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 (1861-1865) Civil War Battles (Eastern Theater)
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Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5653
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/16/2022 5:52:37 AM
People refer to the Battle of Antietam as the bloodiest single day of the war, and in all American history, for that matter.

No disagreement from me, but a slight quibble: among the nearly twenty three thousand casualties attributed to the battle, we must allow for an aggregate of several hundred that must have occurred the evening before, on the 16th of September, and on the following day, when there was surely some nasty skirmish line contact.

NYGiant : you are keen to emphasise your knowledge and interest in WW2, and I want to sound out your opinion regarding a comparison I like to make between the Battle of Antietam and the 2nd Battle of El Alamein eighty years later.

My comparison does not win the endorsement of everyone, and I have to accept that I might be indulging in flights of fancy, but I like to think there is merit in my argument.

The prelude to Antietam was a dangerous time for the North. Second Mannassas and the invasion of Maryland , with the ensuing capture of Harper’s Ferry, must be rated as a critical moment in the war. In the Western theatre, the rebels were resurgent, too.

In June 1942, the situation for the British in Egypt was looking desperate. Heavy battlefield defeats and the loss of Tobruk, a retirement to the Alamein Line and a sense of Rommel’s invincibility, with the notorious incident known as “ Ash Wednesday” in Cairo as British officials were burning all classified documents in expectation of the enemy taking the city. At the same time, and on a much larger scale, the Germans were getting into their stride against the Russians, launching a mighty offensive to the South that was supposed to yield the oil fields of the Caucasus, but culminated in Stalingrad, instead.

Montgomery arrived in a messianic manner, much as McClellan like to do. Both of these commanders are loved or loathed by historians : both said to be unduly cautious, but both credited with being excellent trainers of their armies.

In the ensuing battles, there are parallels. Both were head on engagements fought by armies that were in position. Like Lee’s army at Antietam, the German and Italian troops at El Alamein were exhausted and hungry, with dysentery ravaging the ranks. Just as McClellan outnumbered Lee, so did Monty outnumber Rommel.

The bloodshed was approximately the same, although it took thirteen days at Alamein, instead of one at Sharpsburg. Nasty, brutal stuff in both cases.

The battle at Antietam was a tactical win of sorts for Lee. There’s the big difference : Rommel was defeated at Alamein. In both McClellan and Monty’s cases, there was criticism for failure to pursue and exploit. Both battles had immense strategic importance, and also great symbolic value. Major turning points, both.

That’s my indulgence in enjoying analogies.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/16/2022 9:41:46 AM
Hi Phil,

I think I can give you a better answer regarding El Alamein after I finish reading the book, The Desert Generals.

I do know that Monty was being supplied with American tanks and it is my understanding that the Sherman was superior to the German tanks ( at that time). And I know that Axis ships were being sunk in the Med, which made re-supplying Rommel tremendously difficult.

I don't agree that Antietam was a tactical victory for Lee. By the rules of warfare in the 19th century, he who leaves the battlefield first, is the loser. Lee did cross the Potomac. I can agree that McClellan did bot follow up and peruse Lee and that led to his removal from command a few days after the November elections.

I can agree that Antietam was the political turning point of the war because of the Emancipation Proclamation which took foreign involvement I our Civil War by Great Britain right off the table.

Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 864
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/16/2022 10:10:46 AM

Quote:
I don't agree that Antietam was a tactical victory for Lee. By the rules of warfare in the 19th century, he who leaves the battlefield first, is the loser. Lee did cross the Potomac.


I just logged in to question Phil regarding his claim that Antietam was a tactical victory for the ANV. But I see that I was beaten to the punch-:)

Phil, can you please flesh your comment out??


Quote:
I can agree that Antietam was the political turning point of the war because of the Emancipation Proclamation which took foreign involvement I our Civil War by Great Britain right off the table.


As I posted previously, the initial reaction in the UK was that the EP was remarkably hypocritical....given that Lincoln had previously gone out of his way to state that the war was about Union, and not slavery....on top of that, the London newspapers noted that the EP did nothing about slavery in the slave states that remained in the Union etc. I happened to be re-reading Jones (The Union in Peril) last night...and even the pro-North London papers were critical of the EP.

Great Britain may have had a hard time supporting a regime based on slavery....but at least in late 1862, saw the EP as little more than a call for "servile insurrection". And were not at all supportive.

s.c.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5653
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/16/2022 10:38:22 AM
NYG and s.c.,

Thanks for coming to my aid and giving my argument the time of day : I fully acknowledge that it’s a tentative comparison, and my own outlook is bound to be flawed ….. I reckon I’ve become a tad fixated on this one !

A tactical victory for Lee ? Allow me the luxury of a disclaimer : I did .use the phrase “ of sorts”, which bestows some scope for interpretation.

To have endured the onslaught of a numerically superior foe, to have escaped what could - and, indeed, should - have been complete destruction, and to have effectively contained, and in some cases repulsed, the several attacks of the enemy, is no mean achievement.

With a river at his back, outnumbered and outgunned, Lee took an outrageous risk in engaging in existential combat. He held his ground, he held his nerve, even to the point of standing to fight the following day.

The most authoritative investigation into the casualty figures indicates that Lee inflicted twenty per cent more casualties than he suffered. Not an encouraging result in an army outnumbered two to one , obviously in proportional terms, but, in absolute terms, a significant edge in a stand up fight in which the confederates did not entrench.

Strategically, a major Union victory : tactically, a victory “ of sorts” for the South.

Editing here : NYG : Corelli Barnett, author of The Desert Generals, died a couple of months ago. I had the pleasure of meeting him once. He was no great fan of Montgomery.

It occurs to me that eighty years separated Antietam from El Alamein: eighty years separate today from Alamein.
My father fought in that battle. It’s a strange thought that an American in 1942 could reflect on his father’s fighting at Antietam as I do on my Dad’s battle in the desert !


Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/16/2022 1:09:23 PM
sc,

I used to box, and believed in "getting off first". smile

As to the EP. Lincoln was rather restrained in his ability to affect slavery in the US. Though not specifically mentioned, the 3/5ths clause in the US Constitution does refer to slavery, and therefore, anything which affected slavery had to be done with an amendment to our Constitution, and not with an executive order. The 13th Amendment did abolish slavery.

Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation as a war measure, based on his war powers as Commander-in Chief. . Slaves were doing the work that in normal conditions, the soldiers would be doing. These include being cooks, teamsters, and building field fortifications. Recall that it freed those slaves who were living in states not under Union control. So, if GB was going to intervene, it would basically be fighting to support slavery

Now, THAT, would be the biggest hypocrisy, because Palmerston was anti- slavery, and GB had abolished slavery, and the RN had stopped slave ships on the high seas.

I agree that the EP did nothing about slaves in the states that remained in the Union. Lincoln did not have that power top abolish slavery in these states where the US Constitution was still the Law of the Land.

As a political document, the EP basically removed any foreign intervention in our Civil War.

NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/16/2022 3:30:51 PM
In the end, Lee was the 1st to leave the battlefield....therefore he lost.

Recall that at Gettysburg, there was no fighting on July 4th, Lee was ready to fight that day, and the next day Lee started his way back to Virginia. He was the 1st to leave the battlefield...he lost.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5653
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/16/2022 4:50:38 PM
Quote:
In the end, Lee was the 1st to leave the battlefield....therefore he lost.

Recall that at Gettysburg, there was no fighting on July 4th, Lee was ready to fight that day, and the next day Lee started his way back to Virginia. He was the 1st to leave the battlefield...he lost.


By that criterion, the yankees lost the battle of Franklin.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/16/2022 7:44:21 PM
I was under the impression that The Union Army had already planned, orderly withdrawal to Nashville from Franklin. Schofield had received orders from Thomas to evacuate earlier that day—before Hood's attack began.

That the Confederates attack resulted in devastating losses to the men and the leadership of the Army of Tennessee—fourteen Confederate generals (six killed, seven wounded, and one captured) and 55 regimental commanders were casualties. After its defeat against Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas in the subsequent Battle of Nashville, the Army of Tennessee retreated with barely half the men with which it had begun the short offensive, and was effectively destroyed as a fighting force for the remainder of the war.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5653
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/17/2022 3:06:16 AM
Here are a couple of assessments by military historians which I'll cite to give my suggestions a bit more weight :

Dupuy&Dupuy, The Compact History of the Civil War, (1960), page 164 :

Who won at Antietam ?

Tactically, Lee did. McClellan, repulsed in his assault, had dared make no further attack, as the Southerners contemptuously held their positions on September 18. Strategically, since Lee's invasion of the North had been ended , and the Army of Northern Virginia then retired from the field, it was a Union victory, with far- reaching effects.


From Sears, Landscape Turned Red, (1983), page 309 :

Judging those twelve hours of desperate combat on a purely tactical level, for example, the Army of Northern Virginia could justly claim a victory. It had beaten back a foe much superior in manpower and ordnance and inflicted substantially greater casualties than it suffered.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5653
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/17/2022 4:22:14 AM
Carrying comparisons of these two iconic battles further, McClellan and Montgomery both pressed home their attack in a sequential - or even fragmentary - manner.

McClellan described his battle as “ A masterpiece of art”. Montgomery was similarly endowed with self regard and insisted that at Alamein everything had been done according to plan.

As for their respective opponents, there was a surfeit of appetite for risk. And both won the profound admiration of their enemies, something which has endured across the generations, although that’s changing in America, with statues being removed or defaced.

A difference is apparent, however, in Rommel’s insouciance about logistics. This was not the case with Lee, who was assiduous in this respect.

Regards, Phil



----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/17/2022 8:44:37 AM
Phil. just a few corrections,

According to the NPS site, "R.E. Lee's first invasion of the North ended as he retreated back into Virginia on the night of September 18. Most importantly, Union victory at Antietam provided President Abraham Lincoln the opportunity he had wanted to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, making the Battle of Antietam one of the key turning points of the American Civil War."
https://www.nps.gov/articles/a-short-overview-of-the-battle-of-antietam.htm

Lincoln had ben told by Seward not to issue the EP after a loss, since it would look like the desperate plea of a Nation on the brink of surrender. That's why he waited for a victory. Plus, the invading foreign army had been removed from Union soil.

Actually Lee's invasion of the North didn't end as he crossed the Potomac back into Virginia. He sent Stuart to look for a way to continue the incursion. It was the message that Lee received regarding the Battle of Shepherdstown that caused Lee concern. Pendleton eventually found Lee and inaccurately told him that all of his cannons had been taken. The Confederate army withdrew into the Shenandoah Valley after the battle of Shepherdstown.

Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 864
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/17/2022 10:39:46 AM

Quote:
Actually Lee's invasion of the North didn't end as he crossed the Potomac back into Virginia. He sent Stuart to look for a way to continue the incursion.


This is covered in some detail in Harsh.

And it completely flips me out.....Lee and his army survived, by the slimmest of margins...and Lee is looking for a way to cross over the river again, and invade Maryland.

I struggle to understand what possible justification Lee might have had to make a stand at Sharpsburg (with fewer than 40k combatants, including cavalry and artillery)....but he had to be on drugs to even fantasize about continuing his "invasion".

s.c.
Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 864
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/17/2022 10:46:55 AM
Phil,

The strategic situations at Franklin and Antietam were polar opposite.

Schofield only fought at Franklin because he needed time rebuild bridges in order to escape north from Franklin (his pontoons had been lost during his retreat from the Duck River). So, IMO. not losing i.e. not being driven into the river, at Franklin was all that Schofield aspired to. And he succeeded.

Or as Polo Grounds noted: Quote:
I was under the impression that The Union Army had already planned, orderly withdrawal to Nashville from Franklin


In contrast, although Lee fought most of the battle at Antietam on the defensive, strategically, he was on the offense, and to be stopped and forced to retreat was indeed both a tactical and strategic defeat. With respect to Mr. Sears, .....Given that the ANV was on the offensive, merely not being crush by the AoP cannot (IMO) be described as a tactical victory.

s.c.
Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 864
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/17/2022 12:09:15 PM
Polo,

I don’t see Palmerston as being a hypocrite. His personal views on a subject such as slavery should be just that, personal. If they happen to coincide with his party’s views on an issue, so more the better. But they shouldn’t dictate policy, especially if that policy was not in the interest of his country.

Palmerston was interested in acting in the best interests of his Government and of his country. His reluctance to recognize the Confederacy had little to do with his personal views on slavery and a lot to do with not wanting to drag Britain into what was happening in the US and/
or not wanting to alienate the Lincoln administration.

Gladstone made a speech, in early October 1862, and said something (and I am paraphrasing here…) along the lines of: “The confederacy has made an army, they’re on their way to making a navy and appear to have made a nation”. The issue of slavery was not raised, although I assume that Gladstone was also anti-slavery. But Gladstone believed that the North had little real chance of suppressing the breakaway states, and believed that for practical reasons, Britain should recognize the Confederacy.

The current Prime Minister of Canada, head of a Liberal/NDP coalition government, is a practising Catholic, and does not personally approve of abortion. However, there is absolutely zero chance that the current government will make any attempt to restrict current abortion access, in any way.

Does that make Mr. Trudeau a hypocrite? I don’t personally think so, and trust me, I would cut off my right arm before I would vote for him :-)

s.c.


NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/17/2022 1:45:11 PM
Harsh's book, Taken at the Flood, may be the greatest Civil War book I have ever read.

Lee was the personification of audacious. He was trying to influence the elections in November, 1862 in the US.

I feel he stood at Antietam creek because he had the advantage of high ground, and was waiting to reconstitute the ANV.

Plus, many believe that had't the Union 1st Corps occupied the Hagerstown Pike, Lee would have continued his advance.
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/17/2022 1:47:10 PM
Soldiers obey orders.

I didn't make the rules of 19th Century warfare. The 1st to leave the field is considered the loser. Lee left first...therefore he lost.
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/17/2022 1:53:14 PM
Stevie, Not only was Palmerston anti-slavery, GB had abolished slavery and the RN was active in stopping slave ships on the high seas.


To fight for a country who expressed that it was founded upon slavery would have been the height of hypocrisy.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5653
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/17/2022 6:38:42 PM
Quote:

Quote:
Actually Lee's invasion of the North didn't end as he crossed the Potomac back into Virginia. He sent Stuart to look for a way to continue the incursion.


This is covered in some detail in Harsh.

And it completely flips me out.....Lee and his army survived, by the slimmest of margins...and Lee is looking for a way to cross over the river again, and invade Maryland.

I struggle to understand what possible justification Lee might have had to make a stand at Sharpsburg (with fewer than 40k combatants, including cavalry and artillery)....but he had to be on drugs to even fantasize about continuing his "invasion".

s.c.


Steve,

You’re right on target Lee and his army survived, by the slimmest of margins .

Therein lay a tactical victory, of sorts.

McClellan could - indeed, should ~ have destroyed the AONV that day, by all the odds.

He failed to do so.

The rebels fought to the utmost, using every ounce of their strength to hold the enemy at bay.

They succeeded in this.

Far from being driven from the field, they were still there the next day, and withdrew in good order without leaving too many of their wounded behind.

Tactical defeat at Chancellorsville or Chickamauga was all too clear for the North.

This wasn’t the case at Sharpsburg for the South.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/17/2022 8:42:27 PM
The AoP succeeded in riding the Union of a foreign invading Army. The AoP did not retreat or leave the battlefield. The ANV left the battlefield.

The Union won a tactical victory.

Phil,
by your reasoning, Gettysburg was tactical Confederate victory. And no one believes that.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5653
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/18/2022 1:54:07 AM
Quote:
The AoP succeeded in riding the Union of a foreign invading Army. The AoP did not retreat or leave the battlefield. The ANV left the battlefield.

The Union won a tactical victory.

Phil,
by your reasoning, Gettysburg was tactical Confederate victory. And no one believes that.


No.

Gettysburg was an outright repulse for Lee.

He abandoned the field in circumstances that differed from those at Antietam.

At Antietam, the yankees were contained in their attacks, and actually repulsed in some cases.

At Gettysburg, Lee left five thousand unwounded and seven thousand wounded prisoners in enemy hands as he retreated.

To leave forty five per cent of all your wounded behind on the battlefield is a a major attribute of tactical defeat.

At Antietam, Lee left fewer than ten percent of his wounded in enemy hands.

I do not for one moment deny that he suffered a significant strategic defeat, but in purely tactical terms it’s arguable that he got the better of the fighting on the bloodiest day of the war.

The closing action of the fighting actually witnessed a federal route in the southern sector of the battlefield.

Here’s an edit : NYG, how would you assess the tactical outcome of the Battle of Malvern Hill , 78 days before Antietam?
The AOP abandoned the field, and yielded the strategic victory to the South. No doubt there. But who got the better of the fighting that day ? A sharp rebel defeat, I’d say. Would you credit Lee with tactical victory at the Battle of Malvern Hill ?

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 864
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/18/2022 8:19:50 AM
Quote:
Stevie, Not only was Palmerston anti-slavery, GB had abolished slavery and the RN was active in stopping slave ships on the high seas.


To fight for a country who expressed that it was founded upon slavery would have been the height of hypocrisy.


Polo,

1). GB may have abolished slavery - fairly recently by 1862 standards - but they were not running around attempting to impose their values on everyone else…which frankly were not that much different than the “values” of the North……
“We don’t particularly approve of slavery, but we have little love for the Negro and certainly don’t want him living among us.”

2). The British cabinet was, in retrospect, remarkably naïve with their mid/late 1862 belief that they could try and force mediation or an armistice on the North and not trigger a violent reaction. Palmerston was in favour of pushing off the issue until at least the spring of 1863, which would at least give the British time to move troops and supplies to the Canadas. What became Canada in 1867 would have been remarkably vulnerable should the British choose to intercede in the Civil War.

3). The EP was initially seen as little more than a call for servile insurrection….which the British definitely did not want to see occur. What kept Britain from either mediating the war, trying to force an armistice, and/or recognizing the confederacy? The growing realization that any attempt at mediation with the North would almost certainly fail.

There were a number of reasons why British government thought that they should intervene in the American Civil War. One of the principle factors was the belief that there was no way in hell that the North could ever subjugate the South. In other words, the war was a complete waste of time and blood. Perhaps Britain’s experience with their American colonies during the American revolution had something to do with that viewpoint. -:)

s.c.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5653
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/19/2022 9:38:19 AM
There’s been praise of Harsh’s Taken at the Flood on this thread.

I chose to take it down from my shelves and browse through some of the summations made by Harsh.

He uses one phrase in his concluding survey which I think is exquisite, when he describes Lee’s wish to extend his invasion of Maryland after Antietam as

quixotic unreality

I love that !

Editing : a real gem exists online .

Antietam on the web

It contains a wealth of information and I’ve used it to learn more about the casualties of the battle.

The official Union casualty return enumerated 12,410 , including 2,108 killed in action, 9,549 wounded and 753 missing. The website has investigated the service records of the individual soldiers and has, as of June this year, revealed that 2,209 were killed and another 998 died from wounds.

The most meticulous survey of Confederate casualties, conducted by Ezra Carman, estimated 10,318 casualties, including 1,546 killed, 7,754 wounded and 1,018 missing. The Aotw survey has identified 1,690 killed and 793 mortally wounded.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/19/2022 2:45:55 PM
Abandoning the field 1st, in 19th century warfare, determined the winner. Lee left Antietam first...he lost.

Discussing Malvern Hill is called a diversion. But IMO, Malvern Hill was a Confederate Pyrrhic victory as the Union fell back to Harrison's Landing, and never did move tot he offensive. The tremendous looses make it a Pyrrhic victory fo the Confederates.
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/19/2022 2:55:31 PM
Quote:
Quote:
Stevie, Not only was Palmerston anti-slavery, GB had abolished slavery and the RN was active in stopping slave ships on the high seas.


To fight for a country who expressed that it was founded upon slavery would have been the height of hypocrisy.


Polo,

1). GB may have abolished slavery - fairly recently by 1862 standards - but they were not running around attempting to impose their values on everyone else…which frankly were not that much different than the “values” of the North……
“We don’t particularly approve of slavery, but we have little love for the Negro and certainly don’t want him living among us.”

2). The British cabinet was, in retrospect, remarkably naïve with their mid/late 1862 belief that they could try and force mediation or an armistice on the North and not trigger a violent reaction. Palmerston was in favour of pushing off the issue until at least the spring of 1863, which would at least give the British time to move troops and supplies to the Canadas. What became Canada in 1867 would have been remarkably vulnerable should the British choose to intercede in the Civil War.

3). The EP was initially seen as little more than a call for servile insurrection….which the British definitely did not want to see occur. What kept Britain from either mediating the war, trying to force an armistice, and/or recognizing the confederacy? The growing realization that any attempt at mediation with the North would almost certainly fail.

There were a number of reasons why British government thought that they should intervene in the American Civil War. One of the principle factors was the belief that there was no way in hell that the North could ever subjugate the South. In other words, the war was a complete waste of time and blood. Perhaps Britain’s experience with their American colonies during the American revolution had something to do with that viewpoint. -:)

s.c.



1. No one is saying that GB was imposing their values on anyone. GB would never support a country based on slavery after outlawing slavery and attempting to stop the human trade is slaves.

2. My point exactly about GB being vulnerable. Hence, giving Canada Dominion status after the American Civil war.

The British Cabinet was responsive to the Queen and she had declared neutrality.

3. GB was mature enough as a nation to realize that if they did enter the war in support of the Confederacy, they would be fighting for slavery.

GB had a tremendous amount of money invested in American RailRoads, and realized the industrial capacity of the Union.

Palmerston, being anti-American, realized that American industrial potential too as a threat to GB in trade and economics. A divided North America strengthened GB.


Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5653
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/20/2022 1:52:39 AM


Discussing Malvern Hill is called a diversion. But IMO, Malvern Hill was a Confederate Pyrrhic victory as the Union fell back to Harrison's Landing, and never did move tot he offensive. The tremendous looses make it a Pyrrhic victory fo the Confederates

Are you actually crediting the Confederates with a tactical victory at Malvern Hill ?

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/20/2022 6:55:54 AM
The day after Malvern Hill, McClellan withdrew to Harrison’s Landing on the James, ending the Peninsula Campaign and the Seven Days battles to capture the Confederate capital.

I am crediting the Confederates with a Pyrrhic victory.
morris crumley
Dunwoody GA USA
Posts: 3024
Joined: 2007
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/20/2022 9:55:12 AM
Seldom does a commanding general "win"a battlefield victory.....and then get permanently relieved of command by the Commander and Chief., proof that "holding the field" didn`t much matter to Lincoln.

Lee had, maybe, 40,000 men at Sharpsburg. Many, like my Grt Grt grandfather and his brother in the 24th Georgia got sick and sent to hospital in Richmond...from bad rations and eating green apples and corn. Lee should have been destroyed. He wasn`t .

That`s why most historians refer to Antietam as a draw.

Respects, Morris
----------------------------------
"You are a $70, red-wool, pure quill military genius, or the biggest damn fool in northern Mexico."
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/20/2022 10:29:56 AM
IIRC, Antietam was fought on September 17, 1862. McClellan was relieved of command on November 5th, 1862. That is one day after the congressional mid-term elections, making McClellan's removal a political decision.

His removal had nothing to do with the Union victory at Antietam. If anything, Lincoln made a political move to remove a political rival. Also, McClellan did not pursue Lee after the battle.

Respectfully submitted, NY Giant

Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 864
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/20/2022 12:57:51 PM
Polo,

Quote:
GB would never support a country based on slavery after outlawing slavery and attempting to stop the human trade is slaves.


Given that there were a number of slave states still in the Union, the issue of supporting one side or the other, based on the immorality of slavery, is Moot!

Quote:
The British Cabinet was responsive to the Queen and she had declared neutrality.


If cabinet/Palmerston had decided to recognize the Confederacy, the Queen might not have "liked it", but she was certainly not going to block it. Victoria was not Henry the VIII-:)

Quote:
GB was mature enough as a nation to realize that if they did enter the war in support of the Confederacy, they would be fighting for slavery.


That might have been true by, say, 1864...when public opinion in GB was generally "against" the slave based Confederacy. But nothing I have read suggests that this was a factor for cabinet in 1862. Both sides (Union and Confederacy) had slave states....and as noted, the EP only "freed" slaves in the one place that it had no power to free them. The EP didn't even free the slaves in those portions of the Confederacy under Union rule.

Cabinet and Palmerston were "mature" enough to try and figure out what was in GB's best interests....and that is what drove lack of recognition. By very late 1862/early 1863, it was pretty clear to cabinet that to attempt to intervene (and by that, I mean try and negotiate an armistice etc.) was a lost cause. There was a concerted effort by BG, France and Russia to get their ducks in a row, mediation wise. And this occurred in November 1862. Not the the US knew about it until much later....it never got anywhere, because the three countries were finally beginning to realize that any attempt at mediation was bound to fail.. Neither side was willing to bend....and by mid 1863 (say, after Vicksburg, Gettysburg and eventually Chattanooga) it was not nearly so obvious that the North could not win.

Quote:
Palmerston, being anti-American, realized that American industrial potential too as a threat to GB in trade and economics. A divided North America strengthened GB.


I am not specifically aware that Palmerston was anti-American....but he did recognize that a strong and unified United States offered strong competition to BG "in trade and economics". So to that extent, a permanent split i.e. an independent Confederacy, was potentially a positive for GB's economic prospects.

s.c.
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/20/2022 1:52:02 PM
Quote:
Polo,

Quote:
GB would never support a country based on slavery after outlawing slavery and attempting to stop the human trade is slaves.


Given that there were a number of slave states still in the Union, the issue of supporting one side or the other, based on the immorality of slavery, is Moot!

Quote:
The British Cabinet was responsive to the Queen and she had declared neutrality.


If cabinet/Palmerston had decided to recognize the Confederacy, the Queen might not have "liked it", but she was certainly not going to block it. Victoria was not Henry the VIII-:)

Quote:
GB was mature enough as a nation to realize that if they did enter the war in support of the Confederacy, they would be fighting for slavery.


That might have been true by, say, 1864...when public opinion in GB was generally "against" the slave based Confederacy. But nothing I have read suggests that this was a factor for cabinet in 1862. Both sides (Union and Confederacy) had slave states....and as noted, the EP only "freed" slaves in the one place that it had no power to free them. The EP didn't even free the slaves in those portions of the Confederacy under Union rule.

Cabinet and Palmerston were "mature" enough to try and figure out what was in GB's best interests....and that is what drove lack of recognition. By very late 1862/early 1863, it was pretty clear to cabinet that to attempt to intervene (and by that, I mean try and negotiate an armistice etc.) was a lost cause. There was a concerted effort by BG, France and Russia to get their ducks in a row, mediation wise. And this occurred in November 1862. Not the the US knew about it until much later....it never got anywhere, because the three countries were finally beginning to realize that any attempt at mediation was bound to fail.. Neither side was willing to bend....and by mid 1863 (say, after Vicksburg, Gettysburg and eventually Chattanooga) it was not nearly so obvious that the North could not win.

Quote:
Palmerston, being anti-American, realized that American industrial potential too as a threat to GB in trade and economics. A divided North America strengthened GB.


I am not specifically aware that Palmerston was anti-American....but he did recognize that a strong and unified United States offered strong competition to BG "in trade and economics". So to that extent, a permanent split i.e. an independent Confederacy, was potentially a positive for GB's economic prospects.

s.c.



1. I don't recall Lincoln ever asking GB to fight for the Union or to interfere on the Union's behalf.. So, if GB were to fight, they were going to fight to allow a state, which admitted it was based on slavery, to exist.

2. Queen Victoria had already made up her mind regarding GB neutrality . Now, you should read about the Danish-Prussian War. GB had threatened to aid Denmark but the Queen let her wishes be known that she favored Prussia. And the Cabinet went along with her

3. The EP was a great document in that it told any interfering country, that they were going to fight for slavery. Lincoln could not abolish slavery. That had to be done with an Amendment ot the US Constitution.

4. A good thing there was no split as it was the US which proved to be the deciding factor in World War I in addition to feeding the British population and in World War II, the US acting as the "Arsenal of Democracy" kept GB in the fight. IIRC, British artillery and armor were left behind at Dunkerque. It was US armor which turned the tide at El Alamien.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5653
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/20/2022 5:32:34 PM
Quote:
The day after Malvern Hill, McClellan withdrew to Harrison’s Landing on the James, ending the Peninsula Campaign and the Seven Days battles to capture the Confederate capital.

I am crediting the Confederates with a Pyrrhic victory.


NYG,

You avoid the use of the word “tactical” in your response.

This gets me agitated.

Is my understanding of that word so flawed ?

Please help me here.

Don’t tactics mean the use of your army on the battlefield ? The ability to deploy your soldiers and weapons and use them to best effect ?

In this respect, didn’t Lee and his army make a superb account of themselves, by holding their ground against a much more numerous enemy ?

A single day of battle of unmatched intensity in that war , with one side making use of every man, horse and gun, while the other failed to engage a fourth of its force ?

Lee was, I’ve read, more proud of his battle at Antietam than he was of any other.

Your insistence that his subsequent withdrawal must be tantamount to a tactical defeat doesn’t address the performance of the rival armies on the day of battle.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/20/2022 6:19:21 PM
I had't noticed that I wasn't using the word tactical.

From understanding, he who leaves the battlefield first, is the loser.

Respectfully submitted, NY Giant
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5653
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/21/2022 2:30:02 AM
Quote:
I had't noticed that I wasn't using the word tactical.

From understanding, he who leaves the battlefield first, is the loser.

Respectfully submitted, NY Giant



Does this mean that, at close of battle at the end of fighting on 17 September, the Army of the Potomac had won a tactical victory over the Army of Northern Virginia at Antietam ?

The difference between tactical and strategic is of paramount importance.

In strategic terms, Lee had failed.

By the purely tactical criteria that are applied to the dawn to dusk killing match, the best that can be attributed to the North is a draw.

There’s a legitimate assessment that gives the tactical edge to the South .

A tactical victory “ of sorts” for Lee.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/21/2022 6:12:01 AM
No, that means that at the end of the fighting on September 17th, the situation was in doubt. On September 18, Lee ordered the Confederate army to withdraw from the battlefield and retreat back to Virginia.

Respectfully submitted, NY Giant
HaraldBTooth
Espoo  Finland
Posts: 2
Joined: 2022
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/21/2022 6:58:54 AM
War is not just Clausewitzian body count but also Jominian maneuvering (if it was only kill count then Chancellorsville begins to look more like a draw, in terms of percentages and officers lost). Also the Tullahoma campaign was almost entirely maneuvering. Lee was forced to assume slightly disadvantageous position at Antietam with his back to the river, which probably prompted his withdrawal the second day (I would not necessarily take any battle report at face value). McClellan was probably defeated more in his own mind than on the field in the Seven Days, but that also means the Confederates were successful with misinformation and misdirection.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5653
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/21/2022 9:38:09 AM
What’s the verdict then ?

Was it a failure by McClellan to exploit his advantage and destroy Lee’s army, or a remarkable success by Lee’s army in standing its ground, surviving and then escaping ?

The way I’ve framed the question indicates my take on it !

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/21/2022 10:51:21 AM
A few points.

1. The AoP successfully repelled the invasion of the US by a foreign enemy. This made Antietam a Union victory.

2. That victory allowed President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation from a position of strength, thus removing any future chance of foreign involvement in the American Civil War.

3. Casualties were comparable on both sides, although Lee lost a higher percentage of his army. Lee withdrew from the battlefield first, the technical definition of the tactical loser in a Civil War battle.

4. When the issue ofEmancipation Proclamation was linked to the progress of the war, neither Great Britain nor France had the political will to oppose the United States, since it linked support of the Confederacy to support for slavery. Both countries had already abolished slavery, and the public would not have tolerated the government militarily supporting a sovereignty upholding the ideals of slavery.

5. So, overall, a Union victory on the tactical and the diplomatic fronts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Antietam#Aftermath
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5653
Joined: 2004
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/21/2022 1:36:16 PM
Lee withdrew from the battlefield first, the technical definition of the tactical loser

How could Lee have withdrawn at all, had it not been for his superior tactical performance in that battle ?

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
NYGiant
Polo Grounds NY USA
Posts: 204
Joined: 2021
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/21/2022 1:56:54 PM
What superior tactical performance?

The AoP maneuvered him to a position where he had to wait for the rest of his army, backed up against a single ford across the Potomac River. The Union Army was astride the Hagerstown Pike which prevented Lee from going North into Pennsylvania.

Best to stay with the technical definitions.
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 161
Joined: 2020
Antietam : some reflections and comparisons
9/21/2022 6:23:25 PM
09212022 316p

Hi Group, sorry to be so late as usual again. But Great discussion.
I line up closest to Phil with question of Antietam being a Rebel tactical victory. And at best a tactical draw. Mr. NYGiant is correct that the rule of thumb for civil war battles is that the side in possession of the field won or that retreats first Lost. Like any rule however the question is application. It’s an over simplification to say for Antietam. And yes, Mr. NYGiant’s position is certainly arguable but I’m not sure it holds up under analysis.
Antietam was the last battle of Lee’s strategic defensive/offense to defend Richmond and strategic defensive/offense was a decisive success in 1862. Having invaded Maryland, even had he won a tactical victory it was pretty sure he would withdraw back to Virginia after a few weeks. Ultimately lee withdrawing from Antietam and back to Virginia did signalize the end of the lee’s campaign that took the battle field from the gates of Richmond to Maryland and was a major reversal of fortune. The strategic withdrawal did signalize a strategic defeat for rebels/ victory for Union.
Tactically it’s not so simple IMHO. Lee stood on the defensive on a low ridge behind a small creek with no entrenchments/defensive improvements. Was outnumbered about 3/5. And the morning battle started before his whole force was on hand. By noon three federal corps attacking on Lees left had been fought to a stand still with rebels pulling back less than a mile and hold the remainder of the 17 and all the 18. 3 Union corps were bloodied to the point that they didn’t attack again for the remainder of the battle. The Burnside attack was decisively counter attacked and driven back near the end of the day putting a pretty strong signal of the power of confederate defensive cohesion. With about 1/3 of union total force still available and unfought still union didn’t have cohesion to mount effective attack on the 18. Unquestionably Lee took very heavy losses but as I think Phil referenced they made a stand the 18 and an orderly withdrawal the 19 with few troops left behind. Not the sign of a tactical victory by the union. While McClellan is critized for his caution 3 of 6 corps were heavily bloodied. 1 corps commander killed one wounded, one division commander killed one wounded. Of the 4 main corps doing the fighting, they lost about 22% indicating very heavy combat, remember the bloodiest single day of the war. Not at all surprising that 3 corps had been fought out. McClellan was surely cautious but IIRC only one of the corps commanders really was for fighting on the 18.
Phil rightly referenced two good authorities, Dupuy and sears saying a tactical rebel win. This I agree. Union troops were spent and took 6 weeks to be ready for field operations that fall. I think the distinction strategic/tactical win significant. Antietam, like any battle/event, needs context. Antietam not the typical battle so more analysis needed that simple rule of thumb conclusion IMHO. Yes its definitely arguable that NYGiant has a point. In the limited battlefield tactical fighting context the union troops lost the tactical battle.
Thanks all, Mike_C
mikecmaps
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