Cavalry Raids Destroyed the Confederacy. How & Why Did That Happen?

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
CAVALRY RAIDS DESTROYED THE CONFEDERACY.
How & Why Did That Happen?

Map of Louisville 1864.jpeg

Map of Louisville KY University of Louisvillle
During the Civil War, Louisville KY was the tip of a funnel. Everything that the Army of the Cumberland needed from mules to paper that an army needed flowed into Louisville from all points northward. Up the Ohio River, Cincinnati was the source of massive amounts of meat. Via the Erie Canal, a steady flow of war material from New England was shipped. The rich black soil of the Midwest produced mountains of hay & grain that supplied the daily 26 pound ration that every horse required. Regiments of infantry reported to Louisville for transport. Like a funnel, all this bounty flowed out one way, the Louisville & Nashville Rail Road.


rail road map of Kentucky 1863.jpg

1863 Rail Road Map of Kentucky. Library of Congress
The Louisville & Nashville Rail Road took six years to live up to its name. On October 27, 1859, the line opened all the way to Nashville. It was a single track line, which meant that traffic north & south had to be shunted onto sidings for a ponderous rail road doh-se-doh. Horrifying head on crashes were not uncommon during this time. A very steep learning curve faced all rail operations. In Nashville, all passengers & freight heading southward had to be transferred across town to the Nashville & Chattanooga Rail Road yard.

Map of Nashville 1864.jpg

Map of Nashville 1863.
The L&N crosses the Cumberland River from the north. The N&C exits southeast.
The Union Army connected the two lines & constructed the Nashville & Northwestern RR.
Library o fCongress​

Construction of the N&C was a heroic piece of engineering. Starting at Chattanooga, the line snaked along the Tennessee, crossed at Bridgeport, Alabama & confronted Cumberland Mountain. A 2,200 foot long tunnel was driven through the mountain using slave labor. Slaves did not do the blackpowder blasting, they were far too valuable for that. Irish emigrants were hired for dangerous jobs. Adds in paper offered jobs to "Irish N---gers"... 19th Century bigotry never disappoints. The line reached Murfreesboro, 30 miles south east of Nashville on July 4, 1851. In February 1854, the line was opened. N&C President made a personal trip to England to purchase rails that saved the company $50,000 dollars over domestically manufactured rails. At Chattanooga, service to Atlanta via the Western & Atlantic Rail Road completed the connection with the deep South.

CowanTunnelSouthLookingNorth.jpg

2,200 foot long Cumberland Mountain Tunnel, is also called the Cowan Tunnel through Montagle, Tennessee.
Today, the tunnel & the line to Nashville is still has a single track.
CSX trains shunt onto the siding in Murfreesboro just like they did during the Civil War.
Two events that would have dramatic impact on the Civil War, one was man made, the other an act of God. Until 1830, all river freight had to be portaged around the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville. The 50 foot wide Louisville & Portland Canal bypassed the falls & allowed river traffic to flow freely. Because of the falls, Louisville was the natural railhead for the Kentucky rail road. In 1860, the El Niño current appeared off the Pacific Coastline. River levels would be so low on the Cumberland River that no steamboats could reach Nashville until the winter rains filled the channels. These two factors combined to make the L&N the only way to ship freight from north to south, & was destined to shape the way the Civil War would be won or lost.

fortified swinging rail bridge Nashville.jpeg

Cumberland River rail road bridge built by the Union Army. Note the guard towers, gate & wall with gun ports.
Not so obvious is that the center section balances on the drum shaped pier & can swing open to allow boats to pass.
April 14, 2020 the river is over the boy on the horse's head. A bridge master still mans the swinging RR bridge today.
As the Army of Tennessee abandoned Nashville after the fall of Fort Donelson, the last thing they did was to burn the L&N bridge & cut the giant cables of the suspension bridge over the Cumberland River. The first thing the Union Army did after the city was surrendered to a few men in a rowboat was to build a new rail road bridge. From that moment onward the war between the Confederate Army of Tennessee & Union Army of the Cumberland had two strategic goals. One was to destroy the L&N/N&C, the other to protect it at all costs. Destroy the rail road & the AoT wins; keep the rail road open & the AoC wins, it was as simple as that.

The war over the rail road was something that the world had never seen before. The rail connection to Nashville was just over one year old. Both the AoT & the AoC were starting from zero. Both armies would fall back on their strengths to find a solution. For the AoT it was almost a no brainer. The one military asset they had that was superior to their opponent was cavalry. In 1862, the cavalry of the AoC was small in number, poorly led & lacked basic equipment. Some of the cavalrymen had no weapons of any kind.

Thousands of men, following the Confederate practice, arrived at recruiting centers with their own horses & tack. A large, well mounted cavalry force grew organically. All over the great horse country of Middle Tennessee, squadrons of mounted men formed units with fanciful names & elected their officers. Organizing that gaggle of often eccentric horsemen into a disciplined military force was no easy task. In some fundamental ways, it was an impossible one.

From time out of mind, mounted men had hit & run the supply lines of opposing armies. Sending the large force of mounted men against the L&N was perfectly logical & rational in a military sense. Beyond that, it generated wonderful press & bigger than life heroes. The image of Morgan & his feathered hat making fools out of the Yankees as he burn bridges all along the L&N was the living confirmation of the superiority of Southern manhood over the pinch chested Yankee. The doctrine of using calvary to destroy rail roads was born in the spotlight of celebrity raiders like Morgan.

Blockhouse near Chattanoogan1863.jpeg

Blockhouse guarding the rail road near Chattanooga 1863. Library of Congress​

The AoC fell back on the depth of engineering skill belonging to the men in its ranks. The pressure put on the rail road by both man & nature cannot be exaggerated. Anybody with flint & steel could burn a rail road bridge. Seasonal torrents washing out multiple bridges was a common occurrence. In the kind of time compressing effort that only war provokes, an entire branch of military was created. Rail road regiments ran & maintained the rolling stock. Engineering units deployed prefabricated bridge sections of a standard design that could be erected in an astonishingly short time. As Joe Johnston observed, Union rail road repair units could repair a brake in the line faster than one of Wheeler's officers could report it had happened.

The insurmountable problem faced by Confederate cavalry leaders was a fundamental law of interdiction. It is not enough to destroy a bridge one time, it has to be destroyed over & over again. Cavalry was incapable of actually doing fatal damage to the rails. Any break they made was repaired very quickly & the trains went on running. Cavalry raids were like what happens when a person only takes enough antibiotic to kill off the weak germs. What is left are super bugs that are immune to the drug.

Bridges are obviously vulnerable, so every bridge had its own blockhouse strong enough to withstand anything but a formal assault with artillery. When Wheeler tried to cut the L&N between Nashville & Murfreesboro in 1863, he couldn't even damage a single bridge. When guerrilla bands attacked the line, every house within miles of the attack were burned & the occupants ejected from the area. The spindly thread of the L&N/N&C became a sold backbone that no mere cavalry raid could harm. After the spring of 1863, no matter what they did Confederate cavalry raiders were incapable of interdicting the vital supplies that made the Nashville to Atlanta campaign possible.

Unfortunately for the Confederate cause, the infatuation with cavalry raids long outlasted their ability to do more than annoy Union rail roaders. Tens of thousands of irreplaceable men & horses were wasted on raids that did nothing to stop the flow of supplies that fueled not only the Army of the Cumberland but the Army of the Tennessee & Army of the James that became Sherman's army group. Every man & horse that participated in the repeated cavalry attacks on the rail road was dead loss to the Confederate army. It is not an exaggeration to say that the engineers & logicians of the AoC triumphed over the cavaliers with the feathers in their hats. By continuing to fling themselves at the rail road long after it was obvious that they were doing no harm the Confederate cavalry destroyed any chance the Confederacy had to winng the war.

Note:
Sherman, of all people, demonstrated what it took to destroy a rail road beyond repair. After he left Atalanta on his March to the Sea, the men withdrawing to Chattanooga took up the rails & ties as they went. They left nothing but graded earth in their wake. When the war was over, the same material was used to rebuild it.

 
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1NCCAV

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 23, 2016
I like your analysis, Rhea Cole. But I want to toss out something to consider.

Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz had a concept called "Center of Gravity."

CoG: "The source of power that provides moral or physical strength, freedom of action, or will to act." Striking a CoG sort of amounts to cutting off the head. The corpse may keep twitching for a while but eventually it dies. For example, students of the Plains Indian Wars would consider the buffalo herds to be a CoG for the plains tribes. The buffalo furnished the plains tribes with everything they needed - food, clothing, a home, traditions, even a theology. When the buffalo was eliminated, the tribes could not continue. That's the power of identifying and striking and CoG.

Apparently, Confederates considered railroads to be a CoG. They may not have used that term or even have heard of that term but evidently they viewed the railroads as a Union source of strength, of sorts.

Were the Confederates right? If they were not right, what was a better target to focus on? If they were right, didn't they at least have to try?
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I like your analysis, Rhea Cole. But I want to toss out something to consider.

Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz had a concept called "Center of Gravity."

CoG: "The source of power that provides moral or physical strength, freedom of action, or will to act." Striking a CoG sort of amounts to cutting off the head. The corpse may keep twitching for a while but eventually it dies. For example, students of the Plains Indian Wars would consider the buffalo herds to be a CoG for the plains tribes. The buffalo furnished the plains tribes with everything they needed - food, clothing, a home, traditions, even a theology. When the buffalo was eliminated, the tribes could not continue. That's the power of identifying and striking and CoG.

Apparently, Confederates considered railroads to be a CoG. They may not have used that term or even have heard of that term but evidently they viewed the railroads as a Union source of strength, of sorts.

Were the Confederates right? If they were not right, what was a better target to focus on? If they were right, didn't they at least have to try?
What target should they have focused on is an excellent question.

The L&N/N&C were the lifeline that had to be destroyed or protected at all costs. There was nothing that Bragg could have done to halt the advance of the AoC or force it out of Chattanooga but destroy the rail road. Bragg only had 47,500 effectives vs the 35,000 holed up in Chattanooga. His men were not in much better shape than the besieged. Their camps on the south side of Missionary Ridge were filthy bogs. Letters home include descriptions of daily rations of a spoon of molasses & a canteen of moonshine. During the retreat from Missionary Ridge, Southern soldiers were infuriated to discover the supply dumps at Chicamagua Station where Bragg had squirreled away a huge reserve. The rations were a bonanza for the hungry Cumberlanders who captured them.

The point here is that Bragg's infantry was physically incapable of crossing the Tennessee & cutting Rosecrans off. Supplies for Chattanooga were offloaded at Bridgeport & loaded on wagons. The direct route was 20 miles long. Bragg blocked that route from across the river, so a hellish 60 mile mule killing mountain road had to be endured. There was no way for Bragg to cross the wide fast flowing Tennessee & directly attack the rail head. Rosecrans had a Pioneer Brigade made up of skilled men who built a trestle bridge & pontoon bridge over the river. Bragg had neither the skilled men or the pontoons necessary to bridge the unfordable river. An infantry attack on the N&C was not possible.

As had been demonstrated by Wheeler, a cavalry attack on the N&C was a profligate waste of men & horses. Bragg's infantry was physically incapable of operating on the north side of the Tennessee River. What was left is a very good question. As Sherlock Holmes said, once you have eliminated all the other possibilities, whatever is left is probably the right answer. Bragg's only hope was to destroy the 2,200 foot long Cumberland Mountain Tunnel.

Inexplicably, Bragg had not made plans to at least block the entrance to the tunnel at Cowen when he retreated in June. AoC regiments marched through the tunnel, avoiding an arduous trek up & over Monteagle Mountain. If memory serves, at six points on the road up the mountain rock shelves blocked the road. Wagons were unloaded & their cargo carried above the shelf. Wagons were disassembled & manhandled over the shelf. On the upper side, the wagon was reassembled, reloaded, mules harnessed & away they went to the next step to do it all over again. The mountain is a hair raising traverse on I-24 in any kind of wet or freezing weather today.

There was a single point that could have been attacked that would totally choke off Rosecran's supplies. It wasn't necessary to blow up the entire tunnel, or even possible for that matter. What could be done was to block the entrances. Some sort of commando type raid would have to take control of the southern end of the tunnel, which is at the head of a steep cove. I don't know enough about black powder blasting to do more than say that holes would be drilled & packed with powder. That was how the tunnel had been built. The photo in the post is of the southern entrance.

Take my word for it, there was no way for the commando force to hold the tunnel entrance for any length of time. It is all you can do to trudge up the side of the cove. It would have to be hit & scramble, running not an option. How long would it take to unblock the tunnel? How long did it need to be blocked? Would cutting off the AoC for a week have been a fatal blow? I do not know the answers to these questions. The only thing that is certain is that the Cumberland Mountain Tunnel was the only choke point that could have starved out the AoC. It was never attacked by Confederate cavalry raiders.

Morgan blocked a tunnel at a Cumberland River crossing northeast of Nashville. He set rail cars on fire & pushed them into the tunnel. It was a spectacular move, but the tunnel was unblocked relatively quickly. Like all these things, doing it once was not enough.
 
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1NCCAV

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 23, 2016
Some sort of commando type raid would have to take control of the southern end of the tunnel, which is at the head of a steep cove. I don't know enough about black powder blasting to do more than say that holes would be drilled & packed with powder. That was how the tunnel had been built. The photo in the post is of the southern entrance.

I think it unlikely from a logistical standpoint that a cavalry raiding force with attached engineers could transport enough powder to cause any serious damage. And drilling additional holes and powder packing would be a labor and time intensive process anyway. Seems like the only option would be to detonate a railroad engine and cars inside the tunnel. But that would require capturing an engine and cars and loading the cars with powder. I don't know how feasible that would have been. But it seems like the only possibility.

Thoughts, anyone?
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I think it unlikely from a logistical standpoint that a cavalry raiding force with attached engineers could transport enough powder to cause any serious damage. And drilling additional holes and powder packing would be a labor and time intensive process anyway. Seems like the only option would be to detonate a railroad engine and cars inside the tunnel. But that would require capturing an engine and cars and loading the cars with powder. I don't know how feasible that would have been. But it seems like the only possibility.

Thoughts, anyone?
As you can see in the photo, the tunnel is solid limestone. There are no supporting timbers to burn out. At regular intervals there is a vertical hole that ventilates tunnel. Some sort of attack through one of them sounds fanciful, but might have been done. Of course, Bragg could have prepared something, but that would involve a degree of planning for a retreat that wasn’t going to happen.
 

ucvrelics

Colonel
Forum Host
Regtl. Quartermaster Shiloh 2020
Joined
May 7, 2016
Location
Alabama
The one thing you haven't mentioned was Gen Nathan Bedford Forrest. He was very successful and his goal was not destroying RR but interrupting much need supplies. The further the Union army came south the more they were stretched out. Forrest did a lot of damage and captured a LOT of much needed supplies.
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
CAVALRY RAIDS DESTROYED THE CONFEDERACY.
How & Why Did That Happen?

View attachment 354828

Map of Louisville KY University of Louisvillle
During the Civil War, Louisville KY was the tip of a funnel. Everything that the Army of the Cumberland needed from mules to paper that an army needed flowed into Louisville from all points northward. Up the Ohio River, Cincinnati was the source of massive amounts of meat. Via the Erie Canal, a steady flow of war material from New England was shipped. The rich black soil of the Midwest produced mountains of hay & grain that supplied the daily 26 pound ration that every horse required. Regiments of infantry reported to Louisville for transport. Like a funnel, all this bounty flowed out one way, the Louisville & Nashville Rail Road.


View attachment 354836
1863 Rail Road Map of Kentucky. Library of Congress
The Louisville & Nashville Rail Road took six years to live up to its name. On October 27, 1859, the line opened all the way to Nashville. It was a single track line, which meant that traffic north & south had to be shunted onto sidings for a ponderous rail road doh-se-doh. Horrifying head on crashes were not uncommon during this time. A very steep learning curve faced all rail operations. In Nashville, all passengers & freight heading southward had to be transferred across town to the Nashville & Chattanooga Rail Road yard.

View attachment 354832
Map of Nashville 1863.
The L&N crosses the Cumberland River from the north. The N&C exits southeast.
The Union Army connected the two lines & constructed the Nashville & Northwestern RR.
Library o fCongress​

Construction of the N&C was a heroic piece of engineering. Starting at Chattanooga, the line snaked along the Tennessee, crossed at Bridgeport, Alabama & confronted Cumberland Mountain. A 2,200 foot long tunnel was driven through the mountain using slave labor. Slaves did not do the blackpowder blasting, they were far too valuable for that. Irish emigrants were hired for dangerous jobs. Adds in paper offered jobs to "Irish N---gers"... 19th Century bigotry never disappoints. The line reached Murfreesboro, 30 miles south east of Nashville on July 4, 1851. In February 1854, the line was opened. N&C President made a personal trip to England to purchase rails that saved the company $50,000 dollars over domestically manufactured rails. At Chattanooga, service to Atlanta via the Western & Atlantic Rail Road completed the connection with the deep South.

View attachment 354835
2,200 foot long Cumberland Mountain Tunnel, is also called the Cowan Tunnel through Montagle, Tennessee.
Today, the tunnel & the line to Nashville is still has a single track.
CSX trains shunt onto the siding in Murfreesboro just like they did during the Civil War.
Two events that would have dramatic impact on the Civil War, one was man made, the other an act of God. Until 1830, all river freight had to be portaged around the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville. The 50 foot wide Louisville & Portland Canal bypassed the falls & allowed river traffic to flow freely. Because of the falls, Louisville was the natural railhead for the Kentucky rail road. In 1860, the El Niño current appeared off the Pacific Coastline. River levels would be so low on the Cumberland River that no steamboats could reach Nashville until the winter rains filled the channels. These two factors combined to make the L&N the only way to ship freight from north to south, & was destined to shape the way the Civil War would be won or lost.

View attachment 354846
Cumberland River rail road bridge built by the Union Army. Note the guard towers, gate & wall with gun ports.
Not so obvious is that the center section balances on the drum shaped pier & can swing open to allow boats to pass.
April 14, 2020 the river is over the boy on the horse's head. A bridge master still mans the swinging RR bridge today.
As the Army of Tennessee abandoned Nashville after the fall of Fort Donelson, the last thing they did was to burn the L&N bridge & cut the giant cables of the suspension bridge over the Cumberland River. The first thing the Union Army did after the city was surrendered to a few men in a rowboat was to build a new rail road bridge. From that moment onward the war between the Confederate Army of Tennessee & Union Army of the Cumberland had two strategic goals. One was to destroy the L&N/N&C, the other to protect it at all costs. Destroy the rail road & the AoT wins; keep the rail road open & the AoC wins, it was as simple as that.

The war over the rail road was something that the world had never seen before. The rail connection to Nashville was just over one year old. Both the AoT & the AoC were starting from zero. Both armies would fall back on their strengths to find a solution. For the AoT it was almost a no brainer. The one military asset they had that was superior to their opponent was cavalry. In 1862, the cavalry of the AoC was small in number, poorly led & lacked basic equipment. Some of the cavalrymen had no weapons of any kind.

Thousands of men, following the Confederate practice, arrived at recruiting centers with their own horses & tack. A large, well mounted cavalry force grew organically. All over the great horse country of Middle Tennessee, squadrons of mounted men formed units with fanciful names & elected their officers. Organizing that gaggle of often eccentric horsemen into a disciplined military force was no easy task. In some fundamental ways, it was an impossible one.

From time out of mind, mounted men had hit & run the supply lines of opposing armies. Sending the large force of mounted men against the L&N was perfectly logical & rational in a military sense. Beyond that, it generated wonderful press & bigger than life heroes. The image of Morgan & his feathered hat making fools out of the Yankees as he burn bridges all along the L&N was the living confirmation of the superiority of Southern manhood over the pinch chested Yankee. The doctrine of using calvary to destroy rail roads was born in the spotlight of celebrity raiders like Morgan.

View attachment 354845
Blockhouse guarding the rail road near Chattanooga 1863. Library of Congress​

The AoC fell back on the depth of engineering skill belonging to the men in its ranks. The pressure put on the rail road by both man & nature cannot be exaggerated. Anybody with flint & steel could burn a rail road bridge. Seasonal torrents washing out multiple bridges was a common occurrence. In the kind of time compressing effort that only war provokes, an entire branch of military was created. Rail road regiments ran & maintained the rolling stock. Engineering units deployed prefabricated bridge sections of a standard design that could be erected in an astonishingly short time. As Joe Johnston observed, Union rail road repair units could repair a brake in the line faster than one of Wheeler's officers could report it had happened.

The insurmountable problem faced by Confederate cavalry leaders was a fundamental law of interdiction. It is not enough to destroy a bridge one time, it has to be destroyed over & over again. Cavalry was incapable of actually doing fatal damage to the rails. Any break they made was repaired very quickly & the trains went on running. Cavalry raids were like what happens when a person only takes enough antibiotic to kill off the weak germs. What is left are super bugs that are immune to the drug.

Bridges are obviously vulnerable, so every bridge had its own blockhouse strong enough to withstand anything but a formal assault with artillery. When Wheeler tried to cut the L&N between Nashville & Murfreesboro in 1863, he couldn't even damage a single bridge. When guerrilla bands attacked the line, every house within miles of the attack were burned & the occupants ejected from the area. The spindly thread of the L&N/N&C became a sold backbone that no mere cavalry raid could harm. After the spring of 1863, no matter what they did Confederate cavalry raiders were incapable of interdicting the vital supplies that made the Nashville to Atlanta campaign possible.

Unfortunately for the Confederate cause, the infatuation with cavalry raids long outlasted their ability to do more than annoy Union rail roaders. Tens of thousands of irreplaceable men & horses were wasted on raids that did nothing to stop the flow of supplies that fueled not only the Army of the Cumberland but the Army of the Tennessee & Army of the James that became Sherman's army group. Every man & horse that participated in the repeated cavalry attacks on the rail road was dead loss to the Confederate army. It is not an exaggeration to say that the engineers & logicians of the AoC triumphed over the cavaliers with the feathers in their hats. By continuing to fling themselves at the rail road long after it was obvious that they were doing no harm the Confederate cavalry destroyed any chance the Confederacy had to winng the war.

Note:
Sherman, of all people, demonstrated what it took to destroy a rail road beyond repair. After he left Atalanta on his March to the Sea, the men withdrawing to Chattanooga took up the rails & ties as they went. They left nothing but graded earth in their wake. When the war was over, the same material was used to rebuild it.

Mr. Cole, I agree about Cav Raids, but what about Van Dorn's Raid on Holly Springs? That was successful.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Mr. Cole, I agree about Cav Raids, but what about Van Dorn's Raid on Holly Springs? That was successful.
It was, however, the Holly Springs raid was not an element of larger plan. There was no follow up with coordinated blows on Grant while he was vulnerable. It was just another hit on the supply system that only made it stronger because of the response.

Grant realized that depending on supply dumps like Holly Springs made his army vulnerable. He came up with a solution that had dire consequences for the Confederacy.

When Grant marched off into the interior of Mississippi with limited communications. This defied all conventional military doctrine. Pemberton immediately ordered scouts sent out to find Grant's supply line. His obvious move was interdiction. He was completely baffled when the scouts reported that there was nothing to interdict. Ironically, perhaps, Grant was confident in his decision to live off the land because of Grierson's reports of the bountiful food stocks available from Mississippi farms. The confusion spread by the coordinated cavalry raid, the intel gathered & the confidence generated by knowing that his army could sustain itself that shows what a cavalry raid could do.
 
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Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
When Grant marched off into the interior of Mississippi without communications. This defied all conventional military doctrine. Pemberton immediately ordered scouts sent out to find Grant's supply line. His obvious move was interdiction. He was completely baffled when the scouts reported that there was nothing to interdict.
False. Grant's supply line was from Grand Gulf.

 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
False. Grant's supply line was from Grand Gulf.

My comment is cryptic. The logistics that sustained Army of the Tennessee were not simplistic. The Grand Gulf landing is a well known & understood element of Grant''s campaign. If you take a look at the tonnage that was delivered to Grant from Grand Gulf, you will realize why it could not have been the sole supply source for the logistical needs of the campaign. Without the food & forage available inland, Grant's army could not have been sustained.

Why couldn't Grand Gulf supply Grant's army? The numbers are compelling. The 35,000 (+/-) men of Grant's army consumed 95,000 pounds of rations a day, equal to eleven RR cars a day. Approx. 8,000 horses required a whopping 208,000 pounds of grain & fodder per day. That is a mountainous total of 2,000,000 million pounds a week just to feed the army. Add to that the rations consumed by the crews of the supply boats, men needed to unload the steam boats & load the it on the wagons, plus the wagon drivers & mules needed to deliver it & the tonnage just gets bigger & bigger. At Grand Gulf there was not the lift capacity to move tonnage on that scale.

Even with the vast assets available to him upriver from Vicksburg, scurvy became an increasingly dire threat to Grant's army.
Grant put a squadron of 14 steamers under the command ("You will treat her commands as if they came directly from my mouth.") of a Sanitarian named Mrs. Livermore. She went north where the Sanitary Commission committees like those in Chicago contributed more steamers & the fresh onions & other ascorbic foods needed to keep Grant's army healthy. The nimble response of the Sanitarians & Grant's faith in them allowed the siege to continue to its victorious end.
 
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Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
If you take a look at the trivial tonnage that could have been delivered to Grant from Grand Gulf, you will realize why it is not considered an important factor in the campaign. There was no way for the army to be supplied from there because it was cut off up & down river. It was as isolated as Grant was. Grand Gulf's purpose was as a rally point in case things went sideways & Grant had to fall back.
Sorry, but what do you mean that Grand Gulf is cut off "up and down river"? Grant controls the far shore and Vicksburg is the last bastion on the river; supplies can come upriver, or can be ferried over from the far shore.

May 5: "See that the commissary at Grand Gulf loads all wagons presenting themselves for stores with great promptness ... Movements here are delayed for want of ammunition and stores. Every day's delay is worth two thousand men to the enemy."

The Grand Gulf supply base holds over two million rations as of May 8 and is providing ammunition and food supply, at times sending out individual supply trains of ~200 wagons. Regardless of whether it's providing Grant's entire supply needs, Grant still has a supply line and he still has communications - that's why he orders AJ Smith's division to protect the supply line, joining Blair (who was already doing so).
Not much point two divisions protecting a supply line that isn't there (or isn't important).
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
The one thing you haven't mentioned was Gen Nathan Bedford Forrest. He was very successful and his goal was not destroying RR but interrupting much need supplies. The further the Union army came south the more they were stretched out. Forrest did a lot of damage and captured a LOT of much needed supplies.
Yes and no. Yes Forrest did destroy Union logistics but then again he didn't prevent the Union victories at Vicksburg and latter into Georgia.
Calvery raiding is a good tool but it needs to be cordinated in a plan to eventually size and hold enemy territory. Wars aren't won just by raiding and siezing enemy supplies.
I would have to look up one of Forrest's last battles but eventually the Union Cavalry did catch up to him and caused heavy losses to Forrest's command.
Leftyhunter
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Sorry, but what do you mean that Grand Gulf is cut off "up and down river"? Grant controls the far shore and Vicksburg is the last bastion on the river; supplies can come upriver, or can be ferried over from the far shore.

May 5: "See that the commissary at Grand Gulf loads all wagons presenting themselves for stores with great promptness ... Movements here are delayed for want of ammunition and stores. Every day's delay is worth two thousand men to the enemy."

The Grand Gulf supply base holds over two million rations as of May 8 and is providing ammunition and food supply, at times sending out individual supply trains of ~200 wagons. Regardless of whether it's providing Grant's entire supply needs, Grant still has a supply line and he still has communications - that's why he orders AJ Smith's division to protect the supply line, joining Blair (who was already doing so).
Not much point two divisions protecting a supply line that isn't there (or isn't important).
Up river is Vicksburg & downriver is also held by Confederates. You will notice that Grand Gulf isn’t forwarding grain & forage.
During the Tullahoma Campaign Rosecrans ordered that the RR be used exclusively for hauling forage. Ammunition & rations were sent southward on wagons. The example I gave above reveals how much tonnage it took to keep the animals alive. A single boxcar held 8-900 complete rations. A ten car train was needed to haul that many equine rations. All of Grant’s feed came from foraging.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Up river is Vicksburg & downriver is also held by Confederates.
Wasn't Vicksburg the last thing required to open the Mississippi? And that's before considering that supplies can simply be crossed from the Louisiana side; it's part of the historical record that supplies were arriving at Grand Gulf, so obviously Grand Gulf could recieve supplies.


You will notice that Grand Gulf isn’t forwarding grain & forage.
During the Tullahoma Campaign Rosecrans ordered that the RR be used exclusively for hauling forage. Ammunition & rations were sent southward on wagons. The example I gave above reveals how much tonnage it took to keep the animals alive. A single boxcar held 8-900 complete rations. A ten car train was needed to haul that many equine rations. All of Grant’s feed came from foraging.
I'm sure; that doesn't however mean that his army could survive without his supply line. Gunpowder and ammunition, salt etc. were coming from Grand Gulf, and the army needs those too.
 

dgfred

Corporal
Joined
Apr 13, 2020
I would like to have seen more Cav cutting off retreats and disrupting just behind the front lines during an attack. As well as the raiding as destruction actions when not at an actual battle.
 

dgfred

Corporal
Joined
Apr 13, 2020
Napoleonic battles maybe? Cavalry crashing into the flanks/rear of Roman battles? Maybe?
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Napoleonic battles maybe? Cavalry crashing into the flanks/rear of Roman battles? Maybe?
I should of added in the ACW. Small arms technology had improved quite a bit since the Napoleonic era along with artillery. Of course the caveat is most infantry on both sides were not well trained in marksmanship still Cavalry crashing into an Infantry unit of at least the same size as the Cavalry unit was a dangerous proposition. Not to say it never happened I just can't recall such an event.
Leftyhunter
 
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