Was The Use Of Civil War Legions A Wise Use Of Military Assets.

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
The more standard division of military assets during the Civil War were: armies, Corps, divisions, brigades, battalions, regiments, and companies/batteries. Still a couple of legions were formed and used, perhaps Hampton's Legion being the most well known.

In size legions are smaller than divisions and larger than regiments or battalions, but are not brigades. The real difference is that legions are of mixed combat arms.

The Corps is considered the smallest unit that can engage in sustained combat. This is because divisions at the time did not contain the necessary support arms needed for sustained combat. As a nod to our members who have served in modern armies I do know that currently, divisions have enough support arms to engage in sustained combat. I also have miltary training in the use of enhanced brigades who do have the organic assets for limited long term combat.

During the Civil War, depending on the time, an infantry division's combat effectiveness was reduced by not having organic combat arms and support arms such as cavalry and artillery. A legion was formed with an infantry battalion, a cavalry battalion, and an artillery battalion (often just a couple of artillery batteries).

During the Civil War appears that the best use of cavalry and artillery was to concentrate them at Corps level of command. Attempts were made to include small amounts of cavalry and artillery at division level of command, but in the end this was not an effective use of these assets.

So what about Civil War legions? I believe the legion commander loved to have his own organic cavalry and artillery, but was this an effective use of these military assets.
 

Bruce Allardice

Private
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
General Mad Anthony Wayne had organized an American Legion for his Indian campaigns of the 1790s. The idea made some sense if a unit (brigade sized or smaller) was to operate as an independent army. It didn't make much sense in the Civil War, with much vaster armies. Hence the breakup of the Cobb, Phillips, and Jeff Davis Legions (to name just 3) in the Confederate army, into their separate components.
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
During the Civil War most legions were broken up in to their separate components. Early in the War my home state of Michigan looked at adding one engineer company to each infantry regiment. I think the concept was that the engineer company could fight like infantry, but could perform engineering tasks when needed. This did not work out, possibly because engineers got paid more than infantrymen. The engineer companies were usually discharged with a few of the men reenlisting as infantry.

In the end, most engineer tasks an infantry regiment needed to perform could be accomplished using infantrymen. Concentrating engineers at Corps or Army level was a wiser use of the engineers.
 

nc native

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 30, 2011
Location
NC Piedmont
Not only was the dispersion of forces that could be used better concentrated in other units a drawback of the legion but giving overall command to one individual for three different components of military service seems to me to be a potential problem too. There were very few individuals talented enough to effectively command infantry, artillery and cavalry and doing that all at the same time would be a daunting task for most commanders.
 
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