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Lost Triumph: Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg--and Why It Failed Paperback – April 4, 2006
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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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Sheds new light on the grandest battle of the Civil War, a remarkable achievement by any military historian. (John Keegan)
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Top customer reviews
A big bonus in reading this book is to learn about the famous battles of the past and how they were studied at West Point and other military academies and used by generals and field commanders going forward in history. Another bonus is the material on George Armstrong Custer. It is possible that his charge on J.E.B. Stuart's leading force on that third day at Gettysburg saved the Union bacon and maybe the Union itself as it thwarted the "plan". Custer has been painted as a thoughtless, irresponsible leader and a glory seeker--which he no doubt was. These traits served the Union well on that third day at Gettysburg?
Finally, the book confirms what most of us admirers of Lee have always known; that he was a superb field general, a gentleman, and one of the tragic figures in history who chose to follow his conscience and his heart instead of his instinct and career path.
The content of the book deserves 4 1/2 or 5 stars, and I gave it 4 as it lacks some readability. This is not really a page turner. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in civil war history.
This book does a good job covering the planned role of General Jeb Stuart & his cavalry in coronation with what's now know as Pickett's Charge, & how Gen. Custer & Union cavalry regiments, that were one half the size of the Confederate units, derailed it. Part of this action involved Custer leading the 5th Michigan cavalry regiment & then the 1sr Michigan cavalry regiment, units of less than 400 men, in mounted attacks against columns of an approximately 4,000 man cavalry force.
Jeb Stuart's attack around the Union's right flank, & the desperate Union counter attack, is sometimes ignored or minimized. However, if Custer & Union cavalry (which included not only the 1st, 5th, 6th & 7th Michigan cavalry regiments but also the 1st NJ & 3rd Penn. cavalry regiments, plus Federal artillery batters) had not stopped Stuart's much lager force the 13,000 Confederate men of Pickett's Charge probably would have met up with 5,000 Confederate horsemen which would have come in from the east, thru the Union's rear area & behind most of the Union battle line. If so the third day of Gettysburg would probably of had a much different conclusion & it's possible the same would also be true of the American Civil War.
The importance of this work is that it addresses a topic of great significance. I had long felt that there was something missing from the generally accepted view of Lee's tactics on the afternoon of the third day of Gettysburg. Pickett's charge seemed suicidal. The cavalry attack which was concurrent with Pickett's charge has been mentioned in a number of works. Stackpole (They Met at Gettysburg) devotes five pages to this facet of the battle. Prior to this book I have never seen a good analysis of how this cavalry attack fit with the rest of Lee's plans.
The unfortunate effect of the many studies which do not highlight this attack is they leave Lee looking like he slipped a cog in directing this battle. This study of the cavalry attack paints an entirely different picture. Rather than the afternoon of the third day being a failure on Lee's part, this work presents the plan for that afternoon as a rather bold plan - a bold plan that by chance failed. The limited methods of intelligence gathering and command communication available on the battle fields of the Civil War meant that chance would often frustrate a battle plan. Take for example, Sherman's defeat at the tunnel hill in the battle of Chattanooga.
In his analysis Carhart brings together facts that have been scattered. These facts seem to provide a solid base for Dr. Carhart's conclusions.
Unfortunately, much of the CSA documentation which might cover this attack is not available. So Carhart has needed to rely primarily on Union reports and logical conclusions. He does provide a rationale for why this CSA documentation is missing. That the cavalry attack occurred is indisputable.
Many fault this work because so much is based on logical premises, no matter how well logic supports those premises. Their criticism is to some extent validated by errors in minor parts of this work. (Tom seems to be a hard driving individual and author. It is always a pain to go back through your writing and insure you have the facts stated correctly. Unfortunately, it seems that Tom lacked a good fact checker in his support network.) The inaccuracies in describing Roman infantry tactics diminish the quality of this work but do not affect its basic premise.
Some criticize this work on an interesting basis - that basis being that if there were real substance to this premise, someone would have written about it before. Rather let us hope that this work will be the cause of more definitive scholarship on this aspect of the battle of Gettysburg. And commend Dr. Carhart for tackling a difficult and challenging premise. A subject which it took courage to address.
The reader is left with an interesting choice. Either Lee blew it or scholars have been missing something. Dr. Carhart makes a good case that scholars have been at fault.
Most recent customer reviews
There is much speculation here but I was
fascinated by the authors take on events at
Gettysburg - what's more, I...Read more