GDG- ISusquehanna River

dherko at dherko at
Wed Jan 25 16:48:20 CST 2012

The real tragedy was that the raid kept the Confederate High Command from sending troops to bloster Johnson from attempting to raise the seige on Vicksburg.  Johnson's ability to accomplish that not withstanding, Lee's actions tied Davis hands.

Lee and other ANV vets saw the Army as a unit belonging to Lee.  In reality, both CSA and USA functioned on some of the principles in use today.  Department Commanders, of which Lee was one of many, had troops attached from the Confederate High Command.  As units were incorperated in the Army, (both armies in fact) the respective War Departments made troop assignments.  The future ANV did seem to get most of the high quality units placed in their department, but throughout the course of the war Brigades, the building blocks of the Confederate Army were assigned or reassigned based on strategic requirements.  Lee also used such reassignements to remove units or Commanders that did not measure up.

But the ANV vets saw a certain set of units as permanent to the ANV.  Longstreet's Corps was not going to automatically return to VA.  Cavalry BDEs were routinely moved in an out.  Pickett's Division was not really reassigned until after the siege began.

Lee's actions were not presented to Davis as a raid, but was executed as one. 
---- Jack Lawrence <jlawrence at> wrote: 
> Esteemed GDG Member Contributes:
> The rub here is the difference between what they where doing and why they 
> were doing it.
> Lee was going to create mischief as far and wide as possible, whike 
> maintaining his lifeline to the Cumberland Valley. He could never slip that 
> tether.
> Your i terpretation to read "....if the ANV ran into trouble in the form of 
> a large number of Union troops, then they could still retreat back across 
> the bridge which had been secured to the west bank and onward "to a place of 
> safety". acknowledges they were only going to stay until they got bit.
> Which affirms the real mission here. To create enough trouble  force the AoP 
> north.
> This was simnply a raid and, once the aoP DID move north, Lee called it off.
> Regards,
> Jack
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Tom Ryan" <pennmardel at>
> To: "GDG" <gettysburg at>
> Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 4:25 PM
> Subject: Re: GDG- ISusquehanna River
> > Esteemed GDG Member Contributes:
> > Just to add a couple of points to what has already been said, further 
> > evidence that Lee planned to cross the Susquehanna was Early ordering 
> > Gordon to capture the Wrightsville-Columbia Bridge, a few miles northeast 
> > of York.  However, PA militia burned the bridge before Gordon could 
> > capture it.  This is what Early said about this incident in his report 
> > (OR, 27, II, p. 367):
> >
> > "I regretted very much the failure to secure this bridge, as, finding the 
> > defenseless condition of the country generally, and the little obstacle 
> > likely to be afforded by the militia to our progress, I had determined, if 
> > I could get possession of the Columbia Bridge, to cross my division over 
> > the Susquehanna, and cut the Pennsylvania Central Railroad, march upon 
> > Lancaster [about 15 miles east of the river], lay that town under 
> > contribution, and then attack Harrisburg in the rear while it should be 
> > attacked in the front by the rest of the corps...."
> >
> > This statement seems to give credence to the plan for Lee to send his 
> > troops across the Susquehanna, and, at the very least, attack and capture 
> > Harrisburg.  It should also be noted that Gordon later wrote that he 
> > planned to send a contingent toward Philadelphia, however, there appears 
> > to be no way to determine whether this was an exaggeration on his part.
> >
> > At any rate, Early continues in his report:
> >
> > "...relying, in the worst contingency that might happen, upon being able 
> > to mount my division from the immense number of horses that had been run 
> > across the river, and then move to the west, destroying the railroads and 
> > canals, and returning back again to a place of safety."
> >
> > The way I read this last part of his statement is that his division, and 
> > by extension the rest of the army, would stay on the east side of the 
> > river accomplishing whatever goals General Lee had in mind.  However, if 
> > the ANV ran into trouble in the form of a large number of Union troops, 
> > then they could still retreat back across the bridge which had been 
> > secured to the west bank and onward "to a place of safety."  Those ANV 
> > troops further north around Harrisburg would presumably retreat across the 
> > river in the same way they forded the river initially.
> >
> > In addition, when this subject came up on the GDG a while ago, I argued 
> > that Lee did not have to rely on a single direction of retreat, 
> > specifically retracing his steps back across South Mountain, but could 
> > have logically moved south toward Washington and crossed the Potomac in 
> > that vicinity.  As I recall there were few, if any, who agreed with this 
> > scenario.  But, as I recall, there was no evidence given that this route 
> > of march was not feasible for Lee's army to travel.
> >
> > Regards, Tom Ryan
> >
> >
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