Why was it so difficult to "rip the innards out"

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MikeyB

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The Union navy had dominance. The Confederacy has a massive east coastline from Florida up to Virginia.

Why didn't the Union navy ever land a battle group in size somewhere on the Georgia, Florida or SC coastline and breakout, moving towards Atlanta or making South Carolina and Charleston howl?

I understand there were Union troops in all of these states, but why did they never do anything in size? If Savannah and Atlanta were so significant when Sherman got to them, why not do something in 1862 or 1863 and move on them through the coast and utilizing your Naval power? Doesn't it make sense to open up another front and make the overland approaches easier (What Rosecrans and Sherman were doing)?

mike
 

Carronade

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After the capture of Port Royal Sound in November 1861, they made repeated attempts on Charleston such as the battle of Secessionville (June 1862) and the famous attacks on Battery Wagner and other Confederate fortifications. They also went down the coast to capture Fort Pulaski which controlled the seaward approaches to Savannah.
 

MikeyB

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After the capture of Port Royal Sound in November 1861, they made repeated attempts on Charleston such as the battle of Secessionville (June 1862) and the famous attacks on Battery Wagner and other Confederate fortifications. They also went down the coast to capture Fort Pulaski which controlled the seaward approaches to Savannah.
But its such a long coastline. Surely there must be somewhere you can land that isn't fortified like Battery Wagner and Fort Pulaski and then break out? Heck, why can't you land guys in Florida near Fort Pickens and then just march them North to get to Atlanta?
 

DaveBrt

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But its such a long coastline. Surely there must be somewhere you can land that isn't fortified like Battery Wagner and Fort Pulaski and then break out? Heck, why can't you land guys in Florida near Fort Pickens and then just march them North to get to Atlanta?
They captured the perfect jumping off spot when they took the North Carolina Sounds in early 1862. Burnside wanted to head inland for Weldon (cutting the eastern railroad line to Richmond) or Raleigh. Lack of strategic thinking caused the recall of most of his troops to join McClellan. A second effort, of any size, was not made until Sherman approached in 1865.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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McClellan and Halleck after him (and even more so) were not fond of very deep envelopments, evidently. The enclaves along the coast were never really followed up with anything deeply penetrating, even though many of the local commanders could see the wasted opportunities. It blows my mind how often there was an opportunity to cut the rail line leading right to the ANV with no sustained efforts made to take it out (though, to be fair, rail lines would be repaired quickly, so it would have to be something sustained rather than a raid).
 

Joshism

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The biggest concern is the difficulty of 1860s logistics. Supplied by ship then overland on bad roads, probably without railroads. Supply lines very vulnerable to cavalry raids.

Furthermore, the GA and SC coast is mostly marsh and swamp with few good harbors (almost all of them fortified by Confederates). The long Florida coast was essentially worthless as there was little value to the interior except trying to cut off the beef supply.

NC seems like the biggest missed opportunity, even if only for Meridian-style raids.

The coastal strategy was not always effective. Yes, it got many important footholds. It also had failures like Secessionville, Olustee, Natural Bridge, Sabine Pass, and Galveston. Arguably, Bermuda Hundred and Red River belong in this category too.
 

Carronade

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But its such a long coastline. Surely there must be somewhere you can land that isn't fortified like Battery Wagner and Fort Pulaski and then break out? Heck, why can't you land guys in Florida near Fort Pickens and then just march them North to get to Atlanta?
That's basically what they did at places like Port Royal and Hatteras, where the Navy could mass sufficient firepower to overwhelm the defenses the Confederates had been able to construct in the few months since secession. Those places then became bases for further operations, though as has been mentioned, they were reluctant to push too far inland.

One thing to keep in mind is the Confederates' advantage of interior lines, facilitated by their rail network. They could shift troops between Virginia, Tennessee, and wherever the Federals might press inland from the coast. And of course fighting in their own territory would make their logistics easier than that of Union forces advancing away from the coast.
 

DaveBrt

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The biggest concern is the difficulty of 1860s logistics. Supplied by ship then overland on bad roads, probably without railroads. Supply lines very vulnerable to cavalry raids.

Furthermore, the GA and SC coast is mostly marsh and swamp with few good harbors (almost all of them fortified by Confederates). The long Florida coast was essentially worthless as there was little value to the interior except trying to cut off the beef supply.

NC seems like the biggest missed opportunity, even if only for Meridian-style raids.

The coastal strategy was not always effective. Yes, it got many important footholds. It also had failures like Secessionville, Olustee, Natural Bridge, Sabine Pass, and Galveston. Arguably, Bermuda Hundred and Red River belong in this category too.
All the failures you note, but one, had the problem that they were not relevant to the winning of the war. Obviously, Bermuda Hundred was -- for the same reason the NC Sounds were -- they had the chance of cutting vital lines of communication to Lee and Richmond. The landing is not the point -- the landing just makes inland movement possible. Like D-day, you had to move to create victory.
 

DaveBrt

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That's basically what they did at places like Port Royal and Hatteras, where the Navy could mass sufficient firepower to overwhelm the defenses the Confederates had been able to construct in the few months since secession. Those places then became bases for further operations, though as has been mentioned, they were reluctant to push too far inland.

One thing to keep in mind is the Confederates' advantage of interior lines, facilitated by their rail network. They could shift troops between Virginia, Tennessee, and wherever the Federals might press inland from the coast. And of course fighting in their own territory would make their logistics easier than that of Union forces advancing away from the coast.
Yes they had interior lines, but the Union had the ability to strike a place without warning. The records show dozens of warnings sent to various commanders that a Federal force was going to sea -- but they never knew where it was headed.

Even as early as 1862, the South was too short of manpower to confront a new, major front. With Corinth and the Peninsula underway, new troops to confront a thrust from the Sounds would have been VERY hard to come by.

Regarding logistics, the Union could (and did) use the Atlantic & North Carolina RR to support operations inland. Also, several small rivers would have been of use -- Roanoke, Tar, Neuse, Pamlico, Chowan and others.
 

MikeyB

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thanks for all the replies. i guess it makes sense. and w/ halleck's concentration doctrine, i suppose makes even more sense.
All the failures you note, but one, had the problem that they were not relevant to the winning of the war. Obviously, Bermuda Hundred was -- for the same reason the NC Sounds were -- they had the chance of cutting vital lines of communication to Lee and Richmond. The landing is not the point -- the landing just makes inland movement possible. Like D-day, you had to move to create victory.
What got me thinking about this question was Atlanta. If Atlanta was such a major industrial hub and key to the Confederacy, why couldn't the Union take it sooner? And that got me thinking about why not land troops on the GA coast or Florida and march up to take it, or at least take troops from Bragg to defend.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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Atlanta is a long way inland.

The key question here, really, as @DaveBrt put his finger on, was why the North Carolina operations weren't better supported or followed up on. NC wasn't so far away as to make logistics basically impossible (for that, see Texas, coast of), the Union already had secure footholds and routes of entry, and the Sounds themselves take the Union nearly as far as their strategic destinations... definitely some missed opportunities there.
 

PatW

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Logistics is a big part of it. You can have a base supplied by sea. Ships are great at transporting things so your base can supply an army easily. Or your base can be supplied by river, if it is navigable. But it can be blocked by batteries. You can also have a base supplied by rail. Rail lines are vulnerable to being cut. If they run through unfriendly territory, they have to be guarded and have large repair teams for the inevitable cuts from raiders and locals.

Once you leave the base, your supply is by horse drawn wagons. Supply trains for an army stretched for miles. Also, your horses needed forage. There was a finite range of this kind of supply because you had to haul forage and the horses ate it so the farther you went the more of your train was devoted to forage. You had about a 100 mile reach with this kind of supply.

Sherman’s March lived off the land but that was one off. He had trains for ammunition and medicine. But an effective opposition would slow him and force him to withdraw or revert to supply trains.

Finally, there is the problem of leadership. Both sides lacked competent commanders with imagination, aggressiveness and initiative. It was especially hard when you had to sell your idea to a commanding general: McClellan or Halleck who were conventional, and cautious.
 

Carronade

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Sherman's March was an unusual case in that while advancing deeper into enemy territory, he was marching towards his source of resupply.

A Union attack in the reverse direction would have ever-lengthening supply lines, in hostile territory, subject to attack from guerillas, local militia, or cavalry, all aided by the sympathetic population. They could use the rivers as far as Macon or Milledgeville, whatever their capacity might be; of course rivercraft are also subject to attack or harassment. Foraging might be limited if there were strong Confederate forces in the area.

So I agree with others that the Union may have had opportunities, but Atlanta probably wasn't one of them.
 

damYankee

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How many amphibious missions did the navy carry out on the rivers?
Perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of Union successes in the Trans Mississippi theater is the story US Navy river warfare.
The US Navy carried out numerous landings, support missions, bombardments on the Tennessee, Cumberland and Mississippi River as well as in the rivers of Virginia. Those missions deserve to be remembered. ,
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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How many amphibious missions did the navy carry out on the rivers?
Perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of Union successes in the Trans Mississippi theater is the story US Navy river warfare.
The US Navy carried out numerous landings, support missions, bombardments on the Tennessee, Cumberland and Mississippi River as well as in the rivers of Virginia. Those missions deserve to be remembered. ,
I think the truth is that had the CSA half the waterborne capability of the Union , the Union could not have won this war. We have a distorted view of events because the Union Army gets credit for so many victories that could not have been accomplished without naval support.
 

Carronade

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Even as early as 1862, the South was too short of manpower to confront a new, major front. With Corinth and the Peninsula underway, new troops to confront a thrust from the Sounds would have been VERY hard to come by.
Intriguing point. While Union resources were superior, they were not unlimited. A new effort somewhere would mean less combat power on one or more of the existing fronts.

The real nightmare for the weaker side would be to have all or most of the combat power of both sides concentrated on one front, or just a few fronts. This leaves little choice but to submit to ongoing attrition.

Multiple Union fronts around the periphery of the Confederacy offered the rebels a chance to concentrate against one at a time rather than submit to the tyranny of numbers.

Eventually Lincoln and Grant worked out the right formula, ensuring that commanders on all fronts kept the pressure on and kept their share of the Confederate army pinned down.
 

DaveBrt

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Intriguing point. While Union resources were superior, they were not unlimited. A new effort somewhere would mean less combat power on one or more of the existing fronts.

The real nightmare for the weaker side would be to have all or most of the combat power of both sides concentrated on one front, or just a few fronts. This leaves little choice but to submit to ongoing attrition.

Multiple Union fronts around the periphery of the Confederacy offered the rebels a chance to concentrate against one at a time rather than submit to the tyranny of numbers.

Eventually Lincoln and Grant worked out the right formula, ensuring that commanders on all fronts kept the pressure on and kept their share of the Confederate army pinned down.
The threat to Richmond from the loss of the eastern rail supply line would have been so great that troops would have had to have been taken from Jackson or Johnston/Lee to meet it. That leaves the Shenandoah open and too few troops to cover Richmond. While troops were racing to meet Burnside, he is causing untold trouble in eastern North Carolina. The Corinth front was such a numbers mismatch that nothing could be sent to the Carolinas from there.

Adding another front would compound the Confederacy's command and supply problems. They had just lost Shiloh, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Portsmouth, the NC Sounds, Ft. Pulaski, several bridges on the Atlanta to Richmond RR. The loss of Weldon and or Raleigh would be like the southern France landings in WW2 -- there was nothing left with which to oppose it.
 

damYankee

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I think the truth is that had the CSA half the waterborne capability of the Union , the Union could not have won this war. We have a distorted view of events because the Union Army gets credit for so many victories that could not have been accomplished without naval support.
The Rebels should have thought about that before they started firing on Federal instillations .
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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The threat to Richmond from the loss of the eastern rail supply line would have been so great that troops would have had to have been taken from Jackson or Johnston/Lee to meet it. That leaves the Shenandoah open and too few troops to cover Richmond. While troops were racing to meet Burnside, he is causing untold trouble in eastern North Carolina. The Corinth front was such a numbers mismatch that nothing could be sent to the Carolinas from there.

Adding another front would compound the Confederacy's command and supply problems. They had just lost Shiloh, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Portsmouth, the NC Sounds, Ft. Pulaski, several bridges on the Atlanta to Richmond RR. The loss of Weldon and or Raleigh would be like the southern France landings in WW2 -- there was nothing left with which to oppose it.
As it was, the Federals could not safely advance in Eastern NC, nor could the Rebs throw them out. Advancing west from the deeper waters in Eastern NC meant long supply lines, lines that would require a lot of personnel to secure. McClellan got a good dose of that attempting to use a supply base fed east of the Peninsula, and Grant would not even attempt it, as to approaching Richmond.
What muddles all this is Braxton Bragg's inability to actually seal off Chattanooga. Bragg and Longstreet really worked against each other.Then Sherman used a single rail line in North Georgia to advance on Atlanta while Joe Johnston ignored a golden opportunity to confound Sherman for months. It seemed for all the world a Civil War army could advance long distances from a secure supply base, but, no such thing should have been possible.
 
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