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  1. #1
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    May 149 & 150 years ago

    As we are now in the midst of the swarm of ACW 150th Anniversary remembrances I am drawn to the time frame of the month of May 1863 & 1864. In each year May was to prove the decisive time on the calendar for all that was to follow.

    In May 1863 at Chancellorsville, Lee’s ANV defeated Hooker’s much larger AOP in central Virginia. The Confederate victory was to have far ranging implications for the coming year. That Lee defeated a force almost twice his size with aggressive tactics, imagination and tenacity goes without saying. However, at what price? He lost over 13,000 men almost 22% of his force including his most able subordinate, Jackson. The Confederacy could scarcely afford such pyrrhic victories and hope to survive. But Lee’s success emboldened him to move northward later that spring once he had reconstituted his army.

    On the same day (30 April 1863) as Hooker crossed the Rappahannock to head into the Wilderness 950 miles southwest Grant crossed the Mississippi with the lead elements of the Army of the Tennessee. Defeating a Confederate force at Port Gibson, MS on 1 May…..on terrain that made the Wilderness look like a parking lot….Grant pushed north towards Vicksburg. As he got close to the city he realized the Confederate defenses were too strong. After 5 months of trying to get Vicksburg he realized the secret was to cut it off from supplies. To do this he engaged in a campaign more audacious than Lee at Chancellorsville….move inland and fall on the Jackson-Vicksburg RR and cut off the city from the east. In a 14 day time span Grant and his army cut themselves free from the their supply line (except for a few wagon trains with ammo and evacuated the wounded) and fought and won 4 battles while moving 200 miles through the Mississippi backcountry. And unlike Hooker’s poor use of Stoneman’s cavalry raid, Grant’s use of Grierson was wildly successful. Vicksburg would fall 6 weeks later 4 July 1863, one day after Gettysburg. Grant’s success would catapult him to overall command in the Western Theater. May would also see the beginning of the Port Hudson siege, which together with success at Vicksburg, would open the Mississippi.

    Go forward a year to 1864. May saw the beginning of the campaigns which were to decide the war. In the East 2 campaigns kicked off within days of each other. The Overland Campaign headed across the Rappahannock on 4 May never to turn back. 5 – 7 May saw the fighting in the Wilderness in which both armies took casualties which were to foretell what would occur for the rest of the war. It also again cost Lee his most capable commander…2 miles almost to the day when he lost Jackson he lost Longstreet, again to a case of fratricide. And he would lose his most able cavalry commander at Yellow Tavern on 11 May. Additional it marked the ascendency of Union cavalry under one of the greatest hard cases in US military history….Phil Sheridan.

    In the Shenandoah Valley a series of fits and stops was to occur starting in May which at first was to come to folly for the Union but was eventually going to result in ultimate Union victory that fall at Cedar Creek.

    In the west Sherman began his campaign which was eventually going to wrest the second most important city from the Confederacy by the end of August. Sherman’s effective maneuver campaign through the mountains of NW Georgia was a masterful application of force in restricted terrain to force an opponent out of entrenched positions.

    Does anyone else have any thoughts or comments to share?
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    As we are now in the midst of the swarm of ACW 150th Anniversary remembrances I am drawn to the time frame of the month of May 1863 & 1864. In each year May was to prove the decisive time on the calendar for all that was to follow.

    In May 1863 at Chancellorsville, Lee’s ANV defeated Hooker’s much larger AOP in central Virginia. The Confederate victory was to have far ranging implications for the coming year. That Lee defeated a force almost twice his size with aggressive tactics, imagination and tenacity goes without saying. However, at what price? He lost over 13,000 men almost 22% of his force including his most able subordinate, Jackson. The Confederacy could scarcely afford such pyrrhic victories and hope to survive. But Lee’s success emboldened him to move northward later that spring once he had reconstituted his army.

    On the same day (30 April 1863) as Hooker crossed the Rappahannock to head into the Wilderness 950 miles southwest Grant crossed the Mississippi with the lead elements of the Army of the Tennessee. Defeating a Confederate force at Port Gibson, MS on 1 May…..on terrain that made the Wilderness look like a parking lot….Grant pushed north towards Vicksburg. As he got close to the city he realized the Confederate defenses were too strong. After 5 months of trying to get Vicksburg he realized the secret was to cut it off from supplies. To do this he engaged in a campaign more audacious than Lee at Chancellorsville….move inland and fall on the Jackson-Vicksburg RR and cut off the city from the east. In a 14 day time span Grant and his army cut themselves free from the their supply line (except for a few wagon trains with ammo and evacuated the wounded) and fought and won 4 battles while moving 200 miles through the Mississippi backcountry. And unlike Hooker’s poor use of Stoneman’s cavalry raid, Grant’s use of Grierson was wildly successful. Vicksburg would fall 6 weeks later 4 July 1863, one day after Gettysburg. Grant’s success would catapult him to overall command in the Western Theater. May would also see the beginning of the Port Hudson siege, which together with success at Vicksburg, would open the Mississippi.

    Go forward a year to 1864. May saw the beginning of the campaigns which were to decide the war. In the East 2 campaigns kicked off within days of each other. The Overland Campaign headed across the Rappahannock on 4 May never to turn back. 5 – 7 May saw the fighting in the Wilderness in which both armies took casualties which were to foretell what would occur for the rest of the war. It also again cost Lee his most capable commander…2 miles almost to the day when he lost Jackson he lost Longstreet, again to a case of fratricide. And he would lose his most able cavalry commander at Yellow Tavern on 11 May. Additional it marked the ascendency of Union cavalry under one of the greatest hard cases in US military history….Phil Sheridan.

    In the Shenandoah Valley a series of fits and stops was to occur starting in May which at first was to come to folly for the Union but was eventually going to result in ultimate Union victory that fall at Cedar Creek.

    In the west Sherman began his campaign which was eventually going to wrest the second most important city from the Confederacy by the end of August. Sherman’s effective maneuver campaign through the mountains of NW Georgia was a masterful application of force in restricted terrain to force an opponent out of entrenched positions.

    Does anyone else have any thoughts or comments to share?
    By the end of May 1864, while the ANV still had fight left in it (the counterattacks against Grant's offensives around Petersburg and Richmond would demonstrate that the ANV still had sting), it no longer had offensive capability. Some of that was due to the bloodletting at the hands of the hard battles at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. Some of it was due to the loss of Jackson in May 1863 and Longstreet and Stuart in 1864, all of which exposed Lee as a general who depended upon independent minded subordinates to execute his intricate and risky offensive plans.

    What is still curious to me is why Lee continued to fight following November 1864. While the fall of Atlanta indicated success in the upcoming election, once Lincoln was reelected, it was clear that continuing to fight signed them up for at least four more years of war, with the obvious fact that the CSA didn't have four more years of war to give.
    "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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    Great point Shek. I believe it was because he was loyal to the civilian government. The Confederate government insisted on fighting so did Lee.
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
    Mark Twain

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    Lee and just about every southerner knew that losing the war wasn't just going to be a matter of people going home with bruised egos-- it was the end of their society and their way of life.

    somewhat akin to the nazis by january 1945.

    going back to the chancellorsville option, though, if you were Lee in May 1863 what could you, or would you, have done?
    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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    "Let's throw a couple of thousands more lives so we can keep our way of life"?
    No such thing as a good tax - Churchill

    To make mistakes is human. To blame someone else for your mistake, is strategic.

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    doktor,

    "Let's throw a couple of thousands more lives so we can keep our way of life"?
    tens of thousands, rather.

    not a surprise. using another war, by any rational observer's estimate, the nazis were doomed by may 1943, yet how long did they fight on? and by jan 1945 it was pretty obvious to even the most fervent nazi that they were doomed.

    rationality plays only a small part when it comes down to it. for that matter, had Lee not told his troops in no uncertain terms that it was time to surrender, there would almost certainly have been a long, bloody, and futile guerilla war for years.
    Last edited by astralis; 07 May 13, at 14:41.
    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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