Quantification of Strategic Objectives

tony_gunter

Corporal
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
Mississippi
Has anyone ever attempted to put together a ranked list of strategic targets in the war? There's a lot of talk of which strategy worked / failed but it seems like having a valuated list of targets would allow for a better framework for this type of discussion.

I'm thinking: human capital (free and not), foodstuffs, leather, clothing, horses, raw materials, industrial production, transportation, import / export capability (am I missing any?)
 

DaveBrt

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
Has anyone ever attempted to put together a ranked list of strategic targets in the war? There's a lot of talk of which strategy worked / failed but it seems like having a valuated list of targets would allow for a better framework for this type of discussion.

I'm thinking: human capital (free and not), foodstuffs, leather, clothing, horses, raw materials, industrial production, transportation, import / export capability (am I missing any?)
First you create your strategy: (1) isolate the south from the rest of the industrial world, (2) split the south into segments, (3) defend Washington/take Richmond.

Then you decide methods of accomplishing the elements of strategy: (1) impose a blockade, capture points to assist in making the blockade work, create pressure on foreign nations to not ship goods through the blockade (2) capture the essential points on the Mississippi River, create a mobile force to keep the spaces between the essential points free of enemy interference, gain control of the Tennessee River and the Cumberland River (points and mobile forces) (3) find ways to do both at the same time, find ways to cut Richmond off from the rest of the south

Then you look for specific targets: (1) Norfolk, Charleston, Wilmington, etc, (2) capture Memphis, Vicksburg, New Orleans, etc, (3) capture NC sounds and cut the eastern railroad supplying Virginia, capture Knoxville to cut the western railroad supplying Virginia, attack Petersburg from the James River and Norfolk

We are down three levels and have not arrived at the level you are listing. I don't see anyone at the national level ordering operations to harm southern "industrial production" or "raw Materials." Would you really send an army into northwestern Alabama to cut off iron and coal? an army into southwestern Georgia to destroy corn fields? an army to arrest and HOLD all the military age men throughout the south? Your "Targets" are too nebulous to use to direct military operations.
 

tony_gunter

Corporal
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
Mississippi
First you create your strategy: (1) isolate the south from the rest of the industrial world, (2) split the south into segments, (3) defend Washington/take Richmond.

Then you decide methods of accomplishing the elements of strategy: (1) impose a blockade, capture points to assist in making the blockade work, create pressure on foreign nations to not ship goods through the blockade (2) capture the essential points on the Mississippi River, create a mobile force to keep the spaces between the essential points free of enemy interference, gain control of the Tennessee River and the Cumberland River (points and mobile forces) (3) find ways to do both at the same time, find ways to cut Richmond off from the rest of the south

Then you look for specific targets: (1) Norfolk, Charleston, Wilmington, etc, (2) capture Memphis, Vicksburg, New Orleans, etc, (3) capture NC sounds and cut the eastern railroad supplying Virginia, capture Knoxville to cut the western railroad supplying Virginia, attack Petersburg from the James River and Norfolk

We are down three levels and have not arrived at the level you are listing. I don't see anyone at the national level ordering operations to harm southern "industrial production" or "raw Materials." Would you really send an army into northwestern Alabama to cut off iron and coal? an army into southwestern Georgia to destroy corn fields? an army to arrest and HOLD all the military age men throughout the south? Your "Targets" are too nebulous to use to direct military operations.
Something like what I’m talking about influenced the targets in the west if only informally.

Henry/Donelson protected a major transportation hub that exposed a major industrial center (Nashville) and two additional transportation hubs (Corinth and Memphis).

What if the US had formalized the value of these targets in some way?

Perhaps the federals would have placed a higher priority on the Shenandoah Valley (iron, lead, sulfur, food) than Richmond?
 

tony_gunter

Corporal
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
Mississippi
First you create your strategy: (1) isolate the south from the rest of the industrial world, (2) split the south into segments, (3) defend Washington/take Richmond.

Then you decide methods of accomplishing the elements of strategy: (1) impose a blockade, capture points to assist in making the blockade work, create pressure on foreign nations to not ship goods through the blockade (2) capture the essential points on the Mississippi River, create a mobile force to keep the spaces between the essential points free of enemy interference, gain control of the Tennessee River and the Cumberland River (points and mobile forces) (3) find ways to do both at the same time, find ways to cut Richmond off from the rest of the south

Then you look for specific targets: (1) Norfolk, Charleston, Wilmington, etc, (2) capture Memphis, Vicksburg, New Orleans, etc, (3) capture NC sounds and cut the eastern railroad supplying Virginia, capture Knoxville to cut the western railroad supplying Virginia, attack Petersburg from the James River and Norfolk

We are down three levels and have not arrived at the level you are listing. I don't see anyone at the national level ordering operations to harm southern "industrial production" or "raw Materials." Would you really send an army into northwestern Alabama to cut off iron and coal? an army into southwestern Georgia to destroy corn fields? an army to arrest and HOLD all the military age men throughout the south? Your "Targets" are too nebulous to use to direct military operations.
And let’s not forget the value of population centers: taking New Orleans prior to the first conscription probably took tens of thousands of Confederate troops off the table.

Taking Vicksburg and Port Hudson after the EP added tens of thousands of USCT to the federal war effort.
 

Pat Answer

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Oct 8, 2013
Location
“...somewhere between NY and PA”
In agreement with @DaveBrt the general economic resources listed in the OP were certainly important but strategic priorities must be governed by identifying actual locations whose occupation/"neutralization" would do the most damage to the war effort of the opponent. And then an army has to get there and to be sustained there while it carries out its operations. So lines of communication would come before "targets."

And then... "no battle plan survives contact with the enemy." I'm not seeing where a list, formal or not, matters much in the face of a fluid situation.

What the Union high command as a whole didn't do until late in the game was coordinate the attempts to go after strategic priorities...
 
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