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Lost Triumph: Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg--and Why It Failed Hardcover – April 21, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

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Lee's actions on July 3, 1863, are among the most widely examined military issues of the Civil War. Military historian Carhart presents a novel, provocative, but definitely debatable interpretation of Lee's motivations and actions that led to the slaughter on the approaches to Cemetery Ridge. Carhart asserts that the attack upon the Union center must be seen within a larger context as part of a coordinated, three-pronged attack. The plan included a frontal assault against the Union right on Culp's Hill and, most critically, a rear assault on Union lines led by Jeb Stuart's cavalry. Of course, both of these attacks failed, dooming the third prong. In this reinterpretation, the real "hero" of Gettysburg was the oft-maligned "boy general" George Armstrong Custer, who thwarted Stuart with repeated gallant charges. This is a well-argued piece of revisionist history that is sure to inspire further and heated discussion. Jay Freeman
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...Carhart sheds new light on the grandest battle of the Civil War, a remarkable achievement by any military historian. -- John Keegan, author of The Iraq War

A lively and innovative interpretation of the greatest battle ever waged on American soil-a fine work of scholarship. -- Rick Atkinson, author of An Army at Dawn

Why did Lee fail at Gettysburg? In Lost Triumph, Tom Carhart offers a bold and provocative new assessment. -- Jay Wink, author of April 1865: The Month That Saved America

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; 1St Edition edition (April 21, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399152490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399152498
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #800,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
Tom Carhart makes the argument in this book that Robert E. Lee's decision to have General George Pickett's division, and 13,000 troops in all, attack the center of the Union line at Gettysburg was not an error, but a part of a three-pronged plan that--if successful--could have led to the destruction of the Army of the Potomac and a Confederate victory in the Civil War. In short, an example of Lee's military brilliance. While he makes a a good case for this, there are a series of problems that lead this to be less satisfying than otherwise.

The three prongs? The Pickett-Trimble-Pettigrew assault on Cemetery Ridge; a simultaneous attack on the fish hook at Culp's Hill by Richard Ewell's forces of the Second Corps; and a mass cavalry charge, to be led by JEB Stuart, against the Union rear on Cemetery Ridge. Indeed, it is pretty clear that Lee did want a coordinated attack, but that plan fell to pieces early on Day Three. Still, the book is modestly compromised by a number of factors.

For one thing, he argues that this idea that Stuart was intimately involved in the planned assault has been seldom recognized. However, two of the classic books on Gettysburg make the same point. Coddington notes on Page 521 of his remarkable work on the battle that Stuart and Lee had spoken about swooping down on the rear of the Union forces. Likewise, Sears in his recent account of the battle notes that Stuart was to attack the Union rear (although his description is somewhat vague). Sears also notes that the firing of four cannons by Stuart was a signal to Lee that he was in position, as does Carhart. So, it is clear that other writers have viewed Stuart's presence on the 3rd day as a direct threat to the rear of the Union army and that this is not itself especially new information.
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53 of 66 people found the following review helpful By William L. on November 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Theory of book is on Day 3 of Gettysburg Confederate General Lee sent "Jeb" Stuart and Cavalry Division on left wing attack to strike Union rear as Pickett's Charge went forward, and Pickett's cue was four cannon salvo fired by Stuart's horse artillery on Cress Ridge, north of Wolf Hill on Union right. Stuart was stopped by G.A. Custer in cavalry "battle royal."

Pretty wild and speculative and a bit lite on the known facts about Gettysburg. Way too much jibberish about Jomini, Napoleonic battles, et al and the supposed coordination with Longstreet's attack made famous as Pickett's Charge. According to Coddington and others, the preparations actually approved by Lee and made the night before called for a combined attack on the Union right and left at dawn. The attack on the right, a continuation of the evening attack on Culp's Hill Day 2 that took a portion of the Union works, went off as planned at dawn and was continued into the morning of Day 3. But the attack on the left by Longstreet using Pickett's fresh Brigades didn't go off, prompting Lee to visit Longstreet and order him to attack. Preparations did begin for a dawn attack, attested by Porter Alexander who was up at 3 am positioning his batteries but Longstreet didn't cooperate with Lee. Thus the alleged afternoon signal from Stuart as part of a grand plan is pure fantasy-- Ewell's attack had already been repulsed with great loss by the time Pickett's assault went forward. The repulse was due to reinforcement of the Union right in the night, unbeknownst to Lee or Ewell. The Culp's Hill line extended down into the area of Spangler's Spring (a marshy area) between Culp's and Wolf Hill on the Union right. Thus the right wing where Stuart was to operate was hardly a weak area of the Union line on Day 3.
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35 of 46 people found the following review helpful By John S. Bowman on May 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I defy any reader with an open mind not to agree that the author of this book has presented a compelling--if controversial-- case for his thesis. And more than a compelling thesis, it is a downright gripping read. Tom Carhart is a West Point graduate, a combat veteran of Vietnam, a lawyer, a Ph.D. in American history, and a military historian with several books to his credit. He draws on all of these backgrounds to explore and explain "what went wrong" on that 3rd day at Gettysburg, where Lee--arguably the most astute and ingenious field general in the nation's history--allowed the so-called Pickett's charge to go forth. Drawing on meticulous research into every document that has any bearing on the subject--many of them documents never studied with such close attention to the details--he slowly marshals his evidence and arguments to support his theory: the disaster that resulted from Pickett's charge cannot be dismissed as simply a blunder, a bad day for Robert E. Lee, but was the result of a master plan that was foiled by the daring bravery of another of America's best known military leaders, George Custer Armstrong. (Just to cite one of the more original and fascinating sources he draws on: Carhart looks at accounts of historical battles that Lee would have studied and then describes those battles and their relevance to Lee's conduct at Gettysburg.) Although a few historians have vaguely suggested that there might be some link between Pickett's charge and some cavalry action elsewhere that day, Carhart is the first to lay this all out in detail. One need not be 100% convinced that this is what happened that fateful day, but Carhart's account deserves a reading by all with any interest in the Civil War and miltary history.
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