Civil War (American)


  • 2018 2017 2016 '11 Moderator

    I have a theory that General Lee, tired of warfare and realizing that the cause was lost, decided after two days of bitter fighting, without the Union Army so much as giving up a single hill, to order a charge he knew would destroy his army in an effort to force his government to capitulate and end the war in hopes of a quick end.


  • 2007 AAR League

    There are at least two problems with your theory:  (1) up until Pickett’s charge, Lee was WINNING the battle; and (2) the war lasted another two years after Gettysburg (or almost two years) – not exactly a “quick end.”  That, and you would have to be pretty cynical about the general who was held in the highest esteem by both the Union and Confederate armies (and by historians since).  Now Grant – he might be fairly called a butcher (I don’t happen to agree, but some might).  But no serious historian speaks of Lee in those terms.

    Gettysburg was indeed a turning point, but it takes some serious revisionist history to make a case that Lee “threw” the battle.  He made an error of judgment, pure and simple.


  • 2018 2017 2016 '11 Moderator

    I didn’t say his tactic worked.  Just the impression I got.

    Anyway, from what I have learned about the battle from American Military History class, Lee was getting his buttocks handed too him at Gettysburg.  However, he was winning the war.

    General Stuart started by stopping him from getting the prime real estate around Gettysburg with the help of 1st Corps.  Later the battle of Little Round Top stopped him from flanking the Union Army and rolling them up like a carpet.  Finally he had Pickett’s charge, though, maybe the fence in the way was either not seen by General Lee (wooden fences in grassy lands can be rather difficult to see from a mile away after all) or discounted?

    But I don’t think that’s true.  I really, honestly, think he wanted to end it.  The fact that his President refused to surrender and Lee’s own honor caused the war to continue longer then he had hoped.  But that was basically the end of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. (I also realize there were more Confederate Armies, Lee’s was not the only one just like General Meade and General Grant’s Army of the Potomac were not the only Union Armies.)



  • If ANY aspect of your theory holds water it would be that JEB Stuart wanted to end the war, not Lee.  Stuart was the one out-of-position early on that set up the circumstances of Picket’s Charge.

    However, according to every Battle Sim I have ever seen and tried, had Lee retreated from Gettysburg the evening of Day 2, the Confederacy was poised to win the war.

    Of course, the Confederacy being supplied with AK-47’s prior to Wilderness would also have won them the war, that but is a different Novel…


  • 2007 AAR League

    Funny you should mention that book, Switch.  I tried to read “Guns of the South”, but whoever wrote it is one serious gun nut, because he went on and on and on and on about how they took apart the damned AK-47s, cleaned them, put them back together, etc.  Bored me to tears!!!  I just couldn’t get through it after that.



  • I only read the first one…  There are about a score more (each one advancing forward from the premise of the Confederacy being independent), but I cannot bring myself to read anymore of them.


  • 2018 2017 2016 '11 Moderator

    General Lee was losing the battle from the outset though.  He was winning the war, I already stipulated to that.  And yes, I realize the General Stuart of the Union Cavalry was to blame for holding the high ground on Day 1 until the 1st Corps arrived.  I believe my second post in this thread said as much.

    However, once Lee was denied the high ground and the defensive position, shouldn’t he have moved out and looked for a different battlefield?

    Once he failed to route the Union on Day 1 because of General Stuart with the assistance of the 1st Corps and later failed to push the Union off Little Round Top, the ONLY conclusion I can come too about General Pickett’s charge is that Lee had decided to end the invasion of the north, destroy his army and attempt to be defeated honorably so that the Confederacy could attempt to sue for peace from an even standing at the table.

    We all know what happened was that Lee resigned in Virginia with his President running like a cowardly school girl until he was hunted down like a dog by the Union and then President Lincoln was assassinated resulting in the Reformation of the south being much more brutal and vicious then had he been alive.

    That’s all recorded history.  What I want to know is if there is a POTENTIAL that maybe General Lee, seeing the writing on the wall (no real support from France or England; his army being stopped in the North and forced to withdraw; the rest of the war being fought in his homeland instead of the North where they had hoped to turn public opinion against the war and win; etc.) decided to attempt to end the war in a quick manner in an honorable way.


  • 2007 AAR League

    @ncscswitch:

    I only read the first one…  There are about a score more (each one advancing forward from the premise of the Confederacy being independent), but I cannot bring myself to read anymore of them.

    Yeah, I remember that.  I even think I saw it carried the story forward as far as WWII, with the South siding with Nazi Germany.  Interesting premise – not very good execution, at least based on the first book.


  • 2007 AAR League

    Oh, and did you notice I’m a fellow “Heavy Bomber” now? 😄



  • @Gamer:

    Oh, and did you notice I’m a fellow “Heavy Bomber” now? 😄

    Yep, check the Website/Forum Discussion.  I posted about your advancement the other day…


  • 2017 2016 2015 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Lee lost Jackson at Chancellorsville and perhaps he felt he didn’t have the strength to win knowing his main subordinate general was slain in the battle before. His invasion of Maryland/Pennsylvania was out of desperation anyway because the Union army was hitting hard against Vicksburg and he had to make a diversion to give his army a chance to win ONE decisive battle and gain foreign aid.

    I personally view Chancellorsville and perhaps Antietam as the southerns best chances to win. Gettysburg was post climatic campaign, because the South could have totally crushed the Union army in those other battles, but let them off the hook.

    You can view it like Stalingrad. For Germany her real chance to win was  no later than around August 41. the Stalingrad campaign was fought when the Soviets had fully restored military balance and was just a crushing German defeat. But the seeds were already displayed long before that point. The opportunity for German victory had already passed a year earlier.

    Perhaps Lee felt his time had passed as well. Pickett’s charge was sort of like Napoleon sending the Imperial Guard to push the British back to the woods before the Prussians arrived. Pickett had an equally difficult task ahead and the fortune of battle was placed irresponsibly into his lap. It may have been a sign that Lee knew his time was up and he had to make an aggressive choice to have a chance to recover any measurable victory.


  • Official Answers 2007 AAR League

    I’m not a military scholar but I think you’re pretty far out on a limb with this one Jen.

    I MIGHT concede this on some unconscious level he did but you’re going to need a lot more material to get even that– like significant citations from Lee’s own writings. My understading of Lee’s character is that he had it and ‘finding a way to lose’ is what people without character do. You will need to establish that Lee had a pattern of ‘finding a way to lose’ and that is not the same as getting beat or making a bad tactical decision. Sometimes you just don’t win.

    This reminds me of the Deep Space Nine episode where O’Brian and Bashir are arguing whether or not Davy Crocket fought to the deat at the Alamo. Worf tells them that they are both wrong. “Do you believe in the legend of Davy Crockett? If you do you should have no doubt he died a hero’s death. If you do not believe in the legend of Davy Crockett then he was just a man and it does not matter how he died.”

    Frankly Jen this comes across as an attempt to smear someone who isn’t around to stand up for themself.


  • 2018 2017 2016 '11 Moderator

    Not an attempt to smear anyone at all, actually.  I’m just looking at the battlefield from pictures at the time, looking at how badly he was beaten in the two days prior and wondering why he would make such a bone-headed order despite the council of his lieutenants not too. (General Longstreet in particular said there were no 15,000 soldiers ever made that could make that charge and win.)

    Considering General Lee is considered one of the smartest Generals America ever had, that means he had to have another reason to make the charge.  So was it the honorable reason to give the Union a sound victory to use in the hopes of ending the war sooner, or the dishonorable reason of cutting off his nose to spite his face?

    I want to believe it was the honorable reason.


  • Official Answers 2007 AAR League

    @Cmdr:

    Not an attempt to smear anyone at all, actually.  I’m just looking at the battlefield from pictures at the time, looking at how badly he was beaten in the two days prior and wondering why he would make such a bone-headed order despite the council of his lieutenants not too. (General Longstreet in particular said there were no 15,000 soldiers ever made that could make that charge and win.)

    Considering General Lee is considered one of the smartest Generals America ever had, that means he had to have another reason to make the charge.  So was it the honorable reason to give the Union a sound victory to use in the hopes of ending the war sooner, or the dishonorable reason of cutting off his nose to spite his face?

    I want to believe it was the honorable reason.

    What if it was just stubborn pride? Where would that fall? Honorable or dishonorable?


  • 2018 2017 2016 '11 Moderator

    Pride is a vice, thus, it would be dishonorable in my opinion.

    However, I don’t believe Lee suffered from that vice.  That’s why his decision to do what all his Generals told him not to do, despite his vast wealth of knowledge and experience, makes no sense to me except in the case where he was attempting to cripple his army in an effort to convince his government to surrender now that they couldn’t prosecute the war effectively anymore.



  • There’s nothing in Lee’s charcater to suggest he would knowingly send out one of his own divisions to be slaughtered. The only general to oppose the attack was Longstreeet, who had been behind the stone wall at Frederiskberg and knew how cut up attackers could get, trying to take a fortified position. Pickett was thrilled to finally get his divsion in the fight.

    And Lee had done quite well on the first two days. The first day, the Union was driven out of the town and to the hills. The 2nd day, Sickle’s division was sluaghtered because he was an idiot and marched out 1/4 mile ahead of the battle line (lost a leg for it) . Lee came within  an ace of rolling up the Union line at Little Round Top. If it had been anyone other than Chamberlain (who was one of the best soldiers in the entire war), Lee would have taken the hills and been able to flank Meade’s lines.

    So the notion that Lee had failed miserable on both days is false. The first day went very well and he came so close on the 2nd day. The casualty figures bear this out: 23,000 union casualties after the fight, and 20,000-25,000 confederate. And that figure is AFTER Pickett’s charge. Before the assault, Lee had been doing very well.

    Lee’s own explanation says it all: “I asked more of men than should have been asked of them.” He had come to believe his army could do the impossible (which it had throughout the war). Against Burnside, Hooker or McClellan the charge might have worked. But Meade was a capable general, and Hancock (whose division Pickett ran into) was an excellent soldier.

    And as someone else pointed out: the war dragged on another two years. Had Lee seceretely wanted to surrender, he had ample oppurtunity after Gettysberg.

    Just as a historical fact, the confederates best chance for victory came AFTER Gettysberg, when McClellan (anti-war), was set to trounce Lincoln in the election. Joe Johnston, the confederate commander at Atlanta, wouldn’t give Sherman a fight becasue he knew Lincoln would lose the election. Davis replaced Johnson with Hood, who promptly wrecked his army attacking Sherman, Sherman captured Atlanta, and Lincoln won reelection.


  • 2018 2017 2016 '11 Moderator

    I think you are completely misreading the war.

    Lee got stopped by General Stuart’s dismounted cavalry on day one.

    Lee got stopped again by Colonel Chamberlain’s beat up 20th Maine regiment on day two.

    On day three, General Longstreet, and I have to imagine everyone else in the general staff, was telling Lee to give it up, pull out, and find a new spot.  Lee’s response was that he’d paid too high a price to leave now.

    General Pickett, mind you, only took his orders.  I don’t think he was happy to charge his infantry over a mile in open sight with the entire Union Army, and all of it’s artillery batteries, pounding on him with Concussive Rounds followed by Grape Shot meanwhile getting chewed up by entrenched Union Infantry behind a stone wall in the center, where all the Union’s communications were strongest.

    So the question stands:  Do Lee lose his bloody mind and make the most bone headed move in history, or did he have an ulterior motive?

    Considering Lee controlled the battle field in every engagement he’d been in up until that point, I have to believe he had an ulterior motive.  The only one I can think of that would be rational, is sabotaging his army to end the war faster (failed, if that was the intent, but it’s at least a reasonable thought to have.)

    And, btw, there are TWO flanks to the Union Army.  Since he failed at Little Round Top he could have either hit it with Pickett’s division while his own artillery batteries attempted to convince the union of a desperate charge up the middle, or hit the other while his artillery did the same thing.  Both options may have given him the victory and were blatantly obvious.  Although, the best decision would have been to withdraw, find his own high ground and wait for the Union to show up.



  • I’ve already asked you politely, if you want to shorten my name, Smack will do.

    But we can avoid all that, if you do what I already asked you nicely to do.  🙂

    Lee got stopped by General Stuart’s dismounted cavalry on day one.

    ROFL. General Stuart? Lee’s own cavalry commander? Who wasn’t even there the first day? And there we have it, ladies and gentlemen. Lee was counterattacked by his own cavalry. Is it any wonder he sent his own division to the slaughter?

    Do I even need to go on? Well done, Jen. Well done indeed!



  • Warning for both of you…

    I removed the name BS and the associated flames.

    As a COURTESY I did not lock the thread.

    But this is your ONLY warning (in this thread or any other).

    Jen, you have been asked nicely, twice, to not use that specific abbreviation of Smacktard’s name.

    Smacktard, do not rise to the flame bait if Jen’s usage repeats.


  • Official Answers 2007 AAR League

    @Cmdr:

    So the question stands:  Do Lee lose his bloody mind and make the most bone headed move in history, or did he have an ulterior motive?

    He did not lose his mind and did not have an ulterior motive. The decision he thought was best to win the battle was not.

    Gotta also agree with Smacktard about Chamberlain (wasn’t he also in the center on day 3?) being up there in the best soldier lists. Frankly, I think he saved the United States on Little Round Top.


  • 2019 Moderator

    Chaimberlain was definately a great leader.  It takes cast iron balls to order a charge when half of your comand is down and your almost out of ammo.  Most leaders at that time would have called for a withdrawal.


  • 2018 2017 2016 '11 Moderator

    I apologize, I did accidentally replace the names of the two Cavalry commanders.  I am sure that Brigadier General John Buford was spinning in his grave being mistaken for Major General JEB Stuart.

    For that I apologize.  However, your condescending attitude about a simple mistake of using the wrong name only proves your position has no strength of its own and relies on attacks on the character of other conversation participants, Mr.  Smacky.


    Now, with that said, here’s how I see Gettysburg going down.

    1)  The Army of Northern Virginian needed shoes and, since they were near a shoe factory located in Gettysburg, decided to take them as spoils of war.

    2)  General Buford, realizing that there were 12 major roads passing through Gettysburg, and realizing that the Army of Northern Virginia (here-after referred to as ANV) would have extremely good positioning if he allowed them to pass and waited for General Mead (who was commonly seen as a man who would be patient and move slowely so as to not over extend himself) and that Gettysburg could mean the difference between stopping the AVN or not; put up a scrap (fight.)

    3)  General Heth, assuming he was attacking local militia, directed two brigades forward (under Gen. Archer and Davis), however he miscalculated, he was actually attacking dismounted cavalry who were soon supported by 1st Corps.

    4)  Gen. Buford’s tactics won The Army of the Potomac (hereafter referred to as AP) the strong defensive positions.

    Thus, I say that General Lee’s army lost on Day 1.  They failed to achieve their primary objectives (getting the shoes) and failed to achieve their secondary objectives (pushing Mead’s army off the defensive positions.)


    Day 2:

    1)  With the strong positions on Culp’s Hill, Cemetary Ridge and both Round Tops (Round Top and Little Round Top) dugin and defended with artillery batteries and infantry units; the AP deserted the less secure Gettysburg city for the stronger positions to the south of Gettysburg.

    2)  Lee, smelling victory, directed General Longstreet’s First Corps to attack Little Round Top where he could roll up the APs “Fish Hook” emplacements.  Unfortunately, General Stuart’s cavalry was not present to give Lee accurate intelligence, and this allowed the 20th Maine, under the direct command of Colonel Chamberlain, as well as the defense of the Peach Orchard sent General Longstreets divisions reeling.

    It should be noted that in this engagement it was Union Commanders such as Colonel Chamberlain, who lead bayonet charges against superior numbers, that allowed the AP to destroy Caldwell’s Division, Anderson’s division, and many other of Lee’s armies.  Meanwhile, the Union, having the defensive advantage, the strong defensive positions, and good internal lines, was able to switch out units as needed to keep the ground.

    So it is, on Day 2, after the Peach Orchard Battle, the Battle of Little Round Top, the Plum Run Valley (“Valley of Death”) and other scirmishes along the Union lines, and with the retreat of Gen. Lee without gain, that I award day 2 to the Union.


    Now.  After being bested twice in a row, not having achieved your objectives and not destroying your enemy.  With your enemy in control of the best defensive positions on the field and with you attacking from the worst possible angle.  With your general staff advising against your attack plan for day 3, your common sense as an experienced field commander telling you the battle is lost, why would General Lee order a suicide run with 3 divisions through an open field (a LARGE open field, it was over a mile from the tree line to the top of the ridge), over a picket fence which was sure to disrupt your formations and slow your infantry advance; against every gun the Union had in the region first firing concussive rounds and later firing grape shot?

    The only two options I have to chose from are:

    1)  Lee lost his mind and suffered from temporary insanity after having to admit he lost a battle for the first time in the war.

    2)  Lee sabotaged his own army for reasons personal to him, but which I will speculate relate to his desire to end the war to save further punishment on his home state of Virginia (who was suffering greatly as the AP roamed about pillaging and destroying.)

    Now (1) seems unlikely.  (2) seems plausible.


  • 2019 Moderator

    I think by the time Gettysburg took place Lee had come to believe that Southern soldiers particularly Virginians, were far superior fighters in general when compared to the Union troops.  I think in most cases this is probably true.  Southerners I think believed in the cause more so than Union soldiers and this resulted in much higher moral and espre de corp.

    The Idea behind the assault on the center was sound.  If the artillery barrage preceding the attack had been accurate things might have gone differently.  The Union line was actually breached at one point, but the Confederates didn’t have the strength to exploit the gap before it was contained.

    If the barrage was accurate and the Confederates were able to exploit the breach the union line would have been split and the rear would have been exposed.

    I think the adage that “no battle plan never survives first contact with the enemy” is a much better explanation than Lee intentionally threw the battle.

    In short:

    1. Lee had come to expect his Virginians to do better than expected.

    2. The largest artillery barrage of the entire civil war, for the most part missed.

    3. Lee’s leadership style was such that he gave general direction and counted on his subordinates to work out the details.  Unfortunately Jackson was gone at this time and Longstreet was a defensive minded General, who believed that the assault was doomed to fail.



  • Jen, do you flame bait for the pleasure of it?

    I asked you to stop with the name calling BS and the flame bait.

    If you repeat this action again, I will request a temporary ban from GD for you.



  • I think the South would’ve won if they had Snake Eyes.

    l_848ba15544a9f9ac28a36f5905948c16.jpg


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