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 Posted: Sat May 30th, 2009 01:08 am
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jb
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Having read the pretty heated dialogue on the Carhart Hypothesis of why Lee lost at Gettysburg, I am respectfully requesting from the community their recommendations of the best written representations of what the other point of view, such as Mr. Wittenburg has shared, on what were Lee's real goals and objectives.

With my limited knowledge, my main confusion is what in fact did General Lee see as the next step if Picket's charge was successful.  I have also read in "the class of 1846" General Pickett complained he did not have two brigades which would have proved a material difference in the result.  What should Lee's expectation have been on a successful assault on the hill and his expected deployed strength on the hill afterwards, the resupply or extension of lines upon completion, and further action.  What would have the logical next step?  And more importantly do the questions make sense?

Your collective constructive comments are welcomed.  I want to expand my knowledge on this subject, and the Civil War in general.  I look to hopefully draw on your expertise and willingness to share your knowledge.  Thank you!



 Posted: Sat May 30th, 2009 04:07 am
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The Iron Duke
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I'm not even sure that Lee himself knew what his next step would be. I feel that even if Lee had somehow won at Gettysburg he would have been like Hannibal wandering around the countryside. He had neither the logistics system nor the siege equipment necessary to sustain a long term campaign in northern territory.



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 Posted: Sat May 30th, 2009 08:36 am
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CoryB
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Although I have not read it myself yet, though I own it and I plan too, I know a lot of Licensed Battlefield Guide and Rangers at Gettysburg who recommend the book "Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg" by Troy D. Harman.  Harman himself is actually a ranger at the park. Since I haven't actually read it yet I don't know if it adresses the actual questions you had, but it might help since Guides like it so much.


I often wonder what Lee would have done next as well. All accounts point to Lee wanting to get between Washington and the AotP and fight a defensive battle, knowing that Lincoln would be pushing Union commanders to constantly attack in order to protect the capital. If Lee could have destroyed most of the AotP, he could make a serious push on Washington.

But if Pickett's Charge had been sucessful I agree 100% with The Iron Duke. Lee would have paid a heavy price for the victory and if he intended upon his original objective he now had 2 bigger problems:

1) The AoNV had been so weakened it probably wouldn't be enough to take Washington given all of it's defenses.

2) The Union Army would still be intact, at least enough to pose enough of a threat to preclude Lee from organizing an assault on the capital. 

Given that Lee had decided to stay and fight at Gettysburg, I think he would have had to regroup back into the South either way.
 

Last edited on Sat May 30th, 2009 08:36 am by CoryB



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 Posted: Sat May 30th, 2009 09:04 am
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Henry
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I've considered the question posed. Lee's letter to his boss is included below, let him state his case. I'm in agreement with Cory in the probability that no matter what the outcome of the battle Lee would have been forced by logistics to fall back southward. Some have postulated a drive on Philadelphia. The loss of the C.S.S. Atlanta in June, the ensuing bad press from this event and the overlap in the European press regarding both the Atlanta and the Gettysburg outcome melded with the diplomatic success of Francis Adams in obfuscating Confederate efforts to obtain viable warships made for one depressed outlook for the Confederacy.

Mr. President

Your note of the 27 [sic] enclosing a slip from the Charleston Mercury relative to the battle of Gettysburg is received. I much regret its general censure upon the operations of the army, as it is calculated to do us no good either at home or abroad.

But I am prepared for similar criticism & as far as I am concerned the remarks fall harmless. I am particularly sorry however that from partial information & mere assumption of facts that injustice should be done any officer, & that occasion should be taken to asperse your conduct, who of all others are most free of blame. I do not fear that your position in the confidence of the people, can be injured by such attacks, & I hope the official reports will protect the reputation of every officer. These cannot be made at once, & in the meantime as you state much falsehood may be promulgated. But truth is mighty & will eventually prevail. As regards the article in question I think it contains its own contradiction. Although charging Heth with the failure of the battle, it expressly states he was absent wounded. The object of the writer & publisher is evidently to cast discredit upon the operations of the Government & those connected with it & thus gratify feelings more to be pitied than to be envied. To take notice of such attacks would I think do more harm than good, & would be just what is desired. The delay that will necessarily occur in receiving official reports has induced me to make for the information of the Department a brief outline of operations of the army, in which however I have been unable to state the conduct of troops or officers. It is sufficient to show what was done & what was not done. No blame can be attached to the army for its failure to accomplish what was projected by me, nor should it be censured for the unreasonable expectations of the public. I am alone to blame, in perhaps expecting too much of its prowess & valour. It however in my opinion achieved under the guidance of the Most High a general success, though it did not win a victory. I thought at the time that the latter was practicable. I still think if all things could have worked together it would have been accomplished. But with the knowledge I then had, & in the circumstances I was then placed, I do not know what better course I could have pursued. With my present knowledge, & could I have foreseen that the attack on the last day would have failed to drive the enemy from his position, I should certainly have tried some other course. What the ultimate result would have been is not so clear to me. Our loss has been heavy, that of the enemy's proportionally so. His crippled condition enabled us to retire from the country comparatively unmolested. The unexpected state of the Potomac was our only embarrassment. I will not trespass upon Your Excellency's time more. With prayers for your health & happiness, & the recognition by your grateful country of your great services

I remain truly & sincerely yours,
R. E. Lee



 Posted: Sat May 30th, 2009 05:30 pm
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ole
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Carhart and Harmon have written interesting books. That they've been blasted mercilessly by the CW crowd does not make them worthless. By all means, if you have one, read it. The remainder of this post has been self-edited for tastelessness.

Ole



 Posted: Sat May 30th, 2009 07:25 pm
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pamc153PA
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I agree with the rest that had Lee won at Gettysburg, it would have been a small victory in that he hadn't the military strength to press on, to Philadlephia or anywhere else. It might have been a psychological punch in the nose to the Union Army and the North (We came onto your soil and beat you--ha!), but not one I think Lee could have followed up on. He'd have to go back south.

Which makes one wonder why exactly the push was made in the first place. I've heard that Lee wanted to take his army out of Virginia to let the farmers in that state plant/harvest. But July is really the time for neither of those. There wasn't really much to take, harvest-wise, from PA (cherries?). So perhaps the head game of winning on the other side's soil was the point. But after that. . . the impact would have been pretty much nullified when Lee had to go back to Virginia.

Pam



 Posted: Sat May 30th, 2009 08:35 pm
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The Iron Duke
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I think that Lee was just hoping that somehow the fates would allow him to win an Austerlitz type victory with the complete destruction of the Federal army. He seems to have had neither a definite plan nor a definitive objective. It seems to me that he was just going to allow the campaign be dictated by the circumstances of the moment. If Lee just wanted his men to reap the northern harvest then I don't see why he couldn't have sent men west to Vicksburg. I find it hard to disagree with DH Hill that the entire campaign seems to have had no purpose. I think Lee's only chance was to pull off a political victory.



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 Posted: Sat May 30th, 2009 09:01 pm
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TimK
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I agree with Pam. I think Lee wanted to deliver a military blow to Meade, and deliver a major blow to the psyche of the northern population. If he could do that, then he would see what happened next before he made any crucial decisions. Vicksburg had not yet fallen (even though it was about to), and I think he wanted to punch the Union right in the gut while there was still some teetering and see what kind of response it would get. Just my opinion, obviously.



 Posted: Sun May 31st, 2009 01:57 am
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Johnny Huma
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Hi,

I have not posted lately on the forum but I would like to throw my 2 cents in. 2 books I have read several times have some good insite. Some will not agree with me but they are worth reading. "Last Chance For Victory" and "Lee's Real Plan"..On of the things Lee wanted to acomplish by invading the North was simply a Northern Victory. With a Northern Victory he was hoping the England and France may have been drawn into the war and see the Confederacy as its own independant Country. If a Victory had taken place the Northern anti war population would have put a lot of pressure on Washington to let the South have its independence and stop the war. A letter had already been drawn up by Jefferson Davis to sue for peace if infact a Victory had taken place. I dont agree with some that say lees army was do terribly beaten that he could not have continued fighting in the North. It sure was able to fight for 2 more years after that battle. Lee could have sustained himself in PA since the farmlands here were rich with supplies for his army. But he would have had to take an offensive stratagy and not a defensive one. On the defense his army could have simply been starved out because the Union would not have to attack him but just check him. If he staying in one location to long supplies would run out therefore he would have to be on the move. I believe Lee had no intentions of attacking Washington. I am sure he knew it was heavily defended and would be a suicide mission. I think that is why on the 3rd day Picketts charge was a do or die situation. He had the Union army in front of him and thats what he came there for in the first place. He drew them north and out of war ravenged Virgina. If Picketts charge was a success. Lee would have had the Victory he was seeking in the first place and I believe he would have turned north on Harrisburg away from Washington, and threatend the Capital. Harrisburg and Camp Curtin was a big training facility and would have been a nice prize. But his other option was to move on Philidelphia to draw the Union Army to defend Washington. I see no gain there and I believe Harrisburg would have been the better move. He also had the option to move back into Virgina but I dont think he would have done that. He wanted to bring that war north so the people would put the pressure on Washington to end it all...Lee went into Pa with a summer plan and intended to stay there for a couple of months reaking havoc had he had a string of Victories. I dont think Lee should have even fought the third day but instead moved out on Harrisburg, again drawing the union army to him and keeping one step ahead. But hey we are all armchair Generals and its easy to say what they all did right and wrong after the fact..Longstreets idea of moving around the Union army and find good defensive ground would have accomplished nothing either. Again all the Union has to do is starve them out. There is no fight unless someone attacks and if your on your own turf there is no reason to attack a defending army but simply wait them out...

 

Huma



 Posted: Sun May 31st, 2009 04:17 am
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Henry
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Twice during the several day's battle Confederate forces withdrew from taking the high ground, a possession that would have been commanding of the field. Both times the forces withdrawn from turned out to be Confederate units, Early's and E. Johnsons, who were moving to shore up the flanks.
Johnny Yuma mentions that Lee might have effectively withdrawn from the field at Gettysburg after the second day, with a move to position the enemy. Lee used withdrawl twice before Gettysburg with good result. That he did not do so at Gettysburg may be do to the fact that the world was watching.
Reenforcement between theatres in large scale was not an option for the Confederacy. Halleck and Grant wished for such a move and would have used it to advantage. Johnston and Lee could not support each other.
One quote from Lee, long after the fact while in Lexington, as recorded by Rev. J. William Jones.

"If I had Stonewall Jackson at Gettysburg, I would have won that fight, and a complete victory that would have given us Washington and Baltimore, if not Philadelphia, and would have established the independence of the Confederacy."

Yeah, sure, Robert. But the above does voice what was on the mans mind, probably before the Army of Northern Virginia ever crossed the border northward.



 Posted: Mon Jun 1st, 2009 02:10 pm
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HankC
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Henry wrote: One quote from Lee, long after the fact while in Lexington, as recorded by Rev. J. William Jones.

"If I had Stonewall Jackson at Gettysburg, I would have won that fight, and a complete victory that would have given us Washington and Baltimore, if not Philadelphia, and would have established the independence of the Confederacy."

Yeah, sure, Robert. But the above does voice what was on the mans mind, probably before the Army of Northern Virginia ever crossed the border northward.


The Jones quote is, if not a downright fabrication, a misrepresentation of an exchange with REL...

HankC



 Posted: Tue Jun 2nd, 2009 01:43 am
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Henry
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Fabricate this- General John C. Gordon, "Reminisences of the Civil War", Page 154



 Posted: Tue Jun 2nd, 2009 02:09 am
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HankC
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It matters not to whom Jones told his tale... but Gordon is also known as an embellisher...



 Posted: Thu Jun 4th, 2009 08:18 pm
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Captain Crow
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The battle of Gettysburg while dramatic in it's execution, vast in it's scope, and infinitely debatable as to possible Southern options given a more favorable outcome, was in the end an absolute waste of vital Confederate resources and manpower.



 Posted: Thu Jun 4th, 2009 08:50 pm
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barrydancer
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HankC wrote: It matters not to whom Jones told his tale... but Gordon is also known as an embellisher...
Aye, John Gordon was almost as bad as LaSalle Pickett at making things up.



 Posted: Thu Jun 4th, 2009 08:58 pm
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Johnny Huma
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I WILL AGREE WITH YOU CAPTIAN ON THE WASTE OF MANPOWER. BUT IF LEE WOULD HAVE HAD HIS VICTORY HERE IN PA THE WAR MAY HAVE WELL ENDED SO IT WAS QUITE A GAMBLE HE TOOK COMING HERE. ON THE RESOUCES, LEE WAS COMING NORTH TO GET RESOURCES SINCE THE CONFEDERACY COULD NOT SUPPLY HIM. HE HAD STARVING HORSES AND MEN THAT THE VIRGINA COUNTRYSIDE COULD NO LONGER FEED AND THE GOVERNMENT COULD NOT HELP HIM OUT WITH. SO THAT ALSO WAS A REASON TO BRING THE ARMY NORTH. HE NEEDED TO FEED THEM, AND HOPEFULLY IF ALL WENT WELL DRAW SOME TROOPS FROM VICKSBURG TO HELP RELIEVE THE SIEGE THERE. THAT DID NOT HAPPEN OF COURSE AND IF IT DID I THINK LEE WOULD HAVE REALLY HAD HIS  HANDS FULL. I BELIEVE LEE SEEN NO OPTIONS AT THIS POINT OF THE WAR OTHER THAN TO INVADE THE NORTH WITH HOPES THAT A STRING OF VICTORIES WOULD END THE WAR SO HE GAMBLED IT ALL. HE HAD EVERY RIGHT TO THINK HE COULD DO IT. HIS ARMY WAS WINNING VICTORY AFTER VICTORY AND WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR THE OLD MAN. I THINK WHAT LEE OVERLOOKED WAS HIS LOSSES BEFORE THIS BATTLE. LOSING STONEWALL WAS A MAJOR LOSS FOR THE SOUTH AND WOULD HAVE  TAKEN A BIG MAN TO FILL HIS SHOES  AND ALTHOUGH EWELL WAS A GOOD DIVISION COMMANDER WAS NOT TESTED AS A CORPS COMMANDER AND GETTSBURG WAS NOT THE PLACE FOR LEE TO FIND OUT THAT HE MAY HAVE BEEN A LITTLE TIMID.

HUMA



 Posted: Fri Jun 5th, 2009 10:56 am
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Henry
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Yeah, What ifs?- What if Thomas Jackson were alive to to mount an operation cocurrent with Lee's drive into Pensy. Jackson crossing the river in mid-June under cover of heavy mortars cast in the city of New Orleans and driving into Cincinatti, a wheel right with his army (leaving a foraging party in Ohio to send captured materials southward) and a drive on Pennsylvania from the west. The Federal army was committed elswhere at the time, not much of an effective force would have stood in his way. Yeah, what ifs?



 Posted: Fri Jun 5th, 2009 02:25 pm
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Albert Sailhorst
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Gettysburg had the chance of never happening at all.

Meade put the issue to a vote among his officers whether or not the Federal army should stay and fight or to withdraw.

It is interesting to think what may have happened next, where it would have happened and what the variety of outcomes could have been if the two armies clashed elsewhere with different terrain, different logistical situations, etc. 

I think "what if's" are the entire purpose if this particular discussion. No different than a "Monday morning quarterback". I like to hear the difference of educated opinions as much as I do learning about facts. "What if's" stimulate thought processes.



 Posted: Fri Jun 5th, 2009 05:48 pm
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Johnny Huma
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Al,

It does stimulate the mind and scenerios that could have happend. I think Meade and His generals made the right decisions. The first day looked bleak for the Union but that evening was looking better and the Union Army had all the advantages of the High Ground after that. Walking away from that situation would have been a poor decision on the Unions part. Sickles move put the Union in jeopordy on day 2 with heavy losses..Another what  if scenerio if Sickles had stayed put I dont think the Union would have taken the blunt of Longstreets Beating and in fact may have gave Longstreet something to think about on the aggressive attacks. But when the situatuion changed with Sickles move Meade had to think fast and so he did along with Hancock...Day three may not have even taken place had day 2 come to a different conclusion. Its hard to say if Sickles Moved helped the Union army as that is  where the attacks were coming in and Meade had not sured up that flank and Sickles move made him sure it up..So Sickles claims to be the Hero of Gettysburg and in fact got his medals for it...Hmmmm...What if AP Hill wasnt smoking dope somewhere and actually had taken control of his part of the attacks instead of letting them peter out....Hmmmm..What if Ewell actually pressed the attack on Cemetery Hill....

Huma



 Posted: Fri Jun 5th, 2009 09:12 pm
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Albert Sailhorst
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Johnny,

Well said!!

The debate will forever rage regarding Sickles' actions, right or wrong. For reasons truely known only to him, he did what he did and it worked out!!



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