Worst Case Scenario?

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Pat Answer

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Or... Monitor actually sinks in the gale on March 7-8, 1862. Virginia is undisputed queen of Hampton Roads.
Good one. (Showing how little I know of the naval war :frown:), are there any more ironclads being built in the North at this time? Is Stanton right to expect the Virginia to steam up the Potomac and shell Washington? Or if that is exaggerated fear, what effect does this have on planning the blockade?
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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Good one. (Showing how little I know of the naval war :frown:), are there any more ironclads being built in the North at this time? Is Stanton right to expect the Virginia to steam up the Potomac and shell Washington? Or if that is exaggerated fear, what effect does this have on planning the blockade?
Galena and New Ironsides. The former would be ready first but would be of really questionable value against Virginia. The New Ironsides would almost certainly be able to take on Virginia, but by the time NI is ready, would Richmond already be ready to operate in concert with Virginia? Could NI handle both at once?

Oh... and there's no way Virginia could have gotten past Mattawoman Muds on the Potomac (spelling?) assuming she could have survived the trip up Chesapeake Bay. It's also highly doubtful Mallory would have let her try, even if she could have ascended the Potomac.
 

Saphroneth

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Oh... and there's no way Virginia could have gotten past Mattawoman Muds on the Potomac (spelling?) assuming she could have survived the trip up Chesapeake Bay. It's also highly doubtful Mallory would have let her try, even if she could have ascended the Potomac.
Are you sure? I once tried to work it out, and as far as I can tell the tidal sweep would let her just about make it at high tide. (19.5 feet low tide, three foot tidal sweep; Virginia draft 21 feet.)
It'd be basically pointless to do it because she couldn't do much of use once up there, but as far as I can tell getting the Virginia up there was physically possible.
 
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Saphroneth

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The New Ironsides would almost certainly be able to take on Virginia, but by the time NI is ready, would Richmond already be ready to operate in concert with Virginia? Could NI handle both at once?
This is an interesting question. I suspect the New Ironsides by herself would be a comparatively easy target for Virginia and Richmond - both she and the Virginia are immune to the other's guns with belt/battery/casemate shots, but the New Ironsides is very poorly manoeuverable and as built she doesn't have proper end bulkheads. If they can split her attention so that V and R are at ninety degrees of separation from the point of view of New Ironsides, raking fire would be highly destructive.
(There were bulkheads added, but only 2.5" so the guns of the CS ironclads might pierce.)

(New Ironsides was so poorly manoeuverable because of the hydrodynamic form of her hull - she couldn't steer except at low revs in deep water. She'd be quite vulnerable to being outmanoeuvred.)
 

Andy Cardinal

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Let’s really go wild: after a big July 1862 pow-wow, Halleck, McClellan, and Pope convince Lincoln that a coordinated pincer move by the Armies of the Potomac and Virginia has a chance. Both armies are reinforced where they are, and...
I agree with this one. This was probably the best Union chance to win the war prior to 1864.
 

Saphroneth

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I agree with this one. This was probably the best Union chance to win the war prior to 1864.
I'd say there was just as much chance in June, but it's for the same reason - reinforce the Army of the Potomac to the point it can maintain itself and launch an offensive on Richmond. Whether that's done by crossing to Petersburg, or by moving up the eastern bank of the James, or by mounting regular approaches just south of the Chickahominy river, the strategic calculus is the same - the simple fact of a large Union army close to Richmond means that Lee can't detach a large Confederate army to attack into the North, and the superior siege guns of the Union means that they can win a stellungskrieg. It's a slow way of advancing, perhaps, but there's not far to advance!
 
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Andy Cardinal

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I'd say there was just as much chance in June, but it's for the same reason - reinforce the Army of the Potomac to the point it can maintain itself and launch an offensive on Richmond. Whether that's done by crossing to Petersburg, or by moving up the eastern bank of the James, or by mounting regular approaches just south of the Chickahominy river, the strategic calculus is the same - the simple fact of a large Union army close to Richmond means that Lee can't detach a large Confederate army to attack into the North, and the superior siege guns of the Union means that they can win a stellungskrieg. It's a slow way of advancing, perhaps, but there's not far to advance!
Agreed.

It's difficult to see how the Confederates could have defended against a pincer movement as described. There were actually a few points during the course of the war where a move as described or similar could have been undertaken. The only reason i think July 1862 may have had a better prospect of success than eaier is that the forces north of Virginia were organized into one command and large enoigh to hold their own as a field army, although the possibility of Pope and McClellan ever working together seems nil, so another commander in place of Pope would have been necessary.

Interestingly, Lincoln himself proposed a modified version of this scheme to Burnside in November/December 1862 when Burnside was stalled before Fredericksburg.

Another opportunity might have occured in June 1863 when Dix commanded on the peninsula. A more organized movement by Fox might have cut Lee's invasion short.

And then there's the Grant/Meade/Butler possibility in May 1864, which stood the best chance probably of being successful historically (as it was at least ordered), although Butler bungled it.
 

Saphroneth

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It's difficult to see how the Confederates could have defended against a pincer movement as described. There were actually a few points during the course of the war where a move as described or similar could have been undertaken. The only reason i think July 1862 may have had a better prospect of success than eaier is that the forces north of Virginia were organized into one command and large enoigh to hold their own as a field army, although the possibility of Pope and McClellan ever working together seems nil, so another commander in place of Pope would have been necessary.
I'm not sure you even need a pincer movement, as such, though there is one idea I've been contemplating which might make things even worse for the CSA.

The basic concept is this - during June, the Lincoln administration decides that Richmond is the target for operations over the year. Other ops are subsidiary.

Corinth has already been gained, and ca. 20,000 troops PFD are removed from Halleck's force to be shifted by rail east to the Defences of Washington; that's a reduction in strength of perhaps 10%, and I suspect that the Union force in the West could have been reduced by that amount.

This frees up essentially the entire Dept. of the Rappahanock (functionally a three-division field army) under McDowell to advance down the rail lines from Fredericksburg.
At the same time, the forces which were historically sent to McClellan/Fort Monroe after the Seven Days are sent to him before the Seven Days (this amounts to, functionally, two divisions under Burnside as another corps - call it 7th Provisional Army Corps - though it'd be a bit poor in cohesion. Indications from history are that this force could be transferred by June 20 if the decision was made June 1). This force is sent by water to unload at White House Landing, along with the Pennsylvania Reserves, and covers the line of Tolopatamoy Creek.

When McDowell's force arrives, 7th PAC moves back into reserve and the Dept. of the Rappahanock resumes its original position as 1st Corps Army of the Potomac covering the line of the Tolopatamoy.

The remaining force in what would become the Dept. of Virginia is not much weaker than historical (about 60K PFD instead of 70K), so it's certainly not weak enough that Washington could be easily taken - in the worst case scenario the Union can pull back to the line of the Potomac and garrison it, which is pretty well secure against anything short of Lee's entire field army. On the other hand, McClellan has effectively got a supply line that can't be taken (in that if Jackson tried to force Tolopatamoy Creek he'd be running into about twice his own numbers, while attacking out of Richmond on the north of the Chickahominy means doing Beaver Dam Creek) and can conduct much the regular-approaches that he was doing historically in late June once the ground hardened.


(The reason why I'm not sure the pincer movement can reach true fruition is the geography around Richmond. It looks to me like you can't attack Richmond from the north, or at least to any advantage, because of the forts and the need to make a crossing of the Chickahominy, plus the need to protect the supply line.)
 

rebelatsea

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Probably not in the case of the ram. Monitor was able to avoid being rammed fairly handily, and she didn't know that the ram was in fact still embedded in Cumberland.

Solid shot might be a different story, at least with the Brooke rifles. I really doubt solid shot from the Dahlgren IX-inchers would have done much more damage than historically, but a solid bolt from a Brooke rifle might have been another story.
Or to add insult to injury, the plan to capture Monitor by boarding and blocking her exhausts and intakes forcing the crew to surrender or suffocate is made to work somehow.
 
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Saphroneth

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Or to add insult to injury, the plan to capture Monitor by boarding and blocking her exhausts and intakes forcing the crew to surrender or suffocate is made to work somehow.
As far as we can reasonably determine, the plan would have worked had boarders got on board. This is based on a combination of factors, including contemporary expert opinion (including by one of the commanders of Monitor at Hampton Roads) and the simple fact that there's no real way for Monitor to sweep her own decks.

Perhaps posting a surrender demand through the space around one of the guns, to the effect that the next one will be accompanied by a lit 9" shell?
 

TerryB

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Britain goes to war over the Trent Affair, sends its navy to engage the Union navy and invades New England or further west via Canada.
 

Saphroneth

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Britain goes to war over the Trent Affair, sends its navy to engage the Union navy and invades New England or further west via Canada.
Yeah, that one pretty much wins. It's hard to see how the Union can possibly win in that one, unless they make peace very quickly; by the time the Canadian campaigning season opens the Union is down hundreds of thousands of rifles over the historical situation, is running out of saltpetre, has lost their navy, is being blockaded, and is looking at the wrong side of a numerical and qualitative advantage.


If the British actually adopt an offensive posture, then it's quite possible to have a combined Imperial corps each attacking on five separate lines of operation; one of these combined corps might reasonably consist of twelve regular British and six volunteer Canadian battalions, plus ca. 40 Armstrong guns that outrange anything in the Union artillery park and well-trained regular cavalry in proportion - with all the shooters armed with the Enfield and with plenty of musketry practice to the level that would make a Union soldier the Regimental champion. These corps might only be ca. 20K troops PFD, but they'd be able to walk right over a Union corps of ca. 30K troops PFD owing to the equipment and training differences.

OTOH the British could also mass 30K-odd regulars and 100-odd Armstrong guns into a single naval landing force, sail it up the Patapsco, shoot their way past Fort McHenry with gunboats and ironclad floating batteries and land the lot at Baltimore. At which point the Union is proper buggered.
 
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TerryB

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Yeah, that one pretty much wins. It's hard to see how the Union can possibly win in that one, unless they make peace very quickly; by the time the Canadian campaigning season opens the Union is down hundreds of thousands of rifles over the historical situation, is running out of saltpetre, has lost their navy, is being blockaded, and is looking at the wrong side of a numerical and qualitative advantage.


If the British actually adopt an offensive posture, then it's quite possible to have a combined Imperial corps each attacking on five separate lines of operation; one of these combined corps might reasonably consist of twelve regular British and six volunteer Canadian battalions, plus ca. 40 Armstrong guns that outrange anything in the Union artillery park and well-trained regular cavalry in proportion - with all the shooters armed with the Enfield and with plenty of musketry practice to the level that would make a Union soldier the Regimental champion. These corps might only be ca. 20K troops PFD, but they'd be able to walk right over a Union corps of ca. 30K troops PFD owing to the equipment and training differences.

OTOH the British could also mass 30K-odd regulars and 100-odd Armstrong guns into a single naval landing force, sail it up the Patapsco, shoot their way past Fort McHenry with gunboats and ironclad floating batteries and land the lot at Baltimore. At which point the Union is proper buggered.
All winnable and hard to defend against. Make peace is the best option and Lincoln knew it.
 

Saphroneth

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All winnable and hard to defend against. Make peace is the best option and Lincoln knew it.
Well, what I mean is that I'm legitimately not sure that the Union can win the war with Britain. I tried working out what the Union deployments could be, and as far as I can tell they've got perhaps 3-4 divisions left over after holding a strict defensive - and the strict defensive just means "the enemy can't advance more or less at will and has to put effort into attacking".
 

TerryB

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Well, what I mean is that I'm legitimately not sure that the Union can win the war with Britain. I tried working out what the Union deployments could be, and as far as I can tell they've got perhaps 3-4 divisions left over after holding a strict defensive - and the strict defensive just means "the enemy can't advance more or less at will and has to put effort into attacking".
They have to fight Britain and the CSA and maybe even France. I'd negotiate if I were Lincoln.
 
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mike1w

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The worst case scenario apart from foreign military intervention would have been Lincoln being defeated in the 1864 election, or somehow becoming unable to elevate Grant. Once Grant took overall command, the south had no real chance of military success. The only hope after that would have been a new president in January 1865, but even that was a slim chance. Once Lincoln was elected to his second term, the southern cause was effectively a lost cause. My opinion anyway, since I can't live within multiple quantum realities.
 

Saphroneth

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The worst case scenario apart from foreign military intervention would have been Lincoln being defeated in the 1864 election, or somehow becoming unable to elevate Grant. Once Grant took overall command, the south had no real chance of military success. The only hope after that would have been a new president in January 1865, but even that was a slim chance. Once Lincoln was elected to his second term, the southern cause was effectively a lost cause. My opinion anyway, since I can't live within multiple quantum realities.
I'm not sure I follow either of those.

In the first place, the only main party alternative to Lincoln was McClellan, and McClellan was a War Democrat and not a Peace Democrat - the man had spent months in 1862 arguing that a Union army based on the James river was the right way to take Richmond and end the war. If he takes office and there is a Union army based on the James river (and there will be) then he's going to sustain it - and probably argue that its success vindicates him!

In the second place, Grant wasn't the only general who could beat the South. He was a competent general who was able to operate a large army, but there's nothing that really proves that Meade (say) wouldn't have been able to do the same thing with the same commitment of resources.
In fact, the resources committed to Grant were huge, and they were enough that the strategy Grant adopted was not the only (or even, by reasonable argument, the best) strategy that would work. The force given to Grant to operate the Army of the Potomac and its subordinate armies was so huge that you could post an army on the Rappahanock of seventy thousand men (PFD) to protect Washington - itself slightly larger than Lee's field army at the time - and commit about a hundred and thirty thousand men (PFD) to the approach operating up the York and James rivers.
This is a strategy which the Confederacy simply has no viable answer for. The first time it was done the only way they were able to keep Richmond secure was to muster an army larger than the Union one, and Lee simply doesn't have enough men at his disposal to counter this conjectured new force.

If one wishes to argue that Lincoln's influence stymied any route but the Overland to go after Richmond, then maybe Grant was the only one who could get the Union army over the Rappahanock and then keep it moving south towards Richmond while also securing the bloody victories that convinced Lincoln that Grant was "trying to win the war" instead of using "strategy" (two things Lincoln saw as opposed) but that actually argues that Lincoln being defeated in the 1864 election would be a good thing from a military point of view.
 

thomas aagaard

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The only hope after that would have been a new president in January 1865,
That would only happen if Lincoln was killed, resigned or was impeached.

Back then the presidency was not changed until march.

If Lincoln had lost the election (for some strange nonmilitary reason) I think we would have seen a massive attempt at winning the war before this. If the army thought that they new president would "surrender"
But McClellan was not going to allow the CSA independence if the union had effectively won the war. He was way more willing to fight than what a large portion of democrats wanted.
 
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Saphroneth

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That would only happen if Lincoln was killed, resigned or was impeached.
Interestingly I think the only situation where you get a peace-faction individual into the Presidency slot is by at least one of those things happening to a President. I've seen it argued before that many of the votes against McClellan were because people worried that the VP candidate (who wasn't someone he picked) would let the South go and would be "only a heartbeat from the Presidency" - and that he would then be assassinated to put a Peace candidate into the White House.
 
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In the weeks following the conclusion of the Seven Days, it became clear to the Confederates that McClellan was no longer a threat to Richmond and was preparing to withdraw altogether. Content the Army of the Potomac was no longer an active concern, Robert E. Lee's attention thus shift to John Pope's 50,000 strong Army of Virginia advancing south overland. Lee, with his Army of Northern Virginia also at around 50,000 strong, soon marched to face Pope and thus engendered the Northern Virginia Campaign. Initial major clashes would be held at Cedar Mountain, ending in a close run Confederate victory that forced Pope to withdraw to just above the Rapidan River.

Pope's new position, however, was dangerously exposed. The aforementioned Rapidan was directly in front of his forces while the Rappahannock River was to his right, effectively meaning his forces were in a triangle and could be boxed in. Worse, Cedar Mountain could screen a movement of Confederate forces to cross the Rapidan and slam into the exposed left flank of Pope and then pin Pope's Army between the two rivers. Further, prior to the start of the attack, Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry was to burn the railroad bridge at Rappahannock Station, which would cut Pope’s only supply line. Without supplies and with no escape against a numerically equal Confederate force having collapsed his left flank, the annihilation of Pope's Army was imminent. It was at this point, however, that disaster struck for Lee. From the Osprey Campaign Series, Second Manassas 1862 (Pg 27):
Lee followed and joined his army in Orange near the middle of August. On 19 August, he ordered his commanders to move against Pope and defeat him before McClellan could link up with the Army of Virginia. Longstreet advised a movement to the left in order to strike Pope's right. Lee and Jackson thought it better to turn Pope's left and put the Army of Northern Virginia between the Union troops and Washington. This would cut both Pope's line of supplies and retreat. To accomplish this, Lee directed Longstreet to cross the Rapidan at Raccoon Ford with the right wing of the army. He was to move toward Culpeper Court House, while Jackson, with the left wing, was to cross at Somerville Ford and proceed in the same direction, keeping on Longstreet's left. R.H. Anderson's division and S.D. Lee's battalion of artillery was to follow Jackson, while Stuart, crossing at Morton's Ford, was to reach the Rappahannock by way of Stevensburg. He was directed to destroy the railroad bridge, cut Pope's communications, and operate on Longstreet's right.

Ever spoiling for a fight, Jackson wanted to attack earlier. Longstreet rebutted that he was not prepared. In addition, Fitz Hugh Lee's Brigade of Stuart's cavalry, the lead brigade on the march from Richmond, had strayed too far to the right, in the direction of Fredericksburg, and was a day late in joining the army, causing another delay. During all this activity Stuart had set out with his small staff in search of Fitz Lee. On the evening of 17 August the group reached Verdiersville. Not finding his cavalry reinforcement waiting there as expected, Stuart dispatched a rider with a message for the troops to hurry to join him. He then had his horse unsaddled while he stripped off his saber belt, hat, and other gear to get a night's sleep in the garden of the Rhodes house.

Dawn of 18 August broke with the sound of hooves, which Stuart thought must be Fitz Lee. But it was not. Pope had called for a reconnaissance in the area, and Colonel Thorton Broadhead with elements of the 1st Michigan Cavalry along with the 5th New York had obliged. Now the blue-clad troopers were riding towards the slumbering "Beauty" Stuart. The Confederate cavalier jumped on his unsaddled horse and beat a quick retreat, leaving behind his tack, cloak, and sash. Also abandoned was his plumed hat, which he had recently received from a former comrade from his days in the United States Army, Samuel Crawford. After Cedar Mountain, Crawford and Stuart had met during a brief truce and the Confederate cavalryman bet his old friend that the Northern press would declare the clash a Union victory, which it was not. When the action was reported as Stuart predicted, Crawford sent the hat to Stuart in payment of his wager. Although leaving behind many personal items, Stuart managed to vault the fence on his steed and escaped capture.

His adjutant general, Major Norman R. Fitz Hugh, however, was not that fortunate. He fell into the hands of the Union troops. What was worse, the major had a copy of Lee's order of march, and had no time to dispose of it before capture. These documents were quickly forwarded to Pope, who hastened to evacuate Culpeper and put the Rappahannock between himself and Lee. Lee's original plan now had to be revised.
If Fitz Lee does not take his detour which forced Lee to delay the attack as well as directly resulted in the capture of Major Fitz Hugh. Without this chain of events, General Lee's attack is able to proceed as planned, resulting in the destruction of Pope's army. Now, the destruction of an entire Federal force of 50,000 in of itself is pretty decisive as far as the war goes. IOTL the Anglo-French were prepared to intervene and nearly did so over the historical Second Battle of Manassas despite that being far less decisive than this "Battle of the Rapidan". Still, it's going to take some time for London and Paris to learn exactly what has happened and then get communications back across the Atlantic. This means there's still going to be some fighting to occur before the Anglo-French fully involve themselves.

The Army of Virginia consisted of the I Corps (McDowell), XI Corps (Sigel) and XII Corps (Banks), so going into the Alt-Maryland Campaign, the first thing to be noted is that McClellan's Army of the Potomac is going to be in reduced strength:
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As for Lee, historically in the aftermath of Second Manassas his strength was approaching 75,000 according to John Owen Allen's “The Strength of the Union and Confederate Forces At Second Manassas” (Masters Thesis, George Mason University, 1993). Here's a link to where you can review the excel spreadsheet they have outlining this strength. Due to straggling, Lee was ultimately whittled down to somewhere between 40,000 to 50,000 by the time of IOTL Antietam, but here this can largely be avoided thanks to the early end of the Northern Virginia campaign. IOTL fighting in said campaign didn't conclude until the start of September and was then immediately followed by Lee pushing into Maryland, resulting in his men being increasing exhausted from the continuous combat. In this ATL, however, combat operations are largely concluded by the 20th to 21st, meaning the bulk of Lee's forces will have several days to rest before ultimately pushing into the North to face a much weakened Army of the Potomac. Given this, I think it's safe to say Lee will win any engagement he gets into, probably directly before the Anglo-French intervention begins.
 
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