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Thread: Was Lee All That?

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    Shek, I am with you. When Lee faced an inferior opponent he prevailed. During the Seven Days he actually lost most of the tactical battles (with the exception of Gaines' Mills) but won the campaign because McClellan was timid and overly obsessed with boogie man numbers. Imagine what would have happened to the ANV if on 2 July the AOP had ATTACKED coming off of Malvern Hill instead of retreating to Harrison's Landing? Lee suffered 20,000 casulaties, McClellan 15,000.

    At South Mountain a timid Union high command allowed Lee to marshall his forces along Antietam Creek. And allowing the aggresiveness of his subordinates to attack almost cost him his army. He was saved by AP Hill's timely arrival, not by any shear tactical genius of his own.

    At Fredericksburg he faced an inept Union commnader who allowed his bridging to take 2 weeks to come overland from DC rather than 24 hours by water. This allowed Lee the time to gather his forces and dig in. And the Union still broke his line and was only pushed back by a determined counterattack conducted by a subordinate.

    Shek has already spoken about Chancellorsville.

    At Gettysburg he failed to adequately supervise his most junior corps commander (Hill) and made poor assumptions about the ability of one of his other commanders (Ewell). He underestimated the ability of Meade to concentrate his forces and take advantage of interior lines. He also flatly ignored the superiority of Union artillery and faield to insure adequate ammunition supplies were forward for his own artillery. The results speak for themselves.

    At Bristoe Station he allowed Hill to move too far forward unsupported which resulted in Heth's division being shredded by an ambush.

    At Second Rappahannock Station he allowed Jubal Early's division to get defeated piecemeal north of the river with 1700 casualties.

    Shek covered the Overland Campaign pretty well.

    And he allowed Grant to get to the James River.

    Other than that, he pretty much the perfect commander!

    He systemically failed to supervise subordinates, he failed to look beyond his own immediate sphere to see how his actions coincided or impacted other areas unitl much too late in the war. He overestiamted how much the spirit and determination fo his men could overcome shortages in logistics and reality which resulted in their destruction. He underestimated the tenacity of his enemy. And finally, he understimated the ability, skill and determination of the infantry of the Army of the Potomac who were much maligned but soldiered on for 2 years before they got the leadership they deserved.
    So how would score Lee?

    Seven Days - W
    Second Manassas - W
    Antietam - L
    Fredericksburg - W
    Chancelloresville - W
    Gettysburg - L
    Wilderness - L
    Spotsylvania - L
    Cold Harbor - L
    Petersburg - L
    Appomattox - The Big L

    A win-loss of 4-7? A pretty good batting average but a poor scorecard for a general.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    So how would score Lee?

    Seven Days - W
    Second Manassas - W
    Antietam - L (I'd say tie)
    Fredericksburg - W
    Chancelloresville - W
    Gettysburg - L
    Rappahanock/Mine Run - T leaning L
    Wilderness - L (tie)
    Spotsylvania - L
    Cold Harbor - L
    Petersburg - L
    Valley 64 - L (I add this cecause it was part of Lee's Army and it resulted in some of his best infatry being utterly destroyed.
    Appomattox - The Big L

    A win-loss of 4-7? A pretty good batting average but a poor scorecard for a general.

    Okay, so I go 4-6-3. Good enough for a trophy in Pee Wee football, but...


    Oh, if you add the Cheat Mountain Campaign thats another L.

    Grant's Score?

    Belmont - L
    Battle of Forts Henry & Donelson - W
    Battle of Shiloh - W
    Siege of Vicksburg - BIG W
    Battle of Chattanooga - W
    Overland Campaign - W
    Siege of Petersburg - W
    Appomattox Campaign - W

    That'll get you to the Super Bowl
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
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    interesting thought experiment, what if lee had decided to stay loyal and become commander of the union forces in 1861?

    a lee vs joe johnston or pgt bureaugard would have been interesting.

    and one more thought on this lazy friday afternoon-- if lee was not "all that", then who on the confederate side could have done as well/better? longstreet? jackson?
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    interesting thought experiment, what if lee had decided to stay loyal and become commander of the union forces in 1861?

    a lee vs joe johnston or pgt bureaugard would have been interesting.

    and one more thought on this lazy friday afternoon-- if lee was not "all that", then who on the confederate side could have done as well/better? longstreet? jackson?
    2 thoughts come to mind.

    You would have had Lee in command at 1st Manassas. McDowell did not manage that battle too badly. Got flanked. Don't know if a Lee led army would have been too much different. Perhaps more counterattacking?

    Post Manassas, could Lee have built and trained the AOP in the same efficient manner that McClellan did? I am not sure. To give Little Mac his due, the little arrogant prig was one hell of an administrator and trainer. He built a really good army in the AOP. I don't doubt Lee's abailities but I don't know if his skill set ran to the same lengths.

    As for who else besides Lee for the Confederates? Lee was the best the CSA had available. Joe Johnston, a pretty good commander, was severely wounded, AS Johnston was already dead and PGTB's best hours were behind him and in front of him (June 64 at P'burg). No way Jackson...he couldn't handle the logistics of so large an Army.

    Longstreet ws damn good but I don't think he could have handled the logistics much better than Jackson. Notice I didn't even mention Bragg!)

    So to your central question...did the Confederacy really have a choice? No, Lee was the only field commander Davis had. Perhaps if there had been an effective general in chieffor the CSA in 1862 rather than March 1865 it would have been different.
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
    ― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    Longstreet ws damn good but I don't think he could have handled the logistics much better than Jackson. Notice I didn't even mention Bragg!)
    Couple of amateur questions

    Longstreet, particularly in The Killer Angels, is depicted as being a defensive-minded individual, someone who had seen the futility of the Napoleonic tactics of the day, in the face of the rifled musket and improved artillery. Would be accurate or fair to say that?

    Further would it be feasible to say that, had Longstreet been given command of the ANV rather than Lee, that he would have constantly maneuver his forces so as to goad the Union to attack him on good defensive ground?

    Could such a constant "mobile" defensive posture have won the war for the South?
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    TopHatter

    Quote Originally Posted by TopHatter View Post
    Couple of amateur questions

    Longstreet, particularly in The Killer Angels, is depicted as being a defensive-minded individual, someone who had seen the futility of the Napoleonic tactics of the day, in the face of the rifled musket and improved artillery. Would be accurate or fair to say that?

    Further would it be feasible to say that, had Longstreet been given command of the ANV rather than Lee, that he would have constantly maneuver his forces so as to goad the Union to attack him on good defensive ground?

    Could such a constant "mobile" defensive posture have won the war for the South?

    Well for starters, The Killer Angels is a great book....but lousy history!.

    Old Pete Longstreet is an interesting study. He was banished to the margins by the Lost Causers (Thanks Jubal Early!) and this book did bring him into the light. However, I believe too much has been made of his defensive mindset.

    Lest we forget, Longstreet launched 4 of the greatest Infantry assaults in US military history -2d Manassas, Gettysburg, Chickamauga and Brock Road at the Wilderness - and 2 of them after Gettysburg.

    That said he did believe in offensive maneuver and then using a strong defensive position to fight from. This can be seen by his actions at Antietam and his strong use of the defense at Fredericksburg. He chafed for independent command to get out of Lee's shadow and believed strongly in 1863 that his corps should be shifted to the west to counteract the successes of the Union forces under Rosecrans and Grant. He would not get his wish until after Gettysburg.

    Ironically his 2 examples of independent command included the abject failures at Suffolk and Knoxville...where he was beaten by Burnside!
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
    ― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

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    AR,

    Ironically his 2 examples of independent command included the abject failures at Suffolk and Knoxville...where he was beaten by Burnside!
    that just had to BURN.

    relatively apropos of this, one interesting thing about the civil war is the way we so clearly see commanders that are excellent at one level of organization but poor at another. i'm not thinking longstreet here but hood, or hooker.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    AR,



    that just had to BURN. what is interesting about the civil war is the way we so clearly see commanders that are excellent at one level of organization but poor at another.
    Exactly...it is the reason why you are promoted...it is based on potential. The ACW is rife with men who were excellent at one level but failed at the next.

    AP Hill and Richard Ewell were superb division commanders but were mediocre or failures at corps. Part of this was the requirement as a corps commander to be able to step back and imagine the fight in your mind while you fought by communications, not by what you could see. Longstreet had it, Hancock had it, Wright had it. Jackson, Sheridan, Thomas and Sherman had it in spades.

    Ironically Burnside was a pretty good corps commander. And he told everyone who would listen that he would not be a good army commander...and he went out and proved himself correct. Hooker was a superb corps commander, as was Hood, but both failed miserably as army commanders.

    I think Meade is the finest example, in BOTH Armies, of someone who was successful at every level of command he held.
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
    ― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

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    AR,

    I think Meade is the finest example, in BOTH Armies, of someone who was successful at every level of command he held.
    interesting-- the rep meade had, i think, back then and now, is that of a very competent commander but not truly great...after all, he was replaced by grant after the gettysburg campaign. in fact, i think there's a couple of "what-ifs" out there that had meade replaced with hancock at gettysburg.

    it'd be interesting to see how meade would do at the one level he DIDN'T hold, which is overall commander of both western and eastern theaters.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    AR,



    interesting-- the rep meade had, i think, back then and now, is that of a very competent commander but not truly great...after all, he was replaced by grant after the gettysburg campaign. in fact, i think there's a couple of "what-ifs" out there that had meade replaced with hancock at gettysburg.

    it'd be interesting to see how meade would do at the one level he DIDN'T hold, which is overall commander of both western and eastern theaters.
    Meade ran a reporter out of the AOP camp in 1864, and after that, he either got unfavorable coverage or no coverage at all. That's one of the reason's that we conceive of the AOP as Grant's Army.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Shek Reply

    "Meade ran a reporter out of the AOP camp in 1864, and after that, he either got unfavorable coverage or no coverage at all. That's one of the reason's that we conceive of the AOP as Grant's Army."

    Too bad that our subsequent accumulated scholarship hasn't managed to overcome that evidently overwhelming faux pas and, instead, allowed such to stand.

    It seems that one of Grant's publically praised attributes to doggedly hold firm to objectives was embodied to a great extent by the determined manner in which Meade fought at Gettysburg despite no firm presidential endorsement for his command, IMHO.

    Thanks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    AR,



    interesting-- the rep meade had, i think, back then and now, is that of a very competent commander but not truly great...after all, he was replaced by grant after the gettysburg campaign. in fact, i think there's a couple of "what-ifs" out there that had meade replaced with hancock at gettysburg.

    it'd be interesting to see how meade would do at the one level he DIDN'T hold, which is overall commander of both western and eastern theaters.
    Actually George Meade stayed in command of the AOP all the way to the end of the War.

    Grant supplanted him sometimes but the two worked out a grudging relationship. Grant appreciated he put Meade in a tough position; Meade recognized that a display of hurt feelings on his part would do nothing for the war effort.

    He was not known as That Damned Old Goggle Eyed Snapping Turtle for nothing! But he was also an extrememly able, loyal and dedicated subordinate.

    He fought well at Gettysburg when he took command of the Army on the fly, dealt with the political intrigue after the campaign well and then executed a difficult fall campaign in Northern Virginia.

    When Grant took command in 1864 Meade immediately offered his resignation for the good fo the country and so grant coul dmove in one of his Western favorites (the smart money was on Sherman). But Grant recognized the magnanimity of the action and also realized that removing the Victor of Gettysburg would be a slap in the face to the soldiers of the AOP. Meade stayed and Grant got a loyal subordinate.
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
    ― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

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    "Meade stayed and Grant got a loyal subordinate."

    Without disrupting his western leadership by keeping a great commander (Sherman) in the west.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    Actually George Meade stayed in command of the AOP all the way to the end of the War.

    Grant supplanted him sometimes but the two worked out a grudging relationship. Grant appreciated he put Meade in a tough position; Meade recognized that a display of hurt feelings on his part would do nothing for the war effort.

    He was not known as That Damned Old Goggle Eyed Snapping Turtle for nothing! But he was also an extrememly able, loyal and dedicated subordinate.

    He fought well at Gettysburg when he took command of the Army on the fly, dealt with the political intrigue after the campaign well and then executed a difficult fall campaign in Northern Virginia.

    When Grant took command in 1864 Meade immediately offered his resignation for the good fo the country and so grant coul dmove in one of his Western favorites (the smart money was on Sherman). But Grant recognized the magnanimity of the action and also realized that removing the Victor of Gettysburg would be a slap in the face to the soldiers of the AOP. Meade stayed and Grant got a loyal subordinate.
    I'm actually in the process of doing some initial research for a potential paper on Grant and just came across this an hour ago from Grant's memoirs:

    Chapter XLVI. Grant, Ulysses S. 1885–86. Personal Memoirs

    There had been some changes ordered in the organization of that army before my promotion. One was the consolidation of five corps into three, thus throwing some officers of rank out of important commands. Meade evidently thought that I might want to make still one more change not yet ordered. He said to me that I might want an officer who had served with me in the West, mentioning Sherman specially, to take his place. If so, he begged me not to hesitate about making the change. He urged that the work before us was of such vast importance to the whole nation that the feeling or wishes of no one person should stand in the way of selecting the right men for all positions. For himself, he would serve to the best of his ability wherever placed. I assured him that I had no thought of substituting any one for him. As to Sherman, he could not be spared from the West.

    This incident gave me even a more favorable opinion of Meade than did his great victory at Gettysburg the July before. It is men who wait to be selected, and not those who seek, from whom we may always expect the most efficient service.

    Meade’s position afterwards proved embarrassing to me if not to him. He was commanding an army and, for nearly a year previous to my taking command of all the armies, was in supreme command of the Army of the Potomac—except from the authorities at Washington. All other general officers occupying similar positions were independent in their commands so far as any one present with them was concerned. I tried to make General Meade’s position as nearly as possible what it would have been if I had been in Washington or any other place away from his command. I therefore gave all orders for the movements of the Army of the Potomac to Meade to have them executed. To avoid the necessity of having to give orders direct, I established my headquarters near his, unless there were reasons for locating them elsewhere. This sometimes happened, and I had on occasions to give orders direct to the troops affected
    As far as how not to handle the press, here's the money link:

    The life and letters of George ... - Google Books
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Quote Originally Posted by S-2 View Post
    "Meade stayed and Grant got a loyal subordinate."

    Without disrupting his western leadership by keeping a great commander (Sherman) in the west.

    And Meade, upon Grant's recommendation, was made a Major General of the Regular Army in August 1864 making him in seniority 3rd behind Halleck and Sherman (by 4 days).
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
    ― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

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