Howard's conservative tactics at Gettysburg necessarily beg comparison with those of the lamented Reynolds on 7/1. Unluckily, criticism of Reynolds' tactics was mostly unheard of until rather recently.
I think it's a little unfair to compare Howard with Reynolds. Howard arrived after Reynolds was already engaged. Howard also covered, as noted, basically a geographically indefensible position. And Reynolds had terrain that was very defensible — Herbst Woods, Willoughby Run, McPherson and Seminary ridges.
it is a bit unfair, but the gist of the original question was 'negative feelings' about Howard's preformance at Gettysburg. In turn I ask another question: what was Reynolds defending? The town itself had no overly redeeming qualities. It was well outside of the zone of operations for the the AotP which was spread all over northern Maryland...
The question in my mind is: why, especially with the Pipe Creek circular clearly detailing Meade's wishes, did Buford and Reynolds choose to defend positions on McPherson and Seminary ridges? Merely because a position is a good one, does not require it be fought for.
The Pipe Creek circular was supposed to be ready for delivery to Meade's generals on June 30, but Butterfield was slow in processing the paperwork and it was not ready before July 1. Stephen Sears writes: "...Meade 'roundly damned' his chief of staff (Butterfield) 'for his slowness in getting out orders.' Meade said he 'had arranged for a plan of battle, and it had taken so long to get the orders out that now it was useless.'
Sears also writes: "From...Reynold's stated determination to fight street by street through the town, Meade concluded that Reynolds had not received the Pipe Creek circular, nor even the explanatory dispatch asking him simply to evaluate the scene when he reached Gettysburg... Everything lay in the hands of his chief lieutenant on the spot — the right man for the right job, certainly, but as it happened, acting without the latest guidance from the general commanding."
Anyway, if Meade has the AofP withdraw into Maryland and Pipe Creek, doesn't that give Lee free rein in Pennsylvania? What guarantee is there that Lee turns south and attacks Pipe Creek when he's on the verge of capturing Harrisburg? It was Lee's plan to battle the AofP on ground of his own choosing, and I doubt Pipe Creek was it.
Muddling matters is that Gettysburg is a meeting engagement which didn't allow either side to make preparations in advance. The battle happened in Gettysburg because that's basically where two armies in motion happened to collide.
Meade's pipe creek circular was days in writing with input from, among others, Reynolds, who had an inkling of Meade's strategy, but decided on his own to commit his wing (2 corps) to fight at Gettysburg.
Won oneders if Reynolds, acting as a wing commander, wished to prove himself at grand strategy by 'improving' upon Meade's directives.
I don't know that much about Reynolds except that he was highly respected within the AofP. And didn't he turn down command of the AofP when it was offered to him? So why would he wish to prove himself at grand strategy?
Anyway, it's hard to be too critical of Reynolds, et al, when in fact they won the battle.
True, but my favorite basketball team won their last game and committed 12 fouls, had 12 turnovers and missed 43 shots. Many people learn from failure; very few learn from success. Did the Union army win at Gettysburg, because of Reynolds or in
spite of him?