View single post by Widow
 Posted: Sat Dec 9th, 2006 06:47 pm
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Joined: Tue Sep 19th, 2006
Location: Oakton, Fairfax County, VA
Posts: 321

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Grant and Sherman were known to be prepared but they were usually of the act-fast-fix-it-later school.

I love it!

Yes, and they didn't learn it at West Point, either.  At the same time, they were looking ahead to the next major objective.  Grant pondered his seven experiments to take Vicksburg for some time before actually putting them in effect.  That's why all the whittling and cigar smoking.  Neither one was afraid to take losses, and weren't deterred after setbacks.  Remember what Grant said after the near-disaster of the first day's battle at Shiloh:  "Lick 'em tomorrow."

Speaking of preparedness, most commanders on both sides sent out scouts, either cavalry or plainclothes spies, to get the lay of the land and dispositions of the enemy.  But it seems that so often, they disbelieved or ignored the incoming reports. 

Or, in McClellan's case, he was entirely too willing to believe Pinkerton's fabrications.  Yes, not just miscalculations, but outright lies.  Pinkerton's operatives were supposed to go out and count the enemy.  But, ooh, that's scary, so they just counted campfires from a distance or hung around in a tavern and picked up local gossip.  So much for intelligence collection.  Then Pinkerton took their raw intel and used some made-up formula to produce his numbers.  Figures like 100,000 men in the ANV!  For pete's sake, McClellan was a professional soldier and he knew, or should have known, the general population and industrial base of the seceded states.  I guess it suited his character to believe he was vastly outnumbered.  But then, Little Mac was afraid of failure, risk-averse, as we say today.  He was a proud man, and hated it that someone might find a flaw in him.  Not a good quality in a military commander.

Joe Hooker, on the other hand, established an honest-to-god bureau for intelligence collection and analysis.  And, for the first time, the commanding general of the Army of the Potomac had a clear idea of his enemy's numbers, dispositions, and intentions.  With that certainty, his plan to flank Lee at Chancellorsville was brilliantly conceived and executed, until Hooker lost his nerve and the initiative.  That wasn't an intelligence failure, but a personality failure.  Hooker was another who, like Jackson, kept his commanders in the dark.  Executing that complex move up the Rappahannock and across to flank the ANV required careful coordination and timing.  But Meade, Couch, Reynolds, Sickles, Sedgwick, and the others were frustrated because they didn't know what they were supposed to do.

I'm a retired intelligence officer from the CIA, so I scrutinize those aspects.


P.S.  Speaking of McClellan and his bad ideas, he modified a European saddle for use in the army, called to this day the McClellan saddle.  The saddle didn't have the familiar curved seat with an unbroken surface.  Instead, the seat had a center slot about two inches wide running from front to back.  Presumably it was to be more comfortable for a man's tender area.  But even though the edges of the slot were padded, they still grated on the thigh and crotch.

I guess Little Mac once got saddle sores and decided to do something about it.  But he wasn't IN the saddle on Dan Webster, he was in a posh house in Washington.  Dad bought one as Army surplus when the cavalry was abolished in 1939.  I remarked to Shotgun, "It wasn't very comfortable for a nine-year-old girl."  To which he replied in his quiet growl, "It wasn't very comfortable for a forty-year-old man, either."

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