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Friday, December 7, 2012

Two Days of Gettysburg by Henry Edwin Tremain

Capt. James Smith's 4th NY Lt. Artillery battery on Devil's Den

I am in the process of reading the book, Two Days of Gettysburg by Maj. Henry Edwin Tremain. You may know that he was on Sickles' staff at Gettysburg. It is interesting to read his views and observations. Some of them not normally used in histories of the battle. They might seem of minor importance to most readers/historians but I always find these interesting to note.

He had an expression that seems to be quite common at least to his contemporaries. Being a staff officer he frequently was called upon to ride to other corps, division, brigade commanders and even army HQ’s with reports or requests for orders. The staff officers had a term that they used describing their reception and dealing with officers unknown to them. The term was “frosting”.

Before dawn on the first day of July, Tremain was instructed to ride north to ask Gen. Reynolds if he had any orders for Sickles. By the time he arrived in Gettysburg and met Reynolds the battle had begun but it was before the 1st Corps infantry was engaged fully. Reynolds was sitting on his horse all by himself, without staff, and Tremain had never met him before. He rode up while Reynolds was looking through his binoculars and apparently did not sense or hear his approach. He remained quiet expecting the General to speak. Tremain said there was an awkward very long pause and not knowing Reynolds he didn’t know the correct etiquette and how he dealt with his staff. According to Tremain some Generals treated their staff as messengers only and some as confidants  Sickles was the type of man that always listened to comments in addition to reports so there was a by-play with his staff in a very familiar manner. Tremain said the pause was almost beyond awkward and he assumed Reynolds either didn't know he was there or was “frosting” him. He explained that to mean treating the other person coldly and belittling them. He gulped and was about to speak when Reynolds seemed to awaken from his concentration, excused himself and greeted him warmly. Tremain identified himself and asked for orders. He told Tremain to ride back to Sickles and have him bring the 3rd corps up and continued with his field glass inspection.

statue of Maj. Gen. George G. Meade

On the 2nd day he was instructed by Sickles to ride to army HQ and report to Gen Meade about the skirmish that took place on Seminary Ridge woods between Berdan’s sharpshooters and the 3rd Maine with the Confederate column which we now know was the lead brigade of Hill’s corps. Again, he rode to Army HQ not having met Meade ever so he was unfamiliar with his HQ etiquette. He arrived at the widow Leister’s house (Meade’s HQ for the battle) and was met by Meade’s staff in the yard. Meade’s staff asked what it was he was reported and Tremain explained his mission and was told to go into the house to report his finding to the General himself since it was something he might want to hear directly from him and perhaps ask questions. As he stepped into the doorway he noticed Meade alone, stooped over a map spread out on the table.  Just like Reynolds Meade was intently scanning the map and did not notice him enter the room. After another awkward pause Meade looked up and half smiled and asked if he had any information for him. Tremain said he did and reported his findings adding that Sickles thought the recent development might mean that the Rebs were trying to flank the army on the left. . Meade thanked him and commented that every General thinks the enemy is getting set to attack their line in particular. He stated in his book that he felt “frosted” after Meade’s remarks.  Meade then said that he could ask Gen. Hunt for some additional artillery to be posted on his line if needed and that he would have cavalry posted on the left to patrol the area. He had no other order for Sickles so Tremain saluted and left.  After the War, Tremain in speaking with other officers on Reynolds’ and Meade’s staff that both Generals were genial fellows which did not normally “frost” junior officers.
Maj. Henry Edwin Tremain
The other interesting bit I read so far was the habit of knocking down all fences in front of and around their lines. This was done to alleviate the need in case of a future movement. The fencing always slowed their marches and having them out of the way made their movement faster and on the morning of the 2nd Tremain asked and received permission to get all the fences pulled down, “before the troops moved than to be annoyed with fences wrecking while maneuvering.”

The Klingel farm viewed from southeast of the farm.

 Now as gamer designing scenarios, whether they are historical or otherwise, this brings up an interesting debate. Should you layout extensive fencing everywhere or not? If Tremain’s statement can be used as a ‘normal’ tactic then perhaps you should. If battles are more of a meeting engagement then more then likely not. Something to think about, eh?

Farm lane to Slyder farm at the western base of Big Round Top 

One last thing that I have been more excited about: my Kindle! I’ve had it for 2 years now. Previously I had never thought I’d get one. I love books and an electronic book just isn’t the same! Who would want it? It’s absurd. I bought one thinking maybe it might be more cost efficient for a few books since a Kindle version is cheaper, takes up less space on my overcrowded book shelf and if the book is not that interesting to keep long term why not buy a Kindle version? At first I bought only books that I’d never need for research, did not include an extensive photo and map section. In a way I still use this guideline but an unexpected development has entered the fray… the website Open Library.

Open Library is a God-send for people like me looking for old and out of print books. A good example of what is available is the Tremain book. That’s how I am reading it. You can’t buy this book unless you can get through a collector or some search library. The price to purchase this book would be very high and who knows what condition it but be in. Well you can download this book and read it in minutes! Just think of research possibilities! While giving my Gettysburg tour in April I was talking with 3 college Professors about this. They scoffed at E readers in general for the exact same reasons I had. I tried to explain how it can help find those obscure books but I don’t think I was very successful. Oh well, their loss.

There are books I would NOT buy with an E reader like Kindle though. For books that have charts, table, pictures and maps I think it might make it very difficult to flip back and forth. The bonus with the E reader is the very nice searchable tool built in and you can bookmark pages and/or passages. That’s a GREAT feature. As long as the book is mostly text it is an amazing way and cheap way to read new and old books. Sure I love the feel of a book and a new book smell but… I gotta say when you have no place to put books any more you need options.

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