If It Had Been Grant at Gettysburg and Meade at Vicksburg

jackt62

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It is hard to conceive of Meade as conceptualizing, developing, and executing the brilliant turning movement that Grant carried out in going south of Vicksburg and parrying the forces of Pemberton and Johnston that eventually led to the fall of that city. Meade's irritable temperament alone might have stymied efforts to enlist Porter's naval flotilla in running the Vicksburg batteries and transporting the AotT across the Mississippi. In contrast, there is every reason to believe that Grant would have handled the army at Gettysburg as successfully as Meade did. The one difference, however, is that Grant might have made a greater and more aggressive effort to pursue the beaten ANV after the battle.
 

Irishtom29

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But would Grant have been content to sit and let Lee keep attacking him?

It's easy to imagine Grant taking the initiative on the 3rd day. And why not, as things actually were the AotP was in at least as good shape as the AoNV. But the AoNV had the bulge. Ahh well, had Grant been in charge there probably wouldn't have been a battle of Gettysburg.
 

jackt62

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But would Grant have been content to sit and let Lee keep attacking him?
If Grant were to have been appointed to command the AotP at the same time as Meade actually was (3 days before the battle), the disposition of the army corps were already in place, not giving much time for any commander to maneuver, let alone study and understand the layout of the field. Which is way Meade relied on Hancock and Howard to act as his forward observers to reconnoiter and recommend immediate actions after the 2 armies collided on July 1st. There may be some similarity with Grant's position at the Battle of the Wilderness; Grant did not intend a fight in that terrain, but was forced to engage by Lee's aggressive movements, in which case Grant was forced to fight a mostly defensive battle.
 

jackt62

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had Grant been in charge there probably wouldn't have been a battle of Gettysburg.
If Grant had assumed command of the AotP say after Chancellorsville, thereby replacing Hooker, it might very well have been correct to say that a battle at Gettysburg would not have occurred. Grant would have taken more aggressive steps to thwart Lee's movement down the Shenandoah and Cumberland Valleys by either threatening Lee's flanks and/or covering the mountain gaps to the Valley more thoroughly. Or even more likely, Grant would have commenced his own campaign across the Rappahannock/Rapidan front first.
 
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I dunno, playing devil's advocate here with no military training, but might Grant have more aggressively hounded Lee before the battle and played into his hands by attacking Lee and allowing Lee to fight on ground of his own choosing? I'm trying to think of examples where Grant excelled on the defensive. The last few days I've been pondering the thought that the U.S. actually had the right generals show up at the right time- McClellan to organize an army, Meade to allow Lee to break the AOV on the rocks and hills of Cemetery Ridge, and Grant to doggedly wear Lee down.
 

Belfoured

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Success has a lot to do with having the right people, at the right time, in the right place. Would the Union have been as successful if Grant commanded at Gettysburg and Meade at Vicksburg?
One problem with these hypotheticals is the Army of the Potomac. Grant was close to breaking all the furniture in his HQ dealing with that Army's ponderous habits and its political elements. He was able to deal with those in the A of the T much more easily. See: McClernand.
 

jackt62

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might Grant have more aggressively hounded Lee before the battle and played into his hands by attacking Lee and allowing Lee to fight on ground of his own choosing?
That was what Longstreet had long advocated for the Pennsylvania incursion. His advice to Lee was to maneuver into a position in which the AotP would be the attacker, and the ANV the defender. Of course, Lee disregarded that counsel and the rest is history. As far as Grant is concerned, I don't believe that Grant would have even allowed the ANV to get as far as it did. Aside from the Wilderness example I gave previously, Grant, and Lee for that matter, where both wiley enough to play a good cat and mouse game such as during the rest of the Overland Campaign, where neither side was able to get the best of the other.
 

Belfoured

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Another problem with these hypotheticals is that there are too many other factors that come into play, and isolating just one (e.g., Grant as commander), makes everything highly speculative. But its fun anyway.
Sure. But it's also fun to point out the counters. Over the many decades a lot of people have taken the Ewell/July 1/Jackson/Cemetery Hill hypothetical as gospel.
 
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Ultimately though, I just don't see Grant showing up on the night of July 1, like Meade did, and being content to sit and wait for Lee to attack over the next two days. I think Grant would have had to go on the offensive somehow because that is how he operated. And Lee kept hoping the Union would attack him.
I think Meade played his cards really well during the actual battle of Gettysburg, but I don't think he had the creativity, or courage to think outside the box, or stubbornness of Grant to pull off the siege of Vicksburg. So again, it was the right general in the right place at the right time. If they had been switched, the Union would not have had two great victories in July 1863 and both of them would perhaps have seen the end of their careers. Fate is fickle that way.
 

Pat Answer

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Impossible to tell of course but I'm with @Reconstructed Rebel here; "...right general(s) in the right place at the right time."

Vicksburg is what cements Lincoln's confidence in Grant. Place him East "too early" and it's anyone's guess just what Grant is allowed to do - protect Washington mandate and all that.
Meade is solid, competent, and handled Gettysburg and the pursuit well (I don't think Lincoln's disappointment counts as military analysis) - but I can't see him liking the idea of limited communications which made Vicksburg possible any more than Sherman did.

Odds are July 1863 doesn't go as well for the Union as it did in history.
 

Ole Miss

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@jackt62 said:
"It is hard to conceive of Meade as conceptualizing, developing, and executing the brilliant turning movement that Grant carried out in going south of Vicksburg and parrying the forces of Pemberton and Johnston that eventually led to the fall of that city. Meade's irritable temperament alone might have stymied efforts to enlist Porter's naval flotilla in running the Vicksburg batteries..."

Very insightful and correct statement. Well said!
Regards
David
 

Belfoured

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Ultimately though, I just don't see Grant showing up on the night of July 1, like Meade did, and being content to sit and wait for Lee to attack over the next two days. I think Grant would have had to go on the offensive somehow because that is how he operated. And Lee kept hoping the Union would attack him.
I think Meade played his cards really well during the actual battle of Gettysburg, but I don't think he had the creativity, or courage to think outside the box, or stubbornness of Grant to pull off the siege of Vicksburg. So again, it was the right general in the right place at the right time. If they had been switched, the Union would not have had two great victories in July 1863 and both of them would perhaps have seen the end of their careers. Fate is fickle that way.
If Grant had been at Gettysburg, it's likely Sickles wouldn't have gotten off with just losing a leg.
 

BillO

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Meade was a better battlefield, tactical, commander than Grant. Grant had political backing that Meade didn't.
If Grant had been at Gettysburg the actual fighting would have lasted 1 day longer with the same result. If Meade had been at Vicksburg the swamp campaign wouldn't have happened and the siege would have commenced sooner.
 
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