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 Post subject: Forrest or Stonewall
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 12:38 pm 
Gen. Ludwig and I recently had a conversation comparing Stonewall and Forrest.

To quickly get to the point which officer, in your humble opinions, was the better commander during the war?

I know - its like trying to decide which is better - Prime Rib or Sirloin.


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 Post subject: Re: Forrest or Stonewall
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 5:33 pm 
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I must respectfully vote for Forrest. Stonewall is most famous for a flanking maneuver seen and reported by at least 3 different Union Officers about 7 different times and Hooker and Howard sat on their thumbs. He was lucky. He was also spotty when it came to dependability.

What can you say about Forrest. Genius and leadership in one package. Take out a questionable accusation about Fort Pillow and he is dang near perfect.

My opinion. :)

Deano

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 Post subject: Re: Forrest or Stonewall
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 5:42 pm 
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Hard to compare a cavalry commander to the commander of a corps or army. Stonewall won major battles; Forrest excelled in matters a scale or so down from that . . . Both 'took it to'em'

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 Post subject: Re: Forrest or Stonewall
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 7:01 pm 
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Forrest has my vote :mrgreen:

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 Post subject: Re: Forrest or Stonewall
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:42 pm 
I will support my boy and vote Stonewall. Forrest was great at beating third-rate Union generals and random Union garrisons commanded by a drunken Major.

Stonewall was off fighting the premier Union Army and battling terrific odds inthe Shenandoah Valley. Forrest had a hundreds of square miles to roam with no base of supplies to protect. Stonewall was tied to the Valley and ordered to distract and hold as many Yanks as possible in the Valley to keep McClellan from using them on the Peninsula.

But, it is hard to compare the two for sure.

They would have made a very dangerous team had they ever gotten together. Both were fearsome on the battlefield but gentlemen off of it. I suspect they would have gotten along very well.


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 Post subject: Re: Forrest or Stonewall
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 10:07 pm 
recommended reading: "Failure in the Saddle: Nathan Bedford Forrest, Joe Wheeler, and the Confederate Cavalry in the Chickamauga Campaign" by David A . Powell. The Chickamauga Park Historian advised the author, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, that he would need to enter a witness protection program if his book is too critical of Forrest. :shock:

http://www.cwbr.com/index.php?q=4822&field=ID

http://www.amazon.com/Failure-Saddle-Co ... 247&sr=1-2


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 Post subject: Re: Forrest or Stonewall
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 11:03 pm 
No argument. Forrest threatened to "thrash" Bragg (and later Hood) when they crossed his path. He didnt work well with others. He also had little use for Wheeler. As an independent commander though he was top notch.


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 Post subject: Re: Forrest or Stonewall
PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 7:44 am 
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Jackson was far superior as a commander of large formations. Forest excelled at small unit tactics. I didn't give Forest high marks for handling large formations because his inability to get along with superiors indicates he had no real concept of the difficulties of commanding large formations. Jackson on the other hand didn't exhibit much ability to handle small formations. He did well with a brigade at First Bull Run but some of his orders to smaller formations in the Valley didn't seem to indicate he understood their limitations.

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 Post subject: Re: Forrest or Stonewall
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 11:45 am 
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It is indeed difficult to compare the two great generals, but I am voting with General Sherman on this one.

Quote:
He was the only soldier South or North to join the military as a private and rise to the rank of Lieutenant General. Two years after Appomattox he became the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and to this day is despised and hated as the engineer of the massacre at Fort Pillow. He has been described as "a soft-spoken gentleman of marked placidity", and as "an overbearing bully of homicidal wrath." Nathan Bedford Forrest, the South's "Wizard of the Saddle" was an uneducated backwoodsman and self made millionaire who inspite of having no formal military training has been described by Lee, Sherman, and other leaders of both sides as the greatest cavalry commander of either army. Perhaps his greatest compliment was paid by his enemy, William T. Sherman, who called him "the very devil" and is reported to have pronounced Forrest "the most remarkable man our civil war produced on either side . . . He had a genius which was to me incomprehensible." Forrest himself summarized his military genius with a few brief words, "War means fighting and fighting means killing." Inspite of his maxim to "get there first with the most men," he faced overwhelming odds on almost every battlefield yet never lost a battle that he personally commanded until his last battle in 1865 when he was hopelessly out manned by cavalry with the new repeating rifles.


Blake, I don't know how you can accuse Forrest of facing third-rate commanders when Jackson faced Banks, a political general whose incompetence persisted throughout the war, and Fremont, who failed in every military command he had, in the Valley campaign that made him famous.

If Forrest stood up to incompetent commanders, Stonewall arrested competent subordinates like General Dick Garnett and A P Hill,
Garnett for retreating at Kernstown when his men ran out of ammo. To my knowledge, Stonewall never served under an incompetent commander during the war. And if Forrest threatened to thrash Hood, who was missing the use of an arm and a leg when Forrest served under him, I must have missed it. He did save the remnants of Hood's army after the ill-advised Nashville campaign though.

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 Post subject: Re: Forrest or Stonewall
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 5:06 pm 
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Both had serious weaknesses in the getting along catagory. Jackson would probably not have made a good Army commander because of this. With Lee to smooth over things he shined. Just like Longstreet shined as long as Lee was near by.

Forest was the reverse. He couldn't work with his commander. So while he was a genius at war it limited him to small raids that irritated but did not change the war. Without the ability to coordinate with larger formations he could never accomplish anything decisive.

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 Post subject: Re: Forrest or Stonewall
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 5:36 pm 
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General Mihalik <salute>

Suh, my compliments!

I may be completely wrong, however I believe I've heard something to the fact (of Hood) that Forrest commented "if he were a whole man I'd beat to to within an inch of his life" or something close to that. This is totally from memory of something viewed on the History Channel some time back, and I believe was after the Battle of Franklin.

I'm sure General Whitehead or someone else will either confirm or refute my memory.

My regards,

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 Post subject: Re: Forrest or Stonewall
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 9:34 pm 
My impression of Forest is of a fearless, energetic "hands-on" brawler who wanted to personally fight and kill Yakees, which made him ideal as a cavalry raider. Don't know how well he would have done as a commander of a large slower-moving Infantry Corps. Eccentric Jackson's penchant for secrecy - not confiding in subordinates and keeping his plans and intentions to himself - thereby depriving his subordinates of independent initiative to carry out his intentions, would eventually have caused battlefield disaster(s). Also, Jackson marched his men mercilessly in the Valley, but he couldn't have gotten away with that in a larger theatre of operations over a longer period of time. In part, Napoleon's genius was his ability to move his men EFFICIENTLY without breaking their endurance.


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 Post subject: Re: Forrest or Stonewall
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 9:49 pm 
Ken is right that both had drawbacks as commanders - as did every commander in the war though. Both are likely the most fascinating generals on the Confederate side. Forrest's exploits are legendary: capturing a gunboat and floating it upriver to attack a Union naval depot, pursuing and capturing forces twice his size, whipping the Yankees all over Mississippi and Tennessee, crushing Sturgis at Brice's Cross Roads. Stonewall's exploits are just as impressive as he marched all over the Shenandoah, captured Harper's Ferry, caused panic in DC, and then became Lee's most aggressive corps commander. We often forget their weaknesses because of all they accomplished and the aura of "legend" that surrounds them.If you had to choose between them I think it would depend on what your needs were. If you needed a cavalrymen who was fearless to raid the enemy outposts and cause havoc than Forrest is your man. If you needed a large unit commander to act independently or with the Army than you'd choose Jackson. Can't go wrong.

Neal - thats the quote I was thinking of as well. I was looking for it in my books but couldnt recall where I read/heard it. For some reason Ken Burns' Civil War is stuck in my head as the possible source.


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 Post subject: Re: Forrest or Stonewall
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:56 pm 
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General Heinz <salute>

Suh, my compliments!

I believe a lot of what you stated about General Jackson is pure speculation, and perhaps some bias on your part because you simply don't agree with his style.

To say that his eccentric "penchant for secrecy" would eventually have caused disaster is speculation on your part; he died scouting after an attack that crushed the Yankee flank at Chancellorsville. We'll never know what may have come afterwards. How might have things been different if he were present for the drive into Pennsylvania with the army still comprised of the corps of Longstreet and Jackson?

He did expect and demand a lot of his soldiers, and he was not held in high regard by at least one of his subordinates (one of the Hill's, can't remember which) who felt that Jackson didn't consider that troops become fatigued and hungry or something to that effect. The fact is that his troops rose to the occassion when ordered. A lesser commander would not have accomplished what he did in the same position, in my opinion.

Highest regards,

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 Post subject: Re: Forrest or Stonewall
PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2012 6:12 am 
I am not at all impressed by the Confederate victory at Chancellorville (nor Fredericksburg) , made possible by dismal and incompetent Union generalship facing an army less than half its size. Hooker later admitted that he had lost his nerve, plain & simple.

1) the long distance raid against Lee's supply lines by Union cavalry under Maj. Gen. George Stoneman was completely ineffectual. They failed to attack any of the objectives Hooker established.

2) Despite the objections of his subordinates, Hooker withdrew his men to the defensive lines around Chancellorsville, ceding the initiative to Lee. Stupid, Stupid!! Hooker's subordinates were surprised and outraged by the change in plans.

3) Lee divided his army TWICE: leaving a small force at Fredericksburg to deter Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick from advancing and and then sending Jackson on his flank march. A more aggressive and confident Union commander would very likely have turned the table on Lee.

4) Despite warnings from his men, XI Corps commander"Uh-Oh" Howard did NOTHING about the threat to his flank. XI Corps were eating supper when attacked by Jackson's men. One wonders what the outcome would have been if XI Corps had been prepared in line of battle to receive Jackson's attack and/or commanded by someone like George "The Rock of Chickamagua" Thomas. Just my .02 cents here: I'll take Thomas over Jackson any day.

5) On the evening of May 3 and all day May 4, Hooker remained in his defenses north of Chancellorsville. Lee observed that Hooker was threatening no offensive action, so felt comfortable ordering Anderson's division to join the battle against Sedgwick. Although a majority of his Corps commanders voted to fight, Hooker slinks back across the river with his tail between his legs - something Ulysses S. Grant NEVER would have done!

And despite the gross incompetence of Hooker, Stoneman, Howard... Lee lost some 22% of his force in the campaign—men that the Confederacy, with its limited manpower, could not replace. Longstreet was highly critical of Lee's strategy, saying that battles like Chancellorsville cost the Confederacy more men than it could afford to lose. However, in fairness to Lee, I don't know what alternative - if any - Longstreet recommended or suggested.


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