One change and an entire different war
© Final Sword Productions LLC 2009
Robert Patterson, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Patterson, is among the least remembered generals in a war filled with people who briefly attained stars and vanished without a trace. Yet far more than McDowell, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irwin_McDowell, he was the man who lost First Bull Run, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Battle_of_Bull_Run. McDowell was winning when Joseph Johnston’s reinforcements showed up to stop him and then flank him.
So let us presume that Patterson is sent elsewhere [training troops in Philadelphia seems the most probable assignment]. The excuse would have been the early failure to retake Harper’s Ferry promptly [which was a sign of things to come]. I will move Rosecrans to this post after his part in the Battle of Rich Mountain, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Rich_Mountain, It was the first Union victory and if correctly reported Rosecrans did more to win the fight than McClellan. Buell, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Carlos_Buell, would have been another possibility. The important part is that Patterson is sacked and that the replacement is NOT McClellan. So the Union forces actually keep track of their opposite numbers instead of letting them shelter behind one weak cavalry brigade and vanish without Patterson even noticing they have left. A delay of even a day caused by Union activity means the Confederate Valley forces do not arrive in time.
So McDowell wins. As in OTL there is no effective pursuit. USCW armies did not do pursuits well. Victory tended to disorganize an army almost as much as defeat. The firepower of mid-19th century weapons made small rear guards too difficult for pursuers to brush aside. The poor road nets made the flanking of such rear guards a slow and haphazard process. Armies were sometimes trapped into surrender [Appomattox, Donnelson] but there were no pursuits on the order of Napoleon after Jena.
The Union forces had an added handicap. Their army had enlisted for 90 days and very few showed any interest in reenlisting. So the regiments will go home in short order after which the new two and three year regiments being mobilized first had to be trained. So instead of the long stalemate along the Potomac as in OTL I would see a similar stalemate along the Rapidan and Rappahannock.
Now the big changes start. First Bull Run was a huge plus to Confederate morale and a huge blow to the Union’s. Here we get the reverse. We also get some major command changes. First McClellan stays in West Virginia. Although a brilliant organizer Little Mac was a disaster in higher command. This effectively leaves him in an unimportant theater for at least another year. McDowell was scarcely Napoleon but he was not the perpetual political and military problem McClellan was.
Second, without First Bull Run, Thomas Jackson remains a relatively unknown brigadier. The whole Stonewall myth comes from First Bull Run. In this ATL he probably doesn’t arrive in time for the battle. Even if he does he is not in the position to do his historic stand, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_Jackson#First_Bull_Run. Early success or failure often determined promotion possibilities in the USCW.
Third, James Longstreet, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Longstreet, probably emerges as the Confederate hero of the battle in the manner of Jackson in OTL. In OTL Longstreet organized what little pursuit there was. Here he probably assumes command of the rear guard, giving a few sharp knocks to the disorganized Federal pursuit. This will become important a bit later.
Fourth there would be major changes in Confederate command. In OTL the winter of 1861-62 was largely taken up with feuds between President Davis and the two heroes of Bull Run, Beauregard and Johnston. Given the three personalities involved the infighting would be worse in this ATL. Davis however was VERY bad at actually firing senior generals. Instead he spent most of the war reshuffling the deck he had [he had made promises on seniority from the Old Army being honored and was handicapped thereafter]. So instead of Albert Johnston going to Tennessee, Joseph Johnston goes while Albert becomes the Virginia theater commander. Beauregard is sent to New Orleans as he requested and Lee still gets the coastal command. However in this ATL Lee’s ‘defeats’ in West Virginia seem minor compared to the Bull Run debacle. So he is brought back in early spring to command one of the corps under Johnston in Virginia [give Longstreet the other; give the small Valley Army to Magruder, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_B._Magruder.]. In this ATL the Confederates have abandoned the Lower Valley and have a small Valley Army in the Upper Valley based on Lynchburg.
Meanwhile out west, Joseph Johnston would not have been given the giant command Albert Johnston was in OTL. Davis simply didn’t trust him enough. So when Polk’s idiocy at Columbus violated Kentucky neutrality and Grant responded by taking Ft. Henry Joe Johnston would not have left the Fort Donnelson garrison to get gobbled up as well. He would have evacuated the fort and fallen back to Nashville. This changes the entire Western campaign. In OTL the defeat at Donnelson unhinged the entire Western theater. Nashville and Memphis were evacuated without a fight. The New Orleans garrison was shipped off to stop the rout leaving that city to fall to Farragut and Butler once the Mississippi forts had been run. Here Beauregard will cling to New Orleans. Johnston has no command authority over him. Johnston was excellent at delaying actions and will slow down Grant and Buell but ultimately be maneuvered out of Middle and Western Tennessee over the course of the spring-summer of 1862. This will get him sacked the same way Davis dumped him at Atlanta in 1864 in OTL [Davis could never be made to understand space for time]. Grant will get the victor’s laurels but be spared the negatives of Shiloh and the winter before Vicksburg.
In the East McDowell would have been no better at solving the geographic puzzle [too many rivers running east-west, too many men on both sides relative to the size of Virginia east of the Blue Ridge mountains, the power of defense and entrenchments]. However McDowell would also not make a huge seaborne assault on Richmond, leave DC open to raids by a victorious Jackson in the Valley or get into the political fights with Lincoln and the Republican Congress that Little Mac did. The odds are that Chancellorsville, Wilderness Tavern, Mine Run and Spotsylvania Courthouse would still have been battlefields and the stalemate would see a new front somewhere on the North Anna.
So we have a Dixie with lower morale but still with the manufacturing capacity of New Orleans by early autumn. Presuming that Albert Johnston gets himself shot as in OTL, Longstreet is probably the new army commander with Lee being sent West to pick up the pieces after the loss of most of Tennessee. In reverse a frustrated Lincoln probably brings Grant east to light a fire under the army of the Potomac.
In OTL Grant has a reputation as a butcher. It is quite uncalled for. Grant was willing to spend blood but preferred maneuver. His problem was that OTL’s Army of the Potomac had inherited from McClellan a severe case of the slows. It never moved when it was supposed to or as fast as it was ordered to. Grant would inherit an army less bad at maneuver and at a time when Lincoln was willing to allow wholesale replacement of officers if that is what it took [in OTL’s 1864 he needed the votes of the Army of the Potomac [and their families] badly enough that Grant’s hands were tied on replacements of officers]. With a new gang of Grant chosen officers [Sheridan, Sherman, Logan, Blair, W.F.Smith., A.J.Smith, Schofield etc.] Grant would spend the autumn maneuvering Longstreet back into a siege of Richmond-Petersburg. In reverse Lee would spend the winter trying to maneuver Buell or Thomas out of Nashville. Lee would win a few glorious battles but not be able to take any major city [numbers, logistics and geography].
So the spring campaign of 1863 sees Grant finally strangle Richmond and knock the Confederates back to North Carolina. In OTL the fall of New Orleans in 1862 made Richmond’s manufacturing capacity the key to the South being able to fight on. Lee’s prestige meant he got the most men, the most of what food there was etc. Now the reverse is true. I will presume that Richmond’s key factories [Tredegar, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tredegar_Iron_Works#Management_under_Joseph_Reid_Anderson_.281841-Civil_War] get out before the two cities fall. Davis’s government gets out to Atlanta. Dixie is now dependant on the Richmond factories relocated around Atlanta and in New Orleans]. So Beauregard in New Orleans, Lee on the Tennessee border and Bragg’s forces at Chattanooga are the priority armies. Longstreet is left to do a long retreat through the Carolinas losing Columbia by Easter 1864. By this time Lincoln would have replaced Butler with somewhat more competent and New Orleans would probably be under siege with the manufacturing against being evacuated.
So the final year of the war would be a siege of the Lower South as Grant closes in on Atlanta, New Orleans is finally squeezed out and Lee desperately maneuvers the last effective field army back and forth between the advancing Federal armies. The railway structure determines the lines of advance and retreat, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Confederate_rrs.jpg . The Confederacy implodes when Longstreet and Bragg are finally driven out of Atlanta just before election day. Davis escapes to Cuba and Alexander Stephens [the VP] signs the surrender.
So we have a somewhat shorter war but of more importance we have a different pattern of damage. Virgina and to a lesser extent the Carolinas are spared a lot of the war time damage they received. In reverse the Deep South [Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia] are burned over zones even worse than what we had. Imagine the destruction of Sherman’s march over much wider zones. The entire Virginia based Lost Cause mythology doesn’t happen. Virginia was a lesser theater of mostly Confederate defeats. Lee is the hero of the Deep South and the great might have beens are almost taking Nashville and Memphis a few times instead of almost taking DC. By the time the war ends Virginia and North Carolina have already been ‘reconstructed’ by Lincoln and are back in the Union. The shrines to Midnight and Magnolias are Atlanta, New Orleans and Corinth MS. The great mythic Confederate Army is Lee’s Army of Tennessee.