GDG- Harry Heth and the First Morning at Gettysburg

Matt Diestel agatematt at
Sun Jan 29 11:02:22 CST 2012

> Esteemed GDG Member Tom Ryan Contributes:

> 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
> Tom:
    What a marvelous and first-rate job of critiquing the article you did.
Can't wait to get my latest copy of Gettysburg Magazine and read the whole
     Seem we share a pet peeve --- the long discredited legend of the
shoes. Wish that could be put to rest and simply fold in as you did in a
one sentence that Heth went to Gettysburg in search of supplies in general,
of which shoes were included.
    The legend that there was still a huge supply of shoes sitting in a
town sitting of the major road in an region through which troops from
Ewell's Corps had wandered through less than a week before has always seem
to have been so much historical baloney.
    The other fascinating and real (not to mention important) historical
point is the seeming absence of A.P. Hill through so much of the battle
which the article --- through your critique --- seems to very much tough on
with Harry Heth communicating directly with Lee and each bypassing Hill,
the corps commander, entirely.
     To play off the title of the famed biography of the III Corps'
commander, "Up Came Hill,"  the role played --- or not played --- by A.P.
at Gettysburg might well be titled: "Where was Hill?"
                   With regards,

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