Lee's major failing, IMHO, was as a strategist. At the operational level, he had few peers, but as a senior general, whose advice was sought, and listened to, by one of the most difficult chief executives of any country in history [Davis]; his lack of strategic insight was mind boggling.
I don't know if he considered the Confederacy an appendage, or an ally of Virginia, but he doesn't seem to have seen it as a polity superior to his native state.
Case in point, the run up to the Gettysburg campaign. There were major discussions in Richmond about sending Lee and two Corps of his army to the West, which was the critical theater of operations in the Civil War, to help Bragg.
Lee did NOT want to go. So he proposed the raid into Pennsylvania in its stead. That is strategic myopia to the level of near blindness. And the South paid.
posted on 05/23/2008 7:20:43 AM PDT
("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
"Case in point, the run up to the Gettysburg campaign. There were major discussions in Richmond about sending Lee and two Corps of his army to the West, which was the critical theater of operations in the Civil War, to help Bragg.
Lee did NOT want to go. So he proposed the raid into Pennsylvania in its stead. That is strategic myopia to the level of near blindness. And the South paid. "
Here's my reference:
"Last Chance for Victory"
Bowden & Ward argue that Lee had the superior strategic vision. Lee knew, the only place the South could actually win the war was right there in the East, by defeating the Army of the Patomic on northern ground.
We see Lee's vision already in September 1862, when he first marched into Maryland and the Battle of Antietam.
In 1863 Lee proposed going back north. His arguments won the day with Jefferson Davis, though Davis did not give Lee all the units he asked for.
posted on 05/23/2008 6:59:57 PM PDT
(A little historical perspective....)
Lee's Virginia-centric view had some very deep roots, going back to Jefferson, Madison, and the other Virginia Republicans, who certainly seemed to view the United States as Virginia writ large. This view was less emphatic among Federalists like Washington, Marshall, and, ironically, Lee's father, but it was still there. The Republican view of Virginia probably grew stronger with the decline of the Federalists after 1800, and probably dominated the sentiments of the Virginia planter class by the time of the Civil War.
Furthermore, Lee's own adherence to the Confederate cause was purely born of his devotion to Virginia. He was opposed to secession, and probably would have stayed in the U.S. Army and fought against the Confederacy had it not entailed warring against Virginia.
While the West was in many ways more important than the East, the loss of Virginia still probably would have crippled the Confederate cause politically. In fact, their only real option after Antietam and the Emancipation Proclamation ended any chance of a British intervention was probably to hold out until the fall of 1864 and offer some sort of settlement during the election season. Even with the fall of Vicksburg, this strategy might have met with some success had the Confederacy not squandered its power in Gettysburg.
Even after Gettysburg, I'm amazed they didn't try it anyway, as it should have been clear to them that they had no other chance at breaking the North's will to fight by then, and never had any chance of destroying its ability to fight without some European intervention. They might have forced Lincoln and Congress to accept peace, and probably reunification, on terms far more favorable than existed under reconstruction. If he refused, the real prospect of peace with a preservation of the Union may well have swung the election to McClellan and the Democrats.
In my eyes, this failure on the part of the Confederates to realize their only possible victory was a political one showed that strategic myopia was not limited to Lee.
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