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PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2022 12:07 pm 
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Fair or Foul?

In a war in which nearly all generals struggled to find successful offensive tactics to cope with the new weapons of the mid-nineteenth century, Sherman stands out for exceptional ineptitude on the tactical offensive. A splendid defensive tactician, a tower of strength in the midst of intense fighting, a profound thinker about the nature of the war, and a brilliant strategist and logistician, Sherman simply did not have the knack for planning and executing successful assaults.


Woodworth, Steven E.. Nothing but Victory (p. 280). Kindle Edition.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2022 6:03 pm 
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I'm not sure if there is more to the explanation from Professor Woodworth. At the moment I would be looking to seeing if there is an expansion along the lines of: "... despite this, operational and strategic outcomes were not tied to these limitations.' I mean the Atlanta Campaign, of which I assume this bit was being taken from was a series of flanking moves which continued moving the CS line back towards Atlanta- until there was no more room to do move.

I guess at the same time, maybe Liddell-Hart might argue that this was a version of the indirect approach that resulted in some pretty significant strategic outcomes - and sometimes more than just military; arguably Lincoln's re-election was shaped by the fall of Atlanta, not be investing Petersburg and Richmond. So there is that, as well.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2022 6:39 pm 
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The full context of the quote is below. It comes at the end of his examination of Chickasaw Bluffs.

Sherman ultimately bears the responsibility for the failure. Although his command consisted of only four divisions, he was remarkably quick to delegate authority to subordinates A. J. Smith, for operations on the right, and Morgan, for those on the left. It was Sherman’s business to see to it that Morgan did his job correctly. Sherman gave the final order to attack with apparent disregard for the circumstances or the fact that preparations in the crucial center sector were far from complete. Whatever exoneration can be found for Sherman in the weak performance of Morgan, the fact remains that Sherman was simply not a very good offensive commander.

In a war in which nearly all generals struggled to find successful offensive tactics to cope with the new weapons of the mid-nineteenth century, Sherman stands out for exceptional ineptitude on the tactical offensive. A splendid defensive tactician, a tower of strength in the midst of intense fighting, a profound thinker about the nature of the war, and a brilliant strategist and logistician, Sherman simply did not have the knack for planning and executing successful assaults. A sense of his own weakness in this area may have prompted him to turn over direction of the Chickasaw Bayou operation to Smith and Morgan. Sherman’s success as a general was going to depend on how well he could work around this one glaring gap in his abilities.


Woodworth, Steven E.. Nothing but Victory (Vintage Civil War Library) (pp. 280-281).

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2022 7:56 pm 
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Got it -- early Vicksburg Campaign - talking about late 1862, and not Atlanta. In that light, it would seem to be taking tunnel vision at one person as part of his evolving into a commander, and not an overly fair assessment. There were not many 'very good offensive commanders' that get dropped off in a heavily forested swampy area facing miles of escarpments that managed to actually overcome those in many places around the world -not certainly in the 19th Century, and also not into the 20th Century.

I doubt the the communications and command control were up to the specific geography in that area -- for reference take a look at the Chickasaw Bayou scenarios/map in Campaign Vicksburg -as a version of the complications facing the task ... not much room for lateral movement in the advance to the CS lines - so you're basically limited to choosing an avenue of advance and then have limited ability to change things from side to side as might be required. Road net down there too would be -probably not that great -particularly in late 1862. Might have to crack the Bearss volumes to see what he says (meaning me ... but that won't happen for awhile).

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2022 8:49 pm 
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I believe its fair.

As a strategist Sherman was very good. His big picture style of warfare would become more of the norm in the next century. But tactically in offensive battles I struggle to think of any rousing successes off the top of my head. His big victories around Atlanta came through Hood's offensive blunders and not through his own offensive tactics.

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