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What if Lee had accepted command of federal forces?

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Welcome to my world, Colonel.

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  • Albany Rifles
    replied
    Originally posted by Officer of Engineers View Post
    Shek got his LCol?
    Yes sir.

    Not sure when.

    I follow his Facebook page and his DA info shows LTC.

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    To riff off of LTC Shek's answer.
    Shek got his LCol?

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  • Albany Rifles
    replied
    To riff off of LTC Shek's answer.

    Lee was very much a manager of the battle. He maneuvered his forces to the fight and let his corps commanders conduct the fight. While that worked well with Jackson and Longstreet, it broke down when it was Longstreet, Ewell & Hill. Ewell and Hill needed much more supervision. And it suffered further when he Lee had Anderson, Gordon and Early as his corps comamnders. Of the 3 only Early was an effective corps comamnder. Gordon was passable and to say Anderson was adequate is to be kind. Lee was never able to overcome the loss of Jackson & Longstreet.

    As for the Cavalry I would argue the command and control of the Confedrate cavalry actually got better with the death of Stuart and the rise of Hampton. I believe Hampton was a better commander.

    A lot of these guys were excellent division commanders but corps comamnd was beyond them.

    Meade & Grant had different issues.

    At sundown on 3 July 63 Meade had a problem on his hands. His best corps commander was dead...Reynolds. His next best 2 were wounded...Hancock and Sickles (yes, I think Sickles was a better commander than he is often given credit for). That left him with Howard (who I believe has been scapegoated and actually performed admirably at Gettysburg....he was smart enough to have his artillery reserve employ on Cemetary Hill. This gave an anchor for I & XI Corps troops to fall back to on the afternoon of 1 JUL.), Slocum, Sedgwick & Sykes. John Newton (who?) had the I Corps, William Hays had II Corps (replaced by Warren in mid-August....how'd that work out for them?) and French took command of III Corps once his division arrived from Harpers Ferry.

    Ugh.

    What helped the AOP was it had strong division commanders (if you overlook IX Corps) which is what Meade and Grant could depend on.

    Of course they had to deal with the entire ending of enlistments but thats for a different thread.

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  • Shek
    replied
    Originally posted by Minskaya View Post
    Although Lee was the indispensable icon, Grant was the genuine tactician.
    I'm not so sure that I'd place Grant as "the genuine tactician." He had some very sound deductive reasoning about the use of tactical assaults, but he was not necessarily that innovative. He was willing to experiment using subordinates' ideas, but I'd offer that his strengths were elsewhere, specifically at the operational and strategic level as well as leveraging Union maritime power, whether it was using Union gunboats in the West or using Union supply ships to extend his operational reach in the East.

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  • Shek
    replied
    Originally posted by gunnut View Post
    SHEK!!!

    Question for you, was Lee a good tactician? It seemed like he was not very good at a strategic level, analyzing the war from a nation-state level.

    Lee reminds me of Rommel. The public holds Rommel in very high esteem, but those who study warfare only regard Rommel as a good divisional commander. He was not very good at planning the war from a larger perspective. Is that an adequate description?
    I don't focus my readings at the tactical level, so this is a little bit outside of my wheelhouse. I do know that Lee has been criticized on several accounts: tactical schemes that were too complex to be executable, too hands off at times on tactical dispositions, and for ordering several frontal assaults. To be fair, the rise of entrenchments along with the adoption of the rifle (to a lesser extent) created a tactical problem that wouldn't be solved for years during World War I. While I'm sure that there are others, the tactical genius that I've come across from the American Civil War is Emory Upton.

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  • Minskaya
    replied
    Although Lee was the indispensable icon, Grant was the genuine tactician.

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  • Albany Rifles
    replied
    As usual you nailed it.

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  • JAD_333
    replied
    In his memoirs, Grant downplays Lee's greatness.

    "Lee was of a slow, conservative, cautious nature, without imagination or humor, always the same, with grave dignity. I never could see in his achievements what justifies his reputation."
    Speaking of public attitudes, Grant offers this explanation for Lee's vaunted reputation.

    "The natural disposition of most people, is to clothe a commander of a large army whom they do not know with almost superhuman abilities. A large part of the National army, for instance, and most of the press of the country, clothed General Lee with just such qualities; but I had known him personally and knew that he was mortal; and it was just as well that I felt this...

    In fact, nowhere after the battle of Wilderness did Lee show any disposition to leave his defenses far behind him."
    We cannot know what Lee thought of this assessment since he was dead when Grant's memoirs were published.

    For his part, Lee said that in all of history he could not find a greater general than Grant. Some have suggested that Lee was elevating Grant's prowess to justify his own defeat, but that is out of character for Lee. On the other hand, Lee wrote his son during the last days of the war that Grant's "talent and strategy" lies in superior numbers.

    Lee was a great general, but Grant was greater. The question of whether the Union would have won the war early on if Lee had assumed command of Union forces is not about their relative greatness. Had Lee taken command he would have faced the same problems that beset the Union at the outset: A small, poorly equipped regular army 12,000 strong and 75,000 hastily recruited volunteers signed on for only 3 months service. Furthermore, Lee's only war experience was as Chief of Staff for General Scott during the US-Mexican war. He had much to learn. Given the early shortcomings of the Union army, it is not likely Lee would have wrapped up the war quickly.
    Last edited by JAD_333; 21 Jun 13,, 02:56.

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  • gunnut
    replied
    Originally posted by Shek View Post
    We can't go back in time, but we can extrapolate from actual performance to make plausible arguments, and you've yet to extrapolate using evidence. If you don't have the evidence to bring, then repeating the same assertion doesn't add any more weight to it. The more I read about Lee, the less impressed I become. He had some strengths - the line of thought I'd make in support of your case is that he'd bring a fighting spirit that McClellan didn't possess, and with the more plentiful resources, the North could have absorbed his bloody warfare. The question is whether he could have raised the Army that McClellan did and could have sustained (administrative and logistic support) the necessary campaigns required to compel the South to surrender. I'm not sure about that and would have to dwell on the question longer.
    SHEK!!!

    Question for you, was Lee a good tactician? It seemed like he was not very good at a strategic level, analyzing the war from a nation-state level.

    Lee reminds me of Rommel. The public holds Rommel in very high esteem, but those who study warfare only regard Rommel as a good divisional commander. He was not very good at planning the war from a larger perspective. Is that an adequate description?

    Leave a comment:


  • Shek
    replied
    Originally posted by Mandala View Post
    Thank you for that information. I joined the World Affairs Board to learn, and I am. My initial point was simply that if Lee had taken Lincoln's offer to lead the Union Army it would have been good for the Union, bad for the Confederacy, and would probably have resulted in a Union victory before abolition became a popular issue in the Union.

    As is always the case in this kind of speculation, we can't go back in time, convince Lee to take Lincoln's offer, and measure different results.
    We can't go back in time, but we can extrapolate from actual performance to make plausible arguments, and you've yet to extrapolate using evidence. If you don't have the evidence to bring, then repeating the same assertion doesn't add any more weight to it. The more I read about Lee, the less impressed I become. He had some strengths - the line of thought I'd make in support of your case is that he'd bring a fighting spirit that McClellan didn't possess, and with the more plentiful resources, the North could have absorbed his bloody warfare. The question is whether he could have raised the Army that McClellan did and could have sustained (administrative and logistic support) the necessary campaigns required to compel the South to surrender. I'm not sure about that and would have to dwell on the question longer.

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  • Albany Rifles
    replied
    Originally posted by Chogy View Post
    I am no CW historian, but the impression I got was that Lee was extremely charismatic, and his men loved him.

    Unfortunately, charisma and camaraderie doesn't equate to automatic battlefield success. Being loved by his men doesn't keep their bellies full, rifles loaded, and doesn't overcome maneuver, solid LOC's, and Union material superiority.
    So was McClellan. His soldiers loved him but he also was a brilliant administrator. He took his organizational skills for railroad operations and applied them to the building and training of an Army. In that he performed brilliantly.

    He built the AOP out of whole cloth in less than 6 months. Lee did not build the ANV...Joe Johnston did. Lee took over only after Johnston's wounding at Seven Pines. The resulting Seven Days campaign was less of Lee beating McClellan as McClellan losing his nerve.

    The Union actually went 2-1-3 in that campaign. In the opening battle Lee's execution was marred by poor staff planning and execution and resulted in frontal assaults which caused hime to take 12% casualties out of a force of 15,000. At Gaine's Mills he again conducted frontal assaults and was finally succesful...at the cost of almost 15% casualties. At Malvern Hill he assaulted a prepared defense line and was repulsed. DH Hill should have told Pickett what to expect a year later. Lee's great vistory was a series of one bludgeoning battle ofter another.

    That Lee was not a better administrator considering his background. He had been an engineer, responsible for the construction of many projects along the Eastern seaboard, efforts he managed very well. That skill did not seem to extend to the organization of large field armies.

    And to add to what the colonel said, Lee also owed much of his success to besides the three he mentioned. The ANV was inordinately blessed with some of the best division and brigade commanders of the war.

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Originally posted by Mandala View Post
    Thank you for that information. I joined the World Affairs Board to learn, and I am. My initial point was simply that if Lee had taken Lincoln's offer to lead the Union Army it would have been good for the Union, bad for the Confederacy, and would probably have resulted in a Union victory before abolition became a popular issue in the Union.
    You still don't get it. What made Lee great was Jackson, Stuart, and Longstreet. Those three Generals would still fight for the Confederacy. I can tell you one thing for certain. Picket's charge would not have had happened under Longstreet. That's a division right there that would have been saved for another battle ... and delaying the war that you think would have been shortened.
    Last edited by Officer of Engineers; 20 Jun 13,, 15:54.

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  • Chogy
    replied
    I am no CW historian, but the impression I got was that Lee was extremely charismatic, and his men loved him.

    Unfortunately, charisma and camaraderie doesn't equate to automatic battlefield success. Being loved by his men doesn't keep their bellies full, rifles loaded, and doesn't overcome maneuver, solid LOC's, and Union material superiority.

    Leave a comment:


  • Mandala
    replied
    Originally posted by Shek View Post
    Grant is the greatest general to come out of the American Civil War. He was the supreme operational artist and strategic artist.

    Lee was not a great general. His grasp of the operational art and strategic art was demonstrably not the same as Grant. He was an inspirational leader, and the culture of the counterattack and fostering initiative were his greatest strengths. However, when he promoted and then maintained those leaders who didn't have the same independence/initiative as Jackson/Longstreet/Stuart, Lee's weaknesses in his generalship were exposed. Additionally, the fact that Lee was anything but a defensive general created a mismatch - time was on the side of the Confederates if they could sustain some form of success. However, Lee bled the ANV white with his tactical, operational, and strategic approach - he removed time from the Richmond clock by amassing a huge body count that far exceeded Grant. Also, unlike Grant, who learned from innovation of field fortifications that emerged as a staple of warfare in the East in 1864, Lee never learned from his frontal assaults, using them time and time again.

    Since you make the case that Grant took heavier casualties than needed, what would be your operational and tactical approaches to the 1864 campaign?
    Thank you for that information. I joined the World Affairs Board to learn, and I am. My initial point was simply that if Lee had taken Lincoln's offer to lead the Union Army it would have been good for the Union, bad for the Confederacy, and would probably have resulted in a Union victory before abolition became a popular issue in the Union.

    As is always the case in this kind of speculation, we can't go back in time, convince Lee to take Lincoln's offer, and measure different results.

    Leave a comment:

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