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[civilwarwest] The What Ifs

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  • Dick Weeks
    Howdy to all CWWT members. While I have a little time I thought would make a post and share a few things with you. As most of you know I have a standing offer
    Message 1 of 14 , Dec 29, 1999
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      Howdy to all CWWT members. While I have a little time I thought would make a post and share a few things with you.

      As most of you know I have a standing offer to help folks with Civil War questions when I can.  As you might guess, this time of the year, most of my questions are from students.  I get them from grade school right up through the university level.  Those coming from High School and below have taken a strange twist this year.  Last year the questions were just dealing with specific people or events.  This year they are more essay type questions asking what I think about certain things involving the war.  I have also been getting a lot of "what if" questions.  Well, rather than just giving them my opinion, I try to get them to think a little for themselves.  Here is the way I explain how to arrive at "what if" answer.

      "During my military career, I had to sit as a member of several accident investigation boards. In this capacity we were taught that in any accident, occurrence, or event, there are a chain of actions leading to the end result.  In this chain there is one action, after which it is taken, the event/accident is going to occur, regardless of what else happens. Part of our job was to try to determine the point at which this action happened. This allowed us to better evaluate what cause the accident and how it might have been prevented.  All of which had to be contained in our final report.  In my study of the Civil War I attempt to look at each battle/event in this light.  There was one action, after which it was taken, the result of the battle/event  was going to be the same.  By using this technique, you will not only fully understand what happened, you will also be able to insert your own ideas as they pertain to the "what if" type questions".

      Having said that, let me give you an example of what I mean and since this is a Western Theater discussion group I will use a Western Theater action to illustrate my point. Besides, since I am just starting to really get into this part of the war, long held opinions will not get in the way.  In the Chattanooga Campaign, most say that had Bragg actively pursued Rosecrans after the Union defeat at Chickamauga, he could have destroyed the Union army there. Is that true?  I really don't know. However, I do know that the Southern forces were pretty well chewed up (they lost about 18,000 men compared to the Union's 16,000) and probably were not ready for another battle that might even have been bigger than Chickamauga.  After peeling back some of the layers I have found something very interesting. I am beginning to think that Missionary Ridge might have been the "point" I look for.  What if Missionary Ridge had held?  Just from what I have been seeing, if that ridge had been fortified properly, I have serious doubts if any army could have taken it.  By fortifying I mean making a "military crest" (if there was not a natural one there) instead of fortifying the "geographical crest" as they did.  How many men would Grant have expended in the effort to take the ridge?   What would have been the result if he had failed. Would Lincoln have fired him like the did the commanders before him?  Remember Grant was not as popular then as he was to become later.  Just something to think about.

      I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
      Dick (a.k.a. Shotgun)
      http://www.civilwarhome.com
       

    • Hartshje@aol.com
      Greetings and Salutations: Dick, the example of Chickamagua and Chattanooga used in your presentation is very interesting. Did you select that in response to
      Message 2 of 14 , Dec 29, 1999
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        Greetings and Salutations:

        Dick, the example of Chickamagua and Chattanooga used in your presentation is very interesting. Did you select that in response to my posting yesterday about the turning point?

        At any rate, going back to the "what ifs": What if the assault on Missionary Ridge HAD met with a bloody & costly repulse? And what if Longstreet's corp had still been present on the field?

        Longstreet was acutely aware of the potential of a counter-strike in the aftermath of a repulse of such magnitude. After all, that was his main concern after the debacle of Pickett's Charge. If the Union troops were equally bloodied at Missionary Ridge, a massive counter-attack would surely have carried the city and cut the Union forces in two. Remember, both of Grant's flanks at the time were heavily involved in affairs of their own, and not having much success either.

        Sherman could have undoubtedly beat a hasty retreat back to Knoxville to team up with Burnside and make a go of it later on, but Hooker's force may well have been cut-off south of the Tennessee River and captured along with most of the remnants of Thomas' army in Chattanooga. What would THAT have done to Grant's reputation? (Let us not forget though that Grant DID NOT order that assault)

        As pertains to the potential follow-up after the battle at Chickamauga, I agree that the Confederates WERE severely shot up. However, the Wilderness campaign has shown us that the armies of both sides were fully capable of taking severe punishment on an almost daily basis, and could still be called on to continue the fight. And the common Southern soldiers and line officers fully recognized the need for speedy, decisive action on their part. That victory had given them a tremendous morale boost, and a swift, victorious end to the war was a prize within their grasp. I believe this would have spurred them on to the supreme effort needed.

        Lastly, three of Longstreet's brigades plus all his artillery was not even engaged in the battle and were fresh. One thing is absolutely sure, sitting in front of Chattanooga and doing nothing was something the Confederacy COULD NOT afford to do. What say you all?

        Respectfully,
        J. Hartshorn
      • Stephen D Wakefield
        -Dick old friend you have come to the same conclusion that it took me almost 20 years of reading to reach. Wakefield ... From: Dick Weeks To:
        Message 3 of 14 , Dec 29, 1999
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          -Dick old friend  you have come to the same conclusion that it took me almost 20 years of reading to reach.
          Wakefield
           
           
           
          ---- Original Message -----
          Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 2:15 PM
          Subject: [civilwarwest] The What Ifs

          Howdy to all CWWT members. While I have a little time I thought would make a post and share a few things with you.

          As most of you know I have a standing offer to help folks with Civil War questions when I can.  As you might guess, this time of the year, most of my questions are from students.  I get them from grade school right up through the university level.  Those coming from High School and below have taken a strange twist this year.  Last year the questions were just dealing with specific people or events.  This year they are more essay type questions asking what I think about certain things involving the war.  I have also been getting a lot of "what if" questions.  Well, rather than just giving them my opinion, I try to get them to think a little for themselves.  Here is the way I explain how to arrive at "what if" answer.

          "During my military career, I had to sit as a member of several accident investigation boards. In this capacity we were taught that in any accident, occurrence, or event, there are a chain of actions leading to the end result.  In this chain there is one action, after which it is taken, the event/accident is going to occur, regardless of what else happens. Part of our job was to try to determine the point at which this action happened. This allowed us to better evaluate what cause the accident and how it might have been prevented.  All of which had to be contained in our final report.  In my study of the Civil War I attempt to look at each battle/event in this light.  There was one action, after which it was taken, the result of the battle/event  was going to be the same.  By using this technique, you will not only fully understand what happened, you will also be able to insert your own ideas as they pertain to the "what if" type questions".

          Having said that, let me give you an example of what I mean and since this is a Western Theater discussion group I will use a Western Theater action to illustrate my point. Besides, since I am just starting to really get into this part of the war, long held opinions will not get in the way.  In the Chattanooga Campaign, most say that had Bragg actively pursued Rosecrans after the Union defeat at Chickamauga, he could have destroyed the Union army there. Is that true?  I really don't know. However, I do know that the Southern forces were pretty well chewed up (they lost about 18,000 men compared to the Union's 16,000) and probably were not ready for another battle that might even have been bigger than Chickamauga.  After peeling back some of the layers I have found something very interesting. I am beginning to think that Missionary Ridge might have been the "point" I look for.  What if Missionary Ridge had held?  Just from what I have been seeing, if that ridge had been fortified properly, I have serious doubts if any army could have taken it.  By fortifying I mean making a "military crest" (if there was not a natural one there) instead of fortifying the "geographical crest" as they did.  How many men would Grant have expended in the effort to take the ridge?   What would have been the result if he had failed. Would Lincoln have fired him like the did the commanders before him?  Remember Grant was not as popular then as he was to become later.  Just something to think about.

          I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
          Dick (a.k.a. Shotgun)
          http://www.civilwarhome.com
           


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        • Gary Burris
          ... From: Hartshje@aol.com To: civilwarwest@egroups.com Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 6:21 PM Subject:
          Message 4 of 14 , Dec 29, 1999
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            -----Original Message-----
            From: Hartshje@... <Hartshje@...>
            To: civilwarwest@egroups.com <civilwarwest@egroups.com>
            Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 6:21 PM
            Subject: [civilwarwest] Re: The What Ifs


            >Greetings and Salutations:
            >
            >Dick, the example of Chickamagua and Chattanooga used in your presentation
            is very interesting. Did you select that in response to my posting
            yesterday about the turning point?
            >
            >At any rate, going back to the "what ifs": What if the assault on
            Missionary Ridge HAD met with a bloody & costly repulse? And what if
            Longstreet's corp had still been present on the field?
            >
            >Longstreet was acutely aware of the potential of a counter-strike in the
            aftermath of a repulse of such magnitude. After all, that was his main
            concern after the debacle of Pickett's Charge. If the Union troops were
            equally bloodied at Missionary Ridge, a massive counter-attack would surely
            have carried the city and cut the Union forces in two. Remember, both of
            Grant's flanks at the time were heavily involved in affairs of their own,
            and not having much success either.
            >
            >Sherman could have undoubtedly beat a hasty retreat back to Knoxville to
            team up with Burnside and make a go of it later on, but Hooker's force may
            well have been cut-off south of the Tennessee River and captured along with
            most of the remnants of Thomas' army in Chattanooga. What would THAT have
            done to Grant's reputation? (Let us not forget though that Grant DID NOT
            order that assault)
            >
            >As pertains to the potential follow-up after the battle at Chickamauga, I
            agree that the Confederates WERE severely shot up. However, the Wilderness
            campaign has shown us that the armies of both sides were fully capable of
            taking severe punishment on an almost daily basis, and could still be called
            on to continue the fight. And the common Southern soldiers and line
            officers fully recognized the need for speedy, decisive action on their
            part. That victory had given them a tremendous morale boost, and a swift,
            victorious end to the war was a prize within their grasp. I believe this
            would have spurred them on to the supreme effort needed.
            >
            >Lastly, three of Longstreet's brigades plus all his artillery was not even
            engaged in the battle and were fresh. One thing is absolutely sure, sitting
            in front of Chattanooga and doing nothing was something the Confederacy
            COULD NOT afford to do. What say you all?
            >
            >Respectfully,
            >J. Hartshorn
            >
            >------------------------------------------------------------------------
            >The only fruitcake at overstock.com is our manager.
            >He’s giving away a $20 coupon, plus our everyday Free Shipping.
            >Take advantage of the savings and selection now.
            >http://click.egroups.com/1/342/1/_/14182/_/946509665
            >
            >-- Create a poll/survey for your group!
            >-- http://www.egroups.com/vote?listname=civilwarwest&m=1
            >
            >hello, everyone i am a new member and find the questions being raised very
            interesting. i also feel if general Brag had followed -up his success then
            cickamauga could have been a turning point. the question i would like to
            raise is was Grant's success really important. i think that any general who
            simply understood that in order to win the war all that was needed was to be
            aggresive and bleed the south of both manpower and resources which the north
            could replace, would have been victorious. Brag should have realized that as
            stated by J. Hartshorn quick decisive victories were required for any hope
            of final victory.
            > Regards: G. Burris
          • Stephen D Wakefield
            I am certainly going to try and make it this June and I am looking forward to it ... From: Dick Weeks To: civilwarwest@egroups.com Sent: Wednesday, December
            Message 5 of 14 , Dec 29, 1999
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              I am certainly going to try and make it this June and I am looking forward to it
              ----- Original Message -----
              Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 11:32 PM
              Subject: [civilwarwest] Re: The What Ifs

              Steve, that's quite a compliment coming from you. Hope you are going to be able to make the muster in June.  If I can do just half as well with 2nd Manassas as you did with Shiloh last year, I will be more than satisfied.
               
              I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
              Dick (a.k.a. Shotgun)
              ----- Original Message -----
              Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 6:07 PM
              Subject: [civilwarwest] Re: The What Ifs

               
              -Dick old friend  you have come to the same conclusion that it took me almost 20 years of reading to reach.
              Wakefield
               

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            • Stephen D Wakefield
              I am certainly going to try and make it this June and I am looking forward to it ... From: Dick Weeks To: civilwarwest@egroups.com Sent: Wednesday, December
              Message 6 of 14 , Dec 29, 1999
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                I am certainly going to try and make it this June and I am looking forward to it
                ----- Original Message -----
                Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 11:32 PM
                Subject: [civilwarwest] Re: The What Ifs

                Steve, that's quite a compliment coming from you. Hope you are going to be able to make the muster in June.  If I can do just half as well with 2nd Manassas as you did with Shiloh last year, I will be more than satisfied.
                 
                I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                Dick (a.k.a. Shotgun)
                ----- Original Message -----
                Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 6:07 PM
                Subject: [civilwarwest] Re: The What Ifs

                 
                -Dick old friend  you have come to the same conclusion that it took me almost 20 years of reading to reach.
                Wakefield
                 

                Click Here
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              • Dick Weeks
                Actually, I just picked that to show that there is an event, in a chain of events, that regardless of what happens afterwards the outcome is not going to
                Message 7 of 14 , Dec 29, 1999
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                  Actually, I just picked that to show that there is an event, in a chain of
                  events, that regardless of what happens afterwards the outcome is not going
                  to change. I am beginning to feel (I might add not too strongly at this
                  point) that the failure on the part of the Confederates to properly fortify
                  Missionary Ridge sealed the fate of that campaign. As far as the over all
                  war goes, I feel there were several points where, had things gone a little
                  differently, the South would have gained the freedom they sought.
                  Remember, they didn't need to win the war. A draw would have worked just as
                  well. The Chattanooga Campaign could have very well been one of those
                  points. Antietam was another. And of course Gettysburg was still another.
                  However, there is only one point I feel, that regardless of what happened
                  afterwards, the Confederacy was doomed. That point, in my opinion only, was
                  the surrender of Vicksburg by Pemberton on July 4, 1863. Let me try to
                  explain. With the fall of Vicksburg, the last of the great rivers was lost.
                  Scott's Anaconda Plan, so roundly ridiculed at the beginning of hostilities
                  was now firmly in place. All the seaports were blockaded and the rivers were
                  gone. The last artery had been severed and the Confederacy would slowly
                  bleed to death. Of course there were still battles to be fought and won by
                  the Confederacy but there was no way she could be helped. Now completely
                  isolated and alone she would spend the blood of her soldiers valiantly for
                  almost two more years, but once the Union flag flew over the bluffs at
                  Vicksburg the end was a virtual certainty. That light she had seen at the
                  end of the tunnel just a few months before was now an on coming train and
                  there was nothing that could be done to stop it. Just my opinion of course.

                  I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                  Dick (a.k.a. Shotgun)
                  http://www.civilwarhome.com
                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: <Hartshje@...>
                  To: <civilwarwest@egroups.com>
                  Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 3:20 PM
                  Subject: [civilwarwest] Re: The What Ifs


                  > Greetings and Salutations:
                  >
                  > Dick, the example of Chickamagua and Chattanooga used in your presentation
                  is very interesting. Did you select that in response to my posting
                  yesterday about the turning point?.......
                  >
                  >
                  > Respectfully,
                  > J. Hartshorn
                  >
                  > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  > The only fruitcake at overstock.com is our manager.
                  > He's giving away a $20 coupon, plus our everyday Free Shipping.
                  > Take advantage of the savings and selection now.
                  > http://click.egroups.com/1/342/1/_/14182/_/946509665
                  >
                  > -- Create a poll/survey for your group!
                  > -- http://www.egroups.com/vote?listname=civilwarwest&m=1
                  >
                  >
                  >
                • Dick Weeks
                  Steve, that s quite a compliment coming from you. Hope you are going to be able to make the muster in June. If I can do just half as well with 2nd Manassas as
                  Message 8 of 14 , Dec 29, 1999
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                    Steve, that's quite a compliment coming from you. Hope you are going to be able to make the muster in June.  If I can do just half as well with 2nd Manassas as you did with Shiloh last year, I will be more than satisfied.
                     
                    I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                    Dick (a.k.a. Shotgun)
                    ----- Original Message -----
                    Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 1999 6:07 PM
                    Subject: [civilwarwest] Re: The What Ifs

                     
                    -Dick old friend  you have come to the same conclusion that it took me almost 20 years of reading to reach.
                    Wakefield
                     
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