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Old 01 May 12, 02:33
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Question Early vs Gordon at Cedar Creek

I am almost finished reading "Reminiscences of the Civil War" by John B Gordon. During the battle of Cedar Creek Gordon claims that if they had carried on their attack in the morning they would have undoubtedly have defeated all three of Sheridans Corps & even captured Sheridan himself.
He goes into pages & pages of support from other officers & even reports from the Union records. He calls it the greatest missed opportunity of the war (even more so then hiss missed flank attack at the Wilderness). He blames Gen Early for not carrying on with the attack for various reasons.

Without trying to take anything away from Gen Gordan, whom I have a lot of admiration for, what I would like to know from you all is, how true is this? Was Early at fault or was Gordon exaggerating their position? I look forward to hearing from you all. I also apologise if this subject has been discussed before. Many thanks
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Old 01 May 12, 03:34
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Originally Posted by Grunter View Post
I am almost finished reading "Reminiscences of the Civil War" by John B Gordon. During the battle of Cedar Creek Gordon claims that if they had carried on their attack in the morning they would have undoubtedly have defeated all three of Sheridans Corps & even captured Sheridan himself.
He goes into pages & pages of support from other officers & even reports from the Union records. He calls it the greatest missed opportunity of the war (even more so then hiss missed flank attack at the Wilderness). He blames Gen Early for not carrying on with the attack for various reasons.

Without trying to take anything away from Gen Gordan, whom I have a lot of admiration for, what I would like to know from you all is, how true is this? Was Early at fault or was Gordon exaggerating their position? I look forward to hearing from you all. I also apologise if this subject has been discussed before. Many thanks
Some don't particularly like Wikipedia but I post it as it follows along with what I know.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cedar_Creek
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Old 01 May 12, 07:57
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Ah, the joys of 20/20 hindsight....

The truth is that Early's men were disorganized and scattered, and a halt to reorganize them was necessary. That pause turned out to be fatal, but I don't see how a scattered and disorganized command could have pressed on effectively without getting itself reorganized. Horatio Wright used that time to rally his troops, but who could have known that then?
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Old 01 May 12, 08:20
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I have always taken Gordon's comments with a grain of salt (he said the same thing at Gettysburg, blaming Rodes for not continuing attack onto Cemetery Hill). He survived the war, but that doesn't make his judgement any better.
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Old 01 May 12, 08:49
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Originally Posted by Eric Wittenberg View Post
Ah, the joys of 20/20 hindsight....

The truth is that Early's men were disorganized and scattered, and a halt to reorganize them was necessary. That pause turned out to be fatal, but I don't see how a scattered and disorganized command could have pressed on effectively without getting itself reorganized. Horatio Wright used that time to rally his troops, but who could have known that then?
Them boys was hungry!! Yep, disorganized all right. I wonder how most of Early's men got away?
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Last edited by B7B Southern; 01 May 12 at 11:26..
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Old 01 May 12, 11:13
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Both Early and Gordon told some tall tales postwar. If one were to take everything they said at face value, then the Confederacy should have won the war by the time of Gettysburg - forget about whatever was happening elsewhere.
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Old 01 May 12, 11:45
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Old 01 May 12, 19:55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grunter View Post
I am almost finished reading "Reminiscences of the Civil War" by John B Gordon. During the battle of Cedar Creek Gordon claims that if they had carried on their attack in the morning they would have undoubtedly have defeated all three of Sheridans Corps & even captured Sheridan himself.
He goes into pages & pages of support from other officers & even reports from the Union records. He calls it the greatest missed opportunity of the war (even more so then hiss missed flank attack at the Wilderness). He blames Gen Early for not carrying on with the attack for various reasons.

Without trying to take anything away from Gen Gordan, whom I have a lot of admiration for, what I would like to know from you all is, how true is this? Was Early at fault or was Gordon exaggerating their position? I look forward to hearing from you all. I also apologise if this subject has been discussed before. Many thanks
In his memoirs, Early wrote that he considered the battle won when the pause was made. Of course, Gordon contests that a final assault should've been made to drive the Federals.

As concerns the looting, Gordon claims that there was much less of it than Early claims.

It's worth noting that the army at that point was low on officers, and the ones they had were often promoted above their level of competency, meaning discipline was lax. After this helped enable the looting, it also drained Early of many of his staff officers, who were sent to restore order.

Early did not have that great of a force with him, but hey, what did they have to lose by making a final assault?
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Old 02 May 12, 13:27
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Gordon was one of the biggest proponents of the Lost Cause and his writings tended to blame scapegoats such as Ewell, Longstreet, and Early for the failings of the ANV without placing any blame upon Lee.

Unfortunately, much of this was taken at face value up until the last thirty years, especially by writers such as Freeman and Dowdey, who were simply guilty of citing a self-serving source. Since then, much deeper research has been done giving a more fair and balanced viewpoint on the ANV's missed opportunities.
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Old 02 May 12, 15:56
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Gordon was one of the biggest proponents of the Lost Cause and his writings tended to blame scapegoats such as Ewell, Longstreet, and Early for the failings of the ANV without placing any blame upon Lee.

Unfortunately, much of this was taken at face value up until the last thirty years, especially by writers such as Freeman and Dowdey, who were simply guilty of citing a self-serving source. Since then, much deeper research has been done giving a more fair and balanced viewpoint on the ANV's missed opportunities.
To be fair to Freeman, I never got the impression that he leaned one way or the other between Gordon and Early.

Really, neither is to blame. At the time the battle halted, Early was probably right in his assessment that he won. He could not have known about Sheridan coming to the front and rallying his troops.
He probably thought Gordon was overzealous, but really that General wanted to make his victory complete (an example of the real Gordon is him at Antietam); he knew he was fighting the VI Corps, a veteran force which knew how to rally and continue a fight.
Had Early taken Gordon's advice, playing it safe rather than sorry, the battle probably would have gone the other way, but the loss was the result of imponderables.

Or so I gather from Freeman
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Old 02 May 12, 16:47
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To be fair to Freeman, I never got the impression that he leaned one way or the other between Gordon and Early.

Really, neither is to blame. At the time the battle halted, Early was probably right in his assessment that he won. He could not have known about Sheridan coming to the front and rallying his troops.
He probably thought Gordon was overzealous, but really that General wanted to make his victory complete (an example of the real Gordon is him at Antietam); he knew he was fighting the VI Corps, a veteran force which knew how to rally and continue a fight.
Had Early taken Gordon's advice, playing it safe rather than sorry, the battle probably would have gone the other way, but the loss was the result of imponderables.

Or so I gather from Freeman

Or they could have pressed on disorganized and been totally annihilated at the hands of a rallying Army of the Shenandoah. It works both ways.
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Old 02 May 12, 17:46
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Or they could have pressed on disorganized and been totally annihilated at the hands of a rallying Army of the Shenandoah. It works both ways.
True, and even more true the longer the halt lasted. Though, if Early permitted the advance as soon as the AOS began falling back, it would've been tough to stop.
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Old 02 May 12, 20:48
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Thank-you to all for your thoughts. It certainly appears that Gordon tended to over exaggerate in his Memoirs on some points. That got me thinking, is it true that Gordon was the one who grabbed Travelers reins & led Lee to the rear at Spotsylvania where Lee was trying to lead one of the brigades in attack? Or was it someone else?
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Old 02 May 12, 21:28
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Thank-you to all for your thoughts. It certainly appears that Gordon tended to over exaggerate in his Memoirs on some points. That got me thinking, is it true that Gordon was the one who grabbed Travelers reins & led Lee to the rear at Spotsylvania where Lee was trying to lead one of the brigades in attack? Or was it someone else?
Gordon did hold Lee's horse by the reigns and pleaded with him to go back. However, a corporal from a Georgia regiment actually escorted Lee back to the rear.

There is however a better recorded and remarkably similar incident which happened in the earlier battle of the Wilderness when Lee tried to lead the charge of the Texas Brigade.

Hill's corps had been shattered and was trying to rally when Longstreet's corps came on the scene, with Field's Division in the lead. Field's lead brigade, the Texans (and one Arkansas regiment) under Gregg move up to counterattack. Lee excitedly moved to lead their attack. The Texans halted and shouted "Lee to the Rear!". A barrel chested Sgt from the 5th Texas grabbed Traveler by the reigns. Only then did Lee relent.

Lee turned to the brigade and asked "What brigade is this?" "Texas" the soldiers responded. Lee then smiled and said "Texans always drive them".
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