Thursday, December 22, 2005


The Killer Angels by Micheal Shaara

Why is this a good book? It's based on research, on papers, and not melodrama (Grant's Memoirs are stupid). It's just the author's guesses based on the personality of the generals which is based on memoirs, letters, and reports.

Why exactly did the Confederacy invade US?
Why was Gettysburg the bloodiest battle?

First of all, Grant was besieging the Mississippi. That River was what Sherman used to supply his romp in the South. So Lee was desperate for a checkmate. But that still doesnt really excuse him.

Now why was Gettysburg the bloodiest battle? Because it was desperate ground. If you've read Sun Tzu, desperate ground is where your back is against a wall and there's no retreat, or room to maneuver. Here's the map of the first day.
Confederate Red. Union Blue.

You see that line that faced Hill? Hill's got around 10k men, that's about 2 Brigades. The Union guy that happened to be there is Buford and he ONLY has 2.5k men. Keep in mind that the Confederates are not in Virginia. This is Far Ground for the Conf. invaders. Long supply lines. Undefensible positions. Hostile natives. Enemy Knows Their Ground. In other words, anything that stalls the Confederate Army is bad.

Why did Buford choose Willoughby Run? Rivers are good. This is Dangerous Ground for the Confederacy. The Invaders MUST slow down here. Sun Tzu says that you let 1/2 the invading force cross before you start firing. His explanation is that this not only splits the enemy in half, you also use the enemy's own forces to cut off their retreat. I think this needs to be changed. Artillery has a very long arm. Their reach means that 1/4 of an army's firepower can already fire at you. Which is especially dangerous for Buford with his numerical inferiority. But the theory is still sound, it's just the definitions of what constitutes the point of contact. Here's what Buford did.

Hill didn't have any scouts, so he sends 2 regiments from Heth's brigade to investigate the earlier scout reports of Union movement. They didn't know what the hell was on the ridge. Neither side has artillery at the moment. So Sun Tzu's tactic works perfectly here. Buford's 2k men are horse riders, so he can rout them after he gets Heth's brigade to retreat. The prisoners tell him how many men Hill has. If 10k men is here then Lee's center has to be nearby. If that's the case, then Harrisburg is their target. Lee now knows he's been spotted by Buford so he has no choice but to take Gettysburg and forgo his original route. If he had forged on to Harrisburg, he exposes his flanks to whatever reinforcments Buford has already requested. If Buford had been defeated on his Macpherson Ridge, if Hill had been fast to rush his 2 brigades, then Gettysburg would have destroyed Reynold's division. Lee. would have stationed Longstreet and Ewell with 30K men to hold Gettysburg, while he marched with the rest of his 45k men unopposed toward Washington. Stuart and his 4k calvary would arrive on the 3rd, and only be effective on the 4th. So if Hill won on the 1st, they could have held out the arriving Reynold's men on the 2nd, with reinforcements coming from Stuart's 4k calvary on the east, and Lee's center on the west.

By that time the war would be over. In real life, this strategy was not adopted. Lee wanted to draw (Union Commander)Meade's forces out in the open, deliver a crushing defeat, forcing Meade to divert the troops he gave to Grant to protect the capitol.

But it all turned to shit when Buford held out against Hill's artillery. He only needed to last the night. Reynold's came up, reinforced Buford's position with artillery. On the 3rd, everyone was in play, and the Union used the roads to create a line of operation circling Little Round Top as the center. No apparent weaknesses and only slightly smaller than the Confederate Army. But there is Confederate calvary cutting off the Union retreat. This is mortal ground. One, it means that Union can die here. Two, because of this, the Union soldiers fight with one mind, with one strength. They are desperate. Desperate troops with no retreat is like a cornered mouse. Very powerful. Sun Tzu .

Here's when Lee sent his man Pickett to charge the Union, causing Pickett's division 70% losses. Pickett survived but he didn't speak to Lee for a long, long time. He was quoted to saying,"That man destroyed my Division."

For further reading, read Chapter 11: Ground of Sun Tzu's Art of War

P.S. Sorry for the long windedness. Next week, i'll be comparing 1862 Baron Jomini's Art of War to Sun Tzu's Art of War.

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