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  If the Confederacy had won at the Battle of Gettysburg
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Author Topic: If the Confederacy had won at the Battle of Gettysburg  (Read 480 times)
Delegate Spark
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« on: October 19, 2019, 07:58:08 pm »

What would have happened?
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Yellowhammer
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« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2019, 08:39:49 pm »

Public morale in the north would drop, and the civilians would possibly lose their appetite to keep sending their sons to die in a useless war of aggression.
Ideally a larger cohort of northerners would realize the need to rise up and get rid of the Lincoln regime, which was putting its power over the lives of the northern citizenry.

What the south should've done is not put all their eggs into the basket of conventional warfare, and instead flood Pennsylvania with bands of guerrilla fighters. Blaze a trail of destruction through the Union's heartland-- drive a steak through it's will to keep on fighting an illegitimate imperialistic war.
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Fmr Dixieland Speaker Muad'dib
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« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2019, 10:09:27 pm »

It would all depend how decisive a victory the Army of Northern Virginia achieved. If they had a total victory then there is nothing between the ANV and DC. At the very least the boost to northern morale from defeating Lee and the ANV doesn't happen. However when is the victory achieved? if it's on day one does the Union army continue to fight at Gettysburg? Likely this just moves the battle field elsewhere and had an entirely different set of what if variables. Too many variables to have a definitive answer. Now there are a couple of other things one needs to consider. For one the siege of Vicksburg is going on at the same time. Furthermore the Union has already captured New Orleans. Cotton backed bonds to finance the war effort aren't worth anything if you can't supply the Cotton to the European bond holders.

Public morale in the north would drop, and the civilians would possibly lose their appetite to keep sending their sons to die in a useless war of aggression.
Ideally a larger cohort of northerners would realize the need to rise up and get rid of the Lincoln regime, which was putting its power over the lives of the northern citizenry.

All things considered I think at the very least, it would have increased the chances of a George B. McClellan defeating Lincoln in the 1864 US Presidential election.

What the south should've done is not put all their eggs into the basket of conventional warfare, and instead flood Pennsylvania with bands of guerrilla fighters. Blaze a trail of destruction through the Union's heartland-- drive a steak through it's will to keep on fighting an illegitimate imperialistic war.

Robert E Lee was a gentleman and unlike famous Northern Generals actually showed restraint and respect for civilians.

Quote from: American History Revised: 200 Startling Facts That Never Made It into the Textbooks (2010)
Whereas Grant and Sherman had no compunctions about laying waste to farms and doing harm to civilians standing in their way, Lee did. "It is well that war is so terrible," he said, "lest we grow too fond of it." As his armies advanced northward and captured farms, he instructed his soldiers that whatever food they took from the farmers, they pay for it. He, not Grant, won the moral advantage recognized by history.
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Southern Senator North Carolina Yankee
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« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2019, 11:05:00 pm »

Muaddib is correct in that it depends on the degree of "victory". If Lee had trapped Meade in Gettysburg say on Day 2 by taking Little Round Top or had broken the center on day three, then yes they could win a decisive Yorktown style victory and end the war then and there so 1864 becomes irrelevant though Lincoln probably isn't even the nominee. That being said I don't see the Democrats as being viable long term in the North demographically and their economic policies don't match well with the North's economy during this period, which is something a lot of the major what if Confederates won books and media fail to consider.

But getting to the topic of the post, anything less than complete victory means that Lee expends thousands of men for nothing, and has to withdraw because he cannot sustain himself in PA for long while the North can reinforce and possibly trap him North of the Potomac and destroy him. Morale damage is a factor but the election of 1864 is still over a year away and the battles that won that election was Atlanta and with the victory at Vicksburg still coming that is still possible in such a scenario.

It should be pointed out as well that complete victory on day 1 is rather worthless. Had Hancock arrived to find Cemetary and Culp's Hill occupied, he would have advised Meade to pull back to his defense line back in Maryland. 1st and 11th Corps had suffered massively, but most of the AOP would be fresh and dug in on a defensive position miles away from Gettysburg and Lee's defensive lines at Gettysburg would be worthless. Lee would have to decided between attacking a fortified position or withdrawing to VA lest he be cut off and it should be remembered AOP is closer to VA then ANV at this point and the possibility of blocking the crossings and cutting Lee off are substantial the longer Lee stays in PA/MD.
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Delegate Spark
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« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2019, 08:23:51 am »

Say the Confederates win the third day of the battle. Why does the war end?
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Del Tachi
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« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2019, 12:22:27 pm »

Vicksburg still would have fallen, so that would be a major Union victory.

The Civil War was won in the western theatre
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« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2019, 01:11:59 pm »

Say the Confederates win the third day of the battle. Why does the war end?

The best scenario for this to happen is if Meade is forced to Surrender. If Meade surrenders then Lee's Army can take Washington, Baltimore and even Philly because their isn't a strong enough contingent of troops that can resist the whole of Lee's army.
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« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2019, 03:54:40 pm »

Say the Confederates win the third day of the battle. Why does the war end?

The best scenario for this to happen is if Meade is forced to Surrender. If Meade surrenders then Lee's Army can take Washington, Baltimore and even Philly because their isn't a strong enough contingent of troops that can resist the whole of Lee's army.

How exactly is this supposed fantasy of a surrender by Meade going to happen?.

Lee is in no condition to besiege Meade and the Civil War was one in which the defense had superiority. At no point was Lee ever close to crushing the Army of the Potomac. While it is conceivable for Lee to have forced Meade to temporarily leave the vicinity of Gettysburg, he's still left with no viable option other than to do as he did after Sharpsburg and return home.

Moreover the defenses around Washington garrisoned by the XXII Corps were sufficient to keep Lee out of the Capital. Lincoln may have worried overmuch about the defense of Washington City, but not without reason. While the XXII Corps certainly could not have taken the field against Lee, they didn't have to. They only had to hold their own and were sufficient to that task.

Lee did about as well as could be expected in his 1863 campaign. One way he could have done better would've been if the Army of the Potomac had dashed itself to pieces against a dug-in Army of Northern Virginia which I can't see a survivor of Fredericksburg such as Meade, or even Hooker, attempting.

The other would have been for Lee to keep the Army of Northern Virginia largely intact and conceded Gettysburg after the second day.
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Delegate Spark
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« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2019, 04:00:09 pm »

I’ll throw a wrench in this again. What happens if Meade never takes command a few days before at Gettysburg ?
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Southern Senator North Carolina Yankee
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« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2019, 04:37:18 pm »

Say the Confederates win the third day of the battle. Why does the war end?

The best scenario for this to happen is if Meade is forced to Surrender. If Meade surrenders then Lee's Army can take Washington, Baltimore and even Philly because their isn't a strong enough contingent of troops that can resist the whole of Lee's army.

How exactly is this supposed fantasy of a surrender by Meade going to happen?.

Lee is in no condition to besiege Meade and the Civil War was one in which the defense had superiority. At no point was Lee ever close to crushing the Army of the Potomac. While it is conceivable for Lee to have forced Meade to temporarily leave the vicinity of Gettysburg, he's still left with no viable option other than to do as he did after Sharpsburg and return home.

Of course it is a very unlikely scenario and I discussed this in my previous post above, and at length on discord last night with Muaddib. My second post was based on the slim chance of this occurring but was not meant to be taken in isolation from the first.

Had one of the unlikely scenarios of breaking Meade's flanks and cutting off his lines of retreat or actually managing to break the center on day three (and yes, none of these were feasible for a variety of reasons), only then would scenario of Meade surrendering come into play.

You don't necessarily need to besiege Meade to force him to surrender. It is still possible to trap an army via maneuver though the window for such is rapidly closing by this point in history. The fact that Meade was very cautious and also preferred defensive strategy (much to the chagrin of Lincoln) eliminated most every opening for Lee to exploit to achieve this objective.


Moreover the defenses around Washington garrisoned by the XXII Corps were sufficient to keep Lee out of the Capital. Lincoln may have worried overmuch about the defense of Washington City, but not without reason. While the XXII Corps certainly could not have taken the field against Lee, they didn't have to. They only had to hold their own and were sufficient to that task.

Saving Washington and being able to win the war are very different though. A destroyed Army of the Potomac changes the game and while we from out vantage point understand how important the West was and to an extent so did Lincoln, many politicians and Congress saw Virginia as the main theater and the main place that the war had to be fought and won.


Lee did about as well as could be expected in his 1863 campaign. One way he could have done better would've been if the Army of the Potomac had dashed itself to pieces against a dug-in Army of Northern Virginia which I can't see a survivor of Fredericksburg such as Meade, or even Hooker, attempting.

The other would have been for Lee to keep the Army of Northern Virginia largely intact and conceded Gettysburg after the second day.

I pointed this out on discord last night as well, particularly in regards to Hancock who was also a veteran of Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg. This is particularly relevant to the whole lost cause emphasis on Jackson at Gettsyburg or Ewell pressing forward to Culp's and Cemetery Hill's. Had such occured, the Army of the Potomac would not have concentrated at Gettysburg. It also why any scenario short of Meade's surrender and/or the destruction of the Army of the Potomac would be a strategic set back for the confederacy with a campaign that Lee acknowledged was on borrowed time.

It is tempting to say here that campaign was unwinnable from the start, but the problem with that is it removes human agency from the equation. Whenever you have masses of troops moving around, largely blind and without knowing where the other guy is and what they are doing, you run that risk through a combination of human error and fog of war of losing what should be a winnable campaign. The Civil War is very close to modern war but it is just a few steps back and that is what allows for unexpected results.

A good example of this was Chancellorsville. The only way that Lee won that was because Hooker made a number of mistakes and poor communication across vast distances. Hooker had twice as many men and he was pressing him from two sides.

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Southern Senator North Carolina Yankee
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« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2019, 04:46:05 pm »

I’ll throw a wrench in this again. What happens if Meade never takes command a few days before at Gettysburg ?

Hooker, Couch, Reynolds and Meade were all veterans of Fredericksburg and all were aghast at Burnside's actions there and as along as they avoid attacking Lee on defensive terrain, and avoid giving him a tactical advantage in the field, Lee has very little chance of succeeding. Aside from Hooker's freezing up at Chancellorsville and losing his nerve, he was a fairly decent commander as were the other three.
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McNukes™ #NYCMMWasAHero
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« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2019, 02:27:26 pm »

The South would've won had it successfully seized enough Northern supplies. Had Maryland and Delaware seceded, the Northern wargoal would have shifted to controlling the border states, and had the South invaded and conquered Philadelphia from Gettysburg, the war could end early. The impact of the lack of the Emancipation Proclamation cannot be understated as a factor either; if Lincoln hadn't issued this, then at least one or two Reconstruction Amendments would have never occurred, if not all three.
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Southern Senator North Carolina Yankee
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« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2019, 03:47:22 pm »

The South would've won had it successfully seized enough Northern supplies. Had Maryland and Delaware seceded, the Northern wargoal would have shifted to controlling the border states, and had the South invaded and conquered Philadelphia from Gettysburg, the war could end early. The impact of the lack of the Emancipation Proclamation cannot be understated as a factor either; if Lincoln hadn't issued this, then at least one or two Reconstruction Amendments would have never occurred, if not all three.

Maryland seceding would have never been practical. The troops Lincoln called up were pouring through the state to get to Washington and they would have just occupied all of the major rail lines and imprisoned the secessionists. The Western part of the state was pro-union as well.

Delaware was too close to PA and tied to its economic orbit to secede.

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True Federalist
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« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2019, 07:10:42 pm »

The South would've won had it successfully seized enough Northern supplies. Had Maryland and Delaware seceded, the Northern wargoal would have shifted to controlling the border states, and had the South invaded and conquered Philadelphia from Gettysburg, the war could end early. The impact of the lack of the Emancipation Proclamation cannot be understated as a factor either; if Lincoln hadn't issued this, then at least one or two Reconstruction Amendments would have never occurred, if not all three.

The Emancipation Proclamation was the year before, just after Sharpsburg, not Gettysburg. The supply problems that the Confederacy had were more about transport than materiel, and much more about keeping the civilians supplied than the army.  The South was not and never had been a Jeffersonian fantasy land of independent yeoman farmers. The regions where it came closest to that "ideal" were some of the poorest parts of the South and the parts with the strongest Union sentiment during the war.  Lee's summer campaigns of 1862 and 1863 were much more about keeping the Union Army too busy to go rampaging through the Confederate hinterland than gaining supplies for the Confederate hinterland.  Lee tried to do the same in 1864, but didn't have the resources to pull it off.

By 1863, the Confederacy had no chance of winning the war, tho the Union could still have lost it.
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Unconditional Surrender Truman
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« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2019, 08:25:34 pm »

There was never any realistic hope for a Southern victory at Gettysburg after the first day. While by no means unimportant, Gettysburg has been overstated in the popular imagination as the absolute moment when the Civil War was won. By the second day, the best Lee could hope for was a draw —and a draw was enough to send the ANV fleeing south at Antietam the year before. Considering also that a different result in Pennsylvania would not prevent Grant from taking Vicksburg, I'd go so far as to say that Gettysburg is not the "turning point" we should find most interesting. That said, I will conditionally endorse Yankee's point that a major mistake by the Union high command could have change the result of the battle, though of course it's impossible to assess the likelihood of such an event with any certainty.


I'm really not interested in rehashing the "mean imperialist Yankees vs. chivalrous Southern gentlemen" take on the Civil War, but in general, LOL at the notion that Robert E. Lee is insufficiently deified in our history books.
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