Discussion What were the top 5 missed oppurtunities of the ACW?

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Robin Lesjovitch

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Okay, so you've assigned four or five batteries to delivering long range fire against the Confederate 3rd Corps. Call it 27 guns.

Now think about how many casualties you're actually expecting those ~27 guns to actually do.


As for the 2nd Corps attack, well, we started with 54 guns so there's a maximum of ~27 guns on that side as well.
You've previously indicated that the thing causing the casualties would be "the guns that the Confederates could not answer", but guns cause casualties over time - so you'd need the Union infantry on the ridges to be capable of holding back the attack more or less by themselves to create the situation where the Confederate troops are in the area to take casualties.
(This is before considering that the Confederates did actually have guns as well - 3/4 of the Union number in their army - so I suspect they could in fact "answer".)
On the north area of the battlefield the CSA guns were never very effective. I hope the point is that an unsupported infantry attack by the ANV's 2nd Corps would have been costly if resisted, and would have been even if undertaken as soon as possible after being directed by the commanding general.
 

Saphroneth

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On the north area of the battlefield the CSA guns were never very effective. I hope the point is that an unsupported infantry attack by the ANV's 2nd Corps would have been costly if resisted, and would have been even if undertaken as soon as possible after being directed by the commanding general.
I don't argue that it might be "costly". The idea I'm questioning is how much 1st and 11th Corps can realistically do to hold off what is actually a (Union) corps-level attack after a day in which they've already been broken - and whether it's reasonable to expect them to resist so fiercely that it sees a Confederate army corps badly damaged.

As for CSA guns never being very effective on the north area of the battlefield, why is that? Is there a systemic reason for it?

Surely if there's a couple of dozen Union guns directing fire on a CS corps, there are one of three options.
1) The fire is not considered bad enough to be worth reacting to, in which case it's not doing much damage.
2) The fire is considered bad enough to be worth reacting to by pulling back out of effective range, in which case it doesn't do much damage.
3) The fire is considered bad enough to be worth serious counter-battery fire, in which case what you then have is a gun duel between ~27 Union guns and however many Confederate guns they have forward. In which case either the Union guns fight a counter-battery shoot (and don't target the CS infantry) or they continue targeting the CS infantry (and are at risk of falling to the CB shoot).
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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But those Union men are exerting pressure on Richmond - they're why Hill was left with such a significant force in the Dept. of NC in the first place. Withdraw them and either there's more men to march north and join Lee or there's the scope for a bit of proactive defence.

As for the Warwick line, the river still exists. But even just reoccupying Yorktown with a single brigade and some guns makes a Union advance overland or up the York logistically impractical - it would mean any attempt to supply close to Richmond except via the James river needs to clear Yorktown, which would impose a delay of weeks.
By June 1862, the "Warwick Line" meant nothing to the CSA as the Federal navy could by-pass it nearly as if it were not there; any CSA force placed to interdict the York would be lost.
There were substantial Federal forces in SE VA and North Carolina that Harvey Hill had to consider in addition the the half hearted jab made by the 19,000 coming down from White House.
 
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Robin Lesjovitch

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I don't argue that it might be "costly". The idea I'm questioning is how much 1st and 11th Corps can realistically do to hold off what is actually a (Union) corps-level attack after a day in which they've already been broken - and whether it's reasonable to expect them to resist so fiercely that it sees a Confederate army corps badly damaged.

As for CSA guns never being very effective on the north area of the battlefield, why is that? Is there a systemic reason for it?

Surely if there's a couple of dozen Union guns directing fire on a CS corps, there are one of three options.
1) The fire is not considered bad enough to be worth reacting to, in which case it's not doing much damage.
2) The fire is considered bad enough to be worth reacting to by pulling back out of effective range, in which case it doesn't do much damage.
3) The fire is considered bad enough to be worth serious counter-battery fire, in which case what you then have is a gun duel between ~27 Union guns and however many Confederate guns they have forward. In which case either the Union guns fight a counter-battery shoot (and don't target the CS infantry) or they continue targeting the CS infantry (and are at risk of falling to the CB shoot).
The short response is Ewell's guns could not "see" their targets and generally avoided bringing counter battery fire down on them. From Cemetery Ridge the Federals had a fair view of most CSA operations on their front.
 

Saphroneth

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By June 1862, the "Warwick Line" meant nothing to the CSA as the Federal navy could by-pass it nearly as if it were not there; any CSA force placed to interdict the York would be lost.
If there were Federal ships in the York as a matter of course, I'd agree without hesitation, but without that I'm not seeing how a CS force in Yorktown with the guns needed to close the river to shipping (even supply shipping) is necessarily automatically lost. Without a force on the Warwick then the Union can of course bypass Yorktown, but then to reduce it by siege would take a month or so (unless naval bombardment was used).

There were substantial Federal forces in SE VA and North Carolina that Harvey Hill had to consider in addition the the half hearted jab made by the 19,000 coming down from White House.
Who were the other Federal forces in SE VA? Can you name them, and under what strength return are they carried on the June 1863 consolidated return?

The short response is Ewell's guns could not "see" their targets and generally avoided bringing counter battery fire down on them. From Cemetery Ridge the Federals had a fair view of most CSA operations on their front.
Okay, but while Cemetery Ridge is fairly commanding it's not enough that it'll let Federal guns fire without exposing themselves at all.
 
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Saphroneth

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Agreed. As Johnston said, "No one but McClellan could have hesitated to attack." Even some of McClellans officers, like Keyes, thought a general attack along the line would have succeeded.
As I recall it was that what Keyes said was...

What Keyes said was that "My impression now is that if the whole army had been pressed forward, we should have found a point to break through". He also however said that "a siege was necessary to take Yorktown" and that "I should say that I considered it absolutely necessary before the army advanced that Yorktown should be captured".
(Keyes distinguishes between "the line" and "Yorktown" and it's in this context that he says a siege was necessary.)

When directly asked "could you have penetrated their lines at some other point without great sacrifice of men", he refuses to firmly answer the question; what he says is "I will not say that if we had pressed on immediately on arriving in front of their lines we might not have found a point where we could have broken the line"; he says that it's his opinion that "if we had pressed on rapidly when we first arrived, we might have found a point through which we could have broken".

However, earlier in the testimony, what Keyes said was:

"The works at Lees Mills were, apparently, very strong. The force of the enemy was entirely unknown, owing to the difficulty of approach."
"I did not see any propriety in ordering an assault against such very strong works."
(Of General Smith)
"I had seen, on many occasions, a disposition on his part to try to break through the enemy's line with his division, or a portion of it." He mentions that " did not see any place where we could cross without massing our troops and making it a general assault".

Note that what this means is that Keyes believes that the defences in *his* sector were too strong to attack, but that there might have been "somewhere" the line could have been broken - he doesn't make clear where - and repeatedly states that this is his impression or his opinion.

To add to this we have Keyes' letter of the 7th April, where he says clearly that "not a day was lost in the advance" and that the advance was so quick Keyes barely had all his artillery ashore when they got moving - indeed he had to leave one of his divisions behind!
Keyes declared that the defensive line in front of them was "one of the strongest ever opposed to an invading force in any country", and that
"The line in front of us, in the opinion of all military men here who are at all competent to judge, is one of the strongest in the world."



So what this means is that Keyes said (at the time) that the movement was quick and the defences were far too strong.

Keyes said months after the fact that he thought maybe somewhere else on the line someone else on the line was facing a weaker sector than him. But we know from hindsight that Garrow Ridge (the weakest point on the entire line) was in Keyes' sector, so if that didn't look doable nowhere did. (n.b. Keyes does say that possibly an attack in Smith's sector - Garrow Ridge - would have worked if troops were massed for a general assault, but this is nothing like an assault all along the line and is in fact basically the opposite. )

Keyes also said that even if they had broken through the line, they'd still have to siege out Yorktown and so there wouldn't have been much difference in the time taken anyway. Which means that there wouldn't have been much time to gain at all.



The bottom line is this - Keyes stated that nowhere in his sector was there somewhere the Warwick Line could have been breached by an assault all along the line. He simply thinks that it might have worked "somewhere" - that is, somewhere he had no first hand experience of.


Of course, if there was somewhere the Warwick Line could have been breached by an assault all along the line, it should be obvious from the actual Confederate strengths.
 

Saphroneth

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As Johnston said, "No one but McClellan could have hesitated to attack."
Simple question - when he said that, what was Johnston's estimate of McClellan's numerical strength over the course of the confrontation?

On the 11th Magruder's proclamation to those in the Peninsula was "McClellan, at the head of 100,000 men, is threatening our whole line" when in fact McClellan's force at the line at that point was roughly half that in PFD. The same day Magruder reported to the Confederate SecWar that McClellan's strength was "estimated at between 100,000 and 200,000" and that he had "about 23,000 men"; in fact on the 11th Magruder's total strength was 34,000 by Late April strengths, so Magruder is claiming he's outnumbered between 4:1 and 8:1 when the actual strength ratio is close to 3:2.

Unless Johnston had a much better picture of the numbers than Magruder did, Johnston would be basing his assessment on who might have "hesitated to attack" on an enemy outnumbering the defenders circa 4:1 to 6:1. Naturally this would lead to an incorrect picture of whether the enemy "should" attack.
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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Who were the other Federal forces in SE VA? Can you name them, and under what strength return are they carried on the June 1863 consolidated return?
Created Jany. 7, 1862, to consist of the State of North Carolina. Merged Into the Department of Virginia and North
Carolina July 15, 1863. Recreated Jany. 81, 1865.
COMMANDERS.
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T. J. Stevenson .|Col. 24th Masa. Infy Apr. 2. 1862, to Jan. 2, 1863.
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J. L. Reno IBrigadler General |Apr. 2, 1862, to July 6, 1862.
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James Nagle |Col. 48th Penna. Infy |Apr. 2, 1862, to July 6, 1862.
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Eighteenth Army Corps—Department of North Carolina
Created Dec. 24, 1862, from Troops In the Department of North Carolina. Transferred to the Department of Virginia

and North Carolina July 15. 1863.


COMMANDER.​

J. Q. Foster Major General iDec. 24, 18C2, to July 18, 1863. I
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17th Mass. Infy Jan., 1863 From Amory's Unatt. Br. Dept. N. C. To Def. Newberne 18-Cps. Va. & N.C. July, 1863
43d Mass. Infy Jan.. 1863'From Amory's Unatt. Br. Dept. N. C. To 1-Brlg. Md. Heights Dlv. 8-Corps June, 1863
46th Mass. Infy Jan., 1863 From Amory's Unatt. Br. Dept. N. C. No change to Muster Out June, 1863
51st Mass. Infy Jan., 1863'From Amory's Unatt. Br. Dept. N. C. To 8-Corps Middle Dept June. 1863
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J. B. Howell ICol. 85th Penna. Infy IJan. 6, 1863. to Feb., 1863.

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F. B. Spinola [Brigadier General |Jan. 11, 1863, to Apr. 22, 1863.
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DISTRICT OF THE PAMLICO.—Organized April 22, 1863, from 5th Division 18th Corps. Designated Sub-District of the
Pamlico, District North Carolina, 18-Corps, Department of Virginia and North Carolina, July 26, 1863.

COMMANDERS.​

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DISTRICT OF THE ALBEMARLE.—Organized May 3, 1863. from 4-Divislon, 18th Corps. Designated Sub-District of the
Albemarle Dist of North Carolina, Department of Virginia and North Carolina,
July 26, 1863.

COMMANDER.​

H. W. Wessells [Brigadier General IMay 3, 1863, to Aug. 1, 1863. 1
LEAHMAN'S BRIGADE.— COMMANDER.
T. F. Leahman |col. 103d Penna. Infy May 3. 1863. to~Aug. 1. 1863. [
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DISTRICT OF BEAUFORT.—Organized May 2, 1863, from 2d Division 18th Corps. Designated Sub-District of Beaufort
District of North Carolina, Dept of Virginia and North Carolina, July, 1863.

COMMANDERS.​

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JOURDArTS INDPT. BRIGADE.—Organized April 22. 18«S, from 2d Brig., 5th Dlv., 18th Corps. Transferred to the

Defences of Newberne, 18th Corps, July 21, 1863.


COMMANDER.​

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LEE'S INDEPENDENT BRIGADE—Organized May, 1863. Discontinued June, 1863.

COMMANDER.​

F. L,. Lee

Col. 44th Mass. Infy IMay. 1863. to June. 1863.​

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DEFENCES OF NEWBERNE.—Organized July, 1863. Designated Defences of Newberne, District of North Carolina, Department of Virginia and North Carolina, Aug. 1, 1863.

COMMANDER.​

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Robin Lesjovitch

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If there were Federal ships in the York as a matter of course, I'd agree without hesitation, but without that I'm not seeing how a CS force in Yorktown with the guns needed to close the river to shipping (even supply shipping) is necessarily automatically lost. Without a force on the Warwick then the Union can of course bypass Yorktown, but then to reduce it by siege would take a month or so (unless naval bombardment was used).





Who were the other Federal forces in SE VA? Can you name them, and under what strength return are they carried on the June 1863 consolidated return?

OR Chapt XXX, pp 350=
 

DanSBHawk

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Simple question - when he said that, what was Johnston's estimate of McClellan's numerical strength over the course of the confrontation?

On the 11th Magruder's proclamation to those in the Peninsula was "McClellan, at the head of 100,000 men, is threatening our whole line" when in fact McClellan's force at the line at that point was roughly half that in PFD. The same day Magruder reported to the Confederate SecWar that McClellan's strength was "estimated at between 100,000 and 200,000" and that he had "about 23,000 men"; in fact on the 11th Magruder's total strength was 34,000 by Late April strengths, so Magruder is claiming he's outnumbered between 4:1 and 8:1 when the actual strength ratio is close to 3:2.

Unless Johnston had a much better picture of the numbers than Magruder did, Johnston would be basing his assessment on who might have "hesitated to attack" on an enemy outnumbering the defenders circa 4:1 to 6:1. Naturally this would lead to an incorrect picture of whether the enemy "should" attack.
I think Johnston was taking into account not only the strength of the federals, but the weakness of the confederates and the confederate works.

But also, Johnstons phrasing - "Only McClellan" - sounds as if he's stating a truism that the professional American officers of the time, in their small circle of peers, would recognize as characteristic of McClellan. That he was not bold but overly cautious.
 

RochesterBill

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1- Jackson was not there, so no missed opportunity. Had Jackson been there, he would have had no better guidance from army HQ than Ewell.
Understand Lee was asking 2 divisions to push 2 Federal Corps off ridges that had required 4 CSA divisions to run up on the ridges.
No, Jackson was not there. Obviously.

And while he would have likely gotten the same amount of direction - or lack thereof - from Lee, there is little doubt that he would have interpreted it differently.

Recall if you will that Lee instructed Ewell to attack Cemetary ridge "if practicable". It's the kind of vague instructions he had usually given his corps commanders.

To Ewell, a cautious man, the qualifier was nothing less than permission to do nothing. To Jackson, it would almost certainly have served as a green light.
 
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OpnCoronet

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Agreed. As Johnston said, "No one but McClellan could have hesitated to attack." Even some of McClellans officers, like Keyes, thought a general attack along the line would have succeeded.


Very true, IMO. I think Hooker was willing to attack with only his force, if allowed.
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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No, Jackson was not there. Obviously.

And while he would have likely gotten the same amount of direction - or lack thereof - from Lee, there is little doubt that he would have interpreted it differently.

Recall if you will that Lee instructed Ewell to attack Cemetary ridge "if practicable". It's the kind of vague instructions he had usually given his corps commanders.

To Ewell, a cautious man, the qualifier was nothing less than permission to do nothing. To Jackson, it would almost certainly have served as a green light.
For me the issue was not Lee's discretionary order, but that he had warned against a general engagement without 1st Corps.
I think Jackson would have sought clarification from Lee as to how to proceed before engaging his two divisions. I think Lee would not have directed Jackson to drive the enemy from the field, as Lee seemed to believe that might happen to him.
When Lee's mind turned, Jackson might have attempted to take the ridges I think any victory would have been so costly that it would have been Pyrrhic.
Heth's unauthorized attack had thrown Lee off his game.
 

archieclement

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Would think gradual emancipation would be one, our racial legacy from sudden emancipation frankly seems worse then most countries that went with gradual emancipation. Also noteworthy is of the countries that introduced slavery here, the British, Spanish, and Dutch all also went with compensated emancipation.
 
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OpnCoronet

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It absolutely did. The difference between an attack on the 16th and an attack on the 17th is the arrival of two Union corps (9th and 12th) able to spend the whole day fighting, plus a division (Morell) available in the morning and two (Franklin's two) available in the afternoon. The troop arrivals for McClellan more than doubled his strength compared to an attack on the 16th, while the troop arrivals for Lee did not.

In which case there's a problem, because of when it was that the reinforcements arrived and what caused them to do so.
Most of the reinforcements for Magruder arrived after the 28th March, but the problem is that most of McClellan's forces were also still arriving on that date. Remembering that the time taken to march to the Warwick line was two days, then based on the arrival dates for McClellan's divisions you have:

I believe, in light of the results of McClellans inaction at Yorktown, it can hardly be argued that that at least a full blooded attempt to take the Yorktown Line, before it was heavily reincored, , was not a mistake.





I can only suggest that the arrival of two Union Corps in support of the Union attack on the 16th would have been more effective, for a Union victory, than waiting for Ewell to come up in support of Lee on the 17th.(ergo, my contention that those lost 24 hrs, was a mistake, because it benefitted Lee more than it did little mac)
 
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