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How can the Union and Confederate armies compare to the armies of Europe?

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by Tennessee_Mountainman, Dec 17, 2017.

  1. Tennessee_Mountainman

    Tennessee_Mountainman Sergeant

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    My A.P.U.S.H. teacher stated that the Union Army of the Potomac was the most elite, best trained, and best fed army in the world. I disagree, except for the part of them being given the most generous amount of rations. Thoughts?
     

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  3. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Retired Moderator

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    As I understand it, the armies of Europe were standing armies well trained and officered by trained professionals simply because a war could break out any time. The US depended on learn on the job training for both enlisted men and officers with the excessive deaths of men as the payment.
     
  4. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Lt. Colonel

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    Paging @thomas aagaard .
    Leftyhunter
     
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  5. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Lt. Colonel

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    Paging @Schwallanscher .
    Leftyhunter
     
  6. Hussar Yeomanry

    Hussar Yeomanry Private

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    First I would disagree with that which is in bold.

    Certainly at times the soldiers in the AoP would have though most of the time they were significantly better equipped and rationed than the Confederate army. Not that especially late in the war that would be difficult.

    Secondly, while I accept that the AoP had at its core a number of profesional officers and soldiers it was mostly a volunteer force. Ok in time these volunteers learned and often became seasoned soldiers however then all too often they were mustered out and replaced by new mostly green units.

    So. No. That is an argument I'm not buying. The AoP was good and I will defend it against its detractors but not blindly so. Therefore... No.

    Also

    No.
     
  7. E_just_E

    E_just_E Moderator Moderator

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    I think that Napoleon's Grande Armée and its 685,000 soldiers in 1812 would whip the AoP any day, less advanced technology and all.
     
  8. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Lt. Colonel

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    My understanding is prior to WW1 the British Army was as described by the Duke of Wellington as being "comprised of the scum of the earth. " The British Army unlike the Prussian Army was all volunteer and of the very poor at that. Officers were typically from the higher class but not the best and the brightest or the first born. Supposedly even the Duke of Wellington's own mother described her son has not the sharpest tool in the box.
    Yet they could fight very well.
    I will let my friends @Waterloo50 and @Martini-Henry vigioursuly critique what I said.
    The Union and Confederate Armies are composed of quite a few mixtures of people from various social and ethnic groups .
    Arguably comparing a mid Nineteenth century European Army to a American Civil War Army is comparing apples to oranges.
    1. Both the Union and Confederate Armies simply lack the required number of professionally trained officers. Yes both armies try to recruit foreign military officers to make up for the shortage of professionally trained officers but both sides never can recruit enough officers.
    2. Neither army has anything resembling standardised small arms so that is,a major logistical problem..

    Possibly the same is true about artillery.
    3.Trainning is not even close to bring standardised in either army.
    4.Both armies have a fair amount of troops under 18.
    5. Educational standards or literacy has huge variances in both armies.
    6.Neither the Union or Confederate Army is ethnically homogeneous.
    7. The Union Army most definitely has ethnic and racial tensions.
    8. Both the Union and Confederate Armies have tremendous desertion problems.
    9. Both the Union and Confederate Armies use either the draft or in the case of the Confederacy conscription.
    10. Confederate troops in fair numbers defect to the Union or become Unionist guerrillas or freelance bandits.
    So your teacher might not be all that accurate in his.assertion.
    To create a professional army takes,a lot of time and effort. Neither the Confederacy or the Union had the time or resources to develop a true professional army.
    Leftyhunter
     
  9. jackt62

    jackt62 Sergeant Major

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    Didn't the Prussian Chief of Staff, Baron Von Moltke, look down on the CW combatants and said something to the effect that the conflict between federal and Confederate armies was nothing more than a chaotic brawl?
     
  10. AUG351

    AUG351 Captain Forum Host

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    The ACW was indecisive largely because of the volunteer armies. That's not to say there weren't many well-drilled units and competent officers, but generally they did not compare to the standing European armies.

    Most of the drill manuals and other military teachings had largely been derived from the French. And many prewar American militia organizations and early war units imitated famous European units, such as the Zouaves, because their actions were well known and they were seen as the leading example.

    For example, some of the American Zouave regiments were well drilled compared to other American volunteer regiments, but they did not have the training and experience to even come close to the original Zouaves. And few utilized true Zouave tactics which really called for experienced, well-drilled troops.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
  11. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Lt. Colonel

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    While not a major concern of the AoP quite a few Union and Confederate troops were engaged in counterinsurgency operations vs not do much in the case of European armies.
    Leftyhunter
     
  12. thomas aagaard

    thomas aagaard 2nd Lieutenant

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    On my way to bed, so you get the short reply.

    Tell him to read some books and don't teach until he stop spreading myths.

    A few professionals (that never done any brigade level drill, rarely done battalion level and never even seen 1000 soldiers in one place outside of mexico) and 75.000+ volunteers with no military experience can't compete with an army made up of 100% professional officers and sergeants and privates that serve for 3 years... where corp level drills is done every year.

    Privates that never do any live fire training compared to men who do it on a regular basic and get structured training in marksmanship.

    Now by 1863 the union soldiers certainly had become veterans, but they still don't know how to hit a target at range, they skill didn't know how to use large scale skirmishing to effect and the level of skills in the army was not something they could maintain, because of casualties and expiring enlistments.

    It is rather simple, you can't take an army of nothing and turn it into an army of 650.000 men in just two years... taking looses on the way, without some serious limited to how effective it will be.

    I actually find it rather impressive how well they did it. Especially on the logistical and "paper work" side of things.
     
  13. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Retired Moderator

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    Very good points.
     
  14. thomas aagaard

    thomas aagaard 2nd Lieutenant

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    oh, one thing I like to add.
    I do think the US western armies was vastly superior when it come to operational mobility.
    Sure "german" soldiers could march well, (as they showed in 1870.. and 1914) but the way Sherman's men could do so over very poor roads... and cross stream and small rivers without much issue...
    Where Europeans armies (and AoP) would properly stop at wait for the engineers to build a bridge...
    That I find impressive. And is something that got way more to do with the character of the men, than any military structure or doctrine.
     
  15. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Lt. Colonel

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    I would take a closer look at the Prussian Army. In Prussia every fit male was liable for three year mandatory military service and then something like a months reserve service up to age 35 if memory serves. Nothing like that in the U.S. until the Selective Service,Act of 1940 which lasted until 1973. Even that act was not close to being as rigiourous as the Prussian Army starting under Frederick the Great.
    The Israelis adopted the Prussian system because it was so thorough.
    So no man for man the Prussian Army was better trained and officers then the Union and Confederate Armies. Not to say that both the Union and Confederate troops were not tough and brave.
    Leftyhunter
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
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  16. Dom71

    Dom71 Corporal

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    As much as I love the AOP I don't think there is much comparison here. These European powers kept large standing armies because they had to, for national survival. I think both armies Union and Confederate were brave and good soldiers, but their is a varsity level in Europe that be a tall order to deal with. Even with the sizes of the two armies we never came close to dealing with warfare on the grand scale of these powers.The oceans were our defense. Looooooong supply lines.
     
  17. Jimklag

    Jimklag Major Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    Not well. Even up to WWII the majority of officers were 90-day wonders and the vast majority of non-coms learned their jobs on the ground in the U. S. Army. The Marines and Navy fared a little better, especially with non-coms in both and Reserve Officers in the Navy. Believe it or not, USNR officers commanded most of the boats in the submarine fleet in WWII.
     
  18. Drew

    Drew Captain

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    This is a joke, right? Food, maybe, but other than that...
     
  19. Martini-Henry

    Martini-Henry First Sergeant

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    It takes any Army time to adjust from peacetime to wartime. It is a steep & costly learning curve. Essentially I believe pre ECW the US Army was fighting 'police' actions. By the end of the war both sides were superb soldiers.
     
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  20. 67th Tigers

    67th Tigers Sergeant Major

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    "Give me Prussian discipline and Prussian formation for my troops and you would see quite different results."

    - RE Lee to a Prussian observer at Chancellorsville, lamenting the poor quality of the rebel troops
     
  21. Tennessee_Mountainman

    Tennessee_Mountainman Sergeant

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    And the sad part is that I couldn't get any sources from him when I asked. He told me he was offended that I didn't trust what he said since he "teaches college students" on a daily basis.
     
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