Was the Union Army really the least incompetent Army?

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Was the Union Army really less incompetent the Confederate Army?

  • Yes

    Votes: 6 20.0%
  • No

    Votes: 6 20.0%
  • Both armies were more or less equal in terms of competent leadership

    Votes: 5 16.7%
  • The,Union Army had superior resources so they were bound to win

    Votes: 11 36.7%
  • The Union Navy played an underappreciated role and was far superior to the Confederate Navy

    Votes: 6 20.0%
  • Both armies had flawed leadership but the Union Army could absorb losss's better

    Votes: 10 33.3%

  • Total voters
    30

leftyhunter

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In a recent post @cash mentioned that in wars the least incompetent Army wins.
I argue that there are,a,whole set of factors that determine whether or not an army wins such has
1.Available Manpower
2.Morale
3.Logistical support
4.Technology
5.Transportation
6.Ecomonmic Support
And other factors.
I would argue neither the Confederate nor the Union Army was the incompetent but their are a number of other factors .
What Sathyth the forum?
Leftyhunter
 
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wausaubob

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The United States Army was supported by a navy, with three different components.
This meant that the US Army could reach and invade areas on the Atlantic seaboard, the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and on the Mississippi.
This resulted in a huge advantage for the United States, which the British had already demonstrated in Europe. The United States could invade the Confederacy and sustain its invasions, and the Confederacy could not sustain invasions of the United States.
Halleck and McClellan realized this and tried to take advantage of it. McClellan was unsuccessful not so much in his campaign as in his explanation of how it would work.
Grant did not have to perceive this from an intellectual standpoint, because he experienced it practically.
 
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wausaubob

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The United States had the better railroad economy. In a war that lasted more than two summer seasons, this was decisive.
As Sherman acknowledged, his Georgia campaign was not possible without a well run railroad reaching all the way to Atlanta.
The difference between the Civil War and Napoleon's invasion of Russia was that Sherman had a railhead at Atlanta and only had to march 320 miles through a warm temperate area.
The United States Army generals had to use their advantages and demonstrate how they worked.
Grant used sea going logistics to safeguard his supply lines, and supplemented that with a military railroad.
Sherman ran a railroad campaign straight through the geography of the Confederate states.
 
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wausaubob

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Thus if competency is meant to include providing fresh bread, regular furloughs, better medical attention, better access to newspapers and mail, then statements are OK.
But competency in this circumstance seems to be to a matter of implementing the asymmetrical advantages of the United States and to stop fighting on terms that favor the opponent.
 

Saphroneth

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It is quite possible for the less skilled army to win if it is larger - as the saying goes, quantity has a quality all its own - or if it gets lucky, which does happen (though the bigger the war relative to the individual battles and decisions the more that luck gets smoothed out).


That's just a general philosophical rule, really - competence relative to the foe isn't necessary or sufficient to win, though of course it helps.*

There's also a danger of doing what could be called "post hoc" analysis - which is to say, highlighting the incompetence of those who fail and not paying proper attention to the incompetence of those who win, so it looks like the least incompetent army won. It's harder (though possible) to spot incompetent or "bad idea" actions which didn't lead to negative consequences but could have - so, for example:

Lee's dividing his army during Loudoun Valley didn't lead to negative consequences, but only because the AotP was paralyzed for a week as they switched generals.
Meade's generalship at Gettysburg didn't lead to negative consequences, but only because Lee's echelon attack on the second day stalled due to one of his commanders getting shot and the sequence being disrupted.
Grant not digging in at Shiloh didn't lead to a defeat, but if the enemy army had been as big as he at some points claimed it was it absolutely would have done - it's his numbers relative to his enemy which cushioned the impact of what could be called an incompetent decision.




*CEV calculations are designed in part to try and tease out factors other than numerical strength which affect the outcome of a battle, of which one (though not the only one) is the relative competence of the two sides. The lopsided battle of Koniggratz is a good example of a battle where competence does win the day (equal numbers and very unequal outcome).
 

leftyhunter

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It is quite possible for the less skilled army to win if it is larger - as the saying goes, quantity has a quality all its own - or if it gets lucky, which does happen (though the bigger the war relative to the individual battles and decisions the more that luck gets smoothed out).


That's just a general philosophical rule, really - competence relative to the foe isn't necessary or sufficient to win, though of course it helps.*

There's also a danger of doing what could be called "post hoc" analysis - which is to say, highlighting the incompetence of those who fail and not paying proper attention to the incompetence of those who win, so it looks like the least incompetent army won. It's harder (though possible) to spot incompetent or "bad idea" actions which didn't lead to negative consequences but could have - so, for example:

Lee's dividing his army during Loudoun Valley didn't lead to negative consequences, but only because the AotP was paralyzed for a week as they switched generals.
Meade's generalship at Gettysburg didn't lead to negative consequences, but only because Lee's echelon attack on the second day stalled due to one of his commanders getting shot and the sequence being disrupted.
Grant not digging in at Shiloh didn't lead to a defeat, but if the enemy army had been as big as he at some points claimed it was it absolutely would have done - it's his numbers relative to his enemy which cushioned the impact of what could be called an incompetent decision.




*CEV calculations are designed in part to try and tease out factors other than numerical strength which affect the outcome of a battle, of which one (though not the only one) is the relative competence of the two sides. The lopsided battle of Koniggratz is a good example of a battle where competence does win the day (equal numbers and very unequal outcome).
In the case of Shiloh there has been quite a bit of debate over the,years if Sherman and Grant were caught with their pants down or not.
A major factor that saved the Union Army at both Shiloh and Malvran Hill was the Union Navy.
The Union naval gunships could get close and do a lot of damage.
So far no examples of the Confederate Army being truly more incompetent then the Union Army.
Leftyhunter
 
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leftyhunter

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Thus if competency is meant to include providing fresh bread, regular furloughs, better medical attention, better access to newspapers and mail, then statements are OK.
But competency in this circumstance seems to be to a matter of implementing the asymmetrical advantages of the United States and to stop fighting on terms that favor the opponent.
One huge advantage the Union had over the Confederacy is that while both sides imported huge amounts of weaponry from Western Europe the Union Navy can and did intercept some of the weaponry.
The Union had no such concerns of the Confederate Navy.
If the Confederate Navy seized a foreign flaggd vessel especially from France,Spain or the UK that would result in massive retaliation by the above nations.
Blockade runners depended on Carribean ports. The Confederacy did not need another navy assisting the Union Navy.
Leftyhunter
 

Viper21

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The United States Army was supported by a navy, with three different components.
This meant that the US Army could reach and invade areas on the Atlantic seaboard, the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and on the Mississippi.
This resulted in a huge advantage for the United States, which the British had already demonstrated in Europe. The United States could invade the Confederacy and sustain its invasions, and the Confederacy could not sustain invasions of the United States.
Halleck and McClellan realized this and tried to take advantage of it. McClellan was unsuccessful not so much in his campaign as in his explanation of how it would work.
Grant did not have to perceive this from an intellectual standpoint, because he experienced it practically.
The United States had the better railroad economy. In a war that lasted more than two summer seasons, this was decisive.
As Sherman acknowledged, his Georgia campaign was not possible without a well run railroad reaching all the way to Atlanta.
The difference between the Civil War and Napoleon's invasion of Russia was that Sherman had a railhead at Atlanta and only had to march 320 miles through a warm temperate area.
The United States Army generals had to use their advantages and demonstrate how they worked.
Grant used sea going logistics to safeguard his supply lines, and supplemented that with a military railroad.
Sherman ran a railroad campaign straight through the geography of the Confederate states.
Thus if competency is meant to include providing fresh bread, regular furloughs, better medical attention, better access to newspapers and mail, then statements are OK.
But competency in this circumstance seems to be to a matter of implementing the asymmetrical advantages of the United States and to stop fighting on terms that favor the opponent.
I agree. Pretty good points in my opinion.

Some in this very forum have suggested that the Union won simply because they were "right", not because of the advantages in "might". I think that assertion is hogwash but, hey... that's just my opinion.

Not only the did the US have significant advantages (to include the ones Lefty mentioned in OP), they eventually played them to their advantage correctly.
 
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Burning Billy

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Each army went through varying stages of competence depending on time period and who was in command. You could have vast gulfs of competence even between armies wearing the same uniform. Compare of the Army of Northern Virginia for instance to the Army of Tennessee. The former went through a period where it knew little but success while the latter spent the entire war being whipped repeatedly.

Who was in command was the major factor. Compare the Army of the Potomac under Hooker or Burnside to the same army under Meade (and Grant). The AoT was the war's losingest army in part because it was stuck with people like Bragg and Hood.
 
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leftyhunter

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Each army went through varying stages of competence depending on time period and who was in command. You could have vast gulfs of competence even between armies wearing the same uniform. Compare of the Army of Northern Virginia for instance to the Army of Tennessee. The former went through a period where it knew little but success while the former spent the entire war being whipped repeatedly.

Who was in command was the major factor. Compare the Army of the Potomac under Hooker or Burnside to the same army under Meade (and Grant). The AoT was the war's losingest army because it was stuck with Bragg.
That's a tough one to answer.
Steven Sears pointed out that Hooker was,actually a very good commander. Hooker slashed the desertion rate that occurred under Burnside.
Hooker did sieze Fredericksburg. Hooker had a good plan but was poorly served by some subordinates.
The A O P fought well and hard at Chancelorsville and inflicted heavy casualties on the AnV.
Hooker should of been replaced by a second in command after suffering a serious head wound.
Hooker did break the Confederate stranglehold at Chattanooga and fought well in Georgia.
Bragg faced the,duo of Rosecrans and Thomas arguably better generals the Pope and Burnside of the A O P.
Did the A O T have the same level of logistical support of the A N V or A O C?
Leftyhunter
 

CSA Today

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One huge advantage the Union had over the Confederacy is that while both sides imported huge amounts of weaponry from Western Europe the Union Navy can and did intercept some of the weaponry.
The Union had no such concerns of the Confederate Navy.
If the Confederate Navy seized a foreign flaggd vessel especially from France,Spain or the UK that would result in massive retaliation by the above nations.
Blockade runners depended on Carribean ports. The Confederacy did not need another navy assisting the Union Navy.
Leftyhunter
There seemed to have been some concerns about the Confederate commerce raiders.
 
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Saphroneth

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In the case of Shiloh there has been quite a bit of debate over the,years if Sherman and Grant were caught with their pants down or not.
The simple fact of refusing to entrench because they felt there weren't any Confederates nearby is a bad idea - inexperienced troops defend so much better behind entrenchments that it had been the standard way of giving a newly recruited army some defensive power for centuries.
 

Saphroneth

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Napoleon said, All generals make mistakes during battles. They go unnoticed, unless the enemy takes advantage. Perhaps, the question isn't who was most incompetent, but who took best advantage of it?
Well, the tricky thing there is that there are definitely generals who did better in terms of making mistakes than others. Wellington is a good example of a general who made very few mistakes, for example, indeed it's rather hard to find any - as Napoleon found to his cost. Conversely there are generals who perform very badly because they manage to regularly mess up very simple things or because they make massive unforced errors by going against standard protocol. Take Cannae, where a Roman commander basically gave up on the very concept of mobility as it applied to the Manipular legion.

Of course, again, the Second Punic War is one where the Romans managed to avoid losing despite some incompetent generals and some really big defeats.
 
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leftyhunter

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The simple fact of refusing to entrench because they felt there weren't any Confederates nearby is a bad idea - inexperienced troops defend so much better behind entrenchments that it had been the standard way of giving a newly recruited army some defensive power for centuries.
Good point.about entrenchments.
In no war will one side be mistake free.
Would you agree that overall in terms of quality of leadership and enlisted men both the Union Army and the Confederate Army were roughly on par in terms of competence. The key difference's as outlined were the Union had many inherent advantages not the least was the ability to recruit former slaves into the Union Army and Navy who were critical to Union success and deprived the Confederacy of critical labor.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

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There seemed to have been some concerns about the Confederate commerce raiders.
No doubt; that is why by 1863 half the U.S registered ships switched to foreign registration.
Also the U.S. Navy did sink the Alabama and Shenandoah.
At no time could the Confederate Navy blockade Union ports or clear their ports of Union Naval blockaders.
Commerce raiding is fine and good but it doesn't win wars.
Leftyhunter
 
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leftyhunter

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Well, the tricky thing there is that there are definitely generals who did better in terms of making mistakes than others. Wellington is a good example of a general who made very few mistakes, for example, indeed it's rather hard to find any - as Napoleon found to his cost. Conversely there are generals who perform very badly because they manage to regularly mess up very simple things or because they make massive unforced errors by going against standard protocol. Take Cannae, where a Roman commander basically gave up on the very concept of mobility as it applied to the Manipular legion.

Of course, again, the Second Punic War is one where the Romans managed to avoid losing despite some incompetent generals and some really big defeats.
No doubt both the Union Army and the Confederate Army suffered at times from poor tactical or strategic command decisions. My OP is overall was either army over all less competent then the other and by what metric would we use to determine this?
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

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One major problem has @wausaubob has pointed out is the Union Army was overall better able to feed it's troops.
Logistics is pretty cut and dry; either troops receive adequate nutrition or they do not.
What prevents the Confederate Army from getting the food they need to their troops on a consistent basis? Us it lack of competence or other factors?
Leftyhunter
 
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