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Is Lee overrated? - Robert E. Lee - The Participants of the War - Mikitary & Civilian - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Mon Aug 11th, 2008 12:02 am
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The Iron Duke
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Thank you Browner.



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 Posted: Wed Aug 13th, 2008 04:35 pm
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David White
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Perry:

I'll run with your analogy, Lee felt it was a bigger risk to run down that alley, because if Little Mac saw him panic, he might run after him and pin him in that dead end alley (Potomac River crossisng) and kill him with his real gun versus Lee's fake gun (although a better analogy would be to give Lee at least a .22 not a fake gun ;)).

Also, fighting at Sharpsburg was the smart thing to do in light of Little Mac's new found aggresivness.  To me Sharpsburg and Gettysburg are the same battles in reverse and show that the lessons of Antietam weren't necessarily learned by either side.  At Sharpsburg, Lee had a great position and interior lines that allowed him to survive, heck I'll even say it was a moral victory for him.  Yet, less than a year later he ends up attacking a similar postion against slightly superior numbers.  If his little outnumbered band could hold that sort of postion why didn't he think the Federals with bigger numbers couldn't?

Last edited on Wed Aug 13th, 2008 04:43 pm by David White



 Posted: Fri Aug 22nd, 2008 02:09 am
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The Iron Duke
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Perry,

I've been doing some reading on Napoleon's campaigns and I couldn't help but notice the similarities between Antietam and Leipzig. Lee was certainly acquainted with Napoleon's battles so do you think he was trying to pull a Leipzig?



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 Posted: Sat Aug 23rd, 2008 01:29 am
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Wrap10
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David White wrote: Perry:

I'll run with your analogy, Lee felt it was a bigger risk to run down that alley, because if Little Mac saw him panic, he might run after him and pin him in that dead end alley (Potomac River crossisng) and kill him with his real gun versus Lee's fake gun (although a better analogy would be to give Lee at least a .22 not a fake gun ;)).

Also, fighting at Sharpsburg was the smart thing to do in light of Little Mac's new found aggresivness.  To me Sharpsburg and Gettysburg are the same battles in reverse and show that the lessons of Antietam weren't necessarily learned by either side.  At Sharpsburg, Lee had a great position and interior lines that allowed him to survive, heck I'll even say it was a moral victory for him.  Yet, less than a year later he ends up attacking a similar postion against slightly superior numbers.  If his little outnumbered band could hold that sort of postion why didn't he think the Federals with bigger numbers couldn't?


Hi David,

Sorry for not replying sooner. For some reason I didn't notice the new replies here until this evening.

On the analogy, I think we're starting to have the makings of a pretty decent movie. But I still say Lee has to be armed with a toy gun. The audience is aware of this fact, and just as he steps out for the final dramatic confrontation...we cut to a commercial. The audience would probably respond like this - #%$# (I've been wanting to use that smiley, and this was my best chance.)

I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree about Lee's decision at Antietam. I think Mac's unexpected aggression was a good reason to wade the Potomac and live to fight another day. The very fact that he had shown this unexpected aggression, first at South Mountain and again on the 17th, was evidence that he would likely do so again. Plus, to risk a little point harping, his army had actually been broken at one point, and turned during another. He had done much to help save his own army during the battle, but it was McClellan who truly took his neck out of the noose.

That's a good question about Gettysburg. As to why Lee thought he could defeat Meade in such a strong position, my semi-educated guess would be that he was probably still blinded by his own supreme confidence, in himself and in his men. He just flat-out thought he could win, odds and situation be darned (danged?). That might be the true reason why he opted to stay and fight at Antietam, as well as why he kept acting like an attack dog at Gettysburg. We're here, the enemy is here, we're better than they are - let's get after it, and don't bother me with silly reasons why it won't work.

It took that disastrous charge, out in the open for all to see, to finally lift the veil from his eyes. I still think he was quite fortunate that he wasn't on the receiving end of a similar attack on the 18th at Antietam. But I'm stubborn that way. :)

Perry



 Posted: Sat Aug 23rd, 2008 01:33 am
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The Iron Duke wrote: Perry,

I've been doing some reading on Napoleon's campaigns and I couldn't help but notice the similarities between Antietam and Leipzig. Lee was certainly acquainted with Napoleon's battles so do you think he was trying to pull a Leipzig?

Hi Mike,

I've read some on Leipzig, but not all that much I'm afraid. From what I remember of it though, it was a pretty bad defeat for Napoleon. So I'm not sure I follow how you mean the question. Maybe if you could expand on it a bit. If I can't come up with an answer, I'll do my best to fake something. :)

Perry



 Posted: Sat Aug 23rd, 2008 01:45 am
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The Iron Duke
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At Leipzig Napoleon was attacked from three different directions with a river at his back just like at Antietam. Napoleon was so outnumbered at this point that there was really little chance he could effectively change the course of the war.


Robert

Last edited on Sat Aug 23rd, 2008 02:00 am by The Iron Duke



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 Posted: Sat Aug 23rd, 2008 02:46 pm
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Robert,

Sorry for getting your name wrong. Early onset of senility on my part. You're welcome to call me something much worse than "Mike" or "Perry."

I had to do a quick refresher on Leipzig, and I see your point about the similarities in the two positions. I don't know if Lee had that battle in mind or not though. He does seem to have gotten off a little better at Antietam than did Napoleon at Leipzig. And it seems as if Napoleon was slowly forced back into his eventual position there after trying to strike his opponents individually, whereas Lee assumed his position from the get-go and awaited McClellan's attack. But they did both face long odds, in a precarious position.

I just thought of something else that seems similar to Lee's Antietam situation - Hooker's final position at Chancellorsville. He was backed up to the Rappahannock, with both flanks anchored on the river. Lee was preparing to assault him one final time after dealing with Sedgewick, but Hooker retreated across the river before Lee could do so.

In fact, that battle is another place that Lee should have been defeated. Even after Jackson's flank attack, Hooker had the better position and a much larger army. I think it was more than just a conk on the head from that porch beam that took the fight out of him. He had already conceded the initiative to Lee before that happened. But even so, his final position there along the river was pretty strong, and I think it was fortunate for Lee's army that Hooker pulled out before that last attack took place.

Lee measured Hooker the same way he had measured McClellan the previous year, and found both of them to be hesitant and unsure of themselves. He was right about McClellan almost every time, including at the exact moment he should have been incredibly wrong. With Hooker it was perhaps easier to see, as blatant and sudden as it was. Odd about that, given Hooker's bombast before the battle and his excellent battle plan. But he went into a serious shell once he realized that Lee wasn't backing away from his challenge.

Even so, and despite the traditional view of that battle, his army gave a good account of itself, to the extent the men were actually allowed to fight. Had they received the kind of leadership from Hooker that they deserved, Lee would have been in an awful fix. He had plenty of time to recover and seize the moment, but never did so. Even at that, had he simply remained in place there along the river and defended against Lee's final attack, he may have still won the battle by default. I suspect that attack would have hurt Lee's army far worse than Hooker's.

Perry



 Posted: Sun Aug 24th, 2008 12:06 am
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The Iron Duke
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I highly doubt Lee could have been able to punch through Hooker's final line. His offensive power was spent. He needed Longstreet's men. Don't forget that Hooker had 2 corps that had not been engaged whereas Lee's entire army was used up.

If Hooker had stayed on the field like Rosecrans at Stones River, Lee probably would have been forced to withdraw.



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 Posted: Sun Aug 24th, 2008 02:40 pm
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No, I don't think he could have broken Hooker's line there either, and he would have been forced to break off at some point, but he would have attacked if Hooker had stayed put. That was his intention. He probably would have done so in any case, had he not been forced to turn and deal with Sedgwick.

It's odd in a way. When most people think of Chancellorsville, I imagine they think of Jackson's flank attack, and the fact that it was his last battle. But there was much more to the battle than Jackson's attack, and Hooker could have still won it.

Perry



 Posted: Mon Aug 25th, 2008 12:20 am
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The Iron Duke
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It's part of the Jackson and Lee mystique. Even Jackson knew his victory was incomplete which is why he was out scouting the Federal positions.



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