GDG- Harry Heth and the First Morning at Gettysburg

Tom Ryan pennmardel at mchsi.com
Sun Jan 29 11:36:56 CST 2012


Jim,

I tend to agree with your analysis.  What is puzzling is why did Lee and
Hill did not foresee that, even though their scouts reported the Union army
had not gone north of Middleburg, MD as yet, Meade would have had his
cavalry out looking for Lee's army.  That seemed to be fundamental, yet Heth
reported that Hill, therefore Lee, was not that concerned about what Heth
would find in Gettysburg.  Not to mention that apparently Lee, Hill and Heth
reached that decision despite the additional information supplied by
Pettgrew's eyewitness account that Union regular troops confronted him the
previous day.

What it boils down to is a bit of a fiasco of reading the tea leaves at all
three levels of command -- and any blame for this miscalculation should
begin with Lee, and proceed down to Hill and Heth.

Also, the absence of Stuart should not be a factor in this poor job of
decision making, since there were sufficient experienced scouting forces
available to investigate what was taking place in Gettysburg.  The 39th
Battalion Virginia Cavalry being a well-trained and experienced unit in
several duties such as reconnaissance.

This raises the question of what would have happened if Lee/Hill/Heth did
learn from scouts about Buford's presence with two brigades of cavalry at
Gettysburg.  Presumably Lee's battle plan would have been completely
different.  In this mix is the consideration that scouts would have moved
much faster than Heth's infantry division; therefore, would have given Lee
more time to implement whatever plan he decided upon.

I think you are correct that Heth did all he could given his uninformed
circumstances.  From my perspective, those circumstances could have been a
lot better if Lee and Hill had been more on the ball.

Regards, Tom Ryan





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