GDG- Harry Heth and the First Morning at Gettysburg

Tom Ryan pennmardel at mchsi.com
Sun Jan 29 08:09:08 CST 2012


Am enjoying Mark Acres detailed and well-researched article in the latest
issue of Gettysburg Magazine.  There is a lot to commend this article about,
but I want to offer a critique of a couple of items and a pet peeve.

Two full pages are devoted to the "shoe" controversy regarding whether shoes
were a main objective of Heth going to Gettysburg on the morning of July 1.
This seems like overkill in an attempt to debunk a "myth" about the shoes.
Needless to say, Heth went there to obtain supplies (which shoes would have
been an important item if any were available), and that should have been the
gist and the end of that story.  To spend all that time on the issue tended
to interrupt the flow of the story.

At least two of the sources used to reconstruct the events that took place
that morning refer to direct exchanges between Lee and Heth, with no
question raised in the narrative about why this would be the case, rather
than Heth and Lee communicating through Hill, Heth's superior.  The failure
to mention this tends to weaken the credibility of the account.

As in other accounts of this time period, the author mentions that,
according to Heth, Lee and Hill's scouts had reported the enemy still in the
vicinity of Middleburg, MD; therefore, the troops Pettigrew spotted in
Gettysburg the previous day could not have been regulars.  However, the
author does not probe this question -- who were these scouts that Lee and
Hill had available, and why were they not sent into Gettysburg to learn the
identity of the enemy force there rather than allowing Heth's entire
infantry division to go on this mission and thereby risk a possible
engagement.

There is no mind to identify these scouts, who undoubtedly belonged to the
39th Battalion Virginia Cavalry of which two companies of about 90 men were
traveling as part of Lee's HQ -- and operated in a "pool" arrangement to
service Hill and Longstreet, as well as Lee.

Therein lies my pet peeve in that many historians seem to overlook the basic
issues of intelligence gathering (using the who, what, where, when and how
method of inquiry), and focus instead on the combat aspects of battles (the
outcome of which invariably depends on which side has the best
intelligence).

Nonetheless, this is an interesting and informative article of which I still
have four more pages to read.

Tom Ryan











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