Formal Debate: Vicksburg vs. Gettysburg which affected outcome of war more.

jgoodguy

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#1
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    Debatable proposition is

    The Union victory at Vicksburg was of more importance to the outcome of the war than the victory at Gettysburg was
@brass napoleon as the affirmative, you get the first post to make Your opening statement.
@Scotsman the debate has started.
 

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brass napoleon

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#2
Thanks @jgoodguy for coming up with the rules for this debate and agreeing to moderate it. And thanks @Scotsman for agreeing to participate and for taking what I think is the much more difficult assignment of the two.

In this debate, I intend to show that the Union victory at Vicksburg was of more importance to the outcome of the war than the victory at Gettysburg was. My understanding is that we'll each have 5 "supplemental posts" to make our cases, so I intend to put most of the meat of my argument (including sources and references) in those posts as well as the rebuttals. For this post I will simply lay out my basic case as to why I think the victory at Vicksburg was so important, which I have boiled down to the following 5 major talking points:
  • It gave the Union free navigation of the Mississippi River, which was important both to Union offensive operations, but also in effectively cutting off Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas from the rest of the Confederacy.
  • It resulted in the capture of the entire 29,000 man force defending Vicksburg. Most of these prisoners were exchanged for Union prisoners - seasoned veterans who were badly needed at a time when the Union began implementing its first draft. To put this into perspective, the number of Union men added back to the ranks was almost as much as the entire Union force at the Battle of Franklin.
  • Even more important than the raw number of Confederate troops captured, was the location they were removed from. Such a large body of troops could not possibly be left on the flank or in the rear of an army advancing into the Confederate interior. Removing those troops from Vicksburg provided the Union the opportunity to attack the Confederate underbelly, which was essential to winning the war.
  • The Vicksburg campaign gave Union generals opportunities to develop and perfect new strategies that they would employ later in the war to bring the Confederacy to its knees.
  • The Vicksburg campaign elevated Ulysses S. Grant above the morass of Union generals to a position where he became the clear choice to take overall command of the Union armed forces and lead them to victory in the war.
Of course Vicksburg is only one half of this debate, but I'll defer most of my comments about Gettysburg for my rebuttals. For now, I'll simply state my general position that Gettysburg had very little lasting strategic, tactical or psychological impact on the war. It was an epic battle, to be sure, and we all like to think of epic battles as having epic consequences. But I believe I'll be able to show in this debate that the epic consequences that followed the Battle of Gettysburg were much more the result of the simultaneous Union victory at Vicksburg than of Gettysburg itself. Other than giving the Army of the Potomac (AoP) a brief morale boost, the story of the AoP's struggle with Robert E. Lee's Army of Nothern Virginia (ANV) continued to be one of the "home team" winning (with few exceptions), before, during, and after Gettysburg.

And with that, I yield the floor to my esteemed opponent.
 
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#3
Thank you brass napoleon for your excellent opening statement. I agree that I am faced with a difficult position within this debate based upon the lopsided results of the poll on this very topic, as posted by one of our new members. Nonetheless, I embrace this challenge with vigor and hope to provide a compelling argument of why, in a one-to-one comparison, Gettysburg was more significant to the outcome of the war than Vicksburg.

I apologize for the length of this post in comparison to your own. Not knowing exactly what was expected of the opening statement, I had constructed my opening post as a short essay, which fleshes out the points a bit for clarity. With that said, let me begin.

Was Vicksburg more significant than Gettysburg to the outcome of the Civil War? Ask the average American and the response you will likely receive is, “What was Vicksburg?” Indeed, Gettysburg is the most famous battle to have occurred in North America—perhaps the Western Hemisphere. Each year, approximately 1.2 million visitors arrive in that small Pennsylvania town eager to see the grounds where the seemingly indomitable Army of Northern Virginia chased the bluecoats back on day one, where the larger but seemingly timid Army of the Potomac barely held its ground on day two, and where, on day three, a portion of Lee’s army carried out a failed frontal assault which is as immortalized in the American psyche as Pearl Harbor and John Wayne. And, overall, the Battle of Gettysburg has a legacy as the “High Tide of the Confederacy.”

But is that fame deserved? Are Americans right to see Gettysburg as the turning point? And, more specifically, was the battle of more importance to the outcome of the war than Vicksburg? The answers to these questions are “yes.”

My argument may be summarized with the following points, of which I will explain more fully below:

1. Union victory at Gettysburg fundamentally shifted the psychological direction of the war

2. The defeat of the Army of Northern Virginia fundamentally changed the Confederate strategy of an offensive-defense

3. The change in Confederate strategy resulted in new support of the Western theater by the Army of Northern Virginia, which contributed to key Confederate victories there and, in response, the ascendancy of Grant

4. Damage to Confederate forces at Gettysburg, and the resulting transfer of support to the west, mitigated the Army of Northern Virginia’s influence on the war effort for several crucial months and allowed Union forces to direct increased attention to Tennessee and Georgia to the detriment of the South and benefit of the Union

Part of Gettysburg’s fame is due to the prominence of the Eastern Theater in the minds of Civil War students. Yet, the emphasis on the Eastern Theater today has merit. Wars are political; political bodies use armies to carry out their will; and the will of a political body depends upon support from the population. The theater held the capitals of the competing governments, making operations there symbolically important as well as literally vital to the prosecution of the war. The eastern armies became the central figures to the war’s fate. (And, after all, it was no accident that after Grant’s success in the West, his promotion sent him east.)

Consider the following: ask any American (reasonably familiar with history) when the Civil War ended and you will likely hear, “April 9, 1865, at Appomattox.” Yet, that place and date marked only the surrender of Lee’s army and Union victory in the eastern theater. It did not mark the complete capitulation of Confederate forces across the front. Nonetheless, it symbolized the end of the conflict—not just to us 150 years later, but to the Union and the Confederacy at the time. No similar reaction occurred to the capture of Pemberton’s army at Vicksburg, or the destruction of Hood’s army in Tennessee. Lee’s surrender was the lynchpin of Confederate defeat. Rightly or wrongly, the eastern theater truly was the heart of the conflict.

With that in mind, the psychological effect Gettysburg had on the armies and populations shaped the direction of the war. Before Union victory at Gettysburg, the Lincoln Administration and the northern population faced a crisis of morale. Having been humiliated at Fredericksburg in December 1862 and then again in May 1863 at Chancellorsville, Union forces in the east were on their heels.

Lee hoped to capitalize on this northern despondency by pushing into the northeast. An aggressive strike north could offset Union military activities across the front—in particular, at Vicksburg—and disrupt the Union’s war plan. More importantly, though, it could end the war. “All of our military preparations and organizations should now be pressed forward with the greatest vigor,” Lee wrote Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon. If the Army of Northern Virginia was successful on the offense, “next fall there will be a great change in public opinion in the North,” which could lead to a “distinct and independent national existence.” Lee’s campaign in Pennsylvania was bolder than Grant’s campaign in Mississippi. Grant hoped to gain the Mississippi River. Lee hoped to win the war.

Could Confederate victory during the Gettysburg campaign actually have won the war? Answers to this question are pure speculation. But Confederates believed that a bold operation into the north could cripple Lincoln’s war effort. This was not misplaced thinking. Confederate independence did not require conquest of all Union armies. In fact, victory could only be achieved by convincing northerners that the war was not worth the cost. The Confederacy needed to win the psychological battle. No matter the size of Union armies and Lincoln’s steadfast determination, the Union war effort would fail if most northerners withdrew support. This truth was captured perfectly by Lincoln’s lamentation after the Army of Potomac’s defeat at Chancellorsville: “My God! My God! What will the country say! What will the country say!” Chancellorsville had not pushed a majority of northerners against Lincoln, but an offensive—and successful—strike into the north just might.

With these facts in mind, Lee moved his army north. It was a gamble. And it failed.

Worse, Lee’s actions set back the Confederate momentum permanently. In one swift blow, northern morale reversed course and soared to new heights. “The results of this victory are priceless,” George Templeton Strong wrote. “Copperheads are palsied and dumb for the moment at least,” he continued. “Government is strengthened four-fold at home and abroad.”

Grant’s victory at Vicksburg added to the celebration. But the symbolic effect of these two victories differed. If the fall of Vicksburg was like the culmination of a slow and methodical wrestling match, with the northern audience happy, but also relieved, Gettysburg gave the North a Rocky-style boxing match—the army on the ropes and in its own corner when the seemingly invincible opponent comes charging forth, only to be knocked back hard with a single uppercut. Grant may have captured a city, but George Gordon Meade and the Army of the Potomac had beaten Robert E. Lee.

While northern morale fell again as the war dragged on, the victory at Gettysburg permanently shattered any perception that Lee’s army was invincible. That was a crucial lesson: victory over the Confederacy—over Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia—was possible, as long as the northern population was willing to keep fighting.

The reality of his army’s mortality was just as important of a lesson to Robert E. Lee, himself. His own confidence shaken, he submitted a letter of resignation to Jefferson Davis—something unthinkable only a month earlier. More significantly, he never again launched a major offensive campaign. This defensive posture was partially due to the irreplaceable losses after Gettysburg, in both numbers and experience. Quantifiably, the Battle of Gettysburg was a disaster to the Confederacy’s largest and most important army. During those three days in July 1863, Lee’s army lost approximately 28,000 soldiers—nearly a third of his army. To put things into perspective, the Army of Northern Virginia lost almost as many men as John C. Pemberton’s entire surrendering army at Vicksburg. A large number of those Confederates captured at Vicksburg were paroled and sent back into combat by the fall of 1863. Lee’s losses were more permanent. Furthermore, leadership of the Army of the Northern Virginia was effectively culled. At least 17 experienced generals were killed or severely wounded, including William Barksdale, Lewis Armistead, Isaac Trimble, and Johnson Pettigrew. Oh, and John Bell Hood was also wounded, but that goes without saying.

Second, the loss forced Lee to revise his overall strategy. In May 1863, he had focused primarily on the activities in the east and aggressive campaigns. He had opposed sending reinforcements toward Vicksburg, arguing that such effort would place all Confederate forces on the defense. To Lee, surrendering the initiative violated his principle that “every victory should bring us nearer to the great end which it is the object of this war to reach.” Supplying troops to support Vicksburg—which suffered more from weak Confederate leadership than manpower—would have forced a weakened Army of Northern Virginia to fall back to the safety of Richmond’s defenses. A potential result would be two sieges—Vicksburg and Richmond. This fear had contributed to planning the Pennsylvania campaign.

Southern defeat at Gettysburg crushed his hopes for a decisive battlefield and political victory. Broken some in spirit and health, Lee acquiesced to sending part of his army westward—a complete departure of his objectives and strategy during the first half of the war. This action had far reaching consequences.

The transfer of James Longstreet’s corps from the Army of Northern Virginia to operations in Tennessee in the late summer of 1863 bolstered Braxton Bragg’s forces and directly contributed to the crushing defeat of Rosecrans at Chickamauga. Confederate victory at Chickamauga, or at any point around Chattanooga, may not have occurred without Longstreet’s intervention. Although Bragg failed to take full advantage of this victory, the Army of the Cumberland’s retreat to Chattanooga and subsequent operations prompted the War Department to elevate Grant to command of the Military Division of the Mississippi. In short, Rosecrans’ failures—due in part to James Longstreet’s soldiers, who were only present as a result of the Confederate loss at Gettysburg—stirred up the Union command structure in favor of Grant. His subsequent success there gained traction in part because of relative quiet in the East following Gettysburg. With momentum gone, and hoping to rebuild his strength, Lee remained on the defense against a timid George Meade. Without national attention focused on the East (as had been the case from 1861 to Gettysburg), the northern public found their eyes largely turned to Grant and the West. His success led to greater fame and catapulted him to command in the East, which placed him squarely against an Army of Northern Virginia still reeling from the physical and psychological effects of defeat in the summer of 1863.

Overall, the Battle of Gettysburg shattered a Confederate momentum that threatened to panic the northeast. The psychological and material effects of that defeat strategically prostrated the mightiest army and general of the Confederacy, forever robbing them of the initiative and the vision of independence through decisive battlefield victory. Lee’s confidence shaken, he finally agreed to send some of his command westward, thereby scoring temporary victories that only shook up the Union command staff to the South’s detriment. Gettysburg also invigorated a flagging northern morale and broke the mysticism of Confederate superiority in the East. The subsequent lull there, as the Army of Northern Virginia recuperated, diverted northern attention to successes in the West. Ultimately, the psychological and strategic results of Union victory at Gettysburg gave the Lincoln administration greater room, and ability, to achieve victory through the slow and methodical campaigns of Ulysses S. Grant.
 

brass napoleon

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#5
Well met, Scotsman! No need at all to apologize for the length of your post. We're both pioneers here and we can each do as we durn well please as long as it comports with jgoodguy's rules. The hope is to have an informative discussion that will shed light on this issue and encourage future debates and debaters. I think we're off to a great start! :thumbsup:

In this post, I'll make an opening response to each of the 4 major points you listed in your opening statement. I'll continue to reserve specific details for later posts.

1. Union victory at Gettysburg fundamentally shifted the psychological direction of the war
There can be no doubt that the victory at Gettysburg gave the North a much needed boost in morale. However morale is a fickle thing, and in this case it was a flash in the pan. It was well known in the North that Lee's army was not invincible. In fact Lee had been defeated just ten months earlier at Antietam, and just two months before that at Malvern Hill (badly). What the Northern public was looking for was a follow through after a Union victory, and in the initial days after Gettysburg, that's what they thought they had.

Take for example the George Templeton Strong quotes listed above ("Government is strengthened four-fold at home and abroad”, etc.). These are from a diary entry made on July 6th, just two days after Lee began his retreat. But the diary entry also details the buoyantly delusional claims being made by Northern newspapers at the time, such as: "militia regiments are following up the defeated army and bagging whole brigades; and how there is general panic, rout, and sauve qui peut." While Strong himself realized that these accounts were "probably fictitious", it's likely that most Americans didn't - yet. But they soon would, as Strong further noted in the same entry: "People downtown very jolly today. 'This ends the Rebellion.' So I was told a dozen times. My cheerful and agreeable but deluded friends, there must be battles by the score before that outbreak from the depths of original sin is 'ended'”. (Source)

And when the "deluded friends" did finally learn the truth, the results weren't pretty. Just five days after Strong's diary entry, the Administration announced its first Conscription Act, to put down the rebellion that was far from "ended". This, as we all know, lead to draft riots in New York City and elsewhere. Lincoln himself was despondent about the aftermath of Gettysburg, telling Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles on July 14, "that he dreaded yet expected this; that there has seemed to him for a full week a determination that Lee, though we had him in our hands, should escape with his force and plunder." Welles went on to say that "on only one or two occasions have I ever seen the President so troubled." (Source)

So the elation was very much short-lived. The realization quickly settled in that Gettysburg was just a continuation of the status quo ante, the "same old same old", and that as Lincoln himself said in a disconsolate letter that he wisely chose not to deliver to Major General Meade, "the war will be prolonged indefinitely" and "I am distressed immeasurably because of it." (Source)

In a subsequent post, I will follow up this line of thought by showing that the psychological boost to the Army of the Potomac itself was also very short lived.

2. The defeat of the Army of Northern Virginia fundamentally changed the Confederate strategy of an offensive-defense
I have to disagree with this also. Certainly Lee came out of Gettysburg badly cut up, but so did Meade. Meade suffered 23,000 casualties to Lee's 28,000. It was an entirely different situation than Vicksburg, where Grant bagged Pemberton's entire army with his own army in good shape. The AoP and ANV had always taken some time after a major bloodletting to lick their wounds and recuperate. Lee retreated back to his "home field", just as he had done after Antietam, and prepared to fight another day.

And another day wasn't long in coming as far as Lee was concerned. Just seven weeks after his defeat at Gettysburg, Lee, at a conference of the Confederate high command in Richmond, proposed another invasion of the North and ordered Longstreet to prepare for it. (Source) The Confederate high command debated the issue at length, just as they had debated the same question before Gettysburg. But this time they ultimately came to a different decision - to send Longstreet west - not because they had changed their overall strategy or because they lacked any trust in Lee, but because they had just suffered catastrophic losses in the West since the last time they were faced with this decision. Not just Vicksburg had fallen, but Middle Tennessee and Chattanooga too, partly because many of General Bragg's Tennessee troops had been siphoned off to the defense of Vicksburg, only to be ultimately surrendered.

Yet in the very next major battle to be fought in the Eastern theater, the Battle of the Wilderness, it would be Lee who attacked Meade. Lee chose the battleground, Lee chose the time and place of the attack, and Lee inflicted twice the casualties on his opponent that he suffered himself, more than making up for the difference in casualties at Gettysburg. And he did so with 61,000 troops - that's 4,000 more troops than he had on this same ground at the Battle of Chancellorsville, the last major battle before the Battle of Gettysburg. This is not the sign of an army that's been demoralized or crippled, or of a commander who was "broken" or had surrendered the initiative.

In fact Lee would launch another major campaign into the North just weeks later - Jubal Early's raid that took him to the edge of Washington, D.C. Of course one has to assume that Lee would probably have preferred to lead the invasion himself, taking a larger force along with him, but it wasn't Gettysburg that stopped him from doing that. A bulldog had clamped onto his leg with jaws of iron and was holding him in Virginia. And that bulldog was Ulysses S. Grant - the very same bulldog who had done the very same thing to Pemberton's army when he starved it into submission at Vicksburg.

3. The change in Confederate strategy resulted in new support of the Western theater by the Army of Northern Virginia, which contributed to key Confederate victories there and, in response, the ascendancy of Grant
I can't agree that the transfer of Longstreet to Bragg's department had anything to do with a changing Confederate strategy - at least not in terms of Gettysburg. If indeed Lee's army had suffered "irreplaceable" losses in a "disaster" of a campaign at Gettysburg, and if indeed "northern morale reversed course and soared to new heights" as a result of Meade's victory, and if indeed the Eastern theater was "vital to the prosecution of the war", then the absolute last thing the Confederate command would want to do is cripple Lee further by detaching troops from him.

Instead, the detachment of troops from Lee was in part recognition of the fact that once Lee had fallen back to his homefield advantage, the status quo ante of the Eastern theater was restored, while at the same time the loss of the bastions of Vicksburg and Chattanooga had created a dire situation in the Western theater. And so it was that Lee detached Longstreet to the West, just like he had detached him to southeastern Virginia shortly before the Battle of Gettysburg.

This was, of course, a wise move. With Vicksburg's army completely removed from the theater, there would be no Western reinforcements to come to Bragg's aid in northern Georgia. Reinforcements, if they were to come, had to come from the East. And they did so with a vengeance. The not-in-the-least-bit demoralized troops that Longstreet brought with him played a crucial role in winning the Battle of Chickamauga. But it would prove to be too little too late. The hero of Vicksburg was now available to come to the rescue of the Union forces in Chattanooga. And he did.

4. Damage to Confederate forces at Gettysburg, and the resulting transfer of support to the west, mitigated the Army of Northern Virginia’s influence on the war effort for several crucial months and allowed Union forces to direct increased attention to Tennessee and Georgia to the detriment of the South and benefit of the Union
But the transfer of Union forces to Tennessee and Georgia had nothing to do with the damage to Confederate forces at Gettysburg either. In fact, it was just the opposite. Secretary of War Stanton ordered General Hooker and two corps to Chattanooga because Meade (rightly or wrongly) wasn't following up his Gettysburg victory, even after Lee had detached Longstreet. "There is no reason to expect General Meade will attack Lee, although greatly superior in force;" Stanton said, "and his great numbers where they are, are useless. In five days 30,000 could be put with Rosecrans." (Source)

Stanton and Lincoln would have liked nothing better than for Meade to move against Lee after Gettysburg, but it was the status quo ante. The same old same old. The most epic battle in the Western Hemisphere in the long run hadn't changed a thing.


(Note: all battle statistics taken from the Civil War Trust.)
 
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#6
Thank you, Brass Napoleon, for your excellent rebuttal. I will shortly begin my response to your questions. In the meantime, here is my own critique of your original post.

My worthy opponent Brass Napoleon has listed five major reasons why he believes Grant’s victory at Vicksburg was more important to the outcome of the war than Meade’s victory at Gettysburg. For my response, I will address each of these points in order.

First, he argues that Grant’s capture of Vicksburg gave the Union free navigation of the Mississippi River, a key accomplishment for Union offensive operations and for “effectively cutting off Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas from the rest of the Confederacy.” I do not question the point that Vicksburg was the final obstacle for overall Union control of the Mississippi River. Nor do I particularly doubt the benefit this waterway had to Union operations in the west. I do, however, question the extent in which the capture of Vicksburg itself isolated the Trans-Mississippi region from the Confederacy, and how well this isolation contributed to the overall Union victory.

By mid-1863, much of the Mississippi River was already under Union control. New Orleans had fallen to Union forces over a year earlier, in May 1862, as had Memphis. Similarly, the town of Helena, Arkansas, was captured by federal soldiers in July 1862. When Grant’s soldiers besieged Vicksburg, the Trans-Mississippi region was virtually cut off already, and it may be questioned how the final capture of the town significantly changed the practical isolation of that region.

Furthermore, to what degree did the isolation of the Trans-Mississippi Theater materially harm the overall Confederate war effort? What little industrial base existed in the Confederacy was not west of the Mississippi, nor did the region provide substantial foodstuffs to Southern armies in the east. Even beef from Texas required a journey of 200 miles just from the Texas border, through Louisiana, to reach Vicksburg, and then would need to travel an additional 400 miles to Confederate armies in Tennessee. That route did not include a direct rail line. For instance, this map provides some indication of how little the areas west of the Mississippi were connected to the east by rail lines as of 1861, and how any goods brought over the river faced a disjointed path to Southern armies and cities in the east:
4.jpg


Goods imported into Texas from Mexico required an even greater transportation burden to aid the Confederacy.

The Trans-Mississippi Theater could not offer Confederate reinforcements to the east by mid-1863; Southern troops in that region struggled to hold back the already present, and similarly under-appreciated, federal troops in the region. On the other side of that coin, the capture of Vicksburg did not result in a more rapid capitulation of those Confederate states to Union forces either. In fact, Confederate armies in the Trans-Mississippi region—including Simon Buckner’s Army of the Trans-Mississippi, Edmund Kirby-Smith’s command of the Department of the Trans-Mississippi, and Stand Watie’s First Indian Brigade—were the last substantial Confederate ground forces to surrender in the Civil War. Thus, the Union victory at Vicksburg did not result in a faster conquest of the Trans-Mississippi region, nor did it reduce the federal military burden of securing Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Indian Territory.

In short, the isolation of the Trans-Mississippi Theater from the rest of the Confederacy did not substantially alter the conduct of the war, and what little that isolation did accomplish had largely been put into place before Grant captured Vicksburg.

Brass Napoleon's second point is that Grant’s capture of 29,000 Confederates at Vicksburg allowed the exchange of a like number of Union prisoners during a time of crucial manpower concerns. Manpower shortages may have been a concern for the federal war effort, but the parole of thousands of prisoners benefitted the numerically smaller Confederate war effort far more. Grant himself recognized this in 1864, an indirect acknowledgement that the Vicksburg parole harmed the Union war effort more than it helped: “Every man we hold, when released on parole or otherwise, becomes an active soldier against us at once either directly or indirectly. If we commence a system of exchange which liberates all prisoners taken, we will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated.” Indeed, as a personal note, my g-g-g-grandfather was a Georgia soldier captured at Vicksburg, only to be paroled and back fighting Grant’s men around Chattanooga a few months later. Thus, while the capture and parole of Pemberton’s army may have temporarily helped fill some depleted federal ranks, it did not benefit the long term Union war effort, for it sent thousands of Confederate soldiers back into the field to resist those Union regiments and campaigns.

Brass Napoleon next argues that the capture of Pemberton’s army overall removed a substantial Confederate force from Mississippi and “provided the Union the opportunity to attack the Confederate underbelly, which was essential to winning the war.” This would have been true had Union forces in fact advanced into the heart of the South from Vicksburg. After capturing the town, federal troops only advanced to the central part of Mississippi and then fell back to the relative safety of the Mississippi River region, leaving even the capital city of Jackson unoccupied. It was recaptured in February 1864 and then for the final time in May 1865, proving that Union military advances eastward from Vicksburg had been only temporary and not substantial. Following the capture of Vicksburg, Grant himself was ordered to assist Nathaniel Banks’ foray into Texas, thereby depleting the momentum gained by his July victory.

The major campaigns of 1864 did not go through Vicksburg, but along earlier planned, and unrelated, routes—south through Virginia and south through eastern Tennessee. The lack of a federal threat from the Vicksburg area may be seen by the fact that paroled Confederate soldiers of Pemberton’s army were sent east, to Chattanooga (the opposite direction of Vicksburg), where the greatest federal threat was.

The fourth point raised by Brass Napoleon was the experience gained by Union generals in developing new strategies used later in the war. I believe this is the strongest argument raised by my opponent for the long term effect of Vicksburg. The campaign proved that Union armies could operate effectively deep in enemy territory and with limited supply lines. These lessons, however, were learned and employed successfully only through the patience of the northern population—something that Grant and Sherman could not count on in the absence of other Union victories. Stagnation is the kryptonite of war in a democracy. Grant’s victory at Vicksburg, and the lessons learned, had taken months and secured only one part of the Confederacy. The continued application of these lessons required prolonged warfare and a northern population willing to sustain that tedium. Such patience was unlikely in the face of an aggressive and successful Army of Northern Virginia on the relative outskirts of Washington, D.C., dominating northern attention. But once Lee’s gamble in Pennsylvania failed, and the Army of the Potomac proved victorious at Gettysburg, the Confederate threat in Virginia was temporarily nullified. Northern morale shot up, granting the Lincoln administration continued support and greater leeway for sustained and costly campaigns—essential for the ultimate application of those Vicksburg lessons in 1864 and 1865. In essence, Union victory at Gettysburg gave the Lincoln administration the necessary pubic equity for Grant’s style of warfare for two more years.

Finally, Brass Napoleon argues that the Vicksburg campaign elevated Grant to a position where “he became the clear choice to take overall command” of Union armies. I believe this argument might jump the gun to a degree. Grant’s victory at Vicksburg earned him a commission as major general in the regular army, and the attention of President Lincoln. Yet, he did not immediately advance from his role in the west. It was not until Rosecrans’ poor performance several months later at Chickamauga and then Chattanooga—thanks largely to Confederate reinforcements from the Army of Northern Virginia, who were released by Lee only after his gamble at Gettysburg had failed—that the War Department created a new military division and gave command to Grant. His success in this new position proved that the Vicksburg campaign had not been a fluke and led to his promotion as lieutenant general. There is no doubt that success at Vicksburg made Grant the most successful Union general of the war at that time, but his ascendancy to supreme command required further steps, and continued battlefield victory.
 

brass napoleon

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#7
OK, just to clarify what happens next: I make a "supplemental post", then Scotsman rebuts it, then he makes a supplemental post, and I rebut it. And we repeat the process 5 times. Correct?
 

brass napoleon

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First Supplemental Post

In order that this (hopefully) doesn't drag on to the point that everybody loses interest, I've decided to combine the main elements of my first three talking points into one post - this one. I think I'll be able to show how the interplay between these three factors created a whole new environment in the Western theater and planted the seeds for ultimate victory, both in the West and in the overall war.

First, however, I'd like to address the following point made on the kibitzer thread:

However, I do have to disagree with BN on this matter............
"And another day wasn't long in coming as far as Lee was concerned. Just seven weeks after his defeat at Gettysburg, Lee, at a conference of the Confederate high command in Richmond, proposed another invasion of the North and ordered Longstreet to prepare for it."
The source (https://books.google.com/books?id=MuSJcY6iH8gC&pg=PA151#v=onepage&q&f=false) given states................."In fact, as late as August 31, from Richmond he ordered Longstreet to prepare the army offensive operations against Meade. In the conference he suggested he take the offensive in Virginia. Lee and Davis also evidently toyed with the idea of opening third front in Southwest Virginia, or by sending a combined Jones-Longstreet expedition Southward into the upper East Tennessee Valley".
But I did not locate anything that spoke of another invasion of the North.............
I may have missed it...........
Though I will add I would not doubt Lee may have had such a notion somewhere in the back of his mind at some point.
Yes, William, you are absolutely correct. Nothing in the referenced source says that the offensive operations were to cross over into the North. I made an assumption about Lee's motives based on Longstreet's reply, in which he states "I do not know that we can reasonably hope to accomplish much here by offensive operations, unless you are strong enough to cross the Potomac." Unfortunately I have been unable to find a primary source with Lee's exact wording, but it was presumptuous on my part to make such an assumption without qualifying it as such. So I stand corrected and thank you for setting the record straight. (And I don't doubt either that it was at least in the back of his mind, if not the front, no matter how he worded it.)

Getting back to the topic at hand, Terrence J. Winschel, military historian at Vicksburg National Military Park, says of Vicksburg:

Vicksburg was also the link between the eastern and western parts of the Confederacy, what Confederate President Jefferson Davis referred to as "the nail-head that held the South's two halves together." In addition, by 1862 the city sat astride a major supply route, over which the armies of Braxton Bragg and Robert E. Lee received much needed food, clothing, medicine, and other vital supplies, as well as fresh troops."

Source: Terrence J. Winschel, Vicksburg: Fall of the Confederate Gibraltar, p. 14​

I'm not going to argue that the loss of "food, clothing, medicine, and other vital supplies" from the Trans-Mississippi was significant enough to be a game-changer (although I do believe that even this had more of a lasting impact than any enduring result of the Battle of Gettysburg). But what I will argue is that the loss of access to "fresh troops" from the Trans-Mississippi, combined with the loss of the troops stationed at Vicksburg and neighboring Port Hudson, and the loss of the bastion of Vicksburg itself, played an absolutely critical role in the future direction of the war in the Western theater.

Vicksburg was actually the northern terminus of a binary defense network commanding a 200 mile stretch of the Mississippi River. The southern terminus was another natural fortress known as Port Hudson. The bastions of Vicksburg and Port Hudson protected each other's backs, and maintained a connection with the Trans-Mississippi region via the river that flowed between them. As Jefferson Davis himself warned Vicksburg's commander, General John Pemberton, "To hold both Vicksburg and Port Hudson is necessary to a connection with the Trans-Mississippi." (Source)

The loss of Vicksburg meant not only the loss of the 29,000 men defending it, but the isolation of more than 50,000 Confederate troops on the other side of the Mississippi. What was particularly damaging to the Confederacy was that the loss of these men not only meant the effective loss of the territory they were defending, but the loss of their ability to help defend other parts of the Confederacy. This is because an integral part of Confederate strategy from the very first day of the war was the tactic of transferring troops from one theater to another as needed. It was the only way the Confederacy, with its much diminished manpower relative to its opponent, could possibly hold its own. But the effective loss of these 80,000 troops meant there would be no significant aid coming to Braxton Bragg's Tennessee and Georgia forces from the West. He could only be assisted from the East.

A close look at a map highlights just how crucial this was. (Click here for map) Vicksburg was connected by rail to the important hub of Jackson, Mississippi. From there railroads radiated out to the north, east and south, including a railroad to Talladega, Alabama, only 349 rail miles from Vicksburg and just 70 miles from Atlanta. It was on these railroads that Braxton Bragg sent reinforcements to Vicksburg during the lead-up to the siege. And along these same lines Braxton Bragg expected to get reinforcements FROM Vicksburg, when he would need them in the future. But they would not be coming.

Having tens of thousands of Confederate troops just a few days' journey from northern Georgia was a major deterrent to a long-term Union movement into Georgia. It would be too easy for such a force to come up on the flank or rear and trap Union forces in a pincer between themselves and Bragg. Vicksburg and its garrison HAD to be removed before such a movement could be attempted.

And the flip-side of that equation is that once the Vicksburg garrison was removed and the Trans-Mississippi troops cut off, Bragg's Army of the Tennessee would become the focus of the combined forces that were already threatening him and the Union forces that had just taken Vicksburg. With no help coming from the west, Bragg could only look to the east. But it wouldn't be long before the hero of Vicksburg went east in part to prevent exactly that from happening. The fall of Vicksburg sealed the fate of Bragg's army, as long as there were Union generals to carry it through. And there were - they came through Vicksburg.

In future supplemental posts, I will expand on the importance of these generals, and the crucial lessons they learned and strategies and tactics they developed in the Vicksburg Campaign.
 
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#10
Like Brass Napoleon, instead of responding point by point to his excellent rebuttal, and then point by point to his supplemental post, which may turn the debate into a morass of several independent lines of thought, I would like to address some of his critique in a more general way, drawing together the first two, and most important, of my points.

My arguments that Gettysburg fundamentally shifted the psychological direction of the war and fundamentally changed the Confederate strategy of an offensive-defense do not rely upon individual tactical or strategic field activities over the following months or years. Instead, the battle changed the momentum of the conflict, as a whole, by shutting down the last prospect of Confederate success through strategic offensive and martial dominance in the Eastern Theater. Consider the vast differences between the Eastern and Western theaters by early July 1863. Grant’s campaign against Vicksburg followed a string of Union successes in the West—Belmont, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Pea Ridge, Corinth, New Orleans, Memphis, and Stones River to name a few. In the East, the Union war effort was defined by nearly catastrophic defeats—First Bull Run, Ball's Bluff, the Seven Days Campaign (despite tactical victories, the campaign was a failure), Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. As a whole, the Union was winning in the West and the Confederacy was winning in the East.

In the shadow of Chancellorsville, Lee saw his options as twofold—to continue the momentum of victory in the East through aggressive strategic maneuvers, or surrender the initiative and adopt a strategically defensive posture by sending divisions from the Army of Northern Virginia to reinforce the already failing Confederate effort in the West. He recognized that Confederate independence could not depend on shuffling troops back and forth across the South in a vain effort to stop every northern incursion. Not only did the Confederacy not have the manpower and infrastructure to fight back each federal campaign, but he knew that the only means of winning the war depended upon the northern population turning against Lincoln’s war effort. “Nothing can arrest during the present [Lincoln] administration, the most desolating war that was ever practiced,” Lee wrote, “except by a revolution among their people. Nothing can produce a revolution except systematic success on our part.” (Gary Gallagher, Becoming Confederates, 23)

What Lee feared was a South wrecked by what, ultimately, Grant and Sherman wrought in 1864, and he knew that the Confederacy’s only hope was to prevent the war from reaching that stage. Success could not be achieved through defensive tactical victories which only temporarily repulsed the armies of Grant and Rosecrans and Hooker. It required a strike at the northern populace to capitalize on dissension from northern conscription policies and opposition to Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus.

One of the best descriptions of the Confederate situation in June 1863 was written by historians Scott Bowden and Bill Ward in Last Chance For Victory:

“All of this boiled down to one central and recurring theme: while the South could very well lose the war in the West, it could never win it there. In order for the South to have any chance of victory, its actions had to bring the political imperative into play, and this could best—and only—be accomplished in the East.” (p. 33)

That is why Gettysburg was so important—it ended the last prospect of Confederate success through martial superiority. Grant’s victory at Vicksburg, though significant, was a continuation of a federal trend in the West. Gettysburg, on the other hand, reversed the fortunes of war in the East—the most important theater of the war.

Union victory in Pennsylvania in July 1863 stopped the sole army that offered the Confederacy an offensive, proactive means of achieving independence. That Meade did not follow up his victory and destroy Lee’s army (if that was possible) does not take away the battle’s significance in forever ending the Army of Northern Virginia’s dominance in the war. In June 1863, Lee and his men had the ability and confidence to conduct a strategic campaign aimed at the Union war effort as a whole. Instead, only a few weeks later, his army limped back into Virginia, reduced nearly a third in number from battlefield losses and hemorrhaging even more men from desertion and fatigue. Desertion rates of the Army of Northern Virginia in the summer of 1863, after Gettysburg, created such a crisis that, on 11 August 1863, Jefferson Davis offered amnesty to deserters to entice them to return. The amnesty failed—and in fact prompted some soldiers to go absent without leave, under the assumption that they would now be forgiven if they returned within an allotted time. Lee then resorted to execution as a final means of handling deserters. Though not destroyed, the Army of Northern Virginia was in turmoil and forever changed by the loss at Gettysburg. The defeat there truly marked the high tide of the Confederacy.

Regarding northern morale, it is absolutely true that the victory at Gettysburg did not permanently lift the spirits of northerners. But that is not the point. The boost to the psyche of the northern population—even if temporary—bought Abraham Lincoln the most precious commodity for overall Union victory he needed—time. Meade’s victory at Gettysburg prevented Lee’s campaign from sparking the “revolution among their people.” It kept the Union war effort as a whole alive. That was crucial; that was what Lincoln needed for success. All of Grant’s accomplishments in the west, all of the lessons he learned—the capture of Vicksburg itself—would have been for naught had a majority of northerners, spurred by a victorious Army of Northern Virginia campaigning across Pennsylvania through the summer of 1863, turned against the Lincoln administration.

In this way, there is a fundamental difference between the Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. For the former, its chief value is in what it accomplished—the strengthening of the Union military situation in the west. For the latter, its chief value is in what it prevented—a fundamental shift in the overall Union war effort and, perhaps, Confederate independence. That is the primary reason why Gettysburg was more important to the war’s outcome than Vicksburg—it staved off the greatest military threat to the Union and allowed the benefits of Grant's success in the west to come to fruition.
 

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#11
Like Brass Napoleon, instead of responding point by point to his excellent rebuttal, and then point by point to his supplemental post, which may turn the debate into a morass of several independent lines of thought, I would like to address some of his critique in a more general way, drawing together the first two, and most important, of my points.
Question

Hi Scotsman. Thanks for the reply. Forgive my asking, but I just want to make sure I understand this. Are you saying that the above post is a combination of your rebuttal and your own "supplemental" post? Should I expect another post from you, as you're entitled to, before I reply? Thanks.
 
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Hi Scotsman. Thanks for the reply. Forgive my asking, but I just want to make sure I understand this. Are you saying that the above post is a combination of your rebuttal and your own "supplemental" post? Should I expect another post from you, as you're entitled to, before I reply? Thanks.
I apologize for not labeling my above post, but it is my first "supplemental" post. You have the floor.
 

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I apologize for not labeling my above post, but it is my first "supplemental" post. You have the floor.
Thanks, Scotsman. I've got a busy weekend coming up, so I thought I'd get this first rebuttal out there and save my second supplemental post for when I get some more time. I've decided to break your supplemental post into three parts and answer each separately:

My arguments that Gettysburg fundamentally shifted the psychological direction of the war and fundamentally changed the Confederate strategy of an offensive-defense do not rely upon individual tactical or strategic field activities over the following months or years. Instead, the battle changed the momentum of the conflict, as a whole, by shutting down the last prospect of Confederate success through strategic offensive and martial dominance in the Eastern Theater. Consider the vast differences between the Eastern and Western theaters by early July 1863. Grant’s campaign against Vicksburg followed a string of Union successes in the West—Belmont, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Pea Ridge, Corinth, New Orleans, Memphis, and Stones River to name a few. In the East, the Union war effort was defined by nearly catastrophic defeats—First Bull Run, Ball's Bluff, the Seven Days Campaign (despite tactical victories, the campaign was a failure), Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. As a whole, the Union was winning in the West and the Confederacy was winning in the East.

In the shadow of Chancellorsville, Lee saw his options as twofold—to continue the momentum of victory in the East through aggressive strategic maneuvers, or surrender the initiative and adopt a strategically defensive posture by sending divisions from the Army of Northern Virginia to reinforce the already failing Confederate effort in the West. He recognized that Confederate independence could not depend on shuffling troops back and forth across the South in a vain effort to stop every northern incursion. Not only did the Confederacy not have the manpower and infrastructure to fight back each federal campaign, but he knew that the only means of winning the war depended upon the northern population turning against Lincoln’s war effort. “Nothing can arrest during the present [Lincoln] administration, the most desolating war that was ever practiced,” Lee wrote, “except by a revolution among their people. Nothing can produce a revolution except systematic success on our part.” (Gary Gallagher, Becoming Confederates, 23)

What Lee feared was a South wrecked by what, ultimately, Grant and Sherman wrought in 1864, and he knew that the Confederacy’s only hope was to prevent the war from reaching that stage. Success could not be achieved through defensive tactical victories which only temporarily repulsed the armies of Grant and Rosecrans and Hooker. It required a strike at the northern populace to capitalize on dissension from northern conscription policies and opposition to Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus.
One of the best descriptions of the Confederate situation in June 1863 was written by historians Scott Bowden and Bill Ward in Last Chance For Victory:

“All of this boiled down to one central and recurring theme: while the South could very well lose the war in the West, it could never win it there. In order for the South to have any chance of victory, its actions had to bring the political imperative into play, and this could best—and only—be accomplished in the East.” (p. 33)

That is why Gettysburg was so important—it ended the last prospect of Confederate success through martial superiority. Grant’s victory at Vicksburg, though significant, was a continuation of a federal trend in the West. Gettysburg, on the other hand, reversed the fortunes of war in the East—the most important theater of the war.
I have to take issue with the idea that the Confederacy was enjoying any great "momentum of victory in the East" at the time of the Gettysburg campaign. Let's take a look at the history of the major campaigns between what we call today the AoP and the ANV (understanding that the names changed, but using them nonetheless to maintain consistency):

The ANV wins the Battle of First Manassas
The AoP advances to the outskirts of Richmond in the Peninsula Campaign
The ANV drives the AoP off the Peninsula in the Seven Days Campaign
The ANV wins the Battle of Second Manassas
The AoP wins the Battle of Antietam
The ANV wins the Battle of Fredericksburg
The ANV wins the Battle of Chancellorsville
Although the ANV did win some brilliant victories in here, there was no clear "momentum of victory", at least in the long-term. It had only won two major battles since its prior loss at Antietam. This is far closer to a stalemate than a "momentum of victory". Neither army had been able to gain and hold any significant ground on the other. Gettysburg would continue that tradition, handing the ANV another loss and sending it right back to where both armies started from.

Likewise there was no change in strategy after Gettysburg. I disagree with the notion that Lee "recognized that Confederate independence could not depend on shuffling troops back and forth across the South..." Lee very much understood and agreed with that aspect of Confederate grand strategy and used it liberally both before and after Gettysburg. He approved Stonewall Jackson's detachment to the Shenandoah Valley in 1862. He detached Longstreet to Petersburg in early 1863. These were both major detachments before Gettysburg. Then he detached Longstreet to Tennessee in the fall of 1863, and detached Jubal Early back to the Shenandoah Valley in the summer of 1864. These were both major detachments after Gettysburg. In all cases, Lee understood that the detached troops would perform a mission, then return to him. And in all cases they (or their remnants) did.

By the same token, Lee did not believe that Confederate success "required a strike at the northern populace to capitalize on dissension." Although he certainly did believe a "Northern revolution" would be a great aid to the rebellion, what was required to achieve that was simply "systematic success", as he has been quoted as saying above. Note that nothing in those words says that the success has to occur in the North, it just has to be "systematic".

In fact, Lee's prime objective, as commander of the ANV in general and specifically during the Battle of Gettysburg, according to his own military secretary and aide-de-camp, "was to defend Richmond." Here's how he described it:

'The great object then of the Confederate operations in Virginia was to defend Richmond, and that was the principal end that General Lee proposed to himself. Of course the incidental advantages of preserving that part of Virginia north of the James and of keeping it free from the presence of the enemy were not disregarded, but the defence of Richmond controlled all other considerations.

Now from the time that General Lee was first placed on duty in Richmond in March 1862 by the order of President Davis, and even before that time, as I have heard, he was convinced that the only way of defending the city successfully was by occupying the Federal Army at a distance from the capital and preventing the formation of a siege.

He frequently spoke and often wrote to the effect that if the siege of Richmond were once undertaken by an army too strong to be beaten off, the fall of the place would be inevitable, no matter how successfully it might be defended against a direct attack. '


- Charles Marshall, Lee's Aide-de-Camp, pp. 182-183

Source: http://leearchive.wlu.edu/reference/books/marshall2/09.txt

So Lee's whole strategy, throughout his tenure as commander of the ANV, was to keep "those people" as far away from Richmond as possible. And lest there be any doubt, this is exactly what he had in mind during the Gettysburg Campaign, as well as the Maryland Campaign of the year before, and the Maryland Campaign of the year after:

'As in the campaign of 1862, so again in the campaign of 1863 the desire to keep the enemy employed at a distance from Richmond, and the impossibility of maintaining his army near enough to Washington to accomplish this object without moving north of the Potomac, led to the invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania. So, also, in 1864, when sorely reduced in strength after the Wilderness campaign, General Lee made a final effort to force General Grant to withdraw from Richmond by detaching all the troops he could spare under General Early to threaten Washington. The campaigns of 1862 and 1863 were unsuccessful as far as the issues of the battles which closed them were concerned. But they effected one of their great objects in preventing the siege of Richmond in those years.

Of course, while seeking to obtain these ends, General Lee was not unmindful of the valuable results that might follow a decided success in the field.'


- ibid., p. 185​

And yes, he "was not unmindful" of the possible gains that a decisive success in the North could give him, but that was not the purpose of any of those campaigns. They were all designed to draw the enemy away from Richmond.

Union victory in Pennsylvania in July 1863 stopped the sole army that offered the Confederacy an offensive, proactive means of achieving independence. That Meade did not follow up his victory and destroy Lee’s army (if that was possible) does not take away the battle’s significance in forever ending the Army of Northern Virginia’s dominance in the war. In June 1863, Lee and his men had the ability and confidence to conduct a strategic campaign aimed at the Union war effort as a whole. Instead, only a few weeks later, his army limped back into Virginia, reduced nearly a third in number from battlefield losses and hemorrhaging even more men from desertion and fatigue. Desertion rates of the Army of Northern Virginia in the summer of 1863, after Gettysburg, created such a crisis that, on 11 August 1863, Jefferson Davis offered amnesty to deserters to entice them to return. The amnesty failed—and in fact prompted some soldiers to go absent without leave, under the assumption that they would now be forgiven if they returned within an allotted time. Lee then resorted to execution as a final means of handling deserters. Though not destroyed, the Army of Northern Virginia was in turmoil and forever changed by the loss at Gettysburg.
Actually, as has been shown, the Army of Northern Virginia snapped back pretty quickly from its Gettysburg loss. We have already seen that Lee was advocating offensive operations just 7 weeks after Gettysburg, and was overruled only because of the severe crisis in the West brought on in large part by the fall of Vicksburg and the loss of a significant number of Bragg's troops in its defense. And at the next major battle in the Eastern theater, the Battle of the Wilderness in May, 1864, the ANV would exhibit all of its traditional aplomb.

Let's take a closer look at that battle. As has already been noted, it was Lee who chose the time and place of the battle, and Longstreet's troops participated, returned from their detachment in Tennessee. Lee took 61,025 troops into that battle. That in fact is four thousand more troops than he had to fight the Battle of Chancellorsville on the very same ground a year earlier - before the Battle of Gettysburg. And lest anyone doubt the efficacy of these new troops, the ANV inflicted a thousand more casualties on its opponent in the post-Gettysburg battle than it did in the pre-Gettysburg battle, while sustaining two thousand less casualties itself. Put another way, in the Battle of the Wilderness (after Gettysburg) the ANV inflicted 61% more casualties on its adversary than it suffered itself, while in the Battle of Chancellorsville (before Gettysburg) the AoP inflicted 29% more casualties than it suffered. That's more than double the casualty ratio after Gettysburg. So this is not at all a sign of an army that "was in turmoil and forever changed."

And of course just weeks after this battle saw yet another one of Lee's infamous detachments, this one ultimately sending Jubal Early and a division of men into Maryland to make it all the way to the outskirts of Washington, D.C.

There was absolutely no change in Lee's strategy.

The defeat there truly marked the high tide of the Confederacy.

Regarding northern morale, it is absolutely true that the victory at Gettysburg did not permanently lift the spirits of northerners. But that is not the point. The boost to the psyche of the northern population—even if temporary—bought Abraham Lincoln the most precious commodity for overall Union victory he needed—time. Meade’s victory at Gettysburg prevented Lee’s campaign from sparking the “revolution among their people.” It kept the Union war effort as a whole alive. That was crucial; that was what Lincoln needed for success. All of Grant’s accomplishments in the west, all of the lessons he learned—the capture of Vicksburg itself—would have been for naught had a majority of northerners, spurred by a victorious Army of Northern Virginia campaigning across Pennsylvania through the summer of 1863, turned against the Lincoln administration.

In this way, there is a fundamental difference between the Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. For the former, its chief value is in what it accomplished—the strengthening of the Union military situation in the west. For the latter, its chief value is in what it prevented—a fundamental shift in the overall Union war effort and, perhaps, Confederate independence. That is the primary reason why Gettysburg was more important to the war’s outcome than Vicksburg—it staved off the greatest military threat to the Union and allowed the benefits of Grant's success in the west to come to fruition.
As has been shown above, the Gettysburg Campaign was never intended, by itself, to spark a "revolution among their people". Instead it was intended to be a link in a chain of "systematic successes" in defending Richmond. But like Antietam and Malvern Hill before it, it was not a tactical success. However it did in fact achieve the primary goal of "occupying the Federal Army at a distance from the capital."

Even if Lee had won at Gettysburg, he knew full well he would soon have to withdraw back behind the Potomac. His was not an occupying force. And unknown to him at the time, General Meade had an even stronger defensive line already established along Pipe Creek, ready and waiting for Lee's attack.

As for changing Northern public opinion, I disagree that even a victory at Gettysburg would have had enough of an impact on public opinion to affect a Presidential election that was more than a year off. Even Jubal Early's raid of 1864, which burnt down a Pennsylvania town and got all the way to the outskirts of Washington, D.C. itself, was unable to prevent Lincoln's reelection - and by a significant margin to boot. And that was only four months before the election.

I think I'll have to end it there for now. Like I said, I'll be following this up with my second supplemental post, but it will probably be at least a couple days before I get to it. Have a good weekend, Scotsman, and everybody else who might be reading this!

(Note: all battle statistics taken from the Civil War Trust.)
 
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brass napoleon

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#14
Second Supplemental Post

In this post, I'm going to jump to the last of the talking points I outlined in my opening statement:

The Vicksburg campaign elevated Ulysses S. Grant above the morass of Union generals to a position where he became the clear choice to take overall command of the Union armed forces and lead them to victory in the war.
I've chosen to address this one now because it builds on a major point that I started to develop in my last rebuttal, where I wrote at some length about the Battle of the Wilderness - the first major battle after the Battle of Gettysburg.
As I mentioned in that post, the Battle of the Wilderness was characterized by an aggressive-as-ever Robert E. Lee, leading a larger army than he had at Chancellorsville against the AoP and inflicting horrific casualties - 18,400 on his opponent while suffering only 11,400 himself - more than making up for the disparity in casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg. In the rebuttal, I focused on how the ANV had lost none of its fighting spirit or ability, and how its commander had lost none of his initiative or audacity.

But in this post I'm going to concentrate on the Army of the Potomac in that battle, because Ulysses S. Grant, now commander of all Union armed forces, accompanied that army, even though it was still ostensibly led by General Meade, onto the battlefield. I want to start by focusing on the reaction of the AoP's high command to the disaster they were suffering on that battlefield. This is how a key member of Grant's staff, Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Horace Porter, described that reaction:

Generals Grant and Meade, accompanied by me and one or two other staff-officers, walked rapidly over to Meade's tent, and found that the reports still coming in were bringing news of increasing disaster. It was soon reported that General Shaler and part of his brigade had been captured; then that General Seymour and several hundred of his men had fallen into the hands of the enemy; afterward that our right had been turned, and Ferrero's division cut off and forced back upon the Rapidan...

Aides came galloping in from the right, laboring under intense excitement, talking wildly, and giving the most exaggerated reports of the engagement. Some declared that a large force had broken and scattered Sedgwick's entire corps. Others insisted that the enemy had turned our right completely and captured the wagon train. It was asserted at one time that both Sedgwick and Wright had been captured...

A general officer came in from his command at this juncture, and said to the general-in-chief, speaking rapidly and laboring under considerable excitement: "General Grant, this is a crisis that cannot be looked upon too seriously. I know Lee's methods well by past experience; he will throw his own army between us and the Rapidan, and cut us off completely from our communications."

- Horace Porter, Campaigning with Grant, pp. 68-70

Source: https://books.google.com/books?id=ZxJCAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA68
Clearly the ANV had not been the least bit subdued by its Gettysburg loss. But more importantly, we can see here the panic that infected the AoP command, which very clearly had lost any boost in morale it might have received after the Battle of Gettysburg, and this on only the second day of the first major battle since then! Once again, it's the status quo ante. The same old same old. Gettysburg hasn't changed anything.

But wait! There IS a change after all! Read what Colonel Porter had to say about Grant's reaction to all this doom and gloom:

The general rose to his feet, took his cigar out of his mouth, turned to the officer, and replied, with a degree of animation which he seldom manifested: "Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command, and try to think what we are going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do."

And that right there, folks, is the moment the tide turned in the Eastern theater. It wasn't Gettysburg that did it. It was Grant that did it. Grant rode east on the tide from Vicksburg, bringing with him the confidence, strategies, and tactics he had developed there. His officers would indeed go back and "think what we are going to do ourselves". And ultimately what they did was fight, disengage and move forward, even though they had suffered twice the casualty ratio of Hooker when he went backward on this same ground a year earlier. Adjutant Elisha Hunt Rhodes of the Second Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry, who had been on the front lines with the Army of the Potomac from the very beginning, summed it up that day in his diary: "If we were under any other General except Grant I should expect a retreat, but Grant is not that kind of a soldier, and we feel that we can trust him." (Source: Robert Hunt Rhodes, ed., All for the Union: The Civil War Diary and Letters of Elijah Hunt Rhodes , p. 138)

Grant would begin a campaign of relentless contact with the ANV, denying Lee any opportunity to execute his own strategy, which as we have seen was to keep his enemy as far away from Richmond as possible. It's not that Lee's strategy had changed one iota; it was that Grant recognized that strategy and refused it. Closer and closer he would move towards Richmond, in the meantime suffering horrific losses from what remained one of the most formidable armies in the history of human warfare, until finally he maneuvered the ANV into the position that Lee was trying so very desperately to avoid - a siege. Grant wrapped his bulldog jaws around Lee's leg, and then his neck, in just the same manner as he did his opponent at Vicksburg, and with the same ultimate result.

So what brought Grant to the East anyway? It was his victory at Vicksburg. On July 22, 1863, just 18 days after Pemberton's surrender, and while Lincoln was still stewing about Meade's inability to destroy Lee, Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana wrote Grant a letter from Washington. I have been unable to find that letter, but it's clear from Grant's reply that he was being considered for the command of the Army of the Potomac. Here's an excerpt:

"Your letter of the 22d of July is just received and it needs no assurance from me to inform you how glad I am to hear from you and to learn so much from the vicinity of Hd Qrs. Gen. Halleck and yourself were both very right in supposing that it would cause me more sadness than satisfaction to be ordered to the command of the Army of the Potomac... I feel very grateful to you for your timely intercession in saving me from going to the Army of the Potomac. Whilst I would disobey no order I should beg very hard to be excused before accepting that command."

- Ulysses S. Grant to Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana, August 5, 1863

Source: https://books.google.com/books?id=5N2D5Fp928MC&pg=PA145

Grant would remain in the West of his own volition, and come to the deliverance of Chattanooga three months later, with the help of troops he brought there from Vicksburg, at which point the demand for him to come east would be so universal that he could no longer resist. And then he would come east not as the commander of the Army of the Potomac, but as the supreme commander of all Union armed forces.

But Grant's transfer to the Eastern theater was not an admission on his part that the Eastern theater was more important than the West. Instead it was the recognition that the only effective strategy for the Union was to apply relentless pressure on the Confederates across all theaters simultaneously. Lincoln himself had recognized this since early in the war:

"...I state my general idea of this war to be that we have the greater numbers and the enemy has the greater facility of concentrating forces upon points of collision; that we must fail unless we can find some way of making our advantage an overmatch for his; and that this can only be done by menacing him with superior forces at different points at the same time, so that we can safely attack one or both if he makes no change; and if he weakens one to strengthen the other, forbear to attack the strengthened one, but seize and hold the weakened one, gaining so much."

- Abraham Lincoln, January 13, 1862

Source: http://digital.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;rgn=full text;idno=waro0007;didno=waro0007;view=image;seq=0944

Vicksburg had finally given him the means to execute this strategy. Grant would come east to supervise the Army of the Potomac, and Sherman, fresh from on-the-job training at Vicksburg, would go after Bragg (and successors) in the West. Both of them would apply the lessons they learned at Vicksburg to apply relentless pressure on their respective foes, preventing them from concentrating forces at any "point of collision". It would be the strategy that would win the war.

In my next supplemental post I'll address the last remaining talking point from my opening statement - how the strategy and tactics that were developed at Vicksburg were used to bring the Confederacy to its knees. But until then, I yield the floor to my worthy adversary.
 
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#15
Thank you, Brass Napoleon. In this, my second supplemental, post I will continue to elaborate my argument on the importance of Gettysburg, which will include a response to some above critiques, as well as offer my own challenges to the value of Vicksburg.

First, I would like to respond to doubt of Confederate momentum in the East in the summer of 1863. The Army of Northern Virginia enjoyed a clear momentum of victory at the tactical level by the spring of 1863, one that had potential to influence the overall outcome of the war. Historian James McPherson notes that Lee’s success during the Seven Days battles in 1862 had thrust the eastern theater to prominence in the war and caught the eye of European observers. He writes, “during the next two months Lee and Jackson’s offensive-defensive strategy came close to winning European diplomatic recognition. Antietam prevented that, but Confederate successes during the next nine months, again mainly in the East, reopened this possibility and so discouraged many Northern voters about the prospect of winning the war that the Copperheads made great gains and threatened the Lincoln administration’s ability to continue the war.” (McPherson, “Failed Southern Strategies,” in With My Face to the Enemy: Perspectives on the Civil War, ed. Robert Cowley, p. 85) In Hallowed Ground, McPherson similarly writes: “In the post-Chancellorsville aura of invincibility, anything seemed possible for the Army of Northern Virginia” (McPherson, Hallowed Ground, 29).

Countless other writers and historians acknowledge the excitement and anticipation among soldiers of Army of Northern Virginia. Many saw the campaign into Pennsylvania as the best, and perhaps last, chance Lee had to influence the outcome of the war. Charles Marshall, quoted by Brass Napoleon in a post above, emphasized an “important consideration was the moral effect of a victory north of the Potomac upon the people of the North. A victory over the Federal Army in Virginia would have tended to strengthen the peace party in the North, only in so far as it would have tended to assure the Northern people that they could not succeed. They would not have been impressed by our consideration for their peace or comfort in keeping the war from their homes and firesides. The copperheads were never weaker than when the Federal armies were successful, and the arguments for peace in the North would have been much more convincing if victory had placed Washington, Baltimore or Philadelphia within our reach than if gained in Virginia. Those of us who have studied Confederate policy during the war know too well the baleful influence upon the energy and efforts of the South, which was exercised by the delusion that the Confederacy could rely upon anything but her deeds for success.” (http://leearchive.wlu.edu/reference/books/marshall2/09.txt)

Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon described the upcoming Pennsylvania campaign as “indispensable to our safety and independence. Allen Guelzo described the anticipation among Lee’s army during its grand review in late May 1863, where “rumors of a new campaign were already flying up and down the review columns, and George Campbell Brown, Ewell’s stepson and staffer, noticed that ‘they are all for [invading] Maryland & Pennsylvania.’ And perhaps, when they did, it would all come to an end. The great battle would be fought, and through the smoke and fire, the way home would finally be open, and there would be peace, independence, and plenty—but especially peace” (Guelzo, Gettysburg, 45-46).

Historian Stephen Sears wrote that, in promoting the campaign, “General Lee was persuasive in his argument that in the Virginia theater the road to opportunity pointed north, and that the way was open. By recapturing the strategic initiative he had surrendered after Sharpsburg, he proposed to take the war right into Yankee heartland. At the least, a success in Pennsylvania would offset any failure at Vicksburg. At the most, a great victory on enemy soil might put peace within Richmond’s reach” (Sears, Gettysburg, 17).

Edwin Coddington, in his study of Gettysburg, stated that “never again would General Lee have as good an opportunity to defeat his old foe under conditions which might bring about the decisive military and political results he so eagerly sought” (Coddington, The Gettysburg Campaign, 259). And Glenn Tucker explained that “it was by all odds the hour to strike. The peace hope was high in the South. President Davis entrusted a carefully prepared letter to Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens, who had been a friend and close political ally of Lincoln in the Thirtieth Congress. The diminutive but resolute Georgian would carry it toward Norfolk, where he would be prepared at the proper moment to ask for passage into the Federal lines, and proceed to Fortress Monroe and Washington if possible. This letter was the peace offer. It would be laid on the White House table when Lee had shattered the Northern army somewhere beyond the Potomac” (Tucker, High Tide at Gettysburg, 26).

The eve of the Gettysburg campaign was perhaps the defining moment of Confederate hope in achieving independence through an offensive strategy. It certainly was the Confederacy’s last hope of achieving this, and denying a long-term federal strategy of victory through attrition. The battle of Gettysburg ended that hope. From then on, Confederate officials and military leaders could rely only upon a stubborn strategic defense to tire the northern population for some measure of independence.

Next, Brass Napoleon writes:
I disagree with the notion that Lee "recognized that Confederate independence could not depend on shuffling troops back and forth across the South..." Lee very much understood and agreed with that aspect of Confederate grand strategy and used it liberally both before and after Gettysburg. He approved Stonewall Jackson's detachment to the Shenandoah Valley in 1862. He detached Longstreet to Petersburg in early 1863. These were both major detachments before Gettysburg. Then he detached Longstreet to Tennessee in the fall of 1863, and detached Jubal Early back to the Shenandoah Valley in the summer of 1864. These were both major detachments after Gettysburg. In all cases, Lee understood that the detached troops would perform a mission, then return to him. And in all cases they (or their remnants) did.
It is important to note that the only examples above that took place before Gettysburg were within Virginia—a movement of troops within the same theater of operations and, thus, not examples of shuffling troops across the South. It is not a coincidence that the first time Lee agreed to send a portion of his army outside of Virginia (Longstreet’s maneuver into Tennessee) was done only after the defeat at Gettysburg. Lee’s detachment of Longstreet to a different theater of war was, in fact, a complete departure from his previous strategy. In April 1863, Lee expressed to Secretary of War James Seddon his fundamental opposition to transferring troops across the Confederacy: “it is not so easy for us to change troops from one department to another as it is for the enemy, and if we rely upon that method we may always be too late” (Stephen Sears, Gettysburg, 3). He maintained that position in the face of direct requests from Confederate officials to reinforce the West. In March 1863, Jefferson Davis asked Lee to “detach a corps for service in the West,” which Lee promptly rebuffed because, he argued, “an unexpected activity has been exhibited by the enemy in Northern Virginia” (Allen C. Guelzo, Gettysburg, 33). In May 1863, Davis and the Confederate cabinet again debated the prospect of detaching part of the Army of Northern Virginia to aid the Confederate armies in the West. Lee personally traveled to Richmond to argue against this proposal. “The adoption of your proposition is hazardous, and it becomes a question between Virginia and the Mississippi,” he argued (Guelzo, Gettysburg, 34). Even Longstreet himself offered to travel west to support Joseph E. Johnston. But Lee refused, telling his subordinate that the Army of Northern Virginia was about to launch an offensive and could “spare nothing from this army to re-enforce the West” (Guelzo, Gettysburg, 35). Before Gettysburg, Lee rejected every appeal to detach part of his army to support Confederate forces outside of Virginia.

Because the Army of Northern Virginia had reined supreme in the Eastern Theater, and because of Lee’s reputation as the best and most successful general of the Confederacy, his insistence on retaining his forces in the East won majority support from Davis and the Confederate cabinet. This lobbying effort was described by historian Allen Guelzo as “the first battle of [Lee's] campaign” (Guelzo, Gettysburg, 35). It was a gamble that pitted the future of the Confederacy upon the potential political and strategic benefits of a brilliant victory in the northeast. That gamble failed, denying Lee the promise of victory and the prestige he had used to dictate the Confederate grand strategy. In short, Longstreet’s men marched into Tennessee in spite of Lee’s vision of the war—but the loss at Gettysburg had taken away his power to prevent it.

My distinguished opponent believes that “clearly the ANV had not been the least bit subdued by its Gettysburg loss.” That is a hard position to take, as the loss at Gettysburg forced Lee, after only three weeks, to reoccupy the defensive area north of Richmond that he so badly wished to avoid. Desertions plagued his army, and his military goals for the remainder of that year had been reduced from a grand northern campaign to simply trying to protect portions Virginia from federal intrusion. We should not mistakenly assume that because Lee’s army remained a dangerous foe after Gettysburg, that nothing about its objectives, its strategy, or its ability to carry out an offensive campaign had changed.

The military situation in the Eastern Theater for the rest of 1863 was, indeed, a new stalemate. But that benefitted the Union cause. Even with a timid George Meade in charge of the Army of Potomac, Lee’s forces in Virginia were effectively nullified, in regards to the overall war effort, for nearly a year. (The most significant engagement in the East during the latter half of 1863 was a decisive Union tactical victory at Bristoe Station—a clear indication of how badly the fortunes of war had turned against Lee in 1863.) This left Lee and the Confederacy strategically on their heels. Lee had launched his campaign precisely because he recognized that his army could not indefinitely defend northern Virginia. He wanted a definitive campaign in the north. Instead, his army was thrust back into its old defensive area, having lost as many as one-third of its number and having failed to achieve virtually any of the anticipated tactical and strategic benefits from the invasion of Pennsylvania.

Lee hoped to rebound from the losses of 1863, but time was his enemy—and Gettysburg had cost him the time, men, and psychological momentum (in both the North and South) that he so desperately needed. Indeed, by the time he rebuilt his army to its spring 1863 size—at least the enlisted ranks, if not competent men to fill command positions—Ulysses S. Grant had arrived in the East, assuring that the Army of Northern Virginia could not regain the initiative.

Let us now look at how the Confederate loss at Gettysburg more directly affected the war in the West. Lee’s argument against reinforcing the West hinged on Confederate success in the East. The defeat in Pennsylvania crippled Lee’s stance against the allocation of Confederate troops to other theaters. In mid-August 1863 Longstreet privately wrote to James Seddon asking to aid Braxton Bragg’s army in Tennessee. In the face of a now subdued Army of Northern Virginia, Longstreet stated that his forces were “not essential” in Virginia, noting (and advocating) for a continued defensive posture by troops in Virginia. Lee remained cool to this idea until early September, when pressure from Davis and an obvious threat from Burnside at Knoxville forced him to acquiesce. Then, Longstreet’s two divisions rushed to Bragg’s army, taking a disjointed path along the Confederacy’s poor rail system, arriving in northwestern Georgia in piecemeal fashion. Nonetheless, these reinforcements bolstered the Confederate Army of Tennessee at a crucial juncture. Even reports that Longstreet’s men were being released to Bragg had panicked William Rosecrans. Ultimately, strengthened by veterans from Longstreet’s divisions, Bragg’s army repulsed the Army of the Cumberland and forced it into a near siege at Chattanooga—a reversal of fortunes in southeast Tennessee. The inaction in Virginia also allowed federal officials to redirect the 11th and 12th Corps from the East to aid the endangered Army of the Cumberland. More importantly, when Ambrose Burnside did not respond quickly enough to orders for his force at Knoxville to reinforce the Union army at Chattanooga, the War Department turned to the inactive Ulysses Grant—still sitting further west—for help.

For weeks the situation around Chattanooga stressed the Lincoln administration, as Rosecrans and his subordinates engaged in a series of accusations. Though much of the negative attention fell on Rosecrans, Lincoln feared that removing that commander could provoke political backlash at the fall gubernatorial and congressional elections (some of the same elections that Lee had hoped to influence with his campaign). Rosecrans was from Ohio, which had a gubernatorial race scheduled for October 1863, pitting notable anti-war Democrat Clement Vallandigham against pro-war Republican John Brough.

In the midst of questions of command within the Army of the Cumberland, Charles Dana—who had been dispatched to observe the military activities in the theater for the War Department—wrote to Edwin Stanton that “if it be decided to change the chief commander also, I would take the liberty of suggesting that some Western general of high rank and great prestige, like Grant, for instance, would be preferable as his successor to anyone who has hitherto commanded in the east alone” (Peter Cozzens, This Terrible Sound, 525).

Following the October elections, in which Republicans easily captured the Ohio governor’s office, and secured several other elected positions, Lincoln moved forward to finally reshape the command structure in Tennessee. He combined the departments of the Tennessee, the Cumberland, and the Ohio, and placed Grant in command of this new Military Division of Mississippi.

It was the Confederate victory at Chickamauga and Army of the Cumberland’s retreat into Chattanooga—achieved through the support of Longstreet’s division, which were only present due to the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg—that led to the downfall of Rosecrans and the ascension of Grant out of the west. Rosecrans’ military and political position in that theater had remained strong up to that point, even in the face of misgivings among other Union generals. Despite Grant’s success at Vicksburg, before October 1863, there was no obvious role for him in eastern Tennessee or the Eastern Theater. (While Grant thanked Charles Dana in August 1863 for his “timely intercession in saving me from going to the Army of the Potomac,” Dana wrote in a response that “there is no probability of any change in the command of the army of the Potomac, nor of any immediately, in that of the army of the Cumberland.” https://books.google.com/books?id=5N2D5Fp928MC&pg=PA148#v=onepage&q&f=false) The entrapment of the Army of the Cumberland and the subsequent crisis in command prompted the Lincoln administration to shake up the entire departmental structure and promote Grant.

My distinguished opponent highlights Grant’s command in the spring of 1864 as the turning point in the East. Yet, Grant’s very place in that command occurred because of developments in the East, both with the repulse of Lee in Pennsylvania and with the Lincoln administration’s total loss of confidence in Rosecrans following Chickamauga. In short, before Grant could carry his confidence, strategies, and tactics to Tennessee and then to Virginia, Lee’s army had to be held in check in the East and Union operations in Tennessee had to degrade to the point where Grant’s path to higher command was opened.

This, in turn, directs our attention to just how little the actual capture of Vicksburg changed Grant’s situation. In his memoirs, Grant himself complained that the War Department squandered the tactical and strategic value of his campaign: “Halleck disapproved of my proposition to go against Mobile, so that I was obliged to settle down and see myself put again on the defensive as I had been a year before in west Tennessee” (Grant, Personal Memoirs [New York: Penguin Books, 1999], 319). Grant petitioned the War Department for an offensive against Mobile in July and August, and then became so frustrated with the inaction that he requested a leave of absence to visit New Orleans. All of these requests were refused.

Worse still, Halleck broke apart Grant’s army in the wake of the victory at Vicksburg. Grant wrote that “the General-in-chief having decided against me, the depletion of an army, which had won a succession of great victories, commenced, as had been the case the year before after the fall of Corinth when the army was sent where it would do the least good” (Grant, Personal Memoirs, 320). Four thousand men, of the 13th Corps, were sent to Nathaniel Banks, forever removed from Grant’s command; the 9th Corps returned to Kentucky; and 5,000 men were routed north to Missouri—on the western side of the Mississippi, within the Trans-Mississippi theater which was clearly not neutralized by the fall of Vicksburg. A portion of his force remained at Natchez in garrison duty, and the remainder primarily chased guerillas and maintained their presence around Vicksburg. The fall of Vicksburg led to no substantial change in military activity in the West nor instant command potential for grant.

While Brass Napoleon points out that Pemberton’s Confederate army was suddenly removed from Mississippi, we see that most of Grant’s army was too. The War Department had nothing for Grant to do except parcel his men out to other ongoing campaigns in the West. Much of that support was directed to the Trans-Mississippi theater, due to the Lincoln administration’s fear that France would intercede into affairs in Texas. Grant later dismissed these concerns, and historians such as Steven Woodworth, in Nothing But Victory, echoed that reasoning, writing that the French “certainly were not impressed by the succession of Union blunders that occupied good troops in the trans-Mississippi theater for the first nine months after the fall of Vicksburg [which] had made the trans-Mississippi strategically irrelevant to the outcome of the war” (Woodworth, Nothing But Victory, 459). Yet, that was the state of affairs for Grant and his army in the wake of Vicksburg.

Only the call from the Lincoln administration to clean up the mess at Chattanooga several months later brought Grant and some of his soldiers back into a significant strategic campaign.

Brass Napoleon is right to see Grant’s command of eastern forces in the spring of 1864 as a crucial point in the American Civil War, leading to the ultimate capitulation of Lee’s army. But we must not pretend that Grant sprang from the parapets of Vicksburg to the shaded trees of the Wilderness in one swoop. His victory at Vicksburg did not assure him command in the east. As noted above, the capture of Vicksburg resulted in the temporary break up of his army and Grant himself sitting quietly, passively, while events to the east continued to dominate matters of command structure and the flow of the war. The Battle of Gettysburg ended the single most important threat the Union faced that year and resulted in new Confederate attention on Tennessee. That in turn bolstered Confederate forces at Chickamauga and ultimately forced the Lincoln administration to supplant Rosecrans, creating a window of opportunity for Grant.

And now I yield the floor to my good friend.
 

brass napoleon

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#16
Thank you, Brass Napoleon. In this, my second supplemental, post I will continue to elaborate my argument on the importance of Gettysburg, which will include a response to some above critiques, as well as offer my own challenges to the value of Vicksburg.
First, I would like to respond to doubt of Confederate momentum in the East in the summer of 1863. The Army of Northern Virginia enjoyed a clear momentum of victory at the tactical level by the spring of 1863, one that had potential to influence the overall outcome of the war. Historian James McPherson notes that Lee’s success during the Seven Days battles in 1862 had thrust the eastern theater to prominence in the war and caught the eye of European observers. He writes, “during the next two months Lee and Jackson’s offensive-defensive strategy came close to winning European diplomatic recognition. Antietam prevented that, but Confederate successes during the next nine months, again mainly in the East, reopened this possibility and so discouraged many Northern voters about the prospect of winning the war that the Copperheads made great gains and threatened the Lincoln administration’s ability to continue the war.” (McPherson, “Failed Southern Strategies,” in With My Face to the Enemy: Perspectives on the Civil War, ed. Robert Cowley, p. 85) In Hallowed Ground, McPherson similarly writes: “In the post-Chancellorsville aura of invincibility, anything seemed possible for the Army of Northern Virginia” (McPherson, Hallowed Ground, 29).
Countless other writers and historians acknowledge the excitement and anticipation among soldiers of Army of Northern Virginia. Many saw the campaign into Pennsylvania as the best, and perhaps last, chance Lee had to influence the outcome of the war. Charles Marshall, quoted by Brass Napoleon in a post above, emphasized an “important consideration was the moral effect of a victory north of the Potomac upon the people of the North. A victory over the Federal Army in Virginia would have tended to strengthen the peace party in the North, only in so far as it would have tended to assure the Northern people that they could not succeed. They would not have been impressed by our consideration for their peace or comfort in keeping the war from their homes and firesides. The copperheads were never weaker than when the Federal armies were successful, and the arguments for peace in the North would have been much more convincing if victory had placed Washington, Baltimore or Philadelphia within our reach than if gained in Virginia. Those of us who have studied Confederate policy during the war know too well the baleful influence upon the energy and efforts of the South, which was exercised by the delusion that the Confederacy could rely upon anything but her deeds for success.” (http://leearchive.wlu.edu/reference/books/marshall2/09.txt)
Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon described the upcoming Pennsylvania campaign as “indispensable to our safety and independence. Allen Guelzo described the anticipation among Lee’s army during its grand review in late May 1863, where “rumors of a new campaign were already flying up and down the review columns, and George Campbell Brown, Ewell’s stepson and staffer, noticed that ‘they are all for [invading] Maryland & Pennsylvania.’ And perhaps, when they did, it would all come to an end. The great battle would be fought, and through the smoke and fire, the way home would finally be open, and there would be peace, independence, and plenty—but especially peace” (Guelzo, Gettysburg, 45-46).
Historian Stephen Sears wrote that, in promoting the campaign, “General Lee was persuasive in his argument that in the Virginia theater the road to opportunity pointed north, and that the way was open. By recapturing the strategic initiative he had surrendered after Sharpsburg, he proposed to take the war right into Yankee heartland. At the least, a success in Pennsylvania would offset any failure at Vicksburg. At the most, a great victory on enemy soil might put peace within Richmond’s reach” (Sears, Gettysburg, 17).
Edwin Coddington, in his study of Gettysburg, stated that “never again would General Lee have as good an opportunity to defeat his old foe under conditions which might bring about the decisive military and political results he so eagerly sought” (Coddington, The Gettysburg Campaign, 259). And Glenn Tucker explained that “it was by all odds the hour to strike. The peace hope was high in the South. President Davis entrusted a carefully prepared letter to Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens, who had been a friend and close political ally of Lincoln in the Thirtieth Congress. The diminutive but resolute Georgian would carry it toward Norfolk, where he would be prepared at the proper moment to ask for passage into the Federal lines, and proceed to Fortress Monroe and Washington if possible. This letter was the peace offer. It would be laid on the White House table when Lee had shattered the Northern army somewhere beyond the Potomac” (Tucker, High Tide at Gettysburg, 26).
The eve of the Gettysburg campaign was perhaps the defining moment of Confederate hope in achieving independence through an offensive strategy. It certainly was the Confederacy’s last hope of achieving this, and denying a long-term federal strategy of victory through attrition. The battle of Gettysburg ended that hope. From then on, Confederate officials and military leaders could rely only upon a stubborn strategic defense to tire the northern population for some measure of independence.
Yes, there can be no doubt that the ANV was experiencing an extreme case of "irrational exuberance" after the back-to-back victories of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Lee himself said, just the month before the Battle of Gettsyburg, "There never were such men in an army before. They will go anywhere and do anything if properly led." But we shouldn't accept such over-optimism as a prognosticator of what might be, when more often than not it is the harbinger of impending doom (as Lincoln himself noted when he heard such talk from his own commanding generals).

The idea that the ANV was going to "shatter the Northern army" was nothing but a pipe dream. Even Lee's greatest victories in Virginia - Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Second Manassas - had not "shattered the Northern army". The army still remained - wounded but intact, and Lee was no more able to destroy it than Meade was able to destroy the ANV after Gettysburg. If Lee couldn't "shatter" the Northern army on his own home turf, what reason is there to believe he could do it on his enemy's home turf, where Lee himself would be facing many of the same disadvantages that Burnside, Hooker and Pope did?

I have seen no indication that Lee himself expected to be able to "shatter" the Army of the Potomac. We have already seen Charles Marshall's explanation that Lee's "great object" was to defend Richmond, and that "the only way of defending the city successfully was by occupying the Federal Army at a distance from the capital." Beyond that, he asserted that "arguments for peace in the North would have been much more convincing if victory had placed Washington, Baltimore or Philadelphia within our reach." But even this (and I'll have more to say about these prospects later in this post) is a far cry from "shattering" the Army of the Potomac and winning the war in one fell swoop.

That Marshall was not mistaken in his assessment of Lee's strategy is corroborated by General John B. Gordon:

"The whole country in the Wilderness and around Chancellorsville, where both Hooker's and Lee's armies had done some foraging, and thence to the Potomac, was well-nigh exhausted... How to subsist, therefore, was becoming a serious question. The hungry hosts of Israel did not look across Jordan to the vine-clad hills of Canaan with more longing eyes than did Lee's braves contemplate the yellow grain-fields of Pennsylvania beyond the Potomac.

Again, to defend Richmond by threatening Washington and Baltimore and Philadelphia was perhaps the most promising purpose of the Confederate invasion. Incidentally, it was hoped that a defeat of the Union army in territory so contiguous to these great cities would send gold to such a premium as to cause financial panic in the commercial centres, and induce the great business interests to demand that the war should cease. But the hoped-for victory, with its persuasive influence, did not materialize. Indeed, the presence of Lee's army in Pennsylvania seemed to arouse the North to still greater efforts, as the presence of the Union armies in the South had intensified, if possible, the decision of her people to resist to the last extremity."


- General John Brown Gordon, Reminiscences of the Civil War

https://books.google.com/books?id=7mIUAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA139&lpg=PA139

The main objective of Lee's foray into Pennsylvania was "to defend Richmond" by keeping the AoP as far away from Richmond as possible, while allowing his troops to forage off of Northern foodstocks instead of the depleted foodstocks of northern Virginia. The possibility of encouraging Northern peace proponents was "promising", although as Gordon noted the presence of Confederate troops on Northern soil actually had the opposite effect. But the idea that the Army of Northern Virginia would shatter the Army of the Potomac and return to Virginia with a signed armistice was the fantasy of homesick soldiers, future novelists, and producers of 9 hour epic movies. I've seen no evidence that it was either Lee's objective or his expectation.

Next, Brass Napoleon writes:
It is important to note that the only examples above that took place before Gettysburg were within Virginia—a movement of troops within the same theater of operations and, thus, not examples of shuffling troops across the South. It is not a coincidence that the first time Lee agreed to send a portion of his army outside of Virginia (Longstreet’s maneuver into Tennessee) was done only after the defeat at Gettysburg. Lee’s detachment of Longstreet to a different theater of war was, in fact, a complete departure from his previous strategy. In April 1863, Lee expressed to Secretary of War James Seddon his fundamental opposition to transferring troops across the Confederacy: “it is not so easy for us to change troops from one department to another as it is for the enemy, and if we rely upon that method we may always be too late” (Stephen Sears, Gettysburg, 3). He maintained that position in the face of direct requests from Confederate officials to reinforce the West. In March 1863, Jefferson Davis asked Lee to “detach a corps for service in the West,” which Lee promptly rebuffed because, he argued, “an unexpected activity has been exhibited by the enemy in Northern Virginia” (Allen C. Guelzo, Gettysburg, 33). In May 1863, Davis and the Confederate cabinet again debated the prospect of detaching part of the Army of Northern Virginia to aid the Confederate armies in the West. Lee personally traveled to Richmond to argue against this proposal. “The adoption of your proposition is hazardous, and it becomes a question between Virginia and the Mississippi,” he argued (Guelzo, Gettysburg, 34). Even Longstreet himself offered to travel west to support Joseph E. Johnston. But Lee refused, telling his subordinate that the Army of Northern Virginia was about to launch an offensive and could “spare nothing from this army to re-enforce the West” (Guelzo, Gettysburg, 35). Before Gettysburg, Lee rejected every appeal to detach part of his army to support Confederate forces outside of Virginia.
Because the Army of Northern Virginia had reined supreme in the Eastern Theater, and because of Lee’s reputation as the best and most successful general of the Confederacy, his insistence on retaining his forces in the East won majority support from Davis and the Confederate cabinet. This lobbying effort was described by historian Allen Guelzo as “the first battle of [Lee's] campaign” (Guelzo, Gettysburg, 35). It was a gamble that pitted the future of the Confederacy upon the potential political and strategic benefits of a brilliant victory in the northeast. That gamble failed, denying Lee the promise of victory and the prestige he had used to dictate the Confederate grand strategy. In short, Longstreet’s men marched into Tennessee in spite of Lee’s vision of the war—but the loss at Gettysburg had taken away his power to prevent it.
It's important to keep the Confederate chain of command in mind here. Robert E. Lee at this time was commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, and his jurisdiction fell entirely within Virginia. So Lee could not shuttle troops from his own department to other departments, even if he wanted to. That was the domain of the Commander in Chief, Jefferson Davis. But both Lee and Davis clearly understood the importance of the strategy of concentrating troops at "points of collision", as did Lincoln himself. This was THE strategy for an outmanned army covering a large territory. And both Lee and Davis utilized that strategy frequently within their respective domains, both before and after Gettysburg. Of course when Davis wanted to shuttle troops from Lee's department to other departments, Lee consistently objected, as would be natural for any general to do.

The fact that Davis and Seddon overruled Lee's objection to Longstreet going West in the late summer of 1863 was not because Lee had lost his "power to prevent it", it was a simple recognition of the dire emergency that existed in the Western theater. Lee himself had just as much influence and power as ever (and in fact would eventually be named commander of all Confederate forces). But the loss of Vicksburg, combined with the loss of Chattanooga (which fell partially because many of Bragg's troops had been shuttled to Vicksburg, only to be surrendered there) had created an emergency situation.

It was clear that Longstreet's troops weren't needed in Virginia at this time, as General Meade was showing no signs of any aggressive movements against the ANV or Richmond and was content to let his army recover from its own severe Gettysburg wounds. The situation would have been no different had the ANV won at Gettysburg. Lee's was not an occupying army and it would still have to return to Virginia, where Lee would have sat and awaited the results of the Northern elections that he hoped his victory would influence. But in the meantime Longstreet's troops were of more use elsewhere.

My distinguished opponent believes that “clearly the ANV had not been the least bit subdued by its Gettysburg loss.” That is a hard position to take, as the loss at Gettysburg forced Lee, after only three weeks, to reoccupy the defensive area north of Richmond that he so badly wished to avoid. Desertions plagued his army, and his military goals for the remainder of that year had been reduced from a grand northern campaign to simply trying to protect portions Virginia from federal intrusion. We should not mistakenly assume that because Lee’s army remained a dangerous foe after Gettysburg, that nothing about its objectives, its strategy, or its ability to carry out an offensive campaign had changed.
The military situation in the Eastern Theater for the rest of 1863 was, indeed, a new stalemate. But that benefitted the Union cause. Even with a timid George Meade in charge of the Army of Potomac, Lee’s forces in Virginia were effectively nullified, in regards to the overall war effort, for nearly a year. (The most significant engagement in the East during the latter half of 1863 was a decisive Union tactical victory at Bristoe Station—a clear indication of how badly the fortunes of war had turned against Lee in 1863.) This left Lee and the Confederacy strategically on their heels. Lee had launched his campaign precisely because he recognized that his army could not indefinitely defend northern Virginia. He wanted a definitive campaign in the north. Instead, his army was thrust back into its old defensive area, having lost as many as one-third of its number and having failed to achieve virtually any of the anticipated tactical and strategic benefits from the invasion of Pennsylvania.
Lee hoped to rebound from the losses of 1863, but time was his enemy—and Gettysburg had cost him the time, men, and psychological momentum (in both the North and South) that he so desperately needed. Indeed, by the time he rebuilt his army to its spring 1863 size—at least the enlisted ranks, if not competent men to fill command positions—Ulysses S. Grant had arrived in the East, assuring that the Army of Northern Virginia could not regain the initiative.
I have to disagree with the assertion that Lee "failed to achieve virtually any of the anticipated tactical and strategic benefits from the invasion of Pennsylvania." In fact he was very successful in achieving what Charles Marshall called his "great object" - of removing the enemy from the presence of Richmond and interrupting any plans for attacking towards that city. He had seized the initiative and put his opponent on the defensive. He also succeeded in what General Gordon described as having his army "subsist" on "the yellow grain-fields of Pennsylvania ." These were his main objectives, albeit achieved at an enormous price.

Of course his ancillary hope that he might encourage the Northern peace movement backfired, but as General Gordon noted, this was in large part because of the very "presence of Lee's army in Pennsylvania" which "seemed to arouse the North to still greater efforts." It's very possible that a Confederate victory at Gettysburg might have backfired even harder in that regard.

Speaking of the peace process, my opponent has noted the fall elections of 1863, with a specific reference to the Ohio gubernatorial election between John Brough, a War Democrat turned Republican, and Clement Vallandigham, a Peace Democrat. I would like to point out here the virtual futility of Lee's hope to influence this election towards a victory for the peace candidate. Vallandigham was running his campaign from exile in Canada. He lost by a whopping 100,000 votes in an election where 500,000 votes were cast. (Source) A map of the returns by county will show just how lopsided this election really was. It is hard to conceive that anything Lee could have realistically accomplished at Gettysburg could have changed the result of this election.

Brass Napoleon is right to see Grant’s command of eastern forces in the spring of 1864 as a crucial point in the American Civil War, leading to the ultimate capitulation of Lee’s army. But we must not pretend that Grant sprang from the parapets of Vicksburg to the shaded trees of the Wilderness in one swoop.
(I've had to condense my opponent's last point down, because this post has become longer than the forum editor will accept. So I've condensed it to what I believe is the salient point, quoted above.)

In fact, as we have seen in Grant's correspondence with Charles Dana, it was indeed the Lincoln Administration's intent to bring Grant from Vicksburg to the Army of the Potomac in one swoop, and it was Grant's own reluctance that put a temporary halt to it. But in spite of the fact that the Lincoln Administration mishandled Grant's army after its Vicksburg victory, the eyes of the President were on Grant.

Lincoln was every bit as much frustrated with Rosecrans as he was with Meade, even before the Chickamauga debacle. If Grant preferred to stay in the West, then Lincoln was ultimately content to let him stay there for a while and get Rosecrans' department in order. But in the long run, one way or the other, the hero of Vicksburg would be coming to the East so that the lessons of Vicksburg could be applied to both theaters simultaneously.


This concludes my rebuttal of Scotsman's second supplemental post, and in my next post I'll explain exactly how the lessons of Vicksburg were applied. (But it might take a day or two. This has become quite time-consuming!)
 
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brass napoleon

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#17
Third Supplemental Post

In this post I'm going to expand on the last remaining point from my opening statement:

The Vicksburg campaign gave Union generals opportunities to develop and perfect new strategies that they would employ later in the war to bring the Confederacy to its knees.
I'm going to focus here on two critical military operations that occurred in the closing months of the war that were directly influenced by lessons learned from the Vicksburg campaign. These were Sherman's March across Georgia in the Fall of 1864 and Grant's crossing of the James River in June, 1864, both of which served to put the Confederacy on its deathbed.

When Grant first proposed his plan of crossing the Mississippi River beneath Vicksburg and cutting loose from his base to come up on that city from its rear, one of his chief lieutenants, General William T. Sherman, wrote home to his wife: "I look upon the whole thing as one of the most hazardous and desperate moves of this or any war... I have no faith in the whole plan." (Source) But by the time they had reached the Big Black River, Sherman had had a complete change of heart about Grant's plan:

Yes, it was Grant's plan, and nobody else's. I objected to it - did not 'protest', as has been said - but tried to dissuade him from it as too big and risky. But Grant stuck to it, nevertheless, and now deserves the credit for it... After we cut loose from our base, I never saw him again until we reached the Big Black. There we halted to rebuild a bridge, that the Rebs had destroyed, and I lay down in a contraband's cabin near the bridge-head to get a wink of sleep while the work went on, when about midnight Grant rode up with some of his staff, and I rushed out bareheaded, and taking him by the hand said, 'General Grant, I want to congratulate you on the success of your great plan. And it is "your plan," too, by heaven, and nobody else's. For nobody else believed in it!'

Source: https://books.google.com/books?id=arkfAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA140&lpg=PA140

The great irony here, is that in the Fall of 1864, General Sherman, then in command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, would propose an even more audacious plan to Grant: cutting loose from his own base in Atlanta and living off the land in a march through the heart of enemy territory to Savannah. Now it would be Grant's turn to be skeptical.

But Vicksburg had proven the idea to be workable. It started with Colonel Benjamin Grierson, who Grant commissioned to conduct a bold 600 mile long raid through enemy territory in Mississippi, destroying infrastructure as he went and diverting Pemberton's attention from the movements of Grant's main force. The raid was a tremendous success, that Sherman would call "the most brilliant expedition of the war", and of which Grant would say: "It was Grierson who first set the example of what might be done in the interior of the enemy's country without any base from which to draw supplies." (Source) Grant himself would follow this model just days later when he cut loose of his base at Grand Gulf and marched his army into the Mississippi interior. And Sherman of course was right there through the whole process, absorbing it all, until he rushed out bareheaded to congratulate Grant on his success. A few months later, Sherman would attempt the tactic himself, in a march from Vicksburg to Meridian, Mississippi, destroying infrastructure as he went. And all of this, of course, would be a precursor to his infamous March to the Sea.

Grant too learned from the Vicksburg Campaign. In my last post I talked at length about how he refused to retreat from Lee at the Battle of the Wilderness, and instead continued to move forward. It was the beginning of a brutal 40 day period of relentless contact with the enemy, inching closer and closer to Richmond, and refusing Lee any opportunity to execute his "grand object" of "occupying the Federal Army at a distance from the capital and preventing the formation of a siege." But with Lee's army showing no sign of breaking, and with the AoP suffering tremendous losses to this still very formidable foe, Grant ultimately decided that an attack at the back door, like at Vicksburg, would be the only practical course.

To do this he would have to cross the James River and get to Petersburg. Historian and biographer Jean Edward Smith describes this daunting task:

Instead, Grant sought a breakthrough: to get the drop on Lee by doing what he least expected. For the past two weeks Grant had been mulling over his strategy at Vicksburg. On May 25 he had instructed Halleck to ship every pontoon he could lay his hands on to Fortress Monroe. It was now time to put that plan into effect. He would disengage at Cold Harbor, swiftly take the Army of the Potomac across the James, seize Petersburg and its hub of railroads linking Richmond with the South, strike Richmond from its soft underbelly, and force Lee into the open. The risks were enormous. What Grant contemplated involved breaking off contact with a powerful opponent along a seven-mile trench line, with rebel revetments sometimes no more than forty yards away; stealthily withdrawing across the Chickahominy swamps to a crossing site on the James during which time the army would be vulnerable to attack; and crossing a powerful tidal river half again the width of the Mississippi below Vicksburg, during which the army would be even more vulnerable. Grant has often been credited with little imagination. Yet his decision to cross the James ranks with his crossing of the Mississippi as a tactical breakthrough. Crossing the Mississippi paved the way for victory in the West; crossing the James set the stage for Lee's ultimate defeat.

- Jean Edward Smith, Grant

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/smith-grant.html

Grant instructed Horace Porter (mentioned above), and Cyrus Comstock (who he had brought with him from the West, where he had been promoted to Chief Engineer of the Army of the Tennessee for "gallant and meritorious service" at Vicksburg), to stake out a crossing on the James River:

"You will then select the best point on the river for the crossing, taking into consideration the necessity of choosing a place which will give the Army of the Potomac as short a line of march as practicable, and which will at the same time be far enough down-stream to allow for a sufficient distance between it and the present position of Lee's army to prevent the chances of our being attacked successfully while in the act of crossing. You should be guided also by considerations of the width of the river at the point of crossing, and of the character of the country by which it will have to be approached."

- Ulysses S. Grant

Source: Horace Porter, Campaigning with Grant

It was Vicksburg all over again. To help cover the movement, he detached cavalry, like he had done at Vicksburg, to create a diversion, sending Phil Sheridan west. But he also kept a division of cavalry at hand, under the command of James Wilson, who had first come to Grant's attention as an engineer at Vicksburg, to screen the movements of his troops. Adding to the deception, he feinted towards Richmond with General Warren, just as he had with Sherman north of Vicksburg.

The crossing of the James was a much more difficult maneuver than the crossing of the Mississippi at Vicksburg, however, involving as it did over 100,000 troops and the need for absolute secrecy and speed, which weren't as essential at Vicksburg. But Grant's experience at Vicksburg gave him the knowledge, the tools and the confidence to pull it off. And although it didn't capture Petersburg outright (due in large part to the hesitation of one of Grant's subordinates), it did result in the "formation of a siege" that Lee so greatly feared. The bulldog had successfully released Lee's leg and now had him by the neck. Building on his Vicksburg siege experience, there would be no letting go until Lee surrendered.

And that concludes my final supplemental post. Back to you, Scotsman!
 
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#18
Thank you Brass Napoleon, for your third (and I believe last) supplemental post. For my last supplemental post, I will begin by responding to some of the recent critiques.

First, Brass Napoleon warns that “we shouldn’t accept [Lee’s] over-optimism as a prognosticator of what might be.” I agree that we must be careful with “what ifs” in historical discussions. We do not know what might have been. But, we do know that the American Civil War was, ultimately, a battle of wills. Conduct of the Civil War relied upon optimism. Democratic populations—in northern states and southern states—backed the war only as far as they had optimism that they would, and that they could, win it. The biggest, mightiest army in the world cannot win a war when its people and its government lose the will to fight before its weaker and smaller opponent. We can look to the British Crown’s failure to hold the colonies during the Revolutionary War, or the United States’ difficulty saving South Vietnam to find such examples.

The Confederacy could not literally destroy the federal armies. And Sherman’s March through Georgia, Sheridan’s burning of the Shenandoah Valley, Grant’s persistent attacks against Lee’s army, and every other Union campaign could not kill every Confederate soldier, destroy the entire southern landscape, or wipe out the Confederacy’s ability to wage war. Instead, these very destructive and very bloody acts were designed to make the other side throw in the towel. All of the military maneuvers, all of the destruction, and all of the deaths were part of this contest to see which side broke first.

Indeed, it was optimism, not material supremacy or superior manpower, that allowed Lee’s army to repeatedly defeat the Army of the Potomac. As pointed out in this thread, the Army of Northern Virginia’s casualties during many of their tactical and strategic victories were statistically higher than that of the Union force. Yet, the Confederates won these engagements because they had retained the field and maintained their fighting morale. We see this time and again in previous battles – McClellan lost the Seven Days Campaign because he chose to fall back in the face of aggressive Confederate attacks (even when he had the tactical advantage) and Hooker retreated at Chancellorsville after losing the will to fight following Jackson’s aggressive flanking maneuver.

As such, Lee did not expect to literally “shatter” the Army of the Potomac during his campaign into Pennsylvania. My argument is not based upon any sort of likelihood that Lee could or would destroy the Army of the Potomac. Instead, Confederates hoped that a stunning tactical victory—or even better, a series of victories—on the scale of Second Manassas or Chancellorsville on northern soil would strike a greater blow to northern morale than any defensive victory deep inside of Virginia.

And, as noted before, it was a gamble. It was a doubling down on the Army of Northern Virginia’s successes to achieve proportionally higher dividends at the peak of Confederate hopes in the East and a crisis in the West. It was not an “all in” poker move, but it was the last time a major army—and in fact, the most important army of the Confederacy—sought to single-handedly manipulate the overall war effort and, possibly, change Union war policy.

(On that note, Brass Napoleon highlights that the political elections of 1863 resulted in humiliating defeats for Copperheads such as Clement Vallandigham, suggesting that “it is hard to conceive that anything Lee could have realistically accomplished at Gettysburg could have changed the result of this election.” Of course, Vallandigham’s political defeat took place after Lee lost at Gettysburg, so the election results do not reflect what northern public sentiment would have been in the face of a Confederate victory in Pennsylvania. Further, we know that Lincoln believed the Copperhead threat during the fall 1863 elections was serious enough to influence some of his policies and his treatment of General Rosecrans.)

The fact that Lee’s main goal was to protect Richmond during his tenure as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia does not negate the importance or presence of these larger, more comprehensive, objectives during the maneuver northward. The Pennsylvania campaign was quite ambitious, but was approved by Jefferson Davis and other Confederate officials because it still protected Richmond even if it did not achieve its loftier goals. This matter of the immediate versus comprehensive objectives of Lee’s Pennsylvania campaign reminds me of a similar debate regarding the Emancipation Proclamation. We occasionally see people argue that the EP was designed to prevent impending foreign intervention, while others argue that it was intended to weaken Confederate infrastructure through federal emancipation of southern slaves, while others say it was a moral cause designed to begin the permanent end of slavery in the United States, while still others argue in favor of some other objective. The fact was that they were all part of it. Bold political and military campaigns target both short-term immediacies and long-term effects. With the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln won. With the Pennsylvania campaign, Lee lost.

The fact that Davis and Seddon overruled Lee's objection to Longstreet going West in the late summer of 1863 was not because Lee had lost his "power to prevent it", it was a simple recognition of the dire emergency that existed in the Western theater. Lee himself had just as much influence and power as ever (and in fact would eventually be named commander of all Confederate forces). But the loss of Vicksburg, combined with the loss of Chattanooga (which fell partially because many of Bragg's troops had been shuttled to Vicksburg, only to be surrendered there) had created an emergency situation.
I think we can agree that the Confederate situation in the West was quite dire when Lee convinced the Confederate cabinet to support his offensive campaign in May-June 1863. The biggest difference between Confederate prospects in June 1863 compared to September 1863 was the situation in the East. During the June period, Lee had an optimistic and motivated army ready for an offensive campaign. By September, his army was recovering from its heaviest battlefield losses of the war to date, and from atrocious desertion problems--all of which came from the loss at Gettysburg. His army was unable to mount an effective offensive campaign and Confederate officials were no longer willing to abide by his protestations to keep all of his army in Virginia. The failure at Gettysburg had robbed Lee of his momentum and of his army’s integrity, for it was finally broken apart for the benefit of a different theater of the war. That, altogether, reduced the importance of the Eastern Theater for the first and only time of the four years of fighting—a key time when Grant was emerging as the hero of the Union in the West. And the redirection of attention and troops from the East to the West, because Lee was stopped at Gettysburg, strengthened Bragg’s army and led to the most important Confederate victory in the West, a victory that changed the dynamic of the war in Tennessee.

Regarding Grant’s promotion and relocation to the East, certainly his victory at Vicksburg caught the president’s eye. And there was talk about moving him to the Army of the Potomac. But the fact is that his capture of Vicksburg did not result in an automatic transfer to the East. Instead, Grant remained in the far western theater, sitting idle while his army was broken apart to assist other campaigns and other commanders. Lincoln kept Rosecrans in command of the beleaguered Army of the Cumberland until October – a full three months after Grant’s victory in Mississippi. Grant’s success at Chattanooga cemented his reputation as the most victorious Union general—a popularity all the more sensationalized due to the relative, but conspicuous, inactivity in the Eastern Theater following the Battle of Gettysburg. Overall, Grant’s path to overall command of Union armies advanced as a direct response to the military shakeup in Tennessee, which itself had been heavily influenced by the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg.

Finally, I wish to add one point of critique to my opponent’s last supplemental post, which focuses on Grant’s crossing of the James River. Brass Napoleon credits Grant’s experience during the Vicksburg Campaign with giving “him the knowledge, the tools and the confidence to pull it off.” Undoubtedly Grant looked to his Vicksburg campaign for inspiration during the 1864 Overland Campaign. And the crossing of the James was an important part of his 1864 maneuvers. But, crossing rivers was a standard strategic and tactical part of several Civil War campaigns. Indeed, Grant’s army crossed the Rappahannock, the North Anna, the Pamunkey, and the Chickahominy Rivers before it reached the James. And, as Brass Napoleon notes, Lee’s forces managed to block the route into Petersburg before Grant could capture it. It took Union forces nine months to extricate Lee’s army from Petersburg. Thus, the rush across the James—even if it was inspired by the campaign of Vicksburg—technically failed, for it did not result in the immediate capture of Petersburg. It took a virtual siege to defeat the Army of Northern Virginia’s hold on Petersburg and Richmond, something done as a slow and grinding alternative to the strategic checkmate that he may have envisioned from a surprise river crossing. And, as Grant's army sat in the trenches of Petersburg in the sweltering Virginia sun, Union morale began to sag--so much so that Lincoln feared for his reelection. Grant had to give Sherman much credit, for it was the capture of Atlanta that sparked a timely boost in northern morale, ensuring a Republican presidential victory in 1864. In that way, it was not the crossing of the James that doomed Petersburg, but Sherman's success in Georgia.

With that I will turn it back over to Brass Napoleon.
 

brass napoleon

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#19
Thanks, Scotsman. In this rebuttal, I'll take a detailed look at your last post:

First, Brass Napoleon warns that “we shouldn’t accept [Lee’s] over-optimism as a prognosticator of what might be.” I agree that we must be careful with “what ifs” in historical discussions. We do not know what might have been. But, we do know that the American Civil War was, ultimately, a battle of wills. Conduct of the Civil War relied upon optimism. Democratic populations—in northern states and southern states—backed the war only as far as they had optimism that they would, and that they could, win it. The biggest, mightiest army in the world cannot win a war when its people and its government lose the will to fight before its weaker and smaller opponent. We can look to the British Crown’s failure to hold the colonies during the Revolutionary War, or the United States’ difficulty saving South Vietnam to find such examples.

The Confederacy could not literally destroy the federal armies. And Sherman’s March through Georgia, Sheridan’s burning of the Shenandoah Valley, Grant’s persistent attacks against Lee’s army, and every other Union campaign could not kill every Confederate soldier, destroy the entire southern landscape, or wipe out the Confederacy’s ability to wage war. Instead, these very destructive and very bloody acts were designed to make the other side throw in the towel. All of the military maneuvers, all of the destruction, and all of the deaths were part of this contest to see which side broke first.
Exactly. And look at how much destruction and desolation the South endured before it finally broke. The idea that one battle won on Northern soil would cause the North to break speaks very little for Northern resolve. In both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 the British went so far as to occupy the American capitol, and yet the resolve to fight continued. There's no reason to believe that the occupation of a cemetery and a few lonely hills in rural Pennsylvania would have a different outcome.

Indeed, it was optimism, not material supremacy or superior manpower, that allowed Lee’s army to repeatedly defeat the Army of the Potomac. As pointed out in this thread, the Army of Northern Virginia’s casualties during many of their tactical and strategic victories were statistically higher than that of the Union force. Yet, the Confederates won these engagements because they had retained the field and maintained their fighting morale. We see this time and again in previous battles – McClellan lost the Seven Days Campaign because he chose to fall back in the face of aggressive Confederate attacks (even when he had the tactical advantage) and Hooker retreated at Chancellorsville after losing the will to fight following Jackson’s aggressive flanking maneuver.

As such, Lee did not expect to literally “shatter” the Army of the Potomac during his campaign into Pennsylvania. My argument is not based upon any sort of likelihood that Lee could or would destroy the Army of the Potomac. Instead, Confederates hoped that a stunning tactical victory—or even better, a series of victories—on the scale of Second Manassas or Chancellorsville on northern soil would strike a greater blow to northern morale than any defensive victory deep inside of Virginia.
And yet at no time in his prior career with the ANV, as brilliant as that career was, did Lee ever string together "a series of victories" in major battles more than two in a row, whether on his home ground or on enemy ground. So I don't see any reason to believe he could do that in Pennsylvania in 1863, when he was as far away from his home ground as he had ever been in the war. Even a "stunning tactical victory" at Gettysburg alone would make a record-breaking streak, and while he had certainly achieved stunning tactical victories before, they had never gained him anything more than possession of the battlefield. Possession of the cemetery and hills south of Gettysburg would do nothing for him strategically. He would either have to withdraw back to Virginia, taking his booty with him, or try for the heretofore impossible - stringing together that "series of victories" in enemy territory.

And, as noted before, it was a gamble. It was a doubling down on the Army of Northern Virginia’s successes to achieve proportionally higher dividends at the peak of Confederate hopes in the East and a crisis in the West. It was not an “all in” poker move, but it was the last time a major army—and in fact, the most important army of the Confederacy—sought to single-handedly manipulate the overall war effort and, possibly, change Union war policy.

(On that note, Brass Napoleon highlights that the political elections of 1863 resulted in humiliating defeats for Copperheads such as Clement Vallandigham, suggesting that “it is hard to conceive that anything Lee could have realistically accomplished at Gettysburg could have changed the result of this election.” Of course, Vallandigham’s political defeat took place after Lee lost at Gettysburg, so the election results do not reflect what northern public sentiment would have been in the face of a Confederate victory in Pennsylvania. Further, we know that Lincoln believed the Copperhead threat during the fall 1863 elections was serious enough to influence some of his policies and his treatment of General Rosecrans.)

The fact that Lee’s main goal was to protect Richmond during his tenure as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia does not negate the importance or presence of these larger, more comprehensive, objectives during the maneuver northward. The Pennsylvania campaign was quite ambitious, but was approved by Jefferson Davis and other Confederate officials because it still protected Richmond even if it did not achieve its loftier goals. This matter of the immediate versus comprehensive objectives of Lee’s Pennsylvania campaign reminds me of a similar debate regarding the Emancipation Proclamation. We occasionally see people argue that the EP was designed to prevent impending foreign intervention, while others argue that it was intended to weaken Confederate infrastructure through federal emancipation of southern slaves, while others say it was a moral cause designed to begin the permanent end of slavery in the United States, while still others argue in favor of some other objective. The fact was that they were all part of it. Bold political and military campaigns target both short-term immediacies and long-term effects. With the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln won. With the Pennsylvania campaign, Lee lost.
I agree that Lee's "main goal", as you noted, was to protect Richmond, and the hope was also to have a "long-term" effect on the Northern peace movement. And even without a victory at Gettysburg, Lee did achieve his main goal. But the question is just how much long-term effect could a victory at Gettsyburg have on the peace movement, and how long would it take to develop. I don't see how any realistic victory at Gettysburg could have had any long-term effect prior to the Fall elections of 1863, by which time Lee would be back in Virginia basking in the glory of his victory and awaiting the election returns. But we must remember that this was an off-year election, and the Peace candidates had a tremendous disadvantage to overcome. I think it's at least as likely that Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania would have undermined the Northern peace movement as given it the tremendous boost it would have needed in order to influence war policy. Even Jubal Early's invasion of Maryland in 1864, just four months before the critical elections of that year, couldn't bring the Peace candidates a victory even though he actually won a battle on Union soil, burned a Northern city, and advanced right up to the outskirts of Washington, D.C. As Lee himself wrote to Jefferson Davis in February, 1864: "We are not in a condition, and never have been, in my opinion, to invade the enemy's country with a prospect of permanent benefit." (My bold. Source)


I think we can agree that the Confederate situation in the West was quite dire when Lee convinced the Confederate cabinet to support his offensive campaign in May-June 1863. The biggest difference between Confederate prospects in June 1863 compared to September 1863 was the situation in the East.
Well, no, I have to disagree with this one. In May-June of 1863, Vicksburg, which Jefferson Davis called "the nail-head that held the South's two halves together", was still in Confederate hands, and both Pemberton and Johnston were being reinforced with troops to help secure it. In May-June of 1863, General Rosecrans was still 50 miles away from Chattanooga. But by September of 1863, both Chattanooga and the nail-head of the Confederacy had fallen. 30,000 Confederate troops were removed directly from the theater, and another 50,000 troops in the Trans-Mississippi were forever isolated from rendering any assistance. The Confederate outlook in the West was an absolute disaster in September of 1863 compared to what it had been in May-June.

In the East, on the other hand, Lee's main objective, to defend Richmond, was as secure in September with Meade's inactivity as it was in May-June with Hooker's defeat. No ground had been lost during that interval. And although Lee had lost a large number of fine soldiers, Meade had lost almost as many.

During the June period, Lee had an optimistic and motivated army ready for an offensive campaign. By September, his army was recovering from its heaviest battlefield losses of the war to date, and from atrocious desertion problems--all of which came from the loss at Gettysburg.
Let's take a closer look at the subject of desertion in Lee's army. Here's what historian Gary W. Gallagher said about Lee's desertions before, during, and after the northern invasion - except he's not talking about the Pennsylvania invasion of 1863 here, he's talking about the Maryland invasion of 1862:

The morale of the Army of Northern Virginia as it embarked on its raid deserves closer scrutiny than it has received from historians. Nearly every writer dwells on the massive amount of straggling. An army that crossed the Potomac with 50,000 to 55,000 men mustered fewer than 40,000 bayonets at Sharpsburg on September 17. The loss of so many of his men chastened Lee. "Our great embarassment," he wrote Davis on September 13, "is the reduction in our ranks by straggling, which it seems impossible to prevent with our present regimental officers. Our ranks are much diminished - I fear from a third to one-half of the original number"... Stern warnings, hangings (especially in Jackson's command), and other harsh measures failed to stop the flood of soldiers dropping away from their units...

Lee himself admitted to Davis on September 21 (when the army was back in Virginia) that his force "remained greatly paralyzed by the loss to its ranks of many stragglers. I have taken every means in my power from the beginning to correct this evil, which has increased rather than diminished." Many soldiers never entered Maryland, stated Lee, while others who did move north "kept aloof". "The stream has not lessened since crossing the Potomac [recrossing the river back into Virginia]," Lee concluded, "though the cavalry has been constantly employed in suppressing it." What Lee described was more than straggling - it was straggling in tandem with large-scale desertion. Desertion is an ugly word that few who have studied the Maryland campaign have been willing to use, but desertion it was that kept men away from their units during and after the campaign.


- Gary W. Gallagher

Source: https://books.google.com/books?id=lebjzP649JUC&pg=PA10

Again, this is the Maryland invasion of 1862 he's talking about. So desertions before, during, and after the Gettysburg campaign of 1863 were nothing new. The same old same old. The status quo ante.

His army was unable to mount an effective offensive campaign and Confederate officials were no longer willing to abide by his protestations to keep all of his army in Virginia. The failure at Gettysburg had robbed Lee of his momentum and of his army’s integrity, for it was finally broken apart for the benefit of a different theater of the war.
But the integrity of Lee's army was not broken apart after Gettysburg. Longstreet's corps was loaned to Bragg to meet the desperate crisis in the West and would be returned to Lee in time for the next major battle in the Eastern theater.

That, altogether, reduced the importance of the Eastern Theater for the first and only time of the four years of fighting—a key time when Grant was emerging as the hero of the Union in the West. And the redirection of attention and troops from the East to the West, because Lee was stopped at Gettysburg, strengthened Bragg’s army and led to the most important Confederate victory in the West, a victory that changed the dynamic of the war in Tennessee.
I have to disagree with the assessment that the importance of the Eastern theater was reduced after Gettysburg. Confederate grand strategy was, and always had been, to concentrate their forces at "points of collision" - a logical strategy for an outnumbered adversary covering a large ground. The recent disasters in the West - the fall of Vicksburg and the subsequent fall of Chattanooga, and the effective removal of over 80,000 Confederate troops from the theater - made the West the logical collision point to concentrate forces at. Lee sat relatively idle in Virginia during this interval just like he did after Antietam the year before while Bragg was fighting it out in Kentucky at Perryville. Same old same old.

Regarding Grant’s promotion and relocation to the East, certainly his victory at Vicksburg caught the president’s eye. And there was talk about moving him to the Army of the Potomac. But the fact is that his capture of Vicksburg did not result in an automatic transfer to the East. Instead, Grant remained in the far western theater, sitting idle while his army was broken apart to assist other campaigns and other commanders. Lincoln kept Rosecrans in command of the beleaguered Army of the Cumberland until October – a full three months after Grant’s victory in Mississippi. Grant’s success at Chattanooga cemented his reputation as the most victorious Union general—a popularity all the more sensationalized due to the relative, but conspicuous, inactivity in the Eastern Theater following the Battle of Gettysburg. Overall, Grant’s path to overall command of Union armies advanced as a direct response to the military shakeup in Tennessee, which itself had been heavily influenced by the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg.
We need to be clear here. The "talk about moving [Grant] to the Army of the Potomac" after Vicksburg wasn't just newspaper gossip. It came directly from the highest levels of the War Department. While Grant pledged that he would "disobey no order", Lincoln chose to respect Grant's wishes and hold off the move. But unless Meade started taking bold and aggressive action against Lee, the move was going to have to be made eventually.

Finally, I wish to add one point of critique to my opponent’s last supplemental post, which focuses on Grant’s crossing of the James River. Brass Napoleon credits Grant’s experience during the Vicksburg Campaign with giving “him the knowledge, the tools and the confidence to pull it off.” Undoubtedly Grant looked to his Vicksburg campaign for inspiration during the 1864 Overland Campaign. And the crossing of the James was an important part of his 1864 maneuvers. But, crossing rivers was a standard strategic and tactical part of several Civil War campaigns. Indeed, Grant’s army crossed the Rappahannock, the North Anna, the Pamunkey, and the Chickahominy Rivers before it reached the James.
Actually, when I referred to the "crossing of the James" in my prior post, I was referring to the entire movement, and not just the physical crossing of a river (as impressive as that feat was in itself). It was an extremely complicated movement, as described by military historian Earl J. Hess:

Grant's crossing of the James River in mid-June 1864 was a complex operation. It involved disengaging the Army of the Potomac and the Eighteenth Corps from the tangled system of trenches at Cold Harbor, moving them southward more than twenty miles, and building the longest pontoon bridge ever used in the Civil War. Union engineers needed to locate and plan four different lines of field works to protect the movement. Grant hoped to accomplish this without tipping off Lee as to his intentions and then to attack and capture Petersburg, a city that had been fortified for almost two years. The fortifications of Richmond, older and more complex than those of Petersburg, also played a role in the movement. The Confederate Howlett Line that stretched from the James to the Appomattox served as a link between the defenses of both cities.

- Earl J. Hess, In the Trenches at Petersburg, p. 9

Source: https://books.google.com/books?id=dI4MOLZnruAC&pg=PA9&lpg=PA9
But I do agree that "Grant looked to his Vicksburg campaign for inspiration" for this move.

And, as Brass Napoleon notes, Lee’s forces managed to block the route into Petersburg before Grant could capture it. It took Union forces nine months to extricate Lee’s army from Petersburg. Thus, the rush across the James—even if it was inspired by the campaign of Vicksburg—technically failed, for it did not result in the immediate capture of Petersburg. It took a virtual siege to defeat the Army of Northern Virginia’s hold on Petersburg and Richmond, something done as a slow and grinding alternative to the strategic checkmate that he may have envisioned from a surprise river crossing. And, as Grant's army sat in the trenches of Petersburg in the sweltering Virginia sun, Union morale began to sag--so much so that Lincoln feared for his reelection.
I have to disagree with this too. The crossing of the James was by no means a failure. Yes, it is true that Grant was unable to capture Petersburg outright, any more than crossing the Mississippi enabled him to capture Vicksburg outright, and this was due in large part to the fighting spirit, motivation and ability of the ANV, which was still very much intact. But in both cases, the successful crossing of the river and changing of his base in the presence of the enemy enabled Grant to establish a siege. And Robert E. Lee knew very clearly what a siege meant to his prospects, as he explained to General Jubal Early: "We must destroy this army of Grant's before he gets to James River. If he gets there, it will become a siege, and then it will be a mere question of time." (Source)

Grant had to give Sherman much credit, for it was the capture of Atlanta that sparked a timely boost in northern morale, ensuring a Republican presidential victory in 1864. In that way, it was not the crossing of the James that doomed Petersburg, but Sherman's success in Georgia.
Certainly Sherman played a major role in bringing the ANV to its knees - working in tandem with Grant to implement Grant's grand strategy of applying constant, relentless pressure on the Confederacy across all fronts. As I've said before, the ANV remained one of the most formidable fighting forces in the history of human warfare and it would take great skill and determination to bring it down.

But let's not forget where Sherman came from. He came through Vicksburg, where he developed the skills of large scale troop movement that he would use so successfully against Johnston and Hood, and the strategy of living off the land in enemy territory that he would apply so successfully in his March to the Sea. And he could only do it because he didn't have to look constantly over his shoulder for tens of thousands of enemy soldiers bearing down on his flank and rear from a Confederate Vicksburg.

(And that concludes my final rebuttal. I'll now defer to @jgoodguy for an explanation of the next phase of this debate.)
 

brass napoleon

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#20
Closing Statment

Scotsman and I have agreed to move directly to our closing statements, so this is mine:

The Battle of Gettysburg was without doubt an epic battle - to date the largest battle fought in the Western Hemisphere, and with unsurpassed drama and heroics. Vicksburg, on the other hand, was a siege - a long, boring, tedious siege. We like to think of epic battles as having epic consequences. It seems only fitting. And it makes for great novels and epic movies. But not all epic battles have epic consequences, and some boring, tedious sieges do. This is what happened in the first few days of July, 1863, when an epic battle was fought at the same time that a boring, tedious siege was coming to end. It was the siege that had the epic consequences, but there's nevertheless been a tendency to attribute those consequences to the epic battle; it just feels right.

Unfortunately the evidence doesn't support it. If we take a closer look at what really happened, we see that Gettysburg was just another link in a chain of stunning tactical victories by the ANV followed by overconfidence-driven defeats in a theater of operations where the homefield advantage was the largest factor in determining the winner of any given battle. Nothing about Gettysburg changed that. The Army of Northern Virginia continued to be an aggressive, powerful foe after Gettysburg, just like it was before. It continued to inflict horrendous losses on the Army of the Potomac after Gettysburg, just like it did before. But after Gettysburg the AoP would no longer be retreating from those horrendous losses, and that was not a result of Gettysburg, but instead the result of the new commander who would personally guide it through the remainder of the war - Ulysses S. Grant.

And Grant was a product of Vicksburg. His brilliant campaign to capture that "nail-head" of the Confederacy split the Confederacy in two, giving the Union control of the strategically important Mississippi River, and isolating the Confederacy forever from the "food, clothing, medicine, and other vital supplies, as well as fresh troops" of the Trans-Mississippi. More than 50,000 Confederate troops in that region were sealed off from ever rendering assistance to their comrades in the Confederacy's heartland. Combined with the loss of the 29,000 man garrison at Vicksburg itself, this was a disastrous loss that the undermanned Confederacy could ill afford. And although many of those 29,000 would eventually return through the exchange program, they would be exchanged for experienced Union soldiers who had been sitting out the war on parole - enough of them in fact to make up almost the entire Union force at the Battle of Franklin.

But it wasn't just the removal of 80,000 Confederate troops from contact with the theater. It was the location they were removed from. Vicksburg was just a few days' railroad journey from northern Alabama and southern Tennessee, where some portion of those troops would have been an intolerable threat to any attempted Union advance into northern Georgia. The Vicksburg garrison HAD to be removed and the Trans-Mississippi had to be cut off. The strategic importance of this victory was readily apparent to the Lincoln Administration, and even as President Lincoln "dreaded" the return of the Eastern theater to the status quo ante after Meade's victory at Gettysburg, he sent feelers out to Grant to bring him to the East, so that both the Eastern and Western theaters could be working in tandem, as he envisioned from very early in the war. Although Grant would demur for now, he would eventually make the move, bringing with him the strategy, tactics, logistics and confidence that he had developed at Vicksburg. It would be Grant that would change the Eastern theater, by refusing Lee his primary objective of "occupying the Federal Army at a distance from the capital and preventing the formation of a siege", while at the same time his Vicksburg protege, William T. Sherman, would apply the strategy, tactics, logistics and confidence that he had developed at Vicksburg to the collapse of the Confederate heartland. Together these two products of Vicksburg would bring the Confederacy to its knees.

My opponent has maintained that the Confederate loss at Gettysburg resulted in a shift of Confederate strategy to the Western theater. I disagree with this. There was no more a shift of Confederate strategy after Gettysburg than there was after Antietam, when Lee sat idle in Virginia and Bragg fought a ferocious battle at Perryville, Kentucky. The Confederacy just did not have the manpower to fight sustained battles along all of its fronts. It had to concentrate troops at points of collision. This was a strategy used by both Davis and Lee, both before and after Gettysburg. The transfer of Longstreet's corps to the Western theater after Gettysburg was a recognition of the disastrous situation that the Confederacy faced in the West, and of the status quo that continued in the East. If Gettysburg really had changed anything, the absolute last thing Davis would have done was to take troops away from a weakened ANV that was facing a threat from a revitalized AoP. The disaster in the West screamed for attention, however. And it was the result of Vicksburg - with the direct loss of 29,000 troops (thousands of whom had been borrowed from Bragg's command), the loss of up to 50,0000 potential reinforcements from the Trans-Mississippi, the loss of a strategic bastion that could quickly move those troops to any point of collision in the theater, and the resulting loss of Chattanooga.

My opponent has also maintained that the Battle of Gettysburg was crucial for its effect on morale. But we have seen that the swing in morale after Gettysburg was very short lived on both sides. Lincoln was back to despairing within days, Lee was back to plotting an offensive within weeks, and at the next major battle in the theater, Lee's army would seize the initiative and inflict horrific losses on the AoP, causing panic in the high command that could only be allayed by the presence of Grant himself.

But my opponent has also suggested that the effects of morale weren't just limited to what was, but applied perhaps even more decisively to what might have been. Yes, if Lee had "shattered" the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, it might have had a significant long-term effect on morale. But the same could be said of Chancellorsville or Fredericksburg or numerous other battles. And yet as stunning as these victories were, the Army of the Potomac was not "shattered", and Lee was left with nothing but possession of the battlefield itself. There is no reason to believe that Lee could have accomplished anything more than that in enemy territory in Pennsylvania. And it seems quite apparent from Lee's own words that he never expected to. His main objective in taking the war to Pennsylvania was to keep the enemy away from Richmond while feeding his army off the "yellow grain-fields of Pennsylvania". Secondarily, he hoped that a victory might have some effect on the Northern peace movement and the upcoming elections. But these were off-year elections, and as we have seen, the peace candidates had a huge deficit to overcome. As Jubal Early would demonstrate in 1864, even a victory on Northern soil, the burning of a Northern city, and a threat to Washington D.C. itself couldn't give the peace candidates the momentum they needed.

The Battle of Gettysburg had no long-term impact on the war. More than that, in Lee's own words, even a Confederate victory could not have had a "prospect of permanent benefit". The best the Confederacy could hope for was to hold on to their key resources, inflicting as many casualties as possible, until Union resolve ran out. But the loss of the "nail-head" of the Confederacy on July 4, 1863, and the resulting threat to Chattanooga and ultimately Atlanta and Richmond itself, would indeed prove to be a "permanent benefit" for the Union - one from which the Confederacy would be unable to recover.

That concludes my participation in this debate. I'd like to thank the readers for their attention and for the many kind remarks on the kibitzer thread. I'd also like to thank @jgoodguy for setting this up and all the moderators for keeping this thread running smoothly without interruption. Most of all, I'd like to thank my opponent, Scotsman, for a lively and challenging debate; it's been an honor and a pleasure (and a heckuva lot of work!)

And now Scotsman, the last word is yours...
 
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