Discussion Stones River VS Gettysburg...Errily The Same.

atlantis

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Bragg had to defend his position as he was in his theater of operations and tasked with defending the territory behind him. Both Bragg and Lee were offensive minded and had the habit of continuing attacks when they should have stopped. Switch the Two and you get the same results. Put Johnston or Longstreet in command at either battle and you get a defensive victory.
 

Piedone

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An extremely thought provoking post. Great.
But for the different estimation Lee and Bragg got...well the former delivered some outstanding victories and made out of the ANV with his extremely clever “human ressource management” an extremely able army.
Bragg (and I am not saying that he wasn’t capable at all) wore himself out with often fruitless efforts.

I am pretty sure that Lee blundered Gettysburg as the exception that proves the rule, whereas Bragg blundered in more than one way, making Chickamauga his exception of a (mostly negative) rule....

On top of that Lee was seemingly an impressive personality (which even his foes did acknowledge) whereas Bragg showed a sometimes rather brusque, peculiar personality.

Is this an oversimplification?
 
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jackt62

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On top of that Lee was seemingly an impressive personality (which even his foes did acknowledge) whereas Bragg showed a sometimes rather brusque, peculiarities personality.
That is correct. One of the important attributes that made Lee a highly effective commander was his ability to properly manage his subordinates and to inspire the rank and file soldiery. In contrast, Bragg's personality was not conducive to overseeing and leading a team in a way that would constitute a winning formula. As a caveat, however, Lee was dealing with mostly fellow Virginian officers who had their own impressive resumes, whereas Bragg was often beset by subordinates with their own particular agendas.
 

Rhea Cole

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That is correct. One of the important attributes that made Lee a highly effective commander was his ability to properly manage his subordinates and to inspire the rank and file soldiery. In contrast, Bragg's personality was not conducive to overseeing and leading a team in a way that would constitute a winning formula. As a caveat, however, Lee was dealing with mostly fellow Virginian officers who had their own impressive resumes, whereas Bragg was often beset by subordinates with their own particular agendas.
You have hit on something there. Lee's subordinates might disagree with his decisions, but they would do their best to carry them out. Bragg's commanders, Breckenridge, Hardee, Hanson et al did not trust Bragg's judgement. Lee's orders might be misinterpreted or lead to outright disaster, but not because his subordinates were reluctant to carry them out. Bragg, on the other hand, did not even bother to share his thoughts & plans with his commanders. As result, his ad hoc arbitrary orders were met with distrust & doubt.

Neither Bragg nor Lee had a plan that led to the battles they fought. Both ordered attacks straight out of the textbook. Rosecrans' plan was a mirror image of Bragg's. Hold on the right, flank the opponent on the left. Textbook, textbook, testbook.
 

jackt62

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Bragg's commanders, Breckenridge, Hardee, Hanson et al did not trust Bragg's judgement.
I find an interesting backstory to that lack of judgement revolves around Bragg's ill-fated Kentucky incursion in 1862. When the local population failed to sufficiently rally around the stars and bars, Bragg blamed Buckner (and by extension other Kentuckians such as Breckenridge), who for their part, faulted Bragg for the lack of success. I think it was Buckner who was thought to be the ring leader of the officer revolt against Bragg in 1863.
 

Rhea Cole

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I find an interesting backstory to that lack of judgement revolves around Bragg's ill-fated Kentucky incursion in 1862. When the local population failed to sufficiently rally around the stars and bars, Bragg blamed Buckner (and by extension other Kentuckians such as Breckenridge), who for their part, faulted Bragg for the lack of success. I think it was Buckner who was thought to be the ring leader of the officer revolt against Bragg in 1863.
The interesting thing is that Buckner was not in Kentucky. He was on another command & was in no position to sway recruits in Kentucky one way or another. It is a prime example of Bragg’s mental process. He formed a preconceived construct & was incapable of adjusting to facts on the ground. Of course, he then clung to prejudices & held grudges that poisoned his relationship with his commanders.
 

Piedone

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You have hit on something there. Lee's subordinates might disagree with his decisions, but they would do their best to carry them out. Bragg's commanders, Breckenridge, Hardee, Hanson et al did not trust Bragg's judgement. Lee's orders might be misinterpreted or lead to outright disaster, but not because his subordinates were reluctant to carry them out. Bragg, on the other hand, did not even bother to share his thoughts & plans with his commanders. As result, his ad hoc arbitrary orders were met with distrust & doubt.

Neither Bragg nor Lee had a plan that led to the battles they fought. Both ordered attacks straight out of the textbook. Rosecrans' plan was a mirror image of Bragg's. Hold on the right, flank the opponent on the left. Textbook, textbook, testbook.
Absolutely. But I think it should be regarded that it was Lee who built up a kind of relation to his subordinates that ensured that his orders were carried out.

And you are of course right with the fact that Lee didn't really have a plan for the battle of Gettysburg - but I deem this rather the exception - as far as it is possible to have a plan for an oncoming battle at all (as it's extremely hard to anticipate the movements of the other party) Lee as a matter of fact had mostly some ideas and plans for the battles he fought.
 

Rhea Cole

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Absolutely. But I think it should be regarded that it was Lee who built up a kind of relation to his subordinates that ensured that his orders were carried out.

And you are of course right with the fact that Lee didn't really have a plan for the battle of Gettysburg - but I deem this rather the exception - as far as it is possible to have a plan for an oncoming battle at all (as it's extremely hard to anticipate the movements of the other party) Lee as a matter of fact had mostly some ideas and plans for the battles he fought.
Interestingly it was George Thomas who was involved in the best planned & executed battles of the war. With all the bandwidth taken up by Bragg’s failed attacks, it was Rosecrans’ plan that prevailed at Stones River. Thomas was central to that victory as well as the Tullahoma Campaign that led to the capture of Chattanooga. His defense of Nashville & the destruction of Hood’s army was a result of Thomas’ meticulous planning. Thomas not only planned his battles, he successfully executed the plan. Lee never did anything on the scale of Thomas’ victories.
 

Joshism

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Kudos for the thought-provoking post.

Both battles were meeting engagements.

Gettysburg Day 1 was definitely a meet engagement, with both sides funneling in troops as they arrived. Chickamauga (Sep 19) is another great example, especially since there wasn't even a clear ad hoc battle line there, unlike Gettysburg.

Stones River was not a meeting engagement. Both armies were fully arranged into battle lines before the Confederate attack began on Jan 31.

U.S. forces were, in both instances, driven back onto unassailable positions were they held.

In both cases the best option for the Confederates was to go after the Union line of communication and retreat, threatening an important strategic point in the process. Neither did.

Both had lost the initiative & could only await inevitable defeat at the hands of the same commander, Grant.

Bragg lost the initiative after Perryville and didn't try to regain it until Chickamauga. Lee tried to regain it again that fall (Bristoe Campaign).

Rosecrans would command the AOC through two other offensive campaigns against Bragg: Tullahoma and Chickamauga. Meade would cautiously spar with Lee in the fall, including a major offensive by each side that failed to lead to a major engagement (Bristoe and Mine Run).

Bragg would lose his job from the first major battle following Grant's arrival, a major Confederate defeat. Lee would retain his job until the end of the war, repeatedly fighting Grant/Meade to tactical draws and defeats, but never achieving a strategic victory.
 

jackt62

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Lee never did anything on the scale of Thomas’ victories.,
Yes, that is very true. In the matter of deliberate planning, Thomas (while sometimes criticized for that trait by Grant and others) was able to strike a delicate balance between acting too hastily and ensuring that an attack plan was properly resourced and communicated. In contrast, Lee often relied on sheer aggressiveness (and a mystique about the awesome fighting prowess of the ANV), to make up for poor staff control and proper intelligence. To be sure, the clock was ticking on Lee's ability to fend off the enemy while proving that the Confederacy could attain battlefield victories, a precursor to possible foreign intervention and the sapping of northern morale. In that respect, Lee's bold moves (or foolhardy depending on the viewpoint) in dividing his army paid off in places like 2nd Manassas and Chancellorsville but ultimately bled the ANV dry.
 

Rhea Cole

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Yes, that is very true. In the matter of deliberate planning, Thomas (while sometimes criticized for that trait by Grant and others) was able to strike a delicate balance between acting too hastily and ensuring that an attack plan was properly resourced and communicated. In contrast, Lee often relied on sheer aggressiveness (and a mystique about the awesome fighting prowess of the ANV), to make up for poor staff control and proper intelligence. To be sure, the clock was ticking on Lee's ability to fend off the enemy while proving that the Confederacy could attain battlefield victories, a precursor to possible foreign intervention and the sapping of northern morale. In that respect, Lee's bold moves (or foolhardy depending on the viewpoint) in dividing his army paid off in places like 2nd Manassas and Chancellorsville but ultimately bled the ANV dry.
I agree, Lee’s tactical success was devoid of strategic victories.
 

Piedone

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Yes, that is very true. In the matter of deliberate planning, Thomas (while sometimes criticized for that trait by Grant and others) was able to strike a delicate balance between acting too hastily and ensuring that an attack plan was properly resourced and communicated. In contrast, Lee often relied on sheer aggressiveness (and a mystique about the awesome fighting prowess of the ANV), to make up for poor staff control and proper intelligence. To be sure, the clock was ticking on Lee's ability to fend off the enemy while proving that the Confederacy could attain battlefield victories, a precursor to possible foreign intervention and the sapping of northern morale. In that respect, Lee's bold moves (or foolhardy depending on the viewpoint) in dividing his army paid off in places like 2nd Manassas and Chancellorsville but ultimately bled the ANV dry.
Well I am not sure if the picture of a Lee bleeding the ANV dry really holds as he in general (with rare exceptions) inflicted more losses than he sustained - with a mostoften definitely inferior force of his own.
You cannot come to grips with a force of 70000 and expect that to become a unbloody affair as the communications of that age (and some other conditions as well) simply not favoured accurate chirurgical interventions in the turmoil of a battle (something every civil war general had to learn eventually).
And sitting behind a fortified line and waiting for the enemy would also definitely not do the trick (as J.E.Johnston demonstrated...).
 

Rhea Cole

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Well I am not sure if the picture of a Lee bleeding the ANV dry really holds as he in general (with rare exceptions) inflicted more losses than he sustained - with a mostoften definitely inferior force of his own.
You cannot come to grips with a force of 70000 and expect that to become a unbloody affair as the communications of that age (and some other conditions as well) simply not favoured accurate chirurgical interventions in the turmoil of a battle (something every civil war general had to learn eventually).
And sitting behind a fortified line and waiting for the enemy would also definitely not do the trick (as J.E.Johnston demonstrated...).
I refer you to the American Battlefield Trusts‘ excellent statistical comparison of Lee vs the A of the P. Win or loose, with the obvious exception of Fredericksburg, Lee’s army suffered more wounded & KIA’s or equal to that of the the A of the P in every battle including Gettysburg

The A of NV under Lee suffered almost 250,000 casualties defending a few counties in Virginia. That is more than the armies Grant commanded when he captured two entire CSA armies, guaranteed Kentucky’s loyalty, regained huge swathes of territory, opened the Mississippi & effectively captured Nashville, Memphis etc.

It wasn’t just Lee, Bragg suffered considerably more wounded/KIA than he inflicted at Chickamauga, the one CSA victory in the West. It was Grant, Sherman & Thomas who inflicted significantly more wounded/KIA’s on their opponents on CWT era combat.
 
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James N.

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That is true, there wasn't a post war cottage industry out to prove that Breckenridge had lost the Battle of Stones River.
What I think the real shame is the now-unknown Stones River vs. the Immortality of Gettysburg. Even Shiloh which was approximately the same size is better-remembered, though the losses at both were also similarly devastating.
 

jackt62

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And sitting behind a fortified line and waiting for the enemy would also definitely not do the trick (as J.E.Johnston demonstrated...).
Ironically, that was what Lee was eventually forced into doing, albeit while still retaining a dash of offensive operations thrown in. Lee was basically forced on the defensive after Gettysburg and certainly after the conclusion of the Wilderness battle on May 6, 1864.
 

Piedone

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I refer you to the American Battlefield Trusts‘ excellent statistical comparison of Lee vs the A of the P. Win or loose, with the obvious exception of Fredericksburg, Lee’s army suffered more wounded & KIA’s or equal to that of the the A of the P in every battle including Gettysburg

The A of NV under Lee suffered almost 250,000 casualties defending a few counties in Virginia. That is more than the armies Grant commanded when he captured two entire CSA armies, guaranteed Kentucky’s loyalty, regained huge swathes of territory, opened the Mississippi & effectively captured Nashville, Memphis etc.

It wasn’t just Lee, Bragg suffered considerably more wounded/KIA than he inflicted at Chickamauga, the one CSA victory in the West. It was Grant, Sherman & Thomas who inflicted significantly more wounded/KIA’s on their opponents on CWT era combat.
This is indeed a total surprise to me. Are you referring to Bonekemper?
I checked the numbers again and as far as I could find out they were:
Peninsula US 23119 CS 29298,
NVa Camp. US 16843 CS 9197,
Md Camp US 28272 CS 14506,
Fred.burg US 12653 CS 5377,
Ch´ville US 17287 CS 12764,
Gettysburg US 23000 CS 28000,
Overland US 54926 CS about 35000,
Siege of P US 42000 CS about 28000. (Some of this numbers seemingly referred also to the Civil War Trust).

Where is my mistake?

Please don't misunderstand me: I really don't want to levy Lee again to a demigod -
but as far as I can judge he definitely was a successful general.
 

Piedone

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What I think the real shame is the now-unknown Stones River vs. the Immortality of Gettysburg. Even Shiloh which was approximately the same size is better-remembered, though the losses at both were also similarly devastating.
Might it be that scholarship is just recently (since about 20 years) looking closer on the western theater?
 

Piedone

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Ironically, that was what Lee was eventually forced into doing, albeit while still retaining a dash of offensive operations thrown in. Lee was basically forced on the defensive after Gettysburg and certainly after the conclusion of the Wilderness battle on May 6, 1864.
Absolutely correct - and how shouldn't´t he? Grant was everything but an idiot and the AoP also a very effective fighting machine.
 

Rhea Cole

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This is indeed a total surprise to me. Are you referring to Bonekemper?
I checked the numbers again and as far as I could find out they were:
Peninsula US 23119 CS 29298,
NVa Camp. US 16843 CS 9197,
Md Camp US 28272 CS 14506,
Fred.burg US 12653 CS 5377,
Ch´ville US 17287 CS 12764,
Gettysburg US 23000 CS 28000,
Overland US 54926 CS about 35000,
Siege of P US 42000 CS about 28000. (Some of this numbers seemingly referred also to the Civil War Trust).

Where is my mistake?

Please don't misunderstand me: I really don't want to levy Lee again to a demigod -
but as far as I can judge he definitely was a successful general.
I specifically stated wounded/KIA’s. In fact, as we now know, the A of NB’s losses were significantly under reported. That is, of course, the subject of other threads on this forum & outside this thread.
 
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