece of revisionist history that adds something to the existing body of knowledge. Sadly, I cannot. Carhart’s work is revisionism of the worst sort–it’s grossly irresponsible, and there is not a shred of evidence to support Carhart’s contentions. What astonishes me most of all is that people have been flocking to buy this piece of tripe and that prominent and well-respected historians such as James McPherson and John Keegan have put their imprimatur on something that has no basis in fact.

Carhart’s theory is that Pickett’s Charge was to be coordinated with Jeb Stuart’s thrust at the Union rear with his cavalry. According to Carhart, the one true hero of the Battle of Gettysburg–the man who saved the Union–was Brig. Gen. George A. Custer. Thus, the clash on East Cavalry Field takes on an importance that it never had. Even for the most ardent cavalry admirer–like me–East Cavalry Field, while tactically important, has never been much more than a sideshow to the big show, to borrow a line from Sam Watkins.

The problem with this theory is that there simply is not a single shred of evidence to support it. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Stuart’s movement was in any fashion coordinated with what we now know as Pickett’s Charge. Not to be deterred by the facts, Carhart makes the preposterous and wholly unsubstantiated claim that the historical evidence was either destroyed, or even more absurd, that it was hidden and kept from Jeb Stuart to protect his delicate ego. Never mind that there is not a single stitch of evidence to support any of this. Where there is no evidence, Carhart just makes it up, inventing conversations that never took place to suit his purposes.

Where there is historical or documentary evidence that rebuts his theory, Carhart either manipulates it to suit his purposes, or he launches personal attacks on them. An excellent example of this is Brig. Gen. David M. Gregg, who commanded the Federal forces on East Cavalry Field. Gregg, according to Carhart, lied in his official report of the action in order to steal the credit that rightfully belonged to George A. Custer. The problem with this is that even the staunchest Custer supporter–Capt. James H. Kidd, who was Custer’s hand-picked successor to command the Michigan Cavalry Brigade when Custer was promoted to division command–saw it otherwise. Here’s what Kidd had to say about this:

“Thus, it is made plain that there was no ‘mistake’ about it. It was Gregg’s prescience. He foresaw the risk of attempting to guard the right flank with only the two decimated brigades of his own division. With him, to see was to act. He took the responsibility of intercepting Kilpatrick’s rear and largest brigade, turning it off the Baltimore pike to the right, instead of allowing it to go to the left as it had been ordered to do, and thus, doubtless, a serious disaster was averted. It makes us tremble to think of what might have been, of what inevitably must have happened had Gregg, with only two two little brigades of McIntosh and Irvin Gregg, and Randol’s battery, tried to cope single-handed with the four brigades and three batteries, comprising the very flower of Confederate cavalry and artillery, which those brave knights–Stuart, Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee–were marshaling in person on Cress’ Ridge. If Custer’s presence on this field was opportune, and, as has often been said, providential, it is to General D. M. Gregg to whom, under Providence, the credit for bringing him here is due. Gregg was a great and modest soldier; let us pause a moment before we enter upon a description of the coming battle, to pay him the tribute of our admiration. In the light of all of the official reports, put together link by link, so as to make one connected chain of evidence, we can see that the engagement which took place twenty-six years ago, was, from first to last, a well planned battle, in which the different commands were maneuvered and placed with the same sagacity displayed by a skillful chess player in moving the pieces upon a chess board; in which every detail was the fruit of the brain of one man, who, from the time when he turned Custer to the northward until he sent the First Michigan thundering against the brigades of Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee made not a single false move; who was distinguished not less for his intuitive foresight than for his quick perceptions at critical moments. That man was General David McM. Gregg.”

Unlike Tom Carhart, James H. Kidd was there, and was an active participant in that battle. Kidd had the benefit of his own observations, as well as of speaking with many other veterans. Kidd also worshipped George Custer. Kidd also said, “This conclusion has been reached by a mind not–certainly not–predisposed in that direction, after a careful recent study, and review of all the information within reach bearing upon that eventful day. If the Michigan Brigade won honors there that will not perish, it was to Gregg that it owed the opportunity; and his guiding hand it was that made its blows effective. We shall see how, later in the day, he again boldly took responsibility at a critical moment and held Custer to his work on the right, even after the latter had been ordered by higher authority than he (Gregg), to rejoin Kilpatrick, and after Custer had begun the movement.”

It bears noting that these passages by Kidd come from his speech at the 1889 dedication of the monument to the Michigan Cavalry Brigade that stands on the spot where the 1st Michigan Cavalry’s charge crashed into the onrushing Confederate cavalry on East Cavalry Field. This address has been published a number of times, including in Kidd’s well-known memoirs and also in a MOLLUS paper, and was readily available to Carhart. He never mentions it in his book.

Another point that needs to be made here is that Gregg actually usurped Custer twice during the fighting on East Cavalry Field. On two separate instances, Gregg issued orders directly to the commanders of first the 7th Michigan and later the 1st Michigan Cavalry regiments to charge. On both instances, Custer joined the charges, but he never ordered them. The fact that Custer had only been a general officer for four days, and that other than the fights and Hanover and Hunterstown, he had never led anything larger than a squad, while Gregg had been a general officer since the fall of 1862 and had a great deal more experience may have had something to do with this. Alternatively, perhaps expedience may have required that Gregg usurp Custer. Irrespective of the motives, the fact remains that Custer never ordered these charges, Gregg did. There is plenty of historical evidence to prove this.

Quite disenguously, Carhart then argues that Gregg–who, by the way, was known as one of the modest and self-effacing officers to serve in the Army of the Potomac–intentionally downplayed Custer’s role in order to play up his own role. This outrageous, slanderous claim flies directly in the face of ample historical evidence: David Gregg was remembered fondly by his men as “tall and spare, of notable activity, capable of the greatest exertion and exposure; gentle in manner but bold and resolute in action. Firm and just in discipline he was a favorite of his troopers and ever held, for he deserved, their affection and entire confidence.” Gregg knew the principles of war and was always ready and eager to apply them. Endowed “with a natural genius of high order, he [was] universally hailed as the finest type of cavalry leader. A man of unimpeachable personal character, in private life affable and genial but not demonstrative, he fulfilled with modesty and honor all the duties of the citizen and head of an interesting and devoted family.” A former officer later commented that Gregg’s “modesty kept him from the notoriety that many gained through the newspapers; but in the army the testimony of all officers who knew him was the same. Brave, prudent, dashing when occasion required dash, and firm as a rock, he was looked upon, both as a regimental commander and afterwards as Major-General, as a man in whose hands any troops were safe.” His men called him “Old Reliable.” Does that sound like a man who would downplay Custer’s role just to advance his own interests?

Carhart also claims that Stuart’s decision to order one of his batteries to fire four shots in the four directions of the compass was a signal to Robert E. Lee that he was in position and that Lee could then order the grand assault that became Pickett’s Charge. There is not a single shred of documentary evidence to support this claim. None at all. Further, historian Bill Styple has recently published an excellent new book titled _Generals in Bronze_, which consists of transcripts of interviews conducted by the eminent sculptor, James Kelly, who sculpted the monument to John Buford on the Gettysburg battlefield. One officer interviewed by Kelly was Alexander C. M. Pennington, who commanded the battery of horse artillery assigned to serve with Custer’s brigade. Here’s what Pennington had to say about this episode:

“When Jeb Stuart rode round our army at Gettysburg without striking us on the morning of July 3rd, he found that he could not locate us. Now [Maj. Henry] McClellan who was on his staff told me this story. He said that Stuart looked in every direction but could find no sign of our troops, so he ordered a gun out and ordered it to be fired in different directions in hopes of getting an echo or a reply from one of our guns, and then through his glass locate the smoke.

He fired in one direction, and then [received] an answering gun. He said that shot from that gun entered the muzzle of their gun, and knocked it off the trunions, breaking two wheels. Now, he said, this seems remarkable, almost incredible, but when he told me that story he said, ‘I assure you on the honor of a gentleman that it is true.’ And the singular fact is that it was my gun that did it. I was standing with Custer when I told my gunners to fire at them. He was an Irishman by the name of ————. I noticed he took a long time before he fired. Of course we could not tell at that distance exactly what happened.”

My experience is that H. B. McClellan, who was Stuart’s adjutant, is a reliable and dependable source. So much for Carhart’s nonsensical theory.

Carhart also devotes a major portion of this book–in redundant and poorly written fashion–discussing the historical battles that were taught as the primary curriculum at West Point. The actual discussion of the fighting on East Cavalry Field occupies only a small portion of the overall book, but Carhart claims that these historical lessons molded, formed, and drove Lee’s strategy for the third day at Gettysburg. Never mind that there is no evidence to support any of this. Instead, Carhart conveniently claims that a 1935 fire destroyed the evidence. How convenient.

The rest of this book is just as poorly researched. The book has no bibliography, which makes it impossible to examine the scope of his research. When we reach the discussion of East Cavalry Field, the only real primary sources consulted by Carhart seem to be the Official Records of the Civil War, and the correspondence by veterans included in _The Bachelder Papers_. While the _Bachelder Papers_ are an invaluable source, there are many more important primary sources that Carhart either ignored outright, or more likely, simply disregarded if they did not support his thesis. That this is lazy at best and intellectually dishonest at worst should be obvious.

This book also contains many major errors. How, for instance, is it possible to sneak 4,000 mounted men behind Union lines without detection? According to Carhart, the paved road network meant that billowing clouds of dust would not betray his presence. Later on, Carhart claims that Custer saw the dust of Stuart’s advance, thereby enabling him to prepare his brilliant defense. Which is it? These sorts of inconsistencies fill this book and leave the reader scratching his or her head and wondering just what the hell Carhart’s really trying to say.

I think that the thing that bothers me the most about this book is that Amazon.com, which seems to be selling the hell out of it, has apparently decided that it is no longer interested in honest and fair critical assessments of the works it sells in its reviews section. There have been multiple negative reviews of this festering pile of garbage, and most–but not all–have been censored by Amazon. I am aware, for instance, that one individual has had three different reviews deleted/censored by Amazon. Of course, any fawning review is kept, but anything that questions or otherwise criticizes this terrible book gets censored, meaning that unknowing or unsuspecting consumers will end up buying this book because they have been intentionally misled. In my mind, this is consumer fraud. Then, when the likes of Keegan and McPherson endorse this garbage, it only adds to the appearance of the legitimacy of what is a lousy piece of work.

This book is an intellectually dishonest, poorly researched, fabricated piece of tripe that manipulates SOME of the available evidence to support foregone conclusions and which should be marketed as fiction. It is certainly not history, and it constitutes revisionism of the worst variety. Save your money. Buy a happy meal at McDonald’s. You will find it to be a much better–and ultimately more satisfying–use of your hard-earned money.



 Posted: Tue Dec 19th, 2006 07:33 pm
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ole
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Don't hold back, Eric. Just vent!

The subject stirred me to locate Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg, by Troy Harman.  Not the same book, of course, but similarly striving to explain Lee's thoughts -- like that is possible.  So far, his premise seems to be that, during the evening of the first, Lee's object was Cemetery Hill. It was the object on the 2nd and on the 3rd. In some ways simplistic and in some ways thought-provoking. Have you read, or even heard of this one?

Harman has been a park ranger at Gettysburg since '89. Stackpole Books, 2003.

Ole



 Posted: Tue Dec 19th, 2006 08:32 pm
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Eric Wittenberg
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Ole,

Yes, I am familiar with Harman's book.  While I don't agree with his conclusions, I at least can give him credit for not making stuff up and being intellectually dishonest.

Troy is a delightful fellow, but he seems to have an agenda.  He seems determined to become known for coming up with a "new" interpretation of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Eric

 



 Posted: Wed Dec 20th, 2006 03:03 pm
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Johnny Huma
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I have read this book by Troy Harman..I am happy to say that I enjoyed it..

A great deal of the book makes sense when one thinks out how the battle developed.

If Lee had no objective during the 3 day battle then why was he fighting there?

His objective was the Union Army and he found it there. Once found I have to believe that he would have read the battlefield and it is said that Lee actually admired the position of the Union Army and how it also read the ground...Now walk the field and put yourself if Lee's boots and any General worth his salt would have read Cemetery Hill as the most important part of the battlefield..Could Lee have missed that? I think not and I guess Troy thinks not either...

Why would Lee give orders to Ewell to take Cemetery hill...?

Why did Ewell attack the hill at the twilight hours of the evening?

Because he knew that Lee wanted it done..Period....

Cemetery Hill commanded the road networks into the town and also a great platform for artillary..There was no other spot there on the field that had the total command of the field of battle....Why would Lee change his plans midstream and change his objective say to "A copse of trees" that had no signifigant importance to the lay of the battlefield..?

Hmmmm....If I am not mistaken I think General Hancock must have seen the same thing and if  this hill was not that improtant to make it an object of Lee's then it would not have been that important for the Union army to want to hold it...

One only has to walk the battlefield to see the advantage the hill had..Unlike the famous Little Round Top which is stated to be Lee's objective in many books was a terrible position for artillary..and how many troops could actually be put on little round top without tripping over themselves.  Little round top came into play only because it all of the sudden became the left of the Union Line and Oats was told to find the flank and turn it which in fact led him up the rocky slopes...Lee's sights were not set on Little Round Top as an advantage to his army.

Lee read the battlefield as well as the Union Army did..Reynolds in fact was the first to see the importance of the High Ground there as a place to set up a defense if the AOP was beaten back through the Burg. Hancock saw it upon arrival also and acted on it to rally his beaten troops..Hmmm..Wonder why he did not rally them at the "Copse of Trees" instead?

Now if Lee did not see this I can only assume he was taking a nap...

The stories of the Burg have been told the same way for many years, whether they are in fact true or not, but have become the stories that still stick with us today because one may not challange the documented History that has evolved over 140 years. But it is people like Troy that sit back and say some of this stuff just does not make sense and move it to another level...

I like the book and am now reading yours Eric "Plenty of Blame to go around"

Have just started it so I will let you know..:)

Huma

 

 



 Posted: Wed Dec 20th, 2006 05:48 pm
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ole
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I'm enjoying Harman's book. Will finish it at some undetermined point before Christmas (got to get the basement cleared for company). A few things trouble me, the first of which is Cemetery Hill. Undeniably, that point commanded the entire area, most notably the roads entering and leaving Gettysburg. Good stuff. Now, what was Lee going to do with that advantage? Forage freely? Open supply lines to Virginia? Meade might have had a say in that eventuality. Seems that taking the hill would have given Lee a dubious victory. What could he possibly do from there? Lee was already short on provisions and ammo. Would Meade have gone back to DC and let Lee remain in control of a small town with a bunch of roads? Just thinking out loud and looking for answers.

Ole



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