View single post by Widow
 Posted: Sat Dec 9th, 2006 08:30 am
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Joined: Tue Sep 19th, 2006
Location: Oakton, Fairfax County, VA
Posts: 321

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Yes, Lee concentrated on Virginia, but I don't think that was a flaw.  That's like faulting Eisenhower for concentrating on the European Theater while there was also a war in the Pacific during World War II.

Jefferson Davis was the one who fixated on Virginia, you know, the Sacred Soil.  He ignored the importance of the Mississippi, and completely bungled the effective use of his limited resources.  Result: Tennessee was taken, Missouri was held, New Orleans was captured.

Good for you, to mention the Rock of Chickamauga.  They also called Thomas "Old Slow-Trot."  Grant trusted him and Thomas did his job, held Tennessee for the rest of the war, which was an essential part of the squeeze-em strategy.

May I mention Admiral Andrew Hull Foote?  He and Grant were the first to innovate joint army-navy amphibious operations.  Not just using ships to transport soldiers, but to use the brown-water navy in strategic offensives.  The taking of Forts Henry and Donelson in 1862, as well as Vicksburg and Port Hudson in 1863, are good examples.  Foote was enthusiastic about the new concept, and was willing to take the risks necessary.  The two men respected each other and conferred frequently.  There didn't seem to be the rivalry of giant egos that so often hampered other generals.

There's another who was superb in getting the job done: US Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs.  Without his imaginative and energetic management, the whole Union war effort would have collapsed.  I know little about the man, but time and again I've read about the work he did and how he kept the supplies moving.  He had to deal with civilian contractors, the establishment of the US Military Railroad, the financial supervision of all the logistical problems, and devise a management structure that kept functioning in all theaters.  There were no manuals or training classes, he had to start from scratch and learn on the job.  Plus, being in Washington, he was right under the scrutiny of the Secretary of War and the Committee on the Conduct of the War.  Meigs must have felt lots of pressure to accept contracts as favors granted by one politician or another. 

So far in this discussion, the leaders we've mentioned were men who willingly used the latest in technological developments.  Of course the use of railroads and telegraphs are the two most obvious examples.  Ironclads and monitors, photographic reproduction of maps, carbon paper and tinfoil, electric storage batteries and "torpedoes" (mines).  Aerial reconnaissance and submarines.  In other words, they looked ahead, not backward.  Even Lee, the old-school gentleman, took advantage of every technical advance that was available.

That adaptive flexibility carried over into the way they planned and executed their military operations.  None of their West Point training covered any of that.  They all had to learn on the job, by trial and error, and to be willing to change with the circumstances.  Those who couldn't learn and wouldn't adapt were far less effective and most of them sank out of sight.  Burnside was unimaginative and inflexible.  Nice guy, but limited in his thinking.  And not very successful as a military commander.

This is such an excellent topic.  I'd like to hear from you folks about the commanders in the Western Theater.  Sterling Price, Kirby Smith, Bedford Forrest, John Bell Hood, for example.  Hood was admired for his aggressiveness.  But Lee once remarked about Hood, "All lion and no fox."  The useless slaughter at Spring Hill and Franklin comes to mind.


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