Strategy is a component of the jigsaw that is warfare, the most perplexing and complicated of human efforts, and it cannot be understood in isolation from its crucial supporting aspects.
The most significant of them is policy, which refers to the political goal or goals pursued by countries in weapons (these are sometimes described as war aims, or what they are fighting for).
Policy should guide strategy and offer a framework for its implementation, rather than dictating it. Understanding the political goal is crucial because it defines where and how the battle will be waged.
Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, the stylish, voluble hero of Fort Sumter, Napoleonic in style and goal, was the Confederate commander at Manassas. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, a diminutive, immaculately dressed, ambitious but cautious man with a piercing stare and an outsized sense of dignity, led the Confederate troops in the Shenandoah Valley.
Beauregard and Johnston symbolized the poles of southern strategic thought in their opposing aggressive and defensive mindsets. The Confederacy’s main military goal, like that of the United States during the Revolutionary War, was to protect a new country against takeover. Confederates turned to the heroes of 1776 for inspiration, since they had overcome greater difficulties than southerners faced in 1861.
The South could “win” the war simply by not losing, but the North could only win by winning. The Confederacy’s vast territory—750,000 square miles, twice the size of the thirteen original United States—would make Lincoln’s mission as onerous as Napoleon’s in 1812 or George III’s in 1776. Early in the conflict, the Times of London’s military expert made the following remarks:
“… It is one thing to drive the rebels off the Potomac’s south bank, or even to seize Richmond, but it is quite another to reduce and permanently subjugate a tract of territory about the size of Russia in Europe… Except in cases when the difference of power was substantially larger than in this instance, no war of independence has ever ended in failure… Just as England had to give up conquering the colonies during the Revolution, the North will have to give up conquering the South…
President Jefferson Davis concurred; early in the conflict, he seems to have envisioned a strategy similar to that of George Washington in the Revolutionary War. Washington exchanged space for time; he retreated when necessary in the face of a stronger enemy;
He counterattacked against isolated British outposts or detachments when such an attack promised success; and, above all, he avoided full-scale baffles, which would have risked annihilation of his army and defeat of his cause. This has been referred to as an attrition strategy—a plan of winning by not losing, of wearing out a better-equipped adversary and forcing him to surrender by extending the battle and making it too expensive.
However, two major problems prohibited Davis from implementing such a plan except on a limited and occasional basis. Both elements were influenced by political and military circumstances. The first was a call from governors, legislators, and the general public for soldiers to protect every part of the Confederacy against “Lincoln’s abolition hordes.”
Small forces were therefore scattered throughout the Confederate perimeter in 1861, along the Arkansas-Missouri border, at many sites on the Gulf and Atlantic coastlines, along the Tennessee-Kentucky border, in the Shenandoah Valley and western Virginia, and at Manassas. Historians have criticized the “cordon defense” for spreading men so widely that Union forces were certain to break through someplace, as they did many times in 1862.
The character of the southern people was the second element impeding a Washingtonian policy of attrition. Many Confederates despised the idea of “sitting down and waiting” for the Federals to assault, believing that they could “Whip any number of Yankees.” “The concept of waiting for blows rather than dealing them is entirely inappropriate to the creativity of our people,” the Richmond Examiner concluded.
“The aggressive policy is the only one that is actually protective.” As a defensive measure, a column pushed forward into Ohio or Pennsylvania is more valuable to us than a layer of seacoast batteries stretching from Norfolk to the Rio Grande.
In the same tone that northern newspapers yelled On to Richmond, the southern press pleaded for an advance on Washington. Beauregard designed audacious assault tactics against Gen. McDowell. When Beauregard learnt of McDowell’s onslaught against him, the subject became moot.
The Confederates finally combined these many strategic theories and political realities into what Davis referred to as a “offensive-defensive” plan. This included defending the Confederate homeland by exploiting inner lines of communication (a Jominian but also common-sense notion) to concentrate scattered troops against an invading army and, if the chance presented itself, going on the offensive, even conquering the North.
No one has ever articulated this method in a systematic, all-encompassing manner. Rather, it arose from a series of important campaigns in the Virginia-Maryland and Tennessee-Kentucky theaters that began in 1862 and culminated in 1863 at Gettysburg.
It nearly developed, in embryonic form, from the first battle of Manassas/Bull Run in July 1861, a minor engagement by later Civil War standards but one with significant psychological ramifications in both the North and the South.
Strategy, according to the dictionary, is “the science and art of military leadership applied to meet the adversary in battle under favourable conditions.” A larger definition of the word includes all facets of war, both on and off the battlefield, such as the political, psychological, and economic methods used by a country at war to defeat its adversary.
The “grand strategy” refers to a country’s overarching approach for defeating another. Fighting a subjugation war, the North had to use a “offensive strategy,” which meant taking the conflict to the adversary. The Union sought to isolate the South from outside help by a blockade along the coast and control of the Mississippi River as part of its grand strategy known as the “Anaconda Plan.”
The North also intended to invade Southern territory on many fronts, hurting the South’s economy, destroying its material weapons of war, and finally freeing the country’s slaves.
The Confederate nations’ grand plan at the start of the war was a “defensive strategy,” which included securing military and economic help from European countries, weakening the North’s desire to fight and sustain the war, and protecting the South at its frontiers. However, none of these methods were successful, and the Confederacy’s grand strategy was modified to reflect the reality of the situation.
To offset the North’s strategic attempts, the Confederacy endeavored to confront the more powerful adversary in locations and at times favorable to Southern victory on the battlefield. The Confederacy often used offensive actions to achieve defensive strategic outcomes, and the ensuing “defensive-offensive strategy” proved successful in several battles, including Gen. Robert E. Lee’s attack to protect Richmond, VA, during the Seven Days’ campaign.
This has been called a strategy of attrition–a strategy of winning by not losing, of wearing out a better equipped foe and compelling him to give up by prolonging the war and making it too costly. But two main factors prevented Davis from carrying out such a strategy except in a limited, sporadic fashion.
The Confederate nations’ grand plan at the start of the war was a “defensive strategy,” which included securing military and economic help from European countries, weakening the North’s desire to fight and sustain the war, and protecting the South at its frontiers.
The Anaconda Plan was the first Civil War plan created by General Winfield Scott of the United States Army to put down the Confederacy’s insurrection in 1861. Scott devised the strategy in early 1861, wanting it to terminate the revolt primarily via economic tactics.
However, by 1863, the Northern military strategy included five key objectives:
Blockade all southern coastlines completely.
Take command of the Mississippi River.
Take control of Richmond.
Devastate Southern citizen morale by capturing and destroying Atlanta, Savannah, and South Carolina, the core of Southern secession.
The South went on the defensive (at first). THE BENEFITS OF FIGHTING A DEFENSIVE WAR: If your opponent has more weapons and soldiers, as well as more money, it is generally best to let them come and assault you. This offers you an edge since the assaulting force normally loses more troops.
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