Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Riverine IV.

This is coolbert:

Among the "Great Captains" of the nineteenth century we find the names of Napoleon, Wellington, Lee, Grant, and possibly von Moltke.

Field commanders who displayed great leadership and command ability on the battlefield. Commanders who became "living legends". Military geniuses who are written about in the history books.

[in the case of von Moltke we are perhaps on shaky ground. Presided [Chief of Staff??] over the Prussian Army during the unification of Germany, but WAS NOT a field commander?]

Concerning Lee and Grant, Dupuy says:

"There is no comparable historical example of two great, evenly matched generals fighting each other to a standstill in operations marked on each side by wary caution, brilliant boldness, and sound estimates of the opponenr's capabilities and intentions coupled with sincerre respect for the otherr's abilty."

I think that most military historians, when making a comparison between Lee and Grant would give the edge to Lee as being the abler of the two. At least with regard to GROUND COMBAT operations as fought in the style of black-powder, Napoleonic era, closed formation warfare!

[the argument could be made that Lee when he faced Grant was fighting defensively! Defense is the stronger form of combat! Easier to do and produces more with less! By 1864 Lee realized that he could no longer conduct OFFENSIVE operations. Lee had little choice when confronted by Grant but to fight defensively!]

With regard, however, to the successful RIVERINE military operations as conducted by Grant along the Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland and Mississippi rivers, Grant MUST receive very high marks indeed. Grant possessed an almost overwhelmingly marked ability at what today would be called combined operations. THIS WAS AN AREA OF MILITARY EXPERTISE FOR WHICH GRANT HAD NO PEER!!

NOT ONLY did Grant was successful with his various riverine operations, but he did so in spite of the fact that neither he or any of the naval commanders commanding the riverine ironclads and monitors had ANY EXPERIENCE WITH THIS TYPE OF WARFARE!!

[Grant was a commander of great intuitive genius? Did not necessarily so distinguish himself during the Mexican-American War. Had been discharged from military service for some years prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War! WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN thought of as a commander having great potential?]

"Behind the powerful gunboats Union armies were poised to sweep southward in combined operations--irresistible wherever water reached."

"catastrophe after catastrophe had continued to befall the South, whose armies alone could not match the overwhelming advantages the Union armies gained by having power afloat for joint operations."

"Warships alone can accomplish wonders but riverine operations gain maximum effectiveness when the unique advantages of land forces combine with the matchless ones of the fleet. Their strengths do not simply add; they multiply to concentrate a nation's total power with awesome results."

Riverine craft employed by Grant provided for:

"* Mobility and speed of movement of large bodies of troops and supplies.

* Concentration of troops and heavy artillery of ships at the point of decision.

"Often throughout the vast riverine campaigns of the Civil War the concentrated mobile artillery of ships, brought speedily to bear at the point of crisis, would prove decisive, but seldom more strikingly than at Shiloh."

* Surprise.

* Flexibility in strategy and tactics that permitted swift adjustment to emergencies, omnipresent in war, to seize fleeting opportunity and to gain victory out of disaster [Shiloh]."

[Confederate forces under Lee could HAVE NEVER EVEN CONCEIVED OR EXECUTED RIVERINE OPERATIONS AS DID GRANT!! There was no capability to do so. And fighting primarily defensively, NO NEED on the part of the Confederates to do so!!]

As a tactician on the battlefield, Lee has the advantage? As a strategist and practitioner of the operational art, Grant surpasses Lee by a wide margin? A fact little appreciated by the "experts", the historians?




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