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140

[SECT. VIII.

gun was dismounted; only seven men were killed, and fif teen wounded.

THE EAST-WEST LINE.

Once more let us reconnoitre the recesses of the Con

View of the military federacy, examining not its political, but its military condition. What do we see?

condition.

line.

There is one long line of railroad reaching from MemThe great west-east phis, on the Mississippi, to Charleston, on the Atlantic. It is the only complete east and west bond connecting the Confederacy through its breadth. What if this vital line were snapped? It would be the severing of the Confederacy. The Atlantic portion would be parted from the Mississippi portion. The unity of the Confederacy hangs on a very slender thread. The Richmond government plainly discerns how much is depending on this line. Slender though it may be, it is indispensably necessary to them. For its protection, for the avoid ance of the catastrophe which must follow its rupture, they have established parallel to it, and one hundred and fifty miles to the north of it, a military line consisting of fortresses, armies, an intrenched camp. That military line extends from Columbus, on the Mississippi, through Forts Henry and Donelson, to Bowling Green.

The work of an assailant is, therefore, manifestly to burst through the military line, and break the railroad line beyond.

Means prepared by
the Confederates
for its defense.

But, furthermore, there is a navigable river, the Tennessee, flowing perpendicularly through the first of these lines, and running parallel to

Availability of the Tennessee for breaking it.

the second. That is the invader's true path. Plainly along it, and not down the impregnably fortified and impassable Mississippi, blows fatal to the Confederacy may be delivered. The Mississippi itself is not the true line of attack. Even if it were seized, the great rail

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road is not necessarily touched. Moreover, it is a military consequence that the strong fortresses on the Mississippi must be surrendered on the passage of an army their rear.

in

The two results fol

Two great events will therefore necessarily follow the passage of an army strong enough to mainlowing that opera- tain itself along the Tennessee. They are: 1st. The bisection of the Confederacy, its eastern and western portions being severed. 2d. The gratification of the popular demand that the Mississippi should be opened.

142

OPPOSING EFFORTS OF THE CONFEDERATES. [SECT. VIII.

With the railroad untouched, the Confederate government can rapidly mass its troops on the Atlantic or on the Mississippi region, and hurl them at pleasure, right or left, on its antagonist. With the railroad broken, such movements become very difficult, perhaps even imprac ticable.

If the eye follows the line of this road from Memphis, on the Mississippi, eastwardly, it is seen to divide when it reaches the great strategical position Chattanooga: its upper branch runs northeastwardly to the capital of the Confederacy, Richmond; its lower branch runs southeastwardly to the important cities Savannah and Charleston. Chattanooga and its immediate environs present, therefore, a vital military point. To General Halleck must be given the credit of the solution of the Mississippi problem. He showed that the correct movement was a march on the line of the Tennessee. The truth of this principle was strikingly exemplified by the event. The victories on that river opened the Mississippi from Cairo to Memphis, and, in the opinion of a very great military authority, had Halleck's army at that time possessed the tenacity of Sherman's in 1864, he could have completed the opening by continuing his march south from Corinth to Mobile.

Military importance of Chattanooga.

Correct solution of

the problem of the opening of the Mississippi.

Such were the views taken by the national generals Opposing efforts of who successfully solved the problem of the the Confederates. military destruction of the Confederacy. On the other hand, their antagonists, thrown from the begin ning on the defensive, recognized with equal precision the correctness of these principles. When one military line was broken through, they attempted to establish a second in a parallel direction. When the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was effectually severed, they made haste to construct a parallel one by completing the more

CHAP. XLI.] OBJECTIVE OF THE ATLANTIC REGION.

143

southerly line from Meridian to Selma. This likewise was, in its turn, destroyed.

Considered thus, so far as military topography is concerned, it was plain that decisive operations

General course of

movements.

the correct military must commence in the central region with a view to the destruction of the east and west line of communication, and securing possession of the strategic point Chattanooga. The opening of the Mississippi followed as a corollary upon their successful issue. The great result, however, would be the partition of the Confederacy.

Whatever armed force the Confederacy might have in the Atlantic region would now be placed between two antagonists, one threatening it from the north of Richmond, the other through the portal of Chattanooga.

The whole male population of the Confederacy being in the armies, there could be no resistance except where those armies were. The decisive result could alone be reached by their destruction.

In the Atlantic region of the Confederacy, to the correct military eye, the proper objective was

region

ive of the Atlantic therefore the great army of Virginia. Richmond and Charleston were in themselves nothing. The Confederacy could afford to lose one, or both, or a dozen such, and would not be weakened thereby. And that these views were correct the event showed. Charleston fell by the march of Sherman, who never took the trouble to go to it; and Richmond fell by the operations of Grant, who disdained to enter it.

The military object to be aimed at was, therefore, not the political object proposed. It was not the occupation of a city or territory, but the extermination of the opposing army.

Battles conducted by generals of not unequal skill, and

is the extermination of the Virginia army.

EFFECT OF ATTRITION.

144

[SECT. VIII.

ending without a signal catastrophe, usually exhibit losses not far from equal on the opposing sides. In armies of equal strength, and operating in a similar region, the waste of life in the hospitals may also be considered as equal.

attrition.

A general who is acting upon these principles, and is Effect of incessant aiming, not at the seizure of territory, but at the life of the antagonist army, will foresee an inevitable issue to his campaign. If he can bring into play during the whole operation two hundred thousand men, and his antagonist only one hundred and fifty thou sand, he will certainly secure his result when, by this process of attrition, each side has lost one hundred and twenty-five thousand.

Now the available military force of the South was never numerically equal to that of the North, and the disparity became still greater when the slaves were armed by the North. Military errors or catastrophes were therefore of far more serious moment to the insurgents than to the government. There was danger that exhaustion. would ensue. It actually did at last occur.

Doubtless there is something very dreadful in a method which looks with indifference on the issue of battles, whether there has been a victory or a defeat, but inquires with earnestness how many of the enemy have been de stroyed, and discerns with a frigid, a Machiavelian satisfaction the mathematically inevitable superiority of the greater mass after equal attrition of both conflicting bodies.

The duration of resistance of the weaker party in this process of attrition or extermination will necessarily turn on the magnitude of the political object at stake, and the facility or possibility of effecting an ostensible compromise. But it is politically impossible that an aggressive Aristocracy and an aggressive Democracy should coexist in the same nation after they have once been in open con

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