The Peninsula Did the Seven Days campaign effectively end confederate hopes of independence?

Lost Cause

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
By avoiding the Wilderness and Cold Harbor more then likely attacking Richmond via New Berne, would of saved many lives. Also Grant would of disrupted food supplies delivered from North Carolina plus capture Wilmington.
Leftyhunter
The union objective in the east being to either force Lee’s army into surrendering or capturing Richmond. How does proceeding to New Bern 217 miles away (according to google maps) proceed any closer to achieving the afore mentioned objectives? Lee wasn't going to follow him into NC, knowing that DC was exposed.
 

jackt62

Captain
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Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
The bigger picture concerns the greater use of amphibious operations along the Atlantic Coast. The Union made a start (originally to obtain coaling stations for the blockading squadrons), in both Carolinas and there was I believe, some consideration given by McClellan to enlarging that strategy to strike the eastern seaboard of the Confederacy and roll up the minimal opposition forces that were deployed in those areas. Instead, due in no small measure to Lincoln's fear about protecting Washington, the Union strategy in the east quickly devolved into going via the overland route south of the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers.
 

Dead Parrott

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 30, 2019
The union objective in the east being to either force Lee’s army into surrendering or capturing Richmond. How does proceeding to New Bern 217 miles away (according to google maps) proceed any closer to achieving the afore mentioned objectives? Lee wasn't going to follow him into NC, knowing that DC was exposed.

One of the interesting questions here is what exactly would Lee do if such a campaign came sweeping up from below? We don't have the exact details of such a plan, but the concept would be to leave a strong enough force in the significant Washington forts and attack the Richmond\Petersburgh supply lines from below. The idea was to force Lee to defend those lines or lose Richmond - which would get Lincoln reelected and continue the war.

The problem with that plan, of course, is the unpredictable tactical ability of Lee and the ANV, and the obvious stumbling that comes with large supposedly great multi-pronged plans. Coming from the south would leave Lee the initiative - even if he had to defend Richmond - and it's an open question how well Lee could have shifted resources and made moves that might have resulted in USA lost battles, blunted forays, or panicky redeployments. All the Looks-Good-On-Paper campaigns have a common tendency to unravel, and Lee was still a master unraveller.

Lee with the intiative and interior lines was dangerous. Period.

An Overland campaign was going to be brutal in any realistic assessment, but it had the advantage of taking the initiative away from the ANV, keeping up a constant grinding contact and slipping to the flanks, controlling the flow of the battle while wearing down the foe. If the AOP got the ANV in an open field battle, that's a battle Grant will take every time. If the AOP gets between Lee and Richmond, that gives some intuitive back to Lee but gives him little time and space to act on it (as well as interdicting supply, etc). If the campaign ends with Lee besieged in Richmond (or the equivalent Petersberg) then the siege will be longer and bloodier but will eventually bag both.

So the Overland Campaign does make some sense, even more so if the planned flank attacks had performed half decently. But that's a whole other thread.

Personally I'd reserve judgement on the 'coming from the south' plan until we saw more concrete details of the actual design (which we don't have). And remember, perfect On-Paper campaigns never survive contact with the enemy....
 

wausaubob

Colonel
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Location
Denver, CO
The Confederates had a reasonable chance of forcing a political solution up to the battle of Antietam Creek.
However, by July of 1862, the US had achieved its territorial control of the Missouri River and the far west. The news would have come out of the west very slowly, but by August it would have been accepted that the US was in control of the west, and slavery was never going to spread there.
An armistice based on the fact could have been acceptable. But fights over the west and over slave raids into the Confederacy would have renewed.
I think the armistice would have seen both sides plotting for the renewal of the war. And the Confederacy was unlikely to catch the US unprepared, a second time.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Location
los angeles ca
The union objective in the east being to either force Lee’s army into surrendering or capturing Richmond. How does proceeding to New Bern 217 miles away (according to google maps) proceed any closer to achieving the afore mentioned objectives? Lee wasn't going to follow him into NC, knowing that DC was exposed.
By invading from New Berne Union forces avoid the Wilderness and Cold Harbor. By invading from New Berne the Union can disrupt food supplies to Richmond.
Also Lee is forced to divide his forces since Richmond is still vunereable to an overland or peninsula attack.
Even better North Carolina troops would most likely have to desert because Union cavalry forces can then roam the country side freeing slaves and arming to then causing chaos in the rest.
Leftyhunter
 

A. Roy

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Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
The union objective in the east being to either force Lee’s army into surrendering or capturing Richmond. How does proceeding to New Bern 217 miles away (according to google maps) proceed any closer to achieving the afore mentioned objectives? Lee wasn't going to follow him into NC, knowing that DC was exposed.

This is the first time that I've heard about this New Bern proposal -- interesting to think about. Someone here mentioned that this strategy would have allowed the Federals to take Petersburg and thus come at Richmond from the south. Closing the Wilmington port would have prevented supplies from coming in from overseas. Then taking the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad would have cut off supplies coming up from NC, plus given the Federals railroad transportation for the effort against Petersburg.

It would be interesting to see articles on this topic.

Roy B.
 

Joshism

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Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
Lee's strategy for the Seven Days was good. He concentrated most of his army against a portion of McClellan's army, causing McClellan to lose his York River supply line and forcing him back from directly threatening Richmond.

Lee's tactics for the Seven Days, especially their execution, were lacking. Lots of people deserve blame for that. Some of it was Lee being new in army command. Stonewall really dropped the ball. Other commanders Lee sent out of Virginia during the rest of 1862.

Like Grant in the Overland Campaign, Lee's Seven Days represent some growing pains. Neither general saw attrition as a goal.
 

H. J. Durgin

Private
Joined
Feb 12, 2019
My limited knowledge of the Seven Days tells me that Lee's losses at Gaines Mill, and to a larger extent Malvern Hill, affected everything going forward for his army.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
This is the first time that I've heard about this New Bern proposal -- interesting to think about. Someone here mentioned that this strategy would have allowed the Federals to take Petersburg and thus come at Richmond from the south. Closing the Wilmington port would have prevented supplies from coming in from overseas. Then taking the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad would have cut off supplies coming up from NC, plus given the Federals railroad transportation for the effort against Petersburg.

It would be interesting to see articles on this topic.

Roy B.
We should have some threads on the Grant forum. I will check it out.
Leftyhunter
 

Dead Parrott

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 30, 2019
I recall a history magazine a while ago putting out a special issue solely on the campaigns of 1864. It included a broad map. That map made your above point quite vividly!

Found it! It was a special from 2014.

bookampcover.jpg
book map.jpg
 

arjo1861

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Location
Cornwall UK
If you accept the Virginia-centric view of the Civil War, whatever the AoNV did was earth shakingly important. On an 8"X10" map of the operating area of the Western Theater the entire operating area of the AoNV & AoP is the size of a postage stamp. That is literally true. Out West, any battle that did not end with the opposing army either captured or sent running from the field in ruin was not going to win or loose the war. Nothing short of absolute victory was the measuring stick used there. So, no, the Seven Days was just another example of the long drawn out stand off between the AoNV & the AoP. The day when Grant rose to command was when the South lost the war.
Sometimes size doesn't matter. The importance of the eastern theatre isn't just about territory. It's where the eys of the world were, the major population centres & both nations capitals.

I'm no student of the western theatre but I do think the war was lost there. By, inter alia, cutting the Confederacy in two the Union made it impossible for the Confederacy to survive. But you have to look other measures too, like the blockade. The Union had the infrastructure to execute a continental strategy by both land & sea. The Confederacy did not. I think one other thing you have got look at is Davis's talent for picking the wrong commander at the wrong time - whoever thought John Bell Hood was a good idea (Davis obviously)? Great division commander, but way out of his depth as an army commander. If Davis wanted to appoint a division commander to army command, Pat Cleburne would have got my vote.

I think Confedrate armies could have beaten Union armies in the west repeatedly without achieving independence. As I understand it it's an area bigger than western Europe. They could have chased each other around for years. And did. That Johnson remained in the field longer than Lee only signifies his relative unimportance to the Union high command (& his happy facility for retreating). Beat Lee, beat the Confederacy.

So, whereas I think the war was lost in the west, I think it could only have been won in the east. Lee was in the east. Even Grant knew that he had to beat Lee. Luckily for Grant he met Lee when the Army Of Northern Virginia was past its best. By that I mean primarily at Corps commander level. Jackson was dead & Longstreet wounded. Lee never again had subordinates that he could rely on to execute his plans. Whatever happened at Gettysburg (& Knoxville) Longstreet was an admirable subordinate. Ewell could have replaced Jackson well, but for reasons that remain unclear to me, just didn't, at least not consistently. A P Hill was another man promoted beyond his ability. Anderson was solid & dependable but not a replacement for Longstreet. Early, well what can you say about Early? Capable of brilliance & complacency in the same engagement. Given time I think Gordon could have filled Longstreet's or Jackson's shoes. But time ran out.

And that was good for the world. Thank God the Confederacy lost. I think we can all agree on that. But that doesn't make them bad soldiers or, necessarily, bad men.
 

arjo1861

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Location
Cornwall UK
I've got to thinking, and I have come to the conclusion that the Seven Days campaign killed the confederacy's chance at being independent. I say this because of all of the Frontal assaults Lee ordered. Yes, they were effective, but he lost way too many men, way too soon in order for it to be justified in my opinion. Because of the massive casualty list, I don't think he had enough men for a clear victory at Sharpsburg. Sharpsburg was another hit the Army of Northern Virginia did not need.

Or was the Seven Days just like any battle, being that any casualty was one they couldn't afford?


Thoughts?
None of the civil war generals were experienced in commanding armies of the sizes involved in the Seven Days. The armies, even where stiffened by a backbone of regulars, were still largely citizen armies.

Lee inherited an officer corps that he subsequently changed quite a lot (not always fairly I think. I think he dealt with Huger quite badly). His plans for the Seven Days required a level of co-operation that his subordinates, at that point, proved incapable of executing. Jackson was woeful.

Lee was learning his craft. He achieved an incredible strategic victory, suffering several dreadful tactical defeats along the way. He did lose troops, but in 1862 could still hope to replace them. Lee knew that the Confederacy could not sustain a long war & was prepared to shed blood to bring the war to a speedy halt. He never achieved the victory he sought, it just slipped through his hands time after time.

In short I don't think the war was lost during the Seven Days.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Lee's strategy for the Seven Days was good. He concentrated most of his army against a portion of McClellan's army, causing McClellan to lose his York River supply line and forcing him back from directly threatening Richmond.

Lee's tactics for the Seven Days, especially their execution, were lacking. Lots of people deserve blame for that. Some of it was Lee being new in army command. Stonewall really dropped the ball. Other commanders Lee sent out of Virginia during the rest of 1862.

Like Grant in the Overland Campaign, Lee's Seven Days represent some growing pains. Neither general saw attrition as a goal.
Lee also never figured out how to take steps towards a modern concept of a staff. Grant, on the other hand, did. Lee's staff 's work during the Seven Days was abysmal.
 

arjo1861

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Cornwall UK
Lee also never figured out how to take steps towards a modern concept of a staff. Grant, on the other hand, did. Lee's staff 's work during the Seven Days was abysmal.
Lee never had an adequate staff in modern terms. He had both good & bad staff officers, but too few of any kind. But I don't think you can blame him for lack of staff during the Seven Days. It was sh*t or bust for the Confederacy. None of his subordinates lived up to expectation or their future performance. But Lee had only been in command for a month. Johnson had been merrily retreating for the best part of a year & made a right pig's ear of Seven Pines. McClellan seems to have thought Lee did ok. Certainly relocated his base quick smart.
 

Belfoured

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Lee never had an adequate staff in modern terms. He had both good & bad staff officers, but too few of any kind. But I don't think you can blame him for lack of staff during the Seven Days. It was sh*t or bust for the Confederacy. None of his subordinates lived up to expectation or their future performance. But Lee had only been in command for a month. Johnson had been merrily retreating for the best part of a year & made a right pig's ear of Seven Pines. McClellan seems to have thought Lee did ok. Certainly relocated his base quick smart.
I''m not blaming him for that problem during the Seven Days but just pointing out that poor staff work played a role. I am "blaming" him for never adapting after that.
 

jackt62

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Location
New York City
The Seven Days campaign did not end hopes for Confederate independence. If anything, it saved the Confederacy from a dismal outcome had McClellan been successful in besieging Richmond, not unlike Grant's position after the end of the Overland Campaign in June 1864. For sure, Lee can be criticized for problems in conducting the Seven Days offensive (lack of coordination, clumsy reliance on direct assaults), but the strategic balance of power was shifted from the Union to the Confederacy, a move which bought time for the south to attempt to prevail going forward.
 
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