Book Chat
"Gettysburg, The Second Day"
Harry W. Pfanz

This chat took place in the Civil War Home Chatroom on 11/06/05 and covered Chapters 7& 8.

11/6/2005 9:04 pm (et) Basecat: Welcome to the Sunday Night CW Book Chat. Tonight we will be chatting on Chapters 7, and 8 of Harry Pfanz's book, Gettysburg-The Second Day. Let us delve into Chapter 7, where our fave Danny Boy moves his 3rd Corps line to the position by the Peach Orchard, and the Wheatfield.

11/6/2005 9:06 pm (et) jimtno: Just to help set the scene. Sickles Corps goes into action on this day with a little over 10700 effectives. It will suffer just under 4100 casualties or 39.5 %

11/6/2005 9:06 pm (et) bluelady: One thing about Danny boy...he would not be satisfied with" you made a mistake but we'll help you out...he wanted total acceptance that his move was the best and only move to make.

11/6/2005 9:07 pm (et) jimtno: The II Corps of the AOP will commit 4 of its brigades into the action. Unfortunately their casualty figures are included with both day 2 and 3.

11/6/2005 9:08 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Sickles claims his "initiative" in positioning his corps was a better position - I know there are two sides to this story, but was it a better position?

11/6/2005 9:08 pm (et) jimtno: The meetings that go on for both sides up to this well just leave you shaking you head.

11/6/2005 9:08 pm (et) Basecat: Blue, Just from reading his responses as to why he made the move, shows in no way that his claim of winning the battle is true. Pfanz makes a fine point, and even Danny boy agrees with it, that while the ground there was good in some places, more than one corps was needed to support that line of defense.

11/6/2005 9:09 pm (et) bluelady: Exactly, and both ends we sticking out unanchored and unsupported.

11/6/2005 9:09 pm (et) mobile_96: Especially with the expanded area he was trying to defend

11/6/2005 9:09 pm (et) amhistoryguy: For all the meetings and communication that was going on, it seems no one was listening to one another.

11/6/2005 9:09 pm (et) Basecat: amhg..If the whole army moved with him, maybe, but his corps was not large enough to defend that type of line.

11/6/2005 9:09 pm (et) jimtno: AMG, IMHO No as it leaves both ends of his Corps "in the air". And the corps spread over a front that would have caused the 6th Corps to struggle to hold.

11/6/2005 9:10 pm (et) bluelady: Plus and it was said near the end of the chapter...he was defending an area twice the length of what was originally assigned him.

11/6/2005 9:11 pm (et) jimtno: In fact AMG,  Birney's one division is left to cover from Devils Den to just south of the Peach Orchard, some thing like over a mile.

11/6/2005 9:11 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Couldn't help but wonder what Sickles reaction would have been to one of his Division commanders using the same type of initiative in seeking better ground.

11/6/2005 9:12 pm (et) bluelady: If Meade made a big mistake here at Gettysburg, it was right here. I think he should have taken the time to see for himself before he did especially with the contradicting communication going on .

11/6/2005 9:12 pm (et) jimtno: Birney doesn't stand up to Sickles and A.A. Humphreys gets left with no choice. Move or have one of your lines with its southern flank in the air.

11/6/2005 9:13 pm (et) bluelady: And it was mentioned that Humphreys was not even asked by Sickles what he thought.

11/6/2005 9:13 pm (et) amhistoryguy: While Meade's army was perfectly capable of making maps of the areas they held, they did not have much of a grasp of the area's held by the Confederates - I would have thought he would want to see for himself where his corps were positioned.

11/6/2005 9:14 pm (et) jimtno: BL, I am convinced that Danny boy had his mind made up even before Capt Mead, Hunt and Warren tell him no way should you make that move. Sorry for the over simplification.

11/6/2005 9:14 pm (et) bluelady: The placement described in the chapter was hard to get without a map. When I looked at my day 2 maps the only thing that seemed to hold the line together was a skirmish line!

11/6/2005 9:15 pm (et) bluelady: Jim I thought the same thing as I typed what I did

11/6/2005 9:16 pm (et) jimtno: BL, Once Berdan's boys and and the 3rd Maine Reg. makes contact in Pfitzer's woods he was convinced he had to hold the line.

11/6/2005 9:16 pm (et) bluelady: AMHG, at this time, especially with the 3rd corps, I have to agree but he already knew where his others were placed and he was depending on signal reports that were coming back.  Remember at about 11:00 Am it looked as if Longstreet was actually leaving.

11/6/2005 9:17 pm (et) bluelady: As was stated at the end of the Chapter...too late to leave and you will have to fight it out.

11/6/2005 9:18 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I was curious about the maps already available of the GB area, and found that a county map produced in 1858 was available, and that the Confederates advance guard made a point of sweeping the valley clean of county maps. Jubal Early wrote afterwards that the maps were "so thorough and accurate that I had no necessity for a guide in any direction."

11/6/2005 9:19 pm (et) bluelady: And I think the Confederate army still had Hotchkiss as well.

11/6/2005 9:19 pm (et) jimtno: I don't want to blow through the chapter, but as you note BL, Once Sickles shows up with his staff in a cloud of dust, Meade has to tell him to forget about the meeting, get back to your Corps, as they are not going to let you leave now.

11/6/2005 9:20 pm (et) amhistoryguy: If everyone was not on the same map in the Union army, I can see where written or oral instructions could get very confused.

11/6/2005 9:20 pm (et) jimtno: BTW, The picture Pfanz paints there with his words, well, is priceless, and left me with a very vivid picture of that scene.

11/6/2005 9:21 pm (et) bluelady: Right, and at that same meeting sickles is still trying to exploit the idea that Meade did not want to fight there still!

11/6/2005 9:22 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Dumb question here, was Meade intending to take up a defensive position, or a position to launch and attack? Or both?

11/6/2005 9:22 pm (et) bluelady: Especially since it took 3 couriers to get sickles to the meeting in the first place.

11/6/2005 9:22 pm (et) jimtno: The other point is that Pfanz makes is that up until Capt Meade shows up around 3 pm, Daddy Meade thinks III Corps in the position as ordered.

11/6/2005 9:23 pm (et) mobile_96: I don't think Meade knew yet what he was going to do, as he really didn't know the Confederate positions

11/6/2005 9:23 pm (et) jimtno: I think earlier in the book he tells of Warren and Butterfield being sent on a recon on the Union right, Culp's Hill and CH to see if they could make an attack there. After that I assume he went to the defensive.

11/6/2005 9:24 pm (et) bluelady: According to what he had written to Halleck, he was going to wait to rest the 6th corps before he determined to attack and to allow the enemy position to develop.  I think that means I want to know their intentions.

11/6/2005 9:25 pm (et) bluelady: But he also is still allowing himself an out and that is what sickles in his lawyer politician way was exploiting.

11/6/2005 9:27 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Meade was satisfied to go defensive and wait to see where the Confederate weakness showed itself? Shouldn't he have been using his cavalry to search out the weaknesses, instead of sending them to Winchester?

11/6/2005 9:27 pm (et) bluelady: The ones he sent were the ones involved in the 1st day fighting and they needed to be refitted.

11/6/2005 9:28 pm (et) CWgal: AMG I haven't read this book but was reading an article about Meade in N&S and it said he was planning to fight from a defensive position. However, GB was not his choice as his initial choice of battlefields was behind Pipe Creek in Maryland.

11/6/2005 9:28 pm (et) jimtno: All, When Pleasanton asks Meade to ok Buford's retirement to Winchester.  Meade assumed that Pleasanton was going to replace Buford. As we know, it didn't happen.

11/6/2005 9:29 pm (et) amhistoryguy: OK, makes sense BL

11/6/2005 9:29 pm (et) bluelady: and what Jim says as well

11/6/2005 9:31 pm (et) jimtno: In some ways I don't blame Sickles for making the move. Rebs in force in the woods in his front, no flank protection to his south, it does make sense in a way to move where he did. But his Corps was way to small to support the move.

11/6/2005 9:31 pm (et) jimtno: And Chancellorsville is still in his head.

11/6/2005 9:32 pm (et) bluelady: Jim there I have to disagree...seems he would have been best to stay back where he had some support because the artillery had that ground covered...both ways as was stated

11/6/2005 9:32 pm (et) amhistoryguy: That's kind of what I was thinking, that his position was perhaps a better position, but not without the support of the rest of the army, and not over such a large area.

11/6/2005 9:33 pm (et) bluelady: But not being a professional soldier the lesson of Chancellorsvillle was still in his head.

11/6/2005 9:33 pm (et) jimtno: I see that point as well BL. As I said in some ways I can understand it. But no way do I agree with it because of his Corps size and the artillery that had been massed.

11/6/2005 9:34 pm (et) bluelady: When you put it that way...I see where you are coming from now.

11/6/2005 9:36 pm (et) jimtno: There is the description of Humphreys as he moves forwards. Flags flying bands playing and in grand style. Great word picture there again as follows Pfanz writing style.

11/6/2005 9:37 pm (et) jimtno: And one of the Chaplains describing it as they moved in "It was a splendid sight!"

11/6/2005 9:37 pm (et) bluelady: All in view of the 2nd corps.

11/6/2005 9:38 pm (et) jimtno: BL, Another great picture there. Can imagine the II corps grabbing their coffee cups and stopping their card games to watch. Must have been an awesome sight.

11/6/2005 9:39 pm (et) bluelady: And I wonder how many of them were wondering what the H are they doing!

11/6/2005 9:40 pm (et) jimtno: Did any one else see that note that Pfanz makes right after the Chaplains description?

11/6/2005 9:42 pm (et) bluelady: Firm step with colors flying the bravest men in the army marched into the open field.

11/6/2005 9:42 pm (et) jimtno: That's one but what struck me was "It remained in their collective memories long after other less splendid sights had receded."

11/6/2005 9:43 pm (et) jimtno: Must have been incredible.

11/6/2005 9:44 pm (et) bluelady: It must have been...maybe second to the confederates on day 3.

11/6/2005 9:44 pm (et) jimtno: The chapter closes with the thought that Sickles had been promised support from the II and the 5th Corps. Would it come in time? Any other thoughts before we move on to Chapter 8?

11/6/2005 9:45 pm (et) mobile_96: Blue, agree with that thought

11/6/2005 9:45 pm (et) bluelady: Just the way sickles thought about the way that support was promised.

11/6/2005 9:46 pm (et) amhistoryguy: The one problem I have with Pfanz, although his writing is very vivid and gives a great view of events, is the continuous shift of focus from Corps, to regiment, and back to Corps and then even down to individual. Maybe it's just me, but it makes keeping track of it all a chore.

11/6/2005 9:47 pm (et) jimtno: I see that point. Must admit that I have read this book now several times and it has the "dog ears" to show it. So I do have that advantage,. I guess I have missed that problem AMG. Good point.

11/6/2005 9:48 pm (et) mobile_96: But still seems to be a continuous flow of writing.

11/6/2005 9:48 pm (et) jimtno: Ok.. Any more thoughts?

11/6/2005 9:48 pm (et) bluelady: Knowing the field makes this book easier to follow now than the first time I read it

11/6/2005 9:49 pm (et) bluelady: Nope. Chapter 8 brings us to the point just after the countermarch

11/6/2005 9:49 pm (et) bluelady: Jim could you set us up?

11/6/2005 9:50 pm (et) jimtno: One more thing, Basecat has said to me several times, we are going to have to walk that ground for you really understand what happened.

11/6/2005 9:50 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I guess I'm just not use to the focus being so wide and then so narrow as to take in an individual story - I'm trying to keep track of where the various brigades are being positioned, and that information is broken up with stories of individuals. Just me I guess.

11/6/2005 9:50 pm (et) bluelady: That is the only way to get it

11/6/2005 9:50 pm (et) jimtno: Ok Chapter 8 or better known as the Confederate "What the ........?"

11/6/2005 9:51 pm (et) bluelady: amhg it really helps to have a map near by when reading about the movements especially in this chapter.

11/6/2005 9:51 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Lack of communication and coordination was not limited to the Union army.

11/6/2005 9:52 pm (et) bluelady: Umm...where did THEY come from.

11/6/2005 9:53 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Yeah, I've been using several maps, The Souvenir Guide is one of the easiest for me to follow, but I'm using the OR Atlas as well.

11/6/2005 9:53 pm (et) bluelady: Right there AMHG.

11/6/2005 9:54 pm (et) jimtno: The counter march has finished as we go about 2 pages in. McLaws gets his troops into line. He is all ready in a fowl mood because of being embarrassed during the disagreement between Lee and Old Peter Earlier and then he come up to rise and sees the III Corps in position NOT where they were expected to be. Pfanz said he must have uttered some great oaths! :-)

11/6/2005 9:54 pm (et) bluelady: This chapter could be called...We should have gone to the RIIIIIght.

11/6/2005 9:54 pm (et) mobile_96: Now I'm using the Imhof book and Desjardin set

11/6/2005 9:55 pm (et) jimtno: Bl, I would agree with that assessment.

11/6/2005 9:55 pm (et) jimtno: Mobile, the Dejardin set is great as it shows the position of the Confeds and the III Corps.

11/6/2005 9:56 pm (et) jimtno: Folks once again this one of those spots where you stand and look out and see where the Union lines were. McLaws had to be livid!

11/6/2005 9:57 pm (et) bluelady: now Jim and anyone else...please tell me WHY if McLaws got to the area first...why they didn't keep moving and in essence exchange places with Hood ?

11/6/2005 9:57 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I can see that this is one of those places that should be seen - to imagine what McLaws was facing.

11/6/2005 9:58 pm (et) jimtno: If we return to the counter march once again, Army Protocol. And I think pride.

11/6/2005 9:59 pm (et) bluelady: There wasn't a great distance between his line and the peach orchard...about 100 yds?

11/6/2005 10:00 pm (et) bluelady: Right and I think order of march was one time everyone wanted to be in the dust

11/6/2005 10:00 pm (et) jimtno: I think IIRC its about 300 to 400 yards. Tiger Woods tee shot.

11/6/2005 10:00 pm (et) amhistoryguy: McLaws seems to have let the awe of his unexpected position, to interfere with his ability to adjust to the situation?

11/6/2005 10:01 pm (et) bluelady: But what I am asking Mclaws was still first...why did Hood have to basically pass his division to get to his spot instead of shoving over so to speak?

11/6/2005 10:01 pm (et) jimtno: I would agree with that AMG, however, he does send for Longstreet to have a look. Old Pete Arrives and some more "Colorful language" comes from Old Pete's mouth.

11/6/2005 10:02 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Longstreet liked to hear Hood say the word Riiiight.

11/6/2005 10:02 pm (et) jimtno: LOL AHG.

11/6/2005 10:03 pm (et) bluelady: LOL

11/6/2005 10:03 pm (et) bluelady: I still think the Lee factor and Longstreet's pouting had a lot to do with the confederate communication at this point

11/6/2005 10:06 pm (et) bluelady: I think one thing can be said about the position and subsequent attack is that the field they had to do all this is just terrible for that kind of formation

11/6/2005 10:06 pm (et) jimtno: BL, I was trying to answer your question. There is nothing I have ever read that says WHY this happened this way.

11/6/2005 10:06 pm (et) jimtno: At least I can recall.

11/6/2005 10:07 pm (et) bluelady: I know Jim and that continues to baffle me and will be a question I ask should this be part of our muster experience.

11/6/2005 10:07 pm (et) jimtno: I would like to take a moment to talk about McLaws thoughts on Longstreet.

11/6/2005 10:08 pm (et) jimtno: I think it should BL.

11/6/2005 10:08 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Wasn't Lee doing something out of character, by not concentrating the attack, they were not use to having that level of coordination?

11/6/2005 10:08 pm (et) mobile_96: Almost felt like they were trying to help Sickles justify his position, from all the mistakes made by the Rebs.

11/6/2005 10:08 pm (et) jimtno: McLaws calls him overbearing, moody, brooding , and in essence just plain dumb. Geezzz think he doesn't like old Pete?

11/6/2005 10:10 pm (et) bluelady: I think there was a rift between them a while back.. I recall reading about that in Longstreet's memoirs.

11/6/2005 10:10 pm (et) bluelady: Also at this time I really think Pete was suffering from depression.

11/6/2005 10:10 pm (et) bluelady: From the loss of his family.

11/6/2005 10:12 pm (et) amhistoryguy: It would be neat to have a scorecard with a history the various personal conflicts and personal problems between the various commanders. A lot stems from ego and personal feelings I'm sure.

11/6/2005 10:13 pm (et) bluelady: I think I can sum up this chapter by saying it was a plan was made for a circumstance that was not there by the time they were in place to make the attack and it was too late to make any going to the right AND the ground was just terrible.

11/6/2005 10:13 pm (et) bluelady: AMHG that is absolutely correct.. on BOTH sides!

11/6/2005 10:14 pm (et) mobile_96: Wouldn't it have been better to just call off the attack?

11/6/2005 10:15 pm (et) bluelady: No, because Lee did not want the Union to be that organized in their defense and that would have happened.

11/6/2005 10:15 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Wasn't it to the Union advantage if the Confederates delayed - Confederates had to act or withdraw?

11/6/2005 10:16 pm (et) bluelady: He would not have been able to attack and would have had to retreat...basically doing what Longstreet suggested and Lee did not want to do that...better in hindsight yes, but at the time if an attack was going to be made it had to be made then.

11/6/2005 10:16 pm (et) mobile_96: Would have to be amhg.

11/6/2005 10:17 pm (et) jimtno: AHG, I would agree here. And then Hood gets into position and sends out his own recon, which naturally finds the way WIDE open to the "RIIIIGHTTT". Over simplification here but I think that about sums it up.

11/6/2005 10:17 pm (et) mobile_96: But wasn't it also obvious to Longstreet about the huge change in the Union positions also.

11/6/2005 10:18 pm (et) bluelady: Jim wasn't that area to the right where the 5th corps was coming?

11/6/2005 10:18 pm (et) bluelady: Not until McLaws saw it mobile and by then only Lee could call it off.

11/6/2005 10:18 pm (et) jimtno: Mobile and here enters the MOOD of Longstreet. Ticked off that he has been basically ignored, doesn't want to make the attack yet Lee has ordered it and that was it.

11/6/2005 10:19 pm (et) bluelady: And Lee wasn't going to call it off.

11/6/2005 10:19 pm (et) mobile_96: There was a reference to Lee possibly in the area?

11/6/2005 10:20 pm (et) bluelady: Right but IIRC no one really knew for sure where he was at this critical juncture.

11/6/2005 10:21 pm (et) bluelady: But my question now this point was the right really open to them?

11/6/2005 10:21 pm (et) bluelady: Wasn't the 6th corps coming then?

11/6/2005 10:21 pm (et) mobile_96: If Sickles had been when he was supposed to be, think there would have been a day 3?

11/6/2005 10:22 pm (et) bluelady: Don't know mobile.

11/6/2005 10:22 pm (et) mobile_96: Were some of them up already, by 4:00?

11/6/2005 10:23 pm (et) bluelady: I think some were.

11/6/2005 10:25 pm (et) mobile_96: any thoughts on that amhg?

11/6/2005 10:26 pm (et) amhistoryguy: By 4:00 pm, how much daylight was left?

11/6/2005 10:27 pm (et) mobile_96: read that by 4:30 they had about 3 hours left.

11/6/2005 10:27 pm (et) mobile_96: 3 or 3 1/2 that is.

11/6/2005 10:28 pm (et) mobile_96: Actual time is hard to figure as everyone indicated a different time.

11/6/2005 10:29 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Doesn't seem to have been a consideration - The condition of the soldiers after a day of movement, and then being put in seems harsh, seems like they really felt a sense of urgency.

11/6/2005 10:31 pm (et) mobile_96: I meant on Sickles being in his correct position, would there have been a Pickett's charge, or even a 3rd day.

11/6/2005 10:33 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Pretty hard to say, IMO - things might have dragged on past the third day.

11/6/2005 10:34 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I think in the long run, the longer the Confederates waited to do something, the worse their position became.

11/6/2005 10:34 pm (et) mobile_96: Or Meade flanked Lee out of his position.

11/6/2005 10:35 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Part of the problem, IMO, is that not everyone was on board with Lee, even so far as objective.

11/6/2005 10:36 pm (et) mobile_96: That's for sure

11/6/2005 10:36 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Lee seems to have been pretty determined to fight it out - Meade seemed like he was determined to let the Confederates initiate the action.

11/6/2005 10:38 pm (et) mobile_96: And why not, he had the much better position, but think he had enough to start working at Lee, if Lee stayed there

11/6/2005 10:39 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Interesting to speculate on, that's for sure.

11/6/2005 10:40 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Think about what might have happened had the rains come two or three days earlier than they did.

11/6/2005 10:41 pm (et) mobile_96: besides, Lee couldn't stay long, he was running out of ammo for his cannon.

11/6/2005 10:42 pm (et) mobile_96: At least enough for another day or 2 of real fighting

11/6/2005 10:45 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Longstreet was "done" before he started, I wonder what his reaction would have been to an additional day.

11/6/2005 10:46 pm (et) mobile_96: Go to the rightttt??

11/6/2005 10:47 pm (et) mobile_96: Pouted himself into a fever and headed home.

11/6/2005 10:47 pm (et) amhistoryguy: That's what he would have done, no doubt : )

11/6/2005 10:49 pm (et) mobile_96: I'm way behind in a lot of stuff here, so think I'm headed out for the night

11/6/2005 10:50 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Have a good night mobile, thanks for the chat

11/6/2005 10:53 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Guess someone should say book chat is over for tonight - Book Chat is Over for Tonight !