View single post by PvtClewell
 Posted: Wed Feb 20th, 2008 03:04 pm
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Joined: Wed Jun 13th, 2007
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 420

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If the question is 'was Sickles right' to move the Third Corps without authorization, the answer is clearly no.

Did his experience on being ordered to leave the high ground at Hazel Grove at Chancellorsville two months earlier influence his decision to reposition his corps at Gettysburg, I'd have to say yes.

I'm not a fan of Sickles, but there are one or two things to keep in mind here: At mid-morning, Sickles, a political general, took artillery chief Henry Hunt, a military man, with him to survey the Emmitsburg road position. Hunt agreed the position was on higher ground than the original one on the Cemetery Hill line, but he would not authorize the move — that was ultimately up to Meade. But I think all this, along with the Hazel Grove experience, reinforced Sickles' notion of holding the high ground. At 2 p.m., the Third Corps moved out — unauthorized — to Sherfy's Peach orchard. His line is overextended — it almost reaches the Codori House — and it forms a militarily unfeasible salient.

By 4 p.m., Longstreet attacks.

Sickles' move ultimately ruins his Third Corps. The question is what does it do to the Confederates? Sickles being where he was threw Lee's whole en echelon attack out of whack, and at what cost? Hood is severely wounded; Barksdale is killed, and the attack, started late in the day, peters out because of impending darkness. It sets up a problematic July 3.

Up until this moment, the ANV had never lost to the AoP. Why should it be any different here? The initiative is still Lee's.

We can only speculate what might have happened if Sickles had stayed in place on the left of Hancock and the Second Corps. I think the en echelon assault was perhaps the best possible plan to attack the Federal line, and Sickles still would have been the first one struck by the assault, since he represented the Union left. Arguably, Lee might have had a better opportunity to roll up the Union line if Sickles stays where he is on Cemetery Ridge. We'll never know.

But we do know what happened when Sickles moved to his forward position, and it was not a Confederate victory.

Last edited on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 04:51 pm by PvtClewell

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