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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gettysburg As Analogy

For John, BLUFLong history lesson regarding Gettysburg.

I thought this might be of interest to some readers of this blog.  In another venue we were discussing if the Pacific Region needs a NATO like organization when someone threw up a Gettysburg analogy.

The Gettysburg side of it started with this comment by one of the China hands:

Finally, George Pickett (who graduated last from his class at West Point) observed, "I always thought the Yankees had something to do with it."

It seems to me that perhaps CHINA might have something to do w/ China assuming a more nationalist perspective, rather than them simply being a poor, put-upon nation upon whom outsiders, especially the US, work their effects.  Perhaps it's not a matter of US pushing, but Chinese pushing that is more of a determinant?

Fair enough.  But, then one of our historians, Bob Bateman, Army Lieutenant Colonel and one time Associate Professor of History at West Point, weighed in.  LTC Bateman is a published author, producing No Gun Ri: A Military History of the Korean War Incident, which debunked a false narrative on that Incident.  The book garnered a Colby Award in 2004.

Here is his intervention regarding Gettysburg:

Please, let me step in here, at least as regards Gettysburg.  I detest mythology.  I especially detest mythology that I once fell for.

WARNING:  This is my interpretation.

  1. It was 6 weeks after Chancellorsville, when the Union Army, demonstrably, collapsed in the face of an envelopment.
  2. Lee, despite having lost Jackson, was aware of this.
  3. Lee ordered Stuart on a wide, swinging envelopment. Timed to hit the Union wagon trains at 1200-1300, depending upon resistance. THIS WAS WHAT THE PLAN DEPENDED UPON.
  4. The envelopment failed, between 1200-1400, due to a young (24 year old) Cavalry officer...umm, and his Brigade.
  5. Longstreet was apparently not privy to the plan to Envelop from the N/NE.
So, friends, consider:  What if the Union Army, so stalwart on the lines in history, had seen smoke to their rear, just like they had seen six weeks before, at 1200, 1300, or 1400 on 3 July 1863.  What would have been the tactical decisions made at the tactical level, with the obvious implications of what would have happened at the operational and strategic (and indeed, political) levels?

Oh, that single Union brigade that stopped JEB Stuart's envelopment.  Yea, that was a 24 year-old dude named Custer.  About a week after assuming command.

I liked the reference to tactical actions with operational and strategic, to include political, consequences.  The levels of war are a useful construct for understanding how small actions can have major consequences.

If anyone would like to engage LTC Batemen on this topic, let me know and I will forward you his EMail.

Regards  —  Cliff

  He served with the 7th Cavalry Regiment.
  Awarded for "a first work of fiction or non-fiction that has made a major contribution to the understanding of intelligence operations, military history, or international affairs."
  Like the aforementioned General Pickett, George Armstrong Custer graduated last in his class at West Point.

1 comment:

Craig H said...

I am fascinated by the actions of 1775/76 here in Eastern Massachusetts precisely because of how "micro" the turning points turn out to be. (What happens if Isaac Davis doesn't say "I haven't a man who is afraid to go"?) Even in actions of tens of thousands, there is always that horseshoe nail somewhere that is rarely completely discovered or fully understood in hindsight.

I like my heroes best on the smallest possible scale--Isaac Davis on April 19th; Henry Knox for a year afterward; Timothy Murphy at Saratoga in '77. (Though props to Benny A. for suggesting the shot). I'm betting the Civil War had thousands of such that we'll never really know.

But, most heroic of all, I like 'em when there was never anything to win, but they stood up for the right thing anyway. (We could all use a few more Daniel Shays...)

Thanks for this one. Most enjoyable reading.