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 Post subject: Petersburg, was it good or bad for the Union?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:35 pm 
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Joined: Tue May 22, 2001 8:05 pm
Posts: 867
Location: Panhandle of Texas
Trying to catch up on some back issues of the North and South magazine and was reading an article on whether Baldy Smith should bear the blame for the Union not taking Petersburg before Lee could move there to defend it. My first thought was that it probably worked out better for the Union getting Lee bogged down in a siege at Petersburg rather then having the ANV cut loose from Richmond and able to maneuver freely with an still reasonably sized army. Lo and behold either the author or a commentator had the same thought. Though I wonder how long the Confederacy could have lasted without the factories in Richmond. I'd like to hear anyone else's thoughts whether it would have been better to take Petersburg or tie Lee down in a siege.

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 Post subject: Re: Petersburg, was it good or bad for the Union?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 7:43 pm 
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Location: Las Cruces, NM USA
General <salute>

So many lives were lost in the trench warfare of that siege, and avoiding that would have been good.

However, I am not sure in the Fall of 1864 Lee recommends against guerrilla warfare as he did in April 1865, so I believe it was finally better that the country suffered that burden when it did. The thought of the mayhem that would have resulted in the South with insurgent attacks going on for years would have been absolutely horrible for the country.

That is why I also believe that McClellan being such a dope in the 1862 campaign in front of Richmond was finally a blessing and not a curse. If the South falls in 1862, slavery would have lasted a lot longer. Somethings are hard to understand or explain.

MG Elkin
XVIth Corp
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 Post subject: Re: Petersburg, was it good or bad for the Union?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 8:43 pm 
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I wasn't picturing guerrilla warfare but picturing the ANV not tied to defending Richmond. Lee and the army were almost always sable to move faster then the Army of the Potomac and could have actually created some opportunities to inflict some damage on Grant and the army and then dance away to do it again later.

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 Post subject: Re: Petersburg, was it good or bad for the Union?
PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2012 8:18 am 
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By the second half of 1864 the ANV was a shaddow of it's former self. While it could maybe pull of a local success it did not have the numbers or mobility to turn a tactical success into a strategic success. Going into the trenches around Richmond bought the South another year which they failed to capitalize on. If Lee had given up on Richmond he would not only lose the population and manufacturing center of the Confederacy but the rail system that supplied his army. The Union would have quickly extended their control to the whole Eastern seaboard. Without sources of supply both food and weapons all Lee could do is retreat into the mountains and raid. This might last for a while but you must remember that most of the people living in those mountains were Unionist. Having a Rebel army also trying live off them would quickly turn the local population against them which is the one thing any guerrilla based force needs to survive.

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 Post subject: Re: Petersburg, was it good or bad for the Union?
PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2012 4:20 pm 
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Good points Kennon but at the time the Union could have taken Petersburg on the fly I don't think Atlanta had fallen yet had it? Any one of you historians want to save me some research and tell me how many men Lee had when Grant crossed the James River. With Atlanta still producing and having all the Carolinas and Georgia to fall back on at the time would the ANV really been reduced to guerrilla warfare that soon?

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 Post subject: Re: Petersburg, was it good or bad for the Union?
PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 10:29 am 
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If Atlanta held. But if Lee lost Richmond it would be difficult for the South to hold Atlanta with the Union forces freed up to concentrate on it. Atlanta was more vulnerable to having its rails cut than Richmond was. But probably the more critical factor is Civilian Morale. If a country can't defend its own capital it is no longer a country. With the loss of Richmond it would be difficult for the South to even field armies. More than likely Europe would quickly move to patch things up with the "winner" and the flow of all goods to the South would stop. Lee didn't like being pinned to Richmond but he had no choice.

According to Wikipedia Union forces varied from 67 to 125 thousand against an average force of 52,000. It would take a more detail analysis to see what was where and when. Also you must take into account how many of those 52,000 were first line troops and not home guard types. Trenchs had one benefit. Second line troops could occupy them pinning part of the enemy army while first line troops manueuvered for attacking. Once the ANV left the trenches a significant number of troops would be useless on campaign.

It would be interesting to study this. There is a new book series out on Petersburg by Edwin C. Bearss. I haven't been able to find the first volume. Oddly the second volume is now showing up on Amazon. I had the impression Vol 1 wasn't even published. Anyone know what is going on here. Book is:

"The Petersburg Campaign: The Eastern Front Battles, June - August 1864, Volume 1"

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 Post subject: Re: Petersburg, was it good or bad for the Union?
PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 1:49 pm 
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Location: United Kingdom
General Whitehead, try this link.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss? ... nt+Battles

It releases in October.

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