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 Posted: Sun Sep 21st, 2008 12:44 am
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pamc153PA
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Here's one that comes from a conversation I had today with a friend who works as a LBG at Gettysburg (note the irony):

He, when comparing Vicksburg and Gettysburg, found that the significance of the loss of Vicksburg was greater than that of Gettysburg, and that the CW was really to be won in the West. I tend to agree with him.

What about you folks?

Pam



 Posted: Sun Sep 21st, 2008 01:14 am
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ole
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No question. While Lee was beating out flames on his porch, the kitchen, parlor and bedrooms were being consumed. (The west. Grant actually said something like this in a post-war interview.)

I'm glad your friend said the "significance of the loss," rather than the "loss," of Vicksburg. I don't figure that Vicksburg itself was all that important, but its loss was certainly significant in that, from that point on the boys in blue marched with relative impunity across the entire south. (Leaving Lee on his porch to which there was no longer a house attached.)

Note to our young friends: That last sentence is not to be emulated. It is one of the most convoluted, abstruse sentences I've ever written.

ole



 Posted: Sun Sep 21st, 2008 08:55 pm
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Captain Crow
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Actually Vicksburg was very important from a logistical point of view.
A look at the rankings of the states west of the Mississippi regarding production of various important agricultural items reveals just how much the South lost when Vicksburg fell.
these figures come from the Preliminary report on the eight census 1860:

Arkansas:
7th in molasses
10th in asses and mules
Louisiana:
1st in cane sugar
1st in cane molasses (7/8 of all U.S. production)
Texas:
1st in working oxen
1st in domestic cattle
1st in sheep
3rd in horses
4th in milk cows
4th in asses and mules
7th in swine
these states also combine to produce more than 50,000,000 bushels of Indian corn, 2,000,000 bushels of wheat, 5,000,000 bushels of sweet potatoes, and 11,000,000 pounds of butter.
In addition at the time of the aforementioned census only eight states produced salt. Only two were confederate: Texas and Virginia. Texas produced 120,000 bushels of salt annually.
Why was sugar/molasses so important? It was increasingly used as a form of currency. Want to purchase some meat from Florida or Tennessee for the AoNV? That will be one pound of sugar per pound of meat. Through what city/rail link did most of this sugar pass? Vicksburg. Want some Texas beef? Want some salt to preserve the meat regardless of whence it came? Want some rifles/powder/caps/uniforms smuggled from England via Mexico? Good luck without Vicksburg.
Confederate artillery captured during the Vicksburg campaign: 254 cannon(85 heavy siege guns)= more than 11% of all guns cast by the Confederacy for the entire war.
Confederate artillery captured at Gettysburg: 0

And of course there are many direct quotes from Lincoln, Davis, Grant , Sherman, Halleck, and many other prominent figures of the war voicing their almost universal declaration of Vicksburg's essential strategic importance.

Keep in mind as well that I am a huge Gettysburg fan. But after doing much objective study on the subject I must concede that Gettysburg pales in strategic significance compared to Vicksburg. Unfortunately because it is in the western theater it has never gotten the proportionate amount of attention it is due. Nor did it receive the same amount of press coverage rendered Gettysburg at the time of the respective campaigns. I fear this is the common treatment of much of the western theater.



 Posted: Sun Sep 21st, 2008 11:21 pm
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pamc153PA
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I agree that Gettysburg got more press than Vicksburg, and that that's generally the way the western theater is viewed today. I really liked the list of goods you posted, because it was really a visual support of why Vicksburg was more significant. I'd venture to say that Gettysburg's significance comes mostly on a morale level, for both the Union troops and the people of the North. That's not a bad thing--in fact, was a positive thing for the AoP--but you can't eat it or trade with it. I, too, am a huge Gettysburg fan, but I think Vicksburg was way more significant where it counted, both for the Union and the Confederates.

Everybody must be taking it easy this weekend, because it's been pretty quiet around this board! I'm resisting the urge to say something really controversial just to wake everybody up (sorry, though, can't think of anything at the moment)!:D


Pam

Last edited on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 11:24 pm by pamc153PA



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 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 12:29 am
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ole
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Is this a catchall term used to describe cured pork in general or is it and accurate term describing what we today know as bacon. If it is the latter, why would ther be so many wagon loads of just bacon?

Suspect it's at least partly a catchall description, but my understanding is that bacon was bacon. (not salt pork, not ham, not smoked chops, not loins) And why so many wagon loads of just bacon? There are at least two reasons I can think of: the soldiers preferred it and it would keep -- scrape off the mold, heat and eat. There might be another possibility: it was flat. I'm guessing that more rations could be issued from a wagonload of carefully stacked bacon than a wagonload of salt pork in barrels. (and maybe not as heavy.)

ole



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 12:51 am
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pamc153PA wrote: I agree that Gettysburg got more press...

 

For quite a while, during and then after the war, Gettysburg received just as much press as any other US eastern victory. In fact, it was number of years before it outshone Appomattox.

Chamberlain, for example, was bragging over his place at Appomattox right away; it was late in life before he burnished his role at Gettysburg.

The shift of western generals to the east (Grant, Sheridan, Ord, et al) and the tremendous attrition of Gettysburg vets also diminished the short-term 'ink'.

Eventually, as the significance of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address became more obvious, more and more emphasis, ink and and monuments came Gettysburg's way...

HankC



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 01:26 am
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ole
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Thanks for the list Captain. Now a question: during that census year, how much of that enormous volume crossed the Mississippi and into what was to become the eastern Confederacy without the intercession of ferries, steamboats and seagoing vessels?

What went through Vicksburg went downriver to New Orleans. What went through Memphis went downriver to New Orleans. The traffic from across the river on that piddly railroad to Monroe was not nearly enough provide the supply the eastern Confederacy required.

By May, 1863, even that was cut off by infantry on the western bank of the river. The only real importance Vicksburg had was that it still blocked ships using the Mississippi. It had very little value as a point of transshipment.

Perhaps its real value was in that of its symbolism. St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans were firmly in Union hands; only Vicksurg remained before demonstrably splitting the already-split Confederacy. (The southern and northern citizen was not likely looking at Vicksburg in that way; it looked like the great victory it was -- although for different reasons, Grant and Sherman were doubtlessly pleased.)

Just a thought.

ole



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 02:37 pm
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I'm backtracking here, and possibly have this in the wrong place, and if so, I'm sorry.

Reading the post concerning Petersburg, somebody wrote (I'm too lazy at the moment to find out who) that maybe it isn't that exciting because at that point it was basically over except for waiting for the inevitable. My thought as I read that was that as of July 4, 1863, with the taking of Vicksburg and the Confederate loss at Gettysburg, the outcome was inevitable. Even though there were still battles to come such as the Wilderness and Spotsyvania, is there anybody out there that can paint a scenario that there could possibly be a different outcome to the CW?



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 02:50 pm
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izzy
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I have this vague recollection that the importance of openning the Mississippi River was to help out the shipping needs of states such as Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.  Wasn't a Mississippi River "running unvexed to the sea" politically important to Lincoln?



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 02:54 pm
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TimK-

  Going forward from July of 1863- there is one scenario I can give you.

  Imagine that General McClellan won the presidential election of 1864. Lincoln himself earlier in that year expected to lose the election. It could well have happened if General Sherman had not made his march and captured Atlanta.

  If McClellan had won, there could well have been a different outcome to the war. After Mr. Lincoln was re-elected, there could only have been one outcome.



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 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 04:06 pm
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My guess is "bacons" refers to "sides of bacon," rather than individualized "rations" of the meat. I'd also guess you get two sides per hog.

The CSA lost an army at Vicksburg, too. Sure, they got some soldiers back later after parole/exchange/etc. transpired, but I'm not aware of the numbers and the actual loss of manpower.

After Vicksburg, Grant's junior partner Rosecrans is even freer to concentrate on Bragg in east Tennessee.

ArtorBart



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 04:38 pm
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ole
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I have this vague recollection that the importance of openning the Mississippi River was to help out the shipping needs of states such as Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.  Wasn't a Mississippi River "running unvexed to the sea" politically important to Lincoln?
In the two years that the Mississippi was closed, Midwest farmers shipped their grain east over railroads. RRs were more expensive than barges, so the farmers groused accordingly. (There may well have been some gouging in there as well.)

Barge shipping is still less expensive than railroads, as you can see if you've ever watched traffic on the Ohio, Missouri, or the Mississippi and its feeders, but "running unvexed" remains more important politically than strategically.

(One more hit on the dead horse:) "Because we can" has as much weight on the homefront as "because we must." Take Sherman's March, for example. Although cutting the flow of supplies to Lee at Petersburg was a "must," it was equally a spirit-raising demonstration of "can." Vicksburg was more a "can" than a "must."

ole



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 04:49 pm
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izzy
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Ole- Now you have me wondering why Grant bothered sticking around Vicksburg rather than going after Bragg.



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 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 05:18 pm
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izzy
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Good point



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 07:50 pm
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Bama-

  In early 1862, Mr. Lincoln had a conversation with Commander David Dixon Porter in which he explained the importance of controlling Vicksburg. (I don't have the original source at hand, but here is the conversation).

  " Here is the Red River, which will supply the Confederacy with cattle and corn to feed their armies. There are the Arkansas and White Rivers, which can supply cattle and hogs by the thousand. From Vicksburg these supplies can be distributed by rail all over the Confederacy.

  Valuable as New Orleans will be to us, Vicksburg will be even more so. We may take all the northern ports of the Confederacy, and they can still defy us from Vicksburg. It means hog and hominy without limit, fresh troops from all the states of the far south, and a cotton country where they can raise the staple without interference."

  The defeat at Gettysburg was very painful to the southern cause, but I believe that the losses of New Orleans and Vicksburg together were much more decisive.



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 07:53 pm
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It's interesting that so far we've made a point for symbolic value for BOTH Vicksburg and Gettysburg. There's also been a good point made, and expanded upon, that politically and economically Vicksburg was significant. So. . .

What WAS Gettysburg's significance, other than morale and symbolism? Out of the two, one coming on the heels of the other, Gettysburg far outranks Vicksburg in popular cultural reknown (haven't seen any movie in the works entitled simply Vicksburg have you?). Obviously, as the first real must-win victory for the Union army, and a reminder to Lee that maybe his men weren't as unstoppable as he thought, there's a sort of romantic view of that battle. But really, is there more to it?

Opinions, please!

Pam



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 08:43 pm
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The comparison and significance of Vicksburg and Gettysburg has almost always been intriguing to me. While I do tend to lean toward the fall of Vicksburg as being more significant for the Confederacy than its loss at Gettysburg, it's a tenuous bent for me. The twin losses came within hours of each other. So over the course of the war, how do we really know which was the most significant battle? If Lee had won at G-burg, for example, would the loss at Vicksburg still have ended the war any quicker than it did? I don't know. If Lee wins at Gettysburg, the political implications multiply for both sides, I think. McPherson, for one, suggests that while the Confederacy might not have won the war with a victory at G-burg, the Union certainly could have lost the war with a defeat there.

What I am prepared to guess is that the the victory at Gettysburg was the turning point of the war for the Army of the Potomac (as opposed to the Union Army, which is what I think you meant to say, Pam), and certainly, that was significant.

The Union victory at G-burg clearly added to Lincoln's political capital, for sure (maybe even his his politcal capitol as well :P)

About a year ago Joe said he's seen it argued that the Union victory at Forts Henry and Donelson were the real turning point in the war. I laughed at him then. But after reading a bit more about Grant, and thus the western theater, I'm not so sure Joe isn't correct. (double negative there, which means I'm trying to say that Joe was correct). Of course, saying that underlines the significance of the western theater.

Interesting stuff.



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 10:26 pm
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Bacon was a generic term for food, see "Honey, I brought home the bacon."

To me Vicksburg is clearly the more devestating loss to the CS, while the men who were captured were quicly returned to the field (most w/out being properly exchanged) the startegic importance of Vicksburg is clear. It split the CS and allowed the use of the entire Mississippi to the US. The loss of small arms, light & heavy guns and morale was a loss the CS could not afford. Add to that one more defeat in the west. While Lee was winning or at the very least consistantly stymieing the AoP, the Western Fed Armies weren't even really slowed until Chickamauga and that was only a slight repreive.

A year ago I would have agreed that the idea that Ft Donaldson & Henry being the turning point was a crazy idea, now I look at them as the beginning of the end, the start of a string of defeats the CS never recovered from.



 Posted: Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 10:51 pm
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The retreat of the CSA to Vicksburg after their defeat at Champion Hill is to me more significant than Vicksburg, because if it were not for this defeat the seige of Vicksburg would not have occurred or would have possibly been delayed.

Doc C

Last edited on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 10:52 pm by Doc C



 Posted: Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 12:36 am
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ole
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What WAS Gettysburg's significance, other than morale and symbolism?
Another might have been to get Lee the heck off Union Territory.

" Here is the Red River, which will supply the Confederacy with cattle and corn to feed their armies. There are the Arkansas and White Rivers, which can supply cattle and hogs by the thousand. From Vicksburg these supplies can be distributed by rail all over the Confederacy.


I'll note that the urgent explanation was made in early '62. The Red was likely still operating, and possibly the Arkansas. Maybe Memphis hadn't been taken yet. The situation was considerably different in the middle of '63.

ole

 



 Posted: Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 02:19 am
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Charlie Stone
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pamc153PA wrote: What WAS Gettysburg's significance, other than morale and symbolism?


Well, the obvious, really -- much of which has already been stated.  For the Confederacy, this was a battle that determined the morale and ability of the AoNV to continue to offensively assert itself.  The question immediately became: how well can this army continue to defend Virginia?  With Vicksburg serving as another nail in the coffin, the answer soon became painfully and fatally evident.  The divided Confederacy drfited into factionalism, famine riots, and general malaise for the cause.  For the North, the exact opposite, really:  there was an increase in morale, volunteers, and support for the cause.



 Posted: Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 05:20 pm
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HankC
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Militarily, Gettysburg is no more compelling than 2 other battles: Antietam and Monocacy. Okay, Antietam ;)

In that comparison, the military details are very similar: the ANV (or parts of it) invades, the US maneuvers it into a tight spot, a battle is fought and the south withdraws with the US losing the opportunity to inflict more, or mortal, damage.

Militarily, both battles are pretty much the usual murderous bloodletting. In both cases, a landmark document is penned. (One could say that Monacacy created a great Lincoln story.)

Vicksburg, however, changes the entire dynamic of the war in the west. The CSA is now encircled; militarily, US units in the south can be more easily transported and supplied.



HankC



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 Posted: Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 05:40 pm
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The Army of the Potomac finally won a big battle {despite arguments for a draw}. The soldiers felt really good about themselves and a bit better about their leaders.

The boys in blue also learned, as did Bobby Lee, that the men in gray and butternut were NOT invincible, that they could be beat.

Sorry, these are still morale and spiritual reasons.

ArtorBart

Last edited on Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 05:42 pm by ArtorBart



 Posted: Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 06:05 pm
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Bama46 wrote: The real significance of Gettysburg came about after the war...



Good point!  It definitely seems that the cult of Gettysburg has allowed it to endure longer (and with seemingly more ramifications) in modern, popular memory than several other more pivotal battles.  Why the cult of Gettysburg has been as strong as it has over the past years, though, I don't know.  There is a certain legendary, perhaps even mythical element about this battle which very few of the others have, in my opinion -- First Manassas and Appomattox being two exceptions that immediately come to mind.

Last edited on Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 06:06 pm by Charlie Stone



 Posted: Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 06:21 pm
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Ed that was an excellent post.  Don't forget how easily Gettysburg jumped up to number one on CWPT's 10 Most Endangered Battlefields because of a casino.  Talk about overkill.

Last edited on Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 06:22 pm by The Iron Duke



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 Posted: Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 10:32 pm
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It seems that we almost unanimously agree that Vicksburg is a more important loss...I suspect the increasing amount of interest and general knowledge of the western theater I've noticed among us history buffs lately has something to do with it. As for myself I freely admit that at one time I studied the east almost exclusively due to my ignorant opinion that nothing exciting happened in the west...after all, all the "burgs" were in the east right? But over the last few years(and especially the last one) I've become more convinced that the civil war was lost and won with the Union's control of the Mississippi river. Lincoln knew this, and now I must acknowledge his exceptional insight into this waterway's strategic significance.
I also must admit I'm still a sucker for the high drama of battles such as Gettysburg, Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Fredericksburg. But I also must admit that I find myself increasingly drawn to the relatively unexplored doings in the west.



 Posted: Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 11:36 pm
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Good post, Ed. You are right when you said "don't for one moment think that federal spending does not influence the perception we have of the park and the significance of the battle." If all anyone vaguely interested in the CW hears about is Gettysburg, and if so many of the books on the bookstore shelves are about some aspect of Gettysburg, and the popularity of "Ghost Tours" and so-called paranormal shows like "Most Haunted" (which plans to air live from Gettysburg in October) grows, then people will believe Gettysburg is the only CW battlefield worth seeing.

Don't get me wrong. Gettysburg will always be near and dear to my heart, because it was there my interest in the CW first started, but I'll readily admit that I think I am fascinated by Vicksburg and other western theater battles precisely because they are not as widely known as Getysburg et. al. They also give me a whole new area to learn about!

Pam



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 Posted: Wed Sep 24th, 2008 02:47 am
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Ed I agree without the speech and Sickles and Chamberlain Vicksburg might be more famous  as a site to visit.  Nothing against Gettysburg.  Vicksburg on the other hand didn't celebrate Independence Day til during WW2 after the surrender on July 4th . 

Susan



 Posted: Wed Sep 24th, 2008 02:51 am
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Ed I envy you going back to Shiloh again.  I had no relatives there but it is not that far from family homes in Northern Mississippi .  I feel a close relationship to the field there.  Maybe because the first time I was there I was the only one there .  I got there at 5 pm and the rangers were leaving.  They handed me a map and said I could stay til dark.  I had no idea what I was seeing but wandered around in my car looking at everything and reading the map .  I have been back twice since then and now need to go again since reading Cunningham's book. 

 
Vicksburg I hired a female guide to see the battlefield as I knew I was over myhead and didn't know what I was seeing .  She helped me a great deal then I went back in the afternoon and did it all again taking my time.  Ended up at the Cario sitting next to a female park ranger who was reading a book on reconstruction.  We had one of those grand conversations that I seem to have with park rangers most places. 

I would go back to Vicksburg in a minute.  Also Port Hudson, Port Gibson and Grand Gulf now that I know more about them. 

Susan

Last edited on Wed Sep 24th, 2008 02:53 am by susansweet



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 Posted: Wed Sep 24th, 2008 03:07 am
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Bama I have done part of the trace , mainly up in Tennessee . I have also done some by Natchez. Would love to drive the whole Trace one day. First time I stopped at a state park that said Natchez Trace State Park. That is when the park ranger explained about the old trace and the newer one. I also stopped off to see the site where Lewis died and is buried right off the Trace , hence the reason I didn't get to Shiloh til 5 Pm.



 Posted: Wed Sep 24th, 2008 11:01 am
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I agree that the western theatre was certainly where the war was won. Thus I agree that Vicksburg certainly carried more significance ultimately than Gettysburg. But interestingly enough, I wonder which would have had more significance had Lee pulled it off and won at Gettysburg..just some thoughts from an overworked and undercaffinated individual....

ken



 Posted: Wed Sep 24th, 2008 02:45 pm
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HankC
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ah,

which would have had more significance had Lee pulled it off and won at Antietam, or Mine Run, or Wilderness, or Spotsylvania?

Not the only 'what-if' is at Gettysburg...



 Posted: Thu Sep 25th, 2008 12:06 am
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Captain Crow
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Bama46 wrote: Port Hudson, Port Gibson, Grand Gulf and Natchez are all part of going to Vicksburg so far as I am concerned
As is driving the Trace... interesting, I am not that interested in that part of the Trace that goes thru NW Alabama, but the section around Natchez if georgeous

for those who don't know, the Trace is the Nachez Trace, a series of animal paths, Indian trails, and now a road that goes generally from Natchez Mississippi to Nashville, Tn. The trace can trace its roots to the mid 1700's.
Today the trace is a 2 lane blacktop, with no commerical ads allowed, no commercial vehicles allowed, and a 50 mph speed limit. Rest stops are placed at the approximate locations they were historically.. it is a cool drive
for sure Bama! I did the Trace from Port Gibson to Raymond on my recent trip. It was very nice...but that 50mph things gotta go! Although it did give my boots the chance to dry out after sloshing around in the wet mushy grass at Grand Gulf. I love Shiloh/Corinth as well...I plan to return there within the next couple of years.



 Posted: Thu Sep 25th, 2008 12:14 am
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gettysburgerrn wrote: I agree that the western theatre was certainly where the war was won. Thus I agree that Vicksburg certainly carried more significance ultimately than Gettysburg. But interestingly enough, I wonder which would have had more significance had Lee pulled it off and won at Gettysburg..just some thoughts from an overworked and undercaffinated individual....

ken
I think it would depend on how costly a victory was won at Gettysburg. Personally, as I've stated before in other topics, I propose that Lee's greatest blunder of the war was in fighting at Gettysburg at all. Even if Longstreet's assault had succeeded in breaking Meade's center and possibly routing the Union forces from the field, how much strength would Lee have had left to follow up with?



 Posted: Thu Sep 25th, 2008 12:22 am
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Wouldn't have mattered how much strength Lee had remaining, Meade still had the huge not engaged 6th Corp sitting to the east of the Baltimore Pike and the relatively fresh 5th Corp. These 2 corps were just sitting there in easy supporting distance for any move Lee's army was to make, i.e. break through at the round tops, cemetery ridge, etc.

Doc C



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 Posted: Thu Sep 25th, 2008 02:10 am
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Doc C wrote: Wouldn't have mattered how much strength Lee had remaining, Meade still had the huge not engaged 6th Corp sitting to the east of the Baltimore Pike and the relatively fresh 5th Corp. These 2 corps were just sitting there in easy supporting distance for any move Lee's army was to make, i.e. break through at the round tops, cemetery ridge, etc.

Doc C
yep that's true....which only serves to further illustrate my contention against the wisdom of fighting this ill advised action at all.



 Posted: Thu Sep 25th, 2008 02:15 am
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Bama46 wrote: Captn Crow,

I really like the 50mph speed limit on the trace...ok so I go about 60 or so, but the point is that it is a leisurly drive down a gorgeous road that is for the most oart lightly traveled.. I have driven the trace through Tennessee and Mississippi and only dislike it thru the NW Alabama corridor because to me it represents civilization in an area that for most of my life was/is wild and unspoiled.... so long as folks leave NW Alabana that way, I guess i can tolerate the trace!

Ed
c
I can see your point...I'm still working on the leisurely part myself...I think it annoyed me because I was trying to do too much in one day and was way behind schedule))... Next time I go to the Vicksburg area I'm going to take a full three days and do it right. In fact I'm going to do several things differently next time ...like maybe have some decent maps and a guide(Sid V) for Champion hill.



 Posted: Thu Sep 25th, 2008 12:01 pm
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Captain Crow wrote:
I think it would depend on how costly a victory was won at Gettysburg. Personally, as I've stated before in other topics, I propose that Lee's greatest blunder of the war was in fighting at Gettysburg at all. Even if Longstreet's assault had succeeded in breaking Meade's center and possibly routing the Union forces from the field, how much strength would Lee have had left to follow up with?


But Captain,

What choice does Lee really have? He can't stay on the Rappahannock line because his troops are facing starvation. He can't detach troops to try and attempt to relieve Vicksburg because he'll weaken his own forces protecting Richmond. Plus, he has an army with momentum after Chancellorsville and it's a prime time to do something with it. Moving north is a gamble and he knows it, but for him, it's a risk worth taking, especially if he can influence political opinion in a war-weary north to recognize the Confederacy (and that point, I think, is what makes the eastern theater legitimate). Plus, he can restock the grocery store with provisions appropriated from the north. Plus-plus, he draws the AofP out of Virginia.

And even if you're being Gettysburg specific, it was never Lee's intention to fight at Gettysburg, as you know. That battle was an unplanned meeting engagement that rapidly grew out of everybody's control, I think. (Apparently, none of Lee's lieutenants listened to him when he ket telling them not to bring on a general engagement. Orders is orders.)

Still, Lee destroyed two Union corps on the first day and nearly broke the Union line on the second day. He had the momentum for 48 hours. He was getting what he wanted. How could he leave when he felt so close to victory?

I will agree, though, that the cost of such a victory is likely prohibitive. But, then, that was Lee. Nearly all his victories were costly.

This is the private being insubordinate, capt'n. :)

Last edited on Sat Sep 27th, 2008 12:00 pm by PvtClewell



 Posted: Fri Sep 26th, 2008 02:19 am
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mikenoirot
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PvtClewell wrote: Still, Lee destroyed two Union corps on the first day and nearly broke the Union line on the second day. He had the momentum for 48 hours. He was getting what he wanted. How could he leave when he felt so close to victory?

I will agree, though, that the cost of such a victory is likely prohibitive. But, then, that was Lee. Nearly all his victories were costly.

This is the private being insubordinate, capt'n. :)


PvtClewell:

You are spot on with your assessment.  While Lee did not want to bring on a general engagement at Gettysburg (he preferred the Carlisle area) he had to follow up the momentum he had on the first two days.  Gettysburg may have ended, on day two, had Ewell coordinated his assaults, with Longstreet.  Hitting both Union flanks, simultaneously, was definitely the correct tactic.

With regards to the cost in life, you have to look at proportional costs - Lee was on the losing end.  Even had Lee reformed along the Seminary Ridge line, he had been clobbered.  There is no way he could have done anything, after Pickett's charge, except retreat.



 Posted: Sat Sep 27th, 2008 12:26 am
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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. Keep in mind Meade was not exactly the prototypical offensive juggernaut when it came to taking the initiative. Also keep in mind that the AoNV was not the only force on hand. Longstreet and a corps could have made all the difference at Vicksburg if dispatched in a timely manner. This also would have had the residual effect of keeping the substantial flow of goods from the trans-Mississippi dept. flowing. Also consider the possibility of Grant being bogged down in an extended campaign against a newly reenforced and properly led Army of Vicksburg. I doubt lincoln would have been so eager to bring Grant east until the job was done in the west. And I think most of us would agree that Grant's presence was the difference in the east.

And PVT. your insubordination is duly noted and will be mentioned in your service record#%$#



 Posted: Sat Sep 27th, 2008 01:59 am
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I'm not so sure the AoNV was necessarily facing starvation, at least not immediately.

Of course not immediately. But it was looking at the dark end of the tunnel. History would not be kind to the general who didn't act when the ration box is nearing the end of the bottom.
 And of course as usual I strongly contend against the assertion that Lee could not hold the line and still send aid to Vicksburg. Keep in mind Meade was not exactly the prototypical offensive juggernaut when it came to taking the initiative. Also keep in mind that the AoNV was not the only force on hand.
Lee could have sent aid to Vicksburg, but he would have had to remain in place and hope that Meade/Hooker would not attack while he was weakened. (Remember that his ration box is being depleted.) And, although you are correct in your assessment of Meade, he could not have rested easy if he didn't whip up an offensive with Lee's army thus reduced. Lee was much too strong to be attacked where he was. Send off a quarter or third of his army and the temptation overwhelms.
Longstreet and a corps could have made all the difference at Vicksburg if dispatched in a timely manner. This also would have had the residual effect of keeping the substantial flow of goods from the trans-Mississippi dept. flowing. Also consider the possibility of Grant being bogged down in an extended campaign against a newly reenforced and properly led Army of Vicksburg.
Could have and might have. Unless Davis demanded the transfer (and put Longstreet in command over JEJ), it wasn't going to happen. It would make history a bit more interesting if Grant had personally crossed swords with a Longstreet outside of Vicksburg. I'm guessing that commander Longstreet would have ordered Pemberton to get out while the getting was good.

Re the "substantial" flow from the transMississippi: Vicksburg's importance was based on river traffic and it's railroad to Jackson. Early in 1863, the railroad was there, but there was precious little river traffic except for ferry boats -- not at all like it was in 1862.I doubt lincoln would have been so eager to bring Grant east until the job was done in the west. And I think most of us would agree that Grant's presence was the difference in the east.
Absolutely! Lincoln would not have brought Grant east until the west was secure.

ole



 Posted: Sat Sep 27th, 2008 11:59 am
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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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 Posted: Sat Mar 20th, 2010 09:31 pm
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You don't suppose the proximity of Gettysburg to the District of Corruption had anything to do with its popularity, do you? Part of the reason Lee marched north was to draw troops from Vicksburg and a victory at Gettysburg may have lifted the siege. From that standpoint, Gettysburg is more important. From the standpoint of which had a larger impact, I would say Vicksburg - once it fell. Because the railroads of the south didn't have uniform guages of tracks, freight had to frequently be unloaded and reloaded to move it to destination. That, as much as anything, was the importance of Vicksburg, to be able to move supplies more efficiently. After that, supplies had to come from the southeast which was slower, and the quantity much lower.



 Posted: Sun Mar 21st, 2010 03:25 am
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You don't suppose the proximity of Gettysburg to the District of Corruption had anything to do with its popularity, do you? Part of the reason Lee marched north was to draw troops from Vicksburg and a victory at Gettysburg may have lifted the siege. From that standpoint, Gettysburg is more important. From the standpoint of which had a larger impact, I would say Vicksburg - once it fell. Because the railroads of the south didn't have uniform guages of tracks, freight had to frequently be unloaded and reloaded to move it to destination. That, as much as anything, was the importance of Vicksburg, to be able to move supplies more efficiently. After that, supplies had to come from the southeast which was slower, and the quantity much lower.
Way too much to pass up.

Part of the reason Lee gave Davis for not sending troops west to relieve V'burg was that he needed them to invade Pennsylvania. The jury is still out on what he was really thinking.

Vicksburg was symbolic. Across the river was a short railroad reaching to near Texas. On its own side of the river was a short railroad reaching to Jackson. There wasn't a whole bunch of Texas food destined for Confederate forces crossing the river at Vicksburg. Its value was primarily in the free traffic on the river.

The problem with southern rails was not so much the different gauges (most were actually the same gauge), but the inability to keep them running and the sorry idea that few went anywhere. The practice was, and it was true in the north as well, that (for example) this RR went from Cleveland to Cincinnati. Across town, there was another RR that went to Chicago and back. On the other side of town was another that went to Pittsburgh. Nothing connected. Investors would build a road to sell Pittsburg steel in Cincinnati, but they didn't figure on selling it in Chicago or Indianapolis as well. But, in spite of the disconnect, one could actually get from Chicago to the District of Corruption on trains (love that name). Try getting from Atlanta to Charleston. Only possible.

Another problem with southern rails was that many were designed simply to get cotton bales to the nearest river. Nobody built rails to get Kentucky grain to Georgia or Alabama.



 Posted: Sun Mar 21st, 2010 02:15 pm
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Are we looking too much at what the loss of Vicksburg meant to the South as opposed to what its gain meant to the North? I think it was more of a symbolic than actual objective to the South, but its loss eroded Southern morale much more than the defeat at Gettysburg (the Southern press found that it is hard to spin the loss of an entire army). But on the other hand, opening up the Mississippi River to economic traffic was extremely beneficial to Northern merchants and farmers in the old Northwest. In fact, in 1862, there was a halfhearted movement afoot in the Confederate Congress to peal the Northwest away from the Northern war effort by opening up the Mississippi to economic traffic. I think the economic benefits gained by the North vastly outweighed the loss of any troops (that were out fighting Indians in west TX) or food (as Ole pointed out, the Southern logistical system ensured that most of the food consumed by Confederate armies came from local sources) were to the Southern cause.

V/R

Mark



 Posted: Sun Mar 21st, 2010 09:00 pm
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By 1863, there weren't that many crops left in the Shenandoah, they had all been trampled and blown to bits. That's not to say there weren't some available but the feed for horses was in extremely short supply and THAT was a huge concern for Lee. That was why so much grain and forage had to come from the southeast after the fall of Vicksburg. Lee also hoped to fatten his horses in the north and leave the fields of Virginia to grow so he could feed his starving horses when he returned.



 Posted: Mon Mar 22nd, 2010 11:14 pm
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re: what the South lost with the fall of Vicksburg see my post on Page one of this topic-these figures come from Terrence J. Winschel, Chief historian at Vicksburg national Military Park.....man go away for a few months and....pretty much nothing has changed LOL!



 Posted: Tue Mar 23rd, 2010 02:22 pm
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Very nice continustion of an old thread ;)

In comparing the two campaigns, I'd say the CSA decided that Vicksburg was worth the risk of losing an army. The strategic union goal of commanding the Mississippi forced the CSA tactical loss of the southern Army of Mississippi.

In the east, Meade was in no such position. In fact, in 4 years, the Army of the Potomac was never in a position where it's loss was a risk worth taking.

At Gettysbutg, Meade on the defensive, had much less at stake than Pemberton at Vicksburg. The town of Gettysburg and the position at Cemetery Ridge is several orders of magnitude less crucial to the war effort then Vicksburg and worth little actual risk.

No one ever looked at a map and said, 'Gettysburg is the key...'; it's just another crossroads where 2 armies bumped into each other...


HankC



 Posted: Tue Mar 23rd, 2010 10:13 pm
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Haven't changed my mind since the first post: Vicksburg was not a major loss to the supply of the Eastern Confederacy, but it was a major morale loss the Confederacy (and a gain to the Union morale).  And, as someone mentioned (Hank?), it opened a two-front war that the Confederacy was ill-prepared to meet. While Lee was pinned in place winning (and losing) battles in the defense of Richmond, the real breadbasket of the Confederacy was being gobbled up -- Kentucky and Tennessee; then Mississippi and Georgia. Then South Carolina and North Carolina.

I'm ambivalent as to the "turning point" -- there were so many (and most of them were in the west.)

Ole



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