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Author Topic: American Civil War  (Read 4060 times)

Offline Big Time

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American Civil War
« on: October 15, 2009, 04:13:21 AM »
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.
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Offline Gustavus Magnus

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2009, 05:49:20 AM »
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.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2009, 05:52:00 AM by Gustavus Magnus »
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Offline wissenlander

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2009, 11:58:14 AM »
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.
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Offline PhillyT

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2009, 01:06:41 PM »
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.

Phil
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Offline wissenlander

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2009, 01:15:33 PM »
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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Offline PhillyT

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2009, 01:17:18 PM »
Unfortuately that compromise was built on the backs of slavery.  While boths sides used it, one moved its economy away from it, the other refused diversification and embraced it.

The ACW still could have been shorter had some individuals not bowed to state loyalty and instead moved towards the more trancendant federal unity model.

Phil
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Offline wissenlander

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2009, 01:19:25 PM »
Well, this will be a fun discussion as I can already see the stubborn Philly horns growing. :icon_neutral:
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Offline Inarticulate

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2009, 01:25:37 PM »
Both sides were fairly racist though. Black Soldiers in the northern army were paid less and treated much worse then the whites.
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Offline PhillyT

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2009, 01:27:09 PM »
Again, not really that big of a fan of Confederate Retcon or apologists.  Both sides were racist, but removing the slavery aspect still offers innumerable reasons why the south were self serving hypocrites.

Phil
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Offline wissenlander

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2009, 01:30:14 PM »
This should be fun.  :smile2:  Do you see me as an apologist?

What I dislike about these conversations is the simplicity in which some like to make it.  Slavery was the biggest issue in that war, it caused a cascading effect for other issues, but to just give that a once over glance and talk about the southern devil and the northern angel is just pure poppycock.

I look at this from an American perspective.  Both sides being American, you know.  And looking at it from the angle of their eyes then, and not now.  We can learn from the mistakes of the past, but realize why they made the decisions they made then.  It's so much more fulfilling then having a haughty attitude about it and judging based on standards of today (in regards to the federal vs. state governments).

« Last Edit: October 15, 2009, 01:37:51 PM by wissenlander »
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Offline Fandir Nightshade

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2009, 01:45:06 PM »
Can´t you guys just watch "north and south" (yes the patrick swayze one again) and see how both sides had their merit and good guys and bad guys? I soo love General Lee for that movie as he tells the president that he will fight for him even if he dislikes the treatment of slaves in the south.

Offline wissenlander

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2009, 01:47:53 PM »
Can´t you guys just watch "north and south" (yes the patrick swayze one again) and see how both sides had their merit and good guys and bad guys?

I've not seen that in quite some time, but that's where I stand on the situation.  I live on the cusp of 'northern' territory (as Northern Virginia has a different feel to the rest of the state).  So it has given me a good perspective of both sides of the argument.  I have no disdain for the north, nor the south (besides the slavery issue).  It was a regrettable and unfortunate war, but one that has forged our nation into one of even greater strength.
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Offline jlutin

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2009, 02:52:50 PM »
The South was right in so many ways.  They just choose the wrong horse to fight from (slavery).

As far as the war, I would like to recommend Grant's memoirs.  It is an excellent read and provides good insight on the West Campaign and things you would have not guessed.

One thing, Grant would often stay up at night and he and his "boss" would sit beside a telegraph operator on a dedicated line and have a "real time" conversation from hundreds of miles away.  Imagine what that would have felt like at that time and technology. 

The north would also immediately set up temporary telegraph circuits along it's line of battle so that Grant could hear from and communicate to his field commanders.  The soldiers would lay the line, then have a large number of men with poles tall enough to allow passage lift the line all at the same time.

Grant truly used the communication tech he had to impact the battle.  That saw it's ultimate expression in the Gulf Wars.

To add to the above artillery comment, near the end Grant started sending his artillery back to DC.  He has so much, that the train to supply it was severely impacting his ability to supply solders with food and ammo and slowing down the army.  I think at one point he sent half his artillery back north to get it out of the way.

That is why the South could never have won as long as the North had the will to fight and the World powers would stay out of the fight.  Heck, even if other powers had joined in, the end result probably would have been the same.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2009, 02:55:23 PM by jlutin »
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Offline wissenlander

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2009, 03:01:51 PM »
The longer the war went, the worse it got for logistical reasons.  Really the only way to have won was to break the will of the north, and while I suppose it was feasable it would've taken a near perfect execution on the part of the south, and quickly, too (by quickly meaning the first two years).
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Offline PhillyT

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2009, 04:03:57 PM »
This should be fun.  :smile2:  Do you see me as an apologist?

Marginally.  I can't get excited enough about this to really dig into it.  We will surey have ths discussion again!

Phil
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Offline wissenlander

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2009, 04:15:20 PM »
It could be worse.  I could call it the War of Northern Aggression.  But then that would ruin any street cred I had accumulated.
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Offline jlutin

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2009, 06:05:12 PM »
It could be worse.  I could call it the War of Northern Aggression.  But then that would ruin any street cred I had accumulated.

I am not offended by that term.  It reflects the reality of the issue for the South, perfectly.
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Offline Gustavus Magnus

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2009, 08:13:04 PM »
I laugh at the "War of Northern Aggression" title.  The South fired at Fort Sumter first.

While I do think there are laws that the Federal government should leave up to the states, slavery was clearly something that needed to be addressed on a national level.  It was unfortunate that the issue wasn't resolved at the time of the founding of the country or shortly thereafter instead of requiring a war to finally resolve the issue.
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Offline jlutin

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2009, 08:19:40 PM »
I laugh at the "War of Northern Aggression" title.  The South fired at Fort Sumter first.

Duh, It's the War of Northern Aggression not the War of Northern Attacking Us.  Of course us Yankees call it the "War of Southern Shot Us First While We Were Minding Our Own Business Occupying a Fort That We Owned in the Newly Independent Country "or WoSSUFWWWMOFTWOBOaFitIC.
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Offline Inarticulate

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2009, 08:48:11 PM »
I'm just amazed Union general hasn't come yet. Surely he can hear the call of the Civil War, even away from his computer?
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Offline Gustavus Magnus

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #20 on: October 15, 2009, 08:49:12 PM »
The fort was Federal property not South Carolina property so the state wasn't entitled to occupy it.  The hotheads in South Carolina got impatient and started shooting.

The war could have been titled "the war caused by Southern crybabies trying to take their marbles and going home because they didn't like playing by the rules they had agreed upon earlier."

There are a number of reasons I would excuse a state for wanting to seperate from its country but keeping slavery wouldn't be one of them.
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Offline Feanor Fire Heart

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #21 on: October 15, 2009, 08:51:18 PM »
well lets see i didnt see cuba attacking gitmo when they went communist.  :engel:  most new social movements dont touch foreign power areas otherwise it would be viewed as an act of war.

Honestly I think the south DID win the war.  At the start of the war they had no industry and a failing economic system.  after the war the north rebuilt everything from the ground up and changed all that for the better, and the south didnt have to pay a cent for that...they couldnt they had no more money! haha.

@wiss: try living in maryland, during the war the rural southern maryland fought for the CSA and the industrious northern part for the USA.  If you go to gettysburg the maryland soldier monument is of a unin soldier helping a Confederate soldier, both maryland regiments. plus lincoln lad that area on lock down haha.  the state song of maryland is how lincoln is an asshat for declaring marshall law.  no lie.

@Philly:  I think Big time wasnt saying it was the most significant thing in american history, I think he meant it was the most unifying thing in american history.  Both during and after the revolution the north and south were pretty much split and the distance grew between them over time. (handy hint, maryland was the only state in the american revolution to openly allow african colonists recruiting.  all other states allowed them to join but turned an eye blind about it as it was against their states militia regulations.  against regulations or not they needed the troops haha!)

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Offline Inarticulate

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #22 on: October 15, 2009, 08:56:44 PM »
/offtopic I'd just like to point out, that it was the British that decided to let Slaves fight for us for their freedom. Not the Americans, like in that film with Mel Gibson about how awesome farmers are.

/ontopic I like the confederate uniforms...
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Offline Feanor Fire Heart

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #23 on: October 15, 2009, 08:59:35 PM »
Inarticulate, I was talking about free african colonists, not slaves.  Some plantation owners did let their slaves fight for them which is why big W said if you fight for a year you get a "get out of plantaion free card."

yeah confeds grey did look cool.  but it was the same as the north, just a different color.
Something we as painters and hobbyists should always remember:
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Offline wissenlander

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Re: American Civil War
« Reply #24 on: October 15, 2009, 11:31:19 PM »
The fort was Federal property not South Carolina property so the state wasn't entitled to occupy it.  The hotheads in South Carolina got impatient and started shooting.

South Carolina is secesionist happy.  They threatened to secede from the CSA, too.
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finding photographic evidense that Wiss smiles is going to be hard...