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""Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg", Troy D. Harman..." Topic

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11 Nov 2011 11:35 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 10:32 a.m. PST

I am going to be posting a much longer post later on during the next few days about this topic.

However in the meantime I wanted to mention this remarkable book, "Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg". For those who are familiar with it, you know what it's about.

For those students of the battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War in general, I consider it a MUST READ. In 25 years, I have not come across any book which so plainly reveals about the battle that which has largely been overlooked even by the most respected authors on the subject. This book is singularly unique. The studies of the battle by authors like Pfanz and a few others have delved into getting at the true events of the battle, but this book takes that to another level.

It is NOT yet another re-hash of the "what-if's" of Gettysburg, no theories about what would have happened if Lee had taken Washington, if Longstreet had gotten his way with regard to his flanking march, if Meade had chosen to fight somewhere else, or whether the confederates were looking for shoes. This book has nothing to do with any of that.

Rather this books dusts off two long-forgotten aspects of the battle that popular history, legend and myth have buried over time: namely, Lee's own orders for the battle and his own after-battle reports, and the numerous after-battle reports of officers on both sides of the battle.

I had embarked on somewhat of a personal mini-research project about the battle of Gettysburg starting two years ago after visiting the field itself. Towards the end of my research I discovered this book quite by accident and was astonished to find that much in it was confirming what I myself was discovering about the battle.

This is not to say I am providing a definitive, once and for all revelation that somehow hundreds of educated historians and authors have missed. But I am saying that, as an amateur historian with 25+ years of Civil War reading under his belt, I have discovered, as well as this book has discovered, some significantly shocking revelations as to what actually took place during the battle vs. what has been the popularly percieved version of it over the past 140 years or more.

I am certain that this challenging, new outlook on the battle is little known to many students of the war, and more certainly completely UNKNOWN to the average visitor to the battlefield park. Indeed, the battlefield park itself has done nothing but put forth the popular version of the battle since its inception.

If you can, pick up a copy of this book, or look for it at your local library!! It will completely challenge the way you have looked at the battle of Gettysburg probably most of your life, and at the very least will raise a whole host of new questions in your mind.

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 10:41 a.m. PST

The book's other main focus is on the true significance of Cemetery Hill, and Zeigler's Grove in particular, and how the true significance of those two terrain features have been lost and buried over the past 140 years.

As I said, I will be posting a much longer thesis on this topic in a few days or sooner, but to give the book a summing up so you have something to think on, the book's ultimate conclusion(and my own as well) is this:

Gettysburg was a battle that for three days was Lee's attempts at attacking and seizing Cemetery Hill and NOTHING else. His battle plan remain unchanged throughout the three days. What has long been popularly perceived as "flanking attacks" on July 2nd, and a direct "frontal assault" on the Union Center on July 3rd, were in fact attempts at converging assaults on Cemetery Hill on both days.

peru522000 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 11:19 a.m. PST

I bought the book a couple months ago when Borders was going out of business. It is in my to read pile but I just haven't gotten around to it. Might have to move it up the list.

Terrement Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 12:12 p.m. PST


Personal logo Milhouse Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2011 12:40 p.m. PST

Terrement, it's the first one and I agree with Campaigner1, one of the more thought provoking books on a battle that I am frankly obsessed with.

The fact the clump of trees Lee was targeting was more likely Ziegler's Grove and not the famous Copse is worth the read.

Good stuff…

john lacour Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 12:42 p.m. PST

in the last 30 years my collection of gettysburg books has grow to a very large number. in fact, my wife has asked why i have so many.
i have this book. not to be negitive, but this book does'nt add very much to what has been said in at least a dozen other books. depth of subject, yes. but its not gonna make a student of the battle say "wow! i never considered that". this is just my opinion, mind you. but its nothing new.

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 12:48 p.m. PST


Yep, it's the first link.

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 12:50 p.m. PST


You are right, other books have said many of these arguments, but this book does it in a way that consolidates all the important points and brings them forth together to drive the point home, while other books do it in somewhat disjointed fashion.

I respectfully disagree that this perspective on the battle is nothing new, I am willing to bet it will be very new and very enlightening for many who have never read it.

Mikhail Lerementov Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 12:53 p.m. PST

I'm waiting on a book that tells me what Lee/Meade knew and when they knew it. Were the decisions being made on dated information? As wargamers we always have complete information on the location, morale, and size of every unit. (We once did a Battle of the Wilderness with hidden movement, the Generals could only see what was on their board. Couriers had to be sent and returned. It was an interesting game) Does this book go into the timeline of who knew what when? It does sound interesting regardless. Wonder if the Military Book Club has it?

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 12:59 p.m. PST

I have had many friends and fellow Civil War students over the years ask questions out loud like "I don't understand what Lee meant on July 2nd for Hood and McLaws to 'attack up the Emmitsburg Road', if he was trying to get around the Round Tops and get in the Union rear?"

But then afterwards, those kinds of questions fade over time, and the accepted version of the battle persists in their minds.

This blook clarifys these types of statements. The "attack up the Emmitsburg Road" on July 2nd was not a discretionary order that allowed inclusion of the Round Tops or anything near them. It was a specific order meant for those two divisions to drive northeastward at a 45 degree angle to the Union line, staying anchored with the Emmitsburg Road, with Cemetery Hill as their goal.

I have told some of my fellow Civil War friends this, and they absolutely refuse to believe that Little Round Top was not a part of Lee's plans, and refuse to believe that Hood's and McLaw's objective on July 2 was actually Cemetery Hill, not either Round Top, not the Union rear, and not the Union supply train on the Taneytown Road.

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 1:04 p.m. PST


Yes indeed, the book does get into who knew what and when they knew it. Particularly with what Lee knew and more importantly what he DIDN'T know on the morning of July 2nd with respect to Sickles III Corps. And as importantly, where he THOUGHT the Union "left flank" to be on the early morning of July 2nd. This is critical because where he thought the Union left flank to be is what dictated his order to "attack up the Emmitsburg Road". That order becomes clear when you factor in where he thought the flank was and when you factor in that his goal that day was Cemetery Hill.

Of HUGE importance, is the books's discussion of what Lee knew and didn't know on the morning of July 2nd. This one aspect of the battle sheds light on the rest of the days's events and completely changes the whole perspective of that day.

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 1:34 p.m. PST

Another point Harman raises, and one which I myself questioned more than once and was aware of for quite some time, is the famous "copse of trees", long associated with it being the focus and goal of the July 3 assault.

It may seem obvious once it is pointed out, but a simple and important fact overlooked in numerous Gettysburg books is that the famous copse was nothing more than young saplings only 6 to 12 feet in height at the time of the battle. It was not the great grove of tall, mature trees as it appears on the field today.

It is one of the more embarassing moments in the movie "Gettysburg", as the movie shows the famous copse on Cemetery Ridge as being full grown. I use the movie here because it is perhaps the most well known account of the battle in terms of reaching the masses of the public. Unfortunately, while the movie does well capturing the look of the period, it bungles the battle itself badly, doing nothing more than following the traditional version of the battle, with the biggest bungle the sheer amount of time they spend on Little Round Top. It must take up a quarter of the movie.

This simple technical detail is hugely important as it raises questions as to was it really conceivable that Lee would choose a copse of tiny saplings, not even visible from various points on Seminary Ridge, as a focal point and goal for 12,000 confederate attackers? The answer is probably not. The actual "copse" of trees the assault was focusing on was Ziegler's Grove, on Cemetery Hill. Ziegler's Grove at the time of the battle was nearly two acres of mature trees, mixed in with great white oak trees. Easily visible and high enough above the smoke of battle, this landmark WAS large enough to be a focal point for 12,000 attackers. This in itself changes the entire nature of Longstreet's assault.

In short, the book concludes, as I do, that "Pickett's Charge" had nothing to do with a head-on strike against the Union Center, but was in fact three divisions ordered to converge on and take Cemetery Hill, the attacking line being the shape of a huge SEMI-CIRCLE or ARC, closing in on and conforming to the shape of Cemetery Hill, and NOT a grand, straight line of troops bearing down on the angle at the stone wall and copse. Pickett's role was literally to ROLL UP the Union 2nd Corps from south to north, on the way to taking the hill itself, and nothing whatsoever to do with hitting the 2nd Corps straight on and capturing Cemetery Ridge.

This account of the charge is completely different from the long-perceived version of a suicidal frontal attack against impossible odds. The popular version of this attack makes for good drama, but the evidence, Lee's orders, and after-battle reports all contradict this popular view.

PKay Inc Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 1:36 p.m. PST

The second book that Terrement linked to, the book by Tom Carhart, has to be the single worst book on Gettysburg that I've ever read.

OTOH, Harman's book is worth every penny.

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 1:44 p.m. PST


Thanks for confirming the value of Harman's book, the more who support it the more will read it!

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 1:56 p.m. PST


To further answer your question, yes the book also answers questions as to what Meade knew and how he reacted on the morning of July 2nd.

In addition, it gives valuable insight into the reasons as to WHY Sickles did what he did in the first place. Having long been considered the "villian" of Gettysburg who "left the Round Tops uncovered", instead the book examines the kind of terrain Sickles was in on the early morning of July 2nd, and why the terrain he was in concerned him so much. That concern had much more to do than just getting to higher ground. And inadvertantly, Sickles move actually contributed to delaying and ultimately frustrating Lee's attack on Cemetery Hill by Hood and Mclaws. Sickles move also deprived Lee of his second goal on July 2nd, which was the capture of the Peach Orchard area as an artillery platform from which he could enfilade the Union 2nd Corps with artillery fire, while Hood and Mclaws drove to Cemetery Hill.

It also points out that Meade wasn't concerned much about covering the Round Tops himself, even when Sickles was in his original position on Cemetery Ridge, as ordered by Meade. Rather, Meade began "filling in" gaps in the line, in reaction to Hood's unauthorized drifting movements towards Plum Run Valley and the Round Tops, towards the left as additional federal corps arrived later on.

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 2:06 p.m. PST


Perhaps the best and most revealing revelations of all in this book, is that it uses heavily the after-action reports of numerous generals, to back up Lee's orders, and also backs up Lee's assertion that the "general plan remain unchanged".

This statement by Lee that the "general plan remain unchanged" directly contradicts the popular version of the battle. In fact the popular view of the battle is in effect calling Lee nothing less than a liar. The popular version is that Lee switched from a flanking strategy suddenly to a frontal strategy, seemingly not sure what to do… when in reality the attacks of July 2 and July 3 were CONVERGING assaults on Cemetery Hill, and were neither "flank" or "frontal" assaults. This was the "general plan" that remained unchanged! Indeed, even on July 1st Cemetery Hill was his main objective. And so Lee was indeed correct in his statement. From July 1st to the 3rd, Cemetery Hill was his goal.

The single, connecting thread through Lee's orders, and all the after-battle reports, is that time and again, officers on both sides attest to the fact that the attacks of BOTH July 2nd and July 3rd were actually attempts by Lee at coordinated, converging assaults on Cemetery Hill. And it is very clearly revealed by these after-battle reports that on July 3rd in particular, the objective of Longstreet's assault was Cemetery Hill, NOT Cemetery Ridge.

Terrement Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 2:18 p.m. PST


Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 2:21 p.m. PST

Thanks Terrement, glad to hear you plan on reading it!

john lacour Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 2:30 p.m. PST

well, like i said, depth of subject, yes. but as a student of the battle for well over 40 years, i can say with all due modesty, these questions have been gone over before. and anyone who has studied the battle and has some key books on the subject, will have seen other authers go over these points.
in fact, i think tucker mentioned, in depth, the attack up the emmitsburg road, and the point about useing the raod as an guide.
hey, promote the book. just don't misreprestent what it is.

Micman Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2011 2:30 p.m. PST


Thanks for the tip. One of the nice things about working at a university are the library privileges.

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 2:37 p.m. PST

Lastly, and then I'll shut my long-winded, history-obssessed trap for the night and give it a rest :), are the reasons that Cemetery Hill was Lee's goal for three days at Gettysburg.

Harman keeps the reader in focus with the fact that Lee's main problem at Gettysburg was his over-extended line, and Lee recognized it pretty quickly. He HAD to find a way to "steal" back the interior lines from the Army of the Potomac, and he HAD to do it early on July 2nd before the rest of the federal army arrived on the field.

Lee was an astute tactician, a long time student of military tactics, and a master at recognizing how to beat superior forces arrayed before him.

Contrary to the popular idea that Lee's "blood was up" at Gettysburg, and had no real plan but was striking the Union army, "trying out" different parts of the line, is nonsense.

Lee saw that Cemetery Hill was the ONE point on the battlefield where he could not only instantly consolidate a great portion of his army, and take back the interior lines, but at the same moment would make the federal army's position impossible to stay in. Meade would have been forced to order the two severed wings of his army down Taneytown Road and Baltimore Pike. with Cemetery Hill gone, the battle was lost for Meade.

Like a keystone, Lee saw Cemetery Hill as a point, indeed the ONLY point where he could sever the federal line, and consolidate his own forces in the same blow.

Having already over-extended lines as it was, the last thing Lee would have wanted to do was to further thin out those lines by trying to go around the Round Tops or around Culp's Hill in flanking attacks. The thinner his line became, the less troops he could bring to bear in an effective attack.

This then, is why Lee recognized and chose Cemetery Hill as his goal for the entire battle.

Lee knew what he was doing after all!

It's because of the fact that Lee failed in these attacks, that over time his true intentions have been blurred and made less clear. Because of over-emphasis on suppposed critical spots on the field like Little Round Top, and the legend of the copse of trees and the angle, Lee's own orders and his real goal at Gettysburg was lost to time.

Had Lee succeeded at Gettysburg, his orders and plans would have been clear from the outset.

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 2:43 p.m. PST


Your points are well taken, but you are not recognizing that not everyone has studied the battle as long or thoroughly as you have. Everyone studying Gettysburg, and the Civil War itself, are all at different levels of progression.

What may to you just be another book among many that really doesn't say anything new, to you, for others it might indeed be quite valuable in shedding new light on a new perspective of the battle.

So please keep that in mind. I have been studying the Civil War for 25 years, but only more recently(past five years) REALLY started to seriously study Gettysburg to the point where I could make actual assertions that contradict the popular version of the battle, so in some sense this is fairly new to me, in terms of Gettysburg specifically. I QUESTIONED and WONDERED for years while reading about Gettysburg, but only more recently could I confidently ASSERT that I was getting closer to the actual events as opposed to the popular version. In other words, I was aware of bits and pieces of what I was wondering about, but it was only more recently that I was able to organize and put all those pieces together in front of me.

I am not misrepresenting the book, indeed I admitted that this was one book among others that have challenged the popular view of the battle, but my personal opinion is that this one does it better than alot of others, and in my opinon is perhaps the best at doing it. But that itself is only my opinion.

Man of Few Words11 Nov 2011 3:00 p.m. PST

Campaigner1: I concur with your enthusiasm. After 55 years of studies and interest, I found it quite informative. Tucker and Pfanz are still my mainstays but Harman has added a great insight.

PKay Inc Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 3:05 p.m. PST

Terrement -

Actually, I'm Brent Oman (Piquet Inc….PKay Inc….), not Bob Jones. Don't waste a second on the Carhart book. At best, its useful to prop up an uneven table leg.


Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 3:23 p.m. PST

Man of Few Words,

I definitely concur with regard to Pfanz. His level of detail is extraordinary, and his books are key pieces in putting the events in their proper perspective.

Some students of the war have found Pfanz to be TOO detailed, too ponderous and difficult to read.

But I totally disagree. Personally I could pick up Pfanz and read it all day, I love becoming totally immersed in every detail and unit movement, no matter how small. His works on Gettysburg are a must have as well.

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 3:28 p.m. PST

Man of Few Words,

I once described Pfanz as the "J.R.R. Tolkien" of Civil War books!

Just as the level of detail in Tolkien's works at times describe every bush and terrain feature, every minute detail down to what food is being eaten during the adventure, so too Pfanz literally provides a level of unit and unit movement in such detail for the battle of Gettysburg that it is unmatched.

Dan Beattie Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2011 4:26 p.m. PST

Lee's real goal for three days at Gettysburg was to defeat the Union Army. I don't think that Harmon's book presents either new ideas or a new interpretation. He does not address why the so-called High Water Mark of the Rebellion ended up at the Angle rather than at Ziegler's Grove or why Lee permitted Longstreet to attack eastward rather than north/northeastward on the second day.

I think that he is engaging in wishful thinking without much evidence in an effort to prove that Lee did not make serious errors in his attacks.

And, let me join the consensus that Carhart's book is awful.

The best books on Gettysburg and the decisions made there remain Coddington and Sears.

john lacour Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 4:41 p.m. PST

i agree with dan beattie. i mean no offense to the author or the book. just nothing new.

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 4:51 p.m. PST


You are ABSOLUTELY WRONG on several points of Harman's book!

He does INDEED address why the High Water Mark ended up at the angle! And he also addresses the issue of Longstreet! In DETAIL!

Have you actually read Harman's book? I have it right next to me. You're absolutely wrong.

Harman thoroughly explains that the High Water Mark at the angle was nothing more than the point at which Pickett's division was STOPPED, but was not its GOAL for the charge.

No disrespect meant, but do you actually know what happened to the flanks of Longstreet's assault on July 3? Harman thoroughly goes on to explain that the ORIGINAL shape of Longstreet's attack was a giant arc, with Pettigrew and Trimble marching straight eastward toward Cemetery Hill, and Pickett marching at a 45 angle to the Union Line, aiming for Cemetery Hill.

Originally, the right flank of Pickett's division was supposed to be supported by horse artillery, which was to move out and provide counter-battery fire against McGilvery's guns on Cemetery Ridge. This artillery support was supposed to help Pickett maintain his flank and keep his assaulting line organized and on track towards Cemetery Hill.

But since this artillery support never moved forward, Pickettt's flank was heavily damaged by flanking fire and it herded INWARDS towards the center of the attack.

In a likewise manner, Pettigrew's LEFT flank was damaged badly by both flanking federal infantry and artillery fire from Cemetery Hill. So HIS flank was caved in, and IT ALSO herded towards the center of the attack.

I don't understand your assertion at all. Longstreet was never "permitted" to march straight east with all three divisions, you're not grasping the nature of the charge. Pettigrew and Trimble WERE supposed to march straight east, directly toward the western slope of Cemetery Hill, while Pickett was ordered to march in a NORTHEAST/NORTH direction, to roll up Hancock's corps and ultimately attack Cemetery Hill from the South.

Therefore the charge itself was aimed at Cemetery Hill from TWO directions. Longstreet was not "permitted" to march straight east. He was ordered to have all three divisions to march TOWARD Cemetery Hill, with Ziegler's Grove as a landmark and focal point.

But because BOTH FLANKS of the attack were caved in, it GAVE THE APPEARANCE in hindsight that the focus of the attack was at the angle, because that was where most of the confederate attackers ended up being concentrated. But the concentration of confederates at the angle was NOT THE DESIGN of the charge, but rather the consequences of having its flanks caved in. In other words, the attack lost its shape and lost its direction. Everybody was essentially herded "inwards", and so instead of the arc closing in on Cemetery Hill, it became in its final moments a desperate struggle at the angle in the stone wall.

But the "High Water Mark" merely marks the point at which the assault on Cemetery Hill was STOPPED. The actual spot itself was insiginficant in terms of the plans for the attack. The angle, the tiny copse of trees, were merely supposed to be by-passing points that Pickett was to march through as he rolled up Hancock towards the north.

But the caving in of the flanks of the attack caused the actual physical shape of the confederate attacking line to change, forcing the whole attacks towards the center. The angle became the point of deepest confederate penetration, FAR short of its goal of Cemetery Hill.

Like I said, no disrespect meant, but did you actually READ this book? Because you said two total, absolute untruths about it!!!

Everything I just discussed, Harman also discusses in DETAIL in his book!

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 5:09 p.m. PST


Harman also explains why Pickett started out not from the woods of Seminary Ridge as is popularly believed, but actually out in front of the confederate line about 200 yards, under cover of a swale.

More importantly, this deployment out in front of the confederate line was deployed at an angle 45 DEGREES to the Union line.

Why would Pickett have been deployed at such a strange angle? Because Pickett's part of the attack was essentially taking the same track and angle as Hood and Mclaw's took on July 2, "up the Emmitsburg Road". The only difference between Hood and Mclaws on July 2 and Pickett on July 3, was that Pickett was starting out much closer to Cemetery Hill than Hood and Mclaws were. Pickett was farther up the line so to speak.

This 45 degree angle of attack against an enemy line was a favorite of Lee's that he had used in other battles. This type of attack had a long military tradition, going back through Napoleon, and as far back as Frederick the Great.

Lee emulated both men and was influenced by them, and indeed used this 45 degree attack as they had done in past wars.

It is for this reason that Pickett's goal was not a head on strike, but rather an attack that, had his division not had its own flank caved in, WOULD have outflanked Hancock's corps' left flank, and struck it at a 45 degree angle to the federal line, and it may have indeed been rolled up as planned. But Pickett was driven inwards by flanking fire, which permitted him in turn to be outflanked by Stannard's Vermont Brigade. Pickett ended up taking both infantry and artillery flanking fire.

I'm not sure what book you read sir, but you certainly didn't pay attention if you did read Harman's book.

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 5:19 p.m. PST

I respectfully disagree with both John and Beattie, I feel John is selling the book short of its uniqueness, while Beattie flatly said two total falsehoods about the book.

Dan Beattie Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2011 6:03 p.m. PST

Campaigner -

Pull yourself together; this is supposed to be a civil place, not a civil war.. And I am not a liar. And I have read the book.

Notice also that I referred to Longstreet attacking east on the second day. I suggest you read more on the subject.

Personal logo gamertom Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2011 6:05 p.m. PST

Such passion over this book! I read it after it came out and felt Harmon makes a good case for what Lee's intentions were. But all in all I find "The Gettysburg Companion: The Complete Guide to America's Most Famous Battle" by Mark Adkin to be a much better read and to provide a better detailed description of the battle. Taken with Harmon's book you get an excellent study in how Lee's intentions failed so miserably. I will note that Adkin has a different view of Lee's intentions (more "traditional") and this has to be considered.

One of the things that reading several works on the same battle and campaign brings to light are the different perspectives and interpretations. So you have to juggle all this and acknowledge that there's usually (but not always) useful information in each book – even if you feel the author got things completely wrong. I'm kinda with john lacour on this one, but acknowledge that Harmon pieced things together that others seemingly remarked on. I simply did not react to Harmon with the passion that Campainger1 has. But we all have our "Aha!!" books (mine being "Midway Inquest" by Isom and realizing the impact on Japan of America's oil embargo prior to Pearl Harbor and how that impacted Japan's strategy and goals).

rmcaras Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2011 6:42 p.m. PST

It would be a mistake to read one book and think one had a handle on any battle. Interpretations will continue to evolve as more material becomes uncovered, memoirs, lost reports etc. The challenge is to integrate various points of view, especially when/where they deviate. To provide a comprehensive picture..if that is even possible. Still its fascinating that the same material can be examined and varying interpretations [did he mean this hill or that one] AND with more subtlety, emphasis can vary.

By chance did you attend the Gettysburg Foundation's Fall Muster held October 29-30? [used to be known as the Friends of Gettysburg Battlefield]

One of the battlefield tours available, Saturday morning, was #8- Longstreet's Counter March – conducted by Park Ranger Troy Harmon. In the snow…of course.

It might be reprised at the spring Muster in 2012. Which is scheduled for the last weekend of April.

I went on another tour that day, following the 11th Corps – "These Men Are Not Cowards" conducted by Licensed Battlefield Guide – Stuart Dempsey. But my good friend who also read and is a big fan of Harmon's book went on the Longstreet tour [essentially they went to the scene of the crime, and followed Longstreet's path on 02 July] and I could ask him his impressions of Harmon's presentation.

Based on your comments, and my friends, I will move Harmon's book up my read list. As many of the others have stated, I have focused my ACW study down to two topics; ACW artillery and Gettysburg. And the nexus of those two is nirvana.

Can one EVER have too much material [books, maps etc] to sift through?

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 6:48 p.m. PST

Dan Beattie,

I apologize, I thought you were referring to Longstreet on the third day. I read your post in error. But it doesn't change the point I was making. And I've read plenty on the subject, you didn't need to imply that somehow I'm ignorant and need more reading time.

I am not trying to start a Civil War on here, I am quite well pulled together, but I am simply stating that you put forward a blatant falsehood about the book, and I'm challenging that.

I am not accusing you of lying, but asking if you actually read the book because you made claims about it that simply aren't true. I believe you read the book, but said flat-out that Harmon doesn't address a number of issues, when in fact he addresses all the ones you brought up. It's one thing to say you don't agree with the assertions of a book. It is quite another to say a book doesn't address an issue when it in fact does.

***But even if you are referring to July 2, and Longstreet being "permitted" to march or attack eastwards, he was not "permitted" to do so by Lee. He was ordered up the Emmitsburg Road. Hood and Mclaws were ordered up the Emmitsburg Road. Hood simply drifted off course and his division became entangled in the Devil's Den/Round Top areas. Whether the terrain caused this, or it was a regiment or brigade's error we'll probably never know.

A quote of Lee with regards to the battle of Little Round Top clearly proves Lee never permitted or gave orders to Longstreet to march or attack eastward. Hood drifted east on his own, Lee didn't "permit" it, it just happened.

I don't understand your phrase "permitted". Think about it! If Lee gives orders to Longstreet, who in turn gives orders to Hood and Mclaws, and Hood ends up losing cohesion, and part of his division drifts eastward off its intended course, how could Lee prevent that? How does that qualify as Lee "permitting" it? He gave orders that were ultimately not properly carried out, whatever the circumstances.

That's why your question of "why was Longstreet permitted to attack eastward" on July 2 doesn't really makes sense. Lee gave orders, and the troops involved to carry out those orders drifted off course. No permitting or not permitting.

The quote of General Lee is as follows, and it proves that Hood wasn't permitted to march east, but that Hood's troops did so on their own and in error:

(I capitalize for emphasis here)
Lee said that the troops on these heights(The Round Tops) "EMBARRASSED and DELAYED" Longstreet's movements of July 2nd. Clearly Lee is expressing here that there was no order or intention for Longstreet to attack eastward. Why would Lee use words like embarrass and delay if it did not indicate that he never intended for Longstreet to be there at all?

Clearly not only did Lee not "permit" it, his orders were not followed, troops drifted and the main attack was delayed.

What could Lee do about if a half a division drifted off course? He was busy managing the whole battle.

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 6:57 p.m. PST


But sir, that is precisely what Harman is addressing in his book…

It's not a what-if book. He tries to emphasize that it wasn't a question of "what hill did Lee mean" "this or that hill".

It's an emphasis on the fact that those officers involved clearly knew the difference between going up the Emmitsburg Road and attacking the Round Tops. And that Lee was clear as those around him were the difference between attacking Cemetery Hill and Cemetery Ridge.

Lee would not have left such important distinctions open to interpretation, and that is why Harman focuses so much on Lee's orders. Because it has been perceived over time that Lee's orders could have been "interpreted in multiple different ways". That maybe Lee "meant Little Round Top" and not Cemetery Hill, etc. etc.

If Lee gave orders to attack Cemetery Hill, when he actually meant Little Round Top, etc. etc., then we are dealing with a general who suddenly was struck with a case of mental illness and severe brain damage.

That as far as I'm concerned is HIGHLY unlikely, and drifts into the realm of "over-thinking" the what-ifs.

His own orders show clearly this was not the case. Lee gave clear orders, and the attacks failed for various reasons. His attacks failed partly due to his own troops not staying on course, and partly due to the Union defenders who stopped his advances.

But Lee's orders have been relegated to the dust-covered pages of history, and largely ignored and forgotten even by those studying the battle in a serious manner.

Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 7:15 p.m. PST

Beattie, all I wanted to do was set the record straight. You said plainly Harman doesn't address July 2nd with regard to Longstreet, and you said Harman doesn't address the issue of the High Water Mark vs. Ziegler's Grove.

What's more is that John agreed with you without even bothering to check if what you said about the book is true. I saw a bias forming, and falsehoods about the book starting.

He in fact addresses both issues in the book and does so in detail.

We are discussing a particular book, and why I support the book's assertions.

Saying flatly that there are things Harman doesn't address in the book, when in fact he does address them, doesn't help those who are considering reading it.

Personal logo Battle Cry Bill Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2011 7:23 p.m. PST

I have to agree with Dan. I liked the book, it makes a good case, but without getting the book out, I felt it pushed the evidence beyond what it can prove. It also seemed a bit repetitious to me (not really book length.)

The best thing about the book from my memory (read it 2+ years ago) was that you have someone very familiar with the ground judging written material intelligently in the context of that ground. That is refreshing, but then I spend a lot of time on battlefields listening to smart people like Troy Harman trying to make the plans make sense in the light of the ground.

I haven't been back to Gettysburg since the visitors center was moved I am anxious to go back and check out the sight lines on Cemetary Hill.

BTW, is Lee's blood being up inconsistent with Lee making the best attack he could?


Campaigner1 Inactive Member11 Nov 2011 7:39 p.m. PST


I respect and understand what you are saying, but I would invite you to perhaps give the book another read.

Harman does indeed make the same points repeatedly, but I feel he does so only to keep the reader focused and on track as he tries to make his case.

I also feel that Harman is, as a good historian should, minimizing the drama and emotional attachment to the "emergency" points of the battlefield, and trying to help the reader stay focused on Lee's larger plan, which the evidence shows was consistent, if somewhat less dramatic and exciting than we would like to believe at times.

It's much more compelling, for example, to want to believe that Lee attacked Little Round Top, and Union forces arrived only just in time to save the day. For some to discover that Little Round Top held no value for Lee, and indeed he ignored it completely in his plans, is emotionally difficult for some to detach from.

I respect Harman for encouraging students of the battle to let go of their emotional attachments to certain points on the battlefield and instead open themselves to evidence and information.

Personal logo Milhouse Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2011 11:12 p.m. PST

IIRC one of the other points was that Lee was attempting to assault the Cemetery Hill salient in a traditional way:attack it from both sides. "Pickets Charge" was supposed to be coordinated with Dick Ewell's demonstration assalt on Culp's Hill. Unfortunately for the ANV, that assault happened and fizzled out well before Porter Alexander had even opened up his artillery prep.But that was also part of Lee's plan.

As far as some of the other points, there has been plenty of speculation that on various reconnaissance and communication of orders , various hills were confused for one another (stoney hill for little round top etc).

Personal logo Ironwolf Supporting Member of TMP12 Nov 2011 12:54 a.m. PST

(sorry. accidently hit enter before I was finished typing. so deleted my original post above)

I enjoy gaming ACW and I'm casual reader of the battles and such. I've been to gettysburg two times and I've never been able to understand was the third day assault on the copse of trees? The idea that Lee felt the troops were spread out on the flanks so the union center was weak just seemed a leap of faith n Lee's part and not a real strategy?

From my understanding Lee did not want to engage at Gettysburg? Based on this view Lee was taking the hand he was dealt and making the best plan he could with the little information he had. Thats why the strategy seemed to me so hodge podge. Lee kept adjusting his plan based on what information he was learning during the battle. Which made sense to me why Lee was so upset with Stuart not being there with his Cav. to scout.

So now with this book campaigner1 is talking about. Lee had a plan of attack from the beginning and spent three days trying to get it to work. The sources used for this book is Lee's written orders along with his generals after action reports??

This sounds very interesting and my main question is does the book have enough maps for someone to be able to follow what Lee's original orders were and where the divisions ended up at??

My next question is has anyone compared the information in this book with the archeology of the battle field. specifically the assault on the third day on the copse of trees?? Reason I ask is the history channel did a show on this a couple years ago and found it very informative.

jgibbons Inactive Member12 Nov 2011 5:23 a.m. PST

On a side note Troy Harman is a great tour guide, a great historian, and most importantly, a great guy too!

If you are ever in Gettysburg and have a chance to go on one of his walks its well worth the effort (but bring good shoes – inside joke)…

Many of the Gettysburg Battlefield Walks are also available on DVD…

James Gibbons

Femeng2 Inactive Member12 Nov 2011 5:42 a.m. PST

First, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy – General of the Army Omar Bradley.

Lee was an outstanding general, but not perfect. Gettysburg was his worst day. Lee himself admitted it. Others continue to try to disprove Lee's own evaluation of its outcome. Why not just listen to Lee and Longstreet?

FireZouave Inactive Member12 Nov 2011 8:05 a.m. PST

I read the book and although I felt it was repetitive also, found it very interesting. I had never heard these beliefs expressed before and they do make perfect sense. If you look at the position of zeiglers grove and cemetary hill, it was definitely the key to the whole union defense. If you occuppied it at all, you would be looking down the length of the union army on both sides and it would have collapsed, if the confederates could have captured and reinforced it.
It really doesn't make sense that Lee would pick out a very small area of (small)trees and brush that really had no significance, to attack. Yet, there would be no confusion about attacking the large area of tall trees called Zeiglers grove. I'm not saying he's right, but it sure makes sense. I wonder how many other historians agree with Harman?

rmcaras Supporting Member of TMP12 Nov 2011 10:22 a.m. PST

far as I can tell, none of the writers I have read ever have claimed to have been there and personally witnessed the events they've written about. And the ones THEY QUOTE have to be taken with a grain of salt….many grains sometimes.

Therefore its an exercise in carefully sifting thru the records that are left and making INTERPRETATIONS. What things looked like then, who was where when is a puzzle that frankly, IMO can not be pieced together exactly even a few months/years later [read up then on where these veterans thought they fought a few years later when the park was developing].

So you believe Harmon has nailed exactly what happened, why, who etc etc….I don't believe any historian can know, just make an interpretation. Some more informed than others. It IS conjecture at some level.

Others, readers & writers points of views might vary. They have their rationale also.

Don't take it personally.

Personal logo Ironwolf Supporting Member of TMP12 Nov 2011 3:59 p.m. PST

rmcaras, I understand and agree with what your meaning. Historians are basically taking the information they have and trying to make educated guesses on what the real people were planning.

Now if this Troy Harman is taking Lee's written orders prior to and during the three day battle. Then compares them with Lee and his generals after action reports. We can get a pretty good idea of what Lees plan was and where it went wrong. which holds more creditablity for me than some historians view on what they think Lee was wanting to do.

But like you and others have posted on. We will never know 100% for sure. Even if we were there, I doubt we'd know all the facts. This is one of the things I enjoy about reading and studing history.

Personal logo Battle Cry Bill Supporting Member of TMP12 Nov 2011 5:16 p.m. PST

I am happy to agree that Lee was trying to take Cemetery Hill and that his plans consistently were taken in other directions for a great many interesting reasons. I think Harman's book a good one and I own it. Personally, I am much more caught up now in the very detailed studies of the wheat field, the first days fighting, the cavalry fights, Little Round Top, and who really did follow through on the attack on the third day. Lots of great detail, maps and tactical discussions in places like Gettysburg magazine. Lots of truths (I'm not so sure about THE truth.)

As Pickett said when asked the reason for the loss" I believe the Union Army had something to do with it." No matter what the generals intended, the men of the Army of the Potomac thought of Gettysburg as a soldiers fight and they won that fight. That story is best learned walking the ground they fought and reading the words they wrote.


WARSTEPHEN Inactive Member18 Dec 2011 9:00 a.m. PST

Gettysburg was Lee's worst battle. If Longstreet did not follow Lee's orders fully, that's fault.
The movie Gettysburg was based on a NOVEL. That the movie followed the book's theme is not the fault of the movie, but the books auther simply followd a basic history of the battle.

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