WI: Joseph Johnston wasn't replaced in July 1864?

What if Jefferson Davis didn't replace Joseph Johnston with John Bell Hood as the leader of the Army of Tennessee in July 1864?

This is an interesting POD for me b/c it was used in the novel "Grey Victory" and it involved Johnston being able to hold back Sherman's army preventing his March to the Sea plan and winning the war for the CSA. I'm not sure how plausible the butterflies created in that story where though so I'd like to hear what others think.
 
What if Jefferson Davis didn't replace Joseph Johnston with John Bell Hood as the leader of the Army of Tennessee in July 1864?

This is an interesting POD for me b/c it was used in the novel "Grey Victory" and it involved Johnston being able to hold back Sherman's army preventing his March to the Sea plan and winning the war for the CSA. I'm not sure how plausible the butterflies created in that story where though so I'd like to hear what others think.
Disclaimer: I do not have a high opinion of Johnston. I'd like to think that's for good reason, but it's going to be obvious in the following.


Johnston's plan either involves leaving Atlanta in the hands of the massively understrength militia while the field army maneuvers as he chooses - given the campaign so far, away from engagement with Sherman - or does not exist.

Johnston sees himself as outnumbered by at least two to one (overestimating Sherman's forces greatly and probably underestimating his own - in reality, he has an army about 62% of Sherman's), has never shown any great inclination to press an attack* except maybe Seven Pines (which is hardly an inspiring performance by any of the senior generals in gray, though that reflects on more than just Johnston, it's not reassuring), and has no great interest in - or at least has shown nothing that would justify believing he has any great interest in - holding Atlanta. And to do so defensively would require tying his army down to a siege.

Doing so offensively would require a far more aggressive mentality on his part and cooperative subordinates. The first can be made a POD. The second would take an earlier POD.

Also, even if Johnston is aggressive, and even if his army does work as a team, how does he beat Sherman? Sherman has a larger army, very good subordinates that do work together (including Thomas, one of the best generals of the war), and the advantage that its hard to dislodge a large ACW army. Raiding Sherman's supply lines . . . Johnston has refused to send Wheeler to do it (and Wheeler doing so is a joke anyway), and Forrest's men are too far away/need to be elsewhere. So that possibility is out unless things change.

Frankly, the only thing wrong with Retreatin' Joe being replaced is that Davis waited too long to do it, instead of recognizing that Johnston was not the man who could or would (I don't know which, so let's be generous for the sake of my - British? - friendly opponent in all Johnston based discussions) succeed here.

* Bentonville is in 1865, so I stand by "hasn't shown any great inclination" as of this point.


P.S. Nytram will probably stand up for Joe, but I do think he and I agree this is a heck of a problematic position to try accomplishing something in, and Johnston rightfully or wrongfully feels Davis is out to get him - not a good basis for establishing something between him and Davis whoever is to blame, which for discussion's sake should be left out - the point is, their relationship sucked, Johnston's message on his intentions just prior to this is at best terse and at worst . . . let's just say that their relationship sucked.
 
Elfwine
Thanks, you seem to be alto more knowledgable about that theatre of the war than I am right now. I'd like to know in your opinion what would have been the best time for Davis to replace Johnston and with who? I've asked SnakeFeatherston the same question before and he said that if it wasn't Hood then Bragg may have been Davis's next choice since he had a pention for assigning friends to positions. So besides him who might me the next person Davis would choose and also who might be the best for him to choose?
 

Anaxagoras

Banned
Even with a force depleted considerably by the defeats at Peachtree Creek, Bald Hill (usually known as the Battle of Atlanta) and Ezra Church, John Bell Hood managed to hold Atlanta until the beginning of September. Furthermore, he did so with an army whose officers and men viewed him with a good deal of suspicion, Hardee in particular clearly despising him. The fact that Hood kept Sherman out of Atlanta for so long makes one wonder how well Johnston might have done with an army stronger by 15,000 and whose officers and men were a good deal more loyal.

I also think that the Confederate attack on the Army of the Cumberland at Peachtree Creek (which, by Hood's own admission, was Johnston's idea) would have fared better had Johnston remained in command. A good deal of confusion was unavoidable with army commanders being changed on the eve of a major battle. Hood had his hands full simply trying to get settled into his new position as army commander. Hardee was obviously not up to his best at Peachtree Creek and I think his loathing of Hood can't be dismissed as at least a partial reason. Furthermore, Cheatham took over Hood's old corps, leaving his fine division (the second best in the army after Cleburne's) under the command of the unimpressive Maney, who barely participated in the fighting.

Had Hardee performed even half as well as he did on the first day of Murfreesboro, and if Cheatham had been leading his division, the outcome of the Battle of Peachtree Creek might have been very different.
 
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Even with a force depleted considerably by the defeats at Peachtree Creek, Bald Hill (usually known as the Battle of Atlanta) and Ezra Church, John Bell Hood managed to hold Atlanta until the beginning of September. Furthermore, he did so with an army whose officers and men viewed him with a good deal of suspicion, Hardee in particular clearly despising him. The fact that Hood kept Sherman out of Atlanta for so long makes one wonder how well Johnston might have done with an army stronger by 15,000 and whose officers and men were a good deal more loyal.

I also think that the Confederate attack on the Army of the Cumberland at Peachtree Creek (which, by Hood's own admission, was Johnston's idea) would have fared better had Johnston remained in command. A good deal of confusion was unavoidable with army commanders being changed on the eve of a major battle. Hood had his hands full simply trying to get settled into his new position as army commander. Hardee was obviously not up to his best at Peachtree Creek and I think his loathing of Hood can't be dismissed as at least a partial reason. Furthermore, Cheatham took over Hood's old corps, leaving his fine division (the second best in the army after Cleburne's) under the command of the unimpressive Maney, who barely participated in the fighting.

Had Hardee performed even half as well as he did on the first day of Murfreesboro, and if Cheatham had been leading his division, the outcome of the Battle of Peachtree Creek might have been very different.
Peachtree Creek still requires the AoT to act as a united army, something it never did. And while ill feeling towards Hood certainly weighed down the army, keeping Joe (or appointing someone else) might have Hood as one of the problems. Not to mention that the Federals are going to be a tough opponent in any battle scenario.

SPJ: I frankly find it too late for any good replacement. Hardee would be my nomination however.
 

Anaxagoras

Banned
Peachtree Creek still requires the AoT to act as a united army, something it never did. And while ill feeling towards Hood certainly weighed down the army, keeping Joe (or appointing someone else) might have Hood as one of the problems. Not to mention that the Federals are going to be a tough opponent in any battle scenario.
I agree that the Confederate chance of victory at Peachtree was not especially good, but it was one of the two big chances for the AoT to win a decisive success in the course of the campaign (Cassville being the other one). But if the odds were against the Confederates, firing Johnston and replacing him with Hood made an already bad situation even worse.

I frankly find it too late for any good replacement. Hardee would be my nomination however.
He certainly would have been a better choice than Hood.
 
Peachtree Creek still requires the AoT to act as a united army, something it never did. And while ill feeling towards Hood certainly weighed down the army, keeping Joe (or appointing someone else) might have Hood as one of the problems. Not to mention that the Federals are going to be a tough opponent in any battle scenario.

SPJ: I frankly find it too late for any good replacement. Hardee would be my nomination however.
What might Hardee do differently? I'm not familier with his reputation so I was wondering if you could make any good guesses.
 

Anaxagoras

Banned
Thanks, you seem to be alto more knowledgable about that theatre of the war than I am right now. I'd like to know in your opinion what would have been the best time for Davis to replace Johnston and with who?
Probably when the AoT retreated across the Etowah River.
 
I agree that the Confederate chance of victory at Peachtree was not especially good, but it was one of the two big chances for the AoT to win a decisive success in the course of the campaign (Cassville being the other one). But if the odds were against the Confederates, firing Johnston and replacing him with Hood made an already bad situation even worse.
I am torn between agreement and disagreement. Sufficient to say, Hood? Really, Davis? REALLY?


General Berserk is one thing. General Backbiter was a sign of something in the water in Richmond, I swear.

He certainly would have been a better choice than Hood.
Arguably, Cheatham on a bender would have been a better choice. At least he was popular.

SPJ: He's like Longstreet lite. I think he'd probably pursue a less "passive" version of Johnston's strategy, maybe prepare things in terms of fortifications for Atlanta a bit better.

Really, he's a rather unimpressive figure. Not utterly incompetent - just underwhelming and neither colorful or so talented as to not need color like Thomas or Longstreet.
 
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Anaxagoras

Banned
He's like Longstreet lite. I think he'd probably pursue a less "passive" version of Johnston's strategy, maybe prepare things in terms of fortifications for Atlanta a bit better.

Really, he's a rather unimpressive figure. Not utterly incompetent - just underwhelming and neither colorful or so talented as to not need color like Thomas or Longstreet.
Give credit where credit is due. Hardee's attack on the first day of Murfreesboro was one of the most successful corps-sized attacks in the entire Civil War and it came close to shattering the Army of the Cumberland. His evacuation of Savannah in December of 1864 in the face of Sherman's overwhelming numbers was brilliantly planned and executed. He was far from a military genius, but was hardly "unimpressive".
 
Give credit where credit is due. Hardee's attack on the first day of Murfreesboro was one of the most successful corps-sized attacks in the entire Civil War and it came close to shattering the Army of the Cumberland. His evacuation of Savannah in December of 1864 in the face of Sherman's overwhelming numbers was brilliantly planned and executed. He was far from a military genius, but was hardly "unimpressive".
Credit where credit is do, but two good battles (counting an evacuation in such a situation as fully equal to a battle in terms of stress and urgency) in a career from the war's beginning . . .

On the whole, I stand by Hardee as competent but uninspiring.
 
SPJ: He's like Longstreet lite. I think he'd probably pursue a less "passive" version of Johnston's strategy, maybe prepare things in terms of fortifications for Atlanta a bit better.
I'll get to the rest in a minute but, who's SPJ? I can't place the name.
 
Disclaimer: I do not have a high opinion of Johnston. I'd like to think that's for good reason, but it's going to be obvious in the following.


Johnston's plan either involves leaving Atlanta in the hands of the massively understrength militia while the field army maneuvers as he chooses - given the campaign so far, away from engagement with Sherman - or does not exist.
Johnston did not have a concrete plan in place when he took over command of the Army of Tennessee. He outrightly oppose Davis's orders to go on the offensive to retake Tennessee - and was right to do so - and he did not like the position at Dalton because although it was a relatively strong defensive positive it also obscured his vision of the enemy and he could not be sure of whether all their numbers were against him there.

His general plan was to repulse the enemy's attack and counter-attack into Tennessee but without knowing where the enemy was or where he intended to strike this was not possible to plan for at the Dalton line.

Wheeler was singularly unhelpful during this time. Johnston sent him daily orders to scout the gaps and assertain the whereabouts of the enemy armies but Wheeler refused and stayed near Varnell's Station looking for a fight.

As a result Johnston was left blind. Two main placed he thought the Federals would strike were around the north flank of Dalton or at Rome so he placed his 40,000 odd men at Dalton and Polk's 20,000 odd men at Rome. Between them he put James Cantey at Resaca with a reinforces unit or about 5,000 to protect the route between the armies and had to rely on "Red" Jackson and other small, independent cavalry units to watch the gaps between the ridges.

Once driven from Dalton and Resaca he attempted his counter-attack at Cassville, with Hood messing up and him believing in Hood and supporting his decision.

By the time he reaches Atlanta he had to more basic plans in mind. One was to release Forrest against Sherman's supply lines and the other was to use the more compact region to strike at Sherman's columns as they were isolated while maneuvering around Atlanta. Both of these could have complemented each other.

Johnston sees himself as outnumbered by at least two to one (overestimating Sherman's forces greatly and probably underestimating his own - in reality, he has an army about 62% of Sherman's), has never shown any great inclination to press an attack* except maybe Seven Pines (which is hardly an inspiring performance by any of the senior generals in gray, though that reflects on more than just Johnston, it's not reassuring), and has no great interest in - or at least has shown nothing that would justify believing he has any great interest in - holding Atlanta. And to do so defensively would require tying his army down to a siege.

Doing so offensively would require a far more aggressive mentality on his part and cooperative subordinates. The first can be made a POD. The second would take an earlier POD.
An agressive mentality alone would not have been enough to hold Atlanta with an offensive-defensive strategy - Hood proved that - there needed to be the balance between agression and realism. Johnston had that in 1861 - and, as an asside, 1st Manassas was another battle where Johnston showed a desire to press the attack - but after his wounding it seems to have gone askew.

[quoe]Also, even if Johnston is aggressive, and even if his army does work as a team, how does he beat Sherman? Sherman has a larger army, very good subordinates that do work together (including Thomas, one of the best generals of the war), and the advantage that its hard to dislodge a large ACW army. Raiding Sherman's supply lines . . . Johnston has refused to send Wheeler to do it (and Wheeler doing so is a joke anyway), and Forrest's men are too far away/need to be elsewhere. So that possibility is out unless things change.[/quote]

Forrest would not have been too far away if he had not gotren distracted after Brices Crossroads. His great victory left Georgia open to him and would have allowed him to operate behind the Federals before Sherman had even gotten past Dallas. Instead of pressing on into Georgia, Forrest chose to head back into Mississippi.

Wheeler, as you said, would have been a joke. Wheeler hadn't been supportive of Johnston from the very beginning of the campaign and would prove later that he was not capable of commanding a unit more that a day's ride from a higher HQ. Beauregard had to beg Davis to get rid of him and only got Wade Hampton and Davis didn't want Hampton to be in South Carolina anymore.

Frankly, the only thing wrong with Retreatin' Joe being replaced is that Davis waited too long to do it, instead of recognizing that Johnston was not the man who could or would (I don't know which, so let's be generous for the sake of my - British? - friendly opponent in all Johnston based discussions) succeed here.

* Bentonville is in 1865, so I stand by "hasn't shown any great inclination" as of this point.
Which would be fair if Davis had someone better to replace him with. He didn't. Lee was never going to move out of Virginia, Longstreet was deemed irreplacable to Lee and had been unimpressive in the few independent commands he'd had anyway, Hardee was steady and reliable but had turned down command of the army and hadn't shown any great independent thought, Hood was no where near ready for the role when he got it and Beauregard didn't have a realistic enough approach to even keep Sherman at bay - he was completely confuse by Sherman' maneuvers during the March to the Sea and the Carolina's Campaign.

For better or worse, Johnston was the best man available and none of the possible replacement would have faired any better.

P.S. Nytram will probably stand up for Joe, but I do think he and I agree this is a heck of a problematic position to try accomplishing something in, and Johnston rightfully or wrongfully feels Davis is out to get him - not a good basis for establishing something between him and Davis whoever is to blame, which for discussion's sake should be left out - the point is, their relationship sucked, Johnston's message on his intentions just prior to this is at best terse and at worst . . . let's just say that their relationship sucked.
The problem with the Johnston/Davis relationship during this time is that there was no impartial go-between. Johnston and Davis hated each other. Johnston thought Davis was setting him up to fail and Davis thought Johnston was working with his political opposition to undermine him.

What they needed was a Robert E. Lee inbetween them. Someone who was friends with both, who wouldn't be drawn into the bickering, who wouldn't pick sides. What they got was Bragg.

Bragg was a bitter vendetta machine driven by the sole purpose of sticking the knife into those who had slighted him and for some reason he took Johnston's critical annalyses of the AoT's ability as a slight and spent the rest of the campaign undermining him. This added to Hood and Wheeler and even Hardee's corrispondence behind Johnston's back made the job exceedingly difficult for Joe. Hardee, at least, followed orders without question but Hood and Wheeler both refused to do what Johnston ordered them to - Wheeler refused to scout and Hood refused to attack at Cassville.

A result of Bragg's lack of impartiality meant that Johnston was getting all these unreasonable demand from Richmond - such as; immediately attack into Tennessee or send half your army to Richmond - while anything he asked for was refuse - such as reinforcement or Forrest to be sent into Georgia. This left Johnston feeling put upon, left him feeling isolated and unsupported so his corrispondence with Richmond became even more clipped and terse.

Additionally, Johnston didn't trust Davis with sensitive information - this being a result of the Richmond newspapers tending to publish his plans a day after he'd told Davis them in 1861 - so he was not prepared to send them to Richmond or trust them to Davis.

If John C. Breckenridge had been Secretary of War during this period the Johnston/Davis relationship might have been manageable and the Confederates may have pulled together for the good of the cause instead of quarrelling with each other.
 
Johnston fights a battle akin to Peachtree Creek and then after getting walloped by Thomas retreats from Atlanta and gets sacked and replaced by Hood. The Army of Tennessee was annihilated IOTL at Nashville, so I can't see how Johnston would do worse than Hood, but given that Hood failed to even get a Kennesaw Mountain that says nothing very much about Johnston.
 
Even with a force depleted considerably by the defeats at Peachtree Creek, Bald Hill (usually known as the Battle of Atlanta) and Ezra Church, John Bell Hood managed to hold Atlanta until the beginning of September. Furthermore, he did so with an army whose officers and men viewed him with a good deal of suspicion, Hardee in particular clearly despising him. The fact that Hood kept Sherman out of Atlanta for so long makes one wonder how well Johnston might have done with an army stronger by 15,000 and whose officers and men were a good deal more loyal.

I also think that the Confederate attack on the Army of the Cumberland at Peachtree Creek (which, by Hood's own admission, was Johnston's idea) would have fared better had Johnston remained in command. A good deal of confusion was unavoidable with army commanders being changed on the eve of a major battle. Hood had his hands full simply trying to get settled into his new position as army commander. Hardee was obviously not up to his best at Peachtree Creek and I think his loathing of Hood can't be dismissed as at least a partial reason. Furthermore, Cheatham took over Hood's old corps, leaving his fine division (the second best in the army after Cleburne's) under the command of the unimpressive Maney, who barely participated in the fighting.

Had Hardee performed even half as well as he did on the first day of Murfreesboro, and if Cheatham had been leading his division, the outcome of the Battle of Peachtree Creek might have been very different.
Yes, and Hood lost every single one of those battles against all the armies of Sherman's Army Group, followed by marching his army to destruction in the winter battles in Tennessee. Peachtree Creek was doomed for matters beyond the ability of the Confederate high command to fix, namely the continual, serial pattern of the Army of Tennessee in attacking too late and at just the wrong moment, due to reasons of poor command and co-ordination that applied whether we're talking about Polk, Sidney Johnston, Bragg, Johnston, or Hood in terms of commanding that army. The AoT was a balky beast.
 
Give credit where credit is due. Hardee's attack on the first day of Murfreesboro was one of the most successful corps-sized attacks in the entire Civil War and it came close to shattering the Army of the Cumberland. His evacuation of Savannah in December of 1864 in the face of Sherman's overwhelming numbers was brilliantly planned and executed. He was far from a military genius, but was hardly "unimpressive".
Given that Hardee was under someone else's command at the time, shouldn't that reflect on either Bragg or McCook by virtue of having a corps that was generally speaking the guys that gave the CSA its few redeeming moments for that army? In a pattern that indicated that the problems had a lot to do with McCook?
 
Johnston did not have a concrete plan in place when he took over command of the Army of Tennessee. He outrightly oppose Davis's orders to go on the offensive to retake Tennessee - and was right to do so - and he did not like the position at Dalton because although it was a relatively strong defensive positive it also obscured his vision of the enemy and he could not be sure of whether all their numbers were against him there.

His general plan was to repulse the enemy's attack and counter-attack into Tennessee but without knowing where the enemy was or where he intended to strike this was not possible to plan for at the Dalton line.

Wheeler was singularly unhelpful during this time. Johnston sent him daily orders to scout the gaps and assertain the whereabouts of the enemy armies but Wheeler refused and stayed near Varnell's Station looking for a fight.

As a result Johnston was left blind. Two main placed he thought the Federals would strike were around the north flank of Dalton or at Rome so he placed his 40,000 odd men at Dalton and Polk's 20,000 odd men at Rome. Between them he put James Cantey at Resaca with a reinforces unit or about 5,000 to protect the route between the armies and had to rely on "Red" Jackson and other small, independent cavalry units to watch the gaps between the ridges.

Once driven from Dalton and Resaca he attempted his counter-attack at Cassville, with Hood messing up and him believing in Hood and supporting his decision.

By the time he reaches Atlanta he had to more basic plans in mind. One was to release Forrest against Sherman's supply lines and the other was to use the more compact region to strike at Sherman's columns as they were isolated while maneuvering around Atlanta. Both of these could have complemented each other.
Note, what follows is for the sake of discussion, as the odds of Nytram changing my mind or vice-versa is poor -but I think between our positions the original poster can get some excellent ideas on what was going on.

And unleashing Forrest had been repeatedly shot down by Davis. Meanwhile, striking at Sherman's columns effectively would require him demonstrating something he failed at Cassville - pressing an attack in the face of difficulties.

I would not be surprised on Wheeler, but Johnston probably could have done better here. At least, he could have spent the time he spent trying to get Forrest's men to replace Wheeler, which would probably have been acceptable if Johnston presented it right (Wheeler being pro-Bragg and vice-versa, but not mattering to Davis, if I'm not mistaken).

An agressive mentality alone would not have been enough to hold Atlanta with an offensive-defensive strategy - Hood proved that - there needed to be the balance between agression and realism. Johnston had that in 1861 - and, as an asside, 1st Manassas was another battle where Johnston showed a desire to press the attack - but after his wounding it seems to have gone askew.
Yeah, the Johnston of First Bull Run was an impressive fellow. Cool headed, effectively in charge (despite acknowledging Beauregard as commander, Johnston is the one who pulled things together), and with a good sense of the situation.

Forrest would not have been too far away if he had not gotren distracted after Brices Crossroads. His great victory left Georgia open to him and would have allowed him to operate behind the Federals before Sherman had even gotten past Dallas. Instead of pressing on into Georgia, Forrest chose to head back into Mississippi.
Mississippi, aka the department he's assigned to and responsible for?

Wheeler, as you said, would have been a joke. Wheeler hadn't been supportive of Johnston from the very beginning of the campaign and would prove later that he was not capable of commanding a unit more that a day's ride from a higher HQ. Beauregard had to beg Davis to get rid of him and only got Wade Hampton and Davis didn't want Hampton to be in South Carolina anymore.
"Only"? That aside, yes, Wheeler has to go for a successful campaign here. Johnston had enough cavalry, but not anyone capable of commanding it.

Which would be fair if Davis had someone better to replace him with. He didn't. Lee was never going to move out of Virginia, Longstreet was deemed irreplacable to Lee and had been unimpressive in the few independent commands he'd had anyway, Hardee was steady and reliable but had turned down command of the army and hadn't shown any great independent thought, Hood was no where near ready for the role when he got it and Beauregard didn't have a realistic enough approach to even keep Sherman at bay - he was completely confuse by Sherman' maneuvers during the March to the Sea and the Carolina's Campaign.

For better or worse, Johnston was the best man available and none of the possible replacement would have faired any better.
I would have to dispute that, but I don't know anyone I'd genuinely advocate here. There are not enough good generals to go around.

If John C. Breckenridge had been Secretary of War during this period the Johnston/Davis relationship might have been manageable and the Confederates may have pulled together for the good of the cause instead of quarrelling with each other.
Snipped the for concision - I think this would be a good idea. Or if not Breckinridge, someone without Bragg's bitterness. Even someone not fond of Johnston but willing to work with him would have sufficed, as long as they could also work with Davis.

But a note: Johnston got all the reinforcements Davis could send him OTL. This has to be noted, whether he was satisfied or no, doing more is in the category of stripping the Carolinias in '63 to aid Lee - as in, what about the problems threatening those area? Forrest leaving Mississippi renders it possible for the Federals to negate Brice's Crossroads, for instance.
 
Personally I don't think it matters too much who is in charge of the AOT outside of Hood whose incompetence is in a class by itself. It is impossible for any general to do well if his staff is too busy backstabbing each other and him to get anything accomplished.
 
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