View single post by PvtClewell
 Posted: Wed Jul 11th, 2007 09:05 pm
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Joined: Wed Jun 13th, 2007
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 420

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We always need to keep in mind that Meade takes command of the AoP on June 28, just three days before the battle takes place. Not only that, he's already in pursuit of Lee while trying to keep his seven corps in support of one another. Talk about on the job training. I think this is a historically understated moment in the history of the AoP. C'mon, appointed a new commander while his army is on the move? Wow. By June 30, Meade has the Pipe Creek circular prepared, but because chief of staff Dan Butterfield fumbles the paperwork, the circular is not issued until July 1, and then it is rescinded shortly thereafter. According to Stephen Sears in his book "Gettysburg," Meade is irate and chastizes Butterfield "for his slowness in getting out orders. (Meade said he) had arranged for a plan of battle, and it had taken so long to get the orders out that now it was all useless." By then, events are in rapid motion. The Pipe Creek circular is a dead letter.

In any case, Meade's already under political pressure, charged with the protection of Washington DC. I think that goes without saying — I'd say it's part of the job description. Doesn't really matter where he is on the map. All that matters now is performance.

By 4 p.m., Ewell has had quite a day. He arrives at G-burg after a march from Harrisburg, showing up at just the right time and place, routs the 11th Corps, and now finds himself at the base of Cemetery Hill. He already sees Orland Smith's brigade of the 11th Corps on the hill, where it has been deployed since 1 p.m. while the rest of the 11th Corps went north of town.

This is ironic: I think the eventual rout of the 11th Corps, and the prisoners that are collected, actually slows down Ewell.

Anyway, Ewell doesn't know it, but by now he's got a window of opportunity of just over an hour to attack the hill. By 5:30 p.m., Slocum's (Slow Come, according to Ed Bearss) 12th Corps is on the field and the rest of Meade's army is rapidly approaching. Hancock's 2nd Corps is still marching, but Hancock is personally in command on the hill, giving the Federals a top-notch on-site field commander.

Ewell already knows he's not getting support from AP Hill's Corps or Rodes' division and Johnson's division is not yet up. His own men are disorganized and exhausted from their big day. He can't attack the hill from town, which will channel his troops in the streets, even if he can get them ready before Slocum shows up. He needs a lengthy march to the left to find good ground to attack, and even then, he's got no place to put artillery. I'm not a military man, but even I can see this is not a real good idea. It's just not "practicable."

Even a bid to occupy neighboring Culp's Hill, and perhaps outmanuever the Yanks from Cemetery Hill, is basically lost by 6 p.m. Johnson finally shows up, but darkness is descending and Johnson goes into bivouac. It's been a hard day. And maybe it's just fate afterall.

One more thing — I think David makes an interesting comment about Lee should be sacking Harrisburg instead of Gettysburg. There is a book, "North with Lee and Jackson" written by James Kegel in 1996, that suggests Jackson always wanted to get into the Pennsylvania coal fields. Ewell got pretty damn close when he got to the Susquehanna River, but was then recalled by Lee to form on Gettysburg. Can you imagine if Ewell captures Harrisburg, and the coal region is laid wide open? Set a few coal mines on fire and you ruin the industrial Northern economy. Set those coal mines on fire and they still might be burning today.

Last edited on Thu Jul 12th, 2007 12:33 am by PvtClewell

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