Palmer and Patton (cont.)

Here is the gist of Patton’s analysis from the 1932 memo. He says that there have been two armies recurring in history:
(a) A Mass Army composed of hastily raised and incompletely trained individuals who, in the main, looked on the business of war as a secondary avocation. The dominant characteristic of such a force is QUANTITY rather than QUALITY. (b) A Professional Army, highly trained, and composed of individuals who looked on the business of war as their vocation. The dominant characteristic of such a force is QUALITY rather than QUANTITY.

The present trend of military thought: Since 1919 numerous military authorities have voiced the belief that for the immediate future the solution to the problem of obtaining short, decisive wars was to be found in the employment of smaller, more mobile and better trained armies. That is, by the use of armies organized along professional lines. […]
Notice the problem Patton is trying to solve with his reorganization proposal: “the problem of obtaining short, decisive wars.”

Scott’s devotion to a 75,000-man force of regulars sprang from similar concerns (and earned Scott the younger General Palmer’s condemnation).

Could the ACW have been “solved” Patton's way?

Here is where Scott and Patton’s views agree. The bulk of Scott’s 75,000 would have formed a column descending the Mississippi with enhanced mobility. Scott, in his letters to McClellan, conceived of this as an unstoppable military force, foreshadowing Patton’s argument of Quality devouring Quantity; 50,000 or so professionals would overmatch the numerous Southern forces sent to oppose them.

And here is where Scott and Patton diverge. The mission of Scott’s riverine regulars was to clear the Mississippi and seize New Orleans at its mouth. This would create the political effect of a bargaining incentive, the war being settled through negotiation. Scott was NOT going to occupy the enemy’s capital or smash his military forces.

McClellan’s views of August, 1861, provide an interesting alternative. McClellan proposed following rail, river and coast lines to junction points where large forces (Quantities) would be deposited in fortified positions where they could easily hold off those CSA (Quantities) sent to dislodge them. McClellan named his targets and timelines; the effect would have created the “Anaconda” people talk about with respect to Scott’s ideas. With the passage of time, McClellan's mass army (Quantity) would be dispensed in ever more rock-hard packets. No short war, but likely a shorter war.

There is an interesting light, however, thrown on Patton’s ideas in recent works. Martin van Creveld in his book Fighting Power: German and US Army Performance, 1939-1945 makes the point that the Germans decided against a robust replacement policy for the army in order to preserve the fighting power of veteran units, preferring instead to combine fragments into ad hoc formations over time. Replacements were segregated into all new units. This is very much like the accidental ACW replacement “system” where ever-shrinking veteran regiments could be counted on to deliver more shock than fully staffed new regiments, or regiments diluted with too many green troops.

John Mosier, in his new-ish Death Ride fastens onto another Patton-related point. He focuses on the qualitative difference in the firepower and maneuver of German units on the eastern front in an extended quality vs. quantity meme. Unlike van Creveld and his intangibles, Mosier posits that certain German divisions were “super units” functioning equal to or above corps level in striking power due to being infused with equipment allocations at multiples of the TOE norms and with that equipment being the newest and best technology available. Mosier pegs the Stalin/Hitler outcome on Hitler moving Quality to other fronts.

It is hard to imagine Civil War super units. Maybe regulars carrying repeating rifles and “coffee grinders” on armored trains? That would raise the problem of ammunition supply, however, and on the logistical and transportation matters, Patton has very interesting things to say – things with a lot of Civil War resonance.


BTW, the original letters of Col. George S. Patton, CSA, can be purchased here.