From: Stratford, Connecticut
ORIGINAL: Joe D.
Maybe it was how Lee worded his orders, but at times they seemed to be more suggestions than commands.
I take it this is in reference to his often criticized use of the words "if practicable" to Ewell?
If so, the onus here is probably on Ewell, not Lee, as many authorities believe it was practicable, Ewell just failed to execute. "If practicable" in this context means without taking excessive casualties. He didn't want Ewell to get all "Marshall Ney" about it, just take the place if he can do so without breaking his command ...
Ewell wasn't Ney, and he certainly wasn't Jackson.
"... before the Union had fortified its positions, Lee ordered Gen. Richard Ewell, now commander of the late Stonewall Jackson's old units, to capture a key piece of high ground 'if practical.' To Jackson, that would have meant 'take the hill.' To the cautious Ewell, it didn't. The lesson: Do you recognize the characteristics of individual followers and adjust your leadership style accordingly?"
It's already been suggested on this thread that somehow Lee thought he was still working w/(the late) Jackson; various reasons were given for this inexplicable behavior, such as poor health, desperation, etc.
Otherwise, "if practical" can mean almost anything, i.e., not if your troops are too tired, not if you don't think there's enough daylight for a prolonged struggle, etc.
Perhaps Ewell simply re-interpreted Lee's instructions as, "if impractical, dont take that hill"?
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