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Peter1469
05-03-2014, 03:39 PM
As the commander of the 7th Cav in one of the worse defeats of US forces, many Americans don't recognize his prior extraordinary achievements. He was pivotal in the Union victory over the southern rebels.


Custer, born in New Rumley, Ohio, on December 5, 1839, was a member of the second class of 1861 at the Military Academy at West Point, graduating a year early because Southern artillerymen had opened fire on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. The newly commissioned second lieutenant fought in the Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) on July 21, 1861. On his own initiative, he protected the Union retreat at the Cub Run Bridge, and his Company G, 2nd U.S. Cavalry, was one of the last Union formations to leave the battlefield. Custer went on to distinguish himself in nearly every major battle fought by the Army of the Potomac.


Because of his aggressiveness in cavalry charges, 23-year-old Custer was promoted from captain to brigadier general just days before the Battle of Gettysburg (http://www.historynet.com/battle-of-gettysburg). The Union's youngest general was given command of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade. On July 3, 1863, when Maj. Gen. George Pickett's Confederate forces began their assault on Cemetery Ridge, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's Rebel cavalrymen were maneuvering to make an attack on the Union rear. Saber-wielding General Custer and his Wolverines were there to stop what some historians have suggested could have been a battle-winning assault. Vastly outnumbered, Custer twice charged Stuart's forces, throwing them off balance and denying them access to the Federal rear.


The dashing young general stayed in the spotlight with the Michigan Brigade until September 30, 1864, when he was promoted to major general and given command of the 3rd Cavalry Division. Custer would hold that command post until the end, particularly distinguishing himself during the Appomattox campaign. After the Rebel surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan, who had been Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's chief of cavalry, purchased the table on which the articles of surrender had been signed. He would later present this table to Elizabeth Bacon Custer, General Custer's wife, with a note saying: I respectfully present to you this small writing table on which the conditions for the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia were written by Lt. General Grant and permit me to say, Madam, that there is scarcely an individual in our service who has contributed more to bring about this desirable result than your gallant husband.

Newpublius
05-03-2014, 04:32 PM
The Calvary battlefield is often overlooked because of Pickett's Charge, but if Pickett's charge were successful the union would've retreated and if the Calvary assault had succeeded it would've made it extremely difficult to get out of the fishhook

Peter1469
05-03-2014, 04:42 PM
The Calvary battlefield is often overlooked because of Pickett's Charge, but if Pickett's charge were successful the union would've retreated and if the Calvary assault had succeeded it would've made it extremely difficult to get out of the fishhook

Right. Calvary was not a primary arm of military power at that time. It was auxiliary. I think Lee screwed up and should have won had he been more patient. That is a serious battlefield. Lee should have moved north and forced the Union off the high ground.

Newpublius
05-03-2014, 07:47 PM
He can't. Look at a map of the Gettysburg Campaign. It explains why Gettysburg was going to happen at Gettysburg. Lee is using the Blue Ridge mountains as a shield, the second he ventures east of them, he faces a wider Potomac to the South and the Susquehanna to his north. If he goes north, the Army of the Potomac will be able to interpose between the Army of Northern Virginia and DC and the Potomac.

He won't be able to get out......

Peter1469
05-03-2014, 07:49 PM
Wow, let me pull up some maps. :smiley: Number one for a commander- know the land.


He can't. Look at a map of the Gettysburg Campaign. It explains why Gettysburg was going to happen at Gettysburg. Lee is using the Blue Ridge mountains as a shield, the second he ventures east of them, he faces a wider Potomac to the South and the Susquehanna to his north. If he goes north, the Army of the Potomac will be able to interpose between the Army of Northern Virginia and DC and the Potomac.

He won't be able to get out......

Bob
05-03-2014, 08:00 PM
Right. Calvary was not a primary arm of military power at that time. It was auxiliary. I think Lee screwed up and should have won had he been more patient. That is a serious battlefield. Lee should have moved north and forced the Union off the high ground.

Exactly my belief.

For some reason, Lee simply mismanaged that battle.

I stood where Pickett began that charge. Mad ... dumb. Very stupid. The Union held the high ground.

As you say, flanking moves can handle the high ground provided the army has sufficient time to get to the area. A long run over a empty field is a good way to get killed. No cover at all on the ground of Pickett's charge.

Pickett could have perhaps been part of a diversion tactic. Lee later adopted a much more defensive way to fight. And did very well using it.

Peter1469
05-03-2014, 08:07 PM
Lee attacked the Union army when the Union had the high ground. He didn't have to. He could have withdrawn in any other direction (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/A-Cutting-Edge-Second-Look-at-the-Battle-of-Gettysburg-1-180947921/).

Newpublius
05-03-2014, 08:11 PM
Exactly my belief.

For some reason, Lee simply mismanaged that battle.

I stood where Pickett began that charge. Mad ... dumb. Very stupid. The Union held the high ground.

As you say, flanking moves can handle the high ground provided the army has sufficient time to get to the area. A long run over a empty field is a good way to get killed. No cover at all on the ground of Pickett's charge.

Pickett could have perhaps been part of a diversion tactic. Lee later adopted a much more defensive way to fight. And did very well using it.

It was a war favoring the defense of course. The problem was that unlike WWI with trench lines unable to be flanked, a Civil War army could always be flanked. Here we're talking about two different things, the decision to fight at Gettysburg itself (I think the topography of the day leaves little choice, all roads in that theater lead to Gettysburg and then of course, once there, how to tactically proceed with the battle.

I'll post my pictures from the Longstreet Tower, assaulting the center seems like suicide of course, but the Confederates do get to the 'High Tide' and if you think about it, that fence killed them.

Ever see a crowd funnel through one door despite the ease a second door could be opened? Same effect here except opening the second door wouldn't have been as easy. That fence absolutely should've been addressed and Hill's corps should've been ready to go at dawn.

and let's not forget, like Pickett said regarding the reason the Army of Northern VA lost at Gettysburg and he said, paraphrasing, "the army of the Potomac had something to do about it"

Peter1469
05-03-2014, 08:19 PM
My point is that Lee didn't have to commit. :smiley:


It was a war favoring the defense of course. The problem was that unlike WWI with trench lines unable to be flanked, a Civil War army could always be flanked. Here we're talking about two different things, the decision to fight at Gettysburg itself (I think the topography of the day leaves little choice, all roads in that theater lead to Gettysburg and then of course, once there, how to tactically proceed with the battle.

I'll post my pictures from the Longstreet Tower, assaulting the center seems like suicide of course, but the Confederates do get to the 'High Tide' and if you think about it, that fence killed them.

Ever see a crowd funnel through one door despite the ease a second door could be opened? Same effect here except opening the second door wouldn't have been as easy. That fence absolutely should've been addressed and Hill's corps should've been ready to go at dawn.

and let's not forget, like Pickett said regarding the reason the Army of Northern VA lost at Gettysburg and he said, paraphrasing, "the army of the Potomac had something to do about it"

Newpublius
05-03-2014, 08:20 PM
Lee attacked the Union army when the Union had the high ground. He didn't have to. He could have withdrawn in any other direction (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/A-Cutting-Edge-Second-Look-at-the-Battle-of-Gettysburg-1-180947921/).

Well he could've withdrawn to the west of course, but see here

gettysburg campaign map

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gettysburg_Campaign.png

see the motion of the AoP? He can't slip around them to the South and if he were he'd be on the Taneytown Road in essence abandoning the Emmitsburg Road, Chambersburg Pike and Hagerstown....and that's dangerous because if he needs to extricate himself from that situation he won't be able to shield his army with the mountains and he'll have his back to an ever wider Potomac river.

not to mention his army was strung out and elements were far to the north...

when heth makes contact he has to consolidate.....he can't let the AOP interpose between him and safety.....

Newpublius
05-03-2014, 08:20 PM
My point is that Lee didn't have to commit. :smiley:

he didn't of course, he could've consolidated and then withdrawn.

let ' snot forget though, he won Day 1......and day 2 sees Longstreet lolligag on the flank motion which, because it took so long, hit an extended Union line instead of the flank of Cemetery Hill.....

Peter1469
05-03-2014, 08:23 PM
he didn't of course, he could've consolidated and then withdrawn.

let ' snot forget though, he won Day 1......

He did. But the Union army had so much advantage that its incompetence was not fatal. A good general would have ended the war with that battle- assuming that Lee committed his forces.

Bob
05-03-2014, 09:18 PM
Lee attacked the Union army when the Union had the high ground. He didn't have to. He could have withdrawn in any other direction (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/A-Cutting-Edge-Second-Look-at-the-Battle-of-Gettysburg-1-180947921/).

Looking over the map, with good scouting, Lee ought to know that the South / South East was available to attack. What makes the Picket's charge so bad in my humble estimation is the open ground for the charge was super large. Made it easy to kill the attackers.

When we study this battle and others, we must try to account for the terrible smoke that they had at that time. We use smokeless powder yet they used powder that made a lot of smoke.

Lee knew how to use scouts. I am trying to recall the lay of the land on day 1 but if memory serves me, that attack came well past noon. Could be dead wrong.
Meaning it left Lee not a lot more time for a follow up attack.

I admit that I have not spent over 10 minutes studying that entire battle for all days.

Bob
05-03-2014, 09:27 PM
It was a war favoring the defense of course. The problem was that unlike WWI with trench lines unable to be flanked, a Civil War army could always be flanked. Here we're talking about two different things, the decision to fight at Gettysburg itself (I think the topography of the day leaves little choice, all roads in that theater lead to Gettysburg and then of course, once there, how to tactically proceed with the battle.

I'll post my pictures from the Longstreet Tower, assaulting the center seems like suicide of course, but the Confederates do get to the 'High Tide' and if you think about it, that fence killed them.

Ever see a crowd funnel through one door despite the ease a second door could be opened? Same effect here except opening the second door wouldn't have been as easy. That fence absolutely should've been addressed and Hill's corps should've been ready to go at dawn.

and let's not forget, like Pickett said regarding the reason the Army of Northern VA lost at Gettysburg and he said, paraphrasing, "the army of the Potomac had something to do about it"

I looked over the lines of formed offense and formed defense. Your depiction from Wikipedia showed troop movements.

The well formed lines of the point of the Picket attack, show an open area to the South east and it seems to me that Lee should have gone for the part where the Union wasn't. Since he had to attack very wooded hills, the head on could have been best as done by Pickett were it not for that very huge open field. I believe he lost most of his men on that open field.

It's been a decade since I stood there trying to understand Picket's charge and to this day, I do not understand it. First, with powders that smoke, visibility is cut way down. Maybe Lee felt it to be an advantage over the field. If so, I still think he had an option open. South east was open.

Newpublius
05-03-2014, 10:28 PM
I looked over the lines of formed offense and formed defense. Your depiction from Wikipedia showed troop movements.

Well, Peter is discussing a strategic movement, hence the map I selected. You're obviously discussing Day 3. If we look at that map we see the Union fishhook. The reason why its a fishhook is because Ewell to the north and Longstreet to the south are crimping the Union lines.

Both positions were already the result of Confederate flanking attempts.

Walking the field you'll be shocked to see a Confederate artillery position out on Benner's Hill.....

Google that on google maps you'll see where it is of course, but its obviously cutting Hanover Road.

So why not flank on the left farther? Well, because it was hard to do, that's why.

Now google Big Round Top, and there's where you see how it would've been difficult for the Confederates to whack the Union left at that position, the only flank avenue there would've been Taneytown Road or to go even farther afield and to get to Baltimore Pike which is veering away from where the Confederates are coming from.

Day 2 saw Longstreet essentially try to flank Cemetery Ridge by coming up Emmitsburg Road. THAT was a practical plan until Sickles stuck his nose out and the rest of that day is essentially the Confederates trying to creep to the right of that conflagration.

The Union strength was in a fishhook, that's where the meat of the soldiers were, but they had pickets and guards and while the fishhook was hardened, that position still had some goose-egg in it.....

Lee was not going to sweep into an unexpected flank like Lee did to Hooker at Chancelorsville....

From Longstreet tower:

Big Round top and then sweeping left across the Union lines from there

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-BqtLAw7U0U0/U2WkzaJpHZI/AAAAAAAAKGA/IowMzYH1Dcg/w958-h637-no/013.JPG

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-pxtmQgQh0AY/U2Wkz6kCveI/AAAAAAAAKGI/MzF0Qa1dtnQ/w958-h637-no/014.JPG

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-OMNXM6M6aX4/U2Wk0ARrTOI/AAAAAAAAKGQ/u021i4KBbK4/w958-h637-no/015.JPG

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-OZJXSTMVW94/U2Wk1Ok3CuI/AAAAAAAAKGg/OZx7dgo1RTc/w958-h637-no/017.JPG

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-y2G4uuugqRU/U2Wk1l91puI/AAAAAAAAKGo/Lp8x5h-bUYk/w958-h637-no/018.JPG

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-wK6tFoWb7_0/U2Wk0vrOyxI/AAAAAAAAKGY/5nzz7SthQvo/w958-h637-no/016.JPG

Newpublius
05-03-2014, 10:32 PM
Just as an aside too Ewell had received orders to attack at dawn and its likely Longstreet did too and delayed.....that would've helped them....

Newpublius
05-03-2014, 11:50 PM
http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/gettysburg/gettysburg-history-articles/forgotten-flanks-of-gettysburg/forgotten-flanks-of.html




Note the map and the Union units, particularly in this instance straddling the road a flank attack would have to come from....

the right flank of AoP is much farther curled back than you would think.....

Bob
05-04-2014, 03:07 AM
Well, Peter is discussing a strategic movement, hence the map I selected. You're obviously discussing Day 3. If we look at that map we see the Union fishhook. The reason why its a fishhook is because Ewell to the north and Longstreet to the south are crimping the Union lines.

Both positions were already the result of Confederate flanking attempts.

Walking the field you'll be shocked to see a Confederate artillery position out on Benner's Hill.....

Google that on google maps you'll see where it is of course, but its obviously cutting Hanover Road.

So why not flank on the left farther? Well, because it was hard to do, that's why.

Now google Big Round Top, and there's where you see how it would've been difficult for the Confederates to whack the Union left at that position, the only flank avenue there would've been Taneytown Road or to go even farther afield and to get to Baltimore Pike which is veering away from where the Confederates are coming from.

Day 2 saw Longstreet essentially try to flank Cemetery Ridge by coming up Emmitsburg Road. THAT was a practical plan until Sickles stuck his nose out and the rest of that day is essentially the Confederates trying to creep to the right of that conflagration.

The Union strength was in a fishhook, that's where the meat of the soldiers were, but they had pickets and guards and while the fishhook was hardened, that position still had some goose-egg in it.....

Lee was not going to sweep into an unexpected flank like Lee did to Hooker at Chancelorsville....

From Longstreet tower:

Big Round top and then sweeping left across the Union lines from there

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-BqtLAw7U0U0/U2WkzaJpHZI/AAAAAAAAKGA/IowMzYH1Dcg/w958-h637-no/013.JPG

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-pxtmQgQh0AY/U2Wkz6kCveI/AAAAAAAAKGI/MzF0Qa1dtnQ/w958-h637-no/014.JPG

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-OMNXM6M6aX4/U2Wk0ARrTOI/AAAAAAAAKGQ/u021i4KBbK4/w958-h637-no/015.JPG

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-OZJXSTMVW94/U2Wk1Ok3CuI/AAAAAAAAKGg/OZx7dgo1RTc/w958-h637-no/017.JPG

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-y2G4uuugqRU/U2Wk1l91puI/AAAAAAAAKGo/Lp8x5h-bUYk/w958-h637-no/018.JPG

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-wK6tFoWb7_0/U2Wk0vrOyxI/AAAAAAAAKGY/5nzz7SthQvo/w958-h637-no/016.JPG

Wonderful photos. Brings me back to when I was there. I had family with me and only spent a bit of time trying to work out the details of the war at that site. I am thinking of day 3 with the fish hook and noticed the opening from the south. We also spent quite a bit of time inside the museum there. My Son in law took me to the grave of one of his relatives buried there.

Peter1469
05-04-2014, 03:15 AM
I need to go back. I was there once with the ex- just after we got married. And she didn't wear real shoes so I had a hard time getting around to places that I wanted to. I ended up moving into places she could walk just to help her understand that she should have practicle shoes. She did get pretty pissed at me. And I bought her hiking boots for the next Christmas, which pissed her off again, but she understood on our next trips to Iceland and the Baltic states when we walked miles and miles.

Newpublius
05-04-2014, 09:56 AM
I need to go back. I was there once with the ex- just after we got married. And she didn't wear real shoes so I had a hard time getting around to places that I wanted to. I ended up moving into places she could walk just to help her understand that she should have practicle shoes. She did get pretty pissed at me. And I bought her hiking boots for the next Christmas, which pissed her off again, but she understood on our next trips to Iceland and the Baltic states when we walked miles and miles.

You see, I would actually suggest a different plan. Let your fiance be herself, let her go to Gettysburg and shop or go out to Boyds Bears.....whatever....and then you can walk/drive/bicycle the battlefield.....

Peter1469
05-04-2014, 10:37 AM
You see, I would actually suggest a different plan. Let your fiance be herself, let her go to Gettysburg and shop or go out to Boyds Bears.....whatever....and then you can walk/drive/bicycle the battlefield.....

To late my friend.

She did however later thank me for the practicle shoe advice. We traveled to over 20 countries together after that and she was a trooper. We did hundreds of miles of walking much of it off road. We ran down a mountain in France in a massive thunderstorm with a cliff on the edge of the muddy trial. That is when she thanked me for her hiking boots.

Max Rockatansky
05-04-2014, 07:34 PM
I need to go back. I was there once with the ex- just after we got married. And she didn't wear real shoes so I had a hard time getting around to places that I wanted to. I ended up moving into places she could walk just to help her understand that she should have practicle shoes. She did get pretty pissed at me. And I bought her hiking boots for the next Christmas, which pissed her off again, but she understood on our next trips to Iceland and the Baltic states when we walked miles and miles.

I haven't been to Gettysburg since the 1970s but would love to go back. I hear they've really improved the visitor center.

Mister D
05-04-2014, 07:35 PM
I haven't been to Gettysburg since the 1970s but would love to go back. I hear they've really improved the visitor center.

Yeah, it's nice. I like to check out the antique shops though. That's the biggest attraction for me. Restaurants are good too.

Peter1469
05-04-2014, 07:44 PM
Let's do a staff ride. We can even assign everyone briefs to give on the specific sites. I pick little Round Top and the 20th Maine.

Mister D
05-04-2014, 07:57 PM
Something about the Wheatfield captured my imagination. Dan Sickles, who foolishly advanced to hold the area, had a leg shattered by a ball and left the field on a litter smoking a cigar. Dudes were dudes back then...

Peter1469
05-04-2014, 08:40 PM
Something about the Wheatfield captured my imagination. Dan Sickles, who foolishly advanced to hold the area, had a leg shattered by a ball and left the field on a litter smoking a cigar. Dudes were dudes back then...

I can't imagine ordering good men across that field. It was a kill zone.

If I was Lee I would have withdrawn and found ground to my favor. Stood there.

Newpublius
05-04-2014, 08:54 PM
I can't imagine ordering good men across that field. It was a kill zone.

If I was Lee I would have withdrawn and found ground to my favor. Stood there.

Blitz across, knock the fence down, charge it in the morning twilight.....Longstreet should've been ready at dawn.

I do agree that it wasn't the best of ideas, BUT even given the time of day, even given the fence. The Confederate DID reach the line...even with the disadvantages facing them.

Peter1469
05-04-2014, 09:01 PM
Blitz across, knock the fence down, charge it in the morning twilight.....Longstreet should've been ready at dawn.

I do agree that it wasn't the best of ideas, BUT even given the time of day, even given the fence. The Confederate DID reach the line...even with the disadvantages facing them.

It was insane. With the Union artillery massed as it was. That they reached the fence is no defense for the order to march. It was a slaughter of good men.

Newpublius
05-04-2014, 09:05 PM
It was insane. With the Union artillery massed as it was. That they reached the fence is no defense for the order to march. It was a slaughter of good men.

They reached beyond the fence though, they reached AND breached the union line, albeit temporarily.

Peter1469
05-04-2014, 09:11 PM
They reached beyond the fence though, they reached AND breached the union line, albeit temporarily.

Yes. And they got tore up. That is sort of my point. A good general does not fight on his opponent's terms, unless there are no other options.

Lee knew this. But he was likely under extreme pressure from Richmond to bring a victory in the north. It was a political decision to attack. Not a military decision.

Mister D
05-04-2014, 09:14 PM
Lee was also over confident.

Mister D
05-04-2014, 09:18 PM
It was insane. With the Union artillery massed as it was. That they reached the fence is no defense for the order to march. It was a slaughter of good men.

In fairness, the Confederate artillery was supposed to have disrupted the Federal artillery and Stuart's cavalry attack was supposed to materialize. Of course none of that happened.

Newpublius
05-04-2014, 09:21 PM
Yes. And they got tore up. That is sort of my point. A good general does not fight on his opponent's terms, unless there are no other options.

True, but that was because of the disadvantages encountered. In other words, BECAUSE of those disadvantages, because of the impact the fence had on funneling the assault, because of the time of day.....the Confederates were repulsed. But if those disadvantages are removed, they get to that line with MORE and along a broader front.....

Peter1469
05-04-2014, 09:25 PM
In fairness, the Confederate artillery was supposed to have disrupted the Federal artillery and Stuart's cavalry attack was supposed to materialize. Of course none of that happened.

Yes. I would not have ordered the advance under those conditions. I would have withdrawn and moved in a way to approach Washington DC to draw the Union off the high ground. Choose my on land to fight on.

Peter1469
05-04-2014, 09:31 PM
True, but that was because of the disadvantages encountered. In other words, BECAUSE of those disadvantages, because of the impact the fence had on funneling the assault, because of the time of day.....the Confederates were repulsed. But if those disadvantages are removed, they get to that line with MORE and along a broader front.....

I don't think they could have broken the Union lines even under the conditions you create.

I have walked that land. I would have asked Davis to relieve me of command rather than attack that position.

Mister D
05-04-2014, 09:46 PM
I don't think they could have broken the Union lines even under the conditions you create.

I have walked that land. I would have asked Davis to relieve me of command rather than attack that position.

Honestly, I think Lee just f'd up.

Peter1469
05-04-2014, 09:47 PM
Honestly, I think Lee just f'd up.

I think it was a political decision.

Mister D
05-04-2014, 09:50 PM
I think it was a political decision.

Certainly could have played a role. I just think he was was overconfident and believed his troops could do whatever he asked of them. After his string of victories it's not hard to see how he could have become so complacent.

Peter1469
05-04-2014, 09:54 PM
I imagine that played a small part. I still think that even Lee knew his attack had only a slight chance of success. But the success would have won the war.

Stupid gamble.


Certainly could have played a role. I just think he was was overconfident and believed his troops could do whatever he asked of them. After his string of victories it's not hard to see how he could have become so complacent.

Mister D
05-04-2014, 10:18 PM
I imagine that played a small part. I still think that even Lee knew his attack had only a slight chance of success. But the success would have won the war.

Stupid gamble.

Lee was nothing if not a risk taker. He divided his army during the Antietam Campaign and at Chancellorsville. The former especially was extremely risky and nearly lost the south the war in 1862.