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American Civil War

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Big Time:
I'm a details man when it come to military history, so I apologize if it seems the ACW has been covered in several other topics. I find the history of our own Civil War to be fascinating in many aspects and I would like to discuss it further in a dedicated thread.

More specifically:

1. Union General has mentioned that the Henry Rifle is the manliest of Civil War rifles. I couldn't disagree, the Henry was badass. But it was hardly prolific. The ACW was the only time in our history that we had such variation in individual shoulder arms on the battlefield. Coming from the 21st Century, this is amazing to me as everything in most modern militaries is so standardized. Supply must have been a nightmare in the ACW, I don't know how they did it. In the early war, Confederate volunteers not infrequently showed up to muster with flintlock muskets. This would be like me showing up for deployment training now with a Winchester or an early 20th Century bolt-action rifle. Plus, so many of our shoulder arms were supplied by the UK or Europe. Interesting that they didn't take a more active role in our war.

2. The Union had the decided advantage in artillery throughout the war. The most common pieces being the Napoleon 12-pounder and the 3-Inch Ordinance Rifle. The Confederacy relied heavily on captured field guns, which also blows my mind as this must have created a major headache for supply and training. That being said, my favorite artillerist of the war was ironically E. P. Alexander, a Confederate. Talk about making the most of what you have, Alexander was a forward-thinking officer and deserves more credit than history has afforded him.

3. Europe saw the U.S. as a backwater state and our war as a backwater affair. It's a shame, because it was a very modern war in many regards and Europe could have learned a lot of lessons from it if they'd bothered to study it. This isn't an argument about the "first modern war," there are cases to be made for several wars to claim this title. But the ACW was at the cusp of the modern era of warfare regardless.

4. Lee. So much has been said about Lee, I don't know where to go with this. Lee's involvement kept the war going probably three years longer than it would have if he'd not sided with the Confederates. Hell, if he'd come with us the war might have only lasted six months like everyone predicted. But who knows? Anyway, Lee always said his first loyalty was Virginia so it is probably an irrelevant question. I will say that Lee's decision to launch Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg cost him that battle and what remained of the Confederate initiative. Did it cost the South the war? Let me know what you think...

5. The ACW is among the most important events concerning the formation of our current Union (yes, we are all now Union as we won the war  :icon_wink:). As important, if not more so, than:

   A. The Declaration of Independence
   B. The Ratification of our Constitution
   C. Manifest Destiny
   D. The Monroe Doctrine
These are a few things I like to discuss. Feel free to talk about whatever you want regarding the ACW, from field rations of the typical soldier to the Abolition of Slavery.

Gustavus Magnus:
Good questions and a topic that I find interesting.

1.  The Henry was a good gun, better when they started making the shell casings in brass instead of copper. As it ws difficult to get ammo, I wouldn't have wanted to carry one during the war unless I was certain I could get ammo when I needed it.

If I had been a regular infantryman, I think I would have preferred the .58 caliber 3 band Enfield.  I know some reenactors who have them and the rifle is incredibly accurate for a muzzleloader.  They are easy to clean and fired a standard minie ball so getting ammo wouldn't have been a problem.

The scariets muzzleloader of the time was the Whitworth rifle, which was used by some Confederate snipers.  I know someone who has a replica and while it is stunningly accurate, the barrel has to be cleaned every few shots or else the odd shaped hexagonal bullet can get stuck in the barrel while loading.

2. The South had a number of good artillery officers.  Edward Alexander and John Pelham are two that immediately come to mind. 

3.  I agree.  The siege at Petersburg was certainly a glimse of trench warfare to come.  As far as Europeans studying the ACW, I found out that some battles, such as Brice's Crossroads, were studied by German officers before and after the First World War.

4.  I live in the South and went to college in Mississippi so I am used to hearing heaps of praise and very little criticism when it comes to Lee.  In a History of the American Military class, I thought I was going to start a fist fight when I dared point out several of the mistakes that Lee made during the war.  I think Lee was a good Army level general and at his best when on defense. Some of his mistakes may be forgiven/understood as he probably either grew overconfident or began underestimating his opponents because of his early successes against McClelland and other third rate generals.  I think his decision to attack the Federal center on the 3rd day was a gross blunder.  Doing some simple math equations using how long it would take the Conferates across the field, the rate of fire of enemy guns, and even bad estimate by half of the number of troops and artillery guns available to the Union, and it looks obvious that the attack was doomed to fail.  Did failure at Gettysburg effectively end any chance of success for the South?  No.  I think barring Lincoln losing the 1864 election or multiple disasters for Union armies in the field, there was no chance that the South could win.

5.  I think the Civil War and its aftermath was certainly critical to the history of the country.  Had the South succeeded in splitting, the United States likely would not have become the greatest industrial power from 1917 on.

Well, I don't really have much to add at this point.  I know I've been a Lee 'apologist' to some, but more like a realist, IMO.  He did make mistakes, but I appreciate the Yankee known as Big Time for acknowledging that he was, in fact, a beast of a general.

Oh, I suppose I could add that I think Gettysburg was a crippling blow to the Army of Northern Virginia and it basically sealed the fate of the war in the East.  But possibly more importantly was the fall of Vicksburg on the following day.  That was really when the Anaconda Plan really took hold.

I wouldplace it behind both the ratification of the constitution and the declaration of inependance.  It was a result of the ideas put forth by those two documents.  Had they not taken the shape they did, the war would have never happened.

Count meas one who isn't enamored with the ACW.  It was a brutal affair, poorly exectuted in many ways, with one side being decidedly on the side of evil.


I think it's a regional thing.  If you grow up with it around you, and in many ways still being fought, it still gives you a great deal of interest. 

I really have no interest in the Revolution because not much happened in this area besides Yorktown which is quite a distance away.

I think your point is valid about the formation of the country, Phil.  But I maintain that without the compromises there never would have been a country to begin with. 


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