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

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  • 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 1 of 3 , Jun 18 11:19 PM
      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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