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Old 20 Feb 11, 15:41
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renrich renrich is offline
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I have a book (packed away somewhere) perhaps thirty years old that postulates the same theory. It is entitled "Attack and Die" and if memory serves it was written by a couple of Southerners.

I think where the argument falters a bit is that few soldiers during the War Between the States understood the impact that the rifled musket was going to have. It's killing power compared to the smoothbore musket was much greater. Many of the officers in the WBTS, Grant and Lee included were in the Mexican War where smoothbore muskets were most common and the few rifles were very slow to operate. The American Army used field artillery to great effect and their crews were not greatly threatened by smoothbores in the hands of Mexican troops that were ineffective much beyond 100 yards. There is an old saying that Generals always fight the present war with tactics from the war before. That was true in the WBTS. The field artillery crews found that enemy infantry five or six hundred yards away were no longer harmless. Massed ranks or columns in a charge came under killing and rapid fire from infantry at those same ranges. I read somewhere that recent research shows that the average infantry engagement in the WBTS took place at something less than one hundred yards. Seems hard to believe. But at 80 or 100 yard smoothbores would not be nearly as lethal as the rifled musket. The carnage was awful.

As far as Lee was concerned, I seem to remember that early in the WBTS, he was called "Old Grannie" or the "King of Spades" because he wanted to dig field fortifications. I think from The Seven Days through Gettysburg, he felt, because he was usually so outnumbered, that he had to maneuver and attack. I believe that he thought that if he stayed on the defensive he would eventually be overwhelmed and worn down by superior numbers and material. Staying on the defensive in 1862 and 1863 was not going to satisfy the mood and expectations of the politicians in Richmond or most of the voters in the South either. In hindsight, a defensive fight by Lee as in 1864, might have been the only chance for the South to achieve it's war aims which was to make the North quit.

As for Pickett's charge, I have tried to get inside Lee's head and my guess is that the following factors caused him to make that decision.
He was in a battle that was unexpected and things had gone well at first with several Union Corps ruined.
Lee was desperate because he had the Union Army out in the open away from Virginia where a victoy would have a big impact on Washington.
Lee knew that the winter of 1863-64 was probably going to leave him immobile in Virginia because of the wastage of horses and mules. There had been a shortage of fodder already in the previous winter. ( Jackson's army in the Shenandoah Campaign of 18000 troops had a wagon train of 1500 wagons. Imagine how many horses and mules Lee had at Gettysburg.)
Lee knew that the morale of his infantry was never going to be better and they had always come through for him in the past.
I believe that Lee was physically and mentally worn out. The burden of the fate of the Confederacy must have weighed heavily on him and he was probably suffering from angina.
In other words it was now or never.
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