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Robert E. Lee and the Fall of the Confederacy,

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1 Robert E. Lee and the Fall of the Confederacy, 1863-1865
Dr. Ethan S. Rafuse U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

2 Chancellorsville, 3 May 1863 “it must have been from such a scene that men in ancient days rose to the dignity of the gods." – Charles Marshall

3 Before the War Stratford to West Point, 1807-1829
Young Engineer, Mexican War, USMA Superintendent, Texas Cavalryman and master of Arlington, “gallant and indefatigable The very best soldier that I ever saw in the field.” – Winfield Scott


5 Confederate Strategy, April 1861-May 1862
The approach Defensive strategically Defensive operationally Attempt to cover all possible avenues of approach Results Middle and West Tennessee Lost Union coastal enclaves in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana Manassas, Fredericksburg, Yorktown, and Norfolk lost McClellan at the gates of Richmond

6 his mode of war.” – Joseph E. Johnston, April 1862
To the Gates of Richmond: The failure of Confederate strategy in the East “We are engaged in a species of warfare at which we can never win. We can have no success while McClellan is allowed, as he is by our defensive, to choose his mode of war.” – Joseph E. Johnston, April 1862 “McClellan will make this a battle of posts. He will take position from position, under cover of heavy guns, & we cannot get at him.” – Robert E. Lee, June 1862

7 Confederate Strategy, June 1862-May 1864
“Offensive-Defensive” Strategic defensive Operational offensive Concentrate forces in field armies Take the initiative to impose a war of maneuver Exhaust Northern will to fight Results Richmond saved Central Virginia regained Union offensives stalled in the West Confederate hearts and minds sustained Union frustration until 1864 How do you know Lee was successful? The revolution in Union strategy. Why is Lee at Sharpsburg? Gettysburg? To save Yorktown.

8 Confederate Tide

9 Making Confederate Strategy, May 1863
“At Chancellorsville, we gained another victory; our people were wild with delight. I, on the contrary, was more depressed than after Fredericksburg; our losses were severe, and again we had gained not an inch of ground and the enemy could not be pursued.” – R.E. Lee

10 The Campaign Pipe Creek Line “They will come up, probably through Frederick; broken down with hunger and hard marching, strung out on a long line and much demoralized, when they come into Pennsylvania. I shall throw an overwhelming force on their advance, crush it, follow up the success, drive one corps back and another, and by successive repulses and surprises before they can concentrate; create a panic and virtually destroy the army.” – R.E. Lee

11 The Battle: Day 1

12 The Battle: Day 2

13 The Battle: Day 3 “I believe the Union Army had something
to do with it.” – George Pickett

14 Fall 1863 Bristoe Station, 9-16 October
Rappahannock Station and Kelly’s Ford, 7 November Mine Run, 27 November–2 December

15 McClellan’s Enduring Acolytes: The Army of the Potomac Officer Corps
“The James River is the true and only practicable line of approach Unfortunately, the blind infatuation of the authorities at Washington, sustained, I regret to say by Halleck, who as a soldier ought to know better, will not permit the proper course to be adopted.” – George Meade, November 1862 Lesson of Seven Days – political meddling in military operations had undermined McClellan’s sound operational and tactical vision McClellan’s legacy – West Point engineering and professionalist orientation predominates – Hooker exception - solid, but not spectacular commanders – lack faith in line of operations and dislike shaping, rather than decisive role in Union strategy – but do the job of denying decisive Confederate victories, attriting Lee’s army and allowing western armies to achieve their victories Franklin and Smith letter to Lincoln, December 1862 Frustrations at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Mine Run “Lying here on the James within a few miles of Harrison’s Landing it is impossible not to be constantly reminded of I see nothing but to admit that ‘my plan’ (that is Mr. Lincoln’s) is not the way to get to Richmond, and then take McClellan’s with the James River as his base.” – Charles Wainwright, June 1864

16 The Great Compromiser “I would respectfully suggest whether an abandonment of all previously-attempted lines to Richmond is not advisable, and in lieu of these, one to be taken further south.” – U.S. Grant, January 1864 “He agrees so well with me in his views, I cannot but be rejoiced at his arrival.”- George Meade, March 1864

17 The Road to Defeat “Grant, with a sweep of his finger indicated a line around Richmond and Petersburg and remarked, ‘When my troops are there, Richmond is mine.’ – Horace Porter, May 1864 “If he gets there [the James] It will be a mere question of time.” – Robert E. Lee, June 1864 “Grant’s operations in to a large extent vindicated arguments that the way to achieve victory in Virginia was by operating from the James.”

18 Why did the Confederacy Fall?
“After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.” – Robert E. Lee to his troops, April 1865 Bell I . Wiley: “Died of Big-man-me-ism” Frank L. Owsley: “Died of State Rights” David Donald: “Died of Democracy” Richard Beringer, et al: “Died of Loss of Will” Edward Pollard: “Died of a V” Richard N. Current: “God was on the side of the heaviest battalions” Thomas Connelly: “Died of R.E. Lee”

19 Questions??

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