Was Lee a Poor Strategic Thinker?

OldReliable1862

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Location
Georgia
Beginning in the 1970s with Alan Nolan and Thomas Lawrence Connelly, the view of Lee as the unassailable, perfect general has started to be thoroughly taken to task. One of the most charges against Lee's supposed mastery of war was that he allegedly failed to grasp war above the operational, or "grand tactical" level. Lee had strategic "tunnel vision," unable to see the war outside of the Virginia theater of operations.

On the face of it, this seems somewhat substantiated when looking at how pessimistic he was of Longstreet's desire to use his troops in the West.
 
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OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
I'm not assuming Lee had the larger army (in the Seven Days). I'm looking at all the possible ways of getting the strength of Lee's army, and comparing them to the same strength metrics of the Union army.
Lee's army comes out larger. It has more men AP, more effectives (it has more effectives in those units after 20,000 casualties in the Seven Days than the Union force had in those units after 15,000 casualties in the Seven Days), more regiments (it has 215 regiments, the Union force had 175 regiments) and more officers.


So the 1862 invasion (conducted without assets from the East) has a delaying effect.

But that is not what we are discussing here; we are discussing the alternative options for what to do with Longstreet's corps in 1863. Are you proposing an 1863 invasion could have the same delaying effect again?




But you're talking about the possible outcome of a success for Bragg (in 1862) versus the outcome of Lee not succeeding (in 1863).
If Lee had succeeded in 1863 in a battle in PA (not "one more dreary battle in PA" but the only major battle in PA in the entire war) to the extent that was plausible given the actual events - the same metric by which you are judging Bragg's "could have changed the war" - then that would be Lee defeating the Army of the Potomac and crippling it, rendering it unable to effectively take the field against him and making him master of PA for weeks. Even if he doesn't then have the chance to follow up and destroy the Army of the Potomac, he has the ability to strip Pennsylvania of forage, compel massive Union redeployment out of the West and to the East, wreck Union communications around Baltimore, and force Harpers Ferry to surrender.


Delay
This has massively delayed all Union offensive plans, including in the West. Troops are needed to rebuild the strategic situation around Washington.
Even once rebuilt the Army of the Potomac is missing most of the veterans, and if it's rebuilt with Western veterans then those veterans aren't in the West.
Domestic war opposition
This kind of thing happening in PA is going to be bad for the re-election chances of the PA governor. The Army of the Potomac is also going to need rebuilding, which means more recruitment; given the situation in late 1863 and into 1864 that means conscription, which was unpopular. It's also trivially true that suffering massive defeats is bad for the popularity of a government and a war.
Foreign intervention possibility
A significant defeat like that makes foreign intervention more likely. The spikes and declines in foreign intervention being discussed overseas were related directly to events in the East first and foremost.

And, of course, Lee can then send troops west and have Chickamauga happen "on schedule", or at least not have it not happen.
I am discussing the quality of Lee's strategic thinking. i.e., whether it was good or not.

Bragg had possession of Chattanooga well after the fall of Vicksburg in 1863. He preserved the possession of Chattanooga by the confederacy, by his invasion of Ky in 1862. In other words without Braggs invasion Chattanooga would most probably have been lost in 1862.
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Without Bragg's invasion in 1862, there would have been no reason to reinforce Chattanooga at all in 1863 Two different events with a common thread, Bragg.

The question to my mind is, whether Lee's decision to invade Pa. Strategically comparable in quality(good, bad, etc.) with Bragg's invasion of Ky. ? To which I have noted Lee's reasoning's concerning both the invasion of Pa., and for delaying and/or denying sending reinforcements to Chattanooga at all, as rendering his strategic thinking as, at least, suspect.
 

Piedone

Corporal
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
If we compare Bragg and Lee it should be considered what a defeat meant:

- Bragg was defeated and the war went on (as it took the Union more than a year to make such substantial gains in the West that could really topple the confederate house of cards)
- If Lee was defeated the whole thing became dangerous soon - it sufficed that an Union army came close enough to siege Richmond - as I see no possibility how the South would have been able to fight on after a loss of Richmond. The farther away from Richmond the battles raged the better and safer for the Confederates....

Maybe we take it just too easily for granted that Lee could defend Virginia even with reduced strength - this was everything but natural...

But I do not want to say that Longstreet should not have been transferred - maybe this actually would even have been the clever move - but it could only work with all those dreary battles in whom Lee denied the Union substantial gains. Transferring troops to the West was a dangerous gamble....
 
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Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
The question to my mind is, whether Lee's decision to invade Pa. Strategically comparable in quality(good, bad, etc.) with Bragg's invasion of Ky. ? To which I have noted Lee's reasoning's concerning both the invasion of Pa., and for delaying and/or denying sending reinforcements to Chattanooga at all, as rendering his strategic thinking as, at least, suspect.

Lee's invasion of the North comes at a time when the possible reward is high, and the Union's army in the east is going through a significant vulnerable period. This has to be factored in - it is perhaps the best period in the war to invade the North if you wanted to pick one.

If the view is that Lee (who has a good battlefield performance and a good quality army) could not possibly defeat the Union army in the field (i.e. with a chance of following them up to destruction), even when he has a chance to engage them in a manoeuvre campaign and also at the closest thing to parity he'll ever get after 1862, then that leads to two questions.

1) What exactly is the Confederacy's only remaining route to victory?
The answer is that the only remaining route to victory is to delay until the Union becomes tired of the war. That means to prolong the war, and "lose as slowly as possible".

2) Where can the Confederacy better absorb successful enemy campaigns?
The answer is that it is in the West. If the Union launches a campaign where the Confederate army must retire fifty miles or be defeated in the West, they can retire; in the East, they can't.

This means that the case for a western focus must be able to demonstrate either (1) a clear and present need for troops to avert a worse situation, or (2) a route to victory which is more possible if followed than the Gettysburg campaign's near-thing crippling of the Army of the Potomac.
 

edfranksphd

Private
Joined
Aug 30, 2019
I've heard it suggested that Longstreet felt Pickett's charge was a bad idea from the get-go, didn't send in the ordered second wave of troops, and thereby may actually have caused it to misfire. (It can't have helped.) In that respect, claiming it was doomed from the off is a bit of a case of "well, I was right not to send it in" and may involve some guilt...
Precisely, and Longstreet seemed to exhibit exactly the same kind of behavior during his well-documented detachment to Bragg's army, where the list of similar behaviors is long: disobeyed Bragg's direct orders for the forces to be use to recapture Lookout Valley at the Battle of Wahauthie; disobeyed orders to strengthen that valley even before the amphibious assault at Brown's Ferry, repeatedly ignored Bragg per Knoxville with regard to transit time, forces required, time of attack, place of attack, etc. etc. It literally seemed as if L was simply trying to ensure Bragg's failure, for whatever reason, by doing as little as possible to help Bragg. But I digress. It's well documented in the 2nd volume of Bragg bio that McWhinney never finished and was completely 20 yrs later by a grad student. It's a well-documented, solid bio and condemns L by implication in many places and explicitly in at least a couple of places as I recall.
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Lee's invasion of the North comes at a time when the possible reward is high, and the Union's army in the east is going through a significant vulnerable period. This has to be factored in - it is perhaps the best period in the war to invade the North if you wanted to pick one.

If the view is that Lee (who has a good battlefield performance and a good quality army) could not possibly defeat the Union army in the field (i.e. with a chance of following them up to destruction), even when he has a chance to engage them in a manoeuvre campaign and also at the closest thing to parity he'll ever get after 1862, then that leads to two questions.

1) What exactly is the Confederacy's only remaining route to victory?
The answer is that the only remaining route to victory is to delay until the Union becomes tired of the war. That means to prolong the war, and "lose as slowly as possible".

2) Where can the Confederacy better absorb successful enemy campaigns?
The answer is that it is in the West. If the Union launches a campaign where the Confederate army must retire fifty miles or be defeated in the West, they can retire; in the East, they can't.

This means that the case for a western focus must be able to demonstrate either (1) a clear and present need for troops to avert a worse situation, or (2) a route to victory which is more possible if followed than the Gettysburg campaign's near-thing crippling of the Army of the Potomac.
Please, no one here is arguing against Lee's generalship in the field nor the quality of the ANV, where did you get that? In fact, part of my argument for the viability of a Western Invasion is based on confidence that Lee and the ANV can hold off any serious Union advance in the East in his familiar haunts in Northern Va. by fighting his usual style of the strategic defense by tactical offensive. You are the one who seems to doubt Lee's a and the ANV abilities to do so.

There was at that time, little or no evidence from the history of the war up to that time, than an invasion of the North would result in any more success, tactically or strategically, than from all other previous battles. Whereas, Bragg's invasion of Ky, at least yielded tangible strategic results, that in the end neither he nor Lee or confederate gov't could or would take full advantage. But, IMO, even just the delaying the loss of Chattanooga by a Year, was a better strategic result than was even possible by the invasion of Pa., and the fact that Lee could not or would not see the fallacy, of trying to affect the strategic advantages of the North and disadvantages of the South, by a tactical victory in the East, reflects, I say again, on the question of just how good was Lee's strategic mind.
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
I'm not assuming Lee had the larger army (in the Seven Days). I'm looking at all the possible ways of getting the strength of Lee's army, and comparing them to the same strength metrics of the Union army.
Lee's army comes out larger. It has more men AP, more effectives (it has more effectives in those units after 20,000 casualties in the Seven Days than the Union force had in those units after 15,000 casualties in the Seven Days), more regiments (it has 215 regiments, the Union force had 175 regiments) and more officers.


So the 1862 invasion (conducted without assets from the East) has a delaying effect.

But that is not what we are discussing here; we are discussing the alternative options for what to do with Longstreet's corps in 1863. Are you proposing an 1863 invasion could have the same delaying effect again?




But you're talking about the possible outcome of a success for Bragg (in 1862) versus the outcome of Lee not succeeding (in 1863).
If Lee had succeeded in 1863 in a battle in PA (not "one more dreary battle in PA" but the only major battle in PA in the entire war) to the extent that was plausible given the actual events - the same metric by which you are judging Bragg's "could have changed the war" - then that would be Lee defeating the Army of the Potomac and crippling it*, rendering it unable to effectively take the field against him and making him master of PA for weeks. Even if he doesn't then have the chance to follow up and destroy the Army of the Potomac, he has the ability to strip Pennsylvania of forage, compel massive Union redeployment out of the West and to the East, wreck Union communications around Baltimore, and force Harpers Ferry to surrender.


Delay
This has massively delayed all Union offensive plans, including in the West. Troops are needed to rebuild the strategic situation around Washington.
Even once rebuilt the Army of the Potomac is missing most of the veterans, and if it's rebuilt with Western veterans then those veterans aren't in the West.
Domestic war opposition
This kind of thing happening in PA is going to be bad for the re-election chances of the PA governor. The Army of the Potomac is also going to need rebuilding, which means more recruitment; given the situation in late 1863 and into 1864 that means conscription, which was unpopular. It's also trivially true that suffering massive defeats is bad for the popularity of a government and a war.
Foreign intervention possibility
A significant defeat like that makes foreign intervention more likely. The spikes and declines in foreign intervention being discussed overseas were related directly to events in the East first and foremost.

And, of course, Lee can then send troops west and have Chickamauga happen "on schedule", or at least not have it not happen.


* the requirement for this to happen is fairly minor, as Gettysburg was a very close battle; a properly done echelon attack on Day Two would do nicely.
I'm not assuming Lee had the larger army (in the Seven Days). I'm looking at all the possible ways of getting the strength of Lee's army, and comparing them to the same strength metrics of the Union army.
Lee's army comes out larger. It has more men AP, more effectives (it has more effectives in those units after 20,000 casualties in the Seven Days than the Union force had in those units after 15,000 casualties in the Seven Days), more regiments (it has 215 regiments, the Union force had 175 regiments) and more officers.


So the 1862 invasion (conducted without assets from the East) has a delaying effect.

But that is not what we are discussing here; we are discussing the alternative options for what to do with Longstreet's corps in 1863. Are you proposing an 1863 invasion could have the same delaying effect again?




But you're talking about the possible outcome of a success for Bragg (in 1862) versus the outcome of Lee not succeeding (in 1863).
If Lee had succeeded in 1863 in a battle in PA (not "one more dreary battle in PA" but the only major battle in PA in the entire war) to the extent that was plausible given the actual events - the same metric by which you are judging Bragg's "could have changed the war" - then that would be Lee defeating the Army of the Potomac and crippling it*, rendering it unable to effectively take the field against him and making him master of PA for weeks. Even if he doesn't then have the chance to follow up and destroy the Army of the Potomac, he has the ability to strip Pennsylvania of forage, compel massive Union redeployment out of the West and to the East, wreck Union communications around Baltimore, and force Harpers Ferry to surrender.


Delay
This has massively delayed all Union offensive plans, including in the West. Troops are needed to rebuild the strategic situation around Washington.
Even once rebuilt the Army of the Potomac is missing most of the veterans, and if it's rebuilt with Western veterans then those veterans aren't in the West.
Domestic war opposition
This kind of thing happening in PA is going to be bad for the re-election chances of the PA governor. The Army of the Potomac is also going to need rebuilding, which means more recruitment; given the situation in late 1863 and into 1864 that means conscription, which was unpopular. It's also trivially true that suffering massive defeats is bad for the popularity of a government and a war.
Foreign intervention possibility
A significant defeat like that makes foreign intervention more likely. The spikes and declines in foreign intervention being discussed overseas were related directly to events in the East first and foremost.

And, of course, Lee can then send troops west and have Chickamauga happen "on schedule", or at least not have it not happen.


* the requirement for this to happen is fairly minor, as Gettysburg was a very close battle; a properly done echelon attack on Day Two would do nicely.
Your assumption that the ANV was the bigger Army at the Seven days, does raise an interesting sidelight , if true, then McClellan had been right all along and he was not outgeneraled by Lee or outfought by the ANV, but was overwhelmed by superior numbers and that he should be praised for saving his army and the Country; which is the claim usually reserved for Lee by many secession and confederate apologists.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Please, no one here is arguing against Lee's generalship in the field nor the quality of the ANV, where did you get that? In fact, part of my argument for the viability of a Western Invasion is based on confidence that Lee and the ANV can hold off any serious Union advance in the East in his familiar haunts in Northern Va. by fighting his usual style of the strategic defense by tactical offensive. You are the one who seems to doubt Lee's a and the ANV abilities to do so.

There was at that time, little or no evidence from the history of the war up to that time, than an invasion of the North would result in any more success, tactically or strategically, than from all other previous battles. Whereas, Bragg's invasion of Ky, at least yielded tangible strategic results, that in the end neither he nor Lee or confederate gov't could or would take full advantage. But, IMO, even just the delaying the loss of Chattanooga by a Year, was a better strategic result than was even possible by the invasion of Pa., and the fact that Lee could not or would not see the fallacy, of trying to affect the strategic advantages of the North and disadvantages of the South, by a tactical victory in the East, reflects, I say again, on the question of just how good was Lee's strategic mind.

The thing is, either Lee has a realistic prospect of a victory in the field in an invasion against a Union army of comparable size to his own, or he cannot.

If he cannot, then the only sorts of thing the Confederacy should be doing are:
1) Defending.
2) Offensive campaigns in which any prospect of battle involves the Confederates having significantly superior force.

This is because if Lee can't win an offensive victory in the field against a Union army of comparable size to his own, then it's not reasonable to expect that Bragg can (as that would require Bragg to significantly outperform Lee). That means the main Confederate strategy becomes "outlast the enemy".


This is a question of strategic allocation of resources in 1863.

If an offensive and the defeat of a peer Union army is possible, then it may as well be one which takes place under Lee. If it is not, then it needs to be demonstrated that whatever Bragg would be doing with the army is a safe offensive - or that whatever Bragg is doing with the army is a viable delaying tactic.



As for the matter of delay, if that is policy the goal is essentially for the Confederacy to not lose in area A well before it loses in area B.
In the West, there is a lot of delay that is "built in" because of the long distances and logistical difficulties involved; in the East, the distances are short and an advance is logistically easy except for at most one gap that needs to be traversed which is logistically difficult (getting over the Rapidan) but the Union can just skip it if Lincoln ever gets over his hang up about the waterborne route.

So the case that needs to be made is that one of these things is true.

- if sending Longstreet to Bragg, then the benefit from whatever Bragg does with him results in a delay that means the West will not fall significantly sooner than the East.
- if not sending Longstreet to Bragg and retaining Longstreet in the East, but not conducting an invasion of the North, then that the lack of casualties will make the Confederacy as a whole able to hold out longer.

Both of these depend on the "there was no prospect for a major offensive victory" to be true.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Your assumption that the ANV was the bigger Army at the Seven days, does raise an interesting sidelight , if true, then McClellan had been right all along and he was not outgeneraled by Lee or outfought by the ANV, but was overwhelmed by superior numbers and that he should be praised for saving his army and the Country; which is the claim usually reserved for Lee by many secession and confederate apologists.
He was indeed outnumbered at the Seven Days, though not by as much as he thought. This is because of intel failures on the same sort of scale as the ones the BMI made at Gettysburg (where they gave Lee's strength as higher than the true value by about 50% owing to a dodgy reconstructed order of battle).

The true value was that he was probably outnumbered in total by about 23% (which is the true regiment count). His intel org was giving numbers suggesting he was outnumbered by about 44% (which is based on an erroneous reconstructed ORBAT).

And yes, it would have been quite possible for Lee to cut McClellan off in the Seven Days had McClellan made different choices or Lee had a longer sustained run of luck (both commanders had instances of bad luck at different times in the Seven Days).
 

Piedone

Corporal
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
In fact, part of my argument for the viability of a Western Invasion is based on confidence that Lee and the ANV can hold off any serious Union advance in the East in his familiar haunts in Northern Va. by fighting his usual style of the strategic defense by tactical offensive. ...
But there is some disparity in numbers to be regarded: in 1862 the forces were even if not even favouring the Confederates, in 1863 (if sending Longstreet away) Lee would have had significant fewer troops than the Union.

Was it really to expect that Lee could defend Virginia under such conditions (it was only Chancellorsville that seems to have proven that - but maybe that‘ s delusory?
Chancellorsville could very well have had a completely different outcome if Hooker just had renewed offensive actions (as Grant most probably would have done in such a situation....)
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Precisely, and Longstreet seemed to exhibit exactly the same kind of behavior during his well-documented detachment to Bragg's army, where the list of similar behaviors is long: disobeyed Bragg's direct orders for the forces to be use to recapture Lookout Valley at the Battle of Wahauthie; disobeyed orders to strengthen that valley even before the amphibious assault at Brown's Ferry, repeatedly ignored Bragg per Knoxville with regard to transit time, forces required, time of attack, place of attack, etc. etc. It literally seemed as if L was simply trying to ensure Bragg's failure, for whatever reason, by doing as little as possible to help Bragg. But I digress. It's well documented in the 2nd volume of Bragg bio that McWhinney never finished and was completely 20 yrs later by a grad student. It's a well-documented, solid bio and condemns L by implication in many places and explicitly in at least a couple of places as I recall.
I agreethat,
The thing is, either Lee has a realistic prospect of a victory in the field in an invasion against a Union army of comparable size to his own, or he cannot.

If he cannot, then the only sorts of thing the Confederacy should be doing are:
1) Defending.
2) Offensive campaigns in which any prospect of battle involves the Confederates having significantly superior force.

This is because if Lee can't win an offensive victory in the field against a Union army of comparable size to his own, then it's not reasonable to expect that Bragg can (as that would require Bragg to significantly outperform Lee). That means the main Confederate strategy becomes "outlast the enemy".


This is a question of strategic allocation of resources in 1863.

If an offensive and the defeat of a peer Union army is possible, then it may as well be one which takes place under Lee. If it is not, then it needs to be demonstrated that whatever Bragg would be doing with the army is a safe offensive - or that whatever Bragg is doing with the army is a viable delaying tactic.



As for the matter of delay, if that is policy the goal is essentially for the Confederacy to not lose in area A well before it loses in area B.
In the West, there is a lot of delay that is "built in" because of the long distances and logistical difficulties involved; in the East, the distances are short and an advance is logistically easy except for at most one gap that needs to be traversed which is logistically difficult (getting over the Rapidan) but the Union can just skip it if Lincoln ever gets over his hang up about the waterborne route.

So the case that needs to be made is that one of these things is true.

- if sending Longstreet to Bragg, then the benefit from whatever Bragg does with him results in a delay that means the West will not fall significantly sooner than the East.
- if not sending Longstreet to Bragg and retaining Longstreet in the East, but not conducting an invasion of the North, then that the lack of casualties will make the Confederacy as a whole able to hold out longer.

Both of these depend on the "there was no prospect for a major offensive victory" to be true. common
All very text booky, and I dare say variations of it quite common in Richmond and Lee's Hdqtrs., and equally irrelevant to the necessity of the time and the history of the war up to that time.

Any inquiring mind has only to look at the Map of the United States in 1863 and track the course of the war with blue and red pins. The story it tells to any confederate strategic mind, is that strategically, the war is being
lost in the West and is a stalemate in the East.

The question, again, is from where comes the faith that an invasion of the North will not again end up with Lee South of the Rappahannock?

To the good strategic thinker, it is obvious that something has to be done IN the West, i.e., the War in the West cannot be significantly influenced by anything done in the East.

By the way, by 1863 delay of the inevitable, was almost exactly Davis' policy, and if that is true, then delay is needed in the West, not the East.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
To the good strategic thinker, it is obvious that something has to be done IN the West, i.e., the War in the West cannot be significantly influenced by anything done in the East.
And what happened historically? After Gettysburg Lee was able to send Longstreet west.

So what is the benefit to the Confederacy from not fighting Gettysburg? I want to be clear about what you think the benefit is.
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
But there is some disparity in numbers to be regarded: in 1862 the forces were even if not even favouring the Confederates, in 1863 (if sending Longstreet away) Lee would have had significant fewer troops than the Union.

Was it really to expect that Lee could defend Virginia under such conditions (it was only Chancellorsville that seems to have proven that - but maybe that‘ s delusory?
Chancellorsville could very well have had a completely different outcome if Hooker just had renewed offensive actions (as Grant most probably would have done in such a situation....)
True enough, but the question of reinforcing the West from the ANV was not seriously considered until 1863, when the inferiority of AoP commanders was firmly established. Historically, the stalemate in the East was not broken until the coming of Grant in 1864.
 

Piedone

Corporal
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
Well...we probably won‘t get at any conclusion.

Sounds like an repetition of those fiery debates between the „western concentration bloc“ and the sympathizers of Lee in the Confederacy. Something had to be done...something had to be done to avoid disaster....and soon...
Maybe the whole debate is (and was) just illustrating that the Confederacy was not able to fight the Union to a standstill in both theatres.

The Confederacy was obviously loosing ground with every day and maybe it‘s just irrevelant if they tried to win the war in the East or in the West...they had just one probable chance: to achieve a decisive victory in 1863 - somewhere.

Well Lee failed to deliver in the East in the end.
Maybe Bragg would have failed just the same or even worse in the West.

Maybe it wasn‘t even possible (or at least very improbable) that any general on any side could deliver that all deciding victory - as with the exception of sieges (and that one exception Nashville - which was more of a suicide mission) nobody ever crushed an army completely in that war (maybe armies were just too resilient in the Civil War?).
 
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Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
In order to really thrash an army you need to do one of two things.

1) Defeat it and break it from the field with a corps de chasse in hand, to follow it up while it is routing. They must not be able to get behind defensive fortifications or over a significant barrier (retreating behind a river for example is retreating to safety unless the pursuers can cross in good order and keep up the pursuit).
2) Trap it where it cannot evade you, either because it cannot escape at all or because it cannot fit down the escape route available in the time available.

In the second case you can launch attacks that hit the "trapped" force and break its cohesion.

There are several times where both nearly happened in the Civil War, and Gettysburg sees (2) nearly happen.
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Well...we probably won‘t get at any conclusion.

Sounds like an repetition of those fiery debates between the „western concentration bloc“ and the sympathizers of Lee in the Confederacy. Something had to be done...something had to be done to avoid disaster....and soon...
Maybe the whole debate is (and was) just illustrating that the Confederacy was not able to fight the Union to a standstill in both theatres.

The Confederacy was obviously loosing ground with every day and maybe it‘s just irrevelant if they tried to win the war in the East or in the West...they had just one probable chance: to achieve a decisive victory in 1863 - somewhere.

Well Lee failed to deliver in the East in the end.
Maybe Bragg would have failed just the same or even worse in the West.

Maybe it wasn‘t even possible (or at least very improbable) that any general on any side could deliver that all deciding victory - as with the exception of sieges (and that one exception Nashville - which was more of a suicide mission) nobody ever crushed an army completely in that war (maybe armies were just too resilient in the Civil War?).
You are essentially correct, I think the odds against the success of the confederacy were so overwhelming as to be, for all practicable purposes, impossible. That there was little objective material advantages possessed by the South that was not available to the Union in almost overwhelming abundance in comparison , except perhaps the spirit of its people(and in that, I believe that if they had such an advantage , it never really suffered in comparison with that of the North enough to render a practical advantage.

However as to this particular thread, I think the question is not whether any strategy could have saved the confederacy, but, with better strategies, within their power, could the South have fought a better war to a better ending?
 

Piedone

Corporal
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
Well...all I can do is to give you a very personal answer...(which won‘t help you much)...
I am very much convinced that the South achieved whatever he could achieve under those circumstances.

They found a general in Lee, a most impressive personality and certainly even kind of an inspiration, they delivered indeed a hell of a fight against all odds - and still people (as us) are talking about what happened, still people are deeply impressed with the history of the ANV....some devoting years of their lives to read about it - and all that after just five years of existence of a southern Confederacy.

Given the fact that the whole southern society based on plantation slavery...and knowing the dread things that also happened in such a society - of whom we all are becoming aware of sooner or later...
I definitely think they achieved everything that could ever be achieved under such conditions.

But that are most obviously not the things you were asking for....
 

atlantis

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 12, 2016
When in command of Virginia Forces prior to being taken into confederate service Lee displayed good strategic thinking in the dispositions of forces. The impression I get is that Lee did not want the task of dealing with strategic decisions for the whole confederacy.
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
When in command of Virginia Forces prior to being taken into confederate service Lee displayed good strategic thinking in the dispositions of forces. The impression I get is that Lee did not want the task of dealing with strategic decisions for the whole confederacy.
Very true, IMO , to lead an army of Virginians in defense of Virginia, was the only job Lee ever wanted. It is notable I think, that Lee in strategic service to Va. or the confederacy, was never as successful out of Va., than he was tactically. in it.
 

edfranksphd

Private
Joined
Aug 30, 2019
I agreethat,

All very text booky, and I dare say variations of it quite common in Richmond and Lee's Hdqtrs., and equally irrelevant to the necessity of the time and the history of the war up to that time.

Any inquiring mind has only to look at the Map of the United States in 1863 and track the course of the war with blue and red pins. The story it tells to any confederate strategic mind, is that strategically, the war is being
lost in the West and is a stalemate in the East.

The question, again, is from where comes the faith that an invasion of the North will not again end up with Lee South of the Rappahannock?

To the good strategic thinker, it is obvious that something has to be done IN the West, i.e., the War in the West cannot be significantly influenced by anything done in the East.

By the way, by 1863 delay of the inevitable, was almost exactly Davis' policy, and if that is true, then delay is needed in the West, not the East.
Delay was the policy from day one. It remained the case in 1863. The West, Bragg was doing rather well considering the small size of his army and the poor quality of his generals. In the East, Lee's invasion was simply to carry to war for the season into PA to give VA a rest from being occupied by nearly 300,000 troops. The battle of Gettysburg was never intended, only the continued accumulation of supplies. Even with the occupation of PA cut short by battle, the army retreated, w/1000s of POWs & 100s of wagons of supplies and 1000s of horses, and the campaigning in VA was basically over until May of 1864 (save for Bristoe station and Mine Run). Meade was battered into a very cautious attitude, which allowed Lee to send help to Bragg as late as Nov of 1864!! So, Gettysburg & Vicksburg notwithstanding, the South's prospects looked promising by Spring of 1864, as is evidenced by Lincoln's own drafting of a letter of w/drawal from candidacy in July 64, as his re-election looked grim even at that late date!! Stanton was whipping up every trick in the book to ensure the elections would be rigged in Lincoln's favor, at least with the army vote.
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Delay was the policy from day one. It remained the case in 1863. The West, Bragg was doing rather well considering the small size of his army and the poor quality of his generals. In the East, Lee's invasion was simply to carry to war for the season into PA to give VA a rest from being occupied by nearly 300,000 troops. The battle of Gettysburg was never intended, only the continued accumulation of supplies. Even with the occupation of PA cut short by battle, the army retreated, w/1000s of POWs & 100s of wagons of supplies and 1000s of horses, and the campaigning in VA was basically over until May of 1864 (save for Bristoe station and Mine Run). Meade was battered into a very cautious attitude, which allowed Lee to send help to Bragg as late as Nov of 1864!! So, Gettysburg & Vicksburg notwithstanding, the South's prospects looked promising by Spring of 1864, as is evidenced by Lincoln's own drafting of a letter of w/drawal from candidacy in July 64, as his re-election looked grim even at that late date!! Stanton was whipping up every trick in the book to ensure the elections would be rigged in Lincoln's favor, at least with the army vote.
Delay, was perhaps one of Lee's objectives. It is difficult to get a direct fix on exactly what he was doing in Pa., in relation to the War in general and in the West in particular. Delay, was the enemy of confederate success. It only allowed the already overwhelming forces and production to grown all the larger larger over time, and I ague that Lee was well aware of it and the last thing he was working for, was delay.
 
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