The viability of Attack in the West versus the East
- Something I've been thinking of recently, that might stimulate a
good bit of discussion:
Most of us are familiar with the standard canard of modern-day
assessments of ACW-era tactics, particularly the supposed
"invincibility" of the tactical defense. It's a general article of
faith among the academics that "most Civil War battles were won by
the defender"---or, even further, that the majority of tactical
attacks were stopped dead in their tracks, with little of no
material success in the interim. Certainly the majority of battles
in the Eastern Theater are borne out by this conclusion---at First
Manassas, most of the Seven Days' Battles, Cedar Mountain, 2nd
Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, the last two days of Gettysburg,
Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and others.
However, most of the battles in the Western Theater don't seem to
fit this analsysis: Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Perryville, Stones' River-
--all of these were battles were the initial attack was quite
successful, sometimes dramatically so. At Chickamauga and the
battles around Chattanooga, we even have battles where attacking
forces facing defenders that possessed "superior" ground managed to
succeed in overwhelming these static, fortified positions. Only
during the Atlanta Campaign do the battles in the Western Theater
start to resemble those of the Eastern: attacks that are costly and,
furthermore, almost completely unsuccessful.
Why is this?
I can't claim to have researched this subject thoroughly---the
thought only occured to me earlier today(!)---but it seems that the
general pattern of Eastern battles is this: open ground, with
generally extensive fields of fire. By contrast, most Western
battles occured in "difficult" terrain: thick woods and obstructions
and, more importantly, limited fields of fire. Perhaps the
thickness of the foliage, and the effect it had on limiting the
range at which the defenders' fire could come into play, made the
difference in why so many attacks in the West were so successful.
However, this theory raises an interesting question: if open fields
of fire can be said to have made the difference, then what can be
said about a lot of modern-day revisionism that insists that the
increased ranges of rifled muskets actually didn't make a difference
in terms of making attacks more costly? If this is true, then
shouldn't most of these attacks in the West have been stopped cold,
much like those of their Eastern counterparts? Would the wooded
terrain have made any difference at all? And if not, then what did
make the difference?
- I was asking Ray for a source on Jackson.
--- In email@example.com, "Ronald black" <rblack0981@...>
>versus the East
> How many sources do you want? Take your pick.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: ngreadermail
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2008 3:45 PM
> Subject: [civilwarwest] Re: The viability of Attack in the West
> --- In email@example.com, "raymondohara" <raymond-
> > --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Ronald black"
> > wrote:----------
> > >
> > > Ray:
> > > They didn't go to Jackson.
> > > Ron
> > >
> > when grant began the next campaign. they were at jackson.
>1/2/2008 11:29 AM
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