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40. QUESTIONS

Having pursued a large number of alternative scenarios, I have the following remaining questions:

1) Why did Meade agree to Buford’s Ambush plan? It had obviously never been considered as a possibility and was concocted in complete isolation by Buford. IMHO, Meade should have simply ordered him back to Emmittsburg and then implemented the Pipe Creek Plan. This would have given the Army of the Potomac 2-3 days to prepare for an attack.

2) Why was Lee in such a hurry? The actual battle was played out over only three days. The first day was a surprise to both sides. But once the second day’s flank attack failed to roll up the Union left flank, why did Lee feel the need to immediately attack in force again on Day 3? Returning to my castle siege analogy, Lee held the advantage; Meade was defending the castle. While Lee had insufficient infantry to completely surround said castle, once Stuart’s Cavalry arrived, he could have re-deployed them to the south. Their duty would have been to interdict any supplies moving up from Westminster. In short, Lee did not need to take the castle by brute force. He could have laid siege. The Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) was well supplied. Its supply lines were long but unencumbered and not yet threatened by any Union forces. Meade’s men had only the minimum of supplies; mainly what they carried on their backs.  (see Section 23e)

While it is true that Lee was an island of the Confederacy far in enemy territory, for at least a short time he had the advantage. There was no overriding need for him to immediately launch a new attack on 3 July. Just about every aspect of Pickett’s ill-fate attack was rushed. The planning for that rather complex attack took place over just a few hours. During that time, it evolved from an attack from the south by all three of Longstreet’s divisions to an attack led by Pickett but supported by a cobbled together force from A.P. Hill’s Corps. Even the massive artillery barrage was hastily assembled as if by an afterthought!

Would it not have served the ANV better to have waited at least a day before making a second attack? What did Lee think he had to gain by rushing into action?

Again IMHO, a series of probing attacks that caused the Union to deplete their ammunition would have strengthened Lee’s position. It does seem true that Lee was unaware that Meade had an entire Corps held in reserve, but under siege conditions they were simply more mouths to feed! The analogy of an island would have been reversed. Lee, at least for a matter of days (possibly even weeks) had access to a huge area from which to draw supplies. By sending his wounded back along the same path by which he entered Pennsylvania, he could have used those same wagons to bring up more ammunition. This would have taken time, but seemingly Lee had all the time he needed. There was no burning fuse on his timeline to defeat the Army of the Potomac.

It truly does seem that Lee was obsessed with achieving that victory and was unwilling to lay siege to Meade’s army.

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As pointed out above, the addition of remnants of Heth’s division now under the command of Pettigrew and that of Pender’s newly under the command of Trimble was a late decision made by Lee on the morning of 3 July. Longstreet had apparently succeeded in his argument that both of his divisions that had fought so hard on 2 July that were incapable of participating in the plan for Day 3. Apparently, he also expressed concern that using Hood’s Division (now led by BG Law) would leave the entire Confederate right flank open to a counter-attack. So Lee agreed to replace Longstreet’s two divisions with men from Hill’s Corps. But why did he choose the ones that he did?

3) Why wasn’t Anderson’s Division included in the plan?

Anderson had attacked the Union center on Cemetery Ridge in the late afternoon as Sickles’ salient was collapsing in from of McLaws’ Division. But their battle was nowhere near as intense as what Longstreet’s men experienced nor of what Heth had endured on Day 1. Simply stated, Anderson’s men should have been much more ‘fit for duty’ than the ones Lee selected to support Pickett. In addition, both of those (depleted) divisions were under new commanders. It was a recipe for disaster.

Harkening back to the question of the timing, would not the ANV have benefitted from a day or two of rest? Meade’s men were sleeping in the open (no tents), they had only the rations they carried (mainly hardtack and salt-beef). Another day and night of such conditions could only have weakened them further.

A.P Hill could have used that time to re-configure his corps, perhaps reducing it to two divisions by re-assigning the able-bodied men. He had lost two division commanders (Heth and Pender), Pettigrew and Trimble had taken their place but had had no time to fully understand their new positions – particularly Trimble who had been shifted out of Ewell’s Corps while Pettigrew simply moved up in stature within his division.

If ever the adage “Haste makes waste” was true, it applied on 3 July. There was simply no pressing reason for Lee to rush into another battle after two days of intense and costly fighting. Longstreet was still pleading his case that an attack from the south or possibly a disengagement altogether and a movement to Westminster were viable options compared to Lee’s frontal attack plans. Lee could have used that time to better assess his options. For whatever reason, he seemed to be rushing towards his own defeat!

4) Why isn’t WESTMINSTER mentioned more as the true prize in the region? Once Hooker moved the Army of the Potomac north to chase Lee, the Union RailRoad troops began pushing supplies there from Baltimore. Physically, Westminster was simply a larger Gettysburg, closer to Baltimore. But those supplies turned it into the jewel of the region. Meade increased its value when he divested the infantry of their wagon trains and concentrated most of them there as well. Had Lee followed Longstreet’s council and quickly moved south, he may very well have captured those supplies and set himself as a ‘well supplied island of the Confederacy’.

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