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crowley_greene
08-19-2007, 09:41 AM
I appreciate any thoughts on historical questions I might ask. In my years in reenacting (since 1999), I've learned that the public frequently has historical questions or observations and it's of great benefit as a reenactor/interpreter to discuss (usually in first person) with a "first hand" knowledge of the topic.

I just finished reading a chapter in a book that presents a detailed and compelling account of those three days at Gettysburg, from the perspective of the Army of the Potomac under George Meade. The chapter title, "An Army of Lions" well suits the ferocity and superhuman courage with which the Union troops fought over those days.

But Lincoln criticized Meade for letting the Army of Northern Virginia slip away when he supposedly could have crushed them right there, or at least on the northern side of the Potomac. "He was within your easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would . . . have ended the war."

But was Lee truly within Meade's "easy grasp?" True, the Army of Northern Virginia had just endured a tragic butchering, but the Army of the Potomac also had gotten pretty beat up and bloodied and depleted in gaining that victory. It doesn't seem to me that the AoP was in very good fighting shape right at that moment to attack the ANV who seemed like they maintained good defensive position and advantage in their withdrawal.

At the same time, I don't want to be unfairly critical of Lincoln's berating Meade for the failure to follow up -- Lincoln only had the present moment and his emotions, not the benefit of years to look back on like historians do. Lincoln more than anything wanted to end the war, and that surely his filtered the urgency of his desires.

But the question, especially from any of you Army of the Potomac aficianados. Could Meade have ended it at Gettysburg, or the few days following? (I don't think he was able to, and an AoP failure at that point could have been even more demoralizing.)

Murray Therrell

RJSamp
08-19-2007, 10:40 AM
Don't know about your comment about the 'tragic butchering' of the ANV at Gettysburg......

I don't think Civil War units and commanders had the makeup and gumption to purse a defeated foe. Whether they couldn't reorganize the immediate troops (who had lost heavily in defeating/routing the foe), didn't have the communication lines to bring up the reserves, couldn't work their way through the carnage of the battle field, couldn't stop their men from looting/eating/resting.....time after time they gave them slip. On both sides.

Just read two books about the Battle of Monocacy.....and the Battle of Nashville. in both cases you had Grant and Lincoln BEFORE the battle saying pursue them once they are defeated, don't let them off the hook, don't let the opportunity for a decisive victory escape your grasp... Antietam, Chickamauga, 2nd Manassas, Champion's Hill, Chancellorsville......name another 30.

We clobbered Price/Shelby at Westport/Battle of the Big Blue(Byram's Ford)....and then again at Mine Creek (Trading Post, Marais des Cygnes) and still they got away.

Stern chasing was never our forte (especially against the Indians but that's for another forum).

Dumb question times/food for thought.....

What would have happened if Pickett/Pettigrew had been allowed into the Federal lines and were then simply swallowed whole (8th Ohio and Stannard's Vermonter's no longer on the flanks, but in the rear of an unsupported spear head thrust). When they crest the hill they are greated by 36 Napolean's firing triple canister. Let 'em capture Meade's headquarters(widow Liecester's house)....and then KO the lot of them on the reverse slope of Cemetery Ridge.

What if the VI Corps had launched an assault at 4 PM on July 3rd 1863 against the Southern right flank, instead of Farnsworth's forlorn hope and the Regular Cavalry dismounted charge across open fields....Could they have simply had the cavalry strike out for the Black Horse Tavern and and the infantry roll up the entire CSA line from South to at least the town of Gettysburg?.....

You'd love to think that Meade could have bagged the whole lot of them.....but it wasn't in his character/training....nor that of most of the General officer corps for either army.

Heck, Ewell had squandered a 'decent' opportunity to take Culp's and/or Wolf's Hill on the night of July 1st 1863.....but how was he to know that Corps or two wasn't coming in from the NorthEast (his left rear).

So yes, I think (with hindsight being a 50/50 craps shoot) that Meade should have bagged Lee at Falling Waters or even left a covering force at Lee's rear and struck deeper into Virginia....say Richmond or a battle of Meade's choosing much farther south of the Potomac after KOing Lee's wagon train and capturing 5,000 CSA wounded and recapturing 5,000 Federal POW's....

But were the armies/commander of the day capable of this kind of thought/action??? (Even Patton was wrong, the Germans time after time proved quite capable of containing deep armored thrusts.....as the 'arm' of the assault reached out hundreds of miles to Berlin, you simply chopped it off at the shoulder).

NO.

crowley_greene
08-19-2007, 11:05 AM
Don't know about your comment about the 'tragic butchering' of the ANV at Gettysburg......

Perhaps I didn't choose the best of terms, but too late to edit now. Obviously, I had in mind the ill-fated charge on the Union center on day 3.

Quoting from the book (The Sword of Lincoln, Jeffrey Wert) about Pickett's Charge: "If the Confederates ever had a chance -- many of them sensed otherwise -- it probably ended within a few hundred yards when Union artillery crews opened fire on their serried ranks. Solid shot gouged gaps in the lines, and shards of shells cut up men. A Confederate wrote of seeing arms and legs flying in the air 'like feathers before wind' . . . When the 'rising tide of armed men' reached Emmitsburg Road, Union infantry opened fire, and artillerists switched to canister. Waves of bullets and iron balls blew into the Southern lines, leveling the front rank 'as if swept by a gigantic sickle swung by some powerful force of nature'."

Murray Therrell

Robert A Mosher
08-19-2007, 12:28 PM
Murray -
There's an excellent treatment of this issue in "Retreat from Gettysburg; Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign" by Kent Masterson Brown. It came out six months after I wrote a paper for a post-graduate course on this issue but I was quite relieved that Brown's research tended to support my already arrived at conclusion that Meade probably did about as well as could be expected given a) he had taken command of the AoP amidst an ongoing campaign and didnt' arrive at the battlefield until the end of the first day' b) the losses taken by the AoP at Gettysburg in men, material, combat leadership during the three days of fighting; and, c) the weather. He did err in convening a council of war that decided not to attack Lee before Falling Water though he did resolve to attack the following morning - unfortunately the morning when it was learned that Lee had crossed the river during the night.

I also concluded that if the AoP had attacked the ANV before it was able to cross the river, it probably would have destroyed the ANV - and probably rendered the AoP incapable of combat for some time in the process. I envision a fight that I would not have relished being a part of.

Robert A. Mosher

flattop32355
08-19-2007, 01:39 PM
I also concluded that if the AoP had attacked the ANV before it was able to cross the river, it probably would have destroyed the ANV - and probably rendered the AoP incapable of combat for some time in the process. I envision a fight that I would not have relished being a part of.

I'd have to agree with your conclusions: Meade's newness to army command, the casualties already taken, and the poor weather all played a part in the ANV getting away intact. Had Meade pushed hard (harder than any other previous AoP commander to date) and forced the issue on the north side of the Potomac, the desperation of the fighting would have been such that all else before would have paled in comparison. Both sides would have known what was at stake for each army. A badly shaken ANV would have defended like trapped tigers while the AoP would have had to ignore severe casualties in trying to finish them off. Even then, it would be a near thing, no matter who won.

CivilWarBuff1863
08-19-2007, 03:33 PM
General Meade was also a Pennsylvania native. I would think that Meade let Lee go cause his men were also tired of fighting the 3 days battle. After the battle it rained and could have slowed Lee down but I think Meade just wanted him to go back to Virginia where he belonged since he read reports that most of the battles occured in that state and also in other Southern states.

I think Gen. Meade said: "We have driven the enemy from our soil." And that remark infuriated Lincoln even more.

But Meade did send out troops to see where Lee was and they just caught the tailend of the retreating Army across the river. If Meade had been pushed futher I believe that the ANV would've been in very bad shape and maybe forced to surrender.

We'll never know what went through their minds.

RJSamp
08-19-2007, 05:41 PM
Perhaps I didn't choose the best of terms, but too late to edit now. Obviously, I had in mind the ill-fated charge on the Union center on day 3.

Quoting from the book (The Sword of Lincoln, Jeffrey Wert) about Pickett's Charge: "If the Confederates ever had a chance -- many of them sensed otherwise -- it probably ended within a few hundred yards when Union artillery crews opened fire on their serried ranks. Solid shot gouged gaps in the lines, and shards of shells cut up men. A Confederate wrote of seeing arms and legs flying in the air 'like feathers before wind' . . . When the 'rising tide of armed men' reached Emmitsburg Road, Union infantry opened fire, and artillerists switched to canister. Waves of bullets and iron balls blew into the Southern lines, leveling the front rank 'as if swept by a gigantic sickle swung by some powerful force of nature'."

Murray Therrell

Yessir, and I covered that:
"What would have happened if Pickett/Pettigrew had been allowed into the Federal lines and were then simply swallowed whole (8th Ohio and Stannard's Vermonter's no longer on the flanks, but in the rear of an unsupported spear head thrust). When they crest the hill they are greated by 36 Napolean's firing triple canister. Let 'em capture Meade's headquarters(widow Liecester's house)....and then KO the lot of them on the reverse slope of Cemetery Ridge."

In other words, suck them into the Lion's mouth and then let her rip......even as it was they swallowed up half of the Florida Brigade....Wilcox/Lang should have advanced with Kemper.....not 20 minutes laters.....

The Assault was a spear tip with no support.....once shattered it would have been simply brutal for the ANV.....

follow it up with a 4PM strike at Black Horse Tavern by the US Cavalry, and a strike to the peach orchard by the VI Corps......

Gary
08-19-2007, 06:00 PM
Ike was once asked about his decision to remain in Normandy. He said it was difficult. However, Ike also said that he was glad he wasn't Meade at Gettysburg. Meade was placed in command only a few days after Hooker's removal. He had no time to learn his job as an army commander before being thrown into the fire. Tough job.

I concur with others that had Grant been there, he would have counterattacked and pursued Lee until the ANV was destroyed. Whether his men were up to it is another matter. However, like Robert Mosher, I think had Grant commanded, he would have prevented the ANV from returning to Virginia - or at least tried harder than Meade.

cblodg
08-19-2007, 07:03 PM
But the question, especially from any of you Army of the Potomac aficianados. Could Meade have ended it at Gettysburg, or the few days following? (I don't think he was able to, and an AoP failure at that point could have been even more demoralizing.)

Murray Therrell

I have to agree with most of what has already been stated. The AoP had been just as battered, if not worse, than the ANV. The loss of men and material had to be carefully considered.

Not to mention the weather at the time. They would have had to move several hundred men, wagons, cannon, etc. through the town after the enemy, and over the same ground that the dead from both sides would have been lying.

Your assertion that the possibility of a AoP defeat trying to 'destroy' the ANV, I personally think is unfounded. It is well known that Lee's day three decision was made in full knowledge that his supply line was stretched thin and running extremely low on ammunition. Once word would have spread (and it did fast) of Lee's defeat, he had to move quick to get out of Northern territory and back to the realative safety of the South. Once they reached Maryland they were on somewhat friendlier terrain.

Meade followed the standard up to that time (it wasn't until Grant came East that the idea of not pulling back after a battle would come along). Not to mention his newness to command. He needed to take the time to organize his army.

Just my .02 though

indguard
08-19-2007, 09:57 PM
Gettysburg would not have ended it for either side.

Losing, the CSA was still far too powerful to give up all of a sudden. Winning, they still had a mess in the rest of the war.

Losing, the USA still had a determined government in charge that would not have been ready to quit exactly yet. Especially considering all the other victories that month in other theaters of the war. Winning... well, you know history.

Both sides would have had at the very least a few more battles in them no matter if the actual outcome of Gettysburg changed could have occurred.

7thMDYankee
08-19-2007, 10:39 PM
Chris,

Two points I'd like to comment upon.

1) "Meade followed the standard up to that time": No offense intended, but I'm not sure what to make of this. Federal commanders were not in the habit of defeating Lee and the ANV. So, a standard to follow after defeating the Confederates is something I'm not sure any Union commander had.

In the same vein, I read this past spring a great article that appeared in the Journal of Military History (it was that publication I believe, I will look for it and send you the cite via PM if you would like - let me know) regarding the training West Point gave the cadets who grew up to become Civil War generals - for both sides. Training in anything beyond basic evolutions of the soldier and school of the company was rare at the school. Much of the training in groups of men much larger than a company was left to be learned on the job. The focus at West Point was on engineers - the prime occupation cadets sought in the army. Thus, I find anything that was done by a "standard" at the time was likely up to the individual in command at the time of a win.

2) "Once they reached Maryland they were on somewhat friendlier terrain.": I might remind you that Lee entered Maryland in about the same spot a year earlier and did not find flocks of men running to his ranks as they suspected would happen. In fact, Marylanders in that part of the state saw the southerners as invaders. Western Maryland - as well as the western counties of Virginia (who would later be called West Virginia) - were quite loyal to the Union.

One other point I would like to toss into the ring for discussion, though, is the fact that Meade was not removed from command of the AOP after Gettysburg. Lincoln did not hesitate to remove McClellan following his idleness following Antietam knowing full well that a third of his command did not see a shot fired that day. Thus, I think Lincoln either understood Meade's situation as noted in other's comments in this thread; or at least there is a communication that we do not have access to (to be honest I have not searched for one, so it may be out there as "common knowledge" for someone much more informed than me).

In other words, Meade may have "let Lee escape," but Lincoln saw something good in Meade to keep him in command.

cblodg
08-20-2007, 06:44 AM
Chris,

Two points I'd like to comment upon.

1) "Meade followed the standard up to that time": No offense intended, but I'm not sure what to make of this. Federal commanders were not in the habit of defeating Lee and the ANV. So, a standard to follow after defeating the Confederates is something I'm not sure any Union commander had.

In the same vein, I read this past spring a great article that appeared in the Journal of Military History (it was that publication I believe, I will look for it and send you the cite via PM if you would like - let me know) regarding the training West Point gave the cadets who grew up to become Civil War generals - for both sides. Training in anything beyond basic evolutions of the soldier and school of the company was rare at the school. Much of the training in groups of men much larger than a company was left to be learned on the job. The focus at West Point was on engineers - the prime occupation cadets sought in the army. Thus, I find anything that was done by a "standard" at the time was likely up to the individual in command at the time of a win.

2) "Once they reached Maryland they were on somewhat friendlier terrain.": I might remind you that Lee entered Maryland in about the same spot a year earlier and did not find flocks of men running to his ranks as they suspected would happen. In fact, Marylanders in that part of the state saw the southerners as invaders. Western Maryland - as well as the western counties of Virginia (who would later be called West Virginia) - were quite loyal to the Union.

One other point I would like to toss into the ring for discussion, though, is the fact that Meade was not removed from command of the AOP after Gettysburg. Lincoln did not hesitate to remove McClellan following his idleness following Antietam knowing full well that a third of his command did not see a shot fired that day. Thus, I think Lincoln either understood Meade's situation as noted in other's comments in this thread; or at least there is a communication that we do not have access to (to be honest I have not searched for one, so it may be out there as "common knowledge" for someone much more informed than me).

In other words, Meade may have "let Lee escape," but Lincoln saw something good in Meade to keep him in command.


Some points on your points :)

The 'standard' that I was referring too was not pursuing the ANV after a win (no matter how slight): for example, after Antietam McClelland chose not to persue Lee in favor of savoring a win and allowing his army to rest and be resupplied and reorganized.

Also, Lincoln gave command of ALL Union armies to Grant. It was Grant who made the recomendation to keep Meade in command of the AoP. It would have been too hard for one man to command all the armies as a single commander. Yes, Lincoln did see something in Meade hence he followed Grant's request.

Please do send along the link if you can find it.

Thanks

tompritchett
08-20-2007, 08:30 AM
Losing, the CSA was still far too powerful to give up all of a sudden. Winning, they still had a mess in the rest of the war.

Losing, the USA still had a determined government in charge that would not have been ready to quit exactly yet. Especially considering all the other victories that month in other theaters of the war. Winning... well, you know history.

Although this thread was primarily based on the premise of whether or not the North could have won the war with more aggressive action by Meade after Gettysburg, your comments open up a whole new line of worthy discussion. IMHO, I do believe that a Confederate victory at Gettysburg might have ended the war, depending upon Lee's actions thereafter. Remember, at the time, the Northern states were becoming tired of the war and its drain on the treasury, Lincoln's personal determination not withstanding. Had Lee found the means to continue his advance into Pennsylvania by capturing Meade's supply trains, it is possible that Pennsylvania might have led the charge of Northern states demanding that their troops be recalled home and that Lincoln declare an end of offensive operations against the Confederacy while reaching a settlement of terms with Davis's administration. Furthermore, the threat of Lee's army roaming essentially now uncontested in a Northern state, would likely have forced the end of the Vicksburg siege as many of these Northern troops would have had to be pulled for the defense of such major cities as Philadelphia. Remember, the Confederacy never had to "win" the war to be successful; they just had to avoid losing the war until the North became tired of fighting and accepted the secession of the Southern states.

Given Grant's promotion to overall Commander in Chief of the Northern armies and Lincoln's determination, Gettysburg may very well have been the last chance the South ever had of breaking the Northern will to use force to bring the seceded states back into the Union. With the combined determination of these two men, the South could no longer rely on just purely defensive operations to wear out the Northern will to fight. As we now know from history, neither of these men would ever let up on the pressure on Lee and his army, as had the AoP earlier in the war, regardless of the casualties it cost the North.

Remise
08-20-2007, 08:53 AM
I suppose IF Lee had won, he might not have been burdened with 4,000 wagons carrying more than 12,000 Confederate wounded, and presumably he would have captured enough Federal artillery ammunition to make up for his great deficit in that area.

But if his losses had only been slightly fewer, the fact remained that these men, all irreplaceable, had to be protected and sent south, with sufficient escort to protect a wagon train that, at one time, was nearly 17 miles in length. This would have been at a time when as many as 15,000 Pennsylvania militia were converging on the area of Gettysburg. We know how such units fought at the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge shortly before Gettysburg (an all-day "battle" in which 4,000 militia succeeded in killing one Confederate soldier, while another fell in the Susquehanna and presumably drowned), but they still might have been sufficiently annoying to a very vulnerable wagon train.

I have often thought that if Lee had won at Gettysburg, and then been so foolish as to remain in Pennsylvania, that the war might actually have ended in 1864, as his now-weakened army could very well have been cut off and destroyed. It is my belief that even a victorious Lee would have come to the conclusion that there was no practical choice but to once again withdraw south of the Potomac, with whatever spoils his men could carry with them, and be content with sparing much of Virginia half a season of devastation.

I will be interested in the opinions of those more expert than myself on this subject.

B.C. Milligan
Pedagogue Boys Mess

Kevin O'Beirne
08-20-2007, 10:28 AM
Gettysburg would not have ended it for either side...

Both sides would have had at the very least a few more battles in them no matter if the actual outcome of Gettysburg changed could have occurred.


Mark this down. I'm in agreement with WTH.

I'm one of those folks--probably in the minority--who believe that Gettysburg was "just another battle" that was not either a turning point in the war nor some type of climax that could have decided the fate of the war.

Both the North and South won and lost many other battles--what makes folks think Gettysburg was any different than them, other than in the amount of blood spilled? I believe that the reason why folks believe it was so important today is that, almost as soon as the armies left the Gettysburg area, the locals started playing it up and it became the centerpiece of the local economy. In later years, soldiers took advantage of this and made it into a place of memorials. Militarily and strategically, I have always failed to understand the idea that Gettysburg was somehow the lynchpin upon which the entire outcome of the war would hinge.

The Civil War never saw a field army destroyed unless it was first surrounded by pretty vastly superior numbers. Thus, while Lee may have been looking for a Cannae or Alessia at Gettysburg and elsewhere, fact is, those types of battles didn't happen anymore. The side that lost typically retreated to regroup and fight again another day. If the South had somehow managed to win the battle--and the odds against it were long--I believe the Army of the Potomac would have simply fallen back and fought again. Given the huge casualties Lee suffered in losing, and would have probably lost anyway had he won, I seriously doubt the South could have had the ability to follow up what would have been a pyrrhic victory at Gettysburg to any strategically succesful conclusion.

7thMDYankee
08-20-2007, 10:36 AM
I understand... you just need to type slower for some of us!

Very good, I shall look for it.

7thMDYankee
08-20-2007, 10:45 AM
Kevin,

I share your sentiments about the importance of Gettysburg as a single battle. However, defeating Lee within days of the surrender at Vicksburg certainly was a morale boost that cannot be removed from the strategic equation. In other words, Gettysburg wasn't the lynchpin, but in combination with events out west - well, it does have an entirely more significant outcome. Would you be inclined to agree?

Kevin O'Beirne
08-20-2007, 02:40 PM
Vicksburg was a darned important and decisive Federal victory that may have helped to magnify Gettysburg's publications impact. I reckon that the bloodles victory of Rosecrans at Tullahoma at the same time could be said to do the same thing.

In the East, Gettysburg was certainly a press-attention-grabber, but looked at in the context of 1863 and the winter of 1864 in the East, it was just another battle in the string of Mud March (Federal setback), Chancellorsville (Federal defeat), Brandy Station (standoff), Gettysburg (Federal victory), Auburn and Brisoe Station (Federal victories), Rappahannock Station and Kelly's Ford (Federal victories, albeit small ones), Payne's Farm/Mine Run (stalemate or Federal setback), Morton's Ford (Federal defeat kinda), and the various raids on Richmond in early 1864 by Ben Butler, and Kilcavalry/Dahlgren (Federal defeats).

In the West, while Tullahoma was a Federal victory of sorts and Vicksburg was a huge Federal victory, these were followed up just ten weeks after Gettysburg with Chickamauga--probably among the worst drubbings a large Federal army took in the entire war. To rectify that, it took overwhelming concentration of Federal forces to smash Bragg at Chattanooga.

Looking at smaller time periods (say a month or two at a time) certainly the power of the Federal victory at Gettysburg appears magnified, but I believe that in a larger context it did not affect the outcome (or timing of the outcome) of the war by much, if anything.

crowley_greene
08-20-2007, 03:01 PM
I'm one of those folks--probably in the minority--who believe that Gettysburg was "just another battle" that was not either a turning point in the war nor some type of climax that could have decided the fate of the war.

But if a Federal "crush" of the ANV had been possible (as Lincoln desperately desired), even at great price to the AoP, might that have at least shortened the war? Or even if the ANV had still been able to get away after a follow-up engagement, but at additional high cost.

The Southerm armies still may not have been so ready to lay down arms, that's true. But they also would not have been so able to replenish their losses in men and materiel. The North could replenish great losses (just ask Grant).

It's kind of like a chess game in which the "blue" side gets 24 pawns, six knights, and six rooks on one side of the board -- and double those numbers in a drawer at the table, for immediate replacements when losses are incurred. And the best the "gray" side can hope for is to be able to keep playing until the opponent gets so tired of the game and wants to just quit, despite numerical superiority.

Murray Therrell

tompritchett
08-20-2007, 03:30 PM
but I believe that in a larger context it did not affect the outcome (or timing of the outcome) of the war by much, if anything.

From an overall strategic point of view, IMHO, the defeat of the Confederates at Gettysburg basically cost them their last chance sway the tide of Northern public opinion against the war. According to Mahan in his book Strategy, the ultimate goal of any war is to break the will of the leaders and people to continue to fight. With Lincoln as President and Grant the military Commander in Chief, there was no longer any way that the Confederacy would be able to win by fighting merely a defensive war. Neither man was going to let up both in the East and the West regardless of the cost. Only the people and the governors could have changed their minds and the Confederates only hope was that a major defeat of Meade's army on Northern soil and the possible threat of the subsequent sacking of Harrisburg (slightly possible by at least Stuart's cavalry after the battle) and/or Philadelphia (we know now that it would never have been possible, but it is likely that the panicked citizens of the city would have realized it at the time) might have been sufficient to undermine the public support that Lincoln needed to continue the war. Granted, from a military point of view, the battle was not a decisive victory and it would take another two years, approximately before the Confederacy would ultimately fall militarily. But with the loss at Gettysburg and the weight of the Northern forces aligned against the Confederacy, its fate was essentially sealed; it had lost its last chance to break the will of the Northern people and governors to continue the fight.

Kevin O'Beirne
08-21-2007, 10:59 AM
Without question, as I view it, the best change the Confederates had to win their independence was:

* Autumn 1862 through the combined offensives into Maryland, Kentucky, and northern Mississippi. Unfortunately, all ended in Confederate defeats.

* Summer 1864. The Lincoln administration wasn't looking too good at the immense price in blood to go overland to Petersburg and Richmond, and the fighting effectiveness of the Army of the Potomac and Army of the James were virtually nil. In late August, the present-for-duty manpower strength of the Army of Northern Virginia was on par with the manpower present-for-duty of the Army of the Potomac. Jube Early was rampaging around and through the Shenandoah Valley from Washington DC to Second Kernstown while his cavalry was burning entire cities in Pennsylvania and making the B&O RR inoperable. In Georgia, Sherman had driven to Atlanta but hadn't taken it despite months of trying (although Hood's wasteful use of the Army of Tennessee sure helped Sherman a lot). The 1864 election hung in the balance, at that time. The loss of Atlanta in September, plus the Federal concentration of overwhelming force in the Shenandoah starting in early August (not resulting in any significant military advantage there for more than six weeks) are the events that turned the war around for the North that summer and autumn.

As I see it, 1863 was just another year of combat, with the very notable, effective loss to the Confederacy of the Trans-Mississippi.

bob 125th nysvi
08-22-2007, 07:07 PM
It would have if Meade had been able to destroy Lee and the ANV. He would have had a fairly open road to Richmond or for that matter anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line her cared to go.

He probably had the best opportunity (Lee with his back against a river) but did he have the means to do so?

Probably not.

While some of the AoP had not been engaged at Gettysburg, the rest of it had. And it had taken a fair amount of casualities but more importantly it had expended a huge amount of its on hand ordinance.

The important part about the casualities is not only the sheer number but whom was among them. Many Brigade & Division commanders and even two corp commanders. the new men wer not only not used to all of their new commands but not even familiar with how to command their new larger responsibilities.

So Meade was face with a situation of a battered, exhausted army (who had pursued lee and then fought for three days), with many new commanders in key positions and low on ammo. Facing a very good army on defensive terrain.

A commander like Grant, Sherman or Sheridan might have pressed harder but being Lee had the easier task (defense) it is unlike even they could have pulled off the feat.

And I think that Gettysburg was a turning point for two reaons. It was the first clear cut, indisputable defeat of the ANV by the AoP and the men lost by the ANV were irreplaceable for their experience and combat ability.