July 4th Action Impact On Decision Making

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Eric Wittenberg

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As to the inquiry could you inform me as to their findings or where I may find them.Were they sealed to avoid embarrassment or just as many today just seen as a publicity stunt to please the public and in the end do not achieve anything.
They are readily available here, which is the actual transcript of the testimony before the Committee: https://archive.org/details/reportofjointcom01unit/page/n6. These hearings were nothing but meddling by Congress, trying to dictate war policy to the White House.
 

Eric Wittenberg

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Was there a Congressional inquiry into Meade's actions on the fourth? Did Meade appear before such? Did Meade not have the reserve divisions which he could have used ? Could he have moved into Lee's front with calvary to at least slow Lee's retreat or harass him?Rain did not halt Lee from moving how did it halt Meade from following with a harassment force to keep Lee from crossing over the river?Hind sight like if only TJ had been there!
Calvary? What's that?

If you're referring to cavalry, then the answer is that the Union cavalry was extremely active. The problem is this: at all times, Meade was under orders--and those orders could not be violated at any time--to maintain his army interposed between Lee and Baltimore and Washington, DC. This is known as the headquarters doctrine. Meade had absolutely no discretion to violate those orders. The problem is that until reports filtered in from John Buford's unsuccessful attempt to seize the Potomac River crossings at Williamsport, MD on the night of July 6, Meade did not know what Lee's intentions were. There were two options: Lee could either retreat back to Virginia, or he could hole up in the mountains of central Pennsylvania and wait for Meade to attack him on ground of his own choosing. It wasn't until late on the night of July 6 that Meade knew that Lee intended to retreat across the Potomac. Meade put the Army of the Potomac in motion on July 7. By late afternoon on July 8, the 11th Corps, as one example, had covered 42 miles and was in position to support Buford's cavalry in its fight with Jeb Stuart's cavalry at Boonsboro, MD. Considering that the heavy rains had turned the roads into mud that was then churned into bottomless seas of muck by the passage of men, artillery, and animals, that was some remarkable work by the Army of the Potomac, which moved with alacrity once Lee's intentions were clear.

I recommend reading this book, as you will find the answers to all of your questions here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/193271443X/?tag=civilwartalkc-20
 

Eric Wittenberg

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Meade(and, apparently, most of his top commanders) seems to have been in a Glass half-empty frame of mind during and after battle, i.e., much more concerned with what Lee migh do to him, rather than what he might do to Lee.

For whagtever reason, Meade, from his words and actions, seems to have been determined or, at least content, to maintain the 24 hrs lost on Day 4, during the pursuit phase of Lee;s retreat.From the reports at the time, it is difficult, for me, to believe, that Meade's decisions and movements during the pursuit phase, was affected in any appreciable way by the storm(except, IMO, to give himn a plausible excuse, to do what he was already prepared to do, in any event).
Please read my post #22 in this chain. I think you might consider changing your opinion once you understand the orders that Meade was forced to operate under and how these orders impacted his decision making.
 
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Andy Cardinal

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We have quite a bit more detail in our One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863. The focus of Browns book is Confederate logistics. The focus of our book is Union decision-making and tactics. I suspect you will get more on these actions from our book than from Kent's, with no disrespect whatsoever intended toward Kent's book.
Both are excellent books, if I may say so. I read them in tandem and found them both enjoyable and informative. Both highly recommended.
 

Eric Wittenberg

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Both are excellent books, if I may say so. I read them in tandem and found them both enjoyable and informative. Both highly recommended.
Thanks, Andy. Our work was intended to complement Kent's book, not compete with it. Our approaches are completely different.
 
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OpnCoronet

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You are right that there was a definite 24 hour (at least) delay before launching the main army in pursuit. I believe Meade worried that Lee would fall back behind the mountains and then continue his campaign from there. He didn't order the main army to pursue until he was certain Lee was retreating to the Potomac.
I believe Meade had many strengths, but obviously some flaws as a commanding general as well. Two that I find are that he could not anticipate his opponent very well, and 2nd he seems to have had a hard time interpreting intelligence.




I believe Meade's fears of Lee turning on him and innflicting a severe reverse on the AoP, was well founded. Lee and his army was still full of fight(unlike Meade and his corps commanders) and he did plan to take advantage of any missteps of Meade if he got too close. So, to me, Meade's pursuit plan was not unreasonable. Using the mtns to shield his army as he paralelled Lee retreat on the other side of the mtns., while pushing the AoP to head the ANV off at the Potomac. But, of course, as we know Meade was just too slow and timid, to actually succeed, even with a good plan.

To me, Meade's congratulatory letter to the AoP, after Lee's escape, says all that needs to be necessay concerning Meade's attitude to his pursuit of the ANV in Pa.(and why it displeased Lincoln so greatly).
 

OpnCoronet

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Please read my post #22 in this chain. I think you might consider changing your opinion once you understand the orders that Meade was forced to operate under and how these orders impacted his decision making.


The same orders ALL, AoP commandersoperated under, Including Grant. The only difference is that not only did Grant (unlike Meade) kept the AoP interposed and still found it possible to seek out and fight Lee. As long as the ANV was fully engaged with the AoP, there was no danger for Baltimore or Washington.

As noted in my last post, Meade's pursuit plan was not half bad, but, its execution abysmal. If not for the Potomac being in flood stage, Lee's 24 hr lead would have been maintaine, and the AoP would not have even seen the dust from Lee retreat.
 

Eric Wittenberg

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The same orders ALL, AoP commandersoperated under, Including Grant. The only difference is that not only did Grant (unlike Meade) kept the AoP interposed and still found it possible to seek out and fight Lee. As long as the ANV was fully engaged with the AoP, there was no danger for Baltimore or Washington.

As noted in my last post, Meade's pursuit plan was not half bad, but, its execution abysmal. If not for the Potomac being in flood stage, Lee's 24 hr lead would have been maintaine, and the AoP would not have even seen the dust from Lee retreat.
With all due respect, Grant had not just fought a major battle three days after taking command of the army in which he lost three out of seven corps commanders and a third of his army. To expect the AoP to have done more is not reasonable.
 
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OpnCoronet

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With all due respect, Grant had not just fought a major battle three days after taking command of the army in which he lost three out of seven corps commanders and a third of his army. To expect the AoP to have done more is not reasonable.


I agree that Meade was not up to top command under adverse conditions. I can only refer you to the details of Grants Overland Campaign, in the first days of battle in the Wilderness, the AoP never experiencedsuch hard fighting or casualties in its history up to that time,, but, under Grant it continued to move South, and in a little less than a year, the war was effectively over with Appomattox. Surely you do not thing Meade, on his own, would not have retreated after the first 3 days of battle in the Wilderness, without halting callinbg a conference of his corps commanders without retreating?
 

Andy Cardinal

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I agree that Meade was not up to top command under adverse conditions. I can only refer you to the details of Grants Overland Campaign, in the first days of battle in the Wilderness, the AoP never experiencedsuch hard fighting or casualties in its history up to that time,, but, under Grant it continued to move South, and in a little less than a year, the war was effectively over with Appomattox. Surely you do not thing Meade, on his own, would not have retreated after the first 3 days of battle in the Wilderness, without halting callinbg a conference of his corps commanders without retreating?
I think it's hard to say. I believe much of Meade's decision-making both at Gettysburg in the fall was bound by Halleck's orders. For example, Meade wanted to establish a,base at Fredricksburg (which during Mine Run was easy enough to to since he was between Lee and Fredericksburg) rather than stay north of the Rappahanock, but was not permitted to by Halleck. In that sense Grant's arrival as general in chief was liberating.
 

Eric Wittenberg

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I agree that Meade was not up to top command under adverse conditions. I can only refer you to the details of Grants Overland Campaign, in the first days of battle in the Wilderness, the AoP never experiencedsuch hard fighting or casualties in its history up to that time,, but, under Grant it continued to move South, and in a little less than a year, the war was effectively over with Appomattox. Surely you do not thing Meade, on his own, would not have retreated after the first 3 days of battle in the Wilderness, without halting callinbg a conference of his corps commanders without retreating?
Probably not, but Grant also wasn't outranked by several of his corps commanders like Meade was. Meade could only take command with their agreement, and he evidently felt like he needed to build consensus for doing so. Grant was promoted over everyone, so he didn't have that issue--he outranked everyone but Lincoln.
 
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OpnCoronet

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I think it's hard to say. I believe much of Meade's decision-making both at Gettysburg in the fall was bound by Halleck's orders. For example, Meade wanted to establish a,base at Fredricksburg (which during Mine Run was easy enough to to since he was between Lee and Fredericksburg) rather than stay north of the Rappahanock, but was not permitted to by Halleck. In that sense Grant's arrival as general in chief was liberating.


I am notsure of the exact chronology of events in Meade's Fall maneuverings,but, I think, that after Meade counciled Lincoln that he preferred to immulate the McClellan Peninsular maneuver. Lincoln had given up on Meade of Meade fighting aggressively against Lee, he decided that it would be best to await Grant's tidying up at Chattanooga, and give him command of the AoP and let him decide what to do with Meade, i.e., Lincoln had decided if Meade could not locate and combat Lee above the Rapidan, it would be unlikely that he could do it below the Rapidan.
 

OpnCoronet

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Probably not, but Grant also wasn't outranked by several of his corps commanders like Meade was. Meade could only take command with their agreement, and he evidently felt like he needed to build consensus for doing so. Grant was promoted over everyone, so he didn't have that issue--he outranked everyone but Lincoln.


Grant was promoted to Lt. Gen., to fit his command responsibilities, i.e., Command of all the Union Armies, not just the AoP.

If Meade could have imposed his will on his Army and commanded with(with or without his corps commanders approval) and waged and active and aggressive campaignSouth of the Rappahannock and Rapidan, Lincoln would probably have rewarded him with a more command responsiibilitiess Grant's)
 
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Eric Wittenberg

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Grant was promoted to Lt. Gen., to fit his command responsibilities, i.e., Command of all the Union Armies, not just the AoP.

If Meade could have imposed his will on his Army and commanded with(with or without his corps commanders approval) and waged and active and aggressive campaignSouth of the Rappahannock and Rapidan, Lincoln would probably have rewarded him with a more command responsiibilitiess Grant's)
Whatever. You missed the point completely, which means that I have reached the point where I have wasted all of the time on this that I choose to waste. Believe whatever you want.
 

Paul Yancey

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A new book was just released earlier this month that deals with the days right after Gettysburg. I have not read the book and therefore I cannot make any educated comments. The book is on Amazon and is entitled "Lee is Trapped and Must be Taken": Eleven Fateful Days after Gettysburg." The authors are Thomas J. Ryan and Richard Schaus.
 
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Scott Brown

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I believe Meade's fears of Lee turning on him and innflicting a severe reverse on the AoP, was well founded. Lee and his army was still full of fight(unlike Meade and his corps commanders) and he did plan to take advantage of any missteps of Meade if he got too close. So, to me, Meade's pursuit plan was not unreasonable. Using the mtns to shield his army as he paralelled Lee retreat on the other side of the mtns., while pushing the AoP to head the ANV off at the Potomac. But, of course, as we know Meade was just too slow and timid, to actually succeed, even with a good plan.

To me, Meade's congratulatory letter to the AoP, after Lee's escape, says all that needs to be necessay concerning Meade's attitude to his pursuit of the ANV in Pa.(and why it displeased Lincoln so greatly).
OpnCoronet,

Take a look at Halleck's message to Meade which accompanied Lincoln's order to take command, and you'll see for yourself who used the "invading forces of the rebels" language first.

You will also find in that message the edict mentioned by Eric Wittenberg to "cover the capital and also Baltimore". (OR Vol 27, Part I, pg. 61).

In addition to Eric's book, I would also highly recommend a piece by A. Wilson Greene, entitled "From Gettysburg to Falling Waters", which can be found in Gallagher's book The Third Day & Beyond, for details on Meade's pursuit.

Greene did a great job of summarizing the critiques of Meade in the historiography of the campaign, and then effectively dismantled them, one by one.
 
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