|View single post by PvtClewell|
|Posted: Tue Aug 14th, 2007 08:23 pm||
Well played. Strong arguments to support your premise. So let me see how I counterattack.
I might have to define what I consider to be Lee's 'offensive cabability' after Gettysburg. By that, I mean he could never put together another offensive campaign designed to penetrate the north. He could launch localized attacks, certainly, as you described (a good offense is the best defense scenario) but he personally never left Virginia again. He couldn't. Not with Grant and 120,000 Yankees on the other side of the Rapidan.
Technicality: I'm sure you're referring to Early's Washington Raid into Maryland in June/ July, but really, what was Early going to do with 14,000 men besides send a cavalry detachment to burn down Chambersburg? Early burped against a small delaying force at Monocacy Creek when approaching Washington DC (then defended by militia and wounded), and when he finally closed within two miles of the capital, he pulls back when the 6th and 19th Corps arrived. To me, Early's raid wasn't much more than a diversion to take some of the heat off Lee at Richmond-Petersburg. It certainly wasn't a campaign.
Lincoln unwisely put himself in jeopardy by visiting the front lines to view the battle. Apparantly, the Confederate sharpshooter who nailed Sedgwick in Spotsylvania didn't make this particular trip. Not sure the rebels even knew Lincoln was standing there. Would be interesting to know.
By 1864, Lee simply couldn't defend his capital and mount an offensive campaign at the same time. His mobility was gone.
I will concede that the war was strategically won in the western theater, but you will never, never, never get me to say the eastern theater was unimportant. The two contending capitals were just 100 miles apart, and that in itself is probably enough to define the importance of the eastern theater. And if the east wasn't stategically important (which I'm not convinced it wasn't), it certainly was psychologically, and for both sides. The Confederacy might still linger on if Richmond falls anytime in 1861-64, but that might not be the case if DC falls. How does the federal government justify itself, and the war, if it's in exile? Who takes it seriously then? Is Lincoln impeached? If any of that that happens, then the war in the east takes on a whole different tone. And because that possibility always exists, the war in the east is therefore important.
Nobody ever said, "On to Brown's Ferry." At least, I don't think so.
So I still declare that Gettysburg is significant because Lee is never again strong enough offensively; it's important because now all the pressure is on Richmond; it's important because Gettysburg — the North's first true victory in the east — validates the Emancipation Proclamation that, while it never frees a single slave, elevates the moral climate of the war; and it's important because of the Gettysburg Address, which reminds us that these honored dead should not have died in vain, even in the 'unimportant' theater.
Excuse me. I just fell off my soapbox.