View single post by ole
 Posted: Sat Aug 30th, 2008 11:45 pm
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Joined: Sun Oct 22nd, 2006
Posts: 2031

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So it almost becomes two separate questions. The first is: should he have invaded the North at all, and if you feel that he had valid reason for doing so, the next q is, once the chips were falling into place, and he knew the Union occuppied the high ground, should he have pressed the attack anyway, as he did.

Excellent observations from both of you gentlemen. (Are you ganging up on me?) Let's start with this.

Consider his alternatives in both cases: He can't very well sit on his hands in Virginia -- this is not Lee. To do nothing allows the AotP to do the planning and the maneuvering. Go to any successful commander. You never, never let the opposition take the initiative. He gets ahold of that and you are limited to responding. Same thing when he ran up against Meade at Gettysburg: he can't let Meade take the initiative ... so he does.

When we sit here and opine that he should have folded and saved his army, we're looking at his situation from a modern, non-military perspective.
Davis should have utilized a sizeable portion of the available troops-and possibly leadership-to releave Vicksburg.
When Grant landed at Bruinsburg, Vicksburg was already gone. Grant had the west bank so nothing was running through Vicksburg anyway. (Actually, Vicksburg was not really a major player in the west-to-east movement. Vicksburg did block the free movement of Union shipping on the Mississippi, but that bottleneck didn't stop Union supplies from feeding the troops in New Orleans.) Bottom line, relieving Vicksburg would not have changed Confederate fortunes. Consequently, sending troops to relieve Vicksburg would have been an empty gesture and would have given no appreciable boost to Confederate arms (except for phsycological and morale).

However since Lee did invade he should have broken off the engagement after the first day, moved between Meade and the capitol, and then possibly he could have enticed Meade to attack on ground of Lee's own choosing.

And Lee was going to do what to feed his men after he moved between Meade and the Capital? Check the roads between Gettysburg and Washington, Baltimore, Harrisburg, or Philadelphia. It's not quite so easy to march around either of Meade's flanks. On the march, the commander doesn't have the luxury of entrenching. He has to have flankers out with no wagons to speak of. His train (what there was of it) has to be walled off from opposing cavalry; consequently, the troops live on what they carry. Given that the AoNV pulled off amazing feats of endurance, such a move would severly tax the troops. I don't see moving around Meade as an option.


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