GDG- Inevitable defeat

joadx1 at joadx1 at
Mon Jan 23 22:35:29 CST 2012

 I believe that the greatest Civil War scholars themselves cannot answer with any certainty what Lee was thinking when he persuaded Davis that a move north would be preferable than an attempt to relieve Vicksburg.  (It's worth remembering in this regard that Lee could have reasonably expected Johnston to do something and cannot be blamed that Johnston sat on his hands.)

And I'm not a scholar of the war at all, just an interested person.

But my sense of the matter, gleaned mostly from reading Catton and McPherson, and from what I know of Lee himself (I have read Freeman's biography), is that Lee genuinely believed that a move north would be more effective, strategically, than a move west.  I think that he was wrong in this, and that his thinking was restricted by his own very Virginia-centric point of view, but I think he was sincere in it.  My sense is that he thought if he could induce panic in the north (he did, after all, come very close to taking Harrisburg), that Grant would have to send troops east, and that at any rate that no besieging army could withstand a Mississippi summer in a malaria ridden swamp.  Who knows what would have happened if things had not gone wrong with Stuart, who was himself a victim of contingent circumstance?  What happened with Stuart was not unlike what happened with Lee's orders during the campaign that ended at Antietam: a contingency that wasn't, and really couldn't, have been planned for.  Had Stuart returned to the ANV in a timely fashion (not having been blocked by the AoP), who knows what would have happened?  If McClellon hadn't received Lee's plans, who knows what would have happened in 1862?

In short, as McPherson argues in a number of places, contingency had so much to do with the outcome of the war.  This is the real reason why I say that nothing was inevitable.



-----Original Message-----
From: Tom <bunco973 at>
To: GDG <gettysburg at>
Sent: Mon, Jan 23, 2012 8:12 pm
Subject: Re: GDG- Inevitable defeat

Esteemed GDG Member Contributes:
   Disclaimer : I respect Lee, and a big fan of Longstreet - but - I 
honestly feel Lee's finest hours was the Jackson episodes, thus deferring to 
most of Dave's post. IMHO - Lee was an accomplished strategist - Jackson was 
the tactician, deferring to your post of the Lee-Jackson combo. Sometimes I 
wonder (at the risk of getting slammed in this group), whether Lee headed 
North, besides the tried and true reasons, to stave off the chance of losing 
some of his command to the West (Vicksburg especially). Commanders don't 
like to lose troops to another command, maybe an ego thing ;-D. Not saying 
Lee's best interests for the Confederacy were not in his heart, but the 
acceleration of his movements after meeting with Davis was  (to me) a bit 
suspect. If my musings are wrong, so be it, as I'm sure this esteemed group 
will put me in the right direction - just a thought, though! (Have to go 
back to lurker mode - starting to put my fat in the fire !!)

Tom B.


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