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Subject: Could the South Have Won the War Through Mobile Offense In the West And Defense In the East?
CJH    6/2/2005 9:11:02 AM
After reading a book on Nathan Bedford Forest I have wondered whether the Southern Confederacy had its grand strategy backwards. I think it is true that although most of the fighting took place in the East, the fighting that ultimately decided the war was in the West. Robert E. Lee showed a suprior ability in defensive warfare having eventually resorted to the most extensive use of field fortifications since the Roman army. Keeping the Federals out of Richmond was his specialty. However, he was less than successful when he took the offensive and that was as much due to the poverty of opportunities as skill. The West was more open territory for manouvering and avoiding contact. There was the barrier of the Mississippi River but otherwise there was access to agriculturally important Northern territory. Could say, Nathan Bedford with a large army on horseback could have used the Great Plains as a manouvering an staging area to threaten the Great Lakes states, induce the Northern papers to yell for forces, distract the Federal army, draw off pressure from Richmond, keep the North worried about the Plains Indian nations joining him, cut off overland communications with California and the Western half of the couuntry, etc? Could he have sustained operations in the Plains year long avoiding contact with forces to great to defeat and defeating the rest? Could he have invaded Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indianna, etc and carried out operations against agriculture, industry and communications?
 
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Carl D.    RE:Could the South Have Won the War Through Mobile Offense In the West And Defense In the East?   6/5/2005 5:15:06 AM
Once the South lost control of the Mississippi River they were stuck. The north's existing advantage in rail transportation and manufacturing, especially in the east, added to the manpower crisis that the South was facing kind of puts that option out of play early on. The Confederate expedition out of Texas to take the Western states, especially California shows that logistically, the South wasn't either able or willing to commit the resources needed for an offensive into the west. Heck, the motivation to take California/Nevada territory with the gold and silver was there, it just seems like the Richmond-DC corridor attracted everyone's attention like a moth to a flame, with the simple idea of taking each other's capitols to end the war.
 
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CJH    RE:Could the South Have Won the War Through Mobile Offense In the West And Defense In the East?   7/17/2005 4:26:35 PM
The northern control of the Mississippi would have been less decisive had the trans Mississippi south been the launch pad for offensive operations against its northern neighbors. Even more than the possession of California gold and Nevada silver, the perception of the ability of the north to maintain overland communications with the far west had to be potentially vulnerable and more easily assailable. A question might be - "Could Bedford Forest have maintained intact a self sustaining Great Plains army on horseback even if he didn't invade Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin or Illinois?" If so, could he have forced the Federals to commit great resources to his theater while maintaining his army? Perhaps what I am asking is did the Confederacy underestimate the strategic importance of the prairies?
 
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AlbanyRifles    RE:Could the South Have Won the War Through Mobile Offense In the West And Defense In the East?   9/19/2005 2:03:33 PM
Not likely. The reason? Logistics? How would he keep his forces supplied? AAnd not just the men, what about the fodder? Grass alone is not sufficeint to keep a cavalry mount healthy. And remember, Confederate soldiers had provide their own horse.
 
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CJH    RE:Could the South Have Won the War Through Mobile Offense In the West And Defense In the East?   9/23/2005 6:04:19 PM
Consider logistics to be at the center of my question. How did Tamerlane or Ghengis Khan handle logistics? How did the Sioux, Crow or Blackfoot handle logistics? And besides logics there is the matter of being able to cross the Mississippi or the Missouri to maneuver, escape or advance. Generals and armies solve problems to win battles don't they? Hannibal crossed the Alps losing half his man and half his pack animals but he took the war to the Romans. Hannibal crossed a flooded river valley with his army to get a step on his Roman opponent the next Spring. The Germans couldn't get artillery swift enough to stay with its tank divisions so they used dive bombers as flying heavy mortars to neutralize fortified defenses in front of the tanks. The Germans needed to seize forts in Holland quickly so they landed troop carrying gliders on top of them. I guess the question is - "Is there any way at all a Bedford Forest could have made the thing work?".
 
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Carl S    RE:Could the South Have Won the War Through Mobile Offense In the West And Defense In the East?   9/24/2005 12:09:17 AM
The above examples handled logistics in different ways. The Mongols fed their armys on the march off the hoof. They'ed start the campaign with a large horse herd. Ratios as large as 20 horses per man. This required a large herd to be bred continually to keep the cmapaigns supplied, which was a complex organizational task. When campaigning it took sophisticated planning to keep the supply herd moving to fresh pastures, which often were nowhere near the battlefields.
 
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Carl S    RE:Could the South Have Won the War Through Mobile Offense In the West And Defense In the East?   9/24/2005 9:29:03 PM
Specificly Forrest would have had to learn about handling armys. This is possible, he was a fast learner. When a arillery battery showed up at his camp he spent a single evening reading the battery commanders entire drill manual and tactics book. His subsequent use of the cannon was 'skilled'. If Forrest was to pull something like that off he have to have done it beore Grant & Sherman rose to the top. Both were his match, and they had a vast materal superiority to work with.
 
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Belisarius1234    The Union NAVY.   1/9/2013 3:19:45 PM
Sea-power, or rather river-power won the West. Without it, no offense by either side.  
 
B.
The northern control of the Mississippi would have been less decisive had the trans Mississippi south been the launch pad for offensive operations against its northern neighbors. Even more than the possession of California gold and Nevada silver, the perception of the ability of the north to maintain overland communications with the far west had to be potentially vulnerable and more easily assailable.

A question might be - "Could Bedford Forest have maintained intact a self sustaining Great Plains army on horseback even if he didn't invade Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin or Illinois?" If so, could he have forced the Federals to commit great resources to his theater while maintaining his army?

Perhaps what I am asking is did the Confederacy underestimate the strategic importance of the prairies?

 
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