Nerdy me: Goodness gracious…
Normal me: What is it?
Nerdy me: It took more effort to cut this report down than it did to write it. Not to mention finding the sources to corroborate what James had to say.
Apathetic me: He knows too much for his own good.
Nerdy me: For once, I may agree with you. Anyway, here it is. The report. In its entirety, this time, mainly because there were some changes made to the first half. Mostly taking out content, but oh well. Enjoy, all.
A study of the history of mankind invariably includes a study of warfare. As man has evolved through the ages, the ways in which large scale conflict is waged also evolved. From biblical battlefields to modern urban combat, the prosecution and tools of war have changed in remarkable ways. Often, these changes are slow, building on innovations through the centuries, such as the progression from tools of rock and wood to implements of bronze and iron. Now and then, however, progress accelerates. From the onset of the American Revolution onward, fighting that started with formal lines of soldiers facing off across an open field became intermixed with partisan tactics. World War I began with frontal assaults throwing themselves against entrenched positions and ended with tanks, machine guns, chemical weapons, and bombs dominating tactical and strategic thinking. Even the recent Iraq War began as a clash of conventional government forces but later devolved into asymmetric urban skirmishing.
As with many lessons, however, the adaptations and techniques gleaned from evolutions in warfare were forgotten by the time the next conflict started, much to the detriment of troops in the field. In spite of the way the character of war changes throughout every conflict, the lasting effect of these changes is either minimal, on a tactical level, or doesn’t last at all. Very few conflicts have an inexorable effect upon the way in which wars are prosecuted for years to come. One such historical turning point is the American Civil War. The Civil War, though beginning in a chivalric, Napoleonic style, evolved into a totally new kind of war, ushering in the tactics and strategy which would be a hallmark in modern warfare for years to come.
European Warfare – Killing, the Polite Way
If one thing could be said for the European style of warfare, it was highly organized. Men lined up in long walls, weapons at the ready, marching steadily toward one another in a slow, deliberate courtship with death. This way of fighting could trace its origins to the ancient Greek phalanx or Roman legion, and for centuries remained essentially unchanged, due in part to the lack of range and accuracy in early ranged weapons. Even when weapons such as muskets became available, opposing forces were required to close in on one another before their fire could be effective. Case in point, the famous order issued at the Battle of Bunker Hill to “[not] fire until [the Continentals] see the whites of their eyes” was not a test of mettle or a form of intimidation, but an ammunition saving precaution, hoping to make every shot count.
Turning back the clock to King Henry V’s 15th century campaign in, the Battle of Agincourt provides a prime example of the European style of war. Before battle even commenced, heralds (messengers travelling under a flag of truce) would approach the opposing force, issuing a challenge to the leader to enjoin their forces in battle. If rejected, the opposition would not press the issue and attack, though pursuit would continue and further pressure would be applied. Societal codes of honor dictated the terms on which fighting would occur, both sides delaying until the respective commanders both felt they held advantage.
Upon agreeing to the time and location for battle, both sides set their forces as they deemed fit, waiting for one side or another to instigate fighting with actions as simple as taunts. Occasionally, as at Agincourt, taunts could take a more sinister form. Instead of “cocking-a-snook,” a true act of aggression instigated battle. Here, as the French observed their numerically outmatched foe, English archers proceeded to rain down volleys of arrows upon the French lines, inciting them to charge. French reluctance to consider archers a threat allowed the English to fluster their opponent, resulting in an ill-fated charge into a forest of sharpened spikes hidden within the English lines. In this way, Henry V and his “band of brothers” defeated a numerically superior French force in “honorable” combat, though somewhat unorthodox in its execution.
European warfare came to its highest form under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 19th century. His focus on maneuvering armies against one another and intermeshing tactical and operational goals provided the framework from which Clausewitz was able to compile his treatise On War, which would eventually supersede the works of Jomini as the dominant form of strategic thinking. Even in the Napoleonic Wars, however, European soldiers experienced a different form of warfare. As Napoleon’s professional men of arms traversed Russia, they encountered the burned remains of several important cities, including Moscow. Cossacks fleeing from the numerically superior French took to devastating the countryside to keep vital supplies out of enemy hands. Even Clausewitz, as enlightened a thinker as he was, could not reconcile these acts with the rigid Napoleonic dictum placing non-military targets off limits. Within a century, however, no such restrictions would apply, even for Europeans.
The Civil War – Americans, Doing Things Their Own Way
When the American Civil War began, there was already a distinct difference between American forces and their European counterparts. America had no standing army when the war began, and most participants were initially volunteers. Men on either side lined up to participate in what was believed to be a short-lived conflict, thanks to their patriotic fervor or curiosity. Most of these men were either ill-trained or not trained at all, and when the First Battle of Bull Run began on 21 July, 1861, the results of using an army of volunteers was clearly evident.
In lieu of a full report on the battle, one can summarize many of the day’s events in one word: chaos. The random distribution of uniforms and colors caused some soldiers to fire upon their own men, lines to intermingle, and commanders to struggle to maintain cohesion. The Confederacy nevertheless carried the day, forcing the Union forces to depart in a massively disorganized retreat called the “Great Skedaddle,” mingling with observers fleeing the fighting.
Initially, both Confederate and Union forces formed organized lines facing one another in the field outside Manassas in Napoleonic style, marching toward one another until their weapons came to bear. As Napoleon had done half a century earlier, Union General McDowell focused his effort on complicated maneuvers designed to turn the Confederate flank. As it would turn out, these maneuvers were far too complicated for his untrained soldiers to complete.
Combined casualties approached 4,700. What many generals failed to realize about this battle, however, was that it was a harbinger of what was to come. Between this battle and the Seven Days in mid 1862, generals like the commander of Union forces George McClellan found themselves with devastation on a level heretofore unheard of. McClellan was so shaken by the sheer number of casualties that he sought an improbable goal, a Jominian “decisive victory” which would end the war in one swift attack. This was no longer a Jominian war, however.
Many commanders, from both sides of the war, earned their first taste of combat during the Mexican War in the late 1840s. In that conflict, the sum total of American casualties came out at approximately 16,000 out of a force which numbered 60,000 at most. The Battle of Antietam alone passed that entire war’s casualty mark by 6,000. The casualty counts were unfathomable by most of those alive at the time. Perhaps they should not have been so surprising, however. First and foremost, it is important to consider the weapons of the time. In 1861, the US Army began issuing the Springfield Model 1861 while the Confederacy typically relied on the Pattern 1853 Enfield, both rifled muskets. Rifling did not become common practice for weapons until the 19th century and, as such, military commanders were still unaccustomed to the effects rifled muskets had on a battlefield. Rifled muskets imparted a spin on their projectile, further enhanced new ammunition. This deadly combination saw limited use in the Crimean War, but it wasn’t until the American Civil War that armies took full advantage of them. The spin of the new Minié ball stabilized it in flight, increasing the effective range of muskets from 50 to almost 400 yards. Later in the war, repeating rifles were added to the inventory, allowing soldiers to fire off rounds at rates never before imagined. This in rendered frontal charges foolhardy, especially when an entrenched defender could wipe out an advancing enemy long before they could prepare for engagement, much less enter a melee.
Just as important is the development of artillery. Standard cannon shot and grape shot were complimented by canister shot, explosive shells, and shrapnel. These proved devastating against long lines of men, especially at the Battle of Gettysburg. During Pickett’s charge on 3 July, 1863, 12,500 men advanced on the union lines atop Cemetery Ridge. Between musket and cannon fire, they suffered over 50% casualties. Shot and shell alike ripped through the soldiers with deadly efficiency, and though the gaps they created were swiftly filled, the numbers game was not in the Rebels’ favor. By the end of the war, soldiers on both sides saw the futility of now-outdated frontal assaults, especially over open ground, John Bell Hood excepted, of course.
Hood, a Confederate general, used frontal assaults until the end of the war as a means of “discipline.” Doing so Battle of Franklin in 1864 resulted in the Army of Tennessee being knocked off the map as a major fighting force. Instead, commanders began adopting siege tactics, such as at the use of trench warfare during the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign from mid-1864 to early 1865. Instead of sending waves of troops against the defenses of Petersburg, soldiers dug trenches around the city, using them to move closer and closer until they could attack the defenses in relative safety. The Army of the Potomac used their massive siege guns to pound the city’s walls, and miners tunneled under them to set explosive charges. Technology now dominated siege warfare, not just the ravages of time and starvation.
Technology’s effect on the war was not limited to the battlefield, though. Millions of men fought on both sides, requiring mobilization on a scale heretofore unseen in the Americas. Half a century earlier, during the Napoleonic Wars, almost half a million men were forced to march on foot through the desolate wastes of a Russian winter. This Grande Armée suffered over 80% losses during its campaign. Though at no point were half a million men marching in the same group at the same time on either side during the Civil War, hundreds of thousands did have to make their way from one theatre of action to another. Thanks to railroads, this was made more than possible. The transcontinental railroad was still another four years off by the end of the war, but many lines made their way up and down the east coast and into the Midwest, allowing for the deployment of large contingents of men to points all around the country.
Another technological innovation which permitted greater communication over the expansive theatres of the Civil War was the telegraph. For the first time, political and military leaders could exercise their will over remarkable distances almost instantaneously. The telegraph revolutionized command and control for years to come. Though not fully available at the start of the war, by 1862, President Lincoln used telegraphs to send messages to commanders in the field. These commanders returned reports directly to their commander-in-chief in the aftermath of a battle. The rapid exchange of thoughts and orders allowed political leaders to import a greater sense of urgency upon their generals than would have been possible using couriers.
The final consideration on what made the American Civil War the first truly “modern” war involves the involvement of the home front. First and foremost, this war was truly brought to life for civilians on either side through the media. Use of telegraphs permitted stories and battle reports to be relayed to local newspapers faster than had ever been done before in America. Additionally, the photographs of individuals such as Matthew Brady allowed men and women to see the carnage of the battlefields while still miles away, safe in their homes. Unfortunately, and this next point almost distinguishes the Civil War as a “total” war, not all civilians were, in fact, safe in their homes. The battles occurred in the yards of family homesteads, sieges destroyed homes, offices, and industrial centers almost indiscriminately, and private property, especially that which could aid the enemy war effort, was often destroyed or confiscated without hesitation.
Confederate citizens felt the wrath of the Union war effort as their cities were pounded mercilessly. Vicksburg fell on the Fourth of July, 1863, and its citizens would not celebrate the day again for another century. Atlanta’s fall and subsequent burning at the hands of fleeing Confederates was reminiscent of the Cossacks path of strategic destruction in their retreat from Napoleon. Richmond, the very seat of Confederate government, was captured and burned to the ground. Even outside of the major cities, men and women were subject to the ravages of the war. During First Bull Run, Judith Carter Henry, an elderly widow died from wounds sustained after her home was targeted by Union artillery. Wilmer McLean, a fellow resident of Manassas Junction, left his home after the battle to escape the carnage, only to have his new home used four years later as the site of the surrender of General Robert E. Lee to Union commanders.
All told, the cost of the war reached approximately $7 billion. Almost a quarter of this amount was attributed to property damage in the South. Destruction on this scale, including the wholesale razing of cities, would not be seen again for half a century, and then it would take the whole world to surpass it. Never before had so much devastation been visited upon civilians, but from the end of the Civil War on, it would remain a threat for all countries which went to war.
Now, much of the damage done to private property was for the sake of the war effort, destroying or confiscating anything that had potential to be used as war materiel. Only some of it was psychological and, in contrast to a true total war, civilians themselves were not the direct target. In a real total war, there would be little to no concern about civilian deaths. In fact, they could be targeted directly in order to destroy morale on the home front. During his famous 1864 March to the Sea, General Sherman destroyed Confederate cities, farms, and homes. He did not, however, intentionally seek the death of civilians. In this way, even his campaign did not fit the strictest definition of a total war, but the introduction of private property into the realm of legitimate targets brought an end to the chivalric tendency to avoid such attacks. The Civil War was no longer a European style chivalric conflict. This was the first modern war.
Why the Civil War More Than Any Other
Some sources argue that the first real modern war was the Crimean War in the 1850s. Proponents of this theory note that rifled weapons, trenches, and telegraphs were first used to any noticeable effect during this war. Tactical and technological advances such as these and others were present, yes. However, the full scope of advances and changes in approach had a far broader and more transformative effect on the Civil War and future conflicts than any other war. Consider the First World War. Up until 1917, it was fought almost exclusively by Europeans. Frontal charges made by thousands of men against strongly defended positions were common, resulting in devastating losses. Clearly the lessons learned from the Crimean War, specifically those about trench tactics and the effect of new, more advanced weapons had gone unheeded. Seemingly the only thing that had changed in the prosecution of war was the addition of civilian centers to lists of targets, as seen in the German bombing of London, the widespread destruction in cities such as Vaux or Leuven that resulted from Germany’s Schrecklichkeit, or “terror,” policy, and the genocidal atrocities committed by Russia and the Ottoman Empire.   
Outdated tactics continued to rule the battlefield until American “doughboys” arrived in the spring of 1917. American soldiers and their commanders understood what would win this war. Though the troops were all new, the lessons of the Civil War remained. No longer was Napoleonic maneuvering the ticket to victory. A war of attrition, won by superior numbers and weapons, was the game. Four million Americans served in the First World War, with 110,000 dying in the line of duty. Though only 15% the number killed in the Civil War, factoring in the duration of American involvement in the First World War and the fact that they only fought on one side makes this number almost exactly proportional to the Civil War. Attrition, technology, and mobility won the war in a similar way as they had for the Union a half a century earlier. 
The American Civil War was a proving ground for old and new styles of warfare alike. The first years of the war showed the inadequacies of European and Napoleonic styles of warfare when faced with the technological advances of the time. Tactics and strategy evolved to adapt to the new character of war, utilizing new weapons, new forms of communication and conveyance, and opening the floodgates to total war, for the first time bringing private property and civilian populations under fire intentionally, with the purpose of breaking a people’s will.
Chivalry in war required that both sides stood a relatively equal chance of winning. Fairness and propriety were necessary for both sides to retain their honor, the only advantages coming from the superior wit of commanders or the stronger will of soldiers. The Civil War changed that. Asymmetric warfare became the norm, with technology, training, and numbers deciding victory. New technologies facilitated the movement and control of larger armies over greater distances. Including civilians and especially their property as potential targets brought a new dimension to psychological warfare and made public opinion as much a factor in determining strategy and policy as any political or military concerns. The Civil War was a watershed event in the history of armed conflict, and the transformative lessons learned through its four bloody years left an indelible mark on warfare and mankind as a whole.
 R. Ernest Dupuy, and Trevor Dupuy, The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History, (New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993), 1.
 Dupuy, The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History, 782
 Dupuy, The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History, 1003
 Donald Stoker, The Grand Design – Strategy and the U.S. Civil War (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010), 416.
 John Keegan, The Face of Battle – A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, & The Somme (New York, NY: Random House Inc., 1976), 82.
 Keegan, The Face of Battle, 94.
 Dupuy, The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History, 449
 John Keegan, A History of Warfare (London, Great Britain: Hutchinson, 1993), 221.
 Keegan, A History of Warfare, 6-9.
 James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1988), 308-21.
 Stoker, The Grand Design, 42.
 McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 342.
 McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 348.
 Dupuy, The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History, 953
 McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 348.
 Fitz John Porter, “The Battle of Malvern Hill,” Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, ed. Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel (New York, NY: The Century Co., 1888), 427.
 Stoker, The Grand Design, 65.
 K. Jack Bauer, The Mexican War – 1846-1848, (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1674), 397.
 McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 544.
 Russ A. Pritchard Jr. Civil War Weapons and Equipment, (Guilford, CT: Salamander Books, Ltd., 2003), 8-10.
 Fairfax Downey, The Guns at Gettysburg, (New York, NY: David McKay Company, Inc., 1958), 31-2.
 Downey, The Guns at Gettysburg, 178-81.
 Downey, The Guns at Gettysburg, 3-7.
 Earl J. Hess, Pickett’s Charge – The Last Attack at Gettysburg, (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 352-64.
 W.J. Wood, Civil War Generalship, (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1997), 228-30.
 A. Wilson Greene, The Final Battles of the Petersburg Campaign, (Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 2008), chap. 11.
 John E. Clark Jr. Railroads in the Civil War, (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2001), 2.
 Ted Ballard, Battle of First Bull Run, (Washington, D.C: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 2004), 24.
 David Goldfield, America Aflame, (New York, NY: Bloomsbury Press, 2011), 305.
 David Nevin, Sherman’s March, (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1986), chap. 2.
 Andrew Lambert, and Stephen Badsey, The Crimean War, (Dover, NH: Alan Sutton Publishing Inc., 1994), 11.
 John H. Morrow Jr. “The War in the Air,” World War I – A History, ed. Hew Strachan (Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 1998), 265-7.
 David Trask, “The Entry of the USA Into the War and its Effects,” World War I – A History, ed. Hew Strachan (Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 1998), 239.
 Lawrence Sandhaus, World War I – The Global Revolution, (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 389-91.
 John Keegan, The First World War, (New York, NY: Alfred A Knopf, Inc., 1999), 81-4.
 Trask, World War I – A History, 251-2.
Sports Fanatic me: Write a book. Even I might read it.
Normal me: The last book you had James read was about the history of the Pirates.
Sports Fanatic me: So? I can appreciate the Civil War. We wouldn’t have baseball without it. Speaking of which, the Pirates are looking mighty good right now.
Apathetic me: Yeah, three games into the season.
Normal me: It’s a start, at least.
Artistic me: Hey guys, did I miss anything?
Normal me: Whoa, where did you come from?
Artistic me: Binging on Starbucks and soda.
Nerdy me: Was it a trying Lent for you?
Artistic me: You have no idea.