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

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Not really , Hannibal is a classic example at Cannae
I think the idea that Hannibal's troops were poorly trained and the Roman troops were well trained is the flaw in your understanding there. Hannibal's army contained several highly experienced contingents; it would be foolish to say that the tactics had nothing to do with Cannae, because they absolutely were decisive in the outcome, but Hannibal's men were definitely veterans of several previous battles if nothing else. His actual plan for Cannae relied on the individual superiority of his (better trained) cavalry and on the ability of his African troops to wheel in for the flanking attack; accounts say that his Libyans at least were armed and equipped in an almost identical way to the Romans.

More to the point, the Roman army at Cannae was twice the size of their usual army (eight legions instead of four) which means by definition that at least half the army was newly raised; given the heavy casualties already inflicted on the Romans it's quite possible that most of their army was. They'd certainly spent less time as formed organizations than Hannibal's men had, since those had essentially not changed as a body since before Trebia.

The Senate determined to bring eight legions into the field, which had never been done at Rome before, each legion consisting of five thousand men besides allies. ...Most of their wars are decided by one consul and two legions, with their quota of allies; and they rarely employ all four at one time and on one service. But on this occasion, so great was the alarm and terror of what would happen, they resolved to bring not only four but eight legions into the field.

You could also debate that the War of independence was won by volunteer troops vs professional troops.
Volunteerism versus professionalism isn't actually a dichotomy; British troops at the time were volunteers after all. But it's worth noticing that the Patriots (1) spent a lot of time training - see Valley Forge for example - and (2) were glad to get help from the professional French.


Heck if you look at the Union army at Gettysburg and take note of the New York regiments anything in 70s was considered a veteran regiment , So you find the 124th NY formed in Sep 1862 giving the 1st Texas a bloody nose on the 2nd day due to fantastic leadership of its senior officers.

I mean, you're arguing here that a regiment that's been through two battles (Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville) qualifies as non-veteran. I'll note by the way that the 1st Texas is considered to have performed well at Gettysburg owing to having achieved a lot fighting with smaller numbers than the enemy, and it took its objectives.


Iverson's men were lined up like on parade when they were slaughtered the lack of leadership and the fact that no skirmishers were sent out meant that all the training and drill in world could not prevent them getting decimated.

Oh, I disagree on so many levels in the idea that all the training and drill in the world could not have saved them... if nothing else, these aspects of training and/or drill could have helped:

- Training in musketry, to win the exchange of fire.
- Drill sufficient to allow a formation to manoeuvre under fire, which would have allowed them to close in for a bayonet charge (for example).
- Drill which would enforce the idea that you always advance with skirmishers first.


But the thing is, these two Gettysburg examples are focusing in on very specific cases. The idea that training and drill makes soldiers better does not automatically mean that the better trained formation always wins, what it means is that training and drill gives an advantage - and often a major one. Which is why armies put fresh troops who haven't had time for much training or drill up against the enemy in desperate circumstances, not as a matter of course.


Note by the way that nothing about having better trained troops prevents you from also using better tactics.
 
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Joined
Jul 5, 2020
I read a book quite a while back titled * Attack and die* which cites the Southern proclivity of charging viciously against defenses particularly deadly because of the development of the accurate rifled barreled weapons. Prior wars, like the War with Mexico, 1846-1848, in which many career soldiers had fought that now commanded the Confederacy relied on the smooth bore weapon tactics like earlier Napoleonic wars that had been used then, coupled with a Scottish-Celtic ancestry of many Southerners, led to more aggressive charges than defensive tactics. It’s like Gen. Hood’s criticism of General Joe Johnston’s defensive tactics before Atlanta. Hood wanted no hiding behind earthworks, but to charge. Johnston knew he was outnumbered and had to fight on the defensive.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 19, 2013
Location
Denmark
I read a book quite a while back titled * Attack and die* which cites the Southern proclivity of charging viciously against defenses particularly deadly because of the development of the accurate rifled barreled weapons. Prior wars, like the War with Mexico, 1846-1848, in which many career soldiers had fought that now commanded the Confederacy relied on the smooth bore weapon tactics like earlier Napoleonic wars that had been used then,
An often repeated myth, caused by US historians very rarely studying European military history.
The typical combat range in the civil war was not much greater than the range during the Napoleonic wars.

The casualty rates was not greater.

The typical soldier did not in any way have the needed marksmanship skills to take advantage of his rifled firearm.
And he never learned it during the war since there was no structures marksmanship training program, no structured live firing program as training and most soldiers had plenty of problems with correctly loading their guns in combat and cleaning them after a fight.
(this very issue is what got some union officers post war, to create the NRA)

And even when you had a soldier who had picked up marksmanship skills in civilian life, he would be issued cartridges that was not correct for the gun/sights anyway... making the sights less than useful.

I will suggest the book "The destroying Angel" by Brett Gibbons.(A serving Officer in the US army)

He cover how effective the rifle musket was in the hands of very well trained British infantry in the Crimean and India. And how poorly it was used during the civil war by untrained volunteers.
 

GwilymT

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
I read a book quite a while back titled * Attack and die* which cites the Southern proclivity of charging viciously against defenses particularly deadly because of the development of the accurate rifled barreled weapons. Prior wars, like the War with Mexico, 1846-1848, in which many career soldiers had fought that now commanded the Confederacy relied on the smooth bore weapon tactics like earlier Napoleonic wars that had been used then, coupled with a Scottish-Celtic ancestry of many Southerners, led to more aggressive charges than defensive tactics. It’s like Gen. Hood’s criticism of General Joe Johnston’s defensive tactics before Atlanta. Hood wanted no hiding behind earthworks, but to charge. Johnston knew he was outnumbered and had to fight on the defensive.
Why would a Scottish-Celtic ancestry lead to the idea of making more aggressive (and stupid) charges?
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
The primary thesis of Attack and Die is not borne out by the actual casualty figures and engagement ranges. At Gettysburg for example the typical engagement range was nothing that would be considered abnormal on a Napoleonic battlefield, and the rate of casualties per bullet fired is nothing that would be considered abnormal on a Napoleonic battlefield. (1 casualty for every 100-200 balls fired.)
Compare this with the battle of Inkerman, where the rate of casualties per ball fired is around 1 in 16, and it would perhaps be better to say that Attack and Die does not apply to the Civil War but could be said to apply to battles where the rifle-musket was used by men given extensive marksmanship and range estimation training.
 

Scott1967

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
Because the Scots were a particularly proud and warlike people?
Hollywood would have you believe that but in fact it simply isn't true they were as loyal and patriotic as their English counterparts in fact I would go as far to say the English were much more war like than the Scots.

Robert the Bruce was probably the only leader that galvanised them as an effective fighting force , And you have un-knowingly proved my point again in this thread that the myth the Scottish warrior was better than their English counterpart is simply untrue as time and time again the English thrashed them in open battle with very few exceptions.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
The cultural expectation of "warlike celts" is about the only thing that would actually result in any significant change because the people themselves would be wanting to live up to that cultural expectation. This might produce some improvement in morale, but I would not expect it to be anything major.
 

Horrido67

Private
Joined
Sep 29, 2019
Hollywood would have you believe that but in fact it simply isn't true they were as loyal and patriotic as their English counterparts in fact I would go as far to say the English were much more war like than the Scots.

Robert the Bruce was probably the only leader that galvanised them as an effective fighting force , And you have un-knowingly proved my point again in this thread that the myth the Scottish warrior was better than their English counterpart is simply untrue as time and time again the English thrashed them in open battle with very few exceptions.

I don't understand that Anglo-Saxon are recently depicted as a weak and feeble people by the media (including the TV show, Viking) when they pretty much conquered one-fourth of the world at one point. However, it is not the point. I just find that hypothesis of the South being more celtic being just silly. The most of Southern gentlement couldn't speak a word of (both Irish and Scottish) Gaelic or even Manx. How on the earth that they claimed to be descendants of Celtic people. Maybe I am being ignorant and something I have not heard of yet.
 

Piedone

Corporal
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
Hollywood would have you believe that but in fact it simply isn't true they were as loyal and patriotic as their English counterparts in fact I would go as far to say the English were much more war like than the Scots.

Robert the Bruce was probably the only leader that galvanised them as an effective fighting force , And you have un-knowingly proved my point again in this thread that the myth the Scottish warrior was better than their English counterpart is simply untrue as time and time again the English thrashed them in open battle with very few exceptions.
Please excuse my probably peculiar sense of humour - and maybe this remark is very inappropriate....
but
for heaven's sake I dearly do hope that no person Scottish will EVER read your post...the boiler pressure in some people's steam engines might rise to spectacular, yet unknown heights....
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I don't understand that Anglo-Saxon are recently depicted as a weak and feeble people by the media (including the TV show, Viking) when they pretty much conquered one-fourth of the world at one point. However, it is not the point. I just find that hypothesis of the South being more celtic being just silly. The most of Southern gentlement couldn't speak a word of (both Irish and Scottish) Gaelic or even Manx. How on the earth that they claimed to be descendants of Celtic people. Maybe I am being ignorant and something I have not heard of yet.
I suspect it's because the North had had subsequent waves of immigration from, say, Germany.
 

Piedone

Corporal
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
I suspect it's because the North had had subsequent waves of immigration from, say, Germany.
And - quite to the contrary to some current rather blanket judgement - the Germans weren't famous for any special martial abilities before 1870/71 (with Prussia being a certain exception - but they also were steamrolled by Napoleon in 1806....)...
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
And - quite to the contrary to some current rather blanket judgement - the Germans weren't famous for any special martial abilities before 1870/71 (with Prussia being a certain exception - but they also were steamrolled by Napoleon in 1806....)...
Well, there was Leipzig etc. but of course we're talking about the view in the Anglosphere. Though it has to be said that poor leadership, unfortunate decisions and bad luck led to the most "German" units in the Union's eastern armies not generally doing very well. (It's basically that they happened to face successive bad situations.)
 

Horrido67

Private
Joined
Sep 29, 2019
I suspect it's because the North had had subsequent waves of immigration from, say, Germany.

I am not saying you are wrong, but I am not sure how does that make the South more celtic. Plus, the North also received waves of immigration from Ireland, especially because of Great Irish Famine. They could have easily claimed some kind of celtic heritage. Jesus, Boston still holds one of the largest annual st patrick's day parade today (not in the last year for the obvious reasons).

Sure, Irish did migrate to the South as well (Louisiana Tigers and all), but again the vast majority of Irish migrants went to the North. Even the Irish guy who wrote "The Bonnie Blue Flag" went to the North at the end if I remember correctly.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Not really , Hannibal is a classic example at Cannae and the pre battles of a smaller ill trained army beating a vastly superior well trained army with mainly barbarian troops due to his charismatic leadership and clever tactics.

You could also debate that the War of independence was won by volunteer troops vs professional troops.

Heck if you look at the Union army at Gettysburg and take note of the New York regiments anything in 70s was considered a veteran regiment , So you find the 124th NY formed in Sep 1862 giving the 1st Texas a bloody nose on the 2nd day due to fantastic leadership of its senior officers.

Training helps of course it does but you can never tell how a man reacts in any given situation , Most is instinctive , I totally agree with what you say about comradeship its thee most important factor in a unit it gives the unit cohesion as well as having good officers and NCOs.

Iverson's men were lined up like on parade when they were slaughtered the lack of leadership and the fact that no skirmishers were sent out meant that all the training and drill in world could not prevent them getting decimated.
We can definitely argue that the British Army especially at Yorktown was defeated by battle hardened Veteran Colonial Rebels and professional French and Spanish troops plus a professional French and Spanish naval force off shore. The British Army was not defeated by American guerrillas or Milita hiding behind trees and the British Army won many battles against the Colonial Rebels.
Strategic geniuses don't win conventional war , superior resources do plus at least adequate morale.
Leftyhunter
 

Piedone

Corporal
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
We can definitely argue that the British Army especially at Yorktown was defeated by battle hardened Veteran Colonial Rebels and professional French and Spanish troops plus a professional French and Spanish naval force off shore. The British Army was not defeated by American guerrillas or Milita hiding behind trees and the British Army won many battles against the Colonial Rebels.
Strategic geniuses don't win conventional war , superior resources do plus at least adequate morale.
Leftyhunter
...and the command of the sea lanes (and also the river systems) does the trick...
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I am not saying you are wrong, but I am not sure how does that make the South more celtic.
It's because this kind of thing is about perception, not reality. To some extent if a country decides to identify with a certain origin then that is how they will see themselves, regardless of how true it is - witness how modern Scots identity is often associated with the Highland Scots, an definitional association which is about two hundred years old and hence post-dates the Act of Union by over a century.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Not really , Hannibal is a classic example at Cannae and the pre battles of a smaller ill trained army beating a vastly superior well trained army with mainly barbarian troops due to his charismatic leadership and clever tactics.

You could also debate that the War of independence was won by volunteer troops vs professional troops.

Heck if you look at the Union army at Gettysburg and take note of the New York regiments anything in 70s was considered a veteran regiment , So you find the 124th NY formed in Sep 1862 giving the 1st Texas a bloody nose on the 2nd day due to fantastic leadership of its senior officers.

Training helps of course it does but you can never tell how a man reacts in any given situation , Most is instinctive , I totally agree with what you say about comradeship its thee most important factor in a unit it gives the unit cohesion as well as having good officers and NCOs.

Iverson's men were lined up like on parade when they were slaughtered the lack of leadership and the fact that no skirmishers were sent out meant that all the training and drill in world could not prevent them getting decimated.
We can definitely argue that the British Army especially at Yorktown was defeated by battle hardened Veteran Colonial Rebels and professional French and Spanish troops plus a professional French and Spanish naval force off shore. The British Army was not defeated by American guerrillas or Milita hiding behind trees and the British Army won many battles against the Colonial Rebels.
Strategic geniuses don't win conventional war , superior resources do plus at least adequate morale.
Leftyhunter
...and the command of the sea lanes (and also the river systems) does the trick...
Not sure if there was much Riverine Warfare in the ARW. In the ACW the USN definitely had the upper hand. At no time during the ACW did the CSN do what a navy is supposed to do which is protect merchant ships and the coastline from enemy attack as well as interior waterways. Commerce raiding has its place but it doesn't win wars.
Leftyhunter
 

Cavalier

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 20, 2019
Just an opinion but when it comes to warlike races, I would have put the French right up there with the top contenders, at least before WWl.

John
 

Scott1967

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
Please excuse my probably peculiar sense of humour - and maybe this remark is very inappropriate....
but
for heaven's sake I dearly do hope that no person Scottish will EVER read your post...the boiler pressure in some people's steam engines might rise to spectacular, yet unknown heights....
History is history I'm afraid you cant change it to create some false impression.

The point i was trying to prove is over the years the Scots have been lauded as this proud people both brave and strong and nearly always wronged by their much bigger and more advanced neighbour , Is this starting to sound familiar?.

In truth both Scotsman and Englishman were virtually the same even the Highlanders have been given this superhuman treatment and their society was completely different to the rest of Scotland.

I suspect most of this false history comes from Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Highland charge at Culloden or the making of Braveheart a complete false interpretation of William Wallace a man most of Scotland had never heard of till Hollywood decided to make a film about him which of course 90% made up.

I suspect the lost cause did much to promote the confederate soldier in the same way but in reality when you take a closer look at it you will find the playing field very equal with both sides taking huge casualties and nearly all battles with no outright victories just one side still left on the battlefield while the other retreats.
 
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