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 Posted: Mon Jan 13th, 2014 02:46 pm
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wondering
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Can one concede the South's best opportunity to win the American Civil War was pushing for Washington immediately after First Manassas in July of 1861? With a quarter of the North's population and twice as much territory to defend, despite damnable greenness you'd think they'd have tried. Had Jackson controlled the whole army might he have recognized that fleeting opportunity for a quick knock-out?



 Posted: Mon Jan 13th, 2014 09:35 pm
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Johan Steele
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I don't think so, the CS Army was as in as much chaos as the US after Manasas. IMO they threw their bolt in regards to logistics into the move via rail to reinforce Manasas. From that point they started hemroging territory out west.

IMO their best chance had nothing to do w/ the east but in thye West. Had they won at Shiloh I believe was the only one true chance at a victory for the CS.



 Posted: Mon Jan 13th, 2014 10:54 pm
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Hellcat
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Hellcat wrote:
It's one of the things we'll never know, how Jackson would have preformed had he lived. Let's assume Jackson's life remained the same up until May 10, 1863 and then on May 10th Jackson somehow survived. Would we be talking about the same Thomas J. Jackson from May 11, 1863 to June 23, 1865 (yeah, I'm picking the day after Jackson died to the day Stand Waite surrendered for my date range) as from the start of the war to his death? Or would Jackson have been different because of the friendly fire incident and the loss of his arm? Would he have been more aggressive to the point of ignoring what he himself had once said was the reasons for his success. According to Encyclopedia of the American Civil War Jackson said the reasons were:

Always mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy, if possible; and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit so long as your men have the strength to follow; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken, and can then be destroyed by half their number. The other rule is, never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible maneuvering you can hurl you own force on only a part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it. Such tactics will win every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail, and repeated victory will make it invincible.


If Jackson became so aggressive that he ignored his own advice for success would he have ended up more likely to loose because he had become too aggressive.


Sorry quoting myself from the
Would things have been different? thread discussed last May. But some of the particulars I posted I think have some bearing on this discussion when considering Jackson as commander of the Army of the Potomac or the Army of the Shenandoah instead of Beauregard or Johnston. That being Jackson's own reasons for his own success and the possibility of his ignoring his own advice.

We know the Army of Northern Virginia was routed and had to retreat from the battlefield. But were either the Army of the Potomac or the Army of the Shenandoah able to follow? In other words, did the men have the strength for pursuit of the routed ANV? Jackson himself said that as long as your men have the strength to pursue you should pursue and keep harassing the enemy so their soldiers become panic stricken. A panic stricken enemy is unlikely to retain enough morale to stand and fight.

Ultimately like Johan Steele says, I don't think either side was really in any kind of shape when the battle ended. The same argument as asked concerning Gettysburg and Meade and the Army of the Potomac's failure to immediately follow Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia hotly enough to potentially destroy the ANV before it crossed back into Virginia could be asked here.



 Posted: Sat Jan 18th, 2014 05:56 pm
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wondering
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The war was lost in the West. They couldn't hold New Orleans, the River, Chattanooga, Atlanta, etcetera, save fair Richmond. At Bull Run, Jackson's own rules of engagement should have driven him. The British ambassador in Washington mused they weren't there yet. Them that fired first needed to prove it -- logistics of the supply chain should have long since been primed. Out-numbered, bloodied, brilliant in combat, not put to flight, they held the field. The North was routed, the South needed reserve, resource, resolve. What happened, happened.

Was an opportunity missed? Davis urged them to go, reap early the whirlwind erst endless campaigns, unfashionable attrition. They would need a navy, open ports, fine ambassadors, unpetulant cotton, less Napoleon, more Revolution. Could they have chased the dragon knowing then their eventual fate? 1864 was the last best chance; but never underestimate the common sense of the common man. Meaning no disrespect, when killing countrymen, maybe you balk, then too late. The chance is gone.

Your indulgence as laudanum, I'm addicted to the American Civil War. Amongst the vapors I admit I have a tendency to glorify the last gasp of an era, silver-haired men and shoeless boys at the end. I look at the board, the map, the clock. Was there a chance to turn their flank? I keep wondering. It's a study deep with characters, units, campaigns; questions of politics, geography, law, strategy, supply, ordnance, romance, culture, chivalry, tradition, morality, patriotism. It was also the dawn of photography: you can still see, walk, and reflect on their path.

I detest speculation, over-simplification, what-ifs, but enjoy a good game of stickball behind the pub. Sometimes it's healthy to pitch a spell, even if you're wild. That's how it gets when you ride the pine -- you start thinking you're a poet instead. ;)



 Posted: Sat Jan 18th, 2014 06:27 pm
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Hellcat
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You don't get no argument from me about the Western Theater. I've said too much attention has been placed on the Eastern Theater and too little on Western.

As for Jackson's RoEs, I'd have to ask when he came up with them.



 Posted: Tue Jan 21st, 2014 04:29 pm
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I don't know enough about Stonewall. Half the Union is booking north, the rest scattering east up the pike. Crikey, wheel right, quick march, chase'em long as they run. Artillery and infantry spent, cavalry scant, command in turmoil, wasn't his call.

Yep, Greenhorn ... shot my dang foot off again. )(90



 Posted: Tue Jan 21st, 2014 05:33 pm
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Hellcat
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Ok, let's set aside when Jackson came up with his RoE's for a moment and say they were in place during First Bull Run (Manassas). Go back to what Johan Steele said about both sides being in chaos after the battle. Jackson himself in his RoE's says to not let up pursuit as long as your men have the strength for it. It would seem neither side had the strength to continue the battle. The Army of the Potomac and the Army of the Shenandoah were just as tired as the retreating Army of Northern Virginia. On top of that the Southern forces were disorganized immediately following the battle. As they were tired and disorganized they did not have the strength to keep up a pursuit. By his own RoE's Jackson would have been foolish to try and immediately follow the ANV with an army like that.



 Posted: Tue Jan 21st, 2014 08:23 pm
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I agree with you both wholeheartedly -- they tried, just did not have the strength. And as clarification, I'm calling myself a greenhorn, not Jackson!



 Posted: Wed Jan 22nd, 2014 06:11 am
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Hellcat
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I kinda got the greenhorn bit when you said shot your foot off. What I was getting at was the idea of Jackson in command that I don't think he would have pursued in this instance. As much of a hard fighting, hard driving commander as he was, I believe he was also a practical man. In this instance he'd have probably been quite POed about the situation, but I think he would have realized his own army was in no shape to follow. Or maybe he wouldn't have been POed and just thankful that for the time being he had driven off the enemy's first major incursion in the east.

But I think what we haven't really looked at, or at least I haven't looked at, is not an immediate pursuit but rather a subsequent offensive assault in the weeks and months following the battle. I believe Ball's Bluff was one of the last notable battles in the Eastern Theater in 1861. The Army of the Potomac versus..... the Army of the Potomac. Or more accurately elements of both armies were engaged at Balls Bluff while the armies themselves didn't actually fight the battle. Fist Bull Run (Manassas) is July 21, 1861, Ball's Bluff is October 21, 1861. Three months after Bull Run (Manassas). We know in that time McClellan replaces McDowell and sets about turning his army into the Army of the Potomac we're familiar with. Could the Southern Forces have been reorganized faster by Jackson and launched an attack on DC by say August 21st? Was there enough of a defense around the capital to have even stopped him if he did launch his own offensive a month later?

We know that in 1861 the following forts were in use or in construction on the Arlington Line:
  • Fort Ellsworth
  • Fort Lyon
  • Fort Williams
  • Fort Worth
  • Fort Ward
  • Fort Reynolds
  • Fort Jackson
  • Fort Richardson
  • Fort Albany
  • Fort Scott
  • Fort Runyon
  • Fort Craig
  • Fort Tillinghast
  • Fort Cass
  • Fort Barnard
  • Fort Woodbury
  • Fort Bennett
  • Fort Corcoran
  • Fort Haggerty
  • Fort Ethan Allen
  • Fort Strong
  • Fort Buffalo

Now some of these didn't begin construction before August 21, at least one began during August. So not all of these were in place if Jackson had attacked a month after Bull Run (Manassas). And he might not, scratch that, probably would not, have attacked along the Arlington Line, but I don't feel like going through all the forts protecting the capital during the war that were either already in use by the end of 1861 or had started construction by the end of the year. That list right there is an impressive enough list, but would they have been able to have either repelled Jackson, or worn him down enough that McClellan could have dealt with him with an army he was still training? And would Little Mac have pulled his usual and over estimated Jackson's forces, possibly even causing him to retreat from the capital? It seems that while he might have over estimated Jackson's forces, he would have been forced to stay and defend the capital.



 Posted: Wed Jan 22nd, 2014 08:33 pm
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Washington is fortified day by day, week by week. It has to be Beauregard, Johnston and Jackson in 1861, or basically never. I doubt Lee himself could have wrangled it; by 1862 she's too tough to crack in the Maryland Campaign.

McClellan dismissed second-guessers as third-rate buffoons, including Lincoln. His fastidious cautiousness may have had more to do with the eventual result than most would credit today (partial to Meade, Grant and Sherman myself) ... but the presidency?

That was a bridge too far.



 Posted: Thu Jan 23rd, 2014 12:15 am
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Hellcat
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A faster move by Early in 1864 might have accomplished something. Lee learns that Grant has stripped DC of most of it's defenders in 1864 (it went fro 23,000 down to 9,000) and on June 12th dispatches Early with 20,000 men to strike at the capital. According to Philip Katcher's The Complete Civil War Early crosses the Potomac with 14,000 men on July 6th. By July 9th Early is at Frederick, Maryland, where he ends up engaged in a battle with Lew Wallace's troops which he wins. But the battle may have proved costly to him as on July 10th he's encamped at Rockville, Maryland, ten miles north of Fort Stevens.

On July 7th, having already learned of Early's campaign, Grant dispatches the 25th NY Cavalry, the 1st and 2nd Divisions of the 6th Corps, and elements of the 19th Corps to reinforce the defenses of Washington. At least the 25th NY Cav arrived at Fort Stevens on July 10th at midnight.

As Fort Massachusetts, Fort Stevens boasted a 200 man garrison and a ten gun battery. After being renamed and expanded the fort now boasted 423 man garrison and a battery that consisted of

two 8-inch siege howitzers, six 24-pdr siege guns, four 24-pdr seacoast guns, five 30-pdr Parrott rifled cannon, one 10-inch mortar, and one 24-pdr Coehorn mortar(Fort Stevens Marker).

The Encyclopedia of the American Civil War reveals that the fort was undermanned at this time, having only 209 present. In addition to Fort Stevens other forts such as Fort Slocum would take part in the battle.

Early launches the two day Battle of Fort Steven on July 11th with a force of 10,000 men. Federal forces would reach around 9,600 by the end of the battle, though at the start of the battle they weren't this high. Militia and 500 to 600 dismounted cavalry (probably elements of the 25th NY Cav) arrived to bolster the Federal defenders, who had fallen back to within 100 yards of Fort Stevens, at 1 PM. By 1:30 PM these reinforcements had pushed Rode's division back 1,000 yards. By late afternoon on the 11th the divisions of the 6th Corps and the 19th Corps elements were disembarking on the wharves of Washington and being taken to Fort Stevens. The lead elements from both corps began arriving on the battlefield around 3PM. At about the same time Early tries to over power the defenders but stops for some unknown reason around 5 PM, just when the Federal skirmish line was weakening. By early evening the 6th Corps and the 19th Corps are up and on July 12th Early is defeated. He crosses the Potomac once again on July 14th.

Had Early attacked a day sooner he would have taken Fort Stevens and might have attacked DC on the 11th before the elements of the 6th and 19th Corps could have arrived.

Last edited on Thu Jan 23rd, 2014 12:40 am by Hellcat



 Posted: Tue Jan 28th, 2014 06:27 pm
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wondering
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Interesting scenario, Hellcat, and I thank-you for your thoughts. Indeed throughout the war there were straws to pull, and I agree more than one chance.



 Posted: Wed Jan 29th, 2014 01:06 am
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Hellcat
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Well the idea of Early moving quicker is a scenario, but the battle obviously isn't.

But it is something to really look at when you're talking what ifs. We shouldn't just say Washington had a ring of forts protecting it so it was a now or never kind of thing in 1861. I think that's a trap we tend to fall into, Washington had this ring of forts so it was well protected during the war. But as I pointed out in my last post, Grant pulled most of the defenders around Washington, which weakened the defenses around the capital. But that is stripping the defenses of the capital, what about during the build up? Was there a point before 1863, when DC reached it's strongest defense able point, but after First Bull Run (Manassas) where an attack by Confederate forces could have proven deadly? I don't think we really look at that, we look at the strengthening of the defenses and say not gonna happen.



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