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 Posted: Fri Nov 27th, 2009 05:15 pm
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OVVI
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Joined: Sun Mar 2nd, 2008
Location: Mansfield OH
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The infantry formations of the Civil War armies were based on European Napoleonic models which are shoulder to shoulder blocks of men. This worked on the plains of Europe but not so well on the rolling and wooded terrain of the United States. This was especially so in areas known as the Western Theater where large battles such as Chickamauga were fought in woods and thickets broken up by small farm lots.
As a reenactor I have fought in battleline in woods and it is not easy or efficient. Battleplans were by strategy and tactic designed to break an enemy force by forcing it to withdraw. Threatening and turning flanks was a primary goal to achieve success and this all plays into the ability to move and manuever large blocks of troops.
As good soldiers will do during a prolonged conflict, they adapted to their environment. Western troops "spread" out more in the woods etc as a natural reaction to the terrain. One example that stands out occurred when Eastern troops were sent West and had to change. The 7th OVI was sent with Hooker from the Army of the Potomac to help Grant break the siege at Chattanooga following the Federal defeat at Chickamauga in Sept of 1863. When the Federals broke thru on Missionary Ridge, the Rebels retreated into northern GA. They set a trap for the pursuing Federals in the woods at Ringgold GA. The 7th OVI was part of the pursuing force and engaged the Rebels by attempting to attack in the woods utilizing the parade ground manuevers they were accustomed to. They were cut to pieces because they hadnt adapted.
Reenactments are not necessarily the best place to learn about real CW combat. Too often the lack of real tactical skill is replaced by theatrical egoism and what one sees is the typical battle represented by opposing forces blazing away at each at ranges of less than 50 yards which is inaccurate.

Kent Dorr - Ohio

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