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PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 1:28 pm 
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I've recently been involved in a project where I need to rank Civil War generals at a certain battle on a scale of 0 (worst) to 6 (best) in several important features, including:

1) the ability to rally troops who are disrupted or routed
2) the radius of command a leader has to effectively control his men
3) the ability to keep unit cohesion high (i.e. keep men in their units and fighting
4) leadership (the ability to give units in the vicinity a boost to their morale)
5) leader style (i.e. aggressive, normal, George McClellan)
6) combat experience.

In addition to reading about the performance of each leader (brigade and above) at the battle in question, I've come up with several other factors to use when calculating these ratings. These include:

1) age at the battle: I thought a particularly old or young leader might be marked down in some areas for physical disability or inexperience.

2) West Point (or equivalent) graduate or attendee: I realize that many West Pointers turned out to be dismal generals and that some civilians turned into excellent combat officers, but this is one that could be used as a general guideline.

3) number of battles leading his current type of formation (brigade, division, corps, army): The idea here is to see how much practical battle experience the leader has at commanding this number of men. A leader recently promoted to a higher level might struggle a bit with cohesion until he gets used to handling a larger number of men.

4) number of battles the leader has been with his current unit (or a lower subunit of the current unit): This is basically familiarity. How well do the men know this commander. A long term leader is probably going to function more efficiently leading a unit rather than someone just placed in command of a new unit.

5) wounds prior to the battle and possible adverse affects on the leader in question: This is what I'll call the "Hood rule". The laudanum usage has proven to be a myth, but losing a leg and losing most of the use of one arm has to affect you in some large ways. Another example is Winfield Scott Hancock after his Gettysburg wound. He was never the same and was ultimately forced from command of the II Corps by this wound.


Does anyone else have any ideas on factors to consider and how they would apply them to the six features listed at the top of this post? I find this sort of research fascinating and I'd love to hear from those of you who have any opinions on this one.


Brett S.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 2:32 pm 
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Hm, how about the Bragg factor... the ability to work with subordinates? For that matter, just beyond the disfunction of the AoT, did a general's subordinates take orders seriously? If Lee gave an order, people knew to move. If Bragg or Pope did... not so much so.

Major General Gary McClellan
1st Division, XXIII Corps
AoO,USA


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 6:09 pm 
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Hi Brett,

I've often pondered the command/battle stress factor that top commanders endured; men like Grant, Sherman, Rosecrans, etc. Some of these men performed so much better in their command roles early on and then seemed to wear themselves out or became victims of overwork and nervous anticipation, while others found the inner steel to get meaner and tougher as the conflict went on. I don't know if there's enough available information out there to get that type of factor generated, nor how exactly it could ever be accessed properly for any point in time. I suppose it would be the physchological equivalent of your fifth additional factor, that of wounds.

Joe



Lt.-Col. Jos. C. Meyer,
4th Brg'd, Cav. Div., 14th Corps, Army of the Cumberland


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 7:41 am 
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I'd add another category - political party. Many Generals, especially among the Union in the earlier years of the war, were influenced by their politics...

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General Jeff Laub
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http://www.geocities.com/laubster22/UnionHQ/


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 6:46 pm 
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Sheer stubbornness.

By this, I mean the inclination or disinclination of a general to panic if things start to go south on them. Hooker at Chancellorsville would be an example of a General who lost his cool, and in many ways, it was more that Lee beat Hooker, than the ANV beat the AoP, even with Jackson's attack.

On the other hand? Even in the disaster of day one at Shiloh, or the bloodletting in the Wilderness, Grant kept fighting.

Major General Gary McClellan
1st Division, XXIII Corps
AoO,USA


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 2:01 am 
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<blockquote id="quote"><font size="3" face="book antiqua" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by Gary McClellan</i>
<br />Sheer stubbornness.

By this, I mean the inclination or disinclination of a general to panic if things start to go south on them. Hooker at Chancellorsville would be an example of a General who lost his cool, and in many ways, it was more that Lee beat Hooker, than the ANV beat the AoP, even with Jackson's attack.

On the other hand? Even in the disaster of day one at Shiloh, or the bloodletting in the Wilderness, Grant kept fighting.

<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></blockquote id="quote"></font id="quote">

Hmmmn, I wonder if it's really stubbornness or is it paralysis, or maybe just plain incompetence some of the times? Or more likely a lack of vision, maybe? Look at Burnside and his Fredericksburg campaign, it started off with a sound move at an unprecedented pace that actually caught the Grey Fox off guard and out flanking him. Then when the pontoons hadn't arrived when his plan called for them, he refused to alter his plan, lost the initiative, thereby allowing his enemy to recover. Some would argue this is stubbornness.

He then allowed his enemy to fortify the high ground for weeks before continuing with his original plan. Was he stubbornly sticking to his original plan? He then drafted a battle plan of sorts for the impending encounter and doggedly stuck to the execution of the plan, and his men, despite seeing it's failings quite early in the engagement. Some would call that stubbornness.

Some would say that Grant's overland campaign was all about bloodletting as it was about bleeding the ANV of it's ability to fight. Grant knew he had the numbers and resources to wear Lee down and set out on that course. Look no further then the II Corp which he used as his hammer, it virtually ceased to exist by the end of the campaign. Further sticking with just II Corp, during the course of the campaign it received replacements totaling more then it's original compliment! Some might call that stubbornness. But if you knew from the start that's your strategy and your plan is working, is that stubbornness?

Gary, I do understand what you were trying to say and it's something that is hard to define. I think it's more of a cool headedness, or an unflappable nature, an un-propensity to panic, or maybe it's the opposite of lack of vision and it's the ability to see the big picture. Let's take my two examples, both of those generals took a solid blow to the chin in the opening round. One could only see his horrific loss and ceded the campaign. While the other general saw it as only the first round and while he took heavy losses, so did his opponent.

Neither army was destroyed or even hurt to the point of being in jeopardy and both generals still outnumbered his opponent by a large margin and could expect greater reinforcement then his opponent. There was no reason for either to cede the field. Yet one general did cede the fields, but one general saw the bigger picture that the net result would actually be his gain in the long haul and continued on the campaign.

I'm thinking it's maybe the ability to see the big picture beyond the moment.


Lt. Joe McCleery
4/3/VI
AoS


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 7:44 am 
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First regarding Hooker, Grant, etc. versus Lee. Hooker had more of a crisis in confidence. He thought he had lost so he had lost. Grant had confidence in his numbers. He new he could be stopped but not defeated. McCellan likewise lacked confidence one his plan failed and Lee took away the initiative. One thing we forget about in judging how these generals performed is that they had other constrainst. The AoP could suffer a tactical defeat but it could not be allowed to suffer a Strategic defeat. It had to always fall back and cover the capital if it couldn't achieve its goals. In 1864 Grant had the freedom to ignore this constraint. Not because Lincoln had that much confidence in him but because the ANV was no longer able to make such a threat.

Another thing that needs to be taken into consideration is when the general is being rated and the size of the formation not its class. The generals that failed at Corps and Division command in 1863 were handling formations to large for their abilities. But the Corps and Divisions of the CSA in 1864 were rarely equilavent to even Divisions and Brigades from the previous year. Regiments were mere companies. We read about a division being overrun at Spotsylvania but forget that it was little more than brigade size. The Union was fielding regiments larger than most of the Confederate brigades. A Brigade commander for the Union will considerable more ability to handle his formation than a Rebel brigade commander.

LG. Kennon Whitehead
Chatham Grays
1/1/III AoM (CSA)


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 4:58 am 
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Thanks for all of the comments guys. The ideas here and on a few other wargames boards I frequent were very helpful in making me think about several things I hadn't considered.


Brett S.
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