Skip to main content

tv   The Civil War The Peach Orchard at the Battle of Gettysburg  CSPAN  November 10, 2021 11:00pm-11:58pm EST

11:00 pm
you. we can't on c-span two ornamental and national. faced american history and on sunday, book tv gives you the latest in nonfiction books and authors. funding for c-span two comes from these television companies and more including nicole i hope hope everybody is enjoying their day so far. we have another great program here in store. for those of you who do not know me, my name is tammy myers, director of relations at the
11:01 pm
gettysburg center. we are owned and operated by a 501(c) 3 nonprofit that is about the gettysburg combination of heritage and habitat. our guest today is james hessler, many of you are familiar with him. he is a licensed battlefield guide here. and he has been so since 2003. his previously published books, gettysburg peach orchard, coauthored with brett eisenberg. and also sickles i'll get it gettysburg, have been awarded the prestigious coddington, for the most outstanding book on the gettysburg campaign. he's also co-author with wayne motts, the book pickets charge
11:02 pm
at gettysburg. key and the author of a guy to legendary tax on gettysburg. it's also cohost of the popular battle of gettysburg podcast, free on all platforms. he has written articles for publications, one of the primary content designers in the american battlefields drop, a speaker for civil war round tables, on monumental mysteries, civil war talk radio. he was featured in the july 2013 issue a civil war monitor. i'd now like to present to you, james hessler, who will be presenting his program, neutral ground, sickles, meade, and the gettysburg peach orchard. thank you. [applause] wow >> thank you,
11:03 pm
tammy, for the introduction. i was going to tell you to not go too far because i don't have -- so we are in good shape. when the crowd. this is really humbling to see people standing in back. i've got these great studio lights shining in my face. but i still recognize a lot of familiar faces here. i hope this is good. [laughs] otherwise i'm in a bit of trouble. but as tammy said i'm going to go to neutral ground. it's called a military assessment of the meade sickles controversy as well as for us historians and gettysburg enthusiasms, to make sure that we are, when evaluating the controversy, that we are sticking to neutral ground. a bit of a play on words.
11:04 pm
let me see if i can get the clicker going. it's a crossover between the two of my books, the peach orchard book andy sickles, a bit of a mash-up. i thought recent developments, in light of those, the new meade at gettysburg biography, i thought i would focus more on the meade-sickles controversy than i have in the past. and give you an overview of my interpretation and the timeline of how it progressed. before we do that, let's address this guy. because there is always one, two, ten, in any crowd, in anytime you talk about sickles, certainly anytime he comes into play on social media, you have to do this. and i have literally have had people walk up to me and say that, i don't care how good your presentation is tonight, i am not going to like dan sickles.
11:05 pm
i will be clear, i'm not here to get you to like dan sickles. i don't care if you like dan sickles. i do hope you find him interesting. but i am not here, and historians should not be here, to ever get you to like their topic, their favorite general, they are favored historical figure or whatever the case may be. the i haven't said that. having said, that sickles, the name evokes some hot emotion. hardly a day goes by on social media or facebook, let's not kid ourselves -- never does there have a day go by when there is not a dan sickles debate. and to this day, this can evoke bar flies, social media debates, all the above. having said that, how many people have what you would say is a positive impression of general dan sickles?
11:06 pm
seriously? come on, podcast uber fans, help me out. okay one, two, three, a couple hands are going. up negative impression of sickles? neutral? okay, all right, maybe a third on neutral. that's fair enough. and i don't care if you like him or not. but i do think that he is one of the most important figures in the gettysburg story and we are going to talk about that. but let me begin with my disclaimer about neutral ground. i've already said at the outset, i'm not here to make excuses for what he did or didn't do at gettysburg, not here to criticize general meade. i'll never forget when i was stopped by one of my colleagues and asked, who's side are you on? meade or sickles?
11:07 pm
or am i? but also, you should be skeptical of historians to take sides. [laughs] remember, historical interpretation is about attempts to describe, analyze and evaluate sources. and there is no shame in historian trying to figure out what happened and why it happened. quite frankly, to me, the lie, why did sickles move forward? why do we have this communication between meade and sickles? that's always been more interesting to me than the what. the what, new sickles moved his troops into the peach orchard, took heavy losses and this is against the orders of meade. but why, why did he do it, why did this happen? it's always been interesting to me. it reveal some fascinating personal dynamics that existed. that exist frankly within any army.
11:08 pm
and there is willful disobedience. did he do it because he was confused of the orders? and some historians have speculated, did sickles move forward because he wanted to be president? somehow this would get him into the white house. all of this has been fair game and cannon fodder for historians for 150 years. now we have what i kind of call our three stages of sickles here. i wasn't sure if the laser pointer worked. [laughs] congress, general, and then old civil war veteran. his life was rich with incident, a line that comes from his 1914 new york times obituary. he had this biography that was frankly quite appropriate. and if you are sitting here, thinking, oh, sickles again, why? this is a guy who was first of all a 19th century political figure and i've got his resume
11:09 pm
here in front of me, attorney, tammy hall democrat, new york state assembly, and served prior to the civil war, somewhat instrumental to the formation of -- two terms of congress in the 18 fifties and in the 18 nineties. and as we all know, the congressman who got away with murder, and it were the civil war general. battlefield conservationist. i could go on and on. but i won't. and of course a colorful character. how many biographies can you do where our guys involved with murder, allegations of embezzlement, fraud, prostitution, feuds and battlefield controversy. some of the biggest battles of the american civil war, including gettysburg. so i always say, dan sickles is eminently relate-able as an
11:10 pm
individual. he is not a marvel man. he has always got money problems and women problems and he doesn't get along with his boss. i think anyone in this audience can relate to a least a couple of those points. you know? or stated another way, he is three things we hate all rolled up into one guy. a politician, an attorney and a new yorker. so you can take your pick on that. but i'm a new yorker as well, so if anyone is watching on c-span, relax. but again, the you can love him or hate him, that goes to that. but his combined impact on the battle, for better or worse, it's the historiography for better or worse. and battlefield preservation, mostly for the better, i do think it makes him one of the most monumental, no pun intended, figures, in the gettysburg story. there are not many gettysburg
11:11 pm
individuals or generals where it spans all these areas. and that is applicable for sickles of course. and if you ignore sickles, if some people do, i don't think you have a good grasp of gettysburg. of course he first comes to historical prominence, he had already been a noteworthy politician. but he comes to prominence in 1859 with the murder of philip button keye and the basis of the story, teresa sickles was having an affair. congressman dan sickles found out about it. basically confronted keye on the streets of washington and shot him down like a dog. i am going to go on to that whole case that is frankly separate. but it's a very interesting one but i am not going to do that today but what i do want to say
11:12 pm
is something that has relevance to the controversy. i've been doing this for years and my own impression of sickles has kind of evolved a little bit but i try to realize and appreciate that dan sickles was what we consider to be an emotional decision-maker. i do not have a psychology major. i did some in community college but that's it. i don't have a psychology degree. but at this point i think i do have an understanding of the sky and if you look at some of the key moments of his life, the temporary insanity, it was really an impulse and a crime of passion, that kind of thing. if you look through his entire life and career, he's with women, with many, dare i say, certain battlefield actions. and you also see dependent relationships.
11:13 pm
highly dependent on some of the women in his life and highly dependent on abraham and mary todd lincoln. highly dependent on commanding officers and that is all characteristic of what i would consider to be an emotional decision-maker. guys like this make quick decisions and afterwards they seemingly create what they think are rational decisions to justify their actions. anyone see where this is going? okay. and i think july 2nd, 1853, isn't a lot of ways reflective of this. so you can take the stereotypical notion that dan sickles's the 19th century mustache twirling politician who is going to advance to the peach orchard in gettysburg because he hates general meade and he wants to destroy the army, that sort of thing. but i would argue that the
11:14 pm
decision-making behind it is more complex than that. and quite frankly, more interesting and nuanced. so we will come back to that. but sickles then obviously goes into the war. and the ensuing scandal from the key murder and it has driven him out of congress. and there is a direct line between the philip barton key murder and the civil war. because when the civil war starts, congressman sickles is out of office. and he's practicing law as a private citizen in new york, win the shooting starts in 1861. so at that point, he realizes an opportunity here. and he raises troops around new york, many of which became known as the famed excelsior brigade. but also sickles and lincoln, they tell it later, the new
11:15 pm
president lincoln, they seem to like where they said that he likes the fighting spirit of sickles. i don't know if lincoln liked sickles as much as lincoln needed democrats, really any democrats, to kind of promote the war effort. but sickles has become the poster boy for the dreaded political general, the guy who is going to rise and elevate through the ranks with no commensurate military training. but sickles, as you know, is going to command the third corps. but prior to that, he appears to me to have the makings of a confident brigade commander. he moved up, literally in a brigade in 1862, and then there's core command in 1863. he makes this progressive rise
11:16 pm
on paper and rank. but i think particularly in 1862 or'64, you see him in more battles. sometimes potentially not intentionally. and not at fredericksburg but primarily more in a reserve position. and his rise during that period seems to really be more dependent than anything on his relationship with joe hooker. so what did i say on the previous slide? one of the things that a guy like sickles is a dependent relationship on people above him. and sickles and joe hooker, they basically form relationship within the potomac that goes from professional to personal. they tend to like to socialize together and they connect with the corps commander and future chief of staff dan butterfield. so that's late 1862 into early
11:17 pm
1863, i always tell people, go faster in that winter, 1863. go back to that winter, read as many of the memoirs as you can, of veterans of the army of potomac. but they often talk about winter quarters in that year's, that many often talk about where the party atmosphere was. in the potomac. and particularly with these three, hooker is eventually going to take command of the army at the potomac. every time hooker gets promoted, he engages a division. sickles gets promoted behind him. and they add time to dan butterfield. but the three of them basically had kind of a wild notion within the army and there is a famous quote from new england officer, the fact that during that winter, the headquarters of the army of the potomac,
11:18 pm
saying to its lowest level ever. commanded by a trio. and the least that was said to be the better, it was a combination of bar roman brothel, a place no self respecting man would go to and no self respecting women dared go to. and that was sort of the atmosphere that they were creating. and the culture, if you will, at the army of the potomac. and you see, cycles and hooker had a party last night. where did they get all these women from? you see things like that in the various accounts. unfortunately, the one guy who is not invited to sit at the table was commander george meade. and look, you know, battlefield guys, some of us have an old joke. if you want george meade commanding your army and you would want to hang out with sickles on saturday night. a variation of that.
11:19 pm
but on a personal level, meade and sickles are two very different people. sickles is a womanizer. i don't know if sickles is the hard rancor that he's often portrayed to be. but certainly sickles has come out of tammany haul new york. whereas by most, accounts meade george is a solid and reliable family man and of course we all know the west point graduate. if you've ever read needs correspondence you would know that -- some of that is published and letters in some of that has been sanitized. some of that, you can read in philadelphia. some has been published. but i see a guy who has had responsibilities weigh on him and how to provide for his family. that's why he is 47 years old but looks like he's 147 so maybe he could take a tip from dan sickles on how to lighten up a bit. but he doesn't. they don't like each other.
11:20 pm
and so what happens is that very often he parties at the social events that i talk about and you see meade writing home and literally say things, a, every officer was at the party tonight except meade. and you see him doing things like that and criticizing guys like sickles and butterfield, saying, such gentleman as dan sickles and dan butterfield are not those who answered take to be his intimates. so there's clearly some personal friction going on with these two. that time. at that time, joe hooker is the rising star in the army. so it's no surprise that sickles gets connected to joe hooker, who he thinks is kind of the rising star. again that's kind of the way that sickles does things. but i'm giving a little added emphasis because i think an area that a lot of gettysburg
11:21 pm
historians and authors and scholars have been a little shallow on is developing the origins of the meade-sickles relationship. what do usually hear? because usually hear the meade, west point professional, against sickles, amateur. and that's part of the fiasco they undergo. but being from west point, it doesn't guarantee that you will have military success on the battlefield and frankly not going to west point doesn't guarantee that you are going to be a failure. it's more to the relationship than that. and in the case of meade, trouble starts off the battle of fredericksburg. at that time, meade had performed well, and david
11:22 pm
bernie, performed as a commander under sickles, he becomes almost a sickles clone. and i'm convinced that the friction between meade and the officers of the third core happens after the battle. and you have him excluded from the parties going on. and then after the battle of chanced and bill, you have meade, sickles and poker. there is a dispute between hooker and the different generals around whether they are favored to draw across the river after that. and they start telling all the generals, did you want to move forward? did you favor withdrawal? and of course sickles supports his buddy hooker. meade he said he did not favor withdrawal. but they sort of put him in the camp of favoring one. and this gets in the newspapers and meade is like, hey, i've been in support --
11:23 pm
i wanted to go forward, that kind of thing. so there's a bit of a debate, i think it's fascinating. again, this idea of advance or retreat after an ancient battle, it's something that seems to dog beyond the potomac, almost every major campaign. we almost act like it's gettysburg wet it's not. so it's kind of the seeds, getting planted for the future. in this controversy. so, when meade takes command, you see this right away. june 29th, june 30th, july 1st. you see this right away and the message is going back and forth between meade and sickles. from the perspective of sickles, his buddy hooker is in command, so he is almost on the outs in headquarters. something he is not used to. from meade's perspective, he's got this guy commanding that he doesn't like.
11:24 pm
and you see again, particularly in some of the marching orders, june 30th, july 1st, you see the communication and miscommunication going on between sickles and meade. so july 2nd, they move to the peach orchard, it doesn't happen in a vacuum. it obviously comes to a kind of spectacular clash here at gettysburg. so i'm going to pause for a minute and hopefully some of you can see this. i would more than anything characterize the needs tickles communication breakdown on july 2nd, i would characterize that as a failure to communicate more than anything. again, some historians will say, no, sickles got direct orders and he just violated those because he is a new yorker, he wanted to be president. all this kind of stuff. i think if you break it down, first of all, clear and direct orders, the orders that cycles
11:25 pm
received, as far as we are to place his troops on july 2nd, they were verbal, as far as we know. verbal orders. that always carries our risk of being miscarried. but also for historians as well, we don't have order sitting in an archive somewhere that we can just go and look at. general mead, george meade described the orders later during his testimony, before the joint committee on the conduct of the war. and this is how general me describe them. in instructions to general sickles, in the line of battle, the clock is ticking. i indicated to him is his right on hancocks left. then extend the round top mountain. and go there if it was practical to occupy it. and this is over to john --
11:26 pm
troops. at eight or 9:00 in the morning, general meade goes to his son and says, reidentify head quarters, see if sickles is in position. and then captain meade comes down and finds sickles is still there, and that sickles is still asleep. he had a rough day. so initially, randolph -- i'm sorry, captain meade. captain mead talks to captain george rand, off the article or a chief. and he comes out and basically says, general cycles, you know, he is sleeping. he is not really sure where we are supposed to go, not sure whether -- captain mead says, okay, i understand. gets back on his horse. rides back to his head hoarders, goes back to his father. what do we know about general meade's temper? patient, softspoken kind of
11:27 pm
guy. a little short. names like captain turtle for nothing, you have to earn that. he is under a lot of stress. yes he was. he is in command. he was. remember, we are not making excuses, we are just trying to say that it happened. so anyway, general meade probably goes to captain meade's staffer, his son. and so captain meade goes back and finds this time sickles out of the tension on his horse. new sickles says something to the effect of, okay, we will be in position. see you wear the 12th court was. now with that, i will make the case that general sickles has exhibited some uncertainty about where he is supposed to be. and i will state for the record,
11:28 pm
with the danger of being called a monday morning quarterback, i think headquarter should have paid more attention to sickles. i've been lambasted on social media for this recently, especially with a new book out, to the effect of, well, now james hessler is saying those orders were unclear. no, i'm not saying that. i'm saying that, a good leader would have told him to pay more attention to what is clearly proving to be a difficult subordinate. and if you think down clock in the morning is too early to do that, how about 11:00? because he goes looking for orders. i know people on the battlefield here who interpret this whole controversy in a couple of words. and i hear people do this and i'm going to sort of paraphrase here but i once heard a colleague, call me rude, and said that sickles told me to go to heck, do whatever you want to do. and if that's the impression of
11:29 pm
most people in the room, go to heck, why would you -- why not just go to bleep and do whatever you are going to do? so again, some meade supporters do dispute. this it's your own interpretation. this is what the record says. this is about the record says. i interpret sickles looking for assistance. meade supporters can interpret sickles as meade saying, put your troops on my hill. it's interpretation of the same source. but i would say, they have this conference at headquarters again. he seems to be requesting additional assistance, which meade describes in sickles came to my headquarters. intimated that he was to occupy the position. and i understood that i had to put new three in the previous nine. and i know that was common in the 19th century. but isn't it not at the heart
11:30 pm
of eddie every gettysburg controversy? so there is that. and i understood that hancock had put them in the night before. but i would put it to you that meade hasn't seen the position. but i would say again, i'm not saying that -- [noise] the orders were unclear. i'm saying that, i think, you know, it's a difficult subordinate on the fly, with that you would be better suited to give him a little more time. so i'm going to take a little bit. i'm going to nitpick that. we all know what happens next, general meade does not come out. general warren, chief engineer does not come out. henry hunt, the artillery chief, does. and that's the whole conversation. before leaving headquarters though, sickles says two meade, whether he was not authorized to post his corps in such manner as such manner that he's judgment should deem the most
11:31 pm
suitable. >> -- any ground within those limits you choose to occupy i leave these. so just several clear, sickles clearly disobeyed orders. prolong the last of the second corps. but if you are a guy like sickles, you may feel like you have wiggle room here, within the limits of the general instructions, what is practical and things like that. but you have this going on between guys who don't like each other, and it is a -- it's what happens. but again, terrain is part of the story. i would argue that experience and decision-making goes from terrain. but what do i know. this is an area where people call it new sickles'whole, north of little round top. you see chandler looking west.
11:32 pm
the ridge over here, that we feel kind of over here. from this area here you cannot see the confederate position on seminary ridge. you cannot see it on emmitsburg road. this is a rocky, rugged field. for better or worse, wilson, his staff and officers, have evaluated the field that they do not have room to put their artillery, would not have appropriate field to fire from which they can hit an enemy. so this is one of the things that they evaluated. i put this picture at one of the parks controlled burns. so when you go through that grass, and you take that grass off, there's a hole -- there. as far as i know the rocks would have been in the battle. do we have the rocks? don't laugh, we could move rocks. [laughs] again, what happens?
11:33 pm
general meade's position, without sickles on the left flank here, covering what we know today as the little round top. they take the position, call it a fisher. figure. >> rally around, don't you agree? i think the officials have later invention. but the idea is clearly that sickles is supposed to post next to the second quarter and be part of the left flank. but he has to move forward because he views, primarily the peach orchard and that's along the -- as the more commanding position, primarily for artillery. some people think he was reliving some lessons that he may have learned from chancellorsville. remember there were other events. he had a recon of the woods.
11:34 pm
to confirm that the enemy was moving to attack his flank. to see the army headquarters, remove his cavalry screen. and sickles later claimed that he was confused by meade's orders. he later concocted the story that he did this to prevent meade from retreating from gettysburg. that to me -- you like that? harvey laughter in the front row. i like that. i would say, more than anything, it's that last bullet point. all of you that raise your hands and said, you don't like dan sickles, you don't like it primarily because of that last bullet point. because if you study the civil war and military history, a lot of generals make battlefield mistakes, which i'm not excusing. battlefield mistakes cost lives. they're not playing light with that, but what i'm saying is, a lot of guys made mistakes at gettysburg. you don't enthusiastically hate
11:35 pm
the guy that order that. but i think one of the problems with cycles from a public relations perspective is that meade would -- later. and i would argue that all the sickles haters in the audience and watching at home on tv are probably more turned off by his attack against meade. maybe some of your turned on by it, i don't know. [laughs] okay, we go from -- we go from sickles'home, with irony, the commanding round of the peach orchard. and so what i'm trying to emphasize here in this image is the wrong, last position. it was viewed as a favorable position for placement of the artillery. and then there is the fight of the peach orchard. it's artillery, how to use it. that sort of thing. and you know, we have played off to death the weaknesses of
11:36 pm
the position. it created an awkward salient's, the flanks were in the air, all those things are still accurate. don't get me wrong. but i think as historians we play that out. but i think we've tried to assess the merits of the peach orchard on its own merits. new and this is what they referred to it as keyed round. the occupation of the peach orchard ran to the advantage of each army. i've looked at it from that. perspective to try to advance and answer the age old question, who is right? so robert e. lee, in front of general longstreet, the enemy held a position, from where he could be driven, where we thought that our army could assault more elevated ground beyond. that's it. robert e. lee --
11:37 pm
i do have a friend. all joking aside -- very much the fear had at the first place. a couple prominent historians. brought up, -- i'm a nice guy. manufacture the peach. orchard it's in robert e. lee's report. so there is the value of it. while george meade wynne meade found out that sickles was out of position. attributed to have said, the ground that sickles was on was
11:38 pm
around, the enemy cannot occupy it for the same reason that his own troops could not. that's the title of tonight's presentation. do you see where i'm going with this? mutual neutral ground. neutral ground. so you have robert e. lee, you have dan cycles agreeing with robert italy. you have george meade assessing it as neutral ground. so it's the question of, is it logical to considerate, in a valuable position. and either lee or cycles, did they overestimate that? we will come back to that. >> i'm not going to do the battle here on powerpoint. it's hard to do. civil war battles on powerpoint. so few people actually do it. we are going to skip ahead. you guys know what happens. longstreet attaches attacks west point with great vigor. that wheat fields. the troops are driven out of the peach orchard. but as far as the orchard go,
11:39 pm
is one of the things that was best that could have happened to diane sickles was this. [laughs] because the artillery cells solid shot, goes into sickles'right leg and he is carried off the battlefield. and icicles is then removed from the battlefield. and this is the rest of the campaign. but he goes back to washington to recuperate. and on july 5th, they are recuperating washington, with his first visit. lincoln. and lincoln is desperate to hear something from somebody who is at the battle of gettysburg. and here is my old friend, dan sickles! sickles is in great pain at that moment. i don't want to underestimate this. there are still some doubt over whether sickles is going to survive. survive his wounds. so i don't think that by july
11:40 pm
5th, sickles as a very coordinated attack going against general meade, reputation ripped at this point. but i do think sickles is already thinking, i was not getting attention on the west, so i've moved, and a, when you come to gettysburg, you are going to love it. that kind of thing. i think there are some of that going on. and sickles certainly got his side of the story. with any good meade scholar, they know that this is weighing against george meade. seeds are being supposedly planted in the presidents head against meade and his performance at gettysburg. i don't think that sickles is the only contributor of that. i think historians have made sickles the only contributor have overplayed his influence. but there's no doubt that he contributed, no doubt. now the fall of 1863 comes on.
11:41 pm
october, three months later. guess what? icicles is recuperating in washington and ready to come back. whatever you think, tactician, strategist, and human being, the guy who has learned a lot being in the field, whether it is the trappings or being with the man, the adrenaline, action, all of the above. and it's the october of 1863, he's ready to come back to the potomac. the army down in virginia. he comes. and he meets with general mead and he goes, i'm back, what do you think he says? not so -- exactly. so, it's really i think a refusal of meade to let sickles back into the army in the fall of 63. it becomes the catalyst for or i refer to as the second battle of gettysburg. now, people often say, well, why didn't meade court-martial sickles. would he have court-martial sickles? why didn't he shoe sickles?
11:42 pm
is it is the kind of army where we do that? the american army doesn't do that, right? or do they? no, they don't, they don't. so if you take a look meade at face value in his report of october 63, he talks about minding sickles. not fully apprehending the instructions given to him. but henry is much more direct in his report. he talks about sickles misinterpreting his orders and an error which nearly proof fetal in battle and his core was not likely to be utterly annihilated. so now has sickles been denied re-entry to the army and the official reports being filed basically say what an error. he would've been annihilated if we hadn't saved him. how do you think a guy of sickles's ego and temperaments
11:43 pm
going to react to that? right? not well. not well. and i'll add, meade at that point was still of the opinion that sickles did what he thought was for the best. subsequent events proof that my judgment was correct, his judgment was wrong. so at even in the spring of'64 is meade still kind of in some ways turning the other cheek on this and saying that you know, difference of opinion. but my judgment was right and all, by the way and the guy in charge kind of thing. but now with the reentry to the army tonight, this is when sickles turns up that heat. and again, i'm emphasizing this because from gettysburg historians have been kind of sloppy at this they think sickles is just hell-bent on revenge revenge because he hates general meade and all of that sort of stuff. no, there's a specific agenda here the agenda is, i want to go back to the army. and if meade is not going to let me back into the army, maybe we can help get meade
11:44 pm
removed. and that leads them to the gettysburg portion of the joint committee of the -- in the spring of 1864. no i he hearing the joint committee refer to as the meade hearings on the battle of gettysburg. the joint committee had been going on for a long time and goes on basically to the end of the war. gettysburg is only a portion of the testimony. but yes, the guys running it, the radical republicans, for a host of reason don't really like meade. and they would be happy to see meade get move removed from command. ironically, get replaced with -- bud joe hooker. right? is there anybody who says oh, that never could've happened. how many times has george mcclelland come back to the army? so what meade calls and i think meade is right, sickles is what made calls an agent. an agent of the joint committee on the conduct of war. and he testifies when he can, on his behalf, against general meade's view of this.
11:45 pm
there's also some correspondence behind the seemed were sickles the scenes stuff like hey, longer feel, he's got more for you. so i do think sickles it's definitely cooperating with the committee. but sickles, for better or worse, just roommate unrepentant. hehe said it was not through ay mr. printer petition of ordinance. it is either goodwin or bad one and i took it up on my own responsibility. so, even i'm thinking i think sickles kind of misinterpreted his orders. didn't sickles what to admit that sickles misinterpreted orders. sickles is saying i did it on my own responsibility, whether it was good or bad. but i think again, what turns people off is some white lice. i also succeeded in getting a position on -- my third core held those positions. but again, we know that is a lot of fabrication and ally. the doubles down to the famous
11:46 pm
anonymous newspaper account, which also appears during that period. right when george meade is doing his own testimony before the joint committee. he shows up in the paper the sickly supports the sickles version of this. and it is against meade and the fifth court and some of this other stuff. i'll say again if you studied military history anonymous accounts often serve as using anonymous accounts in the newspapers. it's not limited to gettysburg this was something they did in an era where they wanted to get their story across. but anonymity in the newspaper was three use either your career kind of thing. but obviously, the smartest thing only draws more blood. and now george meade who was turning the other cheek is writing, oh my gosh these are false and perverted statements. which have astonish myself.
11:47 pm
and the key to town and i can't believe what sickles and all these other guys are seeing against me. and meade has to go on the defense. one thing i think we do not give george meade enough credit for is the defense that meade mounts during the joint committee. and again, historians to this day will often say meade doesn't get the credit because what sickles did afterwards. i would tell those historians, pause. take a deep breath. hug your kids. and go back and kind of follow this all through. actually by meade's second appearance before the joint committee, he did a very effective job of defending himself. laying it all out and basically defusing criticism against him. so that by the time meade joint committee issues the report, there was really nothing in there at that point that suit
11:48 pm
was seriously damaging to george meade, the general. probably the steepest criticism against him is his failure at william sport. which again is probably the most lasting meade criticism of the gettysburg campaign and it really has nothing to do with dan sickles. the other thing i would say two is remember grants arrival that spring also helped take some heat off of him as well. that's when somebody said meade was fired and replaced by grant. no, in a lot of ways grant saved meade, and more with someone. meade after his death, was credited which i think is probably the ultimate annoyance to sickles, it was published were meade reportedly said sickles movement practically destroyed his own corps produce 66% of my losses in the battle. driving us back to the position he was ordered to hold originally. if this is an advantage to be so crippled in battle without
11:49 pm
obtaining an object, i must confess, i cannot see it. again, i think we do meade a disservice when we think he is overwhelmed by his task. he's just doing a job of defending himself. unfortunately, meade dies in 1872. lives sickles for a long, long time, until 1914, so beginning in the 1880s, that gives sickles the advantage when meade it's no longer around to defendant itself 1886 is a big year in the meade-sickles controversy. that year sickles's appointed chairman of the new york's monument commission for the gettysburg battlefield what that basically means is sickles has a permanent and official reason to come back to gettysburg he gives speeches, monument dedications, and guess what? he is a popular and in some corners beloved speaker. so, it's hard to find a sickles
11:50 pm
from that period which he doesn't bash on meade at least once which again, is to meade's disadvantage because he's no longer around to defend himself. so 1886 until sickles'death in 1914 is really a prime period for the saw call meade-sickles controversy for that reason. the other thing to that i always wanted to make sure we point out, 1895, sickles asking congress at that time. does introduce the legislation that establishes gettysburg national military park. and again, people will be like, well sickles murdered a guy. it's not really that good well, almost lost the battle of gettysburg. really not that good. that created the national military park. i guess that's okay. somebody else would've done that. that's revisionist history. it doesn't matter if somebody else would've done it. sickles still did not. that he was the only guy from
11:51 pm
that era. give credit where credit is. do i know we're running short on time here but, just wanted to get that. throughout the period, they're coming back to gettysburg and increasing numbers. they're developing what we know today as gettysburg national military park. and history in that period that sickles, there he is, and this is probably about 1888, the 25th anniversary -- this ring that period that sickles strikes a relationship with his second opponent, james longstreet. and they spent many years together, they go to many let's together. time tonight does not allow me to tell all of their stories. but some of them are pretty good. sickles and longstreet me basically mutually support each other's getting sprig records for the remainder of their life. and in 1902, shortly before longstreet's death, he summarized as quote, i believe it's now conceded the advanced position at the peach orchard taken by your corps under your
11:52 pm
orders, saved that battlefield for the cause. longstreet literally went to his grief believing sickles was right. or did he? well, you know, people are kind of skeptical about this. these two buddies just propping each other up a little bit. but one of the things longstreet always said was that by moving forward, sickles took forward longstreet's ability to maneuver and act. they simply cut down the approach. there is a legitimate reason why you can argue in favor of longstreet's statement that. point many of you have seen the photo by this point. we have sickles we, have longstreet butterfield, and joshua chamberlain. perhaps the guy who nobody would've heard of today if sickles had it moved him around so much. joshua chamberlain and club with something to dan sickles.
11:53 pm
mark twain got to know sickles late in life. to quote, the general valued his leg -- and perfectly sure that is if he had part with either one of them is the one that he is not. that summarizes how sickles the war hero played up the missing leg. but there's another quote here that i don't use as much that i want to kind of close with. tween added this, i will also see this, sickles never made an ungenerous remark about anyone. he spoke severely of this and that and the other person. officers in the war but he spoke with dignity and courtesy. there was no mulligan a tee in what he said. he merely pronounced what he evidently guarded as just criticism on that. i can say that. i can see dan sickles in the as a new yorker getting older. not really going after meade with malice or hatred. anything that. i am right because i'm dan
11:54 pm
sickles, kind of thing. and see that. as i get older i start to do the same thing so, i get. and most of you do, to. so don't laugh too much at that. so that's mark twain on sickles. and in closing, let summarize what's the number one question we all get. what if sickles had stayed in position? what would happen? answer? we don't know. it's not that we can ever use whatever in history but we don't know. one, do an assessment of the terrain. was the peach orchard decisive to either army? no. neither army benefited. to, did sickles disrupt meade's defense? yes, he did. however, if you look at the percentage basis of color casualties, equal on a percentage basis. i don't mean to be called about this but the army of the potomac could have forecasted. three, did sickles move
11:55 pm
positions that he moved? into yes, that's another quick one. he lost the positions. even with increased support. for, they longstreet suffer heavy casualties taking meaningless positions? yes. in my opinion, he issued up, fighting for a round of no value. five, he captures the position to advantage? no but i would refer you to another book for that one. in my opinion, these are the five opinions you should ask and answer in trying to evaluate the merits or the demerit of sickles'move to the peach orchard. coming back, in a second. these are the things i think you should evaluate when you are trying to evaluate cycles at gettysburg. so yes. i seldom say this publicly, meade's military view was correct. both robert early and then
11:56 pm
sickles overestimated it. and we use peach orchard on emmitsburg road on july 4th, in an event called pickett's charge. but did sickles knowingly act out intentional disobedience? i will leave that to you to decide. which comes back to this guy -- i've had this guy come up to me at the end of the program and say, well, that was fun but i still don't like dan sickles. and again, i will say, i was not trying to get you to liked in sickles but i do hope you come away with a better appreciation of the story of kind of when i talked about, the three phases. his role in the battle, his role in historiography. and his role in the preservation. and as i said in the outset, if you like gettysburg as much as we do, i think it's important to understand all the elements of dan circles career, love to
11:57 pm
hate him or hate to love him. with that, i think we are out of time, i see a few of you in the back of the room. thank you. d [applause] at he spent history for more of this date in history post. everybody. -- i'm

5 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on