Skip to comments.Gettysburg: Panic in Pittsburgh, then a nation saved
Posted on 07/08/2013 5:37:15 AM PDT by Old Teufel Hunden
Just south of Gettysburg, a young soldier named John Nevin leads a Pennsylvania regiment across fields freshly scarred by a horrifically violent, three-day clash between two great armies. Trees are shattered and pocked with holes, crops and orchards mowed down by flying lead, fields trampled by tens of thousands of marching men, fences torn apart. A barn and a house, trapped between the two armies, have burned to the ground.
Nevin sees human slaughter on a massive scale, with an estimated 8,000 killed, many as yet unburied. The dead, Nevin writes, are "strewn around in various forms of horror," the bodies blackening in the summer heat. Rising from the battlefield is a stench that sickens Gettysburgs residents.
(Excerpt) Read more at newsinteractive.post-gazette.com ...
I've always thought that General Lee was one of our countries greatest tacticians, but he really blew it during the summer months of 1863. Why fight at Gettysburg? He could have easily turned south towards the capital or even an easier victory that would have been to turn west towards Pittsburgh and burn it to the ground. Thereby destroying a lot of the Union's supplies. I'm sure Sun Tszu would have recommended that.
The Confederacy coveted Pittsburgh while the Union had its eyes set on the Hornets Nest of Charlotte. Neither achieved their goals.
Although there were certainly fortifications dug to prepare Pittsburgh for a Confederate assault. The ruins of one can be found not far from where I grew up. The local garrison commander was authorized to hire “as many men as necessary” to dig them. Reportedly a lot of them did not get paid. Some of their families were still trying to collect from the Federal Government as late as the 1970’s.
Lee's strategy was to engage the enemy and destroy his army in detail.
He fought at Gettysburg because that is where his forces found the Union forces.
If he defeated Meade at Gettysburg and destroyed his army, the only thing standing between the ANV and Washington DC would have been the understrength perimeter troops.
Lee was known to suffer from angina pectoris, and has been said to have been having pains during the battle of Gettysburg. Some historians believe that his angina may have affected his judgement at Gettsyburg. One theory, anyway.
“...A Nation Saved...”
The Civil war marks the end of the Constitution. The Nation died. It has been decomposing ever since.
Why did Lee attack at Gettysburg?
The historians argue variously that Lee underestimated the Union Army’s strength, as Jeb Stuart’s division was not in position to provide reconnaissance; or, that he was overly confident in his and his men’s ability to defeat the Union Army (due to prior success).
Longstreet, in his memoirs, and aided perhaps by hindsight, says that at a war council he recommended Lee form his army into a defensive position and allow the Yankees to exhaust themselves attacking them. He (Longstreet) argued that the Yankees would have significant forces (by extrapolating the march of Union units from various positions to the site of the battle), and would be able to reinforce the middle of their line since their line bent inward.
Longstreet, who became a Republican after the war, and as commander of police and militia forces, unsuccessfully attempted to prevent the Klan from taking over Louisiana during the reconstruction period, came to be blamed by The Lost Cause for not having his corps ready early enough on the morning of Pickett’s Charge.
The piece is written from the perspective of Pittsburgh, which makes it fresh, although its real focus is the battle. All across the north, Yankees were aroused by the advance of Lee northward, by his commandeering of supplies and his capture of blacks to send them south as slaves. Militia units and volunteers raced to Harrisburg, to be organized into a new army under the command of the Governor, should the Army of the Potomac have been defeated.
Lincoln may have started the war to preserve the Union, but had to issue the Emancipation Proclamation to sustain the support of the people of the North. Historians can debate the real cause of the war, but to the farm boys and town clerks that filled the ranks of the Union Army, the reason was obvious.
This is too vague a description.
He never won any previous battle by fighting on the enemies terms and frontally assaulting fortified positions. No, he got the Union to do that.
He won Chancellorsville by engaging the Union forces with an extremely bloody frontal assault on Hooker's fortified position, while Jackson flanked the Union position.
The object of war should never be to attempt to destroy an army in detail.
Let's hold that thought for a moment - leaving aside the fact that this is precisely the successful strategy that Grant pursued against Lee.
Did the British sacking Washington cause us to lose the War of 1812?
So you've argued that destroying armies is a bad strategy and also that seizing territory is a bad strategy.
This leaves, as far as I can tell, a third option - destroying supply lines, something that Lee never cared much about (he preferred to use enemy supply lines if he could).
Correct. However, he was just as sick at Chancellorsville.
I also recommend some of the short stories of Thomas Wolfe whose father was a witness to the Gettysburg battle. Amazing tales and some humor too.
“One of the things the rest of the country may not realize is the panic that went through Pittsburgh during this time.”
Of course, “the rest of the country may not realize the panic” that all Southern citizens went through after John Brown’s raid; after all the threats from Northern newspapers, the Union congress’ early financing of war material, the Union senators’ threats from the floor of the “all the peoples, by the peoples, and for the peoples” government buildings, and Lincoln’s inaugural promise to invade if the tariffs were not paid.
The “panic” you described was overstated and irrelevant to what the Southern citizens and their government anticipated.
The frontal assault at Chancellorsville was accompanied by a flanking movement from Jackson.
The frontal assault at Gettysburg was intended to be accompanied by a flanking attack by Hampton and Stuart.
There was "guile and deception" at Gettysburg too. It was unsuccessful.
You called me out for being vague then you come back with a vague answer. That's funny.
It's not vague at all. Grant's strategy was quite specific: destroy the ANV.
However, his bloody strategy in the end was combined with the fact that the south ran out of supplies to fight with. Lee could not get re-supplied and was outmanuevered and surrounded.
Lee began Grant's Overland campaign with 65,00 men.
28,000 men surrendered at Appomattox Court House.
If Lee had been supplied in time and lived to fight another day, Grant would have pounded him again and made the ANV smaller again.
Lee running out of supplies was a good break for Grant, but if it hadn't worked out, Grant would have continued to pursue his strategy: destroy the ANV.
Which goal would have achieved that more, you tell me? Defeating Meade's army or sacking Washington or Pittsburgh.
Defeating Meade's army, which may have forced an evacuation of Washington.
Even then, I see no scenario under which the South would have won the war.
Lee did not destroy the Union army at Second Bull Run, or Fredericksburg, or during the Seven Days battles, or at Antietam or Chancellorsville. What makes you think he would have destroyed it in Pennsylvania?
At Chancellorsville, Lee confronted a Union Army of 130,000 with 60,000 men.
At Gettysburg, he had 70,000 men and the Union had about 95,000.
If he could reduce the Army of the Potomac's effectives by 30% after one battle with such great odds, he had good reason to believe he could have even more success on more even terms.
Lee's forces took almost 6,000 prisoners of war at Chancellorsville and had to let thousands of others go because they did not have the manpower.
Had he split Meade's army at Gettysburg, he could have done some absolutely brutal damage.
That would have caused a temporary supply interruption.
Destroying Meade's army and threatening Washington might - might - have given the UK government political cover to intervene in the Union blockade.
Ultimately I think this would have failed as well, because the US government would probably have just relocated to New York or Boston and have won over UK public opinion to the point where the UK would not have risked further escalation.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.