Monday, August 7, 2017

When General Lee was off His Balance

As another Lame Cherry exclusive in matter anti matter.

Several times during the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee is recorded off his balance. In other areas, it was stated "his blood was up", and when that took place, there was absolutely nothing that could be done with him.
The three situations where it was at its worst, it cost the Confederacy the war, for the damage General Lee carried out at Sharpesburg, Gettysburg and The Wilderness.

The last time this surfaced in The Wilderness Campaign, the South was in dire straits from political favoritism, much as America is under Donald John Trump not implementing the solutions at all costs, but instead allowing the continual crumbling of the necessary core.

As generations have passed the following story is now amusing, but were not in the least at the time, as what was taking place was General Lee had ordered an attack and his brigades pounded by General Hancock of the Union had broken and were in full retreat.
At this point, General Longstreet is advancing and allowing the broken ranks to fall through his lines, and then reform for support.
There was a very biting and heavy fire from the Union lines as this was taking place as General Longstreet was attempting to rally, hold and push the advance again. He had his hands quite full, and then he received a plea from one of the staff of General Lee, General Venable, who was begging Longstreet to "do something" as General Lee was so up for a charge in battle to stem the loss that he was about to lead the charge of a brigade of Texans into the heavy fire.

General Longstreet sent General Lee his compliments, informed him that if he could wait with his charge, that Longstreet's lines would be formed in an hour, and then Longstreet would smash the Union and drive them across the river.

The polite rebuttal to General Lee calmed him to his senses enough, and General Lee did not get himself killed leading Texans to their deaths.

As the line deployed, the divisions of Heth and Wilcox came 
back upon us in disorder, more and more confused as their 
steps hurried under Hancock's musketry. As my ranks formed 
the men broke files to give free passage for their comrades 
to the rear. The advancing fire was getting brisk, but 
not a shot was fired in return by my troops until the 
divisions were ready. Three of Field's brigades, the 
Texas, Alabama, and Benning's Georgia, were formed in 
line on the left of the road, and three of Kershaw's on 
the right. General Lee, appalled at the condition of 
affairs, thought to lead the Texas brigade alone into 
desperate charge, before my lines were well formed. The 
ordeal was trying, but the steady troops, seeing him off 
his balance, refused to follow, begged him to retire, and 
presently Colonel Venable, of his staff, reported to me 
General Lee's efforts to lead the brigade, and suggested 
that I should try to call him from it. I asked that he 
would say, with my compliments, that his line would be 
recovered in an hour if he would permit me to handle the 
troops, but if my services were not needed, I would like 
to ride to some place of safety, as it was not quite com- 
fortable where we were. 

As full lines of battle could not be handled through the 
thick wood, I ordered the advance of the six brigades by 
heavy skirmish lines, to be followed by stronger support- 
ing lines.

The problem in this, is that General Longstreet with a number of his staff were wounded, and the staff killed after they repulsed the Union lines. The growth was heavy in the forest, so Longstreet could not form his lines, and instead opted for broken lines of heavy skirmishers to keep up the drive forward, and then to be backed by stronger supporting lines, in case the Union troops rallied.

If General Longstreet had not been wounded, he would have won the Wilderness campaign and had an even chance to win the war and force Lincoln to peace, but in his being wounded, Lee's blood was still up, and instead of deploying the troops as Longstreet knew was necessary, Lee stopped the march, organized the lines, and lost the momentum as the Union troops rallied and set their lines in the hours it took Lee to arrange his battle.

Robert E. Lee was a brilliant engineer and skilled leader of men. He had though 3 faults.

Fault 1: Lee would not allow troops of his army into another theater of war beyond his control as most generals are weak in this point in creating their own fiefdoms.

Fault 2: Lee's instinct was always to strike. Once his blood was up, he could not be settled until he had lines of dead Soldiers to satisfy that impulse.

Fault 3: Lee was a combat engineer. He could build fantastic defenses to destroy Union forces, but put General Lee in the field at Gettysburg against fortified positions and he was defeated or put him into his fortifications, to attack the Union, and he would win, but at horrific costs.

With those faults, General Lee had one weakness, and that was his age. He suffered from sciatica and rheumatism. He was not a young man for the field, and needed the war turned over to younger officers, and to manage it from Richmond, and to make his presence felt by rail car travel and personal inspections.

This is not a condemnation of Robert E. Lee, but the first real assessment of his abilities. Of the four Confederate Theater Generals of Robert E. Lee, Joseph Johnston, Braxton Bragg and Pierre Beauregard, Lee was the most aggressive and inspired, Johnston the best field marshal, but had no inspiration to take the battle to the enemy, Bragg was an absolute incompetent, and Beauregard was able with a firm guiding hand, but lacked fire.
In essence, Lee was made better when Stonewall Jackson demurred and would not attack as ordered in some cases, made greater by the field abilities of James Longstreet and aided to a point by the impulsiveness of young Jeb Stuart in cavalry.

The Confederate Army would have been much better served with Robert E. Lee as General of the Army, General Beauregard in command of the Tennessee, General Longstreet in command of the Army of Northern Virginia with the two wing commanders being General DH Hill and General Thomas Jackson, with General Joseph Johnston in command of Army of Mississippi and Georgia.
In cavalry, General Rosser should have commanded in Virginia under Longstreet, Nathan Bedford Forest should have commanded under Beauregard in the Tennessee and Jeb Stuart should have been under the command of Johnston in the Mississippi or the West.

The war would have ended with a Southern victory by the autumn of 1863 AD in the year of our Lord.

Once again another Lame Cherry exclusive in matter anti matter.