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

Viper21

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I had an ancestor(GGG Grandfather) who served in Virginia reserves. He was 50 yrs old when mustered in. They were sent to help defend Richmond. He was from Wytheville (far SW corner near Tenn). He was captured, & became a POW at Point Lookout, MD. He wasn't released until well after Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Had to be a helluva walk home from MD.
@CSA Today I was poking around some genealogy today and realized, I misspoke about my GGG Grandfather here. He was 60yrs old (b.1805)when was captured with the 1st VA reserves. He was released from Point Lookout, MD on 23 June 1865.
 

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Saphroneth

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The most famous battle that I am aware of between Militia vs Regular troops was the Georgia State Militia vs the 20th Indiana . The 20th In had Spencer Rifles and it was not a good day for the GSM.
That doesn't seem like an especially fair test!

Though far more important than the designation of militia versus volunteer versus regular (and, again, the US Army had Regular units and the US Volunteers were not those) is the amount and quality of training the force has gone through (and that's training, not marching - if a force spends a month training and then a year as a formed unit but most of the latter is spent marching or digging then that doesn't help).

It's for this reason that prewar regular troops are often very high quality. Six months' time in the army peacetime is six months training, while six months' time in the army in wartime can quite easily mean "a month's training from overstretched NCOs" or "learning out of a book".
This effect can be seen in the British Army in WW1. It took years for the New Armies to get up to good quality, and that's with plentiful training time behind the lines as well as significant experience in the battle-line.
 
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That doesn't seem like an especially fair test!

Though far more important than the designation of militia versus volunteer versus regular (and, again, the US Army had Regular units and the US Volunteers were not those) is the amount and quality of training the force has gone through (and that's training, not marching - if a force spends a month training and then a year as a formed unit but most of the latter is spent marching or digging then that doesn't help).

It's for this reason that prewar regular troops are often very high quality. Six months' time in the army peacetime is six months training, while six months' time in the army in wartime can quite easily mean "a month's training from overstretched NCOs" or "learning out of a book".
This effect can be seen in the British Army in WW1. It took years for the New Armies to get up to good quality, and that's with plentiful training time behind the lines as well as significant experience in the battle-line.
No doubt the average soldier in either ACW army had less training then top European Armies. The quality of training was uneven at best for the average soldier.
Most ACW Militia had minimal training at best.
Yet training alone does not guarantee victory I.e. the ex slaves in Hatti vs the French Army.
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Is there an example of the Haitian slaves overcoming a comparably sized force of French regulars? Very impressive if so!
Maybe not but my point is training in and of itself does not necessarily win wars. Quantity is a quality and determination is also a quality. There was one battle where the British Army while they did win were surprised by the excellent performance of the Haitians.
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Saphroneth

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Maybe not but my point is training in and of itself does not necessarily win wars. Quantity is a quality and determination is also a quality. There was one battle where the British Army while they did win were surprised by the excellent performance of the Haitians.
I think it's uncontroversial though to state that a force with training will always be more efficient than a comparable force without training, and also that training is something which allows a force to be improved both reliably (you can train troops and see an improvement no matter the starting material; you can't always be sure to instil fanatical determination) and without an increased logistic cost (if both sides can only support an army of 50,000 in the field, the side with plentiful training will carry the day; if one side can support a force of 10,000 and the other a force of 50,000, the force of 10,000 will stand a good chance if and generally only if it has a major training advantage)
 
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@CSA Today and @Saphroneth ,
I was just checking out the Wikipedia article on the battle of Atlanta which as we know was one of the most critical battles of the ACW.
Assuming the figure are correct in round numbers 34k Union troops on the offensive defeated 40k Confederate soldiers.
The Union suffered 3,600 casualties vs the Confederates 5,500.
That's not a bad days work for the AoC.
So what conclusions can we come to?
1. General Sherman and McPherson are simply better then General's Hood and Hardee?
2. The AoC is a better army then the AoT?
The AoC is better equipped in terms of food and ammo plus other logistics then the AoT?
That's quite a victory and in terms of CEVs seems excellent. Am I missing anything?
Leftyhunter
 
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I haven't read the entire thread, and this may have been brought up, but in "Life of Johnny Reb" and "Life of Billy Yank" both soldiers are described as being about equal in skill. The south didn't posses some amazing spark or some divine intervention. What the South DID do was follow orders and carry them out swiftly. No more, no less, really. The North wasn't outclassed on the battlefield by the soldiers, they were outclassed by other commanders. A lot* (not all) of Union officers had political aspirations after the war, or they had societal standing to worry about...they weren't thinking about winning wars, they were thinking about voting booths and winning constituents as they feebly commanded troops. The South, on the other hand, followed orders and did it with zest. It's like the old saying that goes something like "If you're an officer, it's better to make a choice, right or wrong, than to do nothing." There was Norths problem...they never fully committed to an engagement. The South understood their predicament and when it fought, it committed everything it had to the battle. Lee's greatest example of this is Chancellorsville. While this turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory in the end, it proves my point. Lee gave orders, they were carried out swiftly. There was no miracle there, it was simply Jackson doing what he was told as fast as he could. Had the North had even 1/2 way competent officers in charge from the beginning of the war, there is no way this drags out 4 years.
 
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I haven't read the entire thread, and this may have been brought up, but in "Life of Johnny Reb" and "Life of Billy Yank" both soldiers are described as being about equal in skill. The south didn't posses some amazing spark or some divine intervention. What the South DID do was follow orders and carry them out swiftly. No more, no less, really. The North wasn't outclassed on the battlefield by the soldiers, they were outclassed by other commanders. A lot* (not all) of Union officers had political aspirations after the war, or they had societal standing to worry about...they weren't thinking about winning wars, they were thinking about voting booths and winning constituents as they feebly commanded troops. The South, on the other hand, followed orders and did it with zest. It's like the old saying that goes something like "If you're an officer, it's better to make a choice, right or wrong, than to do nothing." There was Norths problem...they never fully committed to an engagement. The South understood their predicament and when it fought, it committed everything it had to the battle. Lee's greatest example of this is Chancellorsville. While this turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory in the end, it proves my point. Lee gave orders, they were carried out swiftly. There was no miracle there, it was simply Jackson doing what he was told as fast as he could. Had the North had even 1/2 way competent officers in charge from the beginning of the war, there is no way this drags out 4 years.
On the other hand didn't General Bragg have
major problems with his subordinates! I seem to recall Bragg's subordinates twice wrote rather critical letters to President Davis who twice had to visit the AoT to see if changes need to be made.
In the West after the fall of Ft.Donaldson and Henry very few Confederate victories in the West. Outnumbered Union Armies did defeat the Confederate Army at times I.e. Pea Ridge, Prairie Grove, Mill's Springs and the battle of Atlanta.
Not to argue Union political generals failed at times I.e. The Red River Campaign and the Bermuda Hundreds but overall the Confederacy may not of had an overwhelming advantage in officer talent.
Leftyhunter
 

rhettbutler1865

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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
I respectfully and whole-heartedly disagree, UnionBlue. It's not a simple question of black or white. With far inferior resources, the Confederacy, IMO, had the superior leadership, and it was not just who surrendered to whom. The thread asks by what metric can we gauge if the CSA had the better army. Given their circumstances, it was amazing they did what they did.
 
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I respectfully and whole-heartedly disagree, UnionBlue. It's not a simple question of black or white. With far inferior resources, the Confederacy, IMO, had the superior leadership, and it was not just who surrendered to whom. The thread asks by what metric can we gauge if the CSA had the better army. Given their circumstances, it was amazing they did what they did.
Also @CivilWarCollector ,
Did the Confederate Army enjoy superior leadership to the Union Army?
Certainly the answer is not always as I referenced battles where an outnumbered Union Army decisively defeated a more numerous Confederate Army and even seized Territory. Pea Ridge, Prairie Grove, Mills Springs,the battle of Atlanta and are at least some examples of the above.
Did the Confederacy enjoy superior leadership in West Virginia where for apparently political reasons President Davis allowed three separate Confederate Army commands to exist with General Lee acting as senior advisor in chief with out command authority? How did that work against one Union Army commanded by General McCellen ?
Did not the AoT have serious command and control issues that required two separate personal investigations by President Davis?
Where there not serious leadership issues that resulted in General Pemperton surrendering a large number of troops and and equipment at Vicksburg?
Was Gen Pap Sterling's invasion of Missouri a product of superior leadership?
Leftyhunter
 
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I respectfully and whole-heartedly disagree, UnionBlue. It's not a simple question of black or white. With far inferior resources, the Confederacy, IMO, had the superior leadership, and it was not just who surrendered to whom. The thread asks by what metric can we gauge if the CSA had the better army. Given their circumstances, it was amazing they did what they did.
We need to define what " amazing" means in the context of the Confederate Armies performance. Conventional warfare is won by seizing and holding enemy territory. In no year of the ACW did the Confederacy not loose Territory.
As @Saphroneth explained earlier in the thread using Combat Equivalent Values the AoP was superior to the AnV only when it was commanded by Major General McCellen. So a case can be made that during the majority of the ACW using CRVs has a metric the AnV had superior leadership.
Not so sure about the AoT having superior leadership using CEVs as a metric. Perhaps @Saphroneth and @67th Tigers can comment on that.
Leftyhunter
 

Saphroneth

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We need to define what " amazing" means in the context of the Confederate Armies performance. Conventional warfare is won by seizing and holding enemy territory. In no year of the ACW did the Confederacy not loose Territory.
This does need to be nuanced though. The Confederacy was fighting an enemy that had started from a comparable if not superior level of preparation (the Union having inherited the Regulars) and which possessed a greater tax and tariff base, a lack of blockade and a much larger population base. Under these circumstances we should expect the CSA to lose.
That they lost indicates only that they did not beat the odds sufficient to win; that they were launching invasions of the North more than halfway into the war indicates that they were nevertheless doing pretty well.
(This point has, obviously, already been made...)

Not so sure about the AoT having superior leadership using CEVs as a metric. Perhaps @Saphroneth and @67th Tigers can comment on that.
Looking at the CEVs from my list which include the Confederate Army of Tennessee:




Union Stones River 0.65 Normal
Union Chickamauga 1.34 Def
Union Missionary Ridge 0.7 Normal
Union Franklin 2.69 Def
Union Peachtree Creek 1.15 Def
Union Nashville 0.59 Att
Union Resaca 0.17 Att
Union Kennesaw Mountain 0.4 Att


Confederate CEVs are obviously the inverse of this.

In the attacking battles for the CSA the average Union CEV was about 1.7. In the defending battles for the CSA the average Union CEV was about 0.4; multiplying these together and taking the square root we have about 0.8.
With the two "meeting engagement" type battles listed as about 0.7 this tends to fit.

This indicates a small Confederate superiority over and above the expected outcomes from the relative sizes of the armies; that is, the Army of Tennessee was a little better than their Union opponents man-for-man overall. However the effect size is not nearly as large as the "non-McClellan" size seen in the East and so we can conclude that any Confederate advantage in the West (man for man) was significantly smaller.

Note that this may be due to leadership or individual troop quality (possibly from "fighting in defence of one's homes" or perhaps the rifle training spread by certain Confederate officers) or a combination of the two.

(n.b. if Stones River is considered a Union defensive battle it reduces their score in that category; if Missionary Ridge is considered a Union offensive battle it improves their score in that category. They do not result in an average Union CEV of one when considering attack versus defence, no matter the assignments made to these two battles.)
 

byron ed

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...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...
Edited. Almost without exception the best army is the one that has the advantage in men and resources which enables them to overwhelm their enemy. In other words "best" means "best," not "shoulda-coulda." Fairness in war? pfft. ("there's no crying in baseball...")

So it's not even contestable. The Union had the best army, hands down.

Let's come to terms that Robert E. Lee himself knew the Confederate army was bested, and notice how he was able to move on with his life.

But I suppose it's ok to play the ACW as a board game.
 
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Edited. Almost without exception the best army is the one that has the advantage in men and resources which enables them to overwhelm their enemy. In other words "best" means "best," not "shoulda-coulda." Fairness in war? pfft.

So it's not even contestable. The Union had the best army, hands down.

Let's come to terms that Robert E. Lee himself knew the Confederate army was bested, and notice how he was able to move on with his life.

But I suppose it's ok to play the ACW as a board game.
Good point war is not an MMA or boxing match where both opponent's are approximately equal in size and physical conditioning.
On the other hand if we accept the validity of Combat Equivalent Values aka the Lankenshire Squares then the Confederate Army overall with many exceptions I.e. when McCellen commanded the AoP then the Confederate Army was overall slightly superior to the Union Army.
Of course the caveat is CEVs don't necessarily win wars.
Leftyhunter
 
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Of course the caveat is CEVs don't necessarily win wars.
It's a caveat that barely needs mentioning, surely? They certainly help; a small army punching below its weight is a speedbump, while a small army punching above its weight can draw out a conflict for a long period.

Good point war is not an MMA or boxing match where both opponent's are approximately equal in size and physical conditioning.
The odd thing about the ACW is that theoretically the quality of the two armies should have been pretty equal as they were descended from the same country and had little time to differentiate from one another.
 
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@CSA Today and @Saphroneth ,
I was just checking out the Wikipedia article on the battle of Atlanta which as we know was one of the most critical battles of the ACW.
Assuming the figure are correct in round numbers 34k Union troops on the offensive defeated 40k Confederate soldiers.
The Union suffered 3,600 casualties vs the Confederates 5,500.
That's not a bad days work for the AoC.
So what conclusions can we come to?
1. General Sherman and McPherson are simply better then General's Hood and Hardee?
2. The AoC is a better army then the AoT?
The AoC is better equipped in terms of food and ammo plus other logistics then the AoT?
That's quite a victory and in terms of CEVs seems excellent. Am I missing anything?
Leftyhunter
The Confederates were attacking on 22nd July. Hood tried to send two infantry corps out of his entrenchments to dislodge Sherman's forces.

The Army of the Cumberland was not engaged on 22nd July. The action was fought entirely against the entrenchments of the Army of the Tennessee.

800px-BATTLE_OF_ATLANTA.jpg


The numbers of rebels are beefed up a bit by Wheeler's cavalry, but really the major action was Cheatham's Corps (15,492 effectives) and half of Hardee's Corps (say 8,000) attacking the 15th Corps (12,067 PFD), 17th Corps (7,329 PFD) and a brigade of 23rd Corps (2,389 PFD).

The best description, IMHO, is that Hood really screwed up, and should never have made such an idiotic debouche...
 
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The numbers of rebels are beefed up a bit by Wheeler's cavalry, but really the major action was Cheatham's Corps (15,492 effectives) and half of Hardee's Corps (say 8,000) attacking the 15th Corps (12,067 PFD), 17th Corps (7,329 PFD) and a brigade of 23rd Corps (2,389 PFD).
Based on these numbers I get a Confederate CEV of 0.55; based on the full forces present I get a Confederate CEV of 0.47. It's a little less good to the Union than the Battle of Franklin, and fits well into the "Union forces on the defensive" paradigm in the West. (It's much better than the "Union forces on the defensive" paradigm in the East for them; if Meade had done as well at Gettysburg then he'd have expected to take about 7,000 casualties but done the same damage to the Confederate army as he did historically.)

This tends to support the idea that the armies in the West were fundamentally evenly matched and both had "good days" and "bad days", with the CSA's "good days" being perhaps a little better. The Union had Atlanta and Franklin; the Confederacy had Stones River and Resaca.

I did in fact leave out Atlanta from my initial data set; it was at the bottom of the list under the Confederate section. I've shifted it up so all the Union values are together.
 



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