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 Posted: Thu Nov 20th, 2008 11:25 pm
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pamc153PA
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I thought the article about geology and the war in Today's Civil War News was interesting, even though I'm no geologist. If you haven't read it, check it out. It mentions the concept of wanting to secure the high ground, which we all know about, but some of the other info made connections I hadn't thought of. Of course, the flat fields like those at Gettysburg's Pickett's Charge and Antietam's Cornfield were deadly places for both Union and Confederates alike, but to add in that the fields were flat because they had underlying beds of limestone adds an interesting twist. It made me start rethinking other battles and their geology affecting the outcomes of battles.

Pam



 Posted: Fri Nov 21st, 2008 12:01 am
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CleburneFan
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Some of the more interesting battles took place in mountain passes or in tight little valleys between mountains...perfect spots for ambushes. 

Other geology of interest include the rule of not being caught with one's army's back to a big river. Also  trials and tribulations were created by fording large or flooded rivers such as Lee's army crossing the Potomac during the retreat from Gettysburg. 

Geology and weather can combine to present a hellish scenario such as when Sherman's Army in Eastern Georgia had to wade through the saw grass swamps or when they were deep in sticky clay mud during heavy rains. :X



 Posted: Fri Nov 21st, 2008 08:06 pm
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TimK
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Maybe I'm getting geology and geography mixed up, but I can't really think of a battle that a rock outcropping, ridge, hill, mountain, creek, river, swamp, field, etc. didn't play a significant role. Am I misunderstanding this article?



 Posted: Fri Nov 21st, 2008 09:54 pm
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ole
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We're perhaps a bit deeper into topography than geology. I can't think of a battle wherein the topography didn't play a part: swamps, rivers, hills, dales, swales and gulches all figured into every battle.

A peculiar example is Perryville. The northern front was fairly typical; but the southern front was confusing. Climb the hill, look over there and you can see markers for something or another. Walk down and those markers should be at the top of this next hill. Nope. Two more ups and downs to get there.

You can't walk the ground where Cleburne went after Sherman at Shiloh. (Well, you can, but you'd have to be a bit addled to try it.) Walk to the bottom of Dill Branch (on the road) and picture yourself trying to struggle through the underbrush and the branch.

There is good reason that a body of troops sought to anchor each flank on a topographical feature that was very difficult to cross. Be it a swamp or a river or a mountain or a nasty ravine, your flanks were more or less protected if it took all day to get to you.

Stand in Bloody Lane at Antietam looking north. You have a rise in front of you. Over that rise came the Yanks. Turkey shoot. Then the Yanks work their way around to your right. Now you're the turkey.

It's all in the topography -- one of the reasons that there is nothing quite like standing on that ground. Failing that, a good map with topographical elevations will have to do, but always consider the topography.



 Posted: Fri Nov 21st, 2008 11:37 pm
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The Iron Duke
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Another fine example is Charles Harker's men using the reverse slope tactic at Snodgrass Hill. Once you see the ground it all starts to make sense.

Last edited on Fri Nov 21st, 2008 11:37 pm by The Iron Duke



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 Posted: Fri Nov 21st, 2008 11:51 pm
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pamc153PA
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Tim, I think maybe the article was talking about the "under the topography" stuff, which is also what makes the topography what it is, of course. So I don't think you're misunderstanding a thing.

I have to agree with Ole (or ole, depending if he's capitalized at the moment or not) that there's nothing that takes the place of walking the ground to really understand the significance of the topography. You can talk all you want about the importance of the swale in front of Emmitsburg Pike for the Confederates during Pickett's Charge, but until you're standing in that swale and see that the Copse of Trees was really the only guiding landmark you could see from down in the relative shelter of it, it doesn't really make an impact.

Pam

 



 Posted: Sat Nov 22nd, 2008 12:28 am
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ole
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Another fine example is Charles Harker's men using the reverse slope tactic at Snodgrass Hill. Once you see the ground it all starts to make sense.
Duke: For those who don't know what the reverse slope tactic is (including me), it would be appreciated if you would explain it.

Ole



 Posted: Sun Nov 23rd, 2008 01:39 am
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The Iron Duke
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Harker kept his men concealed on the reverse slope, the side the Confederates couldn't see, until the enemy got close and then sent up one line to the crest of the hill. While that line was firing the second line was loading. Then the two would switch places and so on. Basically, Harker was able to sustain volley firing while using the terrain to protect his men who weren't shooting. It's similar to what Wellington did at Waterloo but there was no bayonet charge.



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 Posted: Sun Nov 23rd, 2008 02:07 am
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ole
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Thanks. I think I know what you mean. Might take me a day or two to absorb it, but I think I know what you mean.

Ole



 Posted: Mon Nov 24th, 2008 01:19 pm
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j harold 587
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I beleive the fact that Harker's troops had Colt revolving rifles allowing for vastly superior fire power also was a major factor in his ability to hold Snodgrass Hill. His reverse slope tactic could have been effective with single shot muzzle loaders, but was amplified due to the Colts.  

Topography rules the field.



 Posted: Mon Nov 24th, 2008 05:34 pm
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The Iron Duke
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I'm not aware of Harker's men having revolving rifles. The 21st Ohio did on Horseshoe Ridge.



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 Posted: Mon Nov 24th, 2008 06:09 pm
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HankC
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"Geology is the study of the Earth, the materials of which it is made, the structure of those materials, and the processes acting upon them."



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