Grading the Confederate Commanders at Shiloh

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OldReliable1862

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Following on from my previous thread of this kind on Gettysburg, here's the Shiloh edition! This is a thread grading the Confederate corps and division commanders at the battle, the grading system used is ABCDF, and Incomplete.

GEN Albert Sidney Johnston (k),
GEN P. G. T. Beauregard

MG Leonidas Polk
- BG Charles Clark
- MG Benjamin F. Cheatham (w), BG Bushrod R. Johnson (w)

MG Braxton Bragg
- BG Daniel Ruggles
- BG Jones M. Withers

MG William J. Hardee
- BG Thomas C. Hindman (commanded an ad-hoc division)

BG John C. Breckinridge (nominally commanded a corps, functionally a division)
 
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Hardee I'll give you, maybe. The other three should never have been in charge of more than a brigade.
WHAAAAAAAAT? Cheatham had arguably the best division in the Army of Tennessee. Cleburne's men agreed. There was a rivalry between the two for the entire war, and the pendulum swung each way more than once.
 

Saruman

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Following on from my previous thread of this kind on Gettysburg, here's the Shiloh edition! This is a thread grading the Confederate corps and division commanders at the battle, the grading system used is ABCDF, and Incomplete.

GEN Albert Sidney Johnston (k),
GEN P. G. T. Beauregard

MG Leonidas Polk
- BG Charles Clark
- BG Benjamin F. Cheatham (w), BG Bushrod R. Johnson (w)

MG Braxton Bragg
- BG Daniel Ruggles
- BG Jones M. Withers

MG William J. Hardee
- BG Thomas C. Hindman (commanded an ad-hoc division)

BG John C. Breckinridge (nominally commanded a corps, functionally a division)
Albert Sidney Johnston: A+
Johnston's leadership was one of the primary reasons the Confederate attack was successful. "Amazingly, the attack worked on almost the entire front, mostly because of Johnston's personal leadership... Beauregard, who was no fan of Johnston, accurately wrote that Johnston gave resistless impulsion to his columns at critical moments" - historian Timothy B. Smith."The cohesion and persistency [of the Confederate army at Shiloh] in its attack... were really marvelous, and an enduring tribute to its commander" - historian A.L. Conger. The loss of momentum caused by Johnston's fall ruined any chance of success.

Pierre G.T. Beauregard: D
Beauregard was an ill man at the time of battle, and lost his nerve, wanting to cancel the attack. Prior to Johnston's death he acted as "a mere functionary forwarding reinforcements and munitions". Beauregard's main failure was his inability to obtain "critical intelligence about the location of target enemy camps" and topography of the battlefield "despite his being in the area from February 15. The planning Beauregard was early charged with involved preparing for various offensive options and included map making, procurement of local scouts, and the recruitment of effective spies. Yet the want of such created an informational void that Sidney Johnston was repeatedly compelled to cope with, often having to make critical decisions despite a lack of essential information." - historian Wiley Sword. Beauregard also failed to notice Buell's arrival on the evening of April 6.

Leonidas Polk: C
A mixed performance. Polk was personally courageous and inspired his men. The downside was his decision to permit Cheatham to bivouac so far to the rear on the evening of the first day, which resulted in delay and confusion on the second day of battle.

Braxton Bragg: D
Bragg too frequently resorted to frontal attacks which caused heavy casualties among the Confederate soldiers. He also managed to unnecessarily insult several subordinate commanders (e.g., Gibson) which planted the seeds of resentment towards him in the later Army of Tennessee.

William J. Hardee: B
A solid performance from Hardee. Considering the successes achieved by Hardee's corps (the first line of Confederate troops), its relatively limited size, and the width of the Union camp, he did well to drive Sherman and McClernand's divisions back so rapidly.

John C. Breckinridge: C
A mixed performance. The downside was that Breckinridge couldn't get his soldiers to charge the Union line in the Peach Orchard, resulting in Johnston taking over, but getting mortally wounded in the process. The upside was his effective rear-guard action during the Confederate withdrawal on the second day. Breckinridge was personally courageous, being struck twice by spent bullets.
 
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J. Stanley

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If we're only discussing the battle, then I'd grade the Confederate army and corps commanders as follows:

Albert Sidney Johnston: D-
ASJ had no obligation to just reduce his responsibilities to that of a brigade commander. He deserves credit for still ordering an attack despite his subordinates' protests and encouraging his troops to move forward, but he should have been at the helm of the army if he wanted to move Grant away from Pittsburg Landing as intended.

P.G.T. Beauregard: D
Beauregard's column of corps broke down almost as soon as the attack started. Cramming green soldiers in such a fashion on a rough battlefield sounds like a recipe for disaster. Confederate chain of command practically broke down and only two brigades were cohesive by the end of the day. Beauregard also controlled the reserves and fed them to the center and left, instead of the right as Johnston wanted.

Leonidas Polk: C
Polk didn't really achieve anything spectacular at Shiloh. He directly commanded the Confederate effort to push the Federals out of Rhea Field but opted not to reorganize his troops after routing the Federals. Polk's Corps also bore the brunt of Sherman's and McClernand's counterattack and was sharply pushed back until Trabue's and Anderson's brigades charged and McClernand's troops ran out of ammo.

Braxton Bragg: F
Bragg's performance in the fight was just awful. Bragg was responsible for wasting the attack power of 10,000 men by throwing them in piecemeal attacks. At most, Bragg threw 3,700 troops at a time against 4,700 defenders and all ended with predictable results. Bragg also added to the confusion of the battlefield by detaching brigades he wanted for his own purposes.

William J. Hardee: B-
Hardee redeems ASJ's trust in him, this is where he gets his nickname of "Old Reliable". However, his dismissal of Forrest when the latter came to report of Buell's arrival lowers his performance in my eyes.

John C. Breckinridge: B-
In spite of the politician's lack of military experience, he did good work in encouraging the troops (though his magnetism failed to encourage one balky regiment to go). Bragg found Breckinridge holding back after Johnston's death, which lowers his overall performance. However, his performance on the second day was the best among Confederate high command. Only his command was engaged the Federals united and was responsible for covering the retreat of the army.
 

TerryB

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I've also heard that PGT's plan was so complicated nobody understood it. The biggest mistake made during the attack was feeding reserves to the sound of the guns rather than to stick to the tactical plan to cut off the union army. And PGT made no defensive line at the end of the day.
 

OldReliable1862

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I've also heard that PGT's plan was so complicated nobody understood it. The biggest mistake made during the attack was feeding reserves to the sound of the guns rather than to stick to the tactical plan to cut off the union army. And PGT made no defensive line at the end of the day.
Question on the plans: ASJ and PGTB appear to have had two battle plans for Shiloh, ASJ's being simpler. Did they two agree to PGTB's plan's or did they go into battle with two different ideas of what the plan was?
 
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TerryB

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Question on the plans: ASJ and PGTB appear to have had two battle plans for Shiloh, ASJ's being simpler. Did they two agree to PGTB's plan's or did they go into battle with two different ideas of what the plan was?
That's an excellent question. I haven't read any good books on Shiloh in a while, so I'll defer to other posters.
 

jackt62

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I'm thinking that ASJ should be graded as "incomplete." Being KIA during the height of the Confederate onslaught had the effect of stopping the attack's momentum and deranging the leadership. It placed command in the hands of PGTB, who thereafter called it a day and prematurely declared victory, despite the fact that Forrest had warned of the impending arrival of Bill Nelson's division.
 

jackt62

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Question on the plans: ASJ and PGTB appear to have had two battle plans for Shiloh, ASJ's being simpler. Did they two agree to PGTB's plan's or did they go into battle with two different ideas of what the plan was?
As I understand the plan, ASJ favored a strong flank attack on the Union left advancing to the Tennessee River. PGTB's battle plan (which may or may not have been approved by ASJ), arrayed Hardee, Bragg, Polk, and Breckenridge's Corps back to back with the result that when contact with the enemy was made, corps alignments became confused and instead of concentrating on the Union left, a general assault was made all across the front of the Union line, leading to the Confederate assault eventually losing steam by late afternoon. Although the federal troops were not intrenched, it was still early enough in the war for the concept of frontal assaults to not yet become discredited.
 
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Saruman

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ASJ had no obligation to just reduce his responsibilities to that of a brigade commander.
That's a myth promulgated by Beauregard and his supporters. "Notwithstanding Johnston's location during the battle, Johnston actually made every major Confederate command decision between his arrival in Corinth and his death on the field of Shiloh." - historian C.P. Roland.

For example, one of Beauregard's aides, Jacob Thompson, reported: "General Beauregard directed me to seek General Johnston, who was in the front, learn from him the condition of things there, and know of him what order he had to give as to the disposition of the reserves commanded by General Breckinridge."
 
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OldReliable1862

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As I understand the plan, ASJ favored a strong flank attack on the Union left advancing to the Tennessee River. PGTB's battle plan (which may or may not have been approved by ASJ), arrayed Hardee, Bragg, Polk, and Breckenridge's Corps back to back with the result that when contact with the enemy was made, corps alignments became confused and instead of concentrating on the Union left, a general assault was made all across the front of the Union line, leading to the Confederate assault eventually losing steam by late afternoon. Although the federal troops were not intrenched, it was still early enough in the war for the concept of frontal assaults to not yet become discredited.
I'd need to find out more, but I wonder if ASJ was on the path to Longstreet's belief in attacking in depth?
 

rbasin

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WHAAAAAAAAT? Cheatham had arguably the best division in the Army of Tennessee. Cleburne's men agreed. There was a rivalry between the two for the entire war, and the pendulum swung each way more than once.
I know. I had been reading Hood's bizarre report at Franklin. Maybe that's soured me on him. Maybe if he was in the ANV, he'd be up there. Hard to give props to many in the western army
 
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rbasin

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I'd need to find out more, but I wonder if ASJ was on the path to Longstreet's belief in attacking in depth?
The discussion, or argument, is what Beauregard wrote and what ASJ's son wrote. Both are in Battles and Leaders, I think volume 2. I tend to believe neither and figure the truth is somewhere in the middle. Maybe ASJ modified Beauregard's plan, or vice versa. Either way, they were close to wrecking Grant.
 
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Ole Miss

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What a really good thread! I am looking forward to reading and learning many facts and infomation on these men who were the leaders at this pivitol battle!
Regards
David
 
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