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Subject: When did General Lee realize the south had lost? rss

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Robert Morss
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At some point between election day 1864 and April 9, 1865 Lee came to the conclusion that the war was over for the Army of Northern Virginia. Once Lincoln was re-elected, why did Lee keep fighting another five months? (When did the results of the electoral college vote get published that year?)
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This is, of course, just tongue in cheek.
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Robert Morss
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Further to initial question. Did he need permission from the CSA government to surrender his army, or was it his call entirely? What influence did he have with the government with respect to continuing the war?
 
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Wendell
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rdmorss wrote:
At some point between election day 1864 and April 9, 1865 Lee came to the conclusion that the war was over for the Army of Northern Virginia. Once Lincoln was re-elected, why did Lee keep fighting another five months? (When did the results of the electoral college vote get published that year?)


It wasn't Lee's decision to make. He could surrender his army, as the army commander (and as he did when it was obviously in dire straits). But he couldn't do that for the entirety of confederate forces.
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Robert Morss
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The CSA government never formally surrendered.
 
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Peter Lloyd
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As the saying goes, it's not over 'til it's over. Using similar logic, when should Washington have given up? Churchill negotiated with Hitler? Isn't the only difference that Lee was on the losing side, where Washington & Churchill recovered from their near destruction?
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J.D. Hall
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Throughout the war, Lee believed strongly the rebellion had little to almost no chance to succeed. As someone of extensive military education and experience, he certainly could not have even retained that sliver of pre-war hope after Vicksburg and Atlanta were lost.

But Bruce Catton described Lee as one of America's last true chevaliers -- a man bound by honor to defend his native state against the country to which he had sworn allegiance to and had served well. He famously described the Union soldiers as "those people," refusing to insult or demean his former fellow citizens. Honor is a strange descriptive to attach to a slave owner and oath-breaker, but Lee had his personal code of honor and lived up to it scrupulously. In his mind, he was to defend his native soil of Virginia until the last ditch, and that was Sayler's Creek, which cost him a third of the Army of North Virginia and allowed the Union cavalry to beat him to Appamatox Courthouse.

Hard to say exactly when he realized the rebellion would fail. We only know when he finally gave in to the inevitable.
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Björn von Knorring
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I don't know if Lee realized it but after the battle of Gettysburg when Lee failed to threaten north enough to force a peace and the fall of Vicksburg the day after (which cut the confederacy in half) the war was down to a war of attrition. This was a war the confederacy could never win although a peace settlement was possibly until Lincon was reelected.
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Pete Belli
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wifwendell wrote:
rdmorss wrote:
At some point between election day 1864 and April 9, 1865 Lee came to the conclusion that the war was over for the Army of Northern Virginia. Once Lincoln was re-elected, why did Lee keep fighting another five months? (When did the results of the electoral college vote get published that year?)


It wasn't Lee's decision to make. He could surrender his army, as the army commander (and as he did when it was obviously in dire straits). But he couldn't do that for the entirety of confederate forces.


Correct. Robert E. Lee was not placed in command of the entire Confederate army until the war was almost over in 1865.
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Brian Morris
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I forget where I read it but Lee made a comment at one point that if his army was forced to go into siege around Richmond that it would only be a matter of time. So I think basically it was the Overland Campaign where Lee saw the writing on the wall.
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Rosecrans man
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plloyd1010 wrote:
As the saying goes, it's not over 'til it's over. Using similar logic, when should Washington have given up? Churchill negotiated with Hitler? Isn't the only difference that Lee was on the losing side, where Washington & Churchill recovered from their near destruction?


As far as Churchill was concerned, when the Allies started experiencing success it snowballed to greater and greater success.

Washington's situation was a little different in that his successes seemed fleeting. That said, the British forays into the Northern colonies failed miserably and the successes in South turned a once great army led by one of the war's best combat generals (Cornwallis) into an unsupplied blob of troops hoping for supply replenishment at Yorktown. Thanks to the French admiral in the Chesapeake Bay and Washington's willingness to act on his opponent's disadvantages.
 
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Rosecrans man
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myth1202 wrote:
I don't know if Lee realized it but after the battle of Gettysburg when Lee failed to threaten north enough to force a peace and the fall of Vicksburg the day after (which cut the confederacy in half) the war was down to a war of attrition. This was a war the confederacy could never win although a peace settlement was possibly until Lincon was reelected.


The 1864 Valley Campaign which involved the Confederate II Corps under Jubal Early (which started when Grant kicked off his Overland Campaign and Sherman started moving on Atlanta in 5/1864 at New Market, VA with Sigel and Breckinridge initially in charge of the Union and Confederate forces, respectively) was a key. In mid-July (the 9th) 1864, Early was in Monocacy, MD heading towards Ft. Stevens in the outskirts of Washington after Lew Wallace managed to create a speed bump to slow him down. So, you have one-third of the ANV occupying one-fourth of the AotP (Sixth Corps plus most of Sheridan's Cavalry). When the Spring Campaign started neither party had its convention yet. When it was over it, Sheridan pushed Early out of the Valley at Cedar Creek. But as long as D.C. was vulnerable, it certainly wasn't over.
 
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I read somwhere that the Southern officers were seriously worried about facing treason charges, which was a very good reason not to surrender. Apparently this issue was defuzed by some political-administrative maneuver down the road.
 
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Tony Doran
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Duckman wrote:
I read somwhere that the Southern officers were seriously worried about facing treason charges, which was a very good reason not to surrender. Apparently this issue was defuzed by some political-administrative maneuver down the road.


It was defused by General Grant, when at Appomattox, he released all the prisoners on terms which allowed them to be undisturbed by federal authority so long as they laid down their arms and obeyed the laws where they lived.
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Jim Waite
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As the great author Shelby Foote (a true southerner)put it that the union
Fought this war with one arm tied behind its back and
Was ready to unleash its full potential if the war continued.
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Rosecrans man
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Good point, but it took a while for the North to admit to itself that the major point of their effort was the emancipation of the slaves and not only restoration of the Union. And in so doing, they risked that some soldiers, officers AND enlisted men alike would just walk away from their camps and head home. And it did happen - the Copperheads were a very real entity, although not a big representation of the Northern mindset in terms of numbers. Once that was defined, they could put their whole effort towards freeing the slaves.
 
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The ACW is actually quite similar to the world wars. One side has considerably bigger resources, but it takes time to mobilize and deploy them which along with some mistakes and vulnerabilities (like the closeness of Washington to the border) results in a fair number of ups and downs before the near-inevitable.

Another factor is that the North's Anaconda plan automatically meant a long war. I guess one of the reason for adopting an indirect strategy was to save blood and not doing what Sherman ended up having to do.
 
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