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By what metric can we determine if the Confederate Army is the best?

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by leftyhunter, Apr 8, 2015.

  1. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Major

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    Has we all know me and my best friend CSA today go back and forth on how effective the Confederate States Army ( although in a different context CSA can mean Confederate States of America) is. CSA Today claims they are supermen for holding out for four years against an army that outnumbered it two to one or per McPhearson's estimate in "Battle Cry of freedom two and 1/2 to one.
    How does one come up with an objective metric that the CSA was really the best army their ever was? best compared to what? Did the all the soldiers of the CSA stay loyal to it/ Did the CSA achieve a remarkable feat by not surrendering after four years or they did about has well has any other military of that time in a more or less similar situation?
    Years ago I read a book about the Israeli Army that did give metrics on how one Israeli soldier was worth x amount of Arab soldiers. I forgot the methodology how the author did so .How can we do so for CW era soldiers I have no idea.
    Thanks
    Leftyhunter
     
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  3. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    leftyhunter,

    I would go with the final score or whom actually surrendered to whom.

    After all, we can admire some fine plays and individual players, but its the final score that matters.

    Unionblue
     
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  4. Rebel_Giratina

    Rebel_Giratina Sergeant

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    What unionblue said. (And nice use of sports metaphors, dude.)
     
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  5. Ed McCaul

    Ed McCaul Private

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    One method of comparing units is to calculate the percentage of officers who became
    casualties to the percentage of enlisted men who became casualties. The higher the officer percentage the better the unit. The rationale is that if the officers, who are generally speaking from the upper middle or upper class, are not willing to die for the country/cause why should the men. As an example, I have been told that during the Six Day War the Syrian officers on the Golan Heights chained their men to their positions in the bunkers and then left and their casualty rate was one officer for every 100 enlisted men. In contrast, the attacking
    Israelis had a casualty rate of one officer for every ten enlisted casualties. I believe that you will find the officer to enlisted ratio pretty close for both the Union and Confederate armies. The difference in the east was Robert E. Lee.
     
  6. 1SGDan

    1SGDan Captain

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    Winning ... wait someone else won. Never mind.
     
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  7. thomas aagaard

    thomas aagaard 2nd Lieutenant

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    That is really not a good way to judge it. In a good unit the officers don't need to be in the front line for the men to do there jobs... they stay behind the line an do their jobs commanding the unit.
     
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  8. Pat Answer

    Pat Answer First Sergeant

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    Hattaway and Jones [How the North Won (1991)] Appendix B "Mobilization and Combat Effectiveness" (pp. 721-732):

    A lengthy mathematical model based on Thomas Livermore's data and FW Lanchester's "square law" leads the authors to the tentative conclusion that "The most likely explanation is not that one Reb could beat ten Yanks but that the Union system of forming new regiments did great harm to combat efficiency as did their practice of discharging veterans whose terms of service had expired. Though the Federals made every effort to use new regiments to guard communications until they were seasoned, they could not consistently apply this. Even if they could, [those units would still be green when they finally arrived on the battlefield.] If the Federals had consistently used the Confederate system of sending replacements to existing regiments and of never discharging veterans, they would have obviated both of these problems." (p. 728)
     
  9. RobertP

    RobertP Major

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    Oh, I think the eye test tells you. Yes, they lost but they gave more than they got; had the numbers and equipment and the Navy been on equal footing the war would not have lasted two years.

    I've always found these eyewitness accounts of Lee's Maryland invasion fascinating:

    A loyalist woman wrote of the Confederates: "I asked myself in amazement, were these dirty, lank, ugly specimens of humanity the men that had driven back again and again our splendid legions with their fine discipline, their martial show and colour? I felt humiliated at the thought that this horde of ragamuffins could set our grand army of the Union at defiance. Oh! They are so dirty!


    I don't think the Potomac River could wash them clean!" A Maryland boy said much the same: "They were the dirtiest men I ever saw, a most ragged, lean and hungry set of wolves." But he could not help adding: "Yet there was dash about them that the northern men lacked. They rode like circus riders. Many of them were from the far South and spoke a dialect I could scarcely understand. They were profane beyond belief and talked incessantly."

    Many storekeepers could not bare the stench that came from these soldiers. An unnamed citizen of Frederick City noted: "I have never seen a mass of such filthy strong-smelling men. Three in a room would make it unbearable, and when marching in column along the street the smell from them was most offensive... The filth that pervades them is most remarkable... They have no uniforms, but are all well armed and equipped, and have become so inured to hardships that they care but little for any of the comforts of civilization... They are the roughest looking set of creatures I ever saw, their features, hair and clothing matted with dirt and filth, and the scratching they kept up gave warrant of vermin in abundance." Another observer described the Confederates simply as "a lean and hungry set of wolves."

    Jacob Engelbrecht, a civilian wrote that "Many [Confederate soldiers] were barefooted and some had one shoe & one barefoot-they really looked "Ragged and tough."


    They were dirty, but their rifles were clean and their cartridge boxes full. They were shoeless, ragged, half-starved, ill, but still tough, smart fighters. Alfred Waud, a war artist from HARPER'S WEEKLY, was in the custody of Jeb Stuart's cavalry troopers for a short time, and described them as homely in dress but well-equipped, carrying carbines "mostly captured from our own cavalry, for whom they expressed utter contempt."
     
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  10. thomas aagaard

    thomas aagaard 2nd Lieutenant

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    I agree that a typical CS regiment was better than a typical US regiment.
    But the best army ever? NO!

    I would put 1000 Brits up against 1000 "americans" and expect the Brits to win.
    (when we are talking both sides armed with enfields or similar and all tactical elements being equal)
    Not a critique of the men, but the simple result of professional soldiers vs. "citizen soldiers"

    And if we take 5000 Prussians they would still beat 10000 americans with ease.
    In this case Prussians where conscripts for 3 years under a professional corp of officers and NCOs... and better armed than a typical american soldier.
    In 1862 they calculated that 300 prussians could fight 1000 men armed with rifle-muskets to a standstill. The 1866 war showed that they could handle 5-1 odds.

    And that is just comparing to other armies during the same period.
    How do you compare them to roman legions?
     
  11. RobertP

    RobertP Major

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    I think the Confederate Army would make quick work of the Roman Legions. But that's just me.
     
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  12. kevikens

    kevikens 2nd Lieutenant

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    Consider this possibility. If the Army of Northern Virginia had been blessed with the numbers and the material of the Army of the Potomac who would have won?
     
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  13. MRB1863

    MRB1863 Captain Forum Host

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    History aside...if we make both sides equal logistically, it would become a matter of tactics, leadership and chance.
     
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  14. thomas aagaard

    thomas aagaard 2nd Lieutenant

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    And structures and training.
    As was pointed out above the south was generally better at replacing their looses by reinforcing existing regiments and not just raising new. (Wisconsin being the exception in the north)
     
  15. Harris

    Harris Private

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    Using Union Blues sports analogy one could postulate that while the #1 seed won the opening round NCAA Basketball matchup, it was the #16 seed that took them to overtime is more deserving of the accolades.
     
  16. Chattahooch33

    Chattahooch33 Sergeant Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    This is what I was thinking. Plus, who is best has to be prefaced with "for their time". A handful of modern Marines could probably beat pickett's charge.

    What if the ANV maintained rolls of around 100,000 like McClellan thought?
     
  17. JerseyBart

    JerseyBart Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    But I tell my girls during our basketball season, "a win, is a win, is a win."
     
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  18. JerseyBart

    JerseyBart Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    What if McClellan wasn't the union leader and Grant was? I don't believe those type of what ifs work here. Just my opinion.
     
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  19. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    Harris,

    Determination and staying power until the contest is completed, does seem to count in attaining final victory.

    Sincerely,
    Unionblue
     
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  20. alexjack

    alexjack 2nd Lieutenant

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    I would say the best army there ever was would have been the German Army of 1939-1942.
     
  21. Mark F. Jenkins

    Mark F. Jenkins Lt. Colonel

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    I was going to bring up Hattaway and Jones' analysis, but Pat Answer beat me to it! :D

    Saying that the Confederate Army was superior requires qualification-- superior in what? Even Confederate officers noted the general superiority of Union artillery, and I doubt any could seriously question the superior logistics of the Union armies (not from any lack of effort on the Confederate side; it's a numbers game, and the logistics numbers favored the Union).

    There's little doubt that the Confederates had some darnfine infantry and cavalry units, but even the best units can be thrown away by an inept commander, as both sides experienced.

    It's sort of like saying that the 1919 Blue Sox were the best baseball team of all time, because of this, that, and this... but that really doesn't matter much, because they would have been flattened by a mid-rank team of the Steroid Era. To say nothing of what happens when military forces of different technological eras are compared. So it's sort of a silly game to play.
     

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