Home>> Tactic's of the period  

The two sides of the American Civil War tried to emulate the European tactics of linear formation . Because of the lack of experience of maneuvering in formation and insufficient time to train the rank and file in linear formations , coupled with the troops , at times choosing whether they obeyed an order a less formal style of orders and command were adopted . This shows well in a situation where the officer giving the command for his Battalion to maneouvre into a position to attack the enemy required him to ask the Battalion to pirouette to the right which they all understood and carried out the action very well .
Also because of the devastating effects of the new weapons i.e. the Spencer Carbines and the few Martini Henry's , troops some time chose not to press home an attack but laid down and fired at the enemy .
Unlike the European armies the American's did not have the different types of troops to deploy on the battle field , i.e. the heavy medium and light Cavalry and the light Infantry . The troops were either Infantry , Cavalry or Artillery .

Unit organization and strengths also helped to dictate the tactics adopted by the two sides in the Civil war .
Regiments at the start of the war were invariably at the full strength but as the war drew on the strengths of different units dwindled to less than 500 . At Gettysburg the average strengths of units was 350 and a Arkansas infantry regiment dwindled to 220 men .

Both sides at the start of the war modeled their armies on the French style with their organization and also their formations . Column was frequently used in some battles . Also line and skirmish line was used . The skirmish order was adopted by the troops more frequently later in the war to help reduce the casualties much to the chagrin of the officers .

Higher formations used corresponded with the European style of Brigades and Divisions . Also Legions
( combined arms ) were adopted where a Infantry regiment had a number of Cavalry companies attached , as a Artillery battery .

The battle itself was fought at times with an individual officers preference for certain tactics employed . There was the theory that a unit should close as quickly as possible to the enemy to reduce the casualties and then charge . Some units were told not to load their fire arms so that they did not get into a fire fight .
As was the rule though units would close to short range and then engage in a fire fight which at times were murderous .

The soldier of the American Civil War became a resilient fighter but did not have the discipline of the more professional and disciplined armies of Europe , such as the British army . This was shown in some battles where the units might retreat or retire and then return to the fight after realising that the firing was more smoke and flash than hot lead .
Even so there were at times when units would stand and fire and loose upto fifty percent of their men .

The battle itself tended to be one of ebb and flow and at times was fought over two or three days ending in either exhaustion of material , men or the will to fight any more .
Because of this the battles of the American Civil War are interesting to reenact on the table .

Home>> History>> Battles of the period>> Rules>>  Quick reference sheet>> Bibliography>>

 


1