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 Posted: Fri Feb 22nd, 2008 07:08 pm
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PvtClewell
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Good question, David. Tough to answer. I think I'm going to cop a plea and say it might have been a combination of both.

It's questionable whether Johnston and Clarke actually reconnoitered the ground that Lee had wanted. Sears writes that 'The answer to the mystery seems to be that Johnston either did not go as far to climb Little Round Top and, in his recollections, embellished his role rather than confess his failings; or that he unwittingly went somewhere else.'

Their mission began at 4 a.m. Point of fact, two regiments of the 12th Corps were on Little Round Top until after daylight broke, along with some of Buford's cavalry and parts of Sickles' Third Corps were in the area. How could they miss all that if they got to LRT?

Longstreet, for his part later in the day, stopped his corps' march to the right when it crested a knoll that put him in full view of the Union signalmen on LRT. Earlier in the day, his artillery chief, E. Porter Alexander, simply made a detour from the same spot '...and led his battalion cross-lot through fields & hollows and back to where the road again was concealed from view,' according to Sears. Alexander had been sent to explore the ground around the Peach Orchard as an artillery platform.

Longstreet elected to countermarch instead of following Alexander's route, which I think was visible by the trampled grass. Alexander, in fact, had returned to fulfill an errand, and pointed out the detour he had taken. "Unfortunately, at the moment, no one in authority was present to take the decision,' writes Sears. "No regimental colonel was about to assume the responsibility of directing the First Corps off into the fields and hollows. Alexander rode on, shaking his head."

Sheesh.

The countermarch, off course, delayed Longstreet's deployment by hours. Sickles comes out, Longstreet finally attacks at 4 p.m., and the rest, as they say, is history.

To me, Longstreet's actions here are his most grievous at Gettysburg. But then, the entire Confederate high command is having a bad three days in Yankeeland, so who knows?

Hey, I thought you were a western guy anyway? ;)

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