Civil War History Essay

1259 words - 6 pages

Both sides at the beginning of the Civil War were less than prepared for a war of any type, much less what it would become over the next four years. Not only were they not prepared with the amount of basic war supplies they would need, but a basic command structure was less than perfect, particularly in the South. No one foresaw the scope that war would take on, since the only experience that either side had with relatively large scale battle was during the Mexican War.

With the election of Abraham Lincoln the South reacted with predictable results. Lincoln had been portrayed as such an enemy of slavery, that it was automatic that they would fear that he would try to remove their ...view middle of the document...

Even Jefferson Davis was a graduate of West Point, and had fought with distinction in Mexico. As each of the seceding states left the Union they took with them many experienced officers, most notable of which was Robert E. Lee, after being offered command of all United States forces. This left holes in the command structure of the North that took time to correct. With both sides using officers in their commands with almost identical training, and many of them friends, it was sometimes not difficult for opposing officers to guess at what their opponent might do.

When most people think of the military commanders of the Confederacy, most often Robert E. Lee is mentioned in conjunction with the Army of Northern Virginia. However, in reality the war started with Lee being in command of Virginia state troops, before being promoted to a general in Confederate service. Until he was brought back to Richmond to serve in an advisory role to Jefferson Davis early 1862, he served inconspicuously in western Virginia, and South Carolina. Generals such as Pierre G.T. Beauregard, and Joseph Johnston took the forefront of command, beginning at Manassas. Lee begin his command of the Army of Northern Virginia after Johnston was wounded during the battle of Seven Pines, and became the leader most often linked to that organization.

As the war progressed the command structures on both sides became more developed, which resulted in more experience and knowledge about how to fight these tremendous battles that they were engaged in. This fact alone probably extended the war to some degree. In the case of the Northern commanders such as McClellan, Hooker, or Burnside were unreliable, at least in Lincoln's eyes, and thus he was forced to keep a close eye on them, as well as deal with their various foibles. It was not until Ulysses Grant became overall commander that most of these issues disappear.

Jefferson Davis did not suffer from the problems of an untrustworthy, or less than robust military commander in the top position. Since Lee had spent quite a while working directly with Davis in Richmond, before taking over direct command of the army, both men were quite familiar with each others way of thinking. Even with that Davis, a military man himself, was not shy about giving him advice, a practice he continued until the end of the war. Possibly because he chaffed under the machinations of government, and desired a more active role in the fighting. This also led to issues when it came to delegation of tasks to subordinates, today he would likely be termed a control-freak. Where Lincoln had trouble finding competent...

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