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Thread: The Great Confederate Victory at Gettysburg !!!

  1. #1
    Southron Sr. is offline
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    The Great Confederate Victory at Gettysburg !!!

    Everyone seems to believe that IF Lee had won a great victory at Gettysburg, the Civil War would have been over and the South would have emerged as an independent nation.

    The reality is that the remnants of the Yankee army would have fallen back to the defensive line of forts surrounding Washington, D.C.

    Even IF Lee had won at Gettysburg, his army would have been severely mauled and most importantly, his ammunition (both the ANV's artillery and musket ammo supplies) would have been severely depleted.

    So, imagine the date is July 4th, 1863 and the Army of the Potomac is retreating to the defenses of Washington. You are General Lee and you have won a great victory at Gettysburg....WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE NEXT AND WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED?'

    Could Washington have been captured?

    WHAT IS YOUR OPINION?????

    (It is time for all of Y'all armchair Generals win your stars.)

    THANKS

  2. #2
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    Washington, Harrisburg, NY would never have been threatened or even taken for that matter.

    I don?t get into hypothetical historical debates or explorations for the simple fact that I might as well as study/write sci fi....

    There is little mystery about Lees strategic aims, objectives, concerns and plans for his second invasion of the North. His detailed and virtually non stop correspondence answers MANY questions as the entire campaign unfolded.

    But in a nut shell, the invasion was primarily to give Va a literal break from the tremendous and never ending logistical demands that the army was placing on the Old Dominion. Secondly if northern political turmoil could be achieved so as has to hurt Lincoln?s re-election, all the better. The invasion was not to be a long term endeavor mostly due to keeping the ANV tenuously supplied with ammo via the depot est?d in Winchester. The depot in Winchester was a known weakness to Lee (vulnerable supply lines) as such he had NO dreams of roaming around PA/NY unfettered indefinitely in the field.

    Interesting to note, from a historians perspective LOOKING FORWARD from the folks point of view at the time, Gburg was NOT the turning point of the war. It WAS a setback, but how costly it was was wasn?t appreciated/understood by many behind BOTH lines. To the south Vicksburg was more serious of a loss (as it was). Lee hurt the Army of The Potomac to the extent that ?they? would ?be as quiet as a sucking dove? and I was, until Grant came east to orchestrate the final months of the War of Northern Aggression.
    Literally MILES of wagons/wagon trains (including some captured by the wayward Stuart) were sent South into VA/Winchester on a continual basis carrying MUCH needed materials into the Confederacy during Lees time up north. SO, to the avg southerner the Gburg campaign worked out fairly well. To the North, the ANV was still intact and still a formidable combat force that the North would still have to subdue if it hoped to end the war. As many know, old Abe was LIVID that Meade allowed Lee and the ANV to cross back into VA.

    Many can raise and argue several key events re Gburg and how the out come COULD have been changed. Dick Ewells handling of Jackson?s old Corps, Longstreets less than typical performance on the second day, and the all time favorite scapegoat - Gen Stuart?s inability to rejoin the ANV much earlier than anticipated.

    Personally, I blame Dick. But then again, Lee knowing his trusted subordinate Stonewall was NOT at the helm of the 2d Corps, clearer, more definitive guidance would have be in order. As such, working with a fairly unknown/untested Corps Cmdr, more direct orders should have been issued instead of simply writing - take the objective ?IF practicable?...

    Well, that?s my two cents for what it?s worth...
    Semper Fi,
    Rob Freeman
    WBR
    Col, USMC (Ret.) '87 - '19

    The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor. - Vince Lombardi

  3. #3
    John Holland is online now Moderator
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    Well stated Col Freeman, and I agree with not engaging in hypothesis, as it is just so much hyperbole and has already been done ad nauseam.

  4. #4
    Muley Gil is offline
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    [QUOTE=John Holland;77029]Well stated Col Freeman, and I agree with not engaging in hypothesis, as it is just so much hyperbole and has already been done ad nauseam.[/QUO

    Gee, are you saying the Confederacy didn't really have AK-47s!!!???
    Gil Davis Tercenio
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    Great, great grandson of Cpl Elijah S Davis, Co I, 6th Alabama Inf CSA

  5. #5
    jonk is offline
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    While interesting to speculate on what might have been, armchair historians try to assign it a Waterloo-esque status, presumably on the basis that it was the biggest battle of the war.

    While it is true that military commanders dream of a single decisive engagement that wins them a war, in actuality this happens VERY infrequently throughout history. The battle is never big enough to truly break the back of an enemy in one go, even semi-modern economies have more men in the pipleline they can call up after a big defeat, etc. Trying to ascribe such a status to the battle at Gettysburg or even to the campaign is nonsense of course, when the numbers involved actually represented only a small percent of the men engaged in combat on both sides.

    In retrospect, it might seem folly for Lee, with a numerically inferior army to "poke the bear" and invade the north, even in a raid that had no intent to defeat the north outright. Yet, if he had brought the Federals to battle and prevailed on their own soil, it would have been a propaganda coup, both for unifying Southern interests regarding recruiting and common goals, and to show the British and French that the South was a force to contend with. A big enough win could have influenced the elections, certainly, possibly bringing somewhat more peace-oriented Democrats into power.

    That the battle would help in other ways as already listed is true as well.

    One should avoid the temptation to think that the defeat was a turning point in the war, other than in a fairly general sense. The South itself wasn't militarily broken by their loss.

    But to consider the question on the table: a win for Lee would still have cost him a huge amount in troops and ammo and supply, and while he might have exploited his win by pressing on the Federal troops' heels in pursuit for some distance, it would have been a campaign to capture supply, win some easy victories, and then withdraw. He had no where near the troops needed to take Washington, nor the logistics to supply the drive; and if he had tried he would have been slowly ground down... and THAT would have spelled disaster for the south. The Army of Northern Virginia being turned into ash really would have spelled a decisive back breaking loss for the campaign in the East at any rate.

    So either way he was going to withdraw after he brought the enemy to battle. Circumstance just dictated that he did so as the loser.

  6. #6
    Jim Brady Knap's Battery is offline
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    [QUOTE=Muley Gil;77035]
    Quote Originally Posted by John Holland View Post
    Well stated Col Freeman, and I agree with not engaging in hypothesis, as it is just so much hyperbole and has already been done ad nauseam.[/QUO

    Gee, are you saying the Confederacy didn't really have AK-47s!!!???

    GUNS OF THE SOUTH was a fun read.
    Jim Brady
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    CUM CATAPULTAE PROSCRIBEANTUR TUM SOLI PROSCRIPTI CATAPULTAS HABEANT

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    OK, I'll play...

    First, I agree that the loss of Vicksburg was more serious to the Confederate cause. Once the Federals had control of the entire Mississippi, they were in a position to beat the snot out of the CSA.

    Second, I think the really good chance to win was the Antietam campaign. If Order 181 had not been captured, Lee was in a good position to defeat the Army of the Potomac in detail.

    Third, the logical next move after a win at Gettysburg was most likely an advance on Baltimore. Cut off Washington, force an evacuation.
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    jonk is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike McDaniel View Post
    OK, I'll play...

    First, I agree that the loss of Vicksburg was more serious to the Confederate cause. Once the Federals had control of the entire Mississippi, they were in a position to beat the snot out of the CSA.

    Second, I think the really good chance to win was the Antietam campaign. If Order 181 had not been captured, Lee was in a good position to defeat the Army of the Potomac in detail.

    Third, the logical next move after a win at Gettysburg was most likely an advance on Baltimore. Cut off Washington, force an evacuation.
    That would presuppose a crushing southern victory with disproportinate losses for the north; and if that had been the case, while Lee's army might have made an envelopment of DC, they still lacked the oomph to crack the ring of forts and do more than look threatening. And, in that case, you can bet that within a week the north would give ground elsewhere to move troops in by rail to crush the threat he posed. They had the logistics to do that.

  9. #9
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    First, it would have been a series of victories. Lee's penetration into Maryland had the Federals strung out, and he intended to mass his forces and fight each Federal corps separately. Which would have led to the defeat of the Army of the Potomac in the Fall of 1862.

    Attacking Washington? No. Liberate Baltimore, control the rail lines into Washington, and starve them out. Force an evacuation.

    I regard Antietam, not Gettysburg, as the Confederate high-water mark. By the middle of 1863, the Federals had shaken their army down, found themselves some good generals...and the Confederates did not have a good second string in that regard.
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    ljflees is offline
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    That is the benefit of speculation, there is no real way of knowing what would have actually happened in any of the situations mentioned. So for this example, lets not change the history of 1863 and cast our gaze beyond Gettysburg.

    In his book "The Battle of the Wilderness", Morris Schaff, General George Meade's Ordnance Officer, stated:

    "...let us suppose that Lee, at the outset of the campaign of 1864, had defeated the Army of the Potomac decisively, and had driven Grant back across the Rappahannock, as he had driven Burnside, Pope, Hooker, -- how loud and almost irresistible would have been the cry for an armistice, supported (as it would have been) by Wall Street and all Europe! In view of the disparity of numbers and the depleted resources of the Confederacy, was it possible for Lee to have given such a blow? Yes, and had not Fate registered her decree that at the critical moment Longstreet was to fall in the Wilderness as Jackson had fallen at Chancellorsville, he would have come near to doing so. And so, great as was the victory at Gettysburg, I am not at all convinced that it was as decisive, remembering, as I do, how the balance trembled more than once in the campaign from the Rapidan."

    This was speculation made by someone who had been there. So it appears that not only did military strength play a role, but there were also social and political aspects that would have played an important part of the decision making process during that period of history that should not be ignored in any scenario considered.

    If Grant had lost anywhere along the road to Petersburg, would Lincoln have been re-elected? McClellan ran on a platform of peace.

    The possibilities of things that could have had a profound difference on the result of the Civil War are so many and varied had any one of them happened, it boggles the mind.

    Which makes stuff like this kind of fun.

    Larry Flees
    111th OVI
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