Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Sickles deployment at gettysburg -

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Sickles deployment at gettysburg -

    As I have posted elsewhere on these forums, I am looking forward to an upcoming visit to Gettysburg to visit the battlefield for the first time. One of the things that I am very interested in seeing in person is the ground on which Sickles deployed his corps. To his eye this ground was superior to the ground on the ridge behind him. For those who have had a chance to study this terrain in person, is this truly the case (so much so that it justified diluting the concentration of his troops and creating a somewhat convoluted deployment), or did he suffer a momentary lapse of good judgment? Would the ridge behind him, anchored by Little Roundtop, been easier to defend, even if his rtillery sightings might have been less than optimum?

    When visiting this part of the battlefield are there any particular vantage points that I should seek out to help me understand Sickles' deployment better?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Habanaman View Post
    As I have posted elsewhere on these forums, I am looking forward to an upcoming visit to Gettysburg to visit the battlefield for the first time. One of the things that I am very interested in seeing in person is the ground on which Sickles deployed his corps. To his eye this ground was superior to the ground on the ridge behind him. For those who have had a chance to study this terrain in person, is this truly the case (so much so that it justified diluting the concentration of his troops and creating a somewhat convoluted deployment), or did he suffer a momentary lapse of good judgment? Would the ridge behind him, anchored by Little Roundtop, been easier to defend, even if his rtillery sightings might have been less than optimum?

    When visiting this part of the battlefield are there any particular vantage points that I should seek out to help me understand Sickles' deployment better?
    One thing to remember is that Scott Hartwig recently mentioned in a piece in North And South magazine that many of the trees that had grown over the years since the battle (and were not there at the time of the battle) were removed to provide a vantage point close to the one that Sickles had when he made his unwise move forward.

    There are several things to remember regarding Sickles move forward:
    1. He was more than likely insubordinate. (More on this later)
    2. The line he unilaterally chose for his corps was about 2x as long as the one along the ridge, assigned by Meade.
    3. Sickles had one of the smallest corps in the AotP.
    4. Federal artillery commander, Henry Hunt, suggested that if such a line were to be held, it would probably require both Sickles III Corps and Sykes' V Corps.
    5. Sickles moved from being 15 minutes in front of the V Corps (who were to provide Sickles with rear support) to 30 to 45 minutes away from said support.
    6. Because of the undue length of the new line, Sickles had some 400 yd. gaps between Graham's Brigade, DeTrobriand's Brigade and Ward's Brigade that he was forced to fill in with arty, skirmishers and a small reserve.
    7. Sickles left both of his flanks hanging as well as Hancock's left flank.
    8. The extreme length of the line in relation to his corps structure (2 divisions, instead of the standard 3) meant that only one brigade (Burling's) was available as a corps brigade.
    9. When plugging holes in Sickles' new line, Burling's Brigade was parcelled out in regimental strength, leaving him without a command.
    10. Leaving LRT undefended meant that V Corps reinforcements (Vincent's Brigade, and later, Weed's Brigade) had to occupy that prominence, instead of helping Sickles directly.
    11. The ground that Sickles occupied meant that Union reinforcements had to come in piecemeal. (a brigade at a time from Caldwell's Division of Hancock's II Corps.) No more than two V Corps brigades fought side by side while trying to reinforce Sickles.
    12. The awkward nature of Sickles assumed line cost the Federals cost the Federals some 2,400 more casualties than Longstreet's attackers (who had half the manpower than the Federals in the area.)
    13. Finally, going back to insubordination on Sickles part. He claimed that he did not "misapprehend" his orders from Meade and his men tore down fences to their friont early in the morning.
    14. Meade was so justifiably nervous about what Sickles had done, that he weakened Culp's Hill drastically (one brigade was left there to fend off Johnson's attack.)


    Any further Qs? Give me a holler!
    Last edited by Tom DeFranco; 06 Sep 07, 23:22.
    I come here to discuss a piece of business with you and what are you gonna do? You're gonna tell me fairy tales? James Caan in the movie "Thief" ca 1981

    Comment


    • #3
      Thank you Tom for your detailed reply.

      For me the big question that I am hoping to resolve when I visit the battlefield is "what did Sickles see" that would cause him to weaken his line, expose his flanks and reduce his concentration of firepower by taking up the forward ground. Sickles must have believed that the ground he was given put his corps at greater risk than the ground in front of him, so much so that he was willing to ignore orders and place his his corps in a position that would require significant support to hold before the day was out.

      Tom, although you didn't indicate so in your reply, I'm guessing that you have first hand knowledge of the battlefield. Are some of the issues/terrain feature that would support/explain Sickle's decision visually evident when standing on the ridge, or did Sickles just really screw up?

      Ray

      Comment


      • #4
        I have seen the battlefield, and I am not too sure that Sickles "saw" anything better on the ground that he advanced to. He was not a great military mind, rather a political one.

        He may have honestly believed that the Peach Orchard was a better defensive site as it is a bit higher than Cemetery ridge, but he flagrantly disobeyed orders when he moved there, and endangered the entire left flank of the army.
        I would define true courage to be a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger, and a mental willingness to endure it.
        --William T. Sherman

        Comment


        • #5
          Posted by Habanaman:

          "seeing in person is the ground on which Sickles deployed his corps."


          To address this first. You can certainly walk the entire length of that portion of the battlefield, the area where Sickles was to have deployed his forces. I have done this on several occasions, and it is undeniable that the ground rises in front of you.

          I mention this next fact only to make my point. I, like many others here and elsewhere, have actual field and battlefield experience in looking at terrain with an eye to how an enemy might use it against me. In that context, when I stand along Sickles original line and look up, I think I can understand his point. Not only does the terrain slope up from that point, once you reach the ground of the Peach Orchard it crest, and begins to slope gradually down to the tree-line along Seminary Ridge to the South West. Infantry forces advancing from this direction would therefore be masked by this terrain feature until they crested the line along the Chambersburg road. Artillery units along that crest could do exactelly what they did later in the day on the 2nd, blast straight down into the ranks of men along that line.

          Sickles had to have seen this, and I believe that, rather than deciding to be petulant and make Meade mad and disobey orders because he knew Meade didn't like him and Lincoln's wife would back him over Meade or because he was just a frickin' idiot, he chose to deny what he thought was superior ground to the enemy, and use it himself.

          This does not invalidate some of the arguments made against Sickles, but what always rankles me in these debates is the safe position from which Sickles detractors always attack from. For any hisrotian, professional or not, attacking Sickles is the easy, safe, and many times, arrogant position to take. The pompous attitude of this position is quite annoying.

          Whatever else may be true, once you really study the history of the man, one can see that Sickles was no idiot. He was emotional, concieted, prone to the occasional misjudgement ala Bill Clinton, rude, and quick to follow his own counsel. But he didn't survive as long as he did by being stupid. By most accounts his men loved him, and unlike some of the survivors of Iverson's Brigade, didn't spend the post war years trying to hunt the guy down and kill him.

          I am actually glad this has come up again, as it will give me a chance to respond to some other points about this part of the battle. But before I see anything thrown up here cited from Gettysburg Magazine, note that in the latest issue, number 37, on page 52, the authors actually list Barlow's, VonSteinwher's, and Schurz Brigades as 12th Corp units. Just because something gets published in Gettysburg Magazine doesn't mean that it is written in stone handed down from the Mountain Top by God.

          Comment


          • #6
            Sickles may have also seen what happened when the high ground is ceded. He was pulled off of Hazel Grove just a couple of months earlier during the battle at Chancellorsville. That may have stuck in his craw and he felt that the same was true here.

            I didn't want my comment about Sickle's political side to be taken as a snub. He was liked by his men, but at the same time he didn't have the same training of obedience to orders that the West Pointers did.

            The truth of the matter is, if he had moved forward and inflicted huge losses on the Confederates and turned the battle rather getting his corps shot up, he would be a hero. He would be the one seen as saving the Federal left, rather than Chamberlain. He is kind of cast as a goat, and that is probably unfair. At best he was too aggressive, at worst he was insubordinate, but with mitigating circumstances.

            Overall he did what he thought best, but in the end it wasn't the best move, but he may well have kept the Confederates from being able to turn the left by his forward thrust.
            I would define true courage to be a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger, and a mental willingness to endure it.
            --William T. Sherman

            Comment


            • #7
              [QUOTE=Martok;759621]Posted by Habanaman:

              "seeing in person is the ground on which Sickles deployed his corps."


              Originally posted by Martok View Post
              To address this first. You can certainly walk the entire length of that portion of the battlefield, the area where Sickles was to have deployed his forces. I have done this on several occasions, and it is undeniable that the ground rises in front of you.
              Were you aware that most of the ground that Sickles was ordered to hold was only some 20 to 30 feet lower than Sherfy's Peach Orchard and that the left flank was supposed to be anchored on LRT? Were you aware of the fact that many of Sickles' supporters incorrectly assume that the Plum Run Valley was where he was to deploy, because he was bivouacked there overnight? So while, the ground that he was ordered to hold was not the 'swamp' that Sickles' supporters like to characterize it to be.

              Originally posted by Martok View Post
              I mention this next fact only to make my point. I, like many others here and elsewhere, have actual field and battlefield experience in looking at terrain with an eye to how an enemy might use it against me. In that context, when I stand along Sickles original line and look up, I think I can understand his point. Not only does the terrain slope up from that point, once you reach the ground of the Peach Orchard it crest, and begins to slope gradually down to the tree-line along Seminary Ridge to the South West. Infantry forces advancing from this direction would therefore be masked by this terrain feature until they crested the line along the Chambersburg road. Artillery units along that crest could do exactelly what they did later in the day on the 2nd, blast straight down into the ranks of men along that line.
              You seem to be doing what many others have done when defending Sickles - ignoring Little Round Top in the equation. His left was to be anchored on that height, which was of obvious higher altitude than Sherfy's Peach Orchard. One more thing - that same tree line that you mention would have also (and did) shielded his troops from the view of any attacking Rebels. Also, many trees had been removed to give the visitor a truer picture of what Sickles actually saw. Plus, he could have and did, eventually deploy skirmishers to act as an early warning system that he was denied when Buford was ordered to leave the field. It had always been Meade's intention that the Peach Orchard area was to be occupied by cavalry. Pleasonton seems to have been remiss by not assuring that Buford was replaced quickly and adequately. As far as the artillery was concerned, what made the Peach Orchard so inviting was also what made it such a dangerous place to hold - it could be raked by artillery fire from along Cemetery Ridge, or conversely, along Seminary Ridge.

              Originally posted by Martok View Post
              Sickles had to have seen this, and I believe that, rather than deciding to be petulant and make Meade mad and disobey orders because he knew Meade didn't like him and Lincoln's wife would back him over Meade or because he was just a frickin' idiot, he chose to deny what he thought was superior ground to the enemy, and use it himself.
              I don't understand what you're trying to say in your first sentence, but in your second, his corps didn't have enough men, nor were they sufficiently organized, TO & E wise to occupy the ground that Sickles eventually deployed on. And when he did see the ground, I believe that Meade was justifiably POed, especially after several go arounds about where and how Sickles was to deploy. Not only that, but before Meade saw his eventual deployment, Hunt did and he told him that the ground could not be sufficiently by his small corps - it would take at least the III Corps and the V Corps. A better way to deny the enemy that "superior ground" might to be able to fire on in it from where he was ordered to be, not necessarily to occupy it - that seems to be what Meade and others thought.

              Originally posted by Martok View Post
              This does not invalidate some of the arguments made against Sickles, but what always rankles me in these debates is the safe position from which Sickles detractors always attack from. For any hisrotian, professional or not, attacking Sickles is the easy, safe, and many times, arrogant position to take. The pompous attitude of this position is quite annoying.
              Speaking from a safe position or not, the results speak for themselves:
              1. A Corps (Sickles III Corps) that will never fight as a unit again.
              2. Because he semi-isolated his own corps, he forced many other units to come to his aid, and have farther to march to get into position to support his defense. (30-45 minutes as opposed to 15 minutes)
              3. The nature of his defense of the Peach Orchard area forced reinforcements to come in piecemeal throughout the afternoon.
              4. He was knowingly insubordinate when he deployed forward.
              5. Longstreet suffered 2400 fewer infantry casualties than the defenders and those trying to support them.


              There is no arrogance intended, just an attempt to defend Meade, who was unfairly criticized because of Sickles political skills, and not for any true defense for adopting the defensive position he did. In fact, Meade's one real mistake of the battle was the need he felt to weaken Culp's Hill in order to shore up a shaky situation created by an insubordinate corps commander.

              Originally posted by Martok View Post
              Whatever else may be true, once you really study the history of the man, one can see that Sickles was no idiot. He was emotional, concieted, prone to the occasional misjudgement ala Bill Clinton, rude, and quick to follow his own counsel. But he didn't survive as long as he did by being stupid. By most accounts his men loved him, and unlike some of the survivors of Iverson's Brigade, didn't spend the post war years trying to hunt the guy down and kill him.
              And there would have been many more of his men to love him if he didn't go off half cocked and deploy as he saw fit, as opposed to following orders.

              Originally posted by Martok View Post
              I am actually glad this has come up again, as it will give me a chance to respond to some other points about this part of the battle. But before I see anything thrown up here cited from Gettysburg Magazine, note that in the latest issue, number 37, on page 52, the authors actually list Barlow's, VonSteinwher's, and Schurz Brigades as 12th Corp units. Just because something gets published in Gettysburg Magazine doesn't mean that it is written in stone handed down from the Mountain Top by God.
              And there are articles in Gettysburg that I disagree with, too. Paul Clark Cooksey's anti-Longstreet articles immediately come to mind, that doesn't mean that we should ignore many of the works of that otherwise fine publication. For example, Dave Powell's article in issue number #28 should be considered the last word on Sickles' unwise deployment. You can find mistakes in any magazine and many books, too. I wouldn't doubt that Gettysburg publishes a correction either. Heck, last week, I found a mistake in Rick Atkinson's An Army At Dawn, that doesn't mean that I think any less of the book.
              I come here to discuss a piece of business with you and what are you gonna do? You're gonna tell me fairy tales? James Caan in the movie "Thief" ca 1981

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Cherper View Post
                The truth of the matter is, if he had moved forward and inflicted huge losses on the Confederates and turned the battle rather getting his corps shot up, he would be a hero. He would be the one seen as saving the Federal left, rather than Chamberlain. He is kind of cast as a goat, and that is probably unfair. At best he was too aggressve, at worst he was insubordinate, but with mitigating circumstances.

                Overall he did what he thought best, but in the end it wasn't the best move, but he may well have kept the Confederates from being able to turn the left by his forward thrust.
                For a guy who you think was unfairly cast as a "goat", his political friendships got him a Medal of Honor for his actions on July 2, 1863, while Meade got unfairly attacked as the goat. One of the two least earned medals of honor in American military history: Sickles and Douglas MacArthur. His job was to do the best with the orders given him, not to "wing it" the way he did. In order for his deployment to succeed, it would have, according to Henry Hunt, at least required his AND V Corps troops to deploy forward.
                I come here to discuss a piece of business with you and what are you gonna do? You're gonna tell me fairy tales? James Caan in the movie "Thief" ca 1981

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Habanaman View Post
                  Thank you Tom for your detailed reply.

                  For me the big question that I am hoping to resolve when I visit the battlefield is "what did Sickles see" that would cause him to weaken his line, expose his flanks and reduce his concentration of firepower by taking up the forward ground. Sickles must have believed that the ground he was given put his corps at greater risk than the ground in front of him, so much so that he was willing to ignore orders and place his his corps in a position that would require significant support to hold before the day was out.
                  I believe that there were several factors which made him feel the need to move his corps forward, only one of which had any validity. And that one valid argument had other remedies besides moving his corps forward to disaster. The first, someone else mentioned the events at Chancellorsville and specifically, Hazel Grove. His buddy, Hooker ordered his corps of those heights. It was a mistake and it cost III Corps dearly. After that, he was determined he would not let orders interfere with his own brand of common sense. He mistook Sherfy's Peach Orchard to be exactly the same situation as two months before. Hazel Grove was a good artillery platform that was protected from other parts of the field at Chancellorsville - not so with the Peach Orchard, which was susceptible to receive raking arty fire from either Seminary Ridge or Cemetery Ridge and LRT. It made it the perfect no-man's land. If held at all, it should be by cavalry or skirmishers, who if attacked, could fight a delaying action and leave quickly. That is why Buford is criticized (unfairly, because he left under orders) - he left Sickles' front wide open. Meade always assumed that Pleasonton would replace Buford quickly. He never was replaced and Sickles was justifiably nervous about this - advancing a whole corps forward against orders with open flanks on an elongated front was not the answer. Demanding units to his front was the answer.

                  Originally posted by Habanaman View Post
                  Tom, although you didn't indicate so in your reply, I'm guessing that you have first hand knowledge of the battlefield. Are some of the issues/terrain feature that would support/explain Sickle's decision visually evident when standing on the ridge, or did Sickles just really screw up?

                  Ray
                  Yes, I've been there 3x. The most recent time our CWRT was led by guide, Garry Adelman in 2004. I've found that my thoughts and analyses on the subject were in agreement with Garry's. We also agreed on several other controversial aspects, like Ewell capturing Cemetery Hill on the first evening was a pipe dream, given the circumstances he had before him. Some trees were removed since I'd been there. According to park historian, Scott Hartwig, the removal of these trees show all the more why Sickles' move was foolish.
                  I come here to discuss a piece of business with you and what are you gonna do? You're gonna tell me fairy tales? James Caan in the movie "Thief" ca 1981

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Posted by Tom DeFranco:

                    "Were you aware..."


                    You sound just like Overseer. And you also prove one of my points.

                    My time is currently at a premium, but I will have a detailed response by Thursday.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Martok View Post
                      Posted by Tom DeFranco:

                      "Were you aware..."


                      You sound just like Overseer. And you also prove one of my points.

                      My time is currently at a premium, but I will have a detailed response by Thursday.
                      I'm not Overseer. I fail to see how I proved any point you might have made in defense of Sickles "Advance to Disaster", but I'll be waiting.
                      I come here to discuss a piece of business with you and what are you gonna do? You're gonna tell me fairy tales? James Caan in the movie "Thief" ca 1981

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I think Tom has handled these questions quite well. I agreed with everything and couldn't have answered them any better
                        All war is based on deception. - Sun Tzu

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          In going back and re-reading all of the post on this and the other primary relevant thread (The Mead/Sickles Controversy, started by Hellboy), the pattern I see is the same knee-jerk response I have witnessed practically any time the name Dan Sickles is brought up. For example:

                          Posted by Martok:

                          "Sickles had to have seen this, and I believe that, rather than deciding to be petulant and make Meade mad and disobey orders because he knew Meade didn't like him and Lincoln's wife would back him over Meade or because he was just a frickin' idiot,"


                          Posted by Tom D:

                          "I don't understand what you're trying to say..."


                          These are all comments I have heard spoken by Licensed Battlefield Guides, Historians of the caliber of Tim Smith (since name dropping seems to be the norm here), instructors from the Army Command and Staff College, and just people standing around on LRT having this debate. The predominant comment made is usually a dismissive "Sickles was an idiot" in the same vein as the elitist left dismisses George Bush.

                          But I digress.

                          My primary reason for defending Sickles at all stems from this fact: Dan Sickles was not in command of the Army of the Potomac, George Gordon Meade was in command of the Army of the Potomac. Any debate here?

                          And my position is consistent. As I have posted on other threads, I am of the position that if any blame is to be attached to the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg then placement of that blame rest with the commander of the Confederate Army. Likewise, if any blame is to be attached for Union actions at Gettysburg it rest with the commander of the AOP. This has been true for the history of the US Army, and is hammered into the mush-heads which come out of that place Sickles is derided for not graduating from, West Point. Incidently, it is also hammered into all ROTC graduates as well.

                          It has been established that Meade did not personally attend to the left of his line on July 2nd. Instead, he sent Henry Hunt. According to Harry Pfanz, from his book The 2nd Day, page 96:

                          "General Hunt could see some merit in Sickles's proposed line. He particularly liked the portion of it at the Peach Orchard and along the Emmitsburg Road. This high ground dominates the fields between it and Cemetery Ridge to the east and would be an excellent place for Confederate batteries. Furthermore, because it screened the fields west of it from Federal eyes on Cemetery Ridge, it might prove to be a fine staging area for Confederate troops forming for an assault on the Federal position. Therefore it would be to the enemy's advantage to occupy it, and that in itself would be one reason for the Federals to hold it."

                          This is the area I was referring to when I stated: "it is undeniable that the ground rises in front of you". To this Tom responded:

                          "Were you aware that most of the ground that Sickles was ordered to hold was only some 20 to 30 feet lower than Sherfy's Peach Orchard..."

                          But this was enough. Have you ever hidden an entire M-1 Tank Company behind a 15 to 20 foot sand dune? I have. But if you don't want to take my word for re-read Pfranz above. When you stand along the park road in the area of and North of Sedgwicks monument, the ground rises up, and shields the viewer from seeing what is going on on the other side of the rise. Trust me, in combat, that is important.

                          But then you (rightfully) raise this question: "You seem to be doing what many others have done when defending Sickles - ignoring Little Round Top in the equation."

                          Was Sickles to have put his entire Corp up there? Obviously not, which would have left him (and please note the context from which I make this comment, what was in Sickles mind at the time, not what we can see with hindsight) with his troops still strung along a battle line he, as the commander on the field, did not like and did not want to defend. True, from up there you can see to the Peach Orchard, but West of that area the ground is still masked. But when it comes to LRT, consider this comment from Coddington's book The Gettysburg Campaign, page 349:

                          "There is no reason to suppose that Meade's orders to Sickles for the placing of his troops were any less definite than those he gave Slocum and Hancock. His first instructions to Sickles, instead of vaguely directing him, as Sickles said, to take the position previously held by Geary, on the contrary ordered him specifically to form a line from Hancock's left to Little Round Top. If he had enough men to occupy the hill, he should do so."

                          It the last line I find interesting. Sickles post-war claims, which admittedly contained elements of fact, partial truth, and error, aside for a moment, this order does allow for discretion on the part of the commander who receives it. Meade would later testify in 1864 to giving this order, stating LRT was to be occupied "if possible". If Meade, not Geary, wanted to insure that LRT was defended by troops actually on the hill, then Meade should have insured that this was done. This is the same criticism I have concerning some of Lee's orders, in that they were not specific enough to insure the result the ultimate commander wanted. Consider Meade's own words, spoken in response to Sickles question concerning his authority to place his corps in such a manner as he deemed most suitable.

                          "Certainly, within the limits of the general instructions I have given to you; any ground within those limits you choose to occupy I leave to you."

                          Hunt himself would later tell Meade that the new line Sickles proposed for the Third Corps "taken by itself" was a very good one, but advised Meade to look at it himself. Meade did not. Later, when he saw that Sickles had indeed taken that line, Hunt naturally assumed that Meade had authorized the action. (Coddington, pages 344-345)

                          My point is simply that Meade was not decisive in his dealings with Sickles. Meade was concerned and focused on an attack from his right on July 2nd, Sickles with an attack from the left. Although Sickles would be correct on this question, I do and always have agreed that this decision was not Sickles to make, he simply made it. Because in his mind, Meade would not.

                          Sickles would later say himself: "It was not through any misinterpretation of orders. It was either a good line or a bad one, and, whichever it was, I took it on my own responsibility....I took up that line because it enabled me to hold commanding ground, which, if the enemy had been allowed to take - as they would have taken it if I had not occupied it in force - would have rendered our position on the left untenable; and in my judgement, would have turned the fortunes of the day hopelessly against us."

                          There it is. In the words of Pfranz, page 103: "Sickles had made a forthright decision, nothing less, and acted on it. There had seemed to be too little concern at the army's headquarters that morning for the situation on his front, and so Sickles had taken the bit in his teeth and abandoned the position ordered by Meade for one that he believed to be better."

                          This is the essence of the first part of the equation. The result of his move forward is a different question, and can be discussed, but what I have been addressing is why he choose to make that move forward. In my opinion, as I have stated before and contrary to those statements I have detailed above heard on the battlefield during some of my more than 300x visits, Sickles moved forward because he thought it better ground to fight from.

                          As the commander on the field on July 2nd, 1863, given orders allowing him discretion as to his deployment, in the absence of an actual visit of that part of the battle line by the Commander of the Army, I am simply saying I can understand why he would make this decision.

                          As to the Chancellorsville argument: "Hazel Grove was a good artillery platform that was protected from other parts of the field at Chancellorsville - not so with the Peach Orchard..." This I see as a hindsight argument. Sickles, not being able to ride the ground on the far side of the Emmitsburg Road himself for obvious reasons, could not have seen this. He did the next best thing, dispatching units out to his left front, the results of this furthering his conviction that an attack from that quarter was imminent. According again to Coddington, page 346:

                          "To add to his woes, enemy demonstrations became more vigorouos, and Buford's cavalry, which had been covering his left, withdrew from the area. He complained to headquarters about this move and received word that a portion of Buford's troopers would return. They never did."

                          I realize that Tom D has addressed this point, but I also thought it relevant here, albeit for another reason. Not having any friendly troops out on his front would have only served to increase Sickles frustration with his position.

                          One more point I disagree with the spirit of: "that same tree line that you mention would have also (and did) shielded his troops from the view of any attacking Rebels." The attacking Rebels weren't stupid. They understood the nature of a Civil War battle line, and even if Sickles had been exactly where Meade wanted him, they would have recognized his position. Additionally, it would be hard for the Third Corps to: "deny the enemy that "superior ground" might to be able to fire on in it from where he was ordered to be", as you state, and hide from enemy view at the same time.

                          As to the position of the Peach Orchard itself, consider this from the Official Records, Series I, Volume 27, page 543, the report of Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Carr, Commanding the First Brigade, Second Division, Third Corps:

                          "Notwithstanding my apparent critical position, I could and would have maintained my position but for an order received direct from Major-General Birney, commanding the corps, to fall back to the crest of the hill in my rear. At that time I have no doubt that I could have charged on the rebels and driven them in confusion, for my line was still perfect and unbroken, and my troops in the proper spirit for the performance of such a task. In retiring, I suffered a severe loss in killed and wounded."

                          Carr thought he could hold the position if not attack from it, but he continues:

                          "After I had reached the position designated by General Birney, the brigade was rallied by my assistant adjutant-general and aides, and moved forward, driving the enemy and capturing many prisioners. I continued to advance until I again occupied the field I had but a few moments previous vacated."

                          I concede that Carr's actions and losses would not have been necessary at the Peach Orchard had Sickles not made his decision, but they would have been necessary somewhere. Longstreet did attack, did he not? I also seriously doubt that the Confederates would have simply marched along the Emmitsburg road showing their flank to the Third Corps deployed down in the original position designated without responding. And who can say what would have happened if Law's, Bennings and Robertson's Brigades had marched straight toward LRT to encounter Ward's Bridage up there as envisioned in the grand design? It is speculation, except to say that Sickles Corps would have been engaged in combat on that day somewhere.

                          As stated when I posted the De Peyster speech (which I posted as a matter of interest, not as proof that Sickles was correct), there is simply another side to the debate. But the debate is rightly broken down into seperate parts.

                          1. Why did Sickles move? (the original thrust of this thread)
                          2. What consequences did it have?

                          In this post, I have addressed question one. When I get a chance, I will address question two.
                          Last edited by Martok; 13 Sep 07, 13:03.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Wow! Thank you guys for your learned and incredibly detailed responses. I am truly impressed by the quality of the discussion and wish that we could be having it over fine scotch and cigars, rather than the antiseptic world of the Internet. BTW It is exactly this type of discussion that I enjoy most in military history, as it approaches history from the "you are there" point of reference and tries understand decisions in their true historical context, and not after the fact hindsight (which is a reason that I subscribe to Armchair General).


                            Martok: Ground aside, what is your personal opinion of Sickles decision to deploy to a position that thinned his line and left him with little to no tactical reserve? Was it right for him to commit the III Corps in such a way that it also committed a significant portion of Meade's reserves should he come under attack?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I don't think it was 'right' for Sickles to diliberately violate orders, but the result of his decision still invites question. As stated once before, even Grant said "Sickles was right".

                              But Sickles wasn't the only one to violate orders that day. So did Vincent. The difference is that Vincents desicion to violate orders is viewed through the resulting positive effect, and that he was killed fighting on LRT. But he still violated orders.

                              One thing to add to the above post. I know that Meade sent Warren to LRT with orders to "see what is about and attend to it", but only after Sickles made his move, not before. In my opinion, Meade should have ridden the line himself, and not leave it to Hunt, his son, and Sickles, who wanted to move forward and found a way to make it happen, to figure out.

                              More later.

                              Comment

                              Latest Topics

                              Collapse

                              Working...
                              X