Discussion "Fortune Favors the Bold" - No Grant\Lee!

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Dead Parrott

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Premise: The one characteristic that repeatedly stands out for successful generals in the ACW is Boldness - calculated, intelligent Boldness.

The ones who possess it most often win (and are criticized despite their successes). The ones who lack it most often lose (and are provided with endless excuses for their failures).

TWO RULES for this thread, please:

1.) No Slavery or Black Confederate divergences, as per the September rules; and

2.) Discuss only generals OTHER than Grant and Lee. How about all those other generals on both sides throughout the war. Was Boldness their key to victory? Was lack of Boldness their key to defeat?

Remember, Grant and Lee are OFF TOPIC for this thread. Pick any of the other myriad generals, successful and otherwise.

Was Boldness (or lack thereof) a key to their successes (or failures)?

Happy Discussions!
 
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Paul Yancey

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To me, Stonewall Jackson certainly stands out for his boldness and initiative. His flank attack at Chancellorsville was IMO one of the boldest and best executed maneuvers in all of military history.

His march around the Union right flank during the Second Manassas campaign also stands out. In a period of two days Jackson was able to march his army of some 24,000 men over 50 miles and strike the Union supply depot at Manassas Junction. This was about 25 miles in Pope's rear.

Jackson's brilliance in the Valley Campaign speaks for itself.
 

diane

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Boldness was key to Forrest's success. Right from his first major battle at Sacramento he showed he would be audacious and would do the unexpected. Brice's Crossroads is a classic. He was largely outnumbered, his opponent believed he would do what the book said - wait for reinforcements before engaging the enemy. He didn't - and used a very dangerous tactic, double envelopment. His charge at Monterey was bold in big letters - a small cavalry force facing two brigades, but he accomplished his objective. It did delay Sherman's pursuit of Beauregard's forces.

p s
We might add 'bold' doesn't mean reckless! Forrest did one reckless charge at Okolona - it got him into a real scrape he barely survived.
 
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BronxYankee

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General John Gordon. Seemed to continue to fight no matter the wounds suffered in the battlefield. Was important in Early’s Valley Campaign. Especially at the Battle of Cedar Creek where he led a flanking maneuver around the Union and nearly destroyed the federal line until it was halted. And we’ll Sheridan rolled over the Confederates once he had the chance.
 
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Scott1967

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Their is a fine line between Boldness and Necessity a lot of commanders acted on the that moment in time what the situation was on the very day they gave the order.

A good example of this is Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at Little Round Top out of necessity he ordered a bayonet charge simply because he had no choice it was at the time the only action open to him from his point of view.

George Thomas was not a bold commander but achieved great feats by being patient and assessing his odds and making cool calculated decisions in the heat of battle a feat that is rarer than being just a bold commander.

I honestly think that luck plays a huge part in war you can be as bold as you want but without luck that boldness can turn into a disaster.
 
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Carronade

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I would not characterize Burnside at Fredericksburg as bold; he was pressured into attacking after his plans had gone awry. Ironically the one thing that might have saved the day for the Union was more boldness in supporting Meade's breakthrough in the southern sector.
 

trice

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Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Beyond a doubt, he was bold. He was also many other things, and I believe it was the combination of his traits that made him so outstanding.

His prewar experience was that of a businessman (slave-trading, plantation-owner) and politician (alderman in Memphis). He was born on a poor farm and became an example of the American self-made man. None of his success came from family or inheritance (connections or wealth).

Forrest was organized and detail-oriented. He was capable of disciplining himself(when he really wanted to); he was certainly capable of disciplining and controlling others. He inspired loyalty, even from those who looked down on him. He attracted and acquired talented subordinates (even West Point graduates), strong personalities who came to work well with him even after serious disputes and quarrels. He was intelligent -- but also willing to learn from others who knew more. He had good judgement and the ability to see his own mistakes. He planned ahead and made painstaking efforts to gather intel before moving.

He had personal courage, of course; Civil War era battlefield leaders generally showed great courage under fire. He also had the other type of courage, the type that brings a commander through a crisis and keeps him firm of purpose (just like those-who-shall-not-be-named).

For a comparison, see Joe Wheeler. Wheeler had the advantage of a West Point and Army career. He was courageous. But Wheeler's commands always lacked discipline and control. Let Wheeler operate more than a day's ride from a higher HQ and things start to fall apart. He makes bad decisions. He takes foolish risks. His troops start to break down and become useless. Look at Forrest's record and you will see none of this.

ADDED LATER:
Forrest was also a master of preparation. When he started off, he had considered the status of his troops and the tasks he needed accomplished. He paid attention to logistics. When he started on a raid, he knew what he faced, how he would attack them -- and also how he would return, how he would evade or frustrate pursuit, how he would cross obstacles to his retreat. He had options prepared or thought of before a crisis came.

He also took care of his troops and knew when to be bold and when to be cautious. Despite his reputation, much of his success came from cold logic and efficient execution. Where a Wheeler was relatively ineffective against Union outposts and caused little real disruption of Sherman's railroads, Forrest routinely captured or defeated Union guards and rendered RRs inoperative for weeks. One secret to Forrest's success: artillery. He sought out excellent artillerymen, made sure he had well-trained and equipped batteries -- then used them with precision (see the destruction of Johnsonville or the routine surrender of Union forts when Forrest's 3-inch rifles smashed through their log walls.)
 
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Carronade

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Another aspect of Forrest's boldness was his willingness to engage in combat along with his escort, and again, his boldness was tempered with judgement. It's not normally the role of a commander to become personally engaged, but he could identify those times and points where a determined attack by a small force could make a difference.
 
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trice

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I would not characterize Burnside at Fredericksburg as bold; he was pressured into attacking after his plans had gone awry. Ironically the one thing that might have saved the day for the Union was more boldness in supporting Meade's breakthrough in the southern sector.
Strong-willed/stubborn past the point of usefulness, perhaps? :hungry:
 

jackt62

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Sheridan is another example of a "bold" commander. His assertive plans and executed movements show up time and time again such as his staunch defense at the Stones River "Slaughter Pen," the cavalry raid against Stuart culminating at Yellow Tavern, the rallying of routed troops at Cedar Creek, and the spirited pursuit of Lee during the Appomattox campaign.

P.S. But Sheridan's boldness could sometimes result in trampling on other commanders, such as Warren and to a lesser extent Meade, who did not exhibit what Sheridan considered sufficient "boldness."
 

Carronade

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I'll give Sheridan credit for most of those examples, but if we are going to call the "raid against Stuart" bold, we have to list it as one of those occasions when boldness overcame good judgement.

Sheridan may have assumed that Stuart would be as foolish as he was and bring the entire ANV cavalry to some grand joust out in the countryside, but as it was he fought 5,000 troops with 12,000 - and still avoided action except when it was forced on him by the rebels.
 
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Robin Lesjovitch

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I'll give Sheridan credit for most of those examples, but if we are going to call the "raid against Stuart" bold, we have to list it as one of those occasions when boldness overcame good judgement.

Sheridan may have assumed that Stuart would be as foolish as he was and bring the entire ANV cavalry to some grand joust out in the countryside, but as it was he fought 5,000 troops with 12,000 - and still avoided action except when it was forced on him by the rebels.
I believe that had any other senior CSA officer been commanding at Richmond during this time, Sheridan might have disappeared from the war. While it was not Braxton Bragg's job to aid Stuart, nor do anything but defend Richmond, troops he commanded could have caused Sheridan to have a very bad day. Bragg just was not interested.
 
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