Friday, August 31, 2018

Stuart, East Cavalry Field, and Berkheimer

More than ten years ago, IPBiz was discussing a book by Tom Carhart about the significance of J.E.B. Stuart's actions
on July 3, 1863 at East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg in evaluating the wisdom of Robert E. Lee's ordering of Pickett's Charge.
See Was Tom Carhart's book on Gettysburg pre-empted?

One commenter to that IPBiz blog post agreed that Carhart's theory had been pre-empted (i.e., already discussed in previous published work), although citing to an alternative history book on the Civil War, by one Winston Churchill (later to be British Prime Minister, as distinct from the Winston Churchill who wrote the Civil War book "The Crisis.") To avoid confusion, the alternate history is titled “If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg” , First published in Scribner’s Magazine, December 1930, pp. 587-97, In a post on 8/3/2011 titled Churchill Imagines How the South Won the Civil War , ERNEST B. FURGURSON wrote:

Given Churchill’s dissection of Gettysburg’s actual events, it’s no surprise that he made Stuart a crucial figure in his imaginary account for If. Returning to England after his jaunt through America, he began to work out in his mind just how Lee lost at Gettysburg—and how he might have won. “It always amuses historians and philosophers to pick out the tiny things, the sharp agate points, on which the ponderous balance of destiny turns,” he writes in the essay.

Churchill goes on to attribute the Rebel victory to many small factors that aligned in their favor. “Anything…might have prevented Lee’s magnificent combination from synchronizing,” he writes. Like most historians, he points to the Confederate July 2 assault on Little Round Top as a pivotal moment; in his fictionalized version of events, the Rebels took the hill, depriving Meade of the high ground for his guns.

But ultimately, Churchill concludes that Stuart was the key. His narrative has the cavalry arrive at the Union rear precisely as Major General George Pickett led his infantry charge on Meade’s position on Cemetery Ridge. This helped produce a panic that swept through the whole left of Meade’s army. There could be “no conceivable doubt,” he writes, “that Pickett’s charge would have been defeated if Stuart with his encircling cavalry had not arrived in the rear of the Union position at the supreme moment.”

Carhart's book was published in 2005, some seventy-five years after Churchill had isolated on the significance of Stuart's attack (which in the real world failed, contrary to the alternate world of Churchill).

Of interest here is an essay by Gompert and Kugler, published in 2006 in Defense Horizons, which analyzes "Lee's Mistake," allocating little significance to Stuart's failure at East Cavalry Field. Of special interest is a quote on page 2 of the Defense Horizons article by James McPherson, which might be measured against McPherson's earlier review of Carhart's book.

In terms of patent issues, such as those created by Berkheimer, it gives meaning to how difficult it is to evaluate how something can be "well understood."

In passing, "East Cavalry Field" has been somewhat revived in importance over the last ten or so years. One concurrent event that remains to be more fully evaluated is the action of the Union Army's IV Corps in and around Richmond in June and July 1863.



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