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 Posted: Sun Aug 10th, 2008 03:40 am
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Wrap10
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Hi CKL,

Good points once again. You seem to make a habit of that. :)

That's probably true about Lee. All things considered, it does seem as if his best chance to win in the East was the first year or so. It's funny, here I've been hammering him for Antietam, but I also think his decision to cross the Potomac in 1862 was a good option. Much better than 1863 when he made the same decision. In the East, the Union had been rocked back on its heels by the setbacks on the Peninsula and at Second Manassas, and it was the perfect time to seize the initiative. Under the circumstances a victory on Union soil could have dealt the Union war effort a severe blow. So I think I can understand why he acted as he did, even though staying on the strategic defensive was also a viable option. But then again, maybe not for Lee. About the only time he ever went over on the defensive was when he had no other choice, as in his duel with Grant.

I don't really fault the Maryland Campaign per say, although I'm really not sure he had any definite goal or plan in mind. I think he was going to be governed by circumstances. But what I do have a problem with is his decision to stand and fight at Sharpsburg. The situation by that point had changed radically, and all things considered, he had little or nothing to gain by offering battle. But I guess that's what you got with Lee. He had a terribly hard time curbing his aggressive instincts, even when doing so would have been a good idea. They served him well at times, much less so at other times.

That is an interesting point about the Union generals vs. the Confederate generals. You have a whole new cast in the North by the war's last year compared to 1861, but in the South the faces are about the same from start to finish. An interesting side note about that is Joe Johnston. It's often said that Davis could hardly stand him, yet he keeps turning up with important commands.

I've read some about all that, and how and why Davis seemed to stick with certain commanders so often, but it's been a while now, and the brain cells aren't what they used to be. But I remember the contrast with the North, and how the Union command went through a wholesale change during the war, whereas that of the South did not. That's a pretty intriguing subject.

Getting back for a moment to the subject of Lee's decision to remain on the field on September 18th, I haven't scowered the earth far and wide or anything, but so far everything I've come across indicates that Lee acted as he did with the intension of fighting, not bluffing McClellan into holding back. Lee's own report on the battle makes no mention of any such idea. In fact, his words suggest he was ready to fight if McClellan was. What finally decided him to retreat was the fact that McClellan wasn't going to attack right away combined with the added fact that Mac was receiving reinforcements.

Lee even says in his report that his own army was "too weak to assume the offensive," suggesting that he may have considered this idea at some point. D.S. Freeman, on page 262 of the abridged version of his biography of Lee, says this - "When the last of the reports had been received, Lee concluded that an offensive was out of the question the next day, but he was confident that the army could and would defend its position if McClellan again attacked."

This is something those faulty brain cells had forgotten. The fact that Lee actually thought about going over on the attack on the 18th, after his army had been all but blasted apart on the 17th. If that doesn't leave a person shaking their head in disbelief, I'm not sure what will.

Perry

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