Comparing the Military Leaders of the Civil War Essay

Comparing the Military Leaders of the Civil War Essay

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When we compare the military leaders of both North and South during the Civil War, it is not hard to see what the differences are. One of the first things that stand out is the numerous number of Northern generals that led the “Army of the Potomac.” Whereas the Confederate generals, at least in the “Army of Northern Virginia” were much more stable in their position. Personalities, ambitions and emotions also played a big part in effective they were in the field, as well as their interactions with other officers.

Each general that was appointed commander of the army in the east had his own plans when it came to defeating the Confederates. Beginning with McDowell, the first general to command a large army in the war, the task seemed insurmountable at first. He had an army of 30,000 men, most of whom were extremely green. Despite Lincoln’s desire that he attack immediately, McDowell knew that he wasn’t ready, and initially had no plans to move against the Confederates during that first summer of the war. Lincoln insisted that he attack at Manassas with the resulting disastrous outcome. Perhaps had McDowell came along later in the war, it might have turned out differently, but that wasn’t a likely outcome.

McDowell’s opponent at Manassas was General Beauregard, commanding the 22,000 troops facing McDowell, while at the same time General Joseph Johnston commanded the Army of the Shenandoah with some 10,000 troops. When Beauregard determined that the Union forces were on the way toward Manassas, he asked for help, at which time the Confederate Government sent Johnston east via the “Manassas Gap Railroad,” to act as reinforcements for Beauregard. Their arrival at Manassas at a critical time turned the tide in favor of the South,...


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...s that he was unable to completely drive the Union forces from the South. His decisions to invade the north on two occasions were less than sound in many ways, and shows what I feel was wishful thinking on his part.

Lee had supreme confidence in his army, and believed that it could accomplish whatever he asked of it. This confidence sometimes led him to ask too much, such as in the case of Picket’s charge during the battle of Gettysburg. In Lee’s mind he was first and foremost a Christian, and a gentleman. These facts, although not bad, certainly caused Lee to be less aggressive, and to fight the war in a very old-fashioned manner. This was not so with Grant, who seemed to believe in a more modern type of total warfare. Perhaps because this war, as many contend, was the first modern war, it was impossible for the South, and it’s leaders to adapt to the situation.

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