tv The Civil War The Peach Orchard at the Battle of Gettysburg CSPAN December 28, 2021 10:23pm-11:22pm EST
their day so far. we've got another great program here in store for you. those of you who do not know me. my name is tammy hope everybody is enjoying their day so far. we have another great program here in store. for those of you who do not know me, my name is tammy myers, director of relations at the gettysburg center. we are owned and operated by a 501(c) nonprofit charitable organization that educates about gettysburg combination of heritage and habitat. our next speaker today is james hessler, many of you are familiar with him. he is a licensed battlefield guide here. and he has been so since 2003. his previously published books, "gettysburg peach orchard", coauthored with brett
eisenberg. and also, sickles at gettysburg, have been awarded the prestigious coddington award, for the most outstanding book on the gettysburg campaign. he's also co-author with wayne motts, the book picketts charge at gettysburg. and it was the first guide to the legendary attacks here at gettysburg. he is also cohost the popular battle of gettysburg podcast, free on all platforms. he has written articles for publications, one of the primary content designers in the american battlefields trust app, here at gettysburg. he is a speaker for civil war round tables and has appeared on npr and other outlets.
he was featured in the july 2013 issue a civil war monitor. i'd now like to present to you, james hessler, who will be presenting his program, neutral ground, sickles, meade, and the gettysburg peach orchard. thank you. [applause] >> thank you, tammy, for the introduction. i was going to tell you to not go too far because i did not have the remote clicker. but i do now. where the crowd. this is really humbling, to see people literally standing in back. i've got these bright studio lights shining in my face. but i still recognize a lot of faces back there. i hope this is good. [laughs] otherwise i'm in a bit of trouble. tammy said that i'm going to do it neutral ground. and that's the theme here tonight. it's both a military assessment
of the meade cycles controversy as well as for us historians and gettysburg enthusiasts, to make sure that when we are evaluating this controversy, that we are sticking to neutral ground. a bit of a play on words. let me see if i can get the clicker going. it's a crossover between the two of my books, the peach orchard book. a bit of a mash-up. i thought, given recent developments, the popularity of the new need at gettysburg biography, i thought would i would do is focus on the meade-sickles controversy than i have in the past. and give you an overview of my interpretation and the timeline of how it progressed. before we do that, let's address this guy. because there is always
one, two, ten, in any crowd, in anytime you talk about sickles, certainly anytime he comes into play on social media, you have to do this. and i have literally have had people walk up to me and say that, i don't care how good your presentation is tonight, i am not going to like dan sickles. i will be clear, i'm not here to get you to like dan sickles. i don't care if you like dan sickles. i do hope you find him interesting. but i am not here, and historians should not be here, to ever get you to like their topic, their favorite general, their favorite historical figure or whatever the case may be. i haven't said that. dan sickles, the name evokes hot emotion. hardly a day goes by on social media or facebook, let's not kid ourselves -- never does there have a day go by when there is not a dan
sickles debate. and to this today, this name can evoke bar fights, social media debates, all of the above. having said that, let's get a show of hands, how many people have a positive impression of general dan nichols? seriously? [laughs] come on, podcast uber fans, help me out. okay one, two, three, a couple hands are going. a negative impression? . okay, a majority of. hands neutral? okay, maybe a third. are kind of neutral. that's fair enough. and i don't care if you like him or not. but i do think that he is one of the most important figures in the gettysburg story and we are going to talk about that. but let me begin with my disclaimer about neutral ground. i've already said at the outset, i'm not here to make excuses for what he did or
didn't do at gettysburg, not here to criticize general meade. i'll never forget when i was stopped by one of my colleagues and asked, who's side are you on? meade or icicles? and i said, i am not on any side. or am i? but all joking aside, you should be skeptical of historians who take sides. remember, historical interpretation is about attempts to describe, analyze and evaluate sources. and there is no shame in a historian trying to figure out what happened and why it happened. quite frankly, to me, the lie, why did cycles move forward? why did he have this communication breakdown between need and cycles? that's always been more interesting to me than the what. the what, new icicles moved his troops into the sickles moved his troops into the peach orchard, took heavy losses and this is against the
orders of meade. but why, why did he do it, why did this happen? it's always been interesting to me. it reveal some fascinating personal dynamics that existed. that exists frankly within and the army. is there disobedience? did he do it because he was confused with the orders? or as some historians speculate, did cycles move forward because he wanted to be president? and somehow this would get him into the white house. all of this has been fair game and cannon fodder for historians for 150 years. now we have what i kind of call our three stages of sickles here. i wasn't sure if the laser pointer worked. [laughs] congress, general, and then old civil war veteran. his life was rich with incident, a line that
comes from his 1914 new york times obituary. he had this biography that was frankly quite appropriate. and if you are sitting here, thinking, oh, sickles again, why? this is a guy who was first of all a 19th century political figure and i've got his resume here in front of me, attorney, tammany hall democrat, served with james buchanan prior to the civil war. somewhat instrumental to the formation of new york central park. minister. two terms of congress in the 1850s and in the 1890s. and as we all know, the congressman who got away with murder, battlefield preservationist. i could go on and on. but i won't. and of course a colorful character. how many biographies can you do
we are a guy is involved with murder, allegations of theft, prostitution, feuds and battlefield controversy? some of the biggest battles of the american civil war, including gettysburg. so i always say, dan sickles is eminently relate-able as an individual. he is not a marvel man. he has always got money problems and women problems and he doesn't get along with his boss. i think anyone in this audience can relate to a least a couple of those points. you know? or stated another way, he is three things we hate all rolled up into one guy. a politician, an attorney and a new yorker. so you can take your pick on that. but i'm a new yorker as well, so if anyone is watching on c-span, relax. but again, the you can love him or hate him, that goes to that. but his combined impact on the battle,
for better or worse, it's the historiography for better or worse. and battlefield preservation, mostly for the better, i do think it makes him one of the most monumental, no pun intended, figures, in the gettysburg story. there are not many gettysburg individuals or generals where it spans all these areas. and that is applicable for sickles of course. and if you ignore circles, as some people do, i don't think you then have a good grasp of the history of gettysburg. and that makes him important. he first comes to prominence -- historical prominence -- he had already been a noteworthy politician. but he comes to historical prominence with the murder of philip barton key and most of you probably know the basis of the story. teresa sickles who is having an
affair. congressman dan sickles found out about it. basically confronted keye on the streets of washington and shot him down like a dog. i am not going to go into that whole case. it is a separate top. but it's a very interesting one but i am not going to do that today but what i do want to say is something that has relevance to the controversy. i've been doing this for years and my own impression of sickles has kind of evolved a little bit but i try to realize and appreciate that dan sickles was what we consider to be an emotional decision-maker. i do not have a psychology major. i did some in community college but that's it. i don't have a psychology degree. but at this point i think i do have an understanding of this guy. and i think if you look at some
of the key moments, the temporary insanity, it was an impulse, a crime of passion kind of thing. if you look at his life and career, he had been with women, with money. with, there i say, certain battlefield actions. and you also see dependent relationships. highly dependent on some of the women in his life and highly dependent on abraham and mary todd lincoln. highly dependent on commanding officers and that is all characteristic of what i would consider to be an emotional decision-maker. guys like this make quick decisions and afterwards they seemingly create what they think are rational decisions to justify their actions. anyone see where this is going? okay. and i think july 2nd, 1853, isn't a a lot of ways an example of this.
so you can take the stereotypical notion that dan circles -- this guy is a 19th century mustache twirling politician who is going to advance to the peach orchard at gettysburg because he hates general mead and wants to destroy the army. that sort of thing. but i would argue that the decision-making is more complex than that. and quite frankly, more interesting and nuanced. so we will come back to that. but sickles then obviously goes into the war. and the ensuing scandal from the key murder and it has driven him out of congress. and there is a direct line between the philip barton key murder and the civil war. because when the civil war starts, congressman sickles is out of office. and he's practicing law as a private citizen in new york, when the shooting starts in 1861. so circles at that point, i
think realizes an opportunity here. and he raises troops around new york, many of which became known as the famed excelsior brigade. but also sickles and lincoln, they tell it later, the new president lincoln, they seem to like where they said that he likes the fighting spirit of sickles. i don't know if lincoln liked sickles as much as lincoln needed democrats, really any democrats, to kind of promote the war effort. but sickles has become the poster boy for the dreaded political general, the all k now iguy who is going to rise through the ranks with no commensurate military training, such that that gettysburg is going to commence and be the highest ranking west point graduate in the army.
. to me, he appeared he had the makings of a confident brigade commander. i think if he moved up, literally brigade in 1861 division, and finally core command in 1863. this progressive rise on paper and rank. particularly in 62 or 63 you start seeing him in more and more battles, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. he is at fredericksburg, but primarily in a reserve position, and that sort of thing. his rise during that period, he used to be more dependent than anything on his relationship, what did i say in the previous slide? one of the thing like sickles, as probably many of you, know
hooked up, no pun intended, and formed a relationship within the army of the potomac that goes from professional to personal. they tend to like to socialize together, and they connect with future chief of staff dan butterfield. that is late 1862 to early 1863. i always tell people, that winter. go back to that winter, read as many of the memoirs as you can, and what they often talk about, many of them often talk about what a party atmosphere it was. . particularly with these three, they are eventually going to take command of the army -- sickles that's promoted behind him, and like i said they have
butterfield in this trio but the three of them basically set a wild, social team within the army, during 62 and 63. there is a famous quote from a new england officer that says to the effect that during that winter sank to its lowest level ever. it was commanded by a trio, the least that was said would be it was a combination of a place where there is no self respecting men who would go to it, no self respecting woman dared go to. ndthat was the atmosphere that they were creating. the culture, if you will. within the army of the potomac. like i said in these memoirs, sickles and hooker had a party last night. where did they get all these women from? you see that in the various accounts. unfortunately, the one guy who was not invited to sit at the
cool kids table was commander george meade. and look, battlefield guys, it is kind of like an old joke, you would want george mean -- george mead demanding your army, but sickles is the guy you would want to hang out with on saturday night. the personal level, meade and sickles, are very different people. sickles, a womanizer. i don't know if he is on her drinker like he is portrayed as, but certainly sickles is a guy who likes to have a good time. by most accounts, george mead is a solid, reliable, devoted, family man, of course you all know the west point graduate. if you have ever read meads correspondence, some of which was published in letters, some of that has been -- i encourage you all to get into philadelphia as you can, i see
with meet a guy who has responsibility is weighing on him. his career, how to provide for his family, things of that nature. that is why, he is 47 years old, that is why he looks like he is 147, you know? maybe he could take a tip from sickles on how to lighten up a little bit. but they do not like each other. what happens is, very often these parties and these social events that i talked about, you see meade writing home, you see meat writing home and literally saying things like, every officer in the army was at that party tonight, except me. i was not invited. you see him doing things like that, and kind of criticizing guys like sickles and butterfield, and a quote, such gentleman as sickles and butterfield are not the person's i should -- and you see things like that going on. so there is clearly sort of some personal friction going on with these two.
at that time, hooker is the rising star in the army. it is no surprise that sickles it's connected to hooker, who he thinks is kind of the rising star. because, that is kind of the way that sickles does things. i am pausing here, and i am giving a little added emphasis to this, because i think an area that gettysburg historians and authors, and scholars have been a little shallow on is developing the origin of the meade sickles relationship, what do you usually hear? you usually hear meade is the professional, against sickles the untrained amateur. that is what you kind of hear, the excuse for the fiasco that they both go through on july 2nd in 1863. being from west point does not guarantee that you are going to have military success on the battlefield, and not going to west point doesn't guarantee
you are going to be a failure. there is more for the relationship, at least for these two particular guys. in meade's case, trouble starts after the battle of fredericksburg in 62. it had actually performed well, but didn't get support from another general. bernie, who served as a division commander under sickles becomes part of the sickles click. i am convinced that the friction between meade and the officers of the third core really exist after the battle of fredericksburg. you have that dynamic going on, you have meade sort of being socially excluded from the parties going on, and then after the battle, there is a dispute between meade and hooker. let me put it this way, there is a dispute between hooker and the different generals on whether or not meade has favored, or withdrawn across the river. they start pulling all of the generals, did you favor a
withdrawal? did you want to move forward? that sort of thing. sickles of course supports his buddy hooker, meade says he does not favor a withdrawal, but they sort of put him in the favoring one. this puts them in the newspapers, and he said wait a minute, i did not support that, i wanted to go forward. a little bit of this debate going on, which i think is fascinating because again, this whole idea of advance or retreat after a major battle, it is something that seems to -- have to almost every major campaign. we always act like we get to gettysburg, and it is not. i think it isn't a lot of ways, the seas are getting planted for the future meade sickles controversy. when he takes command, you see this right away. june 29th, 30th, july 23rd. you see this right away in the orders going back between need
and sickles. from sickle's perspective, his by the hooker has been removed from command. so he is kind of on the outs. really something he is not used to. from meade's perspective you've got this guy commanding the third core that he doesn't like. and probably doesn't trust and probably has good reason not to trust. and you see in some of the marching orders from june 30th and july 1st, you see the communication and miscommunication going on between sickles and meade. so july 2nd, they move to the peach orchard, it doesn't happen in a vacuum. it obviously comes to a kind of spectacular clash here at gettysburg. so i'm going to pause for a minute and hopefully some of you can see this. i would more than anything characterize the needs needs cycles communication breakdown on july 2nd -- i would characterize it as a
failure to communicate more than anything. and some historians will say, no, cycles has direct orders he just violated those because he is a new yorker, he wanted to be president. all this kind of stuff. i think if you break it down, first of all, clear and direct orders, the orders that circles are cv, they were verbal, as far as we know. that always carries a series of risks for being miscarried. but also for historians as well, we don't have orders sitting in an archives somewhere called. and general mead, george mead, he describes the orders later, during testimony during the time on the civil war. and there are instructions to sickles, informing him to do it
on the left of hancock's second. plainly visible if it is practicable to occupy it. there is another piece from john geary's on the round tops of the night before. and general mead goes to captain meade and says it go down to -- icicles is sleeping. initially, rand off -- i'm sorry, initially captain meade doesn't talk directly. and he talks to sickles artillery chief. and he comes out and says, you know, general sickles he is not
sure where he is supposed to go. and gets back on his horse and what do we know about general mead temps temper? patience. softspoken kind of guy. you don't get names like it. you have to earn nicknames like that. under a lot of stress. yes, he was, he is new to command. remember, we are not making excuses. and general mead, probably went as the staffers son. and told him, look, these are the orders. captain mead goes back and staff officers are around.
and we will be in a position. i will -- see you, kind of riding off. and i will make the case that general sickles has exhibited some uncertainty about where he is supposed to be. and i will state, for the record, it is a danger of being called a monday morning quarterback. i think headquarters should have paid more attention to cycles. i've been lambasted on social media for this recently, especially with a new book out, to the effect of, well, now james hessler is saying those orders were unclear. no, i'm not saying that. i'm saying that, a good leader would have told him to pay more attention to what is clearly proving to be a difficult subordinate. and if you think 9:00 is too early to do that, how about 11:00? because sickle is goes to meade's headquarters looking for assistance. i know people on the
battlefield here who interpret this whole controversy in a couple of words. and i hear people do this and i'm going to sort of paraphrase here but i once heard a colleague, told sickles to go to heck, and do whatever you want to do. and that would be the impression of most people in the room, go tech, i will do whatever i want to do, why would you go to headquarters? why take the trouble? again, some of meads supporters do dispute this. that's okay. it's your interpretation. this is what the record says. this is about the record says. i interpret sickles looking for assistance. meade supporters can interpret sickles as meade saying, put your troops on my hill. it's interpretation of the same source. but i would say, they have this conference at headquarters again. he seems to be requesting additional assistance, which meade
describes. circles came to my headquarters, intimated that he was to occupy the position. and i understood that -- put -- in the previous nine. it is practicable. i know that is common in the 19th century. but it is practicable, it's at the heart of every gettysburg controversy. and they didn't say it was practicable in the 19th century. this notion of, i understood hancock had put theories in the night before. and need hasn't seen the position. again, i will say again, i'm not saying that [noise] -- the orders were unclear. i am saying, though, it's a difficult subordinate on the fly. probably better suited to give him more time. we all know what happens next. general me does not come out.
general warren, chief engineer does not come out. henry hunt, the artillery chief, does. and that's the whole conversation. before leaving headquarters though, sickles says to meet, whether he was not authorized to post his core in such manner as he would deem most suitable. and he limits the instructions and any ground within those limits i leave to you. circles clearly disobeys orders. clearly the spirit of the intent of the orders is to prolong the second core. if you are a guy like dan cycles, you may feel like you have wiggle room here. within the limits of the general instructions, what is practical and things like that. and all i'm saying is that, you have this going on, these guys that don't like each other. it's a recipe for disaster.
that's kind of what happens. again, terrain is part of the story. i would argue that experience and decision-making goes from terrain. but what do i know. this is an area where people call it sickles hole. the chandler is looking west. the ridge over here, the wheat field is kind of over here. from this area here you cannot see the confederate position on seminary ridge. you cannot see emits bergh road. it is a rocky, rugged field. for better or worse, cycles and his staff and officers, evaluated the field that they do not have room to put artillery, that they would not have appropriate field to fire from which they could hit. so this is one of the things they evaluate. i put this picture at one of the parks controlled burns. typically, when you go through
that field, it is called grass. when you take that grass off, there is a lot of holes. they're as far as i, know the rocks would be in the battle. don't laugh, we could move rocks. [laughs] again, what happened? general mead's position, without cycles on the left flank here, covering what we know today as little round top, shaped like an upside down jay, or as we call, it a picture fisher. we've never seen a primary account from 1863. rally around the fishhook. that's not how that worked. don't you agree? i think the fishhook is a later invention. regardless, the idea is clearly that cycles is supposed to post next to the second quarter. and be the left flank. but he has to move forward because he has to use primarily the peach orchard and enters
the road along the commanding position, primarily for artillery. think he was reliving some lessons that he may have learned from chancellorsville. remember there were other events. he had a recon of the woods. to confirm that the enemy was moving to attack his flank. to see the army headquarters, remove his cavalry screen. and sickles later claimed that he was confused by meade's orders. he later concocted the story that he did this to prevent meade from retreating from gettysburg. that to me -- you like that? hearty laughter in the front row, mike. i like that. i would say, more than anything, it's that last bullet point.. all of you that raised your hand and said you do not like
dan cycles, you don't like him primarily because of that last bullet point. because if you study the civil war, a lot of generals make battlefield mistakes, i am not excusing that. battlefield mistakes cost lives. i'm not playing light with. that but a lot of guys made mistakes at gettysburg. you don't enthusiastically hate the guy that ordered, that pickets charge. but it is a problem from a public relations perspective, this sin campaign that he goes after made with later. and i would argue that all the cycles haters in the audience and watching at home are probably more turned off by his attack against meade. maybe some of you are turned on by it, i don't know. [laughs] okay, so we go from sickles hole to the, quote unquote, with irony, the commanding round of the peach orchard. and what i am trying to emphasize here is this wrong,
last position. emmitsburgit was viewed as a fe position for placement of the artillery. that's with the fight at the peach orchard is about. how to use artillery. that sort of thing. and you know, we have played off to death the weaknesses of the position. it created an awkward salient, the flanks were in the air, all those things are accurate. but i think as historians we have played that out. but would have been looking at more recently is trying to assess the merits of the peach orchard on its own merits. is it or isn't it? with they may have referred to in the military as he ground. the occupation of the peach orchard, kenneth grant a decisive advantage to each army? i've looked at it from that perspective, to try to answer the age old question, who is
right? so, robert e. lee, in front of general longstreet, the enemy held position from which he could be driven, we are which thought artillery could be used to the advantage of assaulting more elevated ground. [noise] guess what, robert e. lee wanted that position. imagine that, robert e. lee being outcast by dan sickles. i have a friend who always says, even a blind squirrel can get and that sometimes. it is clear from robert e. lee's report that he values the position for artillery. very much the chancellorsville fear for the first place. a couple prominent historians and sickles made off that that is not true and i don't do that, i'm a nice guy. them some prominent historians have
written that sickles manufactured this, it is not true. it is not accurate. there is the value that is perceived by robert easily, while when meade found out that sickles got a position, is attributed to have said that the ground that sickles was on was neutral ground, the enemy cannot occupy it for the same reason that his own troops could not. there is the title of tonight's presentation, do you see where i am going with this? neutral ground. george meade assist that it is neutral ground. you have robert e. lee looking at it, you have sickles agreeing with robert e. lee, you have george meade assessing it, and neutral ground. so there is the question of, is it logical to consider it? and then deny that general robert e. lee or sickles overestimate that. i'm not going to do the battle here on power point, it is very
hard to do civil war battles with power point presentations, i think that is why so few people actually do it. we are going to skip ahead, you guys know what happens. the attack the union -- eventually sickles's troops are driven out of the peach orchard. as far as the meade and sickles controversy goes, arguably one of the best things that could have happened to sickles was this. [laughs] because the confederate a turtle shell, it comes in and smashes into sickles's right leg. he is carried off the battlefield where he is amputated that night, and sickles is then removed from the battlefield. so he missed the rest of the gettysburg campaign. but he goes back to washington to recuperate. on july 5th, while recuperating in washington, who is his first visitor? lincoln. and lincoln is desperate to
hear something from somebody who was at the battle of gettysburg. and here is my old friend sickles! now, sickles it's in great pain at this moment. i don't want to underestimate this. there is still some doubt over whether sickles it is going to survive this wound. so, i do not think by july 5th sickles has a very complicated or coordinated attack going against general mead's reputation, or image at this point. i do think sickles is probably already thinking, you know i was not getting any attention, so i moved into this ground, a bit when you come to gettysburg, you are going to love, it kind of thing. i think there are some of that going on. sickles certainly got his side of the story into lincoln's hand. if any good meade scholar knows, this is now playing against george mead, right? seeds were being supposedly planted in the presidents head
against meat, and meads performance and gettysburg. i do not think that sickles is the sole contributed of that. it kind of overplayed sickles's influence, but he is definitely a contributor, there is no doubt about that. october, three months later, guess what? sickles has recuperated enough, and he is ready to come back to the army. whatever you think of sickles as a strategists, and a human being, the guy has learned to love being in general in the field, whether it is the trappings, whether it is being with the men, whether it is the adrenaline, the action, all of the above. by october of 63, he was ready to come back to the army of the potomac, the army is down in virginia, he comes in, he meets with general mead. i am back! what do you think meade said? he is not so -- right exactly.
it is really the refusal to let sickles back into the army in the fall of 63 that is the catalyst for what i often refer to as the second battle of gettysburg. people often say, why did meade court martial sickles? why didn't meade shoot sickles? [laughs] you know, this isn't the kind of army where we do that. you know, the american army does not do that. or do they? no, they don't. if you take what meade wrote at face value, his report in october of 63, he talks about finding sickles not fully apprehending the instructions given to him within the act of advancing, things of that nature, but henry is much more direct in his report, he felt sickles in his errors an error
which nearly proved fatal in battle -- until he received reinforcements from other troops. so now sickles has been denied reentry into the army, and the official reports being filed basically say, what an error, he would've been annihilated if we had not saved him. how do you think a guy like sickles, with his ego and temperament is going to react to that? not well, not well. meet at that point was still out of the opinion that sickles did what he thought was for the best, subsequent events prove that my judgment was correct, and his judgment was wrong. meade, in some ways, was turning the other cheek on this. difference of opinion, my judgment was right, by the way i am the guy in charge, kind of thing. but now with the reentry to the army denied, this is when sickles turns up the heat. again, i am emphasizing this because lots of gettysburg
historians have been sloppy at this. they think sickles is just bent on revenge because he hates general mead, and all that sort of stuff. no, there is a specific agenda here. the agenda is, i want to go back to the army. if meade is not going to let me back into the army, maybe we can help get meade removed. leads to the gettysburg portion of the joint committee of the conduct of the war in the spring of 1864. now, i hate hearing the joint committee referred to as the meade hearings on the battle of gettysburg, so it goes on basically to the end of the war, gettysburg is only a portion of their testimony. but yes the guy is running the radical republicans for a host of reasons. they don't really like meade, and they would be happy to see meade get removed from command, and ironically get replaced with: hooker. for anybody who says that could
have never happened! how many times did michael and come back in the army? yes, it is possible. sickles is what meade calls an agent. an agent of the joint committee of the conduct of the war. he testifies when he can, in his behalf, against general mead's view of this. there is also some correspondence behind the scenes where sickles is saying stuff like call butterfield, he has got the dirt for you. i think meat is definitely cooperating, sorry i do think sickles is definitely cooperating with the committee. but, sickles, for better or worse just remained on -- he said it was not the misinterpretation, it was either a good one or a bad one, and i took it up on my own responsibility. so even i am kind of sitting here, thinking maybe sickles misinterpreted his orders, sickles didn't want to admit that sickles misinterpreted his
orders. sickles it is saying i did it on my own responsibility, whether it is good or bad. i think where he turn people off is kind of some white lies. i succeeded in getting a position, and by third core held those positions. we know that is a fabrication and eli. he doubles down with the famous anonymous newspaper, which also appeared during that period right when george meade is doing his own testimony before the joint committee, it shows up in the paper, basically supports sickles version of this, it is against meat and the fifth core, and some of this other stuff. i will say again, if you study military history, anonymous account, officers using anonymous account in the newspapers, it is not limited to gettysburg. this is something that they did in an era where maybe they want to get their story across,
anonymity and the newspaper was a way that you saved your career kind of thing. but obviously, it only draws more blood. now george meade, who you know before was kind of turning the other cheek, now he is writing his life, oh my gosh! these are false and perverted statements. i came to town, and i cannot believe what sickles, and all these other guys are saying against me, and meet has to go on the defense. one thing that i think we do not give george meade enough credit for is the defense meade mounts during the joint committee. again, historians to this day will often say meade doesn't get the credit because of what sickles did afterwards. i would tell historians, pause, take a deep breath, hug your kid. and follow this all through.
and by meade's second appearance before the joint committee, he did a very effective job of defending himself. laying it all out and basically defusing criticism against him. so that by the time the joint committee issued the report, there was really nothing in there at that point that was seriously damaging to george mead, the general. probably the steepest criticism against him is his failure at william support. which is probably the lasting need criticism of the gettysburg campaign and it really has nothing to do with dan sickles. the other thing i would say as well is that grants arrival that spring also helped take some heat off him as well. the next time someone says, mead was fired and replaced by grant, no, in a lot of ways grant saved meade. meet mead was credited after
his death. meade reportedly said, the movement practically destroyed his own core and produced 60 per 6% of my losses in the battle. driving us back to the position he was ordered to hold originally. if this is an advantage to be so crippled in battle without obtaining an object, i must confess, i cannot see it. again, i think we do meade a disservice when we think he is overwhelmed by these attacks. he does a good job of defending himself. unfortunately, need dies in 1872. and sickles dies in 1914. this begins sickles advantage, when meade is no longer around to defend himself. 1886 is a big year in the meade-sickles controversy. that year icicles is appointed chair of the new york's monument
commission, for the gettysburg a battlefield, meaning that cycles has a permanent and official reason to come back to gettysburg to give speeches, monument dedications. and guess what? he is a popular and in some corners beloved speaker. so, it's hard to find a sickles speech from that period where he doesn't bash on meade at least once. again, to meads disadvantage, he is no longer around to defend himself. from 1886 until circles death, in 1914, it's the prime period for the so-called mead cycles controversy for that reason. the other thing i want to point out, 1895, sickles asking congress at that time. does introduce the legislation that establishes gettysburg national military park. and again, people will be like, well sickles murdered a guy. it's not really that good well,
almost lost the battle of gettysburg. really not that good. that created the national military park. i guess that's okay. somebody else would've done that. that's revisionist history. it doesn't matter if somebody else would've done it. icicles still did do it. not that he was the only guy. but let's give credit where credit is due. i know we are running short on time. throughout the period, they're coming back to gettysburg and increasing numbers. they're developing what we know today as gettysburg national military park. and it's in that period that cycles, there he is, and this is probably 1888 -- it's during that period that sickles strikes up a relationship with his opponent, james longstreet. they spent years together, they go to many events together. time tonight does not allow me to tell all of their stories. but some of them are pretty
good. sickles and longstreet basically mutually support each other's gettysburg records for the remainder of their lives. in 1902, shortly before longstreet's death, he is summarized as quote, i believe it is now conceded the advanced position at the peach ordered, taken by your court under your orders, save that battlefield for the union cause. and quote. longstreet literally went to his grave believing sickles was right. or did he? well, you know, people are kind of skeptical about this. these two buddies just propping each other up a little bit. but one of the things longstreet always said was that by moving forward, sickles took forward longstreet's ability to maneuver and act. cut down his ability to act. a legitimate reason why you can argue in favor of longstreet's
statement. many of you have seen the photo by this point. we have cycles, we have longstreet, butterfield is in here and joshua chamberlain. perhaps a guy who nobody would have heard of today's sickles had heard of around tops. the joshua chamberlain fan club today. mark twain got to know sickles late in life. to quote, the general valued his leg -- and perfectly sure that is if he had part with either one of them, he would part with the one that he has got. i am summarizing how signals sickles played up the war hero element. there's another quote i don't want to botch. but i will close with it. sickles never made an ungenerous remark about anyone. he spoke severely of this and that and the other person. officers in the war.
but he spoke with dignity and kerr city. her to see. there was no malignancy in what he said. he was merely regarded as just criticism on that. i can see that. i can see it dancing culls getting older. not really going after meet with malice or hatred. anything like that. i am right because i am dan sickles, kind of thing. i am getting older, i start to do the same thing. and most of you do as well. so don't laugh too hard. mark twain on sickles. and in closing, let's summarize, what is the number one question we get? what if cycles had stayed in position? what would have happened? answer? we don't know. it's not that we can ever use whatever in history but we don't know. one, do an assessment of the terrain. was the peach orchard decisive to either army? no.
neither army benefited. number two, did cycles disrupt needs defense? yes. but higher numeric casualties. but equal on a percentage basis. i don't mean to be cold about this but the army of the potomac could afford more casualties. three, did cycles move positions that he moved into? an unequivocal yes. he lost positions. even with increased support. number four, longstreet suffered heavy casualties taking meaningless positions. in my opinion, he was shooed up fighting for ground of no value. one. five, did leads artillery use the position to capture advantages? no, i would refer you to a book on pickets charge for that one. in my opinion, these are questions you should ask to evaluate the merits or the merits of cycles move to the
peach orchard. coming back, give me a second. those are the things i think you should evaluate when you are trying to evaluate cycles at gettysburg. so yes. i seldom say this publicly, meade's military view was correct. both robert e. lee and sickles overestimated it. and we use peach orchard on bergh road, at an event called pickets charge. but did sickles knowingly act out of intentional disobedience? i will leave that for you to decide. which comes back to the sky. i have this guy come to me at the end of the presentation and say that was, fine but i still don't like sickles. he will say i was not trying to like you to like sickles, would i do hope you come away with is a better appreciation of the story, of you know when i
talked about, the three phases, his role in the battle, his role in historiography and his role in the preservation. i said at the outset, if you like getting to it as much as we do, i think it is important to understand all of the phases of sickles's career. like him or not, hit him or, not. thank, you and -- thanks.