View single post by CleburneFan
 Posted: Mon Jun 11th, 2007 12:57 am
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Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Florida USA
Posts: 1021

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What I question is in what kind of shape was Meade's army to mount an energetic pursuit after Lee's army. Meade faced some considerable barriers to an immediate pursuit.

First, it was raining like crazy on July 4 and throughout the night into July 5.  Not just rain, but lightening and drenching rain for hours. Smoke and rain made it hard for his Signal Corps to observe Lee's movements. Leealso had  ordered his troops to set fire to their log breastworks so as to create a smoke screen for his retreat.

Meade needed to know where Lee was headed. Yes, most likely to the Potomac, but which route? Would he head to South Mountain or would he head to Williamsport? Meade's cavalry under Kilpatrick and Gregg had been detailed to harass and raid Lee's wagon trains, but they didn't send back enough timely intell about Lee's intentions.

Meade had his supply base in Winchester. Should he move his supplies to Frederick or keep them in Winchester? That depended on what Lee was doing.

Meade's men were hungry, horses were unfed, badly shod and breaking down. The men and horses were exhausted. How do you mobilze a force under such discouraging  conditions?

Lee had left behind hundreds of dead men, horses and mules. Plus Meade had hundreds and hundreds of Union deceased to bury, let alone the wounded and ill of both sides.  The air was foul with the stench of rotting flesh. Could Meade just leave and expect the citizens of Gettysburg to bury the remains of so many troops or did he have some obligation to put details together to complete that horrible task? (Evidently this question did not plague Lee as he did go off and leave behind dead and severely wounded, although he did leave some medical staff to care for Confederate wounded.)

And, yes, it could be argued that Lee's army had equally overwhelming obstacles to their successful retreat including wagon trains that were miles and miles long, thousands of head of livestock foraged by Confederate troops up to and even during the actual battle, plus the same terrible weather and muddy roads that blocked Meade's advance. Lee also had to move as many wounded as possible in those wagon trains, a trip so harsh that many died and were buried by the roadside or wounded whose conditions worsened so they were left in nearby homes. Lee had another burden...a few thousand Union prisoners. Meade had refused Lee's request for an exchange, so Lee was stuck with all those men to guard, feed, and care for.)

I can't recall exactly, but wasn't Meade running short on ordnance and QM supplies at this time? He probably would have had to send for more. I'm foggy on this part. G-burg experts can clarify Meade's supply situation in the critical days right after the battle. but I'm sure Meade's logistical situation would have slowed him down too. 

Well, to shorten this post, I'll just say I don't know if Meade's situation would have allowed a swift and decisive pursuit of Lee's army with the aim of finishing it off once and for all even if Lincoln did dream of such a possiblity and long for it. That's just the way I see it.

(I forget who called it that, was it Lee? But it was a phrase called the "friction of war" or the "friction of battle." An army or its leaders may desire a certain outcome, but so much can happen to slow down or impede the desired result. Right after Gettysburg, I feel the "friction of war" was very much in force those fateful next few days.)


Last edited on Mon Jun 11th, 2007 01:05 am by CleburneFan

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