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Subject: Decisive Theater of War
AlbanyRifles    1/19/2006 10:49:06 AM
When I wrote my thesis in graduate school about the Civil War, one of my premises was that from 1861 to 1864, the Eastern Theaer had a larger focus than it deserved as compared to the Western theater (kind of strange on my part sitting in Central Virginia)! I ascribed to theory that the loss by the Union at 1st Manassas caused the US to concentrate resources in the East which would have been better served campaigning in the West and Southeast…in other words, following Scott’s Anaconda Plan. I hav modified my beliefs some in the intervening (14!!!) years since I wrote that…what are your views?
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S-2    RE:Decisive Theater of War   1/19/2006 12:55:09 PM
I believe that you're correct. Some thoughts and questions. That the loss of 1st Manassas may have "caused" the North to focus attention in the east may be true to some degree, but why? Fear, or opportunity? Certainly, there was both fear and panic in Washington D.C. in the immediate aftermath of 1st Manassas. As I recall, there was considerable panic-driven speculation that Confederate forces would be on D.C's doorstep at anytime following the defeat, and continued for some weeks to come. This was soon resolved through a variety of military means, and the immediate threat was removed. However, within one month of 1st Manassas, the Confederacy moved their capitol from Montgomery to Richmond, I believe in recognition of the pre-eminent role played by Virginia, though(IIRC)the last state of consequence to secede. So while the immediate threat of invasion of the north was mitigated, the opportunity to seize the capital of the south was certainly a political/military prize of extreme importance (center of gravity, anyone?). And remained so throughout the war. Indeed, it can be argued that the north possessed just the means to do so twice early in the war- 1.) the Peninsula campaign had offered McClellan opportunities to do so, as did, 2.) Antietam. Clearly, Antietam was a major faux pas of McClellan. He could/should have DESTROYED Lee's forces at Sharpsburg, with the way to Richmond wide open as a consequence. That he failed doesn't stain the quality of the objective (the attainable destruction of the Army of Northern Virginia and the removal of Richmond as the political center of gravity for the south). To that end, therefore, it can be argued that the maintenance of the Army of the Potomac in overwhelming strength served to tie the Confederacy's strategic defense to the tactical/operational defense of Virginia, with the locus of Richmond always prominent in their minds-and requiring the stationing of most of their strength in the east. One might argue that the north put far more into attacking the west than the south did in defending it. Some have suggested that Scott's "Anaconda" (McClellan called it the "Boa-Constrictor theory-what a snot)was disparaged as insufficiently aggressive. However, the genesis of his thoughts stem back to musings prior to actual conflict. He believed that the true value of this policy was best implemented before the outbreak of war-that by convincing the south of the Union's control of their tangible war-making assets and primary economic avenue of transit (the Mississippi River chain)would force the secessionists to reason before conflict erupted. I use "musings" with some caution. It's my understanding that Scott had not fully clarified his strategy to himself, nor articulated it successfully to others when it mattered. Actually, I've read that much of his thinking evolved during the course of Presidential daily briefings which he personally undertook in the days immediately before and after 1st Manassas. It seems that Lincoln (a westerner himself) encouraged Scott's thoughts, and the subsequent discourse between the two men was sufficient to convince Lincoln that, regardless of the validity of posting large Union armies in the east, that the war must be prosecuted equally strongly out west. To my way of thinking, both sides recognized the value of the west. Both also recognized their evident vulnerability/opportunity represented by the proximity of their capitols to one another back east. Remember that Gettysburg certainly represented a threat to Washington, which had already been outflanked. Could the Union recapture Washington D.C., were it seized? Probably, but the political damage overseas would already be done, were that so. Equally, the same for Richmond. While less likely that the south might recapture it's capitol, clearly Davis and others would remove the government and continue the fight from elsewhere. Again, though, the damage to their credibility would have been undeniable overseas. Finally, the war in the west hardly lacked focus to those fighting, nor to those conducting the war. The numbers of troops, and the battles-Vicksburg, Ft. Donaldson and Island No. 10, Shiloh, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, finally down into Georgia speak to its EVENTUAL prominence. My thoughts, somewhat incoherant. Why did you modify your thoughts in the intervening years? And how?
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AlbanyRifles    Deuce   1/19/2006 1:37:13 PM
I modified from being hard on that point to a little softer on it...a lot in mind of exactly what you wrote (I got into a spirited discussion at a seminar with Lay Luvaas on this very topic). My reasons for changing 1. The AOP in 62-early 64 didn't have winning the war as tehir primary purpose...they had not losing th ewar as their primary purpose. Hence Porter advising McClellan at Antietam not send in the reserves so as to ensure that there would be fresh troops to interpose between Lee and DC. I could imagine a commander of Meade's, Han's or Reynolds character realizing attacking and detroying Lee would prevent that from happening as well. 2. The importance of Richmond. In a rebellion, the insurgent army needs to be the center of gravity. So the Federals should have been following a force destruction rather than a terrain retention goal. However, when Richmond became prominent from an industrial stand point by early 1862 when Grant seized the lower Cumberland and Tennessee river valleys....and the foundries which resided there. Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond became the primary industrial base of the Confederacy after that. That is why Richmond was important to the CSA not as a governmental seat. I sometimes jokingly refer to the Eastern Theater as the Battle of I-95. And I also remind my Eastern Advocate friends that the AOP, et al, travelled 249 miles from DC to Appomattox....the Armies of the West went almost 3,000 miles from Cairo, IL to Bentonville! BTW, need anything from Lawton? Heading there next week!
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S-2    RE:Deuce   1/19/2006 2:11:41 PM
"BTW, need anything from Lawton?" What I need, you can't give me- 1.)the sound of recruits marching to and from class, 2.) the sound of a brigade TOT being fired on the base of Signal Mt. I never thought back in the day that I'd miss it, but I do. A buddy of mine and I are actually talking about going back for a few days. Did you know that the golfcourse was a 7th Cav. bivouac? Odd to me that Sill is named for a cavalryman and Knox for a/the (God bless Henry Knox)cannoneer. You're correct about the primacy of maintaining an "insurgent army in being". Not much of a luxury for the south, though, and not an option for the north at all, whose capital required defense. What's odd, though, is that Washington was heavily defended-even without the AOP's presence. Even more correct in the importance of maintaining the significant industrial base that Richmond/St.Pete came to represent. Didn't Birmingham see it's emergence as a foundry/munitions store prior to the war? I don't know, but would assume that the closure of Mobile/New Orleans, coupled with Sherman's cutting of the rail lines north-south when crossing into Georgia from Tennessee eliminated this area as a means of sustenance, even if North Alabama could produce munitions/supplies.
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S-2    RE:Deuce   1/19/2006 2:12:52 PM
"Eastern Advocate friends that the AOP, et al, travelled 249 miles from DC to Appomattox..." It was a rather hellacious 249 miles.
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AlbanyRifles    249 Miles   1/20/2006 9:07:53 AM
No argument there The screen name is for th 43rd New York which was a VIth Corps unit; fought all the way from fall 61 to April 65. Also, FYI its not ST Petersburg. I happen to be sitting about 500 yards to the entrance of the Petersburg National Battlefield...which would mean I work on FT Lee. I knew about the golf course...a good buddy of mine here was a gunner and he told me a lot of cool stuff about Sill. I visited as an ROTC cadet in the 70s and got to rapell off of Geronimo's Cliff. As for Sill & Knox.....well you may not realize this but the the artillery and cavalry/armor switched posts in the interwar years (1930s) since artillery needed longer range. Also, Bragg was opened to be an artillery school for WW I.
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S-2    RE:249 Miles/St. Pete's   1/20/2006 1:40:34 PM
Gosh. We've got three inches of fresh white stuff yesterday...still snowing. Maybe I had Florida on my mind. Naw... copout. I just threw it in there without (as per norm)thinking. Didn't know about the Sill/Knox switch in the interwar period. Thanks. Suspected some artillery lineage to Ft. Bragg, being that Braxton, I believe, was an artilleryman. Didn't he command a battery in Mexico? Now THAT was an interesting little scuffle. Careers of our finest started south of the border. You're a lucky man at Lee. I can't imagine a neater locale for somebody who possesses the interest that you do in the war, not to mention all the great museums in ready access for your viewing pleasure. I had seen you mention your "screen name" to somebody else. Frankly, living in Oregon, I'd speculated to myself that perhaps Albany, Oregon had once contributed to the local militias within the Willamette valley.
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AlbanyRifles    FT Lee   1/20/2006 3:03:46 PM
Now you know why I branch transferred to QM after Bradley Company command and then decided to homestead here. Early retire in 95 and been her esince 1989. A very good friend is executive diector of Pamplin Park () so I get to see/do some great stuff. 2 years ago I spent 3 weekends in a row driving every little road between the Rappahanock and the James rivers following the tracks of all of the forces during the Overland Campaign.. This is a great place to live! If you want to read about Captain Braxton Bragg's exploits in Mexico I highly recommend John S. D. Eisenhower's So Far From God. A great survey of the war with some excellent sources and stories BTW to show you what a genius I am, here I was in Central Virginia an dlook at my Thesis Title J.F.C. FULLER'S NINE PRINCIPLES OF WAR AND ULYSSES S. GRANT'S GENERALSHIP AT SHILOH, VICKSBURG & CHATTANOOGA Glad I was able to pick something local!!
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CJH    RE:Decisive Theater of War   1/20/2006 6:13:17 PM
It is my understanding that the conflict in the eastern theater was indecisive whereas that in the western theater decided the outcome of the war. That is, Lee's surrender in south central Virginia was the end result of a process of general demoralization set in motion by Sherman's march to the sea. I got that by reading Liddell Hart's "Strategy, The Indirect Approach" anyway.
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S-2    RE:FT Lee/Master's Thesis   1/20/2006 6:40:17 PM
Perhaps it's a mapreading issue? I hear it's a common problem amongst infantry officers. Just kidding (I think), but, in a way, a very neat idea. It compelled you to study a region separate from where you lived, and expand your horizons with respect to the war. Like you said, given your knowledge and proximity, you engage in weekend trips of that I can only dream. At your leisure. Too cool. Without really knowing, I've often thought (perhaps incorrectly) that Gettysburg, Sharpsburg, Chancellorsville, and Fredericksburg are probably no more than two hundred miles from one end to the other. Could be wrong, and traffic densities may mitigate against my notions, but what a gas it would be to spend a couple of weeks pounding that turf.
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AlbanyRifles    CJH   1/21/2006 10:29:58 PM
Lee surrendered because his army had been pounded into submission by the Army of the Potomac...not because of anything Sherman did (and I am a huge fan of his). From the start of the Overland Campaign, Grabt grabbed hold of the ANV and would not let go. In fact an offshoot of the AOP, The Army of the Shenandoah had a bigger impact by taking away foodstuffs from the ANV. Sherman's biggest impact was the demoralization of SC & NC troops around Petersburg in the winter 64/65 which caused them to desert in higher numbers than other troops. Tis wa sbecause Sherman was tearing up their homes.
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