Attrition.

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
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Denver, CO
The war in the Virginia theater is characterized as a war of attrition with some basis for the description.
However, the US naval war was not a war of attrition. The navy met its objectives usually with less casualties than the land armies. Its main activity, enforcing the blockade, was typically achieved through deterrence. The blockaders chased the blockade runners, which either escaped, surrendered or were wrecked. Few were sunk by the US navy.
By January 1865 the US navy had achieved all its objectives.
The navy was hardly attrited:
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https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/statistics/1860d-01.pdf p. xvi.
The commissioned fleet, the leased fleet and and the hired fleets were enormous.
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https://www.jstor.org/stable/1888813?seq=4#metadata_info_tab_contents
 

wausaubob

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Denver, CO
There were about 6 million horses in the US in 1860. There were about 1.1 million mules.
https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/agriculture/1860b-09.pdf
I don't know, but @Rhea Cole has stated the horses and mules in order to be serviceable for military purposes had to neither too young nor too old. So there was fixed supply and that supply in each region had many competing uses. The ability to feed horses and mules at a distance from their home pastures was mainly a US capacity. That section of the country was set up for winter, set up for cities, and also maintained large herds of dairy cows. That was the section that raised almost all the oats and raked most of the hay. The major exception to that generalization among the states that permitted slavery were Kentucky and Virginia. Since Kentucky remained part of the US economy, even though it was militarily neutral, it was not available to the Confederacy. Virginia was gradually ruined by the war.
I suspect that long before either side ran out of manpower, they would run of horses healthy enough to continue the war.
 

wausaubob

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With respect to labor force power it was no contest.
The US had about 240,000 women involved in manufacturing just in the companies subject to the $500/year minimum reporting requirement.
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https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/manufactures/1860c-22.pdf p.729
More women workers were probably added as the war progressed. Women broke into the occupation of nursing, which also freed up men for other work.
By 1863, immigration had returned to the level of 176,000 per year, and it remained high for several years as Great Britain experienced economic difficulties and political unrest.
https://books.google.com/books?id=cMosAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA1&lpg=PA1&dq=statistical+review+of+immigration+1820+to+1910&source=bl&ots=rvZQWiEa3V&sig=x6gyC29Suf_zk6sWzDXKzOC-egQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjQj7eEv8jeAhXoy4MKHQCDDO4Q6AEwCXoECAsQAQ#v=onepage&q=statistical review of immigration 1820 to 1910&f=false

But the biggest advantage of the US was that black and white southerners were moving away from the south, if they could, to seek law and order, and freedom.
This website tries to depict the redistribution of US population that occurred in the 1850's and 1860's, by charting the resulting distribution in 1870.
https://depts.washington.edu/moving1/migrationhistory-states.shtml
It wasn't just the freedmen and freedwomen that were leaving the Confederate area and trying to make a go of it further north and further west. White people were moving too, just as they always had, to look for better land and cleaner water.
The contemporary accounts of the Illinois Central Railroad agree with the data collected by the University of Washington.
See page 273. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1883656.pdf
 
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Rhea Cole

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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
There were about 6 million horses in the US in 1860. There were about 1.1 million mules.
https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/agriculture/1860b-09.pdf
I don't know, but @Rhea Cole has stated the horses and mules in order to be serviceable for military purposes had to neither too young nor too old. So there was fixed supply and that supply in each region had many competing uses. The ability to feed horses and mules at a distance from their home pastures was mainly a US capacity. That section of the country was set up for winter, set up for cities, and also maintained large herds of dairy cows. That was the section that raised almost all the oats and raked most of the hay. The major exception to that generalization among the states that permitted slavery were Kentucky and Virginia. Since Kentucky remained part of the US economy, even though it was militarily neutral, it was not available to the Confederacy. Virginia was gradually ruined by the war.
I suspect that long before either side ran out of manpower, they would run of horses healthy enough to continue the war.
Two excellent sources are the remount chapter in the Ten Volume Photographic History of the Civil War, The Cavalry & Lanette Taylor’s The Supply for Tomorrow Must Not Fail.
 

wausaubob

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Denver, CO
Knowledge of the labor force problems, which is more or less the @DaveBrt hypothesis, explains why the Confederacy collapsed in late summer of 1864. It explains why the collapse was so complete, and why there was no attempt to renew the war, as happened after Napoleon's defeat in Russia.
Immigration, mostly directed at the northern states, and heavily weighted towards German immigrants looking for land, was so heavy that by 1868 it was as if the war had never happened in many northern states.
 
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19thGeorgia

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
A manufacturing workforce of 1,311,246 with almost 20% (244,000) engaged in working in cotton mills or producing items from cotton. That's a lot more than I thought. No wonder they were after that cotton.


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BillO

Captain
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Feb 2, 2010
Location
Quinton, VA.
Therefore, I suggest that complaints about the war of attrition are part of the Lost Cause apologetics. They are defenses offered by the weaker and losing side of the conflict, that it was unfair to exploit their weaknesses.
And you were off to such a good start but you had to insert this mess at the end, pity.
I'm not sure who or what this is directed at and you didn't bother to mention.
I've posted this before in a different thread and I'll post it again here.
Attrition as a military strategy is what you do when you don't know what else to do.
 

wausaubob

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Cotton goods was a very important industry in New England by 1860. On the other, inventories of raw cotton were adequate in 1860. Cotton was even shipped back to the US from England for storage. But the US fought the war anyway. And by July 1863, the US occupied the key cotton producing regions of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and w. Tennessee, but the US choose to continue the war anyway.
Acquiring cotton producing areas may have been a motive for fighting, but it seems the war was based on additional motives, since it continued to complete victory.
 

wausaubob

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A region that had already resorted to enforced labor, to meet labor force problems due to bad soil conditions, disease problems, especially cholera, and falling commodity prices, resorted to a war solution, when they knew white people were already leaving Virginia and the middle south. Some of the result may have been due to a war of attrition, but much of the result was the habitual migratory nature of US populations in that era reacting to Confederate conscription and the chaos of the US Civil War.
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
A manufacturing workforce of 1,311,246 with almost 20% (244,000) engaged in working in cotton mills or producing items from cotton. That's a lot more than I thought. No wonder they were after that cotton.


View attachment 397675

Oh no, don't try to act like you never thought cotton was more than 20% of northern working class vocation was cotton mills. You thought it was way higher. Oh, yeah you did. This little farce you play on here doesn't fool anyone. So 20% of the northern people wanted to go to war over cotton? Isn't that your persuasion? What about the other 80% of the northern working class? According to your thinking, the north went to war just so 20% of its working class could keep their jobs? Before you come in here with your free trade theory in relation to cotton, please explain how that worked and what was the percentage of people who engaged in it and how much of the national GDP did it make up? Seems to you 80% of the north's working class didn't have their hand in the cotton so-called empire, but had no qualms to send their sons and husbands off to war for it. Nonsense. The only people who went to war over cotton were southerners, period.
 

wausaubob

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There was no attrition in the naval war. The attrition with respect to livestock was profound. The US was the larger agricultural region and had forage and fodder shipping capability that gave it a deep advantage with respect to feeding its livestock. The attrition in military manpower was just a continuation of pre Civil War trends that made it hard for the southern areas to attract immigrants and retain labor.
 

Lubliner

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Chattanooga, Tennessee
I think a very interesting OP and as a matter of assertion, he reveals some in depth tables. He made a whack that I don't feel as so wacky. But I do know statistics can be tricky and used in ways to shade opinions. Overviews are based on a house of cards that can be easily tumbled. But it is fun to build them. So reading on the status of how all this northern productivity was possible, I read there was a very bight man in the Treasury Department that had ideas that were implemented for war bonds, etc. It was read so long ago I no longer remember the man nor all his plans. But they were successful, because the amount of monies spent for labor materials ships of commerce (chartered), a million soldiers and their families of wounded and dead. A heavy burden.
Can anyone give me a direction on who it is I am speaking of. It would be kindly received. Thanks,
Lubliner.
 

wausaubob

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The US was set up to win by attrition if necessary by the fact that the five border areas never completed the process of secession. When the first phase of armed conflict ended, the US was a block of 21 contiguous states, including Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Illinois, plus the detached states of California and Oregon, and the next three possible states, West Virginia, Nevada and Nebraska. The Confederacy was not in a good position to contest a war with the US after 6 months.
In the next phase of the war, the navy and combined arms operations, broke through at Roanoke Island and on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.
As the Confederacy fought a bloody and indecisive battle at Shiloh Church, the US navy then by passed Island No. 10, captured New Orleans as an intact city, picked up the town of Pensacola, helped the US Army pick up Norfolk, and captured the unoccupied city of Memphis after a brief naval battle. None of those successful campaigns involved excessive casualties. The battle of Shiloh was a Confederate attack. But there were the navy's gunboats and the hired steam transports, and they anchored and reinforced the US Army position. And the battle of Shiloh set a trend that was repeated often.
 
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Blockade, indeed any form of economic warfare is normally a battle of attrition aimed not at the personnel but at the economy of the enemy. The reason is that a battle of annihilation (as in the complete or sufficiently complete destruction of the enemy forces to compel a surrender) is rarely possible due to commercial, especially shipping assets being dispersed by their very nature.


I suppose you could argue that the Navy enabled some manoeuvre operations in that is allowed important points to be captured such as New Orleans and Norfolk but essentially the naval war was attritional in nature. Just did not stack up bodies in the same way as that on land.
 

wausaubob

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Although these numbers and the subsequent computations were published in 1864,
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https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/population/1860a-02.pdf See page xvii, the numbers ignore the economic and political cost of relying on attrition to win the US Civil War. In the US, the political cost of winning in that manner was too high for a democracy to sustain. In the Confederacy, because of the structure of its economy, and with both white and black labor leaking during the entire course of the war, the Confederate economy was going to collapse long before the military manpower was exhausted.
 

wausaubob

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Denver, CO
As for the sidetrack issue of the significance of cotton in the US economy, cotton goods, was an important industry. Men's manufactured clothing was an emerging industry, while women's clothing was mainly produced by small businesses and seamstresses, and not much of that production was captured by the census system. About 1:30 people in the us were employed in countable manufacturing in the US in 1860. The ratio was higher in the north. But the number working in manufacturing business was not large compared to those employed in farming, transportation and small business including the building trades. Not all women were employed in the cotton goods industry, but a large % were employed in industries such as cotton goods, millinery, men's clothing, and dress shops. It was an important industry. But there was also a woolens industry and a significant amount of silk was imported from England.
Its possilble that the US was motivated by the desire to retain the cotton growing areas. But that goal was accomplished by July 1863, and the war continued.
The territorial ambition of the US was mainly about control of the far west, especially the route that was contemplated for the national railroad. The other territorial ambition was the historic interest in controlling the entire length of the Mississippi River.
 

wausaubob

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Denver, CO
The US did not finish the war with a strategy of attrition. The five Atlantic coast states, and Alabama were turned into a starvation zone.
West Virginia, Alexandria, Norfolk, the North Carolina coast, the Sea Islands, Fernandia Beach and St. Augustine, the town of Pensacola, New Orleans, most of Arkansas, and all of Tennessee were not made to starve. But the attacks on the food resources and the transportation system of the Confederacy were repeated and consistent.
While the forward depots at Nashville and City Point became huge distribution centers, all the major US armies were engaged in attacks on Confederate railroads and Confederate agriculture. Sheridan wrote about it explicitly. Sherman was deliberately eliminating the ability of Georgia to support the Confederate Army in Virginia. And Grant was engaged in one attack after another on the Richmond railroads until all the remained was the Danville road.
 
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