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Wargames» Forums » Historical Context

Subject: ACW: "Making a demonstration" rss

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Brandon
United Kingdom
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Sorry for the noob question here.

When I read about the ACW, I see references to units getting orders to "make a demonstration". What exactly would that entail? To me it communicates pictures of units firing in the air and yelling insults and grievances, but I'm sure it was bloodier than that. Sort of a light attack without actually assaulting to gain some kind of objective? Some sort of diversion? Was there ever any actual advance involved in a demonstration?
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Jason Sadler
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Olney
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I always thought it referred to showing intent to take something or advance somewhere with sufficient ballyhoo to force the enemy to react.

I think if you were going to make demonstration towards a bridge, if they didn't move to defend it, the demonstration might just become a bridge seizure. But if any resistance materialized, you would just stand off.

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Bob Zurunkel
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I'm probably wrong, but I took it to mean making your presence known to the enemy in order to keep him from moving elsewhere. Doesn't have to involve any firing or combat.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Astoria
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A demonstration could mean anything from a feint or probe to a pinning attack.
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Peter Lloyd
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I've always understood "demonstration" to me as feint, diversion, or distraction. The main concept is to not be committed to action while convincing the enemy that you are.
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Etien
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Thibodaux
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As part of grand Confederate plan to relieve Port Hundson in the summer of 1863 (which was part of an even grander plan to relieve Vicksburg), Confederate General Mouton first had to assault Union defenses at Brashear City, which laid on the east bank of the Atchafalaya River in Louisiana.

As part of this operation, a cavalry brigade under the command of Colonel Major (800 strong) was sent on a circumferential route to get into the rear of the enemy and cut off its line of supply/retreat. One obstacle enroute for Major's cavalry force was an 800 man-strong Union depot at Lafourche Crossing which laid at the all-important junction of Bayou Lafourche & the New Orleans, Opelousas, & Great Western Railroad.

Major ordered one of this cavalry regiments, Colonel Pryor's 200-strong Texans, to "demonstrate" in front of the Union defenses at Lafourche Crossing in order to divert their attention and allow the main cavalry force to by-pass the stronghold on its way to the rear of Brashear City. In this circumstance, Major later reported in the Official Records that Pryor was not supposed to attack, but feint an attack in order to freeze the enemy in-place.

Instead, tanked up on alcohol with a reputation of never backing down from a fight, Pryor's dismounted cavalrymen launched a full frontal charge, not one time but three times. The results of the 21 June 1863 Battle of Lafourche Crossing were 129 Confederate casualties (53 KIA) as compared to 49 Union casualties (8 KIA).

Mouton and Major were still able to capture Brashear City and along with it: 1600 prisoners, 5,000 rifled-muskets, 11 cannons, 300 wagons, 2 locomotives, 80 rail cars, and tons of quartermaster, commissary, and ordnance stores. Pryor's attack was deemed unnecessary and a waste of lives. Upon hearing of the fall of Brashear City, Union forces evacuated Lafourche Crossing and withdrew to New Orleans.
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Brandon
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Thanks everyone! I think I have a better idea of how it works now. Thanks especially to Etien for the detailed report.

It'd be interesting to know if the military still thinks in terms of demonstrations-as-diversionary-tactic and, if so, how they've evolved with modern, irregular combat. For sure diversions still exist and can be effective; maybe the term has fallen out of use (or maybe I'm just out of touch). But maybe such shows of force don't have a place on the modern battlefield, and diversionary tactics have evolved into something completely different.
 
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Michael Sommers
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Clinton
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When making a demonstration, the troops would dress up as hippies, carry signs saying "Make love not war", and chant "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh".
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Hunga Dunga
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The invasion of Iraq was a diversion. We're still trying to figure out a diversion from what.
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Etien
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Hungadunga wrote:
The invasion of Iraq was a diversion. We're still trying to figure out a diversion from what.


I was going to point out that in 1991 Desert Storm the Marines held the Iraqi army in place by demonstrating off the coast in the Persian Gulf threatening an amphibious landing, while the main effort, of course was the infamous "hell mary" on the left flank.
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