PatsytheNazi Registered User
#1

In the American Civil War, the Confederate officers from junior to senior seemed to be so better than the Union officers. Why so ?

It seems to me that the Union army, through no fault of the rank and file who fought with as much bravery and tenacity as the Confederates but seemed to have poor leadership and eventually won by superior numbers and resources. I was going to post this on the History forum but I'm sure Manic Moran and a few of more of you military guys would have more knowledge.

Raging_Ninja Registered User
#2

That may have been true in the east, but it was the other way round in the west where the Union forces did quite well against the Confederates.

n32 Registered User
#3

Slightly off topic but keep an eye out for ''Gettysburg'' on one of those movies4men on Sky (channel 323) i think. Martin Sheen is in it and a few more big names. THe film is in 3 two hour blocks. It covers the Battle of Gettysburg from the Union and the Confederate side and it is a superb film. There is one very poignant subplot where a Confederate officer is remeniscing about the outbreak of the war and the breakup of former comades who went their separate ways to both sides. A must see.

#4

Politics? The Army of the Potomac seemed more concerned with who had what job than the actual enemy.


http://www.wood.army.mil/engrmag/pdfs%20for%20apr-jun%2007/secure%20pdfs/swain%20secure.pdf

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donaghs Registered User
#5

Many Confederates were motivated by what they saw as a Northern invasion of their homelands. The North didn't have the same strong unifying motivations. The main motivation in the North was to put down a rebellion. The end of slavery was a very noble cause, but was not an official war aim until after Gettysburg, and unfortunately to be blunt, not everyone in the North was sympathetic towards the slaves or Black people.

banie01 Registered User
#6

You also should take account of the much higher proportion of Southern born officers who entered the army and had a military education.

The majority of Southern planter family sons attended military schools for their initial education(Even today there is a preponderance of Military schools in the South)and even the majority of Westpoint attendees and graduates upto 1861 were from Southern states.

This focus on martial education came about in part from Southern upper classes believe that they were the inheritors of the European chivalric ideal and is further evidenced by the widespread practice of duelling and honour killings in the antebellum south.

In the South it was a respectable and honoured profession to enter the army. Professional Soldiery was seen by Southern planters as an almost a Knightly vocation,( there are some very interesting works on this thesis, I'll see if I can find the links)
One that was supported via the old wealth and aristocratic aspirations of the planter class.
Whereas in the antebellum North with the Industrial explosion and the growth in trade and enterprise, many men who would otherwise seek their futures in the army persued their American dream instead.

Manic Moran Moderator
#7

I wonder if there's not a bit of romaniticism involved. The Southern Gentlemen, conducting themselves in appropriately dignified manner whilst engaged outnumbered by a superiorly resourced enemy in a doomed resistance...

If you think about it, were the likes of JEB Stuart or Nathan Forrest really better cavalry commanders than Buford, Sheridan or Wilson? For Thomas Jackson or Patrick Cleburne on one side, you've got people like George Thomas or George Meade on the other. Grant was no poor officer either. Perhaps not as great a leader as Lee, but when it came to getting the job done, the US couldn't complain, even without the Lee Charisma. And, of course, you have that small little issue of Sherman traipsing half way around the country on his stroll to the sea.

PatsytheNazi Registered User
#8

banie01 said:
You also should take account of the much higher proportion of Southern born officers who entered the army and had a military education.

The majority of Southern planter family sons attended military schools for their initial education(Even today there is a preponderance of Military schools in the South)and even the majority of Westpoint attendees and graduates upto 1861 were from Southern states.

This focus on martial education came about in part from Southern upper classes believe that they were the inheritors of the European chivalric ideal and is further evidenced by the widespread practice of duelling and honour killings in the antebellum south.

In the South it was a respectable and honoured profession to enter the army. Professional Soldiery was seen by Southern planters as an almost a Knightly vocation,( there are some very interesting works on this thesis, I'll see if I can find the links)
One that was supported via the old wealth and aristocratic aspirations of the planter class.
Whereas in the antebellum North with the Industrial explosion and the growth in trade and enterprise, many men who would otherwise seek their futures in the army persued their American dream instead.

Very good. I vaguely remember some documentary mentioning the southerners attendance at military school etc pre the war whereas the union army officers were often very inexpericenced.

#9

PatsytheNazi said:
Very good. I vaguely remember some documentary mentioning the southerners attendance at military school etc pre the war whereas the union army officers were often very inexpericenced.


From Wiki


With few active officers to fill many commands, the two Civil War armies had to look to other persons for military leadership. Lower ranking U.S. Army officers, Mexican-American War veterans and military school graduates in civilian life would fill many top and field grade officer positions. Many positions were also filled by foreign emigres, some of whom had military training, and politicians and other civilians with no military training. Some became good generals but many others were poor commanders.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, 296 U.S. Army officers of various grades resigned. Of these, 239 joined the Confederate Army in 1861 and 31 joined after 1861. Of these Confederate officers from the U.S. Army, 184 were United States Military Academy graduates. The other active U.S. Army 809 officers, 640 of whom were West Point graduates, remained with the Union. Of the approximately 900 West Point graduates in civilian life at the beginning of the war, 114 returned to the Union Army and 99 joined the Confederate Army.[48] Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont furnished more officers to the war than any other military school except the United States Military Academy and Virginia Military Institute. The school contributed 523 officers to the Union Army and 34 to the Confederate Army.[49] Norwich was the only military college in the Northern states, other than West Point, which had a sizable number of military trained alumni who could provide a significant number of officers to the Union Army.

Of the 1,902 men who had ever attended Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, 1,781 fought for the Confederacy. One-third of the field officers of Virginia regiments in 1861 were V.M.I. graduates.[50] The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina provided at least 6 general officers to the Confederate Army as well as 49 field grade officers, and 120 company grade officers.[51] Another alumnus of The Citadel, Colonel Charles C. Tew, was killed on the eve of his promotion to brigadier general.[52]

xflyer Registered User
#10

Sherman and Grant were as good as any southerner, better they were ruthless in their execution of the war aims. That isn't romantic but they represented the early example of the American general we all know and love, ahem! But the civil war was the first really technological American war. The presage of things to come. On the Northern side anyway.

Southerners may have had the advantage that there is a tradition of military service but in the end the Northeners had the whip hand because they had the resources the southerners didn't.

There is a romantic element to Lee, Jackson and Stuart. They were good but made enough mistakes to remove the gloss, although to be fair Jackson did get killed by a picquet of his own army. Whether he lived or died it wouldn't have changed the result though.

A fascinating period, I think.

Einhard Registered User
#11

I've been reading a fair bit about the Civil War recently, and I think one of the reasons for the comparative success of the Confederate armies, is that they were almost always on the defensive, were often heavily dug in, and could pick and choose the field. In the majority of battles, the Union had to attack heavily entrenched positions. In the few battles where the Confederates gave battle, as Gettysburg and Chatanooga, they suffered heavy defeats, and in the former, Lee was guilty of serious misjudgement.

Also, the fact that the Confererates were so outmatched in military and industrial capacity, meant that their commanders had to be more resourceful and daring.

Finally: McClellan. I'm finding myself despising the man!!

PatsytheNazi Registered User
#12

Einhard said:
I've been reading a fair bit about the Civil War recently, and I think one of the reasons for the comparative success of the Confederate armies, is that they were almost always on the defensive, were often heavily dug in, and could pick and choose the field. In the majority of battles, the Union had to attack heavily entrenched positions. In the few battles where the Confederates gave battle, as Gettysburg and Chatanooga, they suffered heavy defeats, and in the former, Lee was guilty of serious misjudgement.

Also, the fact that the Confererates were so outmatched in military and industrial capacity, meant that their commanders had to be more resourceful and daring.

Finally: McClellan. I'm finding myself despising the man!!

Very true and often forgot about in discussions on the American Civil war.

MajorMax Registered User
#13

I've always thought that the rapid expansion of the Union army and the appointment of incompetent political Generals (Nathaniel Banks, I'm looking at you) Gave rise to officers who were hopelessly out of their depth. Decent company commanders were expected to take command of half trained Regiments and in some cases Brigades, and the results were self evident. Not that the CSA didn't have it's share of Political Generals (John Breckinridge, you muppet)

But I think that the alleged superiority of the conferate Generals is due at least in part to the fact that the confederacy lost the war and southerners needed to believe that they were out-produced and out manned not out fought or out generaled.

Look at JEB Stuarts abscence before Gettysburg when Lee desperately needed up to date intelligence. "Granny" Lee's reputation at the start of the war was as an overly cautious worry wart and if Albert Sidney Johnston hadn't been killed at Shiloh then I dooubt that Lee would have risen past Corp command. Don't get me started on "Stonewall Jackson" Mad as a bag of Spiders.

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