What was the Biggest "Missed Opportunity" of the War?

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
There are several occasions over the course of the war when, if a commander had made a different decision or had simply had better luck, they might have inflicted a decisive defeat on the opposing forces and, perhaps, changed the course of American history. Sometimes this is due to a lack of boldness, or not having enough information, or sheer exhaustion, or (as Shakespeare would have put it) simply the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

What are the biggest missed opportunities of the war?

McClellan at Yorktown or the afternoon of Antietam?
Lee at Glendale?
Meade at Gettysburg on July 4?
Hindman at McLemore's Cove?
Johnston/Hood at Cassville?
Lee at the North Anna River?
Hood at Spring Hill?
Something else?
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
No such opportunity existed as the rebels were incapable of doing so.
Or as General Beuraugard said after 1st Bull Run " An Army is as disorganized in victory as it is in defeat". To actually gather the Confedrate Army together get them feed and rested and then march to Washington DC takes time. Union troops arrived in DC shortly after the defeat at Bull Run.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
No such opportunity existed as the rebels were incapable of doing so.
Or as General Beuraugard said after 1st Bull Run " An Army is as disorganized in victory as it is in defeat". To actually gather the Confedrate Army together get them feed and rested and then march to Washington DC takes time. Union troops arrived in DC shortly after the defeat at Bull Run.
Leftyhunter
There are several occasions over the course of the war when, if a commander had made a different decision or had simply had better luck, they might have inflicted a decisive defeat on the opposing forces and, perhaps, changed the course of American history. Sometimes this is due to a lack of boldness, or not having enough information, or sheer exhaustion, or (as Shakespeare would have put it) simply the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

What are the biggest missed opportunities of the war?

McClellan at Yorktown or the afternoon of Antietam?
Lee at Glendale?
Meade at Gettysburg on July 4?
Hindman at McLemore's Cove?
Johnston/Hood at Cassville?
Lee at the North Anna River?
Hood at Spring Hill?
Something else?
An argument can be made that if General Burnside's men were not diverted to the Peninsula Campaign they could of been used in General Burnside's original plan to march from New Berne to Goldsboro and seize the vital railway junction which would of crippled logistics to Richmond.
E second opportunity was General Grant in the Spring of 1864 wanted to enter Virginia via New Berne thus avoiding the rivers and Wilderness of Northern Virginia but Lincoln insisted the AoP has to always be between the AnV and DC.
Leftyhunter
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
I’ve wondered if in a slightly different sequence of events in mid Mississippi during mid May 1863 …

1). If Pemberton had not turned back when he did, Grant could have gotten behind Pemberton at Champion Hill and kept him from getting back across Bakers Creek, leading to his surrender and thus too few left in Vicksburg to hold it

Or

2) if Pemberton had waited instead of moving forward, Grant would have found him blocking the passage of the Big Black without having suffered the losses of Champion Hill and this kept Grant from crossing….
 

A. Roy

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
McClellan at Yorktown or the afternoon of Antietam?
Lee at Glendale?
Meade at Gettysburg on July 4?
Hindman at McLemore's Cove?
Johnston/Hood at Cassville?
Lee at the North Anna River?
Hood at Spring Hill?
Something else?

I know more about some of these engagements and less about others. What I'm thinking is that the extent to which an engagement would be a "missed opportunity" might be its potential to affect the outcome of the war -- in other words, its potential to act as a "lever" or "inflection point."

For the U.S., is there a way a particular engagement could have significantly shortened the war? For the C.S.A., is there a way the engagement could have resulted in recognition by Britain or France, resulting in assistance for the war effort?

ARB
 

Bruce Vail

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
McClellan at dawn Sept. 18, 1862 at Antietam.

The Rebs were fully expecting a renewal of the attacks of the day before so there is no question of the element of surprise, or that the Confederates would be caught unaware in any way. The carnage of second day may well have been worse than that of the first. Nevertheless, it was the best opportunity for the Yankees to have to destroyed the ANV at any time during the entire war, save at Appamattox.
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
There are several occasions over the course of the war when, if a commander had made a different decision or had simply had better luck, they might have inflicted a decisive defeat on the opposing forces and, perhaps, changed the course of American history. Sometimes this is due to a lack of boldness, or not having enough information, or sheer exhaustion, or (as Shakespeare would have put it) simply the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

What are the biggest missed opportunities of the war?

McClellan at Yorktown or the afternoon of Antietam?
Lee at Glendale?
Meade at Gettysburg on July 4?
Hindman at McLemore's Cove?
Johnston/Hood at Cassville?
Lee at the North Anna River?
Hood at Spring Hill?
Something else?
Hindman at McLemore's Cove.

Regarding "Lee at Glendale" and "Meade at Gettysburg on July 4th" I think they belong in different categories because Lee had given subordinates orders to attack whereas Meade just remained in place. Faulting Lee at Glendale is comparable to faulting "Bragg at McLemore's Cove," which you properly labeled "Hindman at McLemore's Cove"
 

Pat Answer

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Oct 8, 2013
Location
“...somewhere between NY and PA”
Hooker’s “Chancellorsville” campaign deserved to at least clear Lee out of the Rappahannock position
(1) Not pushing out of the Wilderness on April 30 and May 1
(2) Assuming and acting on info that Lee is in retreat on May 2
(3) Not bringing Reynolds or Meade meaningfully into the fray on May 3, 4, or 5
(4) Not helping Sedgwick fight toward main force
(5!) Not yielding to council vote and remaining in defensive position to meet Lee’s planned May 6 attack.

After McLemore’s Cove, Bragg should probably have assumed Polk and DH Hill would… have trouble following his orders and taken a predawn ride to his right on Sept 20, 1863…

Bigger than any I can think of at the moment however, in agreement with neyankee61 (#14), was that Smith really did seem to have an opportunity to go for broke at Petersburg on June 18, 1864.
 

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