Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by gem, Jun 10, 2017.
What was the US government's biggest blunder during the civil war?
Being overly cautious by placing too much emphasis and resources on the defense of Washington City, when those resources could have been used to support major offensive operations elsewhere.
Maybe not THE most egregious but still...
Simon Cameron as Secretary of War.
Not creating an agency such has the British: Special Operations Executive
Which coordinated aid to anti Axsis Partisan groups in WW2. The Americans established a similar agency the Office of Strategic Services.
Yes the Union did aid Unionist guerrillas but not on a uniform coordinated level has I point out in my thread " Union vs CSA guerrillas".
For example the Union Navy did a good job supporting Unionists families and guerrillas in Southeast Florida. However not in other states. The Union Navy also formed the 2nd Florida Cavalry.
If they would of done so in other Confederate states that could of had a real impact.
Having Ordinance people to stupid to realise the value of repeating rifles such has the Spencer and Henry. The commanders of the 3rd North Carolina Mounted Infantry Union and the 20th Indiana Infantry among others certainly did value their utility.
In all fairness to the Union the biggest blunder was Reconstruction. On the other hand the majority of Americans did not have the patience for proper Reconstruction has we did in Post WW2 Germany and Japan.
In many prior threads and one of yours we have discused many major Union defeats.
We have to keep in mind that in 1861 the Unio Army was just 16 thousand men who were more or less scattered about fighting Indians or bandits and or getting
wasted in desolate posts. Our Navy was snall and purposely sent by President Buchanan's treacherous Secretary of War to the far flung cornors of the world which necessitated six months before they could come back to the Union.
The Union had but a small handful of professionally trained officers from U.S. and foreign military academies.
The Union did hire some but not many foreign officers to fill the gaps.
The United States had a very small domestic military industrial complex so we had to import many of our arms and compete with Confedrate buyers doing the same.
The Union also had to contend with other nations eagerly supporting the blockade runners.
Thetefore quashing the Rebellion in just 4 years was not altogether bad.
When Stanton closed recruiting in the summer of 1862 because he thought the war was almost over.
Related, recruiting new regiments instead of refilling the ranks of veteran regiments with new recruits.
The biggest error was not accelerating the recruitment of black regiments in the western area after breaking through the Confederate defenses at Fort Donelson and again at Memphis. The Mississippi River should have an area of multiple active offenses during 1862. Henry Halleck probably extended the war by at least 1 year.
On that same theme would be the aggressive use of cavalry to recruit blacks behind Union lines as did the Confederates in Mo or Col. Kirk recruiting CSA deserters behind enemy lines in Western Nc. The caveat is some of the CSA recruiting commands were destroyed by the Mo State Militia.
I can name that tune in three notes: George Brinton McClellan.
The blunder that comes to my mind(it might actually only a mistake) was in removing the AoP from Va. after McClellan's defeat, rather than just removing little mac. It would be over two years before the AoP would be that close to Richmond(under a new Commander, of course)
I used to think that making Richmond the strategic target for the main Union Army in the East was a big mistake. But, now think given the temper of the times, Davis rash move, made it too good a target(and, of course, IMO, lasted as long as it did, only because of Lee)
I think McClellan, Meade, & Grant all understood that cutting the rail lines to Richmond (mainly through Petersburg) was the same as destroying Lee's army & winning the war. All 3 wrote about it.
I'm not aware of any evidence that the other principal commanders (Halleck, Pope, Burnside, Hooker) comprehended that objective.
I don't necessarily disagree with pulling McClellan's army from the peninsula in July/August 1862, but I do think creating a viable army on the peninsula (similar to Grant's idea in 1864) would have made a big difference in the conduct of the war.
I can agree that if one approaches the question from an indirect perspective, there is a good case to be made that the failure to recognize the importance of logistics and supplies was a major failure.
In fact, from that perspective, it can be argued the biggest Union blunder, was in not making the Shenandoah Valley a Major strategic target in its own right.
Lee probably could not have maintained the ANV in Northern Virginia, without supplies from the Valley(but that might more precisely have been a military blunder rather than one of the Union gov't itself)
I think the biggest Union logistic SNAFU was the unforgivable slowness in getting pontoon boats to Burnside prior to Fredericksburg.
I believe there were two ideas about how to win the war in the east -- the indirect approach in cutting logistics, and the direct attack the enemy and overwhelm him. These competing views I believe are at the heart of the Army of the Potomac's disfunction during war, at least before Grant.
Has the war came closer to the end ,the Congress should have established a committee to establish post war requirements for the Southern states to return to the Union and to aid in rebuilding of the economic system of the South without force or penalties for the war .But then Lincoln never excepted the fact that these states had left the Union.The closer to the end the more Lincoln seemed to be coming closer to the Radicals .Lincoln and Grant knew by 64 that the Confederacy was on a piece of yarn,it was just for them to continue the pressure and just endure the continue losses.
Another missed opportunity (or blunder): Not supporting and following through on the amphibious landings in North and South Carolina in 1861 and 1862 by striking inland with sufficient forces towards respectively Richmond and Atlanta.
The author George Burker who wrote a book " Strangling the Confederacy" ( if memory serves) makes a strong case that Burnside should of been given more troops to push well west of New Berne, to cur iff the North Carolina rail lines to Richmond. Also there were a fair amount of Unionists in the area. Edit to add I have another post where I correct who the author was. Burnside was about to imatrack and sieze the critical Confederate railway kunctions at Goldsboro, North Carolina from his base in New Berne, North Carolina but Lincoln told Burnside to instead take has many troops as he could to assist McCellan in the Peninsula Campaign. "Strangling the Confederacy Coastal Operations of the Civil War" Kevin Doughtery Casemate p.91
No, that was the correct decision. Not until 1864 did the union have the ability to arm their own troops without relying on imports... and true out the war imported weapons was used. And repeaters would have taken even longer to get into mass production.
And they would never have been able to supply the needed cartridges for the Henry in sufficient numbers.
(a breech loader like the sharps.. that is a another matter...)
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