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 Posted: Sat Sep 27th, 2008 11:59 am
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PvtClewell
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Captain Crow wrote:
I'm not so sure the AoNV was necessarily facing starvation, at least not immediately. And of course as usual I strongly contend against the assertion that Lee could not hold the line and still send aid to Vicksburg.


Capt'n,

This comes from Sear's book 'Gettysburg':

"It had become General Lee's basic premise that his army should not — indeed could not — remain much longer on the Rappahannock. In the first place, it was not a good setting for yet another battle. At Chancellorsville, even in losing, Hooker had certainly improved on Burnside's effort of the previous December, and Lee had to wonder if he could fight off a third attempt...

"In the second place, his men in their Rappahannock camps were hungry. They had been hungry since the first of the year, and it appeared they were going to be hungry for some time to come if they remained there. In the Army of Northern Virginia the only occasion for full stomachs thus far in 1863 had been immediately after Chancellorsville, when they feasted on the contents of thousands of captured or abandoned Yankee knapsacks. Even now Lucious Northrop, the Confederacy's peevish commissary-general of subsistence, was drafting yet another rationing edict — a quarter of a pound of bacon daily for garrison troops, a third of a pound for those in camp in the field, raised to half a pound only when on active campaign. This was to be in force, Northrop said, 'until the new bacon comes in' in the fall."

Earlier in the chapter, Sears writes about the war strategy conference on May 14-17 beween Lee, (secretary of war James) Seddon and Davis: "Thus the simple, convincing argument, presumably laid out in his typically quiet, authoritative way by the Confederacy's most successful general: Any attempt to turn back the tide at Vicksburg as Seddon was proposing was bound to put Lee's army in Virginia at unacceptable risk. Possibly Lee clinched the argument with some variation on what he had said to Seddon on May 10: 'You can, therefore, see the odds against us and decide whether the line of Virginia is more in danger than the line of the Mississippi.'"

Sears then writes: "In writing to his wife on April 19 about prospects for the coming campaigning season, Lee displayed a long view of affairs, looking toward breaking down the Republican administration in Washington. He did not suggest achieving this by one great war-ending battle of annihilation, a modern-day Cannae. His army, after all, was ever fated to be the smaller of the two armies. More realistically, Lee seems to have projected repeated morale-shattering victories that would eventually sap Northerners' support for the war. Gaining a third successive victory, of whatever dimension, over the Army of the Potomac, this time on Northern soil, should go a long way toward that goal. That was clearly a risk worth taking..."

From me: It should be noted that after Chancellorsville, Hooker was about to replace his losses with 48,000 reinforcements, and Lee knew this. "It seems to me," Lee told Davis, "that Virginia is to be the theater of action, and his (Lee's) army, if possible, ought to be strengthened." Clearly, Lee couldn't afford to cut loose men for Vicksburg, nor could he remain with a hungry army in his present camp. On top of that, Lee didn't have much faith in Pemberton at Vicksburg and wasn't about to put any of his troops under Pemberton's command. In my opinion, he really had no choice but to move north.

You don't have to agree with Sears, of course, but his assessment of the situation sure makes sense to me.

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