Question of the Week: 7/6-7/12/20

Last week the question was exclusive to Gettysburg, so let’s add a twist this week:

For the entire war, what piece of high ground was the most significant? Why?

17 Responses to Question of the Week: 7/6-7/12/20

  1. Missionary Ridge. It showed that the southern army (other than Cleburne’s division) could be routed. The fall of Atlanta became inevitable and thus the end of the war. Plus, it was really, really high ground.

  2. I vote for Missionary Ridge, possession of which meant dominating Chattanooga, which was the gateway to the Confederate heartland.

  3. Horseshoe Ridge, which allowed Thomas the ability to repel the additional Confederate assaults during the afternoon of September 20, and without which it is debatable whether Chattanooga itself would have been retained under Union control.

  4. Vicksburg: President Lincoln early recognized, “Vicksburg is the Key. The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.”
    Why? Split the Confederacy. And control the vital trade artery of the Mississippi River.

  5. Leggett’s Hill outside Atlanta (which no longer exists because of interstate construction). If that would have been retaken by the Confederates during the battle for Atlanta, the Army of the Tennessee, which was already temporarily crumbling, would have been flanked by Cleburne’s Division, and not even Black Jack Logan could not have prevented its collapse.

  6. The lava river shores on Mustafar… Oh, sorry, wrong war. (haha!)
    I’m no expert and there’s a ton left to learn, but in the western theater, I would say the high ground at Port Hudson because it guarded the northern route on the Mississippi out of Louisiana. The fall of Port Hudson and Vicksburg was a massive blow to the Confederacy (in my small, humble opinion). In the eastern theater, I can’t say. Maryes Heights at Fredericksburg come to mind, but that didn’t play a massive role in the outcome of the war as a whole. Again, still learning and reading these responses helps tremendously 🙂 .

  7. Plenty of worthy choices to select from, for sure. I’ll personally go with Maryes Heights. That was the site of the unbelievable slaughter of Union forces in late 1862. It was the key position at Fredericksburg, and its possession prevented any meaningful Union approach there. When the Confederates won that battle, it thwarted Lincoln’s hopes and plans to put a positive spin on his admin’s efforts as far as the War was concerned. The resounding victory by the Confederates gave the South hope that they would prevail in the struggle, and thus helped extend the War. Fredericksburg, meaning control of Maryes Heights, would play a significant role in subsequent campaigns, like that of Chancellorsville, which would result in the South’s efforts that culminated at Gettysburg. It’s all part of ’cause and effect’, ‘connect the dots’, etc.

  8. There is a strong case for Maryes Heights or maybe Henry House Hill. There aren’t many other places that were critical pieces of elevation in multiple battles.

    For the sake of argument though, I’ll throw forward Hazel Grove at Chancellorsville. It was the most important location on the battlefield that, once taken, allowed the Confederate army to concentrate artillery and dominate the area around Fairview and the Chancellor house. The Union line was compromised once it was occupied by Confederates and they were thus forced to contract their line back toward the Rapidan and U.S. Ford. Plus, fire from Hazel Grove likely wounded Joe Hooker and impacted his decision process. Hard to see how the Confederates would have won the battle without it.

  9. I’ll go with Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg. It was the central terrain feature, as well as Lee’s target, in the largest battle in the Western Hemisphere.

  10. Physical high ground….I still like Culp’s Hill as the key terrain. Since it protected the Baltimore Pike, which would have been Meade’s escape route from Gettysburg, the loss of Culp’s Hill would en-danger Cemetery Hill, since it is on the flank, and Meade would have been forced to retreat.

    Moral high ground…The Emancipation Proclamation….which freed the slaves in those secessionist States where the Federal Government had no power, basically eliminating any thoughts of Great Britain and France from ever entering the War, on the side of the South. If they had entered the war favoring the South,, they would have been fighting to preserve slavery.

  11. Lots of choices for battle-determining physical high ground, I’d wager Breckinridge might vote for the position at Stones River that Mendenhall selected for his 40+ guns on January 2.

  12. Interesting to see what Mendenhall would have achieved had the Union troops not broken so quickly, and Breckinridge had his men intermixed with the Union forces. He had that problem at Chickamauga, where his attempt to recapture his Murfreesboro success failed.

    1. Sure, but It’s a pure hypothetical. I could do something similar with the other examples. He also didn’t have exactly the same platform at Chickamauga.

  13. I vote for Arlington Heights. It’s there Robert E. Lee resigned from the United States Army (a fateful decision for how the Civil War played out) and one of the first pieces of high ground Federal troops occupied to turn Washington into a fortress and ensure it would not fall into Confederate hands at all during the war.

Please leave a comment and join the conversation!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *