The Wilderness, A Triumphant Arrival Leading To The Fall of Another of Lee’s Giants

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War Horse

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As most of you are aware the battle of the Wilderness was fought May 5-7th 1864. As day two opened Winfield Scott Hancock’s II Corps drove A.P Hills II Corps back over a mile. With his army in retreat, Robert E. Lee once again attempted to lead a charge and was once again for the third time ordered to the rear of the lines by his loving men. The 1st Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia arrived on the battlefield, commanded by one of Lee’s Giants. Lt Gen James Longstreet. As Lee sung the praises of Texans, Alabamians and Georgians, Longstreet launched one of his devastating flanking attacks, taking advantage of an old unfinished railroad cut. This attack drove Hancock back and rolled him up like an old blanket, miraculously turning the tide of the battle. The woods became dark with smoke and lines became confused. Longstreet riding in what he thought was relatively safe ground was suddenly struck by a bullet fired by his own men of the 12th Virginia who had mistakenly crossed the Plank Road creating a dangerous crossfire. The general attempted to ride on but the wound proved to sever. Longstreet was lowered to the ground and the Corps surgeon Dr. John Syng Dorsey Culle was called to the scene. Culley ordered the General to be placed on a stretcher and removed from the battlefield. Before leaving Longstreet turned his command over to Maj. Gen. Charles Field. Field failed to maintain the momentum of the attack resulting Grant’s men slipping away to Spotsylvania Courthouse.

Lee was now without his 2nd giant. Only 5 short days later JEB Stuart would be mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern. Lee would be without all his giants.

Jackson wounded on May 2, 1963 and dying eight day later.

James Longstreet fell on May 6, 1864.

JEB Stuart receiving a mortal wound on May 11th 1964

Lee’s Army was now reduced to mere mortals.

How important do you feel the loss of these officers were to the Army of Northern Virginia? Could Lee hope to possibly replace them with equals or was the Army of Northern Virginia reduced to an average force with average fighting ability?
 
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War Horse

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I don't know about the effect of the loss of his "Giants" but he certainly missed all the brave soldiers who had died under his command all over Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania!
Regards
David
I believe the combination of Lee, Jackson, Longstreet and Stuart was an anomaly for talent. These men accomplished extraordinary things. Not one of them could have wished to accomplish individually. Together they were superb.
 
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Drew

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Longstreet brought his Corps over the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Chickamauga Campaign and straight into the Battle of the Wilderness. He probably saved the day there.

Yes, Losing Longstreet and Stuart hurt Lee's Army immensely. How do you replace these guys?
 

lelliott19

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Longstreet brought his Corps over the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Chickamauga Campaign and straight into the Battle of the Wilderness.
Don't forget about the "detour." A good number of those who "detoured" to Knoxville were annihilated in the ill-fated assault upon Fort Sanders. Those that weren't, spent a cold winter in East Tennessee out of range of supplies.

Head Qtrs, Greenville, E Tenn
March 19, 1864

Genl:
The supply of corn promised us from Va comes in so slowly that we shall not be able to keep our animals alive more than a week or two unless some improvement may be made in forwarding supplies. Our rations too are getting short, so that we will hardly be able to march to any point at which we may be needed unless we can receive orders inside of a week. And then we must receive corn by Rail Road in order that our animals may make a march.

We have suffered more or less since we have been in the Department for want of proper supplies but have been able to get along very poorly clad though the winter months and could now that the weather is becoming more mild do very well if we could get food and forage. Without either of these our army must soon become entirely helpless.......

I beg that you will send supplies at once in sufficient quantities at least to enable us to march to some point where our troops may be partially supplied and where they may be useful.

These are perhaps the best troops in the Confederate Armies and should not be left where they must starve and at the same time be of no use to the Country......


Source: Excerpt, James Longstreet to Genl S Cooper A&IG, dated March 19, 1864. Longstreet's Confidential Letters & Telegrams Sent Feb 1863-Feb 1865 , LOC.
 
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How important do you feel the loss of these officers were to the Army of Northern Virginia? Could Lee hope to possibly replace them with equals or was the Army of Northern Virginia reduced to an average force with average fighting ability?
Very interesting question. I think the loss (either permanently (Jackson, Stuart) or temporarily (Longstreet)) of these iconic leaders can hardly be underestimated. The impression not only on the fighting men at the front lines, but also on the civilians in the South must have been immense. Who would have imagined that a tough nut and military genius like Jackson or a dashing, gallant, able cavalier like Stuart could ever be killed in battle? And the "Bull of the Woods", Longstreet, always cool in battle, even with bullets flying close, should be as vulnerable as any man? That's unimaginable! And "replace them by equals"? Who would these equals have been? Wade Hampton sure was an able leader and good horse soldier, but he never reached the charisma of Stuart. Porter Alexander, a great artillery commander, but did he have the potential to become an icon? I think these three "giants" could not be replaced because I can't think of leaders combining the same military skills with that amount of charisma all three had. So besides the lack of excellent military leadership, the damage done to overall morale was sure a severe one. Probably the thought started to grow at the front as well as back home that losing the war now could become possible. Even the more so as Jackson as well as Longstreet were killed or wounded in friendly fire. As long as civilians and army know that they stand together, fighting for the same values, a fighting force is strong, maybe even invincible. But once the thought of the possibility of losing the war catches hold in public it is only a small step to losing confidence. And without confidence in your own victory, not much can be accomplished. And on the other side, the Union forces sure also knew what the loss of these three important commanders meant to the ANV and so they would attack with renewed bravado.
So yes, in my opinion the ANV was directly and indirectly reduced to an average force after Jackson, Longstreet and Stuart were (at least temporarily) gone.
 
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War Horse

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Much of Lee’s failures in Northern Virginia were contributed to his elaborate battle plans and his army’s inability to carry them out. Once Lee assumed temporary command of the ANV his elaborate battle plans were no longer an issue and the once branded failure was garnished a military genius. 🤔
 
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Much of Lee’s failures in Northern Virginia were contributed to his elaborate battle plans and his army’s inability to carry them out. Once Lee assumed temporary command of the ANV his elaborate battle plans were no longer an issue and the once branded failure was garnished a military genius. 🤔
... do I sniff another thread coming up? :smoke:
That question is worth a discussion of its own and I'd be curious what more knowledgeable members will have to say to that!
 

bdtex

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View attachment 324142

As most of you are aware the battle of the Wilderness was fought May 5-7th 1864. As day two opened Winfield Scott Hancock’s II Corps drove A.P Hills II Corps back over a mile. With his army in retreat, Robert E. Lee once again attempted to lead a charge and was once again for the third time ordered to the rear of the lines by his loving men. The 1st Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia arrived on the battlefield, commanded by one of Lee’s Giants. Lt Gen James Longstreet. As Lee sung the praises of Texans, Alabamians and Georgians, Longstreet launched one of his devastating flanking attacks, taking advantage of an old unfinished railroad cut. This attack drove Hancock back and rolled him up like an old blanket, miraculously turning the tide of the battle. The woods became dark with smoke and lines became confused. Longstreet riding in what he thought was relatively safe ground was suddenly struck by a bullet fired by his own men of the 12th Virginia who had mistakenly crossed the Plank Road creating a dangerous crossfire. The general attempted to ride on but the wound proved to sever. Longstreet was lowered to the ground and the Corps surgeon Dr. John Syng Dorsey Culle was called to the scene. Culley ordered the General to be placed on a stretcher and removed from the battlefield. Before leaving Longstreet turned his command over to Maj. Gen. Charles Field. Field failed to maintain the momentum of the attack resulting Grant’s men slipping away to Spotsylvania Courthouse.

Lee was now without his 2nd giant. Only 5 short days later JEB Stuart would be mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern. Lee would be without all his giants.

Jackson wounded on May 2, 1963 and dying eight day later.

James Longstreet fell on May 6, 1864.

JEB Stuart receiving a mortal wound on May 11th 1964

Lee’s Army was now reduced to mere mortals.

How important do you feel the loss of these officers were to the Army of Northern Virginia? Could Lee hope to possibly replace them with equals or was the Army of Northern Virginia reduced to an average force with average fighting ability?
I believe losing Jackson was much more consequential. In addition to being speedy and aggressive,he was a master of deception. Once engaged,Longstreet and Stuart were just as aggressive as Jackson,but by May of 1864 the outcome for the Confederacy wasn't dependent on events in the Eastern Theater...imo.
 
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War Horse

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I believe losing Jackson was much more consequential. In addition to being speedy and aggressive,he was a master of deception. Once engaged,Longstreet and Stuart were just as aggressive as Jackson,but by May of 1864 the outcome for the Confederacy wasn't dependent on events in the Eastern Theater...imo.
I’m not really sure I’d agree with that. May of 1864 was the kickoff of the Overland Campaign. Lincoln felt Lee enough of a threat to send his most aggressive General east from west to supervise the pursuit and destruction of the ANV. Lee’s Army was still a formidable fighting force.
 
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bdtex

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I’m not really sure I’d agree with that. May of 1864 was the kickoff of the Overland Campaign. Lincoln felt Lee enough of a treat to send his most aggressive General east from west to supervise the pursuit and destruction of the ANV. Lee’s Army was still a formidable fighting force.
I know it's debateable and has been debated in CWT probably many times. Kinda falls in the "What if....?" category too.
 
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bdtex

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How important do you feel the loss of these officers were to the Army of Northern Virginia? Could Lee hope to possibly replace them with equals or was the Army of Northern Virginia reduced to an average force with average fighting ability?
To answer that question directly,I think the fight they put up at Spotsylvania,Cold Harbor and the Richmond/Petersburg Campaign shows that they were more than an average force with average fighting ability.
 

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The loss of these high level commanders dealt a serious blow to the ability of the Confederacy to achieve military supremacy. But equally important by the 4th year of the war, was the loss of lower level officers at the company, regimental, and brigade level. At some point, the Confederacy ran out of talent to draw on; the lower ranks would normally be the pool from which Lee should have selected commanders to replace those lost, but the pickings were slim.
 

War Horse

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The loss of these high level commanders dealt a serious blow to the ability of the Confederacy to achieve military supremacy. But equally important by the 4th year of the war, was the loss of lower level officers at the company, regimental, and brigade level. At some point, the Confederacy ran out of talent to draw on; the lower ranks would normally be the pool from which Lee should have selected commanders to replace those lost, but the pickings were slim.
Agreed. The Confederacy’s largest enemy was attrition.
 
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War Horse

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To answer that question directly,I think the fight they put up at Spotsylvania,Cold Harbor and the Richmond/Petersburg Campaign shows that they were more than an average force with average fighting ability.
Yes, Lee certainly knew how to humble an overly aggressive adversary. He had Grant scratching his head on more than one occasion.
 

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IMHO, at its pinnacle (Chancellorsville), the ANV was one of the most formidable armies ever assembled with arguably the best commanders of any army up to that point in history. I believe that the loss of Jackson was the most devastating blow. His tactical genius and boldness in combat were sorely missed by Lee in later campaigns. Of course the great question remains - Would Jackson have made a difference in Confederate fortunes at Gettysburg?

Stuart's ability as an outstanding cavalry commander speaks for itself and his intelligence reports were invaluable to Lee. I believe that Stuart's performance at Chancellorsville is underappreciated by many historians. As Edward Porter Alexander later stated "Altogether, I do not think there was a more brilliant thing done in the war than Stuart's extricating that command from the extremely critical position in which he found it." While Hampton performed quite credibly as Stuart's successor, no one could replace the charisma and daring that only Stuart possessed.

As stated in previous posts, the loss of both men not only hurt the Confederacy militarily, but also from a morale standpoint in both the eyes of the army and the Confederate citizenry. The ANV was the "shining star" for the people of the South and morale ebbed and flowed with the fortunes of the ANV.

IMO, even with the loss of these two great Generals and other capable officers of lesser rank, the ANV was never an "average" army. The perseverance of the common soldier against overwhelming odds remains a testament to the courage of these men and exemplifies their indefatigable belief in the causes for which they fought.
 

War Horse

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IMHO, at its pinnacle (Chancellorsville), the ANV was one of the most formidable armies ever assembled with arguably the best commanders of any army up to that point in history. I believe that the loss of Jackson was the most devastating blow. His tactical genius and boldness in combat were sorely missed by Lee in later campaigns. Of course the great question remains - Would Jackson have made a difference in Confederate fortunes at Gettysburg?

Stuart's ability as an outstanding cavalry commander speaks for itself and his intelligence reports were invaluable to Lee. I believe that Stuart's performance at Chancellorsville is underappreciated by many historians. As Edward Porter Alexander later stated "Altogether, I do not think there was a more brilliant thing done in the war than Stuart's extricating that command from the extremely critical position in which he found it." While Hampton performed quite credibly as Stuart's successor, no one could replace the charisma and daring that only Stuart possessed.

As stated in previous posts, the loss of both men not only hurt the Confederacy militarily, but also from a morale standpoint in both the eyes of the army and the Confederate citizenry. The ANV was the "shining star" for the people of the South and morale ebbed and flowed with the fortunes of the ANV.

IMO, even with the loss of these two great Generals and other capable officers of lesser rank, the ANV was never an "average" army. The perseverance of the common soldier against overwhelming odds remains a testament to the courage of these men and exemplifies their indefatigable belief in the causes for which they fought.
An excellent post thank you. However I’ve noticed you left Longstreet out of your post. May I ask why?
 
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Paul Yancey

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An excellent post thank you. However I’ve noticed you left Longstreet out of your post. May I ask why?
I certainly did not mean to short change Lee's old war horse. I did not mention Longstreet because he was able to return to service. I don't recall exactly when Longstreet was able to return to service, but no doubt he was very much missed during his convalescence.
 
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I don't recall exactly when Longstreet was able to return to service,
He was wounded in early May and only returned in October that same year. But I'm not sure whether he returned with the same vigour as before. He was extremely annoyed that he had not regained full use of his right arm (he would never regain it for the rest of his life) and he had lost his booming voice and was only able to whisper coarsely. He still had the Warrior Spirit, no doubt about that, but not being able to roar orders and rally his men must have been hard on him!
 
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