Confederate Redux, with Hindsight

Sep 2013
909
Chattanooga, TN
It's slightly apt that you compare covered wagons to semi-trucks. Then, as now, railroads were much more efficient at moving heavier loads greater distances. This source on page 172 says that an army wagon could carry 10 days of human rations and 10 days of horse rations: https://transportation.army.mil/History/PDF/Peninsula Campaign/Rodney Lackey Article_1.pdf
Actually, the army found mules more efficient than horses. Since the animals ate more than a person, the wagons had to be more than half filled with fodder rather than payload. Maximum speed for an army wagon was about 20 miles per day in flat terrain, less in hilly country. Since the wagons had to carry fodder for a round trip, out and back, that meant that supplies could only be hauled about 100 miles.

The alternative is that the wagons only carry payload and find fodder along the way. That would be a complex system to manage over a thousand miles. Each station along the way, every 20 miles or so, would have to have fodder or the horses would go hungry. If any station along the way ran out of feed the transportation system could break down. I know wagon trains grazed their way across the Great Plains, but they used oxen, not horses or mules. Oxen are slower, only about 10 miles per day, and are not as strong, so they hauled lighter loads. One could be confident of finding grass on the Great Plains. One does not always find a lot of grass in the forests of the east. Armies don't ship supplies in single wagons. They send out trains of dozens, if not hundreds, of wagons. That's a lot of grass to find by the side of the road. I've never read of wagons hauling army supplies much more than 100 miles - usually less.

I have no problem with a plantation sending cotton to market by wagon. The plantation was only a few miles or a few dozen miles from market. It much more difficult to move large bulk cargos over longer distances.
How the Confederacy could have shipped supplies that originated in the Trans-Mississippi from Vicksburg to VA is to use a system of using the railroads when they could, and then using covered wagons for the land between the railroads. You make it sound like the land between Vicksburg and VA is a desert. The wagons could carry both fodder and payload. It doesn't have to be one or the other. The transporters could have the horses eat fodder along the way as much as possible. If the wagons went through an area where there was not enough grass on the ground, then the transporters could feed the horses with fodder on the wagon until they reached grassy areas again. It was doable.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,731
SoCal
The south’s best chance, I reckon is dragging the war out for so long that the North decide it is no longer worth it. Which means probably fighting defensively ... problem is though demographically a long war will bleed the south dry faster than it does the North, unless the south can manage battlefield casualty levels much smdller than the North.
I agree with this but would also like to add the vital importance of getting British and/or French support for the Confederate cause. Unfortunately for the Confederacy, though, the only way that they actually had a realistic chance of winning British and/or French support was to abolish slavery or at least to make eventual plans for this--something that was anathema to the Confederacy and that would have defeated the whole point of Confederate secession in the first place.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,731
SoCal
9. Pemberton should have abandoned Vicksburg and preserved his army. I do not understand why Vicksburg was so important as a place. It was an important victory because it destroyed a Confederate army, but I do not see how the loss of that place hurt the Confederacy or helped the Union. I've never heard of Union commerce using the Mississippi River after the fall of Vicksburg, nor have I read of the South suffering because they were split in two by that river. The Confederate Trans-Mississippi west had always operated as an independent theater. The Confederate east had always operated with few, if any, western resources, especially after 1861.
How much did the Confederate West rely on resources from the Confederate East, though?
 
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Sep 2013
909
Chattanooga, TN
How much did the Confederate West rely on resources from the Confederate East, though?
I never thought of it that way, but that's an excellent question.

I don't know how much the Confederate Trans-Mississippi region relied on resources from the Confederate east.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,731
SoCal
I never thought of it that way, but that's an excellent question.

I don't know how much the Confederate Trans-Mississippi region relied on resources from the Confederate east.
Yeah, I mean, I wouldn't expect the Confederate East to be that dependent on resources from the Confederate West, but it's far from clear whether this would have also been true in reverse.
 
Sep 2013
909
Chattanooga, TN
With benefit of hindsight, how could the Confederacy have fought the Civil War more effectively? I think this is a bit of a challenge as the South historically exceeded reasonable expectations IMHO. Here's my take on how the South could have done even better. Feel free to add your own.

1. The Confederate Navy was a sinkhole that returned little on the invested resources. Maybe just do away with the entire Confederate Navy. I've heard claims that Confederate privateers completely decimated the North's merchant marine, but I've never seen any statistics or other evidence to back up that claim. At any rate, privateers consume few resources.
Mine Warfare in the Civil War - The Campaign for the National Museum of the United States Army

According to my link of a post by John Grady, torpedoes "claimed" thirty-five union ships and one Confederate ship during the ACW. I'm assuming that Grady means that torpedoes sank thirty-five Union ships, as opposed to merely damaging thirty-five union ships. I also wish I knew how many of those thirty-five Union ships were ironclads.

How many Union naval ships did Confederate ironclads sink during the Civil War?

If we knew how many Union naval ships Confederate ironclads sank during the Civil War, that would go a long way towards telling us whether the Confederate ironclads were a wise investment.

I strongly suspect that the Confederacy spent a lot more money on ironclads than on torpedoes. That doesn't automatically mean that the Confederate ironclads were a foolish investment though. The devil is in the details.
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As I recollect, the Union navy made several massive, costly attempts to take Charleston that failed, and the Union navy was not able to reign supreme in Charleston until 1865 when the Confederacy had all but lost the war. I remember that the Union navy kept getting driven off from Charleston, SC harbor, but I don't remember what Confederate forces did the most to drive the Union navy off. What did more to keep the Union navy from taking Charleston in 1862, 1863, and 1864, Confederate ironclads and other Confederate naval ships or the Confederate artillery batteries in the numerous forts around Charleston?
 
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