Discussion Biggest Blunders

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leftyhunter

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What do people think was the biggest mistake of the war in terms of bad tactics and loss of men. The ones that come to mind are Grant @ Cold Harbour, Sherman @ Kennesaw Mountain, John B Hood @ Franklin , Lee @ Gettysburg Pickett's Charge. For me they are all bad but Franklin was the worst.
Just to be fair to both sides General Von Moltke was quoted about three hundred or so years ago depending on the German to English translation " no plan survives the first shot" or " no plan survives contact with the enemy".
War isn't just about things change going right it also about things going wrong. No army in history wins every single battle sometimes stupid mistakes are made or things don't go according to plan.
The biggest blunder the Confederacy made was not listening to either San Huston the Governor of Texas or William Sherman when he was an instructor at a military school in Louisiana just prior to the ACW. Bot men accurately predicted how a Civil War would play out .
Leftyhunter
 

Jamieva

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Or a more modern version "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth" - Mike Tyson

Biggest blunders. Pope not listening to any of his subordinates at 2nd Manassas. Burnside at Fredericksburg. Cold harbor. The 2nd battle of Petersburg (june 15 to 18), this is a really underrated one because it's not talked about in major works on the war.
 

jackt62

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Pemberton's decision to bring his army within the siege lines at Vicksburg rather than keeping it intact as a fighting force in open country.
 
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Rio Bravo

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Or a more modern version "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth" - Mike Tyson

Biggest blunders. Pope not listening to any of his subordinates at 2nd Manassas. Burnside at Fredericksburg. Cold harbor. The 2nd battle of Petersburg (june 15 to 18), this is a really underrated one because it's not talked about in major works on the war.
What happened at the 2nd battle Petersburg, Jamieva, to make it a blunder ?
 

jackt62

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Various blunders on both sides at Shiloh:

1. Failure by the Union Army of the Tennessee to entrench in their prepared positions.
2. Failure by Generals Sherman and Grant to seriously heed warning signs of Confederate preparation for an assault.
3. Breakdown in marching communications between Grant and Lew Wallace's division that resulted in that division missing the first day's battle.
4. Inability of the CSA's Army of Mississippi to launch its attack 2 days earlier, thereby allowing time for Buell's Army of the Ohio to come up in time.
5. The CSA's extreme concentration on carrying the "Hornet's Nest" defensive position rather than keeping to its original plan to outflank the Union left.
 
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Mark F. Jenkins

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Just to be fair to both sides General Von Moltke was quoted about three hundred or so years ago depending on the German to English translation " no plan survives the first shot" or " no plan survives contact with the enemy".
Or, even older, as quoted by David D. Porter to Sherman when a second attempt at Chickasaw Bayou was frustrated by dense fog: "Man proposes, God disposes." And that sentiment is likely at least as old as writing (a version of it appears in the ca. 2400 BC "Maxims of Ptahhotep").
 

Carronade

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Various blunders on both sides at Shiloh:

1. Failure by the Union Army of the Tennessee to entrench in their prepared positions.
2. Failure by Generals Sherman and Grant to seriously heed warning signs of Confederate preparation for an assault.
I think 2. was the critical one; if they had conducted proper patrolling and picketing and been prepared to act on the information, it would obviate the need for entrenchment. Grant, I think correctly, considered that training his troops for operations was the best use of their time.

Ironically, when Halleck advanced on Corinth in the weeks following Shiloh, he was criticized for stopping and entrenching every day. Again, patrolling ahead of the army would have been the better way to prevent surprise attack while keeping up the advance.
 

leftyhunter

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What do people think was the biggest mistake of the war in terms of bad tactics and loss of men. The ones that come to mind are Grant @ Cold Harbour, Sherman @ Kennesaw Mountain, John B Hood @ Franklin , Lee @ Gettysburg Pickett's Charge. For me they are all bad but Franklin was the worst.
One of the most critical blunders the Secessionist leaders made was they made no effort to develop a proper Blue Water Navy. It was obvious that the whole basis if the Confederate economy was in exporting
processed bulk agricultural products in exchange for manufactured goods from
West Europe. It was obvious naval commerce raiders can defeat a proper Blue Water Navy as the US Navy proved less than sixty years earlier vs the Barbary Coast Pirates.
Of course a Blue Water Navy requires a very expensive effort to build ships plus skilled workers and an adequate manpower pool to recruit sailors. On the other hand if the Confederacy is to survive as a nation then it needs a Blue Water Navy.
Leftyhunter
 
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Carronade

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One of the most critical blunders the Secessionist leaders made was they made no effort to develop a proper Blue Water Navy. It was obvious that the whole basis if the Confederate economy was in exporting
processed bulk agricultural products in exchange for manufactured goods from
West Europe. It was obvious naval commerce raiders can defeat a proper Blue Water Navy as the US Navy proved less than sixty years earlier vs the Barbary Coast Pirates.
Of course a Blue Water Navy requires a very expensive effort to build ships plus skilled workers and an adequate manpower pool to recruit sailors. On the other hand if the Confederacy is to survive as a nation then it needs a Blue Water Navy.
Leftyhunter
Policy has to be based on reality. A navy capable of defeating the USN would have been a great asset, but they simply didn't have the resources to do it.

p.s. did you mean to say that "naval commerce raiders cannot defeat a proper Blue Water Navy"?
 

leftyhunter

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Policy has to be based on reality. A navy capable of defeating the USN would have been a great asset, but they simply didn't have the resources to do it.

p.s. did you mean to say that "naval commerce raiders cannot defeat a proper Blue Water Navy"?
Another way of looking at it is the old Special Air Service saying " Big Boy games Big Boy rules. If a secessionist movement that is dependent on overseas agricultural exports can't form a navy to safeguard it's commerce then that's a major problem.
For some reason the secessionists thought that magical thinking would solve a very foreseeable problem.
Leftyhunter
 
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That caused terrible losses against a small force of confederates , I also forgot about Burnside at Fredericksburg that was pretty calamitous tactical display.
So what becomes of Burnside in the aftermath of this blunder?
He becomes commander of the Federal army and is responsible for the blunder at Fredericksburg.
Does his promotion count as a blunder by Lincoln?
 

JohnJW

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What do people think was the biggest mistake of the war in terms of bad tactics and loss of men.
Confederate (Iverson's Brigade) attack on Oak Ridge July 1, 1863.

The 1400-man brigade went forward with no recon, no skirmishers and no leadership (Brigade Commander chose to stay behind). Troops got to 50-100 yards of a low stone wall thinking their front was clear. Federals behind the wall had deliberately lowered their regimental flags and national colors to hide themselves.

Federals suddenly stood up from behind the wall and delivered volley after volley. 500 men supposedly fell during first volley. Many fell in straight lines. Others hit the dirt and pulled out white handkerchiefs or waved torn of bits of their shirt to signify surrender. Federals surged forward and captured 400 more.

a sight which was perfectly sickening and heart rending in the extreme. It would have satiated the most blood thirsty and cruel man in God's earth. There were, in a few feet of us, by actual count, 79 North Carolinians laying dead in a straight line. I stood on their right and looked down their line. It was perfectly dressed. Three had fallen to the front, the rest had fallen backward, yet the feet of all these dead men were in a perfectly straight line. Great God! When will this horrid war stop? This regiment belonged to Iverson's brigade and had been pushed forward between two stone fences, behind which the Yanks were laying concealed. They had all evidently been killed by one volley of musketry and they had fallen in their tracks without a single struggle. These 79 North Carolinians were not the only dead on the hill, many others were scattered around and in a wheat field at the foot of the hill were many dead blue coats. I turned from this sight with a sickened heart and tried to eat my breakfast but had to return it to my haversack untouched. William H. Runge, ed., Four Years in the Confederate Artillery.- The Diary of Pvt. H. R. Berkeley (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Published for the Virginia Historical Society by the University of North Carolina Press, 1961), P. 50.

Rumors were that Iverson was drunk but that has never been established. Lee removed Iverson from the Army of northern Virginia and sent him down to Georgia to help defend the state. After the war he goes to Florida to grow oranges.

Iverson's dead were buried in "pits" that today are known as Iverson's Pits. Relatives later disinterred many but by then it was impossible to find them all. The farmer who owned the field always claimed that his wheat grew taller there.

I always imagine the sheer terror Iverson's men must have felt when they suddenly saw the Federals stand up and lower their muskets towards them. Many died instantly never knowing what hit them.

If you believe in those things . . . this is considered one of the most "active" of haunted places in the US. It's not hard to understand why. The emotional shock the young Confederates suffered would have left its imprint on the land forever.
 
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OpnCoronet

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Ironically, when Halleck advanced on Corinth in the weeks following Shiloh, he was criticized for stopping and entrenching every day. Again, patrolling ahead of the army would have been the better way to prevent surprise attack while keeping up the advance.



If you have and, can maintaiin, overwhelming numerical superiority over the enemy, and have all the time in the world.
 
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Rio Bravo

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Confederate (Iverson's Brigade) attack on Oak Ridge July 1, 1863.

The 1400-man brigade went forward with no recon, no skirmishers and no leadership (Brigade Commander chose to stay behind). Troops got to 50-100 yards of a low stone wall thinking their front was clear. Federals behind the wall had deliberately lowered their regimental flags and national colors to hide themselves.

Federals suddenly stood up from behind the wall and delivered volley after volley. 500 men supposedly fell during first volley. Many fell in straight lines. Others hit the dirt and pulled out white handkerchiefs or waved torn of bits of their shirt to signify surrender. Federals surged forward and captured 400 more.




Rumors were that Iverson was drunk but that has never been established. Lee removed Iverson from the Army of northern Virginia and sent him down to Georgia to help defend the state. After the war he goes to Florida to grow oranges.

Iverson's dead were buried in "pits" that today are known as Iverson's Pits. Relatives later disinterred many but by then it was impossible to find them all. The farmer who owned the field always claimed that his wheat grew taller there.

I always imagine the sheer terror Iverson's men must have felt when they suddenly saw the Federals stand up and lower their muskets towards them. Many died instantly never knowing what hit them.

If you believe in those things . . . this is considered one of the most "active" of haunted places in the US. It's not hard to understand why. The emotional shock the young Confederates suffered would have left its imprint on the land forever.
Yes JohnJW, I think Iverson’s attack is possibly one of THE Worst blunders of the war.
His Brigade suffered 820 Casualties out of 1400 engaged of which 130 Killed, 382 Wounded & 308 Missing.
It was a terrible loss of Manpower to the CSA on that first day, along with the Mississippians in the Railway Cut.
There is the story that the Brigade found a Keg of Strong Lager Beer & that a good many of them got intoxicated including Gen. Rodes, his one & only time ! Whether Iverson was as well is not clear, some say he had a nervous breakdown, but either way he was Unfit for Command..........a real Blunder.......and a real Tragedy !
 

Hoseman

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What happened at the 2nd battle Petersburg, Jamieva, to make it a blunder ?
I suppose he is talking about when Grant gave Lee the slip from the lines at Cold Harbor and crossed the James undetected by Lee. For a few days it was as if the AoP had disappeared and it was very unusual for the southern scouts to not have detected such a movement by such a large force. Grants army landed on the south side of the James with Petersburg as their target and the city was very lightly defended by Beauregard's troops. For whatever reason, the federal commanders hesitated and did not order a full scale assault. They pushed aside some of the defenders and waited again. All the while, Lee was rushing his men to Petersburg and Beauregard was pulling his men up from Bermuda Hundred. By the time the federals decided they were ready to attack, Petersburg was heavily defended and the siege began. Had the AoP hurried and concentrated as many men as possible to the front they could have pushed aside the token force of defenders and literally walked into Petersburg nearly unopposed. This had to have been one of the largest blunders in the war and, as a result, the war lasted nine more months with tens of thousands of additional casualties. Had they not hesitated it is likely the war in Virginia would have ended in 1864.
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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I suppose he is talking about when Grant gave Lee the slip from the lines at Cold Harbor and crossed the James undetected by Lee. For a few days it was as if the AoP had disappeared and it was very unusual for the southern scouts to not have detected such a movement by such a large force. Grants army landed on the south side of the James with Petersburg as their target and the city was very lightly defended by Beauregard's troops. For whatever reason, the federal commanders hesitated and did not order a full scale assault. They pushed aside some of the defenders and waited again. All the while, Lee was rushing his men to Petersburg and Beauregard was pulling his men up from Bermuda Hundred. By the time the federals decided they were ready to attack, Petersburg was heavily defended and the siege began. Had the AoP hurried and concentrated as many men as possible to the front they could have pushed aside the token force of defenders and literally walked into Petersburg nearly unopposed. This had to have been one of the largest blunders in the war and, as a result, the war lasted nine more months with tens of thousands of additional casualties. Had they not hesitated it is likely the war in Virginia would have ended in 1864.
This whole business has incredible possibilities for changing the war.
On June 15, Baldy Smith, commanding 18th Corps begins marching toward Petersburg.Organizationally, his command is part of the Army of the James. His troops have arrived below and east of Petersburg by water. They had been attached to the Army of the Potomac during the Cold Harbor fight. In late afternoon, his troops begin collecting at the approaches to Petersburg. Smith throws a heavy skirmish line forward He discovers very strong defenses, although not well manned. Smith had a decided numerical advantage over Beauregard, who defends, but Winfield S Hancock is arriving with the 2nd Corps AoP. The two Union Corps will have an overwhelming advantage. However, Hancock, who is senior, is not sure of what his orders require, and neither have much use for a night assault. Beauregard calls in all his troops, "uncorking" Ben Butler's Army of the James at Bermuda Hundred. Beauregard is going to face at least a 4:1 numerical disadvantage at Petersburg on the 16th.
Grant arrives on the 16th, with Burnside's 9th corps coming up. To help some organizational confusion, 9th Corps is not part of either AoP or AoJ. Grant explains what he wants, and in late afternoon assaults begin. They do not go well, and darkness intervenes again.
Meanwhile, Lee is not convinced that the AoP is collecting at Petersburg. Lee has dispatched Early with two divisions and most of his cavalry west to meet a threat in the Valley. He sent Robert Hoke's division back to Beauregard, as it had been detached for Cold Harbor. Lee does not know where the AoP is, and is holding the rest of his army.
Possibilities:frown:1) Grant "should" have taken Petersburg on the 16th or 17th, that did not happen. (2) Butler could have interdicted the direct roads and rail line between Richmond and Petersburg as he was free from Bermuda Hundred. He didn't.
If (1) or (2) happened, Richmond would be very difficult for Lee to hold..................
BUT WAIT..........................................................................
If the rail line between Richmond and Petersburg were severed no CS Marines would be going to Wilmington to commence a water borne effort on Point Lookout,MD to free POW's. And Jubal Early, in the Valley, would get no orders to cooperate with such an operation. He would have been free to march on Washington City as soon as he could. And, he would have taken Washington.
The possibilities just multiply.
As things were, Beauregard holds on by his finger nails. Early on the morning of the 18th, Lee starts sending troops to Petersburg.
Grants great opportunity is gone.
One more possibility. Lee catches on sooner. Early on the morning of the 17th, Beauregard opens up with every rifle and gun he has, a signal to Lee. Lee has moved what army he has to the west of Petersburg, and attacks on signal the Union flank. I think that would have caused great harm to the 3 Union Corps there.
If there was a blunder here, it was Smith's by not being more aggressive on the 15th. He never had a command again in the war.
 
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Robin Lesjovitch

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This whole business has incredible possibilities for changing the war.
On June 15, Baldy Smith, commanding 18th Corps begins marching toward Petersburg.Organizationally, his command is part of the Army of the James. His troops have arrived below and east of Petersburg by water. They had been attached to the Army of the Potomac during the Cold Harbor fight. In late afternoon, his troops begin collecting at the approaches to Petersburg. Smith throws a heavy skirmish line forward He discovers very strong defenses, although not well manned. Smith had a decided numerical advantage over Beauregard, who defends, but Winfield S Hancock is arriving with the 2nd Corps AoP. The two Union Corps will have an overwhelming advantage. However, Hancock, who is senior, is not sure of what his orders require, and neither have much use for a night assault. Beauregard calls in all his troops, "uncorking" Ben Butler's Army of the James at Bermuda Hundred. Beauregard is going to face at least a 4:1 numerical disadvantage at Petersburg on the 16th.
Grant arrives on the 16th, with Burnside's 9th corps coming up. To help some organizational confusion, 9th Corps is not part of either AoP or AoJ. Grant explains what he wants, and in late afternoon assaults begin. They do not go well, and darkness intervenes again.
Meanwhile, Lee is not convinced that the AoP is collecting at Petersburg. Lee has dispatched Early with two divisions and most of his cavalry west to meet a threat in the Valley. He sent Robert Hoke's division back to Beauregard, as it had been detached for Cold Harbor. Lee does not know where the AoP is, and is holding the rest of his army.
Possibilities:frown:1) Grant "should" have taken Petersburg on the 16th or 17th, that did not happen. (2) Butler could have interdicted the direct roads and rail line between Richmond and Petersburg as he was free from Bermuda Hundred. He didn't.
If (1) or (2) happened, Richmond would be very difficult for Lee to hold..................
BUT WAIT..........................................................................
If the rail line between Richmond and Petersburg were severed no CS Marines would be going to Wilmington to commence a water borne effort on Point Lookout,MD to free POW's. And Jubal Early, in the Valley, would get no orders to cooperate with such an operation. He would have been free to march on Washington City as soon as he could. And, he would have taken Washington.
The possibilities just multiply.
As things were, Beauregard holds on by his finger nails. Early on the morning of the 18th, Lee starts sending troops to Petersburg.
Grants great opportunity is gone.
One more possibility. Lee catches on sooner. Early on the morning of the 17th, Beauregard opens up with every rifle and gun he has, a signal to Lee. Lee has moved what army he has to the west of Petersburg, and attacks on signal the Union flank. I think that would have caused great harm to the 3 Union Corps there.
If there was a blunder here, it was Smith's by not being more aggressive on the 15th. He never had a command again in the war.
Checking again, 9th corps had been assimilated into the AoP by the time of these actions.
 
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