zap asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 7 months ago

Civil war buffs; what would have happened had the confederacy won Gettysburg but still lost Vicksburg ?

I realize there’s no way to really answer this question, hindsight 2020, however it seems this could have been a plausible possibility had Lee not uncharacteristically been a moron during the Battle of Gettysburg. Perhaps had Stonewall Jackson not died Gettysburg would have been won. Even without him they came close. Keeping Vicksburg however never seemed possible for the confederacy; the confederate generals in the west were morons and we’re massively outnumbered.

So my question really is, had the confederacy won Gettysburg but lost Vicksburg, would the war have been prolonged? Let’s say the confederacy won a major victory at Gettysburg and push the army of the Potomac back to Washington, but have lost Vicksburg- what then? Does Europe get involved?

What if it’s only a minor confederate victory 

I’m just interested in these what if things about history.— I’m not a racist or a pro confederacy winger so don’t attack me for that. I’m just fascinated by events in history that could have soo closely gone the other way

3 Answers

  • Andrew
    Lv 7
    7 months ago
    Favourite answer

    As with all "what if...?" type questions of this nature, there's no way anybody could predict the exact eventual outcome with any degree of certainty. Any answer would of course have to be purely speculative, but based on all the facts we have at our disposal, a Confederate victory at Gettysburg would not have won them the war, not by any means. 

    The Confederacy was doomed from the very outset. They were destined to lose the war from before the first shot had been fired. The Union had a much larger population, was much more developed and had a much more powerful industrial base, and could exploit the advantages of more men and more resources - meaning that even if they took a greater number of casualties and lost a greater number of battles, eventually the Confederacy would not be able to cope with their own losses and they would spread themselves too thin. 

    The American Civil War raged for 61 months. The Battle of Gettysburg took place in the 27th month of the war, so it was essentially already at its halfway point by that time. In the early years of the war, ALL of the truly decisive battles victories were Confederate victories.That didn't do anything to slow the Union down because they still had plenty of men and materiel to pour into the fight. The problem was that while the Confederates were pretty decent at winning big, they weren't so great when it came to winning small, if that makes any sense. 

    Nearly all of the battles that are today considered inconclusive - code for "too tough to call", were essentially Union victories, because they could absorb the losses much more easily than the Confederacy could. In fact, the Confederacy committed some major blunders by allowing the Union to draw them into skirmishes where there was really no decisive outcome or tactical victory for either side. It just became a war of attrition. And in a war of attrition, there are only 2 factors: Who's got more to lose? AND Who's willing to expend more to gain more? The answer to those questions is obviously "The Union." 

    The Union knew that all they really had to do to win was to wear the Confederacy down. They knew that they'd suffer severe losses, but they were willing to do that to achieve ultimate victory. The Confederacy might have hoped that the Union would tire of the effort and come to the bargaining table, but as the months turned into years, it became pretty obvious to everyone that wasn't going to happen. And while the Confederates held out hope that somebody might be willing to join in on their side, the fact that they just weren't gaining enough ground, doing enough damage, or accomplishing any real strategic aims was enough to convince any would-be ally that it was only a matter of time. 

    In the spring of 1863, months before the armies met at Gettysburg, the Confederates eked out a victory at Chancellorsville. But it was a marginal defeat for the Union because they only lost slightly more men, making it a very costly victory for the Confederacy. They just weren't able to achieve any crushing blows. The Union was completely obliterating their ability to operate at sea. The next major battle at Chickamauga produced a similar result - a marginal Confederate victory where they barely edged past the Union forces, and they suffered relatively comparable losses. 

    The Confederate soldiers had better training, exemplified superior discipline, and overall probably had better leadership and better strategists, but it just wasn't enough. 

    While the losses at Gettysburg and Vicksburg definitely sealed the Confederacy's fate, had they managed by some miracle to pull a victory out of either of them, it really only would have served to delay the inevitable. Remember that while it was both a strategic and a tactical victory for the Union, the losses of the two sides were pretty much even. When 30,000 Confederate troops surrendered at Vicksburg, it was all over, and while the fighting would go on for almost another 2 years, nobody held onto any illusions that it was anybody's fight after that. 

    Of course, because time flies like an arrow, if the result at Gettysburg had been different, it might have led to a reality where Vicksburg never happened at all, but with the information we have at hand and seeing how things played out strategically - how the Union was able to hold onto the coasts and to control the Mississippi, it's pretty much a given that it was only a matter of time. 

    The Confederacy could have concentrated their efforts on the capital district which might have instilled some sense of fear into the Union which might have led to them making some careless mistakes, but it wasn't considered a strategic target so no real effort was expended in taking Washington, D.C. Had that occurred, things might have been set down a path where the South may have been in a position to tip the balance. And the British might very well have become emboldened had the United States seen its capital taken as well. 

    Interesting to think about, but again, probably very unlikely all things considered.  

  • 7 months ago

    Involvement by Great Britain was much resisted by the working classes, who despite suffering from a shortage of cotton refused to support the Confederacy anyway. Napoleon III of France had other concerns, such as setting up a puppet regime in Mexico. They were the only two European powers that counted.

    Washington D.C. was well defended, and any sensible general would have made an advance by Lee's troops a walk into hell. Lee couldn't afford big losses, whereas the Union could. Lee lost a third of his army at Gettysburg. A victory by him still would have been costly,

    In truth, as many historians have concluded, the Southern effort was doomed once it was committed to violence. A constitutional crisis could have dragged on for years, but the South was too militant to wait. Help from the UK and France was never more than delusional. The UK outlawed slavery completely in 1835, and France in 1848. Russia freed the serfs in 1863 (they had to pay for it). The South was an anachronism and too afraid of losses to see it.

    • zap7 months agoReport

      Didn’t the U.K. come very close to entering the war because of the Trent Affair? Or was it just posturing by Palmerston. I thought I read that Troops were dispatched to Canada. Had Lincoln not released the envoys would the U.K. entered the war out of outraged pride?

    • Commenter avatarLog in to reply to the answers
  • 7 months ago

    Newt Gingrich co-authored a series of novels in which Lee avoids Gettysburg and captures the Union railhead instead. The Union eventually wins anyway upon shifting forces from Tennessee due to superior numbers.

    • Commenter avatarLog in to reply to the answers
Still have questions? Get answers by asking now.