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timschochet

The American Civil War Timeline- 150th Anniversary

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Calhoun believed slavery to be a positive good, and said of it:

All societies, are ruled by an elite group which enjoys the fruits of the labor of a less-privileged group. I may say with truth, that in few countries so much is left to the share of the laborer, and so little exacted from him, or where there is more kind attention paid to him in sickness or infirmities of age. Compare his condition with the tenants of the poor houses in the more civilized portions of Europe—look at the sick, and the old and infirm slave, on one hand, in the midst of his family and friends, under the kind superintending care of his master and mistress, and compare it with the forlorn and wretched condition of the pauper in the poorhouse.

It's so hard to believe that a scant 150 years ago (which isn't all that long ago), many thought that it was perfectly fine to own other humans. To be able to buy and sell them, to break apart families, etc etc. This was a right. And people who thought that way were championed and elected.

It's almost astonishing, really.

For this country maybe. But it actually seems rather tame compared to some of the atrocities that were visited upon people much more recently.

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I just wanted to chime in that I followed the WWII thread through to the end, and I'm going to do the same for this one. Count me in the group with almost no knowledge base on the subject matter at hand. I probably won't be chiming in often, since I have nothing of consequence to add to the discussion, but I am following and enjoying the thread.

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And away we go...

Fort Sumter Part One

Fort Sumter stood on a man-made granite island 4 miles from downtown Charleston at the entrance of the bay. With brick walls 40 feet high and 8 to 12 inch thick, designed to mount 146 big guns, this new fort when fully manned by 650 soldiers could stop anything trying to enter or leave the harbor. But at the beginning of 1860 Fort Sumter was empty except for workmen completing the construction of its interior. Most of the 80 odd soldiers of the U.S. garrison at Charleston occupied Fort Moultrie,an obsolete work a mile across the bay from Sumter on an island easily accessible from the mainland and exposed to capture from the rear.

The Carolinians had expected to get Moultrie along with Sumter and all other United States property in Charleston for the asking. Even before seceding, South Carolina officials began pressing the Buchanan administration on this matter. After declaring its independence, the Republic of South Carolina sent commissioners to Washington to negotiate for the forts and the arsenal. Their quest was backed by hundreds of militiamen in Charleston who vowed to drive the Yankees out if they did not leave voluntarily.

The garrison at Fort Moultrie was not commanded by a Yankee, however. Major Robert Anderson was a Kentuckian, a former slaveowner who sympathized with the South but remained loyal to the flag he had served for 35 years. (In one of those many great ironies that seem to be so prevalent in the American Civil War, Anderson had been an instructor of artillery at West Point. His prize student and protege? None other than Pierre Beauregard, the man he would face in the battle of Fort Sumter.)

A man haunted by a tragic vision, Anderson wanted above all to avert a war that would divide his own family as well as his state and nation. Yet he knew that if war came, it was likely to start on the spot where he stood. Carolina hotspurs were straining at the leash; honor and his orders would require him to resist. Once the flag was fired upon and blood shed, there would be no stopping the momentum of war.

Like Anderson, President Buchanan keenly desired to prevent such a calamity- at least until he left office on March 4. One way to forestall a clash, of course, was to withdraw the garrison. Though urged to do so by three southern members of his cabinet, Buchanan refused to go this far. He did promise South Carolina congressmen on December 10 not to send the reinforcements Anderson had requested. In return, South Carolina pledged not to attack Anderson while negotiations for transfer of the new forts were going on. The Carolinians also understood Buchanan to have agreed to not to change the military status quo at Charleston in any way.

While Buchanan dithered, Anderson acted. Interpreting ambiguous orders from the War Department as giving him authority to move his command from weak Fort Moultrie to powerful Fort Sumter if necessary to deter an attack, Anderson did so with stealth and skill after dark on the evening of December 26. Having made this move to preserve the peace, Anderson awoke next morning to find himself a hero in the North for thumbing his nose at arrogant Charleston and a villain to angry southerners who branded the occupation of Sumter a violation of Buchanan's pledge. "You are today the most popular man in the nation," wrote a Chicagoan to Anderson. Leverett Saltonstall of Boston praised Anderson as the "one true manin the country. While you hold Fort Sumter, I shall not despair of our noble, our glorious Union." But the Charleston Mercury charged that Anderson's "gross breach of faith" had inaugurated civil war, while Jefferson Davis, not yet resigned from the senate, rushed to the White House to berate a "dishonored president."

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Civil War Snapshot- Abner Doubleday

(From time to time in the narrative I will be giving brief snapshots of interesting characters who are relevant to the timeline. More important figures will receive full biographies.)

Second in command to Robert Anderson at Forts Moultrie and Sumter was 41 year old Abner Doubleday, who was well-known and hated by Charlestonian for his outspoken abolitionist views. Doubleday was a career army officer who would fire the first Northern shots of the Civil War. He would also make a name for himself as a hero of Gettysburg, where there is a statue in his honor. After the war, Doubleday started the cable cars of San Francisco, which still run to this day. But of course, none of these accomplishments, though noteworthy, are why we remember old Abner today.

He is remembered because the legend is that, in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York, Abner Doubleday created the modern game of baseball. This is almost certainly untrue. Doubleday's own papers, and they were numerous, make no mention of baseball. Also, in 1839 Doubleday was at West Point, and it is extremely unlikely that he could have created baseball while at military school. Most baseball historians today discount the idea that Doubleday was in anyway the founder of baseball.

Yet, the legend persists. Doubleday Field is a minor league baseball stadium named for Abner Doubleday, located in Cooperstown, New York, near the Baseball Hall of Fame. It hosted the annual Hall of Fame Game, an exhibition game between two major league teams that was played from 1940 until 2008.The Auburn Doubledays are a minor league baseball team based in Doubleday's hometown of Auburn, New York. Doubleday Field at West Point, New York, where the Army Black Knights play at Johnson Stadium, is named in Doubleday's honor.

ETA: There is a movement to petition the postmaster general to issue a U.S. postage stamp for him in 2011, commemorating the 150th anniversary of Fort Sumter.

Edited by timschochet

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And away we go...

Fort Sumter Part One

Fort Sumter stood on a man-made granite island 4 miles from downtown Charleston at the entrance of the bay. With brick walls 40 feet high and 8 to 12 inch thick, designed to mount 146 big guns, this new fort when fully manned by 650 soldiers could stop anything trying to enter or leave the harbor. But at the beginning of 1860 Fort Sumter was empty except for workmen completing the construction of its interior. Most of the 80 odd soldiers of the U.S. garrison at Charleston occupied Fort Moultrie,an obsolete work a mile across the bay from Sumter on an island easily accessible from the mainland and exposed to capture from the rear.

The Carolinians had expected to get Moultrie along with Sumter and all other United States property in Charleston for the asking. Even before seceding, South Carolina officials began pressing the Buchanan administration on this matter. After declaring its independence, the Republic of South Carolina sent commissioners to Washington to negotiate for the forts and the arsenal. Their quest was backed by hundreds of militiamen in Charleston who vowed to drive the Yankees out if they did not leave voluntarily.

The garrison at Fort Moultrie was not commanded by a Yankee, however. Major Robert Anderson was a Kentuckian, a former slaveowner who sympathized with the South but remained loyal to the flag he had served for 35 years. (In one of those many great ironies that seem to be so prevalent in the American Civil War, Anderson had been an instructor of artillery at West Point. His prize student and protege? None other than Pierre Beauregard, the man he would face in the battle of Fort Sumter.)

A man haunted by a tragic vision, Anderson wanted above all to avert a war that would divide his own family as well as his state and nation. Yet he knew that if war came, it was likely to start on the spot where he stood. Carolina hotspurs were straining at the leash; honor and his orders would require him to resist. Once the flag was fired upon and blood shed, there would be no stopping the momentum of war.

Like Anderson, President Buchanan keenly desired to prevent such a calamity- at least until he left office on March 4. One way to forestall a clash, of course, was to withdraw the garrison. Though urged to do so by three southern members of his cabinet, Buchanan refused to go this far. He did promise South Carolina congressmen on December 10 not to send the reinforcements Anderson had requested. In return, South Carolina pledged not to attack Anderson while negotiations for transfer of the new forts were going on. The Carolinians also understood Buchanan to have agreed to not to change the military status quo at Charleston in any way.

While Buchanan dithered, Anderson acted. Interpreting ambiguous orders from the War Department as giving him authority to move his command from weak Fort Moultrie to powerful Fort Sumter if necessary to deter an attack, Anderson did so with stealth and skill after dark on the evening of December 26. Having made this move to preserve the peace, Anderson awoke next morning to find himself a hero in the North for thumbing his nose at arrogant Charleston and a villain to angry southerners who branded the occupation of Sumter a violation of Buchanan's pledge. "You are today the most popular man in the nation," wrote a Chicagoan to Anderson. Leverett Saltonstall of Boston praised Anderson as the "one true manin the country. While you hold Fort Sumter, I shall not despair of our noble, our glorious Union." But the Charleston Mercury charged that Anderson's "gross breach of faith" had inaugurated civil war, while Jefferson Davis, not yet resigned from the senate, rushed to the White House to berate a "dishonored president."

Yeah, Jefferson Davis was one to preach about honor.

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And away we go...

Fort Sumter Part One

...

Many in the North followed this story via a New York weekly newspaper, Harper's. Scroll down half a page to read the original Harper's Weekly articles in their entirety.

The January 12, 1861 issue (link above) contains the following:

A PORTRAIT OF MAJOR ANDERSON ;

THE ENTRY INTO FORT SUMTER ;

THE OCCUPATION OF CASTLE PINCKNEY BY THE CHARLESTONIANS ;

SEVERAL PICTURES OF FORT MOULTRIE.

In last Number,

THE GEORGIA DELEGATION IN CONGRESS.

In previous Numbers,

A MAP AND PROFILE VIEW OF THE HARBOR OF CHARLESTON, SHOWING THE FORTS, ETC. ;

THE CHARLESTON DELEGATION IN CONGRESS ;

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Anyone want to provide a little background and history of the Carolina Military Institute in Charleston, otherwise known as the Citadel? Its about to play a pivotal part in events...

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It really is amazing how useless James Buchanan was. Imagine a President today basically ignoring something like this - a foreign power cutting off a federal military base and warning him not to supply it or else.... Unfathomable. If Buchanan had a backbone at all he would have forced the protection and defense of the fort and all federal military installations in the south the second it became clear South Carolina was going to raise a rebellion.

It's also amazing that the south waited as long as they did to actually act. It was clear Buchanan was a powerless puppet of his own weakness. Granted, mobalizing what was needed was going to take time, but the confusion and lack of national leadership from November until Lincoln was inaugurated was ample time to take enough action to make Lincoln's job all the more difficult, and possibly immpossible.

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It really is amazing how useless James Buchanan was. Imagine a President today basically ignoring something like this - a foreign power cutting off a federal military base and warning him not to supply it or else.... Unfathomable. If Buchanan had a backbone at all he would have forced the protection and defense of the fort and all federal military installations in the south the second it became clear South Carolina was going to raise a rebellion.

It's also amazing that the south waited as long as they did to actually act. It was clear Buchanan was a powerless puppet of his own weakness. Granted, mobalizing what was needed was going to take time, but the confusion and lack of national leadership from November until Lincoln was inaugurated was ample time to take enough action to make Lincoln's job all the more difficult, and possibly immpossible.

I'm not sure I 100% agree with you here. Let's look at the main thing that both sides are thinking, and that should be this:

Can Virginia be kept from joining the Confederacy?

If you're in the White House, and your aim is to keep Virginia part of the union, then it seems to me that inaction, or even surrendering Moultrie prior to Anderson taking Sumter, is at least something to consider. Don't cross swords with the South. Don't do anything that might unify them. If you leave things alone, they might realize how irrational they're being and come back on their own accord. I'm not saying this was the right decision. But it's a feasible decision, and it doesn't make Buchanan useless for at least considering it.

As to your second point, I absolutely disagree with you. Attacking Fort Sumter was ultimately disastrous for the South, because it unified the North. At the very least they were wise to wait until they absolutely had to do it after Lincoln's actions forced them into it. Had they seized it prior to Lincoln taking office it would have made Lincoln's job extremely easier, and Virginia might still have refused to join the Confederacy, looking upon it's leaders as hotheads.

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Way too early to bring this name up, but I just finished an outstanding read (albeit biased to the point of cheerleading) called Custer Victorious! The book details the Civil War career of General Custer and what a career it was.

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Way too early to bring this name up, but I just finished an outstanding read (albeit biased to the point of cheerleading) called Custer Victorious! The book details the Civil War career of General Custer and what a career it was.

Come on, you Wolverines!!

Dude was quite the character. I love this story from when they were on the Pennisula campaign:

During the pursuit of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston up the Peninsula, on May 24, 1862 when Gen. Barnard and his staff were reconnoitering a potential crossing point on the Chickahominy River, they stopped and Custer overheard his commander mutter to himself, "I wish I knew how deep it is." Custer dashed forward on his horse out to the middle of the river and turned to the astonished officers of the staff and shouted triumphantly, "That's how deep it is, Mr General!"

I haven't read the one you reference, but I did enjoy Jeff Wert's biography.

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Fort Sumter, continued

A harried Buchanan almost succumbed to southern insistence that he must order the garrison back to Moultrie. But he knew that if he did so, he had his party would lose their last shred of respect in the North. A prominent Democrat in New York reported that "Anderson's course is universally approved and if he is recalled or if Sumter is surrendered...Northern sentiment will be unanimous in favor of hanging Buchanan...I am not joking. Never have I known the entire people more unanimous on any question. We are ruined if Anderson is disgraced or if Sumter is given up." A cabinet reshuffle also stiffened Buchanan's backbone. The southern members resigned in late December, and they were replaced with hardliners, including Attorney General Edward M. Stanton. Stanton helped draft Buchanan's reply to the South Carolina commissioners rejecting their demand for Sumter. Buoyed by the new experience of firmness, Buchanan went further- he approved a proposal by General-in-chief Scott to reinforce Anderson.

In an effort to minimize publicity and provocation, Scott sent the reinforcements (200 soldiers) and supplies on the unarmed merchant vessel Star of the West. Bungling marred the whole enterprise, however. Word of the mission leaked to the press, while the War Department failed to get notice of it to Anderson, so that the garrison at Sumter was about the only interested party that lacked advance knowledge of the Star of the West's arrival at the harbor entrance January 9. South Carolina artillery, manned by cadets of The Citadel, fired on the ship and scored one hit before her civilian captain, discretion eclipsing valor, turned around and headed out to sea. These could have been the opening shots of a civil war. But they were not- because Anderson did not fire back. Lacking information and orders, he did not want to start a war on his own responsibility. So the guns of Sumter remained silent.

Wrath in both north and south rose almost to the bursting point. But it did not burst. Despite mutual charges of aggression, neither side wanted war. Secessionists from other states quietly warned South Carolinians to cool down lest they provoke a conflict before the new Confederacy was organized and ready. A tacit truce emerged whereby the Carolinians left the Sumter garrison alone so long as the government did not try again to reinforce it.

The Citadel regards the shots fired at The Star of the West as the first of the American Civil War. Many historians agree with this. The source I am currently using McPherson, disagrees as noted above- he believes the American Civil War began when the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter a few months later.

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The Citadel regards the shots fired at The Star of the West as the first of the American Civil War. Many historians agree with this.

Big Red

Big Red flag as used by The Citadel

The actual Big Red

The big difference between the flags that seems to have surprised the historians is the direction the crescent is facing.

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The Citadel regards the shots fired at The Star of the West as the first of the American Civil War. Many historians agree with this.

Big Red

Big Red flag as used by The Citadel

The actual Big Red

The big difference between the flags that seems to have surprised the historians is the direction the crescent is facing.

Very interesting story. I was not aware of it.

Mjolnirs, do you know, is there a monument on Morris Island at the spot where the cadets fired on the Star of the West? Also, if you take a tour of the Citadel, is this event discussed or commemorated? (I'm sure it must be.)

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Anyone want to provide a little background and history of the Carolina Military Institute in Charleston, otherwise known as the Citadel? Its about to play a pivotal part in events...

Clipped from The Citadel's website

The original site of The Citadel was on what is now Marion Square in the City of Charleston. During the Revolutionary War, a fortification known as a "Horn works" was established in the vicinity of Marion Square. In 1783, this site was transferred to the City upon its incorporation as a municipality. Six years later a small portion of this tract was transferred back to the state for use as a tobacco inspection site. The City retained the remainder of the land known as the Citadel Green which was used as a muster site for militia units. In 1822, the South Carolina Legislature passed an "Act to Establish a Competent Force to Act as a Municipal Guard for the Protection of the City of Charleston and its vicinity." The act provided that a suitable building be erected for the deposit of the arms of the State, and a guard house.

At the request of the State of South Carolina, troops from the federal garrison at Ft. Moultrie became the first guard of the new state arsenal on January 8, 1830.6 Federal troops were withdrawn on December 24, 1832, as a result of tensions between the federal government and South Carolina over federally imposed tariffs. State militia at the Charleston powder magazine were then detailed to guard the state arsenal at the Citadel.7 During the next ten years several smaller arsenals around the state were consolidated at the Citadel in Charleston and at the Arsenal in Columbia, and placed under the guard of two companies of State militia known as the Arsenal and Magazine Guard.

Governor John P. Richardson first conceived of converting the Arsenal in Columbia and the Citadel in Charleston into military academies. This was accomplished by act of the State Legislature on December 20, 1842. The two academies, formally named "the Citadel Academy," and "the Arsenal Academy," were originally established as separate institutions governed by a common Board of Visitors. However, in 1845, the Arsenal Academy was made auxiliary to the Citadel Academy and accepted only first year Cadets, who would transfer to The Citadel to complete their education.10 On March 20, 1843, the first Cadets reported to The Citadel on Marion Square. This date is celebrated today as "Corps Day" the official anniversary of the formation of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets.

In adopting the system of military education and discipline for the academies, the Board of Visitors undoubtedly adopted many of the regulations in effect at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. The first class of Cadets graduated from the Citadel Academy on November 20, 1846, with 6 Cadets receiving diplomas. Also during 1846, the Citadel Academy undertook its first military training exercises to assist America to prepare for war. The 1st South Carolina's Volunteer Infantry also known as the Palmetto Regiment, took its training in military drill and arms from Citadel Cadets in Charleston prior to departing for the Mexican War.

In organizing its military units to prepare for war, the South Carolina General Assembly on January 28, 1861, combined the Corps of Cadets at the Citadel and Arsenal into the Battalion of State Cadets and designated the two institutions as The South Carolina Military Academy. The Battalion of State Cadets was made a part of the military organization of the State.

During the War, the Arsenal and Citadel continued to operate as military academies, however, classes were often disrupted when the governor called the cadets into military service. Even before January 28, however, the Citadel Academy, its officers and Cadets were called on to perform military duties. A laboratory at the Citadel was set aside for the manufacture of ammunition, and on January 9, 1861, Citadel Cadets manning an artillery battery on Morris Island fired the first hostile shots of the Civil War, repulsing the federal steamship Star of the West, carrying supplies and two hundred federal troops dispatched by President Buchanan to reinforce Union Forces garrisoned at Fort Sumter. During the Star of the West incident, the Cadets flew as their banner a unique flag, observed by eye witnesses on the federal steamer, and described in a dispatch by a Union Officer at Fort Sumter as "a flag with a red field, and a white palmetto tree." A depiction of this flag flying over the Cadet battery on Morris Island can be seen in the Star of the West mural in Daniel Library, and replicas of the flag are now used as the spirit flag of The Citadel Corps of Cadets, known affectionately as "Big Red."

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Mjolnirs, do you know, is there a monument on Morris Island at the spot where the cadets fired on the Star of the West? Also, if you take a tour of the Citadel, is this event discussed or commemorated? (I'm sure it must be.)

I don't even know if there are tours of The Citadel, I'm sure there are, but I've never been. I've been on the campus plenty though. I've had family married in the chapel, I've attended sporting events there and my son's high school graduation was held in their basketball arena.

My SCV Camp's namesake, General Ellison Capers, has a building with his name on it on campus - Capers Hall

I don't know the answer to the question about a monument. But, I will ask some folks that would know and get back to you.

Edited by Mjolnirs

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It really is amazing how useless James Buchanan was. Imagine a President today basically ignoring something like this - a foreign power cutting off a federal military base and warning him not to supply it or else.... Unfathomable. If Buchanan had a backbone at all he would have forced the protection and defense of the fort and all federal military installations in the south the second it became clear South Carolina was going to raise a rebellion.

It's also amazing that the south waited as long as they did to actually act. It was clear Buchanan was a powerless puppet of his own weakness. Granted, mobalizing what was needed was going to take time, but the confusion and lack of national leadership from November until Lincoln was inaugurated was ample time to take enough action to make Lincoln's job all the more difficult, and possibly immpossible.

I'm not sure I 100% agree with you here. Let's look at the main thing that both sides are thinking, and that should be this:

Can Virginia be kept from joining the Confederacy?

If you're in the White House, and your aim is to keep Virginia part of the union, then it seems to me that inaction, or even surrendering Moultrie prior to Anderson taking Sumter, is at least something to consider. Don't cross swords with the South. Don't do anything that might unify them. If you leave things alone, they might realize how irrational they're being and come back on their own accord. I'm not saying this was the right decision. But it's a feasible decision, and it doesn't make Buchanan useless for at least considering it.

As to your second point, I absolutely disagree with you. Attacking Fort Sumter was ultimately disastrous for the South, because it unified the North. At the very least they were wise to wait until they absolutely had to do it after Lincoln's actions forced them into it. Had they seized it prior to Lincoln taking office it would have made Lincoln's job extremely easier, and Virginia might still have refused to join the Confederacy, looking upon it's leaders as hotheads.

Attacking Sumter unifeid the northern states but they still needed an actual President to do something about it. Buchanan proved his inability to deal with the issue at all. There is no way to prove it but I think an excellent argument can be made that had the south begun military movement in December through February, they could have pretty much guaranteed themselves a lot better outcome than what happened. And most of that movement could have been relatively bloodless. Already some federal troops had surrendered in Texas. The Citadel could have sent surrender demands to Sumter. The various state militais could have marched on the various federal installations thought most important and issued demands. Many if not all of those evetns would have been almost bloodless given the lack of central authority and leadership in Washington. Yes, Anderson probably still defends Sumter, but the way South Carolina dealt with Sumter was a microcasm of the entire failure of the rebellion - they were simply too full of themselves and their honor as they saw it. Even Lee suffered from it to disasterous consequences.

Virginia would have likely either always gone with the southern movement or at the very least declared some form of state nuetrality that would have created problems for the north anyway in political terms eventually leading to them joining the rebellion anyway.. The government can't stop the south without marching through Virginia and I doubt very much they would have allowed that and allowed any part of Virginia to become a battlefield while they stayed out of the fight.

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Fort Sumter, continued

A harried Buchanan almost succumbed to southern insistence that he must order the garrison back to Moultrie. But he knew that if he did so, he had his party would lose their last shred of respect in the North. A prominent Democrat in New York reported that "Anderson's course is universally approved and if he is recalled or if Sumter is surrendered...Northern sentiment will be unanimous in favor of hanging Buchanan...I am not joking. Never have I known the entire people more unanimous on any question. We are ruined if Anderson is disgraced or if Sumter is given up." A cabinet reshuffle also stiffened Buchanan's backbone. The southern members resigned in late December, and they were replaced with hardliners, including Attorney General Edward M. Stanton. Stanton helped draft Buchanan's reply to the South Carolina commissioners rejecting their demand for Sumter. Buoyed by the new experience of firmness, Buchanan went further- he approved a proposal by General-in-chief Scott to reinforce Anderson.

In an effort to minimize publicity and provocation, Scott sent the reinforcements (200 soldiers) and supplies on the unarmed merchant vessel Star of the West. Bungling marred the whole enterprise, however. Word of the mission leaked to the press, while the War Department failed to get notice of it to Anderson, so that the garrison at Sumter was about the only interested party that lacked advance knowledge of the Star of the West's arrival at the harbor entrance January 9. South Carolina artillery, manned by cadets of The Citadel, fired on the ship and scored one hit before her civilian captain, discretion eclipsing valor, turned around and headed out to sea. These could have been the opening shots of a civil war. But they were not- because Anderson did not fire back. Lacking information and orders, he did not want to start a war on his own responsibility. So the guns of Sumter remained silent.

Wrath in both north and south rose almost to the bursting point. But it did not burst. Despite mutual charges of aggression, neither side wanted war. Secessionists from other states quietly warned South Carolinians to cool down lest they provoke a conflict before the new Confederacy was organized and ready. A tacit truce emerged whereby the Carolinians left the Sumter garrison alone so long as the government did not try again to reinforce it.

The Citadel regards the shots fired at The Star of the West as the first of the American Civil War. Many historians agree with this. The source I am currently using McPherson, disagrees as noted above- he believes the American Civil War began when the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter a few months later.

Edward Stanton is one of those collection of unknown unsung heroes of our history.

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Fort Sumter, Continued

Over the next few months, Anderson and his men became in northern eyes the defenders of a modern Thermopylae. James Buchanan and Governor Francis Perkins of South Carolina handed the fate of these men over to Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. The new Confederate president sent another trio of commissioners to Washington to negotiate for the transfer of Fort Sumter. He also sent newly commissioned Pierre G.T. Beauregard, a Louisanian, to take command of the thousands of militia and several big seacoast guns and mortars ringing Charleston harbor and pointing at the lonely soldiers inside Fort Sumter.

This was the situation when Lincoln learned on March 5 that the garrison was running short of supplies. The new president faced some hard choices. He could scrape together every available warship and soldier to shoot their way into the bay with supplies and reinforcements. But this would burden him with the onus of starting a war. It would divide the North and unite the South including the upper South. Or Lincoln could prolong peace and perhaps keep the upper South in the Union by withdrawing the garrison and yielding Sumter. But this too would divide the North, demoralize much of the Republican party, perhaps fatally wreck his administration, constitute an implicit acknowledgment of the Confederacy's independence, and send a signal to foreign governments whose diplomatic recognition the Confederacy was earnestly seeking. Or Lincoln could play for time, hoping to come up with some solution to preserve this vital symbol of sovereignity without provoking a war that would divide his friends an unite his enemies. Lincoln had 6 weeks at the outside to find a solution, for by then Anderson's men would be starved out of Sumter. These pressures sent the untried president to a sleepless bed with a sick headache more than once during those 6 weeks.

Over the next couple of posts I am going to relate Lincoln's thoughts, conferences, and decisions regarding this matter, and those of his cabinet members (especially Seward), as per McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. But before I do so, I have to state that not all historians agree with McPherson's intepretation of events. In fact, there may be no more disputed issue in the entire history of the American Civil War than that of Lincoln's plans and intentions with regard to Fort Sumter, and what actually happened. The version I give is from the source I am using, and I make no claim as to it's accuracy. To McPherson's credit, he has nearly a full page of footnotes (pg. 272) devoted to descriptions of opinions that differ with his own.

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Fort Sumter, Continued

Lincoln's dilemma was made worse by conflicting counels and cross purposes within his government. General Scott said that reinforcement was now impossible without a large fleet and 25,000 soldiers. The government had neither the ships nor the men. Scott's advice to pull out swayed the secretaries of war and navy. Seward also concurred. He wanted to give up Sumter for political as well as military reasons. Such a gesture of peace and good will, he told Lincoln, would reassure the Upper South and strengthen unionists in Confederate states. Seward was playing a deep and devious game. In line with his aspirations to be premier of this administration, he established independent contact through an intermediary with the Confederate commissioners. On his own authority, and without Lincoln's knowledge, Seward passed the word to these Commissioners that Sumter would be yielded. He also leaked this news to the press. Within a week of Lincoln's inauguration, northern newspapers carried "authoritative" stories that Anderson's men would be pulled out.

Lincoln had made no such decision- though the nearly unanimous advice of those who were paid to advise him nearly persuaded him to do so. But what then would become of his inaugural pledge to "hold, occupy, and possess" federal property? When Lincoln polled his cabinet on March 15 concerning Sumter, 5 of the 7 secretaries recommended evacuation. Chase advised resupplying the garrison only if it could be done without risking war. Montgomery Blair alone wanted to hold onto the fort whatever the risk. He believed that instead of encouraging southern unionists, surrender would discourage them. Only "measures which will inspire respect for the power of the Government and the firmness of those who administer it" could sustain them, said Blair. To give up the fort meant giving up the Union.

Lincoln was inclined to agree. And Blair offered the president more than supportive advice. He introduced Lincoln to his brother-in-law Gustavus V. Fox, a 39 year old Massachusetts businessman and former navy lieutenant. Fox was the first of many such men who would surge into prominence during the next 4 years: daring, able, fertile with ideas for doing things that the creaking old military establishment said could not be done. Fox proposed to send a troop transport escorted by warships to the bar outside Charleston harbor. Men and supplies could there be transferred to tugs on small boats which could cross the bar after dark for a dash to Sumter. Warships and the Sumter garrison would stand by to suppress attempts by Confederate artllery to interfere.

It might just work; in any case, Lincoln was willing to think about it. For by now he was hearing from the constituency that had elected him. Many Republicans were outragedd by reports that Sumter was to be surrendered. "HAVE WE A GOVERNMENT?" shouted newspaper headlines. "The bird of our country is a debilitated chicken, disguised in eagle feathers," commented a disgusted New York lawyer. "Reinforce Fort Sumter at all hazards!" ran a typical letter from a Northern citizen. "If Fort Sumter is evacuated, the new administration is done forever," declared another. Even Democrats called for reinforcements of the "gallant band who are defending their country's honor and its flag in the middle of a hostile and traitorous foe." The prolonged uncertaintly was stretching nerves to the breaking point. "The Administration must have a policy of action," proclaimed the New York Times. "Better almost anything than additonal suspense," echoed other northern papers. "The people want something to be decided on to serve as a rallying point for the abundant but discouraged loyalty of the American heart."

These signs of northern opinion hardened Lincoln's resolve.

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I took a detour to the Battery after work yesterday and took some pictures for this thread.

Fort Sumter pictures from the Battery

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I took a detour to the Battery after work yesterday and took some pictures for this thread.

Fort Sumter pictures from the Battery

How high are the paparets at Sumter? I know its a pretty low profile, just one story, correct? I haven't been there in 25 years or so...but I remember seeing a model of how it looked in 1860, with 60 foot high walls...must have been imposing.

I've also seen 1865 photos, and it looks like a rounded of mound of debris. IIRC the Yanks eventually moved into Morris Island summer 1863 and bombarded it for a 18-20 months.

Morris Island, BTW, was the site of Fort Wagner (54th Massachussets of Glory fame). It was in the news again a few years ago:

Charleston developer Harry Huffman, then the island's current owner, listed the island on eBay for $12.5 million. Huffman was in negotiations to sell the island to a consortium of preservation groups, but claimed to have listed the island to see what price might be offered. Charleston zoning regulations permit no more than 5 homes to be built on the island. Huffman had waged a number of battles with the local development agencies to change the zoning, but claimed to have grown tired of fighting and just wanted to sell. The island was last sold in the 1980s for $3 million.

On February 2, 2006, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a non-profit private land conservation organization, announced the purchase of Morris Island for $4.5 million. The island will now be preserved and protected from development

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Fort Sumter, Continued

Meanwhile, Seward continued to tell Confederate commissioners that Sumter would be given up. One of the three emissaries that Lincoln sent to Charleston to appraise matters, his old friend Ward H. Lamon, seems to have told Carolinians and Anderson himself that evacuation was imminent. Hawks and doves within the administration were clearly on a collision course. The crash came on March 28. That day Lincoln learned that General Scott wanted to evacuate Fort Sumter. His grounds for urging this was political. "The evacuation of the fort," wrote the General, "would instantly soothe and give confidence to the 8 remaining slave-holding States, and render their cordial adherence to this Union perpetual."

Lincoln called his cabinet into emergency session after a state dinner that evening. "Blank amazement" registered on most faces as an obviously nettled president read to them Scott's memorandum. The general (a Virginian) was advising unconditional surrender to the Confederacy. Whether or not influenced by Seward (as most cabinet members assumed), Scott's politically motivated recommendation rendered suspect his initial opinion that reinforcement of Sumter was impossible. The cabinet reversed its vote of two weeks earlier. Four of the six members now favored resupply of Sumter.Lincoln instructed Fox to ready ships and men for an attempt to reinforce the fort.

This backed Seward into a corner. His assurances to southern commissioners, his peace policy of voluntary reconstruction, his ambitions to be premier- all appeared about to collapse. To recoup his position, Seward acted boldly- and egregiously. He intervened in the Fort Pickens reinforcement (also ordered by Lincoln) and managed to divert the strongest available warship from the Sumter expedition, with unfortunate consequences. Then on April 1 he sent an extraordinary proposal to Lincoln. In mystifying fashion, Seward suggested that to abandon Sumter but hold Pickens would change the issue from slavery to Union. Beyond that, the secretary of state would "demand explanations" from Spain and France for their meddlings in Santo Domingo and Mexico, and declare war if their explanations were unsatisfactory. Presumably this would reunite the country against a foreign foe. "Whatever policy we adopt," Seward pointed out, "it must be somebody's business to pursue and direct it incessantly." He left little doubt whom he had in mind.

Lincoln's astonishment when he read this note can well be imagined. Not wanting to humiliate Seward or lose his services, however, the president mentioned the matter to no one and wrote a polite but firm reply the same day. He had pledged to hold, occupy, and possess federal property, Lincoln reminded his secretary of state, and he could not see how holding Sumter was any more a matter of slaver or less a matter of Union than holding Pickens. Ignoring Seward's idea of an ultimatum to Spain or France, Lincoln told him that whatever policy was decided upon, "I must do it." A chastened Seward said nothing more about this and served as one of Lincoln's most loyal advisors during the next four years.

Three days later Abraham Lincoln made what up to that point was the most momentous decision of his life, and one of the most important decisions any American president has ever made: he gave the go-ahead for the Sumter expedition.

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Fort Sumter, Continued

Lincoln made subtle but significant changes to Fox's plan before sending out the Sumter expedition. Instead of trying to shoot its way into the harbor, the task force would first attempt only to carry supplies to Anderson. Warships and soldiers would stand by for action but if Confederate batteries did not fire on the supply boats they would not fire back, and the reinforcements would remain on shipboard. Lincoln would notify Governor Pickens in advance of the government's peaceful intention to send in provisions only. If Confederates opened fire on the unarmed boats carrying "food for hungry men", the South would stand convicted of an aggressive act. On its shoulders would rest the blame for starting a war.

If southerners allowed the supplies to go through, peace and the status quo at Sumter could be preserved and the Union government would have won an important symbolic victory. Lincoln's new conception of the resupply undertaking was a stroke of genius. In effect he was telling Jefferson Davis, "Heads I win, Tails you lose." It was the first sign of the mastery that would mark Lincoln's presidency.

On April 6, Lincoln sent a messenger to Charleston to inform Governor Pickens that "an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only; and that, if such attempt will not be resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition, will be made, without further notice, except in case of an attack on the Fort." This put the ball in Jefferson Davis's court.

Lincoln had made his decision. He had fought off doubters among his cabinet members and advisors, and put the Confederate government into a neat trap. It was now Davis that had to make a decision. Would he commit his new country to war over Fort Sumter?

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How high are the paparets at Sumter? I know its a pretty low profile, just one story, correct? I haven't been there in 25 years or so...but I remember seeing a model of how it looked in 1860, with 60 foot high walls...must have been imposing.I've also seen 1865 photos, and it looks like a rounded of mound of debris. IIRC the Yanks eventually moved into Morris Island summer 1863 and bombarded it for a 18-20 months.

Off the top of my head I'm not sure how high they are or were.

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Fort Sumter, Continued

Jefferson Davis was, like Lincoln, under great pressure to "do something." Seward's dream of voluntary reconstruction was Davis's nightmare. "The spirit and even the patriotism of the people is oozing out under this do-nothing policy," complained a Mobile newspaper. "If something is not done pretty soon...the whole country will become so disgusted with the sham of southern independence that the first chance the people get at a popular election they will turn the whole movement topsy-turvy." Other Alabamians agreed that war was the best way "of avoiding the calamity of reconstruction...South Carolina has the power of putting us beyond the reach of reconstruction by taking Fort Sumter at any cost...Sir, unless you sprinkle blood in the face of the people of Alabama, they will be back in the old Union in less than 10 days!"

Even if the 7 lower-South states held together, the Confederacy's future was precarious without the upper South. After talking with Virgina secessionists, the fire-eater Louis Wigfall urged a prompt attack on Sumter to bring the commonwealth into the fold. The hot-blooded Edmund Ruffin and Roger Pryor, vexed by the lingering unionism in their native state of Virginia, echoed this exhortation. "The shedding of blood," wrote Ruffin, "will serve to change many votes in the hesitating states, form the submission or procrastinating ranks, to the zealous for immediate secession." If you want us to join you, Pryor told Charlestonians, "strike a blow!" Rhett and the Charleston Mercury was willing. An editiorial read:

Border southern States will never join us until we have indicated our power to free ourselves- until we have proven that a garrison of 70 men cannot hold the portal of our commerce. Let us be ready for war. The fate of the Southern Confederacy hanges by the ensign halliards of Fort Sumter.

Therefore to Abraham Lincoln's challenge, Shall it be Peace or War? Jefferson Davis replied, War. A fateful cabinet meeting in Montgomery on April 9 endorsed Davis's order to Beauregard: reduce the fort before the relief fleet arrived, if possible. Anderson rejectedd Beauregard's ritual summons to surrender, but remarked in passing that he would be starved out in a few days if help did not arrive. The Confederates knew that help was about to arrive, so they opened fire on April 12 at 4:30 am.

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Before discussing the actual battle a little commentary:

It seems to me that Jefferson Davis was making the same mistake that the Japanese made nearly a century later at Pearl Harbor: no matter what the tactical gain was by attacking Fort Sumter (and as we shall see, it was huge because it caused Virginia to join the Confederacy) the price was too high. That price was unifying the American people, in this case the North with it's incredible industrial capacity for war even then. The question that seems to be missing from Jefferson Davis's thoughts that April of 1861 was this: if the North is unified against us, can we really survive?

The answer, as Shelby Foote calmly states in his books and in interviews in the Ken Burn's miniseries, was no. According to Foote, there was NO CHANCE that the South could have won the Civil War. He points out, correctly, that they were outnumbered in every battle, and that they won some of these thanks mostly to the brilliance of of a few of the greatest military minds the world has ever encountered. But they really had no chance. Other historians, including McPherson, disagree, pointing out that a few twists and turns at the battles of Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg could have turned the tide and secured a Southern victory. We will examine all of this, and I will withhold my own judgment for now except to say I rather lean toward Foote. But we shall see.

The question then becomes, was there anyway that the Confederacy could have taken Fort Sumter, gotten Virginia to join them, but NOT unify the North? One solution would be for Jefferson Davis, instead of attacking Fort Sumter itself, to attack the expedition fleet. Or better yet, to warn the expedition fleet that it will be attacked if it chooses to enter the harbor. That puts the onus back on Lincoln again. And if you can make Lincoln hesitate for a few days, Anderson surrenders from starvation, and you have a peaceful takeover. The South wins an incredible moral victory which causes Virginia to join, and the North is still not unified. If all of this happens, perhaps there is no war and the South is allowed to go it's own way. This is a large "what if", of course.

I think that by attacking Fort Sumter Davis doomed the Confederacy before it even began.

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Before discussing the actual battle a little commentary:

It seems to me that Jefferson Davis was making the same mistake that the Japanese made nearly a century later at Pearl Harbor: no matter what the tactical gain was by attacking Fort Sumter (and as we shall see, it was huge because it caused Virginia to join the Confederacy) the price was too high. That price was unifying the American people, in this case the North with it's incredible industrial capacity for war even then. The question that seems to be missing from Jefferson Davis's thoughts that April of 1861 was this: if the North is unified against us, can we really survive?

The answer, as Shelby Foote calmly states in his books and in interviews in the Ken Burn's miniseries, was no. According to Foote, there was NO CHANCE that the South could have won the Civil War. He points out, correctly, that they were outnumbered in every battle, and that they won some of these thanks mostly to the brilliance of of a few of the greatest military minds the world has ever encountered. But they really had no chance. Other historians, including McPherson, disagree, pointing out that a few twists and turns at the battles of Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg could have turned the tide and secured a Southern victory. We will examine all of this, and I will withhold my own judgment for now except to say I rather lean toward Foote. But we shall see.

The question then becomes, was there anyway that the Confederacy could have taken Fort Sumter, gotten Virginia to join them, but NOT unify the North? One solution would be for Jefferson Davis, instead of attacking Fort Sumter itself, to attack the expedition fleet. Or better yet, to warn the expedition fleet that it will be attacked if it chooses to enter the harbor. That puts the onus back on Lincoln again. And if you can make Lincoln hesitate for a few days, Anderson surrenders from starvation, and you have a peaceful takeover. The South wins an incredible moral victory which causes Virginia to join, and the North is still not unified. If all of this happens, perhaps there is no war and the South is allowed to go it's own way. This is a large "what if", of course.

I think that by attacking Fort Sumter Davis doomed the Confederacy before it even began.

I disagree.

FWIW, I think Shelby Foote is the greatest word smith of any American historian published during the 20th century. But I quibble with two things about the late Mr. Foote: 1) he never used citations, leaving the reader to guess what his primary/secondary source may have been (a cardinal error for historians), and 2) he made his share of mistakes, both in his recounting of facts, and in drawing incorrect conclusions. His seminal work, the Civil War Narrative, is an amazing achievement, but its not canonical. We'll cover the latter more in depth when we discuss R.E.L. battlefield strategy; he takes the reader through some wild contortions in putting forth a convincingly smooth argument that Lee pursued the only possible or optimal strategy. As for the former, even Shelby (like another great narrative historian, Bruce Catton) would admit he's not in the same league academics who devoted their lives to a single pursuit. Foote was a novelist and Catton a reporter, and both excelled at spinning a great yarn. Both were great storytellers, but far from perfect in terms of historical accuracy.

ANYWAY...the question is what were the objectives of the North and South? Well, the North HAD to win...there was no other option other than preserving the Union, and they weren't go to accomplish that without subjugation. The CSA, in fighting a war for independence, could lose every battle - just as long as they held out until the people of the northern states declared the price was too high (through populace, or else popular vote).

Isn't that how the United States won the first War of Independence? George Washington lost 9 of 12 major battles his Continental Army fought. We won our freedom because the people of Great Britain lost their will to support an unpopular war.

Isn't that how the United States lost Vietnam? McNamara and Westmoreland had convinced the MSM that we were almost there, you could see the light at the end of the tunnel (1967-68). Then came the Tet Offensive. A short term tactical success was quickly reversed militarily and strategically - and it didn't matter, the administration still lost the war at home. Ho Chi Mingh didn't have to lead North Vietnam to victory once the hearts and minds of American citizens were lost.

We'll see later that the 'defend everything everywhere' policy that Davis and the state governors employed was the true downfall. The high price of General Lee's offensive tactics led to irreplaceable losses. But even given that, I believe it was a near thing. The south could have won her independence. I am thankful she did not, but by no means do I think it was a foregone conclusion.

Edited by BobbyLayne

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BL-

Like you, McPherson also brings up the Revolutionary War and the Vietnam War, arguing that, in terms of overall strategy, if Lee had simply kept his army intact (as Washington and the Viet Cong did) they could have won no matter how many defeats they suffered. I disagree, and in due course I will attempt to prove my point, but in essence, the difference was line of supply. Britain in 1776 and America in Vietnam were too far away. Suppose Britain had been next door in 1776? Answer: we would have lost eventually. You didn't see Ireland or Scotland get their independence, even though they certainly tried. I say the South had no chance, not due to strategy, but because the Union was too close.

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BL-Like you, McPherson also brings up the Revolutionary War and the Vietnam War, arguing that, in terms of overall strategy, if Lee had simply kept his army intact (as Washington and the Viet Cong did) they could have won no matter how many defeats they suffered. I disagree, and in due course I will attempt to prove my point, but in essence, the difference was line of supply. Britain in 1776 and America in Vietnam were too far away. Suppose Britain had been next door in 1776? Answer: we would have lost eventually. You didn't see Ireland or Scotland get their independence, even though they certainly tried. I say the South had no chance, not due to strategy, but because the Union was too close.

Our problems in Vietnam had nothing to do with line of supply.

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BL-Like you, McPherson also brings up the Revolutionary War and the Vietnam War, arguing that, in terms of overall strategy, if Lee had simply kept his army intact (as Washington and the Viet Cong did) they could have won no matter how many defeats they suffered. I disagree, and in due course I will attempt to prove my point, but in essence, the difference was line of supply. Britain in 1776 and America in Vietnam were too far away. Suppose Britain had been next door in 1776? Answer: we would have lost eventually. You didn't see Ireland or Scotland get their independence, even though they certainly tried. I say the South had no chance, not due to strategy, but because the Union was too close.

Our problems in Vietnam had nothing to do with line of supply.
When I use the term "line of supply" I'm using it in strategic, not tactical terms, and so of course it had everything to do with it. The Vietnam war was too far away. The solution, which was to keep increasing troops, was far too costly and eventually the public got tired of it. If the Vietnam war had been in Mexico we would have won it.

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BL-Like you, McPherson also brings up the Revolutionary War and the Vietnam War, arguing that, in terms of overall strategy, if Lee had simply kept his army intact (as Washington and the Viet Cong did) they could have won no matter how many defeats they suffered. I disagree, and in due course I will attempt to prove my point, but in essence, the difference was line of supply. Britain in 1776 and America in Vietnam were too far away. Suppose Britain had been next door in 1776? Answer: we would have lost eventually. You didn't see Ireland or Scotland get their independence, even though they certainly tried. I say the South had no chance, not due to strategy, but because the Union was too close.

Our problems in Vietnam had nothing to do with line of supply.
When I use the term "line of supply" I'm using it in strategic, not tactical terms, and so of course it had everything to do with it. The Vietnam war was too far away. The solution, which was to keep increasing troops, was far too costly and eventually the public got tired of it. If the Vietnam war had been in Mexico we would have won it.
The solution wasn't to increase troops. As a matter of fact it was the opposite. We lost Vietnam because Westmoreland never accepted the fact that he was fighting an unconventional enemy. He failed to adapt. You are correct that we finally pulled out because the public got tired of our losses. But it never had to get to that point.But this is an argument for another thread.

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BL-Like you, McPherson also brings up the Revolutionary War and the Vietnam War, arguing that, in terms of overall strategy, if Lee had simply kept his army intact (as Washington and the Viet Cong did) they could have won no matter how many defeats they suffered. I disagree, and in due course I will attempt to prove my point, but in essence, the difference was line of supply. Britain in 1776 and America in Vietnam were too far away. Suppose Britain had been next door in 1776? Answer: we would have lost eventually. You didn't see Ireland or Scotland get their independence, even though they certainly tried. I say the South had no chance, not due to strategy, but because the Union was too close.

Disagree. The argument that the South had no chance is based in a military picture that doesn't conform to normal military planning. Lee very much had to keep his army alive and fighting. He also had to win every now and then. He couldn't lose every battle the way Washington could have. He needed to win sometimes, and he was on the right track.Lee's biggest mistake was the second invasion of the North. Then he backed that up with Gettysburg. Those two things cost him the army and the war. The picture of the war is very different if Lee doesn't invade the second time, and is even still differetn if he does it but backs off at Gettysburg like he should have before the end of the first day.

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Fort Sumter, Concluded

April 12-13, 1861:

Thirty three hours of bombardment by 4,000 shot and shells destroyed part of the fort and set the interior on fire. Anderson's forces were able to man only a few of Sumter's 48 guns, and fired 1,000 rounds in reply- without much effect. Finally the exhausted garrison surrendered. On April 14 the American flag came down and the Confederate stars and bars rose over Sumter.

The news galvanized the North. The only two incidents in American history in which there was close to a similar reaction among the public were Pearl Harbor and 9/11. On April 15, Lincoln issued a proclamation calling 75,000 militiamen into national service for 90 days to put down an insurrection "too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings." The response from free states was overwhelming. War meetings in every city and village cheered the flag and vowed vengeance on traitors. "The heather is on fire," wrote a Harvard professor. "I never knew what a popular excitement can be... the whole population, men, women, and children, seem to be in the streets with Union flags. The time before Sumter seems like another century."

Democrats joined in the patriotic fury. Stephen Douglas paid a well-publicized national unity call to the White House and told a huge crowd, "There are only two sides to the question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals in this war, only patriots and traitors." A month later Douglas was dead of cirrhosis, but for a year or more his war spirit live on among most Democrats.

To the War Department came pleas from Northern governors to increase the quota of troops. Everyone seemed to be enlisting in a fit of patriotism. From the slave states which had not yet left the Union, there was a different reaction.

The American Civil War had begun.

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The first major battle of the American Civil War was the Battle of Bull Run, or First Manassas. There is quite a bit to cover, however, before we get to that battle. Here is a list of topics I plan to narrate leading up to Bull Run:

The Upper South's reaction to Lincoln's militia call

The secession of Virginia

A short bio of Robert E. Lee

A discussion of prominent Virginians who fought for North and South

Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee

The Baltimore riot

Lincoln vs. Taney: suspension of habeas corpus

Early battles in Missouri

Early battles in Kentucky

West Virginia: McClellan vs. Lee

A short bio of George McClellan

Early battles in Tennessee

The Union Navy: early look

The Confederate Navy: early look

The Union Army: early look

The Confederate Army: early look

Scott's anaconda strategy

"Forward to Richmond"

Early Confederate strategy

All this before we get to the first major battle! But it should be fun. I hope there will also be plenty of discussion.

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Fort Sumter, Concluded

April 12-13, 1861:

Thirty three hours of bombardment by 4,000 shot and shells destroyed part of the fort and set the interior on fire. Anderson's forces were able to man only a few of Sumter's 48 guns, and fired 1,000 rounds in reply- without much effect. Finally the exhausted garrison surrendered. On April 14 the American flag came down and the Confederate stars and bars rose over Sumter....

The American Civil War had begun.

There were no casualties on either side during the bombardment. However, during the surrender ceremony, a cannon burst while firing a salute, and one young Union soldier was killed - the lone casualty of the first engagement of the war.

Over the next four years, another 618,000 Americans would die in the bloodiest war the United States has ever fought.

Edited by BobbyLayne

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Anderson rejectedd Beauregard's ritual summons to surrender, but remarked in passing that he would be starved out in a few days if help did not arrive.

Clipped from the book "First Blood - The Story of Fort Sumter by W.A. Swanberg. This book uses many references from official records and other biographical sources.

Beauregard to Anderson:

I am ordered by the Government of the Confederate States to demand the evacuation of Fort Sumter … All proper facilities will be afforded for the removal of yourself and command, together with company arms and property, to any post in the United States which you may select. The flag which you have upheld so long and with so much fortitude, under most trying circumstances, may be saluted by you on taking it down.

Anderson to Beauregard:

General: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication demanding the evacuation of this fort, and to say, in reply thereto, that it is a demand with which I regret that my sense of honor, and of my obligations to my Government, prevent my compliance. Thanking you for the fair, manly and courteous terms proposed, and for the high compliment paid me.

The major informed the three aides (sent by Beauregard) of the decision as he accompanied them out to the wharf. “Will General Beauregard open his batteries without further notice to me?” he asked. Colonel Chestnut pondered. “I think not,” he said. “No, I can say to you that he will not, without further notice.” “I shall await the first shot,” Anderson said, “and if you do not batter us to pieces, we shall be starved out in a few days.”

Chestnut, surprised, asked if he might report this to Beauregard. Anderson declined to give it the character of a report but said it was true.

The book goes on to say that Anderson surprised his men that night by restricting the garrison to the use of the sheltered guns in the lower casemate tier only. The kept his men off of the unprotected parapets during the shelling, but it also prevented them from using their larger guns with better angles of fire.

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From Beauregard's report in "The Confederate Soldier in the Civil War:

SHELL	|		SHOT		 |SHOT							10in 9in 8in|  64lb 42lb 32lb 24lb|32lbFort Moultrie						  6|   248	   305  105|  41Enfilade Battery						|			 300  300|Point Battery					 61	|					 |Floating Battery						|		247  223	 |Mortar Battery No1		   185		|					 |Mortar Battery No2			88		|					 |Mt. Pleasant Mortar Battery   81		|					 |							 354  61  6 |   248  247  828  405|  41

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The book goes on to say that Anderson surprised his men that night by restricting the garrison to the use of the sheltered guns in the lower casemate tier only. The kept his men off of the unprotected parapets during the shelling, but it also prevented them from using their larger guns with better angles of fire.

Anderson was aware that resistance was hopeless, but necessary as a matter of honor. However, he saw no need to risk the lives of his men unnecessarily.

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Anderson's actions at Fort Sumter made him an immediate national hero. He was promoted to brigadier general, effective May 15. Anderson took the fort's 33-star flag with him to New York City, where he participated in a Union Square patriotic rally that is thought to have been the largest public gathering in North America up to that time. Anderson then went on a highly-successful recruiting tour of the North. His next assignment placed him in another sensitive political position, commander of the Department of Kentucky (subsequently renamed the Department of the Cumberland), in a border state that had officially declared neutrality between the warring parties. He served in that position from May 28, 1861, until failing health required his replacement, by Brig. Gen. William T. Sherman, on October 6, 1861.

General Anderson's last assignment of his military career was as commanding officer of Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island, in August 1863. By coincidence, Fort Adams had been General Beauregard's first assignment after his graduation from West Point. Anderson officially retired from the Army on October 27, 1863, and saw no further active service.

Days after Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox and the effective conclusion of the war,Anderson returned to Charleston in the uniform of a brevet major general (ranking as of February 3, 1865) and, four years after lowering the 33-star flag in surrender, raised it in triumph over the recaptured but badly battered Fort Sumter during ceremonies there. (The same evening, April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated).

Edited by timschochet

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I'm going to put together a few posts tonight of rudimentary information on civil war weapontry as well as very basic information on battlefield tactics. We will also introduce the basic roles of the three chief units in civil war armies: infantry, cavalry, and artillery.

As mentioned earlier, if others want to contribute more detailed and exhaustive followups, they are more than welcome. My objective is to attempt to bring everyone up to the same base knowledge. Hopefully this will allow folks to easily follow the battlefield discussions which will begin fairly soon.

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I'm going to put together a few posts tonight of rudimentary information on civil war weapontry as well as very basic information on battlefield tactics. We will also introduce the basic roles of the three chief units in civil war armies: infantry, cavalry, and artillery.As mentioned earlier, if others want to contribute more detailed and exhaustive followups, they are more than welcome. My objective is to attempt to bring everyone up to the same base knowledge. Hopefully this will allow folks to easily follow the battlefield discussions which will begin fairly soon.

Great!

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The basic weapon of an infantry soldier was the single-shot, muzzle-loading percussion musket. The procedure for loading this gun used 20 separate motions in nine steps.

The minié ball fired by these weapons was a cone-shaped lead bullet with a hollow base. The base expanded upon firing to fit tightly into the bore. Paper cartridges, premade in the Northern and Southern arsenals, contained a ball and the proper amount of powder to fire the weapon. A separate copper percussion cap containing half a grain of fulminate of mercury was the firing mechanism that set off the powder and fired the round. The small cap was placed on a nipple that had a hole through it to the breech. Pulling the trigger caused the hammer to crush the cap, which shot a flame through the nipple to the powder. Soldiers carried a cartridge box and a pouch for caps on their belts.

With the butt of the rifle on the ground between his feet, the soldier took a paper cartridge out of his cartridge box, tore the paper with his teeth, and poured the powder into the barrel. The ball was then inserted the barrel and pushed down with the ramrod that was carried under the barrel. After the rammer was returned to its carrying groove, the soldier took a percussion cap from his pouch and placed it firmly on the nipple. The rifle was then ready to ####, aim, and fire.

The best soldiers could load and fire a muzzle loader no more than three rounds in a minute, and because of the buildup of soot in the barrel, each successive round was harder to load. Sometimes soldiers would beat the rammer down the barrel with a rock because the ball fit so tightly in the dirty barrel. It was common to pick up rifles of casualties to keep up firing.

* Fascinating Fact:

Because the paper cartridges had to be torn with the teeth, a soldier could not be in the infantry unless he had enough of the right teeth to do the job.

If you remember nothing else, fix this fact in your mind: the rifled musket changed everything. In the first year of the war, almost all soldiers carried smoothbore weapons, which had an effective range of 125 yards. The rifle that became common in 1862 and ubiquitous by 1863 was far more accurate and had a range of 600 yards. Unfortunately, the technological advancement outpaced the tactics; generals continued to order frontal assaults, which against the rifle would prove over time to be near suicidal.

Civil War Small Arms - Infantry

The two most common rifles were the American made Springfield Model 1861 (.58 caliber) and the British manufactured Enfield 1853 (.577 caliber); the ammunition was interchangeable between the two. The hand-finished parts of an Enfield did not interchange, as did those of a machine-made Springfield. Both weapons had a 39 inch barrel.

The most common smoothbore musket was the 1842 Springfield, which fired one solid .69 caliber round lead ball, along with three small buckshot ('buck and ball'), which was devastating at short range.

The Sharps rifle was a falling block rifle. It used a standard percussion cap, the Sharps had a fairly unusual pellet primer feed. This was a device which held a stack of pelleted primers that flipped one over the nipple every time the trigger was pulled and the hammer fell. This was much easier to operate from horseback than individual percussion caps. The Sharps Rifle was used in the Civil War by the U.S. Army sharpshooters known popularly as "Berdan's Sharpshooters" in honor of their leader Hiram Berdan. The Sharps made a superior weapon of higher accuracy than the more commonly issued muzzle-loading rifled-muskets. This was due mainly to the higher rate of fire of the breech loading mechanism. The carbine version was very popular with the cavalry of both the Union and Confederate armies and was issued in much larger numbers than the full-length rifle.

A variety of other American and European rifles were used by the infantry of both sides.

Civil War Weaponry - Cavalry

Troopers on both sides generally carried a shoulder weapon (carbine, rifle or shotgun), sidearm (pistol) and saber. The short-barreled carbine was effective out to 200 yards. Close to 20 different types were eventually adopted by Federal forces. They ranged from fairly simple single-shot breechloaders using a paper or linen cartridge and a percussion cap, to complex repeaters firing self-priming metallic cartridges. Calibers ranged from .44 to .54, and many carbines took specially made cartridges. Resupply of ammunition often proved tedious.

One mainstay of the cavalry on both sides was the Sharps. In production since the early 1850's, this .52 caliber arm was already known to be strong and reliable, and about 80,000 were purchased by the Federals. The Sharps was the primary weapon of General John Buford's division as it delayed the Confederate infantry advance towards Gettysburg on 1 July, 1863. Even though a single-shot, its breech-loading mechanism allowed a trooper to get off up to 5 shots per minute, against possibly 3 from a muzzle-loading musket.

As with the Springfield, the Confederates made their own copies of the Sharps, but demand far outstripped production. Only about 5,000 Confederate or "Richmond" Sharps were made. Of these, General Robert E. Lee wrote that they were "so defective as to be demoralizing to our men." Southern horsemen had to make do with captured Yankee breech-loaders, for which ammunition might be hard to come by, or stick with awkward short-barreled muzzle-loaders, for whom cartridges could be produced locally. A few Southern arsenals, most notably the Richmond Arsenal in Virginia, the Fayetteville Arsenal in North Carolina and the Cook & Brother Armory of Athens, Georgia, attempted to manufacture muzzle-loading carbines for Confederate troopers. Production was slow and erratic, and never met the needs of the men in the field.

The appearance of reliable repeater carbines gave the Yankee cavalry a decided advantage over the last years of the war. The 7-shot Spencer repeater, patented in 1860, was a .52 caliber capable of sending out seven aimed shots within thirty seconds. The effects of such firepower were overwhelming to Confederates used to the slower muzzle-loaders. Often, Federals with Spencers fired only one shot together to simulate a volley of musketry and waited for the Confederates to advance. When they did, the Unionists unleashed the other six shots in a rapid fusillade of fire that devastated the Southern lines. One Confederate observed, "There's no use fighting against such guns..." Over 94,000 carbines were acquired for use by Federal forces. The 5th and 7th Michigan regiments of General Custer's brigade were armed with the longer rifle version, and did good service with them there. One Michigan trooper, Robert Trouax, later distinguished himself with his Spencer rifle at the Rapidan River,"killing six rebels as they were crossing the river".

The Colt revolving rifle were experimental guns issued to Berdan's Sharpshooters but due to their unreliability were replaced with Sharps Rifles. My great-great-great-great-grandfather (2nd Michigan) used this 5-shot weapon from 1862 until the end of the war. One example of how effective this weapon was occurred July 1, 1862, when the two regiments (the second cavalry regiment was the 2nd Iowa) under Colonel Phil Sheridan stopped an eight regiment reconnaissance force. In the fight, Sheridan used his 160 cavalrymen with their revolving rifles to hold the rebel advance while he attacked them in the rear and on the left flank. Because of the rapid firing on his front, the Confederate general (Brig Gen Chalmers) was convinced he was outnumbered, and withdrew. In reality, his 4,700 troops were six times the number of Union dragoons. That engagement earned Lil Phil his star - he was brevetted a Brigadier General afterward.

The ill-supplied Southern trooper could not hope to match the firepower of these repeating weapons, for they utilized special copper rim-fire cartridges that were beyond the production capability of Confederate ordnance. In the case of handguns, though, both sides were more evenly matched. The manufacturing centers for these weapons were still located in the North, but few designs required the use of special ammunition. Captured revolvers were much more easily (and hence much more often) turned against their former owners.

The most prolific maker of handguns in the Civil War era was Samuel Colt. During the conflict his Hartford, Connecticut firm produced nearly 150,000 .44 caliber six-shot revolvers (the 1860 "New Model Army"). The vast majority of them went to the Union war effort, but Colt sold arms to all buyers until a few days after the firing on Ft. Sumter. These guns were durable and powerful. From 16 yards, a bullet from a Colt Army revolver penetrated seven white pine boards, each 3/4" thick, separated by one inch of dead space between them. Colt also manufactured a "Navy" model revolver in .36 caliber. Introduced in 1851, the Navy was widely available in the South, and a favorite arm of Confederate horsemen. Before the war's end, 185,000 Navy revolvers had been produced.

Another major supplier of revolvers to the Federal government was the firm of E. Remington and Sons, of Ilion, New York. Beginning in 1858, Remington introduced an improved series of simplified revolver designs that featured a solid frame, which made the arm stronger and cheaper to produce than its primary competitor, the Colt. The War Department purchased approximately 114,000 .44 and .36 caliber Remington revolvers at $12.00 per gun, while Colt was still charging $25.00 for their New Model Army.

This considerable difference in price cost Colt's much government business during the latter half of the war. Less expensive than a Colt, the Remington was an eminently serviceable handgun. At the close of the conflict, when discharged Federal cavalrymen were given the option to purchase their issue sidearm, more Remingtons were sold than Colts.

A variety of other firms also supplied revolvers to the Federal forces in limited numbers. Whitney, Allen, Savage and others provided less than 40,000. Smith and Wesson made small, metallic cartridge .22 and .32 caliber revolvers during this time, and these were sold in small lots or purchased privately.

Many foreign-made revolvers were imported and used by both sides. The French Lefaucheux "pin-fire", which took a special .45 caliber cartridge, armed many Federal troops in the Western theater. The Confederates purchased several thousand 5-shot "Kerr" revolvers, and a number of other types as well. The best-known of these, however, was the Le Mat. Developed in pre-war New Orleans, Louisiana, by Dr. Alexander Le Mat, this pistol fired nine .42 caliber bullets in addition to a .63 caliber shotgun charge.

Although a colorful pistol, and associated with such personalities as Confederate generals P.G.T.Beauregard, J.E.B. Stuart, and Captain Henry Wirz, relatively few were manufactured. Production problems proved difficult to overcome, and less than 3,000 were produced in France and England.

Artillery Weapons

As with the infantry discussion, only a basic outline is necessary to understand battlefield tactics. As with the musket, there were two primary types of field artillery: smoothbore and rifled. Unlike the soldiers weapons, however, one did not replace the other; rather, they are complimentary weapons with distinct roles.

M1857 12-pounder "Napoleon"

3-inch Ordnance Rifle

There are many, many other types of civil war guns and howitzers, but an understanding of these two basic cannons are all that is required to understand 99% of the battles we will discuss. Both these weapons had a listed effective range of around one mile (slightly less for the smoothbore Napoleon, slightly more for the rifled cannon).

The Napoleon (named after Napoleon III of France) was a smoothbore cannon, usually made of cast bronze (they're the 'green ones' you see at National Military Parks), were reliable short-range weapons.

Rifled guns (the 3 Inch Ordnance being the most common) were used primarily for counter-battery fire (e.g., gun vs. gun).

An explanation of the ordnance used by these two should make the differences more obvious.

Shot

Shot was a solid projectile that included no explosive charge. For a smoothbore, the projectile was a round "cannonball". For a rifled gun, the projectile was referred to as a bolt and had a cylindrical or spherical shape. In both cases, the projectile was used to impart kinetic energy for a battering effect, particularly effective for the destruction of enemy guns, limbers and caissons, and wagons. It was also effective for mowing down columns of infantry and cavalry and had psychological effects against its targets. Despite its effectiveness, many artillerymen were reluctant to use solid shot, preferring the explosive types of ordnance. With solid projectiles, accuracy was the paramount consideration, and they also caused more tube wear than their explosive counterparts.

Shell

Shells included an explosive charge and were designed to burst into a number of irregular fragments in the midst of enemy infantry or artillery. For smoothbores, the projectile was referred to as "spherical shell". Shells were more effective against troops behind obstacles or earthworks, and they were good for destroying wooden buildings by setting them on fire. A primary weakness of shell was that it typically produced only a few large fragments, with fragment count increasing with caliber of the shell. Spherical shell used time fuses, while rifled shell could be detonated on impact by percussion fuses. Fuse reliability was a concern; and shell that buried itself into the earth before detonating had little anti-personnel effectiveness.

Case (or shrapnel)

Case (or "spherical case" for smoothbores) were anti-personnel projectiles carrying a smaller burst charge than shell, but designed to be more effective against exposed troops. While shell produced only a few large fragments, case was loaded with lead or iron balls and was designed to burst above and before the enemy line, showering down many more small but destructive projectiles on the enemy. The effect was analogous to a weaker version of canister. With case the lethality of the balls and fragments came from the velocity of the bursting projectile itself—the small burst charge only fragmented the case and dispersed the shrapnel. The spherical case used in a 12-pounder Napoleon contained 78 balls. The name shrapnel derives from its inventor, Henry Shrapnel. The primary limitations to case effectiveness came in judging the range, setting the fuse accordingly, and the reliability and variability of the fuse itself.

Canister

Canister shot was the deadliest type of ammunition, consisting of a thin metal container loaded with layers of lead or iron balls packed in sawdust. Upon exiting the muzzle, the container disintegrated, and the balls fanned out as the equivalent of a shotgun blast. The effective range of canister was only 400 yards (370 m), but within that range dozens of enemy infantrymen could be mowed down. Even more devastating was "double canister", generally used only in dire circumstances, where two containers of balls were fired simultaneously.

In this period there were no recoil mechanisms, and when guns were fired they would leap back in recoil and have to be redirected for the next round. Gunners had to push their pieces back into position after each round, a tiring process. Aiming, rather than loading the gun, was the most time consuming of the process. Accuracy degenerated over time as cannoneers got tired and smoke blotted the battlefield. In addition, the recoil and resetting of the piece would wear a groove or ruts each time the piece was rolled back and forth; this would change the angle and elevation gradually, though the average cannoneer would be unaware of its affect at the time.

Although mortars were common place, especially in siege operations, for the most part almost all field artillery was line of sight firing only. There were no forward spotters.

All of these weapons used black powder, which produces a fair amount of smoke. Times by thousands of muskets and hundreds of cannons, it usually wasn't long before the target was obscured. Soldiers and cannoneers continued firing blindly, guided only by the flames belching out of the other sides weapons.

That's enough for an introduction. I will cover battlefield maneuvers and tactics next.

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BL, I have some questions:

1. When you say a weapon is effective from 200 ysrds or 600 ysrds etc., is that the extent that the bullet travels in a straight line before it begins to veer? Or can a decent soldier aim a weapon and then hit a small radius targeted from where he fired? (Or does it take a marksman to be able to fire a weapon accurately from the maximum effective range?

2. Are the calvary soldiers firing their weapons from their horses? Or are they dismounting and firing? If you're firing from a mounted position, do you have to stop the horse to shoot accurately? Or could you fire as you're galloping toward the enemy in a charge?

3. I understand that if you're shot, you're pretty much ####ed. At some point could you discuss the surgical techniques used by Civil War doctors for wounded patients? I imagine it's pretty gruesome stuff...

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BL, I have some questions:1. When you say a weapon is effective from 200 ysrds or 600 ysrds etc., is that the extent that the bullet travels in a straight line before it begins to veer? Or can a decent soldier aim a weapon and then hit a small radius targeted from where he fired? (Or does it take a marksman to be able to fire a weapon accurately from the maximum effective range? 2. Are the calvary soldiers firing their weapons from their horses? Or are they dismounting and firing? If you're firing from a mounted position, do you have to stop the horse to shoot accurately? Or could you fire as you're galloping toward the enemy in a charge? 3. I understand that if you're shot, you're pretty much ####ed. At some point could you discuss the surgical techniques used by Civil War doctors for wounded patients? I imagine it's pretty gruesome stuff...

Good questions all.1. 600 yards would be the far end of a rifles effective range, but in theory the ball could travel further. I have seen numerous references to guys getting hit by a 'spent ball', e.g., leaves a bruise but doesn't penetrate. Normally soldiers wouldn't fire from that 1,800 feet distance except maybe in a massed, synchronized volley. Interestingly, commanders on both sides gave little or no thought to marksmanship (exceptions being small specialized units like Berdan's). They counted on massed firepower to be more effective than carefully aiming. Inexperienced soldiers tended to aim high (those .58 calibers had a hefty kick), so if they instructed the men at all, it was to 'aim low'. BTW, mass volleys were usually just the first shot = after that it became fire at will.2. There were actually relatively few major engagements of large cavalry forces (Brandy Station, preceding the Pennsylvania invasion, was a notable exception). Generally troopers fought dismounted. One man in four would be designated a horse holder, keeping the animals safely to the rear. Cavalry charges were somewhat rare, but in certain instances had a tremendous shock effect. Seldom would cavalry fight infantry; it was too much of a mismatch. A cavalry charge versus entrenched infantry could result in a 10:1 casualty ratio or worse (I'll try to remember to touch on that when we discuss the Peninsula Campaign, and poor Farnsworth at Gettysburg). This is one are where ACW tactics differ sharply from Napleonic, as Bonaparte employed heavy cavalry in shock formation as the coup de grace.3. The minié ball was a nasty little invention; I should try to find an article on how much it changed warfare. As a low velocity, hollow projectile, it tended to flatten on impact. At close range it might pass through, but more commonly it penetrated until it hit a bone - and then it would shatter whatever part of the skeleton it hit. A modern bullet traveling at a high velocity will pass cleanly through its victim, or perhaps cleanly break an arm or leg. The flattened minié ball would tear gaping holes in flesh and render limbs useless for any future use. That is why, in part, why there were so many battlefield amputations. Usually the minié ball or fragment was still inside, mixed in with bone fragments. The crude surgeons had neither the proper tools or time for extraction. On a major battlefield, virtually every barn and house would serve as hospitals, and those units understood little about trauma. You had thousands of wounded streaming off the field every hour, and the medical staff were quickly overwhelmed. The best and most effective way to save a man was often to quickly amputate, bandage him up, and go to the next wounded man. No anesthetic, and we knew nothing about the importance of sterilizing equipment. Awful stuff.

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* Fascinating Fact:

Because the paper cartridges had to be torn with the teeth, a soldier could not be in the infantry unless he had enough of the right teeth to do the job.

Truly an interesting factoid. You couldn't load a weapon if you didn't have two opposing teeth to open the paper.

Something not mentioned is bayonets. From my understanding fixing bayonets was more of a scare tactic. The blade of a bayonet was triangular and medical technology of the time could not stitch up a triangular wound.

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The division of units on both sides for infantry:

| Army | Corps | Brigade | Regiment | Company

Regiments were raised and organized at the state level, and then traveled by rail to a centralized location to be mustered into service. A regiment was nominally 1,000* men strong when they were first recruited, usually divided into ten companies (100 men each) given letter designations, typically A-J (my ancestors regiment had 12 companies). Each company, by regulation, consisted of three officers, five sergeants, eight corporals, two musicians and about 80 privates. However, under campaign conditions, due to attrition, most companies fielded only 20 to 40 aggregate. The regimental staff officers would include the Colonel (commanding officer), a Lt. Colonel (equivalent to an executive officer), a Major, 1 Surgeon, 1-2 Asst. Surgeons, 1-4 Adjutants (or as many as the Colonel deemed necessary) to handle administrative and courier tasks, a Quartermaster for logistics and supplies, and a Chaplain.

A Brigade is simply a group of regiments, typically 4-6. Because of attrition from battlefield casualties, disease or sickness, a typical regiment might be 250-400*, and a brigade could number 1,600 to 2,500.

*Remember we said earlier 618,000 men died in the Civil War? Well, most of those were not from battlefield wounds - camp life was notoriously unsanitary, and the majority died of disease. The sick rolls were always lengthy.

A division would usually be 4-6 brigades in the Confederate army, 2-3 in the Union armies. Thus, divisions (and corps) tended to be larger for the CSA. At Gettysburg, the Army of Northern Virginia (70,000) had 9 divisions in 3 corps; the Army of the Potomac (93,000) had 22 divisions in 7 corps.

A corps is a grouping of two or more divisions. The Union army was authorized to form army corps in early 1862, but the Confederate congress did not authorize this procedure until the following year.

The basic fighting unit of the civil war was the brigade. The reason is simply one of command and control. A regiment of 400 men deployed in the typical two-deep rank would cover a front of 450 feet (3 regimental officers - the Col, Lt Col and the major). Each company of 40 men would be about 45 feet wide (again, 3 officers - the Capt, 1st Lt and 2nd Lt). Thus, a brigade in line of battle could be 1/3 - 1/2 mile in width from end-to-end. Any orders to change front or direction had to be verbally repeated by couriers on horseback - you can easily deduce why so often confusion reigned on the battlefield.

The regiments who were brigaded together were familiar with the other regimental officers in the brigade. They were used to co-operating with one another, and with the other brigades of the division. However, if a staff officer from another division came galloping up with orders, he would often be ignored by the commander.

Column and Line of Battle

These are the two basic formations. I want to keep this as simple as possible. If you're on the march, four wide, loose route step. When the shooting starts, shoulder to shoulder line of battle, two deep. There are dozens of ways to go from one to the other, but it simply isn't important for the average reader to understand.

click the links to see some oversimplified illustrations of the points being made

Attack v Defense (hey look...its a linky!)

In the civil war, if the numbers are equal, the defense always has an inherent advantage over the attacker. The reasons are simple enough - when the attacker is moving forward, he cannot load, and thus has a reduced fire rate. The defender is often behind some type of cover - a stone wall, fence rail, the crest of a ridge. The defender presents a smaller target. The defender can brace his weapon on that cover for more accurate fire, and as already noted, is firing more often than the advancing unit.

Attackers Advantages

The above assumes a frontal assault. However, the attacker can choose his point of attack. The defender has already decided the ground he will defend based on the terrain or cover it provides. The weakest point of the enemy line is the end, or the flank. Remember we said the basic line of battle formation is two ranks deep? If somebody is firing at you from the flank, you have exactly two defenders who can fire back. If anybody else in the defenders line returns fire other than the two on the end, they are in danger of hitting their own men. The attacker doesn't have to hit those two - more than likely it will hit somebody along that line.

Defenders Response

If a unit is attacked in the flank, more often than not they skedaddled. Quickly. But disciplined veteran troops can maneuver under fire, and the proper response is to refuse or bend back the end of the line so as to bring more men into line facing what was formerly the flank (end of the line).

Interior versus Exterior Lines

If the attacking force is a larger unit than the defenders, often their lines will overlap the defenders. This is another way for the attacker to 'gain the flank' of the defender. However, this concave bending of the line will also lengthen the communication process, and making reinforcement of a specific point more difficult. Conversely, the defender in refusing the flanks now has shorter interior line, aiding in command and control, and allowing them to plug gaps easier.

These illustrations are speaking of small unit actions, but at Gettysburg we see this on a larger scale. The Union line is bent back in the shape of a fish hook - they were able to send troops through shorter interior lines. Co-ordination is much easier when using interior lines. In stark contrast, the Confederate exterior lines at Gettysburg made communication and co-ordination far more difficult.

Interior versus Exterior lines works on a macro scale as well. Too bad (for them) the CSA leaders never fully grasped that. They could have shifted troops as meed to different threatened areas using interior lines. Instead they decided they needed to defend everything everywhere (in part because each Governor looked out for their own states interest instead of the greater good of the nation).

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Tomorrow I will post on artillery command structures and the role of cavalry.

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Before I post further about artillery and cavalry, another source giving some general Civil War by-the-numbers.

MAXIMUM EFFECTIVE RANGES OF COMMON CIVIL WAR WEAPONS (supplement to post #644)

Rifled musket: 400 yds. (but in practice, seldom used in battle beyond 250 yds.)

Smoothbore musket: 150 yds.

Breech-loading carbine: 300 yds.

Napoleon 12-pounder smoothbore cannon: Solid shot: 1,700 yds. Shell: 1,300 yds. Spherical case: 500-1,500 yds. Canister: 400 yds.

Parrott 10-pounder rifled cannon: Solid shot: 6,000 yds.

3-inch ordnance rifle (cannon): Solid shot: 4,000 yds.

I'm a little dubious of those last two, but I suppose if you're on a ridge firing over a valley toward another ridge some distance away, possibly...

THE ORGANIZATION OF CIVIL WAR ARMIES (supplement to post #648)

Each army (40,000-100,000 men) typically consisted of two or more corps (10,000-25,000 men). An army was usually commanded by a full General on the Confederate side and a Major General on the Union side.

Each corps typically consisted of two to four divisions (3,000-5,000 men). A corps was usually commanded by a Lieutenant General on the Confederate side and a Major General on the Union side.

Each division consisted of two to four brigades, usually three (1,200-2,500 men). Divisions were usually commanded by major generals.

Each brigade consisted of three to five regiments (300-800 men). A brigade was usually commanded by a Brigadier General.

The authorized strength of each regiment was about 1,000 men, but in practice they rarely maintained their full strength for very long. Regiments were usually commanded by colonels.

Previously I wrote how regimental and bridgade leaders might funtion; an expansion of that to get a better sense of the large picture:

THE BASIC BATTLEFIELD FUNCTIONS OF CIVIL WAR LEADERS

In combat environments, the duties of Civil War leaders divided into two main parts: decision-making and moral suasion. Although the scope of their decisions varied according to rank and responsibilities, they generally dealt with the movement and deployment of troops, artillery, and logistical support (signal detachments, wagon trains, and so on). Most of the decisions were made by the leader himself. While his staff assisted with administrative paperwork, in combat they functioned essentially as glorified clerks who did almost nothing in the way of sifting intelligence or planning operations.

Once made, decisions were transmitted to subordinates either by direct exchange or by courier, with the courier either carrying a written order or conveying the order verbally. More rarely, signal flags were used to send instructions. Except in siege operations, when the battle lines were fairly static, the telegraph was almost never used in tactical situations.

Moral suasion, simply put, was the art of persuading troops to perform their duties and dissuading them from a failure to perform them. This was often done by personal example, and conspicuous bravery was a vital attribute of any good leader. It is therefore not surprising that 8 percent of Union generals--and 18 percent of their Confederate counterparts--were killed or mortally wounded in action. (By contrast, only about 3 percent of Union enlisted men were killed or mortally wounded in action.)

Although any commander might be called upon to intervene directly on the firing line, army, corps, and division commanders tended to lead from behind the battle line, and their duties were mainly supervisory. In all three cases, their main ability to influence the fighting, once it was underway, was by the husbanding and judicious commitment of troops held in reserve.

Army Commanders principally decided the broad questions--whether to attack or defend, where the army's main effort(s) should be made, and when to retreat (or pursue). In effect, they made most of their key choices before and after an engagement rather than during it. Once battle was actually joined their ability to influence the outcome diminished considerably. They might choose to wait it out or they might choose, temporarily and informally, to exercise the function of a subordinate leader. In various Civil War battles army commanders conducted themselves in all sorts of ways: as detached observers, "super" corps commanders, division commanders, and so on, all the way down to de facto colonels trying to lead through personal example.

Corps Commanders chiefly directed main attacks or supervised the defense of large, usually well-defined sectors. It was their function to carry out the broad (or occasionally quite specific) wishes of the army commander. They coordinated all the elements of their corps (typically infantry divisions and artillery battalions) in order to maximize its offensive or defensive strength. Once battle was actually joined, they influenced the outcome by "feeding" additional troops into the fight--sometimes by preserving a reserve force (usually a division) and committing it at the appropriate moment, sometimes by requesting additional supports from adjacent corps or from the army commander.

Division Commanders essentially had the same functions as corps commanders, but on a smaller scale. When attacking, however, their emphasis was less on "feeding" a fight than husbanding the striking power of their divisions as much as possible. The idea was to strike one hard blow rather than a series of lesser ones.

The commanders below were expected to control the actual combat--to close with and destroy the enemy:

Brigade Commanders principally conducted the actual business of attacking or defending. They accompanied the attacking force in person or stayed on the firing line with the defense. If they had five regiments at their disposal, they typically placed three abreast of one another with the other two in immediate support. Their job was basically to maximize the fighting power of their brigades by ensuring that these regiments had unobstructed fields of fire and did not overlap. During an attack it often became necessary to expand, contract, or otherwise modify the brigade frontage to conform with the vagaries of terrain, the movements of adjacent friendly brigades, and/or the behavior of enemy forces. It was the brigade commander's responsibility to shift his regiments as needed while preserving, as far as possible, the unified striking power of the brigade.

Regiment Commanders were chiefly responsible for making their men do as the brigade commanders wished, and their independent authority on the battlefield was quite limited. For example, if defending they might order a limited counterattack, but they usually could not order a retreat without approval from higher authority. Assisted by company commanders, they directly supervised the soldiers, giving specific, highly concrete commands: move this way or that, hold your ground, fire by volley, forward, and so on. Commanders at this level were expected to lead by personal example and to display as well as demand strict adherence to duty.

Hope that helps folks to understand how civil war armies functioned in combat.

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