Richmond Falls in 1862

Luke Freet

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 8, 2018
Let us say that Richmond falls to McClellan in the aftermath of Seven Pines. Maybe Johnston isn't wounded and he sticks to his characterization and retreats his troops from the city to find "a better spot".
Would the war drag on? Or would the Confederacy have surrendered then and there?
The reasons for me considering the possibility of a surrender include the fact that the war is still limited, with only a few large scale and bloody battles thus far. The Confederates could negotiate a conditional reunion (say, slavery is enshrined and protected in the constitution).
 

Jamieva

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 7, 2006
Location
Midlothian, VA
With the army intact, the war continues. The problem with your what if is you are basing it on Johnston retreats to find a better spot. As soon as he tells Davis that is his plan, he would be replaced immediately. Davis would remove him and put Lee or someone else in place to hold firm where they are and think of another plan.

Now if Little Mac defeats Johnston in an open battle such that Johnston cannot hold the city, then Davis still sacks Johnston but yes they fought on. Heck they fought on for another week plus in 1865 when it was clear it was over when Richmond fell then.
 

Luke Freet

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 8, 2018
With the army intact, the war continues. The problem with your what if is you are basing it on Johnston retreats to find a better spot. As soon as he tells Davis that is his plan, he would be replaced immediately. Davis would remove him and put Lee or someone else in place to hold firm where they are and think of another plan.

Now if Little Mac defeats Johnston in an open battle such that Johnston cannot hold the city, then Davis still sacks Johnston but yes they fought on. Heck they fought on for another week plus in 1865 when it was clear it was over when Richmond fell then.
Certainly. Its probably more likely Davis would have sacked Johnston before he would let Richmond fall, as happened historically at Atlanta. Maybe because of the forced removal (Lee was able to transition to command simply because Johnston was wounded) there would be more political tensions in the Army than historically; maybe the Army of Northern Virginia starts resembling the Army of Tennessee. Doubtful this would happen, given its Lee we are talking about, but considering the possibility.

Maybe I shoould broaden this to ask "What happens next", when the Confederacy loses Richmond. Will the Southerners hold the rest of Virginia? Maybe abandon the Shenandoah as that would be in a precarious position strategicly. Maybe they pull back to Petersburg. Maybe send troops to the Western Department to go on the offensive there. A Lee-led Kentucky Campaign would be interesting.
 

Generic Username

Corporal
Joined
May 12, 2019
Location
Yes
With the loss of Richmond, it's likely the Confederates will enter in peace talks and the war ends in 1862 via diplomacy.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Richmond alone produced the same war materiale as Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida and Texas combined. Early in the war it had the only steam hammer in the Confederacy (at Tredegar), which was used to make more steam hammers and machinery to equip other ironworks. In 1862 the loss of Richmond is unrecoverable.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Richmond is also significant for plenty of other reasons - in terms of SLOCs, in terms of strategic defence for the Union, in terms of Confederate manpower and in terms of political importance.

SLOCs - essentially Richmond is the locus of the entire Virginia rail network, and you can unload shipping there. This means that it's possible to use as the start point of a logistical line of supply to support Union operations just about anywhere in Virginia (certainly east of the mountains), and also that without it there is essentially no Confederate logistical supply line for operations north of Richmond - the only rail connection that bypasses Richmond goes through Lynchburg, and Lynchburg is conveniently on a rail line striking straight west from Richmond.
Effectively the most northerly line of defence the CSA can take once Richmond is gone is the Roanoke river, and they have to defend from Union offensives possibly coming out of Danville as well as on the main line south.

Strategic defence of the Union - as a result of this, Washington is no longer in danger from anything more than, at most, a raid. At some points in the war the Washington defences consumed almost as much manpower as the main Union field army, and with Washington secure the amount of manpower freed up is considerable; it also means that there's no chance of the Confederacy being able to fight on Union soil in the East.

Confederate manpower - Virginia was the most populous Confederate state, and while they could retreat with their Virginia regiments there wasn't really any one time at which the active Virginia regiments represented any large fraction of the potential manpower that could be wrung out of the Virginia population. If Richmond falls in 1862 then the Confederacy loses a massive fraction of their manpower as "manpower that can support their army", both directly (by enlisting or being drafted) and indirectly (by providing the civilian labour - and slave labour - which supports the army in the field).

Political importance - a part of the argument "for" the CSA was that it was continuing the true line of what the USA was supposed to be. The Confederate capital had been chosen to be put in Richmond. Both of these reasons mean that the fall of Richmond is simply not something the Confederacy can handwave away, especially in 1862 - it will affect the extent to which people both at home and abroad think there's a chance they can win. (This is one reason the loss of the capital is often devastating to a country at war, the loss of moral internal and international legitimacy.)

The Army of Northern Virginia could avoid short-term destruction if Richmond is taken in 1862, but keeping it up to strength and performance without Richmond would be very difficult and winning the war in any kind of decisive way would be effectively impossible.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I should also point out that the most likely ways for Richmond to be taken in 1862 are:

- Urbanna campaign only - a battle in central Richmond
This happens if McClellan's Urbanna campaign takes place in original conception. Essentially half the Army of the Potomac (~5-6 divisions) collides with Johnston's force coming down in a hurry from Manassas, with the other half of the Army of the Potomac pursuing Johnston and coming into the fight as well. In this situation there's the possibility of a battle, and if Johnston loses it then he either abandons Richmond or falls back into it (see below).

- Peninsula or Urbanna - siege works
In this scenario, rather than a battle what happens is that Johnston (or later Lee) withdraws into Richmond's forts to defend it, and they are unable to lever McClellan away from proximity of the city. McClellan conducts regular approaches, and effectively gives the Confederate commander a choice between suiciding his army into McClellan's siege works or being certain to lose the city (because McClellan's heavy artillery is battering down the fortifications, and then McClellan's assault troops are taking the forts with fire support).
Whether Johnston or Lee has attacked into McClellan's siege works or not depends on the scenario (historically Lee was able to cut around McClellan's flank with Jackson because McClellan didn't have the troops to make progress and cover his northern flank at the same time) but either way at some point Richmond is no longer practically defensible and the AoNV has to abandon the city.

What this means is that the AoNV could be every bit as strong as it was at peak 1862 strength in the Seven Days (or stronger), or it could be quite weak as a result of severe bloodletting around Richmond. A battle is not necessary to take Richmond but it's up to the CSA if there is one, basically.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
With the given about this following Seven Pines, IMO the simplest way for this to proceed is that Jackson gets caught (or badly mauled, or in some other way considered less of an overriding threat), and that as a consequence all or most of 1st Corps is transferred south to join McClellan. (Three divisions would do it - McCall, Shields and King would do nicely).
Taking Richmond in June is very hard because basically for most of the month the ground is very wet, but with most of 1st Corps having joined McClellan then it's not possible to prise him away from Richmond. This results in the defences of Richmond being battered down through the first half of July,and by the second week with Forts Jackson and Johnson no longer effective either Johnston or Lee has to decide - do they try and attack Federal works to drive the Army of the Potomac away from Richmond, or abandon it?
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
The loss of Richmond, however it happens would (and should) result in Johnston being sacked.

The AotP isn't large enough to truly encircle Richmond, even with McDowell. A Petersburg style semi-siege is more likely. I agree such a seige drags on all summer. The ANV pulls out of Richmond largely intact, if a bit worn down.

Where do they go? Do they fall back to Petersburg, with a good supply route to Wilmington and the James River as a defensive line? Or do they go west toward Lynchburg and Danville?

If Lee is presumably Johnston's successor does he try to boldly strike north, perhaps through the Shenandoah? Desperate times call for desperate measures and the Kentucky Campaign is probably still underway.

If Richmond falls in August or thereabouts, when and where does McClellan want to go next? Petersburg then Raleigh? He needs to hold Richmond after the AOTP leaves it, for political reasons - both PR and Reconstruction purposes (think Nashville).
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
The AotP isn't large enough to truly encircle Richmond, even with McDowell. A Petersburg style semi-siege is more likely. I agree such a seige drags on all summer. The ANV pulls out of Richmond largely intact, if a bit worn down.
I think the issue here is a misconception of the meaning meant for "siege works". McClellan did not intend to encircle Richmond and starve it out, or to extend his lines to the extent that the Confederates could not cover it - he intended to bring up his battering pieces and literally blast his way into Richmond.

Historically when the Seven Days opened McClellan's assault divisions were taking the high ground in the Old Tavern area; that puts them within effective range (for heavy rifles such as the 200 pounders in his siege train) of Fort Jackson and Fort Johnston. What follows, known as "regular approaches", is that the forts get bombarded and destroyed as effective means of resistance; the only real ways to prevent this are:

1) To have better defensive artillery, meaning you can win the bombardment race against the attacking guns.
2) To prevent the attacking guns from doing their bombardment in the first place.

The first one is not an option for the defenders of Richmond in 1862, they do not have 200 pound Parrott rifles.
Without McDowell, Lee could do the second one by turning the Union positions north of the river; with McDowell there's nowhere for him to do this. Thus his only options are to either attack directly into Union fortifications, or abandon the city.

This is how regular approaches work.

The expected timeframe would be mid-July for the point at which the Richmond defences would be rendered useless.
 

Mango Hill

Corporal
Joined
Jul 23, 2020
I don't believe the South folds if Richmond falls to McClellan in 1862. The CSA had already formed it's own country and fired on Ft. Sumter before Virginia voted to secede, and did so due to Lincoln's call for state militia to put down the rebellion. In 1862 the CSA still clung to the belief that the cotton embargo would force England and France to give official recognition to the Confederacy.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I don't believe the South folds if Richmond falls to McClellan in 1862. The CSA had already formed it's own country and fired on Ft. Sumter before Virginia voted to secede, and did so due to Lincoln's call for state militia to put down the rebellion. In 1862 the CSA still clung to the belief that the cotton embargo would force England and France to give official recognition to the Confederacy.
If the South does continue active resistance - which is quite plausible - there are going to be simply hideous knock-on effects on Confederate war readiness. Expect to see a lot less artillery, along with fewer men and rifles; more desertion, less overseas credit for the CSA (as they don't look like they've got much of a chance); once the Union occupies Danville, the CSA has lost their source of gun iron entirely...

As of 1862 there's also already a Federal enclave in North Carolina, so the defensibility of the Roanoke River is already partially compromised.
 

rbasin

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jan 31, 2013
Location
Tampa, Fl
what's the new capital, Atlanta? Charlotte?

The CSA would have been in serious if not fatal trouble.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
what's the new capital, Atlanta? Charlotte?
It's a good question. You can't just pick a swamp in the middle of nowhere and make it a national capital (well... not in a wartime which urgently requires bureaucracy) and the largest cities left in the CSA (in mid-1862 but once Virginia is gone) are...


US Population
Rank
City
State
22​
40522​
27​
29258​
41​
22292​
77​
12493​
97​
9621​
99​
9554​
100​
9552​


Augusta, Columbus and Atlanta are the only three of these which are inland (i.e. not the immediate next target for a US amphibious operation), but they're all kind of small. (For reference Richmond had 38,000.)

Charlotte basically did not exist as a city in the Civil War; it had a population of 2,265. A brigade of defending troops would probably outnumber the population!
 

Luke Freet

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 8, 2018
Right, but it would be in what would be the front line of the eastern theatre. Personally, atlanta makes the most sense.
As a centrally located hub, certainly. The issue is, does the city have the infrastructure to support the government moving there? Keep in mind, the city is 4 times smaller than Richmond.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Hmm, the CSA did briefly have Mongtomery AL as their capital, which might encourage them to give it a go at using that place again. It's certainly fairly safe...
 

rbasin

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jan 31, 2013
Location
Tampa, Fl
Maybe. But it would have to do. With the loss of big parts of Virgina, does Knoxville suddenly become more important? Then that's another line to cover.

And holding chattanooga is vital.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Maybe. But it would have to do. With the loss of big parts of Virgina, does Knoxville suddenly become more important? Then that's another line to cover.

And holding chattanooga is vital.
I'm not sure how possible a Federal offensive in that direction is if opposed, but it would require at least some defensive forces there.
 

Mango Hill

Corporal
Joined
Jul 23, 2020
If the South does continue active resistance - which is quite plausible - there are going to be simply hideous knock-on effects on Confederate war readiness. Expect to see a lot less artillery, along with fewer men and rifles; more desertion, less overseas credit for the CSA (as they don't look like they've got much of a chance); once the Union occupies Danville, the CSA has lost their source of gun iron entirely...

As of 1862 there's also already a Federal enclave in North Carolina, so the defensibility of the Roanoke River is already partially compromised.

Probable would be more likely considering that even after Lincoln is re-elected and the Southern economy was a basket case Dixie still refused to fold. I think the EP made a huge difference in stiffening resistance against the Yankees. So, a big factor that could have influenced Georgia and even North Carolina to fold their tent with the fall of Richmond would be when Richmond falls in 1862. If things go in a different direction with McClellan handling the Peninsular Campaign in a more aggressive manner, then Lincoln might not choose to take the total war approach. If NC and GA leave the CSA that could create a domino effect that would practically make the CSA untenable.
 
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