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Eric72983

The Lead Up

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Operational View

 

Not to get into Monday morning quarterbacking, and trying to stay in the mind set of the Confederate Generals at the time, I have a few thoughts...

Having sizable forces at Island Number 10, Columbus, Forts Henry and Donelson, Bowling Green, and The Cumberland Gap: It seems to me that, AS Johnston had enough manpower.

Not even considering Bragg and Ruggles, who would later bring up forces from FL, AL, LA...

Knowing that the Union forces would always be larger, in general... 

Instead of leaving just forces of observation and general garrisons, AS Johnston broke apart what could have been a sizable Army of Maneuver...

Which we now know lead to the fall of the forts and a general retreat and giving up Nashville... and perhaps the entire war..

AS Johnston must have understood the idea of defeat in detail...

Understanding that there had been other issues that caused this and knowing the history now..

 

What is everyone's opinion on the mindset of AS Johnston that lead him to all of this, which ended at Shiloh..

Thanks everyone very interested in everyone's views

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You raise some good points, Eric; many of which I have been attempting to come to grips with, myself.

As I see it, part of Albert Sidney Johnston's problem lies in the fact he arrived in the Confederacy late, from California. Enroute to Richmond from New Orleans in Summer 1861 he encountered euphoric crowds that had not yet experienced defeat... and believed themselves invincible. He was warmly welcomed by his old friend Jefferson Davis at the Confederate Capitol (but someone at the Capitol lied to Johnston about the number of troops available to him, before he took over command of Department Number Two.) And when General Johnston arrived in his new department, Pillow and Polk had already jumped the gun, and invaded 'neutral' Kentucky (where it was anticipated tens of thousands of troops would sign on to the Confederate Cause; the September 3rd entry of Rebel troops, intent on taking possession of strategically-important Columbus, incensed a great many Kentucky 'fence-sitters' and nudged them back into support of the Union.)

For the next several months, General Johnston did his best to establish fortifications, lines of defense, and fall-back lines; while remaining watchful for an opportunity to push his defensive line north to the Ohio River... but that opportunity never came. Meanwhile, Johnston resorted to 'misinformation' as a tactic (over-stating the number of troops, arms and guns available to his army, and readily reported by a supportive Southern media for Northern consumption.) And the Southern States declined to provide Johnston with requested manpower, (perhaps believing Johnston's exaggerated troop numbers), until after the fall of Fort Donelson.

Cheers

Ozzy

 

 

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Thanks for both responses.. Department #2 which is what AS Johnston had command of; was lets say: Ky the parts they occupied, Missouri the parts they still had a hold of, all of Tenn., Ark., and Miss.. and Northern Al... The coastal ares were held by Gen. Bragg.. and LA was held by Gen. Lovell and Gen. Ruggles... In Miss. we slowly have forces for around Vicksburg under Gen. ML Smith or Van Dorn... Holding Tenn. secures the rest.. 

I never thought too much about AS Johnstons travel from his union department of the pacific. to Richmond, then back to the west...  (AS Johnston would be a good read alone)...

Lets however take just the time period from when he was in command till just before the build up at Corinth.. prior to the Battle of Shiloh....

Most sources say it was lack of men, material, poor subordinates, the vastness of the department... I'm willing to concede all of that except for the lack of men...

After the Reinforcement of Fort Donelson

5,900 men at Cumberland Gap
10,000 men in Missouri Under Price
15,000 men under Hardee at Bowling Green
7,000 men under PGT Beauregard and Polk at Columbus
5,350 men at island number 10 under McCown
16,900 men at Fort Donelson under Floyd

60,150 present.... more than was at the Battle of Shiloh


After the fall of Forts Henry, Heiman and Donelson

5,900 men at Cumberland Gap
10,000 in Missouri Under Price
15,000 men under Hardee at bowling green
7,000 men under polk at columbus
5,350 men at island number 10
2,900 men escaped from donelson

46,150 present... More or Less equal to the forces at Shiloh


At Corinth after to withdrawal from the KY def. line...

 5,900 men from Cumberland Gap
15,000 men from Hardee at Bowling Green
 7,000 men From Polk at Columbus
 2,900 men escaped from Donelson

30,800 present   still leaving forces at Island number 10 and Price not being in the field yet...

The forces assembled by AS Johnston for the forthcoming battle of Shiloh
10,000 in Missouri Under Price not present arrived late
27,000 of Johnstons
17,000 men under Bragg

54,000 Total
44,000 present

My view is that AS Johnston had more men when he decided to send more troops to Fort Donelson.. than he even had at the battle of Shilloh, even if you leave out Prices men.. he still has more.... It was his willingness to break apart his forces and scatter them to the winds.. had he even kept all his locations but manned them properly, leaving the remainder together as an Army of Maneuver.. to move toward whichever spot was finally attacked in strength... 

AS Johnston was acting like the department head he was... but never appointed a field commander or truly acted as one himself...

 

I'm wondering what everyone's views are about how AS Johnstons Personality was prior to the fall of the KY line.. to how it was before the Battle of Shiloh... before Shiloh he never committed 100%.. but just before Shiloh he was committed... and I believe I just proved it wasn't manpower.. so what am I missing....

Thanks everyone, I'd love to here everyones opinion.. I would love tons of feedback on this topic.. thanks

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Russell

I believe you are correct: the size of Department No.2 must be considered as detrimental to A.S. Johnston's ability to effectively manage the territory, 'and put out bushfires everywhere.' He required competent District Commanders in Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee to act as middle managers [between himself and operators in the field.] But, perhaps that is what was intended with the assignment of Floyd (at Fort Donelson), Van Dorn (Trans-Mississippi) and Beauregard (Fort Columbus). Unfortunately for General Johnston, events developed before these three officers had time to settle into their duties.

Just a thought...

Ozzy

 

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09-10-1861 AS Johnston takes Command of Dep. #2
11-07-1861 Battle of Belmont
01-19-1862 Battle of Mill Springs
02-06-1862 Battle of Fort Henry
02-15-1862 Battle of Fort Donelson
02-23-1862 Evacuation of Nashville
03-02-1862 Evacuation of Columbus
04-06-1862 Battle of Shiloh
04-07-1862 Battle of Island Number 10
04-29-1862 Siege of Corinth
05-01-1862 Capture of New Orleans
06-06-1862 Capture of Fort Pillow and Memphis

 

He had only about 5 months before things turned... Department #2.. was way to big.. it prolly should have been 2 or 3 separate departments... I'm going to go heavy on the idea that he didn't have many jr. officers to depend on.. and the ones that turned out to be good officers were not yet tested and very jr... Johnston only had 3 Lts. General PGT Beauregard, and Major Generals Polk and Hardee.. and ranking in that order... others had Major General ranks dating before Shiloh.. but they must have been retro graded ranks.. at the time these 3 men were his main jr officers... I just think he could have managed the troops he did have 1000 times more properly.. with only taking into account the info he had on the ground at the time... 

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Eric

From my reading, Albert Sidney Johnston would have preferred offense to defense, but the situation as he found it (substantially fewer men in his Department than promised) necessitated Defense... of Kentucky. Successful operations were underway in Missouri (Jeff Thompson of the MSG providing a constant headache for the Federal Army) and the Battle at Wilson's Creek slowed the US advance, while keeping substantial numbers of Federal troops occupied south and west of St Louis.

[Given the resources available, it appears to me that the CSA strategy revolved around holding Kentucky (and stamping out the occasional spot fire) while assuming more and more offensive operations in Missouri... meanwhile, building a force for use in Kentucky that could eventually push north to the Ohio River.]

There was an arms race underway in the West: both sides were building up their forces as quickly as possible: gunboats, torpedoes, fortifications, troop numbers. And delay (of widespread offensive action), in the short term, appears favourable to the Confederacy... Which is why the Confederate push into Neutral Kentucky in September 1861 was such a mistake: maintaining the status quo there, while conducting offensive operations in Missouri, favored the Confederacy. Gave them time to finish the Eastport, and improve their torpedoes.

As concerns A.S. Johnston, my readings to date have failed to find significant adverse comments IRT that man, prior to February 1862. Even Felix Huston (his dueling opponent in 1837) came around, and promised Johnston his 100% support.

Johnston was personally courageous, devoted to duty, possessed of a strong will... yet 'mindful of the feelings of others' [empathetic]. He believed 'safety lay in boldness' ...and led by example... and earned respect.

I believe he did his best with what he had; but General Johnston was unprepared for:

  • determined drive by US Grant and Andrew Foote, after months of feints and threats against Fort Columbus, towards Fort Henry, instead;
  • the 1-in-10 year flood that reduced efficiency of Fort Henry [possibly affecting operation of the torpedoes there] and over-topped the barrier to navigation downstream from Fort Donelson [at Lineville];
  • loss of Lloyd Tilghman at Fort Henry (this officer was also in command of Fort Donelson); Tilghman's loss led to the 'leadership nightmare' of February 12-16;
  • 2nd Line of Defense [Island No.10-Clarksville-Nashville] too close to 1st Line [Fort Columbus-Bowling Green-Cumberland Gap], necessitating retreat well south to the line of the Memphis & Charleston R.R. [the time, energy and resources could have been better applied to finishing Fort Heiman and its water battery, and preparing better defenses west of Fort Donelson]

 

A few ideas...

Ozzy

 

References:   Life of Albert Sidney Johnston  http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433082381157;view=1up;seq=9  pages 22, 53-55.

SDG post of Perry Cuskey of 23 January 2012 : response to 'Albert Sidney Johnston at Fort Donelson'

OR(Navy)  CSA defenses at Forts Henry and Donelson  http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/m/moa/

OR volumes 2,3 and 7

 

 

 

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It would seem you state my topic here.. and make my points better than I do myself.. lol

 

The points you made are exactly what I don't understand... AS Johnston was a good officer, maybe the best at the time, he was considered so by most other officers...His service to the US Army was fine... His time in Texas.. All in all he seemed like what all 2nd Lt's. would want to make of their career in the army... A role Model... From Corinth till his fall at Shiloh.. he was brave and smart.. and tactful... 

However the time from taking his position in the west, until the gathering together of all forces at Corinth.. He didn't seem himself.. its that time span, that just has me wondering what was going on... The reinforcing of Fort Donelson was PGT Beauregard's idea that Johnston just agree'd to.. Allowing command and control problems between his many areas of operations... Just his none Albert Sidney Johnston like airs... I just feel in that little time span something feels off about him... Like maybe just the shock of how Jefferson Davis would leave him in such a horrible spot and not care enough about the west... Johnston wanted AP Stewart to command at Donelson.. but Jeff Davis owed Floyd Favors.. sooo.. there you have it...  Johnston just didn't feel like himself in that time span to me.. and I just wonder why...

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Eric

Good observations, IRT General Johnston 'not being himself.' My own feeling: having ridden the train ten days from New Orleans to Richmond, and experiencing jubilation everywhere (except Knoxville), and contagious optimism in Richmond (after Bull Run and Wilson's Creek), Albert Sidney Johnston probably developed an outlook IRT the state of Confederate affairs... that was proven ground-thuddingly incorrect when he set himself up in Bowling Green. The never-ending stream of Southern men said to be enlisting in the Cause seemed to have slowed to a trickle; individual Southern States begged off on Johnston's requests for more troops (believing they had already done enough); Bragg and Polk both pleaded poor when Johnston requested troops from their Districts [I've read that Leonidas Polk had 10000-14000 troops at Fort Columbus; Bragg had well over 10000 men encamped between Mobile and Pensacola.]

The anticipated 'undying support of the Confederate Cause' was so lacking, that in Kentucky (where Confederate sympathies were expected to be strong; and Governor Beriah Magoffin was anticipated as 'a friend of the South), a 'shadow government' was deemed necessary to be concocted at Bowling Green (George W. Johnson 'elected' in November 1861).

The possible offensive operations?  With enough troops, St Louis was seen as a viable target; so was Cairo (Southern Illinois was known for Southern sympathies, which is part of the reason why Benjamin Prentiss was installed at Cairo in May 1861); and the 'natural boundary' enforced by the Ohio River was temptingly close, but out of reach (with Grant's forces established at Fort Holt and Paducah; and Louisville decidedly in the Union camp.) Offensive operations in Johnston's Department, east of the Mississippi, remained on the back burner until sufficient troops were available. In meantime, General Johnston was consigned to playing Defense; and must have wondered where 'the undying support' had gone?

My gut feeling...

Ozzy

 

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I think you are off as to A.S. Johnston's troop strength. He had to know the Yanks were going to invade, but where? Down the west bank of the Mississippi? Down the Mississippi? Up the Tenn. River? Up the Cumberland River? East Tenn. from Virginia (future West Virginia)? Moving a large army east and west in a hurry would have been impossible. By strengthening any one place, he would have weakened another, making that point vulnerable to rapid invasion to which he would have been hard pressed to meet in a timely manner. Johnston was in a damned if you, damned if you don't hopeless situation.

 

Jim

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I was just going with the idea that Johnston was able to reinforce Donelson from two different points Columbus and Bowling Green.. I figure if he had a Army of Maneuver instead of just dispersing his men as he did... he could have held Grant at Donelson.. with say 5000 men or more or less.. depending what the min needed just to hold out a bit.. at a siege... in a smaller perimeter tho... and while Grant was facing Donelson.. Johnston could have brought his Army of Maneuver and attack him in rear...  just a thought...

When you don't have enough men for the offensive.. you would hold a line.. with only enough men so they dont get pushed right out of the fortifications.. then when u determine where the enemy is concentrating.. You pile all u got on them... 

my troop counts I explained on my other post... they are technically lower as I'm not counting, smaller garrisons of 200 men here... 100 men there... and smaller cav.. patrols.. he had more men... he was never going to have the men to attack the north.. but to hold them.. and then hit in response he could have done better...

Thanks for the input... would love more input from others..... thanks everyone who posted tho

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