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  • The Wizard of Oz

    In his book, "The Cause Lost: Myths & Realities of the Confederacy", William C Davis refers to Jefferson Davis as the Wizard of Oz. He likens Joe Johnston to the Cowardly Lion (because he was always retreating), PGT Beauregard as the Tin Man (because he never had his heart in the fight), & John Bell Hood as the Scarecrow (because he didn't have the brains to command an entire army). Is that a fair assessment? Is Davis too hard on these Confederate commanders? Is that oversimplifying these men? These were the men (other than Braxton Bragg & Pemberton) who commanded the major armies of the Confederacy besides Robert E. Lee. I think William Davis's notion is that the Confederacy got a barrel full of bad apples for commanders with the exception of Lee. The fact that it still took 4 years to defeat the Confederates shows that the Union had their fair share as well.

    Anyone a Johnston/Beauregard/Hood fan who would argue otherwise?
    Last edited by hellboy30; 02 Oct 07, 16:07.
    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
    Good questions.

    I suppose this could also be an application of the Peter Principal, especially when it comes to Hood. I have always been partial to Hood as a historical figure, but I agree that his days as army commander were not his best. Of course, all through the Wizard of Oz it was the scarecrow who always had a plan. Oh well.

    I like the comparison of Jeff Davis to the Wizard. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" Seems like that was often the case.

    Admittedly I do not know enough about Johnston's total campaign history to attempt to refute this claim, but on the surface it seems a bit of hyperbole. Wasn't Johnston usually outnumbered? Or, if/when you compare him to Lee, maybe he should have been the scarecrow.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by hellboy30 View Post
      In his book, "The Cause Lost: Myths & Realities of the Confederacy", William C Davis refers to Jefferson Davis as the Wizard of Oz. He likens Joe Johnston to the Cowardly Lion (because he was always retreating), PGT Beauregard as the Tin Man (because he never had his heart in the fight), & John Bell Hood as the Scarecrow (because he didn't have the brains to command an entire army). Is that a fair assessment? Is Davis too hard on these Confederate commanders? Is that oversimplifying these men? These were the men (other than Braxton Bragg & Pemberton) who commanded the major armies of the Confederacy besides Robert E. Lee. I think William Davis's notion is that the Confederacy got a barrel full of bad apples for commanders with the exception of Lee. The fact that it still took 4 years to defeat the Confederates shows that the Union had their fair share as well.

      Anyone a Johnston/Beauregard/Hood fan who would argue otherwise?
      I agree and disagree with this. Davis was a poor president who wanted to micro-manage everything.

      Johnston was not always retreating. I liken him more to Longstreet, drawing the enemy in and then striking. See Kennesaw. He also had a plan similar to Lee's at North Anna River but Johnston was on the Chattahoochee.

      Think about we know Johnston retreated from McClellan, he was drastically outnumbered and new to command. Against Sherman not only was he outnumbered he was out supplied and out moralled. He was trying to hole together an army that basically only knew defeat and poor commanders. With Johnston in command the AoT inflicted more casualties on Sherman. And we all know what happened when Hood took over.

      I agree with the description of Hood, great division commander, good corps commander but a horrible army commander.

      With Beauregard I would also like to see him command a corps not an army. I would actually like to see him in the War Department and not on the battlefield at all.
      All war is based on deception. - Sun Tzu

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      • #4
        The first time Johnson retreated from Mac he had been in command longer than Mac and abandoned the Manassas position and lots of supplies. So the idea that he only retreated when he was new to command is false.

        The south had very few really good generals, while the North had several who were not great but could at least the superior resources for something. Mac, Burnside and Hooker come to mind. The really goods used the resources to win the war.
        Baeauguard at Corinith and lee most of the time wetre so badly outnumbered they couldn't win decisive victories given the odds.

        Davis did micromanage, but not well. Not getting Van Dorn to Shiloh, detaching Stevenson's division to MISS before Murfreesboro, etc.

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        • #5
          As an aside....Frank Baum's book, The Wonderfull Wizard of OZ, was in part a statement concerning late 19th century issues in America......William Jennings Bryant type stuff.
          I often think how much easier the world would have been to manage if Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini had been at Oxford. Lord Halifax

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          • #6
            Originally posted by grognard View Post
            The first time Johnson retreated from Mac he had been in command longer than Mac and abandoned the Manassas position and lots of supplies. So the idea that he only retreated when he was new to command is false.
            Of course, Johnston did so well after Lee (as advisor to Davis) had insisted that a line north of the Rappahannock was untenable. Lee also told Beauregard that prior to 1st Manassas, but Beauregard had ignored him.

            All in all, I think the assessments are a gross generalization that do little to help understand the war and how it was fought.
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            • #7
              When Johnson mentioned retreat, Davis asked about the fallback position, and Johnson said he didn't have one. Davis couldn't figure out why Johnson had been there for six months, griping all the time and and yet had not figured out where to go if he abandoned the position. Johnson did nothing to prepare for the retreat or to save the supplies, which has nothing to do with Lee's advice.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by grognard View Post
                When Johnson mentioned retreat, Davis asked about the fallback position, and Johnson said he didn't have one. Davis couldn't figure out why Johnson had been there for six months, griping all the time and and yet had not figured out where to go if he abandoned the position. Johnson did nothing to prepare for the retreat or to save the supplies, which has nothing to do with Lee's advice.
                ...are you saying that his makes him a cowardly lion or are you changing the argument on me?
                Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
                Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


                "Never pet a burning dog."

                RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
                http://www.mormon.org
                http://www.sca.org
                http://www.scv.org/
                http://www.scouting.org/

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                • #9
                  I would say calling Jefferson Davis the "Wizard of Oz" is giving Ole Jeff a bit too much credit. Looking back at Jeff Davis's days at West Point, he did have problems dealing with rules and shows he was not always brilliant. That never got in the way of Jeff's personal conviction that he was brilliant.

                  To say Johnston and Davis never operated on the same page is an understatement. I think the best way to sum Johnston is he was a very talented under-achiever that showed flashes of brilliance. The fact that he did not sell himself as well as say, Beauregard is also evident.

                  Pruitt
                  Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

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                  • #10
                    But who is Dorthey?

                    HP
                    "Ask not what your country can do for you"

                    Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

                    you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

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                    • #11
                      Dorothy is every soldier who wants to go home--and that's everyone of them in Toto

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