Civil War News Review

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Just the Facts, Ma'am, Just the Facts (Part 1 of 2)

Controversy followed Daniel E. Sickles throughout his career and his life.  Whether it be the murder of Barton Key before the War or his financial misconduct as the chair of the New York Monument Commission, he had a way of rising from the depths of scandal unruffled.  The story of his ill-advised advance  to the Emmitsburg Road still generates arguments about his rationale and the quality of his generalship.  Beginning with this first installment in a series of blogs you will have a chance to examine the evidence in chronological order and form your own conclusions about Major General Sickles.
These comments and maps are based upon my forthcoming book: Stand To It And Give Them Hell!  (Savas Beatie: June 2014) Which is currently being offered at an introductory price on
1.      Evening, July 1, 1863, most of the III Corps is bivouacked north east of the Trostle house and in the immediate vicinity of the George Weikert house on Southern Cemetery Ridge.
2.      July 2, 1863, before dawn, Captain George G. Meade, Jr., aide-de-camp to and son of Maj. Gen. George G. Meade (Army of the Potomac), arrives at Sickles’s headquarters in the immediate vicinity of the G. Weikert House.

Base maps by Steven Stanley of Gettysburg.      Text and content by John Michael Priest                       

3.      He orders Sickles to:
a.       Extend the III Corps further south to Little Round Top
b.      And to relieve Brig. Gen. John W. Geary’s division of the XII Corps and leaves sickles to obey the directive.
4.      Sickles does not comply.
a.       He later he later said he had no idea of Geary’s exact location
5.      An hour later, shortly after sunrise (4:30 a.m.), and aide from Geary arrives at III Corps headquarters and
a.       Informs Sickles of Geary’s location
b.      Asks him to send an officer to inspect the position
c.       And asks for Sickles to immediately move troops to the designated area.
6.      Sickles replies that he:
a.       Would “attend to it in due time
b.      And does nothing.
c.       Geary leaves 2 regiments on Little Round Top and moves the rest of his command to Culp’s Hill.
7.      Several times, between daylight and 8:00 a.m., Sickles dispatches his aide, Maj. Henry E. Tremain to Army headquarters at the Leister house where he requests:
a.       Meade to authorize the III Corps to move to the Emmitsburg Road to deny Lee access to it
b.      And to provide a cavalry screen to protect the supply trains as they arrive from the south.
8.      Meade does not respond and Tremain returns to Sickles without orders.
9.      In the meantime, at 7:30 a.m., Sickles sends Brig. Gen. J. H. Hobart Ward’s brigade west to the edge of the woods west of the John Weikert house.
10.  Between 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., Captain Meade visits Sickles at the Abraham Trostle house (new III Corps headquarters) to check on Sickles’s compliance with his earlier directive.

Base maps by Steven Stanley of Gettysburg.  Text and content by John Michael Priest                       

11.  Sickles responds that he had not “understood” where he was to relieve Geary.

12.  At 8:00 a.m., Ward deploys the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters south across the Millerstown Road. Several companies swing west along the eastern side of the Wheatfield and the woods on Houck’s Ridge.  Two companies face south across Plum Run to the crest of Little Round Top, relieving Geary’s 2 regiments.

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