Civil War was a West Point war. Even though the
academyís alumni made up a tiny fraction of the Unionís
fighting force, West Point graduates dominated the
general staff from Fort Sumter to Appomattox.
Given how rapidly and large the two armies grew, the
dominance by West Point graduates of the top leadership
positions is striking.
2. In 1860,
the Army numbered just over 16,000 men, a quarter of
whom would soon resign. No wartime American army had
ever exceeded 14,000. The First Bull Run Battle
had 30,000 troops, being the largest U.S. Army ever
influence of Napoleonic style campaigns was obvious,
their relevance to the Civil War was not. West
Point Military Academy taught mostly math and science.
Any warfare was of the old style European armies
4. A one-time
member of the Napoleon Club, McClellan saw the conflict
as one with limited objectives, minimal focus on the
enemy army and battles never fought far from his supply
base. He believed that the war could be won through
quick battles and territorial expansion, leaving
Southern civilians and property unmolested.
had his work cut out for him. When he took office there
wasnít just an absent system of command, but there had
been no planning whatsoever by the previous
administrations for war. There was no
preparatory memos or regular briefings by the top brass
awaited him. Lincoln was ignored. As the new
President, he was placed in a void from his military.
6. But Lincoln
ó whose military experience was limited to a short and
uneventful stint in the Black Hawk War ó actively filled
the void, soaking up military texts and regularly
visiting with advisers, including General-in-Chief
Winfield Scott and Quartermaster General Montgomery
Meigs. Scott became a particularly important influence
in Lincolnís military education.
the clearest expression of Lincolnís views came in a
letter to Buell and Halleck as he prodded the generals
to move: ďI state my general idea of this war to be,
that we have the greater numbers Ö that we must fail
unless we can find some way of making our advantage an
overmatch for his; and that this can only be done by
menacing him with superior forces at different points at
the same time.Ē
recognized: a. The governmentís
core policy (total
defeat of the rebellion); b. The size
of the conflict (unlimited, across two theaters); c.
The Southís keystone center of gravity (its army); and
d. the Unionís inherent advantage (manpower and
(All Southern factors considered (Pt. #8), Lincoln
divined (came up with) a simple strategy:
a. Directly engaging Southern armies
repeatedly; and b. Ignoring the alluring prize of
rebel cities in favor of seizing strategic points like
railroad hubs and lines of communication.
would have preferred his generals to dictate effective
military strategy. They couldnít, and he performed well
as an unofficial
general-in-chief until he was able to find
generals who could. In so doing, he supplanted the old
army and built a modern force.
As McClellan, Buell and Halleck floundered in the field,
the prospect of victory appeared remote in 1861. But
just as McClellan began to shape the plans for his
doomed Peninsula plan, Ulysses
Grant won Forts Henry and Donelson. The great
general who shared Lincolnís strategic outlook and
understood unlimited war
was emerging just as 1862 began.
Highlights from a
N.Y. Times Article