Was Gettysburg Really a Major Defeat for the South?

Jul 2018
11
Holstenwall
#61
Lee did not have the opportunity to engage in large assaults after Gettysburg. He was forced onto the defensive, but still planned and attempted bold strokes where he could. He planned to order two entire corps to assault a Union corps at North Anna, but the opportunity slipped away. He threw the dice as much as he ever did when he detached Jubal Early's corps from his lines
Still my point proven. He could not engage on the same effective level after Pickett's charge.


This is fundamentally incorrect. Lee believed the Union center was weak because he had drawn their forces to the flank. The artillery was firing on the Union center, but often overshot because of faulty artillery fuses. Additionally, cavalry could not have told him this unless the Union cavalry allowed them behind Union lines; as East Cavalry Field clearly indicated, that was not happening.
Lee misjudged the distant of the Union position. Yes, the fuses were faulty, but he still did not have a full grasp of the Union position. If J.E.B. Stuart arrived on the first day of battle and was able to harass the Union Cav more who knows how the battle would have played out.

Exactly my point. Lee performed just as well as he usually did, in the same command style, with the same boldness. He was up against different, far more persistent Union leadership.
Persistent but he wasn't able to utilize his victories and effectively conduct a campaign. Especially after Gettysburg.


Longstreet was shot in the first battle of the Overland Campaign, at the Wilderness. Leading an offensive, incidentally. He had nothing to do with the trench warfare in the later stages of the campaign, or at Petersburg, which took place after Cold Harbor. Longstreet did not even return to the Army of Northern Virginia until near the end of the year in 1864. The trench warfare across the entire war by 1864 was driven by soldiers putting up entrenchments on their own, rather than by the order of any particular general.

Perhaps you should straighten out timelines and basic facts before attempting psychoanalysis?
Longstreet returned during the siege of Petersburg. Longstreet's defensive tactics were still adapted by Lee. From Longstreet's memoirs, "All that I could ask was that the policy of the campaign should be one of defensive tactics, that we would work so as to force the enemy to attack us, in such a good position as we might find in his own country, so well adapted to that purpose — which might assure us of a grand triumph." It's hard to analyze Lee because he left no memoirs and was of a singular mind.

Timelines fine, your taking out of context. I will engage in all the psychoanalysis that I wish.
 
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Viperlord

Ad Honorem
Aug 2010
8,062
VA
#62
Dr. Cagliari said:
Still my point proven. He could not engage on the same effective level after Pickett's charge.
Gettysburg did not prevent Lee from ordering an assault against a Union corps of 20,000 that was exposed to a superior amount of Confederate troops at the North Anna. His own illness and damage to his command structure, along with a relatively quick reaction by Hancock ordering his troops to entrench, was. You are completely ignoring context. Please learn the basics of causation and correlation.

Lee misjudged the distant of the Union position.
The fact that you think Lee was responsible for artillery sighting and ranging rather reinforces the point that you're not familiar with the basics of the topic.

If J.E.B. Stuart arrived on the first day of battle and was able to harass the Union Cav more who knows how the battle would have played out.
Aside from being totally speculative and thus fairly irrelevant, it again betrays a misunderstanding of Civil War battles and cavalry operations. There are no examples of cavalry penetrating the middle of an enemy army during a field battle during the Civil War to gain precise intelligence about its strength and dispositions. Further, said strength and dispositions were different on the first, second, and third days.


Longstreet returned during the siege of Petersburg
Months. After. The. Siege. Began.

Longstreet's defensive tactics were still adapted by Lee.
Based. On. What? Lee was using entrenchments in siege operations back in 1862. Lee's army was entrenching throughout the Overland Campaign for which Longstreet was not present. Lee, before the Overland Campaign began, was begging Davis for more troops so he could take the offensive again and preempt a Union move south. Longstreet never commanded troops in a defensive role under Lee that dug extensive trenches until October, 1864, half a year after entrenching had become standard practice amongst both armies. Further, those entrenchments around the Richmond defenses had been dug long before Longstreet returned. Longstreet never commanded troops that used entrenchments in a battle outside of siege operations in the Civil War, period.

From Longstreet's memoirs, "All that I could ask was that the policy of the campaign should be one of defensive tactics, that we would work so as to force the enemy to attack us, in such a good position as we might find in his own country, so well adapted to that purpose — which might assure us of a grand triumph."
Way to quote Longstreet's supposed* strategy for Gettysburg that by his own account, Lee rejected? Lee never wholesale adopted defensive tactics even when forced into Petersburg and continued to leave his trenches to strike out at Union forces at Reams' Station and Jerusalem Plank Road. Further, there is no reason to think Longstreet would have disapproved of that. Longstreet as a primarily defensive commander is something of a mythology; he launched four of the most effective corps-level attacks of the war, employing varied tactics in each, at Second Manassas, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and the Wilderness. He was purely on the defensive only at Fredericksburg with Lee.

*Longstreet's memoirs, written thirty years after the fact and after he had been demonized by the Lost Cause, are rather unreliable and in particular his account of a supposed pre-campaign agreement on strategy for Gettysburg with Lee that Lee then broke is uncorroborated.

Timelines fine
Your timeline was completely inaccurate. You do not appear to be familiar with the history of entrenching and earthworks in the Civil War, and that Longstreet did not start the practice and was in fact not around when it became prevalent. For the only battle of the Overland Campaign, the Wilderness, where Longstreet was present, Confederates used extensive entrenchmens... Except for Longstreet's troops, who arrived on the second day and were in an offensive role from arrival to when Longstreet was shot. He was absent for the rest of the campaign and nearly all of the active phase of the Petersburg Siege where extensive entrenchments were used routinely by both armies. Entrenchments were also equally common in Union and Confederate armies in the Georgia theatre during this time.

your taking out of context
An appreciation for context has been notably absent from your posts so far.

I will engage in all the psychoanalysis that I wish.
If you wish to carry this impression of childish petulance to its conclusion, kindly put yourself in timeout.
 
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Oct 2015
318
Belfast
#63
Even if the Confederacy had won at Gettysburg, did General Lee really think that the Army of the Potomac would just run off home crying to their mommys? I think it's possible that Ulysses S. Grant would've told him, by force of arms if necessary, "If you want Washington, then you'll have to fight for it - and street by street if necessary". This would put Lee in a difficult position as he was "old school" and preferred pitched battles to street fights. He didn't like the idea of putting civilians at risk.
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
4,975
US
#64
Gettysburg was a gamble on the part of the South, an overall smaller force with less resources than its opponent to take it to the North, a quick dagger strike if you will. With ts defeat at gettysburg, the South realized that a battle of attrition favored the North and it was only a matter of time, unless they could pull of some kind of diplomatic miracle and negotiate a truce.
 

Sam-Nary

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
6,706
At present SD, USA
#65
Gettysburg was a gamble on the part of the South, an overall smaller force with less resources than its opponent to take it to the North, a quick dagger strike if you will. With ts defeat at gettysburg, the South realized that a battle of attrition favored the North and it was only a matter of time, unless they could pull of some kind of diplomatic miracle and negotiate a truce.
If the Confederacy didn't realize they were in a war of attrition prior to Gettysburg... there had to be something seriously wrong with their political and military leadership on the whole. They had to have been aware that the North had the manpower and economic advantages over them from the very outset of the war, particularly with the fact that nearly half of the South's population were slaves, who the Confederacy had no intention of arming until 1865 when it was far too late to really do anything about it. The military philosophies of the period may not have focused on the manpower and material management of things to the same degree that would be done by the time you get to the World Wars in the 20th Century, but still... the South had to be aware that they could not afford to embroil itself in a long drawn out conflict with the North...

They didn't have the industrial base to sit in defensive forts and try and grind down the Union armies, as they would run out of bullets before the North would run out of men. And they had to be aware of this, given the efforts prior to the Emancipation Proclamation's issue in which they tried to gain political support and recognition from Britain. It also had to be noticed as there were a handful of Confederate officers that wanted to make an immediate push on Washington DC after the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861, with the expectation that with the Union Army routed, they could deliver a dagger blow early, possibly capture Lincoln and end the war before they become embroiled in a long war they can't win. Whether or not the Confederates could have actually done that is a different debate, but the fact that it was suggested or wanted by men like Jackson and Beauregard would indicate some recognition that they couldn't afford to be passive...

At the same time, they didn't really have the population to go onto the offensive and take and hold territory. Many of the men who commanded the Confederate armies were trained at the various military academies the US had at the time, from VMI to West Point. In this, they would be well aware of the fact that they'd need a 3 to 1 advantage in manpower to take a position that was in the open and not fortified... But yet the South frequently took the offensive in the war, and Lee was well known for this. He attacked into West Virginia early in the war, and largely failed with heavy loss, and his first action as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia was to attack McClellan at Mechanicsville, beginning the Battle of the Seven Days, where Lee only won strategically because McClellan insisted on retreating, and with the exception of Fredericksburg, every major engagement by Lee's troops in the east involved either a counter-attack or Lee taking the offensive first. In this... even by the end of 1862, the Army of Northern Virginia had been bled HEAVILY and Lee had to be aware of the numbers of men he'd lost attacking the Union Army.

And it's this that if Lee and Jeff Davis didn't know they were in a war of attrition prior to Gettysburg... they were profoundly ignorant of the way they were fighting the war from 1861 to 1863. As they were neither saving men nor material. The "desperation" in the Gettysburg campaign was probably more with regard to what was happening at Vicksburg, where Grant's army was close to securing the last point on the river, which if it fell would pretty much cut off the eastern half of the Confederacy from Texas, which would make their situation worse. Beyond that... there was the hope that maybe a defeat on northern soil might break the will of the Union Army... but I've never read anything that would indicate that Lee actually had a real plan for what would happen if he won and the north didn't surrender. In this... I think Lee recognized his overall position was not good even before Gettysburg... Gettysburg was simply what got him to recognize... at least with regard to the fighting at Gettysburg, that the results the South had had in the war to that point were HIS fault.