|View single post by Texas Defender|
|Posted: Sat Jun 9th, 2007 02:12 am||
| Once again, I see that some have a penchant for speculating on hypothetical situations. So, I'll make my contribution and then present a whimsical possible scenario.
General Meade had just suffered 23,000 casualties, including many senior leaders. His men were exhausted in their defensive positions, experiencing a great sense of relief and not a charge of adrenaline. Meade had indeed : "Fought well on his own dunghole." He had thrown back the invincible ANV. Few were in any mood for an all out pursuit to begin. So, contrary to the wishes and hopes of Mr. Lincoln, my conclusion is that the AOP was not in any condition for the energetic action required to put any real pressure on General Lee.
But here is how an accident of history MIGHT have happened:
Hearing that the Confederates have been thrown back , a jubilant but quiet General Meade leaves his headquarters with some staff officers and rides toward the scene of the heaviest fighting.
As he approaches the front lines, a stray round, fired very late and missing its target comes down and grazes Old Baldy. Feeling the pain, the horse lurches forward, causing General Meade to drop the reins. The general tries in vain to control the horse, which now gallops forward, passing through the federal lines and moving toward the withdrawing Confederates.
The exhausted Union troops stare with disbelief as their commanding general spontaneously leads a charge towards the retreating enemy, followed closely by some of his staff officers. A great cry goes up starting with the closest witnesses, and travelling down the lines on both sides. Some soldiers begin to rise up and follow their commander. A great cheer rises, and large numbers of men crawl out of their defensive positions and begin to advance. The movement begins to develop on its own momentum, a la Missionary Ridge (Later, but used as an example).
Cavalry joins the movement, and even artillery units prepare to hook up their guns. A kind of competitition develops between units to be in advance of the general forward movement. Subordinate commanders now order an advance.
A full quarter of a mile from his starting point, someone manages to rein in Old Baldy. But by now, even Lincoln himself, if he had wanted to, could not halt the advance.
Units now begin to engage the Confederates, pushing back the rear guard and pressuring the trains. Great consternation devlops among the tired Confederates, and eventually, a less orderly withdrawl begins to take place. Sensing a greater victory, the Union cavalry surges forward, followed by the leading units of infantry. A general pursuit is now underway.
Confederate units attempt to set up hasty defensive positions, and they manage to at least slow the federal advance. But the bulk of the ANV finds itself in a shrinking perimeter with the swollen Potomac to its rear. In the end, General Lee and most of his men manage to escape by crossing the river, but instead of 28,000 casualties, the ANV suffers 50,000, most of which are captured in the end.
The Confederacy is stunned. 30,000 men have just surrendered at Vicksburg, and now 50,000 more are effectively lost. Jefferson Davis offers his resignation, which is not accepted. He sends an envoy to ask what terms Lincoln would require for an end to hostilities. A peace conference is arranged, a la the later one that took place in February of 1865. Alexander Stephens meets with Lincoln, whose one demand is: "Union."
Jefferson Davis agonizes . He'll never get better terms than he is offered now. Will he ask the southern people to give up their hope of independence, or will he ask them to fight on, after their finest armies have been defeated, and no rational person could expect a military victory at that point? He cares not about his own fate, but what will theirs be? Both choices are equally devastating to him. In the end, he decides that he must.........
(Feel free to continue the scenario from here. Hey, I told you that it was whimsical).