GDG- Lee - Harrisburg

Andy Mills amills at
Fri Jan 27 11:46:36 CST 2012

I don't think Lee ever planned or envisioned reaching so far as Baltimore or Philadelphia.  I think he realized Harrisburg was about as far as he could go.  He wasn't going to get there with the AOP in his rear and even if he conducted a Cannae type battle, he is still forced to retreat back to Virginia for the inability to continue an advance (or even holding the ground gained).  

I think we see this as part of the reason for Pickett's Charge.  He didn't have the capabilities to disengage and fight another battle as his army was almost out of war material to continue.  A battle that occurs even further north exacerbates this need and regardless of its outcome, Lee is still forced to fall back.  

However:  a direct attack on Harrisburg also had to contend with Fort Couch (I think called Hummel's Heights at the time [correct me if wrong], which is a great little site with some earthworks still visible if you ever get a chance to visit).  I am not sure how well manned it would be, but a crossing can't occur until this fort is taken, at least in my estimation as it had a commanding view of any river crossing.  


-----Original Message-----
From: gettysburg-bounces at [mailto:gettysburg-bounces at] On Behalf Of John Grim
Sent: Friday, January 27, 2012 12:33 PM
To: gettysburg at
Subject: GDG- Lee - Harrisburg

Esteemed GDG Member Contributes:
Esteemed Members

Most of us know the usual facts of Lee's advance in June towards Harrisburg.  I subscribe to the side that believes Lee went north to take the war away from Virginia so crops could be harvested and replanted and that troops might be drawn away from Grant and that there might be political advantage to be gained.  I cannot picture Lee being successful east of Harrisburg with the river at his back and having to contend with Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington and its forts as well as the various units of the Union army gathering around him.  Yes, militia units were not regulars but they can picket railroads, bridges, guard POW's and generally get in the way.  Lee's communications and supply lines would be extended further and further and he would be further away from the protection of the mountains and their passes.  As it was it took him 10 days to get back to Virginia from Gettysburg.  He may have been able to live off the land near Harrisburg but where would his munitions and replacements come from??  How long could he stay away from Richmond with only Corse and Jenkins covering that area?  I just don't see it but I am willing to consider other opinions.  Lee's operation was not a go for broke.  He had limited goals
and limited expectations.   Getting his wounded back to Virginia would
probably have been impossible from east of Harrisburg and he probably would not have gotten his Gettysburg wounded back.
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