Lee’s Objective: Philadelphia????

Here is one for our readers to explore.  We are currently working on a posting about the Map made by Jedediah Hotchkiss, at the orders of Stonewall Jackson in late February, 1863.  Jackson’s order, which was to be kept secret and carried out in secrecy, was to construct a map of the lower Shenandoah Valley and northward all the way to Harrisburg, and east to Philadelphia.

Knowing the land between Harrisburg and Philadelphia along three major routes [I-76 the PA Turnpike, US 322, and US 30 from Lancaster to Philadelphia], we know that each of these routes has long ridges running parallel, often on both sides, which could mask Union troop movements, and that there are two rail lines as well, one from Harrisburg, and one from Lancaster that run east to Philadelphia.

So the request to have the map extend to Philadelphia raises a number of questions:

Why Philadelphia…what made Philadelphia a target for the Army of Northern Virginia?

Was it ever even possible for Lee and the ANV to reach Philadelphia?

Note, that once in Harrisburg, Lee is over a hundred miles from his base in Winchester, Virginia, with not one, but two major rivers between him and that base [the Potomac and the Susquehanna].

Advancing on Philadelphia from east of the Susquehanna requires Lee to have enough ammunition and powder on hand, and to be able to forage enough to feed his army and its horses.

Getting to the heart of Philadelphia would require crossing a third river, the Schuylkill.

Alright, readers, what are your thoughts.

Was it a legitimate objective?

Was it even possible?

Please use the comments section at the bottom of this posting.  Share your insights and ideas.

About wgdavis

Mr. Davis is an historical researcher and NPS Volunteer living in the Gettysburg area.
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2 Responses to Lee’s Objective: Philadelphia????

  1. Steve Keating says:

    A map of that size would allow Lee to ‘see’ all the area that both he and the AOP would use in the campaign. The point would not be to occupy Philadelphia, but to draw the Army of the Potomac into a decisive battle, and find the optimal terrain to do it in.

  2. wgdavis says:

    Well, I would think not occupy but destroy, particularly the port facilities and the Navy Yard, which was enormous, and of course, vulnerable from the land. Still that is a long way to go.

    You are correct about the map. It is enormous, and very detailed, and it does extend south to the Baltimore area, which I believe to be a more likely area for the ANV to operate in, much friendlier territory, closer to the supply route and the avenue home. It also offered an opportunity for Lee, once across the Susquehanna and threatening Harrisburg, Lancaster, and perhaps a feint toward Philadelphia, to turn south and confront the AoP on decent ground, inviting attack. Yes, his back would be exposed, but there really was not a whole lot in the way of good troops east or north of him, and many of them would be tied down protecting Harrisburg, Lancaster, Baltimore and Washington.

    Short of withdrawing to South Mountain after the first day at Gettysburg, the only really good terrain on which to invite an attack is in Maryland, and Lee has to move much faster than the AoP to get into position as he must travel farther than the AoP.

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