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Meade and Lee After Gettysburg: The Forgotten Final Stage of the Gettysburg Campaign, from Falling

Discussion in 'Book & Movie Review Tent' started by chellers, May 18, 2017.

  1. chellers

    chellers Brigadier General Moderator Trivia Game Winner

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    Jeffrey Hunt (Author)
    Savas Beatie (July 19, 2017)

    The period of the Civil War in Virginia sandwiched between the traditional ending date of the Gettysburg Campaign and the arrival of U. S. Grant is routinely overlooked. The operations conducted during that period have been overshadowed by the bloodshed in Pennsylvania, the large-scale Confederate victory at Chickamauga in September, and the disastrous Southern defeat at Chattanooga two months later.

    Author Jeffrey Wm Hunt, in his new Meade and Lee After Gettysburg: Vol. 1: From Falling Waters to Culpeper Courthouse, July 14 to October 1, 1863, helps rectify this glaring oversight. In what promises to be the first of four volumes on this important period, Hunt demonstrates that this period was full of high drama as Lee and Meade sought to repair the damage done to their armies at Gettysburg, cope with an epidemic of desertions and home front disenchantment, and a host of logistical and strategic dilemmas. The Gettysburg Campaign, argues Hunt, did not end until late July, and included the fighting at Shepherdstown and Manassas Gap.

    Meade and Lee After Gettysburg also details how Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis and their senior commanders coped with the strategic dilemmas they faced once the battle lines had been reestablished along the Rappahannock River, and how each side sought an opening to resume the offensive, the efforts triggering a series of bloody clashes at Brandy Station, Culpeper Courthouse, and Jack’s Shop. Hunt’s work is based upon years of archival research and scores of firsthand accounts, newspapers, diaries, letter collections, and a firm understanding of the terrain of northern Virginia. Together with its photos, maps, and invaluable footnotes, Meade and Lee After Gettysburg offers a significant contribution to the Civil War literature.

    About the Author
    Jeffrey William Hunt is Director of the Texas Military Forces Museum, the official museum of the Texas National Guard, located at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, and an Adjunct Professor of History at Austin Community College, where he has taught since 1988. Prior to taking the post at the Texas Military Forces Museum, he was the Curator of Collections and Director of the Living History Program at the Admiral Nimitz National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas for 11 years. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Government and a Masters Degree in History, both from the University of Texas at Austin.

    https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/1611213436/ref=pe_355410_238059920_em_1p_4_ti

    Disclaimer: This post is neither a recommendation nor solicitation by CivilWarTalk or Chellers. It is solely for informational purposes.
     
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  3. Andy Cardinal

    Andy Cardinal Sergeant

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    I have been eagerly anticipating this book and bought a copy on Kindle as soon as it was available.

    Meade and Lee After Gettysburg covers the two week period after Falling Waters until the two armies settled into their camps along the Rappahannock. This is a period of the war that has been previously neglected in Civil War scholarship. The book is highly readable. It is engagingly written and informative. It includes 12 well drawn maps and several photographs depicting the difficult terrain men of both armies were contending with, although I would recommend the hard copy of the book rather that the Kindle edition to truly appreciate the maps and illustrations.

    The author demonstrates convincingly that the Gettysburg Campaign did not end on July 14, 1863, but rather went on for two more weeks. He traces the movements of both armies, describes the principle engagements, and analyze the performance of both commanders. The author utilizes primary source material throughout and, in particular, gives vivid descriptions of the fighting. The engagements described in detail are: Shepardstown (July 16), Manassas & Chester Gap (July 21), Chester Gap (July 22), Wapping Heights (July 23), and Newby's Crossroads (July 24).

    Hunt concludes that Robert E. Lee "clearly bested" George G. Meade during this period both operationally and tactically. He also gives high marks to Longstreet, Ewell, and A. P. Hill during this period. In particular, Ewell and Hill's performance was "in marked contrast" to their performance at Gettysburg. Hunt concludes that "Confederate operations during the two weeks between the army’s reentry into Virginia and its arrival astride the Rappahannock demonstrate that Lee and his men had not lost their skill or their daring as a result of bloodletting at Gettysburg."

    Meade's performance suffers in comparison, in Hunt's analysis. Meade had an opportunity to make up for the perceived failure at Williamsport. He "demonstrated commendable strategic vision," but his caution and hesitation squandered an opportunity to deliver a major blow.

    In what I had read previously regarding the lost opportunity at Manassas Gap/Wapping Heights, much of the blame has fallen on the Third Corps commander, William H. French. While Hunt does blame French for mismanagement on the battlefield (while also noting that this was French's first foray in corps command), he notes that this failure was tactical. Meade's mistakes, on the other, "were at the operational level. Despite his sound move into the Loudoun Valley and the possibilities it presented, Meade let his doubts and fears get the best of him. Notwithstanding the good work of Buford’s division, which provided timely intelligence and kept possession of the critical ground for more than 24 hours, Meade badly misconstrued the strategic situation and delayed his hand just long enough to allow the Confederates to get a decisive head start. French might have redeemed Meade’s error somewhat with a rapid thrust through Manassas Gap, but he failed to do so and Meade failed to press him."

    At the heart of Hunt's criticism of Meade is a 36 hour delay on July 21 & 22. Hunt concludes that Meade's plan of forcing Manassas Gap "would have been a good one 48 hours earlier, and might even have had a chance to accomplish something meaningful if it had been launched 24 hours before. But by the time it would be put in motion on the morning of July 23, it was hopelessly out of date. This was primarily because Meade seriously misunderstood the strategic situation and failed to wholly grasp what the Rebels had been doing over the last three days."

    Overall I found this book to be an enjoyable and worthwhile read. In covering an aspect of the war in the East that has been ignored, Hunt has done a service for all Civil War enthusiasts. Personally, I will be eagerly anticipating the next two installments of his proposed series.
     
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  4. cptjeff36

    cptjeff36 Cadet

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    Andy, thank you for taking the time to post a review of my book. I am glad you enjoyed it. I think you will find the next two volumes equally fascinating. Best Regards, JWH
     
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  5. bdtex

    bdtex Brigadier General Moderator

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    Welcome to the forum from The Trans-Mississippi Department.
     
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  6. Andy Cardinal

    Andy Cardinal Sergeant

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    I truly enjoyed it. I can't wait to read the next two!

    Glad to see you are a member. Welcome and enjoy. Looking forward to see what you have to say.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017
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  7. Andy Cardinal

    Andy Cardinal Sergeant

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    One thing I considered while reading is that Meade really missed the council of generals he truly trusted during this time. I wonder if Meade might have responded more aggressively during the July 21-23 period had Reynolds or Hancock been present (I know, a what if)? Or even if Sickles had been at Wapping Heights. It's hard to see him acting as tentatively as French did.
     
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  8. cptjeff36

    cptjeff36 Cadet

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    Thanks for the welcome. Next time you get up to Austin stop by an see the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry (www.texasmilitaryforcesmusuem.org) I am the director there. We have some really great artifacts related to Texas troops in the war. Also check out my first book, The Last of the Civil War: Palmetto Ranch.
     
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  9. cptjeff36

    cptjeff36 Cadet

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    Andy, that is a very interesting question. No doubt the AoP was a very different organization with the loss of those men. It is easy to suspect any of them would have been more aggressive than French. The consequences of that are hard to say, as by July 23 Hill and Longstreet were already through or almost through the mountains and Ewell was positioned to move, as he did, up the Valley to cross the mountains farther south. The halt of Meade's infantry for 36 hours was the real turning point. One does wonder, as you suggest, if that halt would have taken place had Meade had the counsel of Hancock or Reynolds. Given the conflicting intelligence on Lee's movements and Meade's fear that the Rebels had been significantly reinforced and were contemplating another offensive movement above the Potomac, however, it seems doubtful.
     
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  10. bdtex

    bdtex Brigadier General Moderator

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    Thank you sir. Great stuff. I would love to visit there and check your book out. My son lives in Round Rock.
     
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  11. Jamieva

    Jamieva 1st Lieutenant

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    I'm about 50% through this one and enjoying it immensely because it covers events that are not covered in other books.

    I will say the author so far is extremely critical of Meade. @Andy Cardinal cardinal i think you agree right? He blasted him for not attacking at Williamsport, and for not pushing further south into the Louodon valleu quicker and trapping Lee in the Shenandoah
     
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  12. Rebforever

    Rebforever Captain

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    I disagree about the take on Meade. Me thinks the author is doing a well written 'what if'. Need to get the book I recon.

    There may be something there to change my mind.
     
  13. Jamieva

    Jamieva 1st Lieutenant

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    Reb I won't spoil it for you, I do recommend the book. But so far he's highly critical of Meade and praise worthy of Lee no matter what each does
     
  14. Andy Cardinal

    Andy Cardinal Sergeant

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    I felt like he gave Meade a pass more or less on Williamsport but not on his missed opportunity over the next couple of weeks.

    I agree that this book is great because it covers a topic not covered elsewhere.

    I had always blamed Meade's subordinates for the failure to bring Lee to battle at Wapping Heights. The author's evidence & interpretation has convinced me that Meade's caution was probably the biggest factor in this failure.
     
  15. Jamieva

    Jamieva 1st Lieutenant

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    True. Ok maybe not critical of Meade, but his conclusion was Meade would've been seen more positive even if he got a bloody repulse at Williamsport rather than not attacking at all.

    The Wapping Heights/Loudon valley part was Meade being completely spooked by Lee just like his predecessors had.
     
  16. bdtex

    bdtex Brigadier General Moderator

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    I met the author at our Hood's Texas Brigade Association Re-activated Symposium last weekend and bought his book. Not sure when I will get to it.
     
  17. Andy Cardinal

    Andy Cardinal Sergeant

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    Good way to put it
     
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  18. Jamieva

    Jamieva 1st Lieutenant

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    @bdtex it's an easy read

    Interesting that Meade was expecting/fearful to jump back across the Potomac and cut him off from Washington, then in 64, Grant goes on a tirade about how they expect Lee to do a somersault and show up in their rear. The collective mindset of the AotP was to be scared and made them tentative even when they were in a superior strategic situation
     
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  19. Jamieva

    Jamieva 1st Lieutenant

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    Not sure I totally agree with it either. I think he based it mostly on the unsent Lincoln letter
     
  20. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    For the record, it's available on Kindle for $10.

    Ryan
     
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  21. christian soldier

    christian soldier Sergeant

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    Rebforever. What book would you recommend? David.
     

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