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Who was the first Union general to realize the significance of Cemetery Hill during the battle of Gettysburg (1863) as a defensive position: Buford, Reynolds, Howard, or Hancock? They each claim to be that general.

  • Reynolds claimed no such thing, being too dead. – Oldcat Feb 10 '16 at 1:05
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    I disagree with the VtC. If any of the above listed generals left dehind diaries, we might be able to place a time. If not, the answer might be we don't know. This can be done leaving the amount of opinion at a minimum. If someone answers with opinion or conjecture, down-vote it. This is a specific (fairly) well written question. It doesn't appear to have any preliminary research, but that's not a (current) reason to VtC. I'll say it again: we need questions to broaden our readership. – CGCampbell Feb 10 '16 at 15:01
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    Hat tip to @BOB who edited the question to fix the problems I whinged about before I finished whinging. Well played!! – Mark C. Wallace Feb 10 '16 at 15:27
  • As neither of those eminent gentlemen was incompetent, it seems very likely that they all independently reached that conclusion immediately upon arriving on the battlefield. As the battle was a meeting engagement, not a set-piece battle, you take the terrain you are given, and Cemetery Ridge was the most prominent terrain available to the Union side without a significant retreat. As they all claimed to reach this (rather obvious) conclusion quickly, I see no reason to dispute that. – Pieter Geerkens Feb 10 '16 at 19:54
  • I agree with your answer and feel it must have been Buford. Howard only occupied the hill under orders from Reynolds via messenger. – hood Feb 11 '16 at 22:18
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Howard has priority - he was the commander on the field after Reynolds was dead and before Hancock. He, unlike the others, actually occupied the hill with troops, keeping first a division and later a brigade there while the fighting was taking place on the north.

That said, like many of these "choose the field" controversies, it doesn't take much genius to see that that fishhook position was a good one from attacks coming from the north and west, where the Rebels were. These things were fought out in the 1880s more than they deserved. No need to bring them up now.

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    Since, as you say, these things have been fought out in the 1880's. Then there should be ample sources that discuss the matter, care to share them? I would hazard that Westpoint's library has a few treatises on the subject. – BOB Feb 10 '16 at 14:28
  • Battles and Leaders of the Civil War was the "stack exchange" of the time. – Oldcat Feb 10 '16 at 21:20

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