Coffee Sergeant wrote:OK, well Vicksburg was technically an army but it was more like a large corps (33k Confederate) And the force ratio was over 2 to 1 in favor the Union if wikipedia is right (77k Union). Plus, the forces there pretty much allowed themselves to be cut off. I guess I should qualify my statement was that it was pretty optimisiic unless those force ratios were achieved, combined with inaction on part of the opposition. Armies in those periods lacked the mobility in WWII; the victorious army was nearly as tired out a the defeated army (sometimes more so). There weren't anything like armored divisions that could carry out the encirclement faster than the bulk of the opposition forces could react to it (calvary forces were more used for reconnaissance, screening and raids, not for encirclement)
I'm not sure I would really count Appomattox or the rest of the large surrenders. Those were at the end of the war after every nearly Confederate capital was captured and you have to surrender at some point. And again I think the force balance grossly favored the Union side. I was talking about like the Stalingrad type encirclement where the force ratio was roughly equal, but one side had an advantage in mobility, and strategic surprise.
So I don't think that if say Grant was in control of the Army of the Potomac after Gettysburg that he could have done any better than Meade; the number of men the Union could field was only a little more than that of the CSA if I have my numbers right, in any case it was nowhere near 2 to 1, and Lee was retreating and would not allow himself to be cut off.
The rest of the 'near miss' examples merely prove my point about how difficult strategic encirclement was during the period.
Well, of course strategic encirclement as we know of it in modern warfare was not possible during the American Civil War. That goes without saying.
Now having said that it isn't really fair to compare encirclements in the Second World War to anything that occurred during the ACW. While armies during the ACW period were slower, they were also usually concentrated in a way that you would be unlikely to see today.
And a concentrated army on a single battlefield with its back or flanks to a river makes them vulnerable to the kind of "destruction" we're talking about here.
That there were multiple "near misses," as you put it, illustrates the weakness of concentrated armies operating with an extended line of supply and limited lines of retreat.
Perhaps this is just a "glass half full/glass half empty" argument at its core. You see multiple near misses as an illustration of the difficulty in destroying an army during the ACW, and I see it as an illustration of just how easy it could have been were one or two variables different.
As for the surrender of Lee, I disagree. Lee clearly did not want to surrender simply because the war had to end "sometime." He attempted to withdraw in good order from Petersburg, and move his army south towards Joe Johnston in North Carolina. There the armies were to merge and the war continued.
Unfortunately for Lee, his army was trapped at Appomattox trying to secure supplies which had been unable to get to his army in Petersburg by rail.
It was only after his army was completely encircled and a concentrated attempt to break out by general Gordon had failed that Lee famously "went to see General Grant" despite his desire to face a "thousand deaths" rather than surrender his army.