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

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I do wish there could be even a slight concession about Palmerston's political stature during this period. His inability to move Britain to more active support for the Confederacy was a consequence of the public and Parliament's memory regarding embarrassments of Crimea and India. That the public was wrong about what had gone wrong in those military adventures is conceded; the British voters were as ignorant as some of my own comments about weapons and marksmanship have been, but that ignorance did not change the direction of public opinion.
I forgot to mention this earlier, but one of the big issues of Palmerston's time as Prime Minister was the question of support for Denmark in the Second Schleiswig-Holstein War. There was significant public support for intervention to protect Denmark, but Palmerston determined not to intervene - in no small part because the British Army was not (and could not be expected to be) enough better than the Prussians and Austrians to overcome the fact there were nearly a million German troops available and Britain could not deploy much more than 100,000 to fight on the continent.

During the Trent crisis, meanwhile, Palmerston elected to allow for an olive branch (and last chance for peace) rather than go straight to war, but this was driven by a genuine desire for peace rather than a lack of support for war. We know this because all the indications we have available from the period indicate that the Trent crisis was something that the British public would support as a casus bellum.


The idea that the public and Parliament thought the British armed forces (including the Army) were subpar on a man for man basis is not supported.
 

Cavalier

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
One aspect of any study of the military history of the American Civil War that I have found is that many of the historians writing on it appear to have only the most cursory knowledge of European military history. This, in my humble opinion leads, them to come to conclusions that are not always justified.

John
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
One aspect of any study of the military history of the American Civil War that I have found is that many of the historians writing on it appear to have only the most cursory knowledge of European military history. This, in my humble opinion leads, them to come to conclusions that are not always justified.

John
Yep. This have frustrated me for years. Even otherwise very good historians suffer from this.
Like the claim that the rifle musket was a new weapon.

It had been around for more than 10 years and and as early as july 1850 something like 25.000 rifle muskets was in action at Isted during the 1st Schleswig war. Of a bit more than 60.000 men involved about half the infantry had rifled firearms.

One model in use is this.

In comparison the US military was still using flintlocks against Mexico.


Sure by civil war standards it was not a big battle (and by European standard it was really not a big battle) but we are still talking a battel the size of 1st Bull run... (with a much higher % of men engaged)

By 1861 it had been used extensively in the Crimean, in India and at Solferino. A battle larger than any during the civil war.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
The interesting thing about the rifle-musket is that it is because it was not a new weapon that so many were used in the Civil War. The various major powers of Europe had just finished rearming with rifle muskets and were still geared up to produce (the weapons they were producing became "on mobilization" weapons and spares) so they were available to sell to the US and CS.
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
I speculate that the logistical and medical issues that the belligerents dealt with in the Crimean war were much better known to the quartermasters and the officers than they were to the journalists.
Caloric sufficiency, dietary diversity, and protected water sources, and better surgical care probably meant more to the soldiers than marksmanship. The activities of Florence Nightingale and the professional English nurses were highly influential in the US.
Here is one introductory web page addressing these issues: https://hekint.org/2017/01/22/medic...-war-a-comparison-between-britain-and-russia/
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I speculate that the logistical and medical issues that the belligerents dealt with in the Crimean war were much better known to the quartermasters and the officers than they were to the journalists.
It was what the outrage was about, though. The reporters were not decrying the battlefield defeats of the British Army because those defeats were not happening in the first place.

All the lessons of the Crimean were applied to the US Civil War as the war became more professionalized.
I don't think they all were; the sick rate in the Crimea dropped to lower than at home, which never happened with the Union armies.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Actually, come to think of it, while I suspect it probably happened I can't offhand think of an example of the US Army building itself a brand new rail line for better supply. What's a good example of this happening? (I know the Confederates did one north of Manassas.)
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
It was what the outrage was about, though. The reporters were not decrying the battlefield defeats of the British Army because those defeats were not happening in the first place.


I don't think they all were; the sick rate in the Crimea dropped to lower than at home, which never happened with the Union armies.
I was thinking of in the US. The US journalists were not well informed. The officers and engineers in the US were very aware of what the French had done with floating batteries. They Confederates seem to have been aware of the French use of railroads, from the start.
People like McClellan had not seen much of the war, but they had spoken to European officers about the Crimean war. The Florence Nightgale example did not go unnoticed in New York and Boston.
Boston I believe was strongly influenced by the English study of cholera. There was much more science transfer than the journalists knew. That lack of context passed into the history of the US Civil War.
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Actually, come to think of it, while I suspect it probably happened I can't offhand think of an example of the US Army building itself a brand new rail line for better supply. What's a good example of this happening? (I know the Confederates did one north of Manassas.)
The City Point railroad was extended westward as a siege railroad. Previously it had just connected to Petersburg.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
A question to be answered: Was the 3-inch rifle ahead or behind what European armies were using in 1863?
The Parrott and Ordnance rifles?

At best it was comparable to what the less well equipped European armies had, in both capability and employment, but there is reason to believe it was inferior in capability.


The British Armstrong gun is among the best field guns of the period, alongside the Krupp field guns that were just starting to see employment in various German armies (such as the Prussian). These reliable, powerful breechloaders were highly accurate out to at least two miles and could thus be used in effective counter battery fire at that range. (The Armstrong could put more shots than not in a nine foot circle at 2,800 yards, if I recall the tests correctly.)

Many other European armies had rifled artillery, generally muzzle loading. The French used theirs as "more accurate smoothbores" rather than "longer ranged smoothbores" in 1859, which may have changed by 1863; the Austrians had rifled artillery in 1866 but not 1859 (so would have been converting at this point) and used it effectively at Koniggratz.


The problem with the Parrott and Ordnance field rifles is basically threefold.
- Firstly, the shell isn't very powerful compared to the Armstrong and Krupp guns, and it doesn't have a percussion fuze (and there were reliability issues with the time fuzes).
- Secondly, we do not have the data for their deviation tests. We do however have data for the larger Parrott and Ordnance position and siege guns, and their deviation at range was significantly greater than the Armstrong guns (more deviation at 1,000 yards than the Armstrong gun had at 2 miles, that kind of thing).
- Thirdly, we do not have solid examples of American armies in the Civil War engaging in accurate counter-battery at mile-plus ranges, except for a very few cases where the gun being used was in fact a British Whitworth. (Basically, if there had been a couple of Armstrong batteries on the ridge at Gettysburg on July 3, they would have been able to counter the Confederate grand battery by practically going down the gun line and neutralizing the batteries in sequence - that's what the low deviation gets you).

The extent to which the last one is due to training deficiencies rather than equipment deficiencies is impossible to know for certain, but the fact that the Whitworths did good work suggests that it's the equipment which is the problem as much as anything.
 

Don Dixon

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 24, 2008
Location
Fairfax, VA, USA
The problem with the Parrott and Ordnance field rifles is basically threefold. The extent to which the last one is due to training deficiencies rather than equipment deficiencies is impossible to know for certain, but the fact that the Whitworths did good work suggests that it's the equipment which is the problem as much as anything.

There was a problem with all artillery in the Civil War. Due to the lack of a forward observer system the guns, no matter what their range, were limited to the line of sight of the artillery battery or gun commander. Whitworth guns were capable of firing to a range of about five miles, but without forward observers able to communicate with the battery one could not make effective use of that range. Effective use of the range of one's guns was not generally possible until the development of field telephones and wire networks, and better yet the radio.
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
There was a problem with all artillery in the Civil War. Due to the lack of a forward observer system the guns, no matter what their range, were limited to the line of sight of the artillery battery or gun commander. Whitworth guns were capable of firing to a range of about five miles, but without forward observers able to communicate with the battery one could not make effective use of that range. Effective use of the range of one's guns was not generally possible until the development of field telephones and wire networks, and better yet the radio.
They could have used a forward flag signaler and a guy with a telegraph key. It would not have been fast, but it would have worked.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
There was a problem with all artillery in the Civil War. Due to the lack of a forward observer system the guns, no matter what their range, were limited to the line of sight of the artillery battery or gun commander. Whitworth guns were capable of firing to a range of about five miles, but without forward observers able to communicate with the battery one could not make effective use of that range. Effective use of the range of one's guns was not generally possible until the development of field telephones and wire networks, and better yet the radio.
But in 1870 the Prussians essentially destroyed the French army by heavily leveraging their artillery, and in this period in general there is a trend of accurate counter-battery fire. The limiting factor for 3" American rifles was the performance of the guns or the gunners, not their running into a fundamental limit of direct fire artillery, because nobody else ran into that limit at that range in this period.
 

dgfred

Private
Joined
Apr 13, 2020
If a FO (flag signaler) was responsible for heavy cannon fire on my position... he/they would be target #1 for my side.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Don't forget that it was possible to do long range bombardment - especially if you have a high position to see from, or if the enemy is on a high position. Hohenlohe gives extreme effective range for his rifled Krupp guns (of a type purchased in 1859) as 4,000 paces, which would be about two miles, and describes putting effective fire onto his enemy at this range on at least one occasion (and by effective fire, I mean he forced a column to retreat and knocked out a battery).
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
If a FO (flag signaler) was responsible for heavy cannon fire on my position... he/they would be target #1 for my side.
Except the guy watching the barrage would be prone and under cover. He would be yelling at the signaler. The signaler would flag the telegraph guy who would be out of sight and out of range. They would have arrived at some solution, eventually. But the war shifted towards mobility and disabling railroads. Artillery was de-emphasized.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Except the guy watching the barrage would be prone and under cover. He would be yelling at the signaler. The signaler would flag the telegraph guy who would be out of sight and out of range. They would have arrived at some solution, eventually. But the war shifted towards mobility and disabling railroads. Artillery was de-emphasized.
The way that long range bombardment (longer ranged than that in the Civil War) was actually done was quite simple. The gunners set up on a hill where they could see their enemy between 0.5 and 2 miles away, and opened fire.

For example, during the bombardment of Yorktown the heavy rifles used to reduce the fort were set up a mile from the closest point of Yorktown, and were able to give good practice from there. And were doing direct fire.
 
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