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"What Took the North So Long?" Topic


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650 hits since 7 Jun 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Tango0107 Jun 2018 9:36 p.m. PST

"THE CIVIL WAR DEVASTATED THE SOUTH AND SAVAGED THE ARMIES OF BOTH SIDES, exacting a casualty toll that made it one of the costliest wars in modern times and the worst in American history. At the heart of the bloody struggle lay the grand strategy of the North. As with grand strategy through­ out history, Northern strategy emerged only gradually. The strategic path to victory was not clear on either side in 1861. Nor was the outcome of the war preordained. Political and military leaders on both sides enjoyed few of the prerequisites in education, inclination, and background to wage a war of this magnitude and intensity.

The North was eventually victorious because its leadership learned from its mistakes and adapted to the "real" conditions of war. In particular, Abra­ham Lincoln, a backwoods Illinois lawyer with only 90 days of militia experience in the Black Hawk War of 1832, and Ulysses S. Grant, perhaps the clearest-thinking general in American history, solidified Northern strategy and grasped victory from the wreckage of the early days…."
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Amicalement
Armand

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP08 Jun 2018 7:22 a.m. PST

I would not claim any great expertise with the ACW but the article's title strikes me as an odd question: 'What took the North so long?'

The North lost most battles and the Rebels won most of them until Grant arose. Seems pretty self-evident to me.

donlowry08 Jun 2018 8:05 a.m. PST

The North lost most battles and the Rebels won most of them until Grant arose. Seems pretty self-evident to me.

Only in the East. Every major battle in the West (not counting the Trans-Mississippi) was a Union victory except Chickamauga.

To conquer an area the size of Western Europe in 4 years, with that level of technology, does not seem "so long" to me.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP08 Jun 2018 8:24 a.m. PST

Agreed.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP08 Jun 2018 8:28 a.m. PST

To conquer an area the size of Western Europe in 4 years, with that level of technology, does not seem "so long" to me.

That is an excellent point. There shear size of the Confederate States, the relatively poor communications net, the lack of even good maps all made this a monumental effort, particularly since you had to build both an army and navy from pretty much scratch.

That said, it's worth pointing out that the Prussians under von Moltke the Elder succeeded a comprehensive defeat of France in six months and the Austrians in six weeks.

Personal logo Jeff Ewing Supporting Member of TMP08 Jun 2018 8:32 a.m. PST

it's worth pointing out that the Prussians under von Moltke the Elder succeeded a comprehensive defeat of France in six months and the Austrians in six weeks.
With a larger and more professional army, however.

Garde de Paris08 Jun 2018 8:34 a.m. PST

When one recognizes that the north has over 20 million citizens, and the south only about 9 million, the South would have had to kill about 2.2 men to one of theirs. This was rarely done, and even Chickamauga, the casualties were 16,000 Yankees (including 6,000 captured!), vs 18.000 for the confederates was – on the strategic sense – a tragic loss for the confederates. Any battle where casualties were 2 Yankees to 1 confederate would be a strategic victory for the north.

Lincoln eventually wanted a general – as in Grant – who understood that kill factor.

GdeP

ToysnSoldiers08 Jun 2018 8:45 a.m. PST

The North wasn't mobilized for war, when it started. You can't convert from peace economy to war economy overnight. And then you need to recruit, train and supply the armies needed to defeat a determined foe and to conquer a really big chunk of land. It is not like the US had a lot of professional officers to start with, and half of them joined the Confederacy. What is surprising is that it didn't take longer!

Bill N08 Jun 2018 9:06 a.m. PST

In the first couple of years of the war much of the leadership of the U.S. was thinking of resolving the war, if not in one decisive battle then in one decisive campaign. Maybe in the summer of 1861 McDowell could have pulled that off by destroying the Confederate forces at Manassas and then marching on Richmond to negotiate a political settlement. Once the Confederacy had mobilized and put its economy on a war footing that wasn't going to happen. Even if McClellan had bashed through Johnston's forces and captured Richmond, the remnants of the Confederate army would have withdrawn behind the Appomattox River and continued the struggle.

I realize there were some leaders such as Scott who correctly saw the war as a struggle between peoples not just between leaders, who realized that meant victory would take time, and who developed ideas intended to sap the strength of the Confederacy rather than destroy it in one blow. In 1861/1862 they were the exception. One advantage Grant had in 1864 was that the leadership had come to accept the war was going to take as long as it took, and was willing to keep going until it was won.

Trajanus08 Jun 2018 9:07 a.m. PST

Yeah, it was the little things. Like building and equipping an entire Navy for both Ocean and River use. Outfitting and training over 2.5 million men and many hundreds of thousands horses.

You know all those small jobs that just seem to take forever.

Then of course the horses got sick and so did the people – it just dragged on and on.

And folks just kept getting killed all the time and the horses they got killed too ………….

Tango0108 Jun 2018 11:24 a.m. PST

What about the courage and determination of the Rebels…? (smile)

Amicalement
Armand

Personal logo John the Greater Supporting Member of TMP08 Jun 2018 1:29 p.m. PST

One other thing, in addition to the huge effort needed to raise, equip and train a gigantic (by 19th century standards) army, once it was underway the Union was compelled to leave large numbers of troops behind to garrison liberated territory. Grant complains in his memoirs about the hundred of thousands of men required to be on garrison duty.

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP08 Jun 2018 1:36 p.m. PST

Many Union Generals ( Little Mac, Halleck, Mcdowell) didn't want to win if it meant a huge Expending of blood. Sherman was declared mad for saying it was going take 4 years and 300,000 men.
Industrial warfare can support massive armies but it take time to build.

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