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Subject: American Civil War Western Theater rss

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Bill the Pill
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ParaBoxerX wrote:
Also I know that most of the Yankees were from urban areas and had to learn how to live and operate in the field from scratch.

Maybe true if you define "urban area" as 2500 or so people in a community, but even then I have my doubts (my research materials are filed far away from here to be sure).
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Alfred Wallace
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Welcome to the Geek!

DrFlanagan wrote:
ParaBoxerX wrote:
Also I know that most of the Yankees were from urban areas and had to learn how to live and operate in the field from scratch.

Maybe true if you define "urban area" as 2500 or so people in a community, but even then I have my doubts (my research materials are filed far away from here to be sure).


About 12% of the country lived in areas of more than 8,000 people; obviously that'd be higher in the north but nowhere near half. Farm boys actually had a major disadvantage in the field: They had been exposed to far fewer diseases than city dwellers, and so had no immunities to the diseases the city boys brought to camp.

And I wouldn't make too much out of some supposed superiority in parade-ground drill companies. It's hard to detect much of a difference; anyway, the great majority of men under arms by winter, 1861 were volunteers, not militia (except sometimes as a legal fiction). (I don't think any states still tried to have every military-age male train one weekend a year anymore.) It was "amateurs to war" on both sides.
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Sean Chick (Formerly Paul O'Sullivan)
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Welcome to the geek and the wargame forums. Now for some points of discussion.

Quote:
I don't know much about the South but I do know that the reason fo rthe South's initial victory was that its militia was taking drills more much more seriously than their Northern counterparts before the war started.


True to a point. The South had a large militia because of the fear of slave rebellions. However, the North's great city militia units, which were often ethnic clubs, were numerous and well led, with men such as Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth keeping his men up to date on the latest military trends. The Irish militia regiments formed the core of the famed Irish Brigade.

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Also I know that most of the Yankees were from urban areas and had to learn how to live and operate in the field from scratch.

However from what I readm situation in the West was more balanced. The Yankee troops recruited in Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan etc. were also farm-boys who knew how to take care of themselves in the field from the get-go. The Western Armies were much more evenly matched at the outset of the war.


I think the advantage has been overrated. Farmboys did not really get out much at all, and were often victims of diseases that the "city boys" were more accustomed to.

I just don't see much difference between the fighting abilities of Northern regiments in terms of region. There were elite formations from nearly every state. Not very western regiment was a rough and tumble unit. Farmboys panicked in the opening rounds of Shiloh. Some fled the field at later battles, such as Chickamauga and even Bentonville (the flight of the acorns as it was called). Remember too that eastern regiments were not necessarily filled with city dwellers. The 20th Maine for instance hailed from small towns.

I will say that in the Confederacy the states of Louisiana, Texas, and North Carolina did consistently produce top tier fighting formations, but in the case of North Carolina that might have more to do with leadership and the state's commitment to training and supplying its soldiers.

In the end, march discipline, leadership, and esprit de corps were more more important than prior war experience or even region. I'll grant that some states produced a greater share of crack formations (Iowa was particularly zealous in the cause of the Union), and regiments from southern Illinois, an area with strong Confederate sympathies, were usually known as poor units, with two infantry regiments being disbanded for desertion. However, I see the sucess of western Union regiments as due to their superior leadership (Grant, Sherman, Thomas, Logan, etc.) and the command difficulties in the opposition forces. You know you are in trouble when Braxton Bragg is a better choice for army command than most of his subordinates.

Quote:
But the North had some very fine generals too during the initial phases of the Civil War, but most of their capable generals were actual fighting in the West: Grant, Sherman and Sheridan who all got their start in the West.Capable Union generals such as Sherman were a major reason the battles in the West were more balanced then those fought in the East for the first half of the war.


There really is no disputing this. One thing I find interesting is that the west had a larger share of "political" generals in high command positions, and surprisingly many did better than their West Point counterparts. The most famous examples are John Logan, Samuel Curtis, Francis Blair, and Jacob D. Cox. Each of these men outshone West Point professionals in the east. Sometimes I think the praise we have for West Point is endemic of our society, which places a lot of stock in expertise.
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Thel Schuhart
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For the most part, I believe that at the time of the Civil War, it was 'easier' to fight a defensive battle than an offensive battle. Especially in 1861, troops had to do a lot of formation movement to say go from marching in file to an attack formation. So here is one group of guys, totally inexperienced, trying to maneuver into battle, while being shot up and another inexperienced bunch just laying into them with as much fire as possible. Their is a big advantage in Defense in this kind of scenario.

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Brian Morris
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Logistics is what truly made the western theater different from the east.

In the eastern theater there were many rivers like the Rappahannock that flowed predominately west to east across the theater. These were barriers. They were a natural defenses that the Confederates used to their advantage. Combined with having a shorter defensive line the rivers greatly aided the Confederates. In many cases like Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg the rivers were an impediment to the Union army that had a profound effect.

In the west however the Tennessee and Mississippi rivers run north to south. These rivers in the west rather than becoming barriers to an attacking army became freeways. Union armies in the west were able to exploit these rivers to great effect both in terms of troops and especially supplies.

There is a reason why the battle of Shiloh was fought along the Tennessee River and why places like Fort Donaldson and Vicksburg were so important. The western rivers were the logistical key to the west. Without those rivers it would be much harder to push an army south. Those rivers gave the Union a logistical advantage in the west where as in the east the rivers were an impediment.

I will dispute as well two other notions. First that the south had an advantage because more of their troops came from farming areas. There are to many Union units that came from urban areas that fought extremely well such as the Irish Brigade.

Secondly the south did have a big disadvantage in generals in the west but not because their generals weren't capable battlefield commanders. They had men like Albert Sydney Johnson, Joe Johnson and Patrick Cleburne. The problem that plagued the Confederates in the west was the same problem that plagued the Union in the east and that was political infighting within the army. In the east Lee provided stability to the Confederate command structure. In the west it was a complete mess with Bragg being a downright cancer to the entire theater. Even after Bragg left command in the west he became Jefferson Davis' military adviser continued to damage the Confederate command structure there by things like supporting the back stabbing Hood to replace Johnston. Then Hood went out and promptly destroyed the army.

So in my mind the two most important factors in all the west versus east is in the east the Confederates had a stable command structure and good defensive terrain. In the west they had a command structure in disarray while the rivers provided a logistical advantage to the Union.
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Robert Stuart
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ParaBoxerX wrote:
But the North had some very fine generals too during the initial phases of the Civil War, but most of their capable generals were actual fighting in the West: Grant, Sherman and Sheridan


Plus Thomas. Don't forget Thomas.
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Darrell Pavitt
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gittes wrote:


True to a point. The South had a large militia because of the fear of slave rebellions.


Sounds like nothing much changed since Greece or Rome.
 
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sunday silence
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Sort of alluded to above: The western theater was quite vast and here the northern advantage in numbers and rail roads was better able to be felt. In the east, the mountains sort of channeled the attacks north/south and the river lines aided the defense.

Also union advantage in both fresh water and ocean craft made the western river system a liability for the south. New Orleans fell almost literally without a shot being fired in its defense, this was a disaster of first order that is hardly ever mentioned.

Bragg and the Confederate western command was of course was another disaster and that situation alone might have spelled doom for the south. He was effective as a logistician and being promoted to whatever position he held at the end might have been a step upward. But he was incompetent as a battlefield commander and his relationships with the officers was poisonous...

Probably the only chance for this command was to send RE Lee west or perhaps to rely on Beureagard who apparently was on the outs w/ Jeff Davis after Bory took an abrupt vacation from disease ridden camps in Tupelo in summer 1862. Beureagard defended well at Charlestown in 1863 and his defense of Petersburg in 1864 is considered superb; he might have pulled it off at Atlanta or Vicksburg. Neither Joe Johnston or Hood had any business being in charge of these operations.

One could also plausibly suggest Richard Taylor or Kirby Smith or perhaps one of the Louisiana guys like Francis Nicholls for western command. I think Taylor would have to jump over some people. John B MaGruder was still around huh? DH Hill? (no one's goint to pick him). Other choices like Van Dorn or Sterling Price are not inspiring.

It seems Jeff Davis and company had trouble finding generals outside of Virginians, and that might have been part of it. Davis was putting guys like his nephew in charge of brigades as one example.You know one great thing that Lee did when he first took command was he sorted out the house. Throwing away those he did not trust or think could command. He may have made a few mistakes but for the most part his "purge" was almost perfect discards.

If he could have done that to Army of Tennessee could possibly be a different story..

I also dont quite understand what Lee's problem was with going west but it seems awfully self centered for him to rule out going there. The confederates in the east could surely have held out for a year or so behind the rivers under say, Longstreet or Stuart or someone while Lee or Bory fought a decisive battle in the west. OR at least held the union to a standstill. As it was The Army of Tennessee the primary CSA defenders of the west gave up vast stretches of territory and by latter half of 1864 a huge desertion rate in comparison to Army No. Virginia; I blame that to Bragg plus huge retreats.

That's the only difference I discern as I recall the casualty rates for both Eastern and Western CSA armies in
64-65 seemed rather similar, and they were fighting against very similar armies under very similar condition at a very similar intensity. But in the case of AoTN, constantly retreating hundreds of miles plus dealing w/ political cabals among officer corps, well pretty disheartening.

I dont think the ACW was a sure fire thing for the north as many historians do. Just a short run of success for the CSA in the 1863-64 period could have even things out. They hit a real bad run of luck from the time of: Gettysburg-Chickamauga-Chatanooga-Knoxville.. and on into 1864. They seem to lose every battle at this time even small battles like Wauhatchie, or Rapidan Station or Piedmont or Droop Mt. (Even MIne Run is like a draw).

WHen did the CSA ever suffer a losing streak that bad?. They lose like every battle in that stretch. I think their high command was pressed beyond the limit of endurance at that stage, in any event something went very wrong at that stage.
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