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Issue I: Lee at Gettysburg

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  • Issue I: Lee at Gettysburg

    Article taken from Armchair General News;

    Sneak Peak at "What Next General? Lee at Gettysburg"
    by: Brian King

    We have an advanced look at one of the articles featured in the Premiere Issue of the magazine. Our regular feature called "What Next General?" will highlight the decisions and on-the-ground intelligence of a select historical figure at a key point in history. First up is none other than General Robert E. Lee. Certainly a man with some tough choices!

    Below is the introduction to the article (written by Bradley T. Gericke) which should give you a flavor for what to expect and the challenges that will be put before you. Can you make the decisions that would have saved the Confederacy? Could anyone? Look for the full version in February, 2004!

    What Next General? Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg

    The summer of 1863 is a time of promise for the Confederacy. The South’s military resources are still substantial, the possibility for foreign diplomatic recognition is still real, and the Northern public is growing weary with the war’s slow progress. So, the stakes are high. Can you lead the Army of Northern Virginia to a great victory and win the war? How to attain that triumph? How and where should you (as Robert E. Lee) maneuver your forces? Should you assume a defensive posture and allow the Federal army to batter themselves against your positions? Your trusted commander, Lieutenant General James Longstreet, would agree with that strategy. Should you be more daring and march your army north, toward Harrisburg, and then on to Baltimore and Washington itself? And what is the objective: the destruction of the Union Army or the capture of Northern cities and terrain? Most importantly — as a major battle tomorrow is inevitable — once the Federal army is engaged, how to fight? Attack? Defend? Search for a flank? Withdraw to ground of your choosing? If only you knew more about the Union Army. If only you could receive a report from your cavalry commander, young Major General Jeb Stuart!

    Keep these questions and issues in mind as you step into the boots of General Robert E. Lee...
    Our forefathers died to give us freedom, not free stuff.

    I write books about zombies as E.E. Isherwood. Check me out at ZombieBooks.net.

  • #2
    For those checking in from the magazine, we have this thread dedicated to our article found on page 74*. We welcome your comments on the story, and on the possibilities proposed for Lee. We invite you to share your thoughts, direct questions to the author, or just read the messages of your peers.

    Thanks for visiting!

    *"Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg" -- by Bradley T. Gericke
    Our forefathers died to give us freedom, not free stuff.

    I write books about zombies as E.E. Isherwood. Check me out at ZombieBooks.net.

    Comment


    • #3
      Read the article the other day.

      While I agreed that the choice of maneuvering around the AotP was more than likely Lee's best option, I thought that the conclusion did not look at the difficulties involved with such a move. First of all, who would really screen for the ANV while conducting this maneuver? The two or three brigades of cavalry that JEB Stuart left with his Army commander? Let us not forget that JEB took his best five brigades with him. One of the cavalry regiments in Jenkins' brigade was so bad, it ran from Union militia in Greencastle, PA. Let us not forget that some of the better led Federal cavarly was on the field already, and their casualties, Buford's worries aside, were quite light - some 125 troopers (about 5% of his 2500+ man contingent on 7/1/63). Meanwhile, while Longstreet was present on 7/1, his Corps was still quite a distance away.

      Also, let us not forget that the likely march route for Lee, if he wanted to simultaneously threaten several key cities would more than likely be the Baltimore Pike as it leads not only to Baltimore and Washington eventually but, also Westminster, MD the LOC and LOS for the Army of the Potomac. Also, moving in that direction brings Lee back down towards Virginia, shortening his supply lines. Of course, Meade realized this also. In fact, Washington would not let him forget that. Not to mention the fact that a sizable chunk of the AotP was already using that road as a thoroughfare to bring men into the Gettysburg area. If the idea was to get between Meade and Washington and force a fight that way, then it is quite logical, but keep in mind that Meade actually outwitted Lee at Gettysburg. Lee didn't just lose at Gettysburg - Meade outgeneraled him.
      I come here to discuss a piece of business with you and what are you gonna do? You're gonna tell me fairy tales? James Caan in the movie "Thief" ca 1981

      Comment


      • #4
        None of these "options" for me!

        Hello All,
        My first day here. And as a subscriber. I got my issue two days ago. I liked 80% of it.

        Now, to Lee at Gettysburg

        I read the four options which limited choices to attack or defend.
        In reading the article, my decision would have been "made" for me --as Lee-- before July 1st. That is, with Stuart incommunicato so to speak then arriving after a hard ride, and Early's Corps relatively exhausted after withdrawing from Harrisburg, I would have decided to withdraw from the field using a wheel anchored on my right flank. The town of Gettysburg serving as an "urban warfare" combat-multiplier to reduce the number of troops initially needed to cover a withdrawl.

        I would have to go south, far enough West of Frederick City which was along the Union line-of-advance, unless Stuart's Cav could find an opportunity to cut the Union rear communication line. Then I could use this urban area as I pleased.

        If not, then the intervening ridgelines would limit the striking power of a Union attack along my line of withdrawl (flanking my column). I would also make a deliberate march for Harper's Ferry since that is the regional crossing point for the Potomac River. (I've was at Antiem a couple of decades ago, where I learned this.)
        I would also be falling back upon the captured wagons and guns mentioned in the article. As such, I would try to draw the Union into a fight of my choosing.

        To summarize, my decision to withdrawl is based on condition of troops, disposition of troops, and supply . Supplementary to these are the loss of opportunity in acquiring Seminary Ridge and the construction of defenses by the Union troops.

        Note: To withdraw to the West along the Mason-Dixon line wouild have removed me from the theater of operations, which would be :crazy: (crazy) . Going North would be a little nutty too. And East, well nigh impossible.

        Comment


        • #5
          Offensive defense

          It was a pleasure to see a publication give General Longstreet the credit he deserves for trying avoid the debaucle that ended in Picketts Charge. A strategic withdrawl to more defensible ground would have been the wisest choice. Cadet makes many good points, save one. I would not attempt to cross the Potomac at Harper's Ferry since it is completely indefensible, a better choice would be at Shepardstown. The terrain of the area offered numerous choice of highly defensible ground on which the Army of Northern Virginia could have consolidated and rested until the Army of the Potomac was forced by political pressure to attack them. While I don't know if the Confederacy would have ever had the resources to defeat the North, this certainly would have been its best shot.
          Lance W.

          Peace through superior firepower.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Offensive defense

            Originally posted by Lance Williams
            It was a pleasure to see a publication give General Longstreet the credit he deserves for trying avoid the debaucle that ended in Picketts Charge. A strategic withdrawl to more defensible ground would have been the wisest choice. Cadet makes many good points, save one. I would not attempt to cross the Potomac at Harper's Ferry since it is completely indefensible, a better choice would be at Shepardstown. The terrain of the area offered numerous choice of highly defensible ground on which the Army of Northern Virginia could have consolidated and rested until the Army of the Potomac was forced by political pressure to attack them. While I don't know if the Confederacy would have ever had the resources to defeat the North, this certainly would have been its best shot.
            I don't remember Shepardstown when I was in that area. I said Harper's Ferry because when I went to the Antitem Battlefield about 20 years ago, the literature I read at the time said that Ferry was the only feasible/easy crossing place on that stretch of the Potomac. So my comment is dependent upon that source.
            I do think that area is defensible enough to conduct a withdrawl.

            Comment


            • #7
              Oddly enough...

              none of us has mentioned the Pipe Creek area, where Meade had originally planned to defend against any attacks against the ANV, that would just as likely have been a good spot for Lee to get in between the AotP and Washington.
              I come here to discuss a piece of business with you and what are you gonna do? You're gonna tell me fairy tales? James Caan in the movie "Thief" ca 1981

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Oddly enough...

                Originally posted by Tom DeFranco
                none of us has mentioned the Pipe Creek area, where Meade had originally planned to defend against any attacks against the ANV, that would just as likely have been a good spot for Lee to get in between the AotP and Washington.

                All very valid points, but I just can't see Lee retiring to the East
                Lance W.

                Peace through superior firepower.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Re: Offensive defense

                  Originally posted by Cadet
                  I don't remember Shepardstown when I was in that area. I said Harper's Ferry because when I went to the Antitem Battlefield about 20 years ago, the literature I read at the time said that Ferry was the only feasible/easy crossing place on that stretch of the Potomac. So my comment is dependent upon that source.
                  I do think that area is defensible enough to conduct a withdrawl.
                  Its only defensible if you want to be the fish that's shot in a barrel
                  Lance W.

                  Peace through superior firepower.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Re: Oddly enough...

                    Originally posted by Lance Williams
                    All very valid points, but I just can't see Lee retiring to the East
                    Don't forget, though that probably the most important road of all at Gettysburg was the Baltimore Pike because of what it meant to the Federals. Since Lee was on the operational offensive, wouldn't it behoove him to move down the Baltimore Pike? Besides leading to Baltimore and, ultimately, Washington, the Union LOC and LOS were based at Westminster. Moving down Baltimore Pike, he can threaten multiple Union centers of gravity and at the same time accomplish the task of going on the tactical defensive that Longstreet suggested.

                    Now do I think he had a snowball's chance in hell of taking Washington? No. But that's not what was important, he needed to destroy the AotP, and I think that moving SSE was the best way of doing so.
                    I come here to discuss a piece of business with you and what are you gonna do? You're gonna tell me fairy tales? James Caan in the movie "Thief" ca 1981

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Lee at Gettysburg

                      In this action, I chose option 3, to disengage, regroup, and attack in the morning. The Rebels were worn before they arrived at Gettysburg. To have attacked immediately would have been a disaster, and a night assault likely would have been worse. In the morning, they are rested, should have ate, possibly got their hands on the shoes that were one of their reasons for coming to Gettysburg. While there was no guarantee of victory, they may well have caught the Blue Jackets unprepared.

                      I have always thought that Lee expected far too much of his men at Gettysburg, and ignored several alarm bells that should have went off at certain times during the battle. It may be harsh, but I believe that almost all of the responsibility for Gettysburg must fall at Lee's feet. Not just because he was in command, but because he did several things at Gettysburg that he would not have done at any other engagement.
                      Mens Est Clavis Victoriae
                      (The Mind Is The Key To Victory)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Agreed!

                        N/T
                        I come here to discuss a piece of business with you and what are you gonna do? You're gonna tell me fairy tales? James Caan in the movie "Thief" ca 1981

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Lee at Gettysburg

                          Originally posted by hogdriver
                          In this action, I chose option 3, to disengage, regroup, and attack in the morning. The Rebels were worn before they arrived at Gettysburg. To have attacked immediately would have been a disaster, and a night assault likely would have been worse. In the morning, they are rested, should have ate, possibly got their hands on the shoes that were one of their reasons for coming to Gettysburg. While there was no guarantee of victory, they may well have caught the Blue Jackets unprepared.
                          Two things; first, the shoe story was likely a myth. Second, with Buford already there on the evening of 6/30/1863 there was little chance of a surprised AotP.
                          I come here to discuss a piece of business with you and what are you gonna do? You're gonna tell me fairy tales? James Caan in the movie "Thief" ca 1981

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Lee at Gettysburg

                            Originally posted by hogdriver
                            In this action, I chose option 3, to disengage, regroup, and attack in the morning. The Rebels were worn before they arrived at Gettysburg. To have attacked immediately would have been a disaster, and a night assault likely would have been worse. In the morning, they are rested, should have ate, possibly got their hands on the shoes that were one of their reasons for coming to Gettysburg. While there was no guarantee of victory, they may well have caught the Blue Jackets unprepared.

                            I have always thought that Lee expected far too much of his men at Gettysburg, and ignored several alarm bells that should have went off at certain times during the battle. It may be harsh, but I believe that almost all of the responsibility for Gettysburg must fall at Lee's feet. Not just because he was in command, but because he did several things at Gettysburg that he would not have done at any other engagement.
                            Pretty much what Lee said to anyone who was listening at the end of Pickett's Charge.
                            Lance W.

                            Peace through superior firepower.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Option 2

                              I'm surprised how quickly the article discounted Option 2, a night attack.

                              True, whatever reinforcments from Longstreet's corps that got to the fight in time to launch an attack would have been tired. But as a practical matter, the Union soldiers were far more tired.

                              They had forced marched to reach the field; fought hard to obtain it; fallen back at the heat of the day and then spent several hours preparing defensive positions that history shows to have been largely inadequate during the next day's feint attacks.

                              Yes, it was exceedingly difficult to launch night attacks during the Civil War, and they were very rare, but in terms of audacity, it's the least I would have expected from Lee.

                              I disagree with the article's conclusion on how rapidly the attack would have broken. By the very nature of how the forces would have reached the field, an attack in column would have made the most sense; and even going uphill through the woods in the dark, it's difficult to lose track of where you are if you're advancing in column.

                              Were I Lee, I would have brought about 15,000 men in three columns, two attacking to the south, one attacking to the center. On the attack, the center column will move onto line to the left, preventing the union from withdrawing troops from its right flank to support its forces under main attack. The other two columns simply smash forward as hard as they can, if they break the line, they move onto line to the left again, and proceed to roll up the flank.

                              I'm interested in other thoughts on this.

                              Comment

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