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 (1863) Battle of Gettysburg
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17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 135
Joined: 2008
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/19/2021 6:22:11 PM

The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
Posted on: 1/19/2021 5:20:12 PM

Much is made of the importance of The Battle of Gettysburg. I don't diminish the importance of it. Yet I don't believe that a Union loss would necessarily mean the South wins the war.

If the Confederates managed to win by the definition of holding the battlefield at the end of the battle what would happen next?

I think it would depend on what this victory looked like. I see a few options:

1.) Union forces are forced out of the vicinity of Gettysburg. Both sides have suffered heavy losses. The Confederates are low on ammunition and supplies. They are forced to retreat back towards Virginia.

With this option strategically little is changed. Politically it could have huge implications.

2.) Same as above, the Southerners hold the battlefield. Both sides are badly mauled. General Lee knows he is low on supplies and ammo and with the loss in troop strength cannot continue offensive operations. But he has paid dearly in Confederate lives. Stubbornly he digs his heals in, he holding on to Gettysburg and the surrounding area.

The North cannot let this stand. General Meade is out as commander of the Army of the Potomac. The Army of the Potomac will rebuild, resupply, recover and start offensive operations to push the Southerners out of Pennsylvania.

Politically this is a disaster for the Lincoln administration. Militarily it could work to the North's advantage. The Army of Northern Virginia is in a tenuous position for resupply and reinforcements. Could the Union turn a defeat at Gettysburg into a major victory by encircling Army of Northern Virginia and capturing or destroying a large portion of it?

3.) The Army of the Potomac is badly broken. The Army of Northern Virginia has suffered heavy losses but can still conduct offensive operations.

General Lee embolden by his victory is going to attack. Where does he send his forces?

4.) The Southerners size Gettysburg and the strategic points around it early in the battle. Neither side has suffered heavy losses. Gettysburg has been closer to a heavy scrimmage than the major battle. The Confederates supply situation is still bad. The Union can much more readily resupply its forces.

General Lee wants to continue his offensive. Where does he attack now. The intact Army of the Potomac will do all it can to stop Army of Northern Virginia.

I believe the 1st and forth options are most likely.

Input?
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Gregory C. White
Canton GA USA
Posts: 328
Joined: 2004
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/19/2021 9:23:06 PM
The ANV would have to win at Gettysburg quickly and decisively, scattering Meade's AOP and spreading
widespread panic in the North. Yes, politically it would be a disaster for the Lincoln administration after the
calamities experienced the previous 6+ months in the eastern theatre at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville,
and Lee's army moving northward into Maryland & Pennsylvania relatively unchecked in June 1863.

The ammunition issue is a key factor as to how long Lee can remain on enemy soil. His soldiers could easily
subsist off the fertile land of southern Pennsylvania, but the duration depends on how much ammo, powder
& loss in personnel is expended @ Gettysburg. I'm assuming Baltimore and Washington would have been
targeted for sacking before returning to Virginia to re-group and re-supply, but that would depend on how
well fortified or defended those cities were.

Would a Confederate victory have won the Confederacy its independence? By July 1863 the Confederacy was
losing ground in the western theatre. The question is not easy to answer not knowing the extent of Northern
demoralization following a decisive loss at Gettysburg. This was the third summer of the war. How much more
would citizens of the North tolerate or stomach another resounding defeat and loss of life? Unlike the South,
the North had a tremendous advantage in that it could replace its lost soldiers by drafting an endless supply
of new immigrants and former slaves. Having said that, just days after the Union victory at Gettysburg were the
New York draft riots. Would further drafts in the North prompt even more rioting? If so, the question of fighting
and losing precious lives to preserve the Union would surely be debated more than ever before in the cities,
towns and villages of the North.

Great "what if" question and I look forward to the responses which will surely follow.

Best Regards,

Greg C. White

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“Any society which suppresses the heritage of its conquered minorities, prevent their history, and denies them their symbols, has sown the seeds of its destruction.” Sir William Wallace, 1280 A.D.
scoucer
Berlin  Germany
Posts: 2856
Joined: 2010
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/20/2021 2:35:09 PM
Good question.

Important is to know if they win on Day 2 or Day 3. Two different propersitions.

Trevor
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Gregory C. White
Canton GA USA
Posts: 328
Joined: 2004
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/20/2021 3:06:16 PM
Quote:
Good question.

Important is to know if they win on Day 2 or Day 3. Two different propersitions.

Trevor


If the ANV wins Day 2 decisively and forces the AOP out of the area, it would presumably
have sufficient ammo & men to threaten Baltimore & Washington, and probably prompt
the evacuation of the Federal government to Philadelphia or NYC. That would cause a panic!

If a Day 3 is needed it would still cost Lee plenty of ammo & men, win or lose

Fun to speculate.

Greg

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“Any society which suppresses the heritage of its conquered minorities, prevent their history, and denies them their symbols, has sown the seeds of its destruction.” Sir William Wallace, 1280 A.D.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 4936
Joined: 2004
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/20/2021 3:38:08 PM
Did Lee actually have to make a move on a major northern city in order to make this foray work ?

To take the war away from Virginia and to score a significant success on Union territory was bound to be an immense shock to an already fragile administration .

The political, diplomatic and social implications of another defeat were going to be amplified immeasurably by the circumstances and location.

This is of necessity a matter of opinion , but I would suggest that just by going up there, inflicting a bloody defeat, and then withdrawing to Virginia with enhanced reputation and morale, along with plunder, the AoNV has done enough to administer a fatal blow to northern will to continue the war.

Regards, Phil



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Michigan Dave
Muskegon MI USA
Posts: 6211
Joined: 2006
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/20/2021 6:35:26 PM
Hey guys,

Let's not forget that the Union still had General Ulysses S. Grant, & Gen. William T. Sherman! I think those guys might have something to say about the war being over?? And that's not even taking into account General Philip Sheridan & his cavalry! I'm pretty sure Lincoln would hurry these guys from the western area to the East!?

Shoot if Grant was in charge at Gettysburg in the 1st place, Lee never would have escaped after day 3!? You know Grant he continues to attack, attack, attack!???

Regards,
MD
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Gregory C. White
Canton GA USA
Posts: 328
Joined: 2004
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/20/2021 7:26:48 PM
Quote:
Hey guys,

Let's not forget that the Union still had General Ulysses S. Grant, & Gen. William T. Sherman! I think those guys might have something to say about the war being over?? And that's not even taking into account General Philip Sheridan & his cavalry! I'm pretty sure Lincoln would hurry these guys from the western area to the East!?

Shoot if Grant was in charge at Gettysburg in the 1st place, Lee never would have escaped after day 3!? You know Grant he continues to attack, attack, attack!???

Regards,
MD



MD,

Quite true Lincoln had Grant, coming off the surrender of Vicksburg, at his disposal. As I stated
earlier, the Confederacy was losing ground in the western theatre.

But how would a decisive loss @ Gettysburg have impacted Northern morale to continue
the objective of preserving the Union? At what cost in life, and the potential of more draft riots?

Jefferson Davis had hopes for foreign intervention, not unlike the rebels had from France
during the American Revolution. A Confederate victory would only embolden the Southern
cause and bring out those riding the fence.

Greg





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“Any society which suppresses the heritage of its conquered minorities, prevent their history, and denies them their symbols, has sown the seeds of its destruction.” Sir William Wallace, 1280 A.D.
Larry Purtell
Little Meadows PA USA
Posts: 1147
Joined: 2004
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/20/2021 7:45:28 PM
If Lee wrecks the AOP and Grant or Sherman are called North after Gettysburg what a change for the Western armies. Maybe militarily they can salvage things for Ole Abe but politicly it's a mess. The peace democrats are going to raise holy hell for some kind of negotiated peace and if the NYC draft riots happen on schedule the press will jump on board and add their voice to the call for negotiated peace with the South. One other thought, there were numerous regular Union troops in Harpers Ferry, Fortress Monroe and other areas but could they be moved fast enough to rebuild/reinforce the AOP? It would mean giving up a lot territory and could be seen as a large scale retreat. Just thinking.

Larry.
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Gregory C. White
Canton GA USA
Posts: 328
Joined: 2004
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/20/2021 9:35:41 PM
Quote:
If Lee wrecks the AOP and Grant or Sherman are called North after Gettysburg what a change for the Western armies. Maybe militarily they can salvage things for Ole Abe but politicly it's a mess. The peace democrats are going to raise holy hell for some kind of negotiated peace and if the NYC draft riots happen on schedule the press will jump on board and add their voice to the call for negotiated peace with the South. One other thought, there were numerous regular Union troops in Harpers Ferry, Fortress Monroe and other areas but could they be moved fast enough to rebuild/reinforce the AOP? It would mean giving up a lot territory and could be seen as a large scale retreat. Just thinking.

Larry.


Good point, Larry.

I would think the Union forces @ Fortress Monroe and Harpers Ferry would be sent to reinforce the AOP, or help defend Washington, assuming
it has not already been sacked.

How about the Union forces in the west? Are they sent east ?

I can't imagine Lincoln surviving politically.

Greg

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“Any society which suppresses the heritage of its conquered minorities, prevent their history, and denies them their symbols, has sown the seeds of its destruction.” Sir William Wallace, 1280 A.D.
Brian W
Atlanta GA USA
Posts: 1050
Joined: 2004
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/20/2021 11:15:28 PM
I had always thought Washington was so fully defended that it was never considered a possibility. So, Gettysburg was a Hail Mary. And the ANV would be in a poor situation even after a victory at Gettysburg.
In other words, the ANV's best realistic scenario was to defeat the AOP at Gettysburg and run amok in PA afterwards as best they could and see how much Northern disunity and foreign intervention it might sow.
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"I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there can be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow-being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again." - William Penn
Lightning
Glasgow  UK
Posts: 692
Joined: 2005
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/21/2021 9:33:32 AM
Fascinating thread.

As alluded to by others on here, I suppose it depends on the manner of the Confederate victory. Victory on day one would have been seen retrospectively as an interesting engagement, but not on the level of the previous major battles. Victory on day three would have pyrrhic and would have seen a return of the relative stalemate that followed previous major battles in the East, and possibly even have left Lee's shattered army open to destruction a lot sooner.

However, a decisive victory on day two, whereby the bulk of the AOP is either destroyed or shattered beyond use in the immediate future, and whereby the ANV remains a potent force, leaves the doors seemingly open to Washington. Lee takes the initiative, hoping to force the Union to terms of peace/recognition by his nearby presence. The Confederates have no hope of actually taking the city by force of arms, it being far too heavily defended, but the sight of a Confederate army parked around the city may have lead to several developments.

- Immediate public clamour for peace and the (unofficial) previous hint of mediation by the UK is accepted to broker a deal.

Or

- The public clamours for the war to be fought to the end. Too many boys in blue have died for it to be thrown away now.
- Lincoln resigns or is forced to resign by his Cabinet / public opinion (I think this would have happened if the fighting stopped or continued after a defeat such as this).
- The Union brings substantial forces back from the West - but, crucially, Vicksburg has already fallen so the strategic outlook in the West doesn't really change at present.
- The Union also goes on a massive recruitment/conscription drive to remove the invaders and a massive new army, bigger than yet seen, is pulled together to crush the Confederacy. Who was that said the Union fought the Civil War with hand behind its back?
- Union credit is good abroad and armaments are bought in from Europe from all quarters. The major European powers will not intervene in the Civil War that has, by this point, become perceived largely as being about slavery, but will happily profit from the bloodshed.
- The war goes on for roughly the same length of time as normal, as the Union's capacity for making war isn't in any way diminished.

The Confederacy, having lost a lot of irreplaceable men/officers/units, spends the bulk of the summer skirmishing to little effect. The ANV retreats south in face of the Union forces moving from all directions to begin the counter-attack, taking some supplies with them to sustain them a little better over the winter of '63/'64.

- The blockade remains in place and the lack of munitions industry in the South (as compared to that in the north) is only slightly offset from materiel gained in the summer invasion. The South's capacity for war is not improved by battlefield victories.
- The Union still controls the entire periphery of the theatre of operations, and the Confederacy lacks the resources to repel the Union forces entirely from anywhere. The Union's coastal navy is powerful enough to allow for landings of Union troops at will across the conflict zone.
- Grant arrives East a little earlier than in our timeline and begins a campaign that is very similar to that which he carried out in '64/'65.
- The Confederacy's offer of peace talks is refused and Lee begins a dogged defence that ultimately ends in defeat after a war of attrition.

In short, Confederate victory at Gettysburg changes very little, IMO. I think the South's best shot was earlier in the war, and hopes for mediation/recognition from abroad ended after Antietam and the Emancipation Proclamation.

Cheers,

Colin
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"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."
Larry Purtell
Little Meadows PA USA
Posts: 1147
Joined: 2004
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/21/2021 9:39:37 AM
Should the ANV come out victorious after three days at Gettysburg they are so short of ammunition and food they have to move if they want to live off the land. Just the horses and mules of the ANV are consuming huge quantity's of forage and generating tons of waste every day. Since Lee has lost more than 1/3 of his effective fighting force and the rest is exhausted I see his choices as very limited. His men and animals are footsore, tired and worn out. If he moves against a major Northern city I think Baltimore is his likely target.

Larry
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Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 779
Joined: 2004
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/21/2021 11:04:20 AM
Quote:
I had always thought Washington was so fully defended that it was never considered a possibility. So, Gettysburg was a Hail Mary. And the ANV would be in a poor situation even after a victory at Gettysburg.
In other words, the ANV's best realistic scenario was to defeat the AOP at Gettysburg and run amok in PA afterwards as best they could and see how much Northern disunity and foreign intervention it might sow.


Hi Brian,

This is a subject that I would like to have more information on....how large a force was kept in Washington (all those "heavies" that Grant accessed in the summer of '64)...how large was the force at Harper's Ferry...how many regiments were down on the Peninsula, that could have come to Washington's aid...

Given the disparity in numbers at the beginning of the battle i.e. the ANV had maybe 72/73,000 men, the AoP just over 90,000, including a large VI corps that was not really involved in the battle, I have to think that, even with a significant victory, the ANV, after the battle, might be more interested in removing their wounded, replenishing their ammunition and finding food etc., than attacking a Washington or a Baltimore. There would just have been too many Union soldiers available to allow the ANV "free reign".

Which raises the issue, just what did Lee expect to gain from his Northern invasion? That he thought he could go into Pa. and NOT have to fight a major battle is, IMO, nonsense.

s.c.
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 79
Joined: 2020
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/21/2021 1:37:45 PM
Group,

IMHO the weakest assessments arrive at something like “it wouldn’t matter.”
Even having lost(historically), the battle put off any serious union effort for 10 months – it would have been BIG.
One major problem would have been Davis, he simply didn’t have the smarts to politically exploit the opportunity. He never understood the strategy any way.
Lee didn’t really need to try to take WDC – Harrisburg was close and not well prepared for defense and taking and holding a Union state capitol for any time would be YUGE! And big morale/political Blow.
The best outcome may have been to get an armistice/ French/ British sponsor and negotiate peace from Confederate POV. But again Davis & Govt wouldn’t likely be up to that.
Also grant scenarios are “inevitable history” which are more wishful than real. Remember vickburg fell in July, grant didnt arrive at Chattanooga ‘til Nov & what about Chattanooga? Rosecrans didn’t arrive there ‘til sept. It’s too easy & not really realistic to suggest wholesale impact in the west immediately. Again even after Union victory it took july to sept to shift two union corps west. Sheridan was an Infantry Div commander in July 63, very very unlikey he could have any impact in VA/PA in july 63!

Of course the level/character of win is critical. #1 & 4 seem reasonable but leave many questions. If Meade had withdrawn to Pipe creek July one a new battle may have occurred in that area. I agree the most immediate concern of Lee may have been Ammo but supply was abundant in PA. He had already sustained in PA nearly two weeks so pressure to head back to VA could only really come from Union Army. And again even in victory Meade and union leadership didn’t really do anything for many months. After Antietam it took 3 months to get on track. Supposing they would make any major move is unlikely. And shifting west forces east would have delayed progress vs Chattanooga and consolidating in Mississippi. And suggesting major shifts from west to east clearly vindicates Lee’s strategy.

Immediate military situation leaves Lee with initiative again when he is most dangerous, AOP had already had two commanders in as many weeks. Lincoln trying to make another would be major blow to army morale and likely prevented any positive AOP action for weeks. Also immediately available troops from WDC were green & not so effective. Lee need to simply locate a strong position and hold it. AOP may have been compelled to attack & tables turned. Had AOP bashed itself Vs Anv ala 2nd bull run an armistice may have become really likely. But davis govt capacity to figure out what to do next is highly questionable. Would have been really sad to see result in negotiated extension of slavery for 75-100 years.
Great thread thanks
yours Mike_C.
morris crumley
Dunwoody GA USA
Posts: 2930
Joined: 2007
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/21/2021 1:57:45 PM

Lee`s objectives for the campaign:

1.....Get both the ANV and the Union Army out of a rich harvest area of Virginia that had been badly over-foraged for many months.

2... Steal a march on the Union Army, and allow him to fight a battle on his terms and of his choosing and maul the Federals while demonstrating that the Confederates could march and forage and bring destruction on Union soil.

3...Bring about a political encouragement to "peace democrats" in the North to bring an end to the war.

Had he been able to win a victory....he would not have been able to sustain his army on the offensive anyway...but the psychological damage on the civilian populace of the North, and the respite from war in Northern Virginia was his main objective.

Point 2 was, ironically enough, one of the objectives of Sherman in North Georgia the following year. Occupy the AOT and prevent any re-enforcement's from being sent to fight Grant...but also of importance, show the people of the deep South that their armies could not protect and defend them from the destruction of the Union Army....shatter their resolve to fight...the same purpose of Lee`s invasion into the North.

Respects, Morris
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17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 135
Joined: 2008
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/21/2021 3:09:52 PM
Quote:

Lee`s objectives for the campaign:

1.....Get both the ANV and the Union Army out of a rich harvest area of Virginia that had been badly over-foraged for many months.

Respects, Morris


Your point 1 may have been why General Lee didn't want a major battle early on. His troops could rampage through Pennsylvania and spare Virginia the ravages of Federal troops for a season.

On another forum a poster claimed Gettysburg was a victory for the South because of the large amount of food stuffs and supplies they captured. This included cattle, hogs, horses, mules etc. The amount claimed was quite substantial. I don't know how accurate the claimed amount was. If Lee could have took this much booty with out the loses of Gettysburg it would have been a very successful incursion into the North.
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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 779
Joined: 2004
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/21/2021 3:28:43 PM
Morris,

Quote:
1.....Get both the ANV and the Union Army out of a rich harvest area of Virginia that had been badly over-foraged for many months.


Yeah.....I struggle with this....once the ANV moves into Maryland, and especially once it gets within hailing distance of Harrisburg, you KNOW what the response is gonna be. Lee was going to have to fight a battle. Probably a big one...

If you have Gottfried' Gettysburg map book, take a look at the map for June 28th. Lee has two divisions up at Carlisle, with the rest of his army around Chambersburg. All of the seven AoP corps are now well north of the Potomac. And almost due south of Lee's army. Whatever line of communications that Lee has with Virginia, are now effectively cut off or in immediate danger of being cut off by the AoP. Lee has, in essence, now taken a stick to the proverbial hornet's next. Is the foraging he has been doing going to justify the battle he is going to have to fight?? Even without units at Harper's Ferry etc., he is still notably outnumbered, and effectively without a supply line.

Quote:
2... Steal a march on the Union Army, and allow him to fight a battle on his terms and of his choosing and maul the Federals while demonstrating that the Confederates could march and forage and bring destruction on Union soil.


Without a supply line, Lee should not be allowed to fight on his terms. Because he has to keep moving, he cannot afford to find a nice ridge with open fields of fire, and hope that Meade is dumb enough to hit him head on. In the CW, that is the problem with an invading army....you gotta keep your line of communications open (which often sucks up a LOT of your manpower and other resources).....and you rarely get to pick where you want to fight....especially if you are struggling to find supplies. Once all nine of Lee's divisions are well north of the entire AoP, time is not on Lee's side. He has to keep moving etc.

And at Falling Waters (after the battle), Lee's artillery was able to be re-supplied. But if he stays up around Chambersburg/Harrisburg, he only gets to fight with what he has brought, both in terms of manpower and in terms of ammunition.

s.c.
Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 779
Joined: 2004
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/21/2021 6:44:59 PM
Morris,

Quote:
...Bring about a political encouragement to "peace democrats" in the North to bring an end to the war.


Given how the war was going in the west, I think that it would have taken a Confederate army sitting outside of Washington to effect that type of change. And this did happen in July '64-:)

My bias is that, given the resiliency of CW armies (Nashville being the closest thing to a real battle of annihilation), a complete shattering of the AoP was unlikely. A mere defeat would not have been sufficient IMO...

s.c.
Brian W
Atlanta GA USA
Posts: 1050
Joined: 2004
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/21/2021 8:38:09 PM
I don't know if we have 1863 info, but by 1865 According to the National Park Service:
"These strategic buttresses transformed the young capital into one of the world's most fortified cities. By 1865, 68 forts and 93 batteries armed with over 800 cannons encircled Washington, DC. Today, you can visit 17 of the original sites now managed by the National Park Service."



Hires link to 1865 Map of American Civil War defenses of Washington, D.C., showing forts, roads, railroads
[Read More]
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"I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there can be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow-being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again." - William Penn
Larry Purtell
Little Meadows PA USA
Posts: 1147
Joined: 2004
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/22/2021 8:55:27 AM
By spring of 1865 most of the veteran heavy artillery regiments that could double as infantry were gone in the AOP. Lots of forts and guns in DC, but who is manning them?

Larry
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"My goal is to live forever. So far, so good.
Brian W
Atlanta GA USA
Posts: 1050
Joined: 2004
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/22/2021 12:31:52 PM
By 1865, did DC even need defending?
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"I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there can be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow-being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again." - William Penn
Gregory C. White
Canton GA USA
Posts: 328
Joined: 2004
The Confederates win at Gettysburg, then what?
1/22/2021 3:56:57 PM
Quote:
By 1865, did DC even need defending?


After Jubal Early's visit in July 1864, and his defeat @ Cedar Creek in October,
I doubt Washington needed much defending with the bulk of the ANV
concentrated on the Richmond-Petersburg siege lines.

Would love to know how fortified DC was in July 1863, and how seasoned were the
troops manning its defenses.

Greg
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“Any society which suppresses the heritage of its conquered minorities, prevent their history, and denies them their symbols, has sown the seeds of its destruction.” Sir William Wallace, 1280 A.D.

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