Monday, July 08, 2013

Uncivil War, II

--dead Confederate soldiers,
Timothy O'Sullivan

A reflection on Gettysburg, considered a win for the Union by some, but not all, and then a reflection on the connection between then and now.

The entire battle was a glorified meeting engagement as Lee did not properly control his cavalry assets. Whether Lee or Stuart is responsible is irrelevant: the Confederates were in enemy terrain without proper screening of their flanks and lacking long-range reconnaissance to identify the order of battle and approach routes of the U.S. Army. Lee's Army was not arrayed for battle and their approach march was not concentrated or properly coordinated.

The Confederates pushed the enemy on days 1-3, but did not punch. Their attacks were piecemeal, and as such, inconsequential. Even if all of the Confederate Corps' attacks had been successful, the Army of Northern Virginia lacked Army level reserves to exploit any local success. An attack must have military relevance, which includes a means of exploiting success. Actions like Pickett's charge was akin to bringing a knife to a gun fight, and even had he ruptured U.S. lines his Army could not have exploited the break.

The U.S. forces offer the teaching point in this battle, for up to this point the U.S. soldier was never outfought, but only out-Generaled. This time, the Generals were not deficient -- the Army fought as a unified entity, terrain was properly utilized and artillery was employed in a coordinated and integrated fire plan; textbook command and control. The Army responded as a well regulated unit.

The great failure of the fight was not tactical but strategic since the Confederates were not decisively destroyed, nor was their ability to maneuver crushed; it is difficult to criticize General Meade, however, since he was not tasked to destroy the Confederate Army. The glory at that time was to fight them to a standstill.

Meade did not press Lee mercilessly nor did he offer him battle on the 4th day, allowing the ANV battered forces to escape South.
 Had Meade mercilessly blocked Lee's avenues of escape and destroyed his forces in piecemeal battles or in a coordinated effort, the war would have ended sooner.

The U.S. Army of 2013, like the Army on NV, does not apply its combat power to military objectives. Pickett's impotent charge could be seen as Lee's "Surge", much like our incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan: too little, too late, and uncoordinated and unsustainable. Like our current surges, his was an attempt to do more than soldiers are capable of doing. In Gettysburg this was understandable, but it was folly in Afghanistan and Iraq; military solutions cannot solve political, social or religious civil wars in fractured societies.

The success of Gettysburg was the result of a total war effort, versus the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) which is just a nation flaying around without a clearly-stated mission. In 2013 there is no enemy Army to destroy and there is no way to destroy their will to fight since, unlike the Confederates, our opponents have unlimited maneuver space and boundless safe havens.

Maybe the PWOT is not a military construct after all, and is hampered by its emotional raison d'etre as was Lee's Army.

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Anonymous Eric Hodgdon said...

The USA has not engaged in real warfare since 1945. Since then, Executive Adventurism - the cowards version of battle - has overcome the armed forces of the USA to produce the chicken-shit armed forces.

These chicken-shit men and women disgrace their uniforms and stab the country in the back.

Call it what it is, please. Realize that what these men and women do is illegal and immoral.

I am one angry man who does know what patriotism is and I speak for it. Have your God-Damned wars, but follow the Constitution!

People are dying for nothing!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 12:53:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

I'd offer this, too;

Lee's greatest failing was his inability to recognize that the rifled musket made his Napoleonic infantry columns a sort of assisted-suicide. Defense was king in 1863, and a truly smart commander would have done what his lieutenant Longstreet recommended; slide around the damn Yankees on their damn ridge, find another ridge between the Army of the Potomac and D.C. and force Meade & Co. to come at them.

I mean, the rebels had broken Union armies before; the Bull Runs, Fredricksburg, Chancellorsville. The technical revolution of rifling for everybody meant that cavalry had lost it's ability to rout broken armies AND that the victor would be as gutted as the defender. So even had Lee managed to put together the "big push" my guess is that all he'd have done is driven the Yanks back 20 or 30 miles and had to do it all over again the next week...

So, using you analogy, the PWOT has us attacking and chasing muj all over hell and central Asia; expending our blood and treasure in pursuit of a "victory" that cannot be bought except with more blood and more treasure than we can or should want to expend.

And that's begging the biggest strategic question; why do we want to fight this war? Lee's first question to Jeff Davis and his cabinet should have been; "Do you want to be owning these negroes so goddamn bad as to take the enormous chance that the Yankees will wreck our land for it?" And when the rebel government told him "Yes." he could then salute and move out smartly, only warning them that he could run wild for a couple of years or three but that the Northern factories and ships and mobs of soldiers would inevitably stomp their asses flat.

But he didn't, so there we are.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 11:14:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Brian T. Hart said...

Here is an interesting link on the progressive battle and commander visibility at Gettysburg from the Smithsonian. Thought you might want to see it. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/A-Cutting-Edge-Second-Look-at-the-Battle-of-Gettysburg.html

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 9:18:00 PM GMT-5  

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