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What is your opinion on Jackson's Generalship???

Discussion in 'Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson' started by Kiryan, Apr 20, 2016.

  1. Kiryan

    Kiryan Private

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    Personal question really, but at the same time a bit of curiosity. So i guess i am asking for a bit of an education fro a bit as Jackson is someone who i don't really look into that much.

    How exactly would you rate Jackson's generalship during the war? Above average, underrated or overrated? Keeping in mind any mistakes he may have made and also his successes vs his failures.
     

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  3. 5fish

    5fish 1st Lieutenant

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    I will get this started... Seven Days Battle was Jackson low point... He seemed to be late into getting where Lee wanted him to be during the whole period of battle... and showed little fight...
    Jackson's famed Shenandoah campaign many think is his greatest moment...
    2nd Manassas I think one of Jackson's better moments keeping Pope's arm occupied until Longstreet could flank Pope. He took a pounding but held his own...
    Chancellorsville.... ?

    Side note: I think part of his success as a general was his men feared him more then they feared the enemy...
     
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  4. Reb

    Reb Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    ODERINT DUM METUANT

    fear.jpg
     
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  5. nc native

    nc native Private

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    In general, I'd rate him at above average. He was the master of rapid movement and was
    aggressive with a good understanding of topography. His men wore the Union forces
    chasing them around the Shenandoah Valley ragged and Jackson fought well when he
    chose to stand and fight or attack. His performance was not up to snuff during the Seven
    Days battles but that could be attributed to health issues. He was at his best during the
    Valley Campaign of 1862, Second Bull Run where he captured Pope's base of supplies and
    Chancellorsville where his end run around the Union flank caused panic and confusion
    which became a theme throughout the entire battle for the men in blue. Who knows
    how the Civil War would have turned out if Jackson's death had been delayed until the
    fighting had been settled.
     
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  6. jackt62

    jackt62 First Sergeant

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    Jackson has to be ranked among the top American generals. I concur with the previous posters who noted Jackson's famed campaigns in the Valley, Second Manassas and Chancellorsville. Lee himself, speculated that the battle of Gettysburg could have turned out differently had Jackson been at his side. But he certainly had his flaws, chief among them being his obsessive demand for secrecy and obedience, which wronged a number of good men including Richard Garnett and AP Hill.
     
  7. E_just_E

    E_just_E 1st Lieutenant Forum Host

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    I think that a lot of Jackson's stature is because of his posthumous positioning as a Martyr for the Lost Cause. In real life, he was ranked behind Longstreet in seniority in Lee's army, which of course does not rhyme with his deification. His eccentricities, borderline paranoia, and lack of trusting and consulting his deputies, did not make for good leadership qualities. Definitely did not know how to win friends and influence people, but he did not care...
     
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  8. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year

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    Strategically and logistically - genius. Tactically - mediocre at best on a good day. As a leader and inspiration to troops in the field - poor. (Although his men were largely inspired, it was by his strategic and logistic success, in spite of his leadership failures.)
     
  9. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    I would say that Jackson was good but not great overall but is overrated since he has become an almost mythological figure.

    He was very good in the Shenandoah against poor opponents, poor during the Seven Days, very good at Second Manassas, good at Harper's Ferry against a poor opponent, average at Antietam, poor at Fredericksburg, and very good at Chancellorsville. It's a mixed bag.

    What turns in his favor is that Jackson died conducting one of the great maneuvers and attacks of the war and his death came at an opportune time (perhaps a poor choice of words) since he was never touched by the decline of Confederate fortunes which began with Gettysburg. Instead, Jackson became the symbol of changed fortunes epitomized by the "if only" statements which began during the war.

    R
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2016
  10. jackt62

    jackt62 First Sergeant

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    With respect to some of the recent posts, I still maintain that Jackson be ranked among the top commanders, despite his flaws. His dismal performance during the Seven Days cannot be excused but virtually every other great American commander (Grant and Sherman in their early commands during the CW, and in a newer age, Douglas MacArthur during the Japanese assault on the Philippines and Eisenhower at the Kasserine Pass) presided over losses. I believe that Jackson was mainly deified by the public after his untimely death rather than becoming a figure of deification under the Lost Cause movement.
     
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  11. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    The problem with Jackson is that for every good performance, there seemed to have been a poor one. Like brass napoleon pointed out, tactically, he was average at best.

    R
     
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  12. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    YES - But since I'm biased, I'll leave this for you all to wrangle out.
     
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  13. Aussie Billy Sherman

    Aussie Billy Sherman First Sergeant

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    Just as overrated as Lee
     
  14. 1SGDan

    1SGDan Captain

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    Over rated. Too much idoltry not enough substance.
     
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  15. ErnieMac

    ErnieMac Captain Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    IMO Jackson was one of the better commanders on either side during the war, but as noted above was by no means perfect. I've given thought to some categories where a good commander needs to excel and provided my assessment of Jackson's strengths and weaknesses. I have to think that Jackson's reputation benefitted by his dying before the War turned against the South. Whether events would have differed had he lived is for 'What if' posts. For the most part I did not mention the Seven Days. The reason for Jackson's poor performance, whether physical, psychological or whatever is unlikely to ever be known for sure, but IMO does not add much information as to how he operated.

    Operations
    When it comes to strategic plans and movements I find few better. Jackson had a good eye for terrain and when given the opportunity selected his ground well whether on offense or defense. He excelled at moving his men quickly to take advantage of strategic opportunities left open by Union commanders. He was a proponent of the expressions "Hit Em Where They Ain't" and "Get There First with the Most Men" before those expressions were invented. Despite his reputation as an aggressive commander, Jackson could temper that aggression. At Sharpsburg and Fredericksburg it seemed that opportunities for counterattacks were present. Jackson took the time to investigate further, but backed off when he realized the odds against the Confederates. That was not always the case as Jackson did attack headlong into unfavorable situations at Kernstown and Chantilly.

    Tactical abilities are IMO more open to debate. Jackson's disposition of the troops under his command was less than stellar at Kernstown, Port Republic and Cedar Mountain. Jackson's troops were fed into battle piecemeal and somewhat disorganized at Gaines Mill, but that is probably due to the exigencies of that battle. Tactical arrangements at 2nd Manassas and Fredericksburg caused problems during those battles, but I think much of those issues can be attributed to the subordinates responsible for those arrangements. It seems to have been a common occurrence in the Civil War for a commander to give orders and leave the implementation to the subordinate. Commanders on both sides (e.g.: Lee in the Seven Days, Bristoe Station, along the North Anna and many would say Gettysburg, Bragg at Chickamauga, Hooker at Chancellorsville, Meade at Gettysburg) frequently had to deal with such problems as that command style caused.

    Logistics
    Jackson seems to have developed a very capable staff. I find little evidence of his men lacking basic supplies necessary to carry out their duties whether obtained from Confederate or captured Union sources. His successors in command of the Second Corps retained his staff in their positions following Jackson's death.

    Intelligence
    A mixed bag in my mind. Jackson seems to have been very keen on obtaining information concerning the area in which he was fighting and dispositions of his opponents. Jedidiah Hotchkiss maps were drawn at the behest of Jackson. His ability to find weak spots in Federal dispositions was well demonstrated in the Northern Virginia Campaign and at Chancellorsville. Jackson knew the value of cavalry in scouting and screening and his ability to cooperate and coordinate with Jeb Stuart has been noted. Stuart, however, was under the command of Lee who dictated many of the moves. Jackson's ability to command his own cavalry under Ashby and Steuart was not so good, but neither were Ashby or Steuart. Jackson seemed to be able to adapt quickly to changing situations and move his men quickly in response.

    While Jackson did communicate and coordinate well with Lee, Longstreet and Stuart, his near paranoia concerning his own plans and keeping them from subordinates was legendary. He frequently quoted Frederick the Great in saying "If I thought my coat knew my plans, I would take it off and burn it." This penchant for secrecy came back to bite him on a number of occasions. At Kernstown BG Richard Garnett ordered a retreat when his troops ran out of ammunition. He didn't know Jackson's plans and couldn't find him. The fatal wounding of BG Charles Winder at Cedar Mountain found his successor, BG William Taliaferro, totally ignorant of Jackson's battle plans just as Banks' Federals began their attack on the Confederate left and probably contributed significantly to the difficulties of that battle.

    Personnel
    Stonewall's difficulties with his subordinates were legendary. Most prominently A. P. Hill, William Loring, Richard Garnett, Charles Winder and Maxcy Gregg were among the more prominent names that ran afoul of Jackson's ideas on discipline. Hill found himself under arrest for not having his men take prescribed rest breaks. Jubal Early was about to be chastised when Jackson him why he (Jackson) saw so many stragglers behind his command. Early had the gumption to respond that Jackson had seen so many stragglers because he rode behind the division and so escaped unscathed.

    More than a few capable and talented Confederate officers resigned as Jackson promoted favorite subordinates over their heads. They didn't meet Jackson's ideals concerning discipline and morality. Jackson was not above using character assassination in undermining the reputations of those he did not approve. Initially the private soldiers of Jackson's command grumbled a good bit about discipline, forced marches and unpopular officers place over them. Eventually success overcame their doubts.
     
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  16. Kiryan

    Kiryan Private

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    I see no mention of Frederickburg. Is that because his line was breached?

    Also, wasn't his Shenendoah campaign really him in an independent command moreso than an actual army command under Lee. So you would think he would do a bit better being his own commander rather than working with Lee. Yet, then again, as you said, Chancellorsville the strategy there...

    Wasn't the guy at Harpers ferry really incompetent. And it kinda hard to defend Harpers Ferry considering that nearly every place is high-ground is it not?


    IIRC, i am pretty sure i commented on your thread with the paintings. And i saw that picture on your wall, kudos to you man. Also, nice swrods/sabers.

    THANKYOU!

    Really nice analysis here.
     
  17. Stony

    Stony 1st Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

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    Above average imo, but prolly over-rated here. :whistling:
     
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  18. CW3O

    CW3O Sergeant

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    His performance varied wildy, from fantastic to sub-par, but nothing could actually match the post-war legend and idoltry.
    Every Army feels the need to produce heroes, Jackson was probably as good a choice as any for the Confederacy.
     
  19. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    In your in my opinion excellent analysis of Jackson's strengths and weakness, I'd like only to observe that by most evidence - other than obviously hindsight - Spring of 1862 saw exactly that: loss of Forts Henry, Donelson, and Island #10; Nashville, New Orleans, and Memphis; the Battle of Shiloh and impending loss of the rail center at Corinth in the West, plus Harpers Ferry, Winchester, Centreville, Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Norfolk in Virginia and much of the coast of the Carolinas all made Southern prospects look pretty bleak.* Without Jackson and Lee the war might easily have ended then had things gone only slightly different.

    Edit: *Also the battle of Pea Ridge and subsequently the northern half of Arkansas, plus any pretense to Kentucky and Missouri.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2016
  20. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    On reading the revised edition of Tanner's Stonewall in the Valley, he makes it clear the extent several of Jackson's moves were either ordered or at least heavily influenced by instructions from both Lee and Joe Johnston before his wounding at Seven Pines.

    Thanks - the swords and sabers are prizes in my collection, for sure! As for Dixon Miles, commander at Harpers Ferry, he was severely hamstrung by orders from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to stay where he was, even though he recognized it as a trap - plus his own orders to the subordinate holding critical Maryland Heights were ignored and the position evacuated, much to Miles' distress. Reports of his supposed incompetence and reputed drunkenness was likely more to cover the true incompetents, Stanton and his boss, Lincoln.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2016
  21. KeyserSoze

    KeyserSoze Captain

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    An above average Confederate general...but not as good as his admirers make him out to be.
     

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