Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Happy Fourth!

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 4, 2013


Happy Fourth of July, everybody!

This week, of course, marks the sesquicentennial of the great turning point in the American Civil War, after which the Union held the strategic initiative, and the South increasingly found itself fighting a purely defensive war.

And Gettysburg was pretty important, too.

More seriously, which event — Gettysburg or the fall of Vicksburg in the West — do you think was more significant in the overall course of the war, and why?

Be safe, y’all.



12 Responses

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  1. pycarecen said, on July 4, 2013 at 6:04 am

    Since Gettysburg signaled The Rise of Meade, the answer should be obvious.

  2. Woodrowfan said, on July 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

    I’d say equally important. I’m not trying to be contrary, but I think they both played a critical role. Of course, had 1864 gone even worse for the Union and the war lost, we’d be looking at Vicksburg and Gettysburg sort of like a fan views a 3-run rally in the middle innings in a game their team eventually lost.

  3. Foxessa said, on July 4, 2013 at 10:30 am

    With Vicksburg Union occupied, along with New Orleans, the Union had the Mississippi, and divided the Mississippi Valley from Texas.

    Gettysburg kept Lee from D.C. and any further hopes of northern invasion.

    The two of them together were the containment of the CSA, from which it could not break out.

    Too bad the war — the fighting — went on anyway.

  4. DBrown said, on July 4, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    If, somehow, Lee had defeated the Union army, the Union army would still have existed. Remember, even had Lee ‘won’, his losses would have been huge (as were the Union’s even after they ‘won’.) The remains of the Union army would have simply withdrawn to Washington. Lee never could have attacked even a vastly reduced Union army holding the forts of Washington. He’d still have to either withdraw from the North or try and live off the land waiting for the restored Union army to come out and meet him.

    In any case the Union would have regained its strength in short order and attacked an unsupported Lee (if he stayed in the North) and driven him out with great loss. If he had simply withdrawn to Virginia, the same stale-mate would have existed but the Western theater would have continued to spin out of control with Confederate loss after loss – no way Lee could have sent troops even with a victory – he’d have lost too many men and the South could not easily make them up.

    Vicksburg, as was the case for all the Western theater, remained the key to Union victory. Even Lincoln realized this key aspect of the war and he at the very start of the war directed that Kentucky had to be held at all costs and Tennessee had to be retaken (both were achieved thanks in no small part by Grant.)

    The Southern command (Davis, of course), and Lee never understood this critical aspect of the War – Lee never had what it took to be a supreme commander and while not named that until far, far too late, he was so tied to Virginia he’d never have seen that aspect of the war or ever left Virginia even if he had. The South was doomed both because of Lee’s inability to see the bigger picture (his failure to act in a defensive manner also doomed the CSA more than anything else – that was utterly foolish – a true defensive war could have worn the Union down and eastern Virginia was ideal for that type of warfare), lack of manpower and terrible shortage of supplies.

  5. Alton Bunn Jr said, on July 4, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Vicksburg. It’s fall returned the Mississippi to complete Union control and split the Confederacy along with the surrender of Pemberton’s army. Despite its scale Gettysburg didn’t affect the outcome of the war. At the end of 1863 the armies were right back where they were in the spring.

  6. Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on July 5, 2013 at 7:43 am

    Vicksburg was of more significance in that it divided the Confederacy and created logistical nightmares, not to mention gave the Union complete control of the Mississippi. Gettysburg took a huge toll, but didn’t keep Lee’s Army from being a quality fighting force through a good bit of the following year.

  7. Craig L said, on July 5, 2013 at 7:54 am

    I haven’t researched the subject but I understand Jefferson Davis owned substantial plantation holdings not far south of Vicksburg. Well before the city of Vicksburg fell on the 4th of July, the presence of Union troops north, south and east of the city resulted in the dislocation of large numbers of slaves from the plantations surrounding Vicksburg. How many of those emancipated slaves had formerly belonged to Jefferson Davis? Could this state of affairs have influenced orders Davis might have issued to Lee regarding the decision to invade Pennsylvania? Does Gettysburg make more sense as a considered strategy or as a fit of pique?

    • Andy Hall said, on July 5, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      I don’t recall that sort of personal motive being behind the Gettysburg campaign. But both Jeff and his brother Joe Davis had big plantation holdings in that vicinity, a fact that was well-appreciated by the Union forces operating in the area.

      • Foxessa said, on July 5, 2013 at 6:07 pm

        I can help with that. Even during the war Davis had his own plantation, Briarfield, handled by his brother, who was the one who could manage plantations — and to whom Davis’s plantation actually belonged to (and about which Varina was always incensed — she and Jeff Davis’s older brother were very competitive with each about Jeff). Briarfield, before the war, was also handled by Davis’s life-long slave, who died before the war was finished (or before it started — I don’t quite recall without looking at my notes), spending his whole life in service to Jeff Davis. Davis couldn’t handle any of these matters, and his brother, who had lost his own neighboring plantation and most of the slaves, who was very ill, couldn’t save his brother’s.

        After the war, nothing Jeff Davis did could re-establish his brother’s Hurricane Plantation (yes! that’s the name!) or his own. For one thing, he couldn’t ‘handle’ ah-hem, labor. And indeed a huge Mississippi flood put Hurricane on an island.

  8. Craig L said, on July 5, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Who took that picture? It’s not easy to do justice to both the setting and the pyrotechnics.

  9. Clarissa said, on July 5, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    I need to clear up some wildly inaccurate information regarding Brierfield (spelled “ie” and not “ia”). First of all, the lifelong slave referenced was James Pemberton. He was most certainly a valued and trusted employee and devoted friend of Davis, but he died in 1850, so he had absolutely no bearing on the disposition of Brierfield. Now then, after the war, Joseph Davis reclaimed Brierfield (Hurricane as well) from the Federal Government.By this time however, Joseph Davis was an octogenarian, so he, after seeking and obtaining the approval of his brother Jefferson Davis, sold the property to a former slave of Jefferson Davis. Ben Montgomery was the former slave who purchased Brierfield, but Montgomery, despite extraordinarily magnanimous terms, defaulted on the loan. A very lengthy legal process began, which culminated with title to Brierfield being granted to Jefferson Davis in 1881.

    In short, it was not the, ahem, labor, that led to the difficulties at Brierfield, but the incompetent and irresponsible mismanagement of a former Davis slave.

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