What If Lee Won At Gettysburg?

33rdVaCoB

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Dec 10, 2014
Hello everyone, I was wondering how would the tide of war changed if lee won at Gettysburg? I believe the war would have ended with a southern victory. What are your thoughts?
 
Joined
Mar 28, 2014
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Atlanta
I don't think so; it may have prolonged it. Whether Ewell takes Cemetery Hill on July 1 or Longstreet's corps captures LRT on July 2, the AoP would have retreated but still remained intact. So Lee hangs out in Penn a few weeks and threatens a few large cities, but by September he would be back in Virginia. His supply lines could not sustain him that far north.

Vicksburg still falls, as does Chattanooga. So, barring a complete destruction of the AoP (which was virtually impossible), the main progress of the war would not have been altered.

The significance of Gettysburg is overrated both as a Union victory and as a Southern "what if".

IMO!
 

Kyle Kalasnik

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Potter County, PA
Now what if the charge on 3 July actually succeeded. Would the ANV be in any condition to continue offensive operations? They would have been pretty beat up.

I think had Lee won at Gettysburg it would just have prolonged the war.

Respectfully,
Kyle Kalasnik
 

PatW

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Jan 21, 2015
The notion of the Army of Northern Virginia destroying the Army of the Potomac is virtually not a prospect. Civil War armies could take a lickin and keep on tickin. Arguably, the Army of Tennessee was destroyed at Nashville but that was after a long string of defeats and even then, the army retreated.

A first day victory seems to be the most likely. Somehow, the ARNV takes Cemetery Hill and Culps Hill. The Union has 2 corps really badly beaten up and Meade just has everyone line up at Pipe VIne Creek. Lee cannot stay in Pennsylvania long. He cannot supply his army unless he disperses it to forage and he cannot disperse it with the AOP nearby. So he has to retreat back to Virginia. Grant still comes east, the Overland Campaign happens followed by the Siege of Petersburg and Appomattox.
 

AThompson

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Feb 15, 2021
From a military standpoint, that's completely right. But there's no telling what the immense political pressure results in in the north. Political pressure can shape wars far beyond the military situation, much to the chagrin of military commanders. After the summer of 1862, then Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, there's a real question as to whether there's enough political capital left to prosecute the war effectively.
 
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From a military standpoint, that's completely right. But there's no telling what the immense political pressure results in in the north. Political pressure can shape wars far beyond the military situation, much to the chagrin of military commanders. After the summer of 1862, then Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, there's a real question as to whether there's enough political capital left to prosecute the war effectively.
Bingo. It would have taken a crushing victory to really affect the political situation, but that was one of Lee's aims. He probably never imagined how inept the Confederate commanders in the West turned out to be.
 

GwilymT

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Pittsburgh
Now another question. Say lee wins , would that prompt British involvement to end the war ?
No. At this point the Emancipation Proclamation was in affect and it could be rightfully said that it was a war about slavery. The British would never align themselves with a breakaway government who openly stated that their cause was rooted in a desire to defend slavery.

Any hopes of British intervention went away in the fall of 1862 when Lee retreated from Maryland and the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.
 

jackt62

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New York City
What kind of southern victory at Gettysburg? After all, Lee won victories at 2nd Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, and yet federal armies got away intact and able to fight another day. Is there any realistic path to a resounding victory for Lee at Gettysburg that would have totally vanquished the AotP to the degree that the war would have ended? I think not.
 

jcaesar

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Aug 28, 2020
The answer depends on if the AotP is still in fighting shape after and even then it only reaches the point of being a possible game changer if the British and French step in.

I am highly doubtful the Europeans would throw in. It is likely the war goes on perhaps another 6 to 9 months and we end up seeing full division battles between Union and Confederate CTs before the end. This slightly longer war would have a rather interesting impact on post war race relations in the South.
 
Last edited:
Joined
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What kind of southern victory at Gettysburg? After all, Lee won victories at 2nd Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, and yet federal armies got away intact and able to fight another day. Is there any realistic path to a resounding victory for Lee at Gettysburg that would have totally vanquished the AotP to the degree that the war would have ended? I think not.
Let's say the ANV performs perfectly late on July 1 and either captures or finishes off the I and II Corps. Hancock is captured after hiding behind a gravestone. Then the next morning the ANV promptly moves south/southeast, gobbling up the other Union corps like a Pac Man on steroids. Meade falls off his horse and, stunned like the turtle he was likened to, withdraws into a shell and loses command and control. On July 3, Pickett charges the heights at Pipe Creek and scatters the remaining Union forces, achieving the positive immortality he so richly deserved.

So, yea, in that scenario, South wins the war.
 
Joined
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Let's say the ANV performs perfectly late on July 1 and either captures or finishes off the I and II Corps. Hancock is captured after hiding behind a gravestone. Then the next morning the ANV promptly moves south/southeast, gobbling up the other Union corps like a Pac Man on steroids. Meade falls off his horse and, stunned like the turtle he was likened to, withdraws into a shell and loses command and control. On July 3, Pickett charges the heights at Pipe Creek and scatters the remaining Union forces, achieving the positive immortality he so richly deserved.

So, yea, in that scenario, South wins the war.
XI Corps!
 

AThompson

Private
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Feb 15, 2021
Let's say the ANV performs perfectly late on July 1 and either captures or finishes off the I and II Corps. Hancock is captured after hiding behind a gravestone. Then the next morning the ANV promptly moves south/southeast, gobbling up the other Union corps like a Pac Man on steroids. Meade falls off his horse and, stunned like the turtle he was likened to, withdraws into a shell and loses command and control. On July 3, Pickett charges the heights at Pipe Creek and scatters the remaining Union forces, achieving the positive immortality he so richly deserved.

So, yea, in that scenario, South wins the war.
Of course we'll never know, since it didn't happen, but I think any victory in the north stirs up the anti-war faction in the north to become a serious threat to carrying the war on. Though there's no election in 1863, you can use 1864 as an example. Until Atlanta was taken, Lincoln was convinced he was going to lose and that the new administration would broker a peace. That was after Gettysburg had been won, Vicksburg had been taken, and Grant was maneuvering Lee onto the ropes: the point being that things seemed to be going much better in 1864 for the northern war effort and he was still convinced he was going to be defeated because people were tired of the war. In 1863, things were not going well in the east (which Washington, DC was most concerned with, being right in the middle of it). A Confederate victory on northern soil - even if it weren't a catastrophic defeat for the AOP - may have had major (and possibly war-ending, for all intents and purposes) effects.

I think it's worth noting that one of Lee's intentions (not the only one) was to roam around PA enough to stir that anti-war faction up to the south's benefit.
 
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Of course we'll never know, since it didn't happen, but I think any victory in the north stirs up the anti-war faction in the north to become a serious threat to carrying the war on. Though there's no election in 1863, you can use 1864 as an example. Until Atlanta was taken, Lincoln was convinced he was going to lose and that the new administration would broker a peace. That was after Gettysburg had been won, Vicksburg had been taken, and Grant was maneuvering Lee onto the ropes: the point being that things seemed to be going much better in 1864 for the northern war effort and he was still convinced he was going to be defeated because people were tired of the war. In 1863, things were not going well in the east (which Washington, DC was most concerned with, being right in the middle of it). A Confederate victory on northern soil - even if it weren't a catastrophic defeat for the AOP - may have had major (and possibly war-ending, for all intents and purposes) effects.

I think it's worth noting that one of Lee's intentions (not the only one) was to roam around PA enough to stir that anti-war faction up to the south's benefit.
All valid points.
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
Let's say the ANV performs perfectly late on July 1 and either captures or finishes off the I and II Corps. Hancock is captured after hiding behind a gravestone. Then the next morning the ANV promptly moves south/southeast, gobbling up the other Union corps like a Pac Man on steroids. Meade falls off his horse and, stunned like the turtle he was likened to, withdraws into a shell and loses command and control. On July 3, Pickett charges the heights at Pipe Creek and scatters the remaining Union forces, achieving the positive immortality he so richly deserved.

So, yea, in that scenario, South wins the war.
And if you can believe that . . .
 
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