Captain_Orso wrote:..which may have pushed Rosecrans back out of Chattanooga but not likely out of Tennessee, with the Union falling back on their supply line and much more defensible positions, such as the Tennessee River itself.
With Meade taking command and thus having time to actually get into command of the AoP, how long could a skeletal ANV hold against far superior odds and at which point? Would Longstreet and what ever other forces had been lent to the AoT be immediately returned to the ANV? In what condition would they be (what if Bragg put them into an attack like Lee did with Hood at Gettysburg and left them decimated) to return to the ANV? would they be in any condition to help Lee against an advancing Meade?
Getting to the battlefield with the most the quickest, YES, but there is another saying here in Germany which translates to -you can't dance at more than one wedding at a time-.
That is the risk the South takes in going for a major strategic win, east or west, in '63. Your argument applies as well to Lee's roll of the dice invading Maryland and Pennsylania. It could have been far different, and I think most would agree the risks were well worth the gains that could be had. It could have won the war for the South as it is won for them with NM gains (recognition and peace treaty), not total destruction and occupation of the North.
Longstreet's 'what-if' in the West is aimed at finally getting a major win for the South there and changing the entire complexion of the war in the West. Keep in mind, that the only thing Lincoln had to hang his hat on in terms of victories to sell to the public politically early on, were wins in the West. What Bragg almost achieved later that year--the total destruction of Rosecran's army wrong-footed in the mountains over the Tennessee River, followed up by a strong advance into Kentucky and siege of Nashville would have had a huge impact politically in erasing Lincoln's credit even there, avoiding the defeat at Gettysburg, and no fall of Vicksburg on the 4th of July of that year either: even if the siege of Nashville is not successful it would have certainly derailed Grant's Vicksburg campaign.
So what you would have in this scenario is:
--no CSA loss at Gettysburg
--total destruction of Rosecran's Army near Chattanouga after he advanced and pushed Bragg back in the Tullahoma campaign. Thomas for all his defensive talents, surrounded killed or captured as well.
--Invasion of Kentucky and threat to Cincinnati
--Nashville besieged and Grant forced to call off Vicksburg campaign to contain the confederate advances to his rear.
One can argue the odds of success on this, as with Gettysburg, but I think Longstreet was clearly correct in his appraisal of things: Hooker was totally whipped in the east and the cautious Meade was in command, another new general. A huge Confederate surge to the West, similar in substance to the German transfer of troops from their east front for all-out assaults to end the war in France in 1918, had good odds for a huge strategic victory. Even the "small solution" used later that year with Longstreet sent to the West, almost pulled off a main part of it in thrashing, but not totally destroying, the Army of the Cumberland.
No other battle in the ACW so starkly depicted an army facing total annihilation in a non-siege situation as Chickamauga.
Here's another German quote you have likely come across, from Heinz Guderian: Nicht Kleckern sondern Klotzen!
translated as "Boot'em, don't spatter'em!" and essentially means "don't do things by half."