Shotgun's Home of the American Civil War

Civil War Strategy, The Early Years

This discussion was conducted on Oct. 26, 1997 and was hosted by Irish and Saber. Two very fine Civil War Historians. It began at 2000 hrs and was closed at 2200 hrs. The following text has been modified to eliminate extraneous conversation that occurred during the discussion

Saber's Intro

Saber at [Oct 26 19:30:32]: Tonight, Irish and I will host a discussion with the topic being the strategy of the Civil War in the years 1861-62. The Random House College Dictionary defines strategy as, a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result. Strategies is the science or art of planning and directing large military movements and operations. At times some confuse strategy and tactics. While strategy is the utilization of forces, through large-scale, long range planning and development, to ensure security or victory, tactics deals with the use and deployment of troops in combat. A strategy can be implemented both on a national scope or a sectional level. It can utilize either the offense or the defense or a combination of the two. There are factors other than military that effect the strategy that a warring nation opts for. Some of these are the political, the economic, the home front and starting position and number of troops.

Irish at [Oct 26 19:36:58]: What is the main interest of the North in the Spring of 1861? What is the main interest of the South during the same time period? What were both the North and the South trying to get accomplished at this same time (politically, diplomatically, and militarily)?

Irish at [Oct 26 19:40:17]: Tonight Saber and I would like to discuss the strategy of war from at least three different view points: Political, diplomatic, and military. Nearly everyone connected to the Civil War has a view point of what was done right, or what was done wrong in these three categories. They are all intermingled in some way, and all were very important to the ultimate success or failure of the Civil War.

PHP at [Oct 26 19:49:59]: Good evenin to all from Calusa College of Historical Studies ( whose motto is....." We Secede where Others Fail "), on beautiful Pine Island on the SW coast of Fla. Enrollment is available for a slightly exorbitant fee....(PHP President, Commander, and Head Honcho)

PHP at [Oct 26 20:04:34]: Ahh, the Faculty Assembles!!!

Saber at [Oct 26 20:04:35]: Question one folks. Most military theorists believe that strategy is an extension of politics. The political goals of the north and south were quite different. The northern goal was reunification of the nation. The southern goal was independence. How did these different political goals dictate the respective strategies of the North and South?

Irish at [Oct 26 20:04:40]: In looking at the various components of the situations that led up to the Civil War I think there are many questions that arise on why was the war fought, what kind of chance did the South actually have in achieving success, etc. After studying war for many years I am convinced that the South could have won the war. It was fighting against a very powerful, but not so unified nation, similar to the same situation that the folks in America had faced in 1775-76. There is no good reason why the Continental Army won a war against the arguably finest army in the world. There is also no good reason why a third world power such as North Vietnam could eventually win a war against a power such as the United States. There are hundreds of wars both small and large that have arisen over the history of mankind. Studying these wars show that underdogs could be successful if the right situations unfolded. Tonight I would like to delve into what situations may have unfolded had the correct strategy been used. Please remember that strategy is used in many different ways when a country goes to war.

Buford at [Oct 26 20:06:03]: There was a major difference, Saber. The North needed to avoid losing the war. The South had to win it. Therein lies the difference, IMHO.

Buford at [Oct 26 20:08:07]: The strategy that as implemented by the North in 1861, and that ultimately won the war in 1865, was Scott's Anaconda Plan, which was designed to wear out the South, to suffocate it, so that the North's manpower and industrial superiority would ultimately come to bear. If not for the politics that intervened, I suspect that the strategy might have actually worked sooner.

Saber at [Oct 26 20:09:02]: I have to respectfully disagree Buford. While I agree that the North had to avoid losing the war, their political goal required the occupation of large areas of Confederate territory and the defeat of the Confederate armed forces.

Buford at [Oct 26 20:10:00]: Ultimately, that's true, Saber. However, in the big scheme of things, all the North had to do was to hang on long enough and to wear down the Confederacy long enough, and it would win the war.

Irish at [Oct 26 20:10:14]: The South had to win a political goal much the same way that the Ho Chi Minh Government in North Vietnam needed to win a political goal. The situation in Vietnam as was the case in the American Revolution was that the country in power (United States and Great Britain) has to win quickly in order to keep public opinion on their side. When this did not happen, both wars became very tiresome to the home fronts. The people of Great Britain did not support the war to hold the American Colonies. The people of the United States did not support the American policy in regard to Vietnam. These are just two examples of countless times when an underdog won because of defusing public opinion in their enemy's hinterland.

PHP at [Oct 26 20:10:42]: I'm with Saber. All the South had to do was wear down the will of the North---which almost happened.

Buford at [Oct 26 20:10:42]: My point exactly, Professor.

Saber at [Oct 26 20:11:18]: The Confederate political goal of independence at no time required the defeat of the Union military forces or the occupation of Federal territory.

Irish at [Oct 26 20:12:38]: My point is that the South squandered situations where they had won military objectives but failed to achieve political and diplomatic successes. Had they done so, the North may have opted for peace.

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 20:13:23]: In my opinion part of the reason that the Continental Army and the North Vietnamese could defeat both Larger and More Powerful Nations, is the fact of where the war was fought. Both the British and American Armies in these wars were located far from their home bases and supply depots, fighting in unknown territory. In the Civil War the Armies both fought relatively close to home bases and supply depots, and both sides knew the territory fairly well.

Irish at [Oct 26 20:16:25]: I believe that the South did not have a well maintained plan for achieving success. They needed a military strategy that coincided with political and diplomatic strategy. All needed to play off the other. In Vietnam for instance, the United States in 1967 and early 1968 were explaining, via the media, that the light at the end of the tunnel would soon be reached. Then General Giap sprung the Tet Offensive. Although, not remarkable when looking at what was achieved militarily, it was remarkable that politically and diplomatically speaking it turned the US media against the war, and brought out a call for ending the war on the American home front. This same situation could have been achieved in the Civil War on the part of the South had the military, the Congress, and the diplomatic corps been working in unison.

Xan at [Oct 26 20:16:50]: A question: doesn't this rather overlook the human, emotional factors? Logic would indicate that Ft. Sumter, once blockaded, be simply ignored. Anderson had already agreed to evacuate. But there was no way that that shot was not going to be fired, just as a way of saying "And STAY out!" Thereby establishing a Tonkin Gulf situation where the Stars & Stripes had been fired on. Thus, open war.

Saber at [Oct 26 20:17:40]: In the same way the home fronts of England and America did not support their respective wars northern anti-war sentiment grew as the war continued with no end in sight.

Irish at [Oct 26 20:18:27]: TreeFrog, your point is well taken, however, France went to Egypt with poor supply lines and achieved victory in the early 1800's. Hannibal achieved great successes against larger armies with no supply lines, and very far from home. The wars that I mention, the American Revolution and Vietnam were wars that were lost on the home fronts.

Irish at [Oct 26 20:22:18]: Lincoln, manipulated the the events at Fort Sumter. He had been a great politician who understood manipulation in its very strongest form. He knew that by sending the supply ships that the South could do one of two things. Leave them alone, or stop them. If the left them alone, Lincoln would have had to have found another method for getting the South to be treated as aggressors. If they stopped the ships then they became the aggressors. By being the aggressors they become the bad guys in the perception of the world.

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 20:22:40]: Okay Irish I understand that. But also When Napoleon and Hannibal left their countries they expected long wars and prepared for them. The British and U.S. both expected short wars, and so went into the war undersupplied in the long run.

Irish at [Oct 26 20:25:26]: TreeFrog, I don't know that they ever expected short wars. The point is, that good strategy takes into consideration all contingencies. By preparing correctly, a long war can become a short war or visa versa. Great Britain had better supplies than the Continental Army. The United States had better supplies than the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese. The one thing that neither had, however, was a committed homefront.

Saber at [Oct 26 20:28:25]: TF, when Napoleon went into Russia he did it with an army of over 400,000 men when he got home he had just over 40,000 men. My point is that with the proper strategy employed Russia with a smaller and less well equipped army defeated the Grand Armee of Napoleon.

Xan at [Oct 26 20:29:48]: If this is too far off topic, I&S, ignore it, but do you think the effect of the neglect of the military between the Mexican War and 1861 had an effect on the chaos of the early days? So many trained and blooded officers had quit to go into business or something that paid a living wage, to have such a shortage must have caused problems.

Saber at [Oct 26 20:31:19]: We cannot underestimate the importance of the homefront to a successful strategy. At the start of the CW both homefronts were solidly behind the war. The military did not think the war was going to be a short one but both Homefronts did.

Irish at [Oct 26 20:32:28]: The south was manipulated into firing the opening salvo of the war against Fort Sumter. Politically speaking the leadership for the South was no match for Lincoln political tactics. They showed that over and over again through out the war. The South was also ill prepared for fighting the North on the terms that the North decided on. There were countries throughout the world who traded with the Southern part of the United States (Confederate States) however, the South was never really able to get these countries to do much more than give them lip service in regard to entering the war in a more prevalent way. These all needed to be understood and planned for in order to achieve success.

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 20:33:09]: Irish. No they didn't. But the Confederacy did. They also had many thing that the Union didn't. They were fighting for their land. And to quote the old phrase, "One man fighting for his land is more powerful then ten men." So why did the Confederacy lose? I'm not sure about this, but I'm fairly sure that if you look at the battles the south won most of them. The major reason, IMHO, that the Confederacy lost is part 4 of the Anaconda Plan. The Confederacy had tons of Raw Materials but had no way of exporting tem and importing Manufactured Goods. I believe this is the major reason the Confederacy lost. When the men of the ANV heard about Lee surrendering most of them still had a fighting spirit, that's why some units never surrendered, but moved to Brazil or Mexico. But Lee had to surrender because he was lacking the supplies to continue fighting. Please excuse me if I am way of topic right now.

Saber at [Oct 26 20:33:50]: That neglect did have an effect on the strategy Xan. The neglect contributed to the capabilities of the forces and that did effect their performances early in the war.

PHP at [Oct 26 20:34:36]: Xan has a point about the emotions. I will repeat what I said last week. Everybody's blood was up. Neither side thought they could lose---because as Americans we never had. Therefor the war would be short---no need for anything longer than 90 day enlistment's. Bands played, politicians pontificated, and old friends made plans to meet again after the initial unpleasantness was over. The South never thought the north would ever have the willpower to actually conquer them. Misunderstanding and underestimation's filled the Spring of 1861. There was no logic--frequently there never is.IMHO.

29mo at [Oct 26 20:35:21]: Saber - Forgive me, Sir, but I thought one of the few military men that thought the war was not going to be short was Sherman, and he was branded as crazy for his position that they were in for a long haul.

Irish at [Oct 26 20:35:48]: Xan, the military in the time period between the wars was very useful time in the Southern perspective. In 1850, when tension was very high, the South was made to understand that they could not possibly fight against the might of the North. By careful manipulation of funds and policy by the Secretaries of Wars during this time (Jefferson and Floyd) the army became a place where promotions were handed out to Southern officers more than northern officers. Many Northern officers were encouraged to resign because there was no chance of promotion. On the other hand the Southern officers were being given jobs in high places. Also during this time, a great many southern forts were being refurbished and officered by southern men.

Chris at [Oct 26 20:36:06]: The cause...that played a role, didn't it?

Saber at [Oct 26 20:38:45]: TF, what occurred was the effect of the Anaconda plan of General Winfield Scott. He proposed this strategy early in the war but the Union was not capable of implementing it at that time. The Union did not have the number of troops needed to carry out the offensive thrusts the plan called for. They also did not have the ships at that time to make a blockade effective.

Irish at [Oct 26 20:38:54]: My point TreeFrog is that the South had to take advantage of their military victories before the Anaconda plan could be effectively utilized. The North had a long and large scaled plan to win. The South did not. There are many campaigns that were fought early in the war that should have brought about diplomatic pressure on the North had the South utilized it.

Saber at [Oct 26 20:40:04]: You are correct about Sherman 29mo. I just don't believe that the regular army officers believed it would be a short war.

PHP at [Oct 26 20:40:55]: If the north thought the war would be long--why the short enlistment's?

Irish at [Oct 26 20:41:11]: Actually many of the officers fighting for the North realized that the war would be long and bloody. Sherman was just one who mentioned it publicly. Many diaries and letters show that many of the officers who fought in Mexico and who really understood war knew that they were going to be in a war that was of much higher magnitude than the one they fought in Mexico.

Coy at [Oct 26 20:41:30]: Having joined late I am unsure of the ground rules. Do I just jump in when I have a question?

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 20:41:54]: Irish okay I see. Sorry I got confused. I agree. The South had many chances to win after their military victories, but they didn't have the diplomatic power to do it. Am I close to what your saying?

Irish at [Oct 26 20:42:29]: Short enlistment's were from Lincoln's point of view not Scott's. He formulated the Anaconda Plan based on his thoughts that the war would take some time to prosecute. Washington Politics shaped the 90 day on to Richmond plan.

Irish at [Oct 26 20:42:56]: Jump right in Coy.

Saber at [Oct 26 20:43:11]: PHP, that brings the political into the picture. The media of the day and the politicians were expounding how it would be one victory and out. Neither Lincoln or Davis could in the face of public opinion ask for long enlistment's.

TJ at [Oct 26 20:43:46]: Irish, I think that was at least partly the case because the regular army vets/west pointers with Mexican War experience knew the general quality of the men (officers) they would be facing was high.

Irish at [Oct 26 20:44:40]: TreeFrog, that is correct. What I am saying that the South successfully drove the Federal Armies off the Peninsula in 1862, and followed up that major coup by destroying Pope's Army of Virginia. What better time to politically or diplomatically market the war to foreign interests?

TJ at [Oct 26 20:44:45]: PHP, the initial short enlistment terms was part politics, part practicality.

29mo at [Oct 26 20:45:06]: It seems that the North would have acted differently if more of the regular army officers believed the war would be a long and costly one. It doesn't add up. Why would Sherman be regarded so poorly for his evaluation if most of the officers agreed? I think there are numerous examples that the predominant opinion early on was that the war would be short. Some of which have already been cited.

PHP at [Oct 26 20:45:16]: Irish and Saber, ...Does the Spring of 1861 remind you of the Phony War in the fall/winter of 1939/40? Are not the two situations somewhat analogous? *maybe I'm off--but I think that human emotions defy logic and drive decisions*

Coy at [Oct 26 20:45:57]: Irish, thank you. Wouldn't the CSA have been better served by not firing on Sumter?

Irish at [Oct 26 20:46:14]: That is the point exactly TJ. They knew that the people they were facing were very capable warriors who were used to winning battles.

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 20:46:38]: One thing I am wondering about. MOs to the officers of the Civil War saw their first military service during the Mexican war. They learned and used the tactics to defeat the Mexicans, both offensively and Defensively. When they fought each other in the Civil War they continued to use these tactics. Could it be they were unprepared to effectively defend against their own tactics, because they were used to Mexican Tactics.

TJ at [Oct 26 20:46:58]: That's an interesting analogy, PHP.

PHP at [Oct 26 20:47:26]: I agree with 29mo....BTW, I think the USN sealed the fate of the CSA. *admittedly bias*

Saber at [Oct 26 20:47:35]: The Anaconda strategy was a long term strategy. t the time it was neither politically or economically expedient.

PHP at [Oct 26 20:48:54]: TJ has a very good point.

Irish at [Oct 26 20:49:50]: Politics entered into the army on a very large scale. Sherman was a professional soldier who called a spade a spade. Folks like Senator (Colonel) Baker, General Butler, General McClernand etc. saw the war as a slingshot to bigger and better things politically. They could not afford to say the same things that someone like a Sherman, Richardson, Kearny, etc would say. The former did not understand war, and there were many more of them than the latter. The latter were professionals who understood war quite well, and did mention it in their letters. They were not looking for political achievement following the war.

29mo at [Oct 26 20:50:04]: I see some of my questions answered by earlier posts. I did not know about the diaries. Hmmmm. Interesting. But the fact that some important people thought the war would be short had to have an effect. For example: In June of 1861 Lincoln wanted to equip the Union army with the new machine guns that had been developed. The Chief of Ordnance, Gen. James W. Ripley, thought the war would be a short, so he didn't bother to acquire the machine guns Lincoln and the Federal generals wanted. The North eventually got some, but they had to get them through other channels. If Ripley had not believed the war was going to be brief, and had equipped the army with machine guns earlier in the conflict, as he was directed, the Union may have faired better in some of the earlier battles.

PHP at [Oct 26 20:50:19]: By the way---the last war fought prior to the CW was the 3rd Seminole War fought right here where I live....Interesting to see the names involved.

Irish at [Oct 26 20:53:39]: TreeFrog your question is the really the crux of the whole discussion tonight. The Mexican War showed the entire United States military the need for engineers on the battlefield. Without Lee, Beauregard, and McClellan the walls of Veracruz may not have been smashed with small amounts of American casualties. Without careful preparation on the part of Engineering officer Mansfield the walls of Monterrey may not have been breached. However, these same engineers found that they needed a change in strategy when fighting against each other.

PHP at [Oct 26 20:53:53]: The Southern Diplomacy failed because of the blockade--not because of the land battles. Britain was a trading country and understood the importance of blockades (she did one on France for 20yrs)IMHO.

Saber at [Oct 26 20:55:57]: When the Union forces under McDowell moved into Va. he knew they were not ready. He delayed as long as he could making the move. My point is that what resulted in the battle of 1stManassas was a campaign forced by the politicians and the media of the North. PHP I find your Phony War analogy quite appropriate.

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 20:56:43]: Irish that's what I was wondering. If they had been prepared, and trained to defeat their own tactics, the war might have ended relatively quickly. But because they and to change, modify, and perfect their tactics the war went on longer then expected.

guest at [Oct 26 20:56:48]: I have a question concerning civil war strategy...If the infantry were able to let loose many volleys before the attackers were close enough to use bayonets...what was the point of attacking? (or am I missing a point)?

Irish at [Oct 26 20:58:46]: PHP, France would not attempt to break the British blockade on America had not the Continental Army proved to them and the rest of the world that they could successfully fight a land battle. The Battle of Saratoga proved that the Continental Army would be a worthy ally. France joined the war to help the Continental army based on the successful battle and diplomacy. In most cases diplomacy begins with the question: "What's in it for me?" France joined that war because they realized that there was a better than average chance of success, and that if the Continental army won, then there would be attached favors. Had some diplomatic chips been given to Great Britain, be it land, or a promise to end slavery, be it anything that diplomats discuss, then the land battles already mentioned should have been enough to attract foreign intervention.

Coy at [Oct 26 20:58:52]: Saber, what did the CSA do to prepare their forces that the AoP didn't?

Saber at [Oct 26 20:59:27]: What you are talking about guest is tactics rather than strategy. The officers of the CW found out rather quickly that they preferred to be on the defensive.

29mo at [Oct 26 20:59:31]: PHP - From what I understand, while the Yankee blockade eventually became very effective, early on it was spread too thin and was largely impotent; the vast majority of shipping got through. My point is early the blockade had little effect, when the war could have gone either way. Late in the war, when the North had more ships and the blockade was very efficient, the South was on the downhill slide. *What do you know about ships and stuff, anyway?;)*

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 20:59:33]: Saber on the other hand, McClellan waited to long before starting getting the army prepared in 1862, and delayed to long before following up the victory at Antietam. So what is the correct amount of time prepare for or follow up a battle in order to insure the maximum effect?

TJ at [Oct 26 21:01:28]: Of course, if the French had known that the fighting and support of foreign wars was going to contribute heavily to the French Revolution through the draining of government coffers, they may have reconsidered. But that's another discussion altogether.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:01:36]: The point of the large scale infantry attacks is that they really didn't know of any other way to prosecute the battles. However, by the end of the war, the large scale attacks against fortifications were being perfected, although not that well.

guest at [Oct 26 21:02:29]: Saber: about those tactics-- Was the exchange of volleys sufficient in most cases to attain victory? It seems as though the actual charge would produce a more definitive result...

Saber at [Oct 26 21:03:17]: As far as training went Coy there really was no difference. In the beginning of the war the Confederate officers corps was superior to the Unions and the Union Cavalry was no match for the Confederate mounted arm. This allowed Confederate commanders to employ strategies that the Union was not capable of.

PHP at [Oct 26 21:03:21]: Irish, I understand your point and agree. What the Brits wanted was trade. Can't do that thru a tight blockade. Brits understood that stuff better than anyone. During the first 2 yrs, when the blockade was still starting, the Brits were still thinking about being pro-South. then the blockade tightened, and so did the Brits. It was in their best interest to see the Yankee ship owners defeated--but it didn't work out that way because of the USN...Sorry if I have belabored the point.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:04:14]: 29mo, I believe that an effective strategy had to be in place early in the war to counteract the Anaconda Plan. As was proven, the Anaconda Plan eventually took the life out of the South's ability to prosecute the War. However, had the South come up with a capable strategy early in the war, the Anaconda Plan may have never been a factor.

TJ at [Oct 26 21:04:37]: Bayonet charges against rows of men with rifled muskets: I'd take the guys who planned to do the shooting much more often than not.

Xan at [Oct 26 21:04:56]: Okay, so the colonists in 1776 could fairly well count on allies such as the French because France and Britain were already rivals, on the principle that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". What did, or what could have, the South done pre-war to stir up some foreign hostility towards the US/North? If they, or some of them, were plotting this decades ahead of time in the assignment and promotion of officers, was anyone working this on the diplomatic front? Or was the US just too insignificant and far away for any European power to get vexed with?

guest at [Oct 26 21:05:05]: Also (following up on the infantry charge) how effective were cavalry charges during the war? They would seem to have great success against little trained or new troops psychologically...

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 21:05:21]: The tactics of the War changed almost weekly as things were perfected. One of the best tactics to come out of the war was the effective use of Sharpshooters. The two Regiments of U.S. Sharpshooters probably did more to attain victory and stop utter destruction of the AoP on many occasions. Call me biased but that's my opinion. :-)

DL at [Oct 26 21:06:52]: What change or invention in the future shifted the balance of power back from defense to offense?

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 21:07:50]: About training you have to remember that at the beginning of the war both the Union and Confederacy drilled soldiers from Hardee's Tactics. Hardee BTW was also a Confederate General.

Saber at [Oct 26 21:08:04]: TF, the situation has to dictate the proper time period. Generals form Jackson to Patton believe you follow up a victory as quickly as possible. Your enemy is disorganized and shaken, the time is perfect.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:08:38]: PHP, I think that you are correct in your thinking. The US Navy eventually destroyed the South's capability to prosecute the war. The South should have laid some very large and pretty chips on the bargaining table following the Battle of Second Manassas and enticed some strong power from Europe to help them out. When they didn't, they sowed the seeds for their own end. I believe that was a very crucial time. It was before the Mississippi was taken, and before it was apparent that the North's powers were going to jointly smash their smaller foe. I think all was lost when the Mississippi was finally taken by the Federals. The time frame for Southern Success was extremely limited, however it was there.

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 21:09:34]: Saber just so you know I agree with you. So did Lincoln. That's why McClellan lost his position, twice.

PHP at [Oct 26 21:10:40]: Irish,...I agree totally with you on that. A lost opportunity.

PHP at [Oct 26 21:11:29]: TreeFrog--you've got some good points.

Coy at [Oct 26 21:11:34]: IMHO the best thing that the CSA could have done was not fire on Sumter. The north had nothing that Europe wanted. South had King Cotton. If the South had waited, used diplomacy, went to England, France, Russia, etc. and said "were trying to settle this peacefully, we have your cotton, but Abe won't let us get it to you" Then Europe would be more apt to put pressure on the North. Once shots fired on Sumter, only military success would give the south what they wanted. IMHO.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:11:47]: Xan, what would have happened if the South would have courted France by saying that a very large portion of West Texas, an area that was considered a desert by most would have been seeded to France, who was already in Mexico? Would this have been enough to wet the appetite of France's traditional enemy England to also begin looking carefully at land that the South may attain by winning the war that may have been seeded to them as well? Diplomacy works in many strange and usually manipulative ways.

Colstoughton at [Oct 26 21:11:59]: TF, in response to your post of 21:05:21, the tactics that the Sharpshooters used were actually adopted from the Jagr tactics of the Napolionic war, so they did not actually come out of the Civil War.

PHP at [Oct 26 21:12:19]: TF, keep this up--I'm gonna pay you double what your gettin now...(Pres)

TJ at [Oct 26 21:13:11]: It's been mentioned that the strategy of the CSA was to have the North sue for peace in the end, i.e., permit the southern states their independence. If we can agree that the northern populace, though divided to a degree (like the southern populace as well), did a remarkable job in sticking with the war effort in the end, what does everybody think would it have taken to break the North's collective spirit (both the Lincoln Adm., Congress, the Union soldiers and civilians) to throw in the towel and sue for peace? In the same vein, does anybody think that if initial the initial CSA strategy of taking Washington then splitting the North in to via MD & PA would have been enough to achieve the hoped for results?

PHP at [Oct 26 21:13:59]: Coy,..ya hit it on the head. Irish, that would've been a great idea. Did anyone think of it then?

Xan at [Oct 26 21:14:03]: Irish, I see your point, that was my question: playing both sides against the other could have been VERY effective, but did anybody try it? Before Mason and Slidell that is, who were way too late to do any good.

29mo at [Oct 26 21:14:06]: Irish - I believe your last post sums everything up about as well as I have ever seen it presented. I agree except for one point: If Kirby had invaded Missouri in September, 1864 with 40,000 men and a different general, delaying victory in Atlanta for Sherman, kept the war going causing McClellan to defeat Lincoln, that would have been the South's one last chance.

Saber at [Oct 26 21:14:19]: Irish, I agree that the South needed a strategy early in the war. They certainly had the capability of employing a effective strategy. The dispersed-defense that Davis employed in essence was a passive defense and as such doomed to failure.

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 21:14:35]: Irish chances are that if the Confederacy had offered land to France, England, if they entered the war, would have come in on the Union's side. And vice-versa. IMHO

29mo at [Oct 26 21:15:37]: Ooops. Make that Irish's next-to-last post.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:16:18]: TJ, I believe an extreme gamble involving the Jomini strategy in the East would have attained the goals you mention. I do not believe that would have been the case in the west. I have read with great interest concerning Saber's ideas involving this very strategy. If Saber wouldn't mind, I would like for him to share some of his ideas concerning the implementation of Jomini in the Eastern Theater early in the war.

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 21:16:44]: Stoughton, but the Civil War is where they were first used effectively and on a large scale.

PHP at [Oct 26 21:16:53]: TreeFrog,...Yankee merchants were the economic enemy of Great Britain.

Xan at [Oct 26 21:17:48]: TJ, are you serious? I never heard of any sort of Southern plan to physically or politically take Pennsylvania! Good lord, it's a shame they didn't try harder, I can't imagine anything that would infuriate and unify the North than that...the war would have been over in months! ;)

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 21:18:29]: PHP, sorry ya lost me.

Coy at [Oct 26 21:19:19]: TJ..very good questions. I think that Bearegaurd, and Longstreet should have been given more thought after Chancellorsville. Forcing the relief of Vicksburg and attacking the center (my man Rosecrans); Take the war to the areas with a lot of CSA sympathies, IL, IN, etc might have forced it a little more.

29mo at [Oct 26 21:20:37]: TJ - I don't believe Lincoln would have ever given up. He was committed. Totally. Lincoln would have had to been taken out. He would never agree to let the South have independence from the Union.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:20:38]: I believe playing both England and France against the middle was possibly the only way that either or both were going to come into the war effort. Both could say, for perception purposes, that neither would fight on the side of slavery. Today the United States abhors those countries who have no concern for their population, civil rights, etc. Yet the United States is the most favored nation in dealing the China, a country who has an extremely poor history in dealing with the rights of the common man. We deal with China, because if we don't somebody else will. The same is true in the 1860's. Had the South been forceful in their dealing with strong European Countries and played each against the other in a ploy for most favored trading partner, then who knows. But we do know what happened when they didn't do that.

Saber at [Oct 26 21:20:58]: TJ, I believe the only way the south could have attained its political goal was by destroying the North's will to fight. They were at to much of a manpower and material disadvantage to succeed militarily. I believe by employing Jomini's time a space defense strategy the South could have accomplished just that.

PHP at [Oct 26 21:21:22]: TF,...ya said that GB and France would've come in for the north...I don't think so. It was in their interest to see the northern economic machine weakened --it was in competition with theirs.

ColStoughton at [Oct 26 21:23:31]: TF, they had a brigade of Jagr's assigned to each corps in the British army. That's about 15,000. Now you can't tell me that that's not a large scale. Plus they killed no less than 45 enemy generals, so you can't tell me that they were ineffective either. - ColStoughton

PHP at [Oct 26 21:24:02]: Saber/Irish,...Does the late secession of Virginia play into your thinking?

TJ at [Oct 26 21:24:58]: I'd be interested to hear more, Saber. Of course, successful implementation of this strategy in the East (which, I guess it could be argued, was chanced or tried twice in the 1862 Maryland and 1863 Gettysburg Campaigns) would have hit the northern populace hard, and, perhaps more importantly, given those foreign countries courted by the CSA reason or opportunity to get a piece of the action.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:25:24]: There is also the strong under current of copper heads found throughout the shipping capitals of the north. Had these folks realized that they would lose out on their most favored policies with foreign nations, they would have brought to bear a very formidable political effort against the Lincoln administration. Many of the copper heads were led by Massachusetts, New York, shippers.

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 21:25:36]: Okay I understand. Let me re-phrase what I said. If the South had offered favors to either France or Great Britain, i.e. giving them land, then the other side would have most likely stayed out of the war, or put their support, not necessarily military or economic, against the Confederacy, not necessarily on the side of the Union. -

Xan at [Oct 26 21:25:47]: A question: we tend to focus on England and France exclusively as potential allies/recognizers/etc, supporters of the Confederate cause. How about the alternatives, Germany, Spain, or Misc? Spain I think is particularly overlooked; if Cuba had been declared neutral and Confederate ships could have operated there with impunity, the naval aspect could have been greatly different. Germany is a longshot given that most German immigrants were in the North, but would the homeland have cared about such outcasts?

TJ at [Oct 26 21:26:35]: I don't disagree re: Lincoln, 29mo, but all his strength of will and determination would possibly have gone for naught if he wasn't re-elected in 1864.

Saber at [Oct 26 21:26:45]: The essence of Jomini's time and space strategy is to use the aggressiveness of the attacker against them. By drawing the attacker deeper into their territory they extend the attackers lines of communications making them vulnerable to attack. The strategy requires a large area which the South has and defensible ground of which the South has in abundance.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:28:02]: I think Virginia was a key to the success of the Southern armies, but in a way that is not naturally apparent. I would think that after reviewing Saber's ideas concerning the Jomini strategy in regards to giving up Virginia you will see more readily what I mean. As for Virginia's late secession, I think they may have been at least a little more thoughtful concerning the reasons for their departure. I think they were buying some time to allow for emotions to subside in order to make a proper selection of policy.

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 21:28:24]: Stoughton, no I wouldn't call it that. But the Civil War is where they were first taken notice of. Berdan didn't base the Sharpshooters on the Jagrs. In fact pretty much nobody today has heard of the use of Sharpshooters in combat until the Civil War. But this is getting off my main idea, which BTW has passed. - TreeFrog

PHP at [Oct 26 21:29:18]: Xan,....Spain was afraid of the USN. She was very weak in the Caribbean--had been for years. Besides-she made money running the blockade out of Havana.

Saber at [Oct 26 21:29:32]: TJ, if the South implemented Jomini's defensive theory the offensive campaigns in the North would not have happened.

Coy at [Oct 26 21:29:58]: Saber...If the capital was kept in Montgomery?

TJ at [Oct 26 21:30:29]: And the South coveted Cuba for the extension of slavery. Witness the several 'filibuster' campaigns of the antebellum years.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:30:36]: Xan, that also is my point. I would not limit the availability of any power in Europe. Prussia was not without its own ideas concerning colonization. Von Bismarck was possibly the most capable politician in the world at this time. He manipulated the Franco-Prussian War in order to unite Germany. He may have been the perfect bedfellow for the South to court.

29mo at [Oct 26 21:31:08]: TJ - Lincoln not being re-elected would be one way of "taking him out."

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 21:31:12]: Xan actually Cuba did play a part in the Blockade running. Many ships relied on Cuba, and other Spanish Ports, primarily in S. America, to refuel, re-supply, and in any other way replenish their ships. They were also the first stop after leaving the confederacy, to avoid any following Federal Ships.

TJ at [Oct 26 21:31:37]: Sorry, but have to run for a bit. Very much enjoyed the discussion. Will try to get back soon.

Coy at [Oct 26 21:31:47]: Saber..That makes a lot of sense with the superior CSA cavalry able to harass those long lines etc.

PHP at [Oct 26 21:31:51]: Saber--ya mean to get the north to overextend their supply lines?

Irish at [Oct 26 21:32:25]: One of the great missed opportunities of the war would have been the marriage between Krupp Iron works and The South's King Cotton.

PHP at [Oct 26 21:33:40]: Ref:Cuba,...the runners used it--but, Cuba was not friendly to CSN Ships...Spain was afraid to openly help them. (Semmes had problems there)

Irish at [Oct 26 21:34:34]: I am in agreement with PHP, I don't think that Spain was strong enough to help the South. However, I do believe Prussia was.

Saber at [Oct 26 21:34:50]: PHP, that would be the general idea. Given the zeal of the North early in the war they would have followed Confederate forces as they retreated. The Confederates would fight delaying actions as they retreated always teasing the Union with a victory but never giving them a decisive one.

PHP at [Oct 26 21:36:20]: The problem, as I see it, with the Jomini defense in depth theory (ala Russia) is that the South was opened up by the USN on the rivers and the coasts--and therefor the supply lines didn't have to come overland from the north.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:36:22]: Going along with what Saber is saying I think it bears a great fruit in the teasing aspect and what the perception would have been in the North. All the while, the South continues to suck the Northern troops southward where the main engagement will be, and is being planned.

Coy at [Oct 26 21:37:00]: boy wouldn't old Jeb enjoy running around the Union army then. :-)

Irish at [Oct 26 21:37:32]: Remember PHP, this is at the beginning of the war when the North did not have an effective navy that could do all of the things they did later on. What Saber is talking about is 1861.

29mo at [Oct 26 21:37:42]: Saber - The Federals did extend their supply lines and the Confederate Cavalry did harass the lines, but it didn't work. Forrest was in Sherman's rear from Chattanooga to Atlanta, tearing up railroad tracks, burning bridges and even collapsing tunnels. Sherman made quick repairs and kept his supply lines functioning.

PHP at [Oct 26 21:37:54]: Trivia,...2 of Rafe Semmes officers were Prussians Naval officers who joined the ship in South Africa. Very squared away and loyal to him.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:38:37]: What Saber is explaining is at the very beginning of the war, before any of the battles of 1862 were ever thought of.

PHP at [Oct 26 21:39:11]: Good point Irish--I got ahead of myself.

Saber at [Oct 26 21:40:13]: PHP, the retrograde movement farther than Southern VA. The ground chosen would be in an area where the only means of supply transport is by rail. Cavalry leaders like Stuart and Ashby would have excelled in this strategy.

29mo at [Oct 26 21:40:44]: Me too.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:41:26]: Saber where exactly is the ground that you are talking about?

PHP at [Oct 26 21:41:42]: I agree Saber (do I sense a bias toward cavalry there)*totally unbiased myself of course*

PHP at [Oct 26 21:42:55]: Just so I don't get carried away again---are we talkin the summer of 61?

Irish at [Oct 26 21:44:55]: Saber's strategy is connected to the Summer and Fall of 1861, maybe early 62. Hopefully he will explain it in greater detail. I believe it does have great merit.

Saber at [Oct 26 21:46:03]: The line would be one thats center would be at Wylliesburg on the Richmond-Danville Railroad. The left of the line will extend to the Stauton River a point where the river begins to turn north-west, approximately four miles west of Wylliesburg. The right flank would extend east to Lawerenceville, approximately eighteen miles from Wylliesburg.

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 21:46:40]: Yes Saber, could you please explain the details of the Jomini Plan. I've heard of it before, but don't really y know what it intails.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:47:42]: Saber, this is in Northern North Carolina, correct?

Saber at [Oct 26 21:52:16]: Tactically the main defense force will execute a slow retrograde movement. In this maneuver, they are to engage in delaying tactics using natural defense positions. The strength of the force engaged in this tactic will be determined by the strength of the position. It may vary from a single battery with a supporting infantry regiment up to a infantry corps with artillery.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:52:36]: Possibly Saber has been knocked off. We are nearly ending our time for the discussion. Is there anything anyone would like to say as a result of what we have done here tonight concerning strategy?

Saber at [Oct 26 21:53:54]: No Mr. Irish the line is in southern Va.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:54:06]: Sorry Saber. I think that Saber's ideas might make a great follow up discussion. There is so much to beheld with his ideas, that it might be a great discussion for next week, if he would honor us with his thoughts.

PHP at [Oct 26 21:54:20]: Saber--are you talkin of a classic ambush on a grand scale?

Saber at [Oct 26 21:55:11]: I believe we will have to postpone a detailed explanation of the Jomini space and time defense theory due to time constraints Irish.

29mo at [Oct 26 21:55:25]: I think the time should be unlimited. Disregard the clock. Does anyone disagree?

Irish at [Oct 26 21:56:07]: We are at the end of our time allotted. Any final thoughts?

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 21:56:33]: Okay Saber, I understand now thank you.

Irish at [Oct 26 21:57:22]: I for one, must take my leave. I would love to continue, but I have other fish to fry tonight. I hope all have enjoyed this little free for all, many great comments and viewpoints.

TreeFrog at [Oct 26 21:58:33]: Thank you Irish. It has been fun.

Saber at [Oct 26 21:58:46]: Professor Irish, I will be happy to give a detailed explanation of my thoughts next week if you will honor me with your presence.

Coy at [Oct 26 22:00:21]: Irish and Saber.. I thank you for your time. You have provided some very interesting insight. And, I must say, the only plausible way for a CSA victory.

Xan at [Oct 26 22:01:27]: I see Saber is back but will jump in anyway with what seems like the most obvious question: IF such a fade-back, suck-'em-in, then squish 'em like bugs strategy could have been pulled off, would the North necessarily have fallen for it?? As porous as the border was in the early days I cannot believe that somebody credible wouldn't have gotten to Washington with the message "You're being suckered. Here be dragons. Abandon Every Hope Ye Who Enter Here." etc. You really think the prospect of a quick hit on Richmond would have been that enticing?

PHP at [Oct 26 22:01:29]: I gotta go too--up very early. Thank you both Irish and Saber. A Very interesting discussion. Your retrograde would have been a Very gutsy move, that the politicians would not have allowed--but that might have worked. As Baron Jomini would say...Cest le Guerre!!!

Irish at [Oct 26 22:01:32]: Saber, I must confess that your ideas have wetted my thoughts concerning the practicability of a winning effort in the South. I wouldn't miss it, and I would encourage everyone to get involved with Saber's discussion. It will be thought provoking. It certainly was for me when I read his essay. Also, I might encourage all to get a map ready so that it can be followed extensively. Thank you Mr. Saber.

29mo at [Oct 26 22:01:49]: Thank you , Irish. I'm sorry you can't stay with us. Saber, must you leave us, also?

Saber at [Oct 26 22:03:04]: Mr. Irish it has been a pleasure working with you, as always. Thank you for your insights.

Xan at [Oct 26 22:03:33]: Oops, I didn't look at the time. Never mind, it can be a question for next time. Thanks to Saber and Irish, great talk, great ideas. ;)

Irish at [Oct 26 22:03:47]: Xan, remember who was commanding the Federal War machine at the time. Stick around for next week's discussion, I think your questions will be answered. Goodnight everyone.

This Page last updated 03/26/05



Still can't find what you are looking for?
Part of the CivilWarTalk Network: - -
Copyright © 1997 - 2014,