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  • Lee's Northern Invasion

    Lee's strategy for invading the North in 1862 seems to be one of the most misunderstood aspects of the war. Talks of European recognition and raiding seem to be the norm, but here are the real reasons Lee invaded the North:

    1.) He wanted to protect Virginia. By transferring his army to Maryland, Lee believed the Army of the Potomac would not march into Virginia. He also believed that Marylanders might rise in a sort of rebellion against the Lincoln government, further increasing the need for a Union military presence in the state.

    2.) Lee believed that Davis could propose a peace settlement with the Army of Northern Virgina in Maryland. This peace offering would come from a position of strength, with the army in a threatening position against the U.S. capital.

    3.) Lee wanted to sever the North in two as far as practical. There were 3 east-west lines of communication in the North: the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the Pennsylvania Railroad, and the Great Lakes. Lee planned to sever the Batlimore and Ohio on his initial advance into Marland. Then he planned to march to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and destory the Pennsylvania Railroad bridge over the Susquehanna River. This would leave the Lakes as the only roundabout line of communication in the North.

    4.) With the North cut in 2, as far as practical, Lee would be in a position to march on Philadelphia, Baltimore, or D.C.


    These are his reasons as listed in primary sources. In the documents I've read, there was no mention of raiding. In fact, Lee limited his soldier's food intake to green corn and fruit. There is also no mention of securing European recognition or intervention. That seems to be some speculation added by later historians.
    "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

    "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

  • #2
    Lee's aims and his reason for 'going south' was to defend Virginia, not the Confederacy as a whole.

    Whether or not Lee planned his invasions as raids is immaterial to the reality-they were ramshackle raids with little logistical support and poor staff planning. The last two were major weaknesses of the Army of Northern Virginia throughout its existence.

    Lee's actual aim or mission should have been the destruction of the Army of the Potomac. He may not have understood that. The taking of northern cities, which he could not hold, was immaterial as long as the Army of the Potomac was in the field and opposed to him.

    Grant understood that when he came east in 1864 and that is what he accomplished-the destruction of the Army of Northern Virginia. And that should have been the lesson of the Napoleonic Wars.
    Last edited by Massena; 21 May 20, 15:24.
    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
    Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
    To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Massena View Post
      Lee's aims and his reason for 'going south' was to defend Virginia, not the Confederacy as a whole.

      Whether or not Lee planned his invasions as raids is immaterial to the reality-they were ramshackle raids with little logistical support and poor staff planning. The last two were major weaknesses of the Army of Northern Virginia throughout its existence.

      Lee's actual aim or mission should have been the destruction of the Army of the Potomac. He may not have understood that. The taking of northern cities, which he could not hold, was immaterial as long as the Army of the Potomac was in the field and opposed to him.

      Grant understood that when he came east in 1864 and that is what he accomplished-the destruction of the Army of the Potomac. And that should have been the lesson of the Napoleonic Wars.
      His invasions of the North, at leas the one in 1862, was not a raid, because he limited his soldiers food intake to green corn and fruit. Everything else had to be purchased or received out of the good will of Southern sympathizers.

      His one invasion was spoiled by "The Lost Order," and the second was spoiled for various reasons. I don't kno where you're getting the "raid" word from, because it is not in the sources I've read and does not match up with the facts. It might be more speculation added by later historians.

      Lee was confident in his army's ability to defeat the Army of the Potomac. I don't even know if he had to destory it. All he had to do was whip it, cut the North in 2 as far as practical, and storm Northern cities, which was his plan.
      Ideally, Lee would have destoryed every Union army, captured every city, and forced Lincoln to sign a peace and recognition treaty. But the South did not have the resources for that type of war. Lee's job was to apply as much pressure on the North as possible to cede it's cause.

      Grant's undestanding was that he had to target cities instead of armies. That's why he targeted Richmond and then Petersburg, while trying to stay clear of the Army of Northern Virginia.

      And yes, Grant did accomplish "the destruction of the Army of the Potomac," to use your words. He ran those casualty reports to record lows (or highs, depending how you look at it). He sacrificed his own troops and hid behind the lines in order to defeat Lee. Not a brave leader by any stretch of the imagination.

      "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

      "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by American87 View Post

        His invasions of the North, at leas the one in 1862, was not a raid, because he limited his soldiers food intake to green corn and fruit. Everything else had to be purchased or received out of the good will of Southern sympathizers.

        And yes, Grant did accomplish "the destruction of the Army of the Potomac," to use your words. He ran those casualty reports to record lows (or highs, depending how you look at it). He sacrificed his own troops and hid behind the lines in order to defeat Lee. Not a brave leader by any stretch of the imagination.
        I wrote the wrong 'army' in my previous posting. It was supposed to read 'the Army of Northern Virginia' which was indeed destroyed. The Army of the Potomac was not.

        How did Grant 'hide behind the lines?' That is not only wrong, it is ahistorical and a complete misread of Grant's position and role. He was not the commander of the Army of the Potomac, but the commander-in-chief of the Union armies. He chose to accompany Meade and the Army of the Potomac because he believed that to be the decisive theater and he trusted Sherman to be in charge.

        It wasn't Grant's job, any more than it was Lee's or Meades' to lead the army into combat personally.

        Neither of Lee's invasions of the north were supposed to be raids, but they might as well have been by the way in which they were conducted.

        There is an excellent sketch of Grant and his accomplishments in The Superstrategists by John Elting, 124-126.

        Grant was the war's top strategist and was a war-winner. Lee was an excellent tactician and counter-puncher, but he was not a strategist.
        We are not now that strength which in old days
        Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
        Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
        To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Massena View Post

          I wrote the wrong 'army' in my previous posting. It was supposed to read 'the Army of Northern Virginia' which was indeed destroyed. The Army of the Potomac was not.

          How did Grant 'hide behind the lines?' That is not only wrong, it is ahistorical and a complete misread of Grant's position and role. He was not the commander of the Army of the Potomac, but the commander-in-chief of the Union armies. He chose to accompany Meade and the Army of the Potomac because he believed that to be the decisive theater and he trusted Sherman to be in charge.

          It wasn't Grant's job, any more than it was Lee's or Meades' to lead the army into combat personally.

          Neither of Lee's invasions of the north were supposed to be raids, but they might as well have been by the way in which they were conducted.

          There is an excellent sketch of Grant and his accomplishments in The Superstrategists by John Elting, 124-126.

          Grant was the war's top strategist and was a war-winner. Lee was an excellent tactician and counter-puncher, but he was not a strategist.
          Lee had a strategy for ending the war. It was just spoiled by "The Lost Order" and for various reasons in the Gettysburg Campaign. That's the point of this post: to address Lee's strategy and how it has been misunderstood by those who believe he was merely conducting a raid or seeking to obtain European recognition/intervention.
          "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

          "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

          Comment


          • #6
            And that strategy was...?

            The idea is not that Lee was conducting a raid, but for all intents and purposes that's what both invasions were. And that was because in large part the weakness in logistics and staff functioning and planning.
            We are not now that strength which in old days
            Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
            Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
            To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

            Comment


            • #7
              You will confine yourself to debating the post and not the poster, especially any untoward comments directed at any individual. Did you not notice the warnings earlier in the Gettysburg thread? They applied to everyone as stated. I will begin requesting that heads roll for further instances of this kind from anyone!

              ACG Staff

              Ok, I will try to remember that we have to be careful addressing each other here. Telling someone that you don't think they know what "raid" means in a miitary discussion is clearly innapproriate. I will keep trying to salvage this forum from the downward spiral it's taken over the past months,
              Last edited by D1J1; 21 May 20, 20:59. Reason: Change my word this to the Gettysburg
              "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

              "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by American87 View Post
                There is also no mention of securing European recognition or intervention. That seems to be some speculation added by later historians.
                From your OP, have some proof that the Confederacy actively sought foreign intervention. Some quick thumbnails of rebel efforts to secure same, and the responses those efforts received. https://gazette665.com/2017/11/22/10...ican-civil-war

                The efforts of the rebels to secure foreign intervention are incredibly well known and documented. Those efforts continued throughout the war, and hence would have been an integral goal woven into rebel successes in the field, particularly so in the case of a successful strategic offensive, or even smaller efforts like Lee's campaigns into the north. To deny their existence, or subscribe it to mere speculation is simply wrong.

                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!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by D1J1 View Post

                  From your OP, have some proof that the Confederacy actively sought foreign intervention. Some quick thumbnails of rebel efforts to secure same, and the responses those efforts received. https://gazette665.com/2017/11/22/10...ican-civil-war

                  The efforts of the rebels to secure foreign intervention are incredibly well known and documented. Those efforts continued throughout the war, and hence would have been an integral goal woven into rebel successes in the field, particularly so in the case of a successful strategic offensive, or even smaller efforts like Lee's campaigns into the north. To deny their existence, or subscribe it to mere speculation is simply wrong.

                  Regards,
                  Dennis
                  For being a well-documented fact, you'd think there'd be some sources on that blog. I don't know who "Miss Sarah" is, and even if I did, I wouldn't take her at her word on some snappy '10 Things About the Civil War...' blog.

                  And, even if you did provide primary sources of of Confederates seeking foreign recognition, it would have nothing to do with Lee's strategy behind invading the North. He did not mention foreign recognition/intervention as a motive in the documents I read.
                  "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

                  "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Because Lee did not mention it explicitly means nothing. He was an army commander, not the president, or secretary of state. It wasn't his job to discuss this at length. The drive to secure foreign intervention was a rebel goal throughout and is well known. I am sorry if you are unable to see the linkage between securing that and battlefield success regardless of its direct mention.

                    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!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      One of the conundrums about Lee, (one of the many I guess) Where did his loyalties lay?
                      As Massena pointed out, Lee's forays into Maryland were focused on the defense of Virginia, not the Confederacy.
                      In letters Lee wrote to his son and one of his nieces in 1860 he criticizes secessionist. There are other actions of Lee's that leaves me wondering what he would have done had Virginia not joined the CSA.
                      Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Two posts from American87 were removed.
                        Address the post not the poster.
                        Please do not repeat this mistake.
                        Thank you
                        ACG Staff

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by D1J1 View Post
                          Because Lee did not mention it explicitly means nothing. He was an army commander, not the president, or secretary of state. It wasn't his job to discuss this at length. The drive to secure foreign intervention was a rebel goal throughout and is well known. I am sorry if you are unable to see the linkage between securing that and battlefield success regardless of its direct mention.

                          Regards,
                          Dennis
                          Agree completely. McPherson goes into the search for foreign intervention in Battle Cry of Freedom, and Bruce Catton also covers the subject in his narrative in The American Heritage Picture History of The Civil War on page 225: 'It was Robert E Lee's hope that an advance into Maryland would encourage foreign intervention...'

                          The strategic defeat of the invasion along with the release of the Emancipation Proclamation effectively killed any hope of either Britain or France intervening in the war.
                          We are not now that strength which in old days
                          Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                          Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                          To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The CSA could not have gone to war without financing provided by the state of virginia.
                            Perhaps southern delagates should not have been so brash as to declare war at all.

                            The CSA was FACT without the American Civil War.

                            South Carolina should forever hold its head in shame....

                            On the other hand, had southern hotheads not declared war, leaving the CSA intact, slaves would not have been free, or at least not so quickly.

                            But, needless to say, going to war without any clear method of winning it smacks of collective idiocy.

                            Robert E. Lee reminds me of Hannibal Barca.....tactical genius,, victory after victory, yet no win because he could not take Rome.nor conquer the empire.
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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by D1J1 View Post

                              From your OP, have some proof that the Confederacy actively sought foreign intervention. Some quick thumbnails of rebel efforts to secure same, and the responses those efforts received. https://gazette665.com/2017/11/22/10...ican-civil-war

                              The efforts of the rebels to secure foreign intervention are incredibly well known and documented. Those efforts continued throughout the war, and hence would have been an integral goal woven into rebel successes in the field, particularly so in the case of a successful strategic offensive, or even smaller efforts like Lee's campaigns into the north. To deny their existence, or subscribe it to mere speculation is simply wrong.

                              Regards,
                              Dennis
                              From The West Point Atlas of American Wars, Volume I, Map 65 on the Antietam campaign:

                              '...Lee began crossing the Potomac on 4 September and on the 7th was concentrated around Frederick, Maryland. A number of reasons led him to risk this invasion: the need to retain the initiative; the chance that the invasion would win foreign recognition for the Confederacy; the hope of sparking a revolt in Maryland; and the desire to free his beloved Virginia from ravagement by contending armies. His overall plan was opportunistic and vague-he would strike toward Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and cut the North's major east-west railroads, then consider operations against Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Washington. A quick estimate of his meager logistical capabilities should have tempered his optimism.'

                              From the same volume, Map 93 on the Gettysburg campaign:

                              'Lee's own plan was simple...invade the North...Lee was confident of inflicting a decisive defeat upon [Hooker] which might end the war. Also, between natural shortages and chronic ineptness of the Confederate supply system, Lee's troops were in constant want. Across the river, in Maryland and Pennsylvania, there were ample resources of food and clothing.'

                              From Map 99:

                              'Undoubtedly, Gettysburg was the lowest point of Lee's generalship. He was careless; his orders were vague; he suggested when he should have commanded; and he sacrificed the pick of his infantry in a foredoomed attempt to win a battle he had already lost...'

                              I found this short 'blurb' on the Atlas which might be helpful. Brigadier General Esposito was also the head of the Department of Military Art and Engineering. The two-volume Atlas was one of the texts used in the year-long course History of the Military Art and the Atlas and both the Atlas and the course were excellent. The Department of Military Art and Engineering later became the Department of History, which it was when I was there as a cadet. The Department is backed up by a world-class library and the special collection at the library is outstanding and is an archive in itself.
                              'Orignally published in 1959 as part of a two-volume set, The West Point Atlas of War: The Civil War is considered a classic of military history. The original volumes were prepared by distinguished members of the Department of Military Art and Engineering at the U.S. Military Academy and used as instrictional tools for the cadets. This mammoth and invaluable work was created under the direction of Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito, a faculty member at West Point for more than twenty years. His highly respected endeavor allows readers to easily follow the entire course of a campaign or battle in detail while gaining a greater understanding of the Civil War.'

                              Last edited by Massena; 22 May 20, 14:52.
                              We are not now that strength which in old days
                              Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                              Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                              To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

                              Comment

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