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  • Robert E. Lee faults

    I had a question for you guys, I was discussing the civil war with my teacher and I was saying that how after the death of stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee was borderline effective on the fact that he took no offensives after that. Whereas she argued that it was more because Robert E. Lee saw himself invincible(comparable to Napoleon) and that was his ultimate downfall. What do you guys think?
    Do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes!- Gen. Israel Putnam


    Neither current events nor history show that the majority rule, or ever did rule. -Jefferson Davis

  • #2
    I have to agree more with your teacher, not that the instructor is fully correct, because your statement is patently wrong. Based on what you wrote you do not consider the Gettysburg Campaign as Lee taking the offensive.

    Regards,
    Dennis
    If stupid was a criminal offense Sea Lion believers would be doing life.

    Shouting out to Half Pint for bringing back the big mugs!

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Count of Cannae View Post
      I had a question for you guys, I was discussing the civil war with my teacher and I was saying that how after the death of stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee was borderline effective on the fact that he took no offensives after that. Whereas she argued that it was more because Robert E. Lee saw himself invincible(comparable to Napoleon) and that was his ultimate downfall. What do you guys think?

      I really do not think thats true including about Jackson, who was a mixed bag. For operational strategic roles like the Valley Campaign and the march around 2nd Bull Run he was effective. For tactical offensives such as the 7 Days (and again 2nd Bull Run) he was a failure.

      Also Lee's offensive even after his death was not just Gettysburg which has been mentioned.
      There is the Bristoe Campaign, tactically at the Wilderness. He even attempted to take the offensive at Spotsylvania at one point.
      Then from an operational side of things there is Early and his Valley campaign and of course Fort Stedman.

      Historian JFC Fuller once declared that the Lee of Cheats Mountain was the same Lee at Gettysburg. I think there may be some truth to that.

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      • #4
        Robert E. Lee swas still a great general even towards the end of the war. Given how he was outnumbered how he stoped Grant from taking Richmond in 1864 was an example of excellent leadership as a combat commander.
        War is less costly than servitude

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        • #5
          Lee had what I'd call genuine knack for his job for the most part, a Clausewitzian genius. But that's based on an admittedly limited reading. Lee did maintain operational offensives after Jackson's death, such as the campaign resulting in the Battle of Gettysburg, in fact I believe the operational offensive was part of his ideas to begin with. Jackson was very good tactically and operationally but Lee was needed to bridge that to any higher level of war. So I believe you're incorrect there, but also that there is nothing inherently advantageous in presuming the offensive. Effectiveness does not well up from offensive operations in and of itself.
          Lee also struck me as too humble to get the feeling of invincibility in the way Napoleon did, perhaps. Napoleon believed fervently in his capability and his luck. Lee had confidence in his god. It is probably true this gave him moral courage to do defy certain principles of war of that time, such as dividing forces in the presence of the enemy and seeking wide envelopments.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Selous View Post
            Lee had what I'd call genuine knack for his job for the most part, a Clausewitzian genius. But that's based on an admittedly limited reading. Lee did maintain operational offensives after Jackson's death, such as the campaign resulting in the Battle of Gettysburg, in fact I believe the operational offensive was part of his ideas to begin with. Jackson was very good tactically and operationally but Lee was needed to bridge that to any higher level of war. So I believe you're incorrect there, but also that there is nothing inherently advantageous in presuming the offensive. Effectiveness does not well up from offensive operations in and of itself.
            Lee also struck me as too humble to get the feeling of invincibility in the way Napoleon did, perhaps. Napoleon believed fervently in his capability and his luck. Lee had confidence in his god. It is probably true this gave him moral courage to do defy certain principles of war of that time, such as dividing forces in the presence of the enemy and seeking wide envelopments.
            I would disagree in saying that Jackson was very good tactically. He had great operational and strategic skill, as demonstrated in the Valley, but when it came to a tactical level, Jackson was rather a mixed bag, with some notably poor performances.

            I say that Lee suffered a little hubris at Gettysburg, to the point he ignored the council of his most trusted subordinate and then ordered a frontal attack after the flanking ones had failed. As E.P. Alexander wrote, Lee paid the highest compliment to his men for ordering the attack on July 3rd.
            "Hit hard when you start, but don't start until you have everything ready." - Lt. Gen. James Longstreet

            Pyrrhus Travels West:
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            • #7
              RE Lee's greatest fault was he chose the wrong side
              Human beings are the only creatures who are able to behave irrationally in the name of reason.

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              • #8
                I do not believe Lee thought himself invincible,but he did think his men could accomplish anything he asked. Although he was supremely confidant in his ability to read the General he was opposing and thus took risks based on how he thought that General would react. I believe he was right in every instance he split his army up except Antitiem,and there McClellan acted differently because of the lost orders.
                If Lee had a fault it was in my opinion he was to aggressive and always was looking for the counterpunch even when it was not there. By the end of the war he just did not have the men or supplies necessary to continue this strategy on a wide scale but he never fully abandoned his offensive first style. As was mentioned by History fan, Fort Stedman and Early being two examples.
                Though The death of Jackson did take away a Corps commander who he could trust to carry out his wishes for an offensive strike especially since Longstrret was better suited for defensive battles with an occasional counterattack. Hope my assorted rambling adds to the discussion.
                Is she crying? There's no crying in baseball.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by semperpietas View Post
                  I would disagree in saying that Jackson was very good tactically. He had great operational and strategic skill, as demonstrated in the Valley, but when it came to a tactical level, Jackson was rather a mixed bag, with some notably poor performances.

                  I say that Lee suffered a little hubris at Gettysburg, to the point he ignored the council of his most trusted subordinate and then ordered a frontal attack after the flanking ones had failed. As E.P. Alexander wrote, Lee paid the highest compliment to his men for ordering the attack on July 3rd.
                  I defer to your better reading on the subject, Semperpietas, but would that big left flanking at Chancellorsville not be a sign of tactical excellence from Jackson? What strategic insights/examples does Jackson present? As a general of his rank I didn't think he'd have much opportunity to display such?
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Selous View Post
                    I defer to your better reading on the subject, Semperpietas, but would that big left flanking at Chancellorsville not be a sign of tactical excellence from Jackson? What strategic insights/examples does Jackson present? As a general of his rank I didn't think he'd have much opportunity to display such?
                    As a strategic move, it was brilliant. Execution was flawed. Particularly in the department of troop deployment. Several instances of brigades overlapping one another or brigades not being where they were supposed to be. It also shared the flaw of Beauregard's formation at Shiloh, that because it was compact series of lines, as each line attacked, it became exhausted and it left no reserves for flanking maneuvers or exploitation. While this hit the XI Corps hard, the attack had no follow up hitting power. Most of these aren't Jackson's fault (like brigades overlapping), they are just simply problems facing any commander managing large formations, and Chancellorsville was still one of Jackson's best performances in the war.

                    However, tactically Jackson did have some pretty rough ones, including Kernstown, Cedar Mountain, and Brawner's Farm.
                    Last edited by semperpietas; 07 Dec 12, 07:28.
                    "Hit hard when you start, but don't start until you have everything ready." - Lt. Gen. James Longstreet

                    Pyrrhus Travels West:
                    Hanno the Infamous, General of Carthage, Rb Mhnt of Sicily

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by midaeu View Post
                      I do not believe Lee thought himself invincible,but he did think his men could accomplish anything he asked. Although he was supremely confidant in his ability to read the General he was opposing and thus took risks based on how he thought that General would react. I believe he was right in every instance he split his army up except Antitiem,and there McClellan acted differently because of the lost orders.
                      If Lee had a fault it was in my opinion he was to aggressive and always was looking for the counterpunch even when it was not there. By the end of the war he just did not have the men or supplies necessary to continue this strategy on a wide scale but he never fully abandoned his offensive first style. As was mentioned by History fan, Fort Stedman and Early being two examples.
                      Though The death of Jackson did take away a Corps commander who he could trust to carry out his wishes for an offensive strike especially since Longstrret was better suited for defensive battles with an occasional counterattack. Hope my assorted rambling adds to the discussion.
                      I have to disagree. Longstreet did pretty well leading an attack at Chickamauga, and while a defeat, his attack on the Second Day of Gettysburg was also hard hitting. Not to mention his attack at Glendale during the Seven Days or at Gaines Mill. Even though it was a counter-assault, Second Manassas also go in there.
                      "Hit hard when you start, but don't start until you have everything ready." - Lt. Gen. James Longstreet

                      Pyrrhus Travels West:
                      Hanno the Infamous, General of Carthage, Rb Mhnt of Sicily

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by semperpietas View Post
                        I say that Lee suffered a little hubris at Gettysburg, to the point he ignored the council of his most trusted subordinate and then ordered a frontal attack after the flanking ones had failed. As E.P. Alexander wrote, Lee paid the highest compliment to his men for ordering the attack on July 3rd.

                        I pointed out here (ACG Forums) before there was a theory that Lee was having heart trouble during the Gettysburg Campaign and THAT might have induced him to take am even more audacious risk than he was normally known for. I.E. We (I) have to try and win it now before my heart does me in. I find the theory plausible and convincing.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by RichardS View Post
                          I pointed out here (ACG Forums) before there was a theory that Lee was having heart trouble during the Gettysburg Campaign and THAT might have induced him to take am even more audacious risk than he was normally known for. I.E. We (I) have to try and win it now before my heart does me in. I find the theory plausible and convincing.
                          The heart problems were true. After Chancellorsville, Lee probably suffered a heart attack that laid him up for several days, according to accounts I've read.
                          "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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                          • #14
                            Not really sure of anyone that could have done better.
                            SPORTS FREAK/ PANZERBLITZ COMMANDER/ CC2 COMMANDER

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Count of Cannae View Post
                              I had a question for you guys, I was discussing the civil war with my teacher and I was saying that how after the death of stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee was borderline effective on the fact that he took no offensives after that.
                              D1j1 is correct about offensive operations. Keep in mind Gettysburg. There were a lot
                              of things going on after Stonewalls death that may lend a little understanding.
                              Lee changed his command by going into 3 Corp instead of 2 which change his organization which didn't have the time to jell together before Gettysburg.

                              Whereas she argued that it was more because Robert E. Lee saw himself invincible(comparable to Napoleon) and that was his ultimate downfall. What do you guys think?
                              General Lee thought his men were invincible but what I know about Lee, he did give that thought to me.
                              In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.
                              Robert E. Lee

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