Angel’s Share: Musings of a bourbon sipping ACW Student

April 26, 2009

The evolution of military tactics…

Filed under: Uncategorized — angelshare @ 11:51 am

Earlier this month I attended another seminar led by Bill Hewitt, sponsored by MHO. Bill is a retired Lt. Col. and in the four or so years that I have known him, his approach to the battle of Gettysburg is just a bit different…at least it makes ME look at it differently. You see, Bill approaches such topics as Pipe Clay Creek Circular and the PPT Charge from a military perspective. Much different than the perspective of the historian – and the discussions that I have had over the years with Bill have broadened my understanding of some of the command decisions.

The first part of the day was spend in the classroom and Bill opened with an overview of the evolution of military tactics. He posted a brilliant slide that details the journey of tactics which can be applied in both a macro and micro sense. The four main elements of the tactical journey include “doctrine, leaders, equipment and units.” The “fifth element”, not to be confused with the awesome Bruce Willis movie, is “dimension.” Dimension covers length, depth, height and the all important time factor.

As Bill laid out the journey he then applied the impact of changes within the elements and provided a micro study within the American Civil War…..the morning went by quickly and it was all we could do to absorb as fast as possible.

I was able to record the morning event and I am working with Bill to turn the content into a few podcasts. I have the rough draft done of the first podcast and the goal is to segment them into a series. Hopefully, Bill and I can offer the podcasts for sale in the near future….we are trying to work out the logistics and pricing models now. More to follow as that happens….

April 13, 2009

Well, it’s now official!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — angelshare @ 10:01 pm

Today I reached a goal and milestone in my life….I completed my coursework at the University of Phoenix in March and today in the mail I received my diploma. So folks, you are looking at the most recent graduate of the University of Phoenix Bachelor in Science of Business Management! Wow! It is hard to believe to a certain degree….

I struggled early on in my career opting to get out in “the real world” and learn by doing rather than by going to school. I obtained an Associate’s degree from Springfield Technical Community College in 1983 and hit the road. Over the course of time I learned my trade, worked on HVAC units and controls and eventually went into technical support for a controls company. From there I moved into sales and 9 years ago, into Management – becoming one of the company’s youngest branch managers at the time.

I’ve since moved over to Johnson Controls where I am a branch manager in Knoxville. I moved the family to be near the Smokey Mountains and it’s been a great experience. About 2 1/2 years ago I started back at the University of Phoenix online to get my degree. The time has certainly flown by, but there were some individual assignments and papers that I thought would never end!!

I was able to accomplish this with the support of my beautiful wife and lovely kids….now we can spend some Saturdays together without me reading or writing a paper frantically that is due on Sunday night! I also need to thank my friends who were very supportive of me during this time too.

Well, in taking stock I now have to figure out what is next. I’ve grown interested in digital photography so I want to pursue that along with some of my Gettysburg interests….Farnsworth’s Charge, Scales Brigade and a growing interest in how each commander planned for the potential of what could happen and the reality of what did happen.

I hope to post a bit more frequently now and hope to have some thoughts worth your time in considering……..

Thanks!
Chris

December 20, 2008

Where does the time go???

Filed under: Uncategorized — angelshare @ 11:01 am

Hi Folks,
Well, it has been quite awhile since my last blog entry. Life has seemingly gotten in the way! The second half of this year has me with tremendous focus on work and school. Work is extremely busy which in this economy, I am thankful for indeed! The fact that I have had no real time to relax and focus on Christmas bothers me, but then I think “this too shall pass.” I have hired several new people and my challenge starting in January is to bring them up to speed in their new roles.
School has been another matter altogether…really busy and with luck, by mid January I will be winding down as I finish up my BS degree in Business Management. This has been a long standing goal of mine and perhaps a nice topic for a future blog. Suffice to say that “Global Business Strategies” combined with “eBusiness” and “Quality Management and Process” – well – I’m about burned out on learning about business.
I long for the opportunity to get back into my Gettysburg research. That day is now on the horizon and I plan on digging back in at the end of March. “But I thought you finished school in early March” some might ask….well, there is that weeklong well deserved, turn off the phone and laptop, lay on a beach and spend time with the family vacation that’s coming in mid March. Can’t wait!!

Merry Christmas to all of you if I don’t get the chance to post by the end of the year and I look forward to seeing all of you soon!
Thanks for reading,
Chris

July 12, 2008

Not so fast with those walls…..

Filed under: Uncategorized — angelshare @ 10:04 pm

Well, just when I thought that I had a piece of Farnsworth’s Charge settled in my mind with the finding of the AL walls, along comes some of the best map analyzer’s that I know in Civil War discussion!!

Ed Bell, on MHO (www.militaryhistoryonline.com) did an extensive analysis of the locations of the wall and of the D-Shaped field. To be honest, I’m still trying to absorb it all and hope to dig into it further this week. The gist of Ed’s findings are that the walls shown around the D-shaped field on the Warren map are drastically changed.

What does this mean? Well, I’m not sure right now but I’m digging into what Ed has put forth and I’m thankful to him and others on MHO that have given me a quick education on evaluating maps of the period!!

In other news, I just got back from my annual trip to Gettysburg for the Anniversary of the Battle. The walks were great and hopefully you can catch them on PCN sometime…

More later!
Chris

June 22, 2008

The Alabama Walls

Filed under: Uncategorized — angelshare @ 12:45 am

One of the elusive points about Farnsworth’s Charge at Gettysburg, for me anyway, is the stone wall that the Alabama troops were posted behind at the base of Big Round Top. For me the walls represent an understanding of what the AL troops were in the position to see what they claim they saw. In other words, did they have clear visibility into the D-Shaped Field?

Last year I became interested in finding the location of the walls because I figured they were the type of wall that likely was not altered all that much since the battle. But where are they?? Last December I posed this question to some friends of mine that have an interest in the Charge as I do. Well, we had walked the area last summer with Dean Shultz to try and find the elusive wall, to no avail.

Once the foliage cleared from the fall, some friends of mine were able to get out to the site with GPS and digital cameras to take some pictures. Turns out, from a great many points along the wall the D shaped field is visible but sometimes not so clear. My friend Will Dupuis is very talented when it comes to digital photography, gps’s, maps and especially the combination of all three! Thanks to Will we can bring you, the reader, the ability to see what the soldiers were able to see from various positions along the wall.

What does this tell us about Farnsworth’s Charge? Well, not much I suppose other than the fact that some of the AL accounts where they describe what happened in the D shaped field – they were able to see.

Check it out and see what you think….

April 7, 2008

A sad day for the Army family…

Filed under: Uncategorized — angelshare @ 11:37 pm

Today we received the news that my Dad’s oldest sister has passed from this earth, our island home, to be with our heavenly Father. This is really sad and upsetting to me as Aunt Dora was, for all practical purposes, the epitome of the family matriarch. When we were growing up we would spend quite a few summer days at her home in Michigan. It was a great time as we simply had to wander across the street and out on a dock to a wonderful lake that they lived on called Clark lake. Her home was always warm and inviting – exemplifying the woman herself.

In the mid 70’s Aunt Dora and Uncle Howard moved down to Florida. Uncle Howard has battled MS all of his life – and is still fighting it. The most emotional part about this whole situation for me is how much I know he’ll miss his “Dori” when he finds out the news. Since he is in hospice care at this point, I’m not sure that he has been told yet.

Anyway, we’ve had the opportunity to visit them a few times in Florida and when they came up to Ohio for the family reunions. They both always had a wonderful smile and would take the time to listen to us kids no matter what topic we wanted to discuss.

We learn so much from those that come before us….Aunt Dora spent quite a bit of time researching family history. Through her love of geneology, I learned that my ancestry included a hangman in Pennsylvania, a riding circuit minister and both a Revolutionary War and Civil War Veteran. I was privileged a couple of years ago to have come across the records of George Gaby, the RW veteran and found that he served two 9 month tours with a Mass regiment.

So now we are without our beloved Aunt Dora. It just won’t be the same. All we can do, of course, is continue the work of the living. I hope that I can help pass along the lessons of our family history and the compiled information that Dora worked so hard to pull together to my daughters. More importantly, I hope that my daughters grow up with the love of people and gentle nature that Dora exemplified.

May our merciful God provide comfort to Howard, her spouse and companion for over 50 years as he learns the news.

As for me, I hope to pull out the family history that Dora put together and spend a little while with her spirit in those pages.

Rest well Dora!!!!
Love, your nephew Chris

April 5, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy!!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — angelshare @ 4:14 pm

Sorry I haven’t had a chance to post on the blog here recently. I took a quick one day trip down to Chickamauga last month and spent the day reviewing sites of Wilder’s brigade with Park Historian Jim Ogden and ACW gaming expert Dave Powell, who I understand is putting an updated map set together for Chickamauga.

I then went out to California with the family to enjoy some time at Disney and the San Diego Zoo.

Work has been very busy and hopefully things will slow down a tad after April.

Upcoming adventures for the month include a trip down to the hallowed grounds of Augusta National for the Master’s this week, then I’m scheduled to travel up to Gettysburg for the annual Park Seminar followed by a return trip via Louisville KY for a meeting. All in all, a very busy week and a half coming up!

When I return I hope to settle back in and be able to add some more blog entries. In the meantime – enjoy your Spring!

Chris

March 2, 2008

Research paying off….

Filed under: Uncategorized — angelshare @ 1:28 am

Greetings from Ft. Knox Kentucky!!

I’m here tonight having brought my lovely bride Aly up here for a speaking engagement. Aly has spent the last two summers in Gettysburg conducting research on the various reunions that have taken place there. She is in the middle of writing a book on the 75th and last Reunion of the Blue & the Gray. Her work is coming along nicely and soon it will be time to shop for a publisher.

Recently she was invited to speak here at Ft. Knox to Divisional Leadership. It’s truly an honor as there will be at least one Major General and three Brigadier Generals present. The event is a full dress uniform dinner party. I’m sure there are more details to which she will fill me in when I go pick her up in an hour or so.

To say I’m proud of her would be a massive understatement. She has worked hard on her research and I know folks will be really interested in her take on the social, military and political aspects of the 75th Reunion. Spoiler alert…..it wasn’t just about getting the Veterans together!!!

To the men, women, wives and husbands of the 3rd Cav. I’m sure you will agree that her presentation along with her engaging smile made for a wonderful topic and evening for your leadership event. It’s the least that we could do for the men & women that risk their lives every day so that others can feel safe and enjoy life here in the USA!!

Aly, thanks for making me and the girls proud of you and the heart and soul you have put into your research!!

February 18, 2008

“Show up and look good on the Horse!”

Filed under: Uncategorized — angelshare @ 1:43 am

I spent the weekend in Gettysburg attending yesterday’s “Winter Skirmish” with Lt. Col. (ret) Bill Hewitt. Last year we studied Meade’s operational plan, so this year it was Lee’s turn. Bill puts on a rather unique seminar. We spent 4 hours in the classroom discussing the operational details of the plan. The “what did Lee know, and when did he know it” type stuff. From there we digressed into a lengthy discussion of the fact that Gettysburg was not a chance encounter, but rather a battle that both commanders were looking for and expected. I have to say, I like Bill’s perspective. His experience as a military trainer becomes very obvious in the first nanosecond of his instruction. The details leading up to the actual meeting of the armies, including such logistics as clearing the roadways, setting up your lines of communication and the like are often missed by the historians – but not lost on the military minds that must consider such things.

“Lee’s General Plan was unchanged” is a subject that sometimes gets discussion passionately – mostly due to Troy Harman’s book. I admire Troy’s work quite a bit and even more so after the benefit of spending countless hours with Bill Hewitt and discussing the topic. I’ll get into more about all of this later as there are at least two really cool concepts that I took away from the training.

It was also great to see my friend Harry Smeltzer….Harry is a guy that I’ve spent some good quality time with at Gettysburg and Chancellorsville. He’s one of those guys that you can not talk to for a month or two and pick right up where you left off when you do see or talk to him. His knowledge of the ACW is vast and I can’t think of very many “better read” individuals. Heck, I just learn a lot from the guy! Not to mention the fact that we both have a sympatico sense of humor.

So, all in all it was a great weekend. I’ll have some posts over the next couple of weeks as time permits to go into more detail on what we learned at the seminar as well as some information on the fenceline of the Alabama troops near the D-shaped field. My friend Mike Waricher and I wandered around there on Friday afternoon and thanks to some folks before me who marked it on a GPS and sent me the coordinates – I now know where it is. Plus another surprise or two awaits you!

So, why the title on this post? Well, as Bill Hewitt said….”if you think Meade & Lee’s only job was to show up and look good on the horse, you are sadly mistaken!”

Time now, for some sleep!
Chris

February 3, 2008

Lee’s Operational Plan Seminar

Filed under: Uncategorized — angelshare @ 2:22 pm

I’m told by experts that events during the Civil War typically were not happenstance. A great example of this is the Battle of Gettysburg (What did you think I was going to say, Cold Harbor???). While the battle itself may have not been the exact battle that either commander wanted to fight at the time and events evolved that culminated in the battle, it was not the unplanned for collision that some early authors would lead us to believe.

Last year around this time I participated in a seminar sponsored by MHO (www.militaryhistoryonline.com) lead by Retired Lt. Col. William Hewitt. Bill knows a thing or two about Operational Planning as that’s what he did for many years including some time in the 1st Gulf War. He also taught this doctrine at the war college level. So, when I asked that he put on a seminar about Meade’s Operational Plan he immediately said yes!

The seminar was comprised of a 4 hour classroom study of Meade’s Operational Plan, which was quite impressive being that he had only been in command for a couple of days. There was a lot of discussion surrounding the Pipe Clay Creek circular and overall operational theory. Bill shared some great Powerpoints with the group that depicted the operational moves of the Union Army. I’ll seek his permission to post one or two here in the future. After the morning classroom session we took a ride out to view the PCC proposed line and three or four other sites, including a visit to Power’s Hill, or what Ranger Troy Harman calls Meade’s “Grand Central Station” as it is in this area that Meade was able to shift troops quickly throughout the battle.

Now the good news….
This year Bill has offered to do another seminar in the same format but “Lee’s Operational Plan” so that we can have a look at the other side. This seminar will include some an examination of some of Lee’s decisions before, during and after the fight. Here’s the announcement:

Winter Skirmish 2008 Announcement!
Lee’s Operational Plan

Date: February 16, 2008
Time: 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Classroom, Afternoon Field Study

Instructor: Bill Hewitt

Where: Valentine Hall Room 206, Lutheran Theological Seminary – Gettysburg PA

Cost: 20.00 per person (please add 3.00 if you are using PayPal) All proceeds go to the Gettysburg National Military Park

Send check to:
Chris Army
1277 Willowood Rd.
Knoxville Tn, 37922

Details of the Seminar & Study:
Meade’s apparent lack of offensiveness gave the impression that he did not want to fight at Gettysburg, and did not want to stay at Gettysburg on 2 July. The reactive mindset (1) allowed Lee to set the tempo of the battle- retaining the initiative even in withdrawal, (2) allowed Lee to escape, and (3) hindered Meade in executing attacks on his right flank on 2 July, or counterattacking on 3 July. History overlooks Meade’s decisiveness in ordering 40% of his force to Gettysburg, the central point of concentration in the area, and physically between the two known wings of his opponent. History ignores his attempts to counterattack, and fails to consider that Meade, at any time, could have ordered a retrograde from Gettysburg, always a prerogative of command.

Lee was also a meticulous defensive and offensive planner and capable leader, who generally exercised a “hands off” approach once the execution began. At times, such as the withdrawal, when tighter controls were needed, Lee adjusted to those needs. Lee clearly lost the battle and the campaign. While he achieved many of his goals prior to the battle, he failed to achieve his overarching goal of defeating the AOP. Lee gave an equally credible performance, overall. His offensive skill could not overcome Meade’s defensive skill.

During movement Lee made no major error. Lee did make a minor error, which would surface in the next phase. When Stuart did not execute Lee’s orders to rejoin the army on 24-25 June, Lee did not compensate by using other available cavalry forces from 26 through 2 July. Without intelligence Lee was forced to enter the Susquehanna Valley to protect his line of communications.

On 1 July, during movement to contact and hasty attack, Lee assumed the AOP could not close at Gettysburg as fast as they did. The intelligence that Stuart, or some other cavalry force, would have provided, would have corrected this. Compounding his initial minor error Lee began movement to contact during the evening of 28-29 June without diverting other available cavalry to the area of predictable enemy activity. He concentrated at Gettysburg with less information than he could have had. He compensated for his lack of intelligence by conducting a hasty attack with favorable force ratios. The Confederates prudently diverted infantry forces for security missions on both flanks. Lee diverted Anderson, and Ewell delayed an advance. Both actions brought about culmination of the hasty attack on 1 July before the seizure of more terrain (Cemetery Hill).

Lee’s plan for the 2 July deliberate attack was excellent. Well over 50% of his mass was focused on the emerging decisive point (Cemetery Hill). In execution, when faced with the forward deployment of Sickles, the Confederates shifted forces further south to find and capitalize on any weakness. Aware of this shift south and apparent Federal strength there, Lee did not exercise additional command and control over the exploitation force (Anderson’s and perhaps Pender’s Divisions). His inaction caused a shift of projected energy from the decisive point in the center of the line to the Confederate right flank near the Wheatfield. When coupled with a successful Federal response to the south end of the battlefield, Lee’s lack of adjustment resulted in the deliberate attack culminating with limited gains in the Peach Orchard and part of Culp’s Hill.

During the continuation of the deliberate attack on 3 July, Lee’s plan was generally good, but his force was becoming out of balance for complete victory. To compensate for the lack of forces, Anderson’s Division was given two diverging missions, and the center was weakened to reinforce Ewell’s attack on Culp’s Hill. In execution, with the plan unraveling with attacks on Ewell, the detection of Stuart, and the ineffectiveness of the artillery, Lee failed to adjust to compensate for evolving weaknesses. Given the lack of coordination between corps from the previous day, Lee should have deduced that increased coordination was a necessity. Once the plan began to unravel, Lee had a choice to either reinforce Longstreet’s assault with another division equivalent, or terminate the ground assault portion. Lee did neither and his risk became a gamble. The artillery cannonade was extended with the hope of an increased chance. The Confederates unwisely conducted Longstreet’s assault now vastly undersized. Continuing the attack was an error.

During the withdrawal, Lee again effectively planned a detailed operation, taking a more hands on approach. He reorganized and transitioned the force quickly, reestablishing unit cohesion. When faced with Federal activity, he readjusted his plan. However, had the AOP been more aggressive, Lee’s slowness in planning and implementing his defense at the crossing sites was an error. Meade was not in position to bring light to Lee’s error.

Join us as we discuss Lee’s Operational Plan.

The classroom portion will be followed by a Field Study. Please plan on carpooling to cut down on traffic to the field sites.
Lunch will be on your own.

Email me at c_army@hotmail.com or IM me if you have any questions.

So, if you’re around Gettysburg on the 16th consider joining us! This type of seminar is my favorite format as it’s pretty focused, you don’t have to have a lot of background reading or knowledge done and you get to see some field study as well. Bill will be conducting elements of this seminar when he does his tour for the Ranger’s program in April this year.

See you there!
Chris

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