Sunday, July 08, 2007

Where was H.B. McClellan on July 3, 1863?

Further to the saga of East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, one small lingering question is "where" Major McClellan was during the engagement.

One reviewer (Kelly Whiting in the post Intellectual History at its Best) wrote of OTHER REVIEWERS of Carhart's book (Lost Triumph: Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg--And Why It Failed):

To begin, many reviewers claim an entire lack of evidence for Tom Carhart's theory among the facts of the battle (to be clear, the theory is that Lee planned a three-pronged attack on Meade's positions of which Picket's Charge was only one piece and the key to its success was an attack by Stuart's cavalry, and attached units, on the rear of Meade's position both at Culp's Hill and the clump of trees on Cemetary Ridge). I'm not certain which reviewers actually read the book versus which didn't, but it is simply not true to claim there is "no" actual historical evidence of such a theory. Mr. Carhart notes it in his work several times, for example: 1. he cites Stuart's after-action review which stated that he hoped to strike the Union rear; 2. he cites Lee's reported comments to Imboden the evening of July 3 (in my mind the best evidence) in which Lee states that Picket's Charge was not supported as it ought to have been and he didn't know why when the only battlefield commander left to debrief was Stuart - therefore, Stuart would be the only source to provide the answer to why Picket's Charge wasn't "supported;" and 3. he cites McClellan's comments about Stuart's multiple firing of one gun and McClellan's statement that no one knew what Stuart was doing, though McClellan though it may have been a signal to Lee (one reviewer said this was nonsense as it had to have taken place during the artillery barrage on Cemetary Ridge and therefore Lee couldn't have heard it - interesting that such an obvious problem wouldn't occurr to McClellan, who was actually there - in other words, if McClellan thought it a signal of some kind to Lee, then the artillery barrage on Cemetary Ridge could not have been happening yet since McClellan would, actually being there, have known it couldn't be heard - therefore, logically, it had to have occurred prior to the barrage) - another negative reviwer pointed out that he tracked down McClellan as the source of this idea - also interesting since Mr. Carhart cites McClellan as his source so he shouldn't have had to track down anything - it makes me wonder if he even read the book. These three items are cited from primary sources (and there are others in the book) which are generally considered the best form of historical evidence for facts on the ground. It is true that there is a huge mass of primary material dealing with Gettysburg and that these are very small pieces of that mass - and such a fact could lead one to accuse Mr. Carhart of "cherry-picking" his facts (though I think that claim would be innaccurate based on the intellectual history portion of the work), but it is simply untrue to claim there are "no" facts cited to support his theory.

In reading Brooke-Rawle's 1878 account (after the initial IPBiz post on Carhart's book, Was Tom Carhart's book on Gettysburg pre-empted?), LBE was puzzled by Brooke-Rawle's statement about McClellan:

It has been insinuated by a gallant Confederate officer (Major H.B. McClellan, Assistant Adjutant General on the [page 6] staff of General J.E.B. Stuart), who, if indeed he were present, might be presumed to have been in a position to judge correctly, that the cavalry operations on the right flank of Gettysburg resulted victoriously for his cause. That this was not the case will be shown conclusively. [See IPBiz post Gettysburg and KSR v. Teleflex, part 2]

In the specific context of the Brooke-Rawle/McClellan "disagreement," Brooke-Rawle is suggesting that McClellan was NOT present at the fighting around the Rummel farm. Indeed, if one looks at McClellan's "attack" on Brooke-Rawle's assertion, it lacks evidence FROM McCLELLAN'S EYES: I have not been able to find any Confederate who will corroborate this statement: on the contrary, all the testimony on that side indicates a result successful to the Confederates in the last charge. It is not just to say that this arises from a disposition on the part of the Southern cavalrymen to claim uniform victory for themselves; for they have put on record many instances of candid acknowledgment of defeat. McClellan is NOT saying: I (McClellan) saw Confederates hold the Rummel house at the end of the battle.

If one looks at McClellan's statement about the cannon shots, there is a similar lack of FIRST PERSON, AT THE SCENE, EYES. And, don't forget, McClellan allowed two alternatives for the cannon shots: a signal to Lee OR to locate Union forces, these alternatives not mentioned by Whiting, or the other reviewer. Further, if McClellan were on the scene with the cannon shots, why did McClellan write: I have been somewhat perplexed to account for Stuart's conduct in firing these shots. And, Stuart's forces had been observed by Union forces long before Pickett's charge started.

As a separate matter, one might review text written in War Papers Read Before the Commandery of the State of Wisconsin both as to Stuart's objective and as to Custer's role.

Stuart's objective: "with instructions to get into the Union rear, there to do havoc in case of retreat of Union forces."

Custer's role was part of a team, and Custer did not stop Stuart alone: Custer, falling back under the weight of the superior force of Fitz Hugh Lee and the remainder of Hampton's Brigade is supported by Gregg and McIntosh, and Chester's battery, who are the entities who stop the Confederate advance. "Before this storm, the enemy gave way." Custer was part of a team that stopped Stuart; at the time Custer's teammates kicked in, Custer was moving backward. A strict accounting of what happened is relevant to a different reviewer's comment: the premise that Custer saved the union at Gettysburg is tough meat for some readers to chew, because of the baggage of their own cultural milieu. [At Little Big Horn, Custer's "teammates" Reno and Benteen were not able to help Custer's battalion of 212 men.]

The Wisconsin papers were published in 1896.

Of the various "cites" mentioned by Whiting, recall Carhart's book has no bibliography.

Previous posts:

Those mysterious cannon shots of JEB Stuart on July 3, 1863

While Civil War people were checking out Gettysburg July 1-3, some folks further west were checking out a different anniversary:

On the night of July 2nd in 1947 something crashed into desert outside of Roswell, New Mexico. Soon after, the military closed off the area. The first announcement made by the military was that a flying saucer had crashed. Quickly after this first announcement the story was changed - what was thought to have been a flying saucer was in reality a weather balloon.

The episode was mostly forgotten until 1970 when Jesse Marcel, the major involved with the recovery of the crash, announced that the military's claim that the object was a weather balloon was a lie. Since the announcement, Marcel and dozens of others have maintained that the crashed vehicle was not a weather balloon, that actual alien bodies were recovered, and that they were all threatened into silence.

IPBiz wonders when either East Cavalry Field or Roswell will be resolved.


Blogger Unknown said...

obert E. Lee was one of the greatest field commanders in the history of the world. He would not have sent Picketts men out after doing vurtuely no damage to the Union Center by the clump of trees unless he had another strategy given in the book. Why would JEB Stuart Form up and start across the East Calvary Field at the moment the artillary had stopped if he didn't have some where to be? It makes too much sense given Lee's studies of Napolien. Also to rebut your point about the Union troops who saw Reb Calvary from atop Cemetary Hill wouldn't matter in this type of attack as Pickett would have distacted them long enough to get Stuart down the Boughnton Road over to the Baltimore Pike. He could have then covered the Union retreat from there, but I believe that Jeb was ordered by the Commanding General to attack the rear at which poit would have turned the tide in the battle. Longstreet had 2 regiments ready on the Flanks if the line was broken. - Just some thoughts

5:41 PM  

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