GDG- Gettysburg Digest, Vol 18, Issue 24

Smith, David [USA] smith_david_g at
Wed Jan 25 20:20:43 CST 2012

Recently, a couple of threads have come up that I want to respond to:

1) Why did Lee move north?  As has been correctly pointed out, we can't be 100% sure, but there are some educated guesses we can make.

Recently, in an article entitled "Clear the Valley:  The Shenandoah Valley and the Genesis of the Gettysburg Campaign," I argue that at least based on his letters and orders, Lee was preoccupied with clearing Milroy's forces out of the Valley since December 1862.  The Gettysburg campaign gave him a chance to do it.  Of course, clearing the Valley would help secure his food supply - needed for his army, and to supply Virginia's urban area of Richmond.  When Lee said he wanted to "clear Virginia of the enemy," clearing the Shenandoah Valley was a big part of what he meant.

I'd like to believe I make a pretty good case on this one.  Unfortunately, its in the Journal of Military History, so if you don't have access to the journal at an academic library (or through JSTOR), you will have to pay $10 to get it from the Journal.  Perhaps at some point in the future I can get it posted to the GDG archives.

Peter recently stated that Lee went north to de-stabilize the North, period.  I think this is another powerful argument.  I'd recommend to folks a very good essay in James McPherson's *This Mighty Scourge,* called "To Conquer A Peace?  Lee's Goals in the Gettysburg Campaign."  McPherson essentially makes Peter's argument, stating that the "other valuable results" phrase in Lee's Official Report alludes to a desire to strengthen the Northern peace party and divide Northern public opinion.

I also recommend Joseph Glathaar's essay (and Richard McMurry's) in *The Gettysburg Nobody Knows* - they both show that Lee was planning his invasion well in advance of Chancellorsville.

2) Did Lee plan to cross the Susquehanna, if he could?

Count me among those who think he did.  The evidence has been well-cataloged already on this list.  To me, the orders to Ewell to take Harrisburg if he can are conclusive.  To this I will add comments that Jubal Early made, I think after the war, that he was hoping to cross the river and take Lancaster and burn it, because it was the home of Thaddeus Stevens (Stevens iron furnace in the mountains in Franklin and Adams County was burned).

When I did my research on the capture of African Americans, one black family claimed that one Confederate captain said, "After we have destroyed Pennsylvania..." they would come back and capture all of the African Americans.  That isn't exactly a dispassionate source, but, if true, indicates that some in the rank and file expected to go plundering PA.  The rank and file didn't always have an accurate view, though - even a lot of Lee's division commanders thought the invasion would be limited to MD.

3) Did Jackson have a mindset  make war against Northern infrastructure, and did Lee share it?

Here I would refer members of this list to that quirky but thought-provoking book, James A. Kegel's *North with Lee and Jackson*  The author argues that Jackson wanted to destroy Northern anthracite coal mines (northeast of Philadelphia) that were supplying the Union blockade ships.  I think the author does a pretty good job of showing that Jackson at least gave that some consideration; he doesn't prove, to my mind, that Lee adopted the same thinking, but I would love to know what others on this list think.

GDGers may appreciate that the book represented decades of research by the author, a newspaper editor in Lancaster PA.  Someone told me he was always very bitter that it was not better treated by the historical profession.


More information about the Gettysburg mailing list