Strategic Victories

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
Where I disagree is that after Petersburg was invested and as the siege went on, the ANV had lost its offensive capability and was leaking deserters. By March-April 1865, it literally was just a matter of time - and not much time. The failure of the desperate attempt to escape was completely predictable.
Perhaps a turning point for the ANV was its loss at Gettysburg. Although it managed to mount a few offensive operations afterwards (Bristoe campaign, the Wilderness, Ft. Stedman), Lee and his army were basically on the defensive until the end of the war.
 

JerryD

Private
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Where I disagree is that after Petersburg was invested and as the siege went on, the ANV had lost its offensive capability and was leaking deserters. By March-April 1865, it literally was just a matter of time - and not much time. The failure of the desperate attempt to escape was completely predictable.
Yeah, in a later post I corrected myself. That was a typo. I meant April-May 1864, before the start of the Overland Campaign. By April 1865 the ANV was a hollow shell.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Two decisive battles, the US navy bypassing forts Phillip and Jackson, leading to the capture of New Orleans. It was one of the few places in the Confederacy that English and French military knew about. It took awhile for people to realize what happened. But the southern economy was in serious trouble once New Orleans passed into US control.
This old paper on New Orleans still exists on the internet:
1634612190559.png

The US had tremendous difficult in pursuing and catching retreating Confederate armies, if the Confederates were not trapped.
It only caught and trapped a Confederate once. That happened in the Five Forks, Sailor's Creek, Appomattox operation. The Confederate army surrendered and the war ended. That's what decisive means. Either a major city falls, or a war ending surrender occurs.
On the Confederate side, the successful defense of Fort Darling on Drewry's Bluff meant the US navy could not get to Richmond. There was not going to be a successful combined arms operation against Richmond at that time. The war continued.
Vicksburg eventually fell to the US Army. But the successful defense of the Vicksburg lines, including containment of Lawler's break through on May 22, 1863 kept Grant's army pinned down for 6 weeks. Had Vicksburg fallen in May, those forces would have been disbursed for action all summer. The war probably would have ended later that year.
 

Bradley

Private
Joined
Apr 5, 2018
Location
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Creek above said it better than I could have and Mr. Bearss book Confederate Victory at Vicksburg, and his argument and the period he is writing about, is very underappreciated in the Vicksburg historiography.

Another post above (quotations aren't working for me on my phone, user-error I assume) suggests Vicksburg wasn't all that important... But I think that's a discussion worth digging into, re: exchange of war material for food stuff).
 

tony_gunter

Corporal
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
Mississippi
I think one overlooked strategic victory (although a tactical defeat), that did have an impact on the course of the war was the decision of the new Vicksburg commander, Major General Earl Van Dorn, who took command on June 27, 1862, to assume the offensive following the lifting of the naval siege of Vicksburg by the CSS Arkansas, by then moving against Baton Rouge, the occupied capital of Louisiana. Van Dorn is often characterized as an egocentric, glory seeking and incompetent commander, whose single noteworthy military success came in leading a cavalry raid to destroy Grant's supply depot at Holly Springs in December, 1862. In spite of his personal motives, the decision to move against the Louisiana capital with a combined arms task force and, at the urging of Major General Breckinridge, supported by the formidable ironclad Arkansas, I believe was based on sound strategic planning (if not a firm grasp of ship steam engine mechanics). The criticisms often directed at Van Dorn – that the whole operation was unnecessary and only resulted in unnecessary Confederate losses, including the loss of the irreplaceable ram – I think were largely unjustified, based on an assessment of the results of this campaign.

Two weeks after the battle of Baton Rouge (August 5, 1862), which can certainly be characterized as a Federal tactical victory, the Union forces abandoned the city, its 2,000-man garrison being recalled by Major General Ben Butler who feared New Orleans would be the next target of a Confederate offensive. In this less well-known "sideshow" of the first Vicksburg campaign, Union forces had been "persuaded" to retreat to New Orleans, expecting the next Confederate offensive to be directed toward the liberation of that city, and the departure of all but a token force of gunboats had opened the mouth of the Red River.

Port Hudson, with its 80-foot bluffs, the strongest strategic point on the Mississippi south of Vicksburg, was then occupied without Federal interference, garrisoned and fortified with heavy guns. In fact, Port Hudson did not surrender until after the fall of Vicksburg in July 1863, when the position was rendered untenable, the last Confederate bastion on the river to fall. The presence of Southern forces there withheld needed reinforcements from U. S. Grant's army during his Vicksburg campaign. They did that by keeping Major General Nathaniel P. Banks (who replaced Butler in December, 1862) and his army occupied in siege operations against the Louisiana stronghold. The Port Hudson garrison also held off Federal gunboats trying to travel upriver to join Grant. Because of all these consequences, Van Dorn's campaign prolonged the life of Confederate Vicksburg and the vital connection with the Trans-Mississippi Confederacy.

I'll sum up with a quote by Edwin Bearss, which I think reinforces my point:

"With one ironclad, a handful of guns...the Confederates had regained control of 250 miles of the Mississippi. The failure of Halleck and his Generals to grasp the strategic significance of what was happening on the Mississippi had cost the Union dearly. The first major campaign against Vicksburg had failed...The successful defense of Vicksburg and the recovery of the reaches of the Mississippi between Port Hudson and Vicksburg was a great victory by Confederate arms which had been largely bypassed by military historians."
Seems like this is a reach. The confederates didn't regain control of 250 miles of the Mississippi without Farragut abandoning it. Port Hudson could have been fortified even with the federals still in control of Baton Rouge. Van Dorn could have accomplished everything he did without sending the Arkansas for support (obviously, since the Arkansas was lost without firing a shot). Worst of all, losing the Arkansas gave Porter free reign on the river, without which Porter could not have as easily passed the batteries and Grant could not have risked crossing the river at Bruinsburg.
 

Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
Location
Northern Alabama
Well, certainly one can speculate on what could have/should have/would have happened under the same circumstances. I'm just drawing a simple "this event caused this result" type of conclusion. Maybe a given event shouldn't have necessarily caused a specific result, but it apparently did. That's all I'm saying. And under those assumptions, it was a strategic victory for the Confederates...

Cheers!
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
Seems like this is a reach. The confederates didn't regain control of 250 miles of the Mississippi without Farragut abandoning it. Port Hudson could have been fortified even with the federals still in control of Baton Rouge. Van Dorn could have accomplished everything he did without sending the Arkansas for support (obviously, since the Arkansas was lost without firing a shot). Worst of all, losing the Arkansas gave Porter free reign on the river, without which Porter could not have as easily passed the batteries and Grant could not have risked crossing the river at Bruinsburg.
I agree with most of this.

Id just note that in the February-March 1863 timeframe, Porter did not have an easy time passing the batteries.
Queen of the West got by, but then was captured
Indianola got by, but then was sunk by the Queen of the West and the Webb
Lancaster was sunk by the batteries
Switzerland was heavily damaged by the batteries but survived because she was able to meet up with Farragut.
So out of 4 boats that were sent by, only 1 survived and barely.

I put forth that what gave Porter and Grant a better chance in April was the return of Farragut -- though he only got 2 of his 7 boats passed Port Hudson, he had the Hartford, which could outgun anything the confederates had and could make sure the other side of Vickburg was a safe space for Porter to run to.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
There were three. Paging through the West Point Atlas of the Civil War a 1962 few of the Civil War, the editors cited Gettysburg and Vicksburg as decisive.
The Confederacy threw everything they had into the Gettysburg campaign. The army was reinforced. The weather was good. The supply difficulties caused by the blockade were temporarily in the background. A large fraction of the available Confederate manpower was invested in the campaign, and the Confederacy lost.
At Vicksburg, the fall of the Vicksburg fortifications and the consequent surrender of Port Hudson significantly altered the viability of the Confederacy in the eyes of European observers. It also greatly reduced the strategic problem that the US had to solve. And slavery as it had existed up to 1860 was not going to recover from having the US army and navy ranging up and down the lower Mississippi.
The third decisive battle was the Five Forks to Appomattox campaign. I will write again, it was very hard to catch a Confederate army away from its supply depots, unless it was trapped against a river. But only had to happen once to the Army of No. Virginia and the war ended.
General Meade had the opportunity to cut off Lee's retreating army after the battle of Gettysburg, but he was unable to do it. @Eric Wittenberg probably knows why, but I will speculate that Meade was new in command; three of his corp commanders were out of action; Meade's army was badly damaged; and Confederate cavalry turned a good performance in keeping the US away from the Army of No. Virginia.
 

Eric Wittenberg

1st Lieutenant
Keeper of the Scales
Joined
Jun 2, 2013
Location
Columbus, OH
General Meade had the opportunity to cut off Lee's retreating army after the battle of Gettysburg, but he was unable to do it. @Eric Wittenberg probably knows why, but I will speculate that Meade was new in command; three of his corp commanders were out of action; Meade's army was badly damaged; and Confederate cavalry turned a good performance in keeping the US away from the Army of No. Virginia.
That's certainly a big chunk of it, but there's more. In no particular order:

Because he lost his chief of staff during the cannonade before Pickett's Charge, his Cavalry Corps commander, Alfred Pleasonton, had to be pressed into service as chief of staff for the first few days after the battle, and Pleasonton lacked the bandwidth and capability to do both jobs simultaneously. Consequently, the cavalry was left to its own devices; David Gregg's Second Division got no orders and simply camped near Chambersburg for almost 10 days before someone thought to give them orders and for them to re-engage. There was no rhyme or reason to the use of the Union cavalry, and it's a tribute to John Buford and Judson Kilpatrick that they were as effective and cooperative as they were, operating entirely on their own.

Further, Meade's orders required him to maintain his army interposed between Lee and Baltimore and Washington at all times. Consequently, Meade could not leave Gettysburg until he knew for certain where was headed. Buford provided this intelligence on the night of July 6. The AoP was in motion early on July 7 as a result. Further, those orders dictated that the AoP had to take a longer and more roundabout route of march in order to remain interposed between the ANV and Washington/Baltimore.

The replacement corps commanders were new to corps command and none of the three were aggressive--all were career artillerists who were in way over their heads commanding corps. I daresay that the only aggressive move that Old Blinky French, the new commander of the III Corps, ever made was on a bottle of whiskey. That left Slocum--not known for aggressiveness--as the senior corps commander, along with Tardy George Sykes (who had six whole days of corps command under his belt when the battle ended), Sedgwick and Uh-oh Howard. Of those four luminaries, Howard as the most aggressive, as difficult to believe as it is.

Meade was also concerned about maintaining consensus among his corps commanders. All of them but the replacements and Sykes were senior to him by virtue of date of commission as major generals, and they had to agree to serve under his command pursuant to army politics. He wanted to be sure that they continued to support him as a new, junior officer suddenly thrust into a command he never wanted. That he tried to resign from army command several times certainly evidences this.

The site selected by Lee and his engineers and the works constructed made Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg look like speed bumps by comparison. The position featured prominent high ground with a complete road network behind it to speed movement of troops and supplies, interior lines of communications, and a position with both flanks anchored on the river such that it could not be outflanked. The works were strong and well built--A. A. Humphreys, who finally agreed to serve as chief of staff on July 10 to get away from French, was a career combat engineer, and he called those works the strongest he had yet seen. It's entirely possible, and perhaps entirely likely, that the AoP would have dashed itself on the rocks of that line and undone all of the good done through the victory at Gettysburg.

Finally, and most importantly, let's keep in mind that this was both a unique and unprecedented situation. There was no playbook to consult--the only prior example was Lee's escape after Antietam, which was largely unmolested., and McClellan's withdrawal from the Peninsula, which was completely unmolested. There was nobody to consult. There was no case study to rely upon. This situation only presented itself because of the freakish combination of the terribly inclement weather that caused the Potomac to rise precipitously and the lack of a means to cross the river until July 14. Meade had to make all of this up as he went--that's a tall order for a guy who had only been in command of the army for a few days and who had won a major battlefield victory by fighting a defensive battle.
 

tony_gunter

Corporal
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
Mississippi
I agree with most of this.

Id just note that in the February-March 1863 timeframe, Porter did not have an easy time passing the batteries.
Queen of the West got by, but then was captured
Indianola got by, but then was sunk by the Queen of the West and the Webb
Lancaster was sunk by the batteries
Switzerland was heavily damaged by the batteries but survived because she was able to meet up with Farragut.
So out of 4 boats that were sent by, only 1 survived and barely.

I put forth that what gave Porter and Grant a better chance in April was the return of Farragut -- though he only got 2 of his 7 boats passed Port Hudson, he had the Hartford, which could outgun anything the confederates had and could make sure the other side of Vickburg was a safe space for Porter to run to.
True, but the final attempt was for all the marbles and included the fleet so the fire couldn’t be concentrated on one or two targets.

Porter also buttressed his ships with cottonclad barges lashed to one side, something that wouldn’t have been as useful with the Arkansas in play.

The Arkansas also would have also taken out of play hugging the near bank to be under the depression range of some of the guns.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
That's certainly a big chunk of it, but there's more. In no particular order:

Because he lost his chief of staff during the cannonade before Pickett's Charge, his Cavalry Corps commander, Alfred Pleasonton, had to be pressed into service as chief of staff for the first few days after the battle, and Pleasonton lacked the bandwidth and capability to do both jobs simultaneously. Consequently, the cavalry was left to its own devices; David Gregg's Second Division got no orders and simply camped near Chambersburg for almost 10 days before someone thought to give them orders and for them to re-engage. There was no rhyme or reason to the use of the Union cavalry, and it's a tribute to John Buford and Judson Kilpatrick that they were as effective and cooperative as they were, operating entirely on their own.

Further, Meade's orders required him to maintain his army interposed between Lee and Baltimore and Washington at all times. Consequently, Meade could not leave Gettysburg until he knew for certain where was headed. Buford provided this intelligence on the night of July 6. The AoP was in motion early on July 7 as a result. Further, those orders dictated that the AoP had to take a longer and more roundabout route of march in order to remain interposed between the ANV and Washington/Baltimore.

The replacement corps commanders were new to corps command and none of the three were aggressive--all were career artillerists who were in way over their heads commanding corps. I daresay that the only aggressive move that Old Blinky French, the new commander of the III Corps, ever made was on a bottle of whiskey. That left Slocum--not known for aggressiveness--as the senior corps commander, along with Tardy George Sykes (who had six whole days of corps command under his belt when the battle ended), Sedgwick and Uh-oh Howard. Of those four luminaries, Howard as the most aggressive, as difficult to believe as it is.

Meade was also concerned about maintaining consensus among his corps commanders. All of them but the replacements and Sykes were senior to him by virtue of date of commission as major generals, and they had to agree to serve under his command pursuant to army politics. He wanted to be sure that they continued to support him as a new, junior officer suddenly thrust into a command he never wanted. That he tried to resign from army command several times certainly evidences this.

The site selected by Lee and his engineers and the works constructed made Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg look like speed bumps by comparison. The position featured prominent high ground with a complete road network behind it to speed movement of troops and supplies, interior lines of communications, and a position with both flanks anchored on the river such that it could not be outflanked. The works were strong and well built--A. A. Humphreys, who finally agreed to serve as chief of staff on July 10 to get away from French, was a career combat engineer, and he called those works the strongest he had yet seen. It's entirely possible, and perhaps entirely likely, that the AoP would have dashed itself on the rocks of that line and undone all of the good done through the victory at Gettysburg.

Finally, and most importantly, let's keep in mind that this was both a unique and unprecedented situation. There was no playbook to consult--the only prior example was Lee's escape after Antietam, which was largely unmolested., and McClellan's withdrawal from the Peninsula, which was completely unmolested. There was nobody to consult. There was no case study to rely upon. This situation only presented itself because of the freakish combination of the terribly inclement weather that caused the Potomac to rise precipitously and the lack of a means to cross the river until July 14. Meade had to make all of this up as he went--that's a tall order for a guy who had only been in command of the army for a few days and who had won a major battlefield victory by fighting a defensive battle.
Thanks. The US did not have interior lines, but it did have water transportation. Rationally, they should have threatened Richmond with a rapid movement by water to eastern Virginia. McClellan had the right idea, and as badly as Lee was hurt by Gettysburg making him race to Richmond would have produced results even without a battle. But Washington and the administration were a long way from rational, and no further decisive battle followed Gettysburg.
However, in the economics study: Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation by Thornton and Ekelund, pp. 71-74 they make a strong case that the domestic economies of both the US and the Confederacy viewed the combined effect of Gettysburg and Vicksburg highly influential as to which belligerent's paper currency would retain permanent value and might eventually become convertible to gold.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
That's certainly a big chunk of it, but there's more. In no particular order:

Because he lost his chief of staff during the cannonade before Pickett's Charge, his Cavalry Corps commander, Alfred Pleasonton, had to be pressed into service as chief of staff for the first few days after the battle, and Pleasonton lacked the bandwidth and capability to do both jobs simultaneously. Consequently, the cavalry was left to its own devices; David Gregg's Second Division got no orders and simply camped near Chambersburg for almost 10 days before someone thought to give them orders and for them to re-engage. There was no rhyme or reason to the use of the Union cavalry, and it's a tribute to John Buford and Judson Kilpatrick that they were as effective and cooperative as they were, operating entirely on their own.

Further, Meade's orders required him to maintain his army interposed between Lee and Baltimore and Washington at all times. Consequently, Meade could not leave Gettysburg until he knew for certain where was headed. Buford provided this intelligence on the night of July 6. The AoP was in motion early on July 7 as a result. Further, those orders dictated that the AoP had to take a longer and more roundabout route of march in order to remain interposed between the ANV and Washington/Baltimore.

The replacement corps commanders were new to corps command and none of the three were aggressive--all were career artillerists who were in way over their heads commanding corps. I daresay that the only aggressive move that Old Blinky French, the new commander of the III Corps, ever made was on a bottle of whiskey. That left Slocum--not known for aggressiveness--as the senior corps commander, along with Tardy George Sykes (who had six whole days of corps command under his belt when the battle ended), Sedgwick and Uh-oh Howard. Of those four luminaries, Howard as the most aggressive, as difficult to believe as it is.

Meade was also concerned about maintaining consensus among his corps commanders. All of them but the replacements and Sykes were senior to him by virtue of date of commission as major generals, and they had to agree to serve under his command pursuant to army politics. He wanted to be sure that they continued to support him as a new, junior officer suddenly thrust into a command he never wanted. That he tried to resign from army command several times certainly evidences this.

The site selected by Lee and his engineers and the works constructed made Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg look like speed bumps by comparison. The position featured prominent high ground with a complete road network behind it to speed movement of troops and supplies, interior lines of communications, and a position with both flanks anchored on the river such that it could not be outflanked. The works were strong and well built--A. A. Humphreys, who finally agreed to serve as chief of staff on July 10 to get away from French, was a career combat engineer, and he called those works the strongest he had yet seen. It's entirely possible, and perhaps entirely likely, that the AoP would have dashed itself on the rocks of that line and undone all of the good done through the victory at Gettysburg.

Finally, and most importantly, let's keep in mind that this was both a unique and unprecedented situation. There was no playbook to consult--the only prior example was Lee's escape after Antietam, which was largely unmolested., and McClellan's withdrawal from the Peninsula, which was completely unmolested. There was nobody to consult. There was no case study to rely upon. This situation only presented itself because of the freakish combination of the terribly inclement weather that caused the Potomac to rise precipitously and the lack of a means to cross the river until July 14. Meade had to make all of this up as he went--that's a tall order for a guy who had only been in command of the army for a few days and who had won a major battlefield victory by fighting a defensive battle.
One other thing, General Lee seems to have chosen a crossing point on the Potomac up river from the navigable portion. That was different from the situation at Fort Donelson and at Vicksburg, if true.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Sirs...on the diplomatic front, the British and French recognizing the validity of the Union Blockade while not recognizing the Confederacy as a nation.

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
Interesting point. Because while the new administration in the US paid close attention to international law and the treaty of Paris, and arrived at solution that would test the treaty, but also allow the US to stop neutral vessels, the Confederacy temporarily authorized privateers, as if it was still 1812.
This put the Confederacy outside the bounds of international law and put a stigma on the Confederate raiders that Semmes and the other captains resented.
But then, Lyons remained in Washington, D.C., Seward had been to London, Charles Sumner had regular correspondence with British MPs, and even northern Democrats like Stephen Douglas were cognizant of the power of British investment.
Britain did recognize the Confederacy as a belligerent, which meant they weren't criminals, but tolerance of the Confederate raiders gradually declined, especially after July 1863.
 
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