Edited transcript of the 21st session of the Civil War Forum Conference Series:

    Harry Pfanz

    His books on Gettysburg, The Second Day, Gettysburg:
    Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill, and his research on Gettysburg, Day One.


(Paul Kenworthy):
    Attention Please. Welcome to the 21st session of the Civil War Forum
Conference series. I am Paul Kenworthy, Special Advisor to the Civil War
Forum, and will serve as your moderator this evening. In about 10 minutes I
will ask for your questions in order. Tonight we are especially fortunate
to have as our guest Harry Pfanz, author of Gettysburg, the Second Day
(University of North Carolina Press, 1987), and Gettysburg: Culp's Hill and
Cemetery Hill (UNC Press, 1993), two of the most important studies we're
ever likely to see on the fighting at Gettysburg. Harry W. Pfanz worked at
Gettysburg as a historian from 1956 to 1966 and was Chief Historian of the
National Park Service. He is a native of Ohio with a life-long interest in
the Civil War, having had three great-grandfathers who served in Ohio
regiments (none of them were at Gettysburg, however, his wife had kin there
with the Army of Northern Virginia). Mr. Pfanz served in the U.S. army as a
lieutenant of field artillery during WW II, which, he acknowledges, has had
some influence on how he reacts to and interprets the Civil War. He is
presently working on an account of the battles at Gettysburg on July 1.
We'll start off with a few questions from Chief Sysop David Woodbury, then
take questions from those in attendance. Let's get to it:

Q. (David Woodbury):
    Thank you for joining us. Your work on The Second Day, and the
follow-up Gettysburg: Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill, are two of the most
important, most detailed studies of that climactic battle, and first I
would thank you for those contributions. Can you tell us a little bit about
how your interest in the Civil War developed, and specifically how you came
to dedicate so many years of your life to recounting the struggle at

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    Well I grew up with an interest in the Civil War, back as far as I can
recall, perhaps because I did have three great grandfathers in it, and one
lived until I was in high school, so the Civil War was very real to me as a
boy. After WW II, I worked for 4 years with the army as a historian, then
heard of an opening at Gettysburg, and I applied for it and got the job.
That was in 1956, and after I retired from the Park Service I thought I
would start writing, and since nothing had been written in a detailed way
about the 2nd day and the Culp's Hill areas, I thought I would give them a

Q. (David Woodbury):
    In the Epilogue to The Second Day you conclude that "General Lee's
opportunity to win a decisive victory at Gettysburg had all but passed when
complete success had eluded his attacking divisions on the afternoon and
evening of 2 July." Do you believe that Lee's plans for July 3rd were
doomed to failure?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    I don't know that they were doomed to failure, but it seems likely to
me that it was a high probability. He had suffered perhaps 12,000
casualties in the 2 days of fighting on the 1st and 2nd. He had lost the
services of 3 division commanders, Heth, Pender, and Hood, and of course
with the casualties and the losses of these men and other leaders, his
organization was not what it had been when the battle had started. As he
had grown weaker, the Union forces, although they had suffered losses, were
growing stronger, and would continue to grow stronger. The Union position
was practically impregnable. He had attacked on both the left and the right
and had been beaten in both places -- or was being beaten at Culp's Hill.
The Union army was thoroughly in position. As somebody said, they had been
driven there, and they could afford to await an attack, whereas Lee, of
course, either had to attack to leave..

Q. (David Woodbury):
    It is ironic, as you pointed out in Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill, that
with respect to the latter, "Actions do not always speak louder than words"
-- referring to Lincoln's address later at the cemetery there overshadowing
the fierce fighting in that sector. In fact, you indicate that Cemetery
Hill may have held the key to Confederate fortunes. Was Cemetery Hill the
keystone of the Union position?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    Yes, it seems to me ironic that when he said the world will not long
remember what we say here, but it cannot forget what they did here, the
Gettysburg Address is probably much better known, certainly worldwide, than
the battle, and as you go into the National Cemetery there today, of course
the Gettysburg Address is the thing of greatest interest. And yet Cemetery
Hill was the principal rallying point for Union forces on July 1st, and it
was a strong point in the Union line -- a bastion in the Union line -- and
an important artillery position. It was an anchor, in a sense, of the Union
line, at the center of the line, but it seems to me that as people walk
through the cemetery where the gun positions were, they see the cannon
there and they look like decorations, I do not think they appreciate the
significance of where they are, as Lincoln probably did.

Q. (Margaret D. Blough):
    In your opinion, what factors were involved in the length of time that
Longstreet took to get in position on the second day after the movement
    how much of it was such things as the requirement of concealment, the
route, the guide, and how much of it, if any, was the intentional
"slowness" of which he is often accused in that movement?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    I doubt that there was intentional slowness as such. He certainly was
not pleased with what he was doing. I think they attempted, of course, to
march in a concealed way, which they could have done just as easily by
turning off to the right at the stopping point and going down toward
Willoughby Run. But in any case they elected not to do that. It seems to me
that Longstreet's attitude aside, it took a lot of time to do things, and
it's hard for us to imagine the degree of slowness that seemed to permeate
many things that were done then. For instance, I have always wondered why
they felt obliged . . . to hold to the roads as they did, when presumably
they could have cut across the fields, and save time. Yet they did turn
around, and reverse themselves, and follow these bad farm roads all the way
to the south end of the battlefield. And there, of course, they found out
when they were taking position, that things were not as they planned. And
then of course, instead of Hood going first, Longstreet insisted that
McLaws lead the way, because that was what was planned, and then Hood
followed him until he reached the wheatfield road area. To recapitulate, I
think some of this, perhaps, resulted from Longstreet's pique, but a lot of
it was just that they took a circuitous route for purposes of concealment
over what I think would be bad roads.

Q. (Randall Black):
    Tell me what you think of General Ambrose Wright and his reported
claims of breaking through the Union line, only to fall back. Could this
have made a difference?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    What do you mean, could this have made a difference?

Q. (Randall Black):
    Was [the] position significant and defensible?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    You mean the position on Cemetery Ridge, then. . . .Wright's Brigade
was able to move across the fields there. The attack was a sweeping attack,
an excellent one. He captured two batteries and was able to reach the crest
of Cemetery Ridge because there was a gap there left by Union troops who
had been sent south along the Ridge. Thus, although he was able to
penetrate, or get onto the Ridge line there, the terrain was flat. He had
no defensive works or anything of that sort, and the probably few men -- we
don't know how many he had, or I don't remember how many he had when he was
up there -- were relatively easily brushed off the ridge by Union troops on
the shoulders of his penetration. Of course this was made easier by the
fact that the brigades -- the Confederate troops on his left flank -- did
not move forward far enough to support him. No one did support him. This is
where the attack broke down.

Q. (Pete Romeika):
    What was the strategic importance of Emmitsburg in relation to the
battle of Gettysburg?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    I am not sure how I can answer this. Emmitsburg, of course, was on the
route to Gettysburg. The First and Eleventh Corps stopped there on the 29th
of June. The 11th remained there over the 30th, whereas the 1st Corps moved
up the road a few miles to the Marsh Creek, a few miles over the state
line. Before General Reynolds, who commanded the left wing of the Army of
the Potomac, before he knew that he was going to move on to Gettysburg and
the Confederates were concentrating in Cashtown, he much feared that they
would move from Cashtown and Fairfield -- from that area -- down southeast
along the mountains to the Emmitsburg area, perhaps to the Mt. St. Mary's
area, and thus be on the flank or rear of the Union left. And so they made
sure even when the 1st and 11th corps moved to Gettysburg on July 1st, the
3rd Corps, which was east of Emmitsburg, moved to Emmitsburg to guard
against any flanking move by the Confederates. I suppose, therefore, that
it had some strategic importance because it was on the road from Cashtown
to Frederick. It is a route the Confederates might have used if they had
been able to.

Q. (Rich Ringley) :
    What is your overall opinion of Sickle's movement of his division out
into the cornfield? Was it a profound blunder, as some have suggested; or
did it weaken Longstreet's attack sufficiently enough to prevent a break in
the Union line?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    I think that although Sickles movement forward to the Devils Den,
Wheatfield, Peach Orchard area -- the high ground along the Emmitsburg
road-- set up a breakwater that slowed the Confederate assault, I think
that basically it was a grave error. He moved from a position that was
assigned to him, and took up a position that he was unable to man with the
troops that he had. He left the left flank of the 2nd Corps in the air, and
disrupted Meade's plans. He did it because he said that the high ground
along the Emmitsburg Road dominated a portion of his line, and because he
feared an attack against his left flank if he stayed where he was. But the
fact remains that he did not occupy Little Round Top, as he should have
done, and he moved forward to a position [that required] his being
reinforced, and upset Meade's plans.

Q. (Dennis L. Kutzner):
    Mr. Pfanz, thank you for your rich contribution to Civil War
literature. Who really deserves credit for selecting Cemetery Hill: Hancock
or Howard? Or, did the butternut have something to do with it?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    Cemetery Hill, the position on Cemetery Hill, was selected by Howard.
No question about that. When Howard arrived with the 11th Corps and took
control of the field, he left one of his divisions, his 2nd division, on
the hill, plus a battery (initially 3 batteries) as a rallying point in
case the Union forces north and west of town were driven back. Now there
was a question back when the veterans were still alive and writing as to
whether or not Reynolds had selected Cemetery Hill as the fallback
position. There is reason to think that he did, or would have, but the fact
remains that he was shot at the opening of the battle, and did not
communicate with Howard, so that Howard made this decision on his own,
without Reynolds' input or orders. Now insofar as Hancock is concerned, he
did not reach Cemetery Hill until the Union forces were falling back to it
and some had reached it. And of course at this time portions of Steinwehr's
Division, which Howard had placed on the hill, were in position and
awaiting whatever would happen. So the credit, I believe, must be given to

Q. (Tim Gennett):
    What's your read on George Meade? His being the commanding general of
the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg is surely one of history's most
interesting coincidences. Was his leadership and presence a factor in the
battle and the campaign, or not?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    I should say his leadership and presence was very much a factor in the
battle and in the campaign. If you'll remember, Hooker commanded the Army
of the Potomac at Chancellorsville, and did poorly -- lost the battle.
Lincoln and Halleck then looked for an opportunity to replace him, but
before doing that they had to find someone who could take his place
.General Couch, who was a logical appointee, refused to take it. It was
recommended that Meade be given the post, but before doing this, they asked
Reynolds to take command because Reynolds was both a fine general, and I
think, because he outranked Meade, Reynolds was allowed to decline the
post, but Meade was ORDERED to take it, and could not decline it... I think
that as I have said, few men in our history have had such a heavy burden
cast upon them with so little warning. However Meade took over the job, he
moved the army north, he planned the defensive position in case that was
needed, and when the meeting engagement at Gettysburg took place, he saw
that the army was rushed to it. He commanded the army, of course, for the
2nd and 3rd days of the battle, and as someone said, I can't give the quote
exactly, for the first time the army's reserves were used in a timely and
proper way, so that he was able to defeat the Confederates there. He showed
great character, I think. Down south of Hagerstown, at the close of the
campaign, when he was pressured to attack the Confederates there, but was
not ready to do so, he declined to attack without being thoroughly
prepared, and perhaps saved his army a defeat there. I think Meade is
certainly one of the outstanding heroes of the war.

Q. (Margaret D. Blough):
    How important was the role of Brig. Gen. George Sears Greene on Culp's
Hill to holding the Union right, and why did he get so little credit for it?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    His role was very important. He did a thing for which he has had too
little recognition. Part of this, I think, is because when the reports of
the battle were turned in by the corps commanders, he was not given credit
in Slocum's report that he might have been given, because, if I remember
correctly, Slocum thought that General Williams would make the report
covering Greene's action. And Meade based his report on Gen. Slocum's
report, and did not see William's report. Now, beyond that, Culp's Hill,
the battle on Culp's Hill, perhaps because it is off to the side, has not
received the attention given the fighting at Little Round Top, and on
Cemetery Ridge. I think, therefore, that Greene's role in the battle has
been lessened because the area in which he fought has not had the attention
it deserves.

Q. (Brian Pohanka):
    Regarding Hancock -- it seems that his greatest strength was in his
presence -- rather than tactical ability per se. What is your "take" on his
(Hancock's) role in the battle?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    Hancock -- I think his role was paramount under Meade - he was second
only to Meade. Hancock was sent forward to evaluate the situation at
Gettysburg on July 1st, and to take command on the field if need be. His
role there was that he, I think, inspirited the troops, inspired them, his
principal role. On July 2nd, after Sickles was wounded, Meade gave him
command of the whole left end of his line, I should say the 3rd Corps and
the 2nd Corps, and of course, on July 3rd, it was his corps, basically,
that repulsed Pickett's Charge. I certainly think Hancock's great
importance was in his being able to inspire the men under him. Certainly at
Gettysburg he exhibited no tactical deficiencies, except perhaps in not
allowing his artillery to cease fire before the attack began, and thus
having them run out of ammunition at a critical time. He was Superb.

Q. (Dennis L. Kutzner):
    In your present study of the 1st Day conflicts, are you researching the
Iron Brigade?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    Yes, you cannot avoid the Iron Brigade. They obviously played an
important role in the battle in the McPherson's Woods area, and on Seminary
Ridge, but also in one of the most important regimental actions of the
battle. It was the 6th Wisconsin regiment of the Iron Brigade that was
primarily responsible for the capture of the Rebels in the Railroad Cut,
and the driving of Davis's Brigade from that portion of the field.

Q. (Pete Romeika):
    In regards to the tying up of Jeb Stuart's cavalry, how important was
the Battle of Hanover on June 30, 1863?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    Hanover's importance is tied in wholly with Stuart. Obviously we can
not know what would have happened had the Battle of Hanover not taken
place. It in itself was a small affair, and if it had importance, it was in
encouraging Stuart to continue to move north toward Carlisle.

Q. (Ray Magnetti Sr.):
    True or False :
    Bodies were found behind Confederate lines with their hands tied behind
their back after the battle of Gettysburg?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    I've never heard that. What are your sources for that?

(Ray Magnetti Sr.):
    I just heard it 4 day ago and can not find any truth yet.

Q. (Rob Lowe):
    In your opinion, would the outcome of the battle have changed if
Stonewall Jackson had been in the field?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    My answer is I have no idea. He probably would have acted more
aggressively that Hill and Ewell, but Jackson, too, could fail, and he
might well have failed at Gettysburg.

Q. (Brian Pohanka):
    Barksdale's charge on July 2 seems to me one of the most hard-hitting
brigade actions of the War. Would you agree?

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    I hesitate to compare it with others in the entire war, but there's no
doubt, however, that it was hard-hitting, and probably the hardest-hitting
at Gettysburg. It's hard to compare these things.

Q. (Margaret D. Blough):
    How critical was the role of Col. Freeman McGilvery and Bigelow's
battery in preventing the Army of Northern Virginia First Corps from
penetrating the gap between the Third and Second Corps created by Sickle's
move? (By the way, I loved your account of that action in "Gettysburg:
    The Second Day".)

A. (Harry Pfanz):
    McGilvery, as an artillery commander, played an exceptionally important
role. Had he not plugged the gap on the left of the 2nd Corps, where
Caldwell's Division had been, we can assume that the 21st Mississippi would
have gotten onto the Ridge there and perhaps Wilcox's Brigade to the north
would also have had greater success. However, we can't be too certain of
these things because there were other troops that could have been brought
there. But certainly, McGilvery played an important part in the battle.

(Paul Kenworthy):
    I hope everyone enjoyed tonight's conference as much as I did. On
behalf of the Civil War Forum, I would like to thank Harry for being with
us tonight, and thank you all for joining us.