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Petersburg to AppomattoxThe End of the War in Virginia$
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Caroline E. Janney

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469640761

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469640761.001.0001

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A Whole Lot of Blame to Go Around

A Whole Lot of Blame to Go Around

The Confederate Collapse at Five Forks

(p.83) 3 A Whole Lot of Blame to Go Around
Petersburg to Appomattox

Peter S. Carmichael

University of North Carolina Press

Placing the battle of Five Forks in the larger context of Robert E. Lee’s plans for a spring campaign, Carmichael concludes that while Pickett and Fitz Lee deserve much of the blame for the calamity at Five Forks, the Confederate loss was not entirely their fault. Robert E. Lee’s loss of operational control of the right flank coupled with his poorly worded orders to hold the Forks “at all hazards” – a boggy terrain, which rendered it nearly impossible to move man or horse – likewise contributed to the defeat. “Operational oversight from Lee’s headquarters could have brought attention to this issue and likely averted disaster, though not defeat,” Carmichael explains. Yet by the early twentieth century, the Lost Cause had worked to absolve Robert E. Lee of blame for any shortcomings – including Five Forks. Responsibility for the routing would fall squarely on the shoulders of his subordinates.

Keywords:   George E. Pickett, Robert E. Lee, Battle of Five Forks, Lost Cause, Gouverneur K. Warren, Thomas Rosser, Fitzhugh Lee

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