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Oldie but a goodie!!! - Battle of Gettysburg - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Tue Feb 19th, 2008 11:32 pm
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Rebel Yell
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This subject has been debated for years, but I wonder if any of y'all would like to share their opinions about it anyway??? Was Dan Sickles "right" to advance his corps to the Emmittsburg Road position or should he have deployed on the ground assigned to him by Meade and maintained the integrity of the union line? I have heard good arguments for and against his movement and would like to her what my esteemed colleagues here have to say.

Sickle's original postion (along the ground near the Weikert House) was, indeed, on low ground, but he would have had the support of or been able to support the union line. However, his deployment "supposedly" threw a monkey wrench into Lee's plan to attack "up the Emmittsburg Road" by being where he was not expected to be.

IMHO, I think Sickles' movement endangered the AoP's position on Cemetery Ridge and, if it had not been for some skillful leadership and the courage of the union troops that day, might have been disastrous fro the AoP.

What say you??? 



 Posted: Wed Feb 20th, 2008 12:01 am
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Doc C
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Agree that Sickles move to the Emmitsburg Road area with his flanks in the air was a disasterous move for the AOP. Had he stayed in his original position his left would have been secured by the Round Tops and if attacked by Longstreet there he could have been easily supported by Sykes and Hancocks Corps. I've always been interested in Sickles since he shot one of my distant relatives, Phillop Barton Key.

Doc C



 Posted: Wed Feb 20th, 2008 12:02 am
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javal1
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Reb,

You're correct Reb, this is an oldie but never fails to invoke varied opinions. If we use the "can't see the forest for the trees" analogy, I like to stick to the forest - the over-all principle of what Sickle's did.

NO subordinate commander has the right to over-rule his commanding officer, lacking evidence of treasonous intent or feebleness of mind. As far as I'm aware, neither applied here. If one starts arguing what-if's and could-haves, then by definition, one is conceding to Sickle's an authority he didn't have. Anyone who thinks Sickle's had the right to make that move must also believe that his regimental commanders had the same right to over-rule him if they didn't like their assigned position. And of course, the company commanders had the right to overule the regimental commanders.

The blood of the 3rd Corps men who died that day should forever stain the name of Sickle's. He got medals. He should have been court-martialed. Some may consider him the "father" of the Gettysburg battlefield. He'll always be the undertaker in my book.

OK Reb, can you tell you hit my real Civil War sore spot?  ;)=+++

 



 Posted: Wed Feb 20th, 2008 12:16 am
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Doc C
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Doc J

Right as always. Without the exact numbers at hand, the 3rd took the worst casualties during the GB battles with some regiments never existing as their past self. Despite his and Histironicus's feeble attempts to the contrary, Sickles had no right to move his Corps to their westerly position. However, one does have to wonder how much his experience at Challeslorville had to play in his decision.

Doc C

Last edited on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 12:17 am by Doc C



 Posted: Wed Feb 20th, 2008 03:27 am
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Rebel Yell
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Thank y'all for responding. (Sorry about the sore spot, Jav). Yep, Sickles got to Washington first, got to get his "story" out first, made himself out as the "hero" of the day with an amputated leg to show for his "heroics". But his men paid the full price for his actions.

Hero?!?!? I think not...But he did prove to be quite a spin doctor.

 



 Posted: Wed Feb 20th, 2008 02:04 pm
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PvtClewell
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If the question is 'was Sickles right' to move the Third Corps without authorization, the answer is clearly no.

Did his experience on being ordered to leave the high ground at Hazel Grove at Chancellorsville two months earlier influence his decision to reposition his corps at Gettysburg, I'd have to say yes.

I'm not a fan of Sickles, but there are one or two things to keep in mind here: At mid-morning, Sickles, a political general, took artillery chief Henry Hunt, a military man, with him to survey the Emmitsburg road position. Hunt agreed the position was on higher ground than the original one on the Cemetery Hill line, but he would not authorize the move — that was ultimately up to Meade. But I think all this, along with the Hazel Grove experience, reinforced Sickles' notion of holding the high ground. At 2 p.m., the Third Corps moved out — unauthorized — to Sherfy's Peach orchard. His line is overextended — it almost reaches the Codori House — and it forms a militarily unfeasible salient.

By 4 p.m., Longstreet attacks.

Sickles' move ultimately ruins his Third Corps. The question is what does it do to the Confederates? Sickles being where he was threw Lee's whole en echelon attack out of whack, and at what cost? Hood is severely wounded; Barksdale is killed, and the attack, started late in the day, peters out because of impending darkness. It sets up a problematic July 3.

Up until this moment, the ANV had never lost to the AoP. Why should it be any different here? The initiative is still Lee's.

We can only speculate what might have happened if Sickles had stayed in place on the left of Hancock and the Second Corps. I think the en echelon assault was perhaps the best possible plan to attack the Federal line, and Sickles still would have been the first one struck by the assault, since he represented the Union left. Arguably, Lee might have had a better opportunity to roll up the Union line if Sickles stays where he is on Cemetery Ridge. We'll never know.

But we do know what happened when Sickles moved to his forward position, and it was not a Confederate victory.

Last edited on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 03:51 pm by PvtClewell



 Posted: Thu Feb 21st, 2008 03:48 pm
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ole
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Very insightful BS, Sergeant Clewell. Thanks everso.

Dang! You're good! We can't know what would have happened if Sickles hadn't moved. We do know what happened because he did.

My take closely parallels Joe's. Devil Dan's move was a serious breach of St. George's intentions. That it actually worked to disrupt Lee's planned attack is as accidental as Longstreet's bull-headed snit to proceed as ordered.

(calm down, ole. Hush.)

And that's all I have to say about that.

ole



 Posted: Thu Feb 21st, 2008 04:11 pm
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PvtClewell
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Speaking of BS, I just got done changing the cat litter. :shock:

Funny you should mention Longstreet, Ole. I was thinking perhaps we should open a thread to discuss his performance at Gettysburg. Does he deserve the same criticism as Sickles? We can start with the counter-march...


Re: Sickles. Wasn't he willing to return the Third Corps back to its original position after incurring Meade's wrath? Trouble was, Longstreet got in the way.



 Posted: Thu Feb 21st, 2008 04:22 pm
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ole
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Longstreet's performance at G'burg was, at best, criminal. Lucky for him Lee was a forgiving gentleman. Grant would have had him shot.

(a bit overstated, but you know what I mean)

ole



 Posted: Fri Feb 22nd, 2008 05:20 pm
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David White
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Pvt. Clewell:

Is the countermarch Longstreet's fault or bad staff work by Lee's engineer Capt. Samuel R. Johnston and Longstreet's Maj. John C. Clarke?



 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? ;)



 Posted: Sat Aug 30th, 2008 05:42 am
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44th VA INF
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I think sickles act at Gettysburg was a bit of insobornation. There was to Many things at stake for the yankees at gettysburg he gave the ANV a chance to deshtroy his corps



 Posted: Sat Aug 30th, 2008 10:16 am
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gettysburgerrn
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If people are going to kill longstreet...bear in mind that the delayed start of the attack allowed Sickles to make his blunder. Otherwise The ANV would have hit a solidly and better positioned federal army. Therefore the delayed attack actually increased the chances of success...

ken



 Posted: Sat Aug 30th, 2008 11:18 pm
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ole
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Krick describes Longstreet's actions as a "snit." He wanted to do this, Lee wanted him to do that, so he did that, in spite of what he saw in front of his face. Meanwhile, it's kinda fun to talk about.

ole



 Posted: Sun Aug 31st, 2008 12:07 pm
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gettysburgerrn
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You want to talk about people in a snit...think of those 2nd corps boys - Ewell and company who didn't seem so eager to comply with Lee's wishes either...or the commander of the third corps who was essentially irrelevant, and noncontributory..

ken



 Posted: Fri Sep 5th, 2008 10:22 pm
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martymtg
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Sickles getting his leg blown off probably saved him a courts martial.

The guy wasn't even a soldier. He got his commission due to having friends in high places in Washington. Its not like he went to West Point, or served in Mexico.

His being where he shouldn't have been did cause confusion for the confederates, but I don't think the 'blind squirrel finding an acorn' theory absolves him in the least.

I don't think there's even a question of whether or not he was 'right.'

In my mind, he couldn't have been wronger.

 

Last edited on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 10:26 pm by martymtg



 Posted: Sat Sep 6th, 2008 02:57 pm
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Wrap10
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ole wrote: Krick describes Longstreet's actions as a "snit." He wanted to do this, Lee wanted him to do that, so he did that, in spite of what he saw in front of his face. Meanwhile, it's kinda fun to talk about.

ole

Several years back I was a member of a discussion board that included a fellow who was an ardent - make that strident - Longstreet defender. I remember someone at one point bringing up the "snit" comment and applying it to Longstreet. You would have thought a holy war had been declared. But that was his style. He didn't just argue with people, he attacked them like Sheridan at Five Forks. You disagreed with him at your own risk.

But what might be ironic about Longstreet at Gettysburg is that, if you look at the performance of all three of Lee's corps commanders, Longstreet probably did the best job. I don't think Ewell really did any better, and Hill just about disappeared. Longstreet is the one that always gets hammered for Gettysburg, but did he do any worse than Hill or Ewell? And what does that say about the leadership in Lee's army at Gettysburg, if the best you can say is that Longstreet didn't do any worse than Hill or Ewell, and probably did better?

Perry



 Posted: Sat Sep 6th, 2008 04:45 pm
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ole
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A most excellent quandary, Perry. It all comes back to the Ivory Man, doesn't it?

ole



 Posted: Mon Sep 8th, 2008 09:47 am
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gettysburgerrn
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Ultimately accountability goes with command thus whichever corps commander one wants to take issue with, it reflects back on Lee. This is especially true in that their condut were not abberations but rather consistant behavior over a 3 day period...

ken



 Posted: Mon Sep 15th, 2008 02:13 am
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I find it interesting that Barlow gets away with his move at Bloecher's Knoll while Sickles does not. The 11th Corps paid for Barlow's gaffe. The 3rd Corps paid dearly for Sickles. IMHO, they both should've been cashiered.
Sickles was, in a manner of speaking, being sent out of country to S. America. But, Barlow stays in and his rep stays intact.



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