GDG- Gettysburg Digest, Vol 3, Issue 31

Chuck Teague chaplain.chuck at gmail.com
Mon Nov 1 11:26:38 CDT 2010


>
> I am not an expert on Civil War tactics, so I don't know whether Jim
> Cameron is right about the oblique attack - it seems to me that he is.
>  Surely at that point, the men would have been marching straight forward,
> not at an angle, exposing their flank to fire.  Harman seems to base at
> least some of this on a period painting.  He also supports Kathy Georg
> Harrison's (1981) suggestion, based on the Count of Paris, that Ziegler's
> Grove and not the Copse of Trees was to be the objective.
>

Several things had bothered me for years in trying to make sense of what
happened, even apart from Alexander's much debated claim that *"the
cemetery... was the point of direction of the storming column"* and his maps
showing where he thought the cemetery was located.  First was Kathy's
conclusion that Ziegler's Grove (not the Copse) was indeed an objective
(read: object to guide upon, not goal) for Pickett's advance (though not for
Pettigrew).  Second was awareness that Pickett's Division was initially
farther south in its deployment than is commonly mapped (its front line
split on Spangler Lane, with Wilcox's mention that Garnett marched through
his position, and reference by soldiers on the far right that they were in
an orchard (which had to be Sherfey's).  Third was Longstreet's explanation
that Pickett was to be headed *"directly at the enemy's main position, the
Cemetery Hill."*  Also to be considered is Colonel Humphreys' explanation
that *"Pickett's Charge was made against Cemetery Hill, at least a mile to
the left of Longstreet's 'front'"* (something confirmed by Wilcox in
declaring *"the Cemetery was a near mile from Pickett's left; as Pickett was
to be the center of the column of attack, the difficulty, if not
impossibility"* of success against it became evident).  Then there is A.L.
Long's declaration that in the attack the enemy was to be taken *"in flank"* so
that any artillery fire from Cemetery Hill *"would be as destructive to
friend as to foe."  *

Troy's book took up several of these points and reached the same conclusion
that I had come to independently: that it was not a frontal assault (i.e.,
parallel order of attack) that Lee had planned.  Hunt said that the Rebel
assault on July 2 was clearly intended as an *"oblique attack"* and Lee
himself said that for the next day *"the general plan of attack was
unchanged."*

A clincher for me was to realize that when Lee made his early morning
reconnaissance with Longstreet and decided how the attack was to develop,
the so-called "shank" of the fishhook was not at all straight.  That there was
an exposed *"flank"* makes more sense when we appreciate Newton's
explanation that the Federal line from his left to LRT was nearly *"empty"* at
the start of the day, with Hunt's accounting that he spent the entire
morning filling that ground with artillery.   And the ANV map that
accompanied Lee's report showed the perceived Federal line there as bending
back *east* of Taneytown Road.

There are so many accounts that Pickett either wheeled or swung to the left
in his initial advance that confirm the intention to make an oblique attack.
 Jomini wrote that the oblique attack gave advantage to the attacker, and
that all knowledgeable military leaders had given up on the parallel order
attack.

If you position Pickett's front line where they were initially deployed and
then identify their objective and goal, the design of the oblique attack
becomes obvious.  However, due to problems in execution (in large part due
to Federal artillery), the attack by Pickett devolved into more of a brave
surge from the Codori homestead toward the Federal line.

Troy initially took a lot of flack in going to print (frankly, he would have
benefitted from having an editor), but in the past decade it is intriguing
to see how the paradigm has shifted in the minds of so many.  He deserves
the credit for the importance Cemetery Hill has regained in our appreciation
of the battle, and of Lee's intent in how to fight it.
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