In a series of intricate late night musings, I have constructed a scenario in which Lee could potentially have destroyed the Army of the Potomac following his Day 1 victory which greatly weakened it and depleted its senior officer corps.
For the sake of brevity, I will not relate the entire scenario in detail. Suffice it to say that Lee employed his most favored tactic – the flank attack – on the Pipe Creek line. Better still it was a double attack. While Anderson’s Division besieging Middleburg on the Union left flank, Stuart’s cavalry redeems itself with a wild ride east and south around the Union right flank to plunge into the Union logistics center at Westminster. Meanwhile, Longstreet’s and Ewell’s corps were facing off along the east-west portion of the Union defensive line. They pressed feigning attacks to hold the majority of the Army in place as Anderson – supported by a brigade from Pender – swept through the Union Third Corps at Middleburg and pressed in from the south attacking the rear of the Union position. It is actually the fulfillment of the tactic and victory that Lee had envisioned on Day 2 at the actual battle.
Union generals Warren (Engineer) and Hunt (Artillery) had constructed a formidable defensive line along Pipe Creek, but it was purely facing to the north and Lee’s main attack came into the rear from the SW. In addition, Stuart had cut him off from his supplies at Westminster. Those that could not be captured and utilized by the Confederates were burned. The fires could be seen in the northern suburbs of Baltimore. Of course, this also necessitated that Westminster itself be cut off from resupply or reinforcements from Baltimore; a feat that was accomplished with the destruction of a few key rail bridges and the severing of the telegraph lines.
With no ammunition, food or medical supplies able to reach the Pipe Creek defenders, their fate was sealed. Meade found himself in a position not unlike being besieged in a castle. No matter how strong his defenses were, being cut off from food and ammunition would prove fatal in time. He held out a faint hope that the remainder of the Army of the Potomac could march to his relief. After a week-long siege, Meade surrendered the entire Army at the end of July.
Union resolve collapsed with that defeat. The people and politicians in Baltimore and Washington – fearing that they were next on Lee’s list of conquests – turned their support away from Lincoln. Panic and rioting took place in both cities, news of which was reported in every newspaper in both countries. He was forced to call a halt to all hostilities and agree to recognition of the Confederate States of America as a free and independent nation.
1 August 1863 would forever be celebrated as Southern Independence Day!