Friday, December 28, 2007

Army of Tennessee in McMurry's Two Great Rebel Armies book

I have previously written about the Lost Cause & a comparison between the two major Confederate armies. (The Army of Northern Virginia & The Army of Tennessee) In these blogs I discussed how the war and its literature is totally focused on the Virginia campaigns. Currently I am reading Two Great Rebel Armies by Richard M. McMurry. Written in 1989 the book compares the two armies and points out the issues that helped cause the Confederate defeat in the west. A few of McMurry's quotes stick out in my mind as I am writing this blog.

The Army of Northern Virginia held distinct advantages over the Army of Tennessee. Sure we as Civil War buffs focus on generals and how each army was treated by the Confederate government. But could the discrepancy go deeper than that? I think McMurry answers this question in Two Great Rebel Armies.

The Disadvantagous that the Army of Tennessee had in comparison to the Army of Northern Virginia:

1. Politics-->everyones favorite word. The Army of Tennessee had to deal with the sessecunist indecision of Kentucky and Missouri. Both of these states gave the Army of Tennessee valuable soldiers but the army would have recieved more men if these states seceeded. We know that they didn't secede but the lack of these states on the Confederate side severly hampered the man power of the Army of Tennesee. Morever, because Kentucky and Missouri didn't join the Confederacy the locations of the Confederate defenses were placed in areas that were not as formitable. This was done by the Confederate government because they sought to honor the neutrality of both states. This gave Northern forces a distinct advantage in the west.

2. Geography-->The Army of Northern Virginia defended an area that was roughly 160 miles long. They had the advantage of rivers that had to be forded and Lee could shift his defenses to these areas and force combat on the Army of the Potomac. Therefore, it was easy for Lee to check northern advances and we see this time and time again within the Eastern Theatre. Meanwhile, the Army of Tennessee had to defend the area between the Application Mountains in Virginia and the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas/Missouri. This area forced the rebels to defend a 600 mile wide area. When you take into account that the Army of Tennessee possessed less manpower than their Virginia counterparts it shouldn't surprise anyone that Lee was more successful than the Army of Tennessee. I also failed to mention that the rivers that the Army of Tennessee had to defended benefitted the attackers and impaired the defenders. This didn't help as the armies of Grant and Sherman beat the Confederates senseless.

3. History-->East Tennessee and Northern Alabama had strong Union ties and many of the counties in this region were anti-Confederate. Lees Virginians rarely if ever had to dal with Pro-Uniionist sentiment in the Old Dominian. The Army of Tennessee had to deal with it in Northern Alabama, East Tennessee and so forth. This hampered Confederate movements and could have had an impact on the Army of Tennessees morale.

4. Economics-->During the war the state of Virginia held the only factory capable of producing locomotives. This useless fact shows us that the other Confederate states were at a disadvantage. Nearly 40% of the southern rail lines were located in the eastern states. Also, 19.8% of southern railroads were located within Virginias borders. In the eastern Confederacy there was one mile of railroad for every 40.8 square miles of land. The west had one mile of railroad for every 146 square miles of land. Moreover, everyone knows that the rebels were vastly outnumbered in terms of soldiers and those able to fight. However, if we look closely at the southern fighting force one clearly sees that Virginia held yet another advantage over its Confederate sister states. The states of Virginia and the Carolinas (where most of the Army of Northern Virginia was drawn) held 37% of southern military age men. The eastern states, particular Virginia held a distinct advantage in manufacturing. Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina held 10,304 manufacturing establishments in 1860. The Western states held 8,252 manufacturing facilities. Roughly 33% of southern manufacturing occured in Virginia. This was yet another advantage to R.E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. Furthermore, Virginia had more white inhabitants, more slaves and more men of military age than any other state in the Confederacy. These men swelled the ranks of the the Army of Northern Virginia. In the end one can conclude that the state of Virginia was more developed and thus became more important than any other southern state.

These four things do not exorniate the Confederate government or the Confederate military its western failures. However, one could not control them in 1860 and they had an impact on Southern successes and failures during the war. I guess one can conclude that the Confederate army of Tennessee started the war off with one leg already broken. Politics, geography, economics and history of the region were prexisting factors favored the Army of Northern Virginia the Army of Tennessee. With these things in mind we can easily see that the Army of Tennessee was set up for failure. One feels sorry for the men who gave their lives in a battle that they might have already lose. Too bad...oh too bad!

No comments: