Discussion Could the Confederates have taken Washington city

33rdVaCoB

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Dec 10, 2014
Hello everyone, I was wondering if possible, could the Confederates at any point in the war have taken Washington city and its defences ? I know General Early was in sight of the capital building dome at Monocacy in 64. What are you all's opinions ? I am interested to hear.
 

Stone in the wall

Sergeant Major
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Sep 19, 2017
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Blue Ridge Mountains, Jefferson County WV
"I don't think many people North or South, realize how close Washington came to falling into Rebel hands that summer of 1864." Gen "Tiger" John McCausland declared in 1925."Years afterwards, I told General Grant, when he was campaigning for president, that the last time I was in Washington was 1864." He asked me if I was in disguise. "Oh no, I told him I rode with my staff into the defenses of Georgetown. Your entire defending garrison had deserted! Your capital was practically undefended! I sat there on a big gun and looked at the lights and wished I had men enough to go ahead and capture the place and end the ****ed war."
Washington Post March 18th 2001, James H Johnston

Had Early not chased Hunter for 3 days and then retraced his steps after defeating him at Lynchburg, Early's forces may well have avoided the battle at Monocacy and been at Washington a week earlier.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
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Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Richard Lioinheart's castel.jpg

Richard Lionheart's Greatest Castle, Chateau Gallard in Normandy.
Historically, even the greatest of fortresses was vulnerable to traitors. Richard Lionheart built Chateau Gallard using all the lessons he had learned during his Crusade. It was the culmination of a thousand years of castle design evolution. It was, for all practical purposes impossible to capture by storm or siege. So, the King of France did the usual & bribed someone to let the attacker in & that was that.

All that the CSA needed to do to take Washington was to find a disgruntled soldier, plant a mole or whatever it would have taken to drop the city's defenses. As history has shown repeatedly, that is all it would have taken.

Personal Photo of Chateau Gallard

 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
What part of Washington would a 'mole' be able to drop? How would that be accomplished?
At this remove, that topic is the realm of fiction writers. Drunks, drug addicts, jealous lovers, passed over officers, debtors & traitors would make good candidates for the lead role. Benedict Arnold is, of course, the most famous home grown example.
 

Cryptic

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Jul 11, 2011
Hello everyone, I was wondering if possible, could the Confederates at any point in the war have taken Washington city and its defences ? I know General Early was in sight of the capital building dome at Monocacy in 64. What are you all's opinions ? I am interested to hear.
I doubt it. The fact that they had to detour for shoes during the Gettysburg offensive shows that they were just not logistically capable of large scale siege warfare against a viable opponent.

Likewise, capturing Washington would probably involve defeating both the garrison army and federal "maneuver" field armies. The CSA numerical disadvantage would come into play. Though CSA quality could compensate for some enemy numerical advantages, that compensation only went so far.

In short, so long as the Federals had a political and social will to continue the war and could keep over all competent armies (do not have to be 'superlative') in the field, Washington was safe.
 

Stone in the wall

Sergeant Major
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Sep 19, 2017
Location
Blue Ridge Mountains, Jefferson County WV
When Early reached Washington and looked through his glasses, he himself saw they were but feebly defended. The 18,000 trained artillerymen had been sent to Petersburg. The defences were now manned by only 4,000 mostly militia and guardsmen. Early had 4,000 battle hardened veterans in just his artillerymen and cavalry. The only thing that saved Washington was the arrival of VI and XIX corps. At this time Barry Benson was in Old Capital Prison and he stated : Oh how he wished it was Jackson or Gordon instead of Early.
 

Sgt. Tyree

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Wyoming Territory
I don't think that Early was strong enough at that point to take Washington. Not with any kind of decent leadership of the defenses.
I believe you are probably correct from the standpoint of conventional military operations. But subterfuge is not conventional and does not rely on strength.
 

dgfred

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Apr 13, 2020
No matter... Early was to weak to take Washington and way too weak to hold it. I think of the Germans before Moscow in the first year of Barbarossa.
 

Scott1967

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Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
The British took Washington but still couldn't win the war.

Although it would have been a great propaganda for the Southern newspapers and a good morale boost i doubt it would have changed the outcome of the war that much.

The confederates would have captured lots of food , mules , horses , munitions , but it was manpower they sorely needed.

Early stuck in Washington is not really helping the confederate cause unless of course he can entice the Union into attacking strong fortifications but bare in mind were not sure the cost to Early of actually taking Washington were just presuming he strolls right on in there with no resistance.

In my view.
 

Sgt. Tyree

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Apr 29, 2020
Location
Wyoming Territory
I would have to disagree with you on subterfuge not being a tool in the conventional military operational toolbox. The fall of Troy comes to mind.
Agreed. I was just thinking of a conventional assault where the attacking unit usually needs about a 3/1 numerical advantage to overcome a well prepared defensive position.

I do understand that conventional units use subterfuge, especially when trying to conduct an infiltration.
 
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