The Civil War Connections Blog

The Importance of Logistics

Hello again readers, and welcome back to the good ol’ blog! Today’s tidbit about me is: I loved riding a bike, I love driving my car, but I have absolutely no desire to ever combine the two by driving or owning a motorcycle.

Nope. Not happening.

 

So 150 years ago today, the Union army marched up the Peninsula and FINALLY began attacking the capitol. Haha just kidding! Actually, the Confederate forces protecting Richmond – lead by General Joseph E. Johnston – decided they were sick and tired of waiting for General McClellan to act. Instead, THEY would attack McClellan! Now, some of you kind readers may remember my very first blog posting, on Shields for Soldiers? Well, I posted that on May 9th. In 1862, May 9th was about half a week AFTER McClellan broke through the (abandoned) siege lines around Yorktown and started marching to Richmond. So, if that’s when he started, then why did it take almost an entire month for McClellan to move 63 miles to Richmond, when General Jackson was repeatedly covering that same stretch of ground in the Valley Campaign in well under a week? (article HERE.)

The answer… is TRAFFIC!

Oh Dear Lord...

 

When Jackson walked and re-walked all over the Valley, he did so with only around 17,000 men. There was a reason they earned the nickname “foot cavalry”: it’s because most of his army was infantry, who had to walk everywhere. The same was true of McClellan’s army, so one might expect McClellan to move about as fast as Jackson. However, McClellan had around 120,000 men. That’s about seven times as many troops as Jackson, but they all had to fit through roughly the same amount of total road space that Jackson’s smaller force had. A nifty analogy would be to say that the two armies were like groups of cars on the interstate, and their roads were like our highways: therefore, which of these two armies will move faster?

Hmmm... lemme think...

 

Yea. Jackson’s army is going to make MUCH better time than McClellan’s, no matter what. Now, in addition to the clogged roads, McClellan also had to deal with the one crucial factor of warfare that is so easily forgotten by the public: LOGISTICS! In war, an army needs a steady flow of supplies in order to function as a fighting force. Soldiers like to have fresh clothes, tents, cooking pots, and letters from home, but they NEED food, water, ammunition, and replacement equipment. Without those things, the army will cease to function. No food or water, and the men can’t act. No ammunition and the guns won’t fire. No replacement parts, and if a cannon wheel breaks, then that cannon has to be left behind. All these supplies need to be transported by wagons, and when you have 120,000 men clogging up the roads – the same roads that the supplies need to travel on – then you have yourself a big ol’ logistical problem.

Stupid potholes...

 

Now, since McClellan had a problem getting food to his troops, he decided to consolidate his position near Richmond and protect his supply lines. Not a bad move. However, the supply lines he needed to guard were on both sides of the Chickahominy River, just a few short miles from Johnston and Richmond. As a result, McClellan had to divide his forces: most of his men stayed near his Headquarters on the north side of the Chickahominy, and two army corps would hold the south side. Unfortunately for the Union, these two corps were not located very close to each other, and the corps that was nearest the Confederates – located near a map area called “Seven Pines” – was not within easy reinforcement distance from the other one. With this situation before him, Johnston decided to attack!

… and that’s all for today, folks!

So sorry to... LEAVE YOU HANGING!!

 

Don’t worry though, I’ll probably talk about Johnston’s attack at the Battle of Seven Pines tomorrow, on the anniversary of it actually beginning! So stay tuned, and have a nice day!