|View single post by Texas Defender|
|Posted: Sat Aug 2nd, 2008 12:56 am||
While a senior commander might not personally lead a cavalry charge or a large scale infantry assault, it behooves him to be well forward in order to better control his units in their conduct of operations.
Obviously, commanders both during and after the American Civil War have seen the advantages of leading from the front. From World War II, I would cite examples such as George S. Patton, Jr. and Erwin Rommel.
If a battle from World War II could be chosen to illustrate the contrast between forward leadership and a commander trying to control the battle from a headquarters far to the rear, I would select the Battle of Kasserine Pass.
Battle of the Kasserine Pass - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In this battle, Field Marshal Rommel chose to accompany the division leading his attack on the American 2nd Corps, commanded by Major General Lloyd Fredenhall.
Fredenhall at that time was in a headquarters eighty miles to the rear. As American units recoiled from the assault, American commanders were unable to coordinate their actions, often receiving orders from the rear that made no sense relative to the situation breaking on the ground. American troops began an unorganized withdrawal, leaving the vital pass open to the German advance.
It was only through heroic actions by some defenders that time was gained to slow the German advance. Eventually, a lack of supplies forced Rommel to discontinue the advance, averting a greater disaster for the allies.
The Americans were badly mauled and demoralized. Obviously, a new type of leadership was required. General Fredenhall was justifiably sacked, and a different kind of leader was brought forward as his replacement. The name of the general chosen to replace Fredenhall was George S. Patton, Jr. Things began to change for the Americans in the theater after that.
In the case of General A.S. Johnston at Shiloh, he apparently thought that it was vital to press the attack on the first day. If he had had his way, the attack would have been begun days earlier, but circumstances beyond his control prevented that. Now he had gambled all on defeating Grant before Buell could intervene effectively.
ASJ thought it necessary to be forward to encourage his subordinates to press the assault vigorously. It is possible that he was unlucky enough to be hit by friendly fire. He had sent his surgeon away to attend to others, and he didn't realize the severity of his own situation until it was too late.
As I have said on other threads, one element required of a commander making his mark in history is that he not be unlucky. Even after his attack had been delayed, ASJ still had a chance to win on the first day if the fortunes of war had been a bit different. There are always situations in battles that are beyond the control of a commander.
ASJ died at Shiloh because he was unlucky. He might be criticized for deciding to launch the attack when all the elements weren't lined up favorably for him. But to call him: "irresponsible" or a : "poor commander" is in my view grossly unfair.
Last edited on Sat Aug 2nd, 2008 01:33 am by Texas Defender