Discussion Did the Southern men fight better than the Northern men?

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
I don't disagree with your concept. But, the reality is that there was no basic training in the Civil War. Under Federal regulation troops could not be armed and uniformed until they were mustered into service. After they were mustered they were almost immediately shipped out from the camps where they had been assembled awaiting muster. IF they were lucky they went into camp in some rear area, like the fortifications around Washington, and got whatever on-the-job training their officers, who generally were also learning their jobs, were capable of giving them. Many went almost directly into combat, in many instances never having fired their weapons at a target or having fired their weapons at all. The Army learned a variety of lessons from the Civil War. That there needed to be some level of structured basic training as units were formed up was one of them.
Basic training and rifle practice, along with teaching camp discipline, would have been preferable. When that was not possible, smaller fights, with a chance to retreat or advance, was the next best alternative. But throwing undisciplined soldiers into a large army camp and then forcing them to fight in big battles was bound to lead to high losses to disease and battle wounds.
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
I suspect that having big battles was sort of unavoidable.
But it turned out to take about two years before the soldiers, troopers and artillerymen were trained up to the level of professional soldiers. It took longer for politicians to realize the casualties were not a sign of success.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
But it turned out to take about two years before the soldiers, troopers and artillerymen were trained up to the level of professional soldiers. It took longer for politicians to realize the casualties were not a sign of success.
It used to be said I believe that it was one year to make a good infantryman, two for a cavalryman and three for a gunner.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
In some respects I'm very old school. I think one of the greatest mistakes the modern U.S. Army made was disestablishing the regimental system.
Our regiments are (today) just name and tradition holding formations, there don't actually do anything administratively or tactically.
The battalions are the administrative and tactical formations.

About 3 years ago the Danish Royal lifeguard arguably committed active mutiny. (and all the rest passive mutiny)

Pretty much every company, battalion and regiment in the military got a Facebook page they use to tell families and the public about that is happening with the unit. This development came from the units them self and was not from the top and there where no standard for things like the page profile picture.

So someone in the ministry of defense decided that all facebook pages should have the very boring "public management" logo that some designer have made so there was no question of a page was official or not.
This change was to be done by 1st january 2018 and this was ordered.

Also at the same time it there had been some serious political talk about disbanding the regiments...

By mid january that year only the 4 branches of the military had done this, but none of the officers schools, regiments or lower formations. And the story was getting attention on the official Facebook page of the military... and the reactions where very very negative. And the one military focused media here was starting to cover the story.
And a lot of current and former soldiers, including some high-ranking one where replacing their own profile pictures with units markings.
And a retired admiral publicly asked people to do this and remove their "like" from the page for the defense department.

So a clearly order was issued that this change should be done for all organizations.

Two days later the facebook page of the royal lifeguard got a now profile picture.
26904437_10155224145273176_3791165918385812454_n.jpg

Not the boring logo for the military... but a photo of the Beret insignia of the regiment.
The post had this text:
"Fordi regimenter og deres enhedsmærker er lig med tilhørsforhold, sammenhold, fælles oplevelser, kammeratskab og korpsånd"

(Because regiments and their unit insignia equals belonging, community, common experience, comradeship and esprit de corp.)

So not only was a (stupid but) legal order being ignored by most of the military... the Royal Lifeguards just very publicly flat out refused to carry it out...
The next day the chief of defense had to back down and accept defeat...
(or alternatively he would have had to actually charge pretty much every regimental, battalion and company commander in the military with disobeying orders...)

Traditions do effect combat effectives... but that is something that is hard to understand for a civilian paper-pusher and even harder to put into a excel spreadsheet... and use it as a factor when looking at the economy of a military.
 
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
PA
Sadly because training, recruitment and logistics are not the sexy subjects in popular military science.

For those wanting a good, detailed and free examination of the issue from the Union perspective chapter II of this document The Personnel Replacement System in The United States Army is a good start, though it was published in 1954 and thus does not benefit from subsequent scholarship.

Edit: because I cannot spell though it seems
Thank you. Excellent source.
 
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
PA
I'm sorry are you referring to Sherman citing the double Skirmish line in his Atlanta campaign in July 1864?..

I mean if the Confederates were better shots and had better tactics why did Atlanta fall then?.

Why was Hood such a failure?.

I Mean lets go full hog and say why didn't the South win the war?.

Just because one Captain writes a book it has to be gospel that this is how it happened and yet you chose to ignore the many thousands of eye witness accounts that say the complete opposite.

I gave you a prime example of Rhodes attack at Gettysburg but you chose to ignore it and even ignore the fact that it was the Union using surprise and cover to decimate a brigade with their so called poor marksmanship.

Captain Forest as far as I can see served the majority of the war in the South West fighting specifically in Louisiana before coming East and fighting in the Shenandoah campaign under Sheridan while I don't doubt his service or his word the fact that he never took part in a major battle until near the end of the war and that he was a novelist sort of gets me thinking he's really talking about Louisiana and fighting the rebels there but having not read the book perhaps you could put me straight on that.

It seems Captain Forests experience differs from Rufus Dawes who's account Service with the 6th Wisconsin Volunteers features nearly all the major battles in the East at no point does Dawes mention the Union were specifically poor marksman but does mention a lack of training and at no point does he mention that the Confederates used different tactics too those used by his own men but instead focuses on specific engagements and the reaction of his men at the time.

I'm not an expert on the fighting in Louisiana but I would imagine it was smaller scale in rough country which may account for Forests experiences please let me know what battles he fought in the west.
Once again Scott you misstate or over state what the man said and I reported. ["Three points I noted with regard to our opponents," observed federal captain John W. De Forest. "They aimed better than our men; they covered themselves (in case of need) more carefully and effectively; they could move in a swarm, without much care for alignment and touching elbows. In short, they fought more like [Indians], or like hunters, than we. The result was that they lost fewer men, though they were far inferior in numbers."]

THAT'S IT, ACE. NO OTHER FINDINGS, NO OVERALL ATTRIBUTION TO ALL UNION TROOPS. THE MAN IS TALKING ABOUT HIS OBSERVATIONS, NOT MINE! Go read his book. He is fairly well known -- has his own extensive Wiki page. He was a major contributor to the news media of the day during the conflict writing dozens of article from the battlefield.

The man is J. W. De Forest. The book is available on-line edited by Croushore, James H., ed. A Volunteer's Adventure, by Captain John W. De Forest. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1949. As a captain in the Union Army, he organized a company from New Haven, the 12th Connecticut Volunteers in November 1861. He served constantly in the field until January 1865, taking an active part under Maj. Gen. Godfrey Weitzel's command in the southwestern states, and under Philip Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley. His graphic descriptions of battle scenes in Louisiana, and of Sheridan's battles in the valley of the Shenandoah, were published in Harper's Monthly during the war. De Forest was present on all the occasions he mentioned experiencing forty-six days under fire, but receiving only one trifling wound. Hos postwar essay printed in the Nation, "The Great American Novel," is generally credited as being the first known use of the phrase.
Battle of Georgia Landing
Battle of Pattersonville (detachment)
Bayou Teche Campaign
Battle of Fort Bisland
Battle of Irish Bend
Siege of Port Hudson
Battle of Brashear City
Shenandoah Valley Campaign
Battle of Fort Stevens
Third Battle of Winchester
Battle of Fisher's Hill
Battle of Cedar Creek
 
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
PA
I'm sorry are you referring to Sherman citing the double Skirmish line in his Atlanta campaign in July 1864?..

I mean if the Confederates were better shots and had better tactics why did Atlanta fall then?.

Why was Hood such a failure?.

I Mean lets go full hog and say why didn't the South win the war?.

Just because one Captain writes a book it has to be gospel that this is how it happened and yet you chose to ignore the many thousands of eye witness accounts that say the complete opposite.

I gave you a prime example of Rhodes attack at Gettysburg but you chose to ignore it and even ignore the fact that it was the Union using surprise and cover to decimate a brigade with their so called poor marksmanship.

Captain Forest as far as I can see served the majority of the war in the South West fighting specifically in Louisiana before coming East and fighting in the Shenandoah campaign under Sheridan while I don't doubt his service or his word the fact that he never took part in a major battle until near the end of the war and that he was a novelist sort of gets me thinking he's really talking about Louisiana and fighting the rebels there but having not read the book perhaps you could put me straight on that.

It seems Captain Forests experience differs from Rufus Dawes who's account Service with the 6th Wisconsin Volunteers features nearly all the major battles in the East at no point does Dawes mention the Union were specifically poor marksman but does mention a lack of training and at no point does he mention that the Confederates used different tactics too those used by his own men but instead focuses on specific engagements and the reaction of his men at the time.

I'm not an expert on the fighting in Louisiana but I would imagine it was smaller scale in rough country which may account for Forests experiences please let me know what battles he fought in the west.
I will address this just one more time. DeForest was commenting on his men and his experiences. Nowhere were his comments on the ENTIRE Federal Army. YOU, Scott, made that leap. Yes, the man wrote some novels, but he was a war correspondent (before the term even existed) for a major Eastern Newspaper. BYE.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I will address this just one more time. DeForest was commenting on his men and his experiences. Nowhere were his comments on the ENTIRE Federal Army. YOU, Scott, made that leap. Yes, the man wrote some novels, but he was a war correspondent (before the term even existed) for a major Eastern Newspaper. BYE.
The term already existed, being used in a book of 1856 and in several other cases before 1861.
 

LetUsHavePeace

Volunteer
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
Define "fight". Grant agreed with J. W. De Forest's general assessment; he thought that Southerners had more true grit about getting to it than Northerners and were better woodsmen and hunters. He also knew, going back to the volunteers in the Mexican War, that Southerners' vanity often defeated their superior courage. The outright indifference of so many Southern officers and men to questions of supply and communication was, for him, a permanent advantage; and, on balance, it made his armies superior even though individual Southern units were the best of all the fighting men.
 

LetUsHavePeace

Volunteer
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
There was plenty of vanity to go around, North and South; but the disdain that even Lee's own staff officers showed for making regular returns - i.e. reports of men and supplies on hand - was something that their commander found frustrating. This is one way in which American Southerners, as the best small units of the 19th century, contrasted dramatically with the Germans, as the best ones of the 20th century.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
There was plenty of vanity to go around, North and South; but the disdain that even Lee's own staff officers showed for making regular returns - i.e. reports of men and supplies on hand - was something that their commander found frustrating. This is one way in which American Southerners, as the best small units of the 19th century, contrasted dramatically with the Germans, as the best ones of the 20th century.
I think both those claims about which are the best units are quite major ones. The "American Southerners" one in particular, as they only ever fought Union troops and so there's no basis for comparison with e.g. Prussians.
 

LetUsHavePeace

Volunteer
Joined
Dec 1, 2018
If the American Southerners were #1 in the 19th century GOAT ranking, the American Northerners were #2. The Prussians' record in the first 2/3rds of that century was, to the say the least, sketchy. Napoleon regularly trounced them, and the Danes fought them to a draw. The reforms that would make them the best of the next century - those of Helmuth von Moltke the Elder - had barely begun to take hold when they won the victory against the French was in a war that lasted less than a year - i.e. Jul 19, 1870 – May 10, 1871.
Grant's dismay upon meeting Bismarck was how completely puffed up the man was with what had been a lucky victory; for what he saw of the General Staff and what von Moltke had begun doing with war gaming Grant had complete respect.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
If the American Southerners were #1 in the 19th century GOAT ranking, the American Northerners were #2. The Prussians' record in the first 2/3rds of that century was, to the say the least, sketchy. Napoleon regularly trounced them, and the Danes fought them to a draw. The reforms that would make them the best of the next century - those of Helmuth von Moltke the Elder - had barely begun to take hold when they won the victory against the French was in a war that lasted less than a year - i.e. Jul 19, 1870 – May 10, 1871.
But the problem is that you haven't managed to get a sense of scale. What makes you confident about the outcome of a battle between Prussian troops and Southerners, for example, or between (say) Union troops and British for that matter?

You've also confused the timing and the nature of the reforms in the Prussian army around this time, along with the time when the Prussian way of war developed - it was formulated in the 1600s, not in the 1870s.
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Define "fight". Grant agreed with J. W. De Forest's general assessment; he thought that Southerners had more true grit about getting to it than Northerners and were better woodsmen and hunters. He also knew, going back to the volunteers in the Mexican War, that Southerners' vanity often defeated their superior courage. The outright indifference of so many Southern officers and men to questions of supply and communication was, for him, a permanent advantage; and, on balance, it made his armies superior even though individual Southern units were the best of all the fighting men.
Do you have a citation for that?
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
There was plenty of vanity to go around, North and South; but the disdain that even Lee's own staff officers showed for making regular returns - i.e. reports of men and supplies on hand - was something that their commander found frustrating. This is one way in which American Southerners, as the best small units of the 19th century, contrasted dramatically with the Germans, as the best ones of the 20th century.
As fighters the Confederates were superior, I suspect. And the initial mobilization of cavalry included superior horseflesh. But as time went on, the War Department in the US steadily became less corrupt and more efficient. Changes in 1863 and 1864 improved everything the US soldiers had to support their efforts. At the same time the Confederates were fighting from a shrinking agricultural base, and a tightening of the blockade.
 
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