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

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  • 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 1 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 2 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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