Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Was H.B. McClellan at East Cavalry Field on July 3, 1863?

Further to the discussion of Jason Bell's book review of Carhart's book, Lost Triumph (see IPBiz, Still more on Jason Bell's review of Carhart's "Lost Triumph"), LBE went to the library to track down the correct page for Bell's cite in footnote 8.

It may be page 253, at which point Carhart acknowledges at the end of his book that a few other historians have mentioned almost in passing that Stuart may have been trying to reach and attack the Union rear. Carhart cites Wellman, Longacre, and Coddington, but does NOT mention Walker's book, which presages Carhart's theme. To Carhart, these three are considered to be guesses without foundation in the record, although one is hard pressed to distinguish Carhart's guesses from the others (mentioned and unmentioned by Carhart).

Coddington, like Carhart, relies on the writings of H.B. McClellan. McClellan states that the mysterious cannon shots were fired by Griffin's battery, as do Carhart and Coddington who derive from McClellan. However, this may not be correct.
As noted on IPBiz, at page 456 of Trudeau's book "Gettysburg" one has a footnote:

In his writings, McClellan would consistently misidentify this unit as Captain William H. Griffin's 2nd Baltimore Maryland Artillery, which was back at Gettysburg by this time.

Trudeau gives credit for the shots to Captain Thomas A. Jackson's Charlottesville Horse Battery.

This assertion by Trudeau is consistent with the monument folks, who are proposing a monument to Griffin's people on Confederate Avenue 330 yards north of Mummasburg Road. One notes at the site

Confederate Avenue 330 yards north of Mummasburg Road.

Army of Northern Virginia . Stuart's Horse Artillery. Beckham's
Battalion. Griffin 's Battery . Four 10 pounder Parrotts.
July 2. Arrived on the field and took position here.
July 3. Held this position until about 4 P.M. when was ordered to
withdraw to the rear.
July 4. Rejoined Jenkins' Brigade and moved to the southwest towards
Hagerstown .
Losses not reported.

This marker would be located at the position held by the battery
from the evening of July 2 until 4 P.M. on July 3, when it withdrew from
the battlefield proper. During the early part of the campaign, the battery
served with Jenkins' cavalry brigade. Shortly before the battle it was
assigned to Rodes' command. It rejoined Jenkins' brigade on July 4.
battery had a battle strength of about 106.1
Several sources place this battery with Jenkins' brigade on the East
Cavalry Battlefield during the fighting there on July 3.2 However,
several eye witness accounts place the battery on Oak Hill on July 2
and 3.3 Perhaps the battery thought to be Griffin's on the East Cavalry
Battlefield was actually Jackson's newly organized Virginia Battery.4
The battery had a battle strength of about 106.5

If these people are correct about the location of Griffin's battery near the Mummasburg Road on July 3, 1863, then McClellan isn't right. If McClellan isn't right, it's hard to believe he was at East Cavalry Field on July 3, 1863, observing a battery that wasn't there making the cannon shots that underscore Carhart's theory.

****Of Coddington's text:

Edwin B. Coddington, The Gettysburg Campaign: a study in command, Scribner’s Sons, NY, 1968, 1979

p. 520

He [Stuart] and Lee worked out a schemeto put Stuart’s entire cavalry force in a postion from which he could separate the Union cavalry from the main body of the army and at the proper moment swoop down onto its rear. Taking the three brigades of his command and Jenkins’ troopers, he rode out in the morning on the York road for about two and a half miles beyond Gettysburg before turning off on a crossroad to the right , which led him to Cress Ridge a mile away. (…)

If Lee should achieve his purpose in the Pickett-Pettigrew assault, Stuart knew he would be “in precisely the right position to discover it and improve the opportunity,” by spreading confusion in the Union rear and rounding up fleeing soldiers. [IPBiz notes Coddington is placing Stuart's action CONDITIONALLY on the success of Pickett, which is NOT what Carhart is arguing.]

p. 521
Stuart himself was also guilty of clumsiness in his attempts at deception, for reasons that his faithful assistant adjutant general, Major McClellealn could never fathom to his satisfaction.

Stuart pushed one gun of Captain W. H. Griffin's 2nd Maryland Battery to the edge of the woods and personally ordered it to fire a number of “random shots in different directions.”

See notes at page 801-802

Footnote 156 mentions spencer rifles

Footnote 158 notes the debate about who defeated whom, which is abundantly illustrated in the arguments between McClellan and Brooke-Rawle. But now it seems that Brooke-Rawle may have a point about questioning McClellan's presence at East Cavalry Field.


Merely for reference, IPBiz includes some pertinent text from Jeffry D. Wert's Gettysburg: Day 3 -->

p. 258: Stuart had reported personally to Lee sometime between noon and 1pm on July 2. Stuart probably arrived unaccompanied...

p. 260: Stuart's misjudgment in his interpretation of Lee's orders has remained one of the campaign's most heated controversies. (footnote 14)

p. 260: During the night, Stuart received orders from Lee for the cavalry to operate beyond Ewell's left flank. What Lee intended for Stuart to accomplish is unclear... In all, Stuart counted slightly more than five thousand officers and men, supported by thirteen cannon of horse artillery (footnote 18)

p. 260-1 When on the morning of July 3 the Confederate cavalry began the march is uncertain.

p. 261: Stuart brought up the 34th Virginia Battalion of Ferguson's brigade on foot. Armed with Enfield riflse with only ten rounds of ammunition for each man, the Virginians advanced to the Rummel farm buildings. Lieutenant Colonel Vincent A. Witcher deployed the five companies behind a stone wall that ran from the springouse through a meadow. (...) A handful of men from the 14th Virginia trailed Witcher's troopers ... when behind them two cannon from Cress Ridge opened fire. For reasons he never explained, Stuart had decided to test the Federals, bringing forward a section of the Louisiana Guard Artillery, a Second Corps unit temporarily attached to the cavalry. Captain Charles A. Green's gunners unlimbered their pair of ten-pound Parrotts and hurled shells toward the Low Dutch Road--Hanover Road intersection. It was not yet noon when the Louisianas pulled on the lanyards. (footnote 22).

The contents of Wert's footnote 22 (which appears on page 385) are complex:

Ferguson Brigade Line, 14th Virigina Cavalry File, GNMP (Gettysburg National Military Park)
OR (Offical Records), 27, 2, pp. 497, 697
Ladd and Ladd,eds., BP (Bachelder Papers) 2, pp. 1170, 1170n; 3, pp. 1380, 1381, 1384.

On page 262, Wert notes that "The Confederate artillery discharges stirred up Custer and the Michiganders." (...) "Pennington's horse artillerists rolled their six three-inch Ordnance riles onto a slight rise north of Hanover Road... Setting the guns at a give-dgree elevation, the Federals opened fire on the pair of Confederate cannon. A few rounds from Penninton's pieces caused Stuart to pull them back from the crest. The Union artillery fire also sent the foragers from the 14th Virginia Cavalry in a scurry to the rear. (footnote 24).

IPBiz notes that the text "for reasons he never explained" sounds much like the mysterious cannon shots described by McClellan as arising from Griffin's battery, and being either to probe Union forces OR to signal Lee. Further, they were answered by Pennington's battery. A key point here is that Wert has placed the shots in time before noon on July 3, related them to Pennington, AND corroborated the shots with actions taken by another group (the 14th Virginia).

Let's switch to Carhart's book. Page 204 indicates Stuart was surveying the scene around noon and that men of Jenkin's brigade were settling into the woods. At page 205, Carhart quotes McClellan on the cannon shots from Griffin's guns. Carhart states on page 205: "No one understood this action. Stuart volunteered no explanation and even McClellan was mystified [Carhart then quotes McClellan--"I have ben somewhat perplexed to account for Stuart's conduct in firing those shots;..." "In the meantime, Lieutenant Colonel Vincent Witcher's battalion of Jenkin's brigade, was dismounted and sent forward to hold the Rummel barn and a line of fence on its right."

IPBiz notes that Carhart is placing the mysterious cannon shots and Witcher's dismounted men at the Rummel barn at about the same. time.

Also at page 205, Carhart notes that "Some have said that these cannon shots were aimed at Custer's unit and they brought on his return fire from Pennington, which destroyed the two Confederate cannon." IPBiz notes that Carhart's conjecture is compound. It might be that the shots were not aimed at Custer, but that they did bring return fire. McClellan said they brought "no immediate reply" but McClellan does note, later on in his piece, that Pennington did fire back. McClellan also misidentified Stuart's shots as being from Griffin's battery, which simply is not true. Wert's other citations would go a long way to discrediting the "no immediate reply" assertion.

One notes that footnote 21 of Carhart's Chapter 14 cites to OR, vol. 27, part 2, p. 697, a reference made also by Wert.

As a separate matter, p. 253 of Carhart's book states:

A few other historians have also mentioned almost in passing that Stuart may have been trying to reach and attack the Union rear (footnote 16). But none of these authors has presented convincing arguments or even any evidence to support their claims, nor have they researched or developed that them in any detail whatever. And since no compelling evidence is presented to support these statements, they appear to be nothing more than guesses, of cource, but no more than that. It has therefor not required much reflection on the part of thier readers, both laymen and academics, before their suppositions that Stuart intended to attack the Union rear have been rejected rather uniformly. And clearly, in additon to the lack of evidence persented in support of those claims, one of the most important reaons for these rejections is the samll number of sacualties suffered by both sides in the cavalry battle on East Cavalry field.

footnote 16 notes: Wellman, Giant in Gray, 121 [Morningstar 1988]; Longacre, The Cavalry at Gettysburg, 221; Coddington, The Gettysburg Campaign, 520-1.
[IPBiz notes there is no mention of Walker's book.]

Carhart's book ends at page 269 with the words:

Gettysburg has since been remembered as the turning point in the Civil War, a moment when Lee was finally outthought, outfought, and outgeneraled by a Yankee commander. This crushing Confederate defeat, therefore, has beome widely accepted as having been brought about aby Lee's faulty decsion making on July 3, 1863.
But was it really?


As to obtaining vintage materials on the internet, a post on civilwarcavalry on August 2 discusses Microsoft live book search, Internet Archive, and Google book search.

The book "The Annals of War" published in 1879 (a compilation of articles in the Philadelphia Weekly Times) has the after-battle report of JEB Stuart, which does NOT mention the firing of the cannon in different directions. Significantly, the Stuart report mentions the withdrawal of Confederate cannon from the ridge, NOT because they were fired upon, but because they were of shorter range than the Union cannon. See page 530 of Annals which states: "Our artillery, however, had left the crest, which it was essential for it to occupy, on account of being too short range to compete with the longer range guns of the enemy; but I sent orders for its return."

Separately, "Pennsylvania at Gettysburg" published in 1914 at page 819 has the text:

"Their object was to gain the rear of our army, capture our ammunition and supply trains, and create consternation, and perhaps rout our forces, and this at the same time and in co-operation with the charge of Pickett's Division on the center."

Separately, see pages 405 ff of "The Great Invasion of 1863" by Jacob Hoke (1887).

Separately, p. 274 of "Between the Lines" by Charles King: "darts in to carry out his share of the well-planned combination."


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