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 Posted: Fri Aug 8th, 2008 11:01 pm
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Wrap10
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cklarson wrote: I agree with you about Lee's overagressiveness. See my 2 reviews of Edw. Bonekemper's new book on Grant and Lee on this board. The most stunning statistic is that in his first 14 months of command, Lee lost (KWM) as many men as he started out with with the ANVA: 80,000 when the North had a 4:1 manpower advantage. The math was never going to add up.

I disagree with you that Lee or any Confed. was ever gong to gain any real strategic advantage. Their job was not to win the war but to win the defense, wear down the North and gain European recognition. Any territorial advantage they gained would ultimately be lost because the North would just flood in more troops. When Gettysburg started, Lincoln called out the militias from 4 states: the Reserves!! After a point for Davis, he was like Leigh-Mallory during the battle of Britain when he was looking at a flight board that showed all the RAF planes that were up. He asked the CO: how many reserves do we have? The CO replied: Sir, there are no reserves. As one wag said about the final draft call: Davis was robbing both the cradle and the grave.

CKL


Yes, those are very good points. I agree that the only way the South could win the war was by wearing down the will of the North. In fact, I think the northern will to continue fighting was probably the single most crucial factor of the war. As long as the people in the North were willing to keep going, sooner or later they were going to win. There is simply no two ways about that. The South was not going to militarily defeat the North. But they did not need to do so, as you suggest.

I think Lee's victories were something of a double-edged sword (no pun intended). If you look at the situation in the spring of 1864, just before the start of the Overland Campaign, the relative position of the two armies isn't much different than it was in 1861. The overall result has been a stalemate, which works in favor of the South. Contrast that with the situation in the West, where the Union clearly has the upper hand by the spring of 1864. So Lee, in the East, is helping the Confederacy do what they needed to do to win the war, and he is about the only one who is. But as you point out, the toll it took on his army was astonishing.

So I suppose the question is whether Lee could have accomplished the same result at a lower cost. I don't think there's any question that he could have. But Lee seems to have been fixated on the knock-out blow. Anytime he sensed an opening, he was all-in, seeking the kill. In some cases it's an understandable decision. But at other times, you have to wonder what he thought he saw.

I also wonder if after Gettysburg he didn't honestly come to feel that he was the wrong man for the job. I've seen a lot of speculation as to just how sincere was his resignation request that he sent to Davis. What does everyone think?

Perry

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