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How did the various armies of the CW mature? - General Civil War Talk - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Sun Nov 11th, 2007 04:19 pm
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JoanieReb
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Was reading a chronological account of battles last night, and it struck me how one army, that three battles before had been a disorganized mess, was fighting its "current" battle with smarts and efficiency.  While, the army it was fighting, which was also experienced, was still blundering about.  It made me wonder, how DID each individual army mature?  What combination of the men, the officers, experience, and other factors worked to take an army to its pinnacle? I've always held that armies, like people, have their own distinct personalities.  

Any thoughts on the subject?



 Posted: Sun Nov 11th, 2007 05:54 pm
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J
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Armies are like individuals. The same way individuals mature or don't mature armies mature or don't. One learns from its mistakes and the other keeps blaming everyone and everything but oneself for one's own failures. So for both armies and individuals, it's mostly a matter of character. Character of an army reflects the character of its soldiers. I'm a firm believer that soldiers from Western and Southern states were much tougher fighters than those from Eastern/urban states. The western union armies were much more aggressive on offense as well as on defense. You don't hear of Southern armies routing except when fighting in the west (Missionary ridge, Nashville, Big Black, etc).

So, having said that character allows an army to toughen up, there are factors which can demoralize or enliven an army. Hunger and fatigue are two demoralizing factors.

Lack of trust in the general in charge is another demoralizing influence. Braxton Bragg lead a fine army but he lost the trust of his foot soldier thereby leading to the humiliating rout at Missionary Ridge. The same army trusted and fought for Joseph Johnston.

Of course a string of victories does not hurt either. And what's important especially at the outset is proper training and proper equipment. A lot of soliders on either side did not know how to fire a weapon at the beginning of the war, let alone know how to attack an entrenched enemy position in echelon. And, a lot of southern armies had old flint lock weapons which did not fire when wet.

One army that had a lot of character, good leadership and a string of victories was the Army of the Tennessee. So, despite set-backs such as the first day of Shiloh and loss at Kennesaw Mountain, the Army of the Tennessee's morale was always very high.

Cheers,

Jae



 Posted: Sun Nov 11th, 2007 11:38 pm
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JoanieReb
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Very good points, Jae,

These will be top-notch for a further discussion.

I don't think I said what I was trying to say very well.  I was wondering about the individual armies.  Each one's development.

When I look into my own perceptions, I realize that I think that The Army of Northern Virginia came of age when Lee and Stonewall mutually successfully came into their own and melded with their army,  and that remained the personality of The ANV until the very end. 

On the other hand, it feels as if the Army of the Potomac never had a solid identity - solid veterans, to be sure - but that it never found a true identity, just a commander who finally knew how to untilize its richness. 

And, tho I have read far too little about it, that The Army of Tennessee was always The Army of Tennessee, no matter whom led them.  My hat is off to those men.

BTW, I will never slag the men of The Army of the Potomac, because when I think of Cold Harbor, all I can think is, "Those men deserved better."

Thanks,

Joanie

Ps - I was actually reading of two smaller armies, each with less than 18,000 men, when I started this line of thought.  However, after 1862, each of those armies no longer existed.

Last edited on Sun Nov 11th, 2007 11:46 pm by JoanieReb



 Posted: Tue Nov 13th, 2007 02:07 am
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Johan Steele
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Woodworth, Steven E., Nothing but Victory The Army of the Tennessee, Knoph, 2005.  I think is a title that does a superb job of following the maturation of the AoT (US)

 

Johnson, Mark W. That Body of Brave Men, Da Capo Press, 2003.  Is a title that follows the muturation and demise of the Regulars of the AoC.

 

Griffith, Paddy, Battle In the Civil War Generalship and Tactics in America 1861-65, Fieldbooks, 1986.

Griffith, Paddy, Battle Tactics of the Civil War, Yale University Press, 2001.

Two titles that I think are absolute must reads on how battle and campaigns were fought... frankly I can think of no equal to these titles.

 

Now about a year ago I read what I thought of as a superb book on the AoT (CS) and while it lets Johnson off a litle easier perhpas than I might think was necessary it was an outstanding book that followed the Army through to its destruction at Nashville and the shadow of its former glory at Bentonville.  I cannot for the life of me recall the author or even the title and I would hope Ole (maybe the guilty party who suggested it) or another fine gent can put forth the title.

 

I have concentrated almost exclusively upon the Armies west of the Appalacians to the detriment of those in the side show that was the eastern theatre :) It is fascinating to see how the various Regiments, Brigades, Divisions etc evolved, ebbed & flowed.



 Posted: Tue Nov 13th, 2007 03:18 am
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ole
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Probably a Woodworth book. I can't remember either.

ole

Last edited on Tue Nov 13th, 2007 03:35 pm by ole



 Posted: Tue Nov 13th, 2007 03:28 am
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PvtClewell
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Johan writes:

'I have concentrated almost exclusively upon the Armies west of the Appalachians to the detriment of those in the side show that was the eastern theatre It is fascinating to see how the various Regiments, Brigades, Divisions etc evolved, ebbed & flowed."

Pvt. Clewell responds:
Sigh. :)



 Posted: Tue Nov 13th, 2007 12:11 pm
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Johan Steele
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Yep, them easterners did most of their fightin in the newspapers anyway. :)



 Posted: Fri Nov 16th, 2007 04:54 pm
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booklover
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How did armies mature? Well, first their voices started to change and then they noticed hair growing...oh, not that kind of mature!

Seriously, I think you hit on one of the main reasons why the armies matured as they did, i.e. the continuity of command. The ANV had one general throughout most of the war while the AOP had five or six in the same period. Stability surely bred maturity. Even though McClellan is rightly castigated for his inaction, he played a major role in developing that maturity at the training level. Grant, I think, simply picked up and advanced it to the point that Little Mac couldn't, meaning he took a disciplined group of men and told them they were going to fight until they couldn't fight any more, and then fight some more. Also, each individual soldier brought their own experiences into the battles that could only help and inspire those newer soldiers to achieve the best they could. This is something that surely deserves more study, unfortunately, I've added about all I can think of.

Best
Rob

Last edited on Fri Nov 16th, 2007 04:56 pm by booklover



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