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 Posted: Sat Aug 23rd, 2008 02:46 pm
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Wrap10
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Robert,

Sorry for getting your name wrong. Early onset of senility on my part. You're welcome to call me something much worse than "Mike" or "Perry."

I had to do a quick refresher on Leipzig, and I see your point about the similarities in the two positions. I don't know if Lee had that battle in mind or not though. He does seem to have gotten off a little better at Antietam than did Napoleon at Leipzig. And it seems as if Napoleon was slowly forced back into his eventual position there after trying to strike his opponents individually, whereas Lee assumed his position from the get-go and awaited McClellan's attack. But they did both face long odds, in a precarious position.

I just thought of something else that seems similar to Lee's Antietam situation - Hooker's final position at Chancellorsville. He was backed up to the Rappahannock, with both flanks anchored on the river. Lee was preparing to assault him one final time after dealing with Sedgewick, but Hooker retreated across the river before Lee could do so.

In fact, that battle is another place that Lee should have been defeated. Even after Jackson's flank attack, Hooker had the better position and a much larger army. I think it was more than just a conk on the head from that porch beam that took the fight out of him. He had already conceded the initiative to Lee before that happened. But even so, his final position there along the river was pretty strong, and I think it was fortunate for Lee's army that Hooker pulled out before that last attack took place.

Lee measured Hooker the same way he had measured McClellan the previous year, and found both of them to be hesitant and unsure of themselves. He was right about McClellan almost every time, including at the exact moment he should have been incredibly wrong. With Hooker it was perhaps easier to see, as blatant and sudden as it was. Odd about that, given Hooker's bombast before the battle and his excellent battle plan. But he went into a serious shell once he realized that Lee wasn't backing away from his challenge.

Even so, and despite the traditional view of that battle, his army gave a good account of itself, to the extent the men were actually allowed to fight. Had they received the kind of leadership from Hooker that they deserved, Lee would have been in an awful fix. He had plenty of time to recover and seize the moment, but never did so. Even at that, had he simply remained in place there along the river and defended against Lee's final attack, he may have still won the battle by default. I suspect that attack would have hurt Lee's army far worse than Hooker's.

Perry

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