This morning was a perfect November 11: overcast, cold, threatening rain or sleet.
Awoke thinking about that great link between the Civil War and the Great War, the deployment controversy.
I recall how McClellan and Grant (and a few in-between) decried forming new men into new units; it was a waste of human life, it was a waste of depleted veteran units, it was a waste of combat efficiency and effectiveness. But it was not something under any general’s control.
On the other side of this were the arguments that enlistments would be reduced if men could not be formed into new units made up of friends and neighbors, commanded by men of their own election; that they would be reduced if the governors’ patronage was reduced (a natural outcome of feeding men into the line as replacements). If enlistments fell the outcome of the war would be in doubt.
And so, from McClellan to Grant, the federal generals never had their chance. But the next best step was available to them; they could mix units, seasoned and green to the best of their abilities, to reduce the exposure of green regiments, and they need never after McClellan’s time, form green regiments into green brigades or divisions, except under the direst circumstances.
The argument repeated itself in the Great War. Americans would not be fed into Allied units as individual replacements; their green regiments would not be patched into veteran Allied divisions; their green divisions might in very limited numbers, be attached to Allied Corps, but generally, the green men would fight as a green army; men of 1861 level experience would be deployed en masse next to men of 1865 experience.
This time, the outcome of the war was not at issue; there was simply the issue of pride and political calculation. Were the casualties worth it? A question for Armistice Day.