Friday, June 29, 2007

Battle Anniversary: "Fight Like the Devil"

June 30, 1863, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The sight that greeted Sarah Broadhead as she looked out her window on the west side of Gettysburg on the morning of June 30th, 1863 caused her to draw a sharp breath. There had been rumors, but the view of the Seminary and the ridge on which it stands was complicated by a large group of men, and the Confederate flags they were carrying. She would later write, “We had a good view of them from our house, and every moment we expected to hear the booming of cannon, and thought they might shell the town. As it turned out they were only reconnoitering.” She was looking at three North Carolina Infantry Regiments, some 1,800 men constituting most of a brigade under the command of Brigadier General James Johnston Pettigrew. Pettigrew, the highly educated and well lettered graduate of the University of North Carolina was the pride of his state.

Ordered forward on a supply gathering expedition, Pettigrew and his staff were anxiously searching the town and its environs for signs of Union troops. Numerous civilians questioned as to the presence of Union troops in the area gave a variety of answers, most of them based on rumors, but one thing became evident: there were many Union troops close by. It did not take long for their field glasses and telescopes to find the body of blue moving towards town from the south on the Emmitsburg Road. Mistaking a column of cavalry for infantry, Pettigrew turned his column around, 3 regiments of infantry, an artillery battery, and 27 empty wagons that were to have hauled the shoes, hats, and food back to their divisional camp near Cashtown on South Mountain. Instead, they returned almost empty-handed.

On his return to Cashtown, Pettigrew reported to his superior, Henry J. Heth, that there were large bodies of troops in and around Gettysburg and more were arriving all the time. Heth took Pettigrew to see their Corps Commander, General Ambrose Powell Hill. Neither Hill, nor Heth believed the report. Both graduates of the United States Military Academy, they had a disdain for the civilian soldier’s abilities, and Pettigrew was just that. Even though he was a battle-tested, wounded veteran of many engagements who had fought his regiments well, he was, and always would be, a civilian soldier, and not “one of them”, an Academy graduate. Hill and Heth graduated from West Point in the same class, 1847. Hill was 15th in his class of 38, and Heth was dead last. It did not matter. Heth was the nephew of General Robert E. Lee.

[Heth’s Division was not the advanced element of the Army of Northern Virginia, as that honor belonged to Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell’s Second Corps, which passed through Gettysburg a week earlier on its way to York, and then north to Harrisburg. But Hill’s Third Corps was the lead of the main body of Lee’s army, which included Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s First Corps, still situated in the Cumberland Valley west of Hill’s advanced position at Cashtown.]

In a similar predicament to Pettigrew’s were his fellow brigade commanders in Heth’s Division. Brigadier General James J. Archer was a Mexican War veteran who joined the US Army before the war, and now commanded a brigade of Tennessee and Alabama troops. As such, he was a notch above Pettigrew professionally, as was Colonel John M. Brockenbrough, who was a graduate of Virginia Military Institute. Not so the fourth brigade commander under Heth, Brigadier General Joseph R. Davis, the nephew of Confederate General Jefferson Davis, and a pre-war politician in Mississippi.

[It was the same in the Union Army. Political and civilian officers were awarded commissions early in the war usually for raising a regiment, or at least a company. Major political figures such as Benjamin Butler, a Massachusetts Democrat, and his political and law student, Daniel Sickles, commander of the Third Corps, Army of the Potomac, and a key figure in the Battle of Gettysburg were exceptions to the rule. For the most part, the war was taken over by 1863 by the West Point graduates, and the civilian and political generals were relegated to side areas, or out of the army altogether. The West Point officers on both sides generally were much better all around officers, and had made the learning transition on maneuver and logistics concerning large armies, as the prewar US Army in which they served had, at most, 20,000 men…the size of a medium sized Civil War brigade.]

Pettigrew’s report was disbelieved. When forwarded to Lee, the report was also disbelieved based on the intelligence information Lee had at the time. Even so, the cautious Lee ordered Hill to advance on Gettysburg the next day and “feel” for the enemy. He was ordered not to bring on a general engagement. Hill ordered Heth to undertake the task and passed on Lee’s admonition to avoid spurring a large fight.

John Buford, Brigadier General, West Point ’48, commanding officer of the First Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, led his men up the Emmitsburg Road from Maryland into Pennsylvania and a few miles later, Gettysburg in the late morning of June 30. It was Buford’s command that Pettigrew had spotted from a long distance and mistaken them for infantry. At the time, the long column of blue-uniformed troopers may have been dismounted and marching by leading their horses, something cavalry did on the march to give both riders and horses a break while continuing to move.

Buford rode at the head of two of his three brigades. First Brigade, under Colonel William Gamble, comprised of the 8th and 12th Illinois Cavalry, and the 3rd Indiana, and 8th New York, was with him, as was the Second Brigade, under the feisty Colonel Thomas Devin. Devin commanded the 6th and 9th New York Cavalry, the 3rd West Virginia, and the 17th Pennsylvania. Buford’s Reserve Brigade, under newly promoted Brigadier General Wesley Merritt was left south of the area guarding the southwestern approaches to Gettysburg.

[Merritt, along with Elon J. Farnsworth, was promoted from Captain to Brigadier General (skipping Major, Lieutenant Colonel, and Colonel!) two days earlier in a last minute reorganization of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac by Major General Alfred Pleasonton, Corps Commander. Along with Merritt and Farnsworth, a young First Lieutenant was also springboarded to Brigadier General, and given command of the Michigan Brigade in Judson Kilpatrick’s Third Division of the Cavalry Corps. His name was George Armstrong Custer, last in his West Point class of 1861 in everything but equitation.]

Riding through Gettysburg just before noon Buford’s troopers were serenaded by the people of the town, particularly the young ladies and children. Showered with patriotic songs, some stopped to have flowers pinned on their dusty coats.

[These men were no longer the laughingstock of the Army. In the first two years of the war, the Union Cavalry had been ill used, poorly commanded, and severely abused when they came in contact with Major General James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart’s Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. In fact, an early war sentiment among the infantry was that “nobody ever saw a dead cavalryman.” But recently, with better commanders of the Army of the Potomac, and with a Corps Commander who excelled at the administrative side of running a cavalry unit, the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps distinguished themselves in battles along the gaps and passes leading into the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, and at such places as Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville. Finally, a surprise attack launched by Army Commander Joseph Hooker on June 9th caught Stuart at a very vulnerable moment. Attacking across the Rappahannock River while Stuart was conducting a grand review for General Lee and assorted visiting dignitaries, Pleasonton’s forces, backed up by a corps of infantry interrupted the review and fought a series of pitched battles around a place called Brandy Station. Eventually Pleasonton grew timid and withdrew his forces back across the river, but not before serving notice that his cavalry had matured into an outstanding fighting unit capable of standing toe-to-toe with the vaunted Stuart. It was a lesson that was ignored by Stuart and Lee, and thus to be repeated throughout the Gettysburg Campaign.]

Buford moved his men through town ordering Devin to bivouac his brigade north of the college in the open fields above town, and Gamble to set up his brigade camp west of the Seminary on the Chambersburg Pike.

Buford’s long years of experience as an Indian fighter out west before the war had taught him to be an excellent judge of terrain. Indeed, he was the man who initially decided the opening strategy of the Battle of Gettysburg, and how it would eventually play out. He reasoned that if he could hold the Confederates off west of town long enough for the Infantry to arrive and occupy the high ground southeast of town, he would have accomplished his goal and given the Infantry a large advantage in high ground, well suited for defensive positions, from Culp’s Hill, north around the upper reach of Cemetery Hill, and then south along the west side of Cemetery Hill and down Cemetery Ridge. He would need help, however, and later that evening he sat down near the Lutheran Seminary and wrote a letter to Union First Corps Commander Major General John Fulton Reynolds, telling him just that.

James Ewell Brown “JEB” Stuart, 13th of 46 in his West Point class of 1854, where he was first exposed to Robert E. Lee. Lee was superintendent of the Military Academy, and Stuart was one of his prize cadets. Later, in 1859, after a few years fighting Indians out west, and dealing with the unrest in ‘Bleeding Kansas’ Stuart acted as Colonel Robert E. Lee’s aide during the suppression of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry.

At the start of the Civil War, Stuart, a young Virginian with piercing dark eyes and a large beard, was commissioned a Captain of Virginia Cavalry. In little more than a year he was promoted to Major General commanding the Confederate Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Stuart’s early war exploits after taking command are legendary. He led his entire command unhindered on rides around the Army of the Potomac – twice! He was a skilled commander, and a trusted officer serving under his old mentor, Lee. At the Battle of Chancellorsville, he temporarily took command of Stonewall Jackson’s Second Corps after Jackson was wounded by friendly fire. He fought Jackson’s men with skill the next day. By the time of the Gettysburg Campaign his reputation as a dashing and daring commander was encased in the lore of the South. It was about to come undone.

Ordered by Lee to screen the movement of the Army of Northern Virginia north into Pennsylvania, Stuart proceeded to go on an extensive raid through Maryland, capturing several large wagon trains full of food and supplies belonging to the Army of the Potomac. These wagon trains seriously slowed his movements north and he lost touch with the Infantry he was supposed to be screening.

Late in June, he found his route north into Pennsylvania at Littlestown blocked by Union Cavalry (Kilpatrick), which forced him to move east to Hanover, in southern York County, just above the Mason Dixon Line.

As Stuart was heading toward Hanover, intent on occupying the town, some of his units were skirmishing with Union Cavalry – elements of the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry, stationed on a line southwest of Hanover and northward, screening the town from any advance on it by Stuart. The 18th was struck by two regiments of Stuart’s cavalry in two separate places, sending them reeling back through Hanover. Stuart then entered the town along with his advanced units (Chambliss’ Brigade) and some of his Horse Artillery, which he quickly got into play by targeting the retreating 18th Pennsylvania.

As this was occurring, more Union Cavalry under newly promoted Brigadier General Elon J. Farnsworth appeared suddenly on a large farm at the south edge of Hanover, and Stuart moved to attack. Nearly surrounded, Stuart made his escape by riding his horse like a steeplechase, leaping the hedgerows that divided up the fields, and at one point leaping a 15 foot ditch. Regrouping in town, he awaited developments. Farnsworth moved his forces into town and forced Stuart to withdraw to the west and south.

Judson Kilpatrick heard the sounds of the fight and raced south to Hanover. Custer took up a position northwest of town, and in the late afternoon, began an advance on the Brigade of Fitzhugh Lee. Ordering 600 men from the 6th Michigan to dismount, Custer led them through the brush, part way on hands and knees, to get within three hundred yards of the Confederate line and its artillery that was shelling the town. Custer’s men opened up and drove off the cavalry support defending the guns. A second, similar attack followed on and convinced the Confederates that they must disengage and move out to York after darkness fell.

Buford had laid out his plan well. He had Gamble’s Brigade astride the Chambersburg Pike just east of the steep defile through which Willoughby Run flowed. Gamble’s men were in position on the next high ground east of the stream, now called McPherson’s Ridge, so named for the farm that sat on the ridge along the south side of the road. The road itself was lined on both sides with stout five-rail fence, and almost parallel to the road, a sunken railroad bed, still under construction and without rails ran about one to two hundred yards from the road. Devin’s men were formed on Gamble’s right, and extended north to the Mummasburg Road.

When he visited Devin that evening, Devin was in a high mood, and began predicting how easily they would dispense with the Rebels the next day. Buford rounded on him and angrily exclaimed, “No you won’t! They will attack in the morning and they will come booming—skirmishers three deep. You will have to fight like the Devil to hold your own until supports arrive. The enemy must know the importance of this position and will strain every nerve to secure it, and if we are able to hold it we will do well.”

Novus Livy

Copyright © 2005-2007: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

GettysBLOG: Adams County’s Two Ring Circus

Step right up! Step right up! Come see the amazing performance of our Adams County Two-Ring Circus. Two great shows at one time. In the first ring, The Cumberland Township Supervisors, complete with peanut shells on the floor, egg on their faces, and a “What Me Worry?” flag outside their office. In the second ring, the Strabaddies gone-abegging; see three supervisors with their hands out trying to recoup legal costs incurred during the casino fight. Step right up Ladies and Gentlemen. Step right up! Watch out there miss, don't step in that elephant dung!

On Fairfield Road, the Cumberland Clowns decided to do a “feasibility study” on the proposed Water Park project.

Knock, knock! Who’s there? Where! Where who? Where you gonna find the water?

You’re right: as a joke it is not funny. As a real question funny is the last thing that comes to mind. It is a deadly serious issue. Not only are the lives of the wildlife in the Marsh Creek Watershed going to be affected adversely, but so are the farm and domestic animals in the area, and even more importantly, the residents of the area. The potential is there to seriously impact the greater Gettysburg area’s water supply!

When are the Cumberland Clowns going to come clean on this water issue and provide an Environmental Impact Study? Here is a project rejected already in two other townships, and Cumberland is seriously considering a “curative amendment" to their zoning ordinances inserting “water park” under acceptable uses. An EIS would destroy any notion of such a water resource hog as the Cali Entertainment Water Park Project.

Cumberland Township residents are not alone in this fight. The whole area supplied by Gettysburg Municipal Water Authority should show up at the Cumberland Township supervisors and planners meetings, armed with torches, pitchforks, and signs demanding the Clowns get tough on developers, especially, out of town developers. If Cali’s idea is such a good one, why aren’t they building a water park in Cumberland County? The Cumberland Clowns are creating a monster here. And the Cumberland Township taxpayers are footing the bill!

Across town, the Strabaddies are seeking to recoup some $10,000 in mostly legal expenses incurred during the 2005-2006 fight over the proposed Crossroads casino project. Now, in the first place, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Strabaddies brought this on themselves when they passed that absurd rezoning plan for the township – you know the one, where 80% of the township’s green space got erased and made available for development. So, to the taxpayers of Straban Township, you ought to be asking Glenn Snyder, Jay McDannell, and the rest of the Strabaddies to make restitution for the costs, and any future costs since it was under their negligent oversight, and active advocacy, that the zoning plan was adopted.

Or, you could ask David LeVan and his cohorts, especially Mrs. Malaprop [Barbara Ernico] to foot the whole bill for trying to ram a stupid idea down the throats of not just the local folks here, but the whole world, who reacted in stupefied and outraged amazement when the plan was announced.

Of course, this fellow Bernard Yanetti, an attorney [that’s the first warning sign of stupidity], has to go and open up old wounds with the stupid comment of the year winner: "Without their opposition, the costs would have been at a minimum.”

Bzzzzzzzz! We have a winner! Yanetti, that is the stupidest thing to come out of the casino project since the idea itself was hatched. Let’s put this in perspective for you, and we’ll type it real slow so you can keep up: Why does any taxpayer have to incur costs of any kind when a development is proposed? Further, if your masters had not floated a stupid idea like a casino in Gettysburg, there wouldn’t have been any costs incurred at all by the taxpayers! Shoot, you’re the type the almost late, great Larry Flynt used to celebrate every month with an award in the front of his Hustler Magazine. Hey Bernie, ya ought to pay this tab yourself, just based on the stupidity of your comment. You can afford it. If not, hit up Mrs. Malaprop and her lawyer-mouthpiece hubbie Jeff. We already know they can afford it, and probably should chip in just for the stupid things she used to say.

A real live two ring circus year round, right here in Adams County, can you believe it? The people in Florida should be so lucky.

These are just two of the latest examples of how your elected township officials bend over backwards, descending into outright stupidity, to make things so easy for developers “a cave man could do it!”

These folks do not deserve your respect, let alone your votes. Come November, if the ballot has that [I] beside the name, vote for someone else. They are all guilty of pandering to the developers, and profligate spending of your tax dollars.

We are still waiting for the Cumberland Clowns to provide details of their facilities expansion project, and of course, the environmental impact studies of what they have already done, and what they plan to do. Maybe we should call out the villagers with their torches and pitchforks for that little gem as well.

Now, Cumberland Township residents are finally seeing why their taxes were increased over 100% last year.

Frankly, we all have better things to do with our money than make things so easy for developers that “a cave man can do it.”


We support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!" -- GettysBLOG

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.” -- GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

Copyright © 2007: GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Giles Hickory: Wretched Excess!

[Reposted from The Pennsylvania Order of Liberty Blog.]

One of the major reform issues that did not make the final cut in the current reform package in Harrisburg is the problem of our General Assemblymen issuing Public Service Announcements [PSAs] at election time. This amounts to free targeted political advertising because it presents your local assemblyman in a very positive light and is paid for not with campaign money, but with tax dollars.

A recent example of this “wretched excess” is Mario Civera of Delaware County. This career politician reportedly spent nearly $115,000 of your tax money on PSAs during the general election campaign last year. In spite of it, and Civera's entrenched political organization that often broke the law by stealing his opponents’ campaign signs, Casey Roncaglione, the fine Democratic candidate showed very strong against Civera. Casey, however, did not have access to tax money for PSAs, and because PSAs are considered non-political, Roncaglione could not ask for equal time from the broadcasters. In addition to this issue, the broadcast and print media outlets print put these PSAs out free.

But the Reform Committee working in the Pennsylvania General Assembly failed to back any sort of reform on this issue, leaving the PSAs in place. This is a scary issue to leave in place. Obviously, the General Assembly is still stinging from the extreme rebuke it received over its actions from July of 2004 through July of 2005 and later, when stealth legislation was passed. Indeed, the gambling bill which gave us our casinos was passed in the wee hours of an early July morning in 2004 while budget negotiations were going on between the House and the Senate. A repeat in 2005 gave us the infamous Midnight Pay Raise which so outraged the voters that more than 50 incumbents either chose not to run for re-election, or were dumped by their constituency in the 2006 Primary and the 2006 General Election.

When the new General Assembly took over in January of this year, reform was at the top of the list. But ‘politics as usual’ seems to be gathering steam as one reform measure after another is beaten back.

The issue of PSAs during campaigns is easily tackled. Simply make it illegal for any elected official to authorize any PSAs, whether paid for by tax payers or not, three months before any Primary Election, or Special Election, and never between a Primary and a General Election.

Such PSAs protect incumbents when shown during campaigns. They are tantamount to free advertising for the incumbents and represent advertising that is unavailable to their opponents. And it is career politicians like Civera who benefit from the PSAs, and therefore seek to protect them from the Reform Committee. So, one can readily see why this was removed from the reform package.

Perhaps it is time draw the Reform Committee’s attention back to this issue so that we voters stand a greater chance of seeing fewer career politicians who practice “politics as usual”, and more fresh faces in the General Assembly. No one should be a career politician. Politics is a civic duty like military service, and one which should not usually generate a career in a single body like Civera’s 30 years in the Pennsylvania House!

Giles Hickory

“America must be as independent in literature as she is in politics, as famous for arts as for arms.” – Giles Hickory

Copyright © 2007, Pennsylvania Order of Liberty Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © 2007, GettysBLOG; All Rights Reserved.