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View Diary: The Most Forgotten Battle in American History (129 comments)

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  •  Lee's "Strategy" Misdirected (6+ / 0-)

    It would appear that everybody except the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia recognized that the Confederacy's primary objective was to not be defeated without necessarily gaining "victories" on the battlefield, despite their smaller war-making potential.  To that end, Lee's operational objectives by the spring of 1863 had already depleted the Confederacy of one of the most important assets it had - its white manpower.  Lee's handling of the Army of Northern Virginia during the Peninsula Campaign and the following advance during the Antietam Campaign had already cost the Confederacy dearly.  Lee might have thought England and France might enter the war if he could gain a quick and cheap victory on Northern soil, but they would likely have been even more inclined to intervene if the Confederacy hadn't played itself out for all to see by the fall of 1863.

    Worse, Lee seemed totally oblivious to the condition of the Confederate fortunes in the Western theater.  After Chancellorsville only two weeks prior, Lee could have dispatched a corps to assist the Confederacy's western armies in relieving the invested forces at Vicksburg.  Instead, Lee opted for the Napoleonic gesture of yet another invasion of northern territory, mostly to relieve the threat to Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.  The Union's greater war-making capacity ultimately would have ground down the Confederacy, but Lee's "strategy" played a good part in actually helping to re-elect Lincoln and to shorten the war.

    "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

    by PrahaPartizan on Thu May 16, 2013 at 07:44:43 PM PDT

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    •  Lee's biggest mistake (9+ / 0-)

      was fighting at Gettysburg in the first place. In his memoirs, General Longstreet said that his advice to Lee was to bypass the Army of the Potomac and get between the Union army and Washington, forcing the AOP to fight on the ground of the Confederate's choosing.
        Lee's response "The enemy is here, we will fight him here," pretty much sealed the fate of the Army of Northern Virginia. Pickett's charge and the failure to follow up on his order to take Little Round Top revealed that Lee was not the genius commander that Southern mythology holds.
        Had General Meade pursued the retreating Southerners after Gettysburg, the war in the east would have ended that week.

    •  To be fair to Lee (3+ / 0-)

      It isn't his job to do grand strategy.  That was Jefferson Davis's job.   The generals are supposed to execute to political objectives and war aims from the civilian govt.

      That's the theory anyway.    Both sides had some violations of the theory in the war, but the South was worse at having things in the correct order than the North.

      When you are a Union rather than a Confederacy it might be easier to have civilian control of the military.  It also helps when you aren't being sliced into pieces the way the South was.  Pretty much anywhere there was a river, the Union was able to make big inroads and win relatively easy victories Westside.

      •  Courtesy of Ole South Development Opposition (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Odysseus, RiveroftheWest, citylights

        Of course, the role rivers played in the Western Theater dominated because the Old South's opposition to internal development meant railroad availability lagged in the South.  Strange and prophetic how that opposition contributed to the demise of the ruling class which had opposed such development.

        "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

        by PrahaPartizan on Fri May 17, 2013 at 05:42:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, Lee was elevated to Commander-in Chief (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest, citylights

        Not just "General-in-Chief" as was Grant, but Commander-in-Chief. His opposite number is this position was not Grant, but Lincoln, who like Grant was his better. He displaced Davis in this capacity. In American history, only Washington had ever held the title of Commander-in-Chief without being simultaneously the Head of State and Head of Government. But at the time Washington held the title, the was no Head of State or Head of Government worthy of those titles. Granted, it was late in the war and Lee did not seek the promotion, but he received it nonetheless, much to Davis's (and to be fair, to Lee's own) consternation. The war was essentially already lost, but Lee had long been Davis's chief military advisor, essentially from the beginning of the war, even prior to his assumption of command of the Army of Northern Virginia during the Peninsular Campaign.

        For the length of the war, Davis made no major decisions without consulting Lee, and so far as I am aware (Though there may be some I don't know about) never in contradiction of Lee's advice. Davis had been Secretary of War in under Franklin Pierce prior to turning traitor (indeed, ironically, it was he who in that capacity accepted Grant's forced resignation for unspecified reasons (everyone, including Davis, knew it was it was to avoid a court martial for alcoholism), but he always understood that Lee was a better soldier than he.

        What he did not understand was that the drunk he had once cashiered was the superior of them both.

        Lee could have affected the strategic prosecution of the war from its outset. Grant only got that option in the spring of 1864. He made more of that privilege in a single year than Lee had in four.

        Grant was the superior general.

        And he proved it at a little town called Appamattox Court House. A lot of people want to deny the significance of that event, but as others on this thread have noted, it was the third Confederate Army that Grant had captured. Lee never captured one.

        Ceterum censeo Factionem Republicanam esse delendam.

        by journeyman on Fri May 17, 2013 at 10:33:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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