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American Civil war


Calax

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We just did a small civil war unit in my history class (mostly glossed over because the teacher figures we've already gotten enough of that in our middle and high school years), and I was wondering, was the american civil war a big deal over all or is america just huffing itself up as the best nation and everything we do has massive impact on everything everyone else does?

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We just did a small civil war unit in my history class (mostly glossed over because the teacher figures we've already gotten enough of that in our middle and high school years), and I was wondering, was the american civil war a big deal over all or is america just huffing itself up as the best nation and everything we do has massive impact on everything everyone else does?

 

Uh...I'm not entirely sure what you mean by your question, but I'll try.

 

I am fairly certain the American Civil War is not a huge part of curriculum outside of the US, but it is a fairly critical event in history. It was the final blow to the institution of slavery, which was not simply an American issue, but something all European nations were involved with during the Age of Imperialism.

 

Much like World War I, it was a brutal war that had a high cost of life. The military maneuvers became the basis for modern strategy at the time as well.

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Globally the 'historical outcome' ACW was almost totally irrelevant as it was almost entirely internal and its net result was a return to the pre 1860 default USA. Even the slavery aspect wasn't really much of a (global) factor as that was almost entirely an internal institution by that time.

 

On the other hand, had the Confederates won it would have been very highly significant and would have had enormous repercussions to this day, so it really depends on how you look at it.

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Well, I was just wondering if the other nations even really payed attention. The way my history teachers have discussed it sounds like it was a big thing in the world because it had the first use of gatling guns etc.

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We hear about it, but only in a very shallow way.. and only in the context of what happened elsewhere and in the relation to slavery. It's like the American revolution of indepence, it's an important thing to know of, like the French revolution is as well.

 

I'm sure it's treated in much the same way as specific European historical moments are treated in America.

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The military maneuvers became the basis for modern strategy at the time as well.

 

Artillary pieces and iron clad vessels. The artillary used would forshadow the huge pieces that dominated the battle fields of WW1, which was a contest of enchtrenchment and the mobility of artillary.

 

The two iron clads of the civil war (monitor & merrimack) instantly made wooden vessels around the globe obsolete.

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Don't know much about the artillery- though I was under the impression that by far the most common were the 'old' Napoleons and rifled pieces rather than modern types- but neither Monitor nor the Virginia were anywhere near as revolutionary as is made out in the US as the French (La Gloire) and the British (HMS Warrior) had already produced 'proper' ironclads prior to either.

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Well, I was just wondering if the other nations even really payed attention. The way my history teachers have discussed it sounds like it was a big thing in the world because it had the first use of gatling guns etc.

 

I thought the first use of Gattling Guns were against those damn Saskatchewanians. Shows how awesome our history is up here.

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Globally the 'historical outcome' ACW was almost totally irrelevant as it was almost entirely internal and its net result was a return to the pre 1860 default USA. Even the slavery aspect wasn't really much of a (global) factor as that was almost entirely an internal institution by that time.

 

On the other hand, had the Confederates won it would have been very highly significant and would have had enormous repercussions to this day, so it really depends on how you look at it.

 

I think this answer nails it down nicely. Had the Confederacy won, the world might be a very different place today. Slavery as an institution was doomed no matter the outcome of the war. Most of Europe had abandoned the practice in their colonies and the Confederacy woul d have been so reliant on Britan early on that economic pressure from that quarter alone would have been sufficient to force them to abandon it. Had they won the emnity with the USA would have been fixed forever, I seriously doubt any kind of reunification would have ever happenend.

 

One thing the Civil War did do for us Calax is it gave the people something they never had before that, a national identity. Prior the the break up most people identified their nationality by their state. There was no real "American" national identity. After the war most people identified themselves as Americans rather than Virginians or New Yorkers. That continues to this day.

"While it is true you learn with age, the down side is what you often learn is what a damn fool you were before"

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The US Civil was has been one of my favorite subjects for study and I am always amazed how close the Union came to losing the war. It really came down to the actions of one man that I'd bet none of you has ever heard of. John Buford.

 

Following the Confederate victories at Chancellorsville, Upperville, and Brandy Station, Lee led his 70,000 strong Army of North Virginia in an invasion of the North. He cut north and west following the Battle of Brandy Station to the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountains then north into Pennsylvania with the Union Army commanded by Hooker on the east side unaware until several days had passed. Lee's plan was attack Washington DC from the north and if succesful the Confederate President Jefforson Davis had a letter offering peace ready to be hand delivered to President Lincoln. Hookers army pursues Lee on the east side of the Blue Ridge but they are too far behind. General John Buford was commanding the 1st Cavalry Regiment of the Union Army and was ordered to move ahead of the main army to scout the Confederates disposition. He arrived in Gettysburg Pennsylvania just hours before the lead elemements of Lee's army. Buford knew the two armies would meet there and realized the strategic importance of the hills surrounding the town. He also realized the the lead elements of the Confederate army will arrive first and capture those hills and have a strong defensive position once the Union troops arrived. He ordered his Cavalry to dismount and form a defensive position blocking the access to the high ground surrounding the town. The following day his 1,100 men were attacked by a 7000 strong 1st Brigade of the III Confederate Army Corps led by General Harry Heth. Despite being heavily outnumbered and out gunned, under constant artillery barrage with no Union artillery support, Bufords men held back the Confederates long enough for the 2nd Division of the Union Army to arrive and capture the hills. That engagement would set the stage for the Battle of Gettysburg and the rest is history. But had the positions of the armies been reversed and the Union was obliged to attack the Confederates on those hills the battle outcome, and the war outcome would have been different.

 

John Buford lost 90% of his men that day and was gravely wounded himself. He would die by the end of that year, and the significance of his actions would be lost in history. But he saved the United States and changed the course of history.

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Would capturing the capitol have had a difference, of would Lincoln have gotten on a stagecoach and proceeded to surround the invaders, who necessarily had long lines of supply. Symbolism is important, but it's not all important. Capturing Stalingrad would have done little for the Germans as it was by that time a pile of rubble. In order to be sure of victory The South would have to disrupt the North's manufacturing base, which was always vastly superior to their own.

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Would capturing the capitol have had a difference, of would Lincoln have gotten on a stagecoach and proceeded to surround the invaders, who necessarily had long lines of supply. Symbolism is important, but it's not all important. Capturing Stalingrad would have done little for the Germans as it was by that time a pile of rubble. In order to be sure of victory The South would have to disrupt the North's manufacturing base, which was always vastly superior to their own.

No the symbolisim would not have mattered that much and Lincoln would not have been captured. Control of DC mant control all of the Potomac river crossings keeping the Union Army trapped in Virginia between two advancing Confederate armies would have though. Destroying the Union Army all together at Gettsyburg would have won the war all together as well. Those were the real objectives. The Union Army at Gettysburg was the only real fighting force the North had at the time. There was a second Corps forming in New York and a third in Boston but they were not battle ready and beyond that there were only state militias which stood no chance against Lee.

 

As you correctly pointed out the North had a far superior industrial base, larger population, and long term the South could not match it. Their best hope of victory was in convincing the North the war was not worth fighting. After the intital major Confederate victories at Chancellorsville and Fredricksburg the sentiment in the North was turning away from holding on to the south and more towards letting it go. A major victory on Northen soil might have sealed the deal.

Edited by Guard Dog

"While it is true you learn with age, the down side is what you often learn is what a damn fool you were before"

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neither Monitor nor the Virginia were anywhere near as revolutionary as is made out in the US as the French (La Gloire) and the British (HMS Warrior) had already produced 'proper' ironclads prior to either.

 

And when did those iron clads ever see action? That's the important thing... to prove effectiveness in actual use.

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I defer to GD ebcause he's clearly an expert where I've only read a few books on it.

 

1. Slavery: Britain's contribution to ending slavery was far more significant than the ACW. However, it wasn't just a question of morality. Slavery meant offering a cheap alternative to industrialisation, but industrialisation was the only sensible long term strategy. Failure by the North would have meant extension of slavery, and probably the subsquent stunting of growth. The USA might not have been in a position to interveen in WW1, and that would certainly have been significant.

 

2. I can say with comparative authority that the tactics and techniques used in the ACW were regarded as laughable by the rest of the military world. This was most due to a combination of cost-cuting measures, like avoiding the use of breechloading rifles, and the unavoidable amateurishness of the officer classes.

 

3. industrial might only goes so far. I agree with GD that the fall of the capitol would have opened the way for a negotiated victory for the South.

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2. I can say with comparative authority that the tactics and techniques used in the ACW were regarded as laughable by the rest of the military world. This was most due to a combination of cost-cuting measures, like avoiding the use of breechloading rifles, and the unavoidable amateurishness of the officer classes.

 

Was rest of the world in any position to laugh at their tactics? Wasn

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@Wals: Most of the command level officers (regimental commander and higher) were West Point, VMI, and Citidel grads. I would not call them amatuers by any means. At least in the beginning. As the war continued there were a lot of promotions from the ranks especially on the Confederate side since many of the higher ranking officers had been killed or incapacitated. After Lee surrendered the remaining CSA units were commanded by non-military types like local poiticians who were comissioned out of necessity rather than ability. Thats why after 1864 the CSA's battlefield performance really fell off and victories were few and far between. In the first two years, the CSA was winning handily despite being outnumbered and out supplied and that really was because they had really good leadership.

 

But you are completly correct in pointing out that Great Britian did far more to end slavery than the fall of the CSA did. The CSA was just one of the last powers to use it. British interdiction and destruction of the slaver strong holds in Sierra Leone brought the trans-atlantic slave trade to a near halt. For that the whole world is grateful. It was Slavery that prevented the British Crown from recognizing the legitimacy of the CSA despite the fact that they were supplying arms, ships and advisers. It was just good business because GB did a lot of trade with the South. If the CSA had won, British insistence would have done what Lincolns Emancipation Proclimation had not. That is just my opinion but I think it is sound base on what I've read. To quote the memoirs Confederate General James Longstreet "We should have freed the slaves first, then fired on Fort Sumter."

 

@Gorgon, rifles were rare in the US during those years. The .40 Cal muzzleloaded musket was the standard infantry weapon and they are as you know very inaccurate. Formation fighting to maximize firepower effectiveness was still sound strategy. Bayonet charges were also common to break a stong defensive line and that kind of hand to hand stuff is only effective when done en mass. It was the rifle than made formation fighting obsolete. Plus as I mentioned above most of the senior commanders were USMA, VMI, etc grads and those institutions taught Napolionic strategy.

Edited by Guard Dog

"While it is true you learn with age, the down side is what you often learn is what a damn fool you were before"

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Also the only test of American military arms within recent history to the ACW was the Mexican American war where America just beat the living tar out of the Mexicans, thus the higher ups saw no reason to change tactics.

 

I just find it interesting that the union won the war ultimately by simply having more men (IIRC grant lost more men than lee did during the final campaigns, but his army kept growing while Lee's shrunk)

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2. I can say with comparative authority that the tactics and techniques used in the ACW were regarded as laughable by the rest of the military world. This was most due to a combination of cost-cuting measures, like avoiding the use of breechloading rifles, and the unavoidable amateurishness of the officer classes.

 

Was rest of the world in any position to laugh at their tactics? Wasn

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