Question of the Week: 8/13-8/19/18

Let’s play with a “what if” scenario…

What if Lee had been wounded at Chancellorsville instead of Jackson?

16 Responses to Question of the Week: 8/13-8/19/18

  1. The next question is: who would President Davis appoint in Lee’s place? Joe Johnston? Beauregard? Would they have gone north? What ever would happen probably wouldn’t be Gettysburg.

  2. The reorganization of the army would not have happened. Maybe the invasion would not have been executed, and finally the invincible mind-set would disappear. Jackson although with a superior sense of military strategy was no Lee

  3. A complex situation. Much depends on Jeff Davis’s choice to replace Lee. I’m afraid I don’t think much of his choice of commanders. If a general aware of the improved efficiency of the Union cavalry (and of the foolishness of sustaining 28% casualties to win at Chancellorsville without destroying the offensive capabilities of the Union AoP) had been appointed, this might not have been too bad for the South ….provided a new strategic approach be considered … Anyway too many ifs …

  4. Although I largely concur with Movel…it is a fascinating situation.

    Morning of 3d May, 1863:
    1) A frustrated but healthy Stonewall burns to continue the offensive…maybe overlooking careful coordination of the I Corps divisions. Healthy Hooker puzzles at intelligence reports of Lee’s condition (could be some delay in learning truth), but may feel somewhat confirmed in the “success” of the ‘entrench and resist’ theme of his last several days. Howlingly furious arguments within the Federal council of war.
    2) Stuart and cavalry find Federal right flank. Entrenched or not, it may give Jackson pause.
    3) By early afternoon, President Davis, Sec-War, and Longstreet arrive, first mourn Lee, and then determine way ahead. Whether or not the Confederates under Federal pressure or not…a withdrawal is decided upon.
    4) That takes place more or less successfully, as Hooker proclaims victory and basks in political cred.
    5) By time ARNVA settles into new position…cautiously followed by Feds…a new Commander is chosen, and I would place money of it being Joe Johnston in order to:1) satisfy popular political clamor; 2) prevent and explosion between the factions of ARNVA. I even see both Longstreet and Jackson publicly agreeing with this decision.
    6) The war goes on…but Gettysburg never becomes a hallowed piece of ground.

    1. Interesting points but probably not Johnston. He had just sat on his thumbs in Miss. while Pemberton came out from Vicksburg, tried to attack Grant at Champion Hill, and then headed back into Vicksburg. Plus there was the whole Seven Pines history where Johnston and Davis could barely stand each other until Joe was wounded. Davis did, of course, put him in command in Georgia in 1864 but that was pretty much “anybody but Bragg”. by that point. I’d toss Dick Taylor in as an option but there would be the thorny issue of rank and seniority. I don’t see Davis giving it to Jackson and I do see Longstreet lobbying for it but have no thoughts beyond those. And then there was Baldy ….

  5. And Stephen Crane would have had to have used a different battle, about which to base his novel.

  6. It all depends on when the wound would happen, and if it was disabling (I’m assuming by the question it would be). If May 3 or earlier, then McLaws would take command of the two divisions opposite Chancellorsville while Jackson is informed that he has command as senior officer on the field. Momentum would have carried forward the general plan that Lee and Jackson had worked out on May 1. There would be an interesting question of how Old Jack would have responded to the taking of Marye’s Heights and whether that might have given Hooker an opening to renew the attack.

    If Lee is wounded during May 4, the battle is largely won. I see little impact.

    Depending on how long Lee is out convalescing, it is interesting to wonder who fills the vacuum. Jackson would have the army until Longstreet (who is senior) arrived. Either way, I don’t see a third corps being created. I’m also not sure the army would undertake a Pennsylvania expedition.

  7. It seems like Davis grew quite adept at juggling generals and commands (for varying reasons) and he obviously would have had to parachute another in if Lee had fallen. Perhaps ‘Old Bory’ might have been the logical candidate but he was in Davis’s bad graces then and seemed, at that time, ensconced in the West. Also, Beauregard usually had problems in forming his strategical plans in terms of available manpower, an issue that Lee had more success in dealing with.

  8. Lee himself said that he wished for the good of the country, that he had been wounded instead of Jackson. I don’t know if he was being sincere or just polite, but he’s sort of the first person to raise this “what if” by making such a comment.

  9. Wouldn’t Longstreet, by seniority, become commander of the ANV? Sure, he wasn’t in the area at the time, but could probably have gotten there within a day or so.

  10. So, the ‘assumption’ is that Lee dies, or rendered unable to perform and command. If that led to a Union victory, or at least a draw, at Chancellorsville, what would that have meant for the UNION? Would Lincoln have ‘found his general’ in Hooker? It took Lee to eventually get the best of what the Union had in the way of top leadership to emerge. With Lee gone, and thus the Confederates possibly taking lumps they otherwise did not, I think it is extremely possible that the war might have lasted LONGER. The fact remains that the ANVA would continue fighting on the terrain they knew best, that of VA. Gettysburg was Lee’s idea, so Gettysburg and all those casualties the South would suffer probably doesn’t happen. I think it’s folly to conclude that the South quickly loses. And maybe Hooker would have proved adequate! We can never know. But it is entirely possible that the death or incapacitating of Lee would have prevented or at least slowed down the appointment of Grant in the east. It’s is something to consider…

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