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Subject: What happens if Lee wins Gettysburg? rss

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Pete Belli
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say they drive the Union army from the battlefield in good order?


Then Lee retreats south with the Confederate wounded, the Yankee prisoners, and his empty artillery caissons.

Lee couldn't remain in PA or MD after fighting a battle. Remember, Lee had instructed his commanders to "avoid a general engagement" during the campaign.

Perhaps the situation you describe could have been considered a success (from the Confederate viewpoint) if the Rebels could have claimed the raid into northern territory demonstrated Yankee ineptitude and the ability of the Confederate army to roam at will in the North.

I think Lee could have claimed a tactical victory on the night of July 1st and returned to Virginia while describing his "raid" as a success.

Please note: none of this Confederate talk of "victory" would have changed the situation in Vicksburg, but it might have had some influence on the European powers and Union public opinion.
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Robert Wesley
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I would have figured that HE would proclaim: "I'm going to 'Dixieland'!" with the softly playing music of "When you wish upon a STAR" in the background...
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M St
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ftarzanin wrote:

1) What would have happened if the confederacy had a decisive victory during Gettysburg ... not a 'we destroy the union army' or route the Union army type victory as I think the Union Army had matured to a point that routing was not very likely but say they drive the Union army from the battlefield in good order?

I'd say that description simply wouldn't have been good enough to qualify as a decisive victory. It would mean the Union falls back and prepares another defensive position while his supply situation doesn't get any better and they will again be able to interfere if he goes for a big target. So at best he gets another shot at it.

FWIW, routing the army off the field was indeed not very likely (and that may have been his miscalculation on the third day). If there was a way for him to get a big victory, it would have had to be by maneuver as at Chancellorsville or 2nd Manassas.
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Fred W. Manzo
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As soon as he heads south the Union would have declared a victory. In the traditions of the day, whoever held the field was the victor. As the North would have by definition held the last field when Lee turned south they would have declared themselves winners. But then again, Lee would have had more men to conduct a better defense from 1863 onward.
 
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Rich Trevino
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Yeah, but how would it have played on the home front? In the newspapers? How would it have effected the presidential election the next year?

Anyway-- the AoP retreats to Pipe Creek, Lee holds his Seminary Ridge line for another week or two, scouring south central Pennsylvania of anything not bolted to the ground. He then occupies the Sharpsberg area of Maryland-- ready to move north again or retreat south.

Hmmm, the units from Thunder at the Crossroads (second edition) on the In their Quiet Fields II map. Might have to try it.
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    In my opinion Lee's mistake was crossing the Mason Dixon line in the first place. US Army Regulars were pulled from Gettysburg in a big hurry after the battle to quell draft riots in NYC -- Lincoln didn't trust NY units to be sufficiently motivated against their neighbors and he didn't want to send in out-of-state troops. Had Lee continued to proceed north (leaping to the conclusion his supply train was in a position to do so) he would have transformed the opinion of the Northern common man from "I'm not fighting someone else's war" to "hand me a rifle the enemy is approaching."

    Again, just my opinion, but the only chance the Confederacy had for international recognition was as a victim of Northern aggression. As it was, England and France played their cards correctly, waiting out the conflict and then declaring solidarity with the victors.

             Sag.


 
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Mitch Willis
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ftarzanin wrote:
1) What would have happened if the confederacy had a decisive victory during Gettysburg ... not a 'we destroy the union army' or route the Union army type victory as I think the Union Army had matured to a point that routing was not very likely but say they drive the Union army from the battlefield in good order?


I think Meade would've retreated to the Pipe Creek Line in Maryland, which he would've preferred to fight at to begin with. As Pete said, Lee would probably have retreated south, win or lose, as the Confederates would not have been in any condition to fight the Army of the Potomac in such a strong and prepared defensive position...and Vicksburg would've still fell to Grant on the 4th...

ftarzanin wrote:
2) Did Lee take an appropriate gamble when continuing the attack on the second and third day of Gettysburg?
(edit to improve clarity)


I think the gamble may have been worth it on the 2nd day but not on the 3rd. Longstreet's assault on the 2nd gained a lot of ground, especially considering it was 2 divisions fighting against 1 complete corps and parts of 2 others. They came close to breaking through on both the center and the right. Whether they could've held those positions if they had broken through is another question, though. If Longstreet could've made that assault with his entire corps (Pickett was the rearguard and still marching to Gettysburg), things might've turned out differently...

On the 3rd day Meade had all of his army up and its largest corps (Sedgwick) saw little, if any, fighting at all, so I think victory after the 2nd day was more of a pipe dream. I've always wondered what would've happened had the Union counterattacked, primarily with Sedgwick's corps, after Pickett's & Pettigrew's charge...the Confederates had some fight left in 'em but their center was demoralized and they had little artillery ammo to answer...

Hindsight is always 20/20, but I think Lee's best bet for a decisive victory would've been, as Longstreet suggested, moving to the right and trying to get between Meade and Washington. Lee apparently felt that without Jeb Stuart and the bulk of the cavalry, a move like that would be too risky...Stuart did leave some cavalry behind however, but I'm guessing Lee either didn't feel that the numbers were sufficient for such a move or he didn't trust its leadership without Stuart present. Moving to the right wouldn't have guaranteed success and would've been a risky proposition...but I think that, if the war could've been won on the battlefield (and I'm not sure that it could have), then a move to the right would've been their best chance...
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Bill Eldard
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ftarzanin wrote:
1) What would have happened if the confederacy had a decisive victory during Gettysburg ... not a 'we destroy the union army' or route the Union army type victory as I think the Union Army had matured to a point that routing was not very likely but say they drive the Union army from the battlefield in good order?


Lee withdraws to Virginia.

Meade is fired as commanding general of the Army of the Potomac.

Grant is brought east to assume command of the Army of the Potomac.


ftarzanin wrote:
2) Did Lee take an appropriate gamble when continuing the attack on the second and third day of Gettysburg?


The gamble on the second day were appropriate even if their execution was flawed. If Lee's troops had kicked the Federal defenders off Little Round Top, he might have won the battle on the second day.

But the third day was disasterous and held little or no prospect for success. It was too much of a gamble to attempt.
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Marstov
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Have any of you read Lost Triumph: Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg--and Why It Failed by Tom Cahart? His thesis is that Pickett's Charge wasn't supposed to go in alone, but rather as part of a coordinated assault. Stuart was supposed to assault the Union center from the rear at roughly the same time.

He suggests that had this succeeded it would have done ferocious damage to the Union army and thus "Meade retreating in good order" might have been tricky.

I don't know if I agree with that part, but Cahart supports his assertions as well as one can given the record. There certainly was a cavalry battle on the extreme right the Union position that suggests a determined effort to get into the rear of the Union position.

If Cahart is right, then Lee's "gamble" wasn't nearly so long a shot as it would appear, and it also had a larger potential payoff than is commonly thought.

Or one of the greatest generals of the 19th century just had a really, really bad day and took a page from Ambrose Burnside's manual "How To Win By Charging Up Hill vs Entrenched Positions".
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Jon Gautier

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Was it Pickett who said, when asked why the South lost at G'burg, that he thought the Yankees had something to do with it?

One of the results of the whole "Lost Cause" mythos is that many folks analyze Bobby Lee's ACW battles with the unspoken idea that these battles were Lee's to lose. So Chancellorsville is always a battle won by the daring of Lee and Jackson. It is never a battle lost (as I think it was) by the sudden timidity of Hooker.

So . . . Lee's plan at Gettysburg was a good one if only it had worked the way it was supposed to? Well, sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you. Seems to me that Bobby Lee and his crew had more than their share of luck (and piss poor opponents).
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Hunga Dunga
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A Confederate victory at Gettysburg would have left Washington extremely vulnerable, but not indefensible.

Though who knows how a siege against Washington, successful or not, combined with the anti-abolition riots that took place in New York, would have affected any back-channel negotiations?

 
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John Weber
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I believe there was a historical novel (co-authored by Newt Gingerich?) that dealt with this scenario; it had some battle fought along the Monacany River near Frederick, MD. I think there would have possibly been another battle, agree that the supply situation for the South would have been critical although there were quite a few Southern sympathizers in Maryland (Barbara Fritchie notwithstanding).

Regarding the battle itself, I believe the reason Lee lost is he didn't have a trusted subordinate (read this to mean Stonewall Jackson) with the vision and ability to carry out the kind of aggressive flank which Longstreet obviously failed at miserably on the 2d Day. By the third day, Pickett's Charge, it was too late, all the Union defenses were in place and the possibility of a successful attack had long since passed.

EDIT: Go back to the initial question, the answer may depend on how the battle was actually won. If Lee won at G'burg before all the Union corps got to the battlefield (his best shot at winning the battle, given the numerical superiority of the Union Army at that time), then there definitely would have been another battle, perhaps with the Union attacking once all their forces were consolidated in one location. So, a loss at Gettysburg would not have been as fatal to the Union cause as it was to the Confederates.
 
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John Weber
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Based on everything I have read, Stuart's cavalry was no where near the center of the infantry lines that Pickett's Charge targeted. I believe there was a cavalry battle (featuring a young George Custer) a couple of miles away from the main action on the 3rd day.
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It's just half-time and the South is down 1 - nothing.

Sorry. Couldn't help it.
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Pete Belli
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Quote:
Lost Triumph: Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg--and Why It Failed


I have read this book. Some of the author's conclusions were more than a bit stretched but...

Lee did plan an attack by Ewell and the CSA II Corps on the Union right near Culp's Hill. The assault was supposed to be launched in coordination with "Pickett's Charge" but the fighting started early and the firing had settled into a skirmish by the time the main attack began.

Stuart did try to get around the Union flank.

However, the idea that Meade would be so distracted by Ewell's diversionary attack and Stuart's strike against the Federal cavalry that the Yankee center would collapse under "Pickett's Charge" borders on fantasy. The Union right was in no serious danger and even if Stuart had gotten in among the Union rear echelon the VI Corps and Yankee cavalry would have chased the Rebels away. Only a complete battlefield breakdown of the Union high command (which never happened in Virginia, even when Hooker was stunned by a cannon ball at Chancellorsville) would have made Lee's supposed plan work.
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John Weber
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ftarzanin wrote:


Hindsight is always 20/20, but I think Lee's best bet for a decisive victory would've been, as Longstreet suggested, moving to the right and trying to get between Meade and Washington.


Sorry, can't agree with this assessment. I think this defensive manuever would have allowed time for the Union troops to consolidate and either (a) launch a devastating attack or, more likely, (b) just starve Lee's forces. The decision to attack the Union left before the Union forces were consolidated and occupied high ground like the Round Tops and Devils Den was the plan with the best chance for success but, in my view, it was bungled by slow-acting Longstreet and his subordinates.
 
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Walter Clayton
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That is the broader picture there. Not so much what victory would do for Lee, but, what would defeat do to the Union. The Draft riots were just starting up. Had there been a Union defeat, even if Lee did retreat back to Maryland or Virginia in better order, then the situation 'back home' would probably have gotten worse instead of better.

New York was a great source of men and material. You cut them out of the picture, and the Union army is hurting bad. Then there was the coming presidential election. Could Lincoln survive to a second term after a loss or even a tie? Would he have brought Grant over before Chattanooga?

This is something that playing Roads to Gettysburg won't help.
 
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Mitch Willis
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John Weber wrote:
ftarzanin wrote:


Hindsight is always 20/20, but I think Lee's best bet for a decisive victory would've been, as Longstreet suggested, moving to the right and trying to get between Meade and Washington.


Sorry, can't agree with this assessment. I think this defensive manuever would have allowed time for the Union troops to consolidate and either (a) launch a devastating attack or, more likely, (b) just starve Lee's forces. The decision to attack the Union left before the Union forces were consolidated and occupied high ground like the Round Tops and Devils Den was the plan with the best chance for success but, in my view, it was bungled by slow-acting Longstreet and his subordinates.


I didn't say it was without risk, just that I thought it offered the best chance they had for a decisive victory...when Meade was asked later about a Confederate move to the right, he replied that a move to the right was what he feared most...as far as starving the Confederates, moving south of the Army of Potomac wouldn't have necessarily threatened their supply lines, it could've possibly even shortened them...

As for Longstreet being "slow-acting and bungling" at Gettysburg, I have to disagree. I realize that Longstreet had his faults (despite my avatar); in particular, he wasn't adept at independent command as he showed during the East Tennessee campaign. But at Gettysburg, he was by far the best performer of Lee's subordinates. Had he been ordered to attack earlier in the day (which even Lee's most trusted staff members stated that there was no such order), he would've more than likely found Sickles' III corps around that very area. III corps was in the southern portion of Cemetery Ridge that morning and was ordered to cover Little Round Top, but Sickles liked the looks of the Peach Orchard better and moved without orders to that area. Lee's scout confirmed to Longstreet the morning position of Sickles; Lee's attack plan called for an advance up the Emmitsburg Road, which was moot once Sickles moved. Longstreet's assault, against close to twice his numbers, carried Devil's Den, the Peach Orchard, and the Wheatfield, and just narrowly failed to carry Little Round Top...

Old Pete was not perfect by any stretch and there were a couple of battles in which he performed sub-par (Seven Pines & Knoxville come to mind) but Gettysburg was not one of them...
 
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John Weber wrote:
Based on everything I have read, Stuart's cavalry was no where near the center of the infantry lines that Pickett's Charge targeted. I believe there was a cavalry battle (featuring a young George Custer) a couple of miles away from the main action on the 3rd day.


It's this action that Cahart suggests was intended by Lee to get into the rear of the Union center, disrupting the artillery and setting the stage for the decisive breakthrough by Pickett's division. However they were intercepted and stopped far short of their objective by Custer and his troop.

As someone else has said, some of the points Cahart makes seem a bit stretched. His biggest assumption is that, even if not intercepted on the way in as they were, Stuart's cavalry could have had the disruptive effect Lee supposedly envisioned. As the previous poster has stated, that is by no means a given and probably falls on the unlikely side of things.

Still, I find it plausible that this was at least Lee's intent. Against a less competent set of leaders, it might have worked but the days of Hooker and Pope were past.

These what ifs are always so difficult to pin down. There is an alt history series that turns on Bell never gaining command in the West. Johnston keeps Sherman out of Atlanta long enough for Lincoln to lose the election and the new president makes peace. Plausible? Who can say?

Shelby Foote maintains that the Union would never lose the war given the superiority in industry and numbers. If there had been severe reverses that just would have inspired people in the North to endure hardships as did the South towards the end. I suspect Mr. Foote knows a bit more about the subject than most of us (certainly more than me!) and I'll defer to his judgment. So as most of you are saying, a Southern victory at Gettysburg probably wouldn't have changed anything.

Now if Lee's army had had AK-47s, that might have shook things up!
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Riots break out in Northern towns as the Union disintegrates into constituent states each with its own form of government.

Karl Marx sails across the Atlantic from London, to set up the American Communal in New York.

The Western states are unable to grow economically due to Southern trade tariffs on the Mississippi river. As a result the Sioux nation is given time to develop, build towns, and with the gold they find in the Black Hills, industrialise.

Japan is not in competition with the United States for colonies in the Pacific, and becomes the dominant power there, militarily defeating China, and then Russia.

With Russia neutralised, Germany, able to fight a war on just one front, annexes France and the Low Countries, after defeating France and Britain in the First World War.


Britain, unable to pay the war reperations imposed on it by Germany, sinks into British National Socialism, led by the Nationlist leader Adolfus O'Hara.

It's all pretty inevitable really.
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alan beaumont
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Moorcockup theory of history
easypeasy wrote:
Riots break out in Northern towns as the Union disintegrates into constituent states each with its own form of government.

Karl Marx sails across the Atlantic from London, to set up the American Communal in New York.

The Western states are unable to grow economically due to Southern trade tariffs on the Mississippi river. As a result the Sioux nation is given time to develop, build towns, and with the gold they find in the Black Hills, industrialise.

Japan is not in competition with the United States for colonies in the Pacific, and becomes the dominant power there, militarily defeating China, and then Russia.

With Russia neutralised, Germany, able to fight a war on just one front, annexes France and the Low Countries, after defeating France and Britain in the First World War.


Britain, unable to pay the war reperations imposed on it by Germany, sinks into British National Socialism, led by the Nationlist leader Adolfus O'Hara.

It's all pretty inevitable really.
You've been reading Michael Moorcock books again, haven't you my lad?
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Oh my God They Banned Kenny
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I guess the 'issue' with a 'Lee wins Gettysburg' alt. history scenario is that you still have the CSA collapsing in the west. So short of a totally crushing victory, followed by a successful march on Washington (which you've pretty much excluded from consideration) and Union willingness to negotiate the existence of a separate CSA, a victory at Gettysburg doesn't really change much in the longer term. It's a bit like the latter stages of WWII in Europe - with multiple fronts. Even if the Allies had been 'defeated' at Normandy, there's still the Soviets ripping open the front in the east, Allies landing successfully in South France and still in Italy. There just wasn't really the opportunity for a victory in a single battle, on a single 'front', to turn the tide.
 
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Joe F.
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While it is fun to speculate, the battle at Gettysburg, even if Lee had decisively won would've had little impact on the overall war. By 1863 the CSA had lost. Much like what if the Germans had won decisively at Kursk? Very little, the Soviets still would've won in time.

After the CSA loss at Antietam the war was over. The small chance of any European power helping the South was over once Lincoln put out the Emancipation Proclamation. Also by 1862 the blockade was starving the south and munitions were running low.

As someone else pointed out in 1863, the Yanks had most of the Western Theatre and plans were getting set for Sherman to start his famous (infamous) March to the Sea in '64.
 
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