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I just finished viewing Ken Burns' Civil way series, all 10 tapes, and came away with many more questions and answers. The main one is motivated by the unbelievable carnage wrought by the midevil tactics employed by "Great Generals" in the face of the rifled musket. This weapon was accurate at 250 yards and would kill at 1/2 mile, and everybody knew that. Charging across open gound in formation made no sense, yet persisted.

Why would any general using this tactic achieve the status achieve greatness? What were the factors which prevented them from adopting new tactics?
 

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loader,

It can be summed up in one word, inertia.

Military thinking has forever been driven by old men (relatively) who cannot accept that there is a newer and better way to do anything. This is the reason that wars were fought with flintlocks long after civilians had generally turned to percussion, why muskets prevailed long after rifled guns were shown to be superior in accuracy, and why single shots were used for years after repeaters were the norm.

Tactical changes as a result of technological improvements, which is what you are referring to, always take some time to catch up. The fortunate thing in our current times is that this is known to be a problem and often new tactics are developed in theory but have to wait sometimes until technology catches up, but the former problem existed in most armies clear up to WW-I.
 

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Alk -

This is what led me to question the use of the term "Great General" as opposed to "Great Man". The big names in the civil War, like Lee and Grant really apply to Great Men. They were.

But there were glimpses of Great Generals: James Longstreet, Jackson and Nathan Bedford Forrest in the South, and Joshua Chamberlain and Buford in the North. They were smart enough to deviate from conventional tactics, and achieved remarkable results.

Lee in particular perplexes me, as he was actually known as the "King of Spades" before the War, due to his proclivity for entrenchment. When this was used at Fredricksburg, it was devastating to the North, yet he charged en masse and in formation at Gettysburg. This was done in spite of pleading by Longstreet to move south between the Union troops and Washington to force an attack on the Army of Virginia from better, entrenched positions.

Both excursions into MD and VA were attempted to achieve political results, not military victories. But politics were beyond Lee's contrrol and he was essentially rolling his men like dice.

The South was always in a defensive war - the north had to invade and route to win. One can only imagine the effect that guerrla warfare would have had with the passionate support of southern civilians.

For the sake of what America is today, I am glad this did not happen. However, in my book, greatness is about innovation and execution rather than dogged persistence.
 

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It seems very typical in military tactics that in the next war Generals are trying to fight based on what they learned in the last one. The Civil War, (or more properly, the "War of Northern Aggression" if you are from the Old Dominion) for the most part was pursued by the North in trying to fight set-piece battles with massed troops, and only a few of the more innovative Northern commanders such as Sherman and Crook who had fought Indians, appreciated the shock value of cavalry for rapid insertion, fire and movement, and the use of artillery to harass and interdict the enemy.

Southern commanders had fewer resources, but tended to use them more judiciously, trying to make every artilley round, horse soldier and infantryman count. Extensive use was made of unconventional forces and tactics which today we would call either special ops, or terrorism, depending upon whose side you were on, Mosby and Forrest being prime examples.

The U.S. Army went into WWII trying to use WWI tactics and failed miserably. By 1944 in both the Pacific and European theatres they had the upper hand.

Korea was a new ball game, and the Cold War and Vietnam frustrated everyone trying to balance between mutual assured destruction, deterrance and detente...

Desert Storm was probably the first modern war of the new millenium, but I don't see the unity in our coalition if (or when) we are to go into Iraq this time.

With terrorism being conducted by transnational groups without a distinct identify, it's much harder to tell who the enemy is or where to retaliate. I am very much concerned that our constitutional freedoms are being thrown out the window in the name of protecting national security. As a professional in the emergency management field I am acutely aware of the hazards and threats, and receive electronic briefs daily. But it really bothers me that we are on our way to becoming a police state and that everyone seems to be cheering them on. Hitler would be pleased, we seem to be singing his song and nobody cares...

Appologies in advance to the moderator for staying off topic.
Maybe we better cut this discussion off or move it to where it belongs.

Just how'd we get from the civil war to John Ashcroft's agenda?

Well, it's all because of the Southern Strategy! Yes, the South has indeed won the Civil War, it's just that we've taken 137 years.

Save your Confederate money boys, the South has risen again, just look at who is running the country!
 
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