Lee’s Real Plan

22 04 2008

In this post over at Civil War Librarian, Rea Redd recapped his weekend at the 12th Annual Gettysburg National Military Park seminar, The Fate of a Nation: The Third Day at Gettysburg.  I found this snippet interesting:

Scott Hartwig: Heroes, Myth and Memory at the High Water Mark

Three major Confederate generals who participated in the assault said in the late 1880’s that Cemetery Hill was the objective.  Zeigler’s Grove was cut down immediately after the battle: John Batchelder [sic] mistook The Copse of Trees which had added ten feet of height in the 20 years since the battle for Zeigler’s Grove.

For anyone who has been following this story since the publication of NPS ranger Troy Harman’s books on Lee’s plan for the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble assault on July 3 (here is the most recent edition), the above synopsis of the comments of the highly respected and far from controversial Scott Hartwig is not insignificant.  Harman’s theory, which challenges the conventional wisdom of the famous Clump (or Copse) of Trees as the focal point of the assault, has been raked over the coals in the Gettysburg cyber-community over the years, with its outnumbered, or at least less discreet, defenders being shouted down like minority members of Parliament, only much more rudely.

If you were present at this seminar, please tell me more!  I’ve toured and corresponded many times with Ranger Hartwig, and if there is anything to this perhaps I can entice him to expand a bit here.

See here for an UPDATE.

My photos of the Copse above, Scott Hartwig below top, and Troy Harman below bottom.

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9 responses

22 04 2008
Chris Army

Hi Harry,

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Seminar this year – a first for me. I can tell you that the tide is shifting somewhat more toward Troy Harman’s theory. I was not present on Scott’s tour, but will be interested to see what your readers come up with.

In particular, Lt. Col. Bill Hewitt (Ret.) presented information that was an extrapolation of what he covered in February for our MHO Seminar. That being the philosophy of “dislodgement.” In very basic terms, Bill covered the fact that breaking the line at the angle basically did nothing for Lee. His objective was to knock the Federals off the hill, get them running down the Baltimore Pike and follow it up with Stuart’s involvement. This is not the same as what is proposed by Tom Carhart in his book (the difference being that Stuart was to ATTACK the rear of the Federal Army.)

Bill made a strong case for Lee’s plan and in my mind he has given us the best explanation so far as to an attempt to comprehend Lee’s Plan. That Troy Harman, with his book, started us down this journey several years ago is no small matter. Hopefully, this line of thinking will continue to be discussed and not lost in the tactical details of what happened vs. what was planned.

I’m very much looking forward to Bill’s written piece from the Seminar which will come out in two years, at the next one, I guess.

22 04 2008
Harry Smeltzer


Thanks for the info. I believe that the ultimate objective of the charge being Cemetery Hill has been the part of Harman’s thesis that has been found least objectionable by even the most rabid of Gettysburg traditionalists. One of the major objections has been to the idea that Zeigler’s Grove, rather than the Copse, was the intended guiding point of the assault, and it seems from Rea’s summary that Hartwig is moving toward the “dark side”. I last walked the various parts of Pickett’s Charge with Scott three years ago, and at that time I don’t think he gave the notion much merit. I’m curious to learn if he’s changed his thoughts on this, and if so, why.

23 04 2008
Tom Clemens

As almost a matter of faith I year ago quit trying to follow the Gettysburg mania with exactly whose horse pissed where. Not because it isn’t important or fun, but because I have been focused mainly on the MD Campaign. That said, the Copse of trees theory never made sense to me as a guiding point for all 5,10,or 15 thousand men,(depending on who you read), that made the attack. How in the world could they all get there, and maintain any formation if they did?

23 04 2008
Harry Smeltzer


The Copse even today is a blip on the horizon from Seminary Ridge, and by all accounts it was much smaller in 1863. For that matter, The Angle is a mere pimple of a salient on the Union line. So I agree that either feature or even both combined seem awfully insignificant to guide such a large assault.

I’ve sent a note to Scott Hartwig, but it usually takes a few days for him to respond – he’s a very busy guy, and I’m sure the new VC and the movement of the park’s records is eating up a lot of his time.

23 04 2008
Rea Andrew Redd

Hewitt’s remarks, Hartwig’s tour of the Angle and Teague’s tour of the right flank of Longstreet’s July 3rd assault fairly well made the case for Lee’s intention of clearing Cemetery Hill on July 3rd.

Interestingly, Teague sees McGilvery’s artillery pushing Kemper’s brigade to its left and up to the copse of trees when actually the focus of Kemper was the gap betwen McGilvery’s line and Vermont brigade. On the Friends/Dejardins map, the gap is clearly there. (I never take a NPS tour of the battlefield without the Friends/Desjardin map and the McElfresh map.)

By the end of the seminar, I came see that Kemper was to hit the gap but was shoved further north to the copse of trees. Garnett and Pettigrew were to converge at the Angle (a salient) which they did. Armistead and Trimble were to follow Garnett and Pettigrew into the salient and make Cemetery Hill untenable.

Like Tom Clemens, the Copse of Trees as a destination never made sense to me. But the Harman-Hewitt-Hartwig-Teague argument has the ‘ring of truth’ for me.

BTW, I have the contact info for the Wise oil portraits. The family is about 20 minutes east of Washington, PA. Send an email to follow up. Also, on gdg discussion group there is a quote by Wise on JQ Adams. Wise greatly appreciated JQ Adams.

Rea Andrew Redd

23 04 2008
Harry Smeltzer


Thanks for the response. I’ve spent a few hours on the field with Chaplain Chuck as well, including retracing his idea of Kemper’s route from very beginning to very end, and back!

What I’m specifically interested in at this point is the Copse vs. The Grove as the focal point. Your summary seems to say that Hartwig is at least leaning towards Zeigler’s Grove. Can you set me straight on that?

I’ll send you an email regarding the Wise portraits. Thanks for looking into that.

24 04 2008
Lee’s Real Plan Update « Bull Runnings

[…] Real Plan Update Gettysburg NMP Ranger Scott Hartwig had this to say about my post from Tuesday and the comments that […]

25 04 2008
Rea Andrew Redd

Looking over my notes from the Hartwig tour, here’s what’s relevant to this issue:
1. Longstreet, Long, Alexander, Wilocx, and Trimble reported in the 1880s that Cemetery Hill was the objective
2. Ziegler’s Grove was cut down immediately after the battle
3. Garnett’s brigade was the brigade of direction for Pickett
4. Fry’s brigade was the brigade of direction for Pettigrew
5. When Harrison and Bachelder were at the Copse (date?), Harrison named he Copse a landmark and Bachelder named it the High Water Mark.

An appropriate question would be: if Zeigler’s Grove was destroyed then when was it allowed to re-grow? From a Eric Campbell PCN tour on Henry Hunt-July 3rd artillery, Ziegler’s Grove was allowed to grow in 1960 to obstruct the view from Cemetery Hill of ‘the new’ Colt Park housing development.

25 04 2008
Harry Smeltzer

While that’s an appropriate question for sure, my question remains the same: has the idea presented by Troy Harman that Zeigler’s Grove, not the Copse of Trees, was the guiding feature for Pickett’s charge, begun to take hold with folks like Scott Hartwig?

Of course, this is but a small piece of what Harman has to say, but I’m trying to focus on this point alone right now.

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