“It’s All My Fault”: Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg July 3, 2013July 3, 2013Brooks D. Simpson How do you assess Robert E. Lee’s performance at Gettysburg? And yes … I know the Yankees had something to do with it. But so did Lee. Share this:FacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like Loading... Related
I have long thought that the seeds of defeat at Gettysburg were laid at Chancellorsville—Lee came to believe his men were superior to the bluecoats and therefore could do almost anything. So Lee was working from a horribly wrong set of assumptions, and did badly as a result.
I thought we were all at fault . . . You know, leaving us to scratch our heads, search our souls, and burn up e-mail threads.
Lee over-under-estimated the fighting mettle of the Union troops in the Army of the Potomac.
Lee’s supervision of his corps commanders was abysmal.
He misread the field and the strength and strategic location of the Union army.
I agree with what Jim says and would also add that he also drew another incorrect believe: that the Army of the Potomac was demoralized and disintegrating when most of its officers and men were furious at Hooker’s decision to retreat. Lee complained, after the battle, about the want of support for Picket’s men but whose responsibility was that but his? He seemed unduly hands off/passive at times during the battle, but he had one corps commander who had never commanded a corps in battle except for a few minutes at Chancellorsville between when Jackson was shot and he was and another corps commander who had not commanded his corps in a battle involving all corps. One would think that he could have a council of his commanders, not to vote but to exchange ideas and make sure that,as my dad used to say, everyone was on the same page of the hymn book. He allowed himself to be persuaded by Early, with very little resistance, to give up the idea of consolidating his line after the first day (the men would be upset at giving up territory won? It was never the plan to stay in Pennsylvania).
One of the many questions I have (as a non-civil war buff): assuming Pickett’s division had reached the Union lines, under any analysis they would have been badly mauled as of the time the survivors reached that point. What the hell did RE Lee think was going to happen then? The Union troops turn and run? That there were no more Union troops behind them to counterattack?
This idea of Pickett’s charge just seems to me to be the worst idea ever to be carried out by a military genius who inadvertently picked the worst time to have the worst idea.
D+. We know the things that went wrong and were mishandled. Of course the Lost Cause crowd says it was everybody’s fauilt but his. Well, guess who stocked the roster with those players and put them on the ice. Hill didn’t put himself in charge of the 3rd Corps. Ewell (who was IMHO correct in his decisions late on July 1 but still gets criticized for his role during the three days) didn’t put himself in charge of the 2d Corps. And neither one was reponsible for assessing his own weaknesses accurately and adapting the orders he ws given with those in mind. I suppose that I’d answer with another challenge – list all of the things that Lee did right at Gettysburg. But then this is the guy who stated, with apparent honesty, that the toughest oppoent he faced was George McClellan.
He said that about McClellan after Antietam. He hadn’t met Meade yet.
Appointing AP Hill to a corps command was probably a mistake by Lee. Ewell wasn’t a great choice either, but I think did better than he gets credit for (he gets too much criticism for not being Stonewall). I just don’t know how you can promote someone immediately upon their return from missing 9 months of work. I think Early or Hood would have been better choices than Hill.
Lee was too overconfident in his men and too dismissive of the AotP.
Lee did not adequately manage his cavalry during the campaign (particularly Robertson and Jones), though Stuart is not free from blame here either.
July 1: Lee made a mistake holding back RH Anderson’s division and giving Ewell a discretionary order regarding Cemetery Hill. He also said he wanted to avoid a general engagement, but didn’t do much of a job preventing one. And with Ewell coming from the north while Hill approached from the west he should not have hesitated to attack in force.
July 2: Trying to roll up the Union left was the correct decision. But he made the mistake of entrusting crucial scouting to two engineers apparently bad at navigation rather than going himself or at least sending Longstreet.
July 3: Attacking the Union center was a mistake. Maybe if the bombardment is more effective, Hill chose his troops wiser, and the second wave had gone out it would have done better, but I don’t think the ANV can break the Union center that day. I’m not sure what the best course of action is; probably disengaging similiar to Longstreet’s strategic ideas. Whether that would have succeeded is another question.
July 4-14: Lee did a great job managing the retreat back to Virginia.
About as well as Rommel at 1st Alamein/Alam Halfa.
And for some of the same reasons…