First Bull Run What was Mcdowell's plan if he had actually won at Bull Run?

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Saphroneth

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. Probably too much marching for green troops on a hot summer day
This is one of the interesting things, because those troops were green but they were also as experienced as the Union government could legally produce. (The Militia Act only allowed for a callout for three months in any twelve.)

It's interesting to contemplate how much First Bull Run showcases the shortcomings of the US military structure of the pre-ACW period. If a war broke out with Britain (say) and the British avoided invading until the US volunteer army was at the greatest strength and experience they would reach... it'd be an army of the quality of First Bull Run.
 
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Robin Lesjovitch

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This is one of the interesting things, because those troops were green but they were also as experienced as the Union government could legally produce. (The Militia Act only allowed for a callout for three months in any twelve.)

It's interesting to contemplate how much First Bull Run showcases the shortcomings of the US military structure of the pre-ACW period. If a war broke out with Britain (say) and the British avoided invading until the US volunteer army was at the greatest strength and experience they would reach... it'd be an army of the quality of First Bull Run.
This is not really accurate. The US depended on the Volunteer Service, not the Enrolled Militia, to provide the bulk of forces in war time. This service had been established by wording in the 2nd Militia Act of 1792:
And whereas sundry corps of artillery, cavalry, and infantry now exist in several of the said states, which by the laws, customs, or usages thereof have not been incorporated with, or subject to the general regulations of the militia:
Sec. 11. Be it further enacted,to retain their privileges. That such corps retain their accustomed privileges, subject, nevertheless, to all other duties required by this act, in like manner with the other militia.

Congress came to understand the wording to mean that State Troops, not part of the Enrolled Militia, could be called into Federal service, but without the 90 day limit. They would come to be called U S Volunteers. Since the War of 1812, it was understood that Militia was of little use except in extreme emergency. Volunteers were the backbone of U S Forces in the Mexican War.
What had happened in 1861 was a militia call, and volunteer enlistments for a limited period. This was politically useful, as it suggested a very short war. That would not have been the case with a war against Great Britain. The public would have been accepting of year enlistments in such a case.
The U S did not begin developing its volunteer army (in the East) until after 1st Bull Run... part of the reason for that was there had been some militia available in the East ...The Militia went home, and the Volunteers generally came to have 3 year enlistments, although some with shorter terms were also mustered.
 
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Saphroneth

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What had happened in 1861 was a militia call, and volunteer enlistments for a limited period. This was politically useful, as it suggested a very short war. That would not have been the case with a war against Great Britain. The public would have been accepting of year enlistments in such a case.
That is fair enough, though I'm sort of wondering how many enlistments would have been called for.

It's also worth thinking about how if the Bull Run Army is what you get after three months of training then they're still in trouble, because in three months then a European power (the Brits or the French) can send over some significant force.

It is sort of the main pre-1945 vice of the US Army - it's way too small and doesn't have a good expansion pipeline, so it always takes way too long to ramp up to having a good "army" instead of "some regular battalions and brigades".



Anyway, it occurs to me that any previous military experience McDowell had (both first hand and second hand) would have been overwhelmingly based on the Mexican and Indian wars - where the key was that large fractions of the available troops, possibly all of them, were Regulars (and thus capable).
 
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Andy Cardinal

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As the very wise Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Of course there was a plan. Just not one that mattered after the actual battle began.
Actually I believe that McDowell's plan was executed about as well as could be expected and also achieved what he set out to do. There are a couple of reasons its happened later than it could have which were mistakes in the plan itself (which I will profile my thoughts about as a "critical decision" in the future), but overall by approximately noon the plan had been very successful. Of course it all fell apart at that point for a few reasons -- but i believe that up until then was executed about as well as an plan for battle was during the war. Quite an achievement for raw troops and inexperienced commanders.
 

Carronade

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Actually I believe that McDowell's plan was executed about as well as could be expected and also achieved what he set out to do. There are a couple of reasons its happened later than it could have which were mistakes in the plan itself (which I will profile my thoughts about as a "critical decision" in the future), but overall by approximately noon the plan had been very successful. Of course it all fell apart at that point for a few reasons -- but i believe that up until then was executed about as well as an plan for battle was during the war. Quite an achievement for raw troops and inexperienced commanders.
One key factor being that Johnston's troops had arrived from the Valley, giving the Confederates a reserve that could counter McDowell's flanking force. Johnston's three brigades - Bee, Barlow, Jackson - suffered most of the casualties on the Confederate side.

Union general Patterson not only failed to hold Johnston in the Valley, he let his superiors believe that he was holding Johnston's army and that it could not intervene in McDowell's battle.
 
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Robin Lesjovitch

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One key factor being that Johnston's troops had arrived from the Valley, giving the Confederates a reserve that could counter McDowell's flanking force. Johnston's three brigades - Bee, Barlow, Jackson - suffered most of the casualties on the Confederate side.

Union general Patterson not only failed to hold Johnston in the Valley, he let his superiors believe that he was holding Johnston's army and that it could not intervene in McDowell's battle.
To be fair, i think, it was Kirby Smith's brigade, the 4th of Johnston's, that actually precipitated the Federal rout. That unit, under Arnold Elzey, cooperating with Jubal Early's brigade, pushed the Federals off Chinn Ridge beginning the Federal withdrawal. This day's fight could have easily ended with the two armies preparing to face each other the next day.
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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It would seem like quite a feat for two green armies to fight to a stalemate. Someone usually breaks.
Lines had been breaking all day, points changing hands. Panic might have got either army at several points.
Small unit actions between inexperienced troops might be expected to come to some conclusion. that happened here, but there were always other troops nearby. The way this fight went, there seemed the real possibility that both sides would adjust lines and face another day.
 
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