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Chancellorsville, A Recipe For Disaster For The ANV!

Discussion in 'The Eastern Theater' started by War Horse, Oct 5, 2016.

  1. War Horse

    War Horse Captain Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017 Member of the Year

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    Is it possible Lee's most decisive victory set the stage for his defeat at Gettysburg? Let's talk about it. At Chancellorsville both armies suffered loses. The losses suffered by the ANV were costly to say the least. Losses in command that handicapped Lee's forces. I'm not just talking about Jackson. He lost a large percentage of commanders on all levels. Attrition began taking it's toll. The loses suffered by the AOP afforded opportunities to officers who were not previously in a position to make a major contribution at Gettysburg. These officers proved not only to be confident but also aggressive. Could Robert E. Lee's most decisive victory have set the stage for his most devastating defeat?
     

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  3. Bee

    Bee 1st Lieutenant Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017

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    Required reading for this thread :smile:

    I have so much to say on this topic that I don't know where to start!!

    Lee did things in Chancellorsville that should not have worked, logically, and it emboldened him to the point of possible invincibility. It lays the seeds for why Pickett's Charge is not as absurd as one initially thought it was.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
  4. John Winn

    John Winn Captain

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    Good question. As I'm not one who knows or really studies battle details (pretty much accept the Cliff notes versions) I'll be interested to hear what those who do study such detail have to say. I will offer, though, that I think Lee, on a roll, might have let himself start to think he was invincible and that might have had something to do with his decision on the third day at Gettysburg (and maybe his decision to invade a second time).

    Attrition was becoming a critical factor and I'd think Lee must have seen that and it might have pushed him to make the invasion gamble and not give it up when maybe he should have (i.e. win a big one on northern ground and hope they'd throw in the towel). I go back and forth on whether Lee should have invaded in the first place but can't get around the feeling that he should have disengaged at Gettysburg after day two and either tried to get Meade to attack him on more favorable ground or just retreated and worked on the next plan. But that's a different thread.
     
  5. War Horse

    War Horse Captain Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017 Member of the Year

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    Think about it. The Union replacements were superb and the confederate replacements were, well lets say subpar. Meade, Hancock were superior to some of the Confederate replacements such as Ewell and Little Powell. Not to mention Buford. I love that you say Lee thought himself invincible. He had truly morphed into the Marble Man after Chancellorsville.
     
  6. rbasin

    rbasin Sergeant Major

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    Lee always seemed to lose his best brigade and division commanders. Seems that at the same time, the AoP had commanders gaining experience and moving up the ranks. Griffin, Warren, and the cavalry commanders spring to mind.

    Always saw this as a huge negative to Lee, as some of his long time commanders perhaps were around too long (Longstreet perhaps?).
     
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  7. War Horse

    War Horse Captain Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017 Member of the Year

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    Nope Longstreet was not around to long. Had Lee have not been so confident the entire debacle may have been avoided as per Longstreet's advice.
     
  8. Eric Wittenberg

    Eric Wittenberg 2nd Lieutenant

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  9. rbasin

    rbasin Sergeant Major

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    Hi,

    Not being disrespectful to Longstreet, just might (might) have been better for both men if Longstreet had stayed west after Knoxville. Or, during Chancellorsville, Longstreet had been given command say in the South East. I fully agree with you in respect to what debacle you are referring to, though.
     
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  10. John Winn

    John Winn Captain

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  11. War Horse

    War Horse Captain Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017 Member of the Year

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    He made a major difference against Grant at the battle of the Wilderness prior to his wounding. His efforts at Suffolk were primarily a foraging expedition. Both his opportunities of independent command were hampered to say the least.
     
  12. cash

    cash Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    One person who bears the onus of facilitating Lee's defeat at Gettysburg is an officer who wasn't even there--D. H. Hill.
     
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  13. War Horse

    War Horse Captain Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017 Member of the Year

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    Explanation???
     
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  14. John Winn

    John Winn Captain

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    Indeed. Help us out here professor Al !
     
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  15. cash

    cash Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    Hill had several of Lee's combat-experienced veteran units, including two of Pickett's brigades. Lee wanted them returned to him prior to the campaign, but Hill refused.

    “General Lee supervised considerably more than just the Army (and Department) of Northern Virginia. He was responsible as well for operations throughout the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, focusing particularly on the possible enemy approaches to Richmond and on the defense of North Carolina's coastal region. Early in 1863, in response to a barrage of Federal threats to these areas, Lee had dispatched two brigades of his North Carolina troops, under Robert Ransom and John R. Cooke, to their native state. They were followed south shortly thereafter by Hood's and Pickett's divisions, under Longstreet. This cut in strength of 18,600 men left Lee to face Hooker's attacks at Chancellorsville with only 65,000 men of all arms. The battle's casualties came to 13,500. Thus simply to return the Army of Northern Virginia to its numbers at the beginning of the year would require 32,100 men." [Stephen Sears, Gettysburg, p. 47]

    “In 1861 and 1862 D. H. Hill had served as a superb combat general in the Army of Northern Virginia, but he was so contrary and cross-grained an individual that when in January 1863 Governor Zebulon Vance of North Carolina called for native son Hill to lead the defenders of his state against the Yankee invaders, General Lee raised no objection. By spring, thanks to the infusion of troops from lee's army, the situation in North Carolina was stabilized. Then, during the Chancellorsville crisis, Hood's and Pickett's divisions were ordered back to the Rappahannock, and soon thereafter Lee sought the return of his other absent brigades. Harvey Hill began to grow very nervous. Hill first proposed a simple exchange--untested but fully recruited brigades from his command traded for veteran but depleted brigades from Lee's. Lee was disapproving. Such a scheme, he pointed out to Hill, would mean 'taking away tried troops under experienced officers & replacing them with fresh men & uninstructed commanders. I should therefore have more to feed but less to depend on.' In fact, there would be one such exchange--Junius Daniel's largely untried North Carolina brigade for Alfred Colquitt's Georgia brigade that had been bloodied at Chancellorsville, but Lee probably agreed to the trade as a convenient way to rid himself of the inept Colquitt. An essential point of difference remained: Lee was far less alarmed about the Federals' threat than was Hill, arguing that the enemy was actually reducing his forces along the Atlantic seaboard. 'It is of course our best policy to do the same & to endeavor to repel his advance into Virginia,' he observed. So far as General Lee was concerned, the central issue here was the return of four brigades he regarded as merely on loan to Hill. These contained some of the best fighting men in his army, commanded by four of his best generals--Robert Ransom and John R. Cooke, whose brigades were sent to North Carolina in January, and Montgomery Corse and Micah Jenkins, whose brigades had been attached to Pickett's division when it went south but had since been detached for Hill's purposes. In due course, enduring what he surely regarded as the cruelest of blows, General Lee would find himself crossing the Potomac without a single one of these brigades." [Stephen Sears, Gettysburg, pp. 48-49]

    “It was finally determined that the two brigades Lee required to fill out Harry Heth's new division in the new Third Corps would indeed come from D. H. Hill's command. But t hey would not be any of those Lee had sought. One was a brigade of North Carolina troops with no appreciable experience, led by Johnston Pettigrew, who was returning to the field after being wounded and captured on the Peninsula. The second brigade comprised one North Carolina and three Mississippi regiments with at least some combat experience, led by a nephew of President Davis, Joseph R. Davis, who had no command experience at all. However badly this affair of reinforcements was handled, it was in the end a commentary on the severe manpower strains rending the Confederacy. 'I readily perceive the disadvantage of standing still,' President Davis wrote Lee on May 31, 'and sorely regret that I can not give you the means which would make it quite safe to attempt all that we desire.' " [Stephen Sears, Gettysburg, pp. 50-51]

    “As he started his march north, Lee was optimistic that he would finally regain at least one of George Pickett's two brigades earlier expropriated by D. H. Hill. But, once again, it was not to be. A new spasm of Federal activity on the Virginia Peninsula so alarmed Richmond that Montgomery Corse's brigade was held back to guard the capital. When Pickett came up from Hanover Junction, it was with but three of his original five brigades, making his the weakest division in Longstreet's First Corps. At the same time, and for the same reason, Lee's hopes were dashed that another First Corps brigade, John R. Cooke's, would be returned to him." [Stephen Sears, Gettysburg, p. 95]
     
  16. cash

    cash Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    Also, don't blame Dick Ewell for not taking Cemetery Hill. Blame Extra Billy Smith. :smile:
     
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  17. War Horse

    War Horse Captain Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017 Member of the Year

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    I remember now. Good point.
     
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  18. War Horse

    War Horse Captain Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017 Member of the Year

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    Yes, but should he (Ewell) have moved on to Culp's Hill quickly :smile:
     
  19. cash

    cash Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    With which troops? Both Early and Rodes claimed their troops were too disorganized and too fought out to move. :smile:
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
  20. Bee

    Bee 1st Lieutenant Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017

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    Yup! Students of your "Take that Hill" lecture remember that 'ol Governor Extra had to be kept at a safe distance from the fighting....
     
  21. cash

    cash Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    And needed another brigade to watch over him so he didn't get overly excited. :smile:
     

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