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

dherko at dherko at
Wed Jan 25 22:50:48 CST 2012

I don't mean to give the impression that the militia could hold the outhouse door for the ANV...  As for Couch, any coordination he could work with Meade would rebuild what he lost when he quit after Chancellorsville.  He literally gave up a chance to command the AoP.  He was the most senior Corps Commander and at least been given an offer.  Quitting gave the opening to Meade.

But for Lee completely disconnected from his base, any action would degrade his ability.  Casualties are unlike any other class of supply.  The Union forces could leave a wounded union soldier at a farm house without Confederates coming along and taking him prisoner.  Lee and his Army had not faced the prospect of leaving a wounded comrade in enemy territory before.  It was just the opposite of how the war had been fought for 26 months and Lee did not have the support or staff to pull off an extended campaign.  He would have been wise to assign Trimble his Chief of Staff.  A senior man in his HQ to look to things he was not able to.  I still think of the stark contrast between the two staffs, at the very end of Coddington, the description of Warren contacting the War Department to ask for a supply of maps for Northern Virginia.  Lee did not have anyone do that for him, Lee and Lee alone was the stategic thinker.  He was also the only one that provided the supporting efforts for those strategic plans. 

Capturing Harrisburg is a major undertaking.  Few cities of that size were captured in the war, and only the Union had success with that.  Nashville was captured when Grant took the twin Forts.  Nashville was undefendable from the North because of how the geography of ridge lines were guarded by the forts in the north.  New Orleans was surrendered to the Union navy, Vicksburg was besieged for several months before it was starved out.  Jackson was evacuated, Atlanta was evacuated, Savannah was evacuated, Petersburg was evacuated, Richmond was evacuated, Charleston was never captured because of its defenses.

Taking Harrisburg was not a done deal just because Lee would have attempted it.  Any resistance would have caused a siege and Meade would have the freedom of movement to attack Lee's back at the point of Meade's choosing.  Lee had no intelligence gathering capability to track Meade's movements.  Once Lee was across the river, he would then be seperated from Jones/Robertson/Imboden to include communications.  No coordination with Stuart until at least the 1st of July.  Finally does Lee have the troops to maintain a siege.  Remember Grant reconnected with his logistical base at Memphis to execute his siege, gaining heavy equipment and more men.  Couch may not have been a great commander, but he was competent.  He and MG Smith, his chief Subordinate, would have been skillful enough to delay and frustrate Lee.  Lee time in Pa could only be measured in days not weeks or months. 
---- CWMHTours at wrote: 
> Esteemed GDG Member Contributes:
> Sir-
> I am a big fan of Meade and I think your appraisal is  correct.
> I think that if Lee was not trapped north of the Pot R it was  not Meade's 
> fault but rather Lincoln's for not stripping the garrisons of DC and  Balt-  
> that was some 35k men.  Put them north of the Pot R and Lee was  trapped 
> unless he went into the mountains.
> But I think you over credit Darius Couch and the  militia.  Darius Couch 
> was a great commander but he had militia.  They  were very unreliable.  They 
> would only be useful for annoying Lee and  screening against forage 
> expeditions.  I wouldn't credit them too much if I  were you.  It must have been very 
> frustrating for Couch to go from  commanding a corps of combat veterans in 
> the AoP to green militia in  Penn.
> A  Loyal Neo-Anti Unionist,
> Peter  

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