Featured Where Do You Disagree With the "Conventional Wisdom" on the Civil War?

Lost Cause

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The purpose of an army is to be used in a nation's service, not saved. Hard on the soldier.
There are 2 questions, did it win and was the cost acceptable.

IMO. During Overland, Lincoln believed yes to answer 1 because Grant did not retreat and he had confidence in Grant and undecided to answer 2; the 1864 election was pending.

Meade's predecessors were notorious for retreating after bloody engagements. This prolonged the war and the number of casualties before Grant came east. In Grant's defense, his continual battles may not have been full victories, but Lee was withdrawing towards Richmond and his army was dwindling. Lee of course was going to fight it out until the end.
 

jgoodguy

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IMO. During Overland, Lincoln believed yes to answer 1 because Grant did not retreat and he had confidence in Grant and undecided to answer 2; the 1864 election was pending.

Meade's predecessors were notorious for retreating after bloody engagements. This prolonged the war and the number of casualties before Grant came east. In Grant's defense, his continual battles may not have been full victories, but Lee was withdrawing towards Richmond and his army was dwindling. Lee of course was going to fight it out until the end.


I agree. IMHO the Union army retreats was like a Walmart for the Confederates, supply them with looted essentials and the retreats allowed for resupply, recovery, new recruits and the return of wounded to service for the Confederates. When Grant stopped the retreats, then that was not possible.
 

Lost Cause

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I agree. IMHO the Union army retreats was like a Walmart for the Confederates, supply them with looted essentials and the retreats allowed for resupply, recovery, new recruits and the return of wounded to service for the Confederates. When Grant stopped the retreats, then that was not possible.

I like the Walmart analogy.
 

SKC

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I think Lee's Antietam campaign was one of the biggest acts of strategic idiocy of the whole war

I can accept the broad “strategic” rationale for the campaign as a whole (get the AoP out of Washington and its forts, hopefully, step into it when it is spread out all over the country side…and kick its butt), but once the campaign came off the rails, I don’t understand what Lee expected to gain from fighting at Antietam. Hindsight is 20/20….but it strikes me that a tactical draw was the best possible outcome.

In retrospect, the Antietam campaign reminds me of the Battle of Atlanta (Hardee’s men, on no sleep, trying to march around the AotT’s flank and rear…and attack them from the rear). Great idea, if your infantry is capable of marching and fighting, without food, 24/7. In practice….maybe not so good.
 

favedave

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I read somewhere that the problem of defeating armies in the Civil War was that the troops and their commanders were literally too exhausted after a major battle to pursue the losers for any distance, without R&R. Thus Lee escaped after Antietam and Gettysburg with his survivors to fight another day. The Overland Campaign under Grant & Meade changed this with a steady stream of men and material flowing out of Washington. Understand that Lee's fights during this campaign were all ended by giving up the ground, even at Cold Harbor. Despite the losses suffered (on both sides) the general consensus of military strategists is that he who gives ground is the loser. Bruce Catton in his three volume history of the AoP notes the shock and joy of the Union troops at Grant's immediately continuing to drive towards Richmond and pursuit of the ANV, as opposed to all of their previous commanders who immediately retreated back to D.C. following Lee's tactical victories at places like Chancellorsville.

Lee was not a strategist, he was a brilliant tactician on his home soil.
 

Lost Cause

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I read somewhere that the problem of defeating armies in the Civil War was that the troops and their commanders were literally too exhausted after a major battle to pursue the losers for any distance, without R&R. Thus Lee escaped after Antietam and Gettysburg with his survivors to fight another day. The Overland Campaign under Grant & Meade changed this with a steady stream of men and material flowing out of Washington. Understand that Lee's fights during this campaign were all ended by giving up the ground, even at Cold Harbor. Despite the losses suffered (on both sides) the general consensus of military strategists is that he who gives ground is the loser. Bruce Catton in his three volume history of the AoP notes the shock and joy of the Union troops at Grant's immediately continuing to drive towards Richmond and pursuit of the ANV, as opposed to all of their previous commanders who immediately retreated back to D.C. following Lee's tactical victories at places like Chancellorsville.

Lee was not a strategist, he was a brilliant tactician on his home soil.

A bit simplistic, but it seems that to be a successful commander in the North, especially in the AOP, meant to swiftly meant aggressively moving forward or outflanking, regardless of costs.
 
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major bill

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Don't forget prior to General Grant all AOP commanders had to insure Washington D.C. would not fall to the Confederacy and had to act to insure the safety of Washington. After Gettysburg the threat of the Confederates captaining Washington was so remote Grant did not have to worry about it. The Battle of Gettysburg affored Grant freedom of action not enjoyed by prior commanders of the AOP.
 

brass napoleon

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Don't forget prior to General Grant all AOP commanders had to insure Washington D.C. would not fall to the Confederacy and had to act to insure the safety of Washington. After Gettysburg the threat of the Confederates captaining Washington was so remote Grant did not have to worry about it. The Battle of Gettysburg affored Grant freedom of action not enjoyed by prior commanders of the AOP.

I have to disagree with this. The Lincoln Administration was still very concerned about Washington. Just look at their reaction to Early's raid. The reason Grant enjoyed more freedom than prior commanders is because he hounded Lee mercilessly and never gave him a chance to take the initiative. His predecessors were willing to leave Lee alone and make an end run for Richmond, giving Lee the opportunity to strike. But swapping capitol cities was a losing proposition for the Union.
 

DR_Hanna

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Where do you disagree with the "conventional wisdom" on the Civil War. In other words, what commonly accepted "truths" about the war do you believe are incorrect?

4. I think that the Confederacy lost the war more due to its own mistakes than due to the superior numbers and resources of the Union.

I'll bite on #4.
I think the margin of error in regard to mistakes was rather slim for the Confederacy - everything had to go right for them to win.
As it is impossible to engage in an effort as complex and risky as fighting a war without making a few mistakes, and mistakes were a luxury they could not afford, the Confederacy was doomed from the start. Doomed to make a few mistakes ( or just to have a few things not go their way) and doomed to lose.
 
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War Horse

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I read somewhere that the problem of defeating armies in the Civil War was that the troops and their commanders were literally too exhausted after a major battle to pursue the losers for any distance, without R&R. Thus Lee escaped after Antietam and Gettysburg with his survivors to fight another day. The Overland Campaign under Grant & Meade changed this with a steady stream of men and material flowing out of Washington. Understand that Lee's fights during this campaign were all ended by giving up the ground, even at Cold Harbor. Despite the losses suffered (on both sides) the general consensus of military strategists is that he who gives ground is the loser. Bruce Catton in his three volume history of the AoP notes the shock and joy of the Union troops at Grant's immediately continuing to drive towards Richmond and pursuit of the ANV, as opposed to all of their previous commanders who immediately retreated back to D.C. following Lee's tactical victories at places like Chancellorsville.

Lee was not a strategist, he was a brilliant tactician on his home soil.
From the time Grant moved toward Spotsylvania rather than retreat Lee knew he was up against a different kind of General. The AOP also knew this was a different kind of leader and welcomed it. I don't believe Lee ever gave Grant an opportunity to defeat him in a single battle. Grant knew as did Lee the ANV could not afford heavy losses as they had no means of replacing them. The AOP did and the enviable played itself out. You have to give it to old Bobby Lee though I doubt anyone else could have played it out as well as he did.
 

4th-MSM

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I disagree with "conventional wisdom" by believing that Missouri did, in fact, secede. But, by the time of the declaration, it was a moot point as much of the elected State Government was already removed by Lyon and replaced with appointed Unionists - the state then placed under martial law by General Fremont.
Now with that said, I hope I don't start a session of deadhorse.gif


theyareontome.gif
 
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OpnCoronet

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I disagree with "conventional wisdom" by believing that Missouri did, in fact, secede. But, by the time of the declaration, it was a moot point as much of the elected State Government was already removed by Lyon and replaced with appointed Unionists - the state then placed under martial law by General Fremont.
Now with that said, I hope I don't start a session of View attachment 52116
View attachment 52115


'Conventional Wisdom' IMO, is usually reserved to conventional times, i.e., what's conventional in 'normal' times, is usually quite different for what is conventional in times of Rebellions or Revolutions.
For a people engaged in Rebellion(and possibly revolution) the southern leadership, at least, were very hidebound and conventional to peacetime America, i.e., Revolutionary times demands revolutionary methods.
 

5th MSM

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I disagree with "conventional wisdom" by believing that Missouri did, in fact, secede. But, by the time of the declaration, it was a moot point as much of the elected State Government was already removed by Lyon and replaced with appointed Unionists - the state then placed under martial law by General Fremont.
Now with that said, I hope I don't start a session of View attachment 52116


View attachment 52115

Curious to know why you believe this. Thought Missouri voted not to secede, and that more men fought for the North than the South. So in what sense did Missouri secede?

And yeah, I have past relatives who fought for the MSG (not monosodium glutimate), MSM, and Confederacy. So I can be two-sided.
 
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