The most decisive battle in the Civil War

matthew mckeon

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#1
I've been listening to Gary Gallagher. He dismisses both Gettysburg and Vicksburg as battles that were not decisive in the CW. His candidate for most decisive: The Seven Days.
 

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matthew mckeon

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#2
The CSA was losing the war in 1862. Union armies had advanced in the West, while McClellan was grinding his way almost to Richmond.
Then Lee takes command, fights the Seven Days and turns the war in the East around.

If Lee hadn't assumed command, the CSA would have probably lost in Aug/Sept of 1862, and we get both slavery for decades and decades and mostly likely a President McClellan(savior of the Union).

After the Seven Days, Lincoln will embark on the revolutionary policy of emancipation.
 
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#4
I've listened to a digitalized version of him supporting that opinion, but I disagree.
McClellan was not going to take Richmond. He did not have the testosterone for that, at that point.
Nothing was decided, except that the war would continue.
Lots of people died in the Eastern Theater, but nothing was decided until Lee gave up Richmond, way too late to make an escape, at least with Sheridan driving the pursuit.
 

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#5
I've been listening to Gary Gallagher. He dismisses both Gettysburg and Vicksburg as battles that were not decisive in the CW. His candidate for most decisive: The Seven Days.
A few months back I read a truly old book (1931) that I subsequently reviewed here called The Story of the Confederacy by Robert Selph Henry https://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-story-of-the-confederacy-by-robert-selph-henry.135430/ in which the author makes a good case for the failure of Bragg's invasion of Kentucky as decisively preventing the Confederacy from winning the war. (As opposed to losing it, which is a different thing.) Although that might make Perryville the decisive battle, he was really referring to the battle between Bragg's force and Buell's scattered army as it regrouped near Louisville that didn't happen because Bragg turned aside and dallied in Frankfort to inaugurate the Confederate Governor of Kentucky instead.
 

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#6
I've been listening to Gary Gallagher. He dismisses both Gettysburg and Vicksburg as battles that were not decisive in the CW. His candidate for most decisive: The Seven Days.
I guess it depends on your idea of 'decisive'. All battles decide something. Very few decide everything.
 

Carronade

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#7
Intriguing idea. One normally thinks of a decisive battle as one won by the eventual victor of the war, like Stalingrad or D-Day in WWII (not to start that argument).

If we consider that there was a chance of the Peninsula campaign ending in a decisive victory for the Union, then preventing that had a profound on the war and on subsequent history.

I agree it's hard to nail down one most decisive victory, but let me toss in my contender: Fort Donelson. The first serious Union offensive resulted in the total surrender of the opposing army, starting the Confederates on the long downward slope that would end three years later. And it brought Grant to the forefront for the Union.
 

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#9
I recently read Stanley Horn's, "Battle of Nashville" in which the author asserts that the 1864 defeat of the AOT was decisive because it ended the confederacy's hope of threatening the union midwest thus drawing federal resources away from the Petersburg lines.
 
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#10
Eastern-I consider Grant's Overland campaign and his movement after Cold Harbor, crossing the James to be the Eastern turning point. Grant kept coming and was not retreating like other Union commanders. His move over the James caught Bobby by surprise and once it became a siege, that was it.

Western-I consider the Chattanooga campaign the turning point in the west. Bumbling Bragg after the first major western victory for the AOT argues with subordinates, sends Longstreet away weakening his lines, poor defensive positioning on Missionary and Lookout Mtn. He gets his butt handed to him opening the way into the deep south.
 

Bruce Vail

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#11
I've been listening to Gary Gallagher. He dismisses both Gettysburg and Vicksburg as battles that were not decisive in the CW. His candidate for most decisive: The Seven Days.
This is an interesting perspective that I had never heard before. I'm guessing Gallagher has a specific definition for "decisive" that's different from the way many of us would use it.

Is Gallagher saying that the Confederate victory at Seven Days prompted the Emancipation Proclamation? And that by making the war explicitly about slavery, Lincoln doomed the Confederacy to ultimate defeat?

In other words, it was decisive in a strategic sense even though it was a defeat in the military sense. Sort of like the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam war.
 

matthew mckeon

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#13
This is an interesting perspective that I had never heard before. I'm guessing Gallagher has a specific definition for "decisive" that's different from the way many of us would use it.

Is Gallagher saying that the Confederate victory at Seven Days prompted the Emancipation Proclamation? And that by making the war explicitly about slavery, Lincoln doomed the Confederacy to ultimate defeat?

In other words, it was decisive in a strategic sense even though it was a defeat in the military sense. Sort of like the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam war.
My understanding is that the Union came very close to winning the war, and an early Union victory would have profoundly different results than the actual victory in 1865. This is especially true in the Union policy towards "hard war" meaning emancipation.By winning the Seven Days, then Second Bull Run, Lee ensured that it was going to be a longer and most extreme war.
 

Pat Young

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#14
The CSA was losing the war in 1862. Union armies had advanced in the West, while McClellan was grinding his way almost to Richmond.
Then Lee takes command, fights the Seven Days and turns the war in the East around.

If Lee hadn't assumed command, the CSA would have probably lost in Aug/Sept of 1862, and we get both slavery for decades and decades and mostly likely a President McClellan(savior of the Union).

After the Seven Days, Lincoln will embark on the revolutionary policy of emancipation.
He considers it decisive because it leads to Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.
 

Pat Young

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#17
I may be an idiot, too, because I don't know what sine qua non means. But I really want to!
I learned it as meaning "that without which" but the disctionary says "something absolutely indispensable or essential."

If the final outcome we are looking at is Union victory, then if Little Mac captured Richmond in 1862 and ended the war that would have been a decisive victory. Mac's failure was not decisive in winning the war.
 

Pat Young

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#19
We can all imagine everthing going exactly as they did up until the summer of 1864, but Sherman failing to take Atlanta and Sheridan performing as badly as his predecessors in the Valley. This might have led to Lincoln losing the election in Nov. This would have been a decisive defeat.
 
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#20
Well, far be it from me to try to argue with Gary Gallagher. He's definitely more schooled on this topic than I am. But my opinion is still my opinion. As such, it's still one valid opinion. And my opinion is that the fall of Vicksburg drove the ultimate nail into the coffin of the Confederacy. The CSA just didn't yet know that Grant had buried it. Nor did anyone else for a little more than a year. But it still happened.
 


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