But if we see Lee at the Penninsula, or at Friedricksburg or Chancellorville, we see someone entirely different from the man at Gettysburg. Even at Antietam the previous year he acted very different, even against Mcllelan which was a much better Union commander than Meade. How can we reconciliate the man from Chancerllorville with the man at Gettysburg?
I have not yet recovered from the attack I experienced this spring. I am becoming more and more incapable of exertion, and thus am prevented from making the personal examinations and giving the personal supervision to the operations in the field which I feel to be necessary. I am so dull that in making use of the eyes of others I am frequently misled. Everything, therefore, points to the advantages to be derived from a new commander.
I don't believe that Lee intentionally selected Gettysburg as a field of battle.
I think that Lee most definitely felt Jackson's loss. Lee had always relied greatly upon Jackson. In the Second Manassas campaign, it was Jackson who was given the independent command to advance up into Virginia ahead of the main army. At Antietam, Lee not only selected Jackson for the independent mission to seize Harpers Ferry but, upon Jackson re-joining the main army at Sharpsburg, then placed him on the essentially important left flank, At Chancellorsville, it was Jackson who was selected by Lee to deliver the crucial flank attack. Gettyburg was the first major battle in which Lee did not have Jackson at his side.
Have you looked at the defenses of Washington? Lee wouldn't be just riding in. They were heavier than Lee's at Richmond/Petersburg, with much heavier artillery batteries, and the Federals generally had better artillery than the Confederates. Sure, if he had destroyed the Union army, but what are the odds of that? If Lee had tried to maneuver around the Federal right, Meade would have responded in kind. I don't deny that might have been a better move, but I think the road network favored a Federal move back to Washington more than a Confederate move to the same place.
1. Longstreet was an excellent field commander, savvy and tactically intelligent. He was masterful at Second Manassas in absolutely crushing Pope's left flank and at Gettyburg in recognizing the rash advance of the Union left flank and driving it back. Had he been able to capture the Round Tops, the Union position would have been completely compromised and he essentially might have tactically won the Battle of Gettyburg single-handedly.
2. McClellan was an excellent organizer, discipliner, and trainer of armies, but a poor battlefield commander. His early peninsula campaign was an embarrassment, and the only reason why Lee and the ANV survived Antietam was because of McClellan's abysmal tactical handling of the battle; any modestly competent Union general would have ended the war in 1862. Had McClellan been made responsible exclusively for training and supplying the armies behind the front, he would IMO have been much better regarded by history.
Karl Heidenreich wrote:
Two interesting points here from Steve.
First: Given the circumstances could Lee hace destroyed the Union Army sometime in the first half of July 1863?
Second: Could Lee, after destroying the Union Army have marched all the way to Washington?
My two cents.
RF wrote: I am inclined to agree with Karl on the first point; what I would question is not so much whether Washington DC could have been captured and held in the face of new Federal armies and the better artillery (which I think is doubtful) but whether there was any chance of such a capture forcing the North to capitulate or come to terms with the CSA in which secession is agreed on the basis that the rest of the Union is retained intact. I don't think there was. The British I believe captured Washington in the war of 1812, it didn't cause Madison to surrender.
Their best chance of capture I think was at the very start of the war - the opportunity was missed.
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