Lovely Ground

Conducted by Matt Tavener

These archived discussions are still open for comment. To join in write gettysburg@arthes.comLast updated 11/14/95

From: Matt Tavener
Subject: Ground

Hello All,
So far we have discussed many reasons for the outcome of the battle. We have talked about the 20th Maine (a lot) saving the Union flank and the futility of Lee's (picket's) Charge. But IMHO, it was not so much the morale, gallantry or skill that won the battle. It was the ground. The commanding general of the Union Army on the field on the morning of 1 July (Howard?) saw the strategic advantage of the ground and was wise to put reserve forces there in case of retreat.

Sickles, by leaving Cemetery Ridge and extending his line, was asking for the same kind of rout that the First and Eleventh Corps had on the day before. He left the advantageous high ground and was just asking to be pushed back to the ground he vacated.

Lets see if this can spark the same kind of insightful and well documented conversation as the Pike Creek discussion of some time ago did. All we need is for someone to disagree with my opinion that the ground was the major factor in the defeat of the ANV.

Matt Tavener
Rowan College N.J.

From: (Alexander Cameron)
Subject: Ground

Matt Tavener wrote:
>It was the ground. The commanding general of the Union Army on the field on the >morning of 1 July (Howard?) saw the strategic advantage of the ground and was >wise to put reserve forces there in case of retreat.

The Union general normally given credit for selecting the ground at Gettysburg is Brig. Gen. John Buford. It is true that Howard dropped off reserves on Cemetery Hill but Buford selected and defended the ground with an eye on the "hills".

On the Sickles issue, you wrote:

>Sickles, by leaving Cemetery Ridge and extending his line, was asking >for the same kind of rout that the First and Eleventh Corps had on the day >before. He left the advantageous high ground and was just asking to be >pushed back to the ground he vacated.

I am not defending Sickles and don't mean to split hairs, however, Sickles went forward for the expressed purpose of occuping the high ground to his front (Peach Orchard and the Emmittsburg Road). He thought he was in a hole. From his orginial position, his movement forward was "uphill". As you indicated, it was not the thing to do but getting the high ground in front was the reason he did it. Can't explain why he elected not to occupy Little Round Top which was to his left (his stated reason was that he was not told to and did not have the resources).


From: (Benedict R Maryniak)
Subject: The ground per the new Martin book

The following quote is somewhat relevant to talk about the ground at Gettysburg. It is an appendix to David G Martin's GETTYSBURG JULY 1 (736 pages, 20 maps, hard cover, $34.95) that is being marketed by Stackpole Books (717-796-0411). The book is well-written and comprehensive, completely overtaking previous first day treatments, including CRISIS AT THE CROSSROADS.

"The battlefield, of course, has suffered significant alterations since 1863. Most notable is the expansion of the town of Gburg, which today covers four times as much as it did at the time of the battle. The northern, eastern, and western approaches of the town were open except for scattered houses, and the area southwest of town (now a development) was all fields. There are also modern housing developments along the Harrisburg Road (where Early's artillery first formed) and south of Fairfield Road (where Lane advanced), not to mention extended commercial development, near the forks of the Carlisle Road, along the York Pike, and at spots (such as General Lee's Restaurant) along the Chambersburg Pike, In addition, Pennsylvania (Gettysburg) College, located at the northwest corner of town, had only three buildings at the time of the battle, and has greatly expanded since the war. The Seminary has also added numerous buildings. The battlefield park owns a small parcel of land where Coster's brigade fought where there is a beautiful mural well worth seeing; however, this is not the entire Union line here, and the town's expansion has covered the ground over which Early's men attacked. But the most intensive development has been the extensive commercial building south of the town (ironically, most of it intended to serve the tourists who come to visit the battlefield). This makes it very difficult to study and appreciate the natural strength of Cemetery Hill as the Union Army's final defensive position on 1 July. Another significant alteration to the first day's battlefield is the recent and unforgivable drastic alteration of the northern face of the eastern railroad cut carried out by Gettysburg College.

A number of minor changes need to be mentioned for those who wish to visit and study the field. At the time of the battle, the northwest crest of Barlow's Knoll was totally wooded all the way to the creek. The Almshouse complex, where Barlow's men attempted to rally 3/8 mile south of Barlow's Knoll, is no loonger standing. Herbst Woods was more open than today, and would have extended farther to the east. Today only the McPherson barn remains to the north of Herbst Woods; McPherson's house, outbuilding and apple orchard, all gone today, would have given a much different view of this part of the Union line. Norythern Doubleday Avenue has more trees lining it than would have been there during the battle. The northern part of Baxter's line actually ran along a stone wall (no longer extant) that angled towards the Mummasburg Road farther to the west of Doubleday Avenue.

Despite all these changes and alterations to the battlefield scene, much of the battle area still remains basically like it was in 1863. The Natl Battlefield Park owns and protects most of the ground on which the heaviest fighting occurred; the significant exceptions are at the Seminary (where most of the ground is fortunately preserved in park like condition) and the final XI Corps line on the northern edge of town (now lost to housing). But the Park does not by any means own all the ground on which the troops of both sides marched and fought on 1 July. Most significant is its very limited holdings on Herr Ridge (where most of Hill's Confederates formed prior to their attacks), the ground east of Rock Creek (over which Early attacked), and the area to the left and right of the Almshouse (over which the XI Corps fought and retreated). Hopefully much of this line can be acquired by the Park under expanded boundary goals, before it suffers further loss and development.

These somewhat limited Park holdings on the 1st day's field have noticeably affected the location and placement of battlefield markers. The I Corps' forward line on McPherson's and northern Seminary Ridges is well marked, but little note (besides a few markers, mostly of batteries) is made of positions on the final I Corps line near the Seminary. The positions of the attacking Confederate troops are very poorly marked, primarily because the Park does not own their jump off positions on Herr Ridge. The pre-attack positions of Early's troops are also unmarked for the same reason. On the XI Corps' line, the forward position of Barlow's troops on Barlow's Knoll are well marked, but their secondary position near the Almshouse is not. The position of the monuments of Schimmelfennig's division along western Howard Avenue (between the Mummasburg Road and Carlisle Pike) is very deceptive and gives the impression that Howard had a continuous line here. Most of these troops were actually positioned farther to the south, on land not yet owned by the Park. Since these regiments could not erect their markers on private land, they had to place them here on Howard Avenue on the edge of the Park's property. Thus it is very difficult today to get a true picture of the position of much of the XI Corps during the afternoon solely from the location of its regimental monuments."

Ben Maryniak

Subject: Re: The ground per the new Martin book

Hi Ben,
Thanks for posting the terrific excerpt from Martin's new book. I read a review of it in this issue of the Civil War News and was instantly interested. I intend to buy it. David Martin does fantastic work; if you don't recognize his name, he is the author of Confederate Monuments at Gettysburg (definitive book on the subject), Co-author with Busey of Regimental Strengths at Gettysburg (definitive book on the subject) and is the author of the excellent introduction to the Morningside edition of Vanderslice's: Gettysburg Then and Now. Any book written by Martin is well worth paying attention to. The review of GETTYSBURG July 1, in TCWN says the same thing.

I am a first day battle fan, Ben. Your excerpt has convinced me to pick up the book at the bookshow on the 18th. Thanks again.

From: (Grant Troop)
Subject: Ground

Matt wrote:

I suppose you can always argue that the ground has some influence on any miliary engagement, in some cases more and some less...BUT...battles are fought by men, not stonewalls or wooded slopes or railroad cuts. There are many complex and interrelated factors that led to the outcomes of all CW battles, but certainly the morale of the average fighting men, the courage displayed by them and their officers, and the skill used by officers in deploying and manoevering them are as important as numerical superiority, or lay of the land, or ...luck! Surely it took some skill for the AOP to wind up in the positions they defended at Gettysburg, and more surely, it took some courage to hold them. There is no doubt however, that the terrain worked more in the favour of the AOP at Gettysburg - in contrast to many previous battles, where the ANV used terrain more effectively.

A good example of where "good ground" proved to be no advantage is Missionary Ridge. The Confederates held what should have been an impregnable position, but questionable skill in deployment and poor morale led to a crushing Southern defeat. The fighting man had lost faith in Braxton Bragg.

Bill wrote:

Agreed...and I remember hearing an interesting story of what motivated Sickles to get out of that "hole". Back to Chancellorsville again... Sickles' 3rd Corps had been in the thick of the fighting at Chancellorsville, nipping at Jackson's Corps heels around the Catherine Furnace during their circuitous "retreat" around the Union right flank, and the next day trying to hold the Union center near the Chancellor House salient. Sickles main line was centered around an artillery position at Fairview, just south of the salient. Shaken by Jackson's flank attack, Hooker had ordered a withdrawal from Hazel Grove the previous evening after Archer's Brigade of the ANV had pushed hard in that area. Hazel Grove, a nicely elevated postion with a clear firing field about 1/2 mile south of Fairview and the apex of the Union line was quickly occupied by every ANV artillery battery in the area. Sickles noted the devasating effects that the lighter Southern artillery (commanded by E.P. Alexander) had upon his Corps. His impression of sitting in a "hole", as Fairview appears to be with respect to Hazel Grove, clearly influenced his decision at Gettysburg, when he percieved that a similar situation existed. As a result, Sickles moved forward to the Peach Orchard "high ground", worried that ANV artillery would soon be pummelling his position on Cemetary Ridge. Ironically, E.P. Alexander WAS there again, and as I remember from his book , did plan on moving his artillery forward to that position prior to McLaws attack.

Of course, this story has no doubt been perpetuated by Sickles own "defence" on his actions at Gettysburg. But...there does seem to be some consistency of fact here.

Grant Troop

From: (Alexander Cameron)
Subject: Ground

Thanks for a very useful post on "ground". It is a "keeper". There was a lot of abuse of the park early on. Did you know that, "On July 3, 1922, Marines from Quantico, Va., under the command of Brigadier-General Smedley D. Butler, repeated Pickett's Charge as it was made in 1863, and on July 4th conducted it as such a charge would be made under present warfare conditions with modern equipment and maneuvers. President Harding, General Pershing, and many other prominent in the State and Nation enjoyed the display." I didn't until I stumbled on it last night in an old book. My goodness. Can you imagine doing that today? I knew about Camp Colt but this smacks of "goofing around". Times have changed.


From: (Patrick King)

I agree it was Buford who picked the ground (or saw its importance). The battle centered on taking (ANV) the ridges, hills and rock piles. The AOP had only to hold it in the face of constant attack.

As for the men. I was in Sharpsburg this summer and stopped at a really fine gallery (forgot the name). One painting drew me into its scene (don't remember its name either). Anyhow it was a scene of Confederate troops behind a smallrise topped by rails and rocks. The view is low and behind but you can see blue and Union flags just up front. Some of the "butternut" men are loading and firing but several, especially one is on one knee chucking a rock at the lead Union soldiers; another is looking on the ground for another rock.

My point is Gettysburg is just a goup of fields, hill, and piles of rocks. The issues was settled by men--blue and gray--who fought in spite of terrain. Ground is always important (just visit Fredricksburg), but men have taken superior forces and high ground before and after (Heartbreak Ridge, Korea and Hamburger Hill, Vietnam). I'll take the men every time...its the former Marine officer in me...

P.S. The submission on the current state of the Gettysburg ground was great!
Patrick King

From: Tom Swantko
Subject: The Ground Had It's Impact

No question, the battle was waged between men. And, it was the human factors of courage, guts and quick thinking that ultimately brought resolution. Good ground does not win battles on its own. But, the impact of the ground can't be ignored.

This may seem like a mute point, but the physical terrain of Gettysburg served as the field for the engagement, and is inseparable from the action. The terrain didn't _win_ the battle. But, it's interesting that Lee seems to have acted with almost a total disregard for the importance of the ground. And, this attitude cost him a chance at victory.

Tom Swantko


The print that Patrick referred to is by Don Troiani called THE DIEHARDS. It depicts a scene at Second Bull Run where the Louisiana brigade of LeRoy A. Stafford was holding the line at the unfinished railroad cut. When the third wave of Union forces attacked, they had just about run out of ammunition. The cartridge boxes of the wounded had been emptied. An Irishman of the 1st Louisiana stood up and hollered "Boys, give them the rocks!" These rocks and their last cartridges were enough to allow them to hold on till reinforcements arrived. (Above courtesy of the publisher's ad for the print.)

As to the question of the "ground". I would have to agree with those that feel, the men are the deciding factor. I just finished Cozzens book on Chickamauga and the battle of Horseshoe Ridge. A formidable bastion to assault but it was regiments like the 21st Ohio and many others that actually proved to be the difference.

From: lawrence (Dennis Lawrence)
Subject: Lovely Ground

Hello, everyone,
I have opened a new file called Lovely Ground in which I will archive the comments on the ground once we have finished discussing the terrain.

Nice posts so far. A couple of comments:

Ben Quotes:

>The battlefield park owns a small parcel of land where Coster's brigade fought >where there is a beautiful mural well worth seeing; however, this is not >the entire Union line here, and the town's expansion has covered the ground >over which Early's men attacked.

William Frassanito's _Gettysburg Bicentennial Alblum_ contains images which help to picture the lost vistas. I can't scan and post them because the Brothers' Lawrence respect - or at least fear - copyright laws.

Page 76 has an image of Coster avenue and the 27th Pa. Monument looking across fields toward Cemetery Hill. Wonderful image as are many others. The book is worth buying.

The best way to find the alms house site is to drive out Harrisburg road north of town until you see a double row of trees on the west side of the road. Near the *$%*#@ Ames shopping center. These trees mark the drive of the alms house as shown on page 79 of Frass' Bicentennial album. At least I THINK they do. If I am wrong, please correct me.

>But the most intensive development has >been the extensive commercial building south of the town (ironically, most >of it intended to serve the tourists who come to visit the battlefield). >This makes it very difficult to study and appreciate the natural strength >of Cemetery Hill as the Union Army's final defensive position on 1 July.

Again, Frass has some wonderful shots of the area where the wagon hotel stands in the _Bicentennial _which complement his shots in the _A Journey in Time_ book.

Enough of describing images you can't see -

Any word on when Frass' new book will hit the stands?


From: (Alexander Cameron)
Subject: Lovely Ground


On the subject of "ground". I have a neat little book titled GETTYSBURG BATTLE AND BATTLEFIELD which was written in the 1920's by W.C. Storrick who was Superintendent of Guides at the park. It was republished in 1993 and I found it on a bargin table in one of the mall bookstores. It has a lot of pictures of the battlefield taken in the 20's (the Whitworth guns now on Oak Hill are pictured on what looks like Confederate Ave.) and also has little bios on Bachelder and Cope. If you see it in the bargin bin, grab it. Again, on the subject of ground, did you see the post is sent in some time ago on the changes to the ground on Little Round Top. I was quouting from a letter by a professor at Penn State who has studied the LRT changes extensively. He discussed road cuts, earth and boulder removal, buildings between the Round Tops, and the re-stacking of stone walls. If you don't have it, I'll try to find the letter. I trashed the message.


Moderator's Note: The Letter is reprinted below,
From: (Alexander Cameron)
Subject: Condition of LRT
For Lisa Mucha:

Thomas L. Schaefer is a professor at PennState and is THE expert on the conditions of LRT. He has lectured on the subject and I corresponded with him when I was working on an article. I thought you might enjoy part of his letter.

Professor Schaefer wrote,

"LRT has alway been a beacon to me, and I've spent an inordinate amount of time up there. My recent interest has been focussed on the changes that have occurred since the battle, specifically the physical changes, the changes in people's perception, and the National Park Service's subsequent responses (i.e., preservation policies) to these changes.

I've been at this study for about five or six months. The impetus from which this work arose was a micro-study I offered here at the campus as a part of our ongoing course offering on the campaign and battle. Inputting together its material, I came to realize how much one can "tme travel" while traversing LRT's slopes. There are many diferent "Gettysburg" represented across this piece of real estate, but one must look for them carefully. They tell a lot about how different eras of battlefield managers and battlefield visitors reacted to his space. I'm expecting to turn this research into a publication within the next year. In looking through your questions, I should be able to help you fill in some blanks. Succinctly, the hill has been altered quite definitely over time. The road cutting, trolley line, monuments, and boulder removals (often for monument, bases on other parts of the field) have had striking, but probably not wholly dramatic effects on how the average tourist perceives the place. The breastworks are a different story. Only one small segment of those on the hill were actucally fought behind on 2 July (and this is even speculative); that segment is visible by the site of the 20th Maine's left flank marker. All the rest were erected after the day's fighting had ended, or in the instance of other segments of Vincent's or Weed's wall-building, they have been swallowed up or built over by those walls now extant. Those walls have been stacked and restacked repeatedly, so their configurationa nd alignment is now only symbolically representative. They could be as much as one to three feet away from their original lines; moreover, the Warren and Cope maps show different configurations. This I've not yet been able to plot out myself, but come late autumn, I shall.

You are also correct about a small building between the Tops. It, too, appears on Cope, but I've not wholly determined what it is all about. If you can wait a few months (this fall semester is a frightful one for me), I shall be able to give you much more thoughtfully contrived information..."[Letter, Thomas L. Schaefer to Alexander Cameron, September 21, 1994]

I hope this helps and you find it as interesting as I did.

From: lawrence (Dennis Lawrence)
Subject: Re: Fall 1995 ALBG Seminar Report

Steve Cassell wrote
Phipps showed that General Buford was not about to mount-up ride away to the 1st Corps, if he was strongly pressed, as some modern historians suggest. Buford would have barricaded the streets, in order to save the Gettysburg road net for the AoP (along with the "lovely ground" south of G'burg). Phipps doubts if Lane's Brigade formed or had time to form any cavalry square west of Seminary Ridge. Until Buford was outflanked on the far left of the 1st Corps line on Seminary Ridge after 4:30 P.M., his men held a line dismounted behind stonewalls south of the Fairfield Road. When it was known that the 1st Corps Seminary Ridge line had collapsed, Buford finally mounted his command to withdrawal from that defensive position. Buford continue to cover the flank of the retreating 1st Corps with his division mounted. Phipps showed the participants this position visible east of the National Guard armory off of Confederate Avenue. Where Buford's division was formed-up is now a housing development and softball fields. This position had an elevation almost equal to that of Cemetery Hill. The location of this position can be seen on the Warren maps indicated as the Adams Co. Fairgrounds, northeast of Cemetery Hill. If Lane's brigade ever formed a cavalry square, it was after the complete Confederate possession of the Seminary Ridge position. If a cavalry square was ever formed, it was when Buford's horsemen were threatening a mounted attack from the Fairgrounds position east of Seminary Ridge....

Great post on the battlefield guides seminar. Makes me yearn for the field sleet, rain, fog whatever.

You have helped me answer a question I have been kicking around for over a year about Buford v Lane's square. I have always doubted the formation ocurred, but romanticaly had hoped it had. There were instances in the Civil War where such a disciplined formation as the square was formed, but at Gettysburg attacking mobs seemed to be the order of the day(s).

I appreciate the excellent directions as to how to find the location of Lane v Buford. Did they discuss how critical Buford's action was there? I have read that it was quite helpful in allowing the AoP to retreat to Cemetery Hill. If true, then it is certainly a part of Buford's action that day that has gone overlooked. Buford was a butt kicker! I like the image of him ordering the streets barricaded to save the high ground.

On the subject of ground - I guess this is a moot quetsion - but it is my understanding that Buford had resolved to hold the ridges west of town as the Aop's line, and saw the ridges south of town as a fall back position only. Brother Bob tries to tell me that he was fighting a holding action to preserve the Cemtery Hill line. ??

I am glad you are forwarding info for us on the guides as I think that will make a nice service for our members.

Take care,

Subject: ALBG Fall Seminar: Buford @ G'burg

Hi Dennis,
This is the first opportunity I have had to answer your reply, regarding my ALBG Fall 1995 Seminar Report. Oh, how I hate catching-up after returning from vacation!!!!

Yes, Mike Phipps did talk about the role of John Buford's horsemen in holding Lane's brigade in check, long enough for the I Corps to escape total destruction. When the I Corps Seminary Ridge line collapsed, after 4:30 P.M., the boys in Blue had to run a gauntlet of Confederate fire on three sides along the Chambersburg Pike (after all Yankee opposition had been swept from Oak Ridge, north of the eastern R.R. Cut).

BTW, the 4th U.S., Battery B (Right Section) rolled over the reverse slope of Oak Ridge, to effect their safe withdrawal from the field -- over the ground declared by G'burg College as "unimportant." I KNEW SO -- the only way they could have retreated!!!

Anyway... the soldiers of the I Corps waited almost too late to retreat, and had to run a gauntlet of Rebel fire along the Chambersburg Pike. Confederate brigades of Perrin, Scales and Daniel were closing in from the west. Daniel began to wheel around the exposed right flank of the I Corps, after clearing the summit of Oak Ridge. Perrin's soldiers were swarming around the Lutheran Seminary buildings. And across the battlefield (from the northeast) came the brigade of John B. Gordon, to join in on the kill. If Buford was a butt-kicker of the AoP, on the first day, [as you named him] I think that Gordon would be the Confederate butt-kicker of the day! Gordon's men out shot and swept aside 3-4 brigades of the XI Corps, in order to come clear across the battlefield to fire into the mass of the retreating I Corps -- from north of the Carrie Sheads house.

It was up to Lane's brigade to make it even tougher for the retreating I Corps to reach the safety of Cemetery Hill. That is, if the remnants of the I Corps could reach Cemetery Hill. But, Lane was not able to close the Confederate noose around the I Corps, due to the presence of "Jno." Buford, on his flank, threatening a mounted attack from the high ground around the location of the Adams Co. Fairgrounds. Even if Lane did not form a cavalry square east of Seminary Ridge, the threat of Yankee horsemen (or additional forces unknown, to Lane) kept him from assisting in the cutting-off the I Corps from Cemetery Hill.

Buford did everything right on the first day of Gettysburg. His delaying action is a classic of a lightly armed inferior unit, in a delaying action against superior enemy forces. A masterful use of his available forces, terrain and tactics. Buford's leadership is timeless. Mike Phipps, in his Army Ranger days, used Buford's G'burg tactics in a training exercise. Phipps with 25 men held up a battalion of Rangers, and forced them to take two hours to advance a mile of real estate. Phipps's squad fired to stop the larger force, and cause it to deploy. Then, the smaller force withdrew before the larger force could make their numbers count. The death of Buford was a big loss to the AoP. It is a shame that he was not around to work with Sheridan, Merritt, Custer, et al , during the campaigns of 1864-65.

Buford was in G'burg long enough to have noted the presence of the "lovely ground" south of town. Being a professional, I am sure that he would have recognized the importance of Culp's Hill, Cemetery Hill and Cemetery Ridge. What is not clear, is if the saving of the hills and ridges south of Gettysburg was his main goal on July 1, 1863. [Does anyone know if Buford wrote that his main goal was to save the high ground south of Gettysburg, or in the preserving the strategic road net for Meade's army???]

Buford was protecting the northwest flank of the AoP, in leading the way for the I Corps. Just as Robert E. Lee ordered the ANV to concentrate in the Cashtown - Gettysburg area, because of the road net that would bring his army together from points west, north, and northeast; Buford also sought to save the same road net. To save the same road network for the AoP advancing from the south and southeast. In saving the Gettysburg road hub, Buford also saved the "lovely ground" that was important for July 2nd and 3rd. Buford's role after the arrival of the I Corps, on the first day of Gettysburg, is a neglected subject. Without Buford's leadership, we might all be the Westminister Discussion Group.

Steve Cassel

From: (Alexander Cameron)
Subject: Buford holds the town.

Steve Cassel wrote:
>Buford was in G'burg long enough to have noted the presence of the >"lovely ground" south of town. Being a professional, I am sure that he would >have recognized the importance of Culp's Hill, Cemetery Hill and Cemetery >Ridge. What is not clear, is if the saving of the hills and ridges south of >Gettysburg was his main goal on July 1, 1863. [Does anyone know if Buford >wrote that his main goal was to save the high ground south of Gettysburg, >or in the preserving the strategic road net for Meade's army???.

I do not think that Buford wrote that his main goal was to save the high ground. It is not in his Gettysburg report and he didn't live long enough to engage in the glut of post war writing. He is given credit for doing it in a secondary source. He was under orders from Pleasonton to "hold Gettysburg at all costs until supports arrive" and it is believed that he discussed the town's strategic significance with Reynolds on June 30. The specific notion that Buford was defending in depth north and west of the town in order to hold the strategically valuable hills south of the town comes from an unpublished manuscript titled "John Buford at Gettysburg Wednesday July 1st 1863" signed "Anchor" ("Anchor" was believed to have been a member of Buford's staff). Arron Jerome, Buford's signal officer also gives credit to Buford in an unpublished manuscript and wrote a letter to Hancock bemoaning the fact that Buford had been "nearly disregarded"..


Subject: RE: Buford Holds the Town.

Thanks for the reply. It clears up some uncertainty in my mind, plus your post gives valuable food for research. Your post also further shows that General Buford did a GOOD job the first day at Gettysburg..

Best Wishes,
Steve Cassel

From: (Patrick King)
Subject: Chambersburg gauntlet.

Enjoyed the postings on Buford. Captain R.K. Beecham of II Wisconsin Blackhats talks about trying to get away during the move from the Seminary Ridge battle. Does anyone know how reliable his book is...its good reading from one who was there? Book is "Gettysburg: The pivotal battle of the Civil War.".

"Let us cross over the river,
and rest under the shade of the trees."
Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson
Patrick King

From: (Benedict R Maryniak)
Subject: fire on three sides.

Talking about fire into three sides of the Yankee retreat from Seminary Ridge, I enclose a letter by a member of the 94th NYV that I've always found pretty evocative..

This letter, written on July 2 by then-2nd Lt Walter T Chester of the 94th NYV, appeared in the Buffalo Daily Courier for July 11, 1863. At Gettysburg, the 94th was led by Col Adrian Rowe Root and part of Paul's Brigade, Robinson's Division, I Corps. More than half of the regiment had been captured as Robinson was driven from his position near Oak Hill, but Lt Chester managed to escape..

Walter T Chester, a 21-year-old student, enlisted in the 94th NYV at Buffalo on August 6, 1862. He and a small group of recruits caught up with the regiment eight days later outside of Culpeper, Virginia; these "fresh fish" fought at Second Manassas in their civilian clothes because they hadn't a chance to draw government issue. Appointed Second Lt of Co D during January of '63, Chester served on General Crawford's staff during 1864 and was also promoted to Captain that year, rejoining the 94th by the first day of 1865. Interestingly, Captain WT Chester claimed to have been the last man mustered out of Army of the Potomac. When the AoP was whittled down to a provisional division with General Ayres in command, the 94th was ordered to be part of that organization. The same order that constituted Ayres' division also assigned Captain Chester as mustering officer and directed him to muster it out. This he did, reserving the 94th to the last in order to remain in service himself. Chester even mustered out General Ayres and the volunteer officers of his staff before he discharged the 94th. Captain Chester was then mustered out by Captain Pond of the regular army..

I didn't erase all the individual identifications I have attached to the end of this letter. Hope you don't find them annoyingly irrelevant.

Gettysburg, Penn
July 2 1863.

One week ago today, our regiment was ordered away from Edwards Ferry to join our old brigade for the purpose of driving the rebels out of Pennsylvania. Yesterday, about noon, we reached here in the midst of a fierce battle. Our Corps fought Lee's whole army during the afternoon and was driven back through the town in dire confusion about 5pm. Our loss is terrible. That of our regiment we can form no idea of. We went in with 420 muskets and this morning we have 78. Our loss, however, cannot be as great as these figures show. We did splendidly. We broke the enemy by a well-directed fire of some fifteen minutes' duration and then charged upon them across a field, carrying our colors within their lines farther than any others went. In that place we took many prisoners and up to that time all went well. But, alas, they flanked us on both sides - getting us, as it were, in the centre of a horse shoe with only one way of exit..

Then "sauve qui peut" (note from Ben - "save yourself, who can") was the cry and out we went in inglorious confusion. To rally was impossible. On three sides of us a superior force hurled in murderous fire. Back through the town we streamed, poor fellows dropping all about - many from fatigue - and many were taken prisoners. How I escaped is miraculous. Once a man's neck saved me - his blood spouted all over me. Twice, horses intervened between me and wounds or death. But, thank God, I came through untouched and am ready to fight again today with good heart. I was in command of the company, the Captain and 1st Lieutenant being absent. Colonel Root was stunned in the early part of the fight by an explosion of a shell under his horse and was afterwards, I heard, wounded in the leg and taken prisoner. Capt White was wounded in the foot, Lieut Mesler in the knee, Ed Williams arm was broken, John Glaire is probably killed, and old Mike Donohue was left on the field killed or wounded.(a).

Today we have immense reinforcements and I have high hopes. We are held in reserve. Of Company "D" there is no one with the regiment this morning but Sergeants Crawford and Donohue, Corporal Ludlow, and Privates Conover, Chadderdon, and Flanigan.(b) The rest are scattered and many must be prisoners. I saw George Bourne very nearly through the town.(c) I think he is alright..

I have lost everything but the clothes on my back and my warlike implements. Be as little anxious as possible about me. Do not think I was killed if you do not hear from me for some time, for I may be taken prisoner..

WT Chester.


(a) Captain Horace G White, Co "F" 94th NYV - A 32-year-old native of Ira, NY, White had been mustered into the 94th as 2nd Lieutenant on December 9, 1861; he rose to Captain's rank October 29 of '62. Wounded and captured on July 1st at Gettysburg, he was able to escape as the rebels marched their prisoners south. Captain White was discharged during March of 1865.
2nd Lieutenant Charles V Mesler, Co "I" 94th NYV - A 2nd Lt in the 105th NYV when it was consolidated with Root's regiment, Mesler was promoted to 1st Lieutenant November 26, 1863. He was captured August 19 of '64 at the Weldon Railroad but paroled by March of '65. He was mustered into the 94th as a Captain on March 13 and was discharged with the 94th during July of 1865. He was likely neither wounded or captured at Gettysburg.
Pvt Edward Williams,Co D 94th NYV , age 27, was a Buffalo-born painter who enlisted in the 94th on August 26 of '62 and mustered in as a Private in Co E on the next day. He was wounded at Gettysburg but rejoined the regiment later, receiving his discharge during June of 1865.
Pvt John Glaire Jr, Co D 94th NYV - A 19-year-old farmer born in Aurora NY, Glaire joined the 94th on November 19 of 1862 at Amherst NY. He was wounded during Gettysburg's first day and died of his wounds on July 3rd. Glaire is buried in the Gettysburg Natl Cemetery.
"Old Mike Donohue" - Pvt Michael Donohue, Co D 94th NYV , age 40, was a laborer born in Ireland who had been enrolled at Persia NY on November 5, 1862, and mustered in the next day. The NYS Adj General's Report lists him as having been killed in action at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.
(b) Sgt Porter Crawford, Co "D" 94th NYV enrolled at Collins NY on October 29, 1862, for three years as a Sgt. A printer before he enlisted, Pennsylvania-born Crawford was 28 years of age at Gettysburg. He was returned to the ranks early in '64 but had regained his Sgt's stripes by 9/1/1864. He rose to First Srgt 2/15/1865. Mortally wounded in action at Five Forks, he is named in the 94th's "Roll Of Honor."
"Srgt Donohue" - Cpl Michael Donohue, Co D, 94th NYV - 21-year-old Rochester-born Buffalo clerk who enlisted at Buffalo on January 15, 1862, and was mustered February 13. He rec'd his promotion to Corporal by September 30 of that year. From reference in this letter, Donohue was already an acting Sgt, but he was promoted to a First Sgt's rank during September of '64. Records show no injury or capture at Gettysburg.
Cpl Myron M Ludlow, Co E 94th NYV was 18 and employed as a clerk when he enlisted at Buffalo as a Private on August 8 of 1862; he was promoted to Corporal September 30. Rising to Sgt during April of '64, he was discharged in November to accept a commission with the 154th NYV. He did not join the 154th, however, and rejoined the 94th. He was mustered in as a 2nd Lieutenant on May 7, 1865, and was discharged with his company during July of that year.
Pvt Albert Conover, Co D 94th NYV was later killed in action at Hatcher's Run.
Pvt James K Chadderdon, Co D 94th NYV would eventually become a srgt in January of '65.
Pvt Martin Flanigan, Co D 94th NYV was a 35-year-old farmer who had been born in Ireland. Enrolled at Aurora NY by JF Ernst, he was mustered on December 23 of 1862. Promoted to Corporal's rank as of June 4, 1865, Flanigan was discharged with his company during July of that year.
(c) Cpl George C Bournes, Co D 94th NYV was a 22-year-old printer born in England when he enlisted on January 1, 1863, at Wales NY. He evidently was "alright" as this letter suggests, since his records show nothing for Gettysburg. He was later captured at Weldon Railroad in 1864 but was back with the 94th and promoted to First Srgt during June of '65.

Date: Tue, 14 Nov 95 13:04:00 EST.

I believe Sickle's Corp arrived on Cemetary Ridge about 6pm on July 1st. He certainly had plenty of time to think about occupyping Little Round Top. Shouldn't he have sent at least a brigade there even if he still felt the thing to do was advance to the Peach Orchard. Advancing his corps ahead of the rest of the army was one mistake, but not leaving a detachment on LRT is an even bigger mistake IMHO..

Subject: Re: Why didn't Sickles occupy LRT.

I believe that at the time Sickle's Corp was "NOT" the left of the line. Since I am at work -- I do not have my books handily, I am sure that if Sickle thought he was on the left he would have occupied the "HIGH" ground to his left.

From: (Alexander Cameron)
Subject: Why didn't Sickles occupy LRT.

jpike (your email does not give your name. jpike seems a bit clumsy) wrote:.

> I believe Sickle's Corp arrived on Cemetary Ridge about 6pm on July 1st. > He certainly had plenty of time to think about occupyping Little Round > Top. Shouldn't he have sent at least a brigade there even if he still > felt the thing to do was advance to the Peach Orchard. Advancing his > corps ahead of the rest of the army was one mistake, but not leaving a > detachment on LRT is an even bigger mistake IMHO..

Here is what Meade said about it:.

"I had sent instructions in the morning to General Sickles, commanding the 3rd corps, commanded by General Hancock, and I had indicated to him, in general terms, that his right was to rest upon General Hancock's left; and his left was to extend to the Round Top mountain, plainly visible, if it was practicable to occupy it. During the morning I sent a staff officer to inquire of General Sickles whether he was in position. The reply was returned to me that General Sickles said there was no position there. I then sent back to him my general instructions which had been previously given. A short time afterwards General Sickles came to my headquarters, and I told him what my general views were and intimated that he was to occupy the position that I understood General Hancock had put General Geary in the night previous. General Sickles replied that General Geary had no position, as far as he could understand..." [G. Meade, Testimony before the Joint Commission on the Conduct of the War]

Here is what Sickles (HISTORICUS) said about it:.

"Near this important ground was posted the valiant Third Corps, and its commander, General Sickles, saw at once how necessary it was to occupy the elevated ground in his front toward the Emmitsburg road, and to extend his lines to the commanding eminence known as the Round Tops, or Sugar Loaf hill. Unless this were done, the left and rear of our army would be in he greatest danger. Sickles concluded that no time was to be lost, as he observed, the enemy massing large bodies of troops on their right {our left). Receiving no orders and filled with anxiety, he reported in person to general Mead, and urged the advanced he deemed so essential. "O," said Meade, "generals are all apt to look for the attack to be made where they are."... .

...The critical moment had now arrived. The enemy's movements indicated their purpose to seize the Round Top hill; and this in their possession, General Longstreet would have had easy work in cutting up our left wing. To prevent this disaster, Sickles waited no longer for orders from General Meade, but directed General Hobart Ward's brigade and Smith's battery (Fourth New York) to secure that vital position..." [HISTORICUS, OR, 27].

Sickles testified (first) before the Joint Commission on the Conduct of the War and stated that he had received no orders but his left flank managed to get into position "on Round Top". [R.Sauers, GETTYSBURG: THE MEADE-SICKLES CONTROVERSY].

If you want to get really ill, this is what John Watts De Peyster said about it in an address before third Army Corps veteran's organization in 1886:
Anyone who blames Sickles, alleging that he left his left flank in air, forgets that it was Meade's proper business to see to the dispositions of his own battlefield. Any general fit to be at the head of a great army could not fail to recognize the importance of the Round tops. answer your question - yes he should have occupied it. He maintained he did by placing Ward's on Houck's ridge. There is lots to read on this subject. Saures's article is a good start. All of the testimony before the Joint Commission is available and the HISTORIOCUS letters are in the OR..


Subject: Sickles

I was glad to see a couple of postings on Sickles decision to move his third corps out to the Peach Orchard and Wheatfield. The ground that Sickles occupied had a strategic advantage, he hadn't placed his corps in a hole. By getting out of my car and looking from where Smith's two guns were placed behind Devils Den I really noticed how much elevation that ground in front of me had. I did turn around and notice the steep rocky climb up to Little Round Top and wonder why this position was not occupied instead of the advance position. So I remembered the posting that stated that the Pennsylvania Memorial was now open for the climbing. So I took in the spectacular view from atop the Pennsylvania Memorial (I highly recommend taking in this stunning view). From that vantage I noticed that Devils Den and the Peach Orchard are really much closer to the copse of trees that figured so prominately in the third days battle. But I also noticed that Cemetery Ridge is not as well defined as the higher ground that Sickles occupied from Little Round Top, out to Devils Den and through to Emmitsburg Rd.

It seems to me that Sickles was concerned that the enemy would occupy the "heights" to his immediate front and decided to hold that line. IMHO with enough manpower this forward line could have been held, it had strategic advantage. But Sickles line was too thin and so it was pushed like dust from a counter top.

Matt Tavener
Rowan College of NJ

From: (Alexander Cameron) Subject: Sickles

Matt wrote:
> I was glad to see a couple of postings on Sickles decision >to move his third corps out to the Peach Orchard and Wheatfield. >The ground that Sickles occupied had a strategic advantage... Matt,

Wow! Someone defending (well at least a few kind words) Sickles. I love it. I feel like a kid in a candy store!

Let me address the "hole" issue first. There is no argument here. I think I am the culprit who used the term "hole" and I was referring to the fact that Sickles felt he was in one while in his original position (Grant Troop is correct in his assertion that it stems from his Chancelorville experience). He did not like the position he was directed to assume by Meade and he placed Ward's Brigade and Smith's Battery above Devil's Den in an attempt to reach "higher ground".

Yes, the Peach Orchard and the line of Emmittsburg Road are both "higher ground" but he violated about umpteen Principles of War in moving there (Hunt told him that it would "stretch the defenders to the limit, expose a salient to enemy attack, and leave both flanks in the air..."). The AOP had to fight as one cohesive unit and Sickles acted on his own volition, separating his corps from Hancock's and creating an enormous gap in the Federal line. He absolutely refused to send a brigade to Little Round Top when specifically asked to do so by Brig. Gen. Warren's frantic aide, Mackenzie. He clearly did not have enough resources to support the line he occupied so he busied himself trying to piecemeal the 5th Corps under his command (to use the modern vernacular, he "ripped off" Crawford's division without Sykes' permission). He wrote (and testified before Congress) that he "occupied" LRT by the placement of Ward and Smith. As you indicated in your post, all you have to do is stand at Smith's Battery and execute an "about face" and see that you can't protect the Union left flank by occupying a position several feet lower that the strategically important ground on LRT.

If he had anchored his line on LRT as he was directed to do (he was told to occupy the position vacatied by Geary. Geary had two regiments on LRT. Sickles quibbled forever that "Geary had no position"), he would have been in a defendable position supported correctly on his right. It is true that he would not have the advantage of high ground on the southern end of Cemetery "Ridge" but the answer was not to act on his own, separate his corps from Hancock's and spread his corps in a dangerously thin serpentine line running from Devils Den to the Emmittsburg Road.