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 Posted: Sun Nov 16th, 2008 11:38 pm
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pamc153PA
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Here's a question I'm not sure has a definitive answer, but it sure sparked a heated discussion between a friend and I:

Which side in the Civil War had the "better" soldiers?

My friend was of the opinion that, since the Union had won, the soldiers fighting for it were the better soldiers. I, however, was quick to point out that the winning was contingent on more than the soldiers who did the fighting--just as the losing was also contingent on much more than the fighting men themselves. We went around about things like how the politics and the generalship affected the fighting men, and various and sundry other points, such as, Just what does "better" mean? We finally quit the topic before we came to blows!

So I hand it to you folks: what do you think?

Pam



 Posted: Sun Nov 16th, 2008 11:47 pm
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CleburneFan
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This is oversimplistic, but I see the Civil War as basically a war of attrition. It wasn't so much that the South did not have some of the best and bravest fighting men ever to do battle on American soil, but that the South just did not have enough fighting men even at the start.  As the war wore on, the South had even less. They just pretty much nearly ran out of fighters and resources for those fighters to carry on the war. Just one example alone, losses in the Confederate officer corps during the four years was devastating all by itself.

Pam, I can easily see how you and your friend had to stop before coming to blows. It is so hard to quantify what is meant by "best fighting men." It would be an argument no one could convincingly win.



 Posted: Sun Nov 16th, 2008 11:57 pm
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Doc C
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Another oversimplistic response is that the csa had better infantry whereas the union had better artillery (both artilerymen and equipment). This was especially true on July 3rd, 1863.

Doc C



 Posted: Mon Nov 17th, 2008 12:46 am
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The Iron Duke
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If the Union had better soldiers then why didn't they win the war in 1861?



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 Posted: Mon Nov 17th, 2008 01:05 am
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Dixie Girl
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i say the South had the better soldiers



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War Means Fighting And Fighting Means Killing - N. B. Forrest When war does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Stonewall Jackson


 Posted: Mon Nov 17th, 2008 01:47 pm
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Johan Steele
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Iron Duke if the South had the better soldiers why didn't they win the war? :)

It's one of those questions that can't be answered at all simply because there are so many more questions that would have to be asked. Such as when, where, under whose leadership etc. If I had my druthers I would consider Cleburne's men at Chaickamauga the best of either side during the war but they got smacked around pretty good on other occasions. But the whole darned AoT US would be up there as well. Some instantly say the Stonewall Brigade... yet they had a higher desertion rate than Cleburnes Division through the whole war.

It's subjective at best and grounds for useless growling at worst.

In the east 61-63 the CS certainly had a superior officer corps more highly motivated troops and superior cav, after that the AoP starts to overtake. Why? The quality of replacements takes a steady nose dive. And all through the War the CS did a beter job supplying replacements than the US. But as losses mounted the CS paid a butchers bill they could not afford. Those replacements fed into the old units were resented and often poorly treated by the old hands simply because they were the new blood that hadn't been there.

Scores of factors that make what anyone would think a simple question very complex. "Best" or "better" comes down to which hole the author is in at the time. In short a man in Cleburne's Division will say his was and probably end up coming to blows w/ a man from Hood's Texas Brigade.

IMO Better... were the men that came home to rebuild the US. Best were those that had the courage of the convictions.



 Posted: Mon Nov 17th, 2008 02:31 pm
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The Iron Duke
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I'm not in any way suggesting they were better. I was making a reply to what Pam's friend stated. It's a loaded and simplistic question.



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 Posted: Mon Nov 17th, 2008 05:03 pm
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ole
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It's a loaded and simplistic question.
It certainly is! Which individual Yank are we comparing to which individual Reb? (Or ought it be which indivdual Reb compared to which twenty individual Yanks?)

Ole



 Posted: Mon Nov 17th, 2008 11:23 pm
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pamc153PA
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I had a feeling it'd be like this, because that's pretty much how it was for my friend and I, before we almost throttled each other.

Does it work to set some parameters, then, perhaps something factual, that could be a measuring stick for comparison? Maybe a short series of things essential to the "sucessful" soldier, or something like that? It doesn't work for me to say, "I think the South had the best soldiers"--I need something to base it on, concrete. What requirements to use, well, can some of you with way more knowledge of the CW than I have give some input?

I'd rather not give this one up if possible--it has been bothering me all day, like a sore tooth!

Pam



 Posted: Mon Nov 17th, 2008 11:32 pm
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Crazy Delawares
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Pandora's Box if not a Catch-22.



 Posted: Mon Nov 17th, 2008 11:53 pm
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ole
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Make peace with your friend, Pam, and let it go. The next thing you know you'll be arguing about whether Marciano could have beaten Ali; or the relative merits of Lou Gehrig and George Herman Ruth; or Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky ...

We can easily agree that Bobby Lee was a better general than Nate Banks, or that Cump Sherman outclassed Joe Johnston. But comparing Billy with Johnny is fruitless. In the aggregate, they were all the same.

Ole



 Posted: Mon Nov 17th, 2008 11:57 pm
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pamc153PA
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Sigh.

Okay. Point taken.

Pam



 Posted: Tue Nov 18th, 2008 02:41 am
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The Iron Duke
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Man for man neither side was better than the other. However, it we are talking about particular regiments or brigades that is a different story.



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 Posted: Tue Nov 18th, 2008 04:24 am
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ole
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Man for man neither side was better than the other. However, it we are talking about particular regiments or brigades that is a different story.

Almost about what I was trying to say, Duke, but you said it better.

There were some rather superior regiments and brigades. The Iron Brigade, the Stonewall Brigade, the Texas Brigade, Hill's Lightning Brigade, Wilder's Brigade ... all of these earned a rep here or there under a superlative commander. And some circumstance.

With some luck and circumstance, each became a name we know and generally figure was a better brigade or regiment. I'm rather fond of the Iron Brigade -- those damn black hat fellers. They were likely better lead than many they ran up against, but that doesn't make them better. (On that, I'd better crawl under my makeshift desk and await incoming.)

But when we get down to the individual, the average mano e' mano was exactly the same. I can't get it in my head that the Iowan was somehow a better fighter than the Georgian or the Alabamian. The littles guy with grit was the equal of every other man. And grit was not a geographical attribute.

Ole



 Posted: Tue Nov 18th, 2008 12:50 pm
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Johan Steele
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Iron Duke, Ole... TESTIFY BROTHERS!!!! Oh and Ahmen



 Posted: Tue Nov 18th, 2008 03:23 pm
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j harold 587
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Just read Blood, Tears and Glory to realize that westerners, actually OHIOans won the ACW. Move over Ole I need some room under that desk!  

 



 Posted: Tue Nov 18th, 2008 03:44 pm
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Johan Steele
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Nah, it was Iowans, or Minnesotans... ok maaaybeee Wisconsinites.



 Posted: Tue Nov 18th, 2008 05:43 pm
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Funny how it is the brigades with a nickname such as Vermont Brigade, Iron Brigade or Irish Brigade that gets credit with being a great unit. I have never heard anyone say something along the line of "The 1st Brigade in the 2nd Division of the 9th Corps was a terrific fighting unit."



 Posted: Tue Nov 18th, 2008 10:24 pm
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My simple answer to a question like that is Yes. Both were good.



 Posted: Tue Nov 18th, 2008 11:50 pm
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pamc153PA
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That's an interesting point, 20th Mass. Were there regiments or brigades who were really crack units that didn't have nicknames, or did all the good ones get nicknamed because of their prowess?

Pam



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