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Gettysberg - 5/29/2010 9:19:07 PM   
ezz

 

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While we wait.

Reading Sears' book it seems that contrary to what I previously thought,Gettysberg never really hung in the balance. Lee had about as a bad a battle as he possibly could.
This was no Waterloo. Meade kept his nerve and his command. Lee didn't even try to get his lieutenants together. Sections of the army never fought at all, whilst badly mauled regiments were repeatedly committed.
Massing the confederate guns for the last day. I didn't realise that this had never been tried before. Never even contemplated. Not trained or prepared for until the night before.
Lee seems not to have inspected his troops or his front. What was the great man thinking?

Anyway- assuming that the battle was fought without some grand turning strategy, without additional troops for either side etc...Is there any way for the confederates to win the battle?
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RE: Gettysberg - 6/5/2010 1:12:06 AM   
Gil R.


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So everyone has an opinion about widescreen resolution, but no one has any opinions about this? Okay, I'll wade into the debate...

Is your final sentence specific to Day 3, or does it apply to the whole battle? If the Confederates had taken (and held) Little Round Top that certainly would have changed things.

I know that you've ruled out "some grand turning strategy," but there's good reason to think that such an approach might have had an effect. (This is argued pretty well in this book: http://www.amazon.com/How-South-Could-Have-Civil/dp/0307345998)

I think the problem was the distance and terrain: from end to end, Lee's line was enormous, and there was no one place for a commander to stand and see what was going on, since the landscape is so often interrupted by heights, trees, buildings, etc. So I'm not sure that Grant or anyone else would have done a much better job in terms of getting the right units into the right places and then having them attack when they should have. It was just a very difficult place to be an effective commander, especially one taking the offensive.

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RE: Gettysberg - 6/5/2010 4:46:31 PM   
Rebel Yell


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I'm also surprised that this didn't start a ****storm.

Not going to get dragged into a debate, but, Sears has some interesting conclusions. However, I disagree with a lot of his assertions. IMHO, any of a myriad of things going differently could have lead to a whole 'nother result.

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RE: Gettysberg - 6/8/2010 7:59:40 PM   
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It is risky to base your conclusion on the work & opinion of one author alone. Such questions are soft matter. Hard arguments and facts are difficult to come by, and a good many battles in the 18-19th century ended with a surprise due to uncalculated "human factors". However, for Lee's standards comparing his other campaigns, he did pretty badly and violated even his own principles. His two new corps commanders and series of new div and BG officers without necessary experience at their new leadership level did their best to aid this.

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RE: Gettysberg - 6/8/2010 10:20:17 PM   
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Its not the only work I have read on the subject, but it is probably the only one that doesn't really think the battle was ever close.
The terrain was too strong, the armies too close in numbers and the rebels too ill informed about the union forces to have much of a chance of success. The union made its mistakes, like Sickles movement at exactly the wrong time, but even then that wasn't enough.

In a computer game about battles, given the actual dispositions would a player, even with hindsight, be able to make much better headway?

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RE: Gettysberg - 6/10/2010 8:05:44 AM   
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The only real chance the Confederates had to win Gettysburg came on the first day when the fighting generally favored them. Ewell's failure to respond effectively to Lee's suggestion/order that he take Culps Hill on the Union army's right flank permitted northern commanders to anchor their line on that geographic feature and allowed the balance of the Army of the Potomac to come up. By the second day Union forces occupied a line running from Culps Hill along Cemetery Hill and Cemetery Ridge to Little Round Top. After that -- barring some sort of strategic turning movement -- the Confederates' only real hope for a victory rested on the possibility that Meade or a subordinate would make a fatal mistake that the southern forces might exploit. While General Daniel Sickles attempted to make such a mistake by advancing his corps to the Peach Orchard on the second day, Meade wisely clung to the high ground and allowed the Confederates to replicate the mistakes the Army of the Potomac had made at Fredericksburg. Had Ewell taken Culps Hill, the Culps Hill-Little Round Top line along which the actual battle was fought would have been untenable. Meade probably would have pulled back looking for good ground upon which to fight. Gettysburg then would be remembered as a single-day battle and another in the series of victories won by Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Lee's failure to supervise his subordinates more directly -- particularly his new corps commanders -- certainly contributed much to his army's defeat.

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RE: Gettysberg - 6/12/2010 2:35:42 PM   
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I am waiting for a long download & stumbled into this thread so, here goes.

Lee had no chance to decisively defeat the Union AotP unless sheer luck or sheer Union incompetence of generalship allowed him to completely rout the AotP. The AotP was too big. For example, he could have turned the AotP by a large scale move against its left flank as Longstreet suggested on the second day. He then could have chased it back towards Washington DC. In a strategic sense he did win though because he was allowed to withdraw unmolested back across the namesake river of his foe unmolested after a successful invasion & plundering of Pennsylvania much to Lincoln's chagrin.

No battle in the ACW was decisive (except seiges, eg. Vicksburg) if you do not consider withdrawing from the field a defeat. Also if you consider failure to press advantage by maneuver after a victory a definition of losing in battle then the exhausted victors of Gettysburg (the Union), Second Manassas (the Rebs), Antietam/ Sharpsburg (the Union) & Fredericksburg (the Rebs)were losers. (My goodness, there were a lot of ...burgs involved in the ACW but I digress...)

Decisive victory in the ACW, as defined by destroying the foe in a single engagement, was as chimerical as a screenshot of this game. Victory was more strategic than operational until Grant's overland campaign but even then victory came by exhaustion after a series of battles. This indecisiveness is what makes the ACW so endlessly interesting & fascinating.

Have at me.

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RE: Gettysberg - 6/13/2010 6:08:20 AM   
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I really do not disagree with any of your points (sorry -- I would have enjoyed a good debate). The inability of either side to achieve a decisive battlefield victory in the eastern theatre of the war ultimately forced Grant to adopt a policy of attrition. In the western theatre geography and superior numbers enabled Sherman to adopt a strategy of turning movements (with the exception of Kennesaw Mountain). I never intended to imply that Lee could have achieved a decisive victory -- even on the battle's first day. At best, he might have mauled a couple of Union Corps. Had he launched a strategic turning movement such as that favored by Longstreet it is hard to imagine that he would have achieved significantly more in a subsequent defensive battle. In truth, I suspect that the key to the Union's ultimate victory derived from Lincoln's determination to preserve the Union and his ability to keep northerners in the war until victory had been achieved.

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RE: Gettysberg - 7/16/2010 10:22:15 PM   
sulla05

 

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The newest book that I have read is used at West Point now. I have it packed up so excuse me for not mentioning the name.

Anyway the gist of it ( from numerous dispatches, personal remebrances ) is that Lee wanted to attack on both the 2nd and 3rd in Echelon.

So that taking the 2nd. Longstreet attacks from his right to his left and them Hill and then Ewell.

Actually some of Hills brigades actually made it to cemetary ridge on the 2nd but were unsupported and had to fall back.

The book gives a good argument that had that happened on the 2nd it might well have been a Lee victory.

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/2/2010 6:27:39 AM   
geozero


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Can somebody PLEASE spell the name of Gettysburg right on this thread. Geesh

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/2/2010 4:30:48 PM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: ezz

While we wait.

Reading Sears' book it seems that contrary to what I previously thought,Gettysberg never really hung in the balance. Lee had about as a bad a battle as he possibly could.
This was no Waterloo. Meade kept his nerve and his command. Lee didn't even try to get his lieutenants together ...


I can't believe that Lee never held an officer's call, but his subordinants -- notably Longstreet -- were either adamantly opposed to his plans, disobedient to their commander's intent, or even AWOL (JEB Stuart).

Perhaps Lee was just too eager to end the entire war in one fell swoop? Or did he actually have a severe case of dysentery, as claimed by some Southerners?

Considering all of the above, I'm surprised Lee lasted the three days.

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/4/2010 6:31:21 AM   
Sumter

 

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Lee did not have a good three days at Gettysburg. I don't know the extent of his illness there, but he did suffer some severe illnesses during the war and -- as Gordon Rhea notes in his multi-volume study of the Overland Campaign -- when Lee fell ill his natural aggressiveness became far more pronounced. While Lee's health may have been a factor, I suspect that he also suffered severely from the new command arrangements necessitated by the death of Stonewall Jackson. Ewell and Hill, while capable, were not in Jackson's league. Lee did not seem fully to appreciate the practical implications of these leadership changes and failed to exercise the stronger control needed to make the command structure work.

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/4/2010 12:55:51 PM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Sumter

Lee did not have a good three days at Gettysburg. I don't know the extent of his illness there, but he did suffer some severe illnesses during the war and -- as Gordon Rhea notes in his multi-volume study of the Overland Campaign -- when Lee fell ill his natural aggressiveness became far more pronounced ...


Lee's "natural aggressiveness" wasn't a handicap at Chancellorsville where his situation was even more precarious.

quote:

ORIGINAL: Sumter
... Lee did not seem fully to appreciate the practical implications of these leadership changes and failed to exercise the stronger control needed to make the command structure work.


Maybe it was how Lee worded his orders, but at times they seemed to be more suggestions than commands.

Trying to come to terms w/Lee's actions at Gettysburg is like trying to understand what was going on inside Custer's head at Little Big Horn: what were these general's thinking?

The late Shelby Foote may have hit the nail on the head when he said Gettysburg/Pickett's Charge was the price the South paid for having a Robert E Lee?

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/4/2010 9:34:20 PM   
ezz

 

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It really is hard to decipher Lee. He had done a lot better with a lot less before. It does appear that the battlefield was too big, and the commanders too new. The experienced Longstreet was having a hissy but he still performed better than most.

There was that book, forget the title, that suggested that a big cavalry attack on the Federal rear was the aim of Pickett's charge all along. It made sense of the day three plan, but the evidence was pretty thin.

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/5/2010 12:09:37 AM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: ezz

... There was that book, forget the title, that suggested that a big cavalry attack on the Federal rear was the aim of Pickett's charge all along. It made sense of the day three plan, but the evidence was pretty thin.


So Pickett's charge was only a diversion for Stuart's attempt into the Federal rear?

Even if the Custers didn't repeatedly stalemate Stuart, it would have
still been hard to justify the losses of Pickett division as a diversion for a cavalry charge.

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/8/2010 5:34:04 AM   
Sumter

 

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I think that Chancellorsville rather proves the point about the Confederate failure of command at Gettysburg. Lee and Jackson had developed a method of communication which worked to very good effect. Lee issued orders worded as suggestions and Jackson possessed the aggressiveness, tenacity, and independence to carry them out. Longstreet too, generally operated effectively within this system. In fairness to Ewell and Hill -- Jackson's successors as corps commanders in the Army of Northern Virginia -- the relationship between Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet had only evolved over time and had not been apparent during the battles of the Seven Days. Nonetheless, it was Lee's responsibility to recognize that his new subordinates did not possess the same qualities as Jackson and accordingly to issue more clearly defined orders. This was especially true on the first day when he failed to give Ewell explicit orders to take Culp's Hill. As I noted previously, taking Culp's Hill almost certainly would have ended the battle at the end of day one. Meade would have sought a different position from which to cover Washington and the campaign would have been resolved on some other battlefield. This is not to say that taking Culp's Hill would have resulted in a decisive Confederate victory. I am not sure such a thing was possible by 1863.

I do object to suggesting that Longstreet was having a hissy fit. He believed that Lee had agreed in principle to wage a strategic offensive, but to rely upon defensive tactics. In short, to take a strong defensive position and force the Federals to come to them -- much as had occurred at Fredericksburg. He felt that the battle Lee chose to fight was for ground of no value and one in which the Confederates possessed few advantages. He was correct.

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/9/2010 9:32:31 PM   
ezz

 

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By Hissy fit, well that's what I meant. Longstreet didn't want to fight on that battlefield and tried his hardest to talk Lee out of it. Didn't prevent him trying his best during the battle..
Why was Lee so adamant about fighting there. Usually such a good judge of ground he must have seen the it was going to be very hard to prize the federals off of it.
Was it just the relative success of day 1 that made him think the Union would crack again?

That book about Stuart's charge was Lost triumph.
The Amazon reviews pretty much agree. It was part of the plan not THE plan.
http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Triumph-Lees-Gettysburg-Failed/dp/0399152490

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/10/2010 5:13:40 AM   
Sumter

 

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I don't know what Lee was thinking. It is possible that he hoped to keep up the momentum established by the Confederates at Chancellorsville. He certainly hoped that another such victory -- won on Northern soil -- might yet result in official recognition of the Confederacy by Britain and/or France. The chance of such recognition in July, 1863 was nonexistent because of Lincoln's decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Lee also hoped that a significant victory would force the Union to transfer troops from Grant's western armies to the east and thus relieve pressure on Vicksburg. (He had already rejected suggestions from Jefferson Davis that he should detach elements from his army to go west and attempt to lift the siege. Perhaps the desire to prove his decision correct contributed to his determination to fight at Gettysburg.) Lee's health was not good at Gettysburg, but the question is was it sufficiently bad to impair his judgment? A quick search turned up assessments ranging from serious heart issues to gastro-intestinal distress caused by over indulgence in fresh cherries. This shifts me back to Gordon Rhea's argument that Lee became more aggressive when ill. I suspect that an ailing Lee -- worried that his refusal to detach troops to the west might have doomed Vicksburg and desperately hoping that a sweeping victory on Northern soil might still revive dreams of a European alliance -- drew unrealistic hope from Confederate success on the first day and committed to continuing the fight on day 2. Lee believed the Confederates had come closer to victory on the second day than they really had. That misconception led to the disaster of the third day. But then, I could be completely wrong...

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/10/2010 12:50:28 PM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Sumter

I don't know what Lee was thinking ... I suspect that an ailing Lee -- worried that his refusal to detach troops to the west might have doomed Vicksburg and desperately hoping that a sweeping victory on Northern soil might still revive dreams of a European alliance -- drew unrealistic hope from Confederate success on the first day and committed to continuing the fight on day 2. Lee believed the Confederates had come closer to victory on the second day than they really had. That misconception led to the disaster of the third day. But then, I could be completely wrong...


Was Custer so obsessed w/getting back his brevet rank that he foolishly decided to attack a superior force rather than come to Reno's aid, thereby preserving both commands until Benteen finally arrived?

Perhaps Lee's concerns for his own southern honor and military rep were his undoing at Gettysburg? Maybe that was the price the South paid for having him that Foote alluded to?

"gods" and generals both have clay feet.


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RE: Gettysberg - 8/12/2010 3:40:17 AM   
Sumter

 

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Custer's motives while complex, were relatively clear for the most part. He recently had fallen into disfavor with the Grant administration because of testimony he gave to a congressional committee investigating fraud within the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Custer had little concrete information to offer, but indicated a belief that the corruption reached into Grant's cabinet and family. Grant was so angered by Custer's testimony that he stripped him of overall command of the Bighorn expedition and initially refused even to allow Custer to command the 7th Cavalry as part of the operation -- now to be commanded by Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry. Under pressure from Generals Terry, Sherman, and Sheridan, Grant relented and allowed Custer to lead his regiment. Custer certainly hoped that a dramatic victory could get him out from under the shadow of Grant's ire. (I don't think too much should be made of this, but Custer also understood that 1876 was a presidential election year.) Another -- equally important consideration -- involved the underlying theory that drove the army's strategy and tactics during the campaign. Simply put, everyone assumed that when attacked the Indians would flee. Hence the overall three-pronged approach to the campaign with columns under Gibbon, Crook, and Custer. Terry's orders to Custer established a schedule to coordinate the arrival of the columns, but also left him discretion to exploit the situation as he found it. Custer arrived in the Little Bighorn valley a day early and realizing the proximity of the Indian village apparently planned to hide out and rest until the next day. Upon receiving information that troopers searching for a lost box of hardtack had found both the missing box and a small band of Indians investigating it, Custer concluded that his command had been discovered and initiated the events that culminated in his defeat. (He had not been discovered, however, as the Indians in question were going away from the village and continued to do so.) Custer's own deployment mirrored the three column approach of the larger expedition. He first detached Benteen to scout to his left and insure that the Indians did not escape in that direction. Sometime thereafter he detached Reno to the right and ordered him to charge the village. Custer pledged to support Reno with the balance of the command. What Reno thought this pledge meant and what Custer actually intended did not match. Custer did not intend to follow Reno's command, but rather to support him by attacking from a different direction. Finally, Custer suffered from bad intelligence. He did not know that the Indians already had defeated Crook's column -- largely because Crook had made no effort to communicate this critical information. Custer also failed to appreciate the size of the village he was attacking -- although his Indian scouts had tried to warn him. Moreover, the determination of the Indians to fight rather than run -- combined with Reno's pathetic performance -- left Custer isolated and vulnerable. Sorry for being so long-winded.

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/12/2010 1:02:27 PM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Sumter

Custer's motives while complex, were relatively clear for the most part ...


So both he and Lee allowed their own personal concerns for their respective reputations to interefere w/their tactical judgements, resulting in fatality: the death of the very command Custer so coveted, and the "high water mark of the South" epitath for Picket's Charge.

Lee: General, you must see to your division.
Pickett: Sir, I have no division.

PS: Don't worry abt the length of your replies; I just tend to be terse.

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/12/2010 2:22:57 PM   
ezz

 

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Sumter. That three pronged column assault against the natives was tried again a few years later. At Isandlwana.

Results much the same.
 

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/12/2010 3:10:58 PM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: ezz

Sumter. That three pronged column assault against the natives was tried again a few years later. At Isandlwana.

Results much the same.
 


Did the Brit columns lose sight of each other?
Custer's column clearly saw that Reno needed help, but he went off on the offensive elsewhere.

IMO, Custer was a "one-trick pony": the only command he knew was CHARGE!!!

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/12/2010 3:21:14 PM   
Gil R.


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Our lead developer/programmer EricBabe is a distant relative of Reno.


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RE: Gettysberg - 8/12/2010 7:38:51 PM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Gil R.

Our lead developer/programmer EricBabe is a distant relative of Reno.


Then he surely must have something to add to this thread.

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/15/2010 2:28:49 PM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Joe D.

quote:

ORIGINAL: Gil R.

Our lead developer/programmer EricBabe is a distant relative of Reno.


Then he surely must have something to add to this thread.


Apparently not.

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/16/2010 2:28:19 PM   
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"Did the Brit columns lose sight of each other?
Custer's column clearly saw that Reno needed help, but he went off on the offensive elsewhere.

IMO, Custer was a "one-trick pony": the only command he knew was CHARGE!!! "

Joe D - the Brit coloums were so disjointed that when Lord Chelmsford first received reports of the Zulu impis attacking the camp at Isandlwana he thought it was a false report. He'd taken his cavalry forward scouting and was separated far worse than Custer ever was at Little Big Horn.

Mind you I recently saw a TV programme where a historian put forward the view that Custer was attempting to repeat a tactic he had successfully tried some years earlier at the Washita (I think) where in order to force the Indians to submit he'd basically gone for the women and children - not pleasant - but it had worked. So maybe he had a second trick as well ?

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/16/2010 2:46:49 PM   
Joe D.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: nicwb

... Mind you I recently saw a TV programme where a historian put forward the view that Custer was attempting to repeat a tactic he had successfully tried some years earlier at the Washita (I think) where in order to force the Indians to submit he'd basically gone for the women and children - not pleasant - but it had worked. So maybe he had a second trick as well ?


Charge the women and children?
During the Civil War, Custer's creed was supposedly "charge to the sound of the guns,"
at least according to Errol Flynn.

The Indians nick-named Custer the "son of the morning star" because he always attacked them at dawn.

It seems every Custer "trick" involved the command "CHARGE"!

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/17/2010 3:19:31 PM   
Grey Hunter

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Joe D.

Did the Brit columns lose sight of each other?
Custer's column clearly saw that Reno needed help, but he went off on the offensive elsewhere.



Yes, Lord Chelmsford split his forces, and went so far that they would have no chance of reinforcing each other in time.

The main cause of the defeat was really down to the guy left in charge, Pulleine - who failed to reorganise his defences to account for the missing troops. this caused a massive holes in his line.


Although calling the battle a Massacre is a bit much I've always thought, more Zulu's died than British troops. it goes to show the victors write the history.

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RE: Gettysberg - 8/17/2010 5:22:45 PM   
ezz

 

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Chelmsford had to split his forces. He needed to advance on the Zulus while protecting Natal. The usual problems armies faced, too many troops for two few roads. Unnavigable country.Advancing during the rainy season for political reasons. Long supply trains of slow wagons, meant he pretty much had to split his forces or have the tail in the depot while the tip was at the enemies capital.

Most reports comment on the main column not following Chelmsford's own standing orders about Laagering the wagons, but he had covered on 16km in 10 days. If all the wagons were unhitched , then re hitched each morning, he would probably only have managed a third of that rather unimpressive mileage.
"It would take a week to make." Chelmsford said.

The main defence was to be the massed firepower of regular troops and artillery. The poor positions of the troops, the uncertainty about what was occurring plus the usual unclear orders all contributed to the disaster.

And it was a massacre. If one side had only 5% of their force left alive, then its a massacre.

(in reply to Grey Hunter)
Post #: 30
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