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WAR BETWEEN THE STATES--THE CONFEDERATE MILITARY MYTH

 
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Sep, 2003 09:18 am
First of all, i do not recall that a final assault would necessarily have taken place after dark. I provided examples of American commanders who continued to fight until after dark because i was using the most extreme examples i could recall to show that the hour of the day was not a consideration to commanders who felt their task was not yet accomplished. Furthermore, the men at the landing to whom i refer could not have repulsed any assault, as the Confederates confronted a final stand defense at the top of the bluff. You need to get a better view of the topography of the battle field. Pittsburg Landing lay at the river's edge, well below the level of the bluff top. The final successful Confederate assaults had carried them to the southwestern edge of that bluff top. From that vantage, they could not see the landing on the river, nor could they be seen by the Navy in the river. All of the shelling done was necessarily of a general character, and could not be aimed in an era when artillery spotters were not commonly used. (During the three major assaults which comprised the battle of Lookout Mountain/Missionary Ridge, Thomas' artillery used indirect fire, with spotting by forward artillery observers who communicated by telegraph lines which had been laid for the purpose. When Sherman's boys got into trouble at Tunnel Hill to the north of Missionary Ridge, the guns were shifted, the forward observers took up new positions, and fire control was communicated by semaphore flag. To my knowledge, this was the first use of indirect fire by an American commander.)

Please do not take offense at my vehemence, which is directed at Beauregard, and not at you. Nor have i wished to contend that you stated such a assault would have failed. You did imply that the fatigue of the southerners would have mitigated against their success; i see the sense in that, and replied that their opponents were likely just as fatigued. My criticism of Beauregard stems from a lack of persistence on his part, and what i consider to have been a too casual estimation of his chances of success on the following day. I feel that he left too much to chance. Forrest's biographer who wrote in the 1870's contends that Forrest had advised Johnston of the advance of Buell's army to Grant's support, and if that were the case, it is likely that Beauregard must have known of it. He was the second ranking officer in the theater, and had been formally designated by Johnston as his second in command. Johnston was a thorough soldier, who kept is commanders informed. He was in the regard, the polar opposite of the suspicious and contentious Bragg. My view is that many another Confederate commander would not have risked the junction of the two forces before he had taken every opportunity to destroy Grant's army.

I have made military incompetence the theme of my diatribe here. This is to my mind, one of several incidents which serve to condemn Beauregard as unfit for high level command. His panicy behavior at first Manassas, his loss of nerve on the night before the assault at Shiloh, his failure to carry forward Johnston's plan to attack the enemy continuously until his forces were scattered or the Confederates defeated, as well as the panic he displayed when in command of troops in Bermuda Hundred, south of Richmond, in 1864--all serve to convince me that Beauregard was a humbug, and unfit for the rank he held.

Ironically, given the condition of the few troops still able to mount a defense at the top of the bluff, and the location of the field above the elevation of naval guns, a continuation of the attempt to crush the Federals on top of that bluff, even with night coming on, was likely the best opportunity which had presented itself that day. I am not asserting that it would have succeeded, and i know that you have not asserted that it would fail. I am saying that not making the assualt effectively wasted all of the day's efforts, and that this ought to have been evident even absent knowledge of the extent to which Grant would be reinforced over night.

And i'm saying that Beauregard was grossly incompetent.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Sep, 2003 01:39 pm
Setanta wrote:
And i'm saying that Beauregard was grossly incompetent.

I remain unconvinced.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Sep, 2003 03:18 pm
Ah well, you'll have that . . .
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farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Sep, 2003 03:48 pm
Just because you proclaim something as fact, doesnt make it so Set. I wish we could start over so you dont get so damn defensive.
Youve conceded herein that Texas resources were a "door to be kept open". That is the heart of the Trans-Miss to the very end of the war (the point of our first encounter)
Texas provided cotton and was a source of raw material for the northern knitting mills.and factories. Mexico had been a constant threat to reposses Texas. Lincoln was, in the summer of 1864, very sure he would lose the election and the Trans Miss provided him an opportunity to cut deals with the major power brokers to assure him of, a better showing if he would provide all-out assurance that the cotton mules would be fed.. Read some work by Colton"The Civil War In the Western Territories" Or Cunninghams "General Stand Wadies Indian Confederates", Kerbys"Kirby Smiths Confederacy"and some books by Martin Hall on the Confederacy in New Mexico.
Our point of departure is that you consider the Trans Miss battles irrelevant irrelevant after 1862(even though NC Wyeths major painting of the BAttle Of Westport is in the Kansas Statehouse) . I, agree with many scholars that state that the Trans Miss was a thorn in Lincolns side, clear to the end. AND its own end occured after Doakstown a few months after Appomatox .

You made points about connectivirty of events , and to that I say, correct. The importance of events in history often transcend sheer numbers of victims. In this case Lincolns presidency hung in the balance because of short term resource needs and long term geopolitical events going on in Mexico.
As Shelby Foote said, Lincoln fought this war with one hand tied behind his back..

You appear very well versed in matters of the Civil War, you just appear, to me, to want to totally downplay this part of the war, Im not sure why. I just hope we can discuss it without resorting to epithets and ad-hominems.
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Sep, 2003 03:49 pm
Eric Cartman would use ad homs farmer...
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farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Sep, 2003 03:54 pm
yeh but this aint faith and morals, this is important ****.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Sep, 2003 06:00 pm
You have consistently chosen to misread my original statement. I said that after 1862, there were never more than two conherently organized armies in the Confederacy. I stated why i did not (and do not) consider the "Army of the Trans-Mississippi" to have been a coherently organized army. I see no point in continuing a discussion which i see as largely continued by you because of a wounded vanity. Without a commissary, a quartermaster, an ordnance department, a provost or an established base, i see no reason to change my judgement that this was not a coherently organized army. As Joe has pointed out, even had Price prevailed at Wilson's Creek--and i would add, had Van Dorn prevailed at Elkhorn Tavern, or Holmes at Helena--it only would have occasioned the sending of some additional troops to the theater, much as the Sioux uprising in Minnesota proved a minor and transistory distraction. I haven't any brief to downplay the events in the Trans-Mississippi, i simply put them in their proper perspective. A major commitment of Federal resources to the area would have wiped Price and his annoying show me boys from the military map in short order--and precisely because there was no coherent army organization to have afforded the resurrection of that force. Price's force was the single largest body any commander there, Van Dorn, Holmes or E. Kirby Smith could dispose of. From Wilson's Creek, to Elkhorn Tavern, to Corinth and Iuka, to Helena, that body simply dwindled away. I would impress upon you once again, that the statement i made, specifically, was that after the destruction of the force which Crittenden was assembling, by Thomas at Mills Springs, there were never more than two coherently organized armies in the Confederacy. When Grant crossed to the east bank of the Mississippi, he faced only local troops until the Black River and Champion's Hill. This was because John Pemberton lacked a coherent army organization: no commissary, no quartermaster, no ordnance department and almost no transport. He was only able to offer battle to Grant when the Federals had approached to a within a distance which would admit of his troops marching to battle with three days cooked rations in their haversacks, 60 rounds in the cartridge box, and as many as they were able to steal and stuff in their pockets.

In many cases in the civil war, Federal incompetence (which i intend to tackle next) was made all the more glaringly obvious by the "improved militia" character of the southern "armies" which they faced. Sherman faced no serious opposition (after he ran away from his main task of destroying the Army of the Tennessee), until Joe Johnston confronted him in North Carolina with fragments of the Army of the Tennessee (which Thomas had destroyed as a coherent army before Nashville the previous December) and the "barrel scrapings" of the Carolinas in March 1865. I've already mentioned why i do not consider the Trans-Mississippi to have had a coherent army. Curtis, Dodge and Sigel were all always safe from pursuit by Price and what available forces could be attached to the Missouri State Guard to form that "army," precisely because they always lacked a commissary, quartermaster, etc.; and more importantly, lacked transport and draft animals. Forrest was only ever able to operate with local support (often seized by force) and local levies (often dragooned from their homes), and by the capture of Federal stores. Burnsides' venture into Pamlico sound and the area of New Bern, North Carolina required detachments from the army at Richmond, because there was no force deserving of the name anywhere in the Carolinas. There always was, nevertheless, a large body of militia, and nearly every southern Governor sat upon a pile of military stores as i've described Brown of Georgia--but these were useful for nothing than a local and disjointed resistance without the organized staff and support services which characterize a real army.

Thomas provides the most instructive example of what organization can mean. Having been repeatedly stripped of his best troops, of his transport, his draft animals and his cavalry remounts, starting very nearly from scratch--one small division (described officially, and laughably, as the XXIII Corps)--he was ordered to suppress Forrest, and later faced with defeating the "invasion" of Tennessee by Hood. Ostensibly a force of 27,000 when combined with Stanley's IV Corps, Schofield's force in fact probably never amounted to more than 12,000. More than half the force (about 15,000) were leaving on furlough (ironically, the furloughed troops were being sent home to vote in the election--theoretically for Lincoln . . . ah, politics), or mustering out in Chattanooga; the troops had been sent to Chattanooga after Sherman had stripped them of their transport, draft animals and remounts--many of Schofield's field and company grade officers marched on foot beside their men. Of those remaining, a great many were invalids from the Atlanta campaign, and came from every organizational unit of the Army of the Cumberland and the Army of Tennessee. In Nashville, Thomas ostensibly disposed of 18,000 to 20,000 "men." I put that in quote marks, because half or more were civilian employess of the commissary, quartermaster, military railroads or the sanitary commission. Of the remainder, a good many of those were the military members of these same organizations. But this was precisely what Thomas needed, and he used it to the fullest. A. J. Smith was called from the pursuit of Price (another example of the extent to which the Trans-Mississippi was a marginal affair) to Nashville with about 10,000 veteran campaigners. Schofield managed to hold Hood off at the crossing of the Duck river at Franklin, because rather than repeat his adroit maneouvre of flanking the Federals out of their position on the opposite bank as he had done in crossing the Tennessee, Hood launced a nearly suicidal attack on Schofield's tĂȘte du pont on the south bank, wasting more than 6000 casualties. Rousseau and Granger provided two more "divisions" of about 9000 men, the most of whom were "static" troops who had spent the last few years guarding railroads in Tennessee--once again, no transport, no draft animals. Wilson's "cavalry corps" numbered fewer than 17,000 men, of whom 10,000 were dimounted. Of the remainder, 4000 were "mounted" on the broken down animals which Judson Kilpatrick's boys had ridden until Thomas' cavalry had been stripped of their mounts and remounts, totalling more than 15,000 animals. Wilson took the field against Old Joe Wheeler, and later Forrest, with 3000 men.

But Thomas was a coherent army simply by arising from bed in the morning. He had built a staff quickly after arriving in Louisville in 1861. He had a telegraph and semaphor department in which all of the men were officers or enlisted men (some conscripted later) in the United States Volunteers, and all of whom had practiced their trade in civilian life before the war. He had a topographical department which had its own special presses for printing maps, and all officers under his command were required (and supervised for this duty by the IG) to submit maps of territory they had traversed not previously charted on the maps provided by Thomas' staff. His telegraphers had their own tranport, with banks of keys along either side of the wagons, and reels of cable to be paid out by soldiers detailed for precisely that duty. Every regiment in any force he commanded was required to keep tools in regimental transport, with a priority higher than officers' personal baggage, and to detail a company for engineering works, which company was required to train in the use of their tools. Thomas recruited on the spot topographical engineers from the Coast and Geodetic Survey who showed up from the East, and made all those who agreed Majors on the spot, then detailed a sergeant's guard to each Engineer, along with clerks and writing and drafting materials in carts detailed for the purpose. His organization of the railroads in Tennessee, while actively serving as a corps commander in Rosecranz' army, was the model for the entire United States Military Railroads corps. When Grant ordered Thomas, beseiged in Chattanooga, to find a way to bypass the Confederate forces on the banks of the Tennessee, and prepare to supply the Army of the Cumberland, and the Army of Tennessee, and the corps of Easterners (XIX ?) commanded by Hooker, Thomas demanded engineering staff to supplement his own, and was very particular about the quality. The problem was solved when General Meigs, the commander of the United States Corps of Engineers arrive to take charge of the project. Thomas was ready, and handed him a document of more than one hundred pages detailing the planned bridging operations, and the geological, topographical and hydraulic character of the Tennessee river and both banks for miles upstream and downstream of Chattanooga. Thomas' troops were required, whenever not otherwise engaged in campaigning, to drill every day. A report of that activity was required, to be submitted with each day's morning report. This regulation was observed during the siege of Chattanooga, when his troops were on half-rations, and all the draft animals had either died in the traces, or were butchered for the meat. When Grant and his big bunch of rowdies arrived, he ordered Thomas to perform a reconnaisance of the Confederate observation station on Orchard Hill between the city and Missionary Ridge. Thomas ordered up Wood's division and another division (forgotten the commander's name)--the two divisions which had broken and run at Chicamauga--and they marched to an assembly point in precise formation, one division filing left, the other right, and then advanced, a the half-quick, advance bayonette's, with all colors unsheathed and the regimental bands playing, and swept the southerners from Orchard Knob, drove off the brigade supporting the position, and the requested further orders from Grant--by the use of the telegraph department wagons which had accompanied the advance. I've already noted that i believe Thomas to have been the first American commander to establish and use an indirect artillery fire doctrine, through the use of detailed forward observation teams with telegraphic and semaphor capabilities. The word impossible was not in Thomas' vocabulary, and he did not hear it, if ever any of his subordinates were so rash as to utter it to him.

Hood arrived before Nashville on December 1. A. J. Smith had arrived with his corps in Nashville the same day. Rousseau's and Granger's divisions had been drilling since they had arrived. Thomas had scraped up every mount, horse or mule, in good health (something he often checked personally) in the "northwest," and had succeeded in mounting all of Wilson's cavalry, and providing a small remount, as well as assembling 7000 or 8000 (i've read both figures) horse and mules (mostly mules, god help the boys) to mount infantry for the pursuit which had already been planned and mapped, after he smashed Hood's army, which he had not the least doubt he was going to do. And smash it he did; and pursue it he did, first with infantry to maintain contact, and then with the "cavalry" he created from the original assaulting force, who got a breather while their mules . . . i mean while their mounts were brought up. On the 10th, a typical mid-south ice storm hit, and by the morning, no man or animal could be expected to stand out of doors. This condition lasted until the 13th. Grant, of course, accused Thomas of having yet another case of the "slows." He usually leveled this charge just after having stripped Thomas of his remounts and draft animals--this time, he made the charge while the ice storm raged. I have, in fact, read that Grant sent a message to Thomas in Nashville on the evening of the 12th that relieved him of command and placed Schofield in his stead--and that the head of Lincoln's telegraph office quietly told his telegrapher not to sent it. If this is true, you may be assured that Thomas would have complied instantly, on the reciept of such a message. When Thomas launced his attack on entrenched troops (who had suffered the same storm), the battle devolved into a foot-race pursuit before noon.

That is what i mean by a coherent army. That is what i mean by military incompetence if that sort of organization is not present. Surely few could have created what Thomas did during that war, but all had the obligation to provide the effort toward such coherent organization. Even Bragg (one of the best assets in the Federal arsenal) had a well-organized army. Hood survived on the rickety remnants of Joe Johnston's organization. Lee's was, of course, the "official" organization of the nation's "show case" army. Personally, Lee was appallingly lax in staff organization--and that from the man whose first combat experience was as Scott's chief engineer in Mexico. There is every likelihood this will crop up again when i re-read and respond to Joe's analysis of the southern Confederacy. I don't downplay the Trans-Mississippi, as much as i give it a true valuation. Joe quickly noted the lack of significance which would have accrued to a successful pursuit and capture of Springfield by Price and McCulloch after Wilson's Creek. My original comment--last time, i swear--was that there were never more than two coherently organized armies in the Confederacy after Mill Springs. My comment about the relevance of the Trans-Mississippi was that it ceased after Grant captured Vicksburg in 1863, because it could no longer contribute anything of significance. That i did not make clear that assessment when i first addressed this, i am willing to apologize for. Never more than a chimerical hope at best, Theophilus Holmes' attack on Helena failed to alter that fact one whit, when it (the attack) died, along with the flower of the Missouri State Guard, on Graveyard Hill. So little was the threat of Price and that body's remnants in November, 1864, that new regiments raised in Missouri for the purpose jof pursuing him, were sent to Thomas at Nashville instead. It just wasn't important--i didn't say it wasn't interesting. I've not ever said nor believed that my saying anything made it a fact, and i neither know nor care of the provenance of such an accusation on your part.


Farmerman wrote:
yeh but this aint faith and morals, this is important ****.


That was priceless . . . that really cracked me up . . .
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Sep, 2003 07:14 pm
HMMM, theres a lot from Catton and Foote there.
You still didnt address how the nation as a whole felt about the importance of this provincial area such that Lincolns political career was resting upon a "non-existent enemy force'" (The other day as I was in the Phila courthouse there was a large equestrian statue of G Mclellan installed in 1864. no doubt as a tribute to his coattails by the City. I have no idea why that person and why that time but we all know that Lincoln was concerned of his political future
Im sorry , Ive not done it, but ill spend some time reading your post but although im inclined not to dismiss it since it apparently contains as much as a comprehensive synthesis as ive ever seen , but, (a big but) i believe you confuse the country's outlook on the goings of that war with a sequence of (many) , non mission critical battles, wherein attrition of vast numbers of troops to no real purpose, was more important to the Confederacy's plight than trying to adsorb major resources and protect an area from another post civil war war.(from a battle standpoint, but not a political one)

sO

I guess we agree to disagree. As i find my copy of Colton in the future, Ill append some sections to expand , in his, a more scholarly fashion, from a historian who made much of his lifes work the Trans miss. from 1861 Albuquerque riots through Doakstown and Stand Wadies surrenders.
The name of the Southern cause was , I believe, never to win militarily. it was , like Japan, hit the Union in key demoralizing battles to politically tie up the giant and sue for peace as equal entities. I dont believe there was anything more ambitious envisioned. Even though Davis cabinet was a bunch of morons, Davis was no fool, even in 1858 when he visited the bache family in New england he predicted the war to the supporters of slvery who were numerous in maine and New hampshire. He stated that such a conflict could only beresolved by two separate unions each accomodating the other as a "separated bretheren' . This is legend on the jeff Davis Trail near Trescott. Maine.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Sep, 2003 07:34 pm
I've read Catton and Foote . . . and Freeman, and William Preston Johnston, and biographies too numerous to count, of Thomas, of Pemberton, of Joe Johnston, of Thomas Jackson, of George Pickett, of George Custer, of Alfred Pleasanton, of Alvin Powell Hill, of . . . well, of nearly any of the general officers of that who were "biographed" who served on the southern side, and of many who served for the north. I am speaking to the military situation, certainly. I don't ignore the political situation, and my statement was one which assessed the military value and potential of relative forces. I understand fully that this is what motivated measured responses to forces such as Price's and Forrest's . . . and John Moseby and of Morgan. The original contention grew out of a statement about when the war ended. I used April 29, 1865 as a date, that being when Johnston surrendered at Durham. You missed or ignored that and lectured me about forces still in the field when Lee surrendered--information already in my head. My comment had to do with at what point the south ceased to field a mlitarily valid force. Watie, Smith, Forrest, Price . . . none of them would have had more than a band of brigands at his disposal by the second week of a campaign to eradicate them, if they managed to preserve any organization that long. I'm not unaware of the political ramifications in the region which saw slaughter of the jayhawks and the red legs . . . it simply was not a part of the statement which i made concerning conherently organized armies. People like Quantrill barely rose above the horizon of brigandage, and yes, it certainly important that more did not fall into. I'd be sceptical of any claim that there would have been more James or Younger brothers gangs out there. Considering the reception the Dalton boys got in Coffeyville, and the James brothers and the Youngers in Northfield, i don't know that self-defense was such a crucial issue, either. I'm not denying your thesis, i'm simply examining one which is concerned with the degree of military organization, and of military incompetence displayed on both sides, and which have given rise to military myths. Frankly, the discussion, sooner or later, ends up with the myths about Lee, and the myths about Grant. And every locale in the nation which is able to claim a connection with the most important event in our history has a local tale, or hero or myth to retail. Let's examine them . . . I have tried to give the reasons why i assert that Beauregard, as only one example, was incompetent. I'd do Bragg next, but you and Joe are about the only discussion group here, and i think that likely unnecessary. I do not assert that my bald statement ever qualifies as fact, and am not presenting any arguments from authority. Were it necessary, although i can't imagine it is, i'd give you a bibliography. It would take days, though, and i've got a pretty damned good memory.

I bear you no ill-will, and will respond with as much nastiness to criticisms of my style, or of my short-sightedness, as one could likely expect that you would . . .
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farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Sep, 2003 08:01 pm
me ,?nasty? hell no. Just dont assume that people droop their heads and bear ill will just cuz we shout in print. thats the way Im used to discussions in my profession. Then Ill buy you a beer.
PS,if I recall, as part of that "how many people were killed" thread.... I think Im the one that first brought up johnston s surrender and then included The remainders of the trans Miss as a total of 3 separate Confederate armies.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Sep, 2003 08:48 pm
You may call me perfesser . . .
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