Was there any chance that Lee could have fought on July 4th or 5th instead of retreating?

major bill

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Although Lee's army had been damaged but so had the Union army. Could have Lee stayed put and wait for Meade to attack him? It appears that Lee had enough food but lacked ammunition. Could have Lee have fallen back to a good defensive position and waited for his ammunition resupply? I am not sure if Meade would have keen on attacking Lee in a good, well prepare position.
 
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I agree with 111thNYSV. Lee's casualties were too high and there were practically no reserves available. Artillery ammunition was dangerously low after the July 3rd bombardment and that would have been key to holding a defensive position west of Seminary Ridge even if a good one could be found. We do know that Lincoln was very angry with Meade for not pressing Lee harder after the battle and saw it as a badly missed opportunity to end the war sooner. It's also true that the AoP had taken high casualties as well but they actually did have fresh troops in reserve. To be fair, it would be difficult to expect any army to be up for a hard fight after three days of combat like that.

Bill
 

Rhea Cole

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Lee was only 40 miles from the Potomac crossing. Every wagon & team was loaded with wounded, so Lee could not have distributed rations or ammunition if he had any. As we know, any defensive line would have been dug in during a raging thunderstorm. The Army of Northern Virginia would have been knee deep in hasty rifle pits without either ammunition or food... tactically, of course, that is exactly what happened. Without Grant there to crack the whip, it was the Army of the Potomac’s habitual case of the slows that allowed Lee to withdraw.
 

Rhea Cole

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Just an opinion of course, and habitual AoP slows not withstanding, but I don't think anyone can say with any certainty at all what Grant would have done on July 4th. or 5th. if he was in Meade's shoes.

John
That is true, we only know what Grant did do when he was looking over Meade's shoulder a few months later. Every Confederate army Grant ever faced either surrendered or left the field in disorder.
 
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Not the slightest chance in the World could the Confederates have fought another day. They were played out. The Union seemed to have had a fairly fresh Corps if I remember well. Its counterattack alone would have sweep the rebels from the field. Lee knew this and they withdrew fairly quickly once they were certain the Federals were not immediately storming a front attack into the rebel artillery massed for that feared occasion. They were fortunate there was no Grant available.
 

thomas aagaard

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The problem was that the 6th corp was spread out all over the place.
And the command structure was badly messed up with 3 corp commanders out of action, and plenty of division and brigade commanders down.
And by the evening of the 3rd the army as an organization was below 50% strength. Obviously the army did not loose 50% of its men, but a lot of men where simply not with their units. Some had gotten lost, some where helping wounded men to hospital, some where lightly wounded and so on.
 

Rhea Cole

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Would that be the same Grant who took heat for not pursuing Beauregard after Shiloh or Bragg at Chattanooga?
At Chattanooga, it was the necessity of securing Knoxville that inhibited Grant from pursuing Bragg any further. Grant did not have enough men present to do both. As we now know, Longstreet's banzai charge on Fort Sanders completely changed the situation, but Grant had no way of knowing that. In any case, as Grant pointed out at the time, without accurate maps of North Georgia there was little chance of a successful pursuit of Bragg's army in any case. It was not until Sherman had an accurate map of North Georgia on the very eve of the Atlanta Campaign that he ordered his men forward.

Shiloh falls into the enemy withdrew leaving Grant in possession of the battlefield category. Nothing wrong with that.
 

RobertP

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At Chattanooga, it was the necessity of securing Knoxville that inhibited Grant from pursuing Bragg any further. Grant did not have enough men present to do both. As we now know, Longstreet's banzai charge on Fort Sanders completely changed the situation, but Grant had no way of knowing that. In any case, as Grant pointed out at the time, without accurate maps of North Georgia there was little chance of a successful pursuit of Bragg's army in any case. It was not until Sherman had an accurate map of North Georgia on the very eve of the Atlanta Campaign that he ordered his men forward.

Shiloh falls into the enemy withdrew leaving Grant in possession of the battlefield category. Nothing wrong with that.
The goalposts are moving. You said Grant and his little sidekick Sheridan would have pursued Lee like rat terriers. Truth is he likely would’ve done no more than Meade.
 

jamine

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OT. Didn't Meade also have supply problems at Gettysburg too? I also remember that Meade was the last commander of the AOP, not likely if he really messed up and Lincoln never sent 'that' letter. Grant was more aggressive than Meade, but also lucky too.
 

eBrowne

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Lee can't stay long. If he does then Meade doesn't attack but threatens the Potomac crossings with cavalry. The key to whatever post-Gettysburg battle might have happened is who controls the Potomac crossings. If Meade successfully fortifies the crossings, Lee is finished.
 

major bill

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Just an opinion of course, and habitual AoP slows not withstanding, but I don't think anyone can say with any certainty at all what Grant would have done on July 4th. or 5th. if he was in Meade's shoes.

John

Would have Lincoln have given the same order to Grant about protecting Washington D.C. or keeping the Army of the Potomac between the Army of Northern Virginia and Washington? I have wondered how much Lincoln's orders impacted how Meade followed Lee. It could be that Meade used Lincoln's orders to not overly aggressively follow Lee.
 

Rhea Cole

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Lee can't stay long. If he does then Meade doesn't attack but threatens the Potomac crossings with cavalry. The key to whatever post-Gettysburg battle might have happened is who controls the Potomac crossings. If Meade successfully fortifies the crossings, Lee is finished.
There was also a threat coming from West Virginia. Given time, a force gathering there could have isolated Lee on the wrong side of the Potomac. The WV units were not top notch, but did not have to be to make holding Lee's bridgehead a real headache.
 

Rhea Cole

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Would have Lincoln have given the same order to Grant about protecting Washington D.C. or keeping the Army of the Potomac between the Army of Northern Virginia and Washington? I have wondered how much Lincoln's orders impacted how Meade followed Lee. It could be that Meade used Lincoln's orders to not overly aggressively follow Lee.
Lincoln agonized when he received Meade's report that he was ushering Lee out of Pennsylvania. There is no doubt that Lincoln wanted Lee's army destroyed, not herded south of the Potomac. If memory serves, Lincoln wrote a rebuke to Meade & did not send it. I don't follow the A of the P very closely because I don't find it all that interesting. From my not well informed perspective, the command of the A of the P was not offensively oriented to a degree that passes my understanding... no killer go for the throat instinct. That's just may impression.
 

major bill

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Was Lincoln willing to take the risk of leaving Washinton undefended or take the risk that the AoP might itself be destroyed? If Lincoln wanted Meade to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia then a certain level of risk might have to be accepted. How much did the heavy rains after the Battle of Gettysburg play in to this? I know rain impacts both sides, but did it help or hurt Meade the most?

I have read One Continuous Fight: The Retreat From Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 by Eric Wittenberg and am not certain that Meade deserves all the criticism he gets for not pursuing Lee aggressively enough. I do still believe that Meade could have been more aggressive if Meade was willing to take the risk. Still a more aggressive pursuit would have been a risky thing. There are few examples of either a Union or Confederate army aggressively pursuing a retreating army and destroying it or even inflicting heavy causalities.
 

Cavalier

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If I'm not mistaken Meade wanted to attack Lee at Falling Waters but relented when talked out of it by most of his corps commanders at a council of war there, (was it Frederick the Great or Napoleon who wanted no parts of councils of war, "because they never want to fight"?). And I think Howard was one of the few of them who wanted to attack. I thinkprotecting Washington was always on Meade's mind during the Gettysburg campaign as it was part of his orders if I remember correctly.

John



John
 
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