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"The Excelsior Brigade’s Reputations: Good or Bad?" Topic

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American Civil War

809 hits since 2 Sep 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

trailape02 Sep 2018 11:14 p.m. PST

Hi Guys
I'm writing up a scenario dealing with Barksdale's Charge at Gettysburg on 2 July 1863.
How would you rate the Excelsior Brigade?
I've heard they performed poorly and I've heard they performed reasonably well.
I'm rating the two other Brigades, Carr's and Burling's as ‘Regular' (average), but I'm open to suggestions.
I'm considering ‘Green' as appropriate for the Excelsiors.
I've rated McLaw's Division as ‘Veterans' except for Barksdale's Brigade which is rated ‘Elite'.

Cleburne186303 Sep 2018 1:59 a.m. PST

Despite the fancy name, I don't think they really stood out or accomplished more than other brigade. Either at Gettysburg or the battles before it. I would rate them average. Their performance at Gettysburg had more to with position and deployment than anything.

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2018 4:46 a.m. PST

Average sound right to me.

redbanner414503 Sep 2018 5:10 a.m. PST

They rolled bad at Gettysburg.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2018 8:17 a.m. PST

I think you need to consider the tactical situation for both Barksdale's and the Union brigades in determining their ratings.

Barksdale saw the Union flank and went for it, and in doing so, left his directing regiment, the 21st high and dry. Hardly the actions of an 'elite' brigade commander or brigade. He was certainly aggressive and at times impetuous. It might be better to give them a veteran status with some benefit on the attack for Barksdale's leadership.

donlowry03 Sep 2018 9:21 a.m. PST


trailape03 Sep 2018 5:51 p.m. PST

Agreedit was a rather ‘shambolic' Assault but Barksdale's Brigade did roll through theFedetals in spectacular fashion so I'll stick with the ‘elite' rating.
I've found that ‘vetetan' doesn't really give them enough ‘oomph' to get the job done in the previous play testing of this scenario.
I'm tending towards ‘Regular' (average) for the Excelsior Bde.
I should mention I'm using PICKETTS CHARGE rules.

trailape03 Sep 2018 11:13 p.m. PST

Typing on an IPhone 📱 can result in terrible text,…
I'll try again:
@ McLaddie
It was a rather ‘shambolic' Assault but Barksdale's Brigade did roll through the Federals in spectacular fashion so I'll stick with the ‘elite' rating.
I've found that ‘Veteran' rating doesn't really give them enough ‘oomph' to get the job done in the previous play testing of this scenario.
I'm tending towards ‘Regular' (average) for the Excelsior Bde.
I should mention I'm using PICKETTS CHARGE

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2018 3:25 p.m. PST


Ooh. A new word: ‘shambolic'. I like it. wink

Well, not to disparage Barksdale's or his brigade's fighting ardor, IIRC, Barksdale moved off his proscribed line of advance, losing his directing regiment in the process because he saw the juicy target: the left flank of Humphrey's division.
A flank attack should have been a 'bit' more devastating.

On top of that, Humphreys reported that in his rush to get his division in position, he clubbed the entire division. That is, he deployed it up ass-backwards as a formation, which is sort of like a baseball team suddenly being asked to play the game with the first base treated as the third and third as the first… It can be done, but it will keep the team from playing its best… grin

In other words, there were extenuating circumstances that aided Barksdale's attack.

But, yes I'd say average or 'Regular' for the Excelsior Brigade. Their performance overall and at Gettysburg seems to have been 'typical' rather than notable in either direction.

Cleburne186304 Sep 2018 4:56 p.m. PST

I think you are confusing Humphrey's division with Caldwell's division. Or more specifically, the Irish Brigade. Humphrey's division had been in position for hours and had plenty of time to get its regiments in the correct formations.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP04 Sep 2018 9:18 p.m. PST


No, I meant Humphreys Division. I didn't remember correctly about the clubbing. What Humphreys did was pull regiments out of his brigades here and there, so that the Division's battle array was disrupted. He wasn't in line for hours if the Confederates attacked @4:30. His Report [which gives some details about the Excelsior Brigade]:

About 4 p.m., in compliance with General Sickles' orders, I moved my division forward, so that the first line ran along the Emmitsburg road a short distance behind the crest upon which that road lies. At the same time I ordered Lieutenant Seeley to place his battery in position on the right of the log house. As the division moved forward in two lines, as heretofore described, the enemy opened with artillery, which enfiladed us from the left, and subsequently with artillery on our front, both with but little effect.

In reply to my inquiry whether I should attack, I was directed to remain in position. Lieutenant Seeley's battery was transferred to the left of the log house, and soon silenced the battery in our front. The position he vacated was immediately occupied by a battery (parts of F and K, Third U.S. Artillery) commanded by Lieut. J. G. Turnbull, sent at my request from the Artillery Reserve. Captain Ransom, Third U.S. Artillery, while engaged in supervising the posting of this battery, was severely wounded.
The division on my left [Caldwell's I assume] was now engaged with the enemy's infantry, which in my front merely made demonstrations, but did not drive in my pickets.
Colonel Sewell, commanding the Fifth New Jersey Volunteers, of my Third Brigade, reported to me at this time and relieved the pickets of General Graham's brigade (on my left), some of which extended over a part of my front. This regiment had been posted but a short time when a most urgent request was made by a staff officer of General Sickles that another regiment should be sent to the support of General Birney (Graham's brigade), leaving it to me, however, to decide whether it could be sent.
At this moment, Colonel Sewell sent me word that the enemy was driving in my pickets, and was about advancing in two lines to the attack. The demand for aid was so urgent, however, that I sent Major Burns' Fourth Excelsior to General Graham's brigade, and at the same time dispatched one of my aides, Lieutenant Christiancy, to General Hancock, commanding Second Corps (General Caldwell's division having been sent to the extreme left), with the request that he would send a brigade, if possible, to my support.
Seeley's battery had now opened upon the enemy's infantry as they began to advance. Turnbull's battery was likewise directed against them, and I was about to throw somewhat forward the left of my infantry and engage the enemy with it, when I received orders from General Birney (General Sickles having been dangerously wounded and carried from the field) to throw back my left, and form a line oblique to and in rear of the one I then held, and was informed that the First Division would complete the line to the Round Top ridge. This I did under a heavy fire of artillery and infantry from the enemy, who now advanced on my whole front.
At this time, Colonel Sewell's regiment returned to the line, having maintained most gallantly its position on picket, with very heavy loss. Seeley's battery remained to the last moment, withdrawing without difficulty, but with severe loss in killed and wounded, including its commander among the latter. His loss was 2 enlisted men killed; 1 commissioned officer and 19 enlisted men wounded; 1 enlisted man missing, and 25 horses killed and disabled.
My infantry now engaged the enemy's, but my left was in air (although I extended it as far as possible with my Second Brigade), and, being the only troops on the field, the enemy's whole attention was directed to my division, which was forced back slowly, firing as they receded. Lieutenant Turnbull fell back with the infantry, suffering severe loss in men and horses, himself wounded. His loss was 1 commissioned officer and 8 enlisted men killed; 14 enlisted men wounded; 1 enlisted man missing, and 44 horses killed.
The two regiments sent me by General Hancock were judiciously posted by Lieut. H. C. Christiancy in support of my right. At this time I received orders through a staff officer from General Birney to withdraw to the Round Top ridge--an order previously conveyed to General Carr, commanding the First Brigade on the right, by General Birney in person. This order I complied with, retiring very slowly, continuing the contest with the enemy, whose fire of artillery and infantry was destructive in the extreme.
Upon arriving at the crest of the ridge mentioned, the remnants of my division formed on the left of General Hancock's troops, whose artillery opened upon the enemy, about 100 yards distant. The infantry joined, and the enemy broke and was driven from the field, rapidly followed by Hancock's troops and the remnants of my two brigades, who took many prisoners and brought off two pieces of our artillery which had been left after all the horses were killed.
Sergt. Thomas Hogan, Third Excelsior, brought to me on the field the flag of the Eighth Florida Regiment, which he had captured. He deserves reward.
It was now near dusk, and the contest for the day was closed. Its severity may be judged by the fact that the loss in killed, wounded, and missing of my division, 5,000 strong, was 2,088, of whom 171 were officers and 1,917 enlisted men. The missing numbered 3 officers and 263 enlisted men, the greater part of whom were probably wounded; some were killed.
I append a tabular list of the loss.
As I have already stated, my Third Brigade was ordered to the support of Major-General Birney, commanding the First Division. The accompanying report of Col. George C. Burling, commanding that brigade, exhibits the disposition that was made of the regiments of the brigade. In succession they, with the exception of Colonel Sewell's regiment, were sent to aid the brigades of the First Division. The Seventh New Jersey, Col. Louis R. Francine commanding, and the Second New Hampshire, Col. Edward L. Bailey commanding, were sent to the support of General Graham's brigade, and the Eighth New Jersey, Colonel Ramsey commanding, the Sixth New Jersey, Lieut. Col. S. R. Gilkyson commanding, and the One hundred and fifteenth Pennsylvania, Major Dunne commanding, were sent to the support of General Ward's brigade.

Italics mine.

One significant observation what that the Union seem to pull out regiments almost willy-nelly to go support other brigades--Humphreys send regiments to the left and then asks Hancock for him to send regiments etc. I think it is one reason that it took 40,000 Union troops to stop 20,000 Rebels. [As Artilleriest Alexander observed afterward]

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