As an offshoot of John Corrado’s thread on the sorry state of our students, I thought I’d offer this thread as an arena to spar over the Most Important Question Ever.
Which side had the better generals, North or South?
(That would be in the American Civil War. Just wanted to make that clear for all us Americans out there [wink].)
I think that it’s pretty fair to say that the North started off slow, but kicked ass come Act 3, due in large part to superior leadership.
We can directly see how many of the “best” generals on each side fared against each other: Sheridan kicked Jubal Early’s ass in the final Valley Campaign; Sherman kicked Joseph E. Johnston’s ass in the march to the sea; Grant kicked Lee’s ass, and won the war.
Moreover, the “Southern example” of gallantry in the field led to the death or injury of an astonishing number of excellent and promising leaders, far more than the North suffered (77 KIA/DOW for the South versus 47 for the North). Albert Sidney Johnston, “Stonewall” Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart and A.P. Hill, all corps commanders or higher, bought it. Joseph E. Johnston, Jubal Early, Dick Ewell, and James Longstreet were all wounded and had to spend extended periods of time off the field. Lee himself had to be physically prevented from suicidally exposing himself–twice. Whatever advantage this may have conferred upon Southern troops was as often as not negated by confusion on the battlefield as Southern command structure evolved quite literally in real-time.
Furthermore, the North ruthlessly sacked its bad generals (many of them, anyway), while the South merely shuffled the bad ones around to places where they could do the least harm. Southern promotion was rigidly based upon seniority, rather than ability.
And finally, the South lost. While some might assert the overwhelming odds that the South faced in their battle for independence, that does not excuse the fact that the North implemented a modern battle plan which would exploit its own advantages, and finally made it work in late 1864/early 1865.
So there, I’ve said it. What say you?