American History: U.S. Civil War

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Name and describe three (3) instances during the Civil War where Confederate troops utilized the Jomini theories of “Interior Lines” and “Concentration of Forces?

The campaign of First Manassas is a good example of the use of “interior lines” and “concentration of forces” during the Civil War. There were four groups of military men. The first group was outside Washington, which was the Union army of Brigadier General McDowell. The second group opposed McDowell’s army, this was the Confederate army of Brigadier General Beauregard.1 To the West, in the Shenandoah Valley, the Union army of Major General Patterson was ready to fight against the Confederate army of General Johnston.

The “interior lines” of operation enabled the combination of the forces of Beauregard and Johnston. Thus, it allowed the “concentration of forces” that the generals could use to defeat their respective opponents. The advantage of the “interior lines” allowed the Confederate to maneuver at a faster rate, and direct its combined force at a single point of attack.

The second example of using concentrated forces and interior lines of operation is the Battle of Second Manassas.2 A careful examination of the said battle will reveal that Confederate forces utilized Jominian tactics to destroy the enemy. In this particular example, the Union army under General John Pope was lured into a trap.3 The trap was set by the Confederate army under Jackson. When General Pope took the bait, General Longstreet came to crush him.

General Lee orchestrated the attack. This example also revealed the fact that General Lee was willing to split his forces in order to execute a pincer maneuver based on Jominian tactics. The divided forces of General Lee’s army was a compelling reason to attack and destroy the Confederate army.

However, this was just a ploy to make Lee’s army appear vulnerable to their enemies. But when the Union forces made the mistake of moving forward, the divided forces were given the signal to morph into a single entity. The concentration of forces was a deliberate attempt to overwhelm the opposing army.

The third instance wherein Jominian tactics were utilized in war was the Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863.4 In this battle, General Lee utilized deceptive maneuvers to confuse the enemy. When the bulk of his forces reached the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lee decided to split his forces once again.5 Union forces were frustrated in their attempt to pursue General Lee’s army. When Lee found out that Union forces were moving to capture him, he ordered his men to move towards the south.

As a result, his forces were able to converge towards a central point. Lee was able to concentrate his forces on Gettysburg. Due to the concentrated forces, Lee’s army was able to push back the Union army. Lee orchestrated an attack that attempted to discover the weakness of the Union army’s defense line. Lee tried to break the enemy’s defense line at Culps Hill.6 In the afternoon, Lee’s forces tried to break the defense line at Peach Orchard, the Wheat Field and the Devil’s Den.7

At first glance the use of Jominian tactics was the most prudent way to defeat enemy forces. But this antiquated battle tactic was not the appropriate strategy when one considers the uneven topography of the areas of conflict. Jominian tactics were created based on the topography of Europe, specifically the numerous flat lands of France.

Jominian tactics were difficult to apply in uneven terrain. Jominian tactics were rendered useless whenever enemy commanders were able to leverage the use of faster transportation and communication systems.

Another problematic aspect of the Jominian tactics was its failure to consider the power of modern rifles. The tactics that were used in battles resembled those that were used in the Medieval battles of Europe. The use of concentrated forces makes sense if one will imagine a cavalry charging against an army’s blind side. It is an effective strategy especially in the heat of battle when the general spots a weakness in the defense life.

However, in modern warfare, the defense line can move backward, establish a position similar to the trench warfare of World War I, and engage the enemy from a distance. It can be argued that this is the main reason for the bloody carnage in the U.S. Civil War. The insistence of the generals to use Jominian tactics compelled them to attack perceived weakness, however, the soldiers were not faced with opponents that were armed with swords and clubs. They were faced with opponents armed with powerful rifles.

It hardly seems unrealistic to assume that if the Union and Confederacy had exchanged presidents, the Confederacy might have won its independence.

Presidential Relationship with Congress and his Cabinet

The idea of switching leadership is a common topic of debate when it comes to the outcome of the U.S. Civil War. The main argument is based on the fact that the Northerners were perceived to have enjoyed superior resources. Therefore, there was no need for an Abraham Lincoln. In other words, anyone could take the helm of the Union army, and he is assured of victory.

This argument failed to consider the circumstances surrounding Lincoln before and during the war. A lesser leader would never have been able to turn things around. Those who proposed this idea had forgotten the fact that the Union forces were in a disarray in the beginning of the war. In fact, the Union forces suffered significant losses in the hands of the Confederate army.

Lincoln’s people skills was the main reason why the North defeated the South. In a related commentary the author said the following: “Lincoln was equally skillful in leading, inducing, cajoling, or coercing recalcitrant congressmen, cabinet members, generals, and citizens to carry out his programs. He could be idealistic or pragmatic, intractable or flexible, arbitrary or cooperative, depending upon the issue and the situation.”8 It is an ability that his Southern counterpart could never hope to duplicate.

Military Leadership

On account of military leadership, the Confederate forces had no chance to defeat the superior forces of the Northern army. The South had military leaders that were enamored by Jominian tactics. Jominian tactics were based on the military campaigns of Napoleon Bonaparte.9 In other words, the tactics were no longer suited to a modern day war.

During the Civil War, soldiers were equipped with more efficient rifles. At the same time, generals had access to the railways and the telegraphs. Consider for instance the use of Jominian tactics in the Battle of Bull Run. In the said battle, Confederate forces had to fight two fronts.

The only reason why the Confederate forces were not annihilated that day was due to the failure of the Union generals to determine their exact positions relative to the enemy. If the Union generals had access to information, they would have simultaneously attacked the two armies in the middle.

Public Opinion

Lincoln has the support of the general population, and he had the respect of the press. According to one report Davis was politically less skillful than Lincoln.10 It is hard to imagine that Davis could have garnered the support of the influential people living in Northern territories. It was a well known fact during that time period, that Davis was handicapped with an abrasive personality.

Physical Health

Lincoln was not the picture of perfect health. Lincoln was plagued by emotional problems, especially after the death of his son. However, Davis was hampered by more serious medical conditions. His medical problems can be traced back to the time when he contracted malaria. It would have been difficult for him to manage a disorganized Union army in the beginning of the war effort, if one would consider his health.

The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves only in areas of the U.S. “still in rebellion.” The 13th Amendment was not ratified until 1865. Name and describe three (3) fundamental actions on the part of all Blacks during the period 1863-1865 that made total emancipation inevitable.

The Emancipation Proclamation was a partial unshackling of the iron fetters that have bounded Negro slaves. The legal aspect of Lincoln’s presidential decree was biased against the secessionist states. It can be argued that it was a strategic move to add pressure to the Confederate army, and compel its leadership to surrender. Nevertheless, the emancipated slaves had a long journey before them. They had to go through several obstacles before they could truly experience total freedom.

It is important to make this point, because it can be argued that the Negro slaves did not earn their freedom merely on the account of a signed document. In other words, the Negro slaves had to make a significant contribution to the emancipation process. They could not afford to remain neutral or oblivious to the process.

The path towards total freedom was formed through the notable actions of the Negro Slaves. First of all, Negro slaves were emboldened by the Emancipation Proclamation. As a result, they began to resist the idea that they were the properties of other men. They started to develop the capability to stand up against their masters.

The second notable action was the discovery of their true value under the eyes of the law, Negro slaves began to leave their masters by running away from them, or by running towards the sympathetic arms of abolitionists.

The third notable action was to embrace the concept called “self-emancipation.”11In other words, they seized their freedom. They seized their freedom by working with influential people so that they could pressure the national government to give them their rights as free men.

In the end, it was made clear that the Negro slaves had to participate. They needed to provide their own inputs. They needed to do something to hasten the process. If they did not embrace the principles of the Emancipation Proclamation they would have remained as slaves. If they did not believe in the power of the document, they would not have been emboldened to leave their masters.

Describe the effect of modern rifles (both rifled muskets and breech loading weapons) on the strategy and tactics of Civil War battles. Why did it take commanders so long to appreciate the advantages of the defense? Who were some of the forward-thinking CW leaders who recognized and took advantage of new tactics utilizing the newest weaponry?

The advantage of using modern rifles was not evident in the early phase of the war effort. This assertion was based on the discovery that there were shortages of U.S. manufactured weapons. As a result, soldiers had to contend with different issues related to different types of rifles. For example, the Union army alone has to contend with different types of weapons, such as, the U.S. Harpers Ferr or Springfield rifle-muskets, the British Enfield, Belgian rifles, Austrian rifles, and the U.s. Model 1820 smooth-bore muskets.12

If one will place himself in the shoes of the generals he will find out the influence of the bygone era on battle tactics. They followed combat principles of the past. It is like watching the movie Braveheart, but this time around they used rifles instead of swords. Nonetheless, the principles of maneuvering to frustrate the enemy, and the use of cavalry to rout the enemy filled their minds.

U.S. generals were mostly graduates from the prestigious West Point Academy. They were schooled in the military tactics of French military expert Antoine Henri Jomini.13

There were different consequences with regards to the use of antiquated battle tactics. First, the assorted weaponry made it difficult to execute techniques that were reminiscent of the American Revolution. Second, the commanders had a difficult time to adjust with regards to the impact of the new technology.

Due to the lack of knowledge regarding the range and accuracy of the modern rifles, commanders were hesitant to use the defense position. If they did, the war of attrition would have occurred. If the Confederate army created tactics based on a defensive mindset, they could have a greater chance of frustrating their opponents.

If the Confederate forces spent more time training soldiers to use modern rifles, and if they incorporated trench warfare, the conflict would have taken a long time to resolve. It can be argued that based on this scenario, the Union forces would have withered, and give up their dream of invading the South.

Due to the failure to anticipate the impact of modern rifles, Confederate and Union forces wanted to execute strategies that required shoulder-to-shoulder movement of soldiers. The commanders were determined to move their forces to within one hundred yards of the enemy before they tried to engage them. The modern rifles that were available to them did not require them to perform the said battle formation.

One of the turning points of the war came when Christopher Spencer introduced a breech-loading, repeating rifle, and it became the standard weapon of the union army by the year 1864.14 The introduction of the conical-shaped Minie ball revolutionized the war even further.

The soft hollow base of the new projectile allowed it to expand upon discharge.15 As a result the, the range was increased up to four times its previous limit. It was therefore more practical to incorporate a defensive strategy. General Grant was one of the forward looking commanders who adopted new technology and new tactics. Another forward looking commander was General Halleck; he was an early adopter of new technology. However, the Union army would not have succeeded without their forward looking leader Abraham Lincoln.

It is difficult to predict the outcome of the war if both sides adopted new technology and tactics. If the Confederates adopted the defense first mindset, the war would have been extended for several years. This assertion is based on the argument that the Union army was compelled to attack Confederate forces.

Northern victory was dependent on annihilating the Confederate. On the other hand, the adoption of the defense first mindset may have lured General Lee into the open, due to his desire to use Jominian tactics. In this scenario, Confederate forces would have been wiped out, thus ending the war prematurely.

Bibliography

Beringer, Richard. Why the South Lost the Civil War. IL: University of Illinois, 1986.

Guelzo, Allen. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Harman, Troy. Lee’s Real Plan at Gettysburg. PA: Stackpole Books, 2003.

Lanning, Michael. Civil War 100: The Stories Behind the Most Influential Battles IL: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2006.

Longacre, Edward. The Commanders of Chancellorsville. TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 2005.

Roland, Charles. An American Iliad. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002.

Winters, Harold. Battling the Elements. MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

Woodworth, Steven. This Great Struggle. MD: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing, 2011.

Footnotes

1Steven Woodworth, This Great Struggle (MD: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing, 2011), 25.

2Troy Harman, Lee’s Real Plan at Gettysburg (PA: Stackpole Books, 2003), 43.

3Ibid.

4Harold Winters, Battling the Elements (MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), 126.

5Ibid.

6Ibid.

7Richard Beringer, Why the South Lost the Civil War (IL: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 14.

8Charles Roland, An American Iliad (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002), 12.

9Woodworth, 230.

10Roland, 12.

11Allen Guelzo, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), 35.

12Woodworth, 54.

13Michael Lanning, Civil War 100: The Stories Behind the Most Influential Battles (IL: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2006), 40.

14Ibid.

15Edward Longacre, The Commanders of Chancellorsville (TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 2005), 25.