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OK, let's try Sickles - Daniel Sickles - The Participants of the War - Mikitary & Civilian - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 03:59 am
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PvtClewell
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Apparently, it doesn't take much to prompt me, so I'll get the Sickles thread going while keeping that other one about that hill alive...

I'm not a Sickles fan, think he's a pompous ass, but I've played devil's advocate in our local roundtable arguing that by moving the Union Third Corps out to the Peach Orchard and along the Emmitsburg Road, Sickles effectively disrupted Longstreet's attack on July 2, so I'll take that stance here, too.

Let me preface this by saying that the recent tree clearing project at Gettysburg has offered a clearer perspective on Sickles' view of the ground. The Peach Orchard is significantly higher ground than where he was originally posted on the left of Cemetery Ridge near Little Round Top. I can see why he'd like the new position, especially as an artillery platform, even though the move creates a salient in the Union line and leaves Hancock's Second Corps with an exposed flank (not to mention that it goes counter to Meade's orders and also not to mention that the Third Corps gets spread out way too thin for the ground it has to cover).

Given that Lee proposed an en echelon attack on Emmitsburg Road toward Cemetery Hill (damn, there's that hill again), finding Sickles there screws up everything. Hood heads for the Round Tops and McLaws ends up in the Wheat Field. There's fierce fighting, the Third Corps is ultimately decimated, but the en echelon attack never really materializes and fizzles out with Anderson. Momentum is lost, if there was any to begin with. If Sickles isn't there and remains in his original position, does the en echelon attack succeed, or does it lay open Longstreet's flank as he crosses the front of what would be the Third and Second Corps unified line? Hmm. And remember, Sedgewick is approaching the field with the very large Sixth Corps.

As it was, Longstreet nearly succeeded anyway in this fog of war. The Peach Orchard/Wheat Field part of the battlefield is very confusing for me and no matter how many guided tours I take with Bearss, et al, it's difficult for me to digest. Too much taking and retaking the same real estate.

One other thing: I greatly admire the unwavering sacrifice of the 1st Minnesota to plug the gap that slows down Wilcox and Lang of Anderson's division, buying time for Hancock to drum up reinforcements. That's 262 Gophers against 2,500 JoanieRebs. To me, this is the critical moment of the battle: not Ewell on the first day, not Chamberlain, not even Geroge Sears Greene's defense on Culp's Hill.

I asked a battlefield guide how he'd rate Sickles as a political field general, good, bad or indifferent. He thought for a moment then said Sickles, in his view, would have made a good division commander in the Confederate Army. I didn't pursue that one any further.

It's late and I'm going to bed. Can't wait to wake up and read 18 new posts in the morning.



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 04:40 am
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ole
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No reply from me, Pvt. You've coopted my stance and it wouldn't be much fun if we can't disagree on anything.

ole



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 06:25 am
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susansweet
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I asked a battlefield guide how he'd rate Sickles as a political field general, good, bad or indifferent. He thought for a moment then said Sickles, in his view, would have made a good division commander in the Confederate Army. I didn't pursue that one any further.


 

That says it all. 

Susan



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 06:40 am
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JoanieReb
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OK, I'm in Detroit, Michigan right now.

Have laptop, will post. 

Yes, we should address Sickles.  Or at least his leg, since that is all that is left him, for the most part.... I'm sure those of us whom have been following the developments that led to this new thread remember that it started with " the generals reactions to their loss of a leg"....and, I believe,  Sickles carried his pickled lost leg around with him until he died.  And now, it is in a museum.

I have always thought that, if he could keep his ego in check, Sickles had the makings of a fine general.  I think his instincts at G-Burg were good and right.

This adds nothing to the discussion except to keep it going until when you check in tomorrow, General Clewell,

This is a good and provocative subject.

Until tomorrow night...


Last edited on Fri Jul 13th, 2007 08:01 am by JoanieReb



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 11:51 am
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javal1
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Pvt.:

I realize you're only playing Devil's Advocate, so I won't be too hard on you ;) Long-time trivia players are well aware of my utter disdain for Sickles. The question is not, and never was, whether Sickle's move was bad or good. That's totally irrelevent to the main question - does a division commander have the right to overrule his commanding officer because he thinks he has a better idea? Of course not. He certainly had a right to resign his position on the spot and turn the division over to his second-in-command, but he didn't.

After the battle, Sickle's should have been court-martialed and drummed out of the army, if not imprisoned. Instead the U.S government gives him a medal I guess some things never change...:P



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 01:03 pm
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susansweet
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Thank you Mr. Joe .  There is nothing about this man I like.  I read American Scoundrel several years ago at the beginning of my interest in the Civil War.  I was amazed at the outrageous life he led. 

 



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 01:49 pm
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PvtClewell
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Joe,

I might have to politely beg to differ (I can't believe you've got me sticking up for Sickles. Sheesh).

Granted, we now see that Sickles disobeyed a superior officer, but maybe it's a matter of semantics here. Sickles did ask Meade if he could change his ground. Meade, busy at the time, sends artillery chief Henry Hunt to inspect the new ground with Sickles, and Hunt agrees it does offer some advantages. I think Meade thinks Sickles will deploy his troops in a way that still keeps the integrity of the line on Cemetery Ridge to Little Round Top intact and is ultimately shocked when the Third Corps goes marching off to the Peach Orchard. Is Sickles following what he thinks are discretionary orders or is he patently disobeying Meade? Sickles is not a West Point guy, no military training, but he saw what happened when he had to withdraw from Hazel Grove in Chancellorsville two months earlier, and he makes what he feels is the correct decision, under his discretion, to take the high ground at Gettysburg. When Meade finally does show up, he voices his displeasure, and Sickles offers to bring the Third Corps back — but it's too late. The battle is on. What they really needed were walkie-talkies.

I think Sickles' move really is the central question here. It changes the nature of the battle. If Sickles stays put, then maybe Longstreet's en echelon attack evolves as planned, the Union Third Corps probably doesn't lose as many men, there's more daylight left for the Confederates to carry out the attack (we have to remember that most of the critical fighting on July 2 takes place after 4 p.m. — maybe four good hours of daylight remain.) The Rebels build momentum, there is no 1st Minnesota needed to be heroes, Mahone continues the Confederate push, the depleted Union center gives, Ewell never has to live down not taking Cemetery Hill on July 1 and Joanie is a happy girl. Pipe Creek what? The Confederacy is saved and gets recognized. Seccession now has a precedent, slavery continues for another 30 years or so, and by the 20th century, we're faced with an illegal immigration problem from African Americans crossing the Virginia border.

What a guy this Sickles is.

Maybe Sickles should have been courtmartialed, but he's probably not because he gave a leg for cause and comrades.

After the war, Sickles, if I remember this correctly, lobbied for a Congressional Medal of Honor and never got it. He later claimed the Gettysburg battlefield was his personal monument. He was instrumental in the place becoming a national military park so even this vile creature does something good.

Jeez, Joe. I can't believe you made me write this stuff. I plead temporary insanity.



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 01:53 pm
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javal1
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"Jeez, Joe. I can't believe you made me write this stuff. I plead temporary insanity."

LOL, now your even copying his moves :P;)



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 02:40 pm
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HankC
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It is difficult to imagine an attack on the 3rd Corps on Cemetery Ridge being *more* successful the actual attack up the Emmittsburg road.

The ridge position is well supported with secure flanks. The road position allows converging fire and is unsupprted forcing hancock to weaken *his* position by sending troops to bail out Sickles.

Basically there are *no* targets in Longstreet's en echelon line of attack until Sickles places them there.

 

HankC



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 03:02 pm
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David White
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Sickles did not follow protocol of command and therefore was in error.



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 03:19 pm
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javal1
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"After the war, Sickles, if I remember this correctly, lobbied for a Congressional Medal of Honor and never got it."

He did receive it with the citation:

SICKLES, DANIEL E.
Rank and organization: Major General, U.S. Volunteers. Place and date: At Gettysburg, Pa., 2 July 1863. Entered service at: New York, N.Y. Birth: New York, N.Y. Date of issue: 30 October 1897. Citation: Displayed most conspicuous gallantry on the field vigorously contesting the advance of the enemy and continuing to encourage his troops after being himself severely wounded.

What an insult to the thousands who earned theirs without getting hundreds of men needlessly killed through disobedience of orders.



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 04:23 pm
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susansweet
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And What an insult to all those commanders who did Display most conspicuous gallantry on the field vigorously contesting the advance of the enemy and continuing to encourage his troops after being himself severely wounded.

I am sure all of us could come up with a list of commanders who should have received the medal of honor and didn't who qualify more than Dan the man did. 

Come on people let's make a list. 





 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 05:27 pm
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PvtClewell
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Thanks, Joe. I stand corrected. I must be remembering someone asking Sickles why, if he's such a hero, why he has no monument on the battlefield, and that's when he responds that the whole battlefield is his monument. He actually tried to discredit Meade's G-burg performance after the war and, ironically, used the Pipe Creek circular as proof that Meade had no intention of fighting at G-burg. Lovely guy.

HankC: Well, you're kind of making my point. Before Sickles moves the Third Corps out, he feels his own left flank is open, (nobody is on Little Round Top at this point) and if the Rebels put artillery in the commanding heights of the Peach Orchard (relative to his own position), he's toast — or he thinks he is. Sickles moves forward at 2 p.m. Sedgewick doesn't show up until about 3 p.m. with lead elements of the Sixth Corps that still needs time to deploy after marching 34 miles. So Sickles' Third Corps becomes the targets for Longstreet that weren't otherwise there. His very presence at the Emmitsburg Road position screws up the Confederate assault, eats up valuable daylight and manpower that the Confederates could use later. There's no doubt that Sickles' position ultimately is a poor one and a costly one, and there's no question he didn't follow correct command protocal. But to me that's not the point. The point is that he is where he is and it messes up the Confederates who didn't expect him to be there. Blame Longstreet for wasting valuable time countermarching most of the day? Blame Hood for heading to the Round Tops instead of the Emmitsburg Road (Hood, against Lee's plan, wanted to go around and behind the Round Tops. He even fusses with Longstreet about it. Here's another guy that doesn't follow orders. Should Hood be cashiered? Where does it end?) Blame Mahone for not continuing the assault just because it's getting a little dark?

I noticed Sickles gets his MOH 34 years after the battle. That's a lot of lobbying.

I can't believe I'm playing this role of supporting Sickles. I don't want to, but I'm doing it for the sake of the argument and this thread. It's like eating potato chips. I can't stop.



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 05:29 pm
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ole
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Now I'm in the prickly position of defending General Clewell and Sickles.

Sickles was a despiccable character and should have been shot for his disobedience, if not his after-battle and after-war self-promotion and campaigns of defamation.

It does remain, however, that his disobedience did break up Lee's and Longstreet's plans for the second day. The discussion ought to devolve around the "what if" had Sickles deployed as ordered. If it is determined that Longstreet's drive would not have been successful with Sickles deployed where he should have been, then Sickles is guilty of getting his corps and numbers of other corps destroyed.

If Longstreet's offensive might have been successful, then Sickles' egregious action ought at least to be acknowledged as having some merit.

Are we throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

ole

 



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 06:38 pm
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PvtClewell
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Olay, ole.

Whew. Thanks for supporting my flank. Gettin' tired holding up that flag by myself.

The one thing I don't get about the en echelon attack is that it's supposed to generally follow the Emmitsburg Road. But Hancock and Sickles (if he's where he should be) would be several hundred yards away on Cemetery Ridge able to strike the Confederates moving across the Union front. Or is the attack suppose to sweep away the Feds where they are deployed (my guess)? Am I missing something here? Is Lee hoping to draw the Feds off the ridge for the climactic battle? Somebody paint me a picture.

Think I might get busted back to Private after this.



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 07:36 pm
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HankC
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PvtClewell wrote: Olay, ole.

Whew. Thanks for supporting my flank. Gettin' tired holding up that flag by myself.

The one thing I don't get about the en echelon attack is that it's supposed to generally follow the Emmitsburg Road. But Hancock and Sickles (if he's where he should be) would be several hundred yards away on Cemetery Ridge able to strike the Confederates moving across the Union front. Or is the attack suppose to sweep away the Feds where they are deployed (my guess)? Am I missing something here? Is Lee hoping to draw the Feds off the ridge for the climactic battle? Somebody paint me a picture.


You have it pretty clearly, other than drawing US forces off of the ridge.

The CS attack plan was drawn up in the morning. By late afternoon, the Federal line was not where Lee wanted it to be...

Then Sickles moved out and obliged him ;)

 

HankC



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 08:09 pm
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ole
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Seems that Lee's attack plan for day 2 was based on some obsolete observations. Kinda wonder why a commander of Lee's stature would assume that conditions would be the same at 0700 as at 1350? Looks like somebody screwed up, big time.

ole



 Posted: Fri Jul 13th, 2007 09:17 pm
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HankC
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ole wrote: Seems that Lee's attack plan for day 2 was based on some obsolete observations. Kinda wonder why a commander of Lee's stature would assume that conditions would be the same at 0700 as at 1350? Looks like somebody screwed up, big time.

ole


Obsolete and probably incorrect as well. The pre-dawn reconassaince supposedly crossed the Emmittsburg road and went into the Devil's Den - Round tops area. Except that the 3rd corps was bivouacked there and Capt. Johnston ( I think it was) reported 'no sign' of US forces.

Today some  think he was turned around and went west rather than east from seminary ridge. That's difficult for me to believe as the moon was up at that time...

 

HankC



 Posted: Sat Jul 14th, 2007 01:21 am
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JoanieReb
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Joe wrote:

After the battle, Sickle's should have been court-martialed and drummed out of the army, if not imprisoned.

hmmmm, this gives a whole new meaning to the title of the thread, "OK, let's try Sickles".

I think we have a fair amount of challenging things going on right now, here on the CWi Board.  But maybe we could have a mock trial or play out (play-by-play, that is) court-martial procedings for Sickles one of these days.  I personally don't have the legal know-how to approach this easily, and it would certainly take some research, but it could also be quite edifying.

Or, this could just be a really dumb idea....

Joanie



 Posted: Sat Jul 14th, 2007 01:51 am
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ole
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Joanie:

Just figuratively shoot him and we won't have to bother with the Court Martial.

I've always admired Meade for ignoring the man and not shooting him down like a dog. He opted to go on trying to to do what was really important at the time.

Ole

Last edited on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 01:53 am by ole



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