CSA more aggressive after First Manassas

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by DMA, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. DMA I am not the Final Cylon!

    Feb 22, 2004
    What if, after the Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run), the commanding Confederate General Joe Johnston decided to throw caution to the wind & conducted a vigorous pursuit of the routed Union army. Considering Johnston was well versed in Napoleonic warfare, this far from impossible & plausible. Furthermore, considering the famed fortifications of Washington D.C. were far from even being started, at this stage in the war, Washington itself could have been occupied, albeit with major effort.

    So what impact would have a more aggressive Johnston had on the opening rounds of the Civil War?

    If Washington had fallen to the Rebs, what does this mean for the Union? Where is the new capital relocated & does it remain at this other city even if Washington is recaptured at some point?

    What strategies are then put in place by the two sides given the changes to the timeline?

    Anything else?
  2. The Mists Of Time Member

    Mar 3, 2006
    I'm not sure The Confederacy had the ability to hold a major Union city for any length of time and still fight a major war, especially a city like Washington, DC.

    Everything else being the same, I think The Civil War would have gone the same way it did in OTL. The North wins, The South loses, Federal forces occupy The South during a period of Reconstruction, etc, etc.

    The Union would have still won for the same reasons it won in OTL.
    1. Overwhelming superiority over The Confederacy in terms of population allowing The North to have many more soldiers and to replace fallen soldiers more easily and quickly.
    2. Overwhelming superiority also in terms of industrial capacity allowing The North to build and continue building for war long after The South's industrial capacity was stretched beyond its limits.
    3. A military stratagy under Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan in which you destroy what industry The South does have, as well as its food supply, so the enemy can't make weapons and thus can't continue fighting.

    When you look at The Union's strengths and The Confederacy's weaknesses in those terms, The South's defeat by The North was almost a foregone conclusion from the start.

    The Union's big problem and reason it lost so many battles in the first years of The Civil War is The Union Army was so poorly led by generals like McClellan. Once Grant was put in charge of The Union Army it soon became a different story.
  3. Jasen777 Not Even People Donor

    Aug 22, 2006
    Land of the White Walker
    The Confederate army was almost as badly disorganized from winning as the Union was from losing. I don't think they were capable of much of a pursuit.
  4. Nytram01 Well-Known Member

    May 24, 2007
    Portsmouth, Hampshire
    I dont think that either Joe Johnston or P.G.T. Beauregard would have even considered attacking Washington that early in the war. If it had been Lee and Jackson in charge at that time the story would have been different but Johnston and Beauregard were both too much of a defensive kind of commander.

    As Jasen777 said the Confederate army at this point in time is too dissorganised to launch any sort of attack like that anyway.

    It might be possible, however, for a raid on Washington at this time from the cavalry units of J.E.B. Stuart or Turner Ashby but it's still unlikely.

    However if we do consider Johnston deciding to capture Washington then the outcome of the would probably still be the same unless, by some chance, he can capture Lincoln.
  5. Fiver Curmudgeon

    Oct 28, 2007
    I'm afraid you lost me there. Joe Johnston throwing caution to the wind?

    Perhaps if he had been wounded and Beauregard took command, more pursuit would have been attempted, but the Confederate force was raw and as Jasen777 points out disorganized by the battle. And the battle had been going all day long, so many of the troops would be less than enthusiastic about further efforts.

    Even then, I don't think the Confederate army would have pursued all the way to Washington and even if they had, they'd have been in no shape to attack before the defenses got organized.
  6. wkwillis Member

    Jan 7, 2004
    In OTL, the reason the CSA won was because they took their troops out of the Shenandoah and left the Union troops there. So the Union had a fresh unit just sitting around. The Union troops were disorganised except for the fresh cavalry unit that was covering their retreat, and making quick time for Washington.
    Expecting the raw CSA troops to organise into units again, and march after the USA troops faster than the USA troops can walk, and then mount an opposed river crossing against those unorganised troops and the organised cavalry troop that was with them, while organised USA troops from the Shenandoah keep getting off the train and marching a mile to the bridge, is to expect more than humanly possible for raw troops like the CSA troops at the start of the war.
  7. The Mists Of Time Member

    Mar 3, 2006
    It might have made for a more interesting start to The Civil War, but as others here have said, both The Confederate and Union armies were rather disorganized at that point.

    While The CSA being more aggressive after First Manassas would have made things more interesting at the start of the war, it would not have changed the final outcome of the war.

    Everything else being the same as in OTL, The South was so out-manned, out-gunned, out-supplied, out-everything like that compared to The North. Also, The Union could and did blockade Southern harbors so getting supplies from outside was nearly impossible. The North's advantages over The South were such that The South's defeat was almost inevitable from the start.
  8. M79 Well-Known Member

    Jan 8, 2007
    Then it comes down to defeating the North before they get fully mobilized. Manassas would need to be followed up with a serious victory or two, preferrably with one on Union territory. Then you get the UK and others likely to support the CSA in its secession efforts.
  9. The Mists Of Time Member

    Mar 3, 2006
    What I was saying is that even if The Confederacy had been more aggressive right after First Manassas, The CSA would still have lost the war in the long run. The South did not have the capacity to win a war like that.

    With their farms, many of them out of the area of fighting, The North had the capacity to continue feeding itself long term. The South did not.

    The North's much larger population allowed it to field a much larger army that militarily could withstand larger losses and keep fighting and could replace fallen troops much quicker and easier than The South.

    The North's industrial capacity allowed it to build many more weapons, and to replace weapons that were destroyed, and to continue producing ammunition. The South had very little industry to produce weapons and many fewer miles of railroad to get supplies like that to the troops.

    Late in the war Generals Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan used a form of total warfare against The South. You destroy what industry the enemy has so they can't make guns. If they can't make guns they can't continue fighting. It was a form of total warfare that left The South physically devestated.

    Bottom line: The North could afford a war of attrition. The South could not. That is one of the big reasons The South lost.

    The CSA being more aggressive after First Manassas might have won them a few more battles. It would not have won them the war. If all else is as it was in OTL, The South in the long run had no chance to win.
  10. Nytram01 Well-Known Member

    May 24, 2007
    Portsmouth, Hampshire
    I have recently read a biography of General Beauregard and General Joe Johnston on this site: http://blueandgraytrail.com/cwe and I have found the description of the aftermath of 1st Manassas to be a bit different from the one I was familiur with.

    In the Biography of General Beauregard it claims that as the Union retreated from the battlefield Jeff Davis came to the field headquarters and requested to see both Beauregard and Johnston but Beauregard refused, saying that he would go to meet Davis once his wounded was taken care of. He also ordered some of his troops to chase after the retreating Union. Davis would prevent any further persuit of the Union Army the next day.

    Joe Johnston's biography tells a similar story to Beauregard's one with a differance. Because Johnston was in the field headquarters he met with Davis when he arrived. It claims that it was Davis who would prevent him from ordering his army to persue the Union one. This decision coupled with Davis placing Joe Johnston behind A.S. Johnston, Robert E. Lee and his close friend Samuel Cooper in the CSA Generals list would be the seeds of their long and lasting grievances with each other.

    If this site is to be believed then both Joe Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard were fully prepared to move into northern territory and attack the Union on its own ground but Jeff Davis was not.

    So in conclusion it would be possible for the Confederate Army of the Patomac to be more aggressive following 1st Manassas but it would be unlikely if Davis was still president.