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Re: [TalkAntietam] Re: McClellan, Antietam, and Possibilities

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  • Curt
    I disagree. The analytical construct is the battle and its immediate aftermath, i.e., a connected series of events. Definitions would be helpful. If you
    Message 1 of 3 , Jun 12, 2001
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      I disagree. The analytical construct is the battle and its immediate
      aftermath, i.e., a connected series of events. Definitions would be
      helpful. If you would like to use 20,000 total engaged as (part of?)
      the definition of battle, you will exclude many, many significant
      battles of any era. But, that is your prerogative, if you find it
      helpful.

      Then, there is the military meaning of "destruction" or "annihilation."
      These are terms that are widely misunderstood or misapprehended, even by
      professional officers. Believe me, I know. I was once at a conference
      where a serving officer asked a distinguished German general, who was
      explaining the annihilation of large Soviet formations on the Eastern
      Front, whether his panzer formation had killed all the Soviets and how
      "he felt about it." The general explained that in fact very few Soviets
      had been killed, and he felt just fine about it.

      Destruction is simply the act of so damaging a military force that, for
      all practical purposes, it can no longer function in its normal or
      intended purpose and cannot readily be restored to its condition before
      the decisive combat. In modern war theaters analysts assess the combat
      effectiveness of units and formations and "combat ineffective" and
      "destroyed" are terms that could be applied.

      This is what happened to Sturgis' column, to Hood's army, and to
      Zollicoffer's command. Also to Benedek's at Sadowa, where ca. 435,000
      were engaged.

      I did not address many of your other comments, since I did not regard
      them as germane. One thing, though, discounting the 20,000-man
      artificiality, how exactly is Nashville different from the other
      examples?

      As far as assumptions made by others about what was within the realm of
      the possible for McClellan at Antietam, I think that anyone who would
      base an analysis solely on personnel numbers has little or no
      understanding of combat. The raw numbers are simply one part of the
      mosaic. I suspect that what troubles many who have commented on the
      campaign and battle is that McClellan, who was not unintelligent or
      inexperienced, paid scant heed to commonsense and the principles of war
      in his conduct of each. In the long history of military ineptitude,
      this might not be too important, but the butcher's bill for this was
      enormous, and so therefore the analysis ought to be of abiding interest
      to historians and ought not to be waved off as "20-20 hindsight" or
      suchlike.

      Curt Johnson
      McLean, Va.


      James Rose wrote:
      >
      > Curt wrote:
      >
      > > I would suggest:
      > >
      > > Mill Springs (A/D 1:1)
      > >
      > > Brice's Cross Roads (A/D 0.4/1.0)
      >
      > I don't have much information on those two battles, but what I do have
      > does not equate to "battles of annihilation".
      >
      (snip)

      > As I have attempted to demonstrate elsewhere, in discussion of the
      > > purported 3-1 rule, there is no real correlation of raw numbers of
      > > personnel to success in battle.
      >
      > If this is true (which in general I agree) then why do people
      > automatically assume that McClellan would defeat and destroy Lee?
      > Jim Rose
    • James Rose
      ... You misunderstood my using the 20,000 number (which I will admit is artificial). The whole purpose of this discussion was to extrapolate an event that did
      Message 2 of 3 , Jun 16, 2001
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        Curt wrote:

        > I disagree. The analytical construct is the battle and its immediate
        > aftermath, i.e., a connected series of events. Definitions would be
        > helpful. If you would like to use 20,000 total engaged as (part of?)
        > the definition of battle, you will exclude many, many significant
        > battles of any era. But, that is your prerogative, if you find it
        > helpful.

        You misunderstood my using the 20,000 number (which I will admit is
        artificial). The whole purpose of this discussion was to extrapolate an
        event that did happen to the possibility of it happening at a different
        place. The difference in scale (if the difference is large enough)
        leads to a difference in kind. Say 11 men get into a fight (6 on one
        side and 5 on the other). The outcome of a fight between 60,000 vs
        50,000 cannot be logically extrapolated from the earlier fight. The
        20,000 number (which I am quite willing to change) is to separate the
        kinds of battles (i.e. regiment level, brigade level, division level,
        corps level, army level). 20,000 men on one side is a multi-division
        engagement. The different levels have different problems, and different
        things that must be accounted for.

        >
        > Then, there is the military meaning of "destruction" or "annihilation."
        > These are terms that are widely misunderstood or misapprehended, even by
        > professional officers. Believe me, I know. I was once at a conference
        > where a serving officer asked a distinguished German general, who was
        > explaining the annihilation of large Soviet formations on the Eastern
        > Front, whether his panzer formation had killed all the Soviets and how
        > "he felt about it." The general explained that in fact very few Soviets
        > had been killed, and he felt just fine about it.
        >
        > Destruction is simply the act of so damaging a military force that, for
        > all practical purposes, it can no longer function in its normal or
        > intended purpose and cannot readily be restored to its condition before
        > the decisive combat. In modern war theaters analysts assess the combat
        > effectiveness of units and formations and "combat ineffective" and
        > "destroyed" are terms that could be applied.

        Before what decisive combat? How about this for a definition: If the
        unit either cannot be restored to combat effectiveness at all, or if it
        will take as long to restore the unit as it would to raise a new unit.
        In this case, and in your example above the issue of destruction has
        more to do with logistical support than anything else. This was my
        point. In 1862 the logistical support existed in the Confederacy to
        keep the ANV from being "destroyed".

        >
        > This is what happened to Sturgis' column, to Hood's army, and to
        > Zollicoffer's command. Also to Benedek's at Sadowa, where ca. 435,000
        > were engaged.
        >
        > I did not address many of your other comments, since I did not regard
        > them as germane. One thing, though, discounting the 20,000-man
        > artificiality, how exactly is Nashville different from the other
        > examples?

        As I said I don't know much about the Western theater of the war. As
        near as I can tell (though I could well be wrong) was that the
        difference was that Hood's army could not be reconstituted as a
        functional fighting force.

        >
        > As far as assumptions made by others about what was within the realm of
        > the possible for McClellan at Antietam, I think that anyone who would
        > base an analysis solely on personnel numbers has little or no
        > understanding of combat. The raw numbers are simply one part of the
        > mosaic. I suspect that what troubles many who have commented on the
        > campaign and battle is that McClellan, who was not unintelligent or
        > inexperienced, paid scant heed to commonsense and the principles of war
        > in his conduct of each. In the long history of military ineptitude,
        > this might not be too important, but the butcher's bill for this was
        > enormous, and so therefore the analysis ought to be of abiding interest
        > to historians and ought not to be waved off as "20-20 hindsight" or
        > suchlike.

        I agree with that it should be analyzed. Of course I disagree with your
        interpretation of McClellan. The problem is that to get to a discussion
        on the relative merits (or lack thereof) of McClellan's plans we must
        first get though the "mass" theory of battle. The problem with this
        theory is that people literally take nothing else into account. It was
        in that context that I was trying to destroy the idea that McClellan
        could destroy Lee's army. In the context of all the other things that
        go into war I think that it was even more impossible for McClellan to
        destroy Lee (if for no other reason than quite a bit of the ANV was at
        Winchester at the time).

        Jim Rose
      • Curt
        No, I did not misunderstand. As you appear to recognize, there is a difference between a gang fight [or, duel], if you will, and a battle, which is an
        Message 3 of 3 , Jun 18, 2001
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          No, I did not misunderstand. As you appear to recognize, there is a
          difference between a gang fight [or, duel], if you will, and a battle,
          which is an organized phenomenon. When the numbers get large enough to
          permit maneuver by units, there is not much difference in combat forms
          (maneuver) and results. You will find that battles of annihilation
          exist at all levels of aggregation in organized combat. So the posited
          equivalency of "large" numbers has no relevance to the argument. You
          will also find that in the great majority of cases, such battles are won
          by envelopment and/or encirclement.

          The decisive combat that you ask about below is the battle. You want to
          extrapolate to the campaign or to the national means and will, and this
          is fine, but analytically, things can get very hazy there. You wish to
          proceed from a discrete event to the rather inchoate sequellae to the
          battle. Thus, you would rob the battle of its decisive nature,
          analytical utility, and consequences by saying (in effect), "Oh well,
          they could recover and field another force."

          Well, you can rest assured that if McClellan had the destroyed Lee's
          army at Antietam, the odds and ends at Winchester would have been
          incapable of effectively resisting even a military sloth like McClellan.

          You mention a mass theory of battle, which you disparage. I've never
          heard of it. It is a straw man. However, "mass" is one of the
          principles of war, and of course McC. violated that principle in the
          battle of Antietam. McC. had the means and the opportunity to destroy
          Lee's army at Antietam, but he did little if anything to effect that
          destruction. It was all within his grasp, as he himself recognized.
          Also, what da heck was McClellan's plan? I know we have something sort
          of cobbled together ex post facto as an apologia, but is there evidence
          of a coherent, integrated plan of battle being in place, coordinated,
          understood by all the principal actors, etc., on the eve of the battle?
          Further, if you review McClellan's conduct of the battle, can you name
          one, just one, of the Principles of War that McClellan employed,
          maintained, and exploited to win the battle?

          Curt Johnson
          McLean, Va.

          --------

          >
          > Curt wrote:
          >
          > > I disagree. The analytical construct is the battle and its immediate
          > > aftermath, i.e., a connected series of events.

          James wrote:
          >
          > You misunderstood my using the 20,000 number (which I will admit is
          > artificial). The whole purpose of this discussion was to extrapolate an
          > event that did happen to the possibility of it happening at a different
          > place.

          -------

          Curt wrote:

          > >
          > > Then, there is the military meaning of "destruction" or "annihilation."
          > > These are terms that are widely misunderstood or misapprehended, even by
          > > professional officers. Believe me, I know. I was once at a conference
          > > where a serving officer asked a distinguished German general, who was
          > > explaining the annihilation of large Soviet formations on the Eastern
          > > Front, whether his panzer formation had killed all the Soviets and how
          > > "he felt about it." The general explained that in fact very few Soviets
          > > had been killed, and he felt just fine about it.
          > >
          > > Destruction is simply the act of so damaging a military force that, for
          > > all practical purposes, it can no longer function in its normal or
          > > intended purpose and cannot readily be restored to its condition before
          > > the decisive combat. In modern war theaters analysts assess the combat
          > > effectiveness of units and formations and "combat ineffective" and
          > > "destroyed" are terms that could be applied.
          >

          James wrote:

          > Before what decisive combat? How about this for a definition: If the
          > unit either cannot be restored to combat effectiveness at all, or if it
          > will take as long to restore the unit as it would to raise a new unit.
          > In this case, and in your example above the issue of destruction has
          > more to do with logistical support than anything else. This was my
          > point. In 1862 the logistical support existed in the Confederacy to
          > keep the ANV from being "destroyed".
          >
          Curt wrote:

          > >
          > > This is what happened to Sturgis' column, to Hood's army, and to
          > > Zollicoffer's command. Also to Benedek's at Sadowa, where ca. 435,000
          > > were engaged.
          > >
          > > I did not address many of your other comments, since I did not regard
          > > them as germane. One thing, though, discounting the 20,000-man
          > > artificiality, how exactly is Nashville different from the other
          > > examples?

          James wrote:
          >
          > As I said I don't know much about the Western theater of the war. As
          > near as I can tell (though I could well be wrong) was that the
          > difference was that Hood's army could not be reconstituted as a
          > functional fighting force.
          >
          --------

          Curt wrote:
          > >
          > > As far as assumptions made by others about what was within the realm of
          > > the possible for McClellan at Antietam, I think that anyone who would
          > > base an analysis solely on personnel numbers has little or no
          > > understanding of combat. The raw numbers are simply one part of the
          > > mosaic. I suspect that what troubles many who have commented on the
          > > campaign and battle is that McClellan, who was not unintelligent or
          > > inexperienced, paid scant heed to commonsense and the principles of war
          > > in his conduct of each. In the long history of military ineptitude,
          > > this might not be too important, but the butcher's bill for this was
          > > enormous, and so therefore the analysis ought to be of abiding interest
          > > to historians and ought not to be waved off as "20-20 hindsight" or
          > > suchlike.

          James wrote:

          >
          > I agree with that it should be analyzed. Of course I disagree with your
          > interpretation of McClellan. The problem is that to get to a discussion
          > on the relative merits (or lack thereof) of McClellan's plans we must
          > first get though the "mass" theory of battle. The problem with this
          > theory is that people literally take nothing else into account. It was
          > in that context that I was trying to destroy the idea that McClellan
          > could destroy Lee's army. In the context of all the other things that
          > go into war I think that it was even more impossible for McClellan to
          > destroy Lee (if for no other reason than quite a bit of the ANV was at
          > Winchester at the time).
          >
          > Jim Rose
          >
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