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What if Lee had accepted command of federal forces?

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  • #16
    offense is always harder than the defense, too. the federals weren't going to win so big that the Confederates would completely chicken out and throw in the towel.

    it'd be interesting, though, if based upon that the Confederates decided that Richmond actually wasn't such a great place for a capital and moved back to Montgomery or even Savannah. it would have forced both sides (but particularly the South) to think in more strategic terms than "take/hold Richmond".
    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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    • #17
      Originally posted by astralis View Post
      to think in more strategic terms than "take/hold Richmond".
      Or the Union to fixate "On to Richmond!' either.

      Took a while to determine the center of gravity...the Confederate field armies...followed by the will of the people.

      Geography only counted as a way to influence your startegy against those...and that door swung both ways.
      “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
      Mark Twain

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      • #18
        Originally posted by astralis View Post
        offense is always harder than the defense, too. the federals weren't going to win so big that the Confederates would completely chicken out and throw in the towel.

        it'd be interesting, though, if based upon that the Confederates decided that Richmond actually wasn't such a great place for a capital and moved back to Montgomery or even Savannah. it would have forced both sides (but particularly the South) to think in more strategic terms than "take/hold Richmond".
        If the Confederates were going to move the capitol to a safer location, Atlanta makes a better choice, the rails links ties to the other parts of the CSA and its isolated from the US Navy.

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        • #19
          AR,

          Or the Union to fixate "On to Richmond!' either.

          Took a while to determine the center of gravity...the Confederate field armies...followed by the will of the people.

          Geography only counted as a way to influence your startegy against those...and that door swung both ways.
          yup, i don't think any of the union commanders, up until grant, fully grasped this. lincoln did, though.

          for that matter, i don't think lee got this until roughly 1863, either, and then he was only concerned with the ANV.

          moving the capital down south would have really forced that sea-change in thinking earlier.
          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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          • #20
            Originally posted by zraver View Post
            If the Confederates were going to move the capitol to a safer location, Atlanta makes a better choice, the rails links ties to the other parts of the CSA and its isolated from the US Navy.
            However, that said, Richmond WAS a vital industrial area. Tredegar, and the associated works, were critical for the Confederate war movement.

            And the Shenandoah was a critical breadbasket...so there still owuld have bben a need to defend both...but it would not have caused the tenacious, bloddy defense which eventually destroyed the ANV.
            “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
            Mark Twain

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            • #21
              Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post
              However, that said, Richmond WAS a vital industrial area. Tredegar, and the associated works, were critical for the Confederate war movement.

              And the Shenandoah was a critical breadbasket...so there still owuld have bben a need to defend both...but it would not have caused the tenacious, bloddy defense which eventually destroyed the ANV.
              True, but would a deep vs close capitol have changed Union strategies?

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              • #22
                Originally posted by Shek View Post
                What if Lee had chosen to maintain his commission in the United States and accepted command of the Army of the Potomac?
                We wouldn't have Arlington National Cemetary.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by Tanker View Post
                  We wouldn't have Arlington National Cemetary.
                  True, we'd have Arlington Manor or some such like the Hermitage....

                  Question, Grant commanded the Union armies and went on to be President... President Lee....? Whats the the fate of slavery in the South if Lee commands?

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by zraver View Post
                    True, we'd have Arlington Manor or some such like the Hermitage....

                    Question, Grant commanded the Union armies and went on to be President... President Lee....? Whats the the fate of slavery in the South if Lee commands?
                    That's one hell of a question. He didn't like slavery, although he had slaves, which I believed he freed. One died. But he believed the negro race was inherently inferior to the white race and would always need the guiding hand of whites.

                    But let's make the point moot. The contention here is that Lee remains loyal to the Union. Knowing his devotion to duty, he would probably have accepted emancipation yet maintained a benevolent prejudice much as many in the North did after the war.
                    To be Truly ignorant, Man requires an Education - Plato

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by zraver View Post
                      True, we'd have Arlington Manor or some such like the Hermitage....

                      Question, Grant commanded the Union armies and went on to be President... President Lee....? Whats the the fate of slavery in the South if Lee commands?
                      Well, he would have to be elected. Grant was a war hero that became president by wooing the very people he hated. On the other hand Lee wouldn't have to do that. After the war his popularity grew all over the US. Grant would have had to win the southern vote while Lee would already have it. Also, while Grant wanted the ex-Confederate soldiers to be barred from elections and freedmen included, Lee wanted all men to be able to vote. But I am not going to debate the politics of the war.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post
                        Recall that early in the war Lee was of a more defensive mindset. His defense plan for Richmond caused his troops to deride him a Granny Lee & the King of Spades.
                        The problem with that view is that Lee had been under fire in Mexico and had moved over to the US infantry. He had a talent for soldiering. Scott recognized that.

                        His defense plan for Richmond was not in response to a specific battle, but rather to protect the new CSA capitol in the event of an attack. He didn't have any troops to lead in battle, at least not after Johnston was out in command of CSA troops in Virginia. The next time you see him going on the defensive in a big way is the siege of Petersburg near the beginning of the end of the war.

                        That went with his mindset as an engineer. In fact his first attempts at the offensive ended rather ignominiously.
                        From all indications, e.g. coolness under fire in Mexico, wrapping up John Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry, he had the right stuff to be a leader in the field.

                        Aborting the Peninsular Campaign and forcing McClellan to retreat from the outskirts of Richmond only weeks after he had replaced Johnston hardly seems ignominious. Granted the some of battles he fought over the "7 days" were messy, but his plan was sound overall, and he won.

                        I do not see that he would have had any greater success at 1st Manassas the McDowell.
                        Lee was better suited to lead than McDowell, who was a supply officer and had never been in combat. Lee might have been able to persuade Scott to delay the battle a few weeks so he could reorganize and train his troops. He was a master at that, as he had already proven.

                        As for the war ending quickly.....

                        Wasn't going to happen.

                        The Union chain of command was in a shambles, the logistics were strained to the limits, the 90 day militia call ups were set to expire and, most importantly, the almost 5,000 casualties on both sides stunned all concerned.
                        I agree on logistics and command structure. But you are assuming Lee would have had a complicated plan like McDowell's. Lee's plan might have proved to be the margin of victory and casualties might have been fewer.

                        But put Lee in McClellan's place for the Peninsular campaign. He takes Richmond, and the war could well have been over 2 years earlier.

                        It was a clash of amateurs...and, much like Wilson's Creek, showed regardless of the commanders, thsi was going to be a long and bloody process.
                        Wilson's Creek came after 1st Manassas, but gets fought nonetheless. Grant takes care of that theater...
                        To be Truly ignorant, Man requires an Education - Plato

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Tanker View Post
                          Well, he would have to be elected. Grant was a war hero that became president by wooing the very people he hated. On the other hand Lee wouldn't have to do that. After the war his popularity grew all over the US. Grant would have had to win the southern vote while Lee would already have it. Also, while Grant wanted the ex-Confederate soldiers to be barred from elections and freedmen included, Lee wanted all men to be able to vote. But I am not going to debate the politics of the war.

                          Tanker:

                          Are you sure about your facts? Grant ran as a radical Republican. The radicals enfranchised all the Freedmen and only a small number of Confederate officeholders and sr. military leaders were barred from voting. Grant polled 450,000 black votes, all told.

                          Agree with you that Lee was spectacularly popular, almost Christ-like, to southerners. Up north he was respected, but not revered. He wouldn't have run for president even if he could. He hated making speeches and only made 2-3 brief ones in his life.:)
                          To be Truly ignorant, Man requires an Education - Plato

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                          • #28
                            1. Actually, Lee became a cavalry officer. He was commander of the 2d Cavalry Regiment at the outbreak of the war...a normal progression as an engineer. I am not arguing whther he was a good officer or combat leader.

                            2. He did lead troops early in the war in Western Virginia and lost.

                            3. McDowell was actually an artillery officer who was brevetted to captain for his service under fire during the battle of Buena Vista. After the war he served on the Adjutant General's staff, a position considered for the best an brightest of the line officers. He was not a supply officer and did not serve in any of the service branch departments. So that said, his service for the Mexican War matched Lee's.

                            4. Union forces had to attack when they did at Manassas...if McDowell, or anyone, had delayed for more organization and training he would have had no army. the 90 day militia regiment call ups started expiring on 1 AUG. The Union force which fought at Manassas was a use it or lose it force. And I don't care if Napoleon, Alexander or Schwarzkopf was in command they would have influenced the battle as much as McDowell or any commander did. The expression of clash of amateurs also extended through the entire command structure of both armies. Manassas was a brigade fight more than anything....and none of the guys on either side had comamnded a brigade in combat before. And the Union Army ws not capable of carrying out a more aggressive plan.

                            5. As for Lee versus McClellan, I am not so sure. Lee was never known for his staff work. In fact one of the knocks on Lee was he tried to do too much with too small of a staff all the way through the war. Even Bud Robinson agrees with this. McClellan, on the other hand, was superb at staff work and organizing. He forged the AOP...something I do not think Lee would have been able to do as effectively. McClellan was not a great commander on the battlefield but he is due the rightful credit he deserves.

                            6. Lee was on the defensive in every battle from Mine Run on.

                            7. Grant had nothing to do with Wilson's Creek or much else in the Transmississippi. He wouldn't become commander of the Western Theater until NOV 63 and the Transmississippi would not come under him until he bcame General in Chief in Mar 1864.

                            All that said, Lee staying loyal would not have brought the Union victory at Manassas. Would he have done better? Who knows but the facts in evidence show he would have done a creditable job having mroe resources....but lets remember, his aggressiveness, born out of desperation, destroyed his army in 1863.
                            “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
                            Mark Twain

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by JAD_333 View Post
                              Tanker:

                              Are you sure about your facts? Grant ran as a radical Republican. The radicals enfranchised all the Freedmen and only a small number of Confederate officeholders and sr. military leaders were barred from voting. Grant polled 450,000 black votes, all told.

                              Agree with you that Lee was spectacularly popular, almost Christ-like, to southerners. Up north he was respected, but not revered. He wouldn't have run for president even if he could. He hated making speeches and only made 2-3 brief ones in his life.:)
                              Grant was an anti-semite as were many back then somehow he got many Jewish immigrants to vote for him. The Freedmen of the North took to him like flies on Molasses so that was a given and not part of the question. But like I said, I'm not a debater of politics of the that war because there are way to many people who believe one thing while others believe another.

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post
                                1. Actually, Lee became a cavalry officer. He was commander of the 2d Cavalry Regiment at the outbreak of the war...a normal progression as an engineer. I am not arguing whther he was a good officer or combat leader.
                                You're right. But my point was that that he was no longer an engineer officer when the war started.

                                2. He did lead troops early in the war in Western Virginia and lost.
                                Cheat Mountain? That was a minor action and besides Lee was sent to oversee Loring who wasn't getting the job done. Casualties were less than 200, both sides combined. Lee called it off because of bad weather and poor coordination by his commanders.

                                3. McDowell was actually an artillery officer who was brevetted to captain for his service under fire during the battle of Buena Vista. After the war he served on the Adjutant General's staff, a position considered for the best an brightest of the line officers. He was not a supply officer and did not serve in any of the service branch departments. So that said, his service for the Mexican War matched Lee's.
                                He served as aide to Gen Wool at Buena Vista, a hot and valiantly fought battle to be sure, but what did he do that equaled what Lee did at Vera Cruz and Mexico city? I can't find any information. Bright or not, when offered command of the Army before 1st Manassas he tried to beg off, saying he was essentially a supply officer.

                                "----McDowell was promoted to brigadier general in the regular army on May 14, 1861, and given command of the Army of Northeastern Virginia, despite never having commanded troops in combat. The promotion was partly because of the influence of his mentor, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. Although McDowell knew that his troops were inexperienced and unready, and protested that he was a supply officer, not a field commander, [bold added] pressure from the Washington politicians forced him to launch a premature offensive against Confederate forces in Northern Virginia. His strategy during the First Battle of Bull Run was imaginative but ambitiously complex, and his troops were not experienced enough to carry it out effectively, resulting in an embarrassing rout. Irvin McDowell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia"

                                4. Union forces had to attack when they did at Manassas...if McDowell, or anyone, had delayed for more organization and training he would have had no army. the 90 day militia regiment call ups started expiring on 1 AUG. The Union force which fought at Manassas was a use it or lose it force. And I don't care if Napoleon, Alexander or Schwarzkopf was in command they would have influenced the battle as much as McDowell or any commander did. The expression of clash of amateurs also extended through the entire command structure of both armies. Manassas was a brigade fight more than anything....and none of the guys on either side had comamnded a brigade in combat before. And the Union Army ws not capable of carrying out a more aggressive plan.
                                I understand, but we're what-if'ing here and part of my recontruction is that Lee, already acknowledged to be a superior officer and military mind convinces Scott to give him more time to get ready and he prevails on the 90-day militiamen to extend for 30-60 days. All what follows in the war is not yet known...the blood, killing and destruction to come, etc. All we know is that McDowell nearly won, but according to his commanders, he was indecisive, failed to communicate troop dispositions to other commanders and led from the front, all of which probably contributed to his defeat. Lee makes none of these mistakes and win.

                                5. As for Lee versus McClellan, I am not so sure. Lee was never known for his staff work. In fact one of the knocks on Lee was he tried to do too much with too small of a staff all the way through the war. Even Bud Robinson agrees with this. McClellan, on the other hand, was superb at staff work and organizing. He forged the AOP...something I do not think Lee would have been able to do as effectively. McClellan was not a great commander on the battlefield but he is due the rightful credit he deserves.
                                I've read that too about Lee, but Lee kept Davis in the loop, unlike both Johnston and McClellan who kept their own counsel. Also--I don't know if this applies-- Lee rarely issued direct orders. He laid out his plan and 'suggested' ways his commanders could carry it out, but he let them do it their way. Frankly, McClellan's genius at staff work and organization did not seem to extend to completing battles. He turned tail with superior numbers at the end of the Peninsular campaign. He had Lee at Sharpsburg, but let him escape.


                                6. Lee was on the defensive in every battle from Mine Run on.
                                I guess he had no choice at Mine Run. His army was half the size of Meade's after his defeat at Gettysburg. But he won or rather Meade failed. I wouldn't call Second Wilderness the following year a defensive battle. But you're basically right, by 1864 he was blocking and shifting

                                7. Grant had nothing to do with Wilson's Creek or much else in the Transmississippi. He wouldn't become commander of the Western Theater until NOV 63 and the Transmississippi would not come under him until he bcame General in Chief in Mar 1864.
                                I didn't mean to imply that he did, but he shines and as you point out he eventually becomes theater commander. I meant that Lee was a tougher customer than anyone the CSA fielded in the west.

                                All that said, Lee staying loyal would not have brought the Union victory at Manassas.
                                I say he would have done better than McDowell and a bit better than McDowell meant victory.:)

                                Would he have done better? Who knows but the facts in evidence show he would have done a creditable job having mroe resources....
                                Agree; that's my contention.

                                but lets remember, his aggressiveness, born out of desperation, destroyed his army in 1863.
                                From what I've read, desperation was the reason he lost Gettysburg, not the reason he fought it. He erred in that final attack, but events that led him to it share some blame for his loss: disobeyed orders, Stuart's late arrival, Longstreet's pouting, Ewell's delays, too little ammo for his artillery...

                                But the reason he took the war to Gettysburg was sound. The south was getting weaker and the north was getting stronger as the war went on. There was a lot of sentiment in the north to end the war and sue for peace. With the imbalance of forces and material favoring the north more and more every day, he reasoned that he had to strike while he still had a sizable force; he hoped one big victory on northern territory would convince the north that the war was futile. If memory serves, his idea was to strike toward Baltimore. The Battle of Gettysburg, although probably unavoidable at that point in time, started on his side against his orders. Was he ready? I'd say not.
                                Last edited by JAD_333; 06 Dec 11,, 19:27.
                                To be Truly ignorant, Man requires an Education - Plato

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