GDG- Neither this Capital nor Harpers Ferry could long hold out against a large force

dherko at dherko at
Wed Jan 25 16:09:24 CST 2012

New member, retire LTC with 22 years in the Infantry, QM, Ordnance and Transprotation Corps

Meade's history from Gettysburg through Appomattox shows him not a man to rush in piece meal.  The only time Lee faced the entire AoP was at Sharpsburg and he did not win their either with his "a team" in place.  

Lee did not have the logisitcal support for an extended campaign above the Potomac and the Confederacy had no plans to resupply.  After July 2nd, his medical trian was already miles long, the charge just added to it.  Pushing Meade off on July 1st or 2nd would have stretched Lee's ability to support and protect an elongated tail and fight Meade, while trying to reconstitute Stuart's Division.  All while operating blind in enemy territory with MG Couch and the PA militia at his back.

He had new Corps Commanders, who proved unworthy, and several divisions below strength after a sharp fight.  He did not have the combat power to defeat a General that was not going to make a mistake, Meade was not agressive.  In the defense, Meade would have the advantage of Hunt's Artillery and an endless supply of Ammo.  Lee would have to strike Meade to maintain the initiative further depleating his ranks.  The longer the campaign went the weaker Lee's forces got and the more bold Couch would get unless Lee struck Couch, turning his back on Meade.  Couch could earn his way back into Lincoln's good graces by doing something big.  Attacking Lee's tail as Lee chased Meade to Pipe Creek was just such an opportunity.
---- Jack Lawrence <jlawrence at> wrote: 
> Esteemed GDG Member Contributes:
> Andy,
> Meade had construcyed a multiple fort defensive line of some 33 miles around 
> DC.
> It is my impression thoyugh that it wasa not fully manned,
> rom Coddington we know that defending Pennsylvania was the bigger concern 
> than DC though, with Stanton establishing the first ever National Reserve 
> with a commanmd center i Harrisburg, under Curtain (even though it was a 
> flop).
> A I read your blurb (did not go into the OR you cited), Halleck was just 
> pushing Hooker, whom he did noot like, a little harder.
> Obviously, the AoP was the DC first line of defense, which is that Halleck 
> is saying.
> But who knows.
> To respond to some earlier speculation about a what happens if Lee defeats 
> the aoP in detail, which means renders it militarily ineffective as a 
> fighting force, obviously they exfiltrate to Dc and see if Bobby lee wants 
> to test his luck.
> Lee, if he is smart, goes home anyway. He might try Philidelphia or 
> baltimore though, as the British learned, it was defensible to a fault.
> The Harrisburg thing is, IMHO, militarily unsound.
> More certainly though is Lee is not going to defeat Meade in detail, but 
> rather drive him off the fish hook. In which case he goes back to Pipes 
> Creek.
> And Lee gets degeated in detail.
> Regards,
> Jack
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Andy Mills" <amills at>
> To: "GDG" <gettysburg at>
> Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 10:08 AM
> Subject: GDG- Neither this Capital nor Harpers Ferry could long hold out 
> against a large force
> > Esteemed GDG Member Contributes:
> > In reading one of the articles posted earlier ( 
> > ) 
> > , on page 144, Halleck is quoted as to have said:  "Neither this
> > Capital nor Harpers Ferry could long hold out against a large force. They 
> > must depend for their security very much upon the co-operation of your 
> > army"
> >
> > It has been said in this forum that Washington was a nearly impenetrable 
> > fortress and the ANV could never actually capture the city.
> >
> > But this quote makes it seem that he feared very much for the safety of DC 
> > and I have to believe Lincoln would also feel this way, or Halleck 
> > wouldn't be able to send such telegrams to the army.
> >
> > Did they see a reality that is we don't see today?  Were the forces that 
> > defending Washington DC impressive on paper, but troops to which you 
> > couldn't rely on when the fighting got heated?  In 1863, how many troops 
> > defended the capitol and were they mostly green troops with short 
> > enlistments?   What makes us today claim DC was unable to be taken when 
> > the military men of the time thought the exact opposite?
> >
> > I know there are a lot of questions, but I am trying to figure out the 
> > differences in beliefs and if this is all with the hindsight of history to 
> > know Lee / ANV / Confederacy never had the capabilities the Union / US 
> > high command believed they were capable of.
> >
> > Thanks,
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