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» » Lee Moves North: Robert E. Lee on the Offensive

Lee Moves North: Robert E. Lee on the Offensive

Lee Moves North: Robert E. Lee on the Offensive
Title:
Lee Moves North: Robert E. Lee on the Offensive
ISBN:
0585253099
ISBN13:
978-0585253091
Size fb2:
1340 kb
Size epub:
1313 kb
Other formats:
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Rating:
4.8
Votes:
197
Category:
No category
  • Porgisk
a clear look at the offensive mind of robert e lee
  • Nikohn
Product came on time and in excellent condition, even for a used book. Would definitely buy from this seller again.
  • Moonworm
In the book's preface, Professor Palmer asks the thought provoking question "Did he and his lieutenants simply have a couple of bad days? Or were there other factors at work? ....could the strategic offensive, then be the shared thread, the common denominator that might help to explain Lee's failures?" He then reviews Lee's Maryland, Gettysburg and Bristoe Station campaigns to answer his question.
In Chapter 1, Palmer states that lacking published plans and with an ambiguous objective, Lee moved into Maryland without Jeff Davis's prior approval . The author asserts that the Maryland campaign was a Federal success and allowed "the Lincoln administration to solidify its political support...." Quite the contrary happened. Aghast at the Antietam casualties, northern voters in the 1862 fall elections for governors and congressmen, gave Lincoln's party several major reverses. The chapter makes the ridiculous comparison that "Lee was one of many southerners caught up in a wave of `victory disease', not unlike that which gripped the Japanese before the battle of Midway". The Japanese defeat at Midway was not due to "victory disease" but due to their naval code having been broken and Admiral Nagumo's bad tactical decision,
Nevertheless, regarding Maryland, Professor Palmer correctly writes "Why had Lee failed? The answer is simple: virtually all of the assumptions upon which he based his plans were unfounded."
The Gettysburg campaign chapter is well written and objective. The review of events leading to the Gettysburg campaign is excellent. Normally given limited coverage, the narration of the meetings in Richmond with Davis and his cabinet plus the correspondence regarding Lee's Gettysburg campaign is very interesting. Palmer reviews Lee's organization problems writing "....two of the three men leading corps and three of the nine men leading divisions were untested at their new levels of commands....Such dramatic changes in the organization and leadership....suggested the need for delays, not haste." Considerable space is devoted to whether Lee wanted to fight a major battle in Pennsylvania quoting Lee stating in 1868 that "he did not want to fight" and ending with Lee biographer Emory Thomas's statement "that battle was central to Lee's plan."
Palmer noted "....two fundamental forces worked against the successful execution of Lee's campaign, First....it was never was properly developed....Second, Lee relied on a very decentralized approach to command and control." Lee's decentralized command philosophy required component subordinates. Regarding the competence at Gettysburg of Lee's key commanders, Stuart, Ewell, and Longstreet , the book provides a brief review of their failures concluding that "....while Ewell's incompetence and Longstreet's recalcitrance were important factors, Lee's unwillingness to issue direct orders or to take charge of the battle lay at the root of the problem".
Analysis of Lee's strategic offensive continues with a review of the Bristoe Station campaign. Again Lee initiated a campaign in secrecy, without a clearly stated objective, no detailed operation plan and limited or misleading communications to Richmond. The author speculates that one motive for the campaign was to prevent further detachment of Lee's troops to the west and states "Lee moved north to engage Meade because the latter had not come south....Had Meade been more aggressive in August or Lee been able to take the offensive, Davis would never have sent Longstreet west." The book notes that the command problems evident at Gettysburg had not been corrected and lacking capable corps commanders another debacle occurred. Professor Palmer states that "while Heth and Hill were blamed, Lee also bore some responsibility for the failures of his subordinates" and concludes at Bristoe Station "....for Lee to attack an army twice the size of his own in October was absurd."
Evaluating Lee, in the fourth and final chapter the author asks the critical question "Could the South have won the Civil War?" Professor Palmer contends that while the North had countless advantages, the Confederacy had several advantages noting that the South did not need to invade or conquer the North to win stating "The Confederacy had only to survive until the Yankees lost their will to continue the struggle." Referencing the writings of Clausewitz and Delbruck, Southern strategies are evaluated noting that the Confederate government failed to adopt either a strategy of exhaustion or of annihilation. He further states that Lee's contributed to the South's failure to adopt a consistent strategic policy in that he usurped Davis's role as commander-in chief while Davis failed to respond and shape a well-defined national strategy.
Professor Palmer writes Lee launched all three offensives without anything approaching a formal plan basically commanding by the seat of his pants. He writes "LEE'S TWIN PENCHANTS for the offensive and for secrecy contorted the outline of Confederate national strategy between 1862 and 1863 and led to his own failures as a commander." He notes that the traits that served Lee so well for strategic defense failed him when his army went over to the strategic offensive.
The book's weakness is that it does not ask "why ?" With Lee's respect for authority, why didn't Davis control strategy directing Lee to comply and fully reveal his plans? Why would a commander noted for honesty and integrity try to deceive Richmond? Regarding a strictly defensive strategy, was Lee independently responding to Frederick the Great's chilling aphorism "He who defends everything, defends nothing."? Why was Lee secretive, was it solely to deceive or was it basically because both North and South were getting critical intelligence from the newspapers? Etc.
Some may take offense at the concluding statement "...what Lee failed to understand was that a commander of an army can no more effectively shape national strategy on the sly and on the cheap, than a tail can wag a dog." But for the historian or serious student of the Civil War, this short book is worth reading as thought provoking, often controversial, issues are raised.
  • Rishason
This is a rather brief study of what could be considered a large topic. One suspects that this work was expanded from a thesis into a book by the author. Containing less than 200 pages certainly seems to indicate that this was likely the case.

The author breaks his work down to three discussions about Lee's attempts to invade the North and why this was folly. Thus Antietem, Gettysburg and a third lesser know action are examined. The basic premise that is presented is that Lee poorly planned and exicuted all of these operations. Since invading the North seems to have been an Idee Fix with the legendary Southern general, the author has a valid point in comparing these operations. If, as the author points out Lee was sloppy in his agressive planning, what should have been his course of action?

Given the South's strategic situation in the Civil War options were limited. Perhaps the wiser course might have been a complete defensive strategy which certainly went against Lee's innate instincts. This likely would have boiled down to a protracted seige of Richmond, which is what happened anyway. The only difference might have been that a stronger Rebel army could have made the struggle more difficult.

Lee saw that only be humbling the Union and weakening its resolve to fight did the South have a chance to succeed. In retrospect this may seem like a flawed strategy, but at the time it probably seemed the only valid course to pursue. Studies like this always have the advantage of hindsight to evalute their subjects in critical light. Lee was certainly a more traditional general, and he waged the war in an early 19th century context. The Civil War started out more or less like a conflcit of that time, but quickly became a struggle of a different nature.
By 1865 Lee's notions of generalship might have been outmoded, but this is only becuause the war had progressed on such a rapid and large scale unknown in North America before.

I will honestly say I am not a Civil War buff, and I think a lot of redundant material is written on the conflict without really giving us a solid understanding of the subject. This book appears but another example of that. If the reader is interested in studying the Civil War through the narrow lense of just one personlity perhaps this work has merit, otherwise it merely contributes to the staggering amount of literature that is published about the conflcit each year. As Americans we need to compare the Civil War to other conflicts of the period in order to gain a greater understanding of it. Works like this merely continue the trend of insular, myopic research that does not give us a wider understanding of the conflict in general.
  • Valawye
I'm in no position yet to refute or substantiate the author's assertions, but he does make a compelling argument that the myth surrounding Lee has induced many scholars and buffs alike into not fully appreciating the fact that all three of Lee's attempts to take the war to the North failed to succeed, and that Lee's leadership was largely to blame. The author draws on many primary documents, often quoting from them at length, and everything is referenced so that detractors can determine for themselves just how accurately his sources were interpreted.
  • Vetibert
Understanding the military campaigns of the numerically weaker side is one of the more challenging issue in history. Unfortunately, Mr Palmer displays a thorough lack of historical perspective in this very weak presentation.
Palmer's protrait of Robert E Lee as lacking all the necessary mental capacities when it comes to undertaking offensive warfare is completely devoid of historical understanding of the campaigns involving generals such as Hannibal, Caesar, Frederick the Great, Napoleon and many others who commanded numerically inferior armies. And of course, Palmer offers absolutely no supporting evidence to prop up his claims because in this book the outcome of the campaign is proof enough.
I agree with another reviewer here that this piece is very agenda-driven, simply because of the thin presentation, no supporting evidence, which could only come from a lack of understanding of the campaigns involving the Great Captains.