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On The American Civil War

MysticEgg
Posts: 524
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4/4/2014 2:53:50 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I know that most Americans learn about the ACW at school and know a decent amount about it. However, here in the U.K., we don't. Subsequently, my discovery of the military maps of the ACW allowed me to look at the whole thing in completely neutral reasoning.

Having seen all the major confrontations in the Eastern Theatre, as it's known, I've actually come to the conclusion that the Confederates were - in general - better tacticians and had smarter generals, even being outnumbered in many cases.

Of course, I cannot speak for the Western Theatre.

Does anyone agree or not? If this something you already agree with, or I am a heretic?

Please engage! This is interesting.
thett3
Posts: 14,348
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4/4/2014 3:50:29 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/4/2014 2:53:50 PM, MysticEgg wrote:
I know that most Americans learn about the ACW at school and know a decent amount about it. However, here in the U.K., we don't. Subsequently, my discovery of the military maps of the ACW allowed me to look at the whole thing in completely neutral reasoning.

Having seen all the major confrontations in the Eastern Theatre, as it's known, I've actually come to the conclusion that the Confederates were - in general - better tacticians and had smarter generals, even being outnumbered in many cases.

Of course, I cannot speak for the Western Theatre.

Does anyone agree or not? If this something you already agree with, or I am a heretic?

Please engage! This is interesting.

Yeah, the South definitely had the better generals. It was one of the few advantages in the war they had
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EndarkenedRationalist
Posts: 14,201
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4/4/2014 4:04:34 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/4/2014 2:53:50 PM, MysticEgg wrote:
I know that most Americans learn about the ACW at school and know a decent amount about it. However, here in the U.K., we don't. Subsequently, my discovery of the military maps of the ACW allowed me to look at the whole thing in completely neutral reasoning.

Having seen all the major confrontations in the Eastern Theatre, as it's known, I've actually come to the conclusion that the Confederates were - in general - better tacticians and had smarter generals, even being outnumbered in many cases.

Of course, I cannot speak for the Western Theatre.

Does anyone agree or not? If this something you already agree with, or I am a heretic?

Please engage! This is interesting.

Yes, that's something many Americans are taught - that the South, overall, had better generals. Which they did.
jnedwards11
Posts: 351
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4/4/2014 7:44:44 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/4/2014 2:53:50 PM, MysticEgg wrote:
I know that most Americans learn about the ACW at school and know a decent amount about it. However, here in the U.K., we don't. Subsequently, my discovery of the military maps of the ACW allowed me to look at the whole thing in completely neutral reasoning.

Having seen all the major confrontations in the Eastern Theatre, as it's known, I've actually come to the conclusion that the Confederates were - in general - better tacticians and had smarter generals, even being outnumbered in many cases.

Of course, I cannot speak for the Western Theatre.

Does anyone agree or not? If this something you already agree with, or I am a heretic?

Please engage! This is interesting.

The tactics of Confederate generals are still studied to this very day in the military schools of our nation. I have the pleasure of living in Richmond VA and enjoying monuments, battlefields & museums galore. I most certainly agree with your conclusions in regards to their tactics . Seeing (first hand) the circumstances under which some of those victories were earned, would only solidify your views. I highly recommend the trip!
PotBelliedGeek
Posts: 4,298
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4/20/2014 3:54:12 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Yes, the south had some of the most brilliant generals in history, and the north had some of the worst. In the end it was the sheer mass of northern resources that killed the south.
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Idealist
Posts: 2,520
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4/22/2014 10:45:22 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/4/2014 2:53:50 PM, MysticEgg wrote:
I know that most Americans learn about the ACW at school and know a decent amount about it. However, here in the U.K., we don't. Subsequently, my discovery of the military maps of the ACW allowed me to look at the whole thing in completely neutral reasoning.

Having seen all the major confrontations in the Eastern Theatre, as it's known, I've actually come to the conclusion that the Confederates were - in general - better tacticians and had smarter generals, even being outnumbered in many cases.

Of course, I cannot speak for the Western Theatre.

Does anyone agree or not? If this something you already agree with, or I am a heretic?

Please engage! This is interesting.

It's actually not too far-off to say that the Southerners were more "American" than the Northerners, lol. The Northern armies consisted largely of conscripted immigrants, while the Southern armies consisted mainly of well-established family descendants. Robert E. Lee was definitely one of the great tacticians of his time, and never lost a battle until Gettysburg in 1863. The South enjoyed the advantage of fighting for a commonly conceived "national" goal, while the North was much less united in purpose. As many historians have pointed-out, however, the South stayed pretty-much focused on the war, while in the North they finished the Capitol Building, continued expanding into the West, and generally treated the war differently. As historian Shelby Foote put it, the North practically fought the war with one hand behind its back. The only real chance the South had was to make the war seem too costly and convince the North to sue for peace, and I say this as a southerner myself. I've visited many of the battlefields, and live within a mile of a big one where they have reenactments every other year. It's fascinating to watch, and a fascinating subject for study, but I wouldn't have wanted to fight in the war.
WheezySquash8
Posts: 130
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4/27/2014 8:55:07 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/4/2014 2:53:50 PM, MysticEgg wrote:
I know that most Americans learn about the ACW at school and know a decent amount about it. However, here in the U.K., we don't. Subsequently, my discovery of the military maps of the ACW allowed me to look at the whole thing in completely neutral reasoning.

Having seen all the major confrontations in the Eastern Theatre, as it's known, I've actually come to the conclusion that the Confederates were - in general - better tacticians and had smarter generals, even being outnumbered in many cases.

Of course, I cannot speak for the Western Theatre.

Does anyone agree or not? If this something you already agree with, or I am a heretic?

Please engage! This is interesting.

Yeah. The south also had an advantage because in their land there was less civilization, and more farmlands, forests, etc so they had an advantage against the union who lived in land that was more used than in the South.
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Martley
Posts: 126
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4/29/2014 9:29:39 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/4/2014 2:53:50 PM, MysticEgg wrote:
I know that most Americans learn about the ACW at school and know a decent amount about it. However, here in the U.K., we don't. Subsequently, my discovery of the military maps of the ACW allowed me to look at the whole thing in completely neutral reasoning.

Having seen all the major confrontations in the Eastern Theatre, as it's known, I've actually come to the conclusion that the Confederates were - in general - better tacticians and had smarter generals, even being outnumbered in many cases.

Of course, I cannot speak for the Western Theatre.

Does anyone agree or not? If this something you already agree with, or I am a heretic?

Please engage! This is interesting.
When looking at the eastern theater one can easily come to this conclusion, however the cards are turned in the western theater. Most of the quality generals cut their teeth in the west. And confederate leadership in the west was lesser. Brag was consistently out-generaled. Yet Davis showed a strange loyalty to Brag. Even when Longstreet moved west and was given independent command he showed his shortcomings as an army commander, with bickering in his high command and unimaginative frontal assaults to no gain. Lee was a very good general, but based mostly on his highly aggressive command style. From 1862 Virginia, thru 2nd Manassas, to Antietam... he fought his army to a nub... fielding a fraction of his army in Maryland. The south suffered greatly from attrition, while the union fielded its most talented army commanders like grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Thomas later in the war in the east.
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Idealist
Posts: 2,520
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4/29/2014 10:04:56 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/29/2014 9:29:39 PM, Martley wrote:
At 4/4/2014 2:53:50 PM, MysticEgg wrote:
I know that most Americans learn about the ACW at school and know a decent amount about it. However, here in the U.K., we don't. Subsequently, my discovery of the military maps of the ACW allowed me to look at the whole thing in completely neutral reasoning.

Having seen all the major confrontations in the Eastern Theatre, as it's known, I've actually come to the conclusion that the Confederates were - in general - better tacticians and had smarter generals, even being outnumbered in many cases.

Of course, I cannot speak for the Western Theatre.

Does anyone agree or not? If this something you already agree with, or I am a heretic?

Please engage! This is interesting.
When looking at the eastern theater one can easily come to this conclusion, however the cards are turned in the western theater. Most of the quality generals cut their teeth in the west. And confederate leadership in the west was lesser. Brag was consistently out-generaled. Yet Davis showed a strange loyalty to Brag. Even when Longstreet moved west and was given independent command he showed his shortcomings as an army commander, with bickering in his high command and unimaginative frontal assaults to no gain. Lee was a very good general, but based mostly on his highly aggressive command style. From 1862 Virginia, thru 2nd Manassas, to Antietam... he fought his army to a nub... fielding a fraction of his army in Maryland. The south suffered greatly from attrition, while the union fielded its most talented army commanders like grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Thomas later in the war in the east.

Well, in all fairness, Grant didn't get the nickname of "Bloody Grant" for nothing. He as well was famous for pressing the attack irregardless of Union losses. His basic strategy from the beginning (one shared by Lincoln and Sherman) was that the North was capable of steam-rolling over the Confederacy using production and numbers alone, sort of how Reagan outspent the Soviet Union.
Martley
Posts: 126
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4/30/2014 9:23:13 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/29/2014 10:04:56 PM, Idealist wrote:
At 4/29/2014 9:29:39 PM, Martley wrote:
At 4/4/2014 2:53:50 PM, MysticEgg wrote:
I know that most Americans learn about the ACW at school and know a decent amount about it. However, here in the U.K., we don't. Subsequently, my discovery of the military maps of the ACW allowed me to look at the whole thing in completely neutral reasoning.

Having seen all the major confrontations in the Eastern Theatre, as it's known, I've actually come to the conclusion that the Confederates were - in general - better tacticians and had smarter generals, even being outnumbered in many cases.

Of course, I cannot speak for the Western Theatre.

Does anyone agree or not? If this something you already agree with, or I am a heretic?

Please engage! This is interesting.
When looking at the eastern theater one can easily come to this conclusion, however the cards are turned in the western theater. Most of the quality generals cut their teeth in the west. And confederate leadership in the west was lesser. Brag was consistently out-generaled. Yet Davis showed a strange loyalty to Brag. Even when Longstreet moved west and was given independent command he showed his shortcomings as an army commander, with bickering in his high command and unimaginative frontal assaults to no gain. Lee was a very good general, but based mostly on his highly aggressive command style. From 1862 Virginia, thru 2nd Manassas, to Antietam... he fought his army to a nub... fielding a fraction of his army in Maryland. The south suffered greatly from attrition, while the union fielded its most talented army commanders like grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Thomas later in the war in the east.

Well, in all fairness, Grant didn't get the nickname of "Bloody Grant" for nothing. He as well was famous for pressing the attack irregardless of Union losses. His basic strategy from the beginning (one shared by Lincoln and Sherman) was that the North was capable of steam-rolling over the Confederacy using production and numbers alone, sort of how Reagan outspent the Soviet Union.

That's simply a matter of interpretation. Using military manpower to end a war is never a pretty thing. Grants Vicksburg campaign was taught for decades at West Point as a textbook example of maneuver and siege, as he took Vicksburg with surprisingly low casualties. But, take Antietam for example... McClellan knew Lee had split his army, and during the Battle that ensued he drastically outnumbered Lee who only managed to field about half the strength of the Union army. McClellan's assaults bent Lees army almost to the breaking point, but yet he still keep 2 full Corps of infantry in reserve. And did not sufficiently follow up the campaign despite Lincolns direct orders. At the risk of speculation, what if 1864 Grant had been in command? With a willingness to use the whole of his force at hand. Would he not have crushed Lee at Antietam? Would he not have doggedly pursued the defeated Confederate army to its end as he did later in the war. Would this not have saved 2 years of subsequent war and 100's of thousands of war dead and casualties? Lee was a commander that always looked for ways to take the offensive initiative. He was allowed to do that by Eastern generals until the arrival of Grant, who was not a commander interested in giving up the offensive initiative, just as Lee did in 1862.
A Black Belt is a white belt who never quit.

The best time to do something was 20 years ago.... the second best to do something is now.
Idealist
Posts: 2,520
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4/30/2014 9:44:19 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/30/2014 9:23:13 AM, Martley wrote:
At 4/29/2014 10:04:56 PM, Idealist wrote:
At 4/29/2014 9:29:39 PM, Martley wrote:
At 4/4/2014 2:53:50 PM, MysticEgg wrote:
I know that most Americans learn about the ACW at school and know a decent amount about it. However, here in the U.K., we don't. Subsequently, my discovery of the military maps of the ACW allowed me to look at the whole thing in completely neutral reasoning.

Having seen all the major confrontations in the Eastern Theatre, as it's known, I've actually come to the conclusion that the Confederates were - in general - better tacticians and had smarter generals, even being outnumbered in many cases.

Of course, I cannot speak for the Western Theatre.

Does anyone agree or not? If this something you already agree with, or I am a heretic?

Please engage! This is interesting.
When looking at the eastern theater one can easily come to this conclusion, however the cards are turned in the western theater. Most of the quality generals cut their teeth in the west. And confederate leadership in the west was lesser. Brag was consistently out-generaled. Yet Davis showed a strange loyalty to Brag. Even when Longstreet moved west and was given independent command he showed his shortcomings as an army commander, with bickering in his high command and unimaginative frontal assaults to no gain. Lee was a very good general, but based mostly on his highly aggressive command style. From 1862 Virginia, thru 2nd Manassas, to Antietam... he fought his army to a nub... fielding a fraction of his army in Maryland. The south suffered greatly from attrition, while the union fielded its most talented army commanders like grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Thomas later in the war in the east.

Well, in all fairness, Grant didn't get the nickname of "Bloody Grant" for nothing. He as well was famous for pressing the attack irregardless of Union losses. His basic strategy from the beginning (one shared by Lincoln and Sherman) was that the North was capable of steam-rolling over the Confederacy using production and numbers alone, sort of how Reagan outspent the Soviet Union.

That's simply a matter of interpretation. Using military manpower to end a war is never a pretty thing. Grants Vicksburg campaign was taught for decades at West Point as a textbook example of maneuver and siege, as he took Vicksburg with surprisingly low casualties. But, take Antietam for example... McClellan knew Lee had split his army, and during the Battle that ensued he drastically outnumbered Lee who only managed to field about half the strength of the Union army. McClellan's assaults bent Lees army almost to the breaking point, but yet he still keep 2 full Corps of infantry in reserve. And did not sufficiently follow up the campaign despite Lincolns direct orders. At the risk of speculation, what if 1864 Grant had been in command? With a willingness to use the whole of his force at hand. Would he not have crushed Lee at Antietam? Would he not have doggedly pursued the defeated Confederate army to its end as he did later in the war. Would this not have saved 2 years of subsequent war and 100's of thousands of war dead and casualties? Lee was a commander that always looked for ways to take the offensive initiative. He was allowed to do that by Eastern generals until the arrival of Grant, who was not a commander interested in giving up the offensive initiative, just as Lee did in 1862.

I'm not sure what your point is? I was talking about Grant as Supreme Commander, not when he was a lesser general. You do know he began the war as a recruiter? He'd been forced to resign once before (not saying he deserved it) and had a reputation for being intemperate and for suffering from severe depression. If it wasn't for Sherman's patience then Grant wouldn't have lasted long enough to become Supreme Commander. He got his nickname of "Bloody Grant" from the common soldiers who died due to his frontal-assault tactics, but in all fairness it was the way he fought. I've always liked Grant, but he was hardly a great tactician.

I'm not sure why you bring-up McClellan, but I don't have much respect for him at all. He was a politician more than a soldier. There is not much doubt that if Grant had been in command during that campaign he would have attacked with full blunt-force, and would have won the day. Would it have shortened the war by two years? Nobody knows. General Meade was widely criticized for not pursuing Lee after the battle of Gettysburg, but in all truth his own army was in no shape for it. It was common at that time for the retreating army to leave behind all wounded men, placing responsibility for their care in the victor's hands, along with all the dead to bury.

I agree it's a very interesting subject - one I first became fascinated in as a teenager decades ago. I live on the famous "Route of Lee's Retreat" from Petersburg to Appomattox. I used to live within two miles of the Petersburg battlefield, and my father and I collect memorabilia we've found in the ground. The biggest thing in Grant's favor is that he got the job done, as did his best friend Sherman further south. Lincoln's main complaints against his generals all along had been their unwillingness to fully engage the inferior Southern forces, so he was happy. Too bad Grant didn't make it so well as President later on.
j50wells
Posts: 345
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8/3/2015 8:38:50 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
What you say is true, but only in the eastern theater. In the western theater, U.S. Grant was the hero of the north. He defeated every general that he went up against. His only loss was at Shiloh, but that was really a neutral battle, neither the Confederates or the Union winning anything.
The East was another story, however. Lee was Grant's counterpart, however on the other side of the war. Lee was just a smart guy and knew how to lead men. His opponents weren't smart. One of the worse generals in world history was McClellan. He was a bungling idiot. In the battles that he lost, he had Lee outnumbered 2 to 1 and held the defensive position. Yet he still could not win a battle.
Meade was another northern general that couldn't win. He did win at Gettysburg, however many tacticians are still trying figure out how a Union army twice the size of the Confederates could have let the smaller army even dig that deep into the Union territory. Lee and his men went clear up into Pennsylvania. A good general would have never allowed a smaller army to come that deep into his own territory, yet Meade did.
Then there was Burnside. This man could have won a major battle at Fredericksburg, but he bungled it. He stalled for a whole day when he could have wiped the Confederates out. The Confederates regrouped and sent a massacre onto the Union armies.
But then came Grant. Finally, a general worthy of Lee's attention. Grant dominated Lee, and for the first time since the war started, drove Lee south out of the Shenandoah Valley and DC area, and pushed him back into Richmond. A long siege ensued and Lee was forced to surrender.
I kind of believe that part of the ineffectiveness of the generals in the east had to do with being too close to Washington DC. I think that many of the general got caught up in the officer's lifestyle of drink and fine women, and fame....marching and parading up and down the streets while women threw flowers. I believe that the further away from Washington that they got, the better they did. This is why they won at Gettysburg, and had a close fight at Antietam.
riveroaks
Posts: 265
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8/18/2015 3:01:08 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Two good books to read are the memoirs of Gen. Grant and of Gen. Longstreet.

Grant was the best of the Union generals, while Longstreet was the best of the Southerners.

Grant primarily used the North's excess manpower to his advantage by bleeding the South.

Longstreet was a great tactician and strategist, who disagreed with Lee about engaging the Northern forces at Gettysburg. Longstreet said Gettysburg was bad ground for the South and they should go around it and on to Harrisburg or D.C.

That Lee would not listen to Longstreet resulted in the Southern massacre at Gettysburg from which the South could never recover while the Union continued to add strength to their own numbers from the greater populations of the industrial North.

So history remembers this war as one of attrition which the South could not keep up with while the North continued to add more men and equipment to the fight.

It is somewhat incredible that after the war, Jefferson Davie, Robert E. Lee, and Gen. Longstreet were not hanged for treason. Treason does not get any worse than taking up arms against your mother country. But in the spirit or reconciliation and reconstruction, no one was hanged.
jimtimmy8
Posts: 383
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8/28/2015 5:53:36 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 4/4/2014 2:53:50 PM, MysticEgg wrote:
I know that most Americans learn about the ACW at school and know a decent amount about it. However, here in the U.K., we don't. Subsequently, my discovery of the military maps of the ACW allowed me to look at the whole thing in completely neutral reasoning.

Having seen all the major confrontations in the Eastern Theatre, as it's known, I've actually come to the conclusion that the Confederates were - in general - better tacticians and had smarter generals, even being outnumbered in many cases.

Of course, I cannot speak for the Western Theatre.

Does anyone agree or not? If this something you already agree with, or I am a heretic?

Please engage! This is interesting.

My understanding is that most historians agree that superior generals was an advantage the south had (perhaps the only major advantage)
Lee308
Posts: 53
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8/28/2015 11:26:42 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 4/4/2014 2:53:50 PM, MysticEgg wrote:
I know that most Americans learn about the ACW at school and know a decent amount about it. However, here in the U.K., we don't. Subsequently, my discovery of the military maps of the ACW allowed me to look at the whole thing in completely neutral reasoning.

Having seen all the major confrontations in the Eastern Theatre, as it's known, I've actually come to the conclusion that the Confederates were - in general - better tacticians and had smarter generals, even being outnumbered in many cases.

Of course, I cannot speak for the Western Theatre.

Does anyone agree or not? If this something you already agree with, or I am a heretic?

Please engage! This is interesting.

Its simple, the north half of your country said you can't drink beer, the south half disagrees,
The North half will hang you if you drink beer, what do you do?
ford_prefect
Posts: 4,138
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8/30/2015 7:27:32 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
The South had better generals except for William Tecumseh Sherman, who is criminally underrated by most people. His genius is appreciated by military historians, though. Even Grant was a good general but not amazing, like Lee, Jackson and WTS.