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Logistics, Transportation & Communication in the Civil War

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Today something a bit wonkish, another section of my Civil War and Gettysburg Staff Ride text. Nothing controversial, but an interesting look at how all of these mundane and often forgotten components of war advanced during the Civil War and how both sides adapted to these developments.

Peace

Padre Steve+

meigs

General Montgomery Meigs: Logistician Extraordinaire

With the advances in weaponry, technology turned the adoption of field fortifications and the tactical defense; even during offensive operations changed the way that the armies conducted the war; other advances were occurring. These took place in logistics, transportation, signals and communications.

In a country as vast as the United States logistics was a major concern of both armies. The ante-bellum Army developed its logistic doctrine from Napoleonic examples. That doctrine had to be modified in light of the American reality of a less developed continent with far greater distances involved in the movement of troops. “While the North’s logistical mobilization expanded, the South’s peaked in early 1863 and then declined. Fundamental interlocking problems beset logistics. The Confederacy had few preexisting industries to expand and lacked sufficient raw materials upon which to build an industrial base.” [1]

The Confederacy “did not have the material resources to fight a mass industrial war” [2] and the actions of its leaders from Jefferson Davis down did not help their cause. “The South needed a careful weighing of assets and liabilities, the setting of strict priorities, and centralized direction in order to use its resources efficiently. But Confederate leaders allowed events to control planning, resulting in uncoordinated, tardy, and incompetent centralization of the logistical effort.” [3]

The issue was not limited to industry but also agriculture, which in a region as rich as the Confederacy should not have been a problem. However, it was a major issue that became ever more serious throughout the war, not only for the Confederate armies in the field but also for the population as a whole. While the South managed to maintain effective armies until the end of 1864, it “failed to preserve the population’s well-being.” [4] This would prove to be a major problem.

By the spring of 1863 five major cities experienced bread riots, the most serious being in Richmond. Here, women, many of whose husbands were in the army “could no longer defer starvation. Living without men meant living without livelihood for many women. On the morning of April 2, 1863, a group of working class women met at a Baptist church in Richmond. Unable to feed their families they resolved to march to the governor’s mansion to seek redress.” [5] The governor was unable to satisfy their demands and the women, armed with guns and knives proceeded to wreak havoc, and over the “next several hours, all semblance of order disappeared in Richmond’s commercial district as the enraged women broke down doors and windows, seized bread and meat, and then went on to loot jewelry, clothing, hats, “and whatever they wanted.” [6]

Army troops and militia arrived on the scene and it appeared that Confederate soldiers might soon open fire on upon Confederate women. Jefferson Davis, who heard about the situation went to the commercial district and personally gave an ultimatum to the rioters ordering them to disperse or have the troops and militia open fire. [7] He turned “glanced at the soldiers behind him and turned to the women. “We do not desire to injure anyone, but this lawlessness must stop. I will give you five minutes to disburse, otherwise you will be fired upon.” [8] Soon the crowd disbursed and order was restored, but the damage was done. Other bread riots occurred in Southern cities until the fall of 1863. Many Southerners blamed merchants in general and the press labeled most businesses as speculators and extortionists. However as a result of the great privations at home and the need for a scapegoat, the specter of anti-Semitism rose in the Confederacy. Many, including some influential newspapers and government officials “focused on the Jews as the worst “extortioners” [9] blaming them for many if not most of the Confederacy’s economic woes.

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Even as their families went without food many soldiers in the armies of the Confederacy likewise faced hunger and privation. In the fall of 1863 some soldiers of the Army of Tennessee were ordered into line to be reviewed by Jefferson Davis. One soldier, Private Sam Watkins wrote: “When he passed by us with his great retinue of staff officers …cheers greeted them, with the words “Send us something to eat, Massa Jeff! Give us something to eat, Massa Jeff! I’m hungry! I’m hungry!” [10]

During the war, both armies learned to adapt their logistical support services to the reality of war. However, the South, for a number of reasons had difficultly this. Poor infrastructure and the lack of standardized rail systems were significant factors. But even more importantly inability of the government in Richmond, various states governments as well as the private sector to work together helped doom the Confederacy. The South did not lack for food. It was a rich agricultural region, but its ability to provide sustenance for its people and its armies was hindered due to its woeful infrastructure and various self-inflicted political and economic reasons. Several major issues affected the South’s ability to feed its people and its armies.

Among these were “the deficiencies of the Confederate rail system” which deteriorated throughout the war and was made worse by the lack of cooperation of Confederate railroad owners. The South “did not have a railroad network that tied its scant industrial base together or readily permitted long distance movements.” [11] This would hamper Confederate attempts to move and supply its armies as well as sustain its economy throughout the war. The Confederacy never nationalized its railroads, and “no centralized planning or organization developed, and field commanders, supply agencies, and civilian shippers competed for use of Southern rolling stock.” [12]

civil-war-locomotive

Southern policy towards the use of its railroads was muddled at best and the demands of the war and by 1863, “the excessive wear of wartime rail movement was chewing up southern rail lines[13] which resulted in the “South barely keeping a few lines operating by cannibalizing less important lines and could not replace its rolling stock.” [14] The combination of the lack of a strong industrial base to produce the iron to make replacement rails and the similar lack of producing facilities to manufacture locomotives and rolling stock, combined with the “unsure policies of the Confederate government and military” [15] ran the already feeble Southern railway system into the ground.

The Confederacy also faced a basic unwillingness of many producers of food, textiles and other necessities to cooperate with the Confederate government, which often could not even find ways for its own agencies to cooperate with each other. “The government gave no overall direction to the supply bureaus, which often bid against each other for materials and labor.” [16] This was a pervasive problem, and not helped by the efforts of some parts of the Confederate government to nationalize various parts of their economy in direct competition with the private sector. This contrasted starkly with the Union whose “quartermaster and commissary heads contracted out their needs for weapons, horses and clothes by bid on the open market, rather than by appropriating existing industries for government use.” [17]

The Confederate policies meant that many citizens and businesses found ways to not submit to government edicts. There was a basic “unwillingness of farmers to sell goods and produce at government rates” [18] and the greed of hoarders and war profiteers who through “hoarding, black marketing and simple withdraw from the market[19] crippled Southern war efforts and by “1862 much of the Confederate economy had become unmanageable.” [20] When Davis attempted to use the religious faith of the people to bolster more and “called for a day of fasting and prayer in March 1863, one man wrote that the president asked for “fasting in the midst of famine.” [21]

Where possible each side used railroads and maritime forces to move troops and supplies. The Confederacy, as has been noted was lacking in both, and was at a severe disadvantage. The Union however enjoyed a great advantage in modern rail networks, as well as ocean and river based maritime power. By late 1863 the Army of the Potomac, as well as forces in the West demonstrated “the close integration of operational planning and that of the general in chief and supply bureaus. In this one area, the development of a mature and modern staff was evident.” [22]

Once the armies were away from railheads or the ports from where they drew supplies both armies, like their Napoleonic cousins relied on wagons to transport essential food, supplies and ammunition when on campaign. In both armies commanders and their logisticians experimented with the number of wagons per regiment and how army commanders, modified that number at various points during the war based on their situation.

At the beginning of the war the Napoleonic standards by which both armies based the number of wagons, 12 wagons per 1000 men to support the troops on campaign were found to be insufficient as it “placed too much emphasis on foraging for American conditions” [23] and throughout the war standards for what the armies needed would be debated and commanders in different theaters of the war often set their own standards based on their needs and the availability of wagons and livestock to draw them.

As the war went on the Federal army experimented with the use of the “flying column” as a response to the dependency on wagons in order to increase their mobility. The flying column was an idea drawn from the French by Major General Montgomery Meigs, the Union Quartermaster General. The idea was simple; in order to reduce dependency on wagons the army itself would be reorganized at the lowest level, the infantry squad.

“The soldier in a flying column carried eight days’ compressed rations, including desiccated vegetables on his back. He carried a blanket but no overcoat. The men were divided into squads of eight, one of whom was to carry a covered cooking kettle, another a large mess tin, another an axe, another a pick, and one a shovel. One man in each company carried the hospital knapsack. Each man carried his share of a shelter tent. The cavalry were pickets and grain for their horses.” [24]

After Gettysburg and the unsuccessful pursuit of Lee’s army, Halleck and Rufus Ingalls, the Army of the Potomac’s chief quartermaster made provision and set standards “to convert the army into a flying column that would be self-sufficient for eight- and twelve- day periods away from the base of supply.” [25] In contrast, the Confederacy lacked the wagons and livestock to support the field operations of the army on campaign. Wagons, especially those suited for military operations were in short supply and any time the opportunity presented, confederate commanders ensured the capture of Union wagons. This turned out to be a major problem during the Gettysburg campaign, when Stuart during his ride around the Army of the Potomac “succumbed to temptation of capturing a beautifully equipped and heavily laden Union supply train near Rockville, Maryland, at the cost of exhausting his cavalry and wasting precious time.” [26] In most cases Stuart’s action would have been commendable, and he certainly felt that such should have been the case here as well, but the cost to his operations and Lee’s need for his cavalry were such that it was a mistake of disastrous consequences.

The basic load of food and ammunition carried by each soldier in order to increase strategic maneuverability was adjusted to meet the operational need. Both armies, but more often the Confederate army frequently had to live off the land. The success and failure of forage operations and the requirements for people and animals in each theater of operations had a large impact on each army. By early 1863 the Army of Northern Virginia was “greatly deficient in all areas of supply….there were extreme shortages of footwear, clothing, draft animals, and wagons.” [27] When the Army of Northern Virginia advanced into Pennsylvania they found it to be “a land of plenty” while “quartermaster and commissary details, acting under official instructions, filled wagons and supplies with foodstuffs.” [28]

While the Federal army never lacked in provisions or supplies, the Confederate armies were almost always in short supply. Even adequate food supplies needed to maintain an adequate caloric intake on the march were almost impossible to achieve. Food supplies were so limited that they were barely adequate, especially when the army was encamped. In fact, one of the reasons that Lee based his invasion of Pennsylvania was to alleviate his desperate supply situation. One regimental commander in Pickett’s division recalled that Lee told him “the movement was a necessity; that our provisions and supplies of every kind were nearly exhausted in Virginia, and we had to go into Pennsylvania for supplies.” [29]

As Federal forces moved into the South they encountered a new problem, the areas that the conquered and their essential supply bases, railheads and railroads had to protected from Confederate partisans, irregulars, raiders and other insurgents. Railroads were especially important to the Federal logistics chain as they provided “new strategic and operational abilities” to civil war armies, but they were an “extremely delicate sources of dependence when they ran through hostile territory.” [30] As such they had to be protected, as did the sprawling supply bases on which the Federal armies in the South depended. This resulted in an ever increasing logistics tail in proportion to the fighting forces spearheading the Federal advance. The three Union armies commanded by William Tecumseh Sherman that carried “the brunt of the Union effort against Joe Johnston and Atlanta, for example, showed 352,265 men on their muster rolls, but took only about 100,000 directly into the campaign.” [31] The rest were engaged in protecting the vital logistics tail.

Communications and Signals

The size of the armies and the distances involved on the battlefield made command and control difficult.  As such, communications became more important and each army experimented with new signals organizations that used both old and new communication technologies. At the beginning of the war both sides made extensive use of visual signals and couriers, but rapidly began to rely on the telegraph for rapid communications.

03-Beardslee-telegraph-US-Army-photo

The organizational tension was particularly evident in the rivalry between the U.S. Army Signal Corps and the Military Telegraph Service.  The Signal Corps focused on wireless communications. It preferred the Beardslee wireless telegraphs, however, they were plagued by the limitations of such early wireless technology. The Union Army command favored the traditional wire bound networks operated by the Military Telegraph due to better reliability and security and eventually the Military Telegraph Service and its Morse trained operators were given “jurisdiction for all field telegraph” services at the urging of President Lincoln in November 1863. [32] Though the Army rejected the Beardslee equipment some commanders requested it for their operations.[33] As each Army became more dependent on the telegraph, each feared that their signals could be compromised through wiretapping and made efforts to encode their transmissions.

While the various forms of telegraphic communication were important in keeping higher headquarters in contact with armies in the field, battlefield communication could be difficult. Commanders on both sides relied on messengers to relay orders to subordinate commanders as well as pass information to senior commanders. On the battlefield this took time, and since the messengers were subject to the same dangers as ordinary soldiers messages might not reach the intended commanders. It took approximately an hour for a message to travel from an army commander to a corps commander, 30 minutes from a corps commander to a division commander, 20 from division to brigade, 15 from brigade to regiment and 5 minutes from regiment to company. [34]

Written orders generally provided better clarity if detailed enough but if they were passed orally, as was Lee’s preferred method they could easily be miscommunicated by messengers, or misunderstood or even ignored by commanders. This was a major source of Lee’s consternation during the Gettysburg campaign. A major problem for Lee during the campaign was that his orders, be they written or oral were frequently vague and discretionary, something that we will discuss in detail later, but Lieutenant General Richard Ewell spoke for many Confederate subordinate commanders on the evening of June 30th when he asked his division commanders in frustration “Why can’t a commanding General have someone on his staff who can write an intelligent order?” [35]

The Union Signal Corps also pioneered the use and development with a “modern system of semaphores with a telegraphic alphabet…” as well as “a cipher disk…that allowed the Union Signal Corps to change the code hourly if need be.” [36] The one disadvantage to this form of visual communication was that it could be limited due to weather conditions or the smoke of battle. While semaphore was used with a good deal of success by the Union, and Meade would make good use of it at Gettysburg, it was not used by the Confederate army.

civil-war-us-signal-corps

Likewise Meade “set a precedent in command procedures” during the Gettysburg campaign, where “for perhaps the first time in military history the commanding general of a large army was kept in communication during active operations with his corps and division commanders.” Likewise Meade “set a precedent in command procedures when he brought signal officers to the conference table for consultation on the plan of battle” [37] and for the first time Signal Corps officers were assigned directly to each corps, when Meade ordered that two Signal Corps officers be “detached for service with each corps.” [38]

The troops of the Union Signal Corps were also a vital link in the transmission of military intelligence gathered by Colonel George Sharpe’s Bureau of Military Information, whose network of scouts during the Gettysburg campaign were “supported by Signal Corps detachments which could establish chains of flag stations from Harpers Ferry to “South Mountain, Monterrey, Greencastle…up to Parnell’s Knob, in the Cumberland Valley.” [39] This link helped provide Meade with much better intelligence regarding the movement of Lee’s army throughout the campaign.

Regardless of the means of transmitting orders, the fact was that at Gettysburg the element of friction entered the communication process. Wireless communications suffered from encryption problems, semaphore could not always be read due to the reduced visibility caused by the smoke covered battlefield. Commanders who took the time to issue written orders found that those could be delayed or lost due to battlefield conditions that impacted a messenger’s ability to deliver them, or misunderstood by their recipients. Likewise, verbal orders sent by messenger were frequently garbled and misunderstood, or depending on the situation, understood in the manner that best fit the situation of the recipient.

The developments in tactics, maneuver, defense and logistics and how those were developed over the course of the war brought about a form of warfare that remained dominant of decades. In studying the campaigns, developments and tensions between the competing theories of Jomini and Mahan in the Civil War, a student can begin to recognize them in future wars fought by the US Army including World War Two.

Russell Weigley picks up this theme in his books The American Way of War and Eisenhower’s Lieutenants. Weigley discusses Lee’s use of Napoleonic strategy and Grant’s corresponding strategy of annihilation as well as Sherman’s campaign against Johnston, as well as Sheridan’s devastation of the Shenandoah Valley to impose its aims on the Confederacy. [40] These lessons influenced American strategic doctrine well into the next century, and were employed by leaders in the First and Second World Wars, as well as much less effectively in Korea and Vietnam. Weigley concluded: “Because it worked so well, achieving total submission, American soldiers thereafter tended to generalize the United States strategy of the Civil War into the appropriate strategy for all major, full scale wars.” [41]

Notes

[1] Ibid. Millet and Maslowski For the Common Defense p.216

[2] Ibid. Thomas, The Confederate Nation p.135

[3] Ibid. Millet and Maslowski For the Common Defense pp.216-217

[4] Ibid. Millet and Maslowski For the Common Defense p.218

[5] Ibid. Goldfield America Aflame pp.296-297

[6] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.326

[7] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.617-618

[8] Ibid. Goldfield America Aflame p.297

[9] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.441

[10] Ibid. Robertson Soldiers Blue and Gray p.72

[11] Ibid. Millet and Maslowski For the Common Defense p.156

[12] Ibid. Thomas, The Confederate Nation p.211

[13] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.319

[14] Ibid. Millet and Maslowski For the Common Defense p.216

[15] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.323

[16] Ibid. Millet and Maslowski For the Common Defense p.217

[17] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.322

[18] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.320

[19] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.322

[20] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.442

[21] Ibid. Millet and Maslowski For the Common Defense p.219

[22] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.79

[23] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.44

[24] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.71

[25] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.76

[26] Coddington, Edwin B. The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, A Touchstone Book, Simon and Schuster New York, 1968 p.198

[27] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.126

[28] Wert, Jeffry D. A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee’s Triumph 1862-1863 Simon and Schuster, New York and London 2011 p.229

[29] Ibid. West A Glorious Army p.230

[30] Ibid. Weigley A Great Civil War p.322

[31] Ibid. Weigley A Great Civil War p.322

[32] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.87

[33] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.87

[34] Cole, Phillip M. Command and Communication Friction in the Gettysburg Campaign Colecraft Industries, Ortanna PA 2006 p.80

[35] Trudeau, Noah Andre. Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage, Harper Collins Publishers, New York 2002 p.140

[36] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare pp.43-44

[37] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.87

[38] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.123

[39] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.42

[40] Ibid. Weigley The American Way of War pp.145-146

[41] Weigley, Russell F. Eisenhower’s Lieutenants: The Campaign in France and Germany 1944-1945. Indiana University Press, Bloomington IN 1981 p.3

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Filed under civil war, Gettysburg, History, Military

The First Modern War – Introduction

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Those who are habitual readers here know that I teach military history and ethics. One of the things that I lead is a Staff Ride at Gettysburg for which I am in the process of writing a text which will probably when I am done will be two, maybe even three books. The text is massive and I have been done a lot of editing, revising and even expanding it as I come to realize just how limited my previous vision was for producing it.

I have been writing about the pursuit of truth for several months, and one of those truths is that war cannot be separated from its contexts and that military power alone does not win wars or establish a just and equitable peace. That is one of the problems with many who write popular military history, they are so focused on the battles, campaigns, tactics and technology that they focus so much on the military aspects, that the miss the other contexts that are so important.

A few days ago I released a section of this same chapter dealing with women in the Civil War. Today is the introduction to that chapter, appropriately titled “The First Modern War.” It deals with the political, social-cultural, economic, technological, military strategic, geographical, and historical contexts of the war and introduces us to the importance of capable and competent civilian leadership as was exhibited by Lincoln and his advisers; and that how that knowing understanding the contexts keeps leaders from seeking short-cuts from the snake oil salesmen who promise a “silver bullet” with which all war can be won.

I’ll be releasing the second section of this chapter dealing with the importance of civilian leadership either tomorrow or Wednesday because I need to get my opinion piece that deals with the Duggaring of the Religious Right.

So, have a wonderful evening.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Hancock doncemeteryhilljuly1_zps512a40fa

The American Civil War was the first modern war. It was a watershed event in an era, which introduced changes in new types of weapons, more lethal versions of older weapons, tactics, army organization, logistics, intelligence and communications. Though the war did not change the essential nature of war, which Clausewitz says is “is an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfill our will” [1] it expanded the parameters of war and re-introduced the concept of “total war” to the world and “because its aim was all embracing, the war was to be absolute in character.” [2] In a sense it was a true revolution in military affairs.

The Civil War was truly a revolution in military affairs. The war changed the character of war, as it had been known for centuries, since the Peace of Westphalia and the end of the Thirty Years War. In the American Civil War, the character of war changed from a limited war waged between opposing armies to a total war, waged between two people who shared much in common but were divided by an ideology which encompassed politics, economics, society, law, and even religion.

The war was revolutionary in other ways, and brought about a host of social, philosophical, economic, and political changes which continue to impact the lives of people in the United States and around the world even today. Some of these, especially those regarding the abolition of slavery and emancipation, as well as the beginnings of the Women’s Rights movement have had a ripple effect in matters of political and social equality for other previously disenfranchised groups of citizens. As one author noted “The Civil War uprooted institutions, transformed our politics, influenced social relationships of half a continent, and wrought changes that echo down the generations.” [3]

In a sense, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed “a new birth of freedom” in his Gettysburg address it served as a watershed moment in American history because it brought to the forefront the understanding of Jefferson and the other signers of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal.

Thus it is important to study the Gettysburg campaign in the context of the Civil War because the campaign of 1863 in the east cannot be divorced from what was happening in the west at Vicksburg, nor the Union blockade, nor the diplomatic, economic and informational aspects of the war. Likewise the Gettysburg campaign cannot be separated from its relationship to the broader understanding of the nature and character of war. To do this one must examine the connection between them and policies made by political leaders; to include the relationship of political to military leaders, diplomats, the leaders of business and industry and not to be forgotten, the press and the people. Likewise we must understand the various contexts of war, to include the social, political, ideological and even the religious components of war, how they impacted Civil War leaders and why civilian policy makers and military leaders must understand them today.

While the essential nature of war remains constant, wars and the manner in which they are fought have changed in their character throughout history, and this distinction matters not only for military professionals, but also policy makers. The changing character of war was something that military leaders as well as policy makers struggled with during the American Civil War much as today’s military leaders and policy makers seek to understand the character of warfare today. British military theorist Colin Gray writes “Since the character of every war is unique in the details of its contexts (political, social-cultural, economic, technological, military strategic, geographical, and historical), the policymaker most probably will struggle of the warfare that is unleashed.” [4] That was not just an issue for Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, both of whom struggled with the nature of the war which had been unleashed, but it is one for our present political leaders, who as civilian politicians are “likely to be challenged by a deficient grasp of both the nature of war as well as its contemporary context-specific character.” [5]

In addition to being the first modern war, or maybe I should say, the first war of the Industrial Age, the Civil War became a “total war.” It was the product of both the massive number of technological advances which both preceded and occurred during it, in which the philosophical nature of the Industrial Revolution came to the fore. Likewise, the enmity of the two sides for one another which had been fostered by a half century of relentless and violent propaganda which ushered from the mouths of politicians, the press and even from the pulpit, even to the point of outright armed conflict and murder in “Bleeding Kansas” during the 1850s.

As a total war it became a war that was as close to Clausewitz’s understanding of absolute war in its in character waged on the American continent, and it prefigured the great ideological wars of the twentieth century, as J.F.C. Fuller noted “for the first time in modern history the aim of war became not only the destruction of the enemy’s armed forces, but also of their foundations- his entire political, social and economic order.” [6] It was the first war where at least some of the commanders, especially Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman were men of the Industrial Age, in their thought and in the way that they waged war, in strategy, tactics even more importantly, psychologically. Fuller wrote:

“Spiritually and morally they belonged to the age of the Industrial Revolution. Their guiding principle was that of the machine which was fashioning them, namely, efficiency. And as efficiency is governed by a single end- that every means is justified- no moral or spiritual conceptions of traditional behavior must stand in its way.” [7]

Both men realized in early 1864 that “the South was indeed a nation in arms and that the common European practice of having standing armies engaged each other in set-piece battles to determine the outcome of a war was not enough to win this struggle.” [8] Though neither man was a student of Clausewitz, their method of waging war was in agreement with the Prussian who wrote that “the fighting forces must be destroyed; that is, they must be put in such a position that they can no longer carry on the fight” but also that “the animosity and the reciprocal effects of hostile elements, cannot be considered to have ended so long as the enemy’s will has not been broken.” [9]

William Tecumseh Sherman told the mayor of Atlanta after ordering the civilian population expelled that “we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and must make the old and young, the rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war.” [10] Sherman was one of the first American military leaders to understand that a civil war could not be waged according to the limited war doctrines most American officers had been taught. He not only “carried on war against the enemy’s resources more extensively and systematically than anyone else had done, but he developed also a deliberate strategy of terror directed against the enemy’s minds.” [11] While some might find this troubling, the fact remains that it was Sherman’s Southern sweep of all that lay before him that broke the back of the Confederacy.

Abraham Lincoln came to embrace the eternal nature of war as well as the change in the character of the war over time. Lincoln had gone to war for the preservation of the Union, something that for him was almost spiritual in nature, as is evidenced by the language he used in both of his inaugural addresses and the Gettysburg Address. Instead of a war to re-unite the Union with the Emancipation Proclamation the war became a war for the liberation of enslaved African Americans, After January 1st 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, Lincoln “told an official of the Interior Department, “the character of the war will be changed. It will be one of subjugation…The [old] South is to be destroyed and replaced by new propositions and ideas.” [12] That too was a modern understanding of war.

Of course, the revolution in military affairs that characterized the Civil War took time, but it was the political and military leaders of the North who better adapted themselves and their nation to the kind of war that was being fought. “Lincoln’s remarkable abilities gave him a wide edge over Davis as a war leader, while in Grant and Sherman the North acquired commanders with a concept of total war and the determination to make it succeed.” [13]

At the beginning of the war the leaders and populace of both sides still held a romantic idea of war. The belief that the war would be over in a few months and that would be settled by a few decisive battles was held by most, including many military officers on both sides. There were some naysayers like the venerable and rather corpulent General Winfield Scott, but politicians and the press mocked Scott and those who even suggested that the war would be long, hard, and bloody. Of course those who predicted a short, easy, and relatively bloodless war who were proven wrong, and the war became the bloodiest war ever waged by Americans, and it was against other Americans.

The Civil War became an archetype of the wars of the twentieth century, and I believe will be so for the twenty-first century as well because of the emphasis on competing ideologies often buttressed with near fanatical religious extremism. The American Civil War evolved into a clash between peoples with radically different ideologies, which extended beyond the province of purely military action. The war “was preceded by years of violent propaganda, which long before the war had obliterated all sense of moderation, and awakened in the contending parties the primitive spirit of tribal fanaticism.” [14]

Those who conducted the American Civil War added new dimensions to war, and the technology they embraced increased war’s lethality in ways that they did not anticipate. For the first time since the 30 Years’ War, this war on the American continent saw opponents intentionally target the property, homes and businesses of the opposing civilian populations as part of their military campaign. The Civil War was a precursor to the wars that followed, especially the First World War that it prefigured in so many ways.

British general and military theorist J.F.C. Fuller encapsulated the massive amount of change brought about by the Civil War quite well in his book A Military History of the Modern World:

The war fought by Grant and Lee, Sherman and Johnston, and others closely resembled the First of the World Wars. No other war, not even the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, offers so exact a parallel. It was a war of rifle bullets and trenches, of slashings, abattis, and even of wire entanglements- an obstacle the Confederates called “a devilish contrivance which none but a Yankee could devise” because at Drewry’s Bluff they had been trapped in them and slaughtered like partridges.” It was a war of astonishing in its modernity, with wooden wire-bound mortars hand and winged grenades, rockets, and many forms of booby traps. Magazine rifles and Requa’s machine guns were introduced and balloons were used by both sides although the confederates did not think much of them. Explosive bullets are mentioned and also a flame projector, and in June, 1864, General Pendleton asked the chief ordnance officer at Richmond whether he could supply him with “stink-shells” which would give off “offensive gases” and cause “suffocating effect.” The answer he got was “stink-shells, none on hand; don’t keep them; will make them if ordered.” Nor did modernity end there; armoured ships, armoured trains, land mines and torpedoes were used. A submarine was built by Horace H. Hundley at Mobile….” [15]

However, like all in nearly all wars, the many lessons of the American Civil War were forgotten, or even worse, completely dismissed by military professionals in the United States as well as in Europe. Thus 50 years later during First World War, the governments Britain, France, Imperial Germany, Austria-Hungary and Imperial Russia wasted vast amounts of manpower and destroyed the flower of a generation because they did not heed the lessons of the Civil War. For that matter neither did General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force who three and a half years after those countries destroyed the flower of their nation’s manhood and repeated all of their mistakes with the lives of American soldiers. Fuller noted:

“Had the nations of Europe studied the lessons of the Civil War and taken them to heart they could not in 1914-1918 have perpetuated the enormous tactical blunders of which that war bears record.” [16]

The lessons of the war are still relevant today. Despite vast advances in weaponry, technology and the distances with which force can be applied by opponents, war remains an act of violence to compel an enemy to fulfill our will. War according to Clausewitz is “more than a chameleon that slightly adapts its characteristics to the given case.” [17] but it is always characterized by the violence of its elements, the province of chance and its subordination to the political objective and as such forces political and military leaders as well as policy makers to wrestle with “the practical challenge of somehow mastering the challenge of strategy in an actual historical context.” [18]

Colin Gray in his book Fighting Talk emphasizes that the “contexts of war are all important.” Gray makes a case for seven essential contexts that must be understood by policy makers and military leaders regarding war, which if ignored or misunderstood “can have strong negative consequences.” [19] Gray enunciates seven contexts of war that policy makers as well as military professionals ignore at the own peril: There is the political context, the social context, the cultural context, the economic context; the military-strategic context, the geographic context and the historical context. Gray notes these seven contexts “define all the essential characteristics of a particular armed conflict.” [20]

Gray discusses the importance of this. Noting that strategists are “ever on the look out for shortcuts” [21] and because they are pragmatic, wanting simple and well defined solutions they tend not to want to deal with complexities that muddy the water, that those who decide on strategy are “eternally at hazard to the siren call of the technological solution, the cultural fix, the promise of historical understanding and so forth.” [22] He notes that there are always those trying to sell strategists catalogs, which promise “products that answer the strategist’s questions” turning “the base metal of confusion of information into the pure gold of comprehension.” [23] But such easy answers are often little more than snake oil. The virtue of seeing war through all of these contexts “obliges strategists to examine holistically, in the round,” [24] that the “recognition of war’s multiple contexts helps immunize the strategist against getting captured by such fantasies.” [25]

The study of the Civil War can be helpful to political leaders, military strategists, joint planners and commanders because it so wonderfully shows just how important understanding the context of wars is. Likewise it gives us an American context where we can see the interplay of how Clausewitz’s “paradoxical trinity- composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; of the play of chance and the element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to reason alone.” [26]

This is especially important, because we live during an era of great technological, social, geopolitical and philosophical change, just as did the leaders of the United States and the Rebel Confederates States did in the ante-bellum and the war years. The importance of this cannot be underestimated, for in this era of change, like in every era, some leaders and commanders were either resistant to, or failed to understand the changes being forced upon them in their conduct of war by the industrialization of war and its attendant technology.

Examples of this are found in the actions of so many leaders and commanders in the Civil War. Like the American political and military leaders who in Iraq “were ignorant of how to conduct themselves in a military and social-cultural context of irregular warfare” [27] many of the officers who fought the Civil War completely ignorant of what they were facing. Educated in Napoleonic the principles of Henri Jomini, officers who only knew limited war in Mexico and irregular warfare against Indians were faced with fighting a total war on a continental scale. The war witnessed a host of new technologies and “many officers found themselves wholly unprepared for what they faced, in effect, compelled to purchase learning with lives.” [28]

However, unlike many political leaders, Abraham Lincoln came to understand the radical and revolutionary nature of the war and had to find military leaders who understood the same. In frustration Lincoln rebuked those who urged limited war saying “The government cannot much longer play a game in which it stakes all, and its enemies stake nothing. Those enemies must understand that they cannot experiment for ten years trying to destroy the government, then if the fail still come back into the Union unhurt.” [29]

Eventually Lincoln found Ulysses Grant and his lieutenants William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan. These me not only understood the military aspects of the contexts of the war, but embraced them and applied them with ruthless skill and vigor that stunned the leaders and the people of the South. When John Bell Hood wrote Sherman a letter in which he condemned the Union commander for the destruction of Atlanta, and the forced evacuation of its inhabitants, even invoking God’s judgment Sherman would have nothing of it. Sherman wrote back that “Hood’s appeal to a “just God” was “sacrilegious,” Sherman insisted, for it was the South which had “plunged a nation into war, dark and cruel war, who dared and badgered us to battle.” Having created the war, the South would now experience it.” [30]

Strategists and planners must develop a philosophical foundation that they must seek to understand the contexts of war matters now more than ever. By looking at the Gettysburg campaign in context we can begin to draw lessons that we can apply today. Not that our situation is the same as the leaders who led the Union and Confederacy in the Civil War, but exploring these issues is vital to us understanding the contexts of the wars that we fight today and the world in which we live.

Notes

[1] Clausewitz, Carl von. On War Indexed edition, edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1976 p.75

[2] Fuller, J.F.C. The Conduct of War 1789-1961 Da Capo Press, New York 1992. Originally published by Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick N.J p.99

[3] Lowry, Thomas P. The Stories the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell: Sex in the Civil War Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg PA 1994 p.176

[4] Gray, Colin S. Fighting Talk: Forty Maxims on War, Peace, and Strategy Potomac Book, Dulles VA 2009 p.36

[5] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.36

[6] Fuller, J.F.C. A Military History of the Modern World, Volume Three: From the Seven Days Battle, 1862, to the Battle of Leyte Gulf, 1944 Minerva Press 1956 p.88

[7] Ibid. Fuller A Military History of the Modern World, Volume Three p.88

[8] Flood, Charles Bracelen, Grant and Sherman: The Friendship that Won the War, Harper Perennial, New York 2005 p.238

[9] Ibid. Clausewitz p.90

[10] McPherson, James. The Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York 1988 p.809

[11] Weigley, Russell F. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military History and Policy University of Indiana Press, Bloomington IN, 1973 p.149

[12] Ibid. McPherson The Battle Cry of Freedom p.558

[13] Ibid. McPherson The Battle Cry of Freedom p.857

[14] Ibid. Fuller The Conduct of War 1789-1961 p.99

[15] Ibid. Fuller A Military History of the Modern World, Volume Three p.89

[16] Ibid. Fuller A Military History of the Modern World, Volume Three p.89

[17] Ibid. Clausewitz On War p.89

[18] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.38

[19] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.5

[20] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.3

[21] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.5

[22] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk pp. 5-6

[23] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.5

[24] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.5

[25] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.5

[26] Ibid. Clausewitz On War p.89

[27] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk pp.38-39

[28] Sinnreich, Richard Hart Awkward Partners: military history and American military education in The Past as Prologue: The Importance of History to the Military Profession edited by Williamson Murray and Richard Hart Sinnreich Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York 2006 p.56

[29] McPherson, James M. Drawn With the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York 1996 p.80

[30] Fellman, Michael. Lincoln and Sherman in Lincoln’s Generals edited by Gabor S. Boritt University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln NE 1994 p.153

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The Character, Nature and Context of The Civil War and Why it Still Matters Part 2

Gettysburg-Casualties1

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Here is part two to yesterday’s post.

Since I am now working my way back to Gettysburg his is a significant revision of an article that I published here earlier in the year and that is a part of my Gettysburg Staff Ride text. The actual full title of the chapter is The Foundations of the First Modern War: The Character, Nature and Context of the Civil War and its Importance to Us Today but that is rather long to put as the title here. This is pretty detailed and specialized so many may not want to read it, however, for those with in interest in how United States policy in regard to how we use our military today and the myriad of tensions that we wrestle with that have been with us for about 150 years it should prove enlightening. Todays article is more concerned with how the war was waged and developments which began in the Civil War which changed the ways that later wars were conducted.

Have a great night! 

Peace

Padre Steve+

Part Two…

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Weaponry, Tactics, Technical Advancements and Mobilization

All of these factors influenced and affected the Union and Confederate armies as they campaigned. Likewise, advances weaponry particularly the rifled musket, posed a conundrum for officers educated in the Napoleonic tactics that both armies began the war. The tactics the officers were educated in were developed at a time when the maximum effective range of muskets was barely 100 meters. Yet by 1860 the rifled muskets had an effective range of about 400 meters, and the advent of the repeating rifle increased the firepower available to individual soldiers. This made it especially difficult for the armies that fought the Civil War to “rise up and deliver a frontal attack became almost always futile against any reasonably steady defenders. Even well executed flank attacks tended to suffer such heavy casualties as experienced riflemen maneuvered to form new fronts against them that they lost the decisiveness they had enjoyed in the Napoleonic Wars.” [1] Despite the increased range and accuracy that came with the rifled musket tactics in all arms were slow to change and even at Gettysburg Lee would demonstrate that he had not fully appreciated the effects of the change of warfare learned during the battles of 1862.

Though there were a number of mounted combats between Union and Confederate cavalry, “they were incidental both to the cavalry’s primary role and to the course of tactical development” [2]which generally fought dismounted. The way in which both sides used their cavalry showed that by the end of 1863 each had “arrived at a war of tactical entrenchment dominated by infantry armed with the rifled musket, and supported by the defensive deployment of smoothbore artillery.” [3]

Another issue faced by all of the officers now commanding large formations in the Civil War was their inexperience in dealing with such large numbers of troops. When the war began, the officers educated at West Point, as well as others who had been directly appointed had previously only commanded small units. Even those who commanded regiments such as Lee seldom had more than a few companies with them at any given time. Those who had campaigned and fought in Mexico, and had some experience in handling larger formations were handicapped because that war was still very much a Napoleonic War fought with Napoleonic era weapons against a more numerous but poorly equipped enemy.

These men were now faced with the task of organizing, training and employing large armies made up primarily of militia units and volunteers. Most had little experience commanding such units and their experience with militia and volunteer formations during the Mexican War did not increase the appreciation of Regulars for them or for their leaders. J.F.C Fuller noted that at the beginning of the war “the Federal soldier was semiregular and the Confederate semiguerilla. The one strove after discipline, the other unleashed initiative. In battle the Confederate fought like a berserker, but out of battle he ceased to be a soldier.” [4] Both required certain kinds of leadership and Regular officers serving in both the Union and Confederate armies “embedded with the volunteers to give them some professional stiffening privately regarded them as uncontrollable adolescents who kicked off every back-home restraint the moment they were on campaign.” [5] Over the course of time this did change as the units of both armies learned to be professional soldiers.

The Regular Army numbered but 16,000 men at the beginning of the war most scattered in isolated posts and coastal defense fortifications around the country. Most of the Army remained loyal to the Union, “except for 313 officers who resigned their commissions, but this force was swamped by a Union war army that reached about 500,000 within four months of the firing on Fort Sumter.” [6] These officers however were among the Army’s best and brightest who rose to prominence and fame in their service to the Confederacy.

At the beginning of the war General George McClellan successful fought the break-up of the Regular Army. He helped keep it separate from the militia units organized by the States. This preserved a professional core in a time where the new volunteer units were learning their craft. In the North a parallel system “composed of three kinds of military organizations” developed as calls went out for “militia, volunteers and an expanded regular army” went out. [7]

Regular Army units were formed for the duration and were exclusively under the control of the Federal government. While comparatively few in number they often held the line and kept the Army of the Potomac intact during the early battles where volunteer units collapsed. Volunteer regiments, often officered by regulars or former regulars “remained state-based, and they signed up for two- or three- year periods, after which they returned to civilian life and their evaporated without any further fiscal obligations.” [8] Some of the volunteer regiments were formed from various state militia units, but since few states had effective militia systems, militia units “were usually employed only on emergency rear-echelon duties, to free up the volunteers and regulars.” [9]

The Confederacy faced a similar situation to the Union, but it did not have a Regular Army and all of its units were raised by the various states. “In early 1861 the Confederate Congress authorized the creation of a provisional army of 100,000 men. To get these troops [the first Confederate Secretary of War Leroy Pope] Walker asked state governors to raise regiments and transfer them to the national army. The War Office provided generals and staff officers and, in theory at least, could employ the troops and their officers in any way it pleased once they mustered the provisional army.” [10] Some states were quite cooperative but others were not and the tension between the central government in Richmond in regard to military policy and some states would continue throughout the war. The quality of these units varied widely, mostly based on the leadership provide by their officers. That being said many of the regiments mustered into service early in the war proved tough, resilient and served with distinction throughout the war.

Southern units were officered by a collection of professionals from the Ante-bellum Army, militia officers, political appointees or anyone with enough money to raise a unit. However command of divisional sized units and above was nearly always reserved to former professional soldiers from the old Army, most being graduates of West Point. At Gettysburg only one officer commanding a division or above was a non-academy graduate, Robert Rodes, who was a graduate of VMI. The quality of these officers varied greatly, as some of the old regulars failed miserably in combat and some of the volunteers such as John Gordon were remarkably successful as leaders of troops in combat. .

As in the North militia and home guard units remained to free up these units. However, the South was always wrestling with the intense independence of every state government, each of which often held back units from service with the field armies in order to ensure their own states’ defense. The withholding of troops and manpower by the states hindered Confederate war efforts, even though “the draft had been “eminently successful” in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, but less so in Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.[11]

draft riots

New York Draft Riots

The Changing Character of the Armies and Society

Gettysburg was the last battle where the original volunteer armies predominated as nature of both armies was changed by the war. Initially both sides sought to fight the war with volunteers but the increasingly costly battles which consumed vast numbers of men necessitated conscription and the creation of draft laws and bureaus.

The in April 1862 Confederate Congress passed the Conscription Act of 1862 which stated that “all persons residing in the Confederate States, between the ages of 18 and 35 years, and rightfully subject to military duty, shall be held to be in the military service of the Confederate States, and that a plain and simple method be adopted for their prompt enrollment and organization.” [12] The act was highly controversial and often resisted and the Congress issued a large number of class exemptions. Despite the exemptions “many Southerners resisted the draft or assisted evasion by others” [13] The main purpose of the conscription act was “to stimulate volunteering rather than by its actual use” [14] and while it did help increase the number of soldiers in Confederate service by the end of 1862 it was decidedly unpopular among soldiers, chafing at an exemption for “owners or overseers of twenty or more slaves” [15] who referred to the war as a “rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight.” [16]

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Richmond Bread Riot

Some governors who espoused state’s rights viewpoints “utilized their state forces to challenge Richmond’s centralized authority, hindering efficient manpower mobilization.” [17] Some, most notably Georgia’s governor Joseph Brown “denounced the draft as “a most dangerous usurpation by Congress of the rights of the States…at war with all principles for which Georgia entered the revolution.” [18] Brown and a number of other governors, including Zebulun Vance of North Carolina fought the law in the courts but when overruled resisted it through the many exemption loopholes, especially that of civil servants. Governor Brown “insisted that militia officers were included in this category, and proceeded to appoint hundreds of new officers.” [19] Due to the problems with the act and the abuses by the governors, Jefferson Davis lobbied Congress to pass the Conscription Act of 1864 which “severely limited the number of draft exemption categories and expanded military age limits from eighteen to forty-five and seventeen to fifty. The most significant feature of the new act, however, was the vast prerogatives it gave to the President and War Department to control the South’s labor pool.” [20] Despite the problems eventually “mobilized 75 to 80 percent of its available draft age military population.” [21]

The Congress of the United States authorized conscription in 1863 as the Union Army had reached an impasse as in terms of the vast number of men motivated to serve “for patriotic reasons or peer group pressure were already in the army” while “War weariness and the grim realities of army life discouraged further volunteering” and “the booming war economy had shrunk the number of unemployed men to the vanishing point.” [22] Like the Confederate legislation it was also tremendously unpopular and ridden with exemptions and abuses. The Federal draft was conducted by lottery in each congressional district with each district being assigned a quota to meet by the War Department. Under one third of the men drafted actually were inducted into the army, “more than one-fifth (161,000 of 776,000) “failed to report” and about 300,000 “were exempted for physical or mental disability or because they convinced the inducting officer that they were the sole means of support for a widow, an orphan sibling, a motherless child, or an indigent parent.” [23]

The Union draft law provoked great resentment, more from the way that it was administered than its purpose as “which brought the naked power of military government into play on the home front and went much against the national grain.[24] Open clashes and violence erupted in several cities and President Lincoln was forced to use Union Soldiers, recently victorious at Gettysburg to end the rioting and violence taking place in New York where protestors involved in a three day riot, many of whom were Irish immigrants urged on by Democratic Tammany Hall politicians, “soon degenerated into violence for its own sake” [25] wrecking the draft office, seizing the Second Avenue armory, attacking police, soldiers and blacks on the streets and soon “the mob had undisputed control of the city.” [26] The veteran troops quickly and violently put down the insurrection and “poured volleys into the ranks of protestors with the same deadly effect they had produced against the rebels at Gettysburg two weeks earlier.” [27]

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The Rise of Positional Warfare

As the opposing sides prepared, organized and adapted for war, the Union and Confederate armies in the field evolved in terms of their tactical, organizational and operational methods during the war. The realities of the deadliness of the rifled muskets and other advances in firepower which “made the defensive the stronger form of war” [28] brought about a renewal of interest and use of field fortifications, which had been taught to so many at West Point and the state military schools through the work of Mahan, Halleck and their students.

McClellan made extensive use of them on the Peninsula in 1861 and 1862 as did Lee outside of Richmond in 1862 where his troops derisively nicknamed him “the King of Spades.” However after the Seven Days Lee only made sporadic use of them instead following a strategy of the offense which culminated in the defeat at Gettysburg. [29] After Gettysburg, Lee made much more use of field fortifications, especially during the Wilderness campaign and the battles around Richmond culminating in the defense of Petersburg “where both sides became so extensively entrenched that siege warfare set in and lasted for nearly ten months.” [30]

The developments in field works and firepower gave the advantage to the defense, an advantage that made the massed frontal attack by infantry or massed cavalry charge obsolete as a tactic and disastrous to those commanders that attempted it. “On every occasion, a frontal assault delivered against an unshaken enemy led to costly failure. Nevertheless, neither side learnt this lesson.” [31] The examples of Burnside at Fredericksburg, Lee at Malvern Hill and Pickett’s Charge or Grant at Vicksburg and Cold Harbor demonstrated the futility of such tactics.

This was especially the case when opposing armies made the frontal attacks which were at the heart of Jominian offensive tactics.  Early in the war commanders including Grant at Shiloh and Lee at Antietam failed to dig in, but over time both the Union and Confederate armies learned to dig hasty field works as a matter of course.[32] At Gettysburg the well placed and constructed field fortifications and abattis constructed by XII Corps on Culp’s Hill would prove impregnable to the assaults of Ewell’s Second Corps on the night of July 2nd and morning of July 3rd.

Both sides also learned to use maneuver in combination with positional warfare to force the enemy to battle. In the West, Grant, Sherman and Rosecrans all did this successfully, particularly Stone’s River, during the Vicksburg Campaign, and the campaigns in middle Tennessee.[33] During the 1864-65 campaign around Richmond and Sherman’s campaigns in Georgia and the Carolinas the use of field fortifications and entrenchments became common. Of particular note is how Sherman’s forces routinely entrenched while on the offensive [34] where “the mobility of his campaign was due, not only to his skill in maneuvering his men, but also in his ability to manouvere their entrenchments with them.” [35]

Sherman’s opponent Confederate General Joseph Johnston made skillful use of entrenchments on the defensive and his attention to detail and training his men to fight well defensively was a hallmark of his campaign against Sherman, as had Lee against Grant. They were not without their critics. General John Bell Hood who was “the most uncompromising advocate of the orthodox view that weakened moral and made troops cautious” [36] was a stern critic of Johnston, who had relieved him following the fall of Atlanta. Hood’s tactics were costly and produced ghastly numbers of casualties.

The changing nature of how the war was being fought was demonstrated by General Joe Wheeler who commanded Johnston’s cavalry in Georgia and the Carolinas toward the end of the war. Wheel and his troopers made significant use of entrenchments, something not seen before by an arm traditionally known for its dependency on maneuver. He habitually fought his troops dismounted and at Atlanta fought from behind successive lines of barricades. Wheeler successfully integrated his cavalry with the infantry at the Battle of Bentonville North Carolina, constructing a line of breastworks 1200 yards long. Hagerman notes that “it is fitting to the changing nature of warfare that some of the most vivid description of trench warfare is found in Wheeler’s report of cavalry action as fighting came to an end at Bentonville.” [37]

The Corps of Engineers in both armies were changed by the war. Prior to the war the Corps of Engineers was primarily responsible for building coastal fortifications, civil projects and outposts in the west. Both remained small by 1864 the Federal Corps of Engineers numbered only eighty-six officers, split between civil and topographical engineers. The Confederates grew their Corps of Engineers more than the Union during the war and by 1865 the Confederates had “13 regular officers, 115 provisional officers, and 188 officers assigned to engineer troops.” [38] It should be noted the paucity West Point trained engineers of all types in the Confederate Army. Though many senior officers including Lee were trained as engineers they were not serving as such, and Lee’s Engineering Staff Officer at Gettysburg was but a Captain.

During the war both sides created Engineer or Pioneer units from scratch. The Union efforts to form permanent units began under McClellan beginning in 1861 as such units specialized units had not existed in the old army. The Union Army Corps of Engineers initially had a difficult time adapting to war. The dispersion of the Corps among the line and its civil duties were impediments to responding to the needs of war.  There was a hesitancy and resistance to creating engineering units by Congress, despite the pleas of McClellan and Lincoln for specialized engineering units.[39]

By the middle of the war organized units of Pioneers and Engineers were enhancing both offensive and defensive operations. Meade had three battalions of Engineers available to him at Gettysburg, the 15th New York, the 50th New York and the United States Engineer Battalion, but these were not on the battlefield being at Beaver Creek Dam on July 1st before being ordered to the defenses of Washington. [40]

The Confederate army began the war with only thirteen Corps of Engineers officers and Congress never acceded to Secretary of War James Seddon’s pleas “failed to provide the Confederate army with the pioneer troops that Seddon had requested” [41] and it was not until March 1863 that the Confederate Congress authorized the formation of “one company of engineer troops, to consist of one hundred men” [42] from in each division.

When they were established most of the newly organized engineer units had few very few West Point trained Corps of Engineers officers. Most Union Engineer Units were primarily staffed and commanded by officers detailed from the line or who had come from civilian life. The effect was a “decline in the antebellum definition of professionalism embodied in the Corps of Engineers” [43] which prior to the war were considered the elite branch of the Army. While this opened up new ideas, the Corps of Engineers remained resistant to change. In the years following the war as the Corps of Engineers retained its privileged status and the West Point curriculum remained mostly the same as it had during the ante-bellum period.

Strategy and operational level adapted to the new reality of war. Attrition and exhaustion became as important in relation to both positional and maneuver warfare. In 1864 in the East the “ascendancy of positional warfare” allowed Lee to hold out as Grant attempted to fight and maneuver him out of Richmond.[44] Lee was fighting on interior lines at this point and the campaign demonstrated that “an army fighting on interior lines, even under nearly overwhelming conditions of deprivation and against vastly superior numbers, could sustain a prolonged existence by use of field fortification and defensive maneuver.” [45]

Despite the increasing power of positional warfare in relation to fortifications in the East and around Atlanta, maneuver was not ignored. Sherman’s campaign in Georgia and the Carolinas demonstrated how an army could exploit “diversion, dispersion, and surprise to successfully pursue a modern total-war strategy of exhaustion against the enemy’s resources, communications and will.[46] Sherman used maneuver to force his opponents out of their prepared positions and did not hesitate to target the key infrastructure and infrastructure needed by the Confederate armies. The same was true in Virginia where in 1864 General Phillip Sheridan laid waste to the Shenandoah Valley, the breadbasket of the Army of Northern Virginia.

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Logistics, Transportation and Signals

While the advances in weaponry, technology turned the adoption of field fortifications and the tactical defense even during offensive operations changed the way that the armies conducted the war; other advances were occurring. These took place in logistics, transportation, signals and communications.

In a country as vast as the United States logistics was a major concern of both armies. The ante-bellum Army developed its logistic doctrine from Napoleonic examples. That doctrine had to be modified in light of the American reality of a less developed continent with far greater distances involved in the movement of troops. “While the North’s logistical mobilization expanded, the South’s peaked in early 1863 and then declined. Fundamental interlocking problems beset logistics. The Confederacy had few preexisting industries to expand and lacked sufficient raw materials upon which to build an industrial base.” [47]

The Confederacy “did not have the material resources to fight a mass industrial war” [48] and the actions of its leaders from Jefferson Davis down did not help their cause. “The South needed a careful weighing of assets and liabilities, the setting of strict priorities, and centralized direction in order to use its resources efficiently. But Confederate leaders allowed events to control planning, resulting in uncoordinated, tardy, and incompetent centralization of the logistical effort.” [49]

The issue was not limited to industry but also agriculture, which in a region as rich as the Confederacy should not have been a problem. However, it was a major issue that became ever more serious throughout the war, not only for the Confederate armies in the field but for the population as a whole. While the South managed to maintain effective armies until the end of 1864, it “failed to preserve the population’s well-being.” [50] By the spring of 1863 five major cities experienced bread riots, the most serious being in Richmond; where Jefferson Davis had to personally give an ultimatum to rioters ordering them to disperse or have the militia open fire. [51] Many blamed merchants in general and the press labeled most businesses as speculators and extortionists. However as a result of the great privations at home and the need for a scapegoat, the specter of anti-Semitism rose in the Confederacy. Many, including some influential newspapers and government officials “focused on the Jews as the worst “extortioners” [52] blaming them for many if not most of the Confederacy’s economic woes.

During the war, both armies learned to adapt their logistical support services to the reality of war, however, the South for a number of reasons especially poor infrastructure and the lack of standardized rail systems, and the inability of the government in Richmond, the various states and the private sector to work together helped doom the Confederacy. The South did not lack food supplies, it was a rich agricultural region, but however its ability to provide sustenance for its people and its armies was hindered due to woeful infrastructure and various self-inflicted political and economic reasons. Several major issues affected the South’s ability to feed its people and its armies.

Among these were “the deficiencies of the Confederate rail system” which deteriorated throughout the war and was made worse by the lack of cooperation of Confederate railroad owners. The South “did not have a railroad network that tied its scant industrial base together or readily permitted long distance movements.” [53] This would hamper Confederate attempts to move and supply its armies as well as sustain its economy throughout the war. The Confederacy never nationalized its railroads, and “no centralized planning or organization developed, and field commanders, supply agencies, and civilian shippers competed for use of Southern rolling stock.” [54] Southern policy towards the use of its railroads was muddled at best and the demands of the war and by 1863, “the excessive wear of wartime rail movement was chewing up southern rail lines[55] which resulted in the “South barely keeping a few lines operating by cannibalizing less important lines and could not replace its rolling stock.” [56] The combination of the lack of a strong industrial base to produce the iron to make replacement rails and the similar lack of producing facilities to manufacture locomotives and rolling stock, combined with the “unsure policies of the Confederate government and military” [57] ran the already feeble Southern railway system into the ground.

The Confederacy also faced a basic unwillingness of many producers of food, textiles and other necessities to cooperate with the Confederate government which often could not even find ways for its own agencies to cooperate with each other. “The government gave no overall direction to the supply bureaus, which often bid against each other for materials and labor.” [58] This was a pervasive problem, and not helped by the efforts of some parts of the Confederate government to nationalize various parts of their economy in direct competition with the private sector. This contrasted starkly with the Union whose “quartermaster and commissary heads contracted out their needs for weapons, horses and clothes by bid on the open market, rather than by appropriating existing industries for government use.” [59]

The confederate policies meant that many citizens and businesses found ways to not submit to government edicts. There was a basic “unwillingness of farmers to sell goods and produce at government rates” [60] and the greed of hoarders and war profiteers who through “hoarding, black marketing and simple withdraw from the market[61] crippled Southern war efforts and by “1862 much of the Confederate economy had become unmanageable.” [62] When Davis attempted to use the religious faith of the people to bolster more and “called for a day of fasting and prayer in March 1863, one man wrote that the president asked for “fasting in the midst of famine.” [63]

Where possible each side used railroads and maritime forces to move troops and supplies. The Confederacy, as has been noted was lacking in both, and was at a severe disadvantage. The Union however enjoyed a great advantage in modern rail networks, as well as ocean and river based maritime power. By late 1863 the Army of the Potomac, as well as forces in the West demonstrated “the close integration of operational planning and that of the general in chief and supply bureaus. In this one area, the development of a mature and modern staff was evident.” [64]

Once the armies were away from railheads or the ports from where they drew supplies both armies, like their Napoleonic cousins relied on wagons to transport essential food, supplies and ammunition when on campaign. In both armies commanders and their logisticians experimented with the number of wagons per regiment and how army commanders, modified that number at various points during the war based on their situation. At the beginning of the war the Napoleonic standards by which both armies based the number of wagons, 12 wagons per 1000 men to support the troops on campaign were found to be insufficient as it “placed too much emphasis on foraging for American conditions” [65] and throughout the war standards for what the armies needed would be debated and commanders in different theaters of the war often set their own standards based on their needs and the availability of wagons and livestock to draw them.

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As the war went on the Federal army experimented with the use of the “flying column” as a response to the dependency on wagons in order to increase their mobility. The flying column was an idea drawn from the French by Major General Montgomery Meigs, the Union Quartermaster General. The idea was simple; in order to reduce dependency on wagons the army itself would be reorganized at the lowest level, the infantry squad.

“The soldier in a flying column carried eight days’ compressed rations, including desiccated vegetables on his back. He carried a blanket but no overcoat. The men were divided into squads of eight, one of whom was to carry a covered cooking kettle, another a large mess tin, another an axe, another a pick, and one a shovel. One man in each company carried the hospital knapsack. Each man carried his share of a shelter tent. The cavalry were pickets and grain for their horses.” [66]

After Gettysburg and the unsuccessful pursuit of Lee’s army, Halleck and Rufus Ingalls the Army of the Potomac’s chief quartermaster made provision and set standards “to convert the army into a flying column that would be self-sufficient for eight- and twelve- day periods away from the base of supply.” [67] In contrast the Confederacy lacked in wagons and livestock to support the field operations of the army on campaign. Wagons, especially those suited for military operations were in short supply and any time the opportunity presented Confederate commanders ensured the capture of Union wagons. This turned out to be a major problem during the Gettysburg campaign, when Stuart during his ride around the Army of the Potomac “succumbed to temptation of capturing a beautifully equipped and heavily laden Union supply train near Rockville, Maryland, at the cost of exhausting his cavalry and wasting precious time.” [68] In most cases Stuart’s action would have been commendable, and he certainly felt that such should have been the case here as well, but the cost to his operations and Lee’s need for his cavalry were such that it was a mistake of disastrous consequences.

The basic load of food and ammunition carried by each soldier in order to increase strategic maneuverability was adjusted to meet the operational need. Both armies, but more often the Confederate army frequently had to live off the land. The success and failure of forage operations and the requirements for people and animals in each theater of operations had a large impact on each army. By early 1863 the Army of Northern Virginia was “greatly deficient in all areas of supply….there were extreme shortages of footwear, clothing, draft animals, and wagons.” [69] When the Army of Northern Virginia advanced into Pennsylvania they found it to be “a land of plenty” while “quartermaster and commissary details, acting under official instructions, filled wagons and supplies with foodstuffs.” [70]

While the Federal army never lacked in provisions or supplies the Confederate armies were almost always in short supply, even in regard to adequate food supplies needed to maintain an adequate caloric intake on the march were almost impossible to achieve, but were so critical that they were barely adequate when the army was encamped. In fact one of the reasons which Lee based his invasion of Pennsylvania was to alleviate his desperate supply situation. One regimental commander in Pickett’s division recalled that Lee told him that “the movement was a necessity; that our provisions and supplies of every kind were nearly exhausted in Virginia, and we had to go into Pennsylvania for supplies.” [71]

The size of the armies and the distances involved on the battlefield made command and control difficult.  As such communications became more important and each army experimented with new signals organizations that used both old and new communication technologies. At the beginning of the war both sides made extensive use of visual signals and couriers, but rapidly began to rely on the telegraph for rapid communications.

The organizational tension was particularly evident in the rivalry between the U.S. Army Signal Corps and the Military Telegraph Service.  The Signal Corps focused on wireless communications. It preferred the Beardslee wireless telegraphs which had the limitations of such early wireless technology. The Union Army command favored the traditional wire bound networks operated by the Military Telegraph due to better reliability and security and eventually the Military Telegraph Service and its Morse trained operators were given “jurisdiction for all field telegraph” services at the urging of President Lincoln in November 1863. [72]Though the Army rejected the Beardslee equipment some commanders requested it for their operations.[73] As each Army became more dependent on the telegraph, each feared that their signals could be compromised through wiretapping and made efforts to encode their transmissions.

While the various forms of telegraphic communication were important in keeping higher headquarters in contact with armies in the field, battlefield communication could be difficult. Commanders on both sides relied on messengers to relay orders to subordinate commanders as well as pass information to senior commanders. On the battlefield this took time, and since the messengers were subject to the same dangers as ordinary soldiers messages might not reach the intended commanders. It took approximately an hour for a message to travel from an army commander to a corps commander, 30 minutes from a corps commander to a division commander, 20 from division to brigade, 15 from brigade to regiment and 5 minutes from regiment to company. [74]

Written orders generally provided better clarity if detailed enough but if they were passed orally, as was Lee’s preferred method they could easily be miscommunicated by messengers, or misunderstood or even ignored by commanders. This was a major source of Lee’s consternation during the Gettysburg campaign. A major problem for Lee during the campaign was that his orders, be they written or oral were frequently vague and discretionary, something that we will discuss in detail later, but Lieutenant General Richard Ewell spoke for many Confederate subordinate commanders on the evening of June 30th when he asked his division commanders in frustration “Why can’t a commanding General have someone on his staff who can write an intelligent order?” [75]

The Union Signal Corps also pioneered the use and development with a “modern system of semaphores with a telegraphic alphabet…” as well as “a cipher disk…that allowed the Union Signal Corps to change the code hourly if need be.” [76] The one disadvantage to this form of visual communication was that it could be limited due to weather conditions or the smoke of battle. While semaphore was used with a good deal of success by the Union, and Meade would make good use of it at Gettysburg, it was not used by the Confederate army.

Likewise Meade “set a precedent in command procedures” during the Gettysburg campaign, where “for perhaps the first time in military history the commanding general of a large army was kept in communication during active operations with his corps and division commanders.” Likewise Meade “set a precedent in command procedures when he brought signal officers to the conference table for consultation on the plan of battle” [77] and for the first time Signal Corps officers were assigned directly to each corps, when Meade ordered that two Signal Corps officers be “detached for service with each corps.” [78]

The troops of the Union Signal Corps were also a vital link in the transmission of military intelligence gathered by Colonel George Sharpe’s Bureau of Military Information, whose network of scouts during the Gettysburg campaign were “supported by Signal Corps detachments which could establish chains of flag stations from Harpers Ferry to “South Mountain, Monterey, Greencastle…up to Parnell’s Knob, in the Cumberland Valley.” [79] This link helped provide Meade with much better intelligence regarding the movement of Lee’s army throughout the campaign.

Regardless of the means of transmitting orders the fact was that at Gettysburg the element of friction entered the communication process. Wireless could suffer from encryption problems, semaphore from visibility issues on a smoke covered battlefield, written orders could be delayed, lost or misunderstood and verbal orders were frequently misunderstood or understood in the manner that best fit the situation of the recipient.

The developments in tactics, maneuver, defense and logistics and how those were developed over the course of the war brought about a form of warfare that remained dominant of decades. In studying the campaigns, developments and tensions between the competing theories of Jomini and Mahan in the Civil War a student can begin to recognize them in future wars fought by the US Army including World War Two.

Russell Weigley picks up this theme in his books The American Way of War and Eisenhower’s Lieutenants. Weigley discusses Lee’s use of Napoleonic strategy and Grant’s corresponding strategy of annihilation as well as Sherman’s campaign against Johnston, Sheridan’s devastation of the Shenandoah Valley to impose its aims on the Confederacy, [80] lessons which influenced American strategic doctrine over the next century. “Because it worked so well, achieving total submission, American soldiers thereafter tended to generalize the United States strategy of the Civil War into the appropriate strategy for all major, full scale wars.” [81]

The Timeless Art of Strategy and Statecraft

It is important for planners and commanders at the operational level to see the importance the developments of the Civil War on how we campaign today. While the technology and tactics of the war are now antiquated, the ideas are not and still pervade much of American military thought. Joint Publication 1: Doctrine for the Armed Forces notes that: “The two fundamental strategies in the use of military force are strategy of annihilation and strategy of erosion” both of which were at the heart of Union strategy after 1863.

One example of how the Civil War provides examples of and prefigures how the United States conducts joint operations is the example is that of how Grant and Sherman working together with Flag Officer Samuel Foote and Admiral David Dixon Porter on the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers. The joint operations of the Army and Navy at Island Number Ten, Fort Donaldson and Fort Henry and in particular during the Vicksburg campaign, still influence modern American thinking in terms of Joint Operations and are mentioned in a number of Joint Publications.

The understanding of war that came out of the Civil War, where for the first time the United States waged a modern war where what we now refer to as the DIME was practiced. The precedents in the use of the diplomatic, informational, military and economic elements of national power are reflected various Joint and Service doctrinal publications including Joint Publication 1 which notes that: “As a nation, the US wages war employing all instruments of national power—diplomatic, informational, military, and economic.” [82]

MCDP 1 Warfighting which discusses the maneuver and attrition warfare continuum.[83] It is important for students of operational art to be able recognize the these developments and principles in what we do today, to see the logical development of each of these elements in modern war and to find new ways to apply them within the scope of the technologies we now use that those that will be available in the coming years.

The important things that we learn from studying the various campaigns of the Civil War and the Gettysburg campaign are timeless. If we only focus on the military aspects of the great battles we can miss the really important lessons. The battles and leadership lessons that we learn from them are important, especially in how we understand and practice the concept of Mission Command. However it is the often arcane but important subjects such as transportation, logistics, communications and signals, fortifications, as well as the diplomatic, economic and informational aspects of the war that are often more important.

At the end of his discussion of the Corps of Engineers and the Army following the war, he notes “that change in war requires time for digestion before lessons are converted-if they are converted-into theory and doctrine.” [84] Such is true in every war and we too will need to reflect on the lessons of the wars that we have been engaged in Iraq, Afghanistan and other lesser known theaters of the War on Terror.

We typically do not do this well. After the Civil War American military theory stagnated, very few took of the mantle of Mahan and Halleck. One who did was John Bigelow, who commanded a battery at the Plum Run during the climactic hour of the second day at Gettysburg. Bigelow attempted to interpret the American experience of the Civil War in light of Jominian maneuver, but no matter how he tried he tried the “American experience on which Bigelow relied for examples tended to undercut confidence that such maneuver could suffice to achieve the object of war….” [85] This sent many American soldiers back to the tradition of Grant as the United States became a world power in the early twentieth century who believed “that the superior weight of military force that America could bring to bear against almost any rival would be their only sure military reliance.” [86]

When the United States entered ground combat operations in the First World War, General John Pershing’s strategy revisited some of the worst mistakes of the Civil War, as well as the bloody lessons learned by the Europeans during the first three years of that war.

Such an observation can be made about the wars that the United States has waged in the Middle East over the past decade as well as our experience in Vietnam where Irregular Warfare has predominated. We need to ask if the lessons of previous insurgencies have been digested, even going back to the lessons of the Union Army operating in the hostile lands of the conquered Confederacy.[87] Likewise it is fair game for us to examine how our military adjusts to developments in weaponry, technology and tactics today in relation to past examples. Such studies must include regular and irregular warfare. Thus when we look at the Civil War, it is important to use those lessons to better understand the timeless aspects of military history, theory, doctrinal development, logistics, communications and experiential learning in war.

History is our guide to war, warfare, diplomacy and statecraft. The American Civil War and the Gettysburg Campaign are part of a historical continuum that we are a part. As Colin Gray noted; “the most important features of statecraft and strategy do not change.” [88]

History serves as our guide in such an understanding, but we must also be aware of the human context of war and how individual and group psychology, sociology as well as political, philosophic and religious ideology cannot be ignored when we examine military history in context. The human actors are still the most important part of the war, because while the characteristics of war may change, and as Gray notes; the challenges that modern leaders face are “identical in nature” to what leaders in previous eras have faced. [89]



Notes

[1] Ibid. Weigley, American Strategy from Its Beginnings through the First World War. In Makers of Modern Strategy, from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age p.419

[2] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.146

[3] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.146

[4] Fuller, J.F.C. Decisive Battles of the U.S.A. 1776-1918 University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln 2007 copyright 1942 The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals p.182

[5] Guelzo, Allen C. Gettysburg: The Last Invasion Vintage Books a Division of Random House, New York 2013 p.12

[6] Ibid. Weigley, American Strategy from Its Beginnings through the First World War. In Makers of Modern Strategy, from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age p.419

[7] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lighteningp.143

[8] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lighteningp.143

[9] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lighteningp.143

[10] Thomas, Emory The Confederate Nation 1861-1865 Harper Perennial, New York and London 1979 p.74

[11] Gallagher, Gary W. The Confederate War: How Popular Will, Nationalism and Military Strategy Could not Stave Off Defeat Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA and London 1999 p.34

[12] Ibid. Thomas, The Confederate Nation p.152

[13] Ibid. Thomas, The Confederate Nation p.152

[14] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p. 432

[15] Ibid. Thomas, The Confederate Nation p.154

[16] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.431

[17] Millet, Allan R. and Maslowski, Peter, For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States The Free Press a Division of Macmillan Inc. New York, 1984 p.166

[18] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.433

[19] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.431

[20] Ibid. Thomas, The Confederate Nation p.261

[21] Ibid. Gallagher The Confederate War p.28

[22] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.600

[23] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.601

[24] Ibid. Foote , The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two p.635

[25] Ibid. Foote , The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two p.636

[26] Ibid. Foote , The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two p.637

[27] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.610

[28] Ibid. Fuller The Conduct of War p.105

[29] The most notable use of them between the Peninsula campaign and the Wilderness was at Fredericksburg by Longstreet’s Corps. Many wonder why Lee failed to entrench at Antietam.

[30] Ibid. Fuller The Conduct of War p.104

[31] Ibid. Fuller The Conduct of War p.104

[32] Fuller, J.F.C. Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship, Indiana University Press, Bloomington IN 1957.  Fuller comments “Thus over a year of bitter fighting was necessary to open the eyes of both sides to the fact that the trench was a byproduct of the rifle bullet, and like so many by-products, as valuable as the product itself.” (p.269) He calls it “astonishing that Lee, an engineering officer, made no use of entrenchments at the battle of Antietam.” (pp.269-270)

[33] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare pp. 198-21

[34] Ibid. p.295 Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare Hagerman comments on how Sherman’s troops outside Atlanta began to entrench both the front and rear of their positions.

[35] Ibid. Fuller The Conduct of War p.105

[36] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.297

[37] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare pp.297-298

[38] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.238

[39] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.238

[40] Petruzzi, J. David and Stanley, Steven The Gettysburg Campaign in Numbers and Losses: Synopses, Orders of Battle, Strengths, Casualties and Maps, June 9 – July 1, 1863 Savas Beatie LLC, El Dorado Hills CA 2012 p.100

[41] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p. 238

[42] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p. 238

[43] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare 238

[44] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.272

[45] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.274

[46] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.293.  Additionally B.H. Liddell-Hart in comparing the campaigns of Grant and Sherman makes an important note that Sherman’s strategy is more “suited to the psychology of a democracy…” and “ he who pays the piper calls the tune, and that strategists might be better paid in kind if they attuned their strategy, so far as rightly possible, to the popular ear.” Liddell-Hart, B.H. Strategy Faber and Faber Ltd, London 1954 and 1967, Signet Edition, The New American Library, New York 1974 p.132

[47] Ibid. Millet and Maslowski For the Common Defense p.216

[48] Ibid. Thomas, The Confederate Nation p.135

[49] Ibid. Millet and Maslowski For the Common Defense pp.216-217

[50] Ibid. Millet and Maslowski For the Common Defense p.218

[51] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.617-618

[52] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.441

[53] Ibid. Millet and Maslowski For the Common Defense p.156

[54] Ibid. Thomas, The Confederate Nation p.211

[55] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.319

[56] Ibid. Millet and Maslowski For the Common Defense p.216

[57] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.323

[58] Ibid. Millet and Maslowski For the Common Defense p.217

[59] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.322

[60] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.320

[61] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.322

[62] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.442

[63] Ibid. Millet and Maslowski For the Common Defense p.219

[64] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.79

[65] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.44

[66] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.71

[67] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.76

[68] Coddington, Edwin B. The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, A Touchstone Book, Simon and Schuster New York, 1968 p.198

[69] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.126

[70] Wert, Jeffry D. A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee’s Triumph 1862-1863 Simon and Schuster, New York and London 2011 p.229

[71] Ibid. West A Glorious Army p.230

[72] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.87

[73] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.87

[74] Cole, Phillip M. Command and Communication Friction in the Gettysburg Campaign Colecraft Industries, Ortanna PA 2006 p.80

[75] Trudeau, Noah Andre. Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage, Harper Collins Publishers, New York 2002 p.140

[76] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare pp.43-44

[77] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.87

[78] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.123

[79] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.42

[80] Ibid. Weigley The American Way of War pp.145-146.

[81] Weigley, Russell  F. Eisenhower’s Lieutenants: The Campaign in France and Germany 1944-1945. Indiana University Press, Bloomington IN 1981 p.3

[82] ___________. JP1 Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington DC 2013 p.I-1

[83] ___________. MCDP-1 Warfighting. United States Marine Corps, Washington D.C. 1997. pp. 36-39

[84] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.239

[85] Ibid. Weigley, American Strategy from Its Beginnings through the First World War. In Makers of Modern Strategy, from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age p.440

[86] Ibid. Weigley, American Strategy from Its Beginnings through the First World War. In Makers of Modern Strategy, from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age p.440

[87] Ibid. Fuller. Fuller’s comments on the situation of the Northern Soldier are eerily similar to the wars that the United States has fought in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade: “Consequently, minor tactics were definitely against the Northern soldier, because his major tactics demanded the offensive; for without the offensive the South could not be brought to heel.  It was the problem which had faced the French in LaVendee and in the Peninsula of Spain, which faced Napoleon in Russia, and the British in South Africa during the Boer War of 1899-1902. Not only was the Northern soldier, through force of circumstances, compelled to fight in the enemy’s country, but he was compelled to devastate it as well as conquer it, in order to protect himself against the bands of irregular troops which were here, there and everywhere.” pp.247-248

[88] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.149

[89] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.149

 

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The Character, Nature and Context of The Civil War and Why it Still Matters Part. 1

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Since I am now working my way back to Gettysburg his is a significant revision of an article that I published here earlier in the year and that is a part of my Gettysburg Staff Ride text. The actual full title of the chapter is The Foundations of the First Modern War: The Character, Nature and Context of the Civil War and its Importance to Us Today but that is rather long to put as the title here. This is pretty detailed and specialized so many may not want to read it, however, for those with in interest in how United States policy in regard to how we use our military today and the myriad of tensions that we wrestle with that have been with us for about 150 years it should prove enlightening.

Since it is pretty long I am dividing it up between two posts. Have a great day!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The First Modern War

The American Civil War was the first modern war. It was a watershed time which introduced changes in tactics, logistics, and communications, while showed the world exactly what the concept of total war entailed. Though it did not change the essential nature of war, which Clausewitz says is “is an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfil our will” [1] it expanded the parameters of it and re-introduced the concept of “total war” to the world and “because its aim was all embracing, the war was to be absolute in character.”[2] In a sense it was a true revolution in military affairs.

Thus it is important to study the Gettysburg campaign in the context of the Civil War, as well as in relationship to the broader understanding of the nature and character of war. To do this one must examine the connection between them and policies made by political leaders; to include the relationship of political to military leaders, diplomats, the leaders of business and industry and not to be forgotten the press and the people. Likewise we must understand the various contexts of war, how they impacted Civil War leaders and why they must be understood by civilian policy makers and military leaders today.

While the essential nature of war remains constant, wars and the manner in which they are fought have changed in their character throughout history, and this distinction matters not only for military professionals, but also policy makers. The changing character of war was something that military leaders as well as policy makers struggled with during the American Civil War much as today’s military leaders and policy makers seek to understand the character of warfare today. British military theorist Colin Gray writes “Since the character of every war is unique in the details of its contexts (political, social-cultural, economic, technological, military strategic, geographical, and historical), the policymaker most probably will struggle of the warfare that is unleashed.” [3] That was not just an issue for Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, both of whom struggled with the nature of the war which had been unleashed, but it is one for our present political leaders, who as civilian politicians are “likely to be challenged by a deficient grasp of both the nature of war as well as its contemporary context-specific character.” [4]

In addition to being the first modern war, or maybe I should say, the first war of the Industrial Age, the Civil War became a “total war.” It was the product of both the massive number of technological advances which both preceded and occurred during it, in which the philosophical nature of the Industrial Revolution came to the fore. Likewise, the enmity of the two sides for one another which had been fostered by a half century of relentless and violent propaganda which ushered from the mouths of politicians, the press and even from the pulpit, even to the point of outright armed conflict and murder in “Bleeding Kansas” during the 1850s.

As a total war it became a war that was as close to Clausewitz’s understanding of absolute war in its in character waged on the American continent, and it prefigured the great ideological wars of the twentieth century, as J.F.C. Fuller noted “for the first time in modern history the aim of war became not only the destruction of the enemy’s armed forces, but also of their foundations- his entire political, social and economic order.” [5] It was the first war where at least some of the commanders, especially Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman were men of the Industrial Age, in their thought and in the way that they waged war, in strategy, tactics even more importantly, psychologically. Fuller wrote:

“Spiritually and morally they belonged to the age of the Industrial Revolution. Their guiding principle was that of the machine which was fashioning them, namely, efficiency. And as efficiency is governed by a single end- that every means is justified- no moral or spiritual conceptions of traditional behavior must stand in its way.” [6]

Both men realized in early 1864 that “the South was indeed a nation in arms and that the common European practice of having standing armies engaged each other in set-piece battles to determine the outcome of a war was not enough to win this struggle.” [7] Though neither man was a student of Clausewitz, their method of waging war was in agreement with the Prussian who wrote that “the fighting forces must be destroyed; that is, they must be put in such a position that they can no longer carry on the fight” but also that “the animosity and the reciprocal effects of hostile elements, cannot be considered to have ended so long as the enemy’s will has not been broken.” [8] Sherman told the mayor of Atlanta after ordering the civilian population expelled that “we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and must make the old and young, the rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war.” [9] Sherman not only “carried on war against the enemy’s resources more extensively and systematically than anyone else had done, but he developed also a deliberate strategy of terror directed against the enemy’s minds.” [10]

Abraham Lincoln came to embrace eternal nature of war as well as the change in the character of the war over time. Lincoln had gone to war for the preservation of the Union, something that for him was almost spiritual in nature, as is evidenced by the language he used in both of his inaugural addresses and the Gettysburg Address. Instead of a war to re-unite the Union with the Emancipation Proclamation the war became a war for the liberation of enslaved African Americans, After January 1st 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, Lincoln “told an official of the Interior Department, “the character of the war will be changed. It will be one of subjugation…The [old] South is to be destroyed and replaced by new propositions and ideas.” [11]

Of course, the revolution in military affairs took time and it was the political and military leaders of the North who better adapted themselves and their nation to the kind of war that was being fought. “Lincoln’s remarkable abilities gave him a wide edge over Davis as a war leader, while in Grant and Sherman the North acquired commanders with a concept of total war and the determination to make it succeed.” [12]

At the beginning of the war the leaders and populace of both sides still held a romantic idea of war. The belief that the war would be over in a few months and that would be settled by a few decisive battles was held by most, including many military officers on both sides, there were some naysayers like the venerable General Winfield Scott, but they were mocked by both politicians and the press.

The Civil War became an archetype of the wars of the twentieth century, and the twenty-first century. It became a war where a clash between peoples and ideologies which extended beyond the province of purely military action as “it was preceded by years of violent propaganda, which long before the war had obliterated all sense of moderation, and awakened in the contending parties the primitive spirit of tribal fanaticism.” [13]

The conduct of the American Civil War added new dimensions to war, increased its lethality and for the first time since the 30 Years’ War saw opponents intentionally target the property, homes and businesses of civilian populations as part of their military campaign. The Civil War was a precursor to the wars that followed, especially the First World War which it prefigured in so many ways. [14]

However, like all wars many of its lessons were forgotten by military professionals in the United States as well as in Europe. Thus 50 years later during World War One, British, French, German, Austrian and Russian wasted vast amounts of manpower and destroyed the flower of a generation because they did not heed the lessons of the Civil War. Fuller noted:

“Had the nations of Europe studied the lessons of the Civil War and taken them to heart they could not in 1914-1918 have perpetuated the enormous tactical blunders of which that war bears record.” [15]

The lessons of the war are still relevant today. Despite vast advances in weaponry, technology and the distances with which force can be applied by opponents, war remains an act of violence to compel an enemy to fulfill our will. War according to Clausewitz is “more than a chameleon that slightly adapts its characteristics to the given case.” [16] but it is always characterized by the violence of its elements, the province of chance and its subordination to the political objective and as such forces political and military leaders as well as policy makers to wrestle with “the practical challenge of somehow mastering the challenge of strategy in an actual historical context.” [17]

Colin Gray makes a case for seven essential contexts that must be understood by policy makers and military leaders regarding war, which if ignored or misunderstood “can have strong negative consequences.” [18] The contexts which Gray enunciates: a political context, a social-cultural context, an economic context; a military-strategic context, a geographic context and a historical context and as Gray notes they “define all the essential characteristics of a particular armed conflict.” [19]

The study of the Civil War can be helpful to the joint planner and commander because it so wonderfully shows the interplay of Clausewitz’s “paradoxical trinity- composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; of the play of chance and the element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to reason alone.” [20] during an era of great technological and philosophical change. The importance of this cannot be underestimated, for in this era of change, like in every era, some leaders and commanders were either resistant to, or failed to understand the changes being forced upon them in their conduct of war by the industrialization of war and its attendant technology; while others, like Sherman, Grant and Sheridan not only understood them, but embraced them and applied them with skill and vigor in ways that stunned the people of the South.

15lincoln_cabinet

The Whole of Government and National Power

Over time the Union developed what we would now refer to as a “whole of government approach” to the war. This included not only the military instrument but the use of every imaginable means of national power, from the diplomatic, the economic and the informational aspects of the Union in the effort to subdue the Confederacy. The understanding and use of the “whole of government approach” to war and conflict is still a cornerstone of United States military policy in “unified action, to achieve leverage across different domains that will ensure conditions favorable to the U.S. and its allies will endure.” [21] The working staff of the War Department headed by Edwin Stanton and Major General Montgomery Meigs developed rapidly. It effectively coordinated with railroads, weapons manufactures and suppliers of clothing, food and other necessities to supply the army and navy so well that “Union forces never seriously lacked the materials necessary to win the war.” [22] Stanton and Meigs were “aided by the entrepreneurial talent of northern businessmen” which allowed “the Union developed a superior managerial talent to mobilize and organize the North’s greater resources for victory in the modern industrialized conflict that the Civil War became.” [23]

The understanding of this eternal nature and ever changing character of war to leaders of nations as well as military commanders and planners has been very important throughout history. It can be seen in the ways that Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln conducted their relationships with their military commanders, including during the Gettysburg campaign and we are reminded by Colin Gray notes that political leaders and policy makers who are in charge of policy often ignorant of the nature and character of war, and this fact “directs attention to the difficulties of translating political judgment into effective warmaking.” [24] Military leaders should be the people to advise and instruct policy makers in aligning their policy to what is actually feasible based on the ends ways and means, as well as the strengths and limitations of the military to carry out policy decisions and history reminds us “that policymakers committed strongly to their political desires are not easily deflected by military advice of a kind that they do not want to hear.” [25]

While there was much support for the Confederacy in the aristocracies of Europe, the effectiveness of the Union military in winning the key battles that allowed Lincoln to make his Emancipation Proclamation ensured that Europe would not recognize the Confederacy, . Charles F. Adams, the United States minister to Britain successfully defused the crisis of the Trent affair, which could have led to British recognition of the Confederacy and intervention in the war. Adams’ efforts were so successful that they “left Anglo-American relations in better shape than before the crisis.” [26]

(c) Southampton City Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The Trent Affair

The Importance of Diplomacy

Related to this understanding of warfare one has to also look at the importance of diplomacy, especially in picking the right diplomat for a critical post is a part of a whole of government approach to war and warfare. This was very important in the early stages of the Civil War as there was much support for the Confederacy in the aristocracies of Europe. The effectiveness of the diplomacy was increased by the Union military efforts. The Union suffered many failures at the outset of the war by the time of the Gettysburg campaign they did enough to prevent English or French intervention on the side of the Confederacy, which was also aided by tensions in Europe regarding the Schleswig-Holstein problem between Prussia and Austria as well as unrest in Poland, and the British in particular were loath to risk intervening in a conflict that might be “a disturbance in the precarious balance of power which might be the signal for a general conflagration, they recalled Voltaire’s comment that a torch lighted in 1756 in the forests of the new world had promptly wrapped the old world in flames.” [27] Thus, European leaders and diplomats were very hesitant to allow Southern legations to convince them to intervene.

Though the Confederates won many early battles in 1861 and 1862 it was the success of the Union military that altered the diplomatic landscape and helped doom the Confederacy. The joint operations conducted by Ulysses Grant and Flag Officer Foote at Island Number Ten, Fort Henry, Fort Donaldson and Shiloh opened the door to the western Confederacy making it vulnerable to Union invasion. Likewise, the joint operations conducted by the Union Navy and Army against the Confederacy through the blockade and capture of key ports such as New Orleans by 1862; combined with the bloody repulses of Confederate armies at Perryville and Antietam allowed Lincoln to make his Emancipation Proclamation, an act which reverberated across the Atlantic.

These military successes enabled Lord Palmerston to reject a French proposal for France, England and Russia to propose to the warring parties, a “North-South armistice, accompanied by a six month lifting of the blockade. The result, if they had agreed- as they had been in no uncertain terms warned by Seward in private conversations with British representatives overseas- would have been a complete diplomatic rupture, if not an outright declaration of war.” [28]

The issuance of that proclamation ensured that Europe would not recognize the Confederacy because even pro-Southern English political leaders could not appear to even give the appearance of supporting slavery, especially as both England and France had abolished slavery decades before, while Russia had only recently emancipated its serfs and “was pro-Union from the start….” [29] Popular sentiment in those countries, outside of the ruling class and business elites, was heavily in favor of emancipation, especially among the working classes. The leaders of the workingmen of Manchester England, a major textile producer, who which had been among the “hardest hit by the cotton famine, sent him [Lincoln] an address approved at a meeting on New Year’s Eve, announcing their support of the North in its efforts to “strike off the fetters of the slave.” [30]

There were issues related to the blockade but Charles F. Adams, the United States minister to Britain successfully defused the crisis of the Trent affair, which could have led to British recognition of the Confederacy and intervention in the war in a manner that “left Anglo-American relations in better shape than before the crisis.” [31]

The Union blockade was a key factor in the diplomatic efforts. As I have noted there were many in both Britain and France who sympathized with the South and hoped for Southern victory that were not impressed by Southern moves to subject them to an embargo of Southern cotton until they received recognition. While many Englishmen were offended by Seward’s bluster, many “resented even more the Confederacy’s attempt at economic blackmail.” [32]

The British especially were keen on not going to war for the sake of the South, there was far too much at stake for them. This was something that the Southern leaders and representatives did not fully comprehend. Prime Minister Viscount Palmerston and Foreign Minister Lord Russell were concerned about the economic impact of the loss of Southern cotton but also “recognized that any action against the blockade could lead to a conflict with the United States more harmful to England’s interests than the temporary loss of Southern cotton.” [33] Palmerston well remembered the war of 1812 when he served as Minister of War, and the disastrous results for the British Merchant Marine, and he realized that “England could not only afford the risk of a loss in a sideline war; she could not even afford to win one.” [34]

Mahan_teaser

Dennis Hart Mahan the First American Military Theorist

The Development of American Military Culture and Theory

As we examine the Civil War as the first modern war we have to see it as a time of great transition and change for military and political leaders. As such we have to look at the education, culture and experience of the men who fought the war, as well as the various advances in technology and how that technology changed tactics which in turn influenced the operational and strategic choices that defined the characteristics of the Civil War and wars to come.

The leaders who organized the vast armies that fought during the war were influenced more than military factors. Social, political, economic, scientific and even religious factors influenced their conduct of the war. The officers that commanded the armies on both sides grew up during the Jacksonian opposition to professional militaries, and for that matter even somewhat trained militias. The Jacksonian period impacted how officers were appointed and advanced. Samuel Huntington wrote:

“West Point was the principle target of Jacksonian hostility, the criticism centering not on the curriculum and methods of the Academy but rather upon the manner of how cadets were appointed and the extent to which Academy graduates preempted junior officer positions in the Army. In Jacksonian eyes, not only was specialized skill unnecessary for a military officer, but every man had the right to pursue the vocation of his choice….Jackson himself had an undisguised antipathy for the Academy which symbolized such a different conception of officership from that which he himself embodied. During his administration disciple faltered at West Point, and eventually Sylvanus Thayer, the superintendent and molder of the West Point educational methods, resigned in disgust at the intrusion of the spoils system.” [35]

This is particularly important because of how many officers who served in the Civil War were products of the Jacksonian system and what followed over the next two decades. Under the Jackson administration many more officers were appointed directly from civilian sources than from West Point, often based on political connections. “In 1836 when four additional regiments of dragoons were formed, thirty officers were appointed from civilian life and four from West Point graduates.” [36]

While this in itself was a problem it was made worse by a promotion system based on seniority, not merit. There was no retirement system so officers who did not return to the civilian world hung on to their careers until they quite literally died with their boots on. This held up the advancement outstanding junior officers who merited promotion and created a system where “able officers spent decades in the lower ranks, and all officers who had normal or supernormal longevity were assured of reaching higher the higher ranks.” [37]

Robert E. Lee was typical of many officers who stayed in the Army. Despite his success he was haunted by his lack of advancement. While still serving in Mexico having gained great laurels including a brevet promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, but “the “intrigues, pettiness and politics…provoked Lee to question his career.” He wrote “I wish I was out of the Army myself.” [38] In 1860 on the brink of the war Lee was “a fifty-three year-old man and felt he had little to show for it, and small hope for promotion.” [39] Lee’s discouragement was not unwarranted, despite his exemplary service there was little hope for promotion and to add to it Lee knew that “of the Army’s thirty-seven generals from 1802 to 1861, not one was a West Pointer.” [40] Other exemplary officers including Winfield Scott Hancock languished with long waits for promotion between the Mexican War and the Civil War. The long waits for promotion and duty in often desolate duty stations separated from family caused many officers to leave the Army; a good number of whom in 1861 became prominent in both the Union and Confederate armies. Among these officers were such notables as Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, Henry Halleck, George McClellan and Jubal Early.

The military education of these officers at West Point was based on the Napoleonic tactics and methods espoused by Henri Jomini as Clausewitz’s works had yet to make their way to America. Most were taught by Dennis Hart Mahan. Mahan, who graduated at the top of the West Point class of 1824 and spent four years in France as a student and observer at the “School of Engineering and Artillery at Metz” [41] before returning to the academy where “he was appointed professor of military and civil engineering and of the science of war.” [42]

In France Mahan studied the prevailing orthodoxy of Henri Jomini who along with Clausewitz was the foremost interpreter of Napoleon and the former Chief of Staff of Marshal Ney. Jomini’s influence cannot be underestimated, some have noted, a correctly so that “Napoleon was the god of war and Jomini was his prophet.” [43]

The basic elements of Jominian orthodoxy were that: “Strategy is the key to warfare; That all strategy is controlled by invariable scientific principles; and That these principles prescribe offensive action to mass forces against weaker enemy forces at some defensive point if strategy is to lead to victory.” [44] Jomini interpreted “the Napoleonic era as the beginning of a new method of all out wars between nations, he recognized that future wars would be total wars in every sense of the word.” [45] Jomini laid out a number of principles of war including elements that we know well today, operations on interior and exterior lines, bases of operations, and lines of operation. He understood the importance of logistics in war, envisioned the future of amphibious operations and his thought would be taken to a new level by Alfred Thayer Mahan, the son of Dennis Hart Mahan in his book The Influence of Sea Power on History.

Jomini also foresaw the horrific nature of the coming wars and expressed his revulsion for them and desire to return to the limited wars of the eighteenth century:

“I acknowledge that my prejudices are in favor of the good old times when the French and English guards courteously invited each other to fire first as at Fontenoy, preferring them to the frightful epoch when priests, women. And children throughout Spain plotted the murder of individual soldiers.” [46]

Jomini’s influence was great throughout Europe and was brought back to the United States by Mahan who principally “transmitted French interpretations of Napoleonic war” [47]including that of Jomini. However, Mahan returned from France somewhat dissatisfied knowing that much of what he learned was impractical in the United States where a tiny professional army and the vast expenses of territory were nothing like European conditions. Mahan thought prevailing doctrine “was acceptable for a professional army on the European model, organized and fighting under European conditions. But for the United States, which in case of war would have to depend upon a civilian army held together by a small professional nucleus, the French tactical system was unrealistic.” [48]

Mahan set about rectifying this immediately upon his return and though “steeped in French thought, but acutely sensitive to American conditions that in his lectures and later writings he modified the current orthodoxy by rejecting one of its central tenants-primary reliance on offensive assault tactics.” [49] Mahan believed that “ If the offensive is attempted against a strongly positioned enemy, Mahan cautioned, it should be an offensive not of direct assault but of the indirect approach, of maneuver and deception. Victories should not be purchased by the sacrifice of one’s own army….To do the greatest damage to our enemy with the least exposure of ourselves,” said Mahan, “is a military axiom lost sight of only by ignorance to the true ends of victory.” [50] However, “so strong was the attraction of Napoleon to nineteenth-century soldiers that American military experience, including the generalship of Washington, was almost ignored in military studies here.” [51]

Thus there was a tension in American military thought between the followers of Jomini and Mahan. Conservative Jominian thinking predominated much of the Army, and within the army “Mahan’s decrees failed to win universal applause.” [52] This may have been due in part to the large number of officers accessed directly from civilian life during the Jacksonian period. Despite this it was Mahan who more than any other “taught the professional soldiers who became the generals of the Civil War most of what they knew through the systematic study of war.” [53]

Mahan’s influence on the future leaders of the Union and Confederate armies went beyond the formal classroom setting. Mahan established the “Napoleon Club,” a military round table at West Point.[54] Mahan dominated the academy in many ways, and for the most part he ran the academic board, which ran the academy, and “no one was more influential than Mahan in the transition of officership from a craft into a profession.” [55] Mahan was a unique presence at West Point who all students had to face in their final year. Mahan was:

“aloof and relentlessly demanding, he detested sloppy thinking, sloppy posture, and a sloppy attitude toward duty…Mahan would demand that they not only learn engineering and tactics, but that every manner and habit that characterizes an officer- gentlemanly deportment, strict integrity, devotion to duty, chivalric honor, and genuine loyalty- be pounded into them. His aim was to “rear soldiers worthy of the Republic.” [56]

Mahan’s greatest contributions in for American military doctrine were his development of the active defense and emphasis on victory through maneuver. Mahan stressed “swiftness of movement, maneuver, and use of interior lines of operation. He emphasized the capture of strategic points instead of the destruction of enemy armies,” [57] while he emphasized the use of “maneuver to occupy the enemy’s territory or strategic points.” [58]

That being said Mahan’s “greatest contribution to American military professionalism was, in all probability, his stress upon the lessons to be learned from history. Without “historical knowledge of the rise and progress” of the military art, he argued, it is impossible to get “even tolerably clear elementary notions” beyond “the furnished by mere technical language…It is in military history that we are able to look for the source of all military science.” [59] Mahan emphasized that “study and experience alone produce the successful general” noting “Let no man be so rash as to suppose that, in donning a general’s uniform, he is forthwith competent to perform a general’s function; as reasonably he might assume that in putting on robes of a judge he was ready to decide any point of the law.” [60] Such advice is timeless.

Mahan certainly admired Napoleon and was schooled in Jomini, but he believed that officers needed to think for themselves on the battlefield. And “no two things in his military credo were more important than the speed of movement- celerity, that secret of success- or the use of reason. Mahan preached these twin virtues so vehemently and so often through his chronic nasal infection that the cadets called him “Old Cobbon Sense.” [61] Like Jomini, Mahan was among the first to differentiate between strategy, which involved “fundamental, invariable principles, embodied what was permanent in military science, while tactics concerned what was temporary….and “the line which distinguishes one from another is “that which separates the science from the art.” [62]

Henry_Halleck_by_Scholten,_c1865

Henry Wager Halleck

Mahan’s teaching was both amplified and modified by the work of his star pupil Henry Wager Halleck wrote the first American textbook on military theory Elements of Military Art and Science which was published in 1846 and though it was not a standard text at West Point “it was probably the most read book among contemporary officers.” [63] The text was based on a series of twelve lectures Halleck had given the Lowell Institute in 1845, as Halleck was considered one of America’s premier scholars.

Like Mahan, Halleck was heavily influenced by the writings of Jomini, and the Halleck admitted that his book “was essentially a compilation of other author’s writings,” [64] including those of Jomini and Mahan; and he “changed none of Mahan’s and Jomini’s dogmas.” [65] In addition to his own book, Halleck also “translated Jomini’s Life of Napoleon” from the French. [66] Halleck, like his mentor Mahan “recognized that the defense was outpacing the attack” [67] in regard to how technology was beginning to change war and “five of the fifteen chapters in Halleck’s Elements are devoted to fortification; a sixth chapter is given over to the history and importance of military engineers.” [68] Halleck’s Elements became one of the most influential texts on American military thought during the nineteenth century, and “had a major influence on American military thought” [69] being read by many before, during and after the war, including Abraham Lincoln.

Halleck, as a part of Mahan’s enlightenment too fought against the Jacksonian wave, eloquently speaking out for a more professional military against the Jacksonian critics. Halleck plead “for a body of men who shall devote themselves to the cultivation of military science” and the substitution of Prussian methods of education and advancement for the twin evils of politics and seniority.” [70]

As we look the Gettysburg campaign it is important to note how much of Mahan’s teaching either shows up in the actions of various commanders, such as Meade’s outstanding use of interior lines on the defense; or how in some cases his advice, particularly on attacking strongly held positions was ignored by Lee. In fairness to Lee he “was the only principle general of the war who had attended West Point too early to study the military art under Dennis Mahan.” [71] Likewise, during his tenure as the Superintendent of West Point Lee had little time to immerse himself in new studies due to the changes being wrought at the Academy in terms of discipline and curriculum. If anything can be said about Lee was that he was much more affected by what he read about Napoleon’s battles and campaigns; in which he took a lifelong interest in while a cadet, reading the French editions of the “three volumes of General Montholon’s memoirs of Napoleon dealing with the early campaigns, and the first volume of General Segur’s Expedition de Russie dealing with Napoleon’s advance to Moscow in 1812” [72] than he was with Jomini’s theories, though he certainly would have had some familiarity with them. Lee continued his study of Napoleon’s campaigns during his time as superintendent of West Point, in which “of fifteen books on military subjects that he borrowed from the academy library during his superintendency, no more than seven concerned Napoleon.” [73] Lee’s studies of the emperor’s campaigns allowed him to draw “more aggressive strategic concepts that previous American generals” [74] concepts that he would execute with alacrity during his campaigns of 1862 and 1863.

While West Point was the locus of American military thought and professionalism there was in the South a particular interest in military thought and this “was manifest in the creation of local military schools. Virginia Military Institute was established in 1839, the Citadel and the Arsenal set up in South Carolina in 1842, Kentucky Military Institute in 1845. By 1860 every Southern state, except Texas and Florida, had its own state supported military academy patterned on the models of West Point and VMI.” [75] There was no such development in the North, making these schools a unique part of the American military heritage, only some of which remain.

As the American theorists began their period of enlightenment, there was no real corresponding development in tactical doctrine, in part because “in Europe almost all the tactical experience of the major armies seemed to bear Jomini out.” [76] The American Army lacked “an integrated tactical system for infantry, artillery and cavalry doctrine” [77] which showed up frequently during the Civil War as commanders struggled to adapt tactics to advances in weaponry. The events in Europe, “all seemed to testify that it was the army on offense that won European battles, and at lightning speed.” [78] As such there existed an “ambivalence of thinking on the merits of the offense versus the defense in infantry tactics….while American artillery doctrine firmly subordinated the artillery to the infantry” [79] as many American officers were convinced that this was the face of war and all the major infantry tactics handbooks “borrowed heavily from Napoleonic sources and stressed the virtue of quick, aggressive movements on the battlefield.” [80] The often disjointed developments in infantry, artillery and cavalry tactics of the ante-bellum Army demonstrated that “Military thinking, and even more strategic organization, remained essentially within the Napoleonic tradition filtered through an eighteenth-century world view….” [81] It would take the bloody experience of war to change them. As Fuller noted that “the tactics of this war were not discovered through reflection, but through trial and error.” [82]

To be continued….

Notes

[1] Clausewitz, Carl von. On War Indexed edition, edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1976 p.75

[2] Fuller, J.F.C. The Conduct of War 1789-1961 Da Capo Press, New York 1992. Originally published by Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick N.J p.99

[3] Gray, Colin S. Fighting Talk: Forty Maxims on War, Peace, and Strategy Potomac Book, Dulles VA 2009 p.36

[4] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.36

[5] Fuller, J.F.C. A Military History of the Modern World, Volume Three: From the Seven Days Battle, 1862, to the Battle of Leyte Gulf, 1944 Minerva Press 1956 p.88

[6] Ibid. Fuller A Military History of the Modern World, Volume Three p.88

[7] Flood, Charles Bracelen, Grant and Sherman: The Friendship that Won the War, Harper Perennial, New York 2005 p.238

[8] Ibid. Clausewitz p.90

[9] McPherson, James. The Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York 1988 p.809

[10] Weigley, Russell F. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military History and Policy University of Indiana Press, Bloomington IN, 1973 p.149

[11] Ibid. McPherson The Battle Cry of Freedom p.558

[12] Ibid. McPherson The Battle Cry of Freedom p.857

[13] Ibid. Fuller The Conduct of War 1789-1961 p.99

[14] Fuller has an excellent synopsis of this in his book A Military History of the Modern World, Volume Three (p.89). He wrote: The war fought by Grant and Lee, Sherman and Johnston, and others closely resembled the First of the World Wars. No other war, not even the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, offers so exact a parallel. It was a war of rifle bullets and trenches, of slashings, abattis, and even of wire entanglements- an obstacle the Confederates called “a devilish contrivance which none but a Yankee could devise” because at Drewry’s Bluff they had been trapped in them and slaughtered like partridges.” It was a war of astonishing in its modernity, with wooden wire-bound mortars hand and winged grenades, rockets, and many forms of booby traps. Magazine rifles and Requa’s machine guns were introduced and balloons were used by both sides although the confederates did not think much of them. Explosive bullets are mentioned and also a flame projector, and in June, 1864, General Pendleton asked the chief ordnance officer at Richmond whether he could supply him with “stink-shells” which would give off “offensive gases” and cause “suffocating effect.” The answer he got was “stink-shells, none on hand; don’t keep them; will make them if ordered.” Nor did modernity end there; armoured ships, armoured trains, land mines and torpedoes were used. A submarine was built by Horace H. Hundley at Mobile….”

[15] Ibid. Fuller A Military History of the Modern World, Volume Three p.89

[16] Ibid. Clausewitz On War p.89

[17] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.38

[18] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.5

[19] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.3

[20] Ibid. Clausewitz On War p.89

[21] ________ JCWS Student Text 1 3rd Edition, 14 June 2013 p.2-4

[22] Guelzo Allen C. Fateful Lightening: A New History of the Civil War Era and Reconstruction Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York 2012

[23] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.857

[24] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.38

[25] Ibid. Gray Fighting Talk p.38

[26] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.391

[27] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two Fredericksburg to Meridian Random House, New York 1963 p.154

[28] Ibid. Foote , The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two p.153

[29] Ibid. Foote , The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two p.153

[30] Ibid. Foote , The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two p.155

[31] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.391

[32] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.384

[33] Ibid. McPherson. The Battle Cry of Freedom p.384

[34] Ibid. Foote , The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two p.154

[35] Huntington, Samuel P. The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA and London 1957 pp.204-205

[36] Ibid. Huntington The Soldier and the State p.206

[37] Ibid. Huntington The Soldier and the State p.207

[38] Thomas, Emory Robert E. Lee W.W. Norton and Company, New York and London 1995 p.139

[39] Korda, Michael. Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee Harper Collins Publishers, New York 2014 p.213

[40] Ibid. Huntington The Soldier and the State p.207

[41] Hagerman, Edward. The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare Midland Book Editions, Indiana University Press. Bloomington IN. 1992. p.7

[42] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.7

[43] Hittle, J.D. editor Jomini and His Summary of the Art of War a condensed version in Roots of Strategy, Book 2 Stackpole Books, Harrisburg PA 1987 p. 429

[44] Shy, John Jomini in Makers of Modern Strategy, from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age edited by Paret, Peter, Princeton University Press, Princeton New Jersey 1986 p.146

[45] Ibid. Hittle, Jomini and His Summary of the Art of War p. 428

[46] Ibid. Hittle Jomini p.429

[47] Ibid. Shy Jomini p.414

[48] bid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.7

[49] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.9

[50] Ibid. Weigley The American Way of War p.88

[51] Ibid. Shy Jomini p.414

[52] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.13

[53] Ibid. Shy Jomini p.414

[54] Hagerman also notes the contributions of Henry Halleck and his Elements of Military Art and Science published in 1846 (p.14) and his influence on many American Officers.  Weigley in his essay in Peter Paret’s Makers of Modern Strategy would disagree with Hagerman who notes that in Halleck’s own words that his work was a “compendium of contemporary ideas, with no attempt at originality.” (p.14) Weigley taking exception gives credit to Halleck for “his efforts to deal in his own book with particularly American military issues.” Paret, Peter editor. Makers of Modern Strategy: For Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1986 p.416.

[55] Millet, Allan R. and Maslowski, Peter, For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States The Free Press a Division of Macmillan Inc. New York, 1984 p.126

[56] Waugh, John C. The Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomattox, Stonewall Jackson, George McClellan and their Brothers Ballantine Books, New York 1994 pp.63-64

[57] Wert, Jeffry D. General James Longstreet The Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier, A Touchstone Book, Simon and Schuster, New York and London 1993 p.30

[58] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.14

[59] Ibid. Huntington The Soldier and the State p.220

[60] Ibid. Huntington The Soldier and the State pp.221

[61] Ibid. Waugh The Class of 1846 p.64

[62] Ibid. Huntington The Soldier and the State pp.220-221

[63] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.14

[64] Marszalek, John F. Commander of All of Lincoln’s Armies: A Life of General Henry W. Halleck The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA and London 2004 p.42

[65] Ambrose, Stephen E. Halleck: Lincoln’s Chief of Staff Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge and London 1962 p.6

[66] Weigley, Russell F. American Strategy from Its Beginnings through the First World War. In Makers of Modern Strategy, from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age edited by Paret, Peter, Princeton University Press, Princeton New Jersey 1986 p.416

[67] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.14

[68] Ibid. Weigley, American Strategy from Its Beginnings through the First World War. In Makers of Modern Strategy, from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age p.417

[69] Ibid. Ambrose Halleck p.7

[70] Ibid. Huntington The Soldier and the State p.221

[71] Ibid. Weigley, American Strategy from Its Beginnings through the First World War. In Makers of Modern Strategy, from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age p.415

[72] Ibid. Korda, Clouds of Glory p.35

[73] Ibid. Weigley, American Strategy from Its Beginnings through the First World War. In Makers of Modern Strategy, from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age p.424

[74] Ibid. Weigley, American Strategy from Its Beginnings through the First World War. In Makers of Modern Strategy, from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age p.424

[75] Ibid. Huntington The Soldier and the State p.219

[76] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lighteningp.147

[77] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.20

[78] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lighteningp.147

[79] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare pp.20-21

[80] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lighteningp.147

[81] Ibid. Hagerman The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare p.27

[82] Ibid. Fuller. Grant and Lee p.269  A similar comment might be made of most wars including the war in Iraq current Afghanistan war.

 

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The First Modern War: The American Civil War, its Lessons and Challenges for Today’s Military Planners

Note: This article is one that I am preparing for my Gettysburg Staff Ride in early March. It is more academic and theoretical in its emphasis being directed at those who will be involved in the planning of joint operations at the operational level of war. 

keith-rocco-hell-for-glory-picketts-charge

Pickett’s Charge Showcased the Futility of Napoleonic Tactics Against Modern Weaponry

The American Civil War was the first modern war. It was a watershed time which introduced changes in tactics, logistics, communications and the concept of total war to the world. Though it did not change the essential nature of war, which Clausewitz says is “is an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfil our will.”  What the war did was add new dimensions to war, increased its lethality and for the first time since the 30 Years’ War saw opponents take war to civilian populations as part of a military campaign.

The Civil War was a precursor to the wars that followed. However, like all wars many of its lessons were forgotten by military professionals in the United States as well as in Europe. Thus 50 years later during World War One, British, French, German, Austrian and Russian wasted vast amounts of manpower and destroyed the flower of a generation because they did not heed the lessons of the Civil War.

The lessons of the war are still relevant today. Despite vast advances in weaponry, technology and the distances with which force can be applied by opponents, war remains an act of violence to compel an enemy to fulfill our will. War according to Clausewitz is a “chameleon” which changes its nature to some degree in each particular case, but it is always characterized by the violence of its elements, the province of chance and its subordination to the political objective.

The study of the Civil War can be helpful to the joint planner and commander because it so wonderfully shows the interplay of Clausewitz’s Trinity during an era of great technological change. It is my intent to introduce the reader to the manner in which the military theory and doctrine that dominated American military thought before was applied and changed as a result of the experience gained during the war.

dmahan-treastise

Dennis Hart Mahan’s Book: The First American Book on Military Theory

The professional American army officers on both sides were educated at West Point, VMI or the Citadel. In these institutions they were taught Henri Jomini’s interpretation of Napoleonic warfare and the theories of Dennis Hart Mahan and Henry Halleck.

The war exposed the serious weaknesses in all of these theories which were challenged by advances in weaponry and the vastness of the American continent.  During the war both Union and Confederate armies learned to value field fortifications and the limitations of the artillery of the day during offensive operations.

Logistics influenced campaigning on the American continent much more than previous European wars.  An example can be found in Lee’s Gettysburg Campaign where he had to travel far from his railheads and bases of supply, meaning that he had to live off the land in enemy territory. The concept of total war found its first application in the campaigns of General William Tecumseh Sherman and Robert E. Lee’s use of defensive maneuver and fortifications in positional warfare heralded a new era in warfare.

These factors influenced and affected the Union and Confederate armies as they campaigned. Likewise, the advances weaponry particularly the rifled musket, posed a conundrum for officers educated in the Napoleonic tactics that both armies began the war. Those tactics were developed at a time when the maximum effective range of muskets was barely 100 meters. Yet by 1860 the rifled muskets had an effective range of about 400 meters, and the advent of the repeating rifle increased the firepower available to individual soldiers.  Yet despite the increase in range and accuracy that came with the rifled musket tactics were slow to change.

Ante-bellum US Army leadership was most influenced by the theories of Henri Jomini, Clausewitz had yet to make his appearance in America. Dennis Hart Mahan, a professor at West Point challenged Jominian orthodoxy and modified the current orthodoxy by rejecting its central tenants-primarily offensive assault tactics.”[i] Thus there was a tension in American military thought between the followers of Jomini and Mahan. Conservative Jominian thinking predominated much of the Army, and within the army “Mahan’s decrees failed to win universal applause.”[ii]

However, Mahan did influence many future leaders of both the Union and Confederate armies who participated in his “Napoleon Club,” a military round table at West Point. [iii] Mahan’s greatest contributions were his development of the active defense and emphasis on victory through maneuver. Mahan’s thought contrasted with that of Jomini who thought maneuver was risky and believed that purpose of war was the “defeat of the enemy’s army.” As we look the Gettysburg campaign it is important to note how much Lee was affected by the thought of Jomini as he attempted to defeat the Army of the Potomac, while ignoring the advice of Longstreet to use maneuver and active defense too his advantage.

Mahan emphasized the use of “maneuver to occupy the enemy’s territory or strategic points.” [iv] Edward Hagerman wrestles with the disjointed developments in infantry, artillery and cavalry tactics of the ante-bellum Army in his book The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare.  Hagerman surmised that “Military thinking, and even more strategic organization, remained essentially within the Napoleonic tradition filtered through an eighteenth-century world view….” He asserted that “A broader vision was necessary to pose an alternative to the mechanistic program.”[v]

The leaders who organized the vast armies that fought during the war were influenced more than military factors. Social, political, economic, scientific and even religious factors influenced their conduct of the war. Commanders educated at West Point who had previously commanded small units were faced with the task of organizing, training and employing large armies made up primarily of militia units and volunteers. Most had little experience commanding such units and their experience with militia and volunteer formations during the Mexican War did not increase their appreciation for them or their leaders.

civil-war-2nd-michigan

The 2nd Michigan Regiment: Most Civil War Units on both sides were State Regiments

Both armies were changed by the war. Initially both sides sought to fight the war with volunteers. The South began a draft first followed by the Union in 1863. At the beginning of the war General George McClellan successful fought the break-up of the Regular Army. He helped keep it separate from the militia units organized by the States. This preserved a professional core in a time where the new volunteer units were learning their craft. The Confederacy did not have a Regular Army and all of its units were raised by the States and officered by a collection of professionals from the Ante-bellum Army, militia officers, political appointees or anyone with enough money to raise a unit. The draft laws created much consternation in both the Union and Confederate States and the efforts to enforce the draft were filled with controversy and sometimes violence as was evidenced during the New York Draft Riots of 1863 where Union Soldiers, recently victorious at Gettysburg were employed to end the rioting and violence.


civil-war-city-point-dock

The Integration of Sea and Land Logistics Systems in the Civil War Revolutionized the Way that Modern War is Supplied

The Ante-bellum Army developed its logistic doctrine from Napoleonic examples. That doctrine had to be modified in light of the American reality of a less developed continent with far greater distances involved in the movement of troops. During the war, both armies learned to adapt their logistical support services to the reality of war.

civil-war-locomotive

Railways Meant the Ability to Move Troops and Supplies Great Distances very Quickly

Where possible each side used railroads and maritime forces to move troops and supplies. The Confederacy, lacking in both was at a severe disadvantage. The Union however enjoyed a great advantage in modern rail networks, as well as ocean and river based maritime power. By late 1863 the Army of the Potomac, as well as forces in the West demonstrated “the close integration of operational planning and that of the general in chief and supply bureaus. In this one area, the development of a mature and modern staff was evident.”[vi]

In both armies commanders and their logisticians experimented with the number of wagons per regiment and how army commanders, modified that number at various points during the war based on their situation. Both armies experimented with the use of the “flying column” as a response to the dependency on wagons. The basic load of food and ammunition carried by each soldier in order to increase strategic maneuverability was adjusted to meet the operational need. Both armies often had to live off the land. The success and failure of forage operations and the requirements for people and animals in each theater of operations had a large impact on each army.

The size of the armies and the distances involved on the battlefield made command and control difficult.  As such communications became more important and each army experimented with new signals organizations that used both old and new communication technologies. At the beginning of the war both sides made extensive use of visual signals and couriers, but rapidly began to rely on the telegraph for rapid communications.

civil-war-us-signal-corps

Signal Corps Soldiers and Wire Communications

The organizational tension was particularly evident in the rivalry between the U.S. Army Signal Corps and the Military Telegraph Service.  The Signal Corps focused on wireless communications. It preferred the Beardslee wireless telegraphs which had the limitations of such early wireless technology. The Army command favored the traditional wire bound networks operated by the Military Telegraph due to better reliability and security. Though the Army rejected the Beardslee equipment some commanders requested it for their operations. [vii] As each Army became more dependent on the telegraph, each feared that their signals could be compromised through wiretapping and made efforts to encode their transmissions.

03-Beardslee-telegraph-US-Army-photo

The Beardslee Wireless Telegraph 

The evolution of how Union and Confederate armies used field fortifications is an interesting topic. McClellan made extensive use of them on the Peninsula in 1861 and Lee made sporadic use of them [viii] until 1864.  Lee made much more use of field fortifications during the Wilderness campaign, the battles around Richmond culminating in the defense of Petersburg.  The developments in field works and firepower gave the advantage to the defense. This was especially the case when opposing armies made the frontal attacks which were at the heart of Jominian offensive tactics.  Early in the war commanders including Grant at Shiloh and Lee at Antietam failed to dig in, but over time both the Union and Confederate armies learned to dig hasty field works as a matter of course.[ix]

dictator

Massive Siege Mortar outside Petersburg

Both sides also learned to use maneuver in combination with positional warfare to force the enemy to battle. Hagerman examines the campaigns in the West of Grant, Sherman and Rosencrans, particularly Stone’s River, the Vicksburg Campaign, and the campaign in middle Tennessee.[x] The last two chapters of Hagerman’s book detail these issues in the context of the 1864-65 campaign around Richmond and Sherman’s campaigns in Georgia and the Carolinas. Of particular note is how Sherman’s forces routinely entrenched on the offensive [xi] and how Confederate forces under Joseph Johnston employed entrenchments on the defensive.

civil-war-earthworks-petersburg Petersburg Fortifications a Harbinger of World War One

Surprisingly, it was Confederate Cavalry commander Joe Wheeler toward the end of the war made use of entrenchments, something not seen before by an arm traditionally known fro maneuver. Hagerman noted that Confederate Cavalry “perhaps best displayed the growing intensity of trench warfare” [xii] by the latter part of the war.

The Corps of Engineers in both armies adapted to the war. Prior to the war the Corps of Engineers was primarily responsible for building coastal fortifications and outposts in the west.  Both sides had to develop Engineer or Pioneer units from scratch in 1861.By the middle of the war organized units of Pioneers and Engineers were enhancing both offensive and defensive operations.

engineers-bridging-tenessee-river

Engineering Units were Built from Scratch and Accomplished Many Feats

The Corps of Engineers initially had a difficult time adapting to war. The dispersion of the Corps among the line and its civil duties were impediments to responding to the needs of war.  There was a hesitancy and resistance to creating engineering units by Congress, despite the pleas of McClellan and Lincoln for specialized engineering units.[xiii] When they were established it was ironic how the newly organized engineer units had few very few West Point trained Corps of Engineers officers. Most Union Engineer Units were primarily staffed and commanded by officers detailed from the line or who had come from civilian life. The effect was a “decline in the antebellum definition of professionalism embodied in the Corps of Engineers” [xiv] which prior to the war were considered the elite branch of the Army.

Strategy and operational level adapted to the new reality of war. Attrition and exhaustion became as important in relation to both positional and maneuver warfare. In 1864 in the East the “ascendancy of positional warfare” allowed Lee to hold out and force Grant into winter quarters at Petersburg.[xv] This demonstrated that “an army fighting on interior lines, even under nearly overwhelming conditions of deprivation and against vastly superior numbers, could sustain a prolonged existence by use of field fortification and defensive maneuver.”[xvi]

shermans-march-through-georgia

Sherman’s March to the Sea

Despite the increasing power of positional warfare in relation to fortifications in the East and around Atlanta, maneuver was not ignored. Sherman’s campaign in Georgia and the Carolinas demonstrated how an army could exploit “diversion, dispersion, and surprise to successfully pursue a modern total-war strategy of exhaustion against the enemy’s resources, communications and will.”[xvii] Sherman used maneuver to force his opponents out of their prepared positions and did not hesitate to target the key infrastructure and infrastructure needed by the Confederate armies. The same was true in Virginia where in 1864 General Phillip Sheridan laid waste to the Shenandoah Valley, the breadbasket of the Army of Northern Virginia.

The developments in tactics, maneuver, defense and logistics and how those were developed over the course of the war brought about a form of warfare that remained dominant of decades. In studying the campaigns, developments and tensions between the theories of Jomini and Mahan in the Civil War a student can begin to recognize them in future wars fought by the US Army including World War Two.

Russell Weigley picks up this theme in his book The American Way of War. Weigley  discusses Grant’s strategy of annihilation and its costs as well as Sherman’s campaign against Johnston and his attack upon Southern resources.[xviii] Weigley’s discussion of tactics used by both sides in the Civil War reflects the thought of British theoretician of J.F.C. Fuller. Fuller noted that “the tactics of this war were not discovered through reflection, but through trial and error.”[xix]

It is important for planners and commanders at the operational level to see the importance the developments of the Civil War on how we campaign today. While the technology is now antiquated, the ideas are not. The campaigns of Grant and Sherman in particular influence modern strategy.  This is reflected the Marine Corps which discusses the maneuver and attrition warfare continuum in MCDP 1 Warfighting.[xx] It is important for students of operational art to be able recognize the these developments and principles in what we do today, to see the logical development of each of these elements in modern war and to find new ways to apply them within the scope of the technologies we now use that those that will be available in the coming years.

traindes

The Destruction of Hood’s Ordnance Train Outside Atlanta

The important things that we learn from studying the various campaigns of the Civil War are timeless. If we only focus on the military aspects of the great battles we miss the really important lessons. The battles and leadership lessons that we learn from them are important. However it is the often arcane but important subjects such as transportation, logistics, communications and fortifications, as well as the diplomatic, economic and informational aspects of the war that are more important.

In his book Hagerman makes an astute observation on how change comes to military organizations. At the end of his discussion of the Corps of Engineers and the Army following the war, he notes “that change in war requires time for digestion before lessons are converted-if they are converted-into theory and doctrine.” [xxi] Such is true in every war.

When the United States entered ground combat operations in the First World War, General John Pershing’s strategy revisited some of the worst mistakes of the Civil War, as well as the bloody lessons learned by the Europeans during the first three years of that war. In light of this one wonders if the lessons were ever fully digested by the Army.

john-mosby-raid

Irregular Formations Such as Mosby’s Raiders Would Create Problems Behind Union Lines, much Like Insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan 

Such an observation can be made about our present wars. We need to ask if the lessons of previous insurgencies have been digested, even going back to the lessons of the Union Army operating in the hostile lands of the conquered Confederacy.[xxii] Likewise it is fair game for us to examine how our military adjusts to developments in weaponry, technology and tactics today in relation to past examples. Such studies must include regular and irregular warfare. Thus when we look at the Civil War, it is important to use those lessons to better understand the timeless aspects of military history, theory, doctrinal development, logistics, communications and experiential learning in war.

If we do not believe that we can learn from history we will in the words of historian George Santayana “be doomed to repeat it.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

Notes: 

[i] Hagerman, Edward. The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare. Midland Book Editions, Indiana University Press. Bloomington IN. 1992. p.9

[ii] Ibid. p.13.

[iii] Hagerman also notes the contributions of Henry Halleck and his Elements of Military Art and Science published in 1846 (p.14) and his influence on many American Officers.  Weigley in his essay in Peter Paret’s Makers of Modern Strategy would disagree with Hagerman who notes that in Halleck’s own words that his work was a “compendium of contemporary ideas, with no attempt at originality.” (p.14) Weigley taking exception gives credit to Halleck for “his efforts to deal in his own book with particularly American military issues.” Paret, Peter editor. Makers of Modern Strategy: For Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1986 p.416.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid. p.27.

[vi] Ibid. p.79.

[vii] Ibid. p.87.

[viii] The most notable use of them between the Peninsula campaign and the Wilderness was at Fredericksburg by Longstreet’s Corps. Many wonder why Lee failed to entrench at Antietam.

[ix] Fuller, J.F.C. Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship, Indiana University Press, Bloomington IN 1957.  Fuller comments “Thus over a year of bitter fighting was necessary to open the eyes of both sides to the fact that the trench was a by product of the rifle bullet, and like so many by-products, as valuable as the product itself.” (p.269) He calls it “astonishing that Lee, an engineering officer, made no use of entrenchments at the battle of Antietam.” (pp.269-270)

[x] Ibid. pp. 198-219.

[xi] Ibid. p.295.  Hagerman comments how Sherman’s troops outside Atlanta began to entrench both the front and rear of their positions.

[xii] Ibid. p.297-298.

[xiii] Ibid. p.238.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Ibid. p.272

[xvi] Ibid. p.274.

[xvii] Ibid. p.293.  B.H. Liddell-Hart in comparing the campaigns of Grant and Sherman makes an important note that Sherman’s strategy is more “suited to the psychology of a democracy…” and “ he who pays the piper calls the tune, and that strategists might be better paid in kind if they attuned their strategy, so far as rightly possible, to the popular ear.” Liddell-Hart, B.H. Strategy Faber and Faber Ltd, London 1954 and 1967, Signet Edition, The New American Library, New York 1974 p.132

[xviii] Weigley, Russell F. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military History and Policy University of Indiana Press, Bloomington IN, 1973. pp.145-146.

[xix] Ibid. Fuller. P.269  A similar comment might be made of most wars including the current Iraq war.

[xx] ___________. MCDP-1 Warfighting. United States Marine Corps, Washington D.C. 1997. pp. 36-39

[xxi] Ibid. Hagerman. P.239

[xxii] Ibid. Fuller. Fuller’s comments on the situation of the Northern Soldier are eerily similar to our current conflict in Iraq : “Consequently, minor tactics were definitely against the Northern soldier, because his major tactics demanded the offensive; for without the offensive the South could not be brought to heel.  It was the problem which had faced the French in LaVendee and in the Peninsula of Spain, which faced Napoleon in Russia, and the British in South Africa during the Boer War of 1899-1902. Not only was the Northern soldier, through force of circumstances, compelled to fight in the enemy’s country, but he was compelled to devastate it as well as conquer it, in order to protect himself against the bands of irregular troops which were here, there and everywhere.” pp.247-248

Bibliography

Fuller, J.F.C. Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship, Indiana University Press, Bloomington IN 1957

Hagerman, Edward. The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare. Midland Book Editions, Indiana University Press. Bloomington IN. 1992

Liddell-Hart, B.H. Strategy Faber and Faber Ltd, London 1954 and 1967, Signet Edition, The New American Library, New York 1974

Paret, Peter editor. Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1986

Weigley, Russell F. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military History and Policy University of Indiana Press, Bloomington IN, 1973

___________. MCDP-1 Warfighting. United States Marine Corps, Washington D.C. 1997

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The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare

Hagerman, Edward. The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare. Midland Book Editions, Indiana University Press. Bloomington IN. 1992

Pickett’s Charge Displayed the Futility of Napoleonic Tactics Against Modern Weaponry

Edward Hagerman postulates in The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare that the American Civil War is the first modern war. He examines developments in tactics, logistics and the concept of total war and looks specifically how tactical and strategic thought impacted the war.  Specifically Hagerman examines how Henri Jomini’s interpretation of Napoleonic warfare and the theories of Dennis Hart Mahan and Henry Halleck which were the prevalent military thought in America were challenged by advances in weaponry and the vastness of the American continent.  He surveys how the Union and Confederate armies learned the value and application of field fortifications and the limitations of artillery in the offense.  Even more importantly Hagerman argues how logistics influenced campaigning on the American continent as opposed to earlier European wars. Likewise he examines how the 20th Century concept of total war found its first application in the campaigns of General Sherman and how Robert E. Lee’s use of defensive maneuver and fortifications in positional warfare heralded a new era in warfare.

Dennis Hart Mahan’s Book: The First American Book on Military Theory

Hagerman examines how these factors influence and affected the Union and Confederate armies.  His initial focus is the tactical conundrum posed by the advances weaponry particularly the rifled musket to the Napoleonic tactics that both armies began the war. Napoleonic tactics were developed at a time when the maximum effective range of muskets was barely 100 meters and how despite the increase in range and accuracy that came with the rifled musket how tactical formations and tactics were slow to change.

Hagerman spends the first part of his book examining how the ante-bellum US Army leadership was influenced by the theories of Henri Jomini. He discusses the challenge to Jominian orthodoxy by Dennis Hart Mahan, who modified “the current orthodoxy by rejecting its central tenants-primarily offensive assault tactics.”[i] He examines the tension in American military thought between the conservative Jominian thinking which predominated much of the Army, noting that within the army “Mahan’s decrees failed to win universal applause.”[ii] However, Mahan influenced many future leaders of both the Union and Confederate armies in his “Napoleon Club” a military round table at West Point.[iii] Hagerman notes that Mahan’s greatest contributions were his development of the active defense and emphasis on victory through maneuver. Unlike Jomini, who thought maneuver as risky with the purpose of the “defeat of the enemy’s army,” Mahan emphasized “maneuver to occupy the enemy’s territory or strategic points.”[iv] In the book Hagerman wrestles with disjointed developments in infantry, artillery and cavalry tactics of the ante-bellum Army which and surmises that “Military thinking, and even more strategic organization, remained essentially within the Napoleonic tradition filtered through an eighteenth-century world view….” He asserts that “A broader vision was necessary to pose an alternative to the mechanistic program.”[v]

The 2nd Michigan Regiment: Most Civil War Units on both sides were State Regiments

Hagerman then discusses wartime developments in strategy, tactics and organization as they developed in both the Eastern and Western theaters.  He focuses on the themes of organization, logistics, communications, weaponry, field fortifications and maneuver. In each chapter he weaves these themes to show how they affected campaigns or were modified during the war based on experience.  He deals with leadership, but mostly in the context of how leaders responded to challenges posed in these arenas.  Of particular interest to him are the early efforts of successive commanders of the Army of the Potomac including McClellan, Burnside and Hooker to deal with these problems as well as the responses of Grant, Sherman and Rosecrans in the West to the same issues.

Hagerman’s discussion of army organization focuses on how each army developed sociologically as well as professionally prior to and during the war. He examines the ways that commanders educated at West Point initially dealt with large armies made up of militia units and volunteers and how these armies would be changed by the war.  He includes in the discussion i the institution of the draft in both the North and South.  His discussion of how McClellan successful fought the break-up of the Regular Army keeping it separate from the militia units organized by the States was important to development of the Army. He notes their importance and points out the problems of the militia units raised by the various states particularly in the early part of the war.

The Integration of Sea and Land Logistics Systems in the Civil War Revolutionized the Way that Modern War is Supplied

More significant to Hagerman’s narrative is his emphasis on logistics, and how each Army responded to the challenges of supplying their armies in the field.  Hagerman examines how the ante-bellum Army developed its logistic doctrine from the Napoleonic examples and how that doctrine had to be modified in light of the American reality of a less developed continent with far greater distances involved.

Hagerman’s discussion of logistics is quite detailed.  He examines topics such as the number of wagons per regiment and how army commanders, modified that number at various points during the war based on their situation. He discusses the development of the “flying column” as a response to the dependency on wagons and basic load of food and ammunition carried by each soldier in order to increase strategic maneuverability.  He details the forage requirements for people and animals in each theater of operations and how each army responded to requirement of living off the land for much of their forage requirements and their relative successes and failures in supplying their soldiers in this fashion.

Railways Meant the Ability to Move Troops and Supplies Great Distances very Quickly

Hagenman discusses the use of railroads and the use of naval forces to both assist the ground forces and to move supplies and troops.  In each of these areas he provides a detailed examination of the effect of logistical considerations on each army.  He notes that of all the areas of development that the Army of the Potomac was successful at putting logistic theory into practice. By late 1863 the Army of the Potomac demonstrated “the close integration of operational planning and that of the general in chief and supply bureaus. In this one area, the development of a mature and modern staff was evident.”[vi]

Hagerman’s discussion of the development of communications in both armies focuses on the fact that the size of the armies and the distances involved on the battlefield made command and control difficult.  As such each army experimented with signals organizations that used tradition visual signals and couriers but began to rely on the telegraph for rapid communications.  He deals with the conflict in the North between the Signal Corps and the Military Telegraph Service.  He discusses the use of wire telegraph equipment and the new Beardslee wireless telegraphs by the Signal Corps and how the Army eventually favored the traditional wire bound networks operated by the Military Telegraph.  Though the Army rejected the Beardslee equipment some commanders requested it for their operations.[vii] As they became more dependent on such communications armies feared that their signals could be compromised through wire tapping and made efforts to encode transmissions.

Signal Corps Soldiers and Wire Communications

Hagerman’s discusses the evolution of the Union and Confederate armies use of field fortifications including their use in offensive campaigns.  He discusses their use by McClellan on the Peninsula in 1861 and Lee’s sporadic use of them[viii] until 1864 beginning in the Wilderness campaign and culminating in the defense and siege of Petersburg.  Hagerman’s thesis is that the developments in field works and firepower gave the advantage to the defense when armies made the frontal attacks which were at the heart of Jominian theory.  He notes how various commanders including Grant failed at Shiloh and Lee at Antietam failed to dig in, but how both the Union and Confederate armies learned to dig hasty field works as a matter of course.[ix]

Both sides also learned to use maneuver in combination with positional warfare to force the enemy to battle. Hagerman examines the campaigns in the West of Grant, Sherman and Rosecrans, particularly Stone’s River, the Vicksburg Campaign, and the campaign in middle Tennessee.[x] The last two chapters mention these issues in the context of the 1864-65 campaign around Richmond and Sherman’s campaigns in Georgia and the Carolinas.  Of particular note is how Sherman’s forces routinely entrenched on the offensive[xi] and how Confederate forces under Joseph Johnston employed entrenchments on the defensive. Hagerman notes how Confederate Cavalry “perhaps best displayed the growing intensity of trench warfare” noting General Joe Wheeler’s use of them at the close of the war.[xii]

Massive Siege Mortar outside Petersburg

A sidebar to Hagerman’s discussion of fortification is his examination of the Corps of Engineers.  He discusses the development of Engineering or Pioneer units from nothing in 1861 to organized units by the middle of the war.  He examines the problems of the Engineering Corps in adjusting to the war. He notes its dispersion among the line and its civil duties as impediments to responding to the needs of war and both the hesitancy and resistance to creating engineering units by Congress, despite the pleas of McClellan and Lincoln.[xiii] He then looks at the institutional irony of the how newly organized engineer units had few West Point trained Corps of Engineers officers, but were primarily staffed and commanded by officers detailed from the line. The effect was a “decline in the antebellum definition of professionalism embodied in the Corps of Engineers.”[xiv]

Engineering Units were Built from Scratch and Accomplished Many Feats

Petersburg Fortifications a Harbinger of World War One

Hagerman’s last two chapters focus on the developments in the strategies of attrition and exhaustion in relation to positional and maneuver warfare.  He examines how this was by Grant in Virginia and Sherman in Georgia and the Carolinas.  He discusses the “ascendancy of positional warfare” which allowed Lee to hold out and force Grant into winter quarters at Petersburg.[xv] This demonstrated that “an army fighting on interior lines, even under nearly overwhelming conditions of deprivation and against vastly superior numbers, could sustain a prolonged existence by use of field fortification and defensive maneuver.”[xvi] Sherman’s campaign demonstrated how an army could exploit “diversion, dispersion, and surprise to successfully pursue a modern total-war strategy of exhaustion against the enemy’s resources, communications and will.”[xvii]

Sherman’s March to the Sea

Hagerman’s book is particularly strong in the discussion of tactical developments and logistics and how those were developed over the course of the war.  It is strong because it allows the serious student to trace the developments in each of the areas he examines to future wars fought by the US Army.  Russell Weigley picks up the effect of what Hagerman describes in his books The American Way of War discussing both Grant’s strategy of annihilation and its costs, and in Sherman’s campaign against Johnston and attack upon Southern resources.[xviii] His discussion of tactics reflects that of J.F.C. Fuller notes that “the tactics of this war were not discovered through reflection, but through trial and error.”[xix] The events described by Hagerman, especially the campaigns of Grant and Sherman influence modern strategy including that of the Marine Corps which discusses maneuver and attrition warfare continuum in MCDP 1 Warfighting.[xx] Hagerman’s work is best at helping tie the elements of war often ignored by other Civil War historians into a coherent whole that allows the reader to see the logical development of each of these elements in modern war.

Irregular Formations Such as Mosby’s Raiders Would Create Problems Behind Union Lines

Hagerman’s value to the literature is that he fills a void among many Civil War writers who often focus simply on the battles and campaigns and not arcane but important subjects such as transportation, logistics, communications and fortifications.  Hagerman makes an astute observation on how change comes to military organizations at the end of his discussion of the Corps of Engineers and the Army following the war.  He notes “that change in war requires time for digestion before lessons are converted-if they are converted-into theory and doctrine.” [xxi] In the light of the Pershing’s strategy in the First World War One, which revisited some of the worst mistakes of the Civil War one wonders if those lessons were ever fully digested by the Army. Such an observation can be made about our present war.  We need to ask if the lessons of previous insurgencies in conquered areas have been digested, even going back to the lessons of the Union Army operating in the hostile lands of the conquered Confederacy.[xxii] Likewise how an Army adjusts to developments in weaponry, technology and tactics are fair game when one analyzes past campaigns in relation to current wars.  Thus when we look at Hagerman it is important to use his work to understand the timeless aspects of military history, theory, doctrinal development, logistics, communications and experiential learning in war that are with us even today.


[i] Hagerman, Edward. The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare. Midland Book Editions, Indiana University Press. Bloomington IN. 1992. p.9

[ii] Ibid. p.13.

[iii] Hagerman also notes the contributions of Henry Halleck and his Elements of Military Art and Science published in 1846 (p.14) and his influence on many American Officers.  Weigley in his essay in Peter Paret’s Makers of Modern Strategy would disagree with Hagerman who notes that in Halleck’s own words that his work was a “compendium of contemporary ideas, with no attempt at originality.” (p.14) Weigley taking exception gives credit to Halleck for “his efforts to deal in his own book with particularly American military issues.” Paret, Peter editor. Makers of Modern Strategy: For Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1986 p.416.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid. p.27.

[vi] Ibid. p.79.

[vii] Ibid. p.87.

[viii] The most notable use of them between the Peninsula campaign and the Wilderness was at Fredericksburg by Longstreet’s Corps. Many wonder why Lee failed to entrench at Antietam.

[ix] Fuller, J.F.C. Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship, Indiana University Press, Bloomington IN 1957.  Fuller comments “Thus over a year of bitter fighting was necessary to open the eyes of both sides to the fact that the trench was a by product of the rifle bullet, and like so many by-products, as valuable as the product itself.” (p.269) He calls it “astonishing that Lee, an engineering officer, made no use of entrenchments at the battle of Antietam.” (pp.269-270)

[x] Ibid. pp. 198-219.

[xi] Ibid. p.295.  Hagerman comments how Sherman’s troops outside Atlanta began to entrench both the front and rear of their positions.

[xii] Ibid. p.297-298.

[xiii] Ibid. p.238.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Ibid. p.272

[xvi] Ibid. p.274.

[xvii] Ibid. p.293.  B.H. Liddell-Hart in comparing the campaigns of Grant and Sherman makes an important note that Sherman’s strategy is more “suited to the psychology of a democracy…” and “ he who pays the piper calls the tune, and that strategists might be better paid in kind if they attuned their strategy, so far as rightly possible, to the popular ear.” Liddell-Hart, B.H. Strategy Faber and Faber Ltd, London 1954 and 1967, Signet Edition, The New American Library, New York 1974 p.132

[xviii] Weigley, Russell F. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military History and Policy University of Indiana Press, Bloomington IN, 1973. pp.145-146.

[xix] Ibid. Fuller. P.269  A similar comment might be made of most wars including the current Iraq war.

[xx] ___________. MCDP-1 Warfighting. United States Marine Corps, Washington D.C. 1997. pp. 36-39

[xxi] Ibid. Hagerman. P.239

[xxii] Ibid. Fuller. Fuller’s comments on the situation of the Northern Soldier are eerily similar to our current conflict in Iraq : “Consequently, minor tactics were definitely against the Northern soldier, because his major tactics demanded the offensive; for without the offensive the South could not be brought to heel.  It was the problem which had faced the French in LaVendee and in the Peninsula of Spain, which faced Napoleon in Russia, and the British in South Africa during the Boer War of 1899-1902. Not only was the Northern soldier, through force of circumstances, compelled to fight in the enemy’s country, but he was compelled to devastate it as well as conquer it, in order to protect himself against the bands of irregular troops which were here, there and everywhere.” pp.247-248

Bibliography

Fuller, J.F.C. Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship, Indiana University Press, Bloomington IN 1957

Hagerman, Edward. The American Civil War and the Origins of Modern Warfare. Midland Book Editions, Indiana University Press. Bloomington IN. 1992

Liddell-Hart, B.H. Strategy Faber and Faber Ltd, London 1954 and 1967, Signet Edition, The New American Library, New York 1974

Paret, Peter editor. Makers of Modern Strategy: For Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1986

Weigley, Russell F. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military History and Policy University of Indiana Press, Bloomington IN, 1973

___________. MCDP-1 Warfighting. United States Marine Corps, Washington D.C. 1997

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The Impact of Technology on the Organization, Strategy and Tactics in the Second World War

Introduction

World War II saw some of most rapid technological advances impacting military forces in history. The advances in technology impacted the organization and tactics of major power military forces, especially those of the United States, Germany, the Soviet Union and Great Britain.  These advances combined to revolutionize the way wars were fought and military forces have been organized to the current day.

Heinz Guderian’s Theories of Mechanized and Combined Arms Warfare and His Organizational Genius Revolutionized  Land Warfare

The technical developments and their relationship to military organization and tactical applications began in the years following World War I as various writers began to analyze that war and formulate ways not to repeat the grist mill of trench warfare that dominated it.  The writers looked at tactical innovations, new technology and enunciated ways that technology and tactics could be combined with organizational changes to revolutionize the ways that wars were fought.  Chief among these writers were General Fuller and Captain B.H. Liddell Hart in Britain, Colonel Heinz Guderian and Erwin Rommel in Germany.  Airpower theories were dominated by the strategic bombing theories of Italy’s Guido Douhet and tactical air theories of American Marine General Roy Geiger as well as the pioneers of tactical air support in the Luftwaffe.   In the United States General George C. Marshall helped initiate doctrinal changes that would change the way that the U.S. Army would fight.

Among the common elements found in the works of these men was the necessity to apply technology to overcome the pitfalls that all of the armies which fought in the First World War found themselves.

The Mechanization of Ground Forces

Mass Speed and Firepower: The Germans Would Pioneer the New Style of Warfare

There were a number of major technological advances between the wars and during the war that helped change the nature of warfare.  One of the earliest was the mechanization of armies which began toward the end of the First World War and continued between the wars to varying degrees in each country.  All the major armies experimented with mechanized forces to one degree or another. In Britain these got the earliest start with some formations being 100% mechanized by the early 1930s.  France was more circumspect about mechanization only slowly converting forces as they were focused on a defensive strategy based on the Maginot Line.  Many in the German high command resisted Guderian and other innovators regarding the mechanization of the Wehrmacht as well as the development of the Panzerwaffe.

The Soviet Union Would Turn the Tables on the Germans using their own Tactics

The Soviet Union had a large number of mechanized and armored formations prior to the war though they were not proficient in their use and had not developed doctrine to match the forces that they controlled.  The Untied States also resisted efforts to mechanize its Army but seeing the results of the German Blitzkrieg quickly overcame years of resistance to become an Army that save for 2 Cavalry Divisions was 100% mechanized.  The development of Airborne formations added the possibility of vertical envelopment to ground operations. These developments impacted nearly every campaign in Europe and North Africa and to a much lesser degree the Pacific theater. German performance in the early Polish, French, North African and Balkan Campaigns as well as the initial foray into the Soviet Union were all successful due to the proficiency of their combined mechanized, Panzer and tactical air forces.  The Soviets would develop and become very effective at this type of warfare on a much large scale than the Germans could have imagined beginning with the Stalingrad counteroffensive and especially in the destruction  of the German Army Group Center in the summer of 1944.

Though Using Lighter Armored Forces the Americans Would become Proficient in the New Type of Warfare by the Summer of 1944

The Americans became proficient at mobile operations during the war, especially during the “dash across France” and the breakout in the Saar-Palatine campaign in 1945,  but many times uninventive commanders squandered the advantage and allowed themselves to be sucked into battles of attrition that their forces were not made for.

Communications

A key development that accompanied and accentuated the mechanization of ground forces were advances in tactical wireless communications which made it possible for commanders to keep up with fast moving formations and react in near real time to changing tactical situations.  The Germans were the first to become very proficient in this as they not only developed communications for ground forces but also for coordination between tactical air forces and ground forces.  This made the German Blitzkrieg the first example of modern air-ground combat cooperation.  The Americans, British and Soviets would follow suit but it was the German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe that pioneered the communications revolution.  As the war went on communications capabilities increased and armies became more dependent on tactical and long range wireless communications.  The dependency of military forces on communications networks became a major factor in operational planning and the success of the Allies in breaking Japanese and German codes gave them an advantage in anticipating German or Japanese moves.

Armor, Firepower and Mobility: The Tank Comes into its Own

World War Two Saw Tanks become Deadly Instruments of Modern Warfare

Mechanization was a major factor in the war and the most decisive component of the mechanization of ground forces was the development of the tank as well as specialized formations which employed tanks in close cooperation with other arms, such as mechanized infantry and artillery.  The development of such forces really began with the British but the best example of this was the German Panzer Division.  The Panzer Division was a totally mechanized and integrated force of all arms which was employed in mass and capable like all German units to be task organized into Kampfgruppen to optimize tactical flexibility.  British Armored Divisions were tank heavy and infantry light which made them far less flexible organizations.  Soviet Armored forces were slow to develop but they became masters of large level operational maneuver using mechanized and tactical air forces to a deadly effect against the Wehrmacht.  The Americans delivered a light and flexible armored formation and became very proficient in combined arms warfare though the divisional structure often proved too light and not as resilient as German formations.  It was in this environment that the tank truly came into its own to dominate the battlefield in a way that many could not have imagined prior to the war. Firepower, protection and mobility advantages gained through technological advances increased the lethality and survivability of the tank and forced each side to develop better ways of neutralizing tanks through more powerful anti-tank guns, sabot rounds and shaped charges.

Tactical and Strategic Air developments

The Americans and the British Would Develop the Concept of Strategic Bombing against Germany

With the technical revolution came revolution in the skies both at the strategic and tactical levels.  Modern bombers with good navigational gear guided by radar and assisted by modern bombsites such as the Norden developed by the United States would wreak havoc on industrial and civilian centers. Advances in aircraft technology saw fast and more lethal aircraft being fielded by all powers as the war progressed and while Jet propulsion developed during the war would doom piston powered aircraft as first line assets.

The P-47 Thunderbolt Would Serve as both a Long Range Bomber Escort and as Seen Here as an Excellent Ground Attack Aircraft

Tactical air developments would be led by the Germans but as the war went on the Allies developed sophisticate tactical air forces that dominated battlefields when the weather permitted. The Germans pioneered the use of ballistic missiles as well as the cruise missile while the United States and Britain developed the Atomic Bomb.  Specialized types of tactics and organizations were developed for strategic, tactical and naval air forces. At the strategic level there were the dueling schools of precision versus area bombing while at the tactical level the developments were as much predicated on air-ground communications as they were the aircraft flown.  Specialized aircraft were developed or modified as tank-killers while fighter forces became more specialized to into interceptors, bomber escorts and night fighters.

The Obselecent Junkers JU-87 found New Life on the Eastern Front as a Tank Killer armed with 2 37mm FLAK cannon

The influence of air assets, especially at the tactical level would become more pronounced as the war went on.  Allied air superiority ensured that the landings in France and the breakout in Normandy succeeded and tactical air dominance by US Navy and Marine air forces in the Pacific aided ground operations as well as sea battles.

Amphibious Warfare developments

The US Navy and Marine Corps Would Perfect Amphibious Operations in the Pacific

Technology came to the fore in amphibious operations with the development of specialized landing craft, beach clearing equipment and naval gunfire support.  This effort was led by the United States with the most advanced force being the Marines.   The combined use of air, land, sea and naval air forces to include the use of Aircraft Carriers revolutionized how the campaign in the Pacific would be fought to a conclusion long before anyone thought that it could be.

General Naval Developments

At sea ship design advanced new and better classes of warships as technologic advances in radar, sonar, gunnery systems, torpedo and ant-aircraft technology made warships far more formidable than those built only years before the war.  This was nowhere more apparent than in submarine development especially that of Germany’s U-boat arm with the development of streamlined hulls and “schnorkel” technology.  The use of U-Boats and later American submarines in the Pacific into “Wolf Packs” increased the lethality of submarine forces to a near decisive state in the war.  Naval tactics were influenced by the use of air and surface search radar as well as sonar.

US Fast Carrier Task Forces Would Dominate the Pacific War and Naval Warfare to the Present Day

The development of the US Navy into the dominant Naval Power of the next 65 years was built upon the success of the Navy in the Second World War.  The largest and some of the bloodiest sea battles in history were fought in the Pacific with decisive results in that theater of operations.  Operationally the major Navies all were influenced to one degree or another by the theories of Alfred Thayer Mahan.

Summary and Conclusion

The course of World War Two was determined by the strategic and operational theories developed in the inter-war years. These were applied correctly by some powers and not by others.   The use technological advances and more effective organizational structure developed in the inter-war years and refined by the experience of war impacted the war on land, at sea and in the air in every theater of war.  The use of combined arms and joint operations revolutionized the manner in which wars would be fought.  If the technology, theory and force structure had not come together when it did the war might have been fought much as the First World War.  Instead warfare became faster and more lethal than ever and would lead to even more advances in the years to come.

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Filed under History, Military, world war two in europe, world war two in the pacific