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The Western Confederate armies-to defend or attack, which was the right choice?

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  • The Western Confederate armies-to defend or attack, which was the right choice?

    So as we were talking about things in the Grant thread, it made me think about something. Joe Johnston is often criticized for not attacking Sherman during the Atlanta campaign. John Bell Hood is criticized for attacking too much during the Atlanta campaign & the subsequent Tennessee campaign-which culminated at Franklin. The dichotomy strikes me as odd. How can we criticize BOTH? Was the Confederacy simply doomed in the West in 64? As this is "Armchair General", we seem to approach it from the standpoint of criticizing both, but can we have our cake & eat it too? Was Johnston right and Hood wrong? Was Johnston wrong & Hood right? Were they both wrong? We know that Johnston could have attacked at Cassville, but ironically enough, it was Hood who got cold feet there.

    So feel free to discuss. If you want to delve into other campaigns before this (62-63) or in the East & draw correlations, feel free. Just try to tie it in together with the main theme. Was there a strategy that the Confederacy could have pursued in 1864 in the Western theater to stop Sherman? Who was right, Johnston or Hood? Or were they both right or both wrong? If not those two commanding, who should have? Longstreet? Should Lee have been made to come West?
    The muffled drums sad roll has beat the soldier's last tatoo. No more on life's parade shall meet that brave and fallen few.

  • #2
    For my part, I think there was a strategy, but the strategy really needed better tactics to execute it with.
    Stopping Sherman means defeating him in the field - when he's living off the land this means that he absolutely must keep moving as he has no alternative supply line. You can't entrench in the way because he can keep moving... though if you can establish positions in front and on either side he has no choice but to either attack or surrender. (Can't retreat.)

    Fabian tactics is one option.

    The other is to increase your combat power to the point you can face Sherman. This is easier than it may seem because so much of Sherman's army is tied up in wagon trains for his supplies, so his firing line is weaker as a fraction of his army. There's several relatively simple tricks you can use - one of them, one I find interesting, is if you went through the army looking for the best shots and segregated them out into flank companies before making the rest of the regiments into shock troops. In this mode you train them to charge and to not stop - you might even make it so only the flank companies carried loaded rifles, and that the rest of the army should fix bayonets when charging.
    Get through the beaten zone, get into Sherman's army and damage its coherency, and he's in a rather sticky situation. (If he retreats, where can he go? Back over the area he's already stripped?)

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    • #3
      Using purely defensive tactics is not the answer. Early on the South could have done better, but they were constrained by the men in charge of their troops, men like Bragg and Kirby Smith. Problem two is the South tried to defend every place and so could not concentrate adequate resources. Shiloh was a step in the right direction, but even there, they waited too long to make the concentration of troops. Problem three is some places like Kentucky and Tennessee could not feed and provide adequate forage for the animals.

      I would have liked to see what an invasion of Indiana would have produced instead of retreat from Kentucky. That would have given the South time to consolidate rule in Kentucky and brought it into the Confederacy.

      More time would have brought in more weapons from Europe. Most people do not realize that Louisiana had thousands of men mustered into service when the Yankee Navy took New Orleans. They were unarmed and had to flee! Texas also needed small arms and cannon.

      Pruitt
      Last edited by Pruitt; 01 Jun 16, 12:29.
      Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

      Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

      by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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      • #4
        It's hard to say where exactly the confederates could go into offensive in the Western theater. Push into Kentucky, but then what? Any further movement would require control of the Mississippi River, and that's what obviously also cost them the war in the west in the end. Would it have been possible for the confederates to mount a serious operation to re-capture New Orleans?
        Wisdom is personal

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        • #5
          With the troops penned up in Port Hudson and Vicksburg, I don't see the Confederates taking and KEEPING New Orleans. The Yankee Navy could sail right up again and make it surrender. New Orleans is basically in a bowl. The US Navy would be firing from maybe 20 feet above the city. There was no way to build fortifications to protect the city.

          It could have been possible to take the town to make Bank's Army give up its siege of Port Hudson. If Bank's could be caught away from the river, he could have been beat. The problem is the Port Hudson garrison would have been sent to Johnston instead of Taylor. I think if Gardner and Taylor could have forced Banks to surrender they could have then gone to Vicksburg's aid. The hard part would have been to get the Vicksburg garrison to hold on for longer.

          Pruitt
          Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

          Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

          by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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          • #6
            The Confederates needed to attack in the West. John Bell Hood is often criticized for going on the offensive outside of Atlanta, but his operations after the loss of that city tend to go unnoticed; he raided Sherman's supply lines using Alabama as a base, and he forced Sherman to detain an army in Tennessee.

            If he shifted his base to Alabama in the beginning of '64, Johnston would've covered Sherman's flank and rear, and would've at least diverted the campaign away from Atlanta; ideally he would've gone on the offensive. Johnston was a decent tactician, but he was timid when it came to offensive operations.

            My short answer is "attack", but ideally I would've used Hood's plan from the start, and a general with both skill and vigour, maybe Forrest or Early or someone, I don't know.
            "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

            "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

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            • #7
              Keeping Louisiana is easy, frankly - just have the two ironclads which were OTL not finished be finished, perhaps by having them done in a prioritized order. You can also make the shore batteries much more effective with tricks like Martin's Shell (f***-off powerful version of hot shot) or by providing them with rifles - Britain has RBL guns at this point.

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              • #8
                One of the ironclads was a private venture intended to be a privateer. It was seized because it was still there. The engines never worked right. It had a one shot cannon that the crew had to reload outside of the armor!

                New Orleans had a lot of industrial building potential, but it could NOT make a steam engine!

                Pruitt
                Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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                • #9
                  You don't win by sitting on the defensive.

                  Hood was promoted past his abilities as an army commander.

                  After Chattanooga, the war in the west had been lost by the Confederates, so it was over except for the shouting. Atlanta sealed it.
                  We are not now that strength which in old days
                  Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                  Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                  To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

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                  • #10
                    It would have taken luck to hold Atlanta no matter who was in charge of the Army of Tennessee--Sherman could have won the campaign in May if he had followed Thomas' plan to go through Snake Creek Gap with a large force.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by grognard View Post
                      It would have taken luck to hold Atlanta no matter who was in charge of the Army of Tennessee--Sherman could have won the campaign in May if he had followed Thomas' plan to go through Snake Creek Gap with a large force.
                      Wrong! If R. E. Lee had been sent west, then the AOT would've been camping out in Cleveland, Ohio. That's how good Saint Bobby was.

                      Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by R. Evans View Post
                        Wrong! If R. E. Lee had been sent west, then the AOT would've been camping out in Cleveland, Ohio. That's how good Saint Bobby was.

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                        • #13
                          Would a defense be possible?

                          1.) In his article in Battles and Leaders, Johnston dwells on his lack of men, forage, and supplies.

                          2.) His fall-back plan was to
                          take refuge in Atlanta, which we could hold indefinitely; for it was too strong to be taken by assault, and too extensive to be invested. This would win the campaign, the object of which the country supposed Atlanta to be.
                          Yet we know from Sherman's capture of the Macon railroad that Atlanta was susceptible to capture.

                          Also, I don't see how possession of the Mississippi River was necessary for an offensive.

                          A.) Hood invaded Tennessee from Alabama

                          2.) Both Davis and Johnston agreed an invasion of Tennessee could be made from Dalton, GA
                          "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

                          "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by American87 View Post
                            Would a defense be possible?

                            1.) In his article in Battles and Leaders, Johnston dwells on his lack of men, forage, and supplies.

                            2.) His fall-back plan was to Yet we know from Sherman's capture of the Macon railroad that Atlanta was susceptible to capture.

                            Also, I don't see how possession of the Mississippi River was necessary for an offensive.

                            A.) Hood invaded Tennessee from Alabama

                            2.) Both Davis and Johnston agreed an invasion of Tennessee could be made from Dalton, GA
                            Johnson's article in B&L is written long after the fact, he did not tell Davis anything at the time except I have to react to Sherman's moves . If Johnson did plan to hold Atlanta, he had to keep the railroads open, and that would mean attacking to keep the Yanks off of them. I don't see Johnson launching attacks at that point when he only ordered one Cassville, between May and his relief in July.

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                            • #15
                              In my opinion the Confederate Armies were past the point of even limited offensives... which would have been necessary to defend Atlanta or to harass
                              Sherman. Same around Petersburg/Richmond.
                              SPORTS FREAK/ PANZERBLITZ COMMANDER/ CC2 COMMANDER

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