WI: Stonewall Jackson in the post-Gettysburg campaigns of the East?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by SWS, Jun 5, 2019.

  1. SWS Member

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    The obvious POD here is that Jackson survives infection following his severe wounding and subsequent amputation of his left arm following Chancellorsville in May 1863.

    One of the ACW's most potent alternate history questions regards Jackson being present at Gettysburg (The reorganization of the ANV into three corps is another question), and it is generally agreed that he would have either seized the high ground on the evening of the First Day and succeeded, or have joined in Longstreet's protests to withdraw to defensive terrain of the Confederates' choosing and forcing Meade, under heavy political pressure, to attack.

    If Jackson did survive, I think he'd end up like Longstreet in OTL after he was gravely wounded in a similar manner at the Wilderness a year later.

    That means he convalesces in Charlotte, NC, with his family and doesn't return to field service until October/November of 1863 (In time for the Bristoe/Mine Run Campaigns, assuming the War follows the same course in the summer and fall).

    When Jackson returns and re-assumes command of his Second Corps from the controversial and incompetent Ewell, what happens to the latter? Southern morale may be higher in Jackson's presence, especially among the officers.

    I personally would have Jackson at Mine Run (Although Meade is still unlikely to attack), where Lee thought a 'Second Chancellorsville' was possible. And a Confederate victory in the East at that time could have had interesting political consequences for the following year.

    And if nothing except Stonewall surviving changes 1863, how does Grant's Overland Campaign develop the following year?
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2019
  2. mrmandias Regent

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    Excellent questions. If I understand correctly, the POD is that Jackson is still wounded but recovers in time to rejoin in the fall of 1863, missing Gettysburg?
     
  3. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    While having Jackson around will help the CSA military, probably, by the fall 1863 (and given his situation he won't return any sooner), the CSA is already in the downslope rather badly. Out west, Vicksburg has fallen and frankly the CSA can't undo that. The blockade is really beginning to bite as the number of ports still open is being reduced. Manpower and equipment is becoming more and more of an issue. With Grant in charge in the east, you're simply not going to have a Union response to a Jackson flanking maneuver (if he can pull one off), with the sort of panic and freaking out that happened earlier.
     
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  4. fyrdhammer Well-Known Member

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    Really depends on if he maintains the same level of aggression or not. Jackson's tactics are ill suited to 1864's overland campaign. One could foresee a Jackson active for battle of North Anna might achieve a different result, for instance, but it seems like the course of events would have been substantially altered by then. I'm not entirely sold on the idea that Jackson's presence would be a net positive - you could easily see his high impact high casualty battle outcomes generating even more attrition for the AoNV than OTL.

    After Gettysburg, the south can't really afford Chancellorsvilles. Not sure I see a lot of scope for big successes in Mine Run or Bristoe campaigns either, Meade was pretty reticent to attempt anything risky.

    Also, a bit of a thought I keep pondering, but in some ways I think Lee's performance in 1864 improves and takes better advantage of the actual circumstances he's in because he's no longer over relying on subordinates to carry out entirely too complex battle plans. Anyone's guess if Jackson is still in the saddle if Lee's thinking doesn't end up undergoing that shift.
     
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  5. Old1812 Reactionary Monarchist Twit

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    I think this could have interesting butterflies when Davis is looking for a commander of the AoT in January 1864. Why would he choose Johnston when Jackson is right there, assuming Jackson is willing to move (I suppose Davis could just order him to take command, however)? R. E. Thomas used it for his Stonewall Goes West series.
     
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  6. Kerney defender of low probability atls everywhere

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    Jackson could go west during Chattanooga in the place of Longstreet. Being more agressive, he might be able to help Bragg take Chattanooga, which in itself might be a game changer, effectively preventing the Atlanta campaign.

    I don't think he would be a good Army Commander. He wasn't good at getting along with others, like Bragg, but being a western Corps commander, he could be useful to Bragg or Johnston, taking advantage of opportunities their otl subbordinates did not.
     
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  7. History Learner Well-Known Member

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    Jackson at Mine Run will lead to a Second Chancellorsville at the least, in that Meade's flank was open and Lee had already put into motion a movement to hit when Meade withdrew. It's also entirely possible that the Bristoe Station Campaign could lead to the destruction of the Army of the Potomac or a large portion of it; Jackson was pretty good at the sort of turning movements Lee was going for in that campaign.
     
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  8. History Learner Well-Known Member

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    I'll give some context.

    Jackson's fame came from his abilities in terms of maneuver, from quick marches to decisive turning movements, with him showing his skills most impressively in the cases of Second Manassas and Chancellorsville. Given the Bristoe Campaign is also alternatively called the "Marching Campaign", you can see how this would play in Jackson's strengths in of itself but the particulars of it in particular show this, in that there are multiple similarities to Second Manassas. While Meade is indeed a better General than John Pope was, failures in intelligence gathering and inter-Army communications are constantly plaguing him; case in point is an entire 24 hour stretch where the Federals have absolutely no idea where Lee is at. That's a particularly dangerous situation for the Army of the Potomac, which is entirely dependent on the Orange and Alexandria railway as its only means of escape and resupply. Further, Meade's efforts to stay near Culpepper leaves large formations of his Army with a major river, the Rappahannock, to their rear and across which they'd have to cross if they needed to make an escape. All of these factors actually would actually come together to seriously threaten Meade during the OTL campaign and ATL would give Lee, through Jackson, a major opportunity:

    Meade's completely in the dark as to Lee's movements, only finding out 11 hours after initial fighting that contact has been made and four hours after the Confederates have taken Sulphur Springs, meaning they are now moving into his rear. This is critical because, as previously stated, the Orange and Alexandria Railroad is the Army of the Potomac's only means of escape and resupply, as the ravages of the war have left the Virginia countryside largely barren. Jackson's abilities for hard, quick marches combined with his previous experience in the area will give him the edge to get into the Federal rear and cut the railway.

    Meade won't know what's happening until it's too late and even once he does he simply lacks the strength to counter-attack until he gets Sedgwick's wing of the army across the Rappahannock. By the time that's done, Lee will have long since added Hill's Corps to Jackson's, placing the entirety of the Army of Northern Virginia to Meade's rear and likely with enough time to have fieldworks in play. The Army of the Potomac can't go cross country, so they're going to have to directly assault the Confederates in the hopes of breaking through their lines. Given Meade has only 80,000 to the 55,000 under Lee, who are also going to be dug in most likely, that simply isn't going to happen. In essence, Lee has the ability to completely destroy the entirety of Meade's command.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2019
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  9. marathag Well-Known Member with a target on his back

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    Or he could end up like Hood, his mind fogged on Laudanum to control pain of his wounds
     
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  10. History Learner Well-Known Member

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    That's a Post-War myth as it concerns Hood.
     
  11. Raferty Well-Known Member

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    I can see Jackson being of use in another independent Valley command in 1864.

    To be honest, though, I can easily see him getting killed in action in the Overland Campaign considering his predilections for getting too close to the action, and the fact that his corps in particular would have been mangled to pieces at Spotsylvania Court House. I wouldn't rule out the possibility, for example, that he might have spent the night in the Mule Shoe and then killed or captured by Hancock's surprise attack pre-dawn.

    Jackson I believe may have been able to take advantage of the opportunity at North Anna in the way that Ewell did not. But that is about all I can really think that would make a difference.

    Lee's Army after the Wilderness could fight from behind fortifications and trenches, but could do little else; tactical offensive moves were risky enough as it was; strategic ones were out of the question.
     
  12. History Learner Well-Known Member

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    So, the Army of the Potomac is destroyed in October of 1863 by Lee. What’s going to happen next?

    On the political level, it’s important to note that the 55,000 casualties suffered by Grant were enough to so shake Northern morale that Lincoln until the end of August thought he was going to lose re-election; Lee here in the ATL has done that better by increasing the losses by a third and completely destroying the chief Federal army. While Lincoln is blessed that this great defeat is not with his re-election at hand, it still comes during Congressional and State-level races that even IOTL saw, for example, a Copperhead endorsed by McClellan come within a hair of winning the Governor’s office in Pennsylvania. This defeat also comes when memories of the New York City Draft Riot, Detroit Race Riot and outright battles with Draft resistors in Ohio are still fresh; we’re also mere months away from disturbances in Lincoln’s home state of Illinois. The Peace Democrats are going to be incredibly strengthened by this, with major repercussions going into 1864.

    At the strategic level, however, things are even worse. Outside of the troops in the immediate environs of Washington, there is no real Federal force to oppose Lee in the Mid-Atlantic. There are also no real prospects for any such force being constructed soon, as the Lincoln Administration had stripped what surplus forces existed in the aftermath of Chickamauga in order to rescue the now besieged Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga; Grant had detached 20,000 under Sherman, while Hooker had been sent with 15,000 from the Army of the Potomac. Pulling out any other forces thus opens up serious dangers in other theaters, which greatly constrains the options for the Union cause. In short, Lincoln will have to decide whether he wants to save D.C. or, most likely, see another great military disaster around Chattanooga.

    If the Federals fail to move to protect Washington, Lee will move to occupy Centreville and emplace batteries along the Potomac, closing it down to riverine traffic just as the Confederates did for nearly a year back in 1861-1862. Lee can then take the majority of his host, swing into Maryland and then occupy Baltimore, closing off the only rail connections into Washington. With the railways and the Potomac closed, the city will inevitably be forced to surrender at some point. In the meantime, with Lee in Baltimore, a secession convention can be organized for Maryland. Between the decisive defeat of Meade, D.C. under Siege and Maryland now in the Confederacy, it’s such a disaster for Federal arms that French intervention becomes essentially assured.

    Should the Lincoln Administration attempt to save the city, the most likely route for such would be to pull the 15,000 troops of Burnside’s Department of the Ohio out of East Tennessee. Likewise, the 15,000 men that had been detached for Chattanooga from the Army of the Potomac under Hooker could be withdrawn, likely arriving in less than two weeks. 30,000 men isn’t enough to take on Lee in the field, but it’s sufficient to strongly picket the entry points into Maryland and reinforce Washington. Combined with Lee’s hesitancy to campaign that far North with winter coming, it’s probably enough to deter the Confederates. The problem is, however, that it opens up the Federals for certain disaster elsewhere, Chattanooga in particular.

    Without Burnside at Knoxville, there’s no need for the Knoxville Campaign, opening up the railway network for use in aiding Bragg’s logistics. Perhaps equally important is that the 10,000 men under Maj. Gen. Samuel Jones in Southwestern Virginia can now perform a link up with Bragg’s Army. Returns from November suggest this would mean 69,000 Confederates against 57,000 Federals, once you remove Hooker’s 15,000 from the total. However, the Federals have a further disadvantage in that around 40,000 of their number is trapped within Chattanooga, on the brink of starvation in late October. These facts alone make clear that Grant is in serious danger here before you even consider specific operations.

    Case in point is that Hooker’s men were used to protect Bridgeport, Alabama and its connections to Chattanooga, meaning what would become the “Cracker Line” origins point is dangerously exposed. Further, without Hooker’s men to guard Wauhatchie, Longstreet can take and directly cut the Cracker Line as its main point in Chattanooga. No matter which way you look at it, it’s definitely likely the attempt to relieve the city is going to fail. Accord to Thomas, in his famous correspondence with Grant when the latter arrived on scene, the Army of the Cumberland had, at most, seven days worth of rations left. By the time the Cracker Line was opened IOTL, they had, at most, a day’s worth. No matter how resolute George Thomas is, when the supplies run out it’s only going to be a matter of a few days before the Army of Tennessee is able to bag the 40,000 men of the Army of the Cumberland. Thereafter, with only Sherman’s 20,000 on scene and no hope of reinforcements, Bragg can either destroy the remainder of the Federals or, much more likely, retakes Tennessee and sets himself up in a position to move into Kentucky come Spring.

    Between all of this, I think it’s safe to say Northern willpower to carry the war is going to be dangerously depleted if not outright destroyed. Even ignoring that, the French under Napoleon III were still serious about intervention into the Fall of 1863 and these decisive Confederate victories make such a move a near certainty. On the whole, I think this is a war winning scenario for the Confederates.
     
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  13. Old1812 Reactionary Monarchist Twit

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    How sure can we be of the Confederates surrounding the AotC at Chattanooga? If Burnside pulls out of Knoxville around October, surely Hooker at Bridgeport and the AotC at Chattanooga would know they need to get the heck out of Dodge and fall back to Nashville, wouldn't they?
     
  14. History Learner Well-Known Member

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    The Army of the Cumberland is surrounded, it literally can't retreat or be resupplied; that's why the relief forces were sent and why the Cracker Line was created. As well, if Burnside is sent East but Hooker isn't, that's going to still result in Lee taking Baltimore but just adding an extra 15,000 prisoners to the 80,000 he's already took.
     
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  15. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    This would be a really unusual occurrence. During the ACW neither side was ever able to "destroy" a field army of the other side.
     
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  16. History Learner Well-Known Member

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    It's an old maxim that was invented by some historian whose name escapes me, but it kinda falls flat when one knows of Harper's Ferry, Vicksburg and Appomattox, for the most obvious examples.
     
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  17. Marc reformed polymath... Donor

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    Your examples don't quite fall into the "field army" definition as most would see it.
    Also, Clausewitz was wrong about the notion that decisive battles were still possible (decisive meaning a battle that would decide an entire war - Austerlitz being the dream).
     
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  18. History Learner Well-Known Member

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    Vicksburg and Appomattox definitely do, although one could make the case Harper's Ferry was more of a siege of a garrison than a field army being destroyed. I also agree with Clausewitz; we've had examples of decisive battle well into the 20th Century and, as it applies to the Civil War, we're all familiar with the idea of Antietam and Anglo-French intervention.
     
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  19. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    Vicksburg was a siege of a city, and Appamatox was a situation where the losing army was on its last legs. They had no rations, very little ammunition, and in reality no place to go as the Confederate government had collapsed. There is a huge difference between being "decisive" and a field army being destroyed. In WWII Midway was "decisive" and yes, a large key part of the IJN was destroyed but only a part. The Pacific War is in many ways a bad example as you could argue that the Japanese attack on PH was "decisive", as going to war with the USA guaranteed Japanese defeat the only question how and when, Midway sealed that view. I would give you that Stalingrad obviously resulted in the complete loss of a field army, however was it "decisive" in the Clauswitzian sense.

    Without taking a position or engaging in detailed examples and reasons, it has been argued that between the Napoleonic Wars and the nuclear age, the concept of the one battle that wins the war (then and there) faded away with the industrial revolution and mass armies. With the nuclear age, you could argue that a strategic exchange does end the war then and there, although the concept of such an event having a winner, especially past the 1960s, is debatable.
     
  20. Fiver Curmudgeon

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    Let's start by looking at the real Richard Ewell, not the caricature provided by the Lost Cause.

    What victory the Confederates at Gettysburg was on the first day and largely due to Ewell disobeying Lee's orders to not bring on a general engagement. Rather than sitting and watching, Ewell attacked.

    Lee's order to take the hill was self-contradictory - "carry the hill occupied by the enemy if he found it practicable, but to avoid a general engagement". That task was not trivial. Union troops had been entrenching on Cemetery Hill before Ewell arrived on the field of battle. Union General Steinwehr said "Our position now was quite strong, the infantry being placed partly behind stone fences, and forming with our batteries a front fully able to resist an attack of even greatly superior forces." Union General Howard said "After an examination of the general features of the country, I came to the conclusion that the only tenable position for my limited force was the ridge to the southeast of Gettysburg, now so well known as Cemetery Ridge. The highest point at the cemetery commanded every eminence within easy range. The slopes toward the west and south were gradual, and could be completely swept by artillery."

    Ewell's men were "much fatigued from long marches" before they even got to the battle. General Rodes said "before the completion of his defeat before the town, the enemy had begun to establish a line of battle on the heights back of the town, and by the time my line was in a condition to renew the attack, he displayed quite a formidable line of infantry and artillery immediately in my front, extending smartly to my right, and as far as I could see to my left, in front of Early. To have attacked this line with my division alone, diminished as it had been by a loss of 2,500 men, would have been absurd."

    Ewell asked for support from AP Hill. Hill provided none and concluded "my own two divisions exhausted by some six hours' hard fighting, prudence led me to be content with what had been gained, and not push forward troops exhausted and necessarily disordered, probably to encounter fresh troops of the enemy."

    Ewell concluded that "the enemy had fallen back to a commanding position known as Cemetery Hill, south of Gettysburg, and quickly showed a formidable front there. On entering the town, I received a message from the commanding general to attack this hill, if I could do so to advantage. I could not bring artillery to bear on it, and all the troops with me were jaded by twelve hours' marching and fighting, and I was notified that General Johnson's division (the only one of my corps that had not been engaged) was close to the town."

    This planned attack was delayed because of false reports of Union troops approaching on Ewell's flank and then further delayed by Robert E Lee himself. Ewell noted "I received orders soon after dark to draw my corps to the right, in case it could not be used to advantage where it was; that the commanding general thought from the nature of the ground that the position for attack was a good one on that side."

    Ewell, feeling more strongly than Lee that an attempt should be made, persuaded Lee to let him try with Johnson's force. Ewell said " on my return to my headquarters, after 12 o'clock at night, I sent orders to Johnson by Lieut. T. T. Turner, aide-de-camp, to take possession of this hill, if he had not already done so. General Johnson stated in reply to this order, that after forming his line of battle this side of the wooded hill in question, he had sent a reconnoitering party to the hill, with orders to report as to the position of the enemy in reference to it. This party, on nearing the summit, was met by a superior force of the enemy, which succeeded in capturing a portion of the reconnoitering party, the rest of it making its escape."

    If Jackson had been at Gettysburg, he might have attacked high ground more vigorously than Ewell. He would have been attacking with exhausted troops, no artillery support, and no reserves against an enemy who had started entrenching before Jackson reached the field of battle. That's more likely to end up like the attack on Malvern Hill than to win the battle. People also forget that Jackson was not always aggressive; in the Seven Days he was always late and never marched to to the sound of the guns. If the Confederates had that Jackson at Gettysburg, he would have been just as useless as AP Hill was .
     
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