What do you think would have been the most likely outcome if the Confederacy won at Gettysburg?

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW:REGISTER HERE!

What do you think would be the most likely outcome if the Confederacy won at Gettysburg?


  • Total voters
    24

ScottMac

Private
Joined
Apr 29, 2018
Messages
129
Location
East Texas
Meade surrenders AoP with supply trains. Lee proceeds to Washington. Most politicians flee while remaining guard troops put up a feeble defense personally led by Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln surrenders the government and all republican leaders are sent to re-education camps to learn about the Constitution.
 
Joined
May 11, 2019
Messages
79
Ammunition was run across the Potomac River in large quantities to supply Lee's Army in the aftermath of the battle.

Had he won? Washington, DC, would have been his for the taking, wide open. Game over.

Hypotheticals are fun but reality is best.
As much as I would like to agree, I can't for a very important reason. Taking Washington D.C. might be a big propaganda victory for the ANV but taking capitals alone does not win a war. British General Howe thought that taking Philadelphia in 1777 would end the "rebellion" but it did nothing of the sort. Napoleon took Moscow, but that didn't really do anything either.
Even if the Confederates took Washington and Baltimore, Lincoln would have simply moved the capital to NYC or Boston, somewhere deep out of reach and continued the war....at least until the North got sick of losing and kicked him out of office in 1864. All the same you look at at least another year and a half of war.
 

privateflemming

Private
Joined
Jul 2, 2019
Messages
119
Location
California, USA
As much as I would like to agree, I can't for a very important reason. Taking Washington D.C. might be a big propaganda victory for the ANV but taking capitals alone does not win a war. British General Howe thought that taking Philadelphia in 1777 would end the "rebellion" but it did nothing of the sort. Napoleon took Moscow, but that didn't really do anything either.
Even if the Confederates took Washington and Baltimore, Lincoln would have simply moved the capital to NYC or Boston, somewhere deep out of reach and continued the war....at least until the North got sick of losing and kicked him out of office in 1864. All the same you look at at least another year and a half of war.
This is what I disagree with most.

Firstly, I think it would have been almost impossible for Lee to literally take Washington even if he had won at Gettysburg and Pipe Creek. The Union siege of Petersburg lasted for almost a year. There is no way the Confederates could just storm Washington. The much more likely scenario in my view is that with the Confederates besieging Washington, Northern moral would make continuing the war impossible and Lincoln would be forced (perhaps violently from an internal coup) to agree to some sort of armistice. The whole war aim of most Northerners was to bring the Southern states back into the Union. However, if the historic US capital was seriously threatened or much less actually taken by the Confederates, that would all go out the window and the North would suddenly be fighting a desperate defensive war for its very existence. I don't think the vast majority of Northerners were at all prepared to continue fighting a desperate defensive war rather than simply let the South secede. And as much as I dislike the Confederacy and their reasons for seceding, I think they would have remained agreeable to an armistice at any point. And the vast majority of Northerners would have insisted on accepting that once the historic US capital was under Confederate control and the entire northeast was under serious military threat.

The American Revolution and Napoleonic wars were entirely different situations. It's comparing apples to oranges. In the case of the American Revolution the Americans were fighting for independence and Philadelphia held no great moral significance as the makeshift headquarters of the Continental Congress established the year before. But maybe I'm wrong. The British did burn down the White House in the War of 1812 and that didn't put a stop to everything, but again the US was fighting for at least its perceived independence from Britain in that war.
 
Last edited:

jackt62

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Messages
3,407
Location
New York City
It would have been a serious jolt to the Union cause, but ultimately it would not have changed the outcome of the war. After dealing the AOTP a defeat on northern soil, Lee in all probability would have called it a day and collected his winnings, commencing an orderly withdrawal back to northern Virginia. The psychological blow to the Union would have been very serious, and Lincoln might have thought to bring Grant back east after his Vicksburg victory, to lead the AOTP.
 

Irishtom29

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Messages
1,712
Location
Sturgeon Lake Mn.
The British did burn down the White House in the War of 1812 and that didn't put a stop to everything, but again the US was fighting for at least its perceived independence from Britain in that war.
No, we were fighting to conquer Canada and things got out of hand. Remember, we started the war, not the Brits. They already had their hands full.

Anyway I think you woefully underestimate the determination and feeling of nationalism of the American people, especially those of the Old Northwest, the men of which were victorious. I think you're falling into the Eastern centric trap.
 

rbasin

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jan 31, 2013
Messages
2,506
Location
Tampa, Fl
It would have been a serious jolt to the Union cause, but ultimately it would not have changed the outcome of the war. After dealing the AOTP a defeat on northern soil, Lee in all probability would have called it a day and collected his winnings, commencing an orderly withdrawal back to northern Virginia. The psychological blow to the Union would have been very serious, and Lincoln might have thought to bring Grant back east after his Vicksburg victory, to lead the AOTP.
Don't see Grant coming east. I do see maybe Couch replacing Meade. Reynolds dead, Hancock wounded. Don't really see another in the AotP being named. Maybe shifting Rosecrans east? Don't know if Meade is replaced.
 

Nathanb1

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Retired Moderator
Joined
Dec 31, 2009
Messages
33,058
Location
Smack dab in the heart of Texas
Don't see Grant coming east. I do see maybe Couch replacing Meade. Reynolds dead, Hancock wounded. Don't really see another in the AotP being named. Maybe shifting Rosecrans east? Don't know if Meade is replaced.
Hmmmm...I had to give this some thought, but I agree. Grant can't come--you don't break up a winning partnership like Grant and Sherman.
 

rbasin

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jan 31, 2013
Messages
2,506
Location
Tampa, Fl
Hmmmm...I had to give this some thought, but I agree. Grant can't come--you don't break up a winning partnership like Grant and Sherman.
I was actually thinking a bit different in my statement. With Lee in PA, and the AotP diminished, what could Grant have done that Meade couldn't?

But Sherman coming east to lead a Corps? After Vicksburg, he wouldn't have been missed out west. Comes east, given command of a re-organized 1st Corps, for example.
 

rbasin

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jan 31, 2013
Messages
2,506
Location
Tampa, Fl
Like lose the biggest battle of the war? (That's the OP)
Suppose it may depend on what condition the AotP was in after the battle. If he was able to pull it back without too much of an issue, and in a good location, I don't see an issue with him retaining command.
 
Joined
Mar 19, 2019
Messages
287
Location
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
What do you think would have been the most likely hypothetical outcome if the Confederacy had decisively won at Gettysburg?
On a level more personal to me as a lifelong Pennsylvanian:

1.) Lincoln would not have written the Gettysburg Address on his way to Gettysburg, and then given it at said location.

2.) Since Pennsylvania history would not include the Gettysburg Address being said at Gettysburg, then the stretch of Route 30 that runs through Pennsylvania and past Gettysburg would not be named the Lincoln Highway.

3.) Gettysburg today would not be the same tourist destination that it currently is. Even if the Union still won the war, I don't see the Gettysburg battlefield as having the exact setup of monuments that it currently has.

4.) If the Union lost at Gettysburg, I don't see it having the amount of national and international interest that it currently has.

5.) Perhaps I wouldn't have had so many teachers at my Pennsylvania public high school who were enthusiastic re-enactors at Gettsyburg. Perhaps my school would not have spent 75% - 90% of our "Civil War time" on Gettysburg and ignored the Western front.

6.) Perhaps Ike Eisenhower would not have had the same level of interest in the Battle of Gettysburg. Then, he would not have commissioned a building for the Cyclorama right on top of the battlefield, and then later retired from public life to a Gettysburg farmhouse.

7.) I wouldn't have gone to visit a wax museum with a talking wax Abraham Lincoln in Gettysburg when I was a kid.
 

Irishtom29

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Messages
1,712
Location
Sturgeon Lake Mn.
Hmmmm...I had to give this some thought, but I agree. Grant can't come--you don't break up a winning partnership like Grant and Sherman.
If this theoretical loss is considered an emergency then moving Grant and most of the Army of the Tennessee east might be a suitable response. Not just Grant but Sherman, Ord and McPherson and their corps as well. Kind of like when the 11th and 12th Corps and Joe Hooker were sent west after Chickamauga.

Anyway then the Army of the Potomac could hold on to Lee's leg and the Army of the Tennessee could skin.
 

jackt62

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Messages
3,407
Location
New York City
Don't see Grant coming east.
Maybe not, but what other good options would be available to Lincoln after a defeated AOTP at Gettysburg. As has been noted above, the available talent in the AOTP was greatly diminished. And after all, Lincoln finally brought Grant east in early 1864 after his run of western victories. So speeding up that timetable hypothetically, was all that would be required.
 
Joined
Mar 19, 2019
Messages
287
Location
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Maybe not, but what other good options would be available to Lincoln after a defeated AOTP at Gettysburg. As has been noted above, the available talent in the AOTP was greatly diminished. And after all, Lincoln finally brought Grant east in early 1864 after his run of western victories. So speeding up that timetable hypothetically, was all that would be required.

Well, Vicksburg fell on July 4 and Grant had his horse accident in New Orleans on September 4. So, would Grant have been brought east before his accident?

If not, then Grant would have had the accident and been laid up for a while. Then, Chickamauga happened September 18-20. So, if Grant was still in the west at that time, then Lincoln might have just decided to keep him in the west.
 
Top