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Should They Have Known?


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Section47ABH #21 Posted 23 February 2016 - 10:44 PM

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View PostJStudebaker, on 23 February 2016 - 10:24 PM, said:

 

If machine guns had been available to the Civil War combatants, trench warfare of similar caliber might have developed along the Virginia boarder. The Union capital of Washington D.C and Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia were only 100 miles apart. The machine gun could have made forming a defensive line possible.

 

Not really: the earliest phases of the Western Front were the races to the sea and the mountains, both sides trying to find a flank to turn but unable to move fast enough to get around the end of the entrenching defenders.    While, yes, defensive lines could have formed in the ACW, and in fact did,  the fighting would only remain static long enough for one side or the other for one side or the other to get around.  Such trench fighting as actually occurred was in the context of sieges, which were either relieved or successful once the defenders ran out of supplies. (Looking up the results is left as an exercise, etc.)

 

In 1914 firepower was just good enough to prevent open-ground advances against static positions, but not quite good enough to make static positions suicidal.  Mobility was in a similar sort of delicate balance: enough to bypass static positions if there was plenty of room, not quite good enough to get mass movement in to a break through if there wasn't.

 

The politics and geography that shaped the Western Front put the fighting in the absolute worst possible spots of the firepower and mobility charts at the same time: it almost certainly couldn't have happened that way elsewhere or with the belligerents drawn up differently so that the respective start lines are different.  Change the time and technology, and you get a considerably different war. 


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JStudebaker #22 Posted 24 February 2016 - 02:59 PM

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View PostSection47ABH, on 23 February 2016 - 04:44 PM, said:

 

Not really: the earliest phases of the Western Front were the races to the sea and the mountains, both sides trying to find a flank to turn but unable to move fast enough to get around the end of the entrenching defenders.    While, yes, defensive lines could have formed in the ACW, and in fact did,  the fighting would only remain static long enough for one side or the other for one side or the other to get around.  

 

The area between the two capitals is the only area I was thinking WWI style trench warfare would have happened. You ran into the sea on the east and the Appalachian Mountains to the west. While the Appalachians are more a series of hills on top of another hill (My mother is from West Virginia) rather than the barrier the Alps or Rockies would pose, they still could limit movement. If a smaller force could hold that line at Fredericksburg, the bulk and more mobile parts of Lee's Army could have dispatched to fight along the boarder states.

 

There were many battles the Confederacy won but still retreated because they couldn't hold the next day. My Great Great Grandfather's first battle at Perryville was like that. His regiment (21st Wisconsin) was butchered in a crossfire and they expected to be finished off the next day. Bragg however didn't have the reserves to carry his victory onward and retreated, more or less giving up most of Kentucky. An army freed up from another front could have changed all that.

 

Very true that WWI could only have happened where it did and when it did. If the South had access to machine guns and the like they would have to be more industrialized than they were. That would likely have negated the whole reason for the war. Probably have suffered a soviet style revolt of the peasant class instead, but that's another discussion.

 

 



Section47ABH #23 Posted 24 February 2016 - 03:24 PM

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Heh, I spy a Harry Turtledove reader, maybe?

 

I'm fairly sure that if there had been any military sense in putting in extensive fieldworks of that kind, Lee and Jackson - who, for all they were traitors were at least competent traitors - would have done it.  And McLellan would have been exactly the Union general to get on board with static warfare that didn't involve taking any risks. 

 

I suspect that the problem from the traitor side would have been with the prospect of attrition.  Once the Union had generals who understood just how much less able to stand the pace the traitors were, it was all over for the slavers.  And at that, Grant and Sherman exploited the fact that they had an entire continent's worth of flanking routes to exploit.  It would have been over even quicker if Jackson hadn't been able to do what he did in the Valley campaign, which depended on mobility and recon/intelligence.  He was helped along somewhat by his opposition being not quite as good as him, but he still played an ace's game.  A bit less confusion and embuggerance on the Union side, and whatever missteps he made (and there must have been some, there always are) would have cost him the Valley and let the Union forces through.


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JStudebaker #24 Posted 24 February 2016 - 04:50 PM

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Actually, never read any of his books. I like coming up with alternate history stories myself, but don't care reading others.

 

I think the Confederacy would have done better in a war of attrition as long as the front was a stalemate. The Union had to force the states back together. Lee just needed to keep his army alive and relevant long enough to prove to Europe they were worth investing in. Stagnation meant the boarders stayed the same which is what they wanted. Lincoln needed victories and some sign of the front moving forward to win reelection and keep foreign powers from getting involved.

 

You are right though, the South could only suffer so many casualties while the North had reserves to spare. But, in a WWI trench warfare the South wasn't the ones needing to go over the top. They just needed to wait for the North to come at them. As said, the continent worth of flanking opportunities kept this from happened. WWI tech I believe would have greatly mirrored WWI results in Virginia, but not elsewhere.  



Matthew J35U5 #25 Posted 24 February 2016 - 04:54 PM

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Wouldn't the South struggle to produce sufficient munitions in a war of attrition? I know the North was much more industrialized, but I don't really know much about the South's materials situation. 

KeystoneCops, on 14 June 2015 - 12:51 PM, said:


JStudebaker #26 Posted 24 February 2016 - 05:09 PM

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View PostMatthew J35U5, on 24 February 2016 - 10:54 AM, said:

Wouldn't the South struggle to produce sufficient munitions in a war of attrition? I know the North was much more industrialized, but I don't really know much about the South's materials situation. 

 

Very true. But, Virginia's shipbuilding trade kept them somewhat industrialized. It would have been something spectacular but I think they could have geared up to meet the supply needs. If the blockades by the Union Navy weren't an issue the Confederacy could have traded cotton for bullets quicker than the north could have made them. A whole other matter if WWI tech had been used at sea. Confederate U-Boats alone would have changed the whole war. The Hunley almost did.

XxDAFFYxxDUCKxX #27 Posted 24 February 2016 - 05:37 PM

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View PostJStudebaker, on 24 February 2016 - 11:09 AM, said:

 

Very true. But, Virginia's shipbuilding trade kept them somewhat industrialized. It would have been something spectacular but I think they could have geared up to meet the supply needs. If the blockades by the Union Navy weren't an issue the Confederacy could have traded cotton for bullets quicker than the north could have made them. A whole other matter if WWI tech had been used at sea. Confederate U-Boats alone would have changed the whole war. The Hunley almost did.

 

Definitely true in the case of the South's naval capabilities, but on the ground, they really lacked the ability to produce enough supplies to keep up with the massive attrition they were facing at the hands of the North, not to mention that while the Southerners had the better generals and (Generally) more experienced troops, they were under manned, under gunned, and simply out-matched by the North's population and industrial might. The one thing the South really needed was the ability to put up a long, costly war to make it as difficult for the North to continue their attempt at reunification. 

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MrWuvems #28 Posted 24 February 2016 - 06:45 PM

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View PostXxDAFFYxxDUCKxX, on 24 February 2016 - 11:37 AM, said:

 

Definitely true in the case of the South's naval capabilities, but on the ground, they really lacked the ability to produce enough supplies to keep up with the massive attrition they were facing at the hands of the North, not to mention that while the Southerners had the better generals and (Generally) more experienced troops, they were under manned, under gunned, and simply out-matched by the North's population and industrial might. The one thing the South really needed was the ability to put up a long, costly war to make it as difficult for the North to continue their attempt at reunification.

 

I actually take on a view that many would disagree with that the leadership from West Point that defected to the south had less of an impact that one might have expected. On a strategic level, it was mostly the non-traditional commanders that set in theatre-scale attritional war that eventually won out. The biggest problem was that there was no top-level commander up for the job in the east until late in the war, with particularly McClellan being put in command for a role that didn't suit him (after being relieved he actually did fairly well training troops). But Grant probably wouldn't have been able to prosecute the offensive war effectively in the same situation either.

Section47ABH #29 Posted 24 February 2016 - 07:14 PM

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View PostJStudebaker, on 24 February 2016 - 04:50 PM, said:

Lee just needed to keep his army alive and relevant long enough to prove to Europe they were worth investing in

 

Eh, no, that's a bit of Lost Cause mythmaking.  The South's one serious export was replaced by the second year of the war.  It's why there's such a thing as Egyptian Cotton to this day.  That was the only thing that was getting the South's diplomats a foot in the door in the United Kingdom: we had a big cotton industry.  And with the supply replaced from within the Empire (a bonus) and the just-starting-to-unionise cotton workers threatening to strike rather than support the slavers (there's a monument to this in Manchester's Lincoln Square as it happens, yes, named after the President, and it was the centre of the English cotton and linen weaving industry) they lost even that. 

 

The crowned heads of Europe really didn't want to encourage any kind of rebellion or treason: there were rumblings of discontent all over Europe, and there were these two jokers name of Marx and Engels starting to really make themselves heard....

 

The whole 'if we'd only kept in the fight we woulda won!' thing is just wishful thinking.  They were lost before they started.


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MrWuvems #30 Posted 24 February 2016 - 07:37 PM

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View PostSection47ABH, on 24 February 2016 - 01:14 PM, said:

 

Eh, no, that's a bit of Lost Cause mythmaking.  The South's one serious export was replaced by the second year of the war.  It's why there's such a thing as Egyptian Cotton to this day.  That was the only thing that was getting the South's diplomats a foot in the door in the United Kingdom: we had a big cotton industry.  And with the supply replaced from within the Empire (a bonus) and the just-starting-to-unionise cotton workers threatening to strike rather than support the slavers (there's a monument to this in Manchester's Lincoln Square as it happens, yes, named after the President, and it was the centre of the English cotton and linen weaving industry) they lost even that.

 

The crowned heads of Europe really didn't want to encourage any kind of rebellion or treason: there were rumblings of discontent all over Europe, and there were these two jokers name of Marx and Engels starting to really make themselves heard....

 

The whole 'if we'd only kept in the fight we woulda won!' thing is just wishful thinking.  They were lost before they started.

 

Additionally, the purpose of the emancipation proclamation was to throw a concession to what the European powers would like to see from the US, making it reaaaaaaaaal easy for the crown to sit out and feel good about themselves. Without any serious motivation for war (and post-Napoleonic Europe and the US had a friendly if a little Tsundre relation with the US) the UK had no benefit from doing anything other than sitting there and trading with whoever is left standing once the mess was sorted out.

JStudebaker #31 Posted 24 February 2016 - 08:15 PM

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View PostSection47ABH, on 24 February 2016 - 01:14 PM, said:

 

Eh, no, that's a bit of Lost Cause mythmaking.  

 

 

I disagree, partially. The idea of "King Cotton" was a myth and the Confederacy wholly overestimated English textile mills dependence on Southern cotton. Once the war became clearly about slavery England wasn't going to touch it, that I know. But there was more to proving you had a viable country than one export.

 

It almost was more about the US proving itself. If that unruly colony couldn't take care of it's business England was more than happy to take over again. That's an exaggeration but I do believe England kept dialog going with the Confederacy on a "just in case" basis. Probably one of the reasons the South thought for so long that England would come to their aid. The British were happy to string them along, sell some guns and see where they might reassert their influence. European assistance was far less likely than the South thought but it was not totally out of the question. 

 

 

Thinking about it now, they also needed to prove their viability to the North. They either needed Europe to support the war or the North to not support it. The latter was far more likely. The Copperhead press was more than willing to give victory to the Confederacy. American free press has always kept the people informed of all the death war can bring so we've never had the stomach for staying in high body count conflicts that didn't directly influence us. And what happened in the South didn't directly effect most northerners except Egyptian cotton couldn't feed their mills as easily as Southern cotton could have.

 

The Southern Cause wasn't lost before it began. It was frighteningly capable of surviving. It still hasn't lost it's hold on some parts of the country. I was nearly kicked out of a bed and breakfast in Vicksburg when the woman running it learned my Great Great Grandfather fought for the Union.



Sqn Ldr B #32 Posted 24 February 2016 - 08:43 PM

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Wow. Imagine if they kicked you out of a hotel in Birmingham for supporting Charles I. Because that's essentially where you're at there.

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JStudebaker #33 Posted 24 February 2016 - 09:05 PM

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If I had told her my ancestor was one of Sherman's Bummers I likely would have been tied up and tossed into the Mississippi in my sleep. 

Section47ABH #34 Posted 24 February 2016 - 09:16 PM

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View PostJStudebaker, on 24 February 2016 - 08:15 PM, said:

 

 

 

 

The Southern Cause wasn't lost before it began. It was frighteningly capable of surviving. It still hasn't lost it's hold on some parts of the country. I was nearly kicked out of a bed and breakfast in Vicksburg when the woman running it learned my Great Great Grandfather fought for the Union.

 

Yes, but ability to attract frankly repellent levels of devotion doesn't translate into the economic resources to carry a war to a succesful conclusion.  All that does is draw out a foregone conclusion to disgusting levels of suffering for the Poor Bloody Infantry and the ordinary people with the bad luck to get in the way.  Just so a few dandified idiots could keep themselves one jump ahead of their creditors and the bankruptcy court.
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Section47ABH #35 Posted 24 February 2016 - 09:20 PM

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View PostSqn Ldr B, on 24 February 2016 - 08:43 PM, said:

Wow. Imagine if they kicked you out of a hotel in Birmingham for supporting Charles I. Because that's essentially where you're at there.

 

I don't know.  Lancashire and Yorkshire are still making off-colour jokes about the Wars of the Roses over half a millennium later.   And the French are treated with suspicion and derision even though we signed the formal peace nearly two centuries ago...  some memories die exceeding hard indeed.
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JStudebaker #36 Posted 24 February 2016 - 09:39 PM

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View PostSection47ABH, on 24 February 2016 - 03:16 PM, said:

 

Yes, but ability to attract frankly repellent levels of devotion doesn't translate into the economic resources to carry a war to a succesful conclusion. 

 

There's a certain part of the world that would challenged that idea and has for centuries. But, I dare not say its name for fear of derailing the conversation to where no one wants it to go.



Sqn Ldr B #37 Posted 24 February 2016 - 09:48 PM

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View PostSection47ABH, on 24 February 2016 - 09:20 PM, said:

 

I don't know.  Lancashire and Yorkshire are still making off-colour jokes about the Wars of the Roses over half a millennium later.   And the French are treated with suspicion and derision even though we signed the formal peace nearly two centuries ago...  some memories die exceeding hard indeed.

 

Well, those jokes are in jest. I should know, I'm from Yorkshire. It's nowhere near as much as it is in America. You're not going to get thrown out of Lancashire if you're from Yorkshire. The worst you'll get is a jab at greyhound racing.

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Sqn Ldr B #38 Posted 24 February 2016 - 09:49 PM

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Oh, and we'll always be like that to the French. They're the French. We've been on and off at war with them for the last six hundred years or so.

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MrWuvems #39 Posted 24 February 2016 - 09:56 PM

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View PostSqn Ldr B, on 24 February 2016 - 03:49 PM, said:

Oh, and we'll always be like that to the French. They're the French. We've been on and off at war with them for the last six hundred years or so.

 

And yet you two wonder why the US and Canada ended up so screwed up.

to say nothing of how India reacted when you said they were adopted



JStudebaker #40 Posted 25 February 2016 - 02:33 PM

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View PostSqn Ldr B, on 24 February 2016 - 03:48 PM, said:

 

Well, those jokes are in jest. I should know, I'm from Yorkshire. It's nowhere near as much as it is in America. You're not going to get thrown out of Lancashire if you're from Yorkshire. The worst you'll get is a jab at greyhound racing.

 

Just don't tell anyone out of town what your football allegiance is or they'll beat the snot out of you. 

 

 






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