Daily Archives: February 27, 2014

A Note of Thanks to My Readers


I want to take a few minutes and thank all of you that follow Padre Steve’s World. I cannot tell you just how much it means to me that you take a measure of time to visit my little cyber world. If you are a regular reader or subscriber I thank you from the absolute bottom of the dark place that is my heart.

Some of you have been following me for a long time. This means that you must be pretty incredible people. After all it takes a lot of patience and forbearance to put up with me, just ask my wife.

In the past five years since the site launched I have have something like over four million visitors from I think close to 150 countries. That is pretty cool. So I ask you my friends and readers to keep the hits coming. After all I will need something to make sure that I can afford good beer after I retire from the Navy, whenever that might be.

Others of you may not have been following me for very long, In that case you may be either encouraged or disappointed. In a sense Padre Steve’s World is a lot like a variety show. I write about a lot of topics and I definitely am not a single subject or agenda kid of writer.

For those that have subscribed expecting an agenda of any kind, so what can I say? The website and what I write it is very much part of me, and part of who I am. Since some people like me, some people don’t and other people couldn’t give a shit what happens to me I figure that sentiments will be reflected in my readers and subscribers. At times I may appear to obsess on certain topics. Usually when that happens it reflects what is going on in my life.

Back in late January and early February many posts reflected thoughts on my return from Iraq six not very long years ago. Other times they may reflect issues about social justice, faith, history, baseball and even somewhat humorous and offbeat articles. Lately I have been writing a lot about the Gettysburg campaign.

Please know if you are not a Civil War history buff or student of military history and theory I do understand your plight. Such articles may bore you to tears, much like a lot of what I see online. So I respect and appreciate what you are going through. If you wonder why in the hell I am writing about Gettysburg right now, well it is because I am having to put a lot of study and work into it as part of my job teaching at a military staff college for senior officers. That being said, please know I will intersperse other topics in between these. Come about March 10th Gettysburg will fade away for a while. Until then the military history and Civil War types will love it, others I admit might be bored to shit.

Wow, that rhymed. Maybe I should take up poetry too, but I digress…

You can expect that I will continue to write on the subjects that I have created tabs for at the top of this page. As baseball season really heats up expect a lot more baseball posts, as well as commentary about my local AAA Minor League team the Norfolk Tides. Likewise you can expect a decent amount of social and political commentary from a center left progressive Christian perspective as well as writings on current events, movies, music, history, ethics, Star Trek, relationships, life, foreign policy, current world events and my dogs.

Of course I will continue to write about PTSD, TBI, Moral Injury and other issues that affect veterans. as well as my personal struggles with those issues as they intersect with faith and life.

I do hope that if you appreciate what I write that you will recommend the site to those you know. This might sound kind of pathetic but I would like to have at least 500 subscribers on the site and 1000 Twitter followers by 2015. Right now I am about halfway to both goals.

So anyway, have a great night. Please sent your friends and even your enemies my way. You can also follow me on Facebook, or if you want to be exposed to the titter-patter of musings that can be expressed in under 140 characters follow me on Twitter at @padresteve

Again have a great night. Thank you from the bottom of my sometimes cold and dark heart.


Padre Steve+





Filed under Loose thoughts and musings

Gettysburg: June 28th the Day of Surprises

army-potomac-1500Army of the Potomac on the March


If you were an ordinary soldier in either the Army of the Potomac or Army of Northern Virginia June 28th 1863 would not have been much different than any of the previous days. Both armies had been on the march, both were moving north and with the exception of a few minor cavalry engagements no troops had yet engaged in battle.

However it is almost never good when a commander gets surprised. On June 28th 1863, three men, General Robert E Lee, Lieutenant General J.E.B. Stuart and Major General George G Meade all were surprised by unexpected, and in the case of Lee and Stuart truly disturbing news. The manner in which each responded was critical to how the Battle of Gettysburg unfolded and indicative of each mans’ ability as a commander.



On the morning of June 28th Lieutenant General James Longstreet was alerted to the presence of a man claiming to have information on the movement and location of the Army of the Potomac. The man’s name was Harrison and that he was an actor. Harrison is one of those mysterious figures that occasionally show up in the context of a historical event and make it even more interesting. He reported the location of Federal Cavalry as well as the location of five of the Army of the Potomac’s seven army corps, all too close for comfort. Questioned about the location and activities of Stuart, Harrison could give no information.


Any commander that embarks on a high risk offensive operation in enemy territory must do so with great care, especially in regard to command and control of his forces. This is especially true regarding reconnaissance. Lee had been operating blind for well over a week and this was his fault. Because Lee had issued such vague orders Stuart was well to the east conducting his ride around the Federal army and completely useless to Lee.



Though Lee still had three brigades of Stuart’s Cavalry Division available, none were in a position to assist his reconnaissance needs. Again blame for this has to be laid at the feet of Lee. Robertson’s and Jones’ brigades were still deep in Virginia guarding Snicker’s and Ashby’s Gap. Iboden’s Brigade was to the west at Hancock Maryland. Jenkins’ brigade, which was not a part of Stuart’s division, was far to the front with Ewell’s Corps.

In the case of the selection of Jones’ and Robertson’s brigades for the mission of screening Lee, Stuart made a critical mistake. Jones and Robertson both had serious deficiencies as leaders and proved that they had Lee’s “confidence or understood his expectations…and Stuart badly misread the amount of personal connection his superior required.”[i] Longstreet had recommended that Stuart assign the excellent Wade Hampton and his brigade to the mission of screening the Army, but Stuart ignored his counsel.



While Lee’s orders to Stuart allowed Stuart to go off on his mission Lee had plenty of cavalry available but employed it in a woeful manner and did not take the steps necessary to ensure that the commanders assigned understood his expectations. This was another critical mistake made by Lee and as Alan.T. Nolan wrote: “There seems to be no excuse for Lee’s finding himself at Chambersburg on the 28th without a single regiment of cavalry”[ii] The tragic thing for the Confederacy was that Lee would make this same mistake in failing to communicate his intent with other subordinates throughout the campaign.

Lee assumed quite wrongly that the reason he had not heard from Stuart was that Hooker’s army had not moved. This was a bad miscalculation on Lee’s part and Longstreet trusted Harrison and promptly reported the information to Lee. Lee refused to see Harrison as he had little appreciation for or confidence in the words of “spies.” That being said Lee reacted with alacrity and issued orders to concentrate his army near Cashtown.

The surprise of the Union Army being concentrated so near him took away Lee’s ability to retain the initiative of a campaign of maneuver. Likewise, because his army was so scattered he was now in danger of being hit and defeated in detail by the Federal army. It was a dangerous position for him to be in and he knew it. In a sense he was fortunate that on the 28th the Army of the Potomac was changing command and unable to strike while he was so vulnerable.

Seventy miles away J.E.B. Stuart was at Rockville Maryland where despite learning that the Army of the Potomac was moving did not hasten to re-join the main army. Instead, he and his troopers became distracted and captured a large Federal wagon train, 125 brand new wagons carrying supplies north. Instead of burning them and leaving his prisoners he decided to advance into Pennsylvania with his treasure. The effect was to radically slow down his march and keep him out of the battle when Lee most needed his presence.

While Lee and Stuart reacted to surprises that were largely of their own making another officer received a surprise of his own. On the night of June 27th George Meade was simply one of seven Corps Commanders in the Army of the Potomac. That changed suddenly when he was awoken at 3 Am on the 28th by Halleck’s messenger and Deputy Adjutant General Colonel James Hardie. In his hand Hardie had a letter of instruction from Halleck which began: “You will receive with this the order of the President placing you in command of the Army of the Potomac.” [iii]



Meade, though he desired the appointment as commander of the Army did not expect it.  He believed that if Hooker was relieved of command that John Reynolds of First Corps or another would receive it. He was outranked by two Corps commanders including Reynolds. Meade wrote to his wife the reasons he would not get command a few days before: “because I have no friends, political or others, who press or advance my claims or pretentions.”[iv] The latter was not because of he did not have friends, but because unlike Hooker, Sickles and so many others he stayed out of the various political cabals in the army and their constant intrigues.

The order gave Meade command of the troops at Harper’s Ferry which had been denied to Hooker just days before. It also gave him freedom of command. It read: “You will not be hampered by any minute instructions from these headquarters” and “you are free to act as you deem proper under the circumstances as they arise.”[v] Likewise he was authorized to command General Couch’s forces along the Susquehanna. A further power given to Meade which had not been given to previous commanders of the Army of the Potomac was the authority to relieve from command and dismiss officers from the army, or appoint to command officers regardless of seniority as he saw fit. It was a power that during the tumult of battle that he would use well.

The appointment of Meade was met with relief by most of his fellow Corps commanders. He was respected, despite having a temper which would occasionally erupt and send him into busts of rage. He was viewed as a truthful, honest and caring commander who after a blow up would do what he could to reconcile. He was passionate about the lives of his troops and whenever possible avoided battles that he believed their sacrifice would be in vain. He knew his trade, paid close attention to detail and knew and understood his troops and commanders. He had earned respect throughout his career and during the battles on the Peninsula, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville proved that he was an excellent leader and commander of troops.

Meade had an immense task to accomplish. When he went to bed on the night of the 27th he was unaware of the locations of the bulk of the Federal Army and knew that Lee was already deep in Pennsylvania. Meade was determined to bring Lee to battle was cautious as he did not want to take a chance of his forces being split up and defeated in detail. He knew that if he was to defeat Lee he had to concentrate his combat power. He wired Halleck that he would “move toward the Susquehanna keeping Baltimore and Washington well covered, and if the enemy is checked in his attempt to cross the Susquehanna or if he turns toward Baltimore, to give him battle.”[vi] He prepared a fallback position along Pipe Creek and gave his Corps commanders permission to withdraw back to the Pipe Creek line outside Taneytown Maryland if they felt threatened by a larger Confederate force.

He kept General Daniel Butterfield as his Chief of Staff despite Butterfield’s close association with Hooker and his political cabal and appointed Major General George Sykes to command his old V Corps. He also wired Halleck with an “unheard of request: to promote in one jump three brilliant young officers from the rank of captain to that of brigadier general. They were Elon J. Farnsworth of the 8th Illinois Cavalry, George A Custer of the 5th United States Cavalry and Wesley Merritt of the 2nd United States Cavalry.”[vii] Each was appointed to command brigades in Pleasanton’s Cavalry Corps which was being reorganized that day.


Meade recognized the importance of Gettysburg and began to move his forces toward the town even as Lee gathered his army. By the evening of the 30th Meade’s 1st Cavalry Division under the command of Brigadier General John Buford detected Confederate infantry to the west of the town. Buford with a keen eye for terrain instantly recognized that it was favorable ground. He knew that the battle was to be there and sent word back to John Reynolds, commander of I Corps:

“Have Occupied Gettysburg. Contacted large force of Reb infantry. I think they are coming this way. Expect they will be here in force in the morning.”[viii]

Until tomorrow,


Padre Steve+

[i] Trudeau, Noah Andre. Gettysburg, A Testing of Courage Harper Collins, New York, 2003. p.69

[ii] Nolan, Alan T. R.E. Lee and July 1 at Gettysburgin The First Day at Gettysburg, Gallagher, Gary W. Editor, Kent State University Press, Kent Ohio 1992 p. 20

[iii] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two Fredericksburg to Meridian Random House, New York 1963 p.451

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Coddinton, Edwin B. The Gettysburg Campaign, A Study in Command A Touchstone Book, Simon and Shuster New York 1968 pp. 219-220

[vii] Ibid. p.220

[viii] Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels. Ballantine Books, New York. 1974 p.40


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Filed under civil war, History, leadership, Military